I first met Katie many years ago, while she was still in high school. She has recently graduated from college and will be devoting the next year of her life to helping kids who have been victimized by online sexual predators.
Katie met an Internet predator when she was only 13, thinking he was a teenage boy. He managed to book a room at the same hotel she was staying in, while she was competing as a swimmer for her school team. She arranged to visit him in his room, and the rest is a sad, but all too typical story about how young teens are lured by child molesters posing as young boys.
Katie took him to court and then wrote a book to help others avoid and handle the continued pain of exploitation and molestation. The book was called katie.com (although she doesn't own that domain name). I highly recommend the book, especially to teen girls.
When I recently met up with Katie again, I was very impressed with how well she has matured and how much she continues to care about others. While she hopes to become a lawyer someday, she wants to take a little bit more time to develop a place where kids and teens can turn to for help and support. Katie wants to create a place that cares, where kids can go to feel whole again.
While I can tell you all about the law and online privacy and security, few can really understand the pain of being victimized in the special way victims of Internet sexual predators have been- only Katie can. While as painful as many offline sexual molestations, there is a special betrayal that is shared among online victims. The victims also feel stupid, and in many cases as though they deserved what they got. They berate themselves for not seeing through the masquerade.
The studies show that at least 20% of the teens online have been solicited for sex online. But I suspect the numbers are far higher than that. And the sexual attacks of kids by Interent predators is also woefully under-reported.
Until Christina Long was killed two years ago, all of us experts thought that the typical victim was a loner. But Christina, a bubbly honor-roll cheerleader, didn't fit that description. Upon further investigation and polling, we learned that there are at least two major categories of Internet sexual victims: the loners (who had monopolized the reports until then) and the risk-takers (often competitive in school, highly successful and looking to let off steam). The former group rarely, if ever, reports the molestations. We only hear about them when they are killed or kidnapped.
Katie's dream to create a safe haven for these kids is a wonderful idea. We think it's so wonderful that we are going to help her build it.
If anyone wants to help, let us know. You can drop by wiredsafety.org and volunteer. Let them know you want to help build Katie's program.
we can use all the help we can get.