“I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray.” – 1 John 2:26 NLT
“Mr. Kremlin himself was distinguished for ignorance, for he had only one idea – and that was wrong.” – Benjamin Disraeli
On June 29, 2012, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 6063, a bill which, on its surface, is as noble and well-intentioned as a piece of legislation can possibly be. Titled “The Child Protection Act of 2012,” it would be difficult for anyone to find fault with its lofty purported goal – to protect children.
While I cannot find fault with the goal, the bill itself is a misguided, misinformed, and useless piece of pompous political puffery and does little if anything at all to protect any child from anything. In fact, it diverts still more funds and attention away from any sincere effort to provide protection for those identified in its inappropriately named title. H.R. 6063 is shameless political grandstanding at its lowest which actually exploits the very children it claims to protect for purely political gain.
Too harsh? Probably not harsh enough since Mr. Smith and his staff demonstrate surprising insensitivity and a true lack of understanding of the very problem for which H.R. 6063 claims to offer a solution – how to protect the children of America. This lack of understanding borders on incompetence at its best and blatant exploitation at its worst. In either scenario, a case could be made against Mr. Smith’s fitness to serve the public.
Let’s review some of the statements he made while introducing this bill. First, he states that the bill “increases penalties for the possession of child pornography.” According to nationally published data, 76% of the nation’s federal judges feel the guidelines and enhancements for possession of child pornography are too high already, resulting in many thousands of individuals spending much more time in federal prison for looking at pictures than many of the individuals who perform the acts depicted in the pictures themselves.
Second, Rep. Smith claims that H.R. 6063 “helps prevent more victims by raising the penalties for those who hurt our children.” Again, he is attacking the problem on the back end, after the damage has been done. The root cause of harm to children in this country is never addressed.
Third, he further states, “Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing on average of 150% each year.” The reality is, if the personnel and prison space were available, prosecutions could increase by ten times 150% per year because the number of computers that contain some form or d fragment of child pornography on them is estimated at 75% or higher by some sources. The answer to the child pornography issue lies in preventing it from being produced.
Fourth, Mr. Smith states, “Every day these online criminals prey on our children with virtual anonymity.” Our movements, actions and interests are all known by our Internet Service Providers (ISPs). There is no real anonymity. If there is an increase in the availability of child pornography online, then the ISPs as well as the Justice Department should be held liable for civil and criminal damages since it is within their ability to detect, filter and eliminate it at the source or, at the very least, severely limit its dissemination.
The bald truth is that H.R. 6063 offers little more than an attention-getting banner to be waved by Mr. Smith as he campaigns for reelection. It offers precious little in the way of honest attempts to address the very real horrors of sexual abuse that hundreds of thousands of American children face every day. For Mr. Smith to attempt to capitalize on their pain and loss of innocence for political gain is shameful in the extreme.
For the most part, all Mr. Smith does address is child pornography and this he discusses with a statement that demonstrates how off-target he and his staff (like so many lawmakers) are. It is difficult to get the real problem addressed because they are too fixed on riding the vote-garnering wave of the easy problem. The real problem, the root of this evil mess, is the child sexual abuse that enables child pornography to exist in the first place.
Mr. Smith flaunted his ignorance regarding the root cause of the problem when he said, “Trafficking of child pornography images was almost completely eradicated in America by the mid-1980s. Purchasing or trading these images was risky and almost impossible to do anonymously. But the advent of the Internet reversed this accomplishment”. Mr. Smith spoke as though child pornography was the problem. Child pornography was a separate problem created as a result of the root problem of the sexual abuse of children. At no time does Mr.-Smith give any indication that he understands this.
The approach of Mr. Smith and many other legislators is tantamount to implying that the drug addict is the problem rather than the result of the real problem – the production and distribution of drugs. The more accurate statement is, if there wel:e no drugs, we would have no drug addicts. Similarly, if child sexual abuse did not exist~, there would be no child pornography, since every single instance of child pornography is a visual record of child sexual abuse.
This nation’s lawmakers have proven to be woefully inadequate and ineffective in the war on drugs. Do we really want to repeat the litany of mistakes made in that ill-conceived effort? Why not focus on the real problem and work toward a meaningful solution rather than being subjected to a tiresome parade of cheap political smokescreens such as that advanced by Rep. Smith. As for his specious claim that the goal of protecting our children was almost attained in the 1980s, nothing could be further from the truth.
Just ask anyone of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who were sexually abused as children during that time. Just because there may not have been an availability of the images recording these children’s pain does not mean there was no pain to record. Because there was a scarcity of video does not mean there was a lack of inexcusable, horrific acts to film.
A tree falling in the forest when there is no one around to hear it fall still makes a sound and children still cried out as a result of the violation of their innocence and dignity, even if people like Mr. Smith truly believe that the problem was almost solved simply because there appeared to be an absence of photographic evidence.
