A woman who survived a horrific kidnap ordeal as a child is using TikTok to help families to search for missing relatives
- A woman who was kidnapped as a child is now using
TikTokto help find other missing people.
- Alicia Kozak was rescued in 2002 after she groomed online and kidnapped for four days.
- Kozak told Insider that she's had some success in spreading the word about missing persons on TikTok.
A woman who was groomed and kidnapped as a child by an online sex predator is now using TikTok to help find other missing people and raise awareness about internet safety.
Alicia Kozak from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was 13 years old when an online predator kidnapped her in 2002. Her captor repeatedly raped, beat, and tortured her with electric shocks in a basement for four days until she was rescued by authorities after a tip-off.
Kozak's story was one of the first-ever high-profile cases of internet grooming.
Only several months after her rescue, she started making internet safety her life's work. She toured around the country to share her story with school children, promoted her advocacy group, The Alicia Project.
In August 2020she in an interview in which she described in harrowing her kidnap to Oprah Winfrey. Her message: "The bogeyman is real and lives on the web."
The advocate has now turned to TikTok to help find other missing persons and with the help of her almost 150,000 followers.
From her home in New Jersey, Kozak told Insider that she decided to join TikTok in November last year because she "realized that I can reach millions of people with one video."
"Now you can post a video or a picture or poster and it gets across the globe within seconds," she told Insider. "And that is such a powerful force when it comes to finding missing people."
According to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, over 600,000 people go missing each year in the US alone. Many of those are children.
"Stop scrolling. I need your help"
Kozak gets creative with her TikTok videos, which range from personal monologues to informative tutorials.
More recently, however, the 32-year-old has also been posting videos that include posters of missing persons while she narrates and shares information about them.
"Stop scrolling, I need your help," Kozak says in one video, which has accumulated almost half a million likes. "Please share this, like this, comment - do whatever you can do to help us."
Kozak said she prefers sharing posters of people that are underrepresented in the media: "I'm really trying to highlight cases that don't get proper media attention. So hopefully going into a lot of cases of people of color and underserved populations."
Kozak told Insider that the response she's received from her tens and thousands of "really involved" followers has been a big "surprise."
"I'll post it a video and it will be that the friends will comment or the family will comment and they'll start to get involved," she said. "And they'll say, 'Oh, I saw this person, or I think I went to school with them.'" All of this helps, Kozak said.
Alicia is making an impact
She believes her TikTok channel has already had a real-life impact.
She receives 10 to 15 requests a day from people asking her to share posters of their missing family members.
A girl, whose missing poster was shared by Kozak on her TikTok channel, ended up being found by her family.
"I don't know if it has anything to do with my video, but that she was located and her sister had reached out to me...and a bunch of people reached out to me to let me know," said Kozak. "It was really kind of magical that all these people were following this."
Another girl reached out to Kozak, telling her that she had contemplated meeting up with someone she had met on the internet but decided not to after she had seen one of Kozak's videos.
Kozak, who, alongside her advocacy work, obtained a master's degree in forensic psychology, said: "A lot of times with advocacy, you put it out in the world, and you hope for a better tomorrow. But to get that feedback is just amazing," she said.
"I was not expecting to be able to use TikTok to make that big of a difference," Kozak added.
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