A gamer who was abused as a child has smashed her fundraising target with a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise money for child protection charity, the Internet Watch Foundation.
Melissa Thompson, 37, organised a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise money for the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK charity responsible for finding and removing videos and images of child sexual abuse from the internet.
Melissa, a digital forensics expert from Warwick, had aimed to raise £200 for the IWF with the mammoth gaming session, but ended up raising more than five times the amount. The final total raised was £1,050.
Melissa, who has waived her right to anonymity, said she herself had suffered sexual abuse as a child.
She said the IWF’s work is important for helping victims and ridding the internet of videos and images of abuse which, she said, would be more widespread if people did not report them.
She said she was surprised, but pleased, with how much she had heled raise.
Melissa said: “I did not expect it to get as high as it did. I think it will finish at around 11 hundred pounds.”
The gamers stayed in touch and shared messages and pictures of themselves on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Twitter.
But the fun of gaming soon gave way to fatigue as Melissa and her friends settled in for the long haul.
“I was flagging after about seven hours,” Melissa admitted. “Six of us did it. We all played different games. I played Friday the 13th and then Lego Harry Potter and streamed it all via Twitch.”
Melissa said the key to staying focused throughout was not indulging in sugary snacks or caffeine. Instead, she says she drank four or five litres of water.
The fundraising bid has a very personal importance for Melissa.
She said: “I was abused at a very young age. Although I don't remember the abuse, it makes me who I am today. I feel the tough situations I've been through have made me a much stronger and independent person.”
Melissa said she hoped the marathon gaming session, as well as raising funds for the IWF, helped raise awareness. She paid tribute to the work of IWF analysts, and said more people need to talk about the problem of online child sexual abuse material.
She said: “A lot of people don’t know a lot about the IWF – it’s such important work, but it isn’t a topic most people want to think about.
“I heard about the IWF when I was doing my degree. My dissertation looked at grooming and children being targeted through online games.
“I understand this is a problem, and it is an increasing thing. If you do not report it, it will continue. It is so widespread and if people ignore it, it will have a worse impact on victims.”
Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the IWF, said Melissa’s “remarkable” fundraising will be a huge boost for the IWF, and will help in continuing their vital mission.
Ms Hargreaves said: “We are so grateful for this remarkable fundraising effort. I take my hat off to Melissa, not only for exceeding her target by such a huge margin, but for taking such an awful personal story and turning it into a drive to do good and help others.
“We are a charity and it is thanks to brilliant work like this we are able to keep doing what we do, keeping the internet safe and protecting the victims of child sexual abuse.
“Melissa has played a key role in helping us fund this, and has also helped make sure more people know about us and the work we are doing.”
If you’re interested in raising funds for the IWF, through gaming or any other way, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
Notes to editors:
Josh Thomas, IWF Press Officer firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 7377 727058
What we do:
We make the internet a safer place. We help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse. We search for child sexual abuse images and videos and offer a place for the public to report them anonymously. We then have them removed. We’re a not for profit organisation and are supported by the global internet industry and the European Commission.
For more information please visit www.iwf.org.uk.
The IWF is part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, working with Childnet International and the South West Grid for Learning to promote the safe and responsible use of technology.
The IWF works globally to stop child sexual abuse imagery on the internet. If you ever stumble across a sexual image or video of someone you think is under 18, please report to the IWF. Reporting can be done anonymously and confidentially – we don’t need your details, just your help.