Remember when the only social network you needed to worry about was Facebook? Now as increasing numbers of adults have joined Facebook, teens have started looking for online spaces where it’s easier to avoid them – and their supervision. Enter mobile chat apps like Kik, WhatsApp, Skype, ooVoo and SnapChat.
Mobile chat apps have features like voice call, video chat, instant message, and photo and video sharing which let users communicate. Some apps even allow users to do one or more of these things. Others have additional features like games and easy access to Web browsers or popular online sites. Users can access all of these features from within the apps making it faster and easier to share with friends.
Many mobile chat apps are free. Some, like Skype, can be used without a cell phone number. This is helpful for teens without cell phones. They only need a username, an email address and access to Wi-Fi in order to join in on the fun.
Like social media platforms, mobile chat apps help their users connect with friends. But some teens may also use them to meet new people. While some of these conversations may be innocent, others may be sexual in nature and put teens at risk.
According to the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, teens that talk to unknown people about sex are more likely to receive “aggressive sexual solicitations.” These are solicitations that involve actual or attempted in-person meetings. For example, a 12-year-old girl was sexually assaulted after going to meet up with a man she met on the chat app Whisper. In another case, a predator used the chat app Kik to convince a teen to meet him at his home.
Consider talking to your teens about the risks of using mobile chat apps and develop a safety plan.
If your teens receive any messages that make them uncomfortable, they should save the evidence and make a report to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at www.CyberTipline.com.
Martha Gill Hamilton’s sister went missing in 1965. She now volunteers for Team HOPE. Read about her experience in our ongoing series from volunteers with Team HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
I’ve written a lot of stories about my sister, but mostly “just the facts,” not the heartache. Elizabeth Ann Gill, known as Beth to the Gill family, disappeared on June 13, 1965 at age two in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Our family has searched for 49 long years, but has also hoped. We’ve hoped that she has had a good life with a loving family, but also that maybe she is searching for us as well.
Beth was the youngest of 10 children. She was coddled and spoiled by all. Beth was the sweetest child with a great personality. She loved going with family and friends and being the center of attention. One of her favorite things to do was to ride in her sister Laura’s husband’s “Gold Wustang” (her 2-year-old word for Mustang). While our family struggled financially, there was never a shortage of love.
When Beth went missing, our local law enforcement had no idea how to properly investigate or search for a missing child. In 1965 the FBI didn’t help, there was no AMBER Alert, no National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, no national 24-hour news coverage, no Internet and very few ways to spread the word.
One possibility, a theory law enforcement has looked into, is that Beth was taken by a group of travelers.
On June 14, the day after Beth went missing, a lead came from an auto dealer. The dealer said that people staying at a motel behind our house didn’t show up for parts they’d ordered. They also had checked out unexpectedly around the time Beth went missing. It was soon learned that these travelers were using various license plates and aliases. They were selling purses door to door and had approached Beth several times.
One minute Beth was playing with the older kids and the next, she could not be found.
The travelers’ vehicle was traced to a dealership in Michigan where they had purchased cars every few years in the past, but never returned after June 1965. We knew they’d previously driven a 1965 Chevy pick-up and 1965 Ford Thunderbird. For years we looked at every one of these cars we saw. My mother even made a trip to Michigan to plead with the dealership for information.
This tragic event changed the whole dynamic of the Gill family. For years my Mom was barely able to function. My Dad grieved until his death in 1970, leaving my Mom to raise the younger kids, ages 10 through 17. My mom went on, as she had too.
It saddens me knowing how my younger siblings lost much of their childhood. When everyone’s focus is on the missing child and the parents, the siblings aren’t getting the emotional support they so badly need.
My sister Trish was sent to stay with my frail grandma who lived a few blocks away. She’s told me of coming by our house and looking in the window to see if our Dad was at the table crying. If he was she wouldn’t come in, but go back to our grandma’s, even sadder. It’s devastating to see your parents in such pain, knowing you can’t help. I became an adult on June 13, 1965 at age 15.
For many years we didn’t talk to my Mom about Beth – it was just too painful for her. Now she’s grateful for the possibility that, before she’s gone, she may once again see her baby. My Mom is just amazing. She lost her baby, husband and two other daughters. She remarried, but her dear Ralph died a few years ago too. Maybe it’s hope that keeps her here.
I’ve been blessed in many ways, including my Team HOPE Family and all associated with helping the missing. If I can help bring one child home, I know I have done what God sent me to do. June 13, 2014 was not a happy day, but one of faith and hope for the Elizabeth Ann Gill family.
