Wise up, o wizened one!
February 4, 2012 7:20 AM   Subscribe

What more do I need to say to a friend who I'm sure is headed for a fall?

My best friend sat me down a few weeks ago and told me, he was in love with a 15-year-old girl, and she's in love with him.

The bad news is, we're both in our 50's.

The good news is, she lives 1,000 miles away in another country.

I told him every variation of, "Don't be surprised if the next knock on your door is from the FBI" that I could think of, (not that I'm about to report him, mind you) but that was about it. It's apparent from what he told me that he's engaged in some online activities that I believe could land him in jail RIGHT NOW if he was caught, and I told him that, too.

Aside from that, what do I as a friend say to him? I know having been in love that nobody in that state wants to hear variations on, "You can do better. Why not look for somebody closer to home?" (or, I might add, "Why not look for somebody who could legally enjoy something stronger than a bubble gum smoothie?")

I extracted an assurance from him that he would not be meeting her any time soon, that that's not even a plan at this time. I've seen this movie, and I know that the next scene is a smash cut to him disembarking at the international terminal of her home airport. How do I keep the drumbeat of "wise up, dude!" going without pushing him further into folly?

I'm meeting him for drinks tonight. I'm planning to keep it light unless he just goes totally overboard. Anybody have any positive experience with this kind of thing? Watching a friend potentially self-destruct? What's the best way I could help my friend?
posted by Infinity_8 to Human Relations (77 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
You tell him you are going to report him yourself. This man is a predator and you are enabling him.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2012 [106 favorites]


1000 miles away in another country? I'm thinking there is a 0% chance this is a 15 year old girl, and a 100% chance this is a fake profile scam designed to bilk him for thousands of dollars. Perhaps you should approach it from that angle.
posted by Gable Oak at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2012 [36 favorites]


Ask how he can possibly be 100% sure that this is a 15-year-old girl, and not a)the cops looking for internet predators, b)scammers, as Gable Oak mentions, or c)some troll who thinks he's having fun stringing your friend along?
posted by easily confused at 7:30 AM on February 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


Webcam sex with a 15-yo in another country? This is not "young love" or "february-october romance." It's thinly veiled child prostitution/porn, and as St. Alia suggests, I personally think you have a moral obligation to report this.
posted by drlith at 7:31 AM on February 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


I wonder if hunting down some news stories about men in his situation who found out they weren't actually corresponding with a 15-year-old girl, but with someone else--possibly even a cop hunting on-line predators, or a scammer of some kind--would help wake him up.

I wonder if you have said anything to him about how this affects your perception of him? Yes, he is taking a risk here, but he is also engaging in some very disturbing behavior--if this really is a 15-year-old girl, he is the on-line predator parents everywhere are worried about. It's self-destructive behavior, yes, but it's also criminal behavior. Even if the 15-year-old girl isn't real, the idea that he would pursue a romantic and sexual relationship with one is very disturbing. If the girl is real, she needs your concern and protection even more than your friend does. And if she's not real, well, so what? Give her your concern and protection anyway, on behalf of all the real 15-year-old girls out there.
posted by not that girl at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


Are you a moral human being?

You seem to know how wrong this is. Do you think your friend is somehow an exception to this rule?

I would honestly be going to see him to tell him that his behavior is hugely wrong, immoral, and dangerous for everyone involved, and that the situation will be resolved with him being reported and losing a friend if this behavior doesn't end.

Honestly, if you do nothing and continue being a friend to this person you are a guilty party as well. DO NOT let this carry on, please! For the sake of the CHILD and your friend.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is way beyond your a friend buying an overpriced new car during some sort of mid life crisis. This is potentially about a very young person, however misguided, being taken advantae of by an older person who should know better.

Your friend should hope this is a scam and not the real deal. If it is scam to get money, then he probably will just end up with a bruised ego. If not, well then his life is going to change for the worse.

And if it is real, you might want to consider some of the less than intelligent decisions made in the recent Sandusky situation. Not just by Sandusky, but the people who knew about it and did not act.

Yes, I am referring to you
posted by lampshade at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2012 [24 favorites]


Also, this is CRAZY incriminating information that you've associated with your (very public) profile here. I highly suggest that you make it anonymous no matter what route you decide take.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:59 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know why you're friends with this guy in the first place, but whatever. As a friend, you have to metaphorically slap him and say what the fuck are you thinking? As a member of society, you have an obligation to make sure he never, ever does this stuff to kids, and if that includes reporting him, so be it. Are either of you parents? Or grandparents? Would you really want some 50 year old stranger talking to your teenaged child about sex? You'd probably (rightfully) be fucking disgusted, and that's how I feel about your "friend."
posted by desjardins at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


And, you know, it doesn't matter if this particular person is a scammer; your friend is attracted to a child! If some local 15 year old girl were just as alluring to him, what would stop him from "befriending" her in the same way, especially since they could actually meet?
posted by desjardins at 8:02 AM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've seen this movie, and I know that the next scene is a smash cut to him disembarking at the international terminal of her home airport.

No it doesn't. It ends up with him waiting at his local airport for her flight to get in, followed by the realisation that the thousands of dollars he sent for her plane ticket will never be seen again. Or possibly with him being arrested, if he's unlucky and this is a trawling policemen rather than a scammer.

