A recent stat in the press got me really worried and triggered some pretty bad memories. According to this Disrupting Harm report, around 100,000 children in Malaysia experience online sexual abuse and exploitation in a year. The headlines definitely hit home for me ‘cause a close friend of mine, Boo, was a victim of online sexual abuse. It’s so scary to think yang the people we meet on the internet could possibly hurt us, kan?
Just like me, Boo likes to express her thoughts online. With such access to her personal life, Boo had gained a huge following on her social medias, which she was excited about. People seemed to like her personality and found her content relatable.
But little did we know that there would be creepy strangers secretly lurking on her. It all started with an innocent DM from one of her followers. Nothing too iffy about it cause Boo received like 100+ DMs everyday. 🤷🏻♀️ But he certainly caught her attention with his witty banter and charming personality. Ye la, siapa nak sangka buruk kan? (And I think she was flattered, maybe?).
Soon, they exchanged phone numbers and began talking on Whatsapp almost everyday. He was very attentive to her daily highs and lows. Aww, sounds like ideal boyfriend material kan! But he was secretly using the info to get her attached to him. Not long after, Aqila perasan the first red flag, he’d always tell Boo to hide their convos from her parents and even me, her best friend! Like, hello?! Kenapa kena sorok-sorok? That’s so sus. From DMs, to Whatsapp and then he mula minta nak video call! 😠
When something’s too good to be true
“Tapi Aqila, what’s so bad about video calling someone yang Boo dah lama kenal?” 🤔
Tu la… When Boo sent me screenshots of the guy, I pun terkejut! Hensem doh! Thinking back, I wonder if it’s because he was so good-looking that Boo and I thought takde hal. And the worst part is? I rasa this guy pun tau sebab dia hensem, lagi senang dia boleh buat bende bukan-bukan. Haih, when you have rose-tinted glasses on, the red flags just look like flags.
Y’know when your gut feeling is telling you that something is too good to be true? Yeah, maybe you should listen to it. They continued to video call almost every night and then one day, the claws came out… He asked her to strip on the webcam! At first she was hesitant but this guy kan, he really knows his way with words. He wasn’t pushy but just persuasive enough to convince Boo to let her guard down. And so she did.
Couple weeks later, I received a call from Boo. Aqila boleh dengar from her voice that she was panicking and crying. It turns out that the boy she’s been talking to wasn’t exactly the knight in shining armour, he threatened to spread screenshots from their video calls if Boo refuses to meet him IRL! That is so jahat and disgusting, I can’t believe that it was happening to my own best friend. I mean we’ve heard stories like these but to see it happening right in front of you, it was a very scary experience.
This definitely did a number on Boo’s mental health. She stopped making content and began distancing herself from our circle of friends. Aqila cuba la convince Boo to confide in her parents but she felt like she didn’t deserve to get help cause she had voluntarily stripped for him.
Online Sexual Abuse – It’s never the victim’s fault, OK!
So, Aqila teman dia jumpa our school counsellors instead. From then baru la kitaorang tahu that these predators memang specifically target young people like us as their victims! The counsellor was very helpful in explaining what Boo was going through. Turns out kan, the boy has been ‘grooming’ Boo for months by building emotional connections so that he can manipulate and sexually abuse her! This serves as a reminder to all of us yang we’re not at fault for being the victim of online exploitation and harassment, the predators are!
Since then, I accompanied Boo to make a police report and got him to delete the photos. She blocked his number, social media accs and regained her self confidence balik! She also continued to make content but with caution. Aqila bangga sangat dengan Boo! 💓
But in all seriousness, this is just one of the many instances yang Aqila pernah dengar. Which is why kita kena selalu beware of friendly strangers on the internet. If you’re someone who is lonely and malu nak make friends IRL, finding communities online is a good start. But always remember to watch out for potential predators. Don’t let anyone know about your personal deets, they can use it against you.
This experience taught me a few important things. I learnt that we need to be there for our besties! Just to let them know they’re not alone, that you’re there to listen to them, that you believe them, and to encourage them to inform a trusted adult. And when they do decide to seek help or make a report, offer to teman them! At no point should we ever blame our friend for what’s happened. The victim is not the bad person, the predators are!
Y’know how people selalu cakap, if you’re being harassed online, just get off the internet. But IMO, Aqila tak rasa yang signing off is gonna do anything. Nasty predators still exist offline jugak. What we need sebenarnya, is to make the internet safer and equip diri kita dengan cara nak fight against these perverts! So that’s why Aqila akan buat blog dengan vlog to spread awareness and how we can start loving ourselves.
You’re never alone, ada ramai lagi other victims who can relate to your story. Aqila percaya yang kita semua boleh fight back these predators! Always remember, online atau offline, saya sayang saya. 💙 Because self-love, empowerment and support can help us fight against these online creeps!