Our Opinion: Call it what is is

Saturday August 17, 2013

If you are one of those people who believes you can get away with downloading child pornography from the Internet, think again.

As evidenced by events in and around Brattleboro in the past couple of years, you will eventually be caught. It's not a question of if; it's a question of when. The only thing standing between you and immediate arrest is the justifiable complexities of our legal system and the unjustifiable lack of enough investigators to go after each and every one of you in a timely manner.

The technology to identify and track down users of child porn is available and getting more efficient every day. But while we fritter away millions of dollars each day on a useless "war on drugs," those who cause real harm to our communities, such as the purveyors and patrons of child porn, are allowed to continue their abhorrent behaviors because we don't have the funds necessary to adequately fund a war on those who sexually abuse children for profit and perversion.

Nonetheless, investigators are hard at work in law enforcement agencies around the world doing the unenviable job of monitoring peer-to-peer file sharing networks and viewing videos and pictures that take a horrible toll on their mental well-being. The only reason they continue to do what they do is to protect the children from the evil and twisted among us.

Apologists argue that people who view child pornography shouldn't be placed in the same category as actual child molesters because they are not directly inflicting misery on those who are too young to make their own choices. But those people, by being customers of those who abuse children, are directly responsible for their misery. And unless you are the victim of such abuse, you can't really understand what it's like to know that an image of you being abused is circulating around the world, for what might be years after the abuse happened.

Every time that image or video is viewed, the victim is violated again. Can you imagine what that feels like?

And then there are those apologists who say those who view child pornography are sick and need help. They attempt to excuse the behavior as a mental illness that requires treatment. But let's be clear here -- if you know what you are doing is wrong and you go ahead and do it, it's not an illness; it's evil.

"If a person has desires or fantasies about sexually exploiting children, that individual may be sick," noted Andrew Vacchs, a former federal investigator and New York City social-services caseworker who now represents children and adolescents as a law guardian in New York state. He is a founder and national advisory board member of Protect: The National Association to Protect Children. "But if the individual chooses to act upon those feelings, that conduct is evil. People are not what they think; they are what they do."

Vacchs says our society is reluctant to use the term "evil" and prefers to use the term sociopathy.

"No reputable psychiatrist claims to be able to cure a sociopath -- or, for that matter, a predatory pedophile. What they hope is that the predator can learn self-control, leading to a change in behavior."

But, says Vacchs, that presupposes such a person wants to change.

"Such hopes ignore the inescapable fact that the overwhelming majority of those who prey upon children don't want to change their behavior -- they want only to minimize the consequences of being caught at it."

Only when pedophiles and consumers of child porn are caught do they claim to be sick, says Vacchs.

We want to believe these people are sick and not evil because sickness can be cured; confronting the reality of evil in our society is distressing and frightening.

The idea that these people can be cured is a myth, says Vacchs, and if we truly want to protect our children, we must remove the pedophiles (and, yes, viewers of child porn are pedophiles) from a society that includes their victims.

That could mean placing them behind bars or on an island somewhere or via conditions of release restricting their movement, but if we are truly serious about the health and welfare of the youngest among us, we will do whatever it takes to keep these people away from our children.


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