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Surprising facts about child porn

April 12, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
Note: This post contains material that some readers may find disturbing.

About a month ago, I promised a second installment about online safety after attending a workshop at the Altenheim Resource and Referral Center in Wheeling, led by Joyce Britt of the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center. For your reference, the first post was March 9 titled "The virtual world is the real world to our kids, and they need our protection." (http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/blogs.detail/display/1222/The-virtual-world-is-the-real-world-to-our-kids--and-they-need-our-protection.html)

This is the followup, with information provided at the workshop by Ohio County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gail Kahle, who is assigned to prosecute cases involving violence against women and also works closely with the W.Va. State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Kahle's presentation was sickening and eye-opening. More than ever, I appreciate public servants such as law enforcement and prosecutors who go after child pornographers and abusers. These men and women don't have the option of pretending this stuff doesn't exist. In order to build a case, they have to expose themselves to these pictures and videos of children being sexually abused — "tortured" is the word Kahle uses.

Three points Kahle made stood out to me as being important to bring to light.

1. While the Child Pornography Prevention Act prohibits the filming and possessing of pictures or videos of children (under 18) engaged in sex acts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that computer-generated images of what appear to be minors engaging in sex acts with each other or with people who appear older DO NOT VIOLATE ANY LAW because no one under 18 was harmed.

2. Adult pornography is legal, but "obscene" material is not. The definition of "obscene" differs by community because it is determined by the prevailing standard of that community. What we find "obscene" in Wheeling might not be considered "obscene" in Las Vegas, for example. It is illegal for an adult to show a child obscene materials, but IT IS NOT ILLEGAL to show them adult pornography because it isn't considered obscene under W.Va. state law. (Note: Federal statutes may apply, but Kahle's office deals only with state law.)

3. We know people are fickle, even when it comes to criminal behavior. A guy you've always disliked gets arrested for theft from several cars in town? Lock him up! But if it's your son's best friend, you're more likely to stick up for him. Sadly, it appears this favoritism extends even to consumers of child porn (read: "torture"). Case in point: Last year, a young man in Wheeling was investigated for having child porn on his computer — not just a little bit, but thousands of images and hundreds of videos. Kahle said he lost sleep over the case and had nightmares about the material he had to watch in order to prosecute the case. One video in particular involved a 3- or 4-year-old girl pleading for the man raping her on camera to stop. Though proven guilty, this young man's family is well-known in the community and some folks were making excuses for him, sticking up for him, etc. To the surprise and disgust of those who fight child porn and sexual abuse on a daily basis, the man was given a lighter sentence than the prosecution requested.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and that, of course, includes sexual abuse. The best ways parents can protect their children from being harmed by others include 1. being educated about the signs and symptoms of abuse, 2 . knowing prevention techniques and 3. having a close relationship with their children. I hope you will take the time to visit some of the websites linked on this page, all of which offer information on sexual predators and child sexual abuse prevention. Knowledge is power!

 
 

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