Mother of 3 goes undercover to combat child sex abuse online

Banfield

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A mother of three is going undercover to prevent child sex abuse in cyberspace by going undercover.

Roo Powell, 38, started SOSA, a nonprofit that is working to keep kids safe from online sex abuse. She also has a show on Discovery Plus, called “Undercover Underage.”

Powell said she’s able to distort her age with a variety of techniques.

“We use a lot of tricks, including wigs and makeup and prosthetics and braces and glasses,” she said. “But then also we do really heavy digital editing to remove all the things that make me a 30-year-old mom.”

She said creating a fake person in cyberspace isn’t as easy as it sounds. She said it’s not just a matter of putting up a picture of a child and hoping predators will interact with it.

“We have to make a multi-dimensional, layered teenage decoy because that’s what every teenage girl is, right? They’ve got families and social circles and activities,” Powell said. “So we do the same for our decoys to make them as believable as possible. We give them each a name and a middle name and a birthday and an astrological sign, hobbies and siblings.”

Powell said some of the investigations don’t take as long as people may think. But some predators will spend more time trying to groom their potential victims.

“I think the unfortunate thing is that a lot of times, people start right out of the gate as being sexual … the conversation can be sexual right away,” she said. “Sometimes there is a longer grooming process where we see a lot of manipulation tactics, coercion happening.”

Powell, however, made it clear: she’s not a vigilante. All of the evidence she gathers is handed over to police.

“Our goal is to get the evidence,” she said. “We point out who the bad actors are. And then we hand that over to law enforcement. And then law enforcement takes that and runs with it in a number of ways.”

For more information on “Undercover Underage,” click here.

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