What is Child Pornagraphy? Contents From National Center for Missing Children

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What is Child Pornography?

Under federal law, child pornography1 is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it

depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or

depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.2

Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals.3 It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.

These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media; videotape; film; compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM); or digital versatile technology (DVD)4 and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.5

All states and the District of Columbia have laws concerning child pornography. As a result a person who violates federal laws concerning these images may also face additional state charges.


Who Is a Minor?



Federal statute defines "minor" as any person younger than 18.6 "While a majority of states follow the federal statute, some state laws define ‘minor' or ‘child' as a youth younger than 14, 16, or 17.7 Delaware law includes any person 18 years of age and younger in its definition of a ‘child.'"8

Is Child Pornography a Crime?



Yes, the possession or distribution of child pornography is illegal under federal laws and laws in all 50 states; however, researchers and law-enforcement officials believe this crime is increasing and the increase is related to growing Internet use.9

In response to this growing crime, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDoJ) has responded in several ways including funding the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline, www.cybertipline.com, acting as the national clearinghouse for reports of Internet-related child pornography and other Internet-related sex crimes committed against children. The USDoJ also created regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces to assist state and local law enforcement in handling these crimes and funded specialized Internet child exploitation units in federal law-enforcement agencies.10

Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?

The development, increasing accessibility, and use of home-computer technology has revolutionized the distribution of these images by increasing the ease and decreasing the cost of production and distribution especially across international borders. Computer technology is transforming the production of these images into a "sophisticated global cottage industry."11

It is not unusual to encounter illegal images while exploring legitimate areas of the Internet. A current study has estimated that "as much as 20 percent of all pornographic activity on the Internet may involve children";12 however, accurate estimates are difficult to produce since a reliable methodology to measure the actual extent of these images online has yet to be devised.13 Nonetheless parents and guardians should closely monitor the online activities of their children and always maintain access to their children's online accounts.

What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?

• sexually interested in prepubescent children (pedophiles) or young adolescents (hebephiles), who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
• sexually "indiscriminate," meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
• sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
• interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access15

Who Possesses Child Pornography?

The diversity of these possessors is exemplified by many factors including wide age ranges; incomes ranging from poverty to wealth; levels of education running the gamut from some not finishing high school to others having post college degrees; and those who come from cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Some are well known, well thought of in their communities, and/or have high-profile jobs. Others seem isolated, seem to be obsessed with the Internet, and/or have long criminal histories.16

Almost all child-pornography possessors (estimated 1,713) arrested between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, were male, 91% were white, and 86% were older than 25. Only 3% were younger than 18. Most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%). Thirty-eight (38%) percent were either married or living with partners.17

Of those estimated arrestees, most had sexually abusive images of prepubescent children (83%) and images graphically depicting sexual penetration (80%). Approximately 1 in 5 people arrested (21%) had images depicting sexual violence to children such as bondage, rape, and torture. More than 1 in 3 (39%) had child-pornography videos with motion and sound.18

Of those estimated arrestees, law enforcement found about half (48%) had more than 100 graphic still images, and 14% had 1,000 or more graphic images.19

Forty percent (40%) of those estimated arrestees were "dual offenders," who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.20

How Old Were the Children Found in These Images?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, most had images of children who had not yet reached puberty. Specifically 83% had images of children between ages 6 and 12; 39% had images of 3- to 5-year-old children; and 19% had images of toddlers or infants younger than age 3.21

Are the Children in the Images Boys or Girls?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, 62% had pictures of mostly girls. Fourteen percent (14%) had pictures of mostly boys. Fifteen percent (15%) had pictures showing boys and girls in about equal numbers.22

How Graphic Are the Images?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, most had graphic images explicitly showing sexual acts by or on children. Specifically 92% had images of minors focusing on genitals or showing explicit sexual activity; 80% had pictures showing the sexual penetration of a child, including oral sex; 71% possessed images showing sexual contact between an adult and a minor, defined as an adult touching the genitals or breasts of a minor or vice-versa; 21% had child pornography depicting violence such as bondage, rape, or torture and most of those involved images of children who were gagged, bound, blindfolded, or otherwise enduring sadistic sex; and 79% also had what might be termed "softcore" images of nude or semi-nude minors, but only 1% possessed such images alone.23

What Are the Effects of Child Pornography?

