“Stephanie was always an easygoing child, just an all around good girl,” says Dana of her 14-year-old daughter. “Stephanie’s grandfather had purchased a laptop with a webcam for Christmas when she was 11 years old, and that’s when all the problems began. Stephanie became very obsessed with the Internet.”
Dana made Stephanie show her the MySpace page she created. “I realized that there were guys who were 20 and 21, and for a 12-year-old girl to have 20 year olds on your MySpace is inappropriate. I found some photos. The guys in the pictures were totally exposing themselves. We saw inappropriate ones that she would send of her, very provocative positions,” she recalls. “In August of ’09, I found out that she had had sex. Stephanie was 12 at the time. This is where it’s going to make me cry. The guy was 19. I think my daughter’s had sex with two guys. I don’t know half the stuff Stephanie has done online, but it scares me. No matter what I do, there’s no way to keep her from the Internet, and I’m afraid that she’s setting herself up where she could be raped, killed, kidnapped, and she just thinks it’s never going to happen to her. I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to lure her away, but it could happen.”
[AD]In studio, Dr. Phil says to Dana, “Your fear is that your daughter is going to wind up in exactly the life that Rosabella was in.”
“Yes. She’s very naïve,” she says, wiping away tears. “She has set up multiple accounts ” MySpace, Facebook. She talks on messenger. She sends pictures, and she’s got to where she’s slick. She deletes her history, she deletes her cookies to hide it from me.” She adds that she saw photos of naked men in Stephanie’s e-mail inbox, but the teen said she did not respond.
“If you would go through the e-mails sent from the guys, you could tell that she must have sent something or commented, because they’d be like, ‘Oh, the picture was sexy. Could you send another one?'” she shares.
A year ago, Dana learned her daughter had sex with a 19-year-old. “We contacted the local authorities, and my daughter just didn’t want to help. She wouldn’t tell us any names or anything. We had to find it out all on our own.” She prosecuted the man, and he is in jail for five years, and he’s a registered sex offender on two charges.
“What are you willing to do keep her from winding up in the life that Rosabella was living?” Dr. Phil asks.
[AD]”I’m willing to do anything,” Dana says. “I’ve taken her Internet away. I’ve taken her laptop, her iPod, her DSI system. I keep her at home all the time so I can keep supervision over her. If she wants to go somewhere, I have to go with her.”
Dr. Phil asks Rosabella, “What should she be willing to do to keep her out of your lifestyle?”
“It sounds just like how I started, so it’s hard, and it’s scary to hear about that from another girl; however, my mom tried the same things you did,” Rosabella says to Dana. “She would deadbolt me in the house when she was gone, but it didn’t work. I would crawl out windows. I would do anything to get away and keep running away. I really had to see the truth firsthand and what it was before I could even stop.”
Dr. Phil introduces Robin Sax, a former sex crimes prosecutor with the Los Angeles district attorney’s office who has been researching sex trafficking. “This is a serious situation, true?” he asks.
“Oh, this is a hugely serious situation and hugely rampant situation,” she says.
“What’s going on in trying to stop this and prosecute these people?” Dr. Phil asks.
“There is the supply and demand issue. There’s a huge amount of demand and therefore, a huge amount of supply, and as the supply continues, the demand continues,” she explains. “What happens is that these young girls are getting prosecuted for prostitution, and while children don’t have the ability to vote, and rent hotels and can’t really even be prostitutes, they can be prostituted. They cannot actually be prostitutes, but what they are doing is jeopardizing their criminal livelihood and are going to potentially be in jail themselves.”
“So we’re basically prosecuting the victims but not the networkers, not the pimps, not the websites. We’re prosecuting the victims that are being exploited and sexually trafficked,” Dr. Phil observes.
“Absolutely,” Robin confirms. “For a cop, it’s so much easier to go after the prostitute. It’s easy. They’re right there, they can write them up, they can lock them up.”
“What I want people to understand is that these young girls aren’t intending to do that. What they’re doing is wanting to behave really grown up, really big, really get out there and be the center of attention from all of these boys. What they don’t know is that some of those boys turn out to be pimps who ply them with drugs and threaten them and start forcing them into prostitution, true?” Dr. Phil asks Robin.
[AD]”Absolutely. A predator is a skilled individual who knows how to find the weak people. They know how to find the people who are vulnerable. They know how to find the people on drugs, and they know what tools and what gifts and what drugs to give to maintain their hold, and they are persistent. And there’s enough people where they can go onto the next person if you’re not interested,” she says.