February 25, 2003 | Commentary on Crime
It's been four years now, and the District of Columbia
caseworkers - no strangers to horrific stories of child abuse and
neglect - still can't get over the incident. Two brothers - ages
five and three - lay down for a nap in their mother's house. When
she went in to awaken them, she found the boys engaged in oral sex.
Further investigation revealed they'd learned this from a
neighborhood man who often visited their home and cared for them
when their mother was away.
No prison sentence could be too long for this man. The damage he inflicted on these two innocent boys will last their entire lives. It will be decades - if ever - before they sort out what this all meant, confront the enormous evil embodied in his act and work out where to go from there. From now on, absent intense attention - not to mention counseling - from truly well-meaning adults, they will see this as normal behavior. They - and the children who live near them - will be lucky if they don't repeat the treachery.
Thankfully, people like the adult who victimized these two boys don't lurk around every corner. But in every neighborhood, in nearly every home, the Internet thrives. Stories of adults who lured children into porn or simple sexual abuse through the Internet are too numerous to mention. A "friend" appears in an otherwise harmless chat room. A relationship forms. A meeting is arranged.
It's an American tragedy that there are actually organized groups - like NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association - that consist of perverted, depraved singles and perverted, depraved parents who advertise to swap or sell sex with their children. The organization's "goal," is to: "end the oppression of men and boys who have mutually consensual relationships." There is no mutually consensual relationship with a child.
There are also sites where pedophiles moan about their free-speech rights, how misunderstood they are and their "love for children … more than some parents ever will."
Thankfully, to this point, American polity (with very few exceptions) is sickened and enraged by the thought of sex with children. In its 2002 decision in the case of Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court overturned a law that forbade "virtual child pornography" - using computer images to doctor photos to make it look as if children are having sex with adults without actually involving children. The bill the Senate will take this week to fix most of the flaws the Supreme Court found in the law in that case is sponsored by Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican from Utah, and Patrick Leahy, a liberal Democrat from Vermont. There could be no more eloquent statement of the bipartisan concern about this issue.
It makes one wonder what the Free Speech Coalition was thinking when it pursued this case. Some may say if children aren't truly involved, if they appear only as computer-generated images, what's the harm? The harm is that children become victims precisely through such measures. Adults use child porn to coerce children into participating themselves. "See," say the perverts. "It's OK. That little boy is doing it, and his mother doesn't mind."
According to the FBI, the caseload for pedophiles caught trying to lure children through the Internet quadrupled from 1998 to 2000.
Roughly one in five kids have received a sexual solicitation or approach. About one in 33 have received an aggressive solicitation, meaning someone has asked them to meet somewhere or called on the phone or sent them regular mail, money or gifts. The typical victim when adults abduct children for child-porn purposes is a girl, 11 years old, who is described as a "low risk," "average" child with a stable family relationship and has the initial contact with the abductor within a quarter-mile of her home.
We can't underestimate the opposition. There are too many people working too hard right now to come up with ways around the laws. There are whole websites devoted to helping purveyors of sexual material find the right legal representation, although they caution carefully against using children in the production of such material.
Fortunately, many of our laws regarding this type behavior are
rooted in community standards. And the community may permit more in
San Francisco than it does in Branson, Mo., but when it comes to
child porn or child sex abuse, the communities of America do and
must continue to speak with one voice. And that voice says, "No.
Not now. Not ever."
Reprinted with the permission of the internet newspaper WorldNetDaily.com.
- Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.