Why do Nark adults abuse their mothers

I am a 37 year old mother and I pretended to be an 11 year old girl on the internet. I experienced that.

Note: This article contains sexual content and descriptions of child abuse that some readers may find disturbing. The messages, pictures and conversations contained in the text are real. The text was written by an American and is set in the USA.

I'm in the bathroom, my pale blue sweatshirt pushed up to my chin and an elastic bandage wrapped tightly around my chest. I look in the mirror as I tie the bandages over my sports bra and flatten my chest. Then I go out of the bathroom. Our team is already waiting.

"Does it looks good?"

I get a nod of agreement. I turn towards the camera. I usually don't wear clothes that are intended for girls between the ages of ten and twelve. I also don't wear glitter polish on my nails or neon hair bands on my wrist. On normal days, I dress like a typical 37 year old mother. Jeans. Shirts that cover my waist. Shoes with a decent footbed.

Reid takes a few photos of me. She scurries to our makeshift command center - actually a dining room that's now littered with cork boards, maps, papers, and computer monitors. My colleague Will frowns as he quickly edits the photos.

Thanks to clothing, background, hair styling and the magic of photo manipulation, we no longer see the grown-up woman with crow's feet that I actually am.

I'm moving into the kitchen, giving him space. We prepare for the hardest part of the day. We already know from experience that it will follow a fast pace and be emotionally exhausting.

“Everything is ready,” Will calls from the command center. A couple of us stand at Will's computer screen and examine the result.

“It's bought,” says Brian. He is the head of Bark, the US company leading this project. Bark uses artificial intelligence to alert parents and schools when children are exposed to issues like internet bullying, depression, or threats of violence - or when sex offenders target them, as in this case. We currently record more than four million children and analyze 20 million activities per day. I look at Brian looking at the computer screen and think about it. Then I nod and sigh. I also find it convincing.

Thanks to clothing, background, hair styling and the magic of photo manipulation, we no longer see the grown-up woman with crow's feet that I really am on the screen. Instead, we're staring at a photo of the fictional eleven-year-old Bailey. No matter how often we do this, the results are still disturbing. Not because we create a child out of nothing. It's because we're deliberately endangering Bailey to show the extent to which abuse threatens Generation Z - children born between 1997 and 2012.

The majority of eleven-year-olds are still prepubescent. They have not yet menstruated and rarely wear real bras. Most of the time, they don't think about sexual relationships or genital organs or sex.

But their hunters do.

"Thanks, I hate it," I say dryly and get a laugh. The mood in the room is always a bit gloomy, and the jokes slide easily into the macabre. To an outsider, they might sound blatant. But everyone who works with us here needs a bit of gallows humor to get through the day.

When the photo is ready, we all march into the media room, where I connect an iPhone to the large screen. We sit on sofas and armchairs and Nathan sets up a camcorder on a tripod so that it is pointed straight at the television. Evidence is precious: we keep the cameras rolling to ensure that every criminal act committed by the contact person provides digital evidence for law enforcement officers.

Nathan checks the lights, then the sound. Josh throws a pile of hoodies on the coffee table.

"Are you ready?" Josh asks me.

"Yes." I lie a little. I am never quite ready.

During the day we all lend a hand. There are calls to be made, photos edited, evidence to be cataloged. But at night it's me who lies in wait. To be honest, work is often lonely. Insulating. Devastating. Tonight we share the burden and I am grateful for the company. But I'm still the one in the hot seat.

Less than a year ago, in a meeting, Brian and I racked our brains about how we should talk to parents about online grooming - targeting people online with the aim of establishing sexual contacts. Back then we were a much smaller team at Bark. We came across one particularly harrowing case in which an online perpetrator molested a middle school girl. She was only twelve years old. This man had contacted her through her school email account and compelled her to send him videos showing her performing sexual acts. We knew there were people like him. But we were shocked to see how quickly and skillfully he was able to manipulate this child.

In 2018 alone, Bark alerted the FBI of 99 child molesters. In 2019 there were more than 300 - and the number is growing. Each of these cases represent a real child suffering real harm. Our challenge is to help parents and schools understand this new reality. But how can we tell stories without families having to reveal too much? How do we explain online grooming to a generation that didn't grow up with this danger? Numbers are informative, but they're abstract and easy to gloss over.

