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Pinedale Online > News > March 2007 > Child Pornography and the internet in Wyoming
Child Pornography and the internet in Wyoming
Guest Editorial by Matthew H. Mead, United States Attorney
March 22, 2007

Editor’s Note: John Powell, US Attorney's Spokesman, District of Wyoming, passed on this guest editorial by US. Attorney Matthew Mead addressing child pornography and the internet.
Child Pornography and the internet in Wyoming
Guest Editorial by Matthew H. Mead, United States Attorney

There is much for us to be thankful for in Wyoming, including a high quality of life, world class recreation, wide open spaces and other benefits of living in the West. With so many wonderful things for us to enjoy in our beloved state, it is difficult for some to hear that Wyoming, like the rest of the United States, is confronted with a deluge of child pornography– that is, pictorial images of children being criminally and sexually abused.

In Wyoming, we think of our homes as safe and secure places, not as places for predators looking for our kids. But every day those seeking to exploit children reach out over the internet to children inside the home -- trying to entice and victimize them through sexually explicit dialogue and images and even going so far as to make travel arrangements to meet them for sexual encounters. Sadly, it is all too easy for a predator to play a fictional role for an impressionable youngster looking for friendship and acceptance and to trap the child in that way.

Exploiting children through child pornography is a serious federal and state crime and rightfully so. Predators who target children should be prime targets for law enforcement, and they are. Predators who target children should pay a high price in terms of time spent behind bars, and they usually do. In the past, such crime was committed primarily by sending sexually explicit photographs of young children through the mail. Now, in the computer age, this crime is committed mostly via internet transmission of images. The internet, for all the good it does, has unfortunately served to break down barriers that at one time served as deterrents to child pornographers. The deterrence provided in the real world – by parental and community scrutiny and by law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of our towns -- is suppressed in a virtual world of anonymity and secrecy.

Statistics have shown that about 1 in 7 kids will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation online. While this is a frightening number, perhaps more troubling is the fact that only 1 in 3 kids will report such encounters, which means the number is actually higher. The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates that 61% of rape victims are less than 18, and 29% are less than 11. Of those arrested for possession of child pornography many have images of children enduring bondage, sadistic sex, including videos depicting child pornography with motion and with sound. The magnitude of the problem is shocking and, given the technology of today, there is no easy solution. With a few clicks of a mouse, predators can engage in the exploitation of children anonymously. They can transmit the most disturbing images of young children far and wide to bounce around cyberspace for a very long time. The images can be re-transmitted again and again, creating a huge amount of electronic traffic in such material and hurdles for law enforcement. In Wyoming, the least populated of all states, we investigate hundreds of child pornography cases.

Child pornography is not about funny pictures that parents keep of their kids playing in the bathtub. It is not about adults dressed and photographed to look like adolescents. It is about something else entirely. It is about awful images of graphic sexual assault of children under 12, including images of 3-5 year olds, toddlers or even infants. And, as difficult as it may be to write and read and talk about such matters, it has to be done.

Despite the obstacles presented by the way child pornography is distributed in this day and age, aggressive measures are being taken to combat it. The Internet Crimes Against Children task force program (ICAC) is one of those measures. ICAC is a federally funded program which seeks to identify child exploiters via their medium of choice, the internet, so they can be brought into the criminal justice system. The State of Wyoming has such a program, and it is renowned for its efforts and accomplishments. The head of that program is Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent, Flint Waters. Agent Waters is nationally and internationally known for his work in this area. Recently, Agent Waters traveled with First Lady Laura Bush to France to address the problem with leaders from around the world.

On a national level, Project Safe Childhood is a new initiative of the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney's Offices, designed to put child exploiters even more in law enforcement's cross hairs. That initiative in my office includes community outreach and education efforts, as well as prosecution to the full extent of the law. Project Safe Childhood is a vital new initiative which my office is pursuing and will continue to pursue relentlessly.

There is a lot being done but much still to do. To the readers of this editorial, regardless of your background, your career, or who you are, you can help. You can help by educating your own kids, grandkids, or other relatives. You can help by learning more about the problem and by speaking out in your communities. You can find out more about the problem and ways to tackle it by going to the website for Project Safe Childhood at or to the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Measures of civilizations and societies are varied and numerous. Perhaps we judge a society, for example, on how it treats its poor or its elderly or the accused; and while all these are valid, to me, no gauge is more important than how a society treats its children, more specifically, how it protects its children. We are Wyoming, and where better and who better, than here, than us, to take a lead in protecting our kids. I have great hope that with enforcement, with education, with community awareness and with the involvement of Wyoming citizens, we can exceed any measure of civilization, including the measure of adequately protecting our kids.

Matthew H. Mead
United States Attorney

Pinedale Online > News > March 2007 > Child Pornography and the internet in Wyoming

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