New Film by David Schwimmer Highlights that No Child Is Immune to Online Dangers
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 we were 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 initially 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 by an online predator.
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 can be husbands and fathers themselves. 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, and in our Internet Safety 101SM DVD teaching series, EIE President Donna Rice Hughes interviewed a convicted sex offender, “John Doe”, in a high security prison, who was a well-liked, personable, award-winning school teacher, trusted by his community until he was convicted of multiple counts of Internet-initiated child sex abuse.
The film is rated R, and includes brief nudity, course 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 dependant.
As Trust’s key Internet safety partner, we hosted an advanced of the film screening with Millennium Pictures in the DC-metro area. Following the film, EIE President Donna Rice Hughes joined David Schwimmer and Internet safety expert and Founder of SSP Blue, Hemanshu Nigam on stage to lead a panel about the film and to help parents understand what they can do to protect their children from these and other threats. David and Donna stressed the fact that research indicates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before adulthood, and that sadly, 30-40% of these victims are abused by family members, and 50% are abused by someone outside the family whom they know and trust. Internet-initiated child sexual abuse is just one small piece of the child sexual abuse picture. Donna also highlighted that the film illuminates the predominant Internet-initiated sex crime scenario. Research shows, 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 reality of the vulnerability of youth to the potential risk of grooming. While we recognize that parents may feel overwhelmed or ill-equipped to protect their children online, 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), can help.
No child is immune to online dangers. Parents must be active participants in their kids’ online lives. We also are encouraging parents who view the film to recognize the warning signs, have conversations with their children, and build an atmosphere of trust with their kids regarding Internet use. The Internet is a wonderful tool that can be used for good or evil. By becoming educated, equipped and empowered and implement Rules ‘N Tools® on all Internet-enabled devices, parents can ensure that their children can enjoy a safe and rewarding experience online, free from online dangers. The film will be released in theaters April 1.
Note: portions of this post were also featured on Covenant Eyes HERE.