As was reported in the last issue, one of the persons most responsible for the current furor over child pornography is Dr. Judianne Densen-Gerber of New York City. About a year ago she began to beat the drum over the sexual exploitation of children by staging a news conference in Times Square, New York, which in recent years has become infested with pornographic bookstores, X-rated movie houses, massage parlors and the like. She displayed kiddie porn purchased just a few yards from where she was speaking. On St. Valentine's Day, 1977, she traveled to Washington, D.C., with her collection of dirty magazines and movies and held another press conference. Her tactics were, frankly, a publicity gimmick to get attention. But she really didn't think she would have much impact. After all, when she had gone up and down the land decrying child abuse by showing photographs of little corpses — children bashed to death or bitten to death or burned and boiled to death at the hands of their parents or custodians — the response was less than overwhelming. In a year, she had accumulated a few hundred thousand signatures on a petition for a new cabinet office to deal exclusively with the concerns of children. But there was no public outrage, no great cry from across the land for immediate legislation and programs to deal with the problem. If anything, she upset a lot of people who thought it wasn't very nice to display these grotesque examples of parental cruelty. She had struck too close to home for comfort.
So Dr. Densen-Gerber was somewhat surprised when a nation became outraged about kiddie porn overnight. Within weeks, a cry went out from one end of the country to the other for something to be done to curb this obscenity. Reporters invaded adult bookstores and movie theaters to report on the presence or absence of kiddie porn in their communities. Editors editorialized, TV commentators commented, policemen policed the local vendors of smut with fresh fervor, and lawmakers proposed more laws. Two almost identical bills were submitted to the U.S. Congress with the support of more than 100 sponsors. Each proposed 20-year terms for nearly anyone trafficking in child pornography. Similar measures were quickly offered in more than 20 state legislatures. The fate of these bills is still pending as of this writing. Action in some cases has been slowed by a debate over the implications of the proposed laws. Strict interpreters of the U.S. Constitution cite its First Amendment, which guarantees: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." They argue that freedom of expression extends to peddlers of child pornography. Prosecute the producer, the child recruiter, they say, but what they produce — what is in print — must have the full protection of the Constitution.
Win Some, Lose Some
Whatever the outcome of the proposed legislation, the immediate effect of the outcry has been to drive pornography featuring preadolescents off the shelves. Efforts have also been made to curtail the flesh markets where young people sell themselves for sex. On June 1, for example, the Los Angeles Police Department started a campaign to eliminate male prostitution along Hollywood's notorious Selma Avenue (described in the last issue). The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is spurring a campaign — with some measure of success — to close down pornographic bookstores and movie houses and lure legitimate business back to Hollywood. Score 2 for an outraged public, 0 for the sexploiters. But the game is far from over. There is still a flourishing black market for kiddie porn. "Those who know" can readily obtain the literature and movies they desire. Also, pornography featuring teenagers is still being sold above the counter at adult bookstores. And the cleanup campaigns in such places as Hollywood have not depressed the sex market — at best they have only dispersed it to other areas and made both the "chicken" (young male prostitute) and "chicken hawk" (adult solicitor) more discreet. The net demand for sex is still there and so is the supply of young bodies. So score 2 for an outraged public and 2 for the sexploiters.
Children — "Our Last Slaves"
What will it take to break the deadlock? More laws? Stricter enforcement? More cleanup campaigns? Yes, but these measures are of limited value. According to authorities dealing with the problem, what society needs to do is recognize that kiddie porn is but one despicable aspect of a much larger problem of child abuse and alienation between parents and children on a massive scale. It is this abuse and alienation that create the demand for kiddie porn and prostitutes by warping the sexuality of untold thousands in their formative years. It is child abuse and parental alienation that create the supply of children who run away from homes too violent or loveless to live in, only to become victims in an equally violent and loveless world. Dr. Peter Decourcy declared in a report to the American Psychological Association: "Children constitute the most oppressed minority group in this country. It is a minority group whose members are regularly humiliated, beaten, mutilated, killed or sexually abused and who have little effective legal recourse or police protection." "Children are our last slaves," declares Dr. Densen-Gerber. "They are the property and chattel of their parents." The true magnitude of child abuse has only recently become noticed. According to Douglas Besharov, director of the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect, over a million children each year are sexually abused, physically abused or severely neglected to such a degree that they suffer permanent physical or psychological damage. At least 1,000 of them die. The culprits, in most cases, are parents. Child abuse is not unique to the United States. It exists in most other countries of the world as well. In England, there are estimates that 700 children are battered to death yearly and another 400 left permanently brain-damaged. In Germany, the situation is grimmer still — 1,000 deaths a year. In 1972 it was reported that a national poll conducted by the Bielefelder Emnid Institute in Bonn showed that 72 percent of Germans interviewed felt obedience and respect for order to be the most important principles for child-rearing. This emphasis on obedience to authority is considered by some to be the reason for Germany having the highest rate of child abuse in Europe.
