While working at an expo on a cold and rainy spring day, I managed a tech-support booth, offering free computer assessments and clean-ups for visitors at the expo. Mid-morning, a gentleman arrived who was working in another booth and asked one of my colleagues to clean up his laptop. She worked on it for all of twenty minutes, uninstalling malware, removing adware—and then came to an abrupt halt, needing some advice. Since I was her supervisor, she immediately said, “Jason, you’d better look at this.”
I sat down at his laptop and saw what she was concerned about. There were thousands of photos of naked girls. I won’t get into specifics, but by law, as an IT professional, I am required to notify the authorities. This is something that I really didn’t want to deal with. In the end, I’m not sure what actually happened to the man as he was from out of state, and I heard nothing more about it. I gave my report to the police and left it at that. I wasn’t asked to collect anything off his computer as that would involve me as a third party in the case beyond simply discovering evidence.
A rare occurrence you might think? Sadly, these situations happen often.
Why Molest Children?
According to a May 2013 statistical analysis by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), there are 751,538 registered sex offenders. Granted, not all of those are going to be child sex offenders as these statistics also include rapes, lewdness, etc.
These statistics did make me wonder, however—why do so many engage in such sexually-deviant, damaging behavior? Are they miss-wired? Are they lonely and feel that it’s easier to overpower a child than to attain the natural affection of another adult? Or is it something deeper in the psychology that I just wasn’t seeing?
Ron Kokish, a therapist from California, published an article stating that basically most child predators and molesters do not molest children because they are “sick” but rather because they are “evil” and because they allow themselves to be given over completely to self-indulgence with no thought given to the child’s well-being, their parents, society—their own twisted needs and desires become paramount.
He further went on to explain that adult attraction to children is biological—that it is something we are programed with at the core of our genetic makeup—a need and a desire that cannot be denied. And so we as a society develop rigid moral codes and ethics to counteract these animalistic needs and desires.
Frankly, I disagree. I am a father, and not once in my life have I had a desire, animalistic or otherwise, to do anything sexual or harmful to a child. On the contrary, I have always had a strong drive to help children—to protect them so they can live a young life rich in happiness and freedom as all children should have. Sometimes it hurts that I can’t help every child I see who is struggling.
If what Kokish is saying is true, there are far too many adults in society concerned with their own base, selfish needs and desires. I realize that historically, people have always been more interested in their own lives and their own well-being. This is part of “survival of the fittest.” The reality is, however, that as a global society we are clearly moving away from survival-of-the-fittest mentality (something I happen to disagree with, by the way—but that’s a discussion for another time), and if we are to maintain this direction, then we also need to be selfless and be interested in the betterment of mankind, beginning with our children.
Internet: The Final Frontier for Anonymity (or so we think)
Let’s face it, there have always been people who prey on children, even as far back as the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations—but is there an increase in these acts of sexual depravity against minors or are we simply more aware of them now that we live in the “Information Age?”
I believe the answer is yes to the increase and yes to greater awareness.
NCMEC’s statistic for Sex Offenders in the United States for 2012 was 747,408 and in that same article it shows that it was up from 606,816 from 2006. Clearly there is an increase and statistics document that. But there is also an increase in our awareness of offenses. The very fact you’re reading this article proves that there is more information being showcased out there in the hands of the general public.
It is important to note, however, that this increase definitely has to do with more readily available resources for offenders. There are chat rooms, bulletin boards and communities that not only have the capability for anonymity, but flaunt it. Keep in mind, however, anonymity is only as good as the person hosting the community. Working in Information Technology I can tell you first hand, I could collect everything from the computer you’re using, to your IP address at your home, to your shopping habits simply by allowing you to browse a site I designed. However, not all online communities are as vigilant about the collection of their users’ data because they themselves wouldn’t want their own data collected.
It is important to note here that when using the internet, people are far more disinhibited than during face-to-face communication. Pair this disinhibiting nature with the anonymity offered in virtual communication and this provides a recipe for disaster. Left unchecked, people who might not otherwise seek out their most depraved or negative behaviors feel less stifled and are tempted to explore avenues of depravity to a greater extent than they might otherwise have been able to in real life. Add to this mix the places that children enjoy connecting (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and all of the right ingredients come together to pursue those base, animal desires.
Furthermore, most sex offenders are aware that, without a court order, websites such as Facebook and Twitter are prohibited from releasing information about their browsing habits or activities. In essence, this offers a shield of protection—protection to law-abiding citizens, for sure—but also to those who clearly intend to break the law and do harm innocent children.