Investigators: Children pictured in pornographic images are continuously victimized
Once a sexually abusive picture of a child is taken and shared, the victimization of that child never stops and can haunt him or her for the rest of their lives, investigators say.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisory special agent John Deaton, who heads ICE’s cyber investigations, said children in child pornography will have that image of them making rounds of the Internet for years and years. The victims are forced to live with the trauma of being exploited for others’ pleasure for the rest of their lives, he said.
In the wake of the investigation into former University of Michigan resident physician Stephen Jenson, who is charged with four counts of possessing child pornography, and Howard Weinblatt’s plea of no contest to watching a young girl change through a window at his own home, it’s important to keep the victims in mind, Deaton said.
“The children are just continuously victimized every time the video or picture is transmitted,” he said. “They’re victimized again and again. It’s a never ending victimization.”
The Ann Arbor community has been shocked recently by the criminal investigations into Jenson, who is accused of viewing the materials on a computer at the University of Michigan Health System, and Weinblatt, a pediatrician with a long history in Ann Arbor.
Jenson faces a preliminary examination on Feb. 16. The university and the U.S. Department of Education are both investigating a six-month delay between the initial report of child pornography being found on a thumb drive in a laptop at the hospital and the beginning of a police investigation. He was fired from the hospital in December.
The effects on the victims of child pornography can be long lasting and extremely traumatic, according to one study.
According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing’s study on child pornography, children who had been pictured in sexual images reported feelings of deep despair, worthlessness, and hopelessness in the years following an incident.
The study also noted those children had “a distorted model of sexuality” and found difficulty in establishing and keeping healthy relationships.
Those effects are one of Deaton’s driving motivations in pursuing child pornography investigations.
ICE has been involved in a number of child pornography arrests in the Ann Arbor area.
Deaton said it’s not unheard of for pediatricians to be accused of possessing child pornography. He said child pornography investigations encompass people from all walks of life, including some who have parents’ trust when they’re with their children.
“If it happens once, it happens more than it ever needs to happen,” Deaton said. “There are certain people we take our children to that we feel we can trust — doctors, police, teachers. We don’t expect them to manipulate them, but yes it happens.”
Federal prosecutors have laid out how serious they believe child pornography offenses are, notably in one local case where the former owner of an Ann Arbor real estate company was sentenced to five years in prison.
Richard Fabian was convicted of having 1 million images of child pornography in his possession, along with a number of tapes and CDs. In a sentencing memorandum, Eaton Brown, an assistant United States attorney, wrote that possessing child pornography is not a victimless crime.
“While Fabian and others gratify themselves to these images of sexually abused children, the victims depicted in those pictures forever live with the knowledge that the crimes against them have been memorialized and passed on for others to use for pleasure,” Brown wrote.
And, as Deaton notes, those images are usually on the Internet to stay once they’re shared.
“It’s out there somewhere,” he said.
“They (people involved in child porn) don’t just take it for themselves, they transmit it to other individuals that have interest in the same behaviors.”