While coding, I recently came across a phenomenon that I had never heard of before: Webcam Child Sex Tourism. Men contact children (mostly girls) from less developed countries and pay them to take off their clothes or perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. These children can be as young as six years old and often have no idea about relationships and sexuality. These children often suffer from depression, anxiety, and problems with aggression.
The UN and the FBI estimates that there are 750,000 pedophiles online at any point in time, yet only six have ever been caught and charged before. This phenomenon is spreading like an epidemic, as internet is becoming increasingly cheaper and more available all across the globe. These crimes happen tens of thousands of times a day and are only increasing. It seems to be especially prevalent with young girls in the Philippines. When a predator gets online, they feel anonymous and safe with their fake identities and untraceable credit cards; leaving the crimes extremely difficult to prove.
Recently an organization called Terre de Hommes in the Netherlands found a way to track down these men. They created a fake robot girl from the Philippines and gave her human like qualities, programming her to move like a real-life child would. They gave her a name, Sweetie, and made her ten years old. Once Sweetie logged in, an unbelievable number of men started chatting with her, asking her to perform sexual acts in front of the webcam. Terre de Hommes was able to use bits of information that the men gave Sweetie to track them down using sites like Google and Facebook to collect their names, addresses, phone numbers, video footage, and pictures. In just two months, Terre de Hommes was able to identify 1000 predators, and gave their information to Interpol. Terre de Hommes believes that this can eventually end Webcam Child Sex Tourism.
It is unbelievable that so many people would ask children to perform sexual acts for them. I believe that almost all of these men would not do this if they not hidden behind a computer thousands of miles away. Feelings of anonymity lead people to do things that they would normally never do. For example, on the website, “Everyday Sexism,” it seems like crimes like groping and rape mostly happen when it is dark or the predator is in a crowd and cannot be seen. This phenomenon is called “Deindividuation.” Think of the things you might do if you were invisible. You might listen in on your friend’s conversations, steal something, or pull pranks. It seems unlikely that the first thing you would want to do when you are invisible is homework or service. When we feel “invisible” there is a loss of self-identity and a decreased fear of consequences.
I believe that the best way to prevent this in public situations is to make the predator known. Many women feel like it would be safer and less embarrassing to remain silent; it is frightening and sometimes humiliating to protest. However, protesting will force the predator to leave his feelings of anonymity and make it much less likely that he will do it again. Many people will only do these things if they feel invisible. We need to make people self-aware rather than anonymous, and the best way to do this is to speak out.