Recent high-profile cases of Child Pornography Possession and Child Sexual Exploitation bring some exposure to a huge issue. From Jared Fogle’s arrest earlier this year, to the recent discovery of over 1,000 images of Child Sexual Exploitation on the personal computer of Glee star Mark Salling, recent events are pointing out a troubling rise in instances of Child Sexual Exploitation.
The numbers do seem to be rising. In 2013, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reviewed approximately 22 million images and videos of suspected child sexual abuse, equating to more than a 5000% increase from 2007. Some assert that the rise in numbers is due in part to technological advances, such as the prominence of the internet, which completely change the child sexual exploitation industry.
In our Child Sexual Exploitation resources, we discuss the use of the internet as a means for committing child sexual abuse in great detail. Some possible uses of the internet which benefit perpetrators of Child Sexual Exploitation are obvious, such as ease of access to pornographic images, but there are more insidious uses of the internet for child exploiters and molesters as well. Anonymous internet communities where pedophilia is accepted or even glamourised exist and allow many predators to speak with like-minded individuals and perceive their paraphilia as more normal and acceptable than it truly is. As we have discussed before, child molesters will also use the internet to lure minors into sexual situations or to coerce them into posting sexual images of themselves or partaking in “cyber-sex” or “sexting.”
But while the internet has created a troubling venue for child exploitation, it has also aided in the prosecution and investigation of child sexual exploitation. We have seen instances depicted in pop culture of officers posing as children on internet chat rooms in order to convict child predators. In other instances, images of child sexual abuse have been used to locate human trafficking rings and identify abusers. Digital images can serve effectively as evidence for prosecuting child molesters as well. While Child Sexual Exploitation, like all other forms of sexual abuse, is still exceptionally underexposed, it is much more effectively prosecuted than other sexual crimes due to the nearly irrefutable nature of the evidence.