It is important to realize these images can have a devastating and lasting effect on children. In addition to any physical injuries they might suffer in the course of their molestation, such as genital bruising, lacerations, or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, child victims may also experience depression, withdrawal, anger, and other psychological disorders.24 Such effects may continue into adulthood. For instance women abused as children have statistically significant higher rates of nightmares, back pain, headaches, pelvic pain, eating binges, and other similar symptoms.25 Child victims also frequently experience feelings of guilt and responsibility for the abuse and betrayal, a sense of powerlessness, and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.26 These feelings are often expressed through increased fearfulness and changes in sleep patterns including re-occurring memories, flashbacks, dreams, and nightmares associated with posttraumatic stress.27 Younger children tend to externalize stress by re-enacting sexual activities through play, while adolescents may experience negative effects on their growing sexuality as a result of inappropriate early sexual experiences.28

The lives of children featured in these illegal images are forever altered, not only by the molestation but by the permanent record of the exploitation. Once sexual exploitation takes place, the molester may document these encounters on film or video. This documentation can then become the "ammunition" needed to blackmail the child into further submission, which is necessary to continue the relationship and maintain its secrecy. In addition these documented images allow molesters to "relive" their sexual fantasies with children long after the exploitation has stopped.

A greater number of child molesters are now using computer technology to organize and maintain their collections of these illegal images. They are also using the Internet to increase the size of these collections. Personally manufactured illegal images of children are especially valuable on the Internet, which provide the molester with a respected status among fellow exploiters and traders of this material. Once this status is achieved, molesters will often begin to trade images of their own sexual exploits with children.

When these images reach cyberspace, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. Thus the child is revictimized as the images are viewed again and again.

How Do Online Exploiters Find Children?

After this initial meeting, these individuals will often continue to communicate with the child electronically or through other means. Some of these individuals may then attempt to lower the child's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their online conversations and even send the child sexually abusive images of other children. When children are shown images of peers engaged in sexual activities, they are led to believe this behavior is acceptable. This lowers their inhibitions and makes it easier for the molester to take advantage of the child sexually.

Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to speak openly with their children about online risks and monitor their online activities.

