In recent news reports, two stories have stood out for the heroic actions of victims of sexual predators.
In the first story, Lacie, a 13-year-old girl from Texas has come forward to warn other girls about how she was convinced by a 34-year-old man (posing as a teenage girl named Brianna Benson) to send nude photos of herself. The suspect would contact her casually, over a period of time, to establish a connection and to foster an ease of conversation before starting to ask for photos. Lacie complied with the request and when asked why, she stated that "Why? I don't know. It was one of those dumb teen moments." However, Lacie suspected things were not right when she was asked to take nude pictures of her seven-year-old-sister. The suspect contacted Lacie threatening her that she had better send more photos:
"Brianna Benson: So I guess the only way you'll believe me is if I post a picture and tag you, huh?" the suspect said via chat according to court records.
This is when she bravely went to her mother and told her what was happening.
Once contacted, police were able to track Melvin Barber Bridgers III of Tarpon Springs, Florida through an IP address he was using (actually registered to his roommate). Apparently, the suspect was also being investigated by law enforcement officials in Florida, as well as by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations. On May 1, 2014 the suspect was arrested.
If convicted, Bridgers faces up to 10 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Additionally, he could face up to 30 years in prison for production of child pornography and up to 20 years for each of the receipt and distribution charges.
Investigators are concerned that there are other victims and ask that anyone with information about potential victims contact the authorities at a toll-free tip line: 1-866-347-2423.
Lacie has set a powerful example for other victims by not allowing herself to be extorted further by a sexual predator. Not only was she able to prevent him from exploiting her younger sister, but by telling her mother what was happening they were able to contact the authorities which ultimately led to his arrest -- thus protecting countless other young girls.
In the second story of heroism, two victims of an alleged pedophile helped to gather evidence against him many years after their abuse. Michael M. and John Kirby, both in their 40s, claim that Stephen Brown, 62 had sexually abused them during the mid-1980s while they both were students at a NYC prep school. As teenagers, both Michael M. and John Kirby did not report what had happened to them to the authorities, nor did they inform their parents.
However, in recent years Michael M. and John Kirby took it upon themselves to watch out for Stephen Brown as he approached children in the area of the Central Park Pond. They used a Nikon camera with a 300-mm lens to snap photographs of these interactions and gave these images to investigators.
On March 4, 2014 Stephen Brown was arrested at the Inn on the Hudson in Peekskill, Westchester County, where he allegedly traveled "to engage in various sexual acts" with a 12-year-old boy. In the course of their investigations, authorities say "they found more than 11,000 illicit photos on Brown's electronic devices following his arrest."
Due to the quantity of child pornography that he's possessed, what he was going to do to a 12-year-old child and the access that he has had to children in the past, both the NYPD and the state police are very concerned that there are multiple victims with the New York City and New York State area over the course of his lifetime
,said state police Senior Investigator Bill Gray, of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Anyone with information regarding this suspect is asked to contact the sex crimes hotline at (212) 335-9373.
By taking action, Michael M. and John Kirby were able to provide investigators with information on Stephen Brown, a man they say preyed on them as young boys. As difficult as this must have been for them, they acted not to save themselves but to help prevent other boys from being exploited by a sexual predator.
The selfless actions of Lacie, Michael and John are to be applauded -- they took a stand against those who exploited them sexually and potentially saved many, many other children from abuse.
Stay safe; live well.