CHILD PORNOGRAPHY: Is restitution enough?

By Tyler Mercer–

It is no secret that there are individuals in the world who, because of some twisted attraction or inappropriate fantasy, coerce or force children into situations they are not mature enough for. Child pornography is still around and unfortunately, that will probably never change. Children, both boys and girls, are victims of child pornography and for some it isn’t something they can ever overcome.

Since 1978 child pornography has been illegal in the U.S. That law, like many others, doesn’t keep people from obtaining and distributing those graphic images and videos. It makes people do it secretly and with great care. That makes it so much more difficult to actually find out who is doing it so that they can be prosecuted.

When the offenders are prosecuted and sent to prison, they are put in a sex offender registry that is accessible to the public. You’ve probably seen online where you can find out if a sex offender lives in your neighborhood through a quick search.

The Violence Against Women Act contains a provision that would allow victims of child pornography to be given monetary compensation for the crime against them. While the idea of giving the victim something in return for all the pain and heartache this kind of crime leaves behind seems not only right, but unquestionable, you can’t set a price on innocence. It can’t be done.

It is impossible to tell a victim that the destruction of their innocence and all the grief they have been forced to live with is worth a dollar amount. There isn’t a store where they can take that money and buy another bottle of innocence. It’s gone and it’s never coming back.

Recently, I read a New York Times Magazine article about the subject titled “The Price of a Stolen Childhood.” The article itself was very informative and gave me a new sense of respect and empathy for these victims. However, it was the comments on the article that really got me fired up and even a little bit sad about how ignorant some people can truly be about situations they don’t understand or sympathize with.

While I have not suffered through this experience, and am grateful for that, I feel very strongly about how inappropriate and wrong it is. Most of the comments are posted anonymously, so these people can say whatever they want without receiving any backlash from it. One individual under the alias “Other side,” posted a comment that ended with this sentence: “Five year minimum sentence (plus the lifetime stigma) for surfing the web is already too high a price to pay.”

When I finished reading his comment the first time, I had to go back and read it again. Surely he wasn’t trying to stand up for these people? Surely he wasn’t trying to say that surfing the internet with the intent on viewing child pornography was in any way, shape or form acceptable or ignorable!

It is truly baffling that any person could say that the lifetime stigma that comes with getting prosecuted for viewing, owning or distributing child pornography is “too high a price to pay.” That stigma should be increased tenfold. The victims of this crime have to live with a false sense of guilt and shame for the rest of their lives because of the actions of these people. They live knowing that pictures of them as a child are floating around the internet for anyone to see. Most adults wouldn’t even voluntarily let that happen.

The innocence the victims are born with and should be able to decide when they let it go, is ripped violently out of their hands and crushed. The effect this has on them mentally and emotionally is unimaginable and someone on the internet, who doesn’t even have the courage to use their own name, thinks that five years in prison and an appropriate stigma is too much to get in return. There are no words to use in response that could ever grasp this situation.

Joan, of California, posted a comment that made me really just want to shake her hand: “Ironic, isn’t it that people who have downloaded regular videos illegally or hacked into a commercial site have been threatened with massive fines and long sentences, but those who ruin a child’s life get relatively short sentences.”

How true, though, is what she’s saying? Five years in return for sometimes a lifetime of pain for victims? I think they deserve more. Personally, I don’t know how any amount of money as compensation could ever make a dent in the pain these victims have, but if it were to help someone, then by all means, make it happen. One of the girls in the New York Times Magazine articles uses the money she received to help out the people who helped her all along the way. Another victim uses the money to pay for her education in pursuit of a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

If the money they are receiving is going to go for causes like these, then I say yes. Give them money. The money can’t replace their childhood innocence, but the happiness and joy that they could get from using it like the previously mentioned victims might be able to fill part of the void left in their hearts.

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