March 31, 2022

See Donna's Statement on Protecting Children from Online Abuse

Statement by Donna Rice Hughes, President and CEO of Enough Is Enough® on Child Sex Abuse Material and the Need to Enhance Penalties for Offenders

The most egregious sexual content depicting child abuse and rape of children, some as young as infants and toddlers, is a multi-billion dollar online criminal enterprise. 

Much like the elusive coronavirus, this content, once unleashed, cannot be retrieved. Instead, it is shared, sold and transmitted across the web, the deep web and encrypted transmissions only to be saved forever on the digital devices, platforms services and personal collections of traffickers, predators, pedophiles and pornographers.

This crime flourishes as profit-hungry digital platforms and services capitalize on the multi-billion-dollar supply and demand chain for images of child sex abuse.

In 2021, 29.3 million reports of CSAM were made to the CyberTipline at the National Center on Missing & Exploited Children, marking the highest number of reports ever received in one year. According to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, 78% of images and videos analyzed of online child sexual exploitation depicted children under 12 years old, and 63% of those children were younger than eight years old.

Most would agree that the sexual victimization of children is one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. Innocent children of this abuse suffer gross physical, emotional, mental anguish and potentially life-long harm at the hands of offenders. However, their suffering is not a one-time crime. