Recent Child Abuse Stories Attract Media Attention
Two recent, disturbing stories of child abuse are receiving a great deal of attention in national media; the international child pornography ring which was busted, and Warren Jeffs’ conviction on child sexual abuse charges.
U.S. authorities said Wednesday they have pulled apart a worldwide child pornography operation that traded images and video of the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, some as young as infants. Investigators describe this as the largest prosecution ever of an online child pornography operation. An estimated 600 people used a private, members-only Internet bulletin board called Dreamboard to access the graphic images.
To maintain membership status, participants were required to continually upload images of child sexual abuse. Those who created new images of child sexual abuse were placed in a special category that gave them access to the bulletin board's complete quantity of child porn. The massive collection was estimated to include tens of thousands of images of child abuse, or enough to fill 16,000 DVDs. Members hid their activities using sophisticated encryption.
Federal prosecutors filed charges against 72 people. "These were some of the most disturbing images, I think, you will ever see. It's hard to imagine a penalty severe enough," said Attorney General Eric Holder.
This week, Warren Jeffs, ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting an underage girl he had taken as a “spiritual” bride. He was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of another of his “spiritual” wives, a 15-year-old.
One piece of evidence was an audiotape of what prosecutors said was Jeffs sexually assaulting one of his victims when she was 12 years old. A nephew of Jeffs, now 28, testified that his uncle raped him when he was 5, telling him that "this is God's work." A niece, also now 28, alleged that Jeffs sexually abused her at the age of 7.For every story of child abuse and exploitation we see in the news, there are thousands of other stories, just as real, just as horrifying, that receive no media coverage at all. Hopefully, these children have the attention of concerned, caring citizens who recognize what’s happening to them and reach out to help.
When we see terrible stories of child abuse in the news, it’s easy to think this is happening somewhere far away, to people we don’t know. But how many of us know someone who has been impacted personally by child abuse? How many of us have been directly impacted in some way? How many of us talk about it?Maybe someone you care about has told you of childhood events that they’d like to forget. Or maybe you have your own very personal experience.It might surprise you to learn that the odds are actually quite high that each one of us knows several people who have been affected personally by child abuse. It could be a neighbor, a friend, or a co-worker. It could be the nurse who took care of a loved one in the hospital, someone we worship with, or someone who teaches or coaches our children. In fact, it might be all of these people. All around us there are people who suffered from abuse or neglect, people who live with the lasting impact on their emotional and physical health. And there are children suffering today.Why do we tolerate this? Why do we let it go on?
Every one of us can do something about it. Find out what’s happening in your community to protect children from abuse and neglect. Ask about child protection policies at your place of worship, and in sports organizations for kids. Volunteer your time and share your resources with programs that are working to protect children. Encourage people you know to do something about it. Use the power of your voice. Talk about it. Share this article with your friends. Use Facebook and Twitter to tell people that we can all do something about child abuse. We are. You can.
Chris Newlin is Executive Director of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He is active in spreading awareness of child abuse issues across the United States and internationally. He urges every member of every community to get involved in child abuse prevention and response, and take action to protect children and secure our future.
For more information, visit our website www.nationalcac.org