‘Loverboys’ (or romeo pimps) are human traffickers who usually operate by trying to make young girls or boys fall in love with them. Sometimes they manipulate young people in other ways. Once they have victims under their influence they exploit them, for instance in the sex industry.

Loverboy method changing due to internet and social media

Traditionally, a loverboy seduces young, vulnerable girls and boys over a lengthy period of time, in order to exploit them sexually later on. This practice is being used less and less. Nowadays, loverboys resort more quickly and frequently to threatening their victims, using blackmail and violence.

The internet and social media are playing an increasing role in this phenomenon. For instance, social media provide loverboys with much greater scope for establishing contact with victims and gathering information about vulnerable boy and girls. This makes it easier for them to force their young victims into the sex industry.

Measures to tackle loverboys

Central government’s approach to tackling loverboys is set out in its programme on human trafficking (in Dutch) and its programme on domestic violence and child abuse (in Dutch).

These programmes include the following measures:

  • improving prevention to stop loverboys from exploiting vulnerable people in the first place;
  • improving the investigation and prosecution of loverboys;
  • providing victims with services and protection.

Resources to improve our approach

In 2014 the Azough Commission drew up an action plan for helping girl victims of loverboys (in Dutch). This led to the development of new resources for victims of loverboys (in Dutch). These resources include practical advice on how to identify and register (suspected) victims for key actors, such as:

  • youth care workers;
  • mental health workers;
  • professionals working in institutions for people with minor intellectual disabilities;
  • neighbourhood social support teams set up by local authorities.

There is also advice on how to provide the best possible services and treatment to (suspected) victims.

In addition, there is a guide to cooperation between care organisations, police and justice authorities. And the Netherlands Youth Institute recently developed a checklist that municipalities can use to assess whether their policy on tackling the issue of loverboys is adequate.

Tracking down loverboys online

Central government wants to make it possible to use ‘decoy teens’ to identify loverboys. The Senate has approved a bill for this purpose. The decoy is not really a teenager but a law enforcement official posing online as a minor.

This bill could help the authorities catch loverboys online.