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The Infamous Todd Case


NOTE: This is an extract from a research paper written by Kabir Hanspal in 2017 that covers the infamous Amanda Todd Suicide of 2012. The author claims to be no professional forensic psychologist, and has written the paper from his standpoint. All footnotes have been removed.

While a great amount of the following text contains information directly from Amanda Todd's video some details are taken from other verifiable sources mentioned at the end of the document.

 

Background

Amanda Todd was a Canadian Teenager who was blackmailed by an unknown entity who ultimately added to the consequences that led her to take her own life on the 10th of October 2012 at the age of 15 years. On the 7th of September 2012, a month and three days before her suicide, she uploaded a clip of her onto the popular video sharing website, YouTube. In the video, she explains through a series of flash cards her situation. The video is in black and white and includes pictures of her self-mutilation (viewer discretion advised) set to the maudlin song “Hear You Me”. The link for the video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E If she is to be believed, the video gives a summary of the following events:

The events that ultimately led to her suicide can be traced to when she was in 7th Grade. She liked spending her time on internet chat rooms to talk to new people. She often used the webcam to converse with people. Over the course of her many chats, she was constantly complimented by people. Called “beautiful, stunning and perfect…” they wanted her to “flash”

She (possibly under pressure) complied.

About a year later, she received a message on the social media website, Facebook. It was an unknown male who had obtained pictures of Amanda Todd when she had exposed her breasts.

This unidentified male blackmailed her into “putting up shows” for his own sexual gratification. Todd agreed in order to stop the man from spreading these pictures. This went on for a while but then a couple of months later during Christmas Break, the police arrived at the Todd Household at 4:00 am. Her pictures had been sent to almost everyone in her day to day life. To escape the ridicule, Todd and her family moved. However, a year later the man managed to track them down and her pictures were redistributed among people of her new school.

He created a Facebook Profile. He started contacting people from her new school. His profile picture was a picture of Amanda Todd with her exposed breasts. Around this time, Todd started engaging in self-harm.

The Todd Family moved again. Roughly after a month, she contacted an old male friend. They messaged each other and he confessed that he was interested in her (even though he was already in a relationship with another girl). Amanda visited his home and they engaged in sexual intercourse. A week later, she was asked to come out of her school. On doing so, she found the male friend’s girlfriend, the friend himself and 14 other people waiting for her. She was publicly humiliated and about fifty people from her new school were watching. She was also assaulted violently. Amanda Todd ran away and lay “in a ditch” until her father found her.

Upon reaching home, she attempted suicide by drinking bleach. She survived when she was taken to the hospital. She experienced humiliation in the form of offensive messages on Facebook. People from her school wrote messages like “She deserved it”, “Did it wash the mud out of your hair?” and “I hope she’s dead”.

Todd moved another city again. This being the last time she moved. People still tagged her in pictures of bleach on the internet. Her self-mutilation worsened. She was regularly taking anti-depressants to cope with her emotional state. This was 2012. On September 7th 2012, she uploaded a video titled “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm” explaining her situation. Approximately two months later, on the 10th of October 2017, she committed suicide by hanging in her home. This time, she was successful in her attempt.

 

Analysis:

Amanda Todd was a regular teenager who made a mistake that created a wave she could never have seen coming. Her death prompted the Canadian authorities to change certain laws and take any form of bullying much more seriously. Her death took the media by storm mainly because there was no individual who was able to figure out the identity or her tormentor (the person who blackmailed her).

The chain of events that led to her death started with her decision to flash and one unknown individual’s desire to blackmail her. At any point, in my opinion, a person could have helped her and completely changed the way everything turned out. Though her suicide is obviously a dark event, there is some good that did come out of it. I think the New Yorker summed it up perfectly:

“in Todd’s native Canada, cyber-harassment is prosecuted under the general harassment provision of the Canadian criminal code. And in the United States, most states have added specific laws against cyber-harassment and bullying to their general legislation of harassment. At the federal level, there is the Federal Interstate Stalking Punishment and Prevention Act, which covers harassment that crosses state and national lines. While all of these laws are subject to the limitations of the First Amendment, the First Amendment generally doesn’t protect threats and harassment. If people are not being prosecuted for these acts, the fault lies in the social alchemy of law enforcement, the way the human prejudices of judges, juries, and prosecutors inflect the black letter. Put otherwise, the power is there, the cultures more are what is preventing the laws from being successfully invoked.”