Personally, if one of my friends did this, I'd tell them striaght out I don't hang out with paedophiles and cancel the drinks (plus any other plans or involvement I had with him). It sounds like you don't want to be so harsh for whatever reason, so tell him that best case scenario here is that it's a scammer, his behaviour is 100% inappropriate and unacceptable either way, then refuse to discuss it with him any more.
posted by shelleycat at 8:06 AM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


He needs to be made to understand the damage his actions are doing. Not that he could do better, or that it isn't real love, or that it might be a scam, or that it's illegal. All of these can be rationalized away. Take it at face value that they are in love - not just that he is in love with her, but she with him, and she is just as willing to risk everything to be with him as he is for her. (It sounds like this really might be the case, and you owe it to him to assume it is, because HE clearly thinks it is.)

If she was 35, you would likely be unconditionally happy for your friend. If she was 25, you might crack a few jokes at his expense, and might be a bit nervous about it working out in the long term, but would probably still support him. Even at 18 or 20 you might step back because there is no legal problem, though at that point it starts to become morally difficult. Because she's 15, a crucial line has been crossed. He can't see it (obviously); he needs to be shown it. Why is it wrong, how is he a predator when the supposed victim is willing. More than willing.

If not obvious: adults hold power over teenagers and children by virtue of their age and experience, and (especially) by virtue of the still developing and fragile sense of self held by the youth. A relationship with a more powerful figure is seductive and thrilling for the vulnerable because it makes them feel themselves powerful, or special enough to be selected. The dynamic of such a relationship will be centered around the vulnerable party doing everything in her power to please the powerful party. It is not hard to see that an abusive dynamic will result if the powerful party has any such tendency -- and the fact that he has not recognized the power imbalance and minefield ahead is a huge warning sign that this might indeed be the case. Not that he will necessarily be abusive, but that he will lack the clear-headedness to identify her needs in their relationship and provide a safe space for her to develop, as by definition this would preclude the present situation. Instead, her life and personality will grow around him at the critical stages when she figures out who she is. When it inevitably fails due to the many obvious stresses the relationship will be placed under, she will be left shattered and confused and possibly very damaged.

In other words, there is a reason these laws exist. Help him see it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:07 AM on February 4, 2012 [43 favorites]


Thanks, Paul, for both, but your first said it all for me. The law doesn't seem to provide for the benefit of the doubt, and that's for the protection of the child, *not* because it wants my friend to be in trouble.

It would be impossible in my position to judge the situation and once again, the law doesn't permit or require that, so I'm not going to attempt to. Instead, I'm just going to remind him of the law, the likely outcomes, and my own disgust (in a manner not of telling him what to do, but of owning and acting on my own values, which has been sorely lacking in this situation) and cancel drinks.

Follow-up: In the unlikely event he's genuinely chastened, is there an effective way for him to break it off without guaranteeing the damage Paul mentioned above?
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:30 AM on February 4, 2012


In the unlikely event he's genuinely chastened, is there an effective way for him to break it off without guaranteeing the damage Paul mentioned above?

He should talk to a lawyer and a therapist. A lawyer to make sure he doesn't dig himself into an even deeper hole. A therapist to advise him on ending communication with the girl in the least traumatic way for her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:37 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he's off his nut enough to be contemplating this in the first place, I don't know that telling him he's a sex predator is going to do much. You might have better luck getting a de mininus promise to not see this girl in person until she's of legal age in her jurisdiction. See her before then, he could lose her forever.

When you attempt to persuade anyone of anything, you have to frame the choices around their desires. He's already shot past "this us creepy and wrong" as a bar to participating in this relationship; the relationship is that important to him. Emphasize, then, that seeing the girl will do much more to jeopardize hus "love" than holding back.
posted by Diablevert at 8:42 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the email I just sent him. I guess if he asks I'll mention the possibility of the lawyer and therapist.

[Name Redacted],

I'm not going to be coming by for drinks. I feel like you're still involved in this situation that you told me about and I can't be a part of that.

There are reasons for the laws against what you're doing. You could hurt somebody very badly. It's also still possible that you're either being scammed or set up (or otherwise at risk) for real and terrible legal consequences. Not to mention my own moral disgust at what you're doing and my own sense of risk just knowing about it.

I'm telling you this as a friend. I can't be involved with you until you put this situation far behind you. And it's only because of all we've been through together that "until" is in there.

I recognize that this situation could legally resolve itself positively in only a few years, but that doesn't excuse what you're doing now...and even if it was legal in that sense, I'd be very troubled by it. I'm very troubled by it now and don't want to be any part of it, either by ignoring it or excusing it or wishing it away.

Let's just please leave it at that for now. If you'd like to touch base in a few months, I'll be open to that.

Your friend,

[Redacted]
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:46 AM on February 4, 2012 [26 favorites]


I justly want to clarify --- I said what I said out of a position of pure pragmatism -- what is the most likely course of action that will prevent harm to ygd girl? I think it's making sure the don't meet and that this unhealthy relationship has ample time to die --- which, if there really is a 15 year old girl at the other end of this text chain, it likely will in a year or so. Burning your bridges with him will be a strong mark of your disapproval --- but if he could truly be touched by that he wouldn't have told you he was in love in the first place.
posted by Diablevert at 8:49 AM on February 4, 2012


I'd tell him "look, here's the situation. There's about an 80% chance that this girl literally does not exist; either she is made up for the purposes of scamming you out of thousands of dollars, or she is made up for the purpose of acting as bait for the Interpol sex trafficking sting you are now part of. There's about a 19.99% chance that she does exist, and is being exploited as part of an ACTUAL sex trafficking ring, or to scam you out of thousands of dollars, or both. And then there's that 0.01% chance that she actually exists AND is talking of you out of her own free will, in which case either she's just fucking with you to laugh at you behind your back with her mates, or your circumstances have such a radical power differential that you're virtually guaranteed to fuck her up for life. There is no good solution here for you, and if you can't see that clearly enough to break it off, then I will call the cops for you."
posted by KathrynT at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [32 favorites]


I have a hard time believing that your friend just stumbled into a online sexual relationship (I assume that the "online activities" you were told of were sexual in nature) with a 15 year old 1000 miles away. I know it is devastating to find this out about your best friend, but he is a child predator.

You say:

It would be impossible in my position to judge the situation and once again, the law doesn't permit or require that, so I'm not going to attempt to.

Then don't judge it and let law enforcement investigate and judge. You can rationalize to yourself out of devotion to your friend that you do not have to report this and cutting him off fulfills your moral duty.

I completely disagree. Your friend will likely continue his illegal activities with this girl and will likely try to find another underage girl (who may live closer) to abuse, either in person or online. Yes, there are reasons for laws like this. I would even guess that this hasn't been his only crime, but law enforcement can parse that out. Please let them for the safety of innocent children (no matter how "mature" they might be for their age).

I have a male friend who was sexually abused as a child (before there was an internet), by both men and a woman when he was in his teens, and it had a devastating effect on his life that he is still in his late 50's trying to dig his way out of. Please don't let this happen to another child. Please let law enforcement investigate and do its job...please!
posted by murrey at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2012 [16 favorites]


murrey said it best: Your friend will likely continue his illegal activities with this girl and will likely try to find another underage girl (who may live closer) to abuse, either in person or online.

If you don't report it, you might not be a legally culpable accomplice, but you're a morally culpable accomplice. Think carefully about that. By not reporting this, you are enabling a sexual relationship between an older adult male and a child.

When I was 14 I had a mad crush on a teacher who was probably 40 or so. He seemed to like me in a retrospectively-chaste way, but I didn't know the difference at the time and I was sure he looooooooved me. So I confessed my adoration to him. He pretty much could have had me any way he wanted, but he said while he was flattered, this was inappropriate and he couldn't possibly reciprocate. And then he made sure he was never ever alone with me. That is how a moral, responsible person handles an underage girl throwing herself at him (on the off chance this is what's happening).
posted by desjardins at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2012 [65 favorites]


The "predator" talk is hysterical. I'm not condoning it, but he has never touched or met her, she may not exist, and despite what pop culture says the age of consent is lower than 18 in many states. Whatever people's and pop culture's feelings, a grown man *talking* to a young girl is not a crime.

Focus on the angle "it's probably a scam" and "I want to protect you from a bad decision" and I bet you can talk him out of it. No need to involve Salem-style "sex offender" accusations.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's apparent from what he told me that he's engaged in some online activities that I believe could land him in jail RIGHT NOW if he was caught,

I missed this part. But since you don't tell us what these "activities" are it doesn't seem that relevant to the main question.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sounds wrong on so many levels to me, as it obviously does to others here, that I'm having a bit of trouble understanding why you would want to do anything other than drop a big blue flashing hammer on his toes. Or at the very least, tell him he is going to be reported unless he starts in some sort of treatment programme within a very short space of time. Otherwise, as others have rightly said, you are effectively colluding in the activities he is undertaking - how does that feel?

The intention to commit what he must know to be a crime with a child (and indeed you have said he has engaged in criminal activity already - and I also doubt this will be the first time, this is just the first time he's recognised any sort of emotional connection with the person on the other end of the link) is at the heart of the issue here. Whether this is a scam, whether it's a group of teenagers having a laugh at the expense of the dirty old man on the other end of the line, whether it's a sting by law enforcement - these are not the problem, The problem is that he is willing to contemplate engaging in sexual activity with a girl he believes to be underage. That is a much more deep-seated problem than you seem to be able to take on board.

As for resolving itself in a few years' time - what was that somebody said on here about when someone tells you who they are, believe them? This is part of who he is, unless he does some very hard work starting now to change that potentially highly destructive part. That's something he might also benefit from hearing - this is not a romantic star-crossed lovers' situation, this is a 50-year old man wanting to have sex with a 15year old girl (real or not).
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2012


I'm sorry, but as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself, I have zero tolerance for your doing anything other than telling him that if he doesn't cut this shit out right now you will notify the relevant authorities. And telling him that if he doesn't get professional treatment for this shit, you will stop being his friend.

I mean, yeah, there probably isn't even any 15-year-old girl, and this is either a money scam or a law enforcement sting.

But what if there is a 15-year-old girl? And the thing is that there are 15-year-old girls in the world. Millions of them. I don't give a fuck if there's somewhere where the age of consent is 15, because 15-year-old girls in those places don't have sex with 50-year-old foreign men out of love or even wanting to experiment. They have sex with 50-year-old foreign men because they're being exploited financially.

