This Terrible Subject

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Enough! I’m done writing about this terrible subject. This is the last post, I promise! I’m not solving the problem of eliminating child abuse, putting pornographers in prison, shutting down the millions of sites. The only good my posts create is that this horrendous subject isn’t forgotten by those who read about it. Otherwise the subject is resurrected in the news only when there’s a big arrest or particularly horrible case.

This last case (for me) is about Raven Kaliana, an American girl who lived in one of the western states. Nicholas Kristof wrote about her in a moving New York Times Op-Ed piece March 23rd.

When she was just four years old, her parents knowingly dropped her off at a professional studio in the Pacific Northwest, to be photographed by a child pornographer. This went on for years and was never discovered by the authorities.

I wonder how many more reports of child abuse can there possibly be. Judging by new articles, there are plenty more. The child pornography industry is doing just fine, in spite of gruesome information that appears, over and over.

The child that Kristof wrote about is now an adult. She changed her name, ended contact with her parents and now fights back by creating original puppet shows, with her writing, films and programs — http://outspiral.org.uk/index.html. I wish I could be as effective in educating the world about this evil industry.

Usually, I imagine that little girls forced into sex acts for profit in the child pornography industry were kidnapped or sold, because in their culture they weren’t valued, as girls. This horror story shows that it’s not just eastern European families affected by extreme poverty who sell their daughters into a life of sexual slavery. It happens here too.

In the case of this American girl, her parents needed the money she earned as a pre-schooler to pay bills. It’s impossible for me to comprehend mothers and fathers even considering throwing away their little girl’s childhood, for the electric bill, the mortgage.

Kristof quotes Kaliana’s parents saying that they thought she’d just “get over it”. I think that twenty years or even a life sentence in prison is reasonable punishment for them. After all, my ex-husband received ten years for receipt of child pornography. Raven Kaliana’s parents made it possible for pornographers to create horrific photographs of their little girl. The parents are as guilty as the perpetrators.

Kristof noted that there are 21 million sites available to individuals who share child pornography files. Most men, arrested for receipt of child pornography believe that they’re not guilty of truly bad things, because they only looked at pictures, and consider it a victimless crime. That’s completely wrong. The photos and films are of real girls and sometimes little boys, who are brutalized and robbed of their childhoods.

But until there’s no demand for such photographs, the many agents who search out the makers and sellers of child pornography don’t have a chance of stopping these crimes, where the victims are small, without a voice of their own.

No girl should have to recreate her life in order to try to live normally the way Kaliana is doing now.

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Over Stimulation vs. Solitude

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Last month, the New York Times ran an Op-Ed entitled My Night in Solitary written by the new head of the Colorado department of corrections, Rick Raemisch. He spent one night in Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) solitary confinement in order to experience firsthand what it felt like. With no positive stimulation, it was, to someone used to freedom, a torturous experience.

Raemisch should be respected for wanting to feel what the inmates that he controls do. He’s serious about making changes. After all, transforming the prison system would be for his benefit as well as those who are in solitary for weeks or months at a time. The previous warden was shot to death a year ago by a former prisoner who had spent years alone and was released directly from solitary.  This past Sunday, March 16th there was a follow-up article in the New York Times that focused on the admiration he’s received and the benefit that prison changes should bring to Colorado.

It’s impossible for me to imagine being in a place where there’s no outside communication attempting to invade my thoughts and grab my attention. I don’t know about you, but I’m overloaded with mental stimulation; email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, plus mail, bills, and work I deal with every day. Frequently, when I’m reading important information, another message forces its way into my consciousness and captures what I thought was good concentration. My mind whirrs in a vortex with words crashing into each other so I may miss the point in both messages.

When it’s my choice, I like to be alone. Often it’s a reward I give myself for finishing some work project that’s been difficult. However, being isolated, because someone else has the power to decide I should be separated from everything important to me, would be a completely different state of affairs.

I consider this opposite situation from information-overload and instead think about prison and solitary confinement, a place of deep aloneness. For a few years, beginning in 2005, when I received letters from my ex-husband telling me he’d been placed in solitary confinement for his own protection, I didn’t consider what that could feel like for him. I never wondered if he was upset or unhappy or just accepted it as one of the illogical parts of prison life. At that time, I focused all my energy on my own stability.

In his case, it meant he had caused the authorities to fear for his safety because he had either communicated to others the reason he was in prison, or a guard had shared private information about him to another inmate. There were plenty of prisoners who could be violent and dangerous to someone locked up for possession of child pornography. It just took one prisoner saying to another that anyone who had kiddy porn didn’t deserve to live, to cause the authorities to yank that man out of the general population.