Psychological Effects

Studies indicate that minors who become victims of bullying often develop depression and anxiety in a faster and more severe manner than the ones who do not. This further leads to changes in sleeping and eating patterns, increased feelings of melancholy, feelings of loneliness, drop in energy levels and increased tendency of suicidal thoughts. A study at JAMA Psychiatry looks at the long-term psychological effects of bullying on minors. The researchers took data from over 1,400 children in North Carolina, at ages 9, 11 and 13, and followed up with the majority into adulthood. They asked the kids about their experiences being bullied or bullying others – some children fell into one category or the other (5% were exclusively bullies, 21% were exclusively victims), and some (4.5%) straddled both "roles," acting as bullies at times, and at others, being bullied themselves.

As mentioned, the participants were also twice surveyed when they were between 19 and 26, answering questions about their current mental health. In this way, the team could determine whether they suffered from mental health disorders like depressive disorders, anxiety disorders (like generalized anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and others), substance dependence, and antisocial personality disorder, as per the DSM-4.

Kids who had been victims only (who never bullied others) had greater risk for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia as adults.

But worse off were kids who were both bully victims and bullies – they experienced all types of depressive and anxiety disorders, and suffered most severely from suicidal thoughts, depressive disorders, generalized anxiety and panic disorder, compared with the other groups of participants. In fact, about 25% of these participants said they had suicidal thoughts as young adults, and about 38% had panic disorder. The fact that depression was such a risk in later life, for both sexes, the authors say, “provides strong evidence that being a victim of bullying or being both a victim and a perpetrator is a risk factor for serious emotional problems…independent of pre-existing problems.”

Forensic Analysis

From a forensic standpoint, this was one of the trickiest cases of cyberstalking that the Canadian government had ever faced. One of the most controversial aspects was whether her suicide can be taken as a murder charge against her blackmailer. Even though there was a massive wave of disruption that swept most of North America, the perpetrator was almost impossible to catch. Due to the nature of their crime, they could have been operating from any part of the world and no one would have been the wiser.

A preliminary investigation by the British Columbia Coroners Service displayed that Todd’s death was a suicide. The reported cause of death was hanging, however the exact COD (Cause of Death) was never released. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the British Columbia Coroners Service launched an investigation with twenty full-time investigators working on the case.

A year before Todd’s suicide, Canada’s national organisation Cybertip.ca received a tip stating that Todd’s pictures were in circulation on the internet. According to the CBC news program, The Fifth Estate, the RCMP were contacted repeatedly that the juvenile was being sexually extorted by an adult male, and in response the RCMP told the family there was "nothing that could be done" about it. According to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), however, the crime of "sextortion" is investigated quite successfully.

After her case gained international attention, the “hacktivist” group “Anonymous” released a video stating that their group of hackers had successfully unveiled the identity of Todd’s tormentor, which they claimed was one Kody Maxson, a thirty year old man from British Columbia, Canada. They even provided his address and painted him as a pedophile*. However, these were ultimately dismissed as conjecture.

(Pedophilia or paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.)*

An investigation was carried out by Facebook’s security unit, whose report was forwarded by U.S. authorities to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre attached to the British National Crime Agency, and then to Dutch authorities, in January 2014 Dutch police arrested a man in a case involving multiple victims in the Netherlands, U.K., and Canada, having installed spyware on his computers; "chilling" chat logs of extortion, numerous images of child pornography, and 5,800 bookmarked names which served as a database of potential victims and their social networks were found. In April 2014, it was reported that Dutch authorities charged a 35-year-old man with dual Dutch and Turkish citizenship (identified only as "Aydin C." within the Netherlands in accordance with Dutch privacy laws) with indecent assault and child pornography. That same month, the RCMP announced that the man had been charged with extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography for his alleged activities against Todd and other child victims, both male and female. Todd's mother thanked police, but also said that she believed more than one person was involved. On 28 January 2015, CBC News said that Aydin Coban had written an open letter proclaiming his innocence.