Elizabeth Ann Gill is still missing. View her poster here: http://ow.ly/y8uN1. If you have any information, contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children congratulates the FBI and IRS on their joint investigation and subsequent seizure of the domain belonging to MyRedBook.com, an escort website.
"We know that one of the main ways children are sold for sex in this country is via the Internet," NCMEC President and CEO John Ryan said. "We are very encouraged by all of the efforts to help stop the online sex trafficking of children and help survivors reclaim their lives."
Child sex trafficking is a serious issue and is a crime. Though it is hard to estimate how many children are involved, one out of every seven endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2013 was likely trafficked. During the FBI’s recent Operation Cross Country 8, 168 children were recovered and 281 pimps were arrested in 106 cities nationwide.
The National Center will continue to work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in the ongoing effort to combat the serious issue of child sex trafficking in the United States.
The following content is republished from our HelpIDMe Facebook page. Like the page to get more info about unidentified children.
The identification of 14-year-old Nancy Grace Daniel is a long and complicated story, one that involves a number of people across several different organizations through nearly four decades. Although the story is tragic, it ultimately serves as a beacon of hope for those who remain nameless victims.
The story begins with the discovery of an unidentified young woman’s body hidden intall weeds along the shore of Lake Mann on March 12, 1977. She had been deceased for several months, and no trauma or cause of death could be identified. An autopsy was completed and the victim was reported to be a black female, between 13 and 17 years old, standing between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches tall with black, braided hair. An earring and ring were found with the body, which was adjacent to a pair of white pants.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office investigated several leads, one being that the unknown remains belonged to teenager Nancy Daniel who went missing on September 6, 1976 from Orlando. Although Nancy’s disappearance was consistent with the case, the resources and tools available in the late 70s were not advanced enough to identify or exclude her as the victim.
Detective Angelo Chiota, of the Orange County Police Department, says that the years spent waiting for the right resources and technology to come along can be difficult.
“There are missed opportunities that may have occurred, and some of that evidence maybe lost forever,” Chiota says.
In November 2011, we began working on the case. In May 2013, members of Project ALERT, a team of volunteer retired law enforcement professionals, met with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. They reviewed the case file and looked back into the Nancy Daniel lead, armed with knowledge of more advanced resources and technology to recommend.
With our assistance, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office began researching the possible lead. They confirmed there was still an open missing person case for Nancy Daniel with the Orlando Police Department. According to the OPD, Nancy was last seen getting into a vehicle on Parramore Street in Orlando, only 5 miles away from Lake Mann where the unidentified female was found.
Family reference samples were collected from Nancy’s relatives for DNA testing and in November 2013, the University of North Texas completed DNA testing on Nancy’s case. A direct comparison between the unidentified female and missing person Nancy Daniel was requested.
The final lab comparison report revealed similarities between the remains and Nancy’s relatives’ DNA, but also suggested that the association was weak and additional information should be considered before ruling a positive identification.
The District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office noted many consistencies between the unidentified body and Nancy: similar physical profiles; the location the body was found compared to where Nancy was last seen; and the white pants, consistent with the pants Nancy was last seen wearing.
Based on DNA and circumstantial evidence, authorities were able to positively identify the remains as Nancy Grace Daniel on May 28, 2014, giving a name to a young woman who was nameless for nearly four decades.
Now law enforcement is working to find justice for Nancy, investigating her death as a possible homicide. Detective Chiota, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, is in charge of the investigation.
“The positive identification is exciting because it gives this case continued life,” Chiota says.
Authorities are also looking at another Jane Doe case as possibly being connected to Nancy. About two months before Nancy’s body was found another female — same race and age range — was found around the same lake where Nancy’s body was found. Circumstances, physical descriptions and the time frame are consistent, leading authorities to believe they could be related cases.
Nancy Daniel’s story is still ongoing, but her family and friends are now able to hold on to a small piece of closure. Meanwhile, NCMEC and law enforcement agencies are working around the clock to bring names to the hundreds of other nameless children nationwide.
“I am grateful to have the availability and opportunity to work with all of thesegreat organizations and agencies,” Chiota says. “We can make a change — even if it’s just one.”
Today the FBI announced the results of Operation Cross Country 8. Again, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was proud to partner with the FBI on their ongoing effort to combat child sex trafficking. For a complete report of the number of children recovered and individuals arrested, visit the FBI website.
People don’t want to believe that children are being sold for sex. Not in this country. But once again, “Operation Cross Country 8” provides irrefutable evidence that they are – on street corners, in hotels, at truck stops and, increasingly, on the Internet.
It’s important to understand that child sex trafficking is also a missing child problem. We know that missing children, especially children missing from the child welfare system, are being targeted by traffickers.
