From the moment the baby girl was born, she was mommy’s little angel and daddy’s precious princess. They relished her giggle, enjoyed her beautiful rosy cheeks flush from running around the playground, and filled her toy box with dress-up clothes to provide an afternoon of imagination and fantasy on a rainy day. The joy and love of her parents was overwhelming and beautiful.
But, little girls like her are the object of another dad’s Internet search.
From the moment that dad logs on to his home computer, he searches for pictures of little girls. He is the father of three, but he is not looking for a picture of one of his own children. He searches child porn sites for lewd and lascivious pictures of other people’s children. He looks for pictures of babies and little girls posed in provocative or vile ways, and often ones where the child is suffering violence, too. The excitement he feels is sick and perverted.
His afternoon of imagination and fantasy is not merely destructive, it is illegal.
Welcome to the dark side of the digital age.
Child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses on the Internet. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child pornography is a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise, and it is estimated that 20 percent of all Internet pornography involves children. Between 2000 and 2001, arrests for possession of child pornography showed the majority involved images of pre-pubescent children: 83 percent had images of children ages 6 to 12; 39 percent had images of children ages 3 to 5; and 19 percent had images of infants and toddlers.
What is happening here?
The Internet is an immensely useful tool for doing research, planning vacations, and all types of learning. But it is also being abused by those looking to fulfill unnatural and aberrant desires in the privacy of their home, wrapped in the embrace of an international community of like-minded deviants. With the click of the mouse and a credit card number, they have available a broad selection of pictures of innocent children from around the world being sexually exploited and abused.
Are you sickened by this topic? Are you afraid for the well-being and safety of your children? Do you think it can’t happen to your child or that you will never be personally affected by this plague? Let us hope and pray that you are not, but let us also be vigilant and informed of the dangers.
We must also examine how today’s culture sexualizes children at a young age and how that influences and affects those with a proclivity toward child pornography.
Abercrombie & Fitch, a store very popular with children, published sexually graphic catalogs. Victoria’s Secret employed window displays with the mannequins in raunchy poses for all to see at the mall, including families with small, impressionable children. Television shows aimed at children have sexual themes, show kids engaging in sexual relationships and dressing provocatively. Many children try to emulate these models and characters without understanding the ramifications or dangers of their actions.
The debate continues over the affects these actions and products have on children, but it is very likely that those seeking excitement through child porn consider these easily accessible outlets free foreplay. Monitoring situations like these is not just a matter of morality and decency; in today’s world, it is a matter of protection of the innocent. While children may act or dress provocatively to be rebellious, to feel more mature, or in the hopes of attracting a boy or girl in their class, they do not understand that they could also be attracting attention from a predator.
By allowing our children to dress and act provocatively, are we not sending a message to someone with a proclivity toward sexual deviancy with a minor? In their minds it is okay to have sex with children, and when children are dressed like seductive adults, it can encourage their behavior rather than clearly delineate the line between normalcy and deviancy.
Once a child is the victim of child pornography, that image is forever out in the ether of the Internet, on video or in pictures for the entire world to see. Innocence and privacy cannot be restored after the exploitation. Child victims feel powerless and worthless.
Adults producing, purchasing, sharing and indulging in child pornography must be exposed and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Parents must be vigilant against the dangers that lurk in the shadows of a child’s world, on the Internet, on television, and out in public. Let’s bring back a time of innocence in childhood and not encourage kids to grow up too soon. There are plenty of evil people in the world who are ready, willing and able to shatter a child’s life for their own pleasure, but we don’t have to accept or encourage it.
Brenda Zurita is the Project Director for CWA’s Crossing the Bridge initiative against sex trafficking and child exploitation.
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