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Teens Hunted Online: New Film by David Schwimmer Highlights Danger of Internet Predators

Last Updated: April 10, 2015

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by Cris Clapp Logan, Communications Director, Enough Is Enough

If you’re like me, you know David Schwimmer best for his role as the lovable paleontologist Ross in the hit NBC sitcom “Friends.”  Suffice it to say, I was a bit surprised when I was approached about a new film, directed by Schwimmer, called “Trust.”  The film is no comedy.  Instead,  “Trust” documents the raw social and emotional toll on 14-year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) as she is groomed and victimized by Charlie, whom she believes to be a 16-year-old boy.

Like many of the parents we work with at Enough Is Enough (EIE), Annie’s parents, Will and Lynn Cameron (played by Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), find comfort in the fact that they have raised their children to be thoughtful and responsible—their kids are “good kids.”  With their alarm system on and their doors locked, the Camerons believe their children are safe.  As a result, Annie’s parents are shocked and devastated when they learn their daughter has been manipulated and raped by an online acquaintance.

Schwimmer has been developing the story for years, inspired by his work with the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, California, where he serves as a Board Member.  At one of the Foundation’s meetings, a father from the community shared his personal process of coming to terms with his daughter being groomed, and subsequently raped, by an Internet predator.  The father described his conflicting feelings of guilt, rage, impotence, and responsibility for the abuse his daughter suffered, emotions that Clive Owen expertly and painfully brings to the screen in “Trust.”

As Schwimmer talked with families of victims and FBI agents who investigate Internet-initiated child sexual abuse, he learned that the men preying on children are often husbands and fathers themselves, a reality we see far too often in the world of child sexual abuse. We often educate our audiences that you cannot recognize a disguised predator; often these individuals are trusted members of society: white, affluent, middle-aged men whose profession places them in easy contact with youth.

The film is rated R, and includes brief nudity, coarse language, and mature themes, and I would strongly caution parents to view the movie themselves before allowing their teen to do so. The film does paint a realistic picture of the nature of online grooming, a process by which an online predator gradually forms an online relationship with a teen, preying on a teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information. Online predators are incredibly savvy—they will flatter, compliment, and affirm a teen excessively, developing an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which a teen becomes dependent. We know that in the majority of Internet-initiated sex crimes that have resulted in arrests, the teens have been so groomed that they actually willingly meet up with their perpetrator, often multiple times for a sexual encounter. As you will see in “Trust,” Annie quickly becomes enraptured by Charlie, even as she learns that he is not who he claims to be.

Our hope is that as parents, educators, grandparents, and other caring adults see the film, their eyes will be opened to the fact that these people exist—the threat is real—and parents must use Internet Safety Rules ‘N Tools® in their home to protect their children from online dangers. This is one of the reasons we developed our Internet Safety 101 program, which includes real-life stories from law enforcement, a survivor of a sexual predator, and even a convicted sex offender (you can view the videos on our site here). No child is immune to online dangers.

Parents must be active participants in their kids’ online lives and they must use parental control software, like Covenant Eyes, and other tools to protect their children. We also are encouraging parents who view the film to recognize the warning signs, have conversations with their children, and implement Rules ‘N Tools® on all Internet-enabled devices so their children can enjoy a safe and rewarding experience online, free from online dangers.

The film will be released in theaters April 1.

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Cris Clapp Logan is Director of Communications and Congressional Relations for Enough is Enough, where she educates and advises Congressional staff on Internet safety issues and legislation. Mrs. Logan is also the Associate Producer and writer of Enough Is Enough’s Internet Safety 101: Empowering Parents educational film series.