Washington, April 22, 2012 – Since March 14, 1950 the FBI’s most wanted list has displayed the faces that instill fear in our hearts and exposed the evil glare of America’s most despised criminals. The FBI selects individuals for this list only after careful consideration by FBI officials and in concert with the many field offices throughout the country.
After US troops killed the man behind the attack on the World Trade Center, convicted terrorist Osama bin Laden, the most wanted list had a vacancy.
Last week, the FBI filled the spot that had once held the name of the most hated man in America with Child Pornographer Eric Justin Toth.
Toth used his position as a private schoolteacher to produce pornographic images of children to satiate his twisted appetite for stripping away the most precious form of innocence.
A Maryland court indicted Toth in 2008 for the production of child pornography after images were found on his camera. Since then, Toth has been on the run. FBI officials placed him in Bin Laden’s position on the most wanted list after a survey of all of their field offices for candidates promoted him there.
Child pornography has become rampant on the Internet, growing at unprecedented rates as Pedophiles become more sophisticated in their methods to mask their vile obsession. Since 2002, sixty-five million images of child pornography have been sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for comparison with their lists of missing children, and that number is growing exponentially.
As a victim of child pornography, the dark abyss of pain and suffering I have endured leads me to despise those who perpetrate this crime. The havoc these individuals wreak on a child’s life, for me, places them in league with the same evil thriving in the veins of any terrorist. Child pornographers cloak themselves in cowardice with avatars and fabricated screen names as they lurk in the dark corners of the Internet and the sickness in their souls dines on the desecration of innocent children.
The war these “terrorists” wage against a child’s innocence is fought every day around the globe. The brave men and women of law enforcement struggle to bring an end to child pornography by their work in joint task forces to stem the rising tide that swells with the sickness that infects these individuals.
In March of this year fifty year old Peter K. Lindsley was sentenced to 114 months in prison in Texas for distribution of Child Pornography. An examination of his computer yielded 68,000 explicit images, the majority of which included infants.
One of the images showed an infant who was tied up being penetrated by an adult male.
In Pennsylvania, professor Gary Doby and his former student Kimberly Crain are facing child pornography charges. Crain allegedly shared explicit pictures of young girls in her elementary school class in Oklahoma with Doby. Know as “Uncle G” Doby allegedly used the video conferencing service, Skype, to view young girls in Crain’s elementary school class.
They both face twenty-three felonies for child pornography. Doby was extradited to Oklahoma where state charges result in more severe penalties than federal charges. The pair face life imprisonment if convicted of crimes against fourteen victims.
Law enforcement officials undergo constant training in their efforts to keep up with the level of sophistication child pornographers ascribe to, but the spread is hard to contain. If you ripped open a feather pillow at the top of the Empire State Building until its contents were consumed by the wind and then tracked down each feather, you would face a similar task to what law enforcement faces in stopping the proliferation of these images.
The United States Department of Justice Child Obscenity and Exploitation Section (CEOS) fights the war against child pornography in conjunction with the FBI and States Attorney’s Offices around the country. They are aided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other organizations that tirelessly try to stop this plague from consuming another child’s innocence.
Microsoft has committed its talents to the fight most recently with PhotoDNA software that creates a distinct “fingerprint” for each digital image and then can be used to find other copies online. Microsoft, along with Facebook, has used a version of the same software to track images of child pornography that enter any of their services for many years now.
Simply blocking these horrendous images has been a futile attempt at stemming the proliferation with the sophistication of these individuals that just find a way around the barrier. Deleting the images has thus far proven the most effective method for dealing with the images as blocking does not allow the effective tracking of these individuals as they access them.
Sometimes it just takes an alert parent or concerned adult or even a child with a sense that something is just not right.
In Fort Worth, thirty-nine year old Michael Sean Starowicz was sentenced to twenty-one years in prison for secretly videotaping children taking showers. The police were called after a ten-year-old girl living next door to Starowicz noticed a camera on a pole outside of the window as she showered, and told her parents.
