A “middle school utopia” is how Alicia Kozakiewicz remembers the Yahoo chatrooms of the early noughties.
“I can remember my friends, they no longer wanted to go to the park or the mall or the movies," she says. "They wanted to stay indoors and go online…the popular kids were talking to the not so popular kids. Everybody was getting along," she said.
Spending time online was how the then 13-year-old stayed connected with friends and met new ones.
“It was our own little clubhouse. Instead of three-way calling it was the whole school calling. And that was pretty neat,” Kozakiewicz remembers. “I talked to my friends from school who introduced me to their friends and their friends, and their friends, until I was talking to people I didn’t really know all that well in a chat room, but we all felt connected.”
There was one boy in particular with whom Kozakiewicz made a special connection. He would listen to her problems, tell her she was special. He even liked the same boy bands Kozakiewicz was into: “He was the coolest boy ever because of that”.
On New Year’s Day 2002, Kozakiewicz excused herself from a family dinner saying she felt sick. She sneaked out the front door, leaving it open behind her, to say hello to the “coolest boy” in person.
Waiting for her outside was a 38-year-old computer programmer named Scott Tyree.
Kozakiewicz is now 29, an actress and model, a forensic psychology graduate and an experienced public speaker. She must have given this presentation a hundred times, but one slide still makes her stumble.
“I can’t look at this picture for long,” she told the audience at the Australian Information Security Association (AISA) conference in Sydney last week.
The photo shows a rack full of whips, paddles, collars and chains.
Having grabbed her outside her family home – “this man was squeezing my hand so tightly I thought it was broken. And he was barking commands at me: ‘Be good. Be quite. The trunk's laid out for you’,” Kozakiewicz recalls – Tyree drove the thirteen year old for five and a half hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to his Virginia home.
The image was taken from within Tyree’s basement dungeon where Kozakiewicz was chained to the floor, raped, beaten and tortured for four days.
“He was a monster. He kept me chained to the floor with a locking dog collar. He had broken my nose in one of the struggles and he didn’t feed me,” Kozakiewicz said.
“I did whatever I had to do to survive. No matter how brutal or humiliating or disgusting or painful I did it. Because I knew that as soon as I was no longer of use to him he was going to kill me.”
On the fourth day, Tyree told the 13-year-old: “I’m beginning to like you too much. Tonight we’re going to go for a ride”. He then fed her for the first time.
“I knew at that point it was game over. And then he left for work,” Kozakiewicz remembers.
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