Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston
Sunday Mornings with Rania: Protecting the Innocent - Recent Sexual Assault of 2-year-old Leaves Us All Asking Questions
There are stories that move you, make you laugh or make you angry. This latest case brought with it emotions I can't quite put into a category. You most likely saw the headlines and stopped in shock just like I did: 2-year-old girl allegedly filmed in sex act by family members in Montgomery County.
Some things you just have to read twice to make sure you saw them correctly the first time.
But this was no mistake, we didn't misread the heading and now, two adults are in custody after they committed aggravated sexual assault of the 2-year-old girl in their care. Not only did the mother sexually assault her little girl, but the abuse was filmed with the hopes of selling the footage on the dark web.
I'm honestly left shaking my head. I really am... What can we say as a community when we learn about such horrific behavior? What do you say about parents who would do this to their own child? What do you say about adults who would do this to any child? What about those who find pleasure in watching the abuse of a child? What can we say? And how do we gain control of a dark web that has grown into an incontrollable beast fueled by the ability to film anything, share anything, and sell anything or anyone, online?
I don't know about you but I'm left feeling speechless but filled with emotion, frustrated but determined, angry yet focused. In my limited power, I will do anything and everything possible to support any and all efforts to stop this type of abuse from taking place and to protect our most vulnerable members of society. And many of you are joining this effort to protect children (from a whole host of abuses) including Jennifer Hohman, Donae Chramosta, John Clark, Gabriela Gerhart, Monica Mehta and so many others...
But we have an uphill battle. Look at the numbers:
- Search engines get 116,000 queries every single day related to child pornography
- Individual cases of child pornography have taken over mainstream headlines. In 2017, former Glee star Mark Salling plead guilty to possession of child pornography when he admitted he possessed more than 50,000 sexual images of prepubescent children. More than 50,000 images... Just a few days ago, Salling committed suicide.
- Searches for "teen pornography" more than tripled between 2005-2013, reaching an estimated daily inquiry search of 500,000 by March 2013. That number has only continued to increase in the months and years that followed.
- The online pornographic industry makes over $3,000 per second with a new film being created every 39 minutes.
- There are roughly 25 million images reviewed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children annually, an estimated 480,769 images per week.
- Research by the Canadian Center for Child Protection found that 78.30 percent of videos involved children under 12; 63.40 percent of the videos showed children under 8 years of age. In over 80 percent of the videos, the victim was female, in nearly 20 percent, the victim was male.
So now what? What steps can we take to protect as many children as possible?
- Hold the websites that allow these images accountable.
- Change legislation that protects any carrier of sexually abusive content.
- Change legislation and increase the punishment these predators face.
- Make sure our judges and criminal justice system have a no-tolerance approach when it comes to these abusers. Where leniency can be given, it should not be given.
- Be observant when dealing with all children, looking for any signs of abuse and immediately reporting when suspicions arise.
- Teach children of all ages, in an age-appropriate manner, to speak up for themselves as often as possible to a trusted adult.
- Remind children that abuse is never their fault and they never deserved it or did anything to instigate it.
If you or someone you know might have a problem viewing these images, please take a moment to visit StopItNow.org.
Each weekend I look forward to my time with you and the opportunity to share insights and stories. I know this case would make you as concerned as it made me. Working together, with eyes aware of what's going on, we might be able to put a dent in the fight against the exploitation of children. I really believe we can.
Last week, I echoed the question asked by Rachael Denhollander as she gave her victim impact statement in the Larry Nassar trial: "How much is a little girl worth?" I said it then and believe it with even more conviction - these girls and boys are worth everything. Our desire to protect can and will outweigh the sexually charged appetite to exploit them but we must work together.
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