DOJ Video – Sexual Exploitation of Children
More PR than facts, this Department of Justice video discusses the Department’s national strategy to prevent and combat the sexual exploitation of children. (For some bizarre reason, the video’s imagery exclusively shows Black males as offenders. In reality, the vast majority of defendants who produce, distribute and collect child pornography are White males between the ages of 35 and 60. The video also mixes child prostitution, the online solicitation of children, and child pornography; they are all very separate problems with different perpetrators and victims.)
Francey Hakes, National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, talks a lot about prevention, hyping the oft-lauded “public-private” partnerships as a “solution” to these problems. I have yet to see any peer reviewed studies of programs or initiatives which can hinder or stop an adult pedophile child molester from raping and sexually abusing a child (often to produce child pornography).
In answering the question, “can we persuade them not to do this sort of stuff,” Dr. Michael Bourke, U.S. Marshals Service Chief Psychologist, provides the most honest assessment when he states “I think the answer is fairly multifaceted, but the short answer is that there is no cure for pedophilia, there is no cure for these fantasies and these drives per se. There is however, for any of these individuals, a possibility of managing that behavior …”
In response, the moderator declares “so treatment does work, that’s one of the things I did want to get across, treatment does work … treatment does work! We can meaningfully intervene.” In response, Bourke explains “Right, well there are individuals who with those proper things in place, have a choice not to re-offend.”
Sounds like a successful strategy to me. If you carefully consider Bourke’s words: pedophiles cannot be cured, some of these guy might be able to manage their illicit behavior, and some of these might choose not to re-offend. Note he said “re-offend.” Given the secretive nature of this crime, just how many of these perpetrators will get caught? And who would ever advocate or accept that an “incurable” murderer be released with the hope that they will successfully “manage” their homicidal urges?
Perhaps Ashley Natoli, Community Supervision Officer in the DC Sex Offender Unit, says it best when she notes that “a lot of these offenders, they are masters of manipulation and deception, and that’s, in most instances, in a lot of instances, how they ended up offending in the first place, because they have an incredible ability to groom these victims and they have mastered the art of manipulation.”
Thank goodness the probation officers get it.
Unfortunately most of federal judges don’t. Each year thousands of white middle-aged men who produce, distribute and collect child pornography are arrested and sentenced in the federal court system. (Almost 100% plead guilty.) Most of these men will eventually be released. And most of them will not receive any peer reviewed treatment for their incurable pedophilia. Some of these men will be monitored at various levels by probation for a few years or for life.
The outcome of this social policy is untested and impossible to predict. Unfortunately, however, the federal justice system regards a few years of incarceration along with a determinate period of probation supervision as a “solution” for the child molesters and pedophiles who appear before them daily. And incredibly, there is a vigorous effort happening right now before the United States Sentencing Commission to REDUCE sentences for child pornography.
In truth, it’s not really the judges’ fault. There is scant information about these offenders and treatment in peer reviewed journals. (Unfortunately what few studies exist are often overlooked or ignored.) The “lock-up, release and monitor” paradigm—which is the only real option right now—is untested and unchallenged. Until we have more data and better answers on recidivism rates, treatment methodology and peer reviewed outcomes, the federal justice system will continue to engage in a dangerous social policy with offenders who everyone agrees are incurable.