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'The Alicia Project' Works To Raise Awareness Of Internet Predators

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Alicia Kozakiewicz, child welfare advocate and founder of The Alicia Project, in the Essential Pittsburgh studios.

Alicia Kozakiewicz recently spoke with seventh and eighth graders at Propel Schools about internet safety and being cautious online. The Alicia Project, Kozakiewicz’s platform, is deeply personal to her life.

Alicia Kozakiewicz was 13 years old when she was abducted by a man she met online. He was able to earn her trust by posing as a boy her age and grooming her.

“Grooming is essentially becoming a child’s friend and telling them what they want to hear versus what they need to hear,” explained Kozakiewicz.

Kozakiewicz felt so comfortable that she agreed to meet him in person. That’s when he abducted her from her home in Pittsburgh and imprisoned her in the basement of his Virginia home, where he broadcasted the sexual violence he perpetrated against her.

It was when someone who was viewing the broadcast of her trauma decided to go to a payphone and turn the man in via screen name that the FBI got involved.

“Essentially one monster coming forward about another, he saw this awful video and he ran out to a payphone,” said Kozakiewicz.

They were able to track the predator’s IP address and rescue Kozakiewicz using the screenname the man provided on his payphone call.

Upon returning home and trying to return to a state of normalcy, Kozakiewicz founded the Alicia Project. The program involves her speaking about her experience to students in order to prevent other children from falling victim to predatory Internet crimes. Over the years, that Alicia Project’s audience has expanded from just children to parents, law enforcement, legislators and the media.

In addition to the Alicia Project, Kozakiewicz has laid the groundwork for Alicia’s Law, a model bill designed to be adopted by all states. It seeks to create a revenue stream solely dedicated to funding Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces that focus time and energy into preventing and halting the exploitation of children.

There are only 61 ICACs in the United States.

“They are so overworked and underfunded. The work they do is so important because almost every single child has a device and needs to be protected,” said Kozakiewicz.

Alicia’s Law has been implemented in 14 states. While this is a step forward for the law enforcement tasked with tackling these crimes, Kozakiewicz also pointed out that it’s the job of parents to get involved.

“[Parents] need to say ‘I love you and you can come to me with absolutely anything and I will not judge you, I will not yell at you, and I will treat you with respect,’” explained Kozakiewicz.

For Kozakiewicz, speaking about her trauma to help save others has helped her heal. While she notes that speaking openly about trauma is not comfortable or necessary for all survivors, sharing her story is what brought her peace.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to take this horrible thing and move forward with it and give it a purpose.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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