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Highway Hazards
Written by Editor   
Saturday, 11 February 2006 22:04

Seventeen year old Kehaulani Omakalapua Roberts of Eureka, California disappeared on January 26th, 2006. Police found her in Fremont, California, with a man she met on myspace. She was safely returned home and no charges were pressed. Omakalapua was lucky.Fifteen year old Abbi Lee Welch of St. Paul, Minnesota disappeared February 1st, 2006. She had planned to rendezvous with a 26 year old Kentucky man she met on myspace. He didnt show. Abbi was also lucky.

Fifteen year old Kayla Reed of Livermore, California was reported missing on December 1st, 2005. Kalyas decomposed remains were found in the Delta-Mendota Canal in San Joaquin County. Her mother believed she was attempting to rendezvous with someone she met online. Kaylas case remains unsolved. Twenty-seven year old Josie Brown was reported missing on December 29th, 2005. Her killer was a man she met on myspace. Fourteen year old Judy Cajuste was reported missing on January 12th, 2006. Her strangled body was found a day later in a trash bin in Weequahic Park in Newark, New Jersey. Investigators believe she may have been killed by someone she met on myspace. Her case remains unsolved. These are but a few headlines of the past month. Sadly, as with the dangerous stretch of highway that is largely ignored until enough people are killed or maimed, we seem to have reached critical mass.

Online predation has been a long-standing problem. Yet, it has gone largely unnoticed by mainstream society. Until now. This is in part due to perception and in part due to increased online activity. Additionally, prior to myspace, livejournal, and the various online journaling communities, the victims were faceless. Sure, we heard about the chat rooms such as AOL and yahoo, though victims pictures, much less their very own words, were rarely if ever publicly available. While law enforcement was setting up stings, John Q. Public may not have been aware. That is, unless the outcome was considered to be newsworthy enough to make the headlines. Among the non-headlines were Brandon Candiano, of Hammond, Indiana, who was recently convicted for using the Internet to prey on his young victims. And Christopher Lance Cobb was indicted last year for using the Internet to prey upon teenaged girls. He is but one of the four who were indicted.

Then and now. There was the mass child pornography sting a few years back. At the time, Parry Aftab, of Cyber Angels--whose interest in cyberstalking arose as a result of the Woodside Literary Agency case--was attempting to educate people with regard to online predators. That was in 2001. Prior to that and sometime in 1999, the FBI released a report on cyberstalking, detailing precautions for protecting against online predators. Their advice came then, as it does now--in response to the growing problem of online predators and peoples lack of understanding when it came to using the Internet. Jane Hitchcock, herself a cyberstalking victim, was blogging about this in 2000. Senator John Loudon of Missouri has propsed HB1672, in hopes of catching "would-be child molesters." Law enforcement in Middletown, Connecticut are investigating a series of sexual assault incidents involving online predators and the Jacksonville, Mississippi Department of Justice is investigating cyberstalking cases. A new teens-only community was launched last week. The founders plan to enforce the teen-only rule and prosecute adults who are found to have registered as teens.

The above is but a snapshot to demonstrate the ways in which people have rallied to combat online predation. Effectively fighting it however will not be easy. Motives are much harder to guage sans body language. In a sense, society will need to learn new rules for communicating, for identifying and protecting against danger. Liz Ditz provides some tips for teen blogging that are worth a read regardless of your age. As with the cautions put forth decades ago regarding the dangers of hitchhiking, perhaps its time to remind people that hitching a ride, even on the information super highway, can be deadly hazardous.

 

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