On YouTube, I saw a compilation of videos of terrible traffic accidents; I was shocked at the violence. Cars overturned, bodies thrown from vehicles, and all caught on camera. I started to turn it off but I returned to it. The next accident wasn't as bad so I kept watching. I didn't like watching but I watched for several minutes before stopping. Some of the videos go on for nearly an hour, accident after accident. (I couldn't find the video again to link to it; you can search for something like it yourself. I don't recommend it.)
Watching child porn must be something like that. An initial revulsion, subsequent curiosity, possible fascination.
A suicide letter left by Jesse Ryan Loskarn, a young man charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, talks about why he looked at child porn.
Everyone wants to know why.
I’ve asked God. I’ve asked myself. I’ve talked with clergy and counselors and psychiatrists. I spent five days on suicide watch in the psychiatric ward at the D.C. jail, fixated on the “why” and “how” questions: why did I do this and how can I kill myself? I’ve shared the most private details of my life with others in the effort to find an answer. There seem to be many answers and none at all.There are many, many reasons someone might look at child porn. It is not hard to imagine that some are disgusted by the images but cannot look away.
The first time I saw child pornography was during a search for music on a peer-to-peer network. I wasn’t seeking it but I didn’t turn away when I saw it. Until that moment, the only place I’d seen these sorts of images was in my mind.
I found myself drawn to videos that matched my own childhood abuse. It’s painful and humiliating to admit to myself, let alone the whole world, but I pictured myself as a child in the image or video. The more an image mirrored some element of my memories and took me back, the more I felt a connection.
This is my deepest, darkest secret.
Jesse Ryan Loskarn suffered so much shame from being discovered and outed that he killed himself.
The news coverage of my spectacular fall makes it impossible for me to crawl in a hole and disappear. I’ve hurt every single human being I’ve ever known and the details of my shame are preserved on the internet for all time. There is no escape.On Althouse, the blog where I first read the letter, commenter Valentine Smith said,
He did the honorable thing, I'll give him that.Honorable. How is it honorable to cause family and friends such grief over the death of someone they loved? How is it honorable to kill oneself without trying to atone for your wrongs?
How can it be honorable to be so deep in despair that suicide seems reasonable?
His family still suffers. His death doesn't diminish their grief; it only adds to the wild storm of emotions they must be feeling. They will never experience the joy of seeing him come out of his terrible agony.
I am sorry for Jesse and the torments that drove him to do what he did. I am sorry for his family and the torments they are left with. The only way to make such a sad situation better is to get through it.
In a world where Jesse's crime would have forever followed him by way of the sex offender registry, getting through it is difficult. In a world where people like Jesse are treated as if they have or will molest children, getting through it is humiliating and painful.
Jesse closes his letter with an apology:
And last, to the children in the images: I should have known better. I perpetuated your abuse and that will be a burden on my soul for the rest of my life.Ah, Jesse. Of course you should have known better. Sometimes people do bad things. Most of the time, those people can change their ways. I wish Jesse had been able to do that.
Jesse could have been a man who stopped looking at child porn. There is no shame in that.
There is honor.