A Letter to the Editor of Time Magazine

December 2, 2010

Recently Time.com published an article entitled, “Study: Making Pornography More Accessible May Curb Child Abuse.”  We responded:

Dear Ms. Park and Time Editors,

The Innocent Justice Foundation exists to educate the public on the true nature and scope of child pornography, and thereby correct misperceptions within the US population that using child pornography is a victimless crime, similar to viewing adult pornography, as might be implied by the article published today on Time.com entitled, “Study: Making Child Pornography More Accessible May Curb Child Abuse.”  I would respectfully argue that nothing could be farther than the truth, and that possessors are extremely dangerous to children.  As a University of Chicago MBA and CEO of the organization, I insist we only use solid government statistics and peer-reviewed studies to underlie our assertions.

Studies that use report rates for child sexual abuse (as was the subject of the article) are fatally flawed in that a meta-analysis of 30 years of research over several continents, including Europe, concludes that only 5-8% of child sexual abuse is ever reported.[i] Clearly, any study that relies upon reports of abuse would be hugely unreliable.

In fact, solid peer-reviewed US studies clearly show that 85% or more of child pornography possessors molest children, and that child pornography possessors have many undetected victims before being caught.  Yet this message, so vital to the health of American children, is not given equal time in the media.

In 2006, a peer-reviewed study was conducted by psychologists at Butner Federal Prison Sex Offender Treatment Program with child pornography offenders.  It found:

  • 85% of child abuse image possessors admitted to molesting children,
  • 13% denied abusing children but failed a polygraph test, and
  • The final 2% denied abuse, passed the polygraph, but admitted if they had had a chance to molest a child, they would have.[ii]

“(Child Pornography) offenders are far more dangerous to society than we previously thought,” says Dr. Hernandez, co-author of the study.

One of the largest myths about child pornography is that it is mostly naked children in the tub or running around on the beach.  Today’s article on Time.com has reinforced that misperception in two ways.

First, the article never mentions that child pornography consists of graphic crime scene images of children being raped and tortured, which is now the norm.  Yet a Time article from 2005 quotes former Det. Sgt. Paul Gillespie of the Toronto Child Exploitation Unit as saying, “tens of thousands of children are being tortured, and it doesn’t seem to be registering.”[iii] One Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer says of the images, “they are infants, they are not even walking and they are still in diapers, and adults are having sexual intercourse with them.  There are pictures with animals.”[iv]

In reality, only 1% of child pornography collections seized by law enforcement limit themselves to nude photos.  A US Congress-funded study of child pornography offenders published in 2005 shows that those young children depicted are being violated unspeakably:[v]

  • 80% possessed images of sexual penetration, and
  • 21% possessed images depicting the children being raped, bound, gagged, blindfolded or “otherwise enduring sadistic sex,”
  • 83% possessed images of children between the ages of 6 and 12,
  • 39% possessed images of children 3 to 5 years old,
  • 19% possessed images of children younger than 3.

Your article uses a quote in the last paragraph from Dr. Christian saying that children are photographed in “provocative and naked ways.”  Clearly, these are not just “provocative” or “naked” images.  They are gut-wrenching, horrific images and videos with sounds of very small children screaming in pain recording the worst trauma a child could ever experience in their lifetimes.  Many of the children being violated in the images are in the US, Canada, and Europe.  Many never fully recover from this trauma.  In addition, the fact that millions of pedophiles use these images of their abuse and torture, which will be on the Internet for all time even after the child reaches adulthood, old age and even death, to masturbate and gain sexual release continues to re-victimize these children for a lifetime.

Because these are crime scene photos and videos, for the first time in the history of mankind police can use them to try to track down these heinously abused children, toddlers, and infants, and rescue them from their abusers.  But due to lack of resources, police can only get to a tiny fraction of American victims.

To imply in any way that continued abuse and torture of these children (many in the US) to produce millions more images that would be legally distributed to pedophiles in order to continue to feed their appetites is irresponsible of the author of the study you feature, and by publishing the premise he suggests, another blow to children who have little hope of ever being rescued due to lack of law enforcement resources.

I hope you will grant these solid facts I have cited an equal airing on your website and your magazine, in order to present a more balanced and accurate picture of the current situation of child sexual abuse and torture images in the US and world today.

Best regards,

Heather Steele, President & CEO


[i] Collings, SJ.  “How do Sexually Abused Children Disclose?  Towards and Evidence-Based Approach to Practice.”   Acta Criminologica 19 (1) 2006

[ii] Bourke, Michael L. and Andres E. Hernandez, “The ‘Butner Study’ Redux: A Report of the Incidence of Hands-on Child Victimization by Child Pornography Offenders,” Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2006, Journal of Family Violence, Volume 24, Number 3, 183-191, DOI: 10.1007/s10896-008-9219-y http://www.springerlink.com/content/c313832g17rt2850/?p=452f458b0c2c45729401a99f4f832c80&pi=0

[iii] Frank, Steven.  “Toronto’s Child Porn Sleuths:  A Canadian team leads the way tracking down global perpetrators of grisly Internet child pornography.”  Time Canada, Jul 25, 2005.

[iv] “Dirty Work” Pulse24.com, Toronto’s 24 Hour Newsource, March 15, 2006.  www.pulse24.com

[v] Wolak, et. al, “Child Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study”, 2005.  http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC144.pdf