The sexual exploitation of minors is a tragic reality for far too many children in our society. In early December 2019, a 36-year-old woman was arrested in Oregon with multiple sex crime charges. The woman, Rheta Melvin, allegedly used Snapchat to message and solicit a 14-year-old boy for sex.
The 14-year-old, a student at the same school as Melvin’s daughter, was contacted by Melvin through Snapchat and they exchanged sexual images over the social media app. They then made plans to meet up and then, when Melvin picked the boy up, they had sex in the back seat of her car.
Authorities also found evidence of grooming in the messages. One message from Melvin to the victim found the 36-year-old claiming that the boy was “saving himself” for her after he told her that he wasn’t going to get back together with an ex.
Melvin did not admit to raping the victim but did admit to sexting with the victim—though she claimed she thought the boy was “either 17 or 18.” She went on to claim that she was merely giving the boy ride to “hang out with her daughter.” She admitted to sexting other minors, as well, but she did not give more details on those encounters.
Lest anyone be tempted to write this off as an isolated incident, the reality is that Rheta Melvin’s method of obvious grooming, solicitation, and eventual contact is a pattern that many exploiters use to lure children and teens into dangerous and compromising situations. The proliferation of social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram only make access easier for those who would sexually exploit minors in ways parents and authorities are often too late to prevent.
This news story highlights the need to better regulate social media and hold the companies in charge accountable. Stories like this should be unheard of instead of commonplace and even expected.
Right now, NCOSE is fighting to bring these issues to light in both the public and the government. Learn about our #FixAppRatings campaign to bring app developers to justice here.
For more resources for parents, click here.