I’ll never forget the hot summer day that I was introduced to the John Doe case. I was driving in the parking lot of my favorite clothing store when a trusted lawyer said that John Doe had been sexually exploited on Twitter. It was when I heard the number of views that I had to pull over.
His abuse was watched 167,000 times and had 2,223 retweets on Twitter. He was only 13 at the time the video was made.
Being Trafficked Is Traumatizing
There’s an unspoken bond between survivors. I have always felt one with John Doe. The young man was on the brink of suicide because his classmates wouldn’t stop talking about the sexual exploitation video on Twitter. I never had the experience of being antagonized by classmates, as I was homeschooled, but the only two times that I contemplated suicide in the last year were because I was also trafficked on Twitter. I’m 39 years old. I have an advocate and a support team. I’ve had years to process my abuse. I was still pushed to thoughts of suicide. So just imagine that happening to a child.
I’m 39 and I’ve had years to process my abuse. I was still pushed to thoughts of suicide.
As the months progressed, I spoke in collaboration with Jane Doe, the victim’s mother, with folks in Washington D.C. I have a rule before big meetings where I speak in public. First I pray. Then I cry to get it out of my system so that I can keep my composure during the meeting. Before the virtual meeting in D.C., I asked Teresa J. Helm, the public Epstein survivor who also spoke that day, and Amanda from Lioness Empowerment Project to pray with me. Amanda doesn’t pray, but she was there to support. On the phone with my friends, I hit my knees and began sobbing, not for myself, but for John Doe. After the prayer, I hung up with my friends and punched my mattress. Which I’m sure sounds weird, but the idea of children being assaulted gets me upset. Then I signed in for the virtual meeting with D.C.
Listening to Jane Doe speak from a mother’s perspective was a gut punch. She was reliving her desperate attempts to remove her son’s child sexual exploitation material from Twitter. She didn’t know what to do. I’m not a mother yet, but the thought of those feelings is heartbreaking. No parent should ever have to feel that way.
Twitter Said the Child Porn Videos Didn’t Violate Their Policies
The night that I read through every detail of John Doe’s case was tough. I had grown emotionally attached to the young survivor, but I literally had to read every single detail of the case at some point.
At 13, John Doe was taken advantage of by sex traffickers on Snapchat pretending to be a 16-year-old female classmate. He was eventually blackmailed into sending them more pornographic images and videos (including with another minor) before he blocked them.
John Doe is now 17, and this child sexual abuse material of him surfaced on Twitter in 2019. It was discovered by his classmates in January 2020, who proceeded to harass, tease, and bully him. John Doe promptly contacted Twitter, asking them to take down the child sexual abuse videos of himself.
According to the lawsuit, Twitter’s response reads, “Thanks for reaching out. We’ve reviewed the content, and didn’t find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time.”
We’ve reviewed the content, and didn’t find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time.
“If you believe there’s a potential copyright infringement, please start a new report. If the content is hosted on a third-party website, you’ll need to contact that website’s support team to report it. Your safety is the most important thing, and if you believe you are in danger, we encourage you to contact your local authorities.” Twitter said to Doe.
The teen wrote back to Twitter, “What do you mean you don’t see a problem? We both are minors right now and were minors at the time these videos were taken. We both were 13 years of age. We were baited, harassed, and threatened to take these videos that are now being posted without our permission. We did not authorize these videos AT ALL and they need to be taken down.”
What has this world come to when a child victim has to fight Big Tech? Well, this brave young man is up for the job. The details of the case are gripping. John Doe’s class and bravery in the face of adversity is even more compelling. We have seen the situation play out time and time again, it takes brave survivors stepping forward to truly make a change.
How Twitter Can Do Better by Trafficking Victims
John Doe is the voice for the countless voiceless survivors in the United States and around the world who have been trafficked on Twitter. In some ways, John Doe is a voice for me. John Doe also serves as a voice for the overlooked men and boys who have been abused. All of these conversations are long overdue.
I fully anticipate moving forward that John Doe’s bravery will be the catalyst for big changes with Big Tech. They need to remove child sexual abuse material and human trafficking from their platforms once and for all.
Part of the solution would be a 24-hour hotline at Twitter for survivors to call and report abuse.
The solution would be more aggressive and updated artificial intelligence combing the platforms at scale. An easy reporting process for victims. Verification for adult content. Beefing up staff. A 24-hour hotline for survivors to call and report abuse with a trained survivor advocate at Twitter. A hold on all posts with reported CSAM, human trafficking, sexual assault material. Resources available for survivors in need.
Over the last few months, I started calling John Doe “my missing puzzle piece.” As survivors, we sort of fit together. My main platform for advocacy is the platform that we were both trafficked on, Twitter. Now to be fair, my former abusers used multiple platforms to traffic me not just Twitter. I made a promise to Jane Doe long ago, “I will fight for your son like he is my own child.” I fully intend on fulfilling my promise.
On Christmas, I was thinking about John Doe. On New Year’s Eve, I was thinking about John Doe. It’s not easy getting geared up for a case of this magnitude as a survivor, especially on important days. But when one survivor is weak, other survivors are there to inspire and motivate to keep pushing forward. John Doe will forever serve as an inspiration for me. His mother is an inspiration as well. It must run in the family.
In closing, I’d like to add that I asked for no compensation to write this piece. I wanted a platform where I could speak from the heart.