He needs a reality check to get his mind right on this. No 15-year-old girl will be falling in love with him, and if sex with a 15-year-old girl is his fondest dream he needs to figure out ways to channel that into a fantasy life that doesn't involve actual 15-year-old girls. Because there is no way he can have that sex without being exploitative.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's entirely possible that this is a real 15 year-old girl who is acting on her own free will as part of this thing. That doesn't make it right; it's the job of the guy in his 50s to know better, even if it's not a scam.
posted by wondermouse at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


drjimmy11, how is this not predatory: 50 year old seeking a romantic relationship with a 15 year old?
Even if he hasn't touched her yet, he's still going down a predatory path, with pedophile written larger and larger on every step.
posted by Neekee at 11:23 AM on February 4, 2012


what was that somebody said on here about when someone tells you who they are, believe them? This is part of who he is, unless he does some very hard work starting now to change that potentially highly destructive part. That's something he might also benefit from hearing - this is not a romantic star-crossed lovers' situation, this is a 50-year old man wanting to have sex with a 15year old girl (real or not).

This!
posted by Neekee at 11:26 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The "predator" talk is hysterical. I'm not condoning it, but he has never touched or met her, she may not exist, and despite what pop culture says the age of consent is lower than 18 in many states. Whatever people's and pop culture's feelings, a grown man *talking* to a young girl is not a crime."

This is absolutely not true, in the State of Georgia conversing with a 15 year old on the internet in an obscene manner has been a crime for more than a decade.

I sure hope that this is all the work of the fine folks at the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. However, the logical conclusions of this 15 year old girl being real are so much more important than his feelings, his freedom, or your feeling comfortable with the continuation or end of your friendship with him. You owe it to the possibility that this girl actually exists to remain close enough to your friend that you would know if he is continuing this 'relationship' and report him to your local authorities if he is.

Your profile mentions small town Georgia, which is particularly unfortunate for your friend as they don't fuck around, but please listen to the survivors of childhood sexual abuse in this thread and do not allow yourself to be complicit in the abuse of a child by inaction. If at any point you feel that it is even remotely possible that this child is real and about to be harmed use this form and walk down to your local precinct.

Also, you should know that your question is pretty fucking public
posted by Blasdelb at 11:26 AM on February 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


It speaks volumes though that your friend trusted you enough to come out to you on this issue. Somewhere in his mind he knows that this type of "relationship" is taboo. So I commend you for being sensitive enough to ask what you can do to help him. I'm not sure I would threaten to cut ties with him just yet - that could push him into further lonliness, and further deviant behavior. I would continue to encourage him to seek therapy immediately, to put some sort of moratorium on his communication with the girl immediately until he sees said therapist, and to let him know that while you will never support this kind of behavior, based on your past history together you will support him as a friend, as long as he is actively working towards making positive changes in his life.

Make no mistake, I don't condone what your friend is doing by any means, but maybe you have a chance to affect a positive change in the world here. Just remember that you yourself are not a professional in this field, and what your friend needs is heavy duty professional help. Help him find it.
posted by vignettist at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2012


I just noticed that one of your tags is "webcamsex". I am sticking with "predator" and am guessing that webcamsex is the illegal activity you were referring to in your original post. I am not a legal expert in this field, but this sounds like child pornography at best.

I am so sorry this is happening to you....it must be absolutely heartbreaking and sickening to find this out about your friend. Yet, you have the moral compass to email him and unequivocally relate your "moral disgust" and have ended the relationship unless this stops.

But please ask yourself this: If you found out this information out about a stranger or someone with whom you did not have such a strong emotional bond, would you turn that person in to the authorities? I am guessing based on your "moral disgust" you wouldn't hesitate because you know it is the right and moral thing to do. Because you love your friend and share a special history with him, turning him in would be excruciating, but your heartbreak and pain from having to do so does not change what is still the the right and moral thing to do.
posted by murrey at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jesus, please anonymize your question. If your friend is in fact engaged in the criminal sexual exploitation of a child -- which I think is most certainly a real possibility -- then you have provided an enormous amount of personal information via your profile which would enable any state or federal authorities to pursue you as someone who knew about this criminal activity but didn't report it. (Hint: your name is redacted in your answer above, but it's not redacted in your profile.) Two words, man: Penn State.

I understand if you're in shock and denial about how grotesque this is, and what the full legal and moral ramifications may be for your friend (and for you and your own family, given what is tantamount to a public declaration of your knowledge of the situation). But you have got to snap out of it and take action. And yeah, "action" in this case constitutes more than emailing your friend that you'll consider talking to him a few months from now.
posted by scody at 12:51 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since you appear to be wavering about whether or not to report this guy to a psychologist or the authorities or do anything proactive to end this behavior apart from "I'm totally not hanging out with you until you cut this out," I'll just remind you that your question and responses here are directly connected to your real name, age, birthday, (small) town, career, and other personally identifying information via your profile. You might genuinely feel that you're doing enough, but I'd be mortified to find myself implicated in acquiescing to even possible child sexual abuse for anyone who Googled me or otherwise found my Metafilter account.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:59 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what part sticks out to me? "A few weeks ago." There is a lot that could have happened and probably did happen in those few weeks, not to mention the many weeks before it, and none of it is good. At all.

(I'm hesitant that this is necessarily trafficking, because, y'know, not every non-US country is some nebulous, ooh-it's-a-spooky Third World place. Which doesn't make this ANY better, of course.)

