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Sexploitation- Parents must monitor their child’s Internet use

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For *Adam Holdson it was every parent’s nightmare, his 16-year-old son had gone missing from his east Trinidad home. A number of scenarios crossed the 44-year-old parent’s mind. Had his child been kidnapped? Was he ever going to return home? Worst…was he dead? However, that was not the case with Holdson’s son, James. James had met someone on a gay dating site on the Internet and went off with the individual. Luckily, according to Holdson, his child returned home safely.



Others, however, have not been so fortunate. According to gay activist and actively gay man *Victor Sandor, some people have been robbed, beaten, and even raped. A Google search showed several articles highlighting crimes committed through use of the particular Web site that Holdosn’s child had logged on to. According to Wikipedia, in October 2006, the site was linked to a conspiracy to find and rob gay men who used the site. 


A Brooklyn, New York, man was lured to a remote area where he was robbed and murdered. “The men were found when one user was identified via his screen name,” Wikipedia said. It added that similar reports were made in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The Wikipedia article noted that there had been an increase in online dating crimes in the last five years (2006–2010). A Chicago newspaper reported in 2011 that a popular gay dating Web site was trolling for victims so that they could rob them. 



Child banned from Internet 
Holdson said he has since banned his son from use of all Internet devices. He also no longer has unsupervised Internet time, and he is not allowed to have secret Internet accounts. He recalled how the incident occurred:


“He did not come home on the first day of school. He went missing. I started to investigate all of his things: phone, computer, everything. I was going through his account and came across an anonymous gay site, it was meant for adults. That is when I discovered what had happened and where he went.” His son, he said, had met people who were older than he was and shared conversations that were adult in nature. His son, however, lied about his age on the Web site, stating that he was 18. 


As a consequence, “I no longer allow him to lock doors in the house,” he said. The incident was not reported to the police for fear of discrimination, the father said. “I don’t want him to be publicly embarrassed,” he told the Sunday Guardian. “Police are very insensitive about a matter like this. I would hesitate to let them handle it.” Holdson believes his son is too young to make up his mind about his sexuality, and was concerned that people who are older would attempt to hook up with him. 


Following a spate of child sexual abuse cases and killings, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar established a Child Protection Task Force headed by known child advocate Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. Persad-Bissessar who received the preliminary report from the task force, noted that children were often the victims of sexual offences and robberies. She said these accounted for 82 per cent of crimes committed against children between 2007 and 2012. 


The PM appealed to the public to help curb sexual abuse against children by speaking up and acting in defense of children. 



It isn’t only this Web site
Sandor, however, noted that gay men are not only targeted through the Web site that Holdson’s son logged on to. Many gay men, he said, met other men on other popular social networking sites that were simply seeking to attack them. In a phone interview with the Sunday Guardian, Sandor said, “It is the Internet generally, not only this site. There have been incidences where men have been lured to locations and robbed and beaten, men who were not using that site.”


He said many gay men were unable to report such occurrences because sodomy laws still exist in T&T. “Some people go to the police, but they don’t want to disclose that it is a gay crime,” he said. 



He recalled a particular incident where a gay man met someone on the Web site and went to a given location. The individual/s at the location did not match the description of the person in the profile. He was then tied up and robbed. Photos were taken of him, and he was told if he mentioned what had happened, the pictures would be posted to the Internet. 


Sandor, however, added that the onus was on people to protect themselves. He suggested that if meeting someone through the Internet, one should not go alone. He urged parents of underage children/teenagers to monitor their child’s Internet use. He also noted that such problems also occurred in other Caribbean islands. 



Cummings: Homosexuals more at risk
While the issue of sexploitation has become a global matter, criminologist Renee Cummings believes that homosexuals are more at risk. In e-mailed responses to the Sunday Guardian, Cummings said, “Without legal recourse or legal protection, the LGBT community is at risk because most victims don’t go to the police to report hate crimes, homophobic crimes, crimes based on sexual orientation, anti-transgender hate crimes, or even extortion because of fear they won’t be taken seriously by the police, publicly humiliated, revictimised or publicly exposed.”



She said non-conforming gay men were victimised, murdered and persecuted at alarming rates as a consequence. Law enforcement, she said, should be trained to work with the LGBT community and be able to identify bias-motivated hate crimes and actively investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violent acts against the LGBT community.


*not their real names



• Part two next week—Parents need to get online with their kids


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