Amelia’s Story: Groomed on a Video Game
Trigger Warning: This story contains a real account of the grooming of a young child.
I did not for a moment think something like this could ever happen to my kid, but it did, despite my vigilance. This is my daughter’s story.
Amelia was nine-years-old and full of life. She loved gymnastics and making slime. She also enjoyed playing children’s games on the computer.
As her mum, like most mums, I was aware of the dangers online. Our family had a computer in the most frequently used space in the home, a large open-plan kitchen and dining area. There were parental controls on the computer and we allocated each child in the family age-appropriate time each day. Things like adult content, multi-game playing, and app downloads were all blocked. I had talked to all the family about why such restrictions were in place.
Then something changed. Amelia was no longer interested in much of anything. She was eating noticeably less and looking very withdrawn. She had also developed an increased level of separation anxiety.
While going for a walk one evening, Amelia asked us if we had dreams for the future, and then if everyone had dreams for their future. Amelia simply replied that she had “None”.
A few weeks later, I received a call from school. They asked me to come immediately to fetch Amelia. They told me she was very distressed and that they could not calm her down. When I arrived at the school, the teacher told me Amelia said, “Everyone in the world has a warm red heart but mine is cold and blue.”
I phoned Amelia’s doctor and we went immediately to see him. Amelia was diagnosed with clinical depression and referred to a psychologist. Amelia struggled to engage with the psychologist, and one month later was prescribed antidepressant medication. Despite our initial hesitancy, we acknowledged Amelia needed help. She gradually improved, and her medication was deceased six months later. Amelia did not, however, resume the activities that she had once enjoyed so much.
During the last year of primary school, when sex education was introduced, Amelia repeatedly told me she didn’t want to do it. Then, one night, she called me into her bedroom. She was crying uncontrollably and could not speak through her tears. Shaking, she said, “Mummy, I have done something terrible”.
I gently asked her if she could tell me what she had done. Amelia shook her head but scribbled two words on a piece of paper —which were ‘sex’ and ‘computer game’. I registered what she may be trying to tell me.
Despite my internal feelings of distress, I remained composed. I sat down next to Amelia and wrapped my arms around her. Amelia pulled away, and through her tears asked, “Are you not angry with me?”
I wrapped her up again and said, “No, my darling, you are a little girl, you are a curious little girl, you do not differ from other little girls. You did something out of curiosity and there was somebody waiting on the other side who was pretending to be a child.”
Amelia looked at me and said, “No, no mummy, it was another child I was talking to. She said we’d both go to jail if I said anything to anyone, and every weekend, I’ve been scared that the police would find out and arrest me and take me away from you. I was so worried because you always told us not to play with people we didn’t know.”
I responded by saying: “Sometimes when we do something, even if we know we shouldn’t, it feels exciting and good. It’s sometimes hard to feel the warning feelings.”
It troubled me how and where something like this could have happened. I had always been careful with play dates, and Amelia did not like sleepovers. In addition, my heart sank as I realized that regardless of my vigilance, I had been unable to protect my child.
The next day, I called the police and asked them if they publish on their webpage a list of games that predators were known to frequent. They responded with, “No — predators are on all the video games.”
The police left me with one message for my daughter: “Please tell your daughter that she is completely innocent. This is predator behavior — they threaten the child and leave them afraid, sometimes too afraid to ever say anything.”
Since then, she has only been able to tell me little bits of information. She remains deeply ashamed. She tells me she played the game on someone’s laptop. She says they were only mimicking sex acts with the characters within the game. She says she was disgusted with herself.
And why am I sharing this, you may ask? This is not a ‘newsworthy’ story. It’s true that:
- Amelia never met her predator
- Amelia never sent photos of herself
- Amelia never received photos
But this is a common, regular story that too rarely gets told. A story which joins heaps of others in the ocean of ‘online’ trauma. A story which some might say is a ‘small’ incident, but which, nevertheless, left a child silently terrified for two years of her young life and robbed her of her innocence and vitality.
If Amelia had continued playing the game with this predator, who knows what may have happened. She was clearly in the process of being groomed. And it remains true that:
- Some children never tell.
- Some children try to, and are dismissed.
- Some children, like Amelia, tell a safe adult, receive love and compassion, and the healing process begins.
My final thoughts? We need to hear more of these stories. We need to accept children’s innate curiosity and the vulnerability that comes with that and most importantly we need to ALL do better in protecting them.
To learn more about video games and grooming, please watch this video:
Jenny is a Parent Awareness Advocate, Parent Cyber Safety Consultant and the Founder of the Facebook group Not My Kid, where current articles and advice are shared about online safety. She is currently studying a degree in Cybersecurity and Behavior.