Updated: Nov 10
Adult interest in children as sexual objects is as old as recorded history. It has been present, more or less, in every culture and society, and looked upon quite differently from one era to another.
The production and use of child pornography as an adjunct to this interest, however, has
mushroomed in recent years, due to advances in photography, printing, electronic recording and transmission devices, including the Internet. The technical ease in the preparation and
distribution of all kinds of pornography, including child pornography, has furnished the users of such materials an endless abundance of it. Furthermore, the public attitude toward censorship has undergone great change from the restrictive era of Queen Victoria.
“Out of sight is out of mind.” This adage is readily applicable to today’s viewpoint regarding
child pornography. With the exception of an occasional “scandal” or news story, the occurrence of child pornography does not loom large in public awareness or concern.
For one thing, the production and use of child pornography is a highly personal, secretive act.
Perpetrators generally do their best to avoid discovery and are skillful at avoidance. Victims
more often than not maintain secrecy – out of fear, feelings of guilt or because they simply do
not know how to report what has happened to them.
For another thing, the public is strongly inclined to deny or disbelieve that the use of children for the sexual gratification of adults can happen – it is a frightful, “dirty” topic best left alone.
Nevertheless, child pornography is a thriving – and growing – activity engaged in by a
significant number of consumers for the satisfaction of their particular sexual desires, and by
producers for the financial rewards realized from the production and sale of pornographic
Although the open production and distribution of adult pornography is alive and well,
safeguarded by the “freedom of speech” Amendment to the Constitution, the official attitude
toward child pornography has grown increasingly restrictive. Child advocates agree that the
production and use of such materials puts children at risk. In spite of serious restrictive efforts,
however, the production and use of child pornography springs from at least two of humankind’s strongest urges – desire for sex and wealth – and is unlikely to wither away.
Pedophilia is defined as “sexual desire in an adult for a child.” The causes and extent of this
condition remain somewhat a mystery, and it is probably more prevalent than we know. No two pedophiles are exactly alike, but some characteristics of pedophiles include the following:
Pedophiles are generally between 25 and 35 years old, but some are younger or older.
Pedophiles receive sexual gratification by contact with children.
Pedophiles often find sexual gratification in fantasies engendered by the use of child pornography.
Pedophiles are usually not violent or sadistic.
Pedophiles may be heterosexual or homosexual.
Pedophiles are sometimes married and have children.
Pedophiles use sexually explicit materials of all kinds to stimulate and enhance their own fantasies.
Pedophiles use sexually explicit materials to lower the inhibitions of children and to instruct them in acts they wish them to perform.
Pedophiles often develop contacts with other pedophiles, discussing their interests, sharing materials and even the names of children.
Pedophiles may have photographic equipment, including their own darkrooms.
Pedophiles often accumulate and maintain large libraries of pornographic materials.
Pedophiles often frequent places or attend activities where vulnerable children are apt to be.
Pedophiles tend not to think of themselves as victimizers.
Pedophiles are extremely secretive about their sexual interests.
Pedophiles may be very convincing in their denials of being sexually interested in children.
Pedophiles may blame or attempt to excuse their behavior on alcohol or drugs.
Characteristics of Child Pornography Victims
It is difficult to create an exact profile of child pornography victims, because so little information is available about them. Nonetheless, information gathered from therapists, law enforcement officials and child molesters provide the following characteristics of child pornography victims.
Victims include both boys and girls.
Victims are generally between 10 and 16 years of age, but can be much younger.
Victims are generally Caucasians but include all ethnic groups.
Victims come from all social and economic levels.
Victims may be loners or have no close friends.
Victims tend to come from dysfunctional families.
Victims usually have low self-esteem.
Victims may be runaway or “throw away” children who have left home on their own or been thrown out by their parents.
Victims may be of average of above intelligence, but are likely doing poorly in school and have few, if any, constructive activities.
Victims tend to have much unsupervised leisure time and the freedom to hang around public places such as malls.
Victims may attempt to dress and appear older than they are.
Victims have had little or no religious or moral training.
Victims tend to be hungry for attention, approval and support.
Victims tend to have a fresh, innocent look.
Victims often lack direction and goals for their lives.
Victims tend to have no positive relationships with teachers or rewarding school experiences.
Victims are unlikely to be close with either parent.
Sources of Help & Information About Child Pornography
The following is a list of sources to contact about child pornography. Check the telephone book for local numbers.
National Child Abuse Hotline – This is a 24-hour, confidential services manned by volunteers
trained to respond to requests for information, make referrals to other agencies or dispatch help in the event of a crisis.
Telephone # (800) 4A-CHILD
Child Protective Services – The main concern of this public agency is the prevention and
detection of all form of child abuse. Their trained investigators can be a source of general
information or they can investigate instances of known or suspected abuse – with careful regard for confidentiality.
Police or Sheriff’s Department – Law enforcement agencies usually have at least one officer
trained to deal with child abuse, including sexual victimization. Should you suspect or have
evidence of a child’s involvement in pornography, contact a law enforcement official. Dial 911
in case of serious, immediate emergency.*
*Adapted from our book, The Child Pornography Prevention Handbook: Saving Children From