Computer Crime Research Center


How dangerous are those who find pleasure in child porn?

Date: March 23, 2005
Source: Democrat & Chronicle
By: Gary Craig

Experts say most consumers escape law enforcement’s radar

The photos found on Henry James Ludington’s computer at his workplace — a Wayne County BOCES school building — were disturbing and graphic.

They showed children, some apparently as young as 6, being used as sexual playthings by adult men.

The videos were equally lurid, including a minutelong clip depicting a boy and girl, both around 10 years old, engaging in a sexual act.

Yet when Ludington appeared in court for sentencing this month, his family, friends and fellow church-goers packed the courtroom in a show of support. In letters to U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa, they spoke of Ludington’s sterling character, trying to assure the judge that Ludington was not a man who would abuse a child.

Protect your children online now!

In a statement, Ludington, a former regional math coordinator at the Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services, who was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, acknowledged his taste for child pornography, but stressed that he would never hurt a kid.

Would he?

That’s the question that for now is unanswered — but it’s also a question confronting therapists, authorities and even parents who want to know how to protect their children. Earlier this month a local priest, the Rev. Michael Volino, was accused of possessing child pornography. His lawyer, echoing the claims of Ludington, says Volino has never abused a child, nor would he ever do so.

But retired FBI crime profiler Gregg McCrary is skeptical of such claims: “A lot of times they may be truthful when they say they’ve looked at it, they like the pictures, they find it erotic and they wouldn’t act on it.

“But these guys lie.”

Common on Web

The Internet has caused the availability of child pornography to explode. Conversely, the technology has given law enforcementpolice another tool to track child porn purveyors as well as those who purchase the illicit content.

Locally, there has been a spate of child pornography-related arrests in the past two years. In the past two weeks alone, Volino was arrested; Ludington was sentenced; a former Monroe County sheriff’s sergeant admitted to possession of child pornography; and a former Strong Memorial Hospital pediatric emergency room chief was in court for a probation hearing for his child pornography conviction.

All of them accessed the pornography through the Internet. “It certainly has opened a brand-new way for these guys to communicate with each other and find each other,” said McCrary, who lives in Virginia. “Before, it was much more difficult. It was almost word-of-mouth.”

No longer does the person in search of child pornography have to purchase it illegally from bookstores or order it from ads in catalogs as he did in the past.

The exponential growth in the availability of child pornography raises its own questions.

For one, just how many people are sampling child pornography — or purchasing large quantities of it — if there seems to be such a demand for the content over the Internet?

For another, how dangerous are the men — and the vast majority of those arrested are men — who find pleasure in child pornography?
“If we’ve got a population of males between the ages of 10 and 75 and you want to say how many of them look at child pornography, the answer is ‘nobody knows,’ ” said Michael McGrath, a forensic psychiatrist with Unity Health System in Rochester.

Many law enforcement authorities say there’s a clear link between a pedophilic fondness of child pornography and the likelihood of abuse against a child.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says that about 34 percent of the more than 1,800 people arrested for child pornography have molested children. And research at a North Carolina federal prison, which treats sex offenders, concluded there is a significant likelihood that a person who indulges in child pornography would molest a child.

The easy access to the pornography may convince some men that their sexual desires aren’t unusual, some authorities say.

“By looking at these pictures, it desensitizes these people to thinking this may be OK conduct,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Resnick, who has prosecuted many of the child pornography cases in federal court. “Twenty years ago or so, it was a lot harder to get pictures of this nature.”

Under the radar

Many therapists who treat sex offenders question the reliability of the research to date.

They say the vast majority of people who look at child porn are never arrested and fly under the radar of researchers.

“The authorities tend to exaggerate the link (between child pornography and abuse),” said Philip Jenkins, author of Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet.

“It’s a very open question, what the relationship is between using child pornography and committing abuse,” Jenkins said. “Some people do, no question about it. I would argue that a lot don’t.”
Instead, he said, many men realize the unseemly nature of their fetishes and use child pornography to curb their appetites.

“One argument might be that what the guy is doing is keeping his fantasies in the realm of fantasy,” Jenkins said.

Since the Internet has created a new realm of accessible child pornography, it could take years for reliable research, said Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis-based psychologist who has studied sex treatment programs across the country.

“The whole child pornography thing is changing so dramatically that the old research doesn’t count,” Schoener said.

Congress, however, clearly thinks that child pornography is a portal to abuse.

In recent years, federal lawmakers stiffened the sentences for child pornography, and it’s difficult for those charged with federal crimes — even first-time offenders — to avoid prison time. (State statutes often do not impose sentences so severe.)

Judge Siragusa, when sentencing a local man earlier this year for child pornography possession, noted that Congress clearly saw a connection between child pornography and abuse.

“To me, this message (from Congress) is clear: Without the demand there wouldn’t be the supply,” Siragusa said.

Even researchers who challenge whether a consumer of child pornography may become an abuser agree that the creation of the pornography itself entails a horrific crime against children.

“The reason to stop the pornography is not to prevent people from becoming abusers,” Schoener said. “To make the pornography, you’ve got to be abusing children.”

And that abuse can live on and on in cyberspace.

“Child pornography is not like drugs,” Jenkins said. “If you seize 10 pounds of cocaine, then you’ve removed that from the market.

“You can seize the same 1,000 child porn images 1,000 times and they’re still out there.”
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