The facts about child pornography

Many facets exist concerning child pornography and it is important for people to familiarize themselves with them.

No one would dispute the fact that talking about child pornography is a sensitive topic in Virginia. People who are arrested for this type of behavior face not only the criminal justice system but an outraged public. Penalties are severe; people who are convicted of possessing, producing or sharing it are often required to serve time behind bars, register as a sex offender, are limited as to where they can live, and must abide by state laws concerning use of the internet and other acts.

When is an image considered illegal?

According to the United States Department of Justice, an image must meet the requirements of being sexually explicit. Therefore, a photograph of a naked toddler playing in a bath tub with a toy boat or marine animal toys is probably not going to be considered child porn. Rather, the image must either be sexually suggestive or the child is "engaging in sexual activity."

A sexually explicit image or video may show a child alone, a child with another child, or a child and an adult. This applies to all minors under the age of 18 so if a 19-year-old takes nude photos of his or her 17-year-old partner and the images are sexual in nature, it could be grounds for criminal charges.

Why do people seek it out?

People make the assumption that anyone who gets involved with child pornography is sexually attracted to children, but scientific research has shown that this is not always the case. In studies that have looked at the motive of seeking out this material, reasons presented include the following:

  • Curiosity
  • Internet addiction to pornography in general that extends eventually to children
  • An alternative that kept them from reaching out and actually contacting a child
  • Accidental access
  • Instead of interest in the images themselves, it is more about the social interaction and collection process

Additionally, some people state that their reason for looking at images of children was due to their inability to maintain a relationship with an adult and that this was a safer path for them emotionally.

Are there internet dangers?

While the internet provides a wealth of knowledge, it also contains a darker side and in some cases, people may be unaware that this kind of content has been downloaded or accessed by their device. This can leave them at risk of being charged and convicted of a sexual crime. The first danger is to allow someone else to use their computer, tablet or even their smart phone.

The second danger is to use a peer-to-peer network. This network is often used by businesses to share files among employees but it has been increasingly used as a way to share illegal images. A computer can access a folder and then share it without the users' awareness, putting them in a tricky spot. The third danger is to use the deep or dark web. This requires a special browser called Tor, which gives people access to websites that are not available through search engines like Google. It allows people to access all kinds of websites, including those that contain child pornography so users need to be really careful when they are on it.

When people have been arrested and charged with committing a crime, they should know that they still have options available to them. It would be wise for them to meet with an experienced attorney who can explain those choices.