Blackmailed: A schoolboy sexting nightmare

2018-12-20 03:15
PHOTO: Rowyn Lombard

PHOTO: Rowyn Lombard

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He was certain his life was over.

Melissa, the pretty schoolgirl from Johannesburg who’d persuaded him to send her nude photos and videos of himself, wasn’t who she said she was. And now she was blackmailing him, threatening to send the images and footage to the whole school unless he did exactly as she said.

Because Melissa wasn’t a schoolgirl at all – and the havoc “she” created sent  Jason du Toit* spiralling into despair.

At a loss for who to turn to, the 14-yearold, a learner at a top Bloemfontein school, called a suicide helpline.

“At that moment I felt as if there was no other way out. It doesn’t matter what happens now, my life is over,” the tall, fresh-faced boy tells us at his parents’ home in a leafy Bloemfontein suburb two weeks after the incident.

His voice is steady and strong and he’s flanked by his parents, Louise* and Gary*. He eventually confided in them after speaking to his pastor at the suicide counsellor’s recommendation.

Now Jason wants to share his story in the hope he might spare someone else the kind of distress this ordeal has caused him. “I urge all parents to show this article to their kids,” he says.

“And I want to stress this: if your children tell you something like this, talk calmly to them. This isn’t the time to punish your child, shout at them or get angry. “It’s actually a time to support your kid and show them how much you care about them.

Because if you don’t they might think life isn’t worth living anymore.”

It started when Jason, an  academic achiever who excels at singing, drama and history, overheard boys at the school hostel talking about “Melissa” and got her number from a classmate.

“I thought she sounded like a popular, nice girl. I contacted her early one Sunday morning on WhatsApp,” he recalls.

“She said she was from Johannesburg and I didn’t ask any more questions – I just assumed she must be at school somewhere in Bloemfontein.” Melissa began following him on Instagram and he followed her in return. 

“I could see she was a pretty young girl who looked about my age.”

It didn’t occur to Jason that Melissa might not be who she said she was.

“She asked me to send her a picture  of myself and I sent her one of myself in a suit. Then she said, ‘No, I want more’.”

Specifically, she wanted nude pictures of him. Send me yours and I’ll send you mine, she said. So Jason went ahead and sent a few. That still wasn’t enough for Jason’s new friend.

She asked for a video of him and a male friend performing a sexual act.

“I told her I didn’t have a friend nearby and I wasn’t gay,” Jason says. Reluctantly, he sent her an explicit video of himself. Then Melissa wanted to arrange for someone to meet him near his home.

“I told her I didn’t want to do that and my parents wouldn’t allow it anyway because they were very uptight. Then she said they didn’t have to know.”

Jason threatened to block her – and that’s when the threats began. If he didn’t do as she said she’d send the pictures and videos to everyone in the school, and he’d be the laughing stock of everyone.

Soon afterwards, the frightened youngster called the suicide hotline. Jason can’t remember exactly what the counsellor said when she answered his call. “I couldn’t think straight. She calmed me down and asked if there was anyone I could speak to.

“I didn’t want to tell my family. I didn’t want to humiliate my parents by telling them what I’d done.”

He decided to call the youth pastor at his church. “The pastor said that I must tell my parents because they were the best people to help me. “My biggest fear was that the other kids would find out and really make my life hell. I’d been bullied at school before because I wasn’t good at rugby.

“I decided to stay calm. I knew that if  I didn’t do something it would carry on.”

So Jason told his mom the whole story and once she’d informed his dad they  decided the only way to end things was to go to the police – and it’s a good thing they did. 

The teenager’s case has lifted the lid on a much bigger sex and child pornography network.

The investigation was at an early stage at the time when YOU Magazine went to print (March), but a reliable police source has told YOU it’s believed Melissa, who hasn’t been tracked down yet, would get hold of child pornography and supply it to an international syndicate.

Police suspect she also gets others to help produce pornography, such as the “friend” she wanted Jason to meet and a medical student at the University of the Free State who was arrested in a police sting operation in the men’s toilets at Bloemfontein’s Loch Logan Waterfront earlier that month.

He appeared in the local magistrate’s court on several charges including intimidation, sexually grooming a minor and violating the Films and Publication Act. He was released on bail.

The student, who according to his Facebook page enjoys hanging out with friends and playing the guitar, may not be identified as he hasn’t yet pleaded to the charges.

Jason says kids need to be more careful about who they talk to on their cellphones.

“If she was doing it to me, how many other kids was she doing this to?”

As a father, Gary, says he’s learnt a lot from the experience.

“Yes, I was angry and disappointed. But then you have to decide how you’re going to deal with the situation.”

He realises things could have turned out far worse if his son hadn’t come clean to him and Louise.

“The thing is, schools almost expect all learners to have cellphones. That’s how they get their homework and these days it’s also how they know there won’t be rugby practice.”

Gary has learnt the hard way to be more vigilant when it comes to his kids’ cellphones and has applied a new set of rules: no cellphones behind closed doors, no talking to strangers online and limited access to devices.

And he’s going to ask more questions from now on, he adds.

If his kids tell him they’re speaking to an Amy, for instance, ask for more details and probe until you’re satisfied they aren’t up to something questionable. Louise says she feels sorry for the parents of the medical student who’s been arrested, but not for him.

“Imagine he’s  a GP one day or paediatrician working with children?”

Jason says the biggest lesson he’s learnt from this crisis is to think twice before you do something. “I know I’ll never forget this, but the best I can do is to learn from it and move on. And I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.” 

*Not their real names


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