By Shared Hope Intern Karen Hoover
While it is known that child pornography is illegal throughout the United States, the act of prostitution is still left unchecked by many. After subsequent media attention and combined growing awareness of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) in the U.S. (sometimes hidden under titles such as prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, paid rape or stripping), authorities and citizens are paying more attention to this violent and exploitative crime. Does a link exist between child pornography and DMST? One quick look into recent cases, studies, and news reports reveals a rather strong link between these two heinous crimes.
Fighting child pornography (a growing multi-billion dollar industry) has become a main priority in police departments and crime units all over the United States. Forty-five Internet Crimes against Children task forces (ICAC TF) have sprung up nationwide, stemming from government grants. These ICAC task forces exist to specifically focus on tackling sexual exploitation of children via the Internet. Agents with Operation Blue Ridge Thunder, in Bedford, VA state that Internet predators are tricky, hiding behind the computer screen and lying about their age and intent. These predators sexually prey on children at any age and lure them into meeting in person. Once the meeting occurs, these children are often brutally raped, molested, kidnapped, and sometimes murdered. However, the motivating reason to meet in person often begins over the Internet where exchanging and sharing of pornographic materials takes place.
Offenders frequently use pornography as their education, as well as gain ideas to impose on their victims. The WHISPER Oral History Project reported that 80% of prostitution survivors had customers who would show them pornography in order to illustrate the kinds of sexual activities they wanted to engage in. Pornography is also used to facilitate force and obedience, allowing the offender to blackmail his victims and deprive them of everyday necessities such as food and water. Just this October, a Florida Fort Meyer’s mother faced human trafficking and child abuse charges. For the past two years she abused her four daughters with forced molestation, pornography, prostitution, and drug dealing. Consequently, she deprived them of food for refusing to buy her drugs.
Another case argued in BC Superior Court in July gave Kenneth Klassen the harshest sentence available under Canada’s law. Klassen was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison after the judge indicted him on possession of child pornography and 14 counts of sexual touching of children in Columbia and Cambodia. Investigators found homemade ‘souvenir’ videos of him sexually abusing pre-pubescent girls as young as eight and 65 videos of pornography with girls as young as six in his possession. He has been diagnosed as a pedophile and will be required to file as a registered sex offender.
Even psychotherapists and doctors see the link between these catastrophic crimes. Dr. Mary Anne Layden, a psychotherapist at the University of Pennsylvania testified before the United States Senate that the increased use of pornography leads to a demand for prostitution in conjunction with domestic trafficking. When the demand overweighs the supply, women and children are brought in from overseas, therefore stimulating global trafficking.
What To Do…
A prolonged and extensive search will reveal more studies and cases exist that continue to allude to the prevalent link between child pornography and child trafficking. While I have focused solely on children, the same link is ever -present in adult pornography and adult sex trafficking. Unless law enforcement, social media, and mainstream culture begin to curb the increasing spread and normalization of pornography – especially via the Internet – prostitution, trafficking, assault, and degradation of women and children will continue to grow.