“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…