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Unusual Sex Messages Are Commonplace In...

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BALTIMORE (AP) — The death of a woman policesay was told bye-mail from a North Carolina man that he wanted to sexually tortureand kill her was the end result of a scenario that many sexualabuse professionals say is commonplace in cyberspace.

Chat rooms on the Internet deal with almost every sexualproclivity known to man. Sex abuse professionals say some women,often abused as children, seek such abuse as adults. And Internetchat rooms, like the ones Mrs. Lopatka frequented, while providinga place to talk about their desires, also expose them to sexualpredators.

The body of Sharon Lopatka was found buried in the yard of aCaldwell County, N.C., man who, according to court documents, hadcorresponded with her via computer about plans to sexually tortureand kill her.

Dr. Alvin Cooper, director of the San Jose Marital andSexualityCentre in California, and the author of a column on sexuality foundon the World Wide Web, said the Internet is attracting people witha variety of fetishes to chat rooms. And, those chat rooms areattracting sexual predators.

``There's something about the way communication on the 'Networks that fosters a sense of intimacy, security, connection. Youreally feel you know the person,'' Cooper said.

``There definitely are predators lurking around and sexualpredators who know these sites are going to pull in people withspecific sex interests. And again, you don't have any sense ofwhether the person has any contact with reality or is reallytotally out there,'' Cooper said.

Mrs. Lopatka may have suffered from sexual masochism, said FredBerlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorder Clinic.

``We're not sure what causes it, but certainly in my clinicalexperience, all the women who are having these masochist cravingswere themselves abused sexually during childhood,'' said Berlin.``The feelings of sexual excitement can become confused withabuse.''

Mrs. Lopatka, 35, of Hampstead, was found Friday strangled todeath near a mobile home owned by Robert Glass, who has beencharged with killing her.

Glass, a 45-year-old computer systems analyst who separatedfromhis wife this spring, told investigators that Mrs. Lopatka may havedied during a sexual act in which a rope was tightened around herneck during intercourse.

Investigators believe they met in a sexually oriented ``talkgroup'' or ``chat room'' on the computer network.

Graphic e-mail messages found on Mrs. LoPatka's computer detailhow the person she corresponded with planned to sexually tortureand kill her, according to affidavits filed in the case.

Maryland State Police spokesman Mike McKelvin said it couldtakeup to two weeks to investigate all of LoPatka's e-mail messages.

``Anywhere upwards of 100 messages were between her and Mr.Glass... ranging from less than a half a page to full pages, sothere's a lot of work to do,'' McKelvin said.

``There were several messages where they were just talking toeach other. Maybe less than half of them had anything to do withthe crime,'' he said.

Internet use by women has increased dramatically in the pasttwoyears, said Bonnie Raindrop, co-owner of Doubleclick Publications,an on-line publishing firm where Mrs. Lopatka posted three WorldWide Web pages for a business she ran from her home.

And many of those women, whose free time is consumed by workandfamily demands, are turning to the Internet as a social outlet, shesaid.

``People will disclose some pretty intimate things on e-mailandfeel safe about that, and it can progress to a point where normaldefenses are down,'' Ms. Raindrop said.

Cooper said the Internet can sometimes prevent people withproblems from getting help.

``It gives the person enough of a relief for their unhappinesswhere they don't take any more progressive action, like seeing atherapist,'' Cooper said. ``They don't say `I need help because Ifeel like getting beat up.' They get onto these sites where peoplesay `That's fine, that's great.'''

Cases of women seeking abuse are not unusual, said LynnReynolds, clinical director of The Institute Against SocialViolence in New York, a for-profit clinic that works with abusersand victims.

Women who find themselves involved in abusive relationshipsoften are trying to address abuse suffered during childhood, shesaid.

``This time as an adult she feels she can control what happensto her. She might deny the extent of the danger, which soundsamazing, but it's true,'' Reynolds said.

Lopatka's own motivations remain a mystery. Attempts to reachher husband were unsuccessful. One neighbor in the rural area 25miles northwest of Baltimore said the couple kept to themselves.

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1996 Associated Press. Allrights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten,or distributed.

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