Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Slaughter of Innocence

The Internet and Pedophilia

Modern technology in the form of the Internet has made interaction between pedophiles easier than in the past. The computer, in fact, has turned out to be the greatest single advancement in the history of pedophilia. In the shadow world of child worship, the Internet is a Godsend. By use of the computer, the offender can quickly organize his material, communicate with others who share his interest and troll the net for potential victims. He seeks validation through communication with others just like him and finds comfort in the anonymous corridors of cyber space. Pedophiles are just a few clicks away from each other, a vast improvement over the past. Before computers, pedophiles relied on newspaper ads, sex clubs and prison contacts for interaction with others like themselves. They had to cruise the streets, visit parks and playgrounds where children play in order to locate victims. Undoubtedly, some still do. But others can now hide behind the anonymous comfort of the Internet shield. The Seattle Times reported that by 1998, more than 1,500 suspected pedophiles in 32 states have been identified through various chat rooms on America's most popular Internet service (October 26, 1999). The easy access to pornography has many parents scared and apprehensive.

Using one of the Web's most popular browsers, easily available to everyone, a recent search for the words "boy love" quickly turned up a list of disturbing responses. These are only some of the examples.

  • Site #1: "encyclopedic collection of boylove articles"
  • Site #2: "a collection of internet links of special interest to boylovers."
  • Site #3: "discussion of boylovers and their organized boylove web sites and networks."
  • Site #4: "Our goal is to end the oppression of men and boys who have consensual relations."
  • Site #5: "absolutely uncensored sex pics from around the globe, teens sucking dick pics."
  • Site #6: "erotic young, young teens naked pics!!!!"
  • Site #7: "live nude young boys picture gallery!!"

And the list goes on. It is too long to publish here. You may notice that a number of these sites utilize language that tends to justify their interests. They attempt to legitimatize their behavior by claiming that sex between adults and the young is "pure," "kind," "gentle" and utilize other descriptive labels that give the impression they are referring to some saintly endeavor other than the sexual exploitation of children. This is a common trait among the preferential child molesters: they spend their lives attempting to justify their behavior in their own eyes. Since their attraction to children is a compulsion that many cannot avoid or deny, they seek methods to reinforce their belief that they do nothing wrong. This is a fairly recent development, especially on the Internet, where groups of pedophiles view themselves as being persecuted by the rest of society. Look at the language used in site # 4: "to end the oppression of men and boys". It's almost as if they are talking about a political party rather than the sexual seduction of children.

The Internet also provides a preferential child molester with unique opportunities. For example, he cannot hang around school property very long without arousing suspicion, but he can remain in teen and pre-teen chat rooms indefinitely. Through these electronic arenas, the pedophile has something that before the Internet Age he could only dream about: unlimited and unrestricted access to vulnerable children. Chat rooms makes it much easier and less risky for them to interact with children. But the computer is a double-edged sword. Law enforcement agents have found that many pedophiles are compulsive personalities with predictable behavioral patterns. Some will keep meticulous records of their collections and victims. They often write detailed logs of their experiences and "sexual conquests." Police are well aware of these habits and in these type of cases will quickly obtain a search warrant to seize any computer owned by a suspected child molester.

Police have also discovered many dues paying organizations that promote and condone pedophilia over the Internet. These groups, like North American Man Boy Association (NAMBLA) and the Rene Guyon Society, are constantly monitored by the police. The brazen attitude of these groups is shocking to most people. For example, the motto of the Rene Guyon Society is "Sex Before Eight or It's Too Late!" (Vito and Holmes, p. 283). But in our system, 1st Amendment rights protect these organizations to a degree. In recent years, the proliferation of these groups and the avalanche of pornography over the Web have outraged Americans. Today, any man, woman or child with a modem can use the most effective tool for the distribution of pornography the world has ever seen. Remember that a child cannot easily look through sexually graphic magazines in a public store. On the Internet it is a simple activity. And most children already know how. The accessibility of child pornography via the Internet has many parents worried. A Time CNN poll recently asked teenagers: "Do you use the Internet for things like email, chat rooms or visiting Web sites?" Eighty-two percent said yes. Time also asked during the same poll: "Have you ever seen Web sites that are x-rated or have sexual content?" Forty-two percent said yes (Time, May 10, 1999).

In 1998, U.S. Customs officials smashed one of the largest organizations of child pornographers ever uncovered. More than 200 suspects were arrested across the world in a strike named Operation Chesire Cat. The target was an Internet based organization called The Wonderland Club, whose name was derived from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, long a symbolic favorite of the pedophilic underworld(7). The club trafficked in some of the most vile child pornography ever seen including the rape of children(8). They also screened live sexual abuse of children to their members. The victims were often members' relatives. Unfortunately, there is no limit to the depravity of some people. The qualification for entry into this club was said to be the possession of more than 10,000 images of child porn on their computer's hard drive. The investigation began in 1996 after another pornography ring called The Orchid Club was broken up in San Jose, California. Information gleaned during that case led investigators to England and Western Europe. Undercover agents made repeated attempts to break into the secret society of the Wonderland Club. But club members used secret passwords to meet in private chat rooms that constantly changed to avoid the relentless pursuit of federal agents, obsessed with their capture. But the police, fearful of the molestation of future victims, decided to act. In September 1998, U.S. Custom's officials coordinated a simultaneous worldwide raid in 14 countries. Evidence gathered during these search warrants indicated membership in the club in 47 additional countries. Shortly after these police raids, four club members, including a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, committed suicide. Exposure can be the pedophile's worst enemy.

Cyberangels logo
Cyberangels logo

Parents can take some simple steps to protect their child from on-line invasion by these predators. Try to become more aware of what your children are doing online. Do not let small children access the Internet in the privacy of their own room or in a secluded place. Check in once in a while to actually see where they go on the Internet. Parents should tell children not to chat with adult strangers without supervision and should never fill out a personal information profile for anyone. It is best not to open unsolicited email or email from strangers. Often this mail is a cover to sell or provide online pornography. If your child received pornography via the Internet or someone has made inappropriate contact with your child, contact your service provider or notify the local police.

Lighthouse logo
Lighthouse logo

Web sites like www.enough.org and cyberangels.com have joined in the struggle against pedophilia and online pornography. Software companies have devised filtering and blocking programs like CYBERPATROL, NETNANNY and SURFWATCH that you can install on your computer. This software will automatically scan Web sites for objectionable content and prevent access. But the problem is enormous: "This country now has over 20,000 outlets selling prosecutable, hard core pornography which would be found illegal by educated citizens in most American communities. In fact, there are more outlets for hard core pornography in the United States than McDonald restaurants" (www.enough.org).

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(7) For an informative article on Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, see "Lewis Carroll Revisited: In a Looking Glass Darkly" , N.Y. Times (August 20, 1998 by Alan Riding.

(8)The Washington Post reported on this story September 3, 1998. Time magazine also reported on this case in their issue of September 14, 1998.

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