I was appalled by something mentioned casually in the article about the judge who refused to follow the sentencing guidelines when sentencing a man for possession of child porn (I blogged about the judge here):
A teenager depicted being raped by her father at the age of 10 in some of the videos [found in the possession of the defendant] had told the court of the effect the case had on her.
“Unfortunately, my hurt doesn’t end with my father,” the girl wrote before [the defendant's] first sentencing. “When I was told how many people had viewed these images and videos, I thought my pulse would stop. Thinking of all those sick perverts and viewing my body being ravished and hurt like that makes me feel like I was raped by each and every one of them.”This girl is a teenager. Whether she is 13 or 19 or somewhere in between, who in their right mind thinks it is a good idea to tell her "how many people had viewed these images and videos"? The images of her will not be--cannot be--eliminated. What good can come of telling her that the images are still out there?
If pornographic images of children are illegal to protect the children, explain how it protects this teenager to tell her that "sick perverts" are viewing her "body being ravished and hurt"? Does that help her to overcome the trauma of being abused?
Law enforcement is required to tell the "victim and/or guardians" when the child in the image is identified.
At the initiation of an investigation, victims and/or guardians are contacted by a Victim Specialist (VS) who, in addition to providing referrals for services, explains the unique circumstances surrounding child pornography investigations, and the possibility that images may appear again in future investigations or court proceedings. At that time, the VS also requests the victim and/or guardian sign a Notification Preference Form.The victim and/or guardian uses the Notification Preference Form to indicate whether or not they want a notification every time her image is found during an investigation. In order for the victim to say that she does not want the notifications, the Victim Specialist has to tell her that the images are still out there. Once identified, the victim is not allowed not to know.
Some will say that the children, perhaps now adults, must be notified so they can ask for restitution from the defendants who looked at the images. As you can clearly see in Emily Bazelon's piece about child porn restitution, money does not make the trauma go away. In fact, the continuing notifications can also be traumatizing events.
If the victims need financial help to get necessary therapy (and, yes, that help should be available), that could be accomplished without giving them the information that their images are still in circulation. Private charities or government funding could extend that assistance without the need to further traumatize the victims.
Proclaiming a desire to protect the children from abuse and then needling them with reminders of that abuse...that is perverted.
Awful things happen to children everywhere, all the time. We marvel at child soldiers from war-torn countries who overcome their traumatic childhoods. We praise children who survive life-threatening illness or injury when they go on to live good lives. We admire children who come from troubled families yet go on to be successful businessmen and raise good families of their own. Child sexual abuse may or may not be worse than those traumas but with care and time, children can overcome horrible events. Many, perhaps most, will.
...if we let them.