• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Online child abuse: Mum’s warning to parents after her daughter was groomed

ByGurinderbir Singh

Feb 20, 2023

A mum has shared the horrifying story of how her daughter was groomed by an online predator.

Parent Cyber Safety Consultant founder Jen Hoey said her daughter met the perpetrator, who posed as another nine-year-old girl, while her daughter was playing an online game at a friend’s home.

“Essentially what they had been doing was mimicking sex acts, which is a typical desensitisation technique used by online predators,” Ms Hoey told a parliamentary joint committee into law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation.

The perpetrator told her child she would get into trouble if she revealed what happened to her – which Ms Hoey said had “devastating” impacts on her daughter’s mental health.

Her daughter was diagnosed with clinical depression and took medication for two years before she disclosed her abuse two years later.

“She lived in fear. Her whole demeanour changed. She showed extreme signs of separation anxiety for me, and began to eat a lot less,” she said.

“Following her disclosure, she informed me that every single day she had been afraid she might be arrested, she was filled with self blame and shame.”

Ms Hoey said this was “typical” behaviour of online perpetrators and advocated for all parents to get up to twice-annual “mandatory education” sessions around cyber crime.

“At the moment, I would say in my son’s class, he’s nine and in year three, I am the only parent in that class who is vigilant,” she said.

“He is not allowed on online at all unless he’s directly supervised by me or my husband.”

Also appearing at the joint inquiry, child safety advocate and victim of child aggravated sexual assault, Madeleine West said the issue of child online safety was “insidious”.

She also called for reform to reporting for victims, and increasing the likelihood of victims getting outcomes, quoting statistics from the Victorian Law Reform Commission that only 6.5 per cent of every 1000 child sexual assault cases achieve a conviction.

“I think that is what deters a lot of people and why the paradigm continues as it has,” said Ms West.

“(It’s the) sensibility that even if I report, I’m not going to get an outcome. We need to change the narrative around that and fast.”

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