Winnipeg’s large population of vulnerable (poor, parentless or developmentally-delayed) teenagers has created an increasing problem: The number of them who are sexually exploiting themselves online has risen to an alarming level.
The rising trend of kids posting explicit pictures of themselves online, or being put at risk of falling prey to internet predators has been rising sharply over the last two years, I’m told.
In some cases, kids set up so-called ‘quid pro quo’ relationships with adults who buy them clothes and shoes and other trinkets in exchange for sexual relationships.
The public doesn’t hear about it because the kids aren’t criminally charged and therefore their cases aren’t part of the public record.
But police and Crowns who deal with child sexual exploitation are deluged with so-called ‘intervention’ cases where they try to nip the behaviour in the bud.
Except in Tim’s case, which came before a judge for sentencing Friday. I can’t use his real or full name because it would identify the teen victim, who, it appears exploited herself out of trust in Tim and now could pay a harsh price.
Earlier this year, Tim, 18, had a bad falling out with his 16-year-old girlfriend, who by the sounds of it, took up with another guy that he really didn’t like.
Tim’s response: he sets up a fake Facebook account and posts a number of explicit pictures of his ex and sends a link out to his pals, her pals and her new boyfriend.
She had made the pictures herself at age 15 in an effort to entice Tim to be her boyfriend.
She had already applied for, and been granted, a protection order against him based on a number of alarming and volatile phone messages he had left her.
The ex, naturally finds out what’s going on and calls the cops, who arrest Tim and lock him up at the Remand. With no record to speak of, he’s bailed out a few days later on strict orders to not contact her.
But he does. Sets up a Hotmail account under a fake name and sends her an email:
“Please just read and don’t tell the cops,” it says. “Sorry, have fun, have a good life.”
“I got charged with child pornography and that’s killer … if they knew I talked to you I’m gonna go back [to jail].” it said.
A few days later, he sends another to one of her pals: “I think I saw him (the new boyfriend) with her and it makes me sick.”
The girl calls the cops, tells them what’s happening, and Tim’s locked up again.
At least until today when he was handed a six-month sentence for distribution of child pornography and criminal harassment.
Now, Tim, he’s cooperative with police and hands over the laptop in which the Facebook account was set up [his Mom's.] The password: ‘ilove[ex's name] and her initials’.
He speaks voluntarily to officers, saying he did it because he was hurt and upset and wanted revenge on the girl and her new beau.
A Manitoba judge called the young man’s actions ‘reprehensible’ today, as you’d expect a judge to do.
But Kelly Moar went on the make the observant point that Tim has basically made his ex a target for perverts for the rest of her life.
“What you chose to do … is unfortunately something that can never be undone,” he said.
“There’s no delete button on the internet. Those things float forever on the internet.”
And with Canada being #2 in the world for the hosting of images of child pornography, #2 for the sale of and #3 for websites set up to display child porn, it’s clear there’s a burgeoning marketplace for the sick stuff.
The U.S., of course, leads all of the above categories by a wide margin.
The majority of these websites sell memberships (85.1 per cent — many claim to accept Visa, MasterCard or Amex) and a single DVD depicting child sexual abuse can fetch as much as $1,900.
It’s sick stuff.
And Tim’s anger and thirst for revenge likely means someone, someday, will profit off of his behaviour. But it’s his ex who pays the price.
The above figures came from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and Cybertip.ca