End Notes
1As stated by Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor in Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, November 2003, page vii), "The term ‘child pornography,' because it implies simply conventional pornography with child subjects, is an inappropriate term to describe the true nature and extent of sexually exploitive images of child victims. Use of this term should not be taken to imply that children ‘consented' to the sexual acts depicted in these photographs; however, it is the term most readily recognized by the public, at this point in time, to describe this form of child sexual exploitation. It is used in this [document] to refer to illegal pictorial material involving children under the standards developed by statute, case law, and law-enforcement-agency protocols. It is hoped a more accurate term will be recognized, understood, and accepted for use in the near future."
218 U.S.C. § 1466A and 18 U.S.C. § 2256.
3Id.
4Eva J. Klain, Heather J. Davies, Molly A. Hicks. Child Pornography: The Criminal-Justice-System Response (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, March 2001, page 1) [hereinafter Response], citing Daniel S. Armagh, Nick L. Battaglia, and Kenneth V. Lanning, Use of Computers in the Sexual Exploitation of Children, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1999, page 6.
5Response, supra note 4, page 1.
6Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell. Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings From the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2005, page ix) [hereinafter Possessors] citing 18 U.S.C. § 2256(1).)
7Possessors, pages ix-x citing research conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in December 2004 which found, in regard to state statutes criminalizing possession of child pornography, 37 states define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 18 (Alaska, ALASKA STAT. § 11.61.127(a); Arizona, ARIZ. REV. STAT. § 13-3551(5); California, CAL. PENAL CODE § 311.11(a); Colorado, COLO. REV. STAT. § 18-6-403(2)(a); Connecticut, CONN. GEN. STAT. § 1-1d; Florida, FLA. STAT. ch. 827.01(2); Georgia, GA. CODE ANN. § 16-12-100(a)(1); Hawaii, HAW. REV. STAT. § 707-752(2); Idaho, IDAHO CODE § 8-1507(2)(b); Illinois, 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/11-20.1(6); Iowa, IOWA CODE § 728.1(4); Kansas, KAN. STAT. ANN. § 21-3516(a)(2); Kentucky, KY. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 2.015, 500.080(9); Massachusetts, MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 272, § 29C; Michigan, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.145c(b); Minnesota, MINN. STAT. § 617.246(1)(b); Mississippi, MISS. CODE ANN. § 97-5-31(a); Missouri, MO. REV. STAT. § 573.010(2); Montana, MONT. CODE ANN. §§ 45-5-625, 45-8-205; New Mexico, N.M. STAT. ANN. § 30-6A-3(A); North Carolina, N.C. GEN. STAT. § 14-190.13(3); North Dakota, N.D. CENT. CODE § 12.1-27.2-05(1); Ohio, OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 2907.01(M); Oklahoma, OKLA. STAT. tit. 21, § 1024.1(A); Oregon, OR. REV. STAT. § 163.665(1); Pennsylvania, 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6312(d)(1); Rhode Island, R.I. GEN. LAWS § 11-9-1.3(c)(3); South Carolina, S.C. CODE ANN. § 16-15-375(3); South Dakota, S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-22-24.1(3); Tennessee, TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-17-1002(3); Texas, TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 43.26(a); Utah, UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-5a-2(5); Virginia, VA. CODE ANN. § 18.2-374.1:1(A); Washington, WASH. REV. CODE § 9.68A.011(4); West Virginia, W. VA. CODE § 61-8C-1(a); Wisconsin, WIS. STAT. § 948.01(1); Wyoming, WYO. STAT. ANN. § 6-4-303(a)(i)); 3 define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 17 (Alabama, ALA. CODE § 13A-12-192; Arkansas, ARK. CODE ANN. § 5-27-302(1); and Louisiana, LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 14:81.1(A)(3)); 7 define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 16 (Indiana, IND. CODE § 35-42-4-4(c); Maryland, MD. CODE ANN., Crim. Law § 11-208(a); Nevada, NEV. REV. STAT. 200.730; New Hampshire, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 649-A:2(I); New Jersey, N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C: 24-4(b)(1); New York, N.Y. PENAL LAW § 263.16; and Vermont, VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 13, § 2821(1)); and 1 defines "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 14 (Maine, ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 17, § 2924(2-A)).
The age of a "child" in Nebraska depends on whether the child is a participant (younger than 18 years of age) or a portrayed observer (younger than 16 years of age). NEB. REV. STAT. § 28-1463.02(1).
In the District of Columbia, possession of child pornography with the intent to disseminate may be prosecuted under the general obscenity statute; however, mere possession is not mentioned. D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-2201(a)(1)(E). There are two criminal offenses that address "sexual performances using minors": "using a minor in a sexual performance" and "promoting a sexual performance by a minor." D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3102. For these offenses, "minor" is defined as any person younger than 16 years of age. D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 22-3101(2), 22-3102.
8Possessors, supra note 6, page x citing DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 11, § 1103(e).
9Possessors, supra note 6, page ix.
10Id.
11Response, supra note 4, page 3, citing Child Pornography: An International Perspective, World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Stockholm, Sweden, August 27-31, 1996, page 9.
12Response, supra note 4, page 3, citing Allotted Day on Child Pornography, 36th Parliament, 1st Session, Edited Hansand 1, No. 172, February 2, 1999, page 12.
13Response, supra note 4, page 3.
14Possessors, supra note 6, page x citing Response, supra note 4 and M. Taylor and E. Quayle. Child pornography: An Internet crime. Hove: Brunner-Routledge, 2003.
15Possessors, supra note 6, page x.
16Id., pages 2-3.
17Id., pages 1-2.
18Id., page vii.
19Id., page 7.
20Id., page viii.
21Id., page 4.
22Id., page 5.
23Id.
24Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Bentovim and Bentovim, "The Effects on Children and Their Families" in Organized Abuse: The Current Debate, pages 60-62 [hereinafter Effects on Children].
25Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Jeanne McCauley, David E. Kern, Ken Kolodner, et al., Clinical Characteristics of Women with a History of Childhood Abuse: Unhealed Wounds, 277 JAMA 1197, page 1362.
26Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Heather Y. Swanston, Jennifer S. Tebbutt, Brian I. O'Toole, and R. Kim Oates, Sexually Abused Children 5 Years After Presentation: A Case-Control Study, 100 Pediatrics, 1997, page 600, 603.
27Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Effects on Children, supra note 24, pages 60-62.
28Id.

