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Child Safety Situation #15

Girl, 13 years old; sexually exploited.

13-year-old Annie* wanted more than anything else to be an actress. She felt she was getting somewhere when the local paper ran a picture of her in the school play.

A few days later she saw a man walking by her house with a camera around his neck. He looked at her as he passed and stopped and said, "Aren't you the one I saw in the school play?" When Annie admitted she was, he told her his name was George* and that he had gone to the play with his girlfriend. He said, "I'm a professional photographer, and I'm willing to bet you could be a top model or an actress if you wanted to be." All this praise made Annie blush and her head spin.

The next week, George bumped into Annie again. "Say, maybe I can help you. What about my making you a portfolio and sending the pictures to a friend of mine who's a big agent?" When Annie asked how much it would cost, George said, "Don't worry about that. You can pay me out of your first shoot." Annie was thrilled and said, "I can hardly wait to tell my parents". George looked at Annie and said, "What if they aren't sure you should do modeling yet, as young as you are? Wouldn't it be smarter to pose first and surprise them with your first job offer"? Remembering how her parents sometimes still treated her like a baby, Annie decided George was right. Annie told George she would skip school after lunch and come to his studio. George's studio was a room in his home, where he had all kinds of backdrops and sexy clothing. George took a roll of pictures.

When Annie came back the next day to pose in the bathing suit George had asked her to bring, she was pleased that most of the pictures already developed were really good. When he asked her to pose in her bra and underwear for the lingerie-type ads, she hesitated a minute, until George grinned and said, "Don't tell me you think your underwear is more revealing than that bikini". George said she had a good enough body that she should be able to pose for art photographers, but she would need to include a few nude shots. By this time, Annie was star struck and dying to see how great she would look, so she made herself take off her underwear. After all, George was old enough to be her father and treated her like her doctor, with clinical detachment when he had to touch her to place her.

When she told him she did not want to do some of the poses he wanted, George got really mean and told her he would send the nude pictures to her parents. Annie felt stuck and turned and bent like he ordered her to. When George finally let Annie leave, he told her that if she ever told anyone he would make sure the kids at her school got hold of her pictures.

As soon as Annie got home, she told her older sister. Together they told their parents. Their parents reported what happened to the police. The police got a warrant to search George's studio for pornography. There the police found lots of pornographic pictures of kids and lists of people he sold the pictures to. George was arrested for creating and distributing child pornography.

What can you learn from this story?

May I Visit:
Ask permission from your parents before you go into anyone's house. Jill's first instinct was correct: she wanted to ask her parents' permission to go to Fred's house to get her pictures taken. If Fred had been on the level, he would have insisted that one of her parents or some adult her parents sent accompany Jill to his studio.

Think Twice:
Always ask yourself why an adult is encouraging you to break rules. Jill knew she should get permission before she went into anyone's house, but she let her desire to be famous cloud her judgment. Jill knew she should not pose nude, but, again, she let her desire to be an artist's model overrule her good judgment. Sexual predators are smart enough to appeal to your needs for independence and recognition. They will outsmart you, unless you remember always to compare what they ask you to do against what adults you admire would expect of you.

If you believe you have been sexually exploited, tell someone. If you want the sexual predator to pay for what he did or to stop him from doing the same thing to other kids, you need to let law enforcement know what happened. If you are not comfortable speaking directly to your parents or the police, tell someone your own age first. With her sister's support, Jill was able to tell her mother who reported the crime to the police. Remember also that telling helps you put the episode behind you. When you carry a shameful secret, it tends to fester, as you imagine all the ways your secret can be discovered.

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*Names changed to protect privacy; information presented for educational purposes only. Reprinted with permission from The Jimmy Ryce Center.

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