(Gay men & women are just as vulnerable to Online Predators & Cyberpaths as straight people are. And Perverted-Justice should be thanked. Fighter stops typing for a minute and gives this a BIG THUMBS UP!!)
By LOU CHIBBARO JR
Gays involved with a group that conducts controversial online sting operations against adult men who solicit sex from underage teenagers of both sexes are calling on the gay community to take a more visible stand against the sexual exploitation of children and teens.
Perverted Justice, the group some have criticized as vigilante, participated in a Nov. 4, 2005 nationwide broadcast of the weekly program “Dateline NBC,” which used hidden cameras to show men arriving at a house in Fairfax County, Va., for that they believed were meetings with underage teens of both sexes for sexual encounters.
Instead, much to their shock and horror, they were greeted by “Dateline NBC” reporter Chris Hansen, who informed them that the “teens” between the ages of 12 and 15 with whom they thought they were about to have a sexual tryst were actually adults members of a group called Perverted Justice.
Members of this nationwide Internet group say they train for and carefully carry out online sting operations to expose men seeking out underage teens for sexual encounters. The group’s leaders said they avoid illegal entrapment by waiting for the adult men to initiate a sexual assignation. Perverted Justice refers successful stings to local law enforcement authorities, who often prosecute the men involved.
In a development not mentioned in the “Dateline NBC” program, two gay men and a lesbian are among the group’s 32 volunteer members and teen “impersonators.”
“I have been with Perverted Justice two and a half years, and I can say that I’m treated with respect and welcomed with open arms,” said gay Michigan resident Greg Brainer.
Xavier Von Erck, one of the group’s leaders, said Perverted Justice has no connection to religious right groups and considers itself non-sectarian. Von Erck, who is not gay, said the organization supports equal rights for all people, including gays, and welcomes all who supports its mission.
“We don’t consider men who solicit underage males to be part of the gay community,” Von Erck said. “If you go for a 13-year-old or a 12-year-old, it’s all the same,” he said.
Brainer called such predatory behavior “outrageous” and “just plain wrong,” and said he is hopeful that more gay men and lesbians will begin to speak out more openly against such behavior.
He said Perverted Justice members don’t link adults who solicit sex with underage teens with the gay community, and the gay community should “get over” its fears about being tarnished by the issue of pedophilia.
Efforts lead to 38 convictions
Von Erck said the group turns over to police and prosecutors transcripts of e-mail exchanges, along with online instant message conversations, between its volunteer members who pose as teens and adult “predators.”
As of Nov. 12, 2005 , the group had submitted information used to obtain 38 convictions since it began its online sting operations more than two years ago. It says 52 current cases are pending across the country, with many of the adults ensnared by the group awaiting trial.
Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist in private practice and president of the Association of Gay & Lesbian Psychiatrists, called the actions exposed by Perverted Justice as “predatory behavior” that occurs in men who are sexually attracted to teenagers of either sex, or both sexes.
“This has nothing to do with being gay any more than men who try to lure girls for sex has do to with heterosexuality,” Drescher said. “This is not typical behavior for homosexuals or heterosexuals.”
But Drescher said he was skeptical about whether gay groups or gay leaders should feel obligated to speak out on the subject.
“I personally deplore this type of behavior,” he said. “But which members of the community should speak out on this? It’s like saying, ‘Are you gay people moral enough to speak out against this immoral behavior?’”
Drescher noted that gays have historically been subjected to condemnation for sexual behavior between consenting adults. He said the condemnation is often politically motivated.
“So it’s not the way the gay community automatically thinks - to issue a response on this type of development,” he said.
Von Erck said about 75 percent of the adult men his group monitors on the Internet seek out female teenagers, with the remaining 25 percent soliciting sex from teen-age boys.
“The men who seek out boys are often married” to women, he said.
Brainer, 38, lesbian volunteer Del Harvey, 23, of California; and a 25-year-old gay male volunteer named Don, who declined to disclose his last name, each participated in the Fairfax sting operation recorded by Dateline NBC.
In what appears as a well-honed operation, the three gay volunteers and others who posed as teenagers created online profiles for chat rooms set up mostly for teenagers. In most cases, the chat rooms are on America Online and Yahoo, Brainer said.
In most cases, the adult “impersonators” obtain old photos of teenagers who are currently adults and who agree to contribute their photos for the cause, Brainer said. Once the adult impersonators enter a chat room, they remain passive and “wait” to see if anyone establishes contact with them.
In the case of the Fairfax operation, about 18 adult males made contact with the “teens” over a period of several days. Once the adults solicited the “teens” for sex, the impersonators expressed varying degrees of interest. Eventually, they told the adult suitors their parents were away from home and invited the adults to visit them.
In each case, according to NBC’s Hansen, the adult suitors specifically acknowledged the age of the “teen” they were pursuing, noting that they read the age in the “teen’s” online profile.
Rabbi caught in sting
Among those ensnared the Fairfax sting was 55-year-old Rabbi David Kaye, who worked for a national youth group in Rockville, Md. Kaye, believing he was exchanging messages with a 13-year-old male, sent the “teen” a nude photo of himself, Hansen reported.
He also offered to perform oral sex on the youth. The adult who impersonated the teen accepted Kaye’s offer, according to transcripts of instant messages between Kaye and the fictitious minor.
The “teen” then invited Kaye to his house, saying his mother was deceased and his father was away on a trip. When Kaye arrived, he was greeted by Hansen, who began pressing him with questions about why he came to the house to have sex with a 13-year-old.
Several hidden television cameras recorded the encounter between Kaye and Hansen. “Dateline NBC” reported that even before the episode aired, Kaye resigned from his job at the Institute for Jewish Leaders & Values. He also reported finding online a photo of Kaye with two other rabbis later convicted of sexual misconduct.
Rabbi Robert Saks of the D.C. gay synagogue Beit Mishpachah said he is not aware of Kaye having attended any Beit Mishpachah events or services.
Fairfax police spokesperson Rich Perez said police are investigating the information Perverted Justice provided them in connection with the Fairfax sting operation.