What is the Molestation of Children?

Every child is vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Child victims can be boys as well as girls and older as well as younger.

Child molestation can include

Fondling or touching

"Flashing" or exposing adult genitals to a child

Showing sexually explicit material to a child

So called "normal" sexual activity such as vaginal or anal intercourse or oral stimulation of the genitals

So called "deviant" sexual activity such as urination, defecation, sadomasochism, or bondage

Child molesters can use many methods such as

Child molesters most often manipulate child victims into complying with sexual activity by "grooming" them with attention, affection, and gifts over a period of time. Sometimes this "grooming" is aimed at the parent of very young children in order for the child molester to obtain the family's trust and thereby gain access to the child.

Adapted from Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis. Copyright © 2001 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. All rights reserved.

Signs of Sexual Exploitation in Children

Parents, grandparents, and guardians should be aware of the signs noted below that could indicate your child has been sexually molested. You should note that some of these behaviors may have other explanations, but it is important to assist your child no matter what the cause of these symptoms or behaviors.

Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying

Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances

Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters

A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behavior

Regression to infantile behavior; clinging

School or behavioral problems

Changes in toilet-training habits

A fear of certain places, people, or activities

Bruises, rashes, cuts, limping, multiple or poorly explained injuries

Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in the private areas

If you observe any of these behaviors, talk to your child about the causes. Behavioral changes such as these may be due to causes other than sexual exploitation such as a medical, family, or school problem. Also keep in mind that sometimes children do not always demonstrate obvious signs such as these but may do or say something that hints at the exploitation.

Information adapted from

Coaxing or persuading a child into sexual activity

Overpowering or threatening to harm a child into sexual activity

Individuals looking for potential child victims online have no difficulty finding them. It is quite common for these individuals to frequent "kids only" chatrooms and communicate with children who unwittingly divulge personal information about themselves. A more recent phenomenon is the solicitation of sex over the Internet.

There is not much research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography. But, from the little information that exists, it suggests these people are a diverse group who use sexually abusive images of children for a variety of reasons.14 Those who possess child pornography include people who are

The Internet has created an exciting new world of information and communication for anyone with access to online services. While this technology offers unparalleled opportunities for children and adults to learn about the universe we live in, it has also had an immeasurable impact on the sexual exploitation of children, specifically the distribution of sexually exploitive images of children.

What is Child Pornography?

Under federal law, child pornography1 is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it

depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or

depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.2

Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals.3 It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.

These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media; videotape; film; compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM); or digital versatile technology (DVD)4 and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.5

All states and the District of Columbia have laws concerning child pornography. As a result a person who violates federal laws concerning these images may also face additional state charges.

Who Is a Minor?

Federal statute defines "minor" as any person younger than 18.6 "While a majority of states follow the federal statute, some state laws define ‘minor' or ‘child' as a youth younger than 14, 16, or 17.7 Delaware law includes any person 18 years of age and younger in its definition of a ‘child.'"8

Is Child Pornography a Crime?