These children are the most vulnerable to the manipulation and false promises that traffickers use to secure their trust and dependency. Many of these children have been abandoned, orphaned, abused and neglected. Too many of these traumatized children run away because they believe it’s the best option available to them.
And many missing children are never actually reported missing. They aren’t on anyone’s radar. No one is looking for them because their parent - or guardian - have not reported them missing.
This is why we must have a law in this country requiring mandatory reporting by state welfare agencies of all children missing from foster care – first to law enforcement, then to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Several bills that would make this happen are currently pending before Congress.
How many children in foster care go missing? It’s difficult to put a reliable number on it. But we know it’s a lot. One out of every seven endangered runaways reported to us in 2013 was likely a sex trafficking victim. Of that number, 67 percent were missing from care.
We currently have informal partnerships with several states, including Florida and Illinois, where social services and foster care providers are required to report children missing from their care to our organization. Just to give a sense of the volume, we received more than 4,000 reports of children missing from care in these two states – in just one year.
Collectively, we must acknowledge and care for all children.
Virna Darling is running the 2014 New York City Marathon with Team Run Baby Run. We talked to Virna about why she runs, and why you should join her! Team Run Baby Run is raising money for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and has seven more spots to fill. Interested in running? Email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com.
The journey of running your first marathon starts the first day of training, months before the race. On a hard day you will ask yourself, “Why did I sign up to do this?” There will be rainy or hot days. There will be days you just want to cry and give up. But there also will be days that you feel elated and have that “runner’s high.”
Then the race comes, and it’s just the icing on the cake. When you cross that finish line, there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that fills your entire body and soul. I do believe anyone can run a marathon with the correct training and the only thing that a person needs is the will to do it.
My cousin David was abducted when he was 10 years old. He was brought home to his family but had a tough time trying to survive day-to-day life after his abduction. I loved him so much. He was a ball of energy. He passed away in 2005. The morning I heard of his death, I fell to the ground in tears. The question “why” kept coming to me. Why do such things happen in the world? Why?
Life is not always fair but it’s what you make of it. I can do my best to bring love and empathy into this world and right now, I choose to do it through running and fundraising. I have found healing and power through running and my intention when I run the New York City Marathon is to bring healing and power to the children and families that have suffered. If the money I raise can be a small part of bringing a child home to their loved ones, it will be a joyous day!
Running always came easy to me, but I took a break from it through high school. I went through a funny stage where I didn’t like to sweat in gym class, it would mess up my hair!
I had a bout of depression in high school and my counselor encouraged me to start running again. She said, “I want you to run to the end of your street.” I think it was only a quarter of a mile, but the feeling of clarity and satisfaction was amazing!
I think that was the seed that started my passion for physical health, but I really picked running up again in my late 20s. Running came back to me somewhat easily! I worked at a gym and we would get up at 5 a.m. to run. I remember my boss saying, “I could see you being a marathon runner.” I said I could never do that, but would love to. Well, two years later I ran the Portland Marathon. Then two years after that I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon. Now, on to New York City!
Find an effective training program. I would also suggest trying out a training group where you can meet other runners with the same goals as you.
Follow your training schedule rigidly. Don’t skip your short runs because they are just as important as the long runs. Also, listen to your body. If you need to rest, then rest! We can push through our limits but sometimes you have to be patient and take a day or two off so your body can rest and you will come back stronger.
By joining Team Run Baby Run you will gain automatic entry into the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. To learn more email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com. If you can’t join the race but are interested in donating, visit the Team Run Baby Run fundraising site.
Every donation we receive comes from a place of hope and caring. Mary is lucky enough to read some of the hand written notes that come along with donations.
Tell us in the comments why you donate! If you don’t yet give but want to support the work we do, give here!
5 Things Parents Should Do During Internet Safety Month -
June is Internet Safety Month! Kids are gearing up for summer vacation and they’ll be spending plenty of time online. This is a great opportunity to make sure you’re doing all you can to educate them about Internet safety.
Here are five things you can do this month to help protect them…
As this story from Canada shows us, social media helps find missing kids. We need your help reaching more followers through social media. Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter to like our page at www.facebook.com/missingkids and help bring more children home.
Just this week, an AMBER Alert was issued in Quebec, Canada when a newborn baby was abducted from a hospital. The child was successfully recovered after a group of teenagers who saw the Alert on Facebook and contacted police.
We share these success stories to reinforce the power of social media. The more people who see photos of missing children and their abductors, the better the chance someone, somewhere will recognize them.
Help us by telling your friends and family to like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Facebook so they can receive missing posters in their Newsfeed.