“We see a lot of times that the victims are being punished for their participation in the crime,” said Investigator Terry Buckley with the Jackson Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.
Most often, the punishment of victims occurs in cases where minors get caught in a relationship with an adult online. Though sometimes it may be consensual for a time, it is not legal due to age differences.
“You’ve got people that think, ‘that girl, since she participated, since she talked to the person, since she’s sexually active, that’s what she gets for being that way,'” Buckley said. “People look at parents and say they are also responsible for not taking tabs on their kids and for not knowing everything they’re doing online. There’s a lot of blame that goes towards the victim and the victim’s family, and it shouldn’t.”
To bring attention to the issue, the West Tennessee Women’s Center and Jackson-Madison County General Hospital are inviting the community to hear the story of a teenager who became the victim of Internet luring.
Alicia Kozakiewicz, 26, will speak at the J.W. Barnes Conference Center at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 27. The event is free, but attendees must register at www.regonline.com/aliciaproject or call (731) 512-1548.
When she was 13, Kozakiewicz was abducted, held captive, tortured and raped, according to the center.
After four days, Kozakiewicz said she was found and rescued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after someone saw an online video streaming live of her being tortured.
While her family supported her during her recovery process, Kozakiewicz said that many people wondered how something like that could happen to a “good” child.
“We realized that one of the reasons that this happened was there was little Internet security taught in school,” Kozakiewicz said. “Not only can (Internet crime) happen, it is happening. It is happening today — a lot. Kids still have not gotten the message.”
That led Kozakiewicz to start the Alicia Project to help bring awareness about Internet safety. Kozakiewicz said she saw the need to educate others so they would not suffer through an experience similar to her own. She also wants to create “Alicia’s Law” for all states, which would help fund the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The Alicia Project has been presented across the country, and Kozakiewicz has spoken on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil” and “Good Morning America.”
Buckley said one of the things Kozakiewicz will discuss is how parents, educators and leaders should treat victims of Internet luring.
“Hopefully, through her story, she can shine some light on not just the crime itself but the follow-up afterward because educators, parents and health care professionals don’t always know how to respond to a victim,” said Buckley, who will attend the event to offer advice on how to keep kids safe from Internet crimes.
Buckley said victims of online crimes are invited to attend the Alicia Project because they sometimes don’t understand they are victims.
“There’s a ton of kids who feel guilty because, at the end of the day, they’ve built a relationship with this person, whether it’s someone twice their age or not,” Buckley said. “They feel guilty about this person getting in trouble and feel guilty about their parents having to go through the process. Even if they’re treated as victims, they still carry a lot of guilt and shame for what they’ve done. We try to help them understand it’s not their fault; they were groomed into this type of behavior, and we try to help them.”
Tammy Hardee with the West Tennessee Women’s Center said she wants parents and families to leave the event more educated.
“I want them to be aware that this is a problem in our community,” she said. “… These kids are innocent, and these predators know how to manipulate them to get them drawn in to do what they want them to do. We want to get these parents armed so they can protect their kids.”
Reporter Beth Knoll contributed to this story.
Read it here: http://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/crime/2014/09/18/event-help-victims-internet-luring