The problem we faced frustrated me. I tapped my pen on the conference table and thought aloud. “When parents think of bad guys,” I said to Brian, “they think of someone who tosses their child in a trunk and drives them away. You don't think about the invisible abuse that happens online. In a perfect world, we would record a conversation with a real sex offender. But then the victim would be traumatized again ... "

I stopped. We kept coming back to this point.

"What if we set up fake accounts ourselves to show parents what could happen online?" Asked Brian. I raised my eyebrows. Waited a while to see if he was kidding. But that wasn't a joke.

That conversation was nine months ago. Since then we have put together a whole team. We have established permanent working relationships with law enforcement agencies. We did test runs, hired new employees and had countless discussions. We have seen arrests and convictions. We testified in court and provided information for an investigation.

My own role has changed: I am now leading the team for the new special project. To maintain the integrity of this project, this team works largely behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. We do not appear on the company website, and our Twitter profile photos do not show our actual faces. Brian and I are also the liaison between our team and law enforcement, which includes regular meetings and status updates. In this way we ensure that we work under their framework conditions as well as those of the public prosecutor's office. Nobody wants our hard work to be in vain due to a lack of evidence or even a hint of a possible entanglement.

What is happening in this media room today is not our first rodeo. Not even our second or third. For the past nine months, I've been 15 year old Libby, 16 year old Kait, and 14 year old Ava. I was a hardworking tenth grader considering getting a pony cut and a lacrosse player raised by her aunt. I was an excited middle school student who can't wait for prom.

We now have experience and routine - but today is the first time that we employ such a young persona. Tonight my chest is constricted and my language sounds a lot less adult.

Tonight I'm eleven year old Bailey.

"Let's go," I say into the room.

"You can do it, Sloane," Reid says, patting me on the shoulder, a little woodenly but encouragingly. Reid's chin is pointy and she's staring straight ahead. As a criminal law attorney, Reid moved into the private sector and joined Bark when we started this project. With her legal knowledge and experience in dealing with blatant criminals, Reid is an important addition to our team. Reid's patting on the back feels like real care and support.

Pete - formerly in the military, now in private security - is literally three times my width and sits in the front of the living room. Tonight is certainly safe. But on days that feel a lot more threatening, it gives us all a little peace of mind.

I upload the photo to Instagram - a harmless selfie of Bailey with a big grin - and write something about it.

“I'm excited to see my friends at Carly's party this weekend! Ilysm !! ”, plus a series of emojis and a # friends hashtag.

"Ilysm" is the abbreviation for "I love you so much."

The photo will be posted on Instagram and we're waiting for something to happen on the big screen.

This part never takes long. It's always annoying fast.

On my first night as Bailey, two messages came in less than a minute after the photo was posted. We sat with our mouths open when the numbers came up on the screen - 2, 3, 7, 15 messages from adult men over the course of two hours. Half of them could be charged with submitting obscene content to minors. That night I needed a rest break during which I buried my face in my hands.

After nine months of work, we continue to be stunned by the range of cruelty and perversion that we see. I can imagine that this will happen again tonight.

“Something's coming,” says Avery, and we all look at the screen. The Instagram notifications show that Bailey has three new requests for a conversation.

"Hi! I was just wondering how long have you been a model? "

"Lol! I'm not a model, ”I type quickly and hit“ Send ”.

"No!"he types, full of false disbelief. "You lie! If not, you should be a model. You are so pretty."

@ XXXastrolifer appears to be in his early 40s, but he tells Bailey he's 19. When she explains to him that she is only eleven, he doesn't flinch.

The next message is from another man who innocently greets Bailey.

"Hi! How are you tonight? "

"Hello, am I fine, hbu?"

"Hbu" is the abbreviation for "How about you?"

"I'm fine thank you. You are a very beautiful girl. "

I hear Josh mumble next to me. "Runs like clockwork."

"Wow thanks!"