Yes, the possession or distribution of child pornography is illegal under federal laws and laws in all 50 states; however, researchers and law-enforcement officials believe this crime is increasing and the increase is related to growing Internet use.9

In response to this growing crime, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDoJ) has responded in several ways including funding the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline, www.cybertipline.com, acting as the national clearinghouse for reports of Internet-related child pornography and other Internet-related sex crimes committed against children. The USDoJ also created regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces to assist state and local law enforcement in handling these crimes and funded specialized Internet child exploitation units in federal law-enforcement agencies.10

Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?

The development, increasing accessibility, and use of home-computer technology has revolutionized the distribution of these images by increasing the ease and decreasing the cost of production and distribution especially across international borders. Computer technology is transforming the production of these images into a "sophisticated global cottage industry."11

It is not unusual to encounter illegal images while exploring legitimate areas of the Internet. A current study has estimated that "as much as 20 percent of all pornographic activity on the Internet may involve children";12 however, accurate estimates are difficult to produce since a reliable methodology to measure the actual extent of these images online has yet to be devised.13 Nonetheless parents and guardians should closely monitor the online activities of their children and always maintain access to their children's online accounts.

What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?

• sexually interested in prepubescent children (pedophiles) or young adolescents (hebephiles), who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
• sexually "indiscriminate," meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
• sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
• interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access15

Who Possesses Child Pornography?

The diversity of these possessors is exemplified by many factors including wide age ranges; incomes ranging from poverty to wealth; levels of education running the gamut from some not finishing high school to others having post college degrees; and those who come from cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Some are well known, well thought of in their communities, and/or have high-profile jobs. Others seem isolated, seem to be obsessed with the Internet, and/or have long criminal histories.16

Almost all child-pornography possessors (estimated 1,713) arrested between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, were male, 91% were white, and 86% were older than 25. Only 3% were younger than 18. Most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%). Thirty-eight (38%) percent were either married or living with partners.17

Of those estimated arrestees, most had sexually abusive images of prepubescent children (83%) and images graphically depicting sexual penetration (80%). Approximately 1 in 5 people arrested (21%) had images depicting sexual violence to children such as bondage, rape, and torture. More than 1 in 3 (39%) had child-pornography videos with motion and sound.18

Of those estimated arrestees, law enforcement found about half (48%) had more than 100 graphic still images, and 14% had 1,000 or more graphic images.19

Forty percent (40%) of those estimated arrestees were "dual offenders," who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.20

How Old Were the Children Found in These Images?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, most had images of children who had not yet reached puberty. Specifically 83% had images of children between ages 6 and 12; 39% had images of 3- to 5-year-old children; and 19% had images of toddlers or infants younger than age 3.21

Are the Children in the Images Boys or Girls?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, 62% had pictures of mostly girls. Fourteen percent (14%) had pictures of mostly boys. Fifteen percent (15%) had pictures showing boys and girls in about equal numbers.22

How Graphic Are the Images?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, most had graphic images explicitly showing sexual acts by or on children. Specifically 92% had images of minors focusing on genitals or showing explicit sexual activity; 80% had pictures showing the sexual penetration of a child, including oral sex; 71% possessed images showing sexual contact between an adult and a minor, defined as an adult touching the genitals or breasts of a minor or vice-versa; 21% had child pornography depicting violence such as bondage, rape, or torture and most of those involved images of children who were gagged, bound, blindfolded, or otherwise enduring sadistic sex; and 79% also had what might be termed "softcore" images of nude or semi-nude minors, but only 1% possessed such images alone.23

What Are the Effects of Child Pornography?

