Pedophilia is an uncomfortable subject. No one wants to talk about it and most feel helpless to stop it, so we prefer to ignore the issue rather than discuss it. But the truth remains that this is a very real and widespread problem, one we all need to address if we can ever hope to solve it.
This has been a hot topic lately with Corey Feldman, who has been working to expose Hollywood for “a pedophile ring” he says he’s known of since he was a child. Other celebrities have raised similar concerns, including Elijah Wood, while Ashton Kutcher recently co-founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an international organization that fights against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children and whose work is changing the fates of thousands upon thousands of human trafficking victims.
Powerful people are working to eradicate this issue, and now, you can help, too.
The TraffickCam app is a free app available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android that allows you to upload pictures of your hotel room. Linked to a national database used by law enforcement, the photos help them locate trafficked children. If you frequently travel or stay in hotel rooms, you can really help in the fight against child trafficking.
A great initiative that helps people come together from all over the world, it has already garnered over 1.5 million images of hotels across the world, thanks to support from the public. The reality is, the internet has made trafficking much easier.
“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” says Abby Stylianou, a researcher at Washington University who developed TraffickCam.
Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh of St. Louis County Police, who is the Deputy Commander of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, has noticed an increase in younger victims. “The average age, when we talk to our girls that we deal with, most of them have started at 13, 14 years old. And most of them have been sexually abused as children,” he says, but remains optimistic this technology can make a difference. “I think it’s going to be crucial to help us identify not only where they’re at now, but where they’ve been at. Which is something we need – that’s helps with prosecution.”
Together, we can help combat this reality by downloading the app and, any time you visit a hotel room, “You just enter your hotel room, and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Stylianou explains. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”
Researchers at Washington University and a non-profit called the Exchange Initiative created by Nix Conference and Meeting Management merged ideas to create the app. When the police sought the help of Nix staff a few years ago to help identify a specific hotel room where a victim was trafficked, one of the employees recognized it right away. “It was a photo that they had from the internet,” Nix Principal Molly Hackett said. “One of the girls in our office knew exactly what it was.”
“It’s great that everyday citizens can do everyday things by taking a picture help stop sex trafficking,” Hackett added.
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