We have to focus on the worst of the worst: people who sexually abuse children, the criminals who profit from it, and the sick people who view and buy these images, which fuels this repetitive cycle. Viewing images of babies being penetrated and physically abused is very difficult.
Thankfully most people won’t ever have to do this or even imagine it. It is more than disturbing than most realize especially when according to the recent data from the ASACP CP reporting hotline 59 percent of images are children 11 and under. As Tim Henning (VP Technology and Forensic Research and who has been performing this task since 1996) told me when I started with ASACP eight years ago: “YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.” I didn’t understand the depth of his warning.
I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about the world of child pornography. The criminals who abuse children do not stop at taking images. They keep abusing these children, be it selling them, forcing them into prostitution and then when these children are ‘not good’ for anything else, they sell their body for parts. Yes, this is the reality we deal with everyday.
The ‘lucky’ children are those who are only abused by their relatives, family friends, teachers, and clergy and have to live the rest of their lives with these horrific memories. However those memories negatively affect their lives forever.
Now I look at children and the adults around them in a different way. Are these adults abusing these children? When I see children in a crowd I look for their caretakers to be certain they are being watched. Hyper-vigilance is one of the side effects of this job.
ASACP and I are attacked by people in the industry who have never financially supported us. They complain that we are doing too much, not doing enough, that we are getting paid to work, etc. But these same people are doing nothing to help protect children.
I need to constantly prove to the government and other mainstream child protection associations that ASACP is serious about its child protection efforts and not just a ‘front’ for the pornography industry. I joke about it, but it’s true that whenever I go to mainstream conferences or meetings, I feel like I have a big red “A” on my chest.
I am always shocked by the number of people in the industry who give ‘lip-service’ but won’t financially support ASACP’s effort. They can spend thousands of dollars on a dinner or bar bill at tradeshows, but can’t ‘afford’ $300 for an ASACP membership or even a donation to the ASACP Foundation. Yet, they are very happy to use the FREE Restricted to Adult label and benefit from ASACP’s work when they are accused of having questionable business practices.
Not surprisingly, at times I feel frustrated, disillusioned and attacked on all sides for simply doing the best job within the ASACP mission and budget to protect children and the industry.
But then I have an experience that renews my purpose and remind me of why it is I continue to do what I do.
Recently, when meeting with ASACP’s sponsors in North Carolina, I went to see Johnny V and had an opportunity to meet his family. Johnny V has volunteered his time for years and truly believes in the ASACP mission and now I know why. Johnny has a beautiful wife and two children ages four and seven. When I arrived at their home in the middle of the woods, his children ran to greet me with welcoming hugs for “Miss Joanie.” They were just great kids and you could see how loved and protected they are by Johnny and his wife.
His son sang karaoke-style for me. His daughter performed her small part from a play she was recently in at camp. They showed me their rooms, their pictures, and their prized possessions. They had small decorated ‘club houses” in storage areas in their rooms which reminded me of my childhood.
As I was leaving his son handed me his most prized possession: a book that he had read and his Dad had read as a child, too: “Where The Red Fern Grows.” He warned me that it had a sad ending because the dogs die at the end, but it was a good book about a boy and his dogs. I felt so honored. Tears came to my eyes because of this very sweet and honest gesture of friendship from a seven year old. As I looked over, Johnny had tears in his eyes too. This was a big deal!
Being at Johnny V’s house and meeting his family reminded me that some children have happy, normal lives with parents who love them.
So if you have children or are around children, the next time you look at them with love remind yourself to do everything you can to protect them, teach them, and help them grow. Then remember that this is why I am doing my job and that ASACP works to protect children who will never experience this kind of love and protection.