Forensic Psychiatry and the Internet: Practical Perspectives on Sexual Predators and Obsessional Harassers in Cyberspace

M. G. McGrath and E. Casey,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 30(1): 81-94, 2002.
The growth of the Internet has revolutionized how society conducts business in many areas. Not to be left behind, the sexual predator and the obsessional harasser have found cyberspace to be a vehicle capable of meeting their needs: obtaining information, monitoring and contacting victims, developing fantasy, overcoming inhibitions, avoiding apprehension, and communicating with other offenders. Although clearly disparate offender categories, these two groups are included in this article because of the likelihood of their using the Internet in pursuit of their goals. Forensic psychiatrists should become familiar with computers and the Internet so that they can conduct relevant psychiatric evaluations of such individuals and can advise attorneys, victims, and law enforcement personnel competently, when retained in that capacity. This article discusses the Internet and its use by the sexual predator and the obsessional harasser, highlighting information of interest to the forensic psychiatrist, including the poorly understood field of digital evidence. Aspects of the Internet, such as on-line dating and cybersex also are covered, because they relate to sexual predation and stalking.