IT felt like any other date. We dined, he flirted, I lied about my age. The adult man sitting in front of me believed I was a 15-year-old girl.

My date was the sixth in a series of undercover stings R.AGE to expose online sex predators who trawl chat apps for easy targets.

As it turns out, men with a penchant for minors don’t look anything like the scary, creepy guys you’d imagine them to be. They just look really, really normal.

RELATED: My undercover date with a sex predator, Vol. 1

He introduced himself as Dennis (not his real name). He was big boned, wore a plaid shirt that strained against his belly and had a flat bowl cut. We had met and chatted through BeeTalk, one of the many apps with “friend finder” features that allow you to chat with people nearby.

When we first started chatting, I thought to myself, “finally, someone normal”. After weeks of unsolicited pictures of men’s privates, it was like finding something rare and good in an awful world. But the thought still lingered – what was a 34-year-old man (as claimed by Dennis) doing chatting with a 15-year-old girl?

The answer presented itself a week later, when I said I was alone at home, watching TV. He asked if he could come over.

“We’ll only do what you want to do,” he said.

“If you don’t want to have sex, I can just massage you.”

We made arrangements to meet at a restaurant near “my house”.

But before that, we did some quick research on him, and we found out that Dennis worked in the media industry. Suddenly, the investigation became very personal – this man was one of us.

As I chatted with Dennis during our meet-up at a fast food joint, my toes were curling. We had hidden cameras filming him, including one on my person.

I was also concealing a microphone, which made me nervous – one wrong move and our cover could be blown. Two other cameras shooting from a distance cast a heat only I could feel.

Like a typically restless 15-year-old, I was constantly checking my phone.

“Ask him if he minds having sex with a 15-year-old,” read a text from a fellow R.AGE journalist who was coordinating the operation.

“That’s not too young,” he answered, smiling straight at me. “Other girls have lost it at a younger age, I know someone who lost it at 13. It’s up to you lah.”

Nice of him to give me a choice, but then he started to get pushy, to the point where he straight up asked me to have sex with him.

Only two weeks ago, the conviction of Richard Huckle, a serial paedophile from Britain who had molested and raped 23 Malaysian children, had horrified an entire nation. We called him a monster, a devil, and other things we can’t publish in a national paper.

But Huckle didn’t appear a monster, and neither did the man sitting across me, or any of the other predators I met.

In fact, as the project progressed, it became hard for us not to see these predators as people. They might be manipulative and opportunistic, with no qualms over taking advantage of vulnerable children, but people nonetheless.

One of the predators was a father who attends worship religiously. Another, we found out, is a university professor with multiple peer-approved journals on his resume.

And then there was Dennis, someone I could very easily bump into at a press conference someday.

But the problem is we keep making it the job of women and children to stay clear of these camouflaged predators, when the reality is you can’t really tell who they are most of the time until it’s too late.

So here’s a new idea – if you’ve ever sent messages like the ones I got from Dennis, you need to get professional help, ‘cos you’re the one with the problem.

Help protect children from online sex predators by pledging your support to the R.AGE x Unicef campaign! We are pushing for laws against sexual grooming in Malaysia. Find out more at

  • Muhammad Edwan Shaharir

    Why do you say this?

    “So here’s a new idea – if you’ve ever sent messages like the ones I got from Dennis, you need to get professional help, ‘cos you’re the one with the problem.”

    I’m sorry, but isn’t that borderline (if not flat out) victim-blaming, especially when earlier in the article you mentioned how these predators are manipulative, especially of children or the underaged who might not be entirely aware of their own thought processes?

    • Hi Muhammad, I’m the author of this article. That quote was directed towards people who can identify with Dennis and the things he’s said. I don’t think there was any mention of the victims, hope this clears things up! – Clarissa Say

      • Muhammad Edwan Shaharir

        It certainly does. Thank you, and sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like a jerk; I think my brain stopped working for a moment. Keep up with this piece; interested to see what happens next.

  • leehanvoon

    Hi Author/Admin,

    Could you please explain how would signing petition and pledging support helps to create new law?

    Are there any mechanisms where petition and pledge can help to achieve mentioned objective?

    • Hi leehanvoon, great question. There is actually no guarantee that the the petition will be successful, even if we have a million pledges. Ultimately, we just want the numbers to show the government that the Rakyat want to see these new laws implemented. Unfortunately, messages of support on social media do not make much of a difference to lawmakers. That’s why we needed a more “official” pledge mechanism, where we verify each pledge via email, so the lawmakers will know most of the pledges are legit.

      Hope that answers your question! =)

Predator in my Phone

R.AGE journalists spent over six months posing as underage girls to meet up with child sex predators.

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