“I really mean that. I like your photos here. Do your parents let you have a boyfriend? "

Bailey says no, but also that they don't talk about it much at home. I ask the parents who are in the room with me. They agree. Finding a friend is not the most important thing for an eleven year old.

“Maybe I can be your Instagram friend if you want? If you like."

I interrupt the conversation to turn back to @ XXXastrolifer. The conversation ends like most - after less than five minutes he sends Bailey a video showing him masturbating.

"Do you like that? Have you seen one like this before? "

I turn my attention back to @ XXXthisguy66, the would-be Instagram friend. In a few minutes it will escalate. Of "An Instagram friend means that we can chat with each other, send selfies back and forth and just be there for each other." to "Now that we are together, are you ready for us to send each other sexy pictures?"

She is eleven and doesn't really know what he means. He sends a photo of his erect penis, asks for a photo of her shirtless, and assures her that he can teach her what to do.

“Well, a lot of guys like their girlfriends sucking them. Do you know what this means?"

"No I do not know that."

"That means you take the tail in your hand, put your mouth around it and suck it like your thumb."

"I don't understand," Bailey types back.

“You take my cock. You put it in your mouth and suck on it. "

“God,” Reid says, and I look at her. "A child's first conversation about sex shouldn't be with a man who wants to rape them."

I turn back to the screen.

"But why?"

“Some girls like it, and it feels really good on the boy. That's exactly what a boy likes. And what a boy and a girl really like is when I stick my cock between your legs and slide it inside you. That's called sex. Or fucking. "

"Oh. I already know something about sex. "

“As soon as you can, send me a picture of you shirtless, or send me a picture of you between your legs. I would really like that. "

"What a picture? Between my legs? "

“Do you know your vagina? Or some people call it a pussy. I would like to see you. Because that's where my cock comes in. But I would also like to see your chest. "

“I don't really have breasts yet,” replies Bailey. She really doesn't. She wears a training bra because her friends do too, but she doesn't really need one. Not yet.

"That's fine. I am sure you look great anyway. I would still suck your nipples. "

"I'm not good at taking body photos."

"That's okay. Can you send me a picture of you sucking your finger So I can imagine you giving me a blow job, as we discussed earlier. I'll send you another photo of my cock. "

He does that too.

I end the conversation with @XXXastrolifer and see nine more inquiries. We are all shocked when my phone rings loudly over the TV speakers. It's an incoming Instagram video call from a new would-be abuser.

I spontaneously decide to take it, put my phone aside, take off my sweatshirt, and swap it for a hooded one. Everyone in the room knows what I'm doing.

"Shut up, everyone," Nathan says unnecessarily. With the hood up, I tilt my head to one side to hide my face. The light is dimmed. Then I take the call. Dominique on my left is ready. The former costume designer is unsurpassed when it comes to handling wigs and stage make-up. The photos of my different personas don't even look like they have anything to do with each other, even next to each other. I am latina. I'm partly Asian. I'm a blonde I am red haired.

A man with a British accent is on it, breathing heavily and whispering into the phone.

"Hey. How are you? I want to see you." He waves his cell phone and you can see that he is shirtless in bed. I adjust my voice, speak an octave higher.

"Ummmm. I'm shy."

"No, baby, no. Do not be shy"he hums, his voice soft and convincing.

"I can't stand it, damn it," says Will and walks out of the room, shaking his head.

The rule at Bark is that we can all take time out whenever we want. We can get out whenever we have to. We can take a breather; we can schedule a therapy session. We can even leave the team.

This also applies to me, the (manipulated) face of our personas.

After two and a half hours, I had seven video calls. I ignored another two dozen (some had written to Bailey beforehand, hoping for more interaction afterwards). I've chatted with 17 men, of 11 I've seen the genitals. I have also been asked for nude photos several times, above the waist (although it is clear that Bailey's breasts have not yet developed) and below the waist. I refused them.

The script for what we see always follows the same pattern.

  • You're so pretty.

  • You should be a model.

  • I'm older than you.

  • What would you do if you were here baby

  • Would you touch my cock if you were here

  • Have you seen one before baby

They keep calling her baby without a hint of irony.

