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Daniela Koulikov

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I have a son called Jackson, and Jackson is an entrepreneur.

– A letter from a father to his son.

Jack came up with his first business idea when he was about 4 years old. We have a massive macadamia nut tree in the back yard. He knew macadamia nuts were expensive but what he didn’t know is that they are so damn expensive because they are so damn hard to get out of the shell.

But that didn’t stop him – so one day he collected about 60 or so nuts. He put 5 nuts each into a small paper bag and wrote $2.00 on each bag. He then put the paper bags into his little red wagon and took off by himself going door to door selling his nuts to the neighbours. He came back in about 20 minutes with $24.00 and no nuts.

One business idea led to another. His big break came when he was about 14 years old – selling waterproof iPhone covers. He shipped in hundreds of these covers for about $5.00 each and sold them on eBay for $30.00.

He water tested each one and he was making thousands!

I would come home and there would be a new PlayStation 4 on the table, an Apple computer or there would be a couple of technicians putting up a plasma TV on his bedroom wall.

His big thing though is making his own rockets. He researches and builds his own jet propulsion systems and makes rocket fuel from fermented potatoes.

One of the ingredients he needs for rocket smoke is potassium nitrate. He managed to find some online one time and shouted out from his laboratory one night, “Dad, we need to go meet this guy!”

Being the supportive parent that I am, I’m like, “OK.”

So I find myself standing in a Burger King carpark in the middle of the night handing over some cash to a stranger in exchange for a plastic bag full of a white powdery substance.

The things you do for your kids.

I find myself standing in a Burger King car-park in the middle of the night handing over some cash to a stranger in exchange for a plastic bag full of a white powdery substance.

Apart from being a great entrepreneur, Jack has an amazing generous and loving nature. He was happy to be the only 16 year old at a 4 year old‘s  birthday party after he was invited by a boy next door. He is the type of person who would line up at 7:00am to get the toilet paper, only to give it to someone more needy once he walked out. He does anything you ask and is happy to do it. He is one of a kind.

 

On August 11 2016 I was coming back from a business trip in Coffs Harbour.  I phoned Jack at about 4:50pm. He was in his laboratory and we had the usual conversation about dinner:

“What do you want for dinner Jack?”

“I don’t know, what about you?”

“Don’t mind.”

“You want take away?”

“Sure, if you do?”

“OK. What do you want?”

“Don’t mind. You?”

“I’m easy…”

 

40 minutes later I received another phone call. Not so good this time. Jack was in hospital and in bad shape. Although I didn’t know it, I instinctively knew. I calmly asked, “Suicide?”

The officer said yes. And a few days later Jack passed away.

It was short and sharp and sudden and totally unexpected.

I calmly asked, “Suicide?”

How has this affected me? Time helps. And I know you have to make every moment count. I get up early. I do something straight away. I embrace the day as you never know what tomorrow will bring. I find I complain less and do more. As that is what Jack wants.

It’s hard, but you need to keep living.

Jacks business name is “Vaknisa.” If you google this the only thing that pops up is Jacks name (spelt in German as this is Jack’s preference) and a link to his video play lists (or at least it used to).

The first one on the list is a science video about electricity entitled: “It’s not the volts that kill you, it’s the amps.”

I would like to think there is something profound in this statement. That the message is you can go out and do thousands of amazing and adventurous things and most of the time they won’t hurt you. But one thing just might. But you don’t know what that one thing is – so just live. Take the risk. The only things in life we regret are the risks we didn’t take. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Some people say I don’t know how you cope or how you keep going. And I say: It’s the love that keeps you going. It’s the love that keeps you connected. Grief is knowing that person is still around you, but you can’t see them or hear them or touch them. That is the love that keeps you and them alive. And Jack is alive. He may not physically be with us but to me, he is more alive than he has ever been. He lives in everything that I see, touch, and feel.

And that is why I will never say I had a son called Jackson. I will always say I have a son called Jackson.

Happy 21st Jacky. Love you xx

If you or a loved one is experiencing feelings of depression, suicide or need someone to talk to, you are not alone. Contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

There’s a new virus in town and it’s reached our borders. What can we do to keep our kids safe?

Australia is a relatively isolated country and as such, the effects of the corona virus are still novel to us. However, with corona virus cases actively on the rise in Australia, we should be asking ourselves: how do we stay safe, and how do we keep our kids safe?

We’ve put together a Q-and-A containing some of the most common questions Australian parents have asked. We hope it helps.

ARE MY KIDS AT RISK?

With the majority of viruses, children fall into one of the most at-risk populations. However, in this case, their prior exposure to other, seasonal viruses means they are less at risk than you may think. Whilst they are still able to catch the virus, evidence compiled by ABC News shows that school-aged children are the population least affected by the virus.

The risk with kids, rather, is that they can be spreading the virus to more vulnerable populations – like their grandparents.

SHOULD I KEEP MY KIDS AT HOME?

The Australian government is encouraging social distancing as an effective way to slow the spread of the virus. For adults, that means reducing outside interactions as effectively as possible: working from home, calling friends instead of catching up for a coffee, and choosing to watch Netflix instead of going to the movies.

For parents, the division isn’t quite so clean-cut. There’s a question of how much playtime is okay, and whether playdates and attending school is riskier than it’s worth.

ARE PLAYDATES OKAY?

Yes – as long as guidelines are being followed. The New York Times provided several suggestions.

It’s important to keep the playdates small, and away from family members that are at high risk.

If the playdate occurs at home, encourage regular handwashing, and disinfectant the home and all toys before and after the playdate.

You may choose to have the playdate outside. Stay away from crowded areas, like museums or indoor parks, and choose a natural setting, like the beach or park, where there are fewer germs and people.

