Monday, December 05, 2005

Sex cases involving children growing

The Internet has made exploitation of children for pornography easier, authorities say.

*LISA SCHUETZ* 608-252-6143
December 4, 2005

After FBI agents arrested pedophile, rapist and child pornographer James Perry at his Stoughton home in early 2004, it took two long hours to persuade a scared 8-year-old victim that she could reveal the secret she had kept for more than three years.

Later, the little girl's mother cuddled her daughter to sleep whispering, "I'm so sorry," through the night.

Perry befriended and then sexually abused the girl and her friends, at least twice inviting another man to join him.

Perry, now 35, is in a West Virginia federal prison. He was sentenced to 375 years. The girl, now 10, and Perry's other victims, continue to be grist for the Internet pedophilia mill.

He took photos and videos of the assaults and posted them online, so they probably continue to be traded or downloaded - and may be forever.

Reports of adults collecting and trading sexual images of children is increasing exponentially, federal statistics indicate.

So far in 2005, new FBI cases of child sexual exploitation on the Internet have increased by more than 2,026 percent since 1996, according to the bureau's Innocent Images National Initiative.

Pornography is the most prevalent form of reported exploitation.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that child pornography tips make up more than 90 percent of reports filed with its CyperTipline, a Web site it runs in cooperation with the FBI.

Just during the week of Nov. 14, tipsters filed 2,923 reports of child pornography out of 3,102 total exploitation reports.

Internet a problem

Eric Szatkowski, a Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation agent, said he sees the same images over and over in collections of perpetrators, known as "traders."

The department expects to arrest more than 100 child porn users statewide in 2005.

"It's an epidemic," he said. "The Internet has opened Pandora's box to some of the most evil images people could ever imagine seeing."

The Internet is a cheap, quick and relatively safe way for pedophiles to satisfy their desire, said Tom Trier, head of Madison's FBI office. They retrieve images from Web sites, bulletin boards, newsgroups, chat rooms, messaging programs, e-mail and peer-to-peer file sharing programs.

Madison police Detective Maureen Wall said some perpetrators use cell phones to capture images of children at places such as malls or fundraising car washes, then upload them to the Internet for other pedophiles, even though they don't involve nudity.

"They are always sharing and swapping images," she said.

Investigators say they don't have near enough people doing the time-consuming computer forensics - recovering deleted images or viewing stored files of child pornography.

Without a way to remove the images from the Internet, the problem will never go away.

"Before the Internet, these child pornographers were working alone, going to seedy bookstores, maybe getting mail orders of different illegal magazines," Szatkowski said. "But now it's just exploded. . . . I don't know if law enforcement will ever get a handle on this problem."

No closure

Perry pleaded guilty to federal and state charges related to assaults on children and a slew of attacks on women in the Madison area that led to him being dubbed the "Mall Rapist."

The mother of the 8-year-old victim said her family has moved to another state because facing other children Perry abused was too difficult for the little girl.

She knows their secret, and they know hers.

The mother, whom the Wisconsin State Journal is not naming to protect her and her daughter's identities, said she can't face the Internet images yet.

She doesn't know if she'll ever be able to face them. Right now, there's no computer in the house, and she said she'll try to keep one from her child as long as possible.

The girl knew she was being recorded, but she doesn't fully understand why, said her mother. She wishes her daughter would never have to know.

Dr. Richard Loewenstein, a national expert on childhood trauma, said victims of childhood rape never get closure when that abuse is photographed or videotaped.

"You don't have any control over what's happened," he said. "I have cases where the perpetrator told the victim, 'We have your pictures and if you tell anyone, those pictures are going to turn up on your father's door.'"

Loewenstein, trauma disorders program director at Sheppard Pratt Health Systems in Baltimore, said victims of childhood rape feel intense fear, loss of control, shame and a profound sense of loss.

Victims experience guilt when they are friends of other children with whom they were forced to have sex.

"Then, on top of all that, if your images are potentially out there, you have the perpetual sense that you are being hurt again," he said. "With a click of a mouse people could have these images of you. That's overwhelming."

The perpetrators

Those who collect child pornography rationalize their behavior, experts say.

Donald J. Rickard, 43, of Stoughton was charged in October with possessing more than 69 images of sexually explicit photos of 2- to 15-year-old children. The complaint states that the explicit images include prepubescent girls, some as young as 4, touching and being sexually penetrated by men.

According to the complaint, Rickard told state agents that he knew possessing child pornography was illegal, but he excused his behavior, saying, 'He never enticed a child.' He "only" viewed images.

Kelly Anderson of the Rape Crisis Center in Madison said some people draw a line between those who prey on children and those who have pictures of such acts.

"But think about it," she said. "In order for you to have and possess (these images) means someone had to take them and abuse a child. If people wouldn't own it, then people wouldn't be taking kids and raping them to make a buck."

From many walks of life

A rural Mazomanie church pastor was charged last month with possessing child pornography after a computer technician found sexually explicit images of children on the preacher's computer. Pending court proceedings, authorities ordered the Rev. Jerald W. Schara, 64, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church near Marxville, not to have unsupervised contact with girls and not to use a computer.

According to FBI profiles, most child porn consumers are white men 25 to 45 years old living a middle-class or upper-class life. They're often professionals who may have jobs or outside activities involving children.

Many are part of international societies that trade child pornography. And several organizations, such as the North American Man/Boy Love Association, advocate "consensual" sex between children and adults as healthy.

Several studies or books by therapists who work with sexual predators indicate that most molesters start out as collectors of child pornography.

"Viewing child pornography reinforces fantasies and drives the predator toward acting out those sexual fantasies with actual children," says a newsletter by the National District Attorneys Association.

Unsolvable problem?

FBI, immigration, postal service and customs agents as well as state and local officers investigate sexual exploitation of children.

"All law enforcement in the United States works these cases," FBI agent Steve Paulson said. "Kids are a priority. And we work together . . . because they can be pretty big cases."

But it's time-consuming and expensive, said Madison Police Chief Noble Wray.

Officers are specially trained on computer forensics, he said. They must also be careful that images fit the definition of illegal child pornography - images of children, not adults posing as children.

Investigators remain passionate about arresting anyone viewing sexual images of children.

"Even though some of these (cases) are hard . . . any emotional stress is outweighed by the good of catching these guys." Trier said. "Some 6-year-old kid only has law enforcement to rely on to get them out of this life."

Trier said he wishes people viewing pornography would get help. He also wishes police had more resources to investigate, and that perpetrators would get maximum prison sentences.

But, while prison sentences for possessing child pornography is 3 years for state charges and 10 years for federal charges, Szatkowski said many caught with child pornography get probation or jail time.

"I don't think there's any way we are going to start addressing this problem until people are sent to prison for this," Szatkowski said. "We're never going to win this unless we all join the fight together."


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