Here's what you do: you call the cops. Period. Right now. You should have called them a few weeks ago. If you don't, you've pretty much dropped the moral ball.
posted by dekathelon at 2:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


OP, you should anonymize this question. Seriously. In my state, failing to report child abuse is a crime. I am not sure about your local laws, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Also, I know you value your friend, but you should take a step back and think about this situation. I would feel much worse about myself if I did not report this person. Sometimes the moral choice is much harder.
posted by annsunny at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2012


I recognize the likelihood that I have morally dropped the ball. I'm in Georgia, a state with no duty to report, so legally I get to make that decision. I'm of several minds on that and I see representations of all of those minds in this thread, and I appreciate your words and thoughts. You can denounce me for a coward or a reprobate if you wish. But please recognize that it's my own decision and that I'm dealing with facts as I see them including my long-time knowledge of this person and a desire to see this worked out without needlessly destroying anyone's life.

And as things stand now, needless would be le mot juste. If he's being scammed or set up (and I've told him of that possibility) then he'll be destroyed under his own steam. If he's not, then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed...although I have told him I believe he's risking doing harm to this person.

I have second-hand knowledge of a possible crime, as told to me by the alleged perpetrator. This to me does not scream duty to report. It would be different if I'd seen actual evidence -- images on his computer or plane tickets to her city I suppose -- but there's nothing like that. Just a conversation between friends. I choose to draw the veil of privilege over that communication, tell him to get right, and withdraw from the situation.

Again, thank you all.
posted by Infinity_8 at 3:04 PM on February 4, 2012


anonymyzing the profile wouldn't do much - a determined criminal investigator could figure out who the user was pretty easily with subpoenas. everyone DOES know you are a dog on the internet, as it turns out.
posted by yarly at 3:10 PM on February 4, 2012


"If he's not, then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed"

Good lord. All those supposedly abused children are actually the seducers AMIRITE?
If it's a web cam in a foreign country it's likely this is child abuse/ sexual exploitation and definitely not a government sting. I mean, think about it.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2012 [29 favorites]


This to me does not scream duty to report.

As a former childcarer, I can you dude that this definitely does fall under duty to report. At least in my country, duty to report covers even an unfounded suspicion that something is not right; you have much, much more than that.
posted by smoke at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed

But...she's 15. And I strongly, STRONGLY suspect he's an unreliable narrator. OF COURSE he's going to describe her in a way that makes her sound strong, resilient, mature...anything to make her sound LESS LIKE A CHILD.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2012 [31 favorites]


OK, look. I totally realize how annoying it must be for us to keep mentioning the same things here after this has been marked resolved, BUT:

The person he's described to you is a) the person as filtered through the eyes of a 50-year-old who probably wants to fuck her (word choice here is absolutely deliberate; this is pretty much what we are dealing with), and b) a 15-year-old girl. 15-year-old girls aren't known for being particularly resilient or fully capable of making mature decisions. It's also an age that can be pretty damn formative. Take it from me: Even if "nothing happens," she still might get hurt.

Other food for thought: Webcams/chats/etc can leave evidence on a PC that can be construed as child pornography.
posted by dekathelon at 3:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm confused. (Sincerely; not just saying that rhetorically.) Isn't "duty to report" about child neglect or abuse in the home, and isn't this something else?
posted by BibiRose at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2012


Oh, and by the way, I'm not suggesting that the OP may have no duty to report this; what I think is that he absolutely should. But the term "duty to report" may be misleading him into thinking he doesn't need to.

And, yeah, to the OP: the idea that a 15-year old's putative resilience has anything at all to do with your obligations or your friend's level of guilt is the worst kind of bullshit. Her age says it all.
posted by BibiRose at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


The legal duty to report seems to be incumbent on certain professionals, in certain positions, with certain knowledge of the act. Not sure how it applies to individuals and the circumstances under which the knowledge of an activity came to light. Not being a lawyer, I can't comment much further.

Here is an abstract of the law by GA Dept Of Human Services at their site that deals with the issue.

O.C.G.A. ยง 19-7-5 (2011)

You can find the exact text by searching Google for O.C.G.A. 19-7-5(C)(1)
posted by lampshade at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're making excuses for this guy. Since he's your friend, I have a bit of sympathy for how you feel. But the fact is, the person who you thought was your friend doesn't exist. Instead, you actually know someone who's into sexually manipulating teenage girls. There's no salvageable person in there somewhere. He's playing for sympathy by claiming he "loves" this girl (if she exists), and you are falling for it.

In my opinion, the best case scenario is that your friend is being set up by the police. That way, he'll be taken to task for his behavior. Any other possibility allows him to continue this bullshit with this girl (if she's real), or another girl, or both.

And something about your tag "folly" grosses me out. You really seem to believe your friend has just gotten a wild hair, and he'll come out of this older and wiser, and you'll have a bunch of right jolly laughs over beer joking about this situation for the rest of your lives. "Remember that time you were besotted with a mere schoolgirl, old bean?" "Oh, ha ha, yes, that seductive little tramp! Whatever was I thinking?"

It's not going to work out that way, and it shouldn't. Your friend is a creep. And you're so worried about destroying his life -- what about the lives of the girls he "falls in love with"? What about them -- you know, the ones who aren't old enough to know better?

You are morally obligated to turn this guy in. And since your post is so public, it's in your personal interest to do so, as well. Otherwise, when the cops come knocking at his door, your ass will also be toast when they find out that you knew and didn't tell the authorities.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


If he's not, then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed

Without first hand evidence, you're not willing to report your friend for what is a crime against a child.

