In May 2006, the United States Department of Justice launched the Project Safe Childhood initiative to fight against the ongoing sexual abuse and exploitation of children “facilitated by technology” (DOJ PSC). With 93 press releases for September as of September 20th, the Project Safe Childhood initiative has issued 1109 press releases for 2019 detailing arrests (more than one offender on some releases) of persons using technology to prey on children. Visit the PSC press release page to witness firsthand the number of people who are arrested for preying on children. There is an accessibility page for assistance with options for impairments.
From gang members to teachers and law enforcement officials, men and women (and here), pedophiles, child rapists, child predators, whatever one chooses to call them, these demons have no description. Parents, guardians, or anyone who cares for children should be aware of these innovative crimes against children in order to beware of the criminals who perpetrate these crimes.
For all who care for children
Understanding that parents are busy enough that most do not have time to care for their children and get through day-to-day activities and then turn around and try and seek out information about predators who may or may not be attempting to harm their children. That is why I am here. Parents and guardians, caregivers to children, if you sat in front of the computer all day researching child predators, you would be neglecting the children for one; and second, I honestly wonder how long it would take, how many hours, if not minutes, before you jumped up and headed out to whoop some you-know-what with no questions asked. I want to say, “Yeah, that’s what we need!” so badly, but, it’s really not. It’s hard for me to type these words, but it would really not be good. The children would not benefit from that kind of chaos. Dead predators and jailed parents would make for more predators due to children not having parents and an even more disgusting situation than what we see now.
This is why people are putting out independent news, so that parents and guardians, aunts and uncles, anyone who cares about children, can know the most important issues regarding the safety of their children without having to sift through the piles and piles of information themselves. We are here for you. We only ask that you pay attention. I say “we” because I am speaking of not only myself, but all of the people I have witnessed spreading awareness about child safety.
Sex crimes against children
On August 20, 2019 the Middle District of Georgia issued a warning to parents and teachers about the dangers of sextortion.
Sextortion is when an adult predator coerces or entices a child to produce a sexually explicit image and send it over the internet. The predator will often use that image to extort the child to produce more sexually explicit images under threats of sending that image to friends and parents. The young victims often report feeling that there was no way out and that they were going to get into trouble. ~ USDOJ, Georgia’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force (ICAC)
On September 16, 2019, the DOJ shared highlights from the Project Safe Childhood initiative to “locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims” (DOJ). From the Western District of Pennsylvania, the news release outlined 15 cases (out of dozens) from August and September in the following categories: (1) kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse of a child (2) coercion and enticement of a minor (3) travel for sex (4) production/distribution of child pornography (5) possession of child pornography. Over the telephone, Eric Paschal, contact for the District of Georgia, said one way predators are caught is when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) identifies missing children in child pornography online and sends alerts to law enforcement, who attempts to find and rescue the children.
However, some parents in America do not seem to be aware of the extent that this crime is taking place. A 2017 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that the main concern for both parents and teens regarding internet use is identity theft (NCSA 2017). The study also found that 57% of teens said they had online accounts their parents did not know about (NCSA). When going through PSC press releases, many 15, 16, and 17-year olds are being exploited online.
This reminds me of when we see the same child in an Amber Alert years apart. There are two children on the Amber Alert page right now who have been missing previously. I believe they could be being sold for sex when they are missing. Predators do not kill every victim every time.
These two young ladies, Jennifer Parrish and Elizabeth Catano have missing posters from July of both 2018 and 2019:
1. Jennifer Parrish’s Missing post from 2018, and below, her missing poster from July 25, 2019, 17-year-old
2. Elizabeth Catano’s Missing posting from 2018 from Arlington, MA and below, her missing poster from July 23, 2019, 15-year-old
Rather than assuming these girls run away every year, maybe someone is using them every year. Being that every missing child doesn’t end up on NCMEC, why are these two young ladies repeated? I believe they may be in trouble. Please click on their posters. I am curious of what that tattoo is on Elizabeth Catano’s shoulder blade.
In the Georgia ICAC warning, US Attorney Charlie Peeler calls out anyone caring for children, stating:
“… we need parents and guardians to educate themselves and the children in their care about the threats online, take the proper precautions to protect their families, and report suspected crimes to the authorities. Sextortion causes grave and lasting harm to young victims. Together, we can protect vulnerable children from evil, manipulative predators.”
