Content Warning: Catfishing, Impersonation, Drug Use, Sexual Encounters, Child Predator, Social Pressure
I was only 11. My parents told me that I could not have any social media. But, like many teenagers, we tend to flout and not listen to our parents, and I was an opportunist.
The moment I found the right people to give me what I wanted, I got my hands on my first trap phone. From there, I got social media, just like all of my friends at the time.
Little did I know this would change my life forever.
You could say it was peer pressure – definitely – but it was also just childish naivety, wanting to feel older, to experience more, to not always be under the influence of our parents.
I know numerous people feel this when we are younger, and although it’s not bad – it’s completely natural in fact – it could get us into some pretty dire situations.
My story led me to a life of bad friends, bad associations, drugs, unwanted sexual encounters, and a ton of tears that dug me into an extensive hole so large that I couldn’t climb out by myself. I needed help, but I didn’t know it. Admittedly, I didn’t want it at the time.
I know it sounds silly, but many people don’t realize the severity of their situation, and would much rather continue alone. But I am here to plead that hopefully, my story would help people be more aware of what is going around them, inside their own lives, and other people’s lives, and that it is okay to ask for help or give people the help they need when you know they need it.
Without help, sometimes there is no going back. I was lucky enough to have gotten in trouble with my parents. It sounds absurd, however, they soon discovered the severity of my situation. They helped me out of the dark hole I was trapped in, providing me with nothing but love and support. Without them, I likely wouldn’t be here.
When I was only 11, after I got social media, I got into a relationship with a boy halfway across the country, who claimed he was 13.
He was not 13. I was groomed and preyed on by a child predator. There are an estimated 500,000 online predators active each day. It is a harsh reality that many children will encounter a child predator and be sexually assaulted, raped, or even sold into sex trafficking.
I had been “dating” him for around 2 years, and he would explicitly talk to me every single day. He would talk me into doing things I would have never done.
My friends did not help either, as they introduced me to substances that I would take daily.
My life was falling apart. I was doing things I KNEW I was not supposed to be doing. I continued doing it for so long that by the time I wanted to stop, I was trapped.
My “boyfriend” threatened to kill himself if I broke up with him. My friends would leave me if I stopped doing drugs or wearing my clothes a certain way.
I felt like a bad daughter. I wanted to die. I wanted to run away. But I couldn’t stop.
My “boyfriend” soon suggested I catch a Greyhound to where he lived. He said he would take care of me. I was naive and agreed. I planned and even started packing.
However, one afternoon my mom caught me with my trap phone. I begged her not to tell my dad, but she did. They went through my phone. They saw everything I said, all the pictures I took.
I was mad. But now, I couldn’t imagine the pain and horror they experienced as they went through that little phone that held my biggest and darkest secrets. I still feel an immense amount of regret and sadness for everything I put them through.
I was only 13.
And the fact that so many other young 13-year-olds are subjected to so much negativity and horrors makes me – and I bet many others – sick to their stomach.
Since that incident, I lived a very sheltered life for a while. I was mad at my parents until I got older and started to understand how much my actions had impacted my whole family. They were scared. They were worried. I was going to run away, I was talking to a bad person, I was doing drugs, I was doing every parent’s nightmare.
We are young. We learn and experience new things as we get older. It is part of life. However, the best thing that we can do is listen to our intuition and don’t do things that feel wrong.
I know it could be hard, but your life is on the line. We are not invincible.
If you need help, I urge you to find the help you need, no matter how hard it may seem. You would never be a burden, and you deserve support, no matter where you find it: your parents, a teacher, a good friend, or a trusted adult.
And if you know anyone who is going through anything, I urge you to help them get the support they need. Learning about the signs of sex trafficking, suicide, and other situations could be the first big step you can to save someone’s life.
I soon learned that my “boyfriend” was an old man who lived in Indiana and was a registered sex offender. I am so grateful and fortunate my parents stopped me before I ran away from my seemingly “hopeless” life.
My story ended much more fortunate and brighter than others. Many people’s stories end much more tragically.
I am now 17 and in college. I already have my associate’s degree and will be pursuing a career in video editing. Hopefully, one day, I could start an organization to spread awareness of sexual abuse, rape, dangers online and mental health.
I will end this letter with a plea to self educate yourselves and those around you on these topics. And if you need help, or know a person who does, do not hesitate to get them the support they or you need.
You could be saving a life.