How kids are being blackmailed to dance naked on TikTok
A seven-year-old girl dances naked for a TikTok video.
A sobbing teenage girl is blackmailed to film herself putting a hairbrush into her private parts
Little boys are raped by their own parents for a pay-for-view audience of paedophiles on the Dark Web.
Men pose as kids in online games to trick children into meeting them at a local park.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers have seen it all - arresting 161 predators and rescuing 134 children from harm in the past year.
Detective Sergeant Daisie Beckensall is on the front line of the AFP's war against vile paedophiles grooming Australian children through social media and online games.
The abuse begins with a "friend request'' on a game or social media, from a stranger masquerading as another child.
"We see a lot of friend requests from online predators looking for children to follow, and the children will usually follow them back,'' Detective Sergeant Beckensall said yesterday.
"The predator may be posing as a 14-year-old with a fake photo.
"They start chatting online - they build up a rapport with the child, it starts off as an innocent and friendly chat, then they ask, 'Send me a photo of yourself'.''
At first the photos are innocuous - perhaps a picture of the child cuddling a pet - but then the paedophile requests a nude "selfie''.
Sometimes, a naive or curious child will send the photo - and then the blackmail begins.
News Corp Australia is campaigning for a national register of convicted paedophiles to let the public check if a sex offender is living in their suburb, babysitting their grandkids or dating their daughter.
"The predators start with requests for sexualised photos and images and then it escalates to videos of children doing sexualised acts online,'' Detective Sergeant Beckensall said.
"Once the predators have the photos, they use them to manipulate and put fear into kids.
"They say, 'If you don't keep sending them, I can send these photos to your mum and dad'.
"It's not something they want to tell their parents.''
Undercover cops, posing as children and teenagers in online chats and games, have caught paedophiles trying to lure kids to meet them in person at a local park, train station or shopping centre.
Detective Sergeant Beckensall said abuse had increased since the start of COVID-19, with so many children cooped up at home with computers and smartphones, and more adults working at home without supervision.
"There are more children being home schooled, and more adults working from home with technology,'' she said.
"If they're at work, using a work computer, they aren't able to access child abuse material.
"But when they're working from home they don't have the scrutiny they get in the workplace.
"Some parents are abusing their own children and taking photos and videos and sharing them with other predators.''
Detective Sergeant Beckensall said some young children were posting naked photos and videos online without any prompting, "because they've seen it and think it's normal''.
She urged parents to let their children know they can talk about anything, without getting into trouble.
"If you see a change in behaviour, ask them what's going on,'' she said.
"It can really dangerously affect a child's mental health - they don't want to tell.''
NO MORE FAKE SMILES
Annie Jones spent her traumatic teenage years perfecting a "fake smile'', as her stepfather crept into her bedroom at night to rape her.
"I lived in fear,'' the 20-year-old survivor of childhood sexual abuse said yesterday.
"I wore a fake smile most of my teenage years.
"I copped it in the night and would wake up and go to school.''
Ms Jones was 13 when her stepfather started the abuse, and 15 when she finally "blurted it out'' in front of her horrified mother.
"I was so sick of all the abuse, I was so angry I just snapped,'' she said.
"My mum kicked him out of the house and I never saw him again except in court.''
The stepfather was jailed in 2017 in the District Court of NSW for 17 years and nine months for sex crimes including aggravated sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14.
Annie was just six when her mother, Tracey Morris, married the man who became her monster.
"I grew up with him as my father,'' she said.
"I was trapped with someone I trusted so it was a mental battle as well as the physical things.
"I felt like I was the only one on the planet going through it, but thousands of people are going through it.''
Ms Jones, who now lives on the Sunshine Coast, is studying criminology and psychology at university and hopes to eventually set up a retreat for sexually abused children.
She and her mother have set up a charity, No More Fake Smiles, which aims to raise $700,000 to provide support to 700 child victims of sexual abuse.
Ms Jones urged victims to confide in police or a teacher, doctor, counsellor or nurse if they need help.
"If something doesn't feel right in your gut, you need to speak up to someone you trust,'' she said.
"It's not always stranger danger - it could be people who you know.''
Ms Morris said a public register of sex offenders - like the one in Western Australia, the only state or territory which identifies convicted predators - might protect other families.
"We are talking about convicted offenders … innocent people are not being defamed, facts are being made public knowledge, yet another secret that follows a long line of secrets when it comes to child sexual abuse,'' she said.
BLACKMAILED BOY HELPS CATCH PREDATOR
A brave boy helped police catch an Australian paedophile jailed for more than nine years after posing as a teenager to extort explicit photos and videos of 49 children.
The predator lied about his age and identity to trick the teenager into sending sexually explicit photos - then threatened to share them with friends and family unless the boy sent more.
But the terrified teen told his father, who cannot be identified for legal reasons but said he was glad his son had the courage to speak up.
"We were able to take screen shots and send them to the police and the paedophile was caught,'' he said yesterday.
"He is a hero for speaking up.
"I have told my son that by speaking up and showing me what was happening he has not only saved himself but he saved all the other kids that would have been victims in the future.
"My son knows it isn't enough to just delete or block and run when you encounter an online paedophile, you have to tell your parents when it happens.
"They can keep you safe plus get the police to track the person down so he doesn't do it to other people.
"My son was scared to speak up but he knows that it makes you safe if you speak up, and hiding it makes you less safe.''
The offender, a 24-year-old man from Manly Vale in Sydney, was arrested at Sydney International Airport after returning from overseas in February last year.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) identified 48 other child victims, and the man was jailed for nine years and four months.
AFP Detective Sergeant Jarryd Dunbar said it was important for parents to make sure children feel comfortable talking about suspicious online activity.
"We are very thankful that in this case the victim was courageous enough to speak up and let their parents know what had happened,'' he said.
For support call Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Originally published as How kids are being blackmailed to dance naked on TikTok