Being Groomed Online

I was talking to my mum on the phone recently, this topic arose and I knew I’ve needed to write about it. I do think I’ve touched on this briefly before in another blog post, but today, I wanna tell you my story.

This is how I was groomed online by a 38-year-old pedophile.

I was young, too young. I was 11. That’s right, 11. I’m not sure if this magazine is in other countries, but there was a teenage magazine called Girlfriend, it is still around now but it was popping back in the day.
As well as being a magazine, there was a website where you could read certain articles and do little quizzes but the most popular thing, at least for my group of friends, was the chat room!

Like with most chat rooms, you could be in a big public session or some people had private rooms where you could only enter with a password.

I would talk to a lot of the friends I went to school with on there, this was kind of before MSN went off in popularity, but it was at the same time.

I was open-minded and loved to meet new people which would mean I would engage in conversations with random people, keeping in mind it was a teenage girls magazine, so everyone I was talking to, I thought was somewhere between 10-18. I was naive, but to be real, I was 11!

There was one person that started a conversation with me which was out of the ordinary, their name was something like ‘sweetiepie’ all I can remember is it has ‘sweetie’ in there.

I was talking to a girl, she said she was 16, we spoke about school and boys and whatever else young kids talk about. After a couple of weeks of talking to this person on a semi-regular basis. She said she was going on holidays and her cousin (i think it was?) was going to be online under her account. At this point, I was a little curious but I didn’t think anything sinister.

Everything was fine, we were talking on and off, I could tell it was someone different, all of a sudden they wanted to talk in private chat rooms rather than the public session.
Then they told me they were a male, I was a little disappointed. But then got a little excited about talking to a teen boy! Id never really had a boy interested in me so it was a little exciting.

After a while of talking on the girlfriend website, he had asked for my email address, I had only just made an email address at this point because I didn’t really have a need for one. So, I gave him my super embarrassing first ever email I made and he started to send me emails, the more emails we sent, the less we spoke on the website.

I do remember it was coming up to my birthday, which is in April. He was aware it was coming up to my birthday, I’m not entirely sure he knew exactly how young I was, is you had to be at least 13 to be on girlfriend, I think I had said I was either 13 or 14, so still incredibly young.

He wrote me a letter to go with an Ecard. It wasn’t as sweet and innocent that our conversations had seemingly been in the past. He was saying how much he cared about me and how he had a crush on me, wanting to meet me and treat me well, even as far as wanting to kiss. Me, still thinking this was a teen boy, I was anxious, this was so out of my comfort zone but I was still excited.

It had been at least 2 months by now, He’s never seen me, I’ve never seen him and he had asked for a picture of me. This was a time of mean girls being the most popular movie, me being obsessed with it and watching it multiple times daily. My look, my attitude was inspired by that movie. Tight shirts, short skirts, and Barbie pink lipstick. I got my first ever digital camera for Christmas around this time, so of course, I had some pictures. Before you think it, no there was no sexual photos, nothing being revealed at all.

He got a picture of me, just my face. In return, I wanted to see the guy I was talking to as well! I was excited, was it a surfer guy with abs? was it a sweet country boy? Or maybe even someone who is quiet and shy to speak to girls face to face. My mind was racing, I would think about this guy a lot, the mystery!

Excited, I had received the email! The one where I would see who this guy was! As it loaded, my face wasn’t so happy anymore. Was this a joke? The picture was of an extremely overweight man, in a red polo shirt, tucked into grey shorts, a packet of cigarettes in his top pocket and a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The smile he had was taunting. I had chills, I was so betrayed. Attached to the picture was a sweet email. He was apologizing that he lied, this was really him, he’d never felt like this before but he really had feelings for me.

He told me he was 38 years old!!! I was angry, he wanted my phone number, he wanted to talk to me on the phone, to hear my voice. But because I was angry, instead of giving him my own house number, I gave him my friend’s number. Thankfully she didn’t catch on give him my real number because obviously, being my friend, she knew it!

It had been a long time since we started talking, I felt so invested that I wanted to still be friends. I wasn’t sexually interested, I didn’t want him as my boyfriend, but we had talked for so long that I didn’t really want to stop it.

I feel like he knew I was uncomfortable which lead him to ‘up his game’ so to speak.
He started to send me Ecards regularly, our of the blue, He had asked for my school and my address, saying he wanted to send me flowers and gifts, I didn’t give him any personal details, I kind of avoided them.
Our family computer was in our living room which was right next to the kitchen, My mother would often walk past and check up on what we were doing, a couple of times she would ask who I was emailing, who was sending me these Ecards, I told her a brief description of the man and she kind of just looked concerned but dropped it.

As an internet safety precaution, We had a diary next to the computer where we would write all our usernames and passwords of every website we use, in case we forgot our password, or in this case, I needed parental help.

I came home from school one day, I logged onto my emails to find an email from this man, It was a response to an email that I didn’t send. My mum and dad had talked about what was going on and replied this man, I don’t remember the details of the email, but the general gist was to disappear before the police get involved.

He has replied to me telling me he couldn’t speak to me anymore and as much as he loved me, our relationship wasn’t being accepted by my family so he had to go.
At first, I was angry, I thought I was in control of the situation and could get out at any time, I felt like my trust was broken but my parents going through my emails behind my back.

He told me where he lived, Lucky it wasn’t anywhere near me at the time, But later in my life, When I moved to the city when I was dating my now husband, we would go for a drive, almost every weekend. Finding apple stalls along the side of the road, eating in tiny villages, finding new cafes and hidden gems. We were driving one day, I didn’t feel like stopping, I was enjoying our conversations, I was enjoying the scenery so we kept going.

Before we knew it, we had been driving for 4 hours, I looked up and found myself in his town, I was almost 10 years older, he wouldn’t recognize me anymore, I wasn’t so young, I wasn’t helpless and better yet, I wasn’t even alone But I was frozen in fear. I constantly looked over my shoulder, I would look at everyone with fear that they would turn out the be this man. Thankfully, I didn’t see him.

As sweet and innocent as this started out to be, it was far from it. If my parents didn’t intervene, would I be alive? would I be sold into sex slavery? Would I have been raped and murdered just like a million other stories on the news? Would I have just been a statistic? I don’t know, I don’t want to know.

If anything like this has happened to you, tell someone!
They cant control you.

Australia- 000
United Kingdom- 999
United States 911
Universal Emergency Number- 112

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