Easy access to sexually exploitive materials provides increased opportunities for individuals to commit sexually exploitive acts or sexual offenses. Research is only beginning to reveal the ways in which this overwhelming flow of exploitive material adversely impacts individual values, family relationships, and gender socialization.  The following is excerpted from The National Plan to Prevent Child Exploitation:

  • The production and distribution of abuse images of children is a multi-billion dollar industry (Muir & Hecht, 2005).
  • Since 2002, more than 51 million images and videos of pornography depicting children have been reviewed by analysts at NCMEC in their attempts to identify individuals who have been victimized (United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 2011).
  • In nearly 80% of these pornographic images, the children are sexually abused and further exploited by someone they know and trust. Thirty percent of these offenses are perpetrated by family members (Rabun, 2008).
  • One study found that approximately 4% (or 1 in 25) of 10- to 17-year-olds surveyed had been asked to send sexual pictures of themselves to someone on the Internet (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2007).
  • In 2009, about one-third of arrests for internet sex offenses where the victim was identified included images produced by youth i.e. the images were created by minors, depicted themselves or other minors, and could be labeled as child pornography under applicable criminal statutes (Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell & Jones, 2011).
  • Evidence has also suggested that the majority of individuals arrested for possession of child pornography (55% in a large national study) are “dual” offenders who have attempted to, or who have perpetrated, the sexual victimization of children (Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2005).
  • One study suggests that child pornography related offenses may be a stronger indicator of pedophilia than sexual molestation offenses against a child (Seto, Cantor, & Blanchard, 2006).
  • Repeated exposure to pornography is also a growing problem. • Legal pornography is a multi-billion dollar a year business and is significantly larger than the illegal child pornography business. There is growing attention to legal pornography as a public health issue (Perrin et al., 2008).
  • It is commonly noted that children view pornography for the first time by age 11 (Ropelato, 2007).
  • Studies suggest that repeated exposure to especially violent pornography has significant negative impacts on socialization, attitudes, and beliefs (Manning, 2006).
  • This onslaught of negative images comes at a time when adolescent brains are still developing—while adolescents are working to establish their values, sexual identities, and relationship skills (Gallese, Fadiga, Fogassi, & Rizzolatti, 1996; Gogtay et al., 2004).
  • The harm of child sexual exploitation goes beyond the numbers of reported or even estimated victims. The harm includes the sexual objectification of children and the treatment of exploitation as normal.
  • It is estimated that $17 billion is spent annually by companies marketing all types of products to children (Linn, 2010).
  • Children see an average of 30,000 ads per year (Gantz, Schwartz, Angelini, & Rideout, 2007).
  • Exposure to this marketing encourages children to see themselves as commodities, and view sexual objectification as normal (Giroux, 2009).
  • Based on a review of more than 300 studies, the American Psychological Association concluded that exposure to sexualized images, lyrics, fashion, role models, and other influences made girls think of and treat their own bodies as sexual objects. The report cites research linking sexualization with eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed moods in girls and women (American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, 2010).




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