Ergo, without first hand evidence, you are in no position to make a statement like the above about that same child.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


15 year old girls LIE. They lie even more to older men their trying to impress. I know because I was one. Your friend might think the girl he's chatting with is "resilient" but chances are she's been lying to him about something in an effort to impress him.

This might not be universally true but I also have to say that I think most well adjusted 15 year old girls aren't attracted to men of that age, especially ones they don't know and the fact that she's turning to the internet to find love from an older man who lives half way across the world may say something about how well adjusted she is, and how resilient that might make her.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 4:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


If you and your friend don't think this is serious, maybe one or both of you should visit Prison Talk Online and check out the forum, "Loving a Sex Offender." You will probably have to register to view that forum. Read a few of the stories of people convicted of computer-related offenses: what they did, and what happens to them.
posted by BibiRose at 4:27 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was too shaken and angry to finish posting properly - whether or not you were in a position to know the child in question, there appears to be something of a hitch in your willingness to consider what the right and proper thing is to do, not just what the strict letter of the law says about your responsibility and duty to report such a crime. Or, if you really didn't want to do that for whatever reasons of odd loyalty you may hold, then get him to get himself in to see someone wh can help him understand why what he is doing is wrong - again, this is unlikely to be the first time (or the last) that he behaves like this.

What would it take for you to do so? Where would you draw the line? Does a child actually have to be abused for you to consider reporting your friend? Because there are a lot of people with very painful life experiences who are telling you that what's happening and what has happened with your friend is abuse as it stands. Being 1,000 miles away (Central or South America? Canada?) doesn't make someone's pain or humiliation any less real, you know.

I get this -

"I have second-hand knowledge of a possible crime, as told to me by the alleged perpetrator. This to me does not scream duty to report. It would be different if I'd seen actual evidence -- images on his computer or plane tickets to her city I suppose -- but there's nothing like that"

- but most people would have drawn the line at the confessional bit about having participated in sexual activity online with a child. He TOLD you what he'd done - what more do you need to see / know?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, I know this is a touchy subject, but please do not harangue the OP. If you are too upset to answer please consider not trying right now. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Have you met any 15-year-old girls lately? Has he? (God, I hope not). They are BABIES. My sister is 16, and she is a child in so many ways. She has no idea how the world works, in general, and she acts like she's 5 years old when she isn't acting like a 5-year-old pretending to be a 30-year-old.

When you don't know many kids of that age, it's easy to see the images presented in the media and popular culture and get to a place where you can believe a guy who says HIS 15-year-old crush is smart, mature, sexy and understands what she's getting herself into. But if he is actually interacting with a real 15 year old (and I agree it's likely he is not), he can't help but notice that this is not entirely true. He is deceiving himself, and you.

And as someone said above, it's not easy to accidentally meet a 15 year old online. He must have been looking. Even if he was browsing a dating site and not specifically looking for someone underage, he must have been looking for someone very young, which is creepy in itself, but not illegal, I guess. But then he didn't run away when he found out her age.

Anyway, I would be questioning everything he has told you, and then seriously considering reporting him. It's entirely possible that no matter what he has told you, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. It's possible even that he is sounding you out because he would like to hear that his desires and behaviour are not as socially unacceptable as he suspects they are. In the extreme, it could be a kind of cry for help, to stop him before he does anything further with her, or with kids more local to him. This isn't necessarily the case, of course. Perhaps it's even unlikely. But it's worth considering.
posted by lollusc at 4:59 PM on February 4, 2012 [16 favorites]


On the one hand, you use his second-hand characterization of the girl as a way to justify no further action on your part. On the other hand, you dismiss his confession because it is second-hand without hard evidence. You can't have it both ways. I understand your reluctance to report your friend, but I thought it might be useful to point out this dissonance.
posted by cuban link flooded jesus at 6:32 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


OP, should you change your mind (and I hope you do), here's where you can report online solicitation of a child for sex: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2936
posted by zia at 7:23 PM on February 4, 2012


Sorry, THIS is a better link: www.cybertipline.com
posted by zia at 7:24 PM on February 4, 2012


For your state, the relevant authority is:

Assistant Special Agent in Charge Sandra Putnam
Forensic Computer Specialist Supervisor Beth Messick
GBI Headquarters
3121 Panthersville Road
Decatur, GA 30034

404-270-8870 - phone
404-270-8864 - fax
posted by zia at 7:25 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Please do the right thing here. Loyalty to a friend does not trump simple human decency.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:43 PM on February 4, 2012 [24 favorites]


Loyalty to a friend does not trump simple human decency.

Quoted for truth, a thousand times.

OP, do you have a 15-year-old daughter, or niece, or granddaughter? Do you have a sister or a wife who was once 15? If a man in his 50s had been engaging in sexual activities (which is what we must assume is going on, given the information you've provided here) with your daughter or niece or sister at that age, what would you have wanted another adult to do if he had known what was going on?

Assuming this isn't a scam, there is a child out there that your friend is exploiting for the use of pornography, and may be planning to rape. Imagine it is your daughter, your sister, your niece, your wife, your granddaughter at risk of being raped as a child.

