Bellevue police arrested a 44-year-old Edmonds man on charges of Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor, Child Molestation 2nd, and three counts of Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes. He has been charged and is currently in jail on $200,000 bail.
Theodore Therriault is accused of grooming a 13-year-old Bellevue girl by buying her gifts. When the victim’s mother found a brand-new iPhone, perfume, lingerie, and clothing that she did not purchase, she contacted the police.
During the investigation, detectives learned Therriault ordered ride-share cars to pick the girl up and take her to a mall or his home in Edmonds. He also drove the victim in his vehicle, which detectives seized following his arrest. The victim says she communicated with Therriault via Snapchat because the messages disappear.
“This case is further proof that the internet can be dangerous, especially for young people,” warned Major Travess Forbush. “Parents need to have open communication with their teens about what’s appropriate and what’s not on the internet. They need to know what social media channels and websites their kids use and who they’re communicating with,” Forbush added.
Experts say since most students are now online for school, the danger has never been greater. Washington Trafficking Prevention (WTP), a survivor-led organization committed to ending human trafficking in Washington State, reports at least a four-fold increase in reports of children being groomed on social media platforms since the pandemic began.
“Everyone is using social media to stay connected during the pandemic, yet that’s where most young people encounter unsafe relationships,” says WTP Executive Director Kyra Doubek. “The dangers of social media platforms are real. It’s the easiest way for an abuser to engage with potential victims and produces the highest return.”
Doubek says WTP helps parents and families safely navigate the online world and she offers these pointers:
- Just because a child meets the minimum age recommended by social media sites doesn’t mean that they should have social media or need them.
- Parents need to be familiar with apps and safety settings.
- Set boundaries and realize if your kids aren’t always happy with you, you’re probably doing your job! It’s important to provide guidance and keep your kids safe.
- TALK OFTEN about social media. Talk about boundaries, who kids can be friends with, and how to deal with online bullies. Make sure your kids know you are always there to walk with them through stuff they may be ashamed of or feel scared.
If you have information or know someone who is a victim of sex or labor trafficking, you are encouraged to contact Bellevue Police at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can remain anonymous. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.