We recently noted a story from WickedLocal.com in Massachusetts discussing the story of a 13-year-old girl named Julie. Using Internet messaging and emails, Julie gradually established a relationship with a boy she knew only as “Tom.” Over time Julie and Tom became closer, and Julie felt that she and Tom had a real connection. When Tom suggested that he and Julie be together in perpetuity, they decided to run away together to Reno, Nevada. Up to this point, Julie had never met Tom in “real life;” their exchanges had been exclusively online. The person Julie knew as Tom, the person who came to pick her up in a truck headed for Reno, was not a teenage boy at all. It turns out that Tom was actually a 56-year-old man who had been posing as a teenager to attract lonely girls like Julie.Fortunately, in this case, Julie’s parents noticed she had gone missing, alerted authorities and the truck was intercepted. Tom is now awaiting trial on kidnapping charges.
The Director of juvenile programs for Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating, was quoted as saying that a story like Julie’s often does not end well. “Cases like this are not solved in an hour like they are on ‘CSI Miami,’” said Daniel Feeney. “The myth TV shows says to kids is that adults will save the day, just like they see the guys on TV do. If a kid is taken by an Internet predator, the chances are great he or she will not be seen again, and he or she will disappear.”
Research has shown that teenage girls are targeted more often than boys, and children in Middle School are said to be particularly vulnerable because of social awkwardness commonly felt at that age. The combination of feelings of loneliness, having a perceived “outsider” status, and sensitivity to criticism make them prime targets for an opportunistic child predator.