It is important to realize these images can have a devastating and lasting effect on children. In addition to any physical injuries they might suffer in the course of their molestation, such as genital bruising, lacerations, or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, child victims may also experience depression, withdrawal, anger, and other psychological disorders.24 Such effects may continue into adulthood. For instance women abused as children have statistically significant higher rates of nightmares, back pain, headaches, pelvic pain, eating binges, and other similar symptoms.25 Child victims also frequently experience feelings of guilt and responsibility for the abuse and betrayal, a sense of powerlessness, and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.26 These feelings are often expressed through increased fearfulness and changes in sleep patterns including re-occurring memories, flashbacks, dreams, and nightmares associated with posttraumatic stress.27 Younger children tend to externalize stress by re-enacting sexual activities through play, while adolescents may experience negative effects on their growing sexuality as a result of inappropriate early sexual experiences.28

The lives of children featured in these illegal images are forever altered, not only by the molestation but by the permanent record of the exploitation. Once sexual exploitation takes place, the molester may document these encounters on film or video. This documentation can then become the "ammunition" needed to blackmail the child into further submission, which is necessary to continue the relationship and maintain its secrecy. In addition these documented images allow molesters to "relive" their sexual fantasies with children long after the exploitation has stopped.

A greater number of child molesters are now using computer technology to organize and maintain their collections of these illegal images. They are also using the Internet to increase the size of these collections. Personally manufactured illegal images of children are especially valuable on the Internet, which provide the molester with a respected status among fellow exploiters and traders of this material. Once this status is achieved, molesters will often begin to trade images of their own sexual exploits with children.

When these images reach cyberspace, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. Thus the child is revictimized as the images are viewed again and again.

How Do Online Exploiters Find Children?

After this initial meeting, these individuals will often continue to communicate with the child electronically or through other means. Some of these individuals may then attempt to lower the child's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their online conversations and even send the child sexually abusive images of other children. When children are shown images of peers engaged in sexual activities, they are led to believe this behavior is acceptable. This lowers their inhibitions and makes it easier for the molester to take advantage of the child sexually.

Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to speak openly with their children about online risks and monitor their online activities.

