You’ve heard the tragic stories of men, women, and children who have been abused and harmed by the current culture of rampant sexual exploitation.
But did you know that in these uncertain and confusing times of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping our nation and the larger global community, the threat of exploitation looms even larger?
I just heard a tragic story of a young boy who I will call Leo. That is not his real name but he and his story are very real. Leo was just 16-years-old when he was groomed and trafficked through what seemed like an innocent online video game system, one used by millions of American children. He wanted to connect with other players, and when the man who reached out to him acted like his friend, it seemed to both Leo and his parents to be just another way to talk to friends on the Internet.
But the reality was far worse! Men like Leo’s trafficker use and abuse mainstream platforms with children, like video games and other social media, in order to locate and abuse vulnerable victims.
When Leo decided to meet up with his online “friend,” traveling across state lines, he was shocked to discover the person on the other side of the screen was no friend, but rather a group of seven grown men who then trafficked and exploited the young boy.
Leo was used as a sex slave for over a year, trapped in a filthy trailer while the men spent their time trying to lure other victims. It wasn’t until another 17-year-old boy arrived, also groomed and lured through the video game platform, that Leo was finally released from his prison. The men were arrested for sex trafficking, but Leo’s life has been scarred forever from his experience.
It’s no secret or surprise that stories like Leo’s are happening all across the country. And thanks to supporters like you, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has focused on the policies, education, and advocacy to bring awareness and solutions to these very issues.
We’ve even launched campaigns directly against the video game industry with Dirty Dozen List targets like Steam, the ultra-popular online gaming platform. Our wider #NotAGame project also targets sexual exploitation, violence, and abuse rampant in video games across all platforms.
These have been very successful projects in raising awareness, but tragedies like the one that happened to Leo are still occurring.
We know you care about not only helping boys like Leo as they recover from their abuse, but also about preventing future victims.
Our child protection projects urgently need funding right now not only because we are running short of cash for them but, as importantly, because these projects are gaining so much momentum. We are changing the big companies that rely on our children for their success by convincing them to beef up their child-protection measures. I’m talking about companies like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and others that millions of children access every day.
Will you help us stop this scourge of online danger with a monthly donation?
Every amount can be used to make a big difference right now. We’ll turn your monthly donation, whatever you can afford, into advocacy with legislators and corporate executives as well as a means for getting crucial information and
With children online more than ever during this period of social isolation and distance, the threat of online sexual exploitation is more pressing now than ever.
Help prevent further boys like Leo by funding these projects today!
EDITORS NOTE: This National Center on Sexual Exploitation column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.