Back in 2002, a young and happy but naive, 13-year-old girl named Alicia made the worst decision of her life. But first, let me take you back a little and describe the situation.
About 8 or 9 months earlier Alicia's brother introduced her to the internet and online gaming. She didn't always like the same games as her brother but soon found it a good way to have fun and chat with the more, and less, popular kids at school.
She soon met a guy around the same age as her, through friends of friends, who also had the same interests. He quickly became a friend that she could always talk with, get advice from, or even complain to. The internet really can be a gift.
Coming back to 2002: It's New Year's Day. Alicia is at home with her family. It has always been a time of celebration for her family and her mom has made a beautiful evening meal. Everyone is there: her dad, her brother and his girlfriend, and her grandmother. Little did Alicia know but this would be one of the last happy childhood memories that she would have.
Between dinner and dessert Alicia told her mother that she wasn't feeling well and was going to lie down. Instead of doing that however, she snuck out the front door and headed off down the street to meet the guy from online.
This type of behavior was totally out of the normal for Alicia. She would have never snuck away before, she hated the dark and the cold and, a little way down the road she suddenly thought "What are you doing? This is dangerous and you should go home." It was at this point, just after she'd turned around and started walking home, that she heard her name being called.
The next thing Alicia remembers she was in a car with a man (not a boy of her own age, at all), and scared for her life.
Alicia was driven for 5 hours across the country, from Pennsylvania to Virginia, by this man. She was taken downstairs into his dungeon, stripped of her clothing, chained with a locking-dog collar to the floor. He looked at her and said "This is going to be really hard for you. It's OK, cry." He then raped, beat and tortured her.
This hell continued for 4 days, during which time her kidnapper broadcasted videos of himself abusing her online.
It was exactly this which ended up saving her: an online viewer (yes, another person interested in child pornography) recognized Alicia from a missing person poster and phoned authorities. The viewer provided the FBI the screenname and IP address of Alicia's abuser.
At the age of 14, Alicia began sharing her story. She regularly speaks out about the abuse she suffered from rapist, Scott Tyree. She traveled to schools and gave presentations about the dangers of the internet and internet grooming. Today, just over 14 years later, she continues on her mission to improve internet safety for children. She is a missing persons advocate, the founder of the Alicia Project, which is a group aimed at raising awareness about child abduction, and she is also the namesake of Alicia's Law.
Alicia admits it took her a long time to trust again, to form new relationships, and personal relationships were a terribly difficult ordeal. But there is a happy ending to this horrible childhood: Alicia is now due to marry the man she calls her best friend in July.