End Notes
1As stated by Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor in Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, November 2003, page vii), "The term ‘child pornography,' because it implies simply conventional pornography with child subjects, is an inappropriate term to describe the true nature and extent of sexually exploitive images of child victims. Use of this term should not be taken to imply that children ‘consented' to the sexual acts depicted in these photographs; however, it is the term most readily recognized by the public, at this point in time, to describe this form of child sexual exploitation. It is used in this [document] to refer to illegal pictorial material involving children under the standards developed by statute, case law, and law-enforcement-agency protocols. It is hoped a more accurate term will be recognized, understood, and accepted for use in the near future."
218 U.S.C. § 1466A and 18 U.S.C. § 2256.
3Id.
4Eva J. Klain, Heather J. Davies, Molly A. Hicks. Child Pornography: The Criminal-Justice-System Response (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, March 2001, page 1) [hereinafter Response], citing Daniel S. Armagh, Nick L. Battaglia, and Kenneth V. Lanning, Use of Computers in the Sexual Exploitation of Children, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1999, page 6.
5Response, supra note 4, page 1.
6Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell. Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings From the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2005, page ix) [hereinafter Possessors] citing 18 U.S.C. § 2256(1).)
7Possessors, pages ix-x citing research conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in December 2004 which found, in regard to state statutes criminalizing possession of child pornography, 37 states define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 18 (Alaska, ALASKA STAT. § 11.61.127(a); Arizona, ARIZ. REV. STAT. § 13-3551(5); California, CAL. PENAL CODE § 311.11(a); Colorado, COLO. REV. STAT. § 18-6-403(2)(a); Connecticut, CONN. GEN. STAT. § 1-1d; Florida, FLA. STAT. ch. 827.01(2); Georgia, GA. CODE ANN. § 16-12-100(a)(1); Hawaii, HAW. REV. STAT. § 707-752(2); Idaho, IDAHO CODE § 8-1507(2)(b); Illinois, 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/11-20.1(6); Iowa, IOWA CODE § 728.1(4); Kansas, KAN. STAT. ANN. § 21-3516(a)(2); Kentucky, KY. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 2.015, 500.080(9); Massachusetts, MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 272, § 29C; Michigan, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.145c(b); Minnesota, MINN. STAT. § 617.246(1)(b); Mississippi, MISS. CODE ANN. § 97-5-31(a); Missouri, MO. REV. STAT. § 573.010(2); Montana, MONT. CODE ANN. §§ 45-5-625, 45-8-205; New Mexico, N.M. STAT. ANN. § 30-6A-3(A); North Carolina, N.C. GEN. STAT. § 14-190.13(3); North Dakota, N.D. CENT. CODE § 12.1-27.2-05(1); Ohio, OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 2907.01(M); Oklahoma, OKLA. STAT. tit. 21, § 1024.1(A); Oregon, OR. REV. STAT. § 163.665(1); Pennsylvania, 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6312(d)(1); Rhode Island, R.I. GEN. LAWS § 11-9-1.3(c)(3); South Carolina, S.C. CODE ANN. § 16-15-375(3); South Dakota, S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-22-24.1(3); Tennessee, TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-17-1002(3); Texas, TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 43.26(a); Utah, UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-5a-2(5); Virginia, VA. CODE ANN. § 18.2-374.1:1(A); Washington, WASH. REV. CODE § 9.68A.011(4); West Virginia, W. VA. CODE § 61-8C-1(a); Wisconsin, WIS. STAT. § 948.01(1); Wyoming, WYO. STAT. ANN. § 6-4-303(a)(i)); 3 define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 17 (Alabama, ALA. CODE § 13A-12-192; Arkansas, ARK. CODE ANN. § 5-27-302(1); and Louisiana, LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 14:81.1(A)(3)); 7 define "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 16 (Indiana, IND. CODE § 35-42-4-4(c); Maryland, MD. CODE ANN., Crim. Law § 11-208(a); Nevada, NEV. REV. STAT. 200.730; New Hampshire, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 649-A:2(I); New Jersey, N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C: 24-4(b)(1); New York, N.Y. PENAL LAW § 263.16; and Vermont, VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 13, § 2821(1)); and 1 defines "minor" or "child" as a youth younger than the age of 14 (Maine, ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 17, § 2924(2-A)).
The age of a "child" in Nebraska depends on whether the child is a participant (younger than 18 years of age) or a portrayed observer (younger than 16 years of age). NEB. REV. STAT. § 28-1463.02(1).
In the District of Columbia, possession of child pornography with the intent to disseminate may be prosecuted under the general obscenity statute; however, mere possession is not mentioned. D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-2201(a)(1)(E). There are two criminal offenses that address "sexual performances using minors": "using a minor in a sexual performance" and "promoting a sexual performance by a minor." D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3102. For these offenses, "minor" is defined as any person younger than 16 years of age. D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 22-3101(2), 22-3102.
8Possessors, supra note 6, page x citing DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 11, § 1103(e).
9Possessors, supra note 6, page ix.
10Id.
11Response, supra note 4, page 3, citing Child Pornography: An International Perspective, World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Stockholm, Sweden, August 27-31, 1996, page 9.
12Response, supra note 4, page 3, citing Allotted Day on Child Pornography, 36th Parliament, 1st Session, Edited Hansand 1, No. 172, February 2, 1999, page 12.
13Response, supra note 4, page 3.
14Possessors, supra note 6, page x citing Response, supra note 4 and M. Taylor and E. Quayle. Child pornography: An Internet crime. Hove: Brunner-Routledge, 2003.
15Possessors, supra note 6, page x.
16Id., pages 2-3.
17Id., pages 1-2.
18Id., page vii.
19Id., page 7.
20Id., page viii.
21Id., page 4.
22Id., page 5.
23Id.
24Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Bentovim and Bentovim, "The Effects on Children and Their Families" in Organized Abuse: The Current Debate, pages 60-62 [hereinafter Effects on Children].
25Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Jeanne McCauley, David E. Kern, Ken Kolodner, et al., Clinical Characteristics of Women with a History of Childhood Abuse: Unhealed Wounds, 277 JAMA 1197, page 1362.
26Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Heather Y. Swanston, Jennifer S. Tebbutt, Brian I. O'Toole, and R. Kim Oates, Sexually Abused Children 5 Years After Presentation: A Case-Control Study, 100 Pediatrics, 1997, page 600, 603.
27Response, supra note 4, page 10, citing Effects on Children, supra note 24, pages 60-62.
28Id.