If you have any moral compass at all, you already know what the right thing to do is. The fact that the right thing to do is difficult and painful does not make it any less right.
posted by scody at 7:52 PM on February 4, 2012 [30 favorites]


then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed

HOW DARE YOU MAKE THAT CALL? Seriously, it's not a question of "dropping the moral ball" here--you're walking off the moral playing field, getting into your moral car, and driving to the moral bar where you're getting morally drunk off your ass.

I am sure that my abuser thought I was "resilient enough" not to be harmed, too, as I had been through a lot of difficult experiences, had a lot of adult responsibilities at a young age, and was very bright and socially mature for my years.

Guess what? I wasn't. That shit is fucked up, your friend is fucked up, and you're fucking up by not recognizing your basic duty to a child.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 PM on February 4, 2012 [35 favorites]


If he's being scammed or set up (and I've told him of that possibility) then he'll be destroyed under his own steam. If he's not, then the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed...although I have told him I believe he's risking doing harm to this person.

And who knows, if it turns out that this "this person" isn't resilient enough maybe the next one will be? Because as long as your friend isn't stopped his predatory activities will continue. Maybe he'll get wise and approach local 15 year olds next time? Maybe local 12 year olds? Same difference (and, yeah, drjimmy11--the whole thing is freaking hysterical--ask any survivor of such "hilarity" how funny it really is).

Yep, I guess you'll just have to sit back and see how this unfolds from the safe distance of "disapproving" while doing NOTHING. Seeing as you aren't going to do the only CLEARLY decent thing and report your "friend". Please do let us know how it all turn out.
posted by marimeko at 9:12 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by gerryblog at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2012


the person he's described to me seems resilient enough not to be harmed.

You have absolutely no basis for making this claim. Assume the worst instead. Assume she is either under the control of someone pimping her out on the internet, or mentally impaired, or emotionally unable to make good judgments due to other past abuse or neglect. Assume this is the worst case scenario, not the best, and act according to that.

I know there's a tendency to think things are different when they're happening to your friend, because it just doesn't suit your stereotype or mental image of who takes part in sexual predation. They're not any different. He's a garden variety predator - maybe surprised at himself for being drawn in this deep, but it's not like this is an unusual story, and the pattern is crystal clear and most likely applies here.
posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on February 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Which country is she in?
posted by infini at 11:10 AM on February 5, 2012


I suspect that part of your friend's justification is the American view that women mature early in other parts of the world, particularly in poor countries. Out of school and into the workforce at age 13, married by 17 and a few babies by 20.

You might want to help him recalibrate his mental picture of this girl by looking at the average age at first marriage for her country. It's usually about 25 in countries where marriage for love is practiced.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2012


People with full, happy lives are a LOT less likely to be so bored and lonely they end up with an online 'relationship' with a '15-yo-child' even though they know it could easily create severe consequences. Maybe your friend needs some help?
posted by theora55 at 12:15 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Follow-up: another friend has offered to sponsor our friend for legal and therapeutic help. If he doesn't take him up on that, I'm going to make a report.

Thanks for all the constructive responses. As for the others: whatever. I've been on the internet long enough to expect haranguing, snarky, abusive responses. You succeeded only in making my decision more difficult because I don't like to feel I'm giving in to assholes, even if they're on the side of the angels.
posted by Infinity_8 at 1:23 PM on February 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


This sounds like a great solution, the more people there are trying to both help him and keep him honest the better. Both a lawyer and a therapist will have legal obligations to stop your friend should he continue his illegal behavior, this is a good thing.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Infinity_8, you know your friend better than we do. Have you any reason to suspect that his mental health impaired? I'm assuming that your best friend has never been in a "relationship" like this to your knowledge before, because you don't sound like you would condone that.

Your friend, and this girl, BOTH concern me here. If he is suddenly acting in a way completely not in character for him, the therapeutic help is a good idea. He may not be thinking clearly; he certainly sounds impaired if he thinks this situation is fine and he's sharing it openly with you.

She could be BOTH a vulnerable, naive child AND trying to scam him; someone so young may feel like she is controlling e situation but she's just fooling herself. Past abuse may make her feel like this "relationship" is acceptable when the rest of us naturally shrink from it.

In short, this relationship is unhealthy for your friend as well as this girl. I don't know how he found her, and that is a huge deal right there--you have to go looking for young girls to end up in the place he is now. You might want to reach out to him with concern that he is unwell, and enxourage him to get help forBOTH their sakes.
posted by misha at 2:58 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Spacewarp13's point is valid, but doesn't cover the one of the cases which may make this much more risky for your friend. Sometimes 13 year old girls may lie and tell an older man that they are trying to impress that they are 15. Your friend might be at more risk than he currently knows.

I agree with the many aboves that your friend may halve already crossed a line, that he may find himself in serious trouble for what has already happened, and that he needs the kind of help most people don't get. Even if he's mad at you and your other friend, you may save him from doing more harm to her and to himself.

If he does want to change course, there's one thing he can do now: "stop digging". Perhaps a jury will take that into account. I can't imagine a jury being too sympathetic if you or your other friend testified that you offered to help him get legal and mental help and he didn't take you up on it.

Also, IANAL and you may not be one, either. You might want to contact yours (or some form of legal advice phone service) and make sure that you've correctly interpreted your duty to report or lack thereof.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, dear god. There is no gray area here - you have to report him. it doesn't matter if this girl is real or not, because if she's not, the next one will be. Your friend is a pedophile, and you have a moral obligation to all the children in the entire world to make sure he isn't given the chance to harm any of them.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:43 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


You succeeded only in making my decision more difficult because I don't like to feel I'm giving in to assholes, even if they're on the side of the angels.

