Behind Closed Doors: Child Pornography
The Scary Truth
One evening in June 2002 police arrived at Carol and Morton Berger's Phoenix home. Morton was a well-respected 52-year-old high school history teacher who had been married to Carol for 13 years. The couple's family included his four grown children from a previous marriage.
The police questioned Morton in the couple's den, where they asked him about Internet images they suspected he had on his computer. "I don't think he understood how serious it was," says Carol, 40. "He admitted he had things on the computer that he shouldn't have had." The police took Morton's machine and told Carol that an Internet investigation had led them to believe her husband had downloaded child pornography. "I felt sick to my stomach," she recalls. "It was all hard to believe."
Morton's images included 20 photographs of children, some engaged in sexual acts with adults. Under both federal and state law, it's illegal to make, distribute, and possess lewd depictions of sexually explicit conduct involving minors (defined as people under 18). Generally, about two-thirds of victims depicted are girls, and the rest are boys, according to Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Illicit images of underage kids are often homemade by amateurs with nothing more than a digital camera and access to a child, according to Wyoming police investigator Flint Waters, chief technology officer for the Department of Justice's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), a national network that includes 59 regional task forces. The makers sometimes even include relatives and acquaintances of the child. "What is so disgusting and tragic is that child pornography is largely a cottage industry that involves adults in the victim's daily circle of trust," says Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), who is fighting for more resources to combat this crime.
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