What is the Molestation of Children?

Every child is vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Child victims can be boys as well as girls and older as well as younger.

Child molestation can include

Fondling or touching

"Flashing" or exposing adult genitals to a child

Showing sexually explicit material to a child

So called "normal" sexual activity such as vaginal or anal intercourse or oral stimulation of the genitals

So called "deviant" sexual activity such as urination, defecation, sadomasochism, or bondage

Child molesters can use many methods such as

Child molesters most often manipulate child victims into complying with sexual activity by "grooming" them with attention, affection, and gifts over a period of time. Sometimes this "grooming" is aimed at the parent of very young children in order for the child molester to obtain the family's trust and thereby gain access to the child.

Adapted from Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis. Copyright © 2001 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. All rights reserved.

Signs of Sexual Exploitation in Children

Parents, grandparents, and guardians should be aware of the signs noted below that could indicate your child has been sexually molested. You should note that some of these behaviors may have other explanations, but it is important to assist your child no matter what the cause of these symptoms or behaviors.

Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying

Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances

Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters

A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behavior

Regression to infantile behavior; clinging

School or behavioral problems

Changes in toilet-training habits

A fear of certain places, people, or activities

Bruises, rashes, cuts, limping, multiple or poorly explained injuries

Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in the private areas

If you observe any of these behaviors, talk to your child about the causes. Behavioral changes such as these may be due to causes other than sexual exploitation such as a medical, family, or school problem. Also keep in mind that sometimes children do not always demonstrate obvious signs such as these but may do or say something that hints at the exploitation.

Information adapted from

Coaxing or persuading a child into sexual activity

Overpowering or threatening to harm a child into sexual activity

Individuals looking for potential child victims online have no difficulty finding them. It is quite common for these individuals to frequent "kids only" chatrooms and communicate with children who unwittingly divulge personal information about themselves. A more recent phenomenon is the solicitation of sex over the Internet.

There is not much research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography. But, from the little information that exists, it suggests these people are a diverse group who use sexually abusive images of children for a variety of reasons.14 Those who possess child pornography include people who are

The Internet has created an exciting new world of information and communication for anyone with access to online services. While this technology offers unparalleled opportunities for children and adults to learn about the universe we live in, it has also had an immeasurable impact on the sexual exploitation of children, specifically the distribution of sexually exploitive images of children.

Adapted from

What to Do If a Child Discloses Sexual Exploitation

If your child discloses sexual exploitation, how you react is an important part of child protection.


Underreact to or minimize the information

Overreact to the information or panic

Criticize or blame your child


Respect your child's privacy

Support your child and the decision to tell

Show physical affection, and express love and support with words and gestures

Explain to your child that he or she has done nothing wrong

Help your child understand it was the offender's responsibility, not your child's

Remember that children seldom lie about acts of sexual exploitation

Keep the lines of communication open

Seek appropriate medical care for your child

Notify law enforcement

Alert the child-protection, youth-services, child-abuse, or other appropriate social-services organizations in cooperation with law enforcement

Consider the need for counseling or therapy for your child and the entire family

Contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's 24-hour, toll-free telephone line to report any information about missing or sexually exploited children at 1-800-843-5678. This number is available throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The TDD Hotline is 1-800-826-7653.

Often children do not disclose about incidents of sexual exploitation. It is up to attentive adults to recognize the


We have these resources and more at www.ChildProtectioncCommunity.com

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