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Sexual Exploitation of Children - An Overview of Its Scope, Impact and Legal Ramifications

NCJ Number
Prosecutor Volume: 16 Issue: 5 Dated: (Summer 1982) Pages: 6-11
H A Davidson
Date Published
6 pages
This discussion of child pornography and juvenile prostitution focuses on the extent of child sexual exploitation, State and Federal laws addressing the problem, and legal protection for the victimized child.
Increasing concern with child sexual exploitation for commercial gain is reflected in the General Accounting Office's (GAO) 1982 report on teenage prostitution and child pornography and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutionality of State laws prohibiting the dissemination of materials depicting children engaged in sexual conduct. Research indicates that pedophiles typically try to control children through enticements or intimidation, are younger in age, and often heterosexual rather than homosexual as commonly believed. Victims are typically runaways, but others may live with their families who abuse them or don't care about their activities. Since 1977, States and the Federal Government have enacted laws to combat child pornography. The Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act allows the Federal Government to prosecute producers and distributors of child pornography and prohibits transporting children across State lines for sexual exploitation. Unfortunately, there have been no successful prosecutions against producers and only 14 convictions of distributors, possibly because the Act is restricted to distribution for commercial purposes and many pornographers exchange rather than sell materials. Today, 49 States have laws addressing child pornography, usually creating separate felony offenses within their criminal codes. This paper reviews differences among these laws and evidentiary obstacles faced by prosecutors, such as proving the child was a minor at the time of the offense. The new laws focus on pornography, but child prostitution often precedes involvement in pornography. Many States include child prostitution in their general prostitution laws, and some provisions in these laws appear outdated. Prosecutors must be sensitive to the psychological difficulties encountered by a child victim/witness in a court proceeding. Many innovative programs coordinate criminal prosecution with treatment-related services for victims and offenders, such as the Department of Human Services Exploited Child Unit in Louisville, Kentucky. Recommendations from the GAO report conclude the paper. It provides 12 footnotes.