But now, I find myself thinking. Who are these men? And more importantly, who are the children? How do they end up in front of the lens of a camera?
I turned to the internet to look for more information. But then I stopped.
Have you ever considered the actual search terms you have to type into Google if you wanted information on pedophilia and child pornography? Think about it. And then think about whether you want to type that into your computer and see what results come up.
But I did it anyway, because I want to know. While I found a lot of information on pedophilia, I had trouble finding any good information on the children.
I found statistics on child abuse and sexual abuse. I did find a few reports that singled out child exploitation, but they dealt primarily with child trafficking and prostitution. I imagine there is a great deal of overlap here, that victims of exploitation through pornography are often victims of other forms of abuse and exploitation.
But children specifically exploited through child pornography? Who were they and where was the research on them? I don't know. I'm still looking.
I did read the following:
- 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator
- The vast majority of children who appear in child pornography “have not been abducted or physically forced to participate. In most cases they know the producer—it may even be their father—and are manipulated into taking part by more subtle means.” (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing).
- The number of child pornography cases tried at the federal level has more than doubled in the last decade.
- The cases being tried are becoming more intense, with younger victims.
- Some photos are so well-known and frequently circulated that seasoned investigators recognize the children right away.
- Those who are located will receive a letter from authorities whenever one of their photos turns up in a criminal investigation.
- One such victim has received over
850 letters to date. She is seeking restitution in every case in
which her photos were identified. (I think I cheered out loud when I
read that. I hope she's successful.)
Honestly, I'm not sure how knowing any of this will make a difference. It may be elucidating, but it's not going to help me or anyone else in a practical sense. But I feel driven to know.
I can't get away from the sense that someone should be shedding a light on this. A really big, high intensity light that leaves no shadows.
When I try to tease it apart, it comes back to this. I am haunted by the image of that one little girl. I want to reach back in time and undo what happened to her. I want her to be safe and protected. I want her to have a voice.
I have this fantasy that I get to meet her. That they track her down and one day, I sit across a table from her and talk to her, and I am able to see for myself that she is okay.
I know this won't happen. For a hundred different reasons. But still, it won't go away. Her image, it keeps prodding me.
She is just one. There are thousands more, perhaps hundreds of thousands. I don't know who they are or where they are. They may be in prison. They may be dead. They may be married with children of their own. They may be alone, afraid to trust anyone. They may be sitting in front of a camera right now. I don't know.
But I want to know.
Who are you? Where are you?