Protect Our Children: Sexting & Sextortion vs. Safe Dating

Monday, May 4, 2015

On Saturday, May 2nd WABC-TV aired a special entitled "Protect Our Children: Sexting and Sextortion Vs. Safe Dating." The program is hosted by Eyewitness News Anchor, Lori Stokes, and deals with the explosion of sexting and the effect it has on teens, who are being trapped once pictures go public and they lose control of them. Sextortion rings of pedophiles and sex traffickers are now more common than we realize. The special also deals with the issues of consent and safe dating.

A recent study by Drexel University has found that 54 percent of teens under 18 have admitted to sexting, and that's only those who are willing to admit they did it. We profile 15-year-old Destiny Butler, who had been missing for a year and a half. Her mother, Inga Bearden, tells the story of how Destiny ran away when she was grounded for sexting. She spoke with Eyewitness News Anchor, Diana Williams in late March and we bring you up to date on the latest developments in that case.

Watch Part 1

The special also addresses the growing phenomenon of sextortion, which is a new kind of sexual abuse, and cyberbullying where photos are used by predators for the purpose of getting more sexual favors and generating profit. We profile a young woman who wants to be known as "Leighanne," who came to the attention of the Suffolk County Computer Crimes Unit when they were investigating websites that trade in pornographic images. At a Sexting and Cyberbullying Workshop held at Garden City High School in Long Island, we hear from students themselves as they discuss what they and their peers see in this new type of sexual predation.

Watch Part 2

Also featured is the Founder of the Date Safe Project, Mike Domitrz, whose mission is to stress the importance of open communication as a key to safe dating with some great advice for parents. This national expert on "safe dating" addresses audiences of widely varying ages ranging from workshops with Middle School students to Universities and Military establishments, and he constantly stresses the issues of consent and mutual respect as being key.

Watch Part 3

Finally, we also report on the good news that Will Culbertson, who we featured last year as a missing 23-year-old with Asperger Syndrome, has been found. We address some of the complicated issues that parents face when dealing with a child with a disability who is striving for independence.

Watch Part 4

This Special is the eighteenth in a series from WABC-TV's "Protect Our Children" campaign that originated in 1998, developed with the collaboration of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, (NCMEC). The campaign includes informational safety messages, a web site and campaign that continues to broadcast the pictures of missing children in every Eyewitness News Program. The previous Specials have received four Emmy Awards, six "Gracie" Awards from the American Women in Radio-TV-Film (AWRT) and Awards from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, (NCMEC).


Protect Our Children: Sexting and Sextortion Vs. Safe Dating


National Center For Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)

800-THE LOST (843-5678)

National Runaway Safeline

1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929)

Crisis Text Line

Text "Start" to 741-741

RAINN Hotline

Rape Abuse& Incest National Network

800-656-HOPE (4673)

Stop Cyberbullying

Wired Safety

Suffolk County Computer Crimes Unit

Long Island Crisis Center


Runaway Hotline 516-679-1111

NYC's 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-621-HOPE (4673)

In emergencies call 911

Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP):

PEER Program for Adolescents.

Hotline 718-439-1000

Mental Health America

For Resources & Expert Advice

1-800-LIFE-NET (5433-638)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

24 Hour Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

888-333-AFSP (2377)

Date Safe Project