Tuesday, December 11, 2012

all child porn images are not the same

An old article illustrates a problem with the definition of child pornography.
At Susquenita High School, 15 miles outside of Harrisburg, Pa., eight students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, have learned a tough lesson about "sexting." 
"Take a photograph of yourself or somebody else nude and send it to somebody else, you've committed the crime," said Perry County District Attorney Charles Chenot, who has prosecuted two sexting cases involving a total of 10 minors in the past year. 
Chenot said he considers sexting a form of child pornography and wants kids to understand once those images are in someone else's hands they could wind up anywhere, even the Internet, possibly forever. 
The teens at Susquenita High, who all knew each other, were accused last fall of using their cell phones to take, send, or receive nude photos of each other and in one case a short video of a oral sex. That resulted in a felony pornography charge for each minor.
Child pornography horrifies people because it is seen as victimizing children. The videos of adults abusing children are definitely horrifying but much of child porn is not that. Sexting videos of kids that are loosed on the internet are also considered child pornography. These are images created by kids, probably for kids, and uploaded by kids who are not thinking that the images could go much further than they intend. These eight kids were not victimized by the images; they were victimized by the justice system and by a prosecutor who wanted to teach them a lesson.

In this case, the school discovered the images by examining a phone and turning it over to law enforcement. The District Attorney "wants kids to understand" that the images could wind up living forever on the Internet. He's right, of course, but he charged those eight kids with felonies. That's a heck of a lesson. Sure, juvenile offenses can be expunged from their records but those eight will forever know that the rest of the town knows something incredibly personal about them, something they never intended the community at large to know. School officials and law enforcement teamed up to make sure that people heard about it...all for the good of the children, naturally.

Teens, for better or worse, make their own decisions about sex and sexual behavior and cell phones make it possible to record all of their follies. Should teens be charged with child porn felonies for being stupid and for not realizing that the videos and photos will live forever on the Internet?
"Why should we criminalize a kid for taking and possessing a photo of herself," said Marsha Levick, legal director of the non-profit Juvenile Law Center. "There is no problem that needs to be solved."
The felonies and public humiliation almost certainly do more lasting damage to the kids than the photos themselves ever could do.

Images like this cannot be seen in the same light as images of children sexually abused. They simply are not the same.

If we can agree that sexting images are different from images of child sexual abuse, what is it that makes them different? Both are images of children, both are sexual images. The sexting image is not a recording of a crime. That's the difference. One is an image of foolish kids doing something for fun and one is an image of horrifying cruelty. One is worse than the other. The law, however, treats them the same.

Either image will land a man in prison.

Child pornography includes images made in fun, like these, and those made in cruel circumstances. They include images that a child may have been forced to make and images a child may have chosen to make in order to make money.

It is wrong to treat them as if they all come from equally horrifying circumstances.

1 comment:

Anoni Tihnker said...

There is an article written by a 12-year federal prosecutor from Washington D.C. on Huffington Post about a new Law and Order: SVU episode which portrays the ongoing child pornography restitution problem at the moment. Personally, I think her line of work has influenced her to the point where she loves the smell of her own farts, so to speak.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-leotta/svus-beast-and-his-obsess_b_5122898.html