From the U.S. Department of Justice
The children whose abuse is captured in child pornography images suffer not just from the sexual abuse graphically memorialized in the images, but also from a separate victimization, knowing that the images of that abuse are accessible, usually on the Internet, and are traded by other offenders who receive sexual gratification from the children’s distress.
According to academic researchers, medical professionals, and child pornography victims themselves, knowing that all copies of child pornography images can never be retrieved compounds the victimization. The shame suffered by the children is intensified by the fact that the sexual abuse was captured in images easily available for others to see and revictimizes the children by using those images for sexual gratification.
Unlike children who suffer from abuse without the production of images of that abuse, these children struggle to find closure and may be more prone to feelings of helplessness and lack of control, given that the images cannot be retrieved and are available for others to see in perpetuity. They experience anxiety as a result of the perpetual fear of humiliation that they will be recognized from the images.
This harm is best described by the mother of a victim.
A mother’s story of child pornography victimization
“My daughter was abused repeatedly to produce images for the purpose of being traded [and] shared over the Internet. Without a market to receive and trade those images, without the encouragement of those who wanted to acquire the images, I truly believe this abuse would not have occurred. All those who trade these images and thereby create the demand for lurid and violent depictions of children are participants in the exploitation of my daughter. Each traded picture that placed a value on inventiveness, novelty, or cruelty played a role in egging on the abuser to even more vile acts.
“The pictures of my daughter were ‘made for trade’ – her abuser adapted to serve his market – whatever his audience was looking to acquire, that’s what happened to her … Producer, distributor, and consumer – everyone who participates in this evil exchange helps create a market, casting a vote for the next abuse. Regardless of whether they directly abused children themselves, reveled in the images of suffering, or persuaded others to abuse children on their behalf (to provide images of the abuse) each participant has a responsibility for the effects.
“[A] shadow comes over her face if a stranger gives her an expected compliment. The pictures are still out there. Now that she’s growing older and realizing the extent of the Internet, she’s also beginning to grasp the darker side of the story – how many people see those same pictures as something to enjoy rather than abhor. We have no way of knowing how many pedophiles used the pictures of her being tortured and degraded as an opportunity for personal gratification.
“I can find no words to express the fury I feel at those who participate in this evil, or my scorn for any attempt to minimize responsibility by feeble claims that the crime was ‘victimless.’ My daughter is a real person. She was horribly victimized to provide this source of ‘entertainment.” She is exploited anew each and every time an image of her suffering is copied, traded, or sold. While the crime is clearly conscienceless, it is hardly ‘victimless.’ I asked my daughter what she most wanted to ask of the judge. Her request: “Please, don’t let them pretend no one’s getting hurt.”
Between 2005 and 2009, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program has seen a 432 percent increase in child pornography movies and files submitted for identification of the children depicted.
Available indicators suggest child pornography is increasing.
Indicators relating to the volume of child pornography. Experts interviewed for this Assessment, most of whom have longtime experience in this area of law enforcement, concluded that the market – in term of numbers of offenders, images, and victims – has been trending significantly upward. Approximately two-thirds of the child exploitation experts interviewed by NDIC for this Assessment reported that child pornography either is growing exponentially or there has been an overwhelming increase in the volume of child pornography images available.
For example, Cybertipline reports, sent by electronic service providers and the public to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (“NCMEC”), increased by 69 percent between 2005 and 2009. Additionally, NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has seen a 432 percent increase in child pornography movies and files submitted for identification of the children depicted during that same time period. However, precisely quantifying the volume of the child pornography market is impossible; the number of offenders accessing the images and videos and the quantity of images and videos being traded is unknown.