Pediatrician C. Henry Kempe, director of the National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse in Denver, Colorado, states that most parents who abuse their children were "significantly deprived or neglected in their earliest years." In other words, like an infectious disease, child abuse is transmitted from one generation to the next. The sins of the parents are visited upon their children. The mother or father who as a child was severely beaten for "disobedience," or for failing to measure up to expectations, will likely become a parent who repeats the pattern of abuse on his own offspring. Likewise, sex offenders often have a background of sexual abuse as children. Surveys of prostitutes have revealed that up to 25 percent of those questioned were sexually abused as children. Dr. Dorian Rose, psychologist at Atascadero State Hospital in California, where 20 percent of the patients are child molesters, believes that almost any kind of sex offender — from the child abuser to the rapist — himself has a background of sexual abuse. Explaining what causes a person to molest children, she says that "usually he's been sexually abused as a child by an older adult, often a family member."
Treat the Home
The cause of the sexual exploitation of children, then, lies close to home — in fact, in the home. Recent studies into incest indicate that the magnitude of the problem is far greater than previously imagined. An article in the April issue of Ms. magazine asserted that one girl in every four in the United States experiences some form of sexual abuse before she reaches the age of 18. Three-fourths of the abusers are known by their victims. And about one-third of the incidents of abuse take place in the victim's home. In at least ten percent of all reported cases, the victim is a boy, but in virtually all cases, boys and girls, the victimizer is male. Compounding the tragedy of incest is the fact that, unlike an isolated incident of rape, incest is a crime that may continue for years. Its victims are trapped not only by brute force but by loyalties and dependencies. Even when incest is not a factor, Dr. Avedis Panajian, director of psychological services at MacLaren Hall (the juvenile hall for Los Angeles County), believes that the family of a child who is involved in pornography is usually the cause of the problem. "What is needed is treatment of the child and his family," he believes. In recent years a number of therapies and programs have been developed to deal with the problem. The emphasis now is on preventing child abuse and rehabilitating family relationships. A number of programs involve the use of what are variously called parental aides, lay therapists, or surrogate mothers. These aides attempt to establish a relationship with the parents that has the warmth and understanding that were never learned or experienced in the parents' own childhood. They build a feeling of trust, enabling the parent to acquire a more positive self-image. Low self-esteem is one of the most common characteristics of an abusive parent — and, needless to say, of their abused offspring. Another modality of treatment uses temporary care centers and foster homes for children while their parents recover their equilibrium. One constructive breakthrough has been the development of a nationwide network of telephone crisis centers where parents can call for immediate counseling or concerned neighbors can report cases of child abuse. A fast-growing organization designed to help abusing parents is Parents Anonymous, begun in 1970 by a woman in California who had abused her own child and had been unable to find help without a long struggle. Parents Anonymous is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous; it provides for weekly meetings where parents can express their feelings in an atmosphere of understanding and confidentiality.
"Turn the Hearts of Fathers to Their Children"
In ancient times, the prophet Malachi equated a loving family relationship with human survival itself. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse [marginal reading: utter destruction]" (Mal. 4:5-6). Modern civilization is most certainly under a curse today because so many parents have become alienated from their children. The curse is reflected in skyrocketing juvenile crime, the breakdown of school systems, jails filled to overflowing, and obscenities such as child pornography and teenage prostitution. The time must come, will come, when, in the words of noted psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, "There will exist a well-informed, well-considered and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child's spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust, without which every human act, may it feel ever so good, and seem ever so right, is prone to perversion by destructive forms of consciousness."
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