Maria Demeshina Peek’s documentary, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic offers a disturbing glance at what goes on online when parents cannot see. A difficult, yet important watch for everyone.
“Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic” tackles extremely disturbing yet timely subject matter and is an investigation into the world of online grooming and sextortion–a present-day reality for one in seven children online. By unsealing the federal case of a top-gun pilot with hundreds of victims, and interviewing survivors and their parents, this true-crime piece exposes an often-overlooked crime against children, the tactics of online predators, and the voices of parents and law enforcement poised to stop online child exploitation in its tracks.
Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is filled with first person accounts and works at its brutal best when it focuses on the victims of those who have been damaged either emotionally, physically or both. You feel for these people as we watch courtroom reenactments and interviews with those involved in one specific case.
Learning that one man was involved in hundreds of instances of grooming and extortions is almost unfathomable. How such a monster existed and got away with doing so much damage for so many years truly shocks you. The simplicity of how he and others are able to get into childrens world and coerces them to do anything they want because they are children and will do what they are told after doing something that shames them.
The turn to focus on one victim named Amanda is harrowing, we learn her story and your heart breaks for her and her family. We see how even after her online abuser did the damage and shared her photos online, that he actively went after her long after she had moved. Being a constant reminder that he will never let her be free of her past, free of him. This reached a point where Amanda eventually shared a video about her abuse. Peek carries out all of her interviews with the greatest of delicacy.
Where it does lose you a little is when it brings in the stars. Of course it is great to see them show their support to the right causes such as this, it feels as if these moments possibly take away from the impact that it had beforehand. By not staying with the real life stories within Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic we become less compelled. Especially so when you realise the horrific statistics involved in online grooming.
While the documentary is not as powerful as Caught in the Net, it still packs one hell of a punch and leads to many shudders as you witness what has happened and continues to happen to young children on the internet all over the world. The main take away is that as authorities around the world get to grips with what is going on online, they are thinking of ways to achieve justice and what they can do to limit instances that happened to these children from ever happening again.
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