Ultimately, the worry isn’t just that your kids will catch the virus – but that they’ll spread it onto even more vulnerable members of the population.

SHOULD I SEND MY CHILD TO SCHOOL?

Although the government has enforced social distancing with regards to events with over 500 people, they have yet to implement mass school closures. There is no evidence that closing schools will contain the spread of the virus any more effectively than leaving them open, but it would undoubtedly have a severe social impact, forcing people to either stay home to look after children or make other arrangements.

If your child is unwell, do not send them to school. Otherwise, sending them to school does not pose a risk to their safety.

WHAT DO I DO IF MY CHILD HAS CORONAVIRUS?

The coronavirus symptoms are very similar to that of the flu: runny nose, sore throat, fever, and cough. If your child is displaying these symptoms, we recommend calling the coronavirus hotline at 1800 675 398, and they will provide you with further instructions.

 

STAY CALM AND STAY SAFE

The virus is affecting Australians in many ways, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Try your best to stay calm and stay safe – and remember to wash your hands.

Dozens of men were responding to purchase my daughter – my 15-year-old child – as easily as they would purchase a pizza.

  • Angela, mother of Jane Doe #3, 2018

When we think of child sex trafficking, we think of foreign countries, strange accents and Liam Neeson from ‘Taken’. The harsh reality, however, is that for decades, it was happening to everyday families all across America.

Angela, the mother of a girl who was abducted and sold on backpage.com, was a normal suburban mum. She was the type of mother who would go on school trips with her children, take them to their sport and music lessons, and cut crusts off their sandwiches. One day, she let her daughter go to the shops unattended with a friend – a normal occurrence. It was a day that changed her life.

One day, she let her daughter go to the shops unattended with a friend – a normal occurrence. It was a day that changed her life.

When her daughter didn’t return home at the agreed-upon hour, Angela knew something had gone wrong. She called and texted her daughter – but there was no response. Then, a flicker of hope: ‘I’m OK, I’m with a friend,’ her daughter replied, but none of her daughter’s friends knew where she was.

Angela was a tech-savvy mother. She was tracking the calls and texts her daughter was receiving, and none of them were good. Random, inappropriate texts from unknown numbers. When Angela called one, she received news that no mother would ever want to hear – that her child was listed for sale online. She immediately went to Backpage and saw an advertisement for her daughter: lewd photos of her teenager in provocative poses. She contacted Backpage, letting them know the photos were of a minor, and they responded saying they wouldn’t take the photos down.

When Angela’s daughter returned home later that night – the damage had already been done. She had been raped multiple times, and the only reason she was allowed to come home was because her abductors had realised Angela had been tracking the calls and texts her daughter was receiving.

What happened to Angela’s daughter was just the tip of the iceberg. Crystal, a 14 year old, and her mother Debbie had an argument – and Crystal responded by storming out. She was meant to stay with a friend’s boyfriend’s mum – but instead of giving her a place to sleep, the mother forced her into prostitution.

In 2015, Alexus Garcia, a 20-year-old studying to become a veterinarian, was murdered and her corpse burnt by Manuel Rocha. The two had met after he solicited her for sex.

The common thread between these stories and many others like them is that they were only made possible by websites like backpage.com – a classified advertising website, like Gumtree. The difference between Backpage and Gumtree, however, was that Backpage was facilitating and encouraging users to post ads selling children for sex.

The difference between Backpage and Gumtree, however, was that Backpage was facilitating and encouraging users to post ads selling children for sex.

THE CASE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

The lawsuits started coming in 2011, driven by mothers whose children had been raped and sold for sex. They wanted justice, but most of all, they wanted to stop the sex trafficking of children, some of whom were as young as 13.

So why Backpage? It’s simple: Backpage hosted an estimated 70 percent of the world’s online prostitution ads. It was the most popular worldwide website for people looking to hire a sex worker – but that in of itself isn’t always a crime.

The issue with Backpage was that, rather than blocking ads suspected of child prostitution, they were editing the ads so the ads wouldn’t show up in police radars: removing words like ‘young’, ‘fresh’ and ‘new’, sometimes replacing them with emojis instead.

The issue with Backpage was that, rather than blocking ads suspected of child prostitution, they were editing the ads so the ads wouldn’t show up in police radars: removing words like ‘young’, ‘fresh’ and ‘new’, sometimes replacing them with emojis instead.

To make it worse, Backpage was able to continue promoting child sex trafficking for years, because somehow, they were protected under law.  Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provided immunity to websites from being held responsible for information that was published on the site by others.

Every time the case was brought to court by a new victim, Backpage won, because they were covered by the act. For many years, the victims were swept under the rug, and the case was made to be about internet freedoms instead of the truth: child sex trafficking.

Yet victims kept fighting – and after more than eight years of excruciating legal battles, the courts ruled in favour of the victims: any website that facilitates the prostitution of another person can be held liable. Backpage was shut down, with many other similar sites, like MyRedBook and RedBoy, to follow.

THE CONSEQUENCES

Whilst the victims and advocates that fought so hard for the decision to happen rejoice – another group battles hard against the decision. Jacq, an American stripper, gave an interview with the New York Times about how the decision has affected sex workers, in which she explained that Backpage shutting down essentially took their jobs away from them. It means they can no longer find clients online, where they can easily screen them, but rather they have to turn to the streets to find unknown clients, where the risk of violence is significantly higher.

So whilst The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) help to protect one extremely vulnerable group, they put another in further danger. The mission to help curb child sex trafficking was achieved – now it’s time to re-evaluate the sex work industry as a whole and decide which actions we can take to help make it safer.