Posted in: streaming, TV | Tagged: discovery, ID, interview, Roo Powell, SOSA, undercover underage
Undercover Underage Interview: Roo Powell Discusses ID Series & SOSA
Undercover Underage is a series following the process of Roo Powell and her team as they attempt to expose the threat of adults' predatory actions towards teens online. Powell is an award-winning writer, child advocate, and founder of SOSA, a non-profit committed to raising awareness and combating the pervasiveness of online child sex abuse and exploitation. The SOSA team includes Powell, Shelby Chikazawa, Matt Monath, Avalon Esposito, Kelly Becker, and Sergeant Mark Suda. I got a chance to ask Powell about both the difficulty of this work and what goes into developing a decoy persona because a lot of this goes into each moment on Undercover Underage. Episodes of the series can be found on Discovery+ and weekly on Thursdays on I.D. at 9 PM EST/PST.
Bleeding Cool: "Undercover Underage" addresses the often overlooked topic of predatory behavior from adult men towards young girls online. What made you want to investigate this issue and ultimately assist law enforcement in uncovering these threats?
Roo Powell: Minors online are targeted regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation — and with the advent of the internet and social media, they can be targeted by people all over the world. When I was a kid, parents just worried about people within a close proximity to their children. This is a relatively new issue. Smartphones have only been popular for the past decade or so, and that has presented new risks. Ultimately, I wanted to help because this is such a pervasive problem but I think the majority of people don't understand how bad it is.
BC: What was the process like for bringing this specific team together? How did you know each of them before SOSA?
RP: I had worked with Kelly and Shelby prior to SOSA. Avalon was a local writer with a great sense of story development, and Matt has been well-known for his photography and editing capabilities. After speaking with them, it was an easy fit.
BC: How long does it typically take to put together a persona/decoy with the team?
RP: It takes weeks in order to properly put together a decoy; we get pretty involved.
BC: What's the process like for you to go into that headspace portraying yourself as often a 15-year-old girl? How do you separate yourself from that immersive experience?
RP: I sink into that role out of necessity. There's not a lot of margin for error. Communicating as a teenage girl does require keeping up with the times and knowing what's happening in current teen culture. I try to take a break to reset after a video call, but sometimes it's necessary to hop into the next thing because something's time-sensitive. I take breaks where I can.
BC: "Undercover Underage" brings a realistic view of how justice can be a slow process, do you think that's an important part of it, and if so why do you think it is?
RP: The wheels of justice often turn slowly. I know it can be frustrating for a viewer — it certainly is to me — but everyone deserves due process.
BC: For you, what has become the most intense or stressful element of this line of work?
RP: It's a lot to manage. Making sure we're keeping everything together and we've got the right facts for each decoy is pretty stressful. The communications with perpetrators are also intense. Sometimes we all need to take a beat before diving back in.
BC: What do you hope that viewers come away with after watching an episode of "Undercover Underage"?
RP: My greatest hope is that Undercover Underage raises awareness about the ubiquity of online sex abuse and exploitation. I also hope that adults understand how manipulative these people can be. We're very much anti-victim blaming, and I also hope that people watching take to heart that abuse is never a victim's fault.
BC: Is there a way that people can get involved or help with SOSA's goals?
RP: Donating financially helps keep SOSA running. We often post open volunteer positions as well, and people can also support us by following us on social — Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. On all socials @SOSATogether
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