For a significant amount of time, I have been involved in the baiting of individuals that I believed to be online predators. This started a younger age that I would like to admit, and as one could probably assume, my passion for performing such actions is tied to abuse that I experienced at a young age due to being sexually assaulted at a religious private school, and then by an ex partner in early adulthood. I also used these operations to feel better about myself after I had performed actions I’ve regret in my person life towards friends and partners close to me, and admittedly got a sort of dopamine rush or high from “catching the bad guy”. However, upon speaking to somebody I’ve known since childhood, and upon the close introspection I have been doing after losing somebody very dear to me due to paranoia and manipulative behavior towards them, I have started to re-evaluate my role in these operations. Effective immediately, I have resigned from Operation Wolf Eyes and any organization which performs decoy operations, uses tactics which could be referred to as “baiting”, or otherwise uses deceptive tactics in order to “catch” and “expose” people, regardless of reason.
I’ll elaborate on the reasons for this below.
Rationale for involvement
It is not something I frequently talk about, but I was sexually assaulted as a young child during a brief period of time in my early years of education where I attended a private religious school which is now permanently closed. I was then sexually pressured, and ultimately assaulted, as a young adult by a former partner when I lived in the state of Georgia. This issue was personal to me, however, if I said I did it entirely for altruistic reasons, I would not be entirely accurate. I got a dopamine and adrenaline rush associated with “catching the bad guys” that became a sort of addition to me. I liked the feeling, I liked the positive attention I gained for my involvement, and I liked feeling like I was preventing others from getting victimized as I did. It was a positive feed back loop that made my ultimately flawed actions feel justified, morally correct, and righteous. As they say; the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Baiting tactics are flawed
A common saying is “garbage in, garbage out” and this applies to decoy operations involving sexual predators. The evidence collected in these operations is dubious at best. In a social setting, people will often behave in a manner which they believe the other participant in the situation wishes for them to behave. There are numerous occasions in which somebody exposed in a predator sting claimed they believed they were roleplaying with an adult, and that it was simply consensual age play. This, while in some cases it may be false, is actually a hard defense to refute. As somebody who has engaged in various non-sexual roleplay scenarios, I can actually believe that some of the people who have had their lives adversely affected by decoy operations may have never had the intentions to harm a child. I strongly believe that somebody accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty, and a vast majority of the time – the evidence collected by decoy operations simply isn’t enough to prove guilt beyond any sort of reasonable doubt.
Baiting tactics harm investigations
While many, including myself, will claim to have gained successful arrests from baiting tactics, the situation changes when you look at prosecution statistics. Generally speaking, convictions from predator baiting operations happen almost exclusively via plea deals. Defendants are very successful in winning cases while decoys were involved, partially for the reasons stated in the above paragraph. When big prosecutions for major crimes do happen, it is almost always as a result of finding additional evidence (such as child pornography, or actual abuse) that is almost entirely unrelated from the initial decoy operation. The vast majority of time, the person baited is arrested, charged, but ultimately acquitted of any wrongdoing. When ICAC units or actual police entities perform baiting operations, they generally make arrests for charges involving child pornography. Decoys operated by private citizens cannot legally receive or process child pornography as evidence. All we’re doing is ensuring real predators we may be trying to catch are getting off due to lack of evidence, which is something I do not wish to be a part of.
Baiting tactics harm marginalized communities, and contribute to the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) machine
The results of baiting operations are often used by right-wing propagandists to push an agenda, sometimes, the organizations conducting the operations have such an agenda, often times they do not and are used to that end by others who do. The exposure aspect of baiting operations harms the ability for individuals to receive a fair trial, hangs them in the court of public opinion, and then is used as evidence of a right-wing propaganda campaign that monsters are lurking under every stone. Specifically, on the rare occasion that a member of the LGBTQ+ community has been on the receiving end of a decoy operation, this is used to push an agenda that “all LGBTQ+ people are groomers”… and these narratives are pushed and shared before any court process or conviction has even occured.
The mindset is toxic
The mindset and manipulation that one has to adopt to be involved in these operations is absolutely and utterly toxic. This mindset also bleeds into your personal life. It causes you to be suspicious of your friends, of your partners, and of people close to you in life who have nothing to do with the operations themselves. I experienced this first hand, and became extremely manipulative to a large majority of my friend group, including THE person who matters most in my life. I became so toxic towards her and towards others, that their only recourse was to exit my life. It makes you think that, on a general sense, “manipulation for a greater good” is an acceptable option and it simply isn’t – ever. I am not blaming all of my bad behavior over the past few years on these operations, but it certainly was a major contributing factor.
To all those who have been encountered by me, or one of my “operators” during the course of my time doing this, you have my sincere apology. If you are in fact guilty, I am confident karma will catch up to you eventually and you will be caught with an ethical method via the proper channels. I am not an arbiter of your guilt or innocence, and I apologize for arrogantly trying to take that role upon myself. I apologize to anyone I am close to that felt they could not otherwise share harmless aspects of themselves with me due to the overzealous way in which I viewed this topic and approached my operations.