Abe Lincoln said it best, “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” Yet the exponential pornification of our culture is contributing both directly and indirectly to the epidemic of child sexual abuse, and unfortunately, certain segments of our government are turning a blind eye.
The U.S. spends trillions in military engagements overseas to prevent, protect and defend, and yet, research indicates that in our own country, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood (the majority are victimized by family members or someone whom they know and trust). Illegal adult pornography (i.e. obscenity) remains unprosecuted, and every child with unrestricted Internet access is just one click away from viewing this material. In a recent study, 53% of boys and 28% of girls, ages 12-15, reported using hard-core, adult illegal pornography. Additionally, law enforcement is grossly underfunded to prosecute predators, and the $3 billion child pornography industry remains one of the fastest growing businesses online. Over 200,000 rape kits remain unprocessed, and over 100,000 registered sex offenders are “lost in the system”, allowing rapists and child molesters to repeatedly abuse and expand their wake of exploitation.
A new movie called “Trust”, Directed by David Schwimmer, should serve as a wakeup call to our nation to open its eyes to the very real problem of child sexual abuse in this country. “Trust” documents the raw physical, social and emotional toll on 14-year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) as she is groomed online and later victimized during an offline meeting with “Charlie”, whom she initially believes to be a 16-year-old boy.
Although the majority of child sexual abuse does not occur online, through the Internet, sexual predators have easy and anonymous access to our children and free and easy access to a la carte child pornography, depicting the sexual abuse of kids of all shape, size, ethnicity and age, even toddlers and infants, which only fuels the sexual appetite of pedophiles and predators to exploit kids in the virtual and physical world.
Additionally, kids themselves are engaging in risky behaviors and perpetuating the cycle of child sexual abuse. Last year the CDC found that youth who looked at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexually online or in-person. And in a hyper-sexualized world, it should be no surprise that kids are feeling pressured to post and send provocative pictures and videos (“sext” messages), and to engage in sexual acts that they are often not emotionally, physically or psychologically ready to handle.
Like so many of the parents we work with at Enough Is Enough, in “Trust”, Annie’s caring parents (played by Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) are unaware of the dangers of those who exploit the Internet to harm children. Their strong parenting skills in the physical world have not translated to the online world. With their alarm system on, and the doors locked, they believe their children are safe at home and are therefore devastated when they find out that the “Charlie” their daughter has been communicating with for months via the Internet and her mobile device is actually a 30-something sexual predator. Annie’s parents are even more distressed when Annie defends “Charlie” and blames her parents for chasing him away. This is a story we know all too well, as research shows that in the predominant Internet-initiated child sexual abuse case, the victims meet their perpetrator willingly and often multiple times for sexual encounters.
Protecting our children online and offline should be at the top of our list of national priorities. Implementing preventative education programs and safety measures should be as automatic to every parent, guardian and educator as using a car safety seat. Unfortunately, since parents are often overwhelmed, ill-informed or ill-equipped about the nature of online dangers and the safety resources available, it often takes a tragedy to wake up a family or a community. What will it take to wake up a nation?
When foreign terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, our nation sprang to action. We declared a war on terrorism. In the face of economic and environmental devastation in the Gulf, our nation engaged financially, and through creative entrepreneurialism and with volunteers from across the country. In the face of the immoral and unjust tyranny in Libya, we joined with an International Coalition to try to prevent additional devastation.
Just as threatening to our homeland security is the victimization our children face everyday when unscrupulous pornographers and predators prey on their innocence. Aren’t our children our most precious and valuable national resource and the future of our nation? Aren’t our own children worth fighting for? Isn’t protecting their innocence as important as engaging in freedom efforts abroad? The US Supreme Court has said that Congress has a compelling interest to protect our children, so why aren’t we fighting to preserve our children’s innocence with the vigor and dollars we use to fight oppression, environmental havoc and terrorist threats?
It’s morally wrong not to do so. It’s time for our nation to wake up and say No more! Enough Is Enough!
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About Donna Rice Hughes
Donna Rice Hughes is President of Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national pioneer on the front lines of efforts to make the Internet safer for children and families. She is the Executive Producer and lead instructor of the Internet Safety 101SMDVD teaching series, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults to keep kids safe online. You can find our more about this program at www.internetsafety101.org or order the program for yourself here.