50,000 Predators Are Trolling Social Media… RIGHT NOW!

“It has been estimated that, at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children.”

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Now THAT is quite an attention grabbing quote! For those of you with discerning eyes, you’ve already picked up on whom the Attorney General was and when he served. Alberto Gonzales was, for a time, U.S. Attorney General under George W. Bush. He made those remarks in 2006 in announcing a then new federal policy to deal with the problem of internet predators: the Project Safe Childhood program.

Historically, this was around the time when there was still a lot of conjecture about the whole internet predator issue. We knew from law enforcement that there were an increasing number of cases of child sexual exploitation: in 2006 the FBI had more than 2,400 child exploitation investigations under way. But we were JUST beginning to gain a more detailed psychological profile of the phenomenon of ‘internet’ sexual predators from research studies such as the Youth Internet Safety Survey conducted at the University of New Hampshire.

This is all meant to underscore the “50,000” number. It’s a number we use in our presentations to hopefully grab the audience’s attention as we consider just how serious and pervasive this issue is in today’s world. But we also stress that it’s just an estimate and an estimate that was given ELEVEN years ago. Quite honestly, I don’t have more current statistics (and would welcome you supplying me with some (along with their source) if you do!)

But what if that number is inflated (and goodness, 11 years hence, it could easily be something even more astronomical). But what if that number is something more along the lines of 10,000 or even less? If you’re like me, it still is positively horrifying to even consider. Imagine… RIGHT NOW, there are thousands of sexually deviant predators trolling social media looking for innocent teens to victimize.

And tragically, time and again as I scour my Google Alerts, new stories of the sexual exploitation of children by internet predators emerge. By way of example, I’m providing a piece of a news article of an arrest made this week in Chicago. It should give you a sufficient overall gist of the sequence and scope of the exploitation:

‘Snapchat Perv’ Lures Teen, Sexually Assaults Her at Hinsdale Oasis

Illinois State Police said he took photo of the assault for later use, then ditched 16-year-old girl at tollway oasis.

July 25, 2017

By Lorraine Swanson

HINSDALE, IL — A Chicago Heights man lured a 16-year-old girl via Snapchat to the Hinsdale Oasis under the ruse of setting her up with a blind date before sexually assaulting her, prosecutors said. Illinois State Police were in court earlier last week seeking an arrest warrant for Luke Luevano, 21, on assorted sex and child pornography charges. The alleged abuse happened on May 8.

The teen told police she had met a twenty-one-year-old man online and they began exchanging Snapchats. The two then exchanged phone numbers. Luevano allegedly told the teen that his roommate might be interested in her. The prosecutor said the teen and “roommate” began sending texts that were sexual in nature.

Illinois State Police said the “roommate” turned out to be Luevano. Luevano arranged to pick the teen up at her home, the prosecutor said. The teen claimed when she asked Luevano how old he was, she got no response. She told him she was 16. Luevano is said to have driven the teen to the Hinsdale Oasis, where he allegedly forced her into giving him oral sex.

While in the act, the teen saw what she believed was a camera flash. She asked him to delete the picture. The prosecutor said police recovered the photo from Luevano’s phone, which the teen identified as her head and Luevano’s penis. Luevano allegedly took off his pants and had intercourse with the teen. After the alleged assault, he left the girl at the tollway oasis.

Luevano admitted to police that he knew the girl was 16. He took the photo so he could pleasure himself at a later time, the prosecutor said. Luevano has no prior criminal background.

 

A twenty-one-year-old man with no criminal background nevertheless feels compelled to troll Snapchat until he lures a teen to a motel where he sexually assaults her (and there’s the whole child pornography component to this as well). BUT… the other end of this scenario finds a 16-year-old girl with her social media status set to public, who WILLINGLY agrees to meet with a virtual stranger in the hope of a romantic connection.

It’s THIS part of the tragedy that I feel the need to explore further. We have long suspected the danger of internet predators (which has only been confirmed over the years). But what remains little comprehended by most adults (yet revealed by research studies such as the Youth Internet Safety Survey), is WHY an innocent and vulnerable teen would willingly agree to expose herself to such danger. I’ll pick up with this aspect the next time. Until then…

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FAILING TO UNDERSTAND

[NOTE: This post references an article I posted on our FaceBook page. For those of you not following us on FB, I’m providing a link to NCO Justice Coalition so you have the opportunity to read it for yourself.]

Ohio teen charged with raping 4 children

Dominique Seem

As we speak to the girls and boys detained in the detention wing of the Erie County Justice Center, we illustrate how the economic model of supply and demand is at work within the crime of human sex trafficking. This may be a rather grotesque application of the model, but a valid one nonetheless: producer, consumer, and product/service: the pimp who forcibly enslaves and then sells the victim to a predator who is in the market to rape her/him: producer-pimp, consumer-predator, and service-victim.

With the girls our goal is to equip them to be proactive; for them to have the necessary knowledge to NOT become a victim. [NOTE: Oftentimes the girls we’re working with add to OUR information base! Being THE demographic traffickers are looking to ‘groom’ (female, early teens, vulnerable (broken) in some way), they experience this active recruitment around them in their everyday lives ALL of the time. There have been sessions when we’ve walked away wondering who taught who more… them or us! But this simply serves to underscore that this phenomenon is very real and happening in ALL of our communities.]

With the boys our emphasis tends in a different direction. While we certainly hope the arc of their lives doesn’t take them on a path to becoming a pimp, our more immediate focus attempts to shine light on cultural factors that, if not recognized and examined, could possibly lead them to becoming buyers of sex. And I wish to emphasize the ‘possibly’ part of that last sentence. While sexual objectification, harassment, dating violence, acquaintance rape, and pornography increasingly proliferate our culture (indeed, many global cultures), statistics that I have seen suggest that it is only a small percentage of males who actually cross the line into the domain of human trafficking; repeatedly gratify their sexual urges by seeking out and then purchasing a minor victim to rape for half an hour to an hour. And yet, even if only a small percentage… that is nevertheless, WAY too much.

But then along comes a story such as the one unfolding in Warren, Ohio and I find myself at a complete loss to even begin to fathom how an 18-year-old boy could EVER be motivated to (allegedly) rape four children ages 2 – 9. This is a level of brokenness that screams at me for understanding. How does one so young develop a mindset leading to such egregious acts? What have been the mitigating factors in his upbringing that have helped foster his psychological state?

And just so you’re aware, while I may be limiting the stories I post to our FaceBook NCO Justice Coalition site to those pertaining to Ohio, these types of incidents do pop up from time to time in my Google Alerts from around the country: perpetrators far too young, abusing even younger children. They’re not widespread, mind you, but they do occur with a regularity that I find both unsettling and alarming.

In our neat, almost textbook presentations to teen boys, there is a noticeable gap between the cultural factors we present and how that could possibly connect to a life like Dominique Seem. And realistically, even not knowing any of the background factors in this young man’s life, there likely ISN’T a neat, connect the dots like trajectory. His are some incredibly deep psychological woes.

But rather than becoming dejected by this story, it serves to bolster my motivation to do what I know how to do best… teach. While I may not always appreciate the value our presentations may (or may not) be having on the recipients, it is SO important to me to keep up the effort. We certainly don’t have all the answers and likely aren’t even asking all of the pertinent questions… but I remain confident that we ARE presenting at least a glimmer of the culture in which these young men are growing up in. And that culture IS grooming them to believe that somehow, just because they’re males, they have a certain entitlement when it comes to sex and relationships… an entitlement that doesn’t include young ladies as part of an interdependent equation… an entitlement, thereby, which isn’t entirely healthy. And THIS is a message worthy of spreading.