Thursday, November 1, 2007
7 News Investigations: Too Sexy Too Soon
It seems like such a cute thing, a little girl running on the beach in a bikini. So cute websites have sprung up, paying little girls to pose for them, and that's where the cute becomes dangerous. You wont believe who is using these websites and what they want. Tonight Patrick Fraser has a Seven News investigative report, Too Sexy Too Soon.
WSVN -- Lots of little girls dream of being a star, a runway model, a singer. Kira wants to be on the big screen.
Kira Bauske: "Maybe doing a lot more movies. Probably more movies instead of stage plays."
When Kira was ten she was paid $700 to make her first DVD running on the beach, laying on a couch, changing from one bathing suit to another.
Kris Bauske: "She was very excited about the opportunity. This was her first real, paying modeling job, and, at this stage in her career development, she's always looking for opportunities."
Kira didn't know she would soon be an Internet star along with thousands of other kids ranging in age from 7 to 17. Little girls wearing bikinis, posing in bathtubs, wearing what some little girls call "big girl" clothes shown on websites promising to bring you the best in young stars.
Shelby Eliese: "It was an opportunity, it sounded like fun. I love taking pictures. I love getting out there, I love doing all that."
Shelby started her own website when she was 10 years old. At one point, she claims, almost two million people a month were looking at her.
Shelby Eliese: "I'm proud to say I am a role model to these girls."
Patrick Fraser: "And to look at these 7- and 8-year-olds, these young 12- and 14-year-olds in bikinis. To get full access to all their pictures, to type them personal notes, to buy their DVDs cost about $25 a month. So who would pay to do that? The parents think it is other little girls. Experts say that's naive."
Kevin Gillick: "You have got to understand who is buying those DVDs and the people buying those DVDs are pedophiles, people who are sexually attracted to children."
Kevin Gillick is trying to warn parents about the dangers of the websites, and, if they went into the sites' chat rooms, they would understand why. Here, a guy who claims to be 33, he writes about this little girl, "totally yummy." And a guy who calls himself "Old Timer," writes of a young girl in a bathtub: "Kimberly is a beautiful girl am glad she likes to keep clean."
Some of the websites that photograph children originate in Florida. The attorney general has investigated them.
Bill McCullom: "If I were a mother, I wouldn't let my daughter do this, or a father, I wouldn't let my daughter do this. The sites are unsavory, but they're not illegal. They're not pornography. They're not even showing nudity, in most cases."
McCullom, though, says the websites are dangerous because of the people they attract.
Bill McCullom: "People who want to meet up with teenage girls or younger and abuse them, and, if you're putting your daughter through an opportunity for this kind of exposure, you're just opening the door for their vulnerability."
Gillick says the pedophiles won't be satisfied with just looking at the DVDs and sending the little girls emails.
Kevin Gillick: "Some of those people are the stalker-type of child molester. That type of predator, who fixates, they might fixate on one image on that website, and they'll build a fantasy around it, and that fantasy won't stop until the day they put their hands on that kid."
Girls who pose for the websites say they don't worry, they can't be found by the pedophiles.
Shelby Eliese: "No, I have never been approached by any fans. They don't know where I live, where I stay, where I eat food."
But Shelby is also being naive. When we wanted to talk to her and Kira all we had were their first names. It didn't take us long to find their full names, the cities they lived in and phone numbers. Imagine if a pedophile had done that?
Dave Hardman the owner of the website that videotaped and photographed Kira told us he would talk to us for $10,000. When we told him "no, thanks" he wrote back defending his business, saying his site is too old for pedophiles, adding it's not illegal, and people see kids on Disney and Nickelodeon and think nothing of it.
One Florida senator says, if he can't ban sites like Hardman's, he at least wants the state to watch over them.
Sen. Mike Fasano: "Anyone who's going to have this type of business, you're going to register with the State of Florida. You're going to get licensed."
Kira's mother has another idea, she won't do business with Dave Hardman again.
Kris Bauske: "We'll never do that again. We'll never work with this person again. We'll never work in this particular situation again."
Kris thought Kira's pictures would be used to sell bathing suits. She had no idea the tapes would wind up being sold to pedophiles. Once again Gillick says parents are being naive.
Kevin Gillick: "I would warn parents, if anybody wants to pay you for pictures of your kid, don't do it. Your child's picture is probably going to end up in a meat parade like this, and they will be there forever."
Maybe Kira will make it big, but critics hope other parents will decide. It's risky to be Too Sexy Too Soon.