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Studies shine light on dark world of child porn

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What is online child pornography and who looks at it? A 2011 study of criminal cases offered some answers.

In 605 cases with an arrest for online child pornography possession, offenders often had images of young children, including babies and toddlers, said researchers with the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

In nearly 70 percent of cases, the images were "mostly girls," and the remaining cases had images of "mostly boys" or "both sexes."

When images were assessed by victims' ages, it was clear that children ages 6 to 12 were strongly preferred by child pornography viewers. Teenage children were also commonly seen, in 67 percent of cases.

The world of child pornography, greatly aided by the rise of the Internet, will receive fresh scrutiny Wednesday when the Supreme Court takes up a closely watched case involving damages due to victims from porn viewers.

A troubling finding was that the proportion of cases with victims who were babies and toddlers — 28 percent — was higher than in a similar analysis conducted in 2000, researcher Janis Wolak and her colleagues said in their 2011 study, "Child Pornography Possessors: Trends in Offender and Case Characteristics," which appeared in the journal Sexual Abuse.

Of the community of child pornography viewers, 99 percent of the 605 offenders were men, and 89 percent were white, Ms. Wolak and her colleagues said.

About half of the offenders were 39 or younger, and 69 percent were single. Sixty-one percent were employed, a smaller number compared with the 2000 study.

Ironically, only 5 percent were registered sex offenders, and pedophilia or other sexual disorders were diagnosed in 1 percent.

Many of these offenders had massive collections of child pornography. About 20 percent possessed more than 1,000 still images, and 16 percent had 50 or more videos.

Another alarming finding was that the number of offenders using so-called peer-to-peer file-sharing networks — which bypasses centralized servers and permits people to share materials device to device — jumped from 4 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2006, a sevenfold increase.

These "p2p users" were more likely than other offenders to have large collections of particularly graphic images and videos of very young children, Ms. Wolak and her colleagues found.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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