Filling in the Gaps in Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in California

May 07, 2008

By Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani

California needs to be a leader in combating child sexual abuse. New technology has emboldened those who would hurt children, and as a result, we must constantly seek out new ways to prevent abuse and bring criminals to justice.

Child pornography is a $3 billion dollar industry, fueled by images of sexual abuse, rape, and torture of children. With today’s digital technology, perpetrators are able to easily photograph and videotape children being forced into sexual acts, download these images onto their computers, and upload them onto the Internet for everyone to see. We have reached a point of crisis, with tens of thousands of abusers trafficking – worldwide – the most sadistic and brutal child pornography images and movies imaginable.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Internet child pornography images have increased 1500% since 1988 and more than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted on the Internet every single day. As such, laws designed for the traditional “print” media are no longer adequate in today’s digital world.

Assembly Bill 1475 will add commercial computer technicians to the list of mandated reporters of abuse, when they within their professional capacity or within their employment, know or reasonably suspect a person appearing under 16 years old has been the victim of sexual abuse.

People who abuse children sexually have more resources than ever at their disposal. Every day children are sexually exploited through the Internet and with today’s digital technology, perpetrators are able to easily photograph children and then download their collection onto their computers. Digital photography has practically replaced traditional photography, and the storage and printing of pictures can now be completed through the computer rather than in a photo-printing shop. This new reality has just about eliminated the risk that child abusers will be caught attempting to print their material using conventional film processors.

Policymakers never anticipated the explosion of the internet, and how severe the child porn epidemic would become once the Internet could become a vehicle for networking, communicating, and trading images and videos anonymously with other child molesters. The Wyoming “Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force”, has been tracking child porn to specific computers, by serial number, since October 2005. When surveillance started, nearly 22,000 computers had been identified as trafficking in child porn. 2 and a half years later nearly 625,000 computers have traded child porn through internet venues such as peer to peer file sharing.

As Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will share, these sadistic images of bondage, torture, and penetration are collected and traded like baseball cards, with many images available as a series in a particular child’s name – the “Amy Series”, the “Susie Series”, and the “Billy Series” to name just a few.

One in every three arrests made for child pornography possession, police find victims.

To the abusers, it’s become a game of “can you top this. As for the children – this game is life altering – most will never recover. Hundreds of thousands will never be found. AB 1475 gives computer technicians the ability to report what is beyond our comprehension, without the fear of being sued or fired. But this bill is about much more than that – it’s about finding these kids.

Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani represents the 17th Assembly District that includes the communities of Gustine, Los Banos, Merced, and Stockton.