This story begins with me scrolling down my Instagram feed innocently the week before Christmas. My friend had shared a picture of a beautiful Christmas tree with the hashtag #Christmas2015. I clicked on the hashtag with hopes of finding similar Christmas decorations, and for a while I did see beautifully decorated lawns and houses. However, a few seconds later my eyes were assaulted by the nastiest image I’ve ever seen. I’ll spare you the gory details, but someone had posted child pornography under the hashtag #Christmas2015. I was furious and I reported the picture. I soon realized that was the end, there was nothing else I could do about it.
Fast forward about a month later, still on Instagram, I had many mentions and saw that a decently-sized group of people were rallying for mass support to shut down a page that had child porn. Now, given that I still had the first image in my head, I decided not go to the page at all. It was in that moment that I decided to pick up this fight against child porn.
About a week ago, my friend recommended that I read the book “Restavec” by Jean-Robert Cadet. The book narrates the odyssey of a young Haitian slave child who later migrates to the USA. I was reminded that child slavery is an active social issue to which we pay little attention. Currently, there are over 5 million children that are enslaved or sex trafficked. To put that in context, the population of Houston is 2.2 million. That means there are 2 times more children in slavery than there are people in Houston, Texas.
What exactly are the laws in place for criminals convicted of child exploitation? United States Code, Title 18 – Section 2256 describes child pornography as “any visual depiction of sexual explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age)”. Violation of this law can result in a 15-year prison sentence and registration as a sex offender. However, it has become increasingly difficult to apprehend cyber child pornographers. We need accountability and everyone needs to play a part in the efficient enforcement of these laws. To report an incident involving the possession, distribution, receipt, or production of child pornography, file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678. Your report will be forwarded to a law enforcement agency for investigation and action..
Do you remember when you were a child and your biggest concern was whether you’ll get ice cream after school or you’ll get a bike for your birthday? Perhaps for you always looked forward to getting a new game or going on summer vacation. Life was really simple when we were kids. It is difficult to fathom the possibility that not everyone enjoys this privilege. Knowledge and dialogue about these issues are the initial steps towards reform.