Many parents might not believe sextortion or internet sex crime is an issue for their children, but if a child has access to applications with messaging or chat options, then the child may be in the company of predators at any given time. Perspective is key to understanding the seriousness of this issue. Let’s look from the perspectives of the parents,the predators, and the children.
Parents probably do not believe, for the most part, that their children are doing anything they are not supposed to be doing online. Let us suppose they are not doing anything wrong online. I have family members who say their children are on YouTube watching videos, but they know what they’re watching and it is nothing to worry about. I strongly disagree, because YouTube kids has been in the news enough for anyone to know that it is not inherently safe. According to a NetSanity article about YouTube Kids, unfit content can surface even with the most harmless search.
From the parents’ perspective, I believe most parents would say their children are not at risk of online predators. I am sure parents all would love to think their child is in a protected bubble online. Well, I am here to tell you that they are at risk. There are even family members who abuse children and use the internet to exploit them, as one man allegedly used his younger cousin through Instagram. In the case of a 15-year-old in Oregon being exploited online, here is an excerpt from the press release about her brave mom:
Around this time, Jane Doe’s mother walked into a room and found her child crying. After being assured she wasn’t in trouble, Jane Doe told her mother what happened and described how she had been threatened by someone she met online. The mother, posing as Jane Doe’s father, confronted Mr. Cochran on Snapchat, stating the police had been contacted. ~DOJ
Let’s think from the predator’s perspective. Are parents and children clear, as to what is actually “wrong” behavior? A predator might try the same line on all children, “I’m going to tell your mom what you did if you don’t send me a picture,” until they find the child who feels guilty and believes the predator may know of something they have done. True or not, the child is not thinking, “My parent will never believe that.” The child does not want some stranger contacting their parent about their online activity.
Think of all sorts of scenarios. These predators are crafty in coming up with ways to entice children into doing what they want. The Holy Bible states that we need to be aware of the Devil and his evil schemes in 1 Peter 5:8, in 2 Corinthians 2:11, and in Ephesians 6:11, where we are comforted by knowing we have the Scriptures to guide and protect us.
A predator often chats with children as if they are their peer in order to get conversations going and to make the child relatively comfortable. I think it is safe to say children meet other children online and have fun and healthy interactions, so it should not be so hard to believe that children can get into unhealthy interactions online.
A parent may have told a child never to go live or to never strike a certain pose or never to talk to strangers. Maybe the child said “Hi” by mistake, not knowing it was a predator. The predator may tell the child, “I’m going to tell your mom you were talking to strangers.” The child simply does not want to have his or her privilege taken away, so it does not matter if they have truly done something wrong. It matters how they react to a predator who tries to make the feel guilty enough to go along with their scheme, or the child who does not want the slightest drama concerning their online usage to get back to their parents. No child behaves exactly the way parents want them to, which I know because I was a child and had friends and siblings who were children. Predators are banking on being able to scare a child into doing what they want, not on finding a “bad” child. I do not believe they are looking for children who are doing anything wrong in particular, those cases are just easier for the predator to bait the child. Most adults can tell when a child is misbehaving even in the slightest way.
Based on the NCSA study, three recommendations are (1) parents should help their teens help their friends, because most teens turn to their friends when they have issues online, (2) proper screen time and (3) appropriate sharing habits need to be established in households. Children said their parents were online just as much as they were. This shows a lack of understanding of the scope of the online predator problem. Based on my understanding, I say parents and children should be working together to make sure no predator can come between their relationships, and that there is never a time their child should be ashamed, afraid, manipulated or intimidated by anyone online enough to go along with any evil scheme these predator demons may come up with.
From the DOJ if you suspect your child is being preyed on:
If you suspect your child is in trouble online, talk to your child. Then, report inappropriate or illegal contact to local law enforcement. Parents can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at www.missingkids.com or 1-800-THE-LOST. The Georgia-based incident reports will be directed to investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI). There is no stereotypical predator. Many children are victimized be people they know, even online. Teach children to trust their instincts. Parents and guardians can learn more by visiting www.thorn.org/sextortion and www.netsmartz.org.