The sad and. simple truth is that children have always been at risk. But they have never been at greater risk than they are when in the “safety” of their own homes. It is a very well documented and unfortunate fact of life that fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles and family friends – even mothers – account for the overwhelming majority of all sexual abuse of children and some professionals estimate that as many as one in three females has suffered sexual abuse as a child.
Consider the following information from the book “Perverted Justice” by Charles Patrick Ewing (Oxford University Press, 2011):
According to a report written in 2000 by Howard N. Snyder from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics entitled “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics,” “Children were very unlikely to be sexually victimized by people they did not know.” In fact, the report gave the following statistics for different age groups of girls who were sexually abused:
– Girls ages 0-5; 51.1% family; 45.9% acquaintances; 3% strangers
– Ages 6-11; 43.8% family; 51.4% acquaintances; 4.8% strangers
– Ages 12-17; 24.3% family; 65.7% acquaintances; 10% strangers
Since the primary objective is to effectively protect the children, we must first define the things we must endeavor to protect them from:
1) Children have a right to be protected from child sexual abuse and the furt erance of that abuse through the production of photographic images which record it.
2) Children have a right to be protected from the intentional and unintentional viewing of that recorded abuse by individuals unknown to the victims. These individuals help to perpetuate the emotional victimization of the children when they are aware that their abuse is being viewed by strangers.
So I ask you, Mr. Smith: How does “The Child Protection Act of 2012” protect the children of this country from sexual abuse? The clear answer is that it does not.
There are far too many empty promises on the law books already, Mr. Smith. Another one, regardless of how nobly it is titled, is not needed. There is no room, nor is there any time to waste, on any more “professional poisoning of the public mind,” to borrow a phrase from Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
In a previous article, I said we must “lock the door on child pornography,” and this we must do, but we must also throw open the door of truth and examine the ugliness that lies beyond 1t and has created millions of broken-hearted and broken-spirited people in this country. It is time to do something that will create positive change in fragile lives and not just enhance political careers.
I tear nothing down without offering a possible solution or, at least, constructive positive suggestions with which to replace that which I criticize. With that said, I now submit the following steps for addressing the aforementioned concerns and ensuring the rights of America’s children to grow up as safely as possible:
The language of any constructive bill should clearly and emphatically require all Internet Service Providers to utilize all available technology to stem the flow of child pornography and prevent the images of horror that their filters have captured from further damaging the lives of those victimized in them. A more detailed essay on this point is contained in “A Necessary Intrusion: Perhaps the Wrong People Are Behind Bars,” an earlier posting on this blog.
To address the root problem, that of the sexual abuse itself, I will first point out that every state has a child protective services agency that is underutilized, understaffed, underfunded and overworked. To combat child sexual abuse in America, I propose the following five items:
1) Priority funding for child protective services should be provided to allow reorganization, rededication of purpose, staff increases and restructuring to include higher standards of performance and increased levels of training specifically to recognize and deal with sexual abuse. Increased staffing levels, lower caseloads and greater accountability will prove invaluable in any sincere effort to protect children and enhance their safety. These agencies should be a priority in every state and federal guidelines for performance goals and funding to help meet those goals should be provided.
2) Priority funding for top-level psychological assistance for discovered victims, including faith-based counseling if it is desired.
3) Make educational awareness a priority at all levels up to and including high school. Make trained counselors available and set up local and national hotlines for those too timid to come forward, ensuring that they are manned with trained, compassionate and sincere personnel – perhaps even survivors of sexual abuse. Make certain all available education and information reaches low income, ethnic and foreign language areas in the community.
4) Interact with national child sexual abuse organizations such as “Stop the Silence” to help devise ways to reach out to victims of all ages using rallies in auditoriums and gymnasiums featuring survivors of sexual abuse as speakers to encourage victims to come forward and get help to stop the abuse.
5) Priority funding for a national ad campaign in multiple languages with radio, television, print and billboard coverage to eliminate the silence on this subject and get victims to seek counseling assistance. These efforts should include print ads and television public service announcements detailing the existing penalties concerning illegal images; the very sentences Rep. Smith proposes to increase. A broad spectrum of the public should be made aware that the viewing, downloading, possession and trading of child pornography will result in a sentence of from five to twenty years in a federal prison and the creation and production of those images will net the offender a sentence ranging from twenty years to life.
This list, Mr. Smith, is in no way as complete as it can be but it should serve as a solid base from which to put together a plan that will begin to affect change.
I challenge you, and your fellow lawmakers, to get to work doing the right thing for America’s children. You just might get reelected in the process for doing something worthwhile.
At the very least, you will be able to say you really did act to protect the children of America.