A teenage girl from Michigan, whose name and city have not been released, is hoping to end a nightmare that began five years ago when, at the age of just 13, she became the victim of an online predator and sent a nude photograph of herself to him.
What happened over the following years caused the girl to attempt suicide twice before even turning 18.
After hitting the send button on the nude selfie, the teen began to receive text messages and emails that were unrelenting, extorting her to send even more nude pictures not only to the original recipient, but to others she believes he shared her picture and information with, as federal prosecutors argued in a complaint in the U.S. District Court.
Terrified with threats from the online predators, the girl complied, feeling forced to do so, and, according to the official complaint, “took nude photographs of herself every other day and forwarded them.” She was faced with continual threats that the online predators receiving her nude photos would post what they already had onto the internet.
The threats and blackmail continued for years.
The teen tried to appeal to the online predator in an email to him last March, writing, “I don’t understand why you can’t leave me alone. I’m already in therapy, I’ve gone to psych hospital twice now for trying to commit suicide. Are you trying to kill me?”
In one exchange, the cyberstalker admitted that he definitely knew that the teen had been underage when the harassment and demands for nude pictures began. The teen asked him, “And you’re fine with that? Exploiting the body of a 14-year-old girl?”
The chilling response? “You’re not 14 anymore.”
The teen finally went to authorities when she found 30 images of herself on an internet porn site. When she asked the online predator to remove the images, he attempted to blackmail her, saying he would only remove them if she agreed to a sexual encounter with him.
He sent several harassing messages, which the teen did not respond to, finally sending an email reading, “This is literally your last chance to answer me. You have 24 hours. I know where you are, I know where your family is, all will be exposed unless you answer.”
The FBI was able to track him down fairly quickly and arrested Bruce William Powell, 26, on Tuesday evening at his Tallahassee, Florida home. He has been charged with cyberstalking and child pornography. He alleges that he hadn’t shared the teen’s nude pictures or contact information with anyone, that all the emails and texts the teen had received originated from just one source — him. A federal search warrant uncovered 3332 emails with pictures or videos of the teen.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade believes the case should prompt parents into having conversations with their own children about the “very real danger of online predators. Parents should also tell their kids that no amount of shame should prevent them from asking for help when they find themselves in bad situations. Victims sometimes suffer in silence and make the situation worse by complying with the demands of predators because they are too ashamed to admit their own roles.”
[Image via Glogster.com]