I recall that my ex-husband was in solitary for weeks at a time, or maybe it was months. He wasn’t there for punishment, so was able to have books and paper and that was when he wrote long letters to everyone who would respond to him and sketched.  He didn’t complain about feeling abandoned or isolated and appeared to create a rich life through his art and letters. If he had lonely feelings, I missed them in my own upset about the events in my life that his crime had created.

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Calculating Financial Damage from Men who View Child Pornography

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I’ve thought a great deal about a January 23rd piece in the New York Times, “Justices Seem Stumped On Calculating Damages Over Child Pornography.” The article is about the Supreme Court Justices and their work determining what the financial liability should be for a man who has viewed a pornographic image of a child — or hundreds or thousands of images. It’s also how the penalty should be divided up when many men have seen the pictures.

The justices are clearly confused, uncertain as to what is right. This is understandable. If 70,000 people have viewed a photo of a girl being abused, being raped, how much money should one of those viewers be responsible to pay? What portion of $3.4 million, the amount one viewer was assessed, does one man owe? Or does he owe the entire amount because each person is obligated to pay the total?

This is a complicated and difficult issue with no obvious way of dividing up liability. I feel for the Justices because their final answer will be based not only on how much income they estimate she will lose because of lasting psychological damage, but also will put a dollar amount on the massive amount of her emotional pain and suffering.

The victim’s uncle who attacked her was only required to pay $6325.00 and spend twelve years in prison. How much does the thousandth viewer of the pictures owe — or the ten-thousandth viewer? Are they equally responsible or is the first viewer liable for more money than later viewers?

I haven’t seen a photo of Amy, the name given to the eight year old child assaulted in the pictures. I’ve wondered, for a long time, how terrible she must feel today from knowing so many men have seen the brutal abuse that she experienced two decades ago.

In 2005, when my then husband was arrested for receipt of child pornography, I saw one photo on a CD that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents missed in my home. It’s of a girl, about six years old, with full, wavy dark hair and large, expressive sad eyes and is etched in my memory forever. I don’t know when it was taken so can’t imagine how old the girl is today. Perhaps she’s dead. Maybe she was killed trying to escape. Maybe she was murdered by one of her abusers. All are real possibilities and there’s no way of knowing. The horrific life of such a girl is beyond imagination.

I wonder what will happen for Amy, the woman identified in this article. I wonder if my ex-husband is reading about this Supreme Court case and what he thinks of it. I wonder if he experiences a shred of guilt about the past when he looked at photos of girls being raped and brutalized. Or has he pushed it out of his mind in his concern about cancer threatening his own life?

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Sam and the Mountain Lion

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“Sam, wake up, breakfast is ready,” said Jason.

Sam, the Samoyed, ran into the kitchen and howled to say good morning. He quickly walked to his big bowl of food and smelled the delicious aroma of the chicken kibble. He ate it all in just two minutes.

“Good boy, Sam,” Jason said, and patted his side. “Let’s go outside for your morning walk.

Sam was excited to go along a path in the woods. He didn’t have to wear a leash because he was already well trained. They ran together through the pine forest for about ten minutes.

Sam started barking and growling. Jason whipped around and said, “What’s wrong, Sam?”

Sam kept barking, louder and louder. He heard a growl and noticed some movement behind a few pine trees. The growl sounded as if it was coming from a big cat. He stared for a couple of seconds at the spot where the tree moved and suddenly a giant mountain lion jumped from behind the tree and began to run towards them.

Jason felt paralyzed with fear and stood still. Sam kept growling and barking very loudly and ran in front of Jason to protect him. Then he showed his teeth and charged at the mountain lion. Sam tried to bite the big cat on the neck but the mountain lion was too strong, attacked Sam and bit him on the neck.

Sam cried out in pain. The mountain lion let go. Sam ran and Jason dashed with him, back to their house.

Blood gushed out of Sam’s wound, but they kept running. Fortunately, the mountain lion didn’t follow them.

Jason cried, “Sam, you’re bleeding like crazy. We have to get home fast to get you to the Vet.”

As soon as they entered the house, Sam limped inside and Jason hurried to the phone to call Dr. Smith.

“Thanks, Doc, We’ll be right over,” Jason said on the phone.

Jason sprinted to the bathroom to get a clean hand towel while Sam lay whimpering in pain, on the kitchen floor. Jason placed the towel on the wound and put pressure on it. Sam whined in agony from the mountain lion’s bite.

Jason said, “Let’s go, Sam. We’re going to see Dr. Smith to get your gash checked out.” Sam limped to the car and Jason helped him in.

As soon as they arrived, the vet motioned them to enter the office. Jason told him what had happened.

Dr. Smith said, “Oh my! That’s a big wound. Let’s get you cleaned up, Sam. Maybe you need a stitch or two.”

After it was all over, Sam felt a little better and Jason was relieved.

