Many hours were spent thinking about what could have been, what went wrong, who was to blame, if they really were to blame, and how I can attempt to fix what was obviously broken.
I make no excuses for my actions on any level, and while I don’t condone violence, I’m also still not in a position, in heart or mind, to make any apologies. It just wouldn’t be genuine.
However, I am now in a position to know a thing or two from spending two-and-a-half years in prison as a convict, but also from my three years as a paedophile hunter.
Trust me, the irony of those two titles isn’t lost on me.
My story is painfully common among Jersey’s youth: no money, domestic abuse, mental illness, bad role models and child services that provided anything but help.
Though hindsight is a handy tool to help us all on our journey in life, for some of us it’s a painful reminder that not a lot has changed.
I still see young teenagers battling their way through having no money, domestic abuse, mental illness, bad role models and child services that provide anything but help.
And like me they will fall into making bad decisions, having no hope, and being preyed upon by adults who will use their troubles to exploit them.
This is the perfect storm for predatory behaviour.
Now combine the above with the technological world young Islanders are raised in – where the ‘like button’ is the new chat up line and the selfie is the new youth club – and you have a bigger problem than I bet you ever realised.
You can divvy up the above problems and causes to use in your political arsenal against those you see as the ‘opposition’, but throwing stones at each other – especially with dirty hands – rarely gets you anywhere and shifts the blame to the point where it becomes watered down with no real substance.
There’s a lack of integrity when it comes to local politics and any brutal honesty is looked upon with fear and scepticism.
My story is far from perfect, but it’s real – scars and all.
It may not be what you want to hear, but the message and lessons are there for anyone who wishes to look a little closer.
Becoming a mother made me complete in ways I could never imagine. Another little human whose health, happiness, warmth and wellbeing relied solely on my every decision was a sobering process, and I’ve loved every moment.
A mixture of that process, good timing and, I guess, fate, brought me to the first case where I officially became a ‘hunter’.
I’ll never forget my friend’s daughter, who was 15 years old at the time, innocently saying the words ‘mum, this guy is messaging me’. It was so simple, yet so horrific at the same time, and so some quick-thinking and a burning desire to see this scumbag in jail led to my first experience of acting as a decoy.
Teaching our kids about online safety is a must, but it also has to be extended to the wider family and should not be a taboo subject.
Asking who your children are talking to while in their rooms, inquiring about who their new friends are and, most importantly, taking the time to notice certain traits of behaviour and handling things with maturity, while not passing judgment, is just the beginning.
Predators are very cunning, very patient and extremely dangerous. There have been cases of not only extortion, but of families blackmailed to sell their child’s innocence or bear the responsibility of the predator releasing already-acquired images to the dark web.
Ask yourself how would you handle that situation. Knowing your baby had been exploited while innocently using apps that are deemed safe for kids.
This nightmare is unfortunately all too common and while most people only know a sliver of what it is that I do, today, tomorrow and the day after, an average of over 60,000 adults [a Home Office report published in 2013 identified a network of paedophiles on the internet consisting of more than 600,000 users, more than 10% of which were in the UK] will be attempting to groom our children online – this in the UK alone.
If hunters, vigilantes, decoys, or whatever people choose to call us, can have a small impact upon that number while also bringing an airtight conviction, then I will stand by them and continue my work with or without the blessing of the law or the state.
I’m not here for them, nor do I stress about their opinion. I’m here, as I have been from day one, for survivors of sexual abuse and I will continue to be as loud as I can be, because suffering is already a life sentence, but suffering in silence is the closest thing to death. Trust me.
I don’t have all the answers, unfortunately. I just know that it took 5,000 signatures, 24 people behind bars and a lifetime’s worth of abuse aimed at me and my family to even get us talking about what really matters, our young Islanders.
If the perfect storm existed 15 years ago with me, and is still alive and kicking today, how can we honestly say, without irony, that we’re putting children first?