Child victims biggest losers in trade viewed for some as 'cathartic' release
Few researchers dispute devastation wreaked on
society's most vulnerable
Tuesday, January 19, 1999
The Globe and Mail
Is there a silver lining in the collecting of child pornography, the often vicious exploitation of children for the sexual gratification of pedophiles?
The British Columbia Supreme Court judge who struck down the Criminal Code provision outlawing the possession of child pornography appears to think so, suggesting that pictures of naked children involved in sexual acts could serve a "cathartic" purpose for some pedophiles, allowing them to masturbate rather than inflict their sexual fantasies on innocent children.
While social scientists have little doubt that porn can relieve the impulses of some pedophiles, the research around the role pornography plays in either inciting or dampening the sexual abuse of children is scant and at times contradictory.
What few researchers dispute, though, is the devastation that child pornography wreaks on children cajoled and coerced to pose for the cameras of people trading in their sexual images.
"These are not just pictures of kids," said Detective-Inspector Bob Matthews who, as officer in charge of the Ontario Provincial Police's child-pornography unit, has confiscated pictures defiling children as young as infants.
"The images we seize often involve children with animals, children being urinated upon, children involved in almost every kind of sex act you can think of, children that are crying, children that are really in pain. So the material is not just benign as people would think. What we're talking about is living, breathing children, the most vulnerable people in our society, who are being severely violated in a way that affects their entire life.
"That is a tremendous loss in our society, when you have a very bright, very productive child all of a sudden going in the opposite direction."
He said being captured on film and knowing this permanent record is being distributed is often as disturbing for children as the incident of sexual abuse being filmed. The consequences for children are a sense of shame, guilt and loss of self-esteem, and often plunging grades, eventual drug abuse and sometimes problems with sexual deviancy in adulthood.
Studies show the link between possessing porn and violating children, but no research concludes that simply collecting pornography incites its owner to commit sex crimes against children.
Researchers say -- and the point was not disputed by the B.C. Court -- that pedophiles will rely on pornography as a tool for breaking down the inhibitions of children, showing the children the illicit material, misleading them into thinking that certain deviant styles of sex are not unusual for children.
Research has also found that child pornography builds on the "cognitive distortions" that convince most pedophiles that their aberrant inclinations are normal. Studies have shown many pedophiles genuinely do believe that sex between children and adults is natural and does no harm to children.
"...Child molesters report that they were more likely than rapists to employ pornography as a means of relieving an impulse to act out. This finding should not be construed to suggest that pornography functions to inhibit sexual acting out. The use of pornography to relieve an impulse does not preclude its role in intensifying an already active, and in many cases rich fantasy life." Use of Pornography in the Criminal and Developmental Histories of Sexual Offenders, Daniel Lee Carter et al. The Massachusetts Treatment Center, 1987
"As adults, the child molesters and rapists made more use of these materials than did either the non-offenders or the incest offenders. Similarly, the child molesters and rapists were more likely to entertain deviant fantasies during masturbatory activities, and during non-masturbatory daydreams, than were the incest offenders or the non-offenders." The Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters, and Non-offenders, by William Marshall, Queen's University, 1988
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