When they arrived home, Jason built a fire in the fireplace and Sam finished up his food. When the room was nice and warm, Sam curled up in his dog bed by the fire.

Trevor Cooper, guest writer

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Does Prada Push Soft Kiddie Porn?

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In my shock and dismay, I didn’t even notice the clothing. All I saw was that the   December 1st New York Times was showcasing underage girls in scenes that would titillate men with a propensity to be attracted to children.

All I noticed, when my eyes glimpsed the two-page spread in Sunday’s Magazine section was two young girls with expressions that screamed Kiddy Porn. Pedophiles fantasize over girls that have this youthful, come hither look.

Only later, when studying the photo more closely did I notice the casual beads, bright purses, different prints next to one another and the flashy high-heeled CFM (come fuck me) shoes. The models were completely covered. No nudity here.

I’d never heard of Miu Miu, part of the high fashion Prada group or the two girls, who I assumed were about thirteen. My instantaneous revulsion for what I thought was soft kiddy porn, calmed down after I checked out information on the models. Lea Seydoux is twenty eight and Adele Exarchopoulos just turned twenty. It appears they’ve been over eighteen for some time and weren’t personally being exploited. I also learned that they’re stars in the French movie,

Blue is the Warmest Color, that won the Palme d ‘or prize. The movie is about lesbian sex, explicitly shown and is banned in Idaho.

So, I’ve been educated. My righteous anger settled down, somewhat.

However, my initial reaction counts for something. Even if the models are significantly older than they look, appearance matters. I believe the ad industry intended that the expression on the girls’ faces invite men to sexually fantasize about them and that the two-page color spread has three purposes. The first is to promote their movie, Blue is the Warmest Color and the second is to advertise Prada’s fashion line, Miu Miu. Those reasons are fine. It’s the third that I object to, which is to cater to men who have a predilection towards pedophilia, to get their attention and to generate desire.

The ad may be perfectly legal but I question the judgment of whoever placed it. An ad that costs as much as a Rolls Royce has been carefully designed and planned. It’s no accident that the models look childish as well as sexual.

It makes me think of ordinary girls, perhaps picked up at a mid-western bus terminal after running away from home, who aren’t dressed in such expensive clothing and have become sex slaves, owned by pimps, photographed against their will, even in this country. This ad does them a disservice because it continues the dream, dramatizing and romanticizing the sexual life of a young girl.

It may be legal, but, to me, it’s wrong.

 

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He’s Better After the Surgery

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I never expected to have this turn-about in my feelings and opinions. I thought that my recent compassionate view towards my former husband, because of his physical suffering with colon cancer, was permanent. After all, his arrest and incarceration began eight years ago, long enough for the emotional horror I suffered to have faded.

Over the last year, the Bureau of Prisons seemed to have abandoned him to the fate of imminent death when it refused to provide a much needed operation to save his life. Numerous growths could be seen protruding from his abdomen, they were so large. Only Tylenol was given to him by the medical staff to soothe suffering from Stage 4 cancer. It was never enough to relieve the pain.

Paul calls his cousin, Chris twice a week and I hear from her that finally, after a year, the surgeon he wanted to perform the operation did so, just last month. And while the surgery may only be palliative, for now, he’s comfortable. He’s worrying about the cancer in his lymph nodes, but they aren’t bothering him. And he’s certainly hopeful and happy with the belief that he’s going to live and again have an existence outside the prison. He’s looking forward to getting out, either on his release date in May 2014 or sooner under a compassionate release, due to his cancer. He dreams of returning to the northeast, growing his precious primroses, experiencing good health. Such dreams are good for him.

I’m glad he had the surgery. I’m glad that, according to his cousin, who recently visited him at the North Carolina Federal Medical Center, he has good color, and while very underweight, appears well. I’m glad that he’s been taken care of, as much as is possible by his cousin and his sister. As all people in a hospital, he needs an advocate. They’ve been unwavering in their work to enable him to receive the surgery he believed would save his life.

During the first two years after his arrest, I was confused. I was furious at the Feds and at Paul whereas he blamed the Federal Investigators for all my misery and fear. I agreed with him until the Federal Government’s harassment ended, when they gave up and realized that I was guilty of nothing.

What love I had left was erased once I realized that he was the one who’d been responsible for causing the wretchedness in my life. My emotions had been battered around like Hurricane Katrina, and now, a second time, my feelings are distant. Instead of writing posts about understanding and forgiveness, my heart has reverted back to stone.

In spite of all that though, my concern isn’t dead, just different. I still care, in spite of everything, although my empathy that began when I feared he would die is reduced. I’m doing fine.