  • Baby you are so beautiful

  • Talk to me baby

  • I want your mouth on my cock baby

  • Just go to the video chat, baby.

  • Don't be shy baby

Bailey is a child. Libby, Kait, Ava, Alessia, Lena, Isabella. All of my personas are - legal, emotional, physical, intellectual. They have no power of attorney and have no way of giving their consent. Society may be happy to point a finger at victims (“What was she wearing?”), But the answer remains the same. They are all children. And as in any case of abuse, a child is never guilty.

It's almost midnight. I stopped video calling an hour ago, but I was typing feverishly. My hair is tied in a ponytail and I pour water into myself like I've just run a half marathon. “The body forgets nothing”, as the saying goes, and my body gives in. The back of my T-shirt is damp, my eyes are cloudy, my neck is sore, and my heart is a little sick.

Over the course of a week, over 52 men spoke to an eleven-year-old girl. With these numbers in mind, we soberly turn off the television and camcorder.

The work is emotionally demanding, even if not necessarily physically. Most of us on the team have kids, some of whom are the same ages as the personas I play. Work is too close to home. But you don't have to be a parent to be devastated by how the most vulnerable in society are being persecuted.

The night is coming to an end. Now every single conversation plus photo has to be sorted, organized and packed so that we can send the material to our contacts at the police. All child sexual abuse material is sent to the NCMEC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

You can find out more about the cooperation between the US NCMEC and the German Federal Criminal Police Office here.

I text the law enforcement officer I work closest with and give him an update on what happened. We're packing up to go home. We all look a little battered. The painful truth is that this work is hard and excruciating, and it literally keeps us up at night. We could just stop. Step on the brakes. Draw our attention to the day-to-day running of the company.

But we know what is at stake. The most obvious benefit of our work: We help identify sex offenders. Not only to bring them to justice, but also to prevent them from molesting any more children. We also educate parents and schools about an almost unbelievable reality that exists online. And from a technical standpoint, these nerve-wracking conversations train Bark's artificial intelligence to better identify signs of abuse.

The brutal reality is that a persecutor doesn't have to be in the same room, building, or even land to abuse a child.

I think about my children. To the children of my employees. Of my own self decades ago as a young, insecure, impressionable tween and then as a teenager. I think about how I would have felt if I was Bailey. How I would have kept the abuse to myself for fear of being embarrassed and blamed. How I secretly and quietly would have suffered because of it. How I would have been a silent victim. As I would not for any other child - neither my own nor anyone else's.

The brutal reality is that a persecutor doesn't have to be in the same room, building, or even land to abuse a child. And that's what they do - they subject children to psychological and sexual abuse.

Knowing about the spread of abuse on the internet is not a burden. Not really. It is a present. One that helps us to take action against the perpetrators. Our work has resulted in the arrest of people who have shown a propensity and willingness to harm children. Technology has changed, and with it the ways perpetrators find children, communicate with them, and hurt them. If they can use this technology to abuse children, we can use the same technology to stop their crimes.

I'm not Bailey at home. I am a 37 year old mother in wool socks who puts the dishwasher out and helps with homework. One of my children is learning sayings, proverbs and idioms. She reads them out loud from her notebook. Bite the bullet. Through thick and thin. Two birds with one stone.

"Mom," she looks at me, pencil in the air. "Do you also think that Ignorance is a blessing? ”I rinse my hands and dry them with a tea towel. I watch her take notes. I'm biased, of course, but I think it's a miracle. Full of joy and wit and curiosity, just as I imagine Bailey to be.

"No darling. I don't think that's right, ”I say resolutely, pull up a chair and sit down next to her at the kitchen table. I prop myself up on one elbow and look at her homework. "Knowledge is a gift."

I repeat it to myself again as I get up and wipe the counter. I'm serious. And even on the worst of days, I mean business.

Disclaimer: Out of caution and due to pending criminal investigations, names - including those of the author - and insignificant details have been changed for reasons of privacy and clarity.

This article was published in English on medium.com. Translation and production: Vera Fröhlich; Editor: Theresa Bäuerlein; Final editing: Susan Mücke.