As a mum, one of my biggest fears is that my children will fall prey to a paedophile. Just a quick internet search reveals some scary statistics: According to the NSPCC 18,915 sexual crimes against children under 16 were recorded just in England and Wales last year. And the UN says that there are an estimated 3/4 million predators searching for child porn on the internet at any one time. The media is also full of stories about children who have been abducted: Just think Madeline McCann & Michelle Knight both in the news right now. John Bush jailed this week and Jason Watts pleading guilty to child sex offenses. It makes me feel sick and it’s worrying that no child is guaranteed safety.
But there is a small light in the fight against internet prowlers. ‘Sweetie’; a computer generated 10-year-old child was created and used by charity Terre des Hommes to unmask potential sex offenders willing to pay to see her engage in sexual acts on camera.
I was shocked that so many people had fell for this trap – 20,000 predators actively approached her! But I was also pleased that someone had taken the initiative to do something about this shocking crime. Sweetie has had some criticism mainly from those who point out that this is for law enforcement to implement, that innocent people could get caught up in it, or that Sweetie might encourage others people to get involved. I don’t know whether this has happened and I’m certainly no expert on child abuse but I personally think it’s far better to do something and try to make a difference than to sit around discussing it without making any headway. In all of my years working in PR I know that awareness raising alone can lead to big changes.
I’m still going to worry and feel sickened by the stories I read, but I will research information on how to protect my children, and feel hope that Sweetie will lead to change in how the world tackles this problem.