Some child pornography charges were dropped by Dutch authorities in October 2015; Aydin Coban's case went to trial in February 2017, and concluded on March 16, 2017. He faced 72 charges of sexual assault and extortion in the Netherlands involving 39 alleged victims (34 young women and five men in countries as various as Britain, Canada, Norway and the United States, and some of whom had been harassed for years); eventually convicted and sentenced on the Dutch charges of internet fraud and blackmail, he faces five separate Canadian charges related to Todd (herself not one of the 39), and it is anticipated that he would be extradited to Canada no sooner than the middle of 2018 whilst serving his Dutch sentence of 10 years and 8 months. Carol Todd expressed relief at the sentence.

Aydin Coban is a pedophile. He has an attraction to pre-pubescent minors and has blackmailed a multitude of children from around the world. The revealing of his identity and subsequent conviction took almost two years after Todd’s death. As he had been blackmailing many other children around the world, if Amanda Todd’s suicide had not swept the world, it would be a safe assumption that Mr. Coban would have not been caught for a much longer time. Pedophiles, as defined by the fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, are individuals who are preferentially or solely sexually attracted to prepubescent children, generally 13 years or less.

There are distinct classifications for other attractions to children, depending on the developmental stage the adult is sexually attracted to. Those who find children on the cusp of puberty sexually attractive are known as “hebephiles”. “Ephebophiles” are individuals who are sexually attracted to children who have reached puberty.

However, it is very important to understand that:

Not all paedophiles are child sex offenders, and conversely not all child sex offenders are paedophiles. Some people who sexually abuse children are not preferentially attracted to children at all. The abuse is a matter of opportunity: the child is a sexual surrogate for an unavailable adult or the abuse represents a need to dominate and control another human being.”*

(As stated on the conversation.com)*

The psychology of pedophiles is still being studied extensively, however we are still a far way from understanding it to a point where definitive treatment can be made. Like psychopathically behaviour, pedophilia is also a mental condition.

The reason for its occurrence is still shrouded with mystery. A recent study* suggest that anywhere between 33% and 75% of child sex offenders report being sexually abused as children. The practical application of this information is that preventing child sexual abuse will reduce, but not eradicate, some occurrences later. There are many individuals who were not sexually abused as children, yet they exhibit pedophilic behaviour. There may be a biological basis that explains this group of people. Research suggests that pedophiles’ brains are “hard-wired” to find immature faces attractive.

(The study being a 45-year study carried out by the Australian Institute of Criminology, June 2012.)*

It is very hard to estimate the proportion of sex offenders in the general population, as few people admit to a sexual interest in children. One clinical researcher based a guesstimate of around 2% on a European sample of male volunteers.

There is some hope clinicians may be able to help identify people with these inclinations through an analysis of brain function. Hopefully one day we may be able to understand the causation of inappropriate sexual desires towards children more readily, and prevent the cycle of abuse continuing. This is very important to reduce cases resembling Amanda Todd’s suicide. As of now, we do not know nearly enough identify this condition in the masses (or to some extent even individuals). Extensive research is being conductive all around the world by various nations to find ways of identifying and treating pedophiles before any incidents. It is important to understand that this is a psychological condition.

Trying to get a pedophile to not be attracted to minors is as difficult as converting a heterosexual individual to a homosexual (or vice versa). It is a very difficult task that may still be years (or even decades, though I personally abhor to think so) away. However, with the right research and resources it may still be possible to truly understand the psychology of a pedophile.

 

Sources

  • The Australian Institute of Criminology

  • The Washington Post

  • The Huffington Post

  • Psychology Today

  • The Guardian

  • Psychology of Paedophile , The Conversation

  • National Post

  • The Globe And Mail

  • Amanda Todd’s Video , Youtube

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