The Porn Connection
by Gina Holloway

Thirteen-year-old Donna moved with her family to San Diego from a small town. She was na?ve and, like most adolescents, eager to fit in. Unfortunately, her naivet? was exploited at a sleepover with a girlfriend who encouraged her to sneak out for a rendezvous with a boy the girlfriend had met on the Internet.

The "boy" turned out to be almost 10 years older and had brought along a friend. The friend gave Donna drugs and then raped her. Donna kept the crime a secret for six years and never reported it to the police.

Sometimes naivet? is exploited in more subtle ways, but the consequences are profound and far-reaching. Jimmy was 11 years old when he found his dad's porn stash. Three years later, his exposure to pornography led to a relationship with an older man who molested him. Fueled by what had happened to him, Jimmy's preoccupation with pornography continued even after he was married.

He developed a destructive pattern of having affairs with co-workers, and at age 35 lost his family, his reputation, his career, and his freedom. According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a noted researcher in the area of sex addiction, approximately three to six percent of the U.S. population suffers from sex addiction - 8 to 16 million people. And in many cases, it all starts with a seemingly innocent exposure to pornography.

We continue to have a huge problem with sexual violence against children in this country. Sadly, San Diego, with all its affluence and beauty, is no exception. Efforts to root out and bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes is imperative - but it also behooves us to examine some of the things that contribute to this violence. The ugly truth is that in many cases of domestic abuse, rape, child abuse, and Internet crime, pornography plays a role.

A Nightmare

The Internet has become an undisputed boon to communication. In some cases, it has also become a parent's worst nightmare. The FBI, which has a task force devoted just to Internet child porn and exploitation, says incidents have risen 1,264% from 1996 to 2000.

The numbers are just as alarming when it comes to sexually victimized children. According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania last month, 300,000 to 400,000 children in America are victims of sexual exploitation each year - 1 of every 100 children in the country. And predators don't always fit the stereotype.

Susan, a young mother and a recent transplant to San Diego, found this out when her youngest daughter, age 3, was used by a neighbor in the production of pornography.

Was the neighbor a suspicious-looking older man in a trench coat? No. This time the predator was a fellow mother who was married to a successful business executive. The couple had been producing child pornography in their home by using the innocent children of unsuspecting neighbors.

Porn, the Common Denominator

Pornography is the common denominator in these scenarios. It may not have caused the crime, but its sinister influence is always present. Pornography use is often winked at or ignored. But experts tell us that pornography use is usually progressive. At the very least, it compromises healthy relationships. At worst, it can lead to destructive and even criminal behavior. And children are the most vulnerable to pornography's harmful influence.

Let's face it. Pornographers are in this business because the more consumers they can hook, the more money they can make. It's not about freedom of speech or expression - it's about money. Ten years ago, 1,275 hard-core video titles hit the market, compared with 11,041 for 2000, according to Adult Video News, the porn industry's insider publication. And more reputable news magazines back this up.

According to the March 2000 U.S. News and World Report, the pornography industry took in more than $8 billion dollars in the U.S. in 1999. That is more than all revenue generated by Rock-n-Roll and Country music, more than Americans spent on Broadway productions, theater, ballet, jazz and classical music combined.

Parents are looking to police officers, investigators, and other law enforcement professionals to not only protect their children from sexual predators, but also to address the problems that contribute to sex crimes. That means taking the time to enforce existing laws regarding obscenity, material harmful to minors, and child pornography.

Gina Holloway is executive director of Citizens for Community Values of San Diego, a grassroots organization working to protect its community from the harms of pornography. She can be contacted through the group's website at www.ccvsd.org. This article first appeared in the Winter 2001 edition of Law Enforcement Quarterly (Vol. 30, No. 3). It is reprinted here with the author's permission.

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