You're talking about people who know 15-year-old girls or WERE the 15-year-old girl. If your feelings about this are so strong that you're considering reporting your old friend to the police, how many points up the richter scale from you would their responses have to go, at or near the epicenter? Denial like your friend's can be awful to hear about, when what he's denying is the reality of your/your loved one's vulnerability and way of being in the world. Especially when the person being denied won't even be a fully cooked human being for years yet; this is a formative experience for her now.

It's understandable that you want to accept everything he says about the girl being resilient and mature and really 15 and not younger, even though his self-interest could not possibly allow him to say anything else, because our culture says child predators are Monsters, full stop. Inhuman. And of course there's more to him than that and of course he needs therapy but right now there is an emergency. He may not be a monster, but he is being a monster: he really is abusing a child who is in a bad enough place to be trying to have sex with a 50-year-old man. People who have kids or little sisters or remember how ridiculous they were or who were the person he's talking to feel like they're watching a horror movie where it just keeps happening and nobody is helping. Except it's real. So if it sounds like they're shouting at the screen, it's because they can see the kid from where they are, and they know what's going to happen to her if it doesn't stop, and up until this point you've kept reporting back that you're not stopping it. So they're not being assholes. They're freaking out.
posted by Adventurer at 10:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm glad to hear that you're working on getting help for your friend.

You need to help yourself, too: do not ever let your friend use your computer or internet connection or phone; and if he has used your computer at all recently then you need to consider very carefully whether there may be child pornography sitting in some cache you don't know about.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 AM on February 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Some 15 year old girls do voluntarily engage in sexual activities with much older men - 30s, 40s or 50s.

But when they do it's usually because they are lonely, have very low self-esteem and are looking for anyone who will love them and make them feel desirable. And most are badly hurt by their experiences. The emotional/psychological consequences for the girl are very different from the consequences of being involved with a boy her own age. All of her developmental milestones will be disrupted - she should be having a shy first kiss, maybe going to second base with someone else who has been no farther than 3rd base (or maybe not even first), not having full-on webcam sex. She should be in a relationship with someone she feel equal to, not someone who - by the sheer fact of her age and full adult development - will always have more influence and power within the relationship. She won't be able to set the boundaries that someone can with someone their own age. (I am speaking from my own experience, and the experience of teenage girls I have known who were involved consensually with much older people -- it's something that I deeply regret doing, and I am angry at the adult in the relationship who did not protect me by staying away from me).

This relationship is illegal; most importantly (for me), it is unhealthy for both people involved. I think you did the right thing to cut off contact - the only thing I would add is to reinforce to your friend that even if she appears to be consensually engaging in the relationship, it is still not a healthy and safe thing for her. Teenagers are still children and will do unsafe things to themselves - and we, as adults, have the responsibility to try to protect them from their own bad decisions.
posted by jb at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


What jb said -

...the only thing I would add is to reinforce to your friend that even if she appears to be consensually engaging in the relationship, it is still not a healthy and safe thing for her. Teenagers are still children and will do unsafe things to themselves - and we, as adults, have the responsibility to try to protect them from their own bad decisions.

I identify with this story - I was a father-deprived kid who had a crush on a much older guy when I was 20. I was 20 chronologically, but about 13 emotionally. The guy I went nuts over was a decent person with a conscience, but he knew that he wasn't available for any kind of relationship that would have been enhancing for me. He hated himself for ultimately giving in to me, and after we became intimate, he turned hostile and rejecting. The experience was shattering for me. My parents were out to lunch and I never had any support from them. I had no prior experience with men, and one to help me, to ask advice of, to provide any kind of perspective or support, and I really could have used it.

I just really hope that kid's okay.
posted by cartoonella at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2012


The emotional/psychological consequences for the girl are very different from the consequences of being involved with a boy her own age. All of her developmental milestones will be disrupted - she should be having a shy first kiss, maybe going to second base with someone else who has been no farther than 3rd base (or maybe not even first), not having full-on webcam sex.

As someone who was once one of these 15 year old girls in a relationship with a much older man, I can confirm every bit of this. I was a smart, sassy, self-assured kid that the casual observer would have certainly called "resilient". I spent 18 months dating a man twice my age and although I am now older than he was at the time there are still occasionally weird aftershocks of the relationship in my sexual and emotional health.

I'm glad you're going to talk to an authority if your friend won't help himself, and I bet in the long run the girl involved will be glad too.
posted by jess at 2:58 PM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Update: It's now been a week since my other friend mailed "our friend" encouraging our friend to get help, with his assistance, with a time limit of 30 days. ("Other friend" is involved in a therapeutic community where this kind of thing is common.) No response has been made. My "other friend" and I intend to drop in on "our friend" this weekend to help clarify the issue, including mentioning that we feel morally bound to report him if nothing else is done. Thank you all for your help.
posted by Infinity_8 at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


"This kind of thing" meaning, extending someone an offer of help, with a time limit; *not* inappropriate relations with young girls over the internet possibly leading to pedophilia and child porn charges.
posted by Infinity_8 at 11:51 AM on February 14, 2012


An intervention, in other words? I hope it works!
posted by BibiRose at 1:19 PM on February 14, 2012


Any updates?
posted by Miko at 4:25 PM on September 16, 2012


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