He’s all right too, for now; I don’t need to worry about being told that he died. He doesn’t need my letters that say little, but include articles enclosed in the envelope that he’ll find interesting,

I saved an article for him from the October 4th New York Times Style Magazine, about a famous English garden, with extraordinary photos. I guess I’ll send it tomorrow. Then I pick up another newspaper article I clipped from the New York Times resting on the edge of my desk – for what I don’t know, until I open it up. Oh, it’s an opinion piece I saved from September 1st entitled Women, Bought and Sold in Nepal. There’s a photograph taken by the writer, Katie Orlinsky that shows a girl, who looks about eleven years old. That’s enough. That’s reality. That’s Child Pornography. That’s where photos of real little girls come from, places like Nepal and Eastern Europe. That’s why Paul’s in prison, where he belongs.

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Assault at Humayan’s Tomb, Delhi, India

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The October 27th article Gang Rape, Routine and Invisible in the New York Times jolted me back to a day in April, 1975. I had been traveling with my five year old daughter Susan and we were on a bus, visiting the historic sites near Delhi.

That day, Susan and I exited the Delhi Travel bus, decorated with red and blue designs, and followed our tour group. We’d seen several historic places already — mosques and towers from the 12th century. But before we visited the next place, we stopped for a rest, a little food and drink. Inhaling the scents of cardamom and cumin in the food families had brought with them, we stayed close to one extended family, a grandmother, children and parents, all together on a special outing. They were Indians and had come from a rural area to see the sights in the big city, Delhi, and the interesting places surrounding the capital.

Under a tree that shaded us from the sun, I took out our food, wrapped in plastic bags which I always carried in my corduroy zipper bag. I cut a slice of bread and a chunk of cheese for Susan with my small, folding picket knife. There was always someone selling soft drinks, so she didn’t have to taste the water I carried, that had been purified with bad tasting iodine tablets. She drank big gulps from the bottle of Limca, the Indian equivalent of 7-Up.

Always sociable, Susan showed the little blond haired doll that I’d bought for her in Paris to a girl about her age and they played together, making up the stories little girls create with dolls the world over. I conversed with the others in the family by smiling and gesturing. Younger children ran around, laughing as they played. I could see the shimmer of heat wriggle in front of my eyes. It was a tranquil scene of family affection and laughter.

Susan and I were the only non-Indians on the bus, but felt part of the assemblage and stayed with the family as we walked into the site. We gazed in wonder at the red sandstone Humayan’s Tomb, built as a prototype of the Taj Mahal and later declared a World Heritage Site. Beautiful latticed windows outlined with white marble made its magnificence complete.

Susan and her new friend ran beside me as the group made its way around the 16th century structure. On the way back to the bus, I took a look at a side mausoleum. An old man walked with me. I felt completely safe, my family-for-the-day close by.

But then, a group of teenage boys and young men suddenly came up behind us and one roughly grabbed my breast.

“You’re a bastard.” I shrieked to the group of laughing young men.  “You’re children, not men! Don’t you have your own girl friend? Is that why you have to attack a stranger?”

They listened and were quiet, shocked at my anger and critical words. But then they ran off into the clearing, between the trees.

Tightly holding Susan’s hand, I returned to the bus and told the group leader what had happened. I insisted that they call the police and search for the group of young men. The tour was delayed.

The expressions and manner of some of the others in the group showed me their discomfort. It was as if a woman shouldn’t have had the nerve to make a fuss over what was only youthful bad behavior and that I should have ignored male sexual aggression.

I couldn’t overlook it. I’d been assaulted and was furious. When the police arrived, they searched for the young men, some of whom were probably still teenagers, but they had long left the area. Still tearful and upset, I was reluctant to give up the hunt, but had to, as there was nothing else the police could do.

Was this relatively minor attack on me part of the culture that Indians generally ignore? Was it only a mild example of the culture’s tolerance of assault on women?

Just a week ago, in October 2013, five men were arrested in Mumbai, accused last August of raping a photojournalist. The Indian public is only paying attention because a woman died after being gang-raped on a Delhi bus last December and the world gasped in horror and revulsion.

These five men in this more recent case seem ordinary, according to what I read in the New York Times. Is this behavior what Indians tolerate? Are women so undervalued that such an attack could be ignored?

The accused men didn’t have enough work to support themselves. There was no way for them to escape Mumbai’s stinking poverty, in the slum where they lived, so they searched out ways to amuse themselves. Raping young women was what they chose for entertainment. Entitled to their fun, they supposedly had done the same to at least two other young women in the same Mumbai ruin that had once been a textile factory.

Perhaps, in April 1975, the culture hadn’t yet deteriorated to the point where such violent behavior among young men was commonplace. Perhaps I was lucky because I was part of a group and with a young child. Perhaps I was fairly safe because I was in a tourist area in the middle of the day. I wonder about my lack of fear back then, holding Susan’s hand and my instantaneous fury at the young men. If I were at Humayan’s Tomb today, it could have been so much worse.

 

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