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Posted: March 8, 2011 7:12 p.m.

Kelsey’s Courage

Local teen's information lands in the wrong hands

Brittany Thomas/

Randy and Kelsey Upton are more than just father and daughter, they are a team, standing up and telling Kelsey's story in hopes of changing somewhat antiquated laws.
They became crusaders after 17-year-old Kelsey's name and number turned up on a pornographic website late last year. She might never have known about it, but a 55-year-old Iowa man texted her, saying he found her name and number on a sexting website.

"I thought it was someone playing a joke," said Kelsey.

She told her boyfriend. He sent the man a text and found out how to access the picture and information, which brought up not only her first and last name and cell phone number, but also an explicit picture of a female who was not Kelsey, but who bore a slight resemblance. Randy was in Miami on business at the time and Kelsey called him in tears, causing him to rush home to take care of his daughter and his wife, who questioned who would do such a thing to her baby.

"My biggest fear was that it was connected to me," said Randy, who previously worked as a military police officer and with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Randy contacted the GBI and District Attorney Layla Zon. The GBI agent asked Randy and Kelsey about two e-mail addresses. After searching her Facebook page, one turned out as an acquaintance of Kelsey's, someone she knew but never had a relationship with, a college student who is from Newton County. Kelsey says she never felt comfortable around him but that they had never had any issues or harsh words.

"What concerned me, as someone who has investigated sexual predators, is that this guy scares the hell out of me," said Randy. "He fits all the profiles, and she (Kelsey) has told me before this that he gave her the creeps. Every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted always says that, that the guy gave her the creeps. That's always the common denominator, the women always feel like he's looking through them."

As the GBI continued to investigate, it became clear that they would have a problem pressing charges against the young man. Although he had posted Kelsey's name and contact information, eventually admitting to it after being confronted by his parents, he did not post a picture of her, therefore, no law had been broken

For a girl who prides herself on being pure, a dual enrollment honor student with dreams of joining the FBI, this news was a bitter pill to swallow.

"It's just been in the last couple of months that we've even let her start riding in cars with boys," said Randy. "As a parent, we monitored her Myspace and Facebook page and all her phone messages. We did all of that to protect her and never in a million years did I think that someone would do something like this."

As soon as they discovered the post on the website they changed Kelsey's phone number and disabled her social networking sites, they also installed cameras on the outside of the house.

"I don't ever think I have been scared in my life until this one time," admitted Randy.

The family has lost sleep over this and Kelsey admits to having nightmares about it.

According to Randy, the parents of the boy have been supportive of Kelsey and encouraged their son to do the right thing, something he appreciates and commends. Although their son will likely not be punished, it is Randy's hope that through this something good can come.

"If we can use this as a learning experience and create a law, the next time someone does this, they won't get a get out of jail free card," he said. "I never realized that someone could do this, particularly to a teenager."

As for Kelsey, she's just ready for the ordeal to be over. While she was at first hesitant to tell her story, she decided that if it can help others, she's ready to stand up and fight.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," she said. "It's not fun at all, it's terrifying... I believe in forgiveness. I'm involved in church and I believe that you should forgive people and I'm working on it. But it will take a while."

 

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