Since beginning BeAKidsHero™ in 2013, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with thousands of people, many of whom are on Twitter. For the most part, it’s been a wonderful experience and I’m honored to be associated with an online community of awesome “heroes” who share a common desire to protect children.
Every now and again, though, I run into some not-so-awesome folks. You guessed it… perverts and even sexual predators. I block them as I see them, but I recently clicked on a profile and was shocked at what was staring back at me… A topless young girl who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13, her gray sweats split open in the back, bent over a chair while being penetrated by what appeared to be an adult male (of course, he didn’t show HIS face). Her profile, though, was pretty clear… her lost, empty stare is now forever burned into my soul.
I share this with you because I’m certain many of you have had similar experiences… you stumble across something online that is disturbing or flat-out illegal. The good news is, YOU have the power to make a difference and help these exploited children who are desperately in need of protection.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) serves as a clearninghouse for all images of child exploitation and works closely with the FBI, Homeland Security, Postal Inspectors, the Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as well as international organizations such as Interpol and INHOPE.
Since 2002, NCMEC has been developing a library of child exploitation images and videos, all to which federal and local law enforcement agencies have access on a moment’s notice. This clearinghouse and collaboration among investigators expedites the identification of children whose images are captured, but whose names and locations are unknown.
“We were seeing images that contained the same child victims over and over again,” said John Shehan, vice president of NCMEC’s Child Exploitation Division. “We wanted to know who the offenders were and what was happening with these children.”
Working with law enforcement around the world via the NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification program, over 9,700 children have been identified. Mr. Shehan noted that fortunately, the technical experts at NCMEC can identify when these images were traded online and there are often file names associated with those images, making them easier to catalog and track. NCMEC then works closely with law enforcement professionals to help put actual names with those images.
The NCMEC library of child exploitation images exceeds 148 million… and grows daily. Law enforcement agencies and organizations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo (to name a few) also submit child exploitation images to the NCMEC. Mr. Shehan says they receive an average of 500,000 images each week. Thanks to technology and “working smarter not harder”, they are able to match similar images and categorize unknown images for future identification.
Mr. Shehan’s team of 60 child protection professionals at their headquarters in Virginia and at various field offices around the country manage both the NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program and the CyberTipline service. He shared, “Our team is really super charged when they can help rescue a kid!”
NCMEC’s CyberTipline online reporting service is super easy and convenient to use! It literally took me only two minutes to report the child pornography video I witnessed online. I’ve made previous reports, as well, to the CyberTipline and found every experience to be fast, straightforward and simple.
“In the first quarter of this year, we surpassed 1.1 million child exploitation images, the total we received in all of 2014 on the CyberTipline,” Mr. Shehan shared. “In the first six months of this year, we’ve already received more than 2 million images and videos of children through this program.”
Filing a CyberTipline report adds to the NCMEC’s database and really does help in the tracking, identification and recovery of exploited and abused children.
It’s easy to use! The CyberTipline site walks you through six simple steps to file a report. Visit www.missingkids.com/cybertipline and click on the red box, “Make a CyberTipline Report”.
You can also call the CyberTipline at (800) 843-5678 to make a report.
In addition to contacting the CyberTipline, Mr. Shehan recommends you notify the service provider (i.e., Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.) of the content, as well. With the high volume of reports the NCMEC receives, he said it helps them respond more quickly. These providers are required by law to report suspected child pornography to NCMEC and remove it from their sites.
YOU can help.
The NCMEC is a 501(c)(3) organization and relies heavily on donations from the public to cover operational expenses. Want to help? Visit the donation page of the NCMEC website to make a tax deductible donation today.
My hope is that the little girl whose face is etched on my brain will be identified and rescued. Thank you NCMEC and all the cyber crime detectives, other law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child and victim advocates, and health care professionals around the world who are diligently working to save these endangered, exploited children.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® provides services, resources and technical assistance to child victims of abduction and sexual exploitation, their families and the professionals who serve them. NCMEC provides the most comprehensive resources regarding missing children, child sexual exploitation, child safety and prevention, law enforcement training and victim and family support. Learn more about NCMEC services at www.missingkids.org.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues and has released a report for parents and other caring adults, “10 Scary Apps.” Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: BeAKidsHero™” at BeAKidsHero.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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