Internet Invader
Dr. Phil talks with teens who have been the victims of pedophiles.
"When I was 14, I decided to check out some chat rooms," explains 17-year-old Ashley. "The very first time, I met this guy and we started chatting a lot. We talked a lot about some sexual questions. He liked the idea that I was a virgin." She stayed home from school sick one day and invited him over. "We did end up having sex," she explains. Their relationship carried on for three years without her parents knowing. "I loved him," Ashley says.


Ashley eventually found out that he was seeing other girls from the Internet. "I felt he was going to choose them over me," she says. "I began feeling used, scared I would never find anyone again. He told me that he loved me and I believed him."

Eventually she found out everything he told her was a lie and she pressed charges. Still, she says, "At times I miss him. I thought this was the guy that I was going to be spending the rest of my life with."

Her mom, Rebecca, can't believe this happened to her daughter. "Ashley was a cheerleader. She was involved in sports. She followed the rules. She was just a very good kid," she says. "My daughter was the victim of an Internet pedophile. He raped her at gunpoint and he threatened to kill her family if she told anybody."
As Ashley became more involved with this man, she started missing a lot of school and hanging out in her
room. "Ashley had also been cutting. She was literally mutilating her skin," Rebecca explains. She was even hospitalized for attempted suicide. Rebecca discovered sexually graphic letters with the county jail as the return address. "My heart absolutely dropped. It was the same person that had assaulted her. He was a registered sex offender."


"Because Ashley doesn't appear to know how to cope, I am afraid that she's going to give up," Rebecca admits. She asks Dr. Phil, "Can you please help our family learn how to overcome the worst nightmare of our life?"

Dr. Phil asks Rebecca and Kyle for their thoughts.


"I just want Ashley to be able to overcome this," Kyle says through tears. "My biggest fear of everything is that I'll bury her before she buries me."


"What warning signs did you miss?" Dr. Phil questions, pointing out that Ashley suddenly started getting sick a lot, for example.


"I feel very guilty because I did find that she was chatting. There were inappropriate e-mails; there were nude pictures that were e-mailed to my daughter. These

men said, 'I'm 35, I want a good time,'" says Rebecca. "I didn't call the police. I thought I took care of it in our home." She also notes that they had parental locks on the computer, but they didn't stop Ashley from accessing chat rooms.


"Did you confront her?" Dr. Phil asks.


"We confronted her, absolutely," Rebecca says. "I got on the e-mails and I told these people, 'If you even think of e-mailing this child back, charges will be pressed.' But I didn't actually take it to the police."

Dr. Phil introduces Detective James Brown from the LAPD's Sexually Exploited Children's Unit, and asks,

"What can you do to help the parents protect their children?"


Without giving away their specific tactics, Detective Brown explains that they would begin an investigation. "Through investigative tactics, we'd seek out this individual and have him perhaps make some of the same innuendoes to us that he was making to the child," he says.


"So this doesn't fall on deaf ears?" Dr. Phil asks. "These things are aggressively pursued, investigated, and you try to ferret these people out?"


"Absolutely," Detective Brown replies. "There's an entire national effort with national funding to provide task forces to do this work."

Dr. Phil introduces Ashley and asks, "Do you see this person that you were involved with, assaulted by, molested by, raped by, as a sick and perverted criminal, or do you see this as someone you care about?"


"At this time I see him as a sick and twisted criminal," she says.


"Is that just because you found out that he was seeing other young girls or is it because you recognize that it is a wrong thing for someone to be doing?" Dr. Phil pries.


Ashley says both. "Mostly because I found out the reality of everything suddenly, and that's not how I believe relationships to be," she says.


"What did this predator do that made this something you were willing to suffer and endure?" Dr. Phil asks Ashley.


Ashley explains that she hid it out of fear and that she was also in love with him from talking on the phone.


"Even though you were very young at the time, didn't the fact that he had a gun to your head scare you?" Dr. Phil probes.


"It scared me pretty bad," she admits.

"How did you square those things up?" Dr. Phil continues.


"I'm not totally sure," Ashley says. "Just the feelings and the things that he promised me ... That I would always have him. He would take care of me. That even though my parents didn't

understand me or what was going on with me, he always would be there. That when I turn 18 I can move in with him. He had plenty of money for the both of us and that it would just be a very secure life."


Dr. Phil asks Ashley what she would say to other kids in that similar situation now.


"I want those girls to know that it does happen," she says. "Back then people told me the dangers of chatting, and I was like, 'It doesn't happen. That's what you see in the movies.' But I want people to know that it does happen and it can affect your life in more ways than you can even think."


Dr. Phil reassures Ashley. "You've got to understand and believe that what you've been through, as difficult and painful as it's been, that it ended, and you have to manage what happened after that. You have your whole life stretched out ahead of you at this point, and you don't want to let this take that away from you," he tells her. "This was a sick and perverted person, but he's gone, and I suspect will probably spend the rest of his life behind bars. But you, on the other hand, can get excited about your life." He adds, "I think it's great that you have the courage to tell your story," because she may be saving someone's life. "You should feel very proud of that."