He was also found to have taped his best friends thirteen-year-old daughter taking showers at his house using a camera activated by a motion sensor hidden in a clock radio in the bathroom. The father, Starowicz’s former best friend of fifteen years, celebrated outside the courtroom after the verdict was passed down. The prosecutor in the case commented on the verdict: “It removes him from society, He’s where he belongs.”
In the fight against child pornography the efforts of law enforcement have been hindered by the rise of “sexting” among teenagers. Using their cell phones, girls as young as twelve send naked images of themselves or of girlfriends to male acquaintances who in turn send these pictures to their friends, creating a chain with no end.
These young girls find themselves in the unique position of being both the victim and the perpetrator of a crime. In discussions after the fact, the girls explain the underlying reason for this lapse in judgment as that they “trust” these individuals they are sending the images to. In the past, authorities have targeted the males involved in “sexting” charging them with distribution of child pornography. Now the naive minds of these young girls are being given a rude awakening as they also face the same charge.
The law is trying to adapt to the changing world we live in but progress is sometimes slow and we are sacrificing precious time in the fight to keep up with child pornographers.
Recently politicians have been called to action in the wake of Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State Scandal and the tide has shifted in the direction of change. Mandatory reporting laws and the extension of the Statute of Limitations for prosecuting child sex abuse have found a groundswell of support in recent months. Bills such as the one supported by San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins that would make it mandatory for Computer Technicians to report child pornography found on computers they repair.
Commercial film and video processors are already required to do so and this bill would widen the net for catching child pornographers.
Victims of child pornography face many challenges as they battle the effects of their victimization. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal regarding whether child pornographers can be forced to pay their victims restitution. The current law known as Section 2259 orders those convicted to pay restitution in the “full amount of the victims losses.”
Courts have handed down conflicting verdicts, even saying that the victim must prove injury as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. Courts have also ruled pornographers do not have to surrender their passwords to an encrypted hard drive due to the Fifth Amendment. The law has been at odds with victims of child pornography on several fronts. Rulings against child pornography laws that are seen as being too expansive in their scope have left the door open for more victims from this despicable crime.
What are we risking by not forcing the eradication of Child Pornography? The question is often raised whether there is a link between Child Pornography and Pedophilia. According to Ryan C. W. Hall, MD, and Richard C. W. Hall, MD in their 2007 article “A Profile of Pedophilia:”
“Studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child.”
A 2008 study conducted at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C. asked 155 male inmates in a treatment program convicted of Child Pornography if they had ever molested a child.
At the start of the program twenty-six percent of the men admitted molesting a child, but as the program ended that number changed to eighty-five percent.
Child pornography appears to be merely an appetizer for the pedophile, and putting methods in place to train every responsible adult to recognize and act appropriately to the signs of child abuse and pornography is critical for the future of our children. The objectification of a child is complete in the pedophiles mind, and although violent behavior may occur in cases of child abuse, most victims are typically coerced into becoming victims.
The most vulnerable are those children starved for affection in households where parents are not engaged in raising their children or are an overwhelmed single parent. That leaves society with the obligation to protect these children in light of the inept nature of their parents. It is the only way to eradicate the predators by eliminating their “hunting grounds.”
In my own experience, the link between child pornography and child sexual abuse is clear because I am also a victim of both crimes. I was abandoned by irresponsible and abusive parents, left to fend for myself, stripped of the tools that every child needs to function in the world, and saved from a darker ending only by the unconditional love of one family member.
I have struggled my entire life with the effects of the innocence that was stripped away from me as a child through child pornography. Overcoming its effects has been my greatest triumph and only became possible through the love and caring of those who held compassion in the highest regard, and dedicated themselves to the rescue of those standing at the edge of the abyss.
My sincerest hope is that I can save one child from suffering from the hell I endured and I will leave this life with a sense of accomplishment. I hope you will all join me in the fight for an end to child pornography before the next child is stripped of their innocence.