Over 1,000 pedophiles around the world have been caught soliciting online sex with a 10-year-old Filipina girl that they did not know was the computer generated product of an anti-exploitation sting, a Dutch human rights group has said.
The girl, known as ‘Sweetie,’ was created by Terre des Hommes Netherlands as a way for the organization to notify the public about how frequently children in developing countries are victimized. The group said it has turned over the identities of the perpetrators willing to pay for sex with Sweetie over to law enforcement.
“They were ready to pay Sweetie for sexual acts in front of her webcam,” Albert Jaap van Santbrink told AFP in The Hague on Monday.
Sweetie was only real in that she existed in an internet chat room for ten weeks. Launched from Amsterdam, she attracted more than 20,000 sexual predators from 71 countries who asked for sex performances.
Santbrik said the men were from all walks of life and came from a variety of professional situations. They were “fathers, musicians, an architect,” he told AFP.
“Our worst-case scenario is that the same will happen with this phenomenon as with child pornography, which is now a multi-billion dollar industry in the hands of criminal gangs.”
One man identified only by his screen name, “Older4Young,” said he was a 35-year-old father of two from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. He offered Sweetie $10 to undress on camera.
“Turn on your cam,” he wrote. “I’m horny.”
Posing as Sweetie, Tres des Hommes workers said they never made first contact in the chat room, but instead waited for predators to begin a conversation with the girl. Activist Hans Guyt said it is more necessary than ever to trick predators into soliciting children online because the problem is only getting worse and rendering international borders irrelevant.
“We identified ourselves as 10-year-old Filipino girls. We did not solicit anything unless it was offered to us,” he said.
Sexual crimes end in arrest most often when the victim comes forward. Yet when the victim is a child, and under the control of an adult who is selling that child for profit, law enforcement is forced to get creative.
“The biggest problem is that the police don’t take action until child victims file reports, but children almost never report these crimes,” Guyt continued. “The predator won’t come forward. The victim won’t come forward. This requires a new way of policing.”