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A Stranger in Our Home

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th St., New York, NY 10016; 212-808-4980
Produced by Melaine Wood
Directed by Melanie Wood
VHS, color, 40 min.
Sociology, Psychology, Crime

Reviewed by Karen Plummer, Cataloging Department, Bierce Library, University of Akron, Akron, OH

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   

A Stranger in Our Home provides two case studies of sexual predators on the Internet and provides insight into the victims' thoughts and feelings as well as the methodology of the predator. The documentary provides information from police and a convicted pedophile about how sexual predators "stalk" their young victims, illustrated by commentary from two victims of sexual predators, Daniel and Stephanie. From "lurking" in chat rooms to identify a potential victim, beginning contact and building a bond with the child, through de-sensitizing them to things sexual and building a cybersexual relationship, this documentary provides a grim picture of how easy it is for sexual predators to get to our children.

Daniel, a typical 13-year-old; was curious about sex in general and exploring his sexual identity. In a new city without close friends, Daniel turned to an Internet chat room for friendship. There he met "sailor13" - someone who understood him, someone else who was attracted to boys, someone who was willing to discuss anything with him. As their friendship progressed, "sailor13" began turning their conversations into more explicit sexual discussions. Daniel was addicted. He felt he could not be happy unless he was in daily contact with his friend. What Daniel did not realize was that his friend was actually a 59-year-old pedophile. Discovering personal details about Daniel's life, such as his address, phone number, school, etc., were not difficult for "sailor13" and when he was ready to tell Daniel the truth about himself, he had with enough information to blackmail Daniel into continuing his involvement with him. He convinced Daniel to steal money from his parents and travel from Canada to Seattle to meet him.

Stephanie was an attractive 15-year-old with many friends. Her initial forays into chat rooms were just for "kicks" until she met an 18-year-old boy calling himself "Jeff. He was understanding and funny. She became infatuated with him and began devoting all of her time to chatting online with her "boyfriend. Convinced that she was in love with him, she thought nothing of the increasing sexual nature of their conversations. When he broached the idea of meeting in person, Stephanie was initially excited. Even after "Jeff" explained that he was really in his 30s, married with children, and his name was Tim, Stephanie was willing to meet him. She was enamored of the fantasy man she had built up in her imagination.

Both of these cases had the potential for disaster, but Daniel and Stephanie were luckier than many young people who are pulled into the web of a sexual predator. Daniel's parents discovered his plan before he left and were able to alert the police. Stephanie's mother was very concerned about her meeting this stranger, and not only called the police, but also insisted that she accompany her daughter to the meeting. When Stephanie saw Tim, her fantasy man was not what she expected and she did not want to meet him in the end.

A Stranger in Our Home is a well-produced, powerful documentary, highly recommended for use with parent groups, middle and secondary school students and college or university classrooms. While the film provides little in the way of preventative measures for protecting children from sexual predators, it can serve as a discussion starter on how to educate children about the dangers of the Internet and how parents can monitor their children's Internet access and usage.