Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Teen pimps - Children recruiting their peers to have sex with adults

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AM

Children as young as 14 years old are among those who are using social media to recruit others in their age group to engage in sexual activities with adults who, in some cases, record the encounters and circulate them on the Internet.

This practice is deeply troubling for law-enforcement officials, who sometimes come across these videos online.

Head of the Centre of Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) Superintendent Enid Ross-Stewart said her team has been kept busy tracking down the girls in these videos, who are often seen in their school uniforms performing sexual acts.

According to Ross-Stewart, one recent incident that received the attention of her unit involved a teenage girl who was using her WhatsApp account to recruit her friends for her cousin.

"We found one girl from a very prominent high school who was recruiting her classmates, who are eight-graders. She was recruiting her classmates for her adult cousin, who was coming to the island, and so he asked her to get some of her classmates for him," Ross-Stewart told The Sunday Gleaner.

PLAN THWARTED

Her plan was thwarted when her mother saw the messages on her phone and contacted CISOCA.

"She was describing which one of them was willing to come and physical features, and all of that. She was telling her cousin all about their experiences and physical features, and what they are saying, and how much they were willing to go with him, and where they were willing to go, and the things they were willing to do," said Ross-Stewart.

The CISOCA head said the pressure to fit in has resulted in some teenagers agreeing to be filmed during sex and then these are posted on the Internet. In many of the cases, it's the girl's boyfriend who actually posts the video.

"Some are willing participants, but by virtue of their age, they cannot give consent," noted Ross-Stewart.

"Some do know that they are being photographed or videoed, whichever, but what they don't know is that the photographs and videos would end up online."

Ross-Stewart said CISOCA tries to locate the girls once a video comes to its attention, but while some are ashamed, others are nonchalant.

"The truth is, we have spoken to more than 90 per cent of these children because once we get the photographs and we see the videos, we go after these children because nearly always, they are in uniform," she said.

The girls are usually referred to the Victim Support Unit, and intervention is carried out by the Child Development Agency.

"Those who knew they were being videoed, there was no convincing. It was

just a part of being hype," she said.

"One girl told me that her parents are having sex. She hears her father and her mother every night having sex. Even though they don't share the same bedroom, she hears them every night having sex, and so she believes she should be doing it, too," added Ross-Stewart.

VICTIMS OF PEERS

The Office of the Children's Advocate noted in its recently published social media manual that it has received many reports of cases where children become the victims of their peers, who record evidence of some form of sexual encounter, which they then distribute.

Inspector Stacey-Ann Powell, who is stationed at the Communications, Forensic and Cybercrime Division at the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, pointed out that in some of the cases, the videos are circulated by someone they had been sexually involved with in the past.

"In some instances, they might request continuation of a relationship, with the threat that they will release pictures if they refuse. They can do this successfully, in some instances, by using computers that are not owned or assigned to them. They use another person's screen name and/or photograph as their display page," Powell told The Sunday Gleaner.

MONITOR CHILDREN ONLINE

"The new generation is growing up with computers as most children know more about the Internet than adults do, and where parents do not supervise their child's Internet use, this can lead to unauthorised access to data," added Powell as she warned that persons can be arrested for posting pictures of children involved in sexual activities.

"Each time you share footage online depicting that of a child in any sexual activity, you commit a crime. This is a visual representation. Each time an image is viewed, the child is victimised again," explained Powell.

She is urging parents to look out for red flags that might indicate that their children are being exposed to online dangers. These red flags, Powell said, include using an online account that belongs to someone else, being secretive about their online activity, and quickly turning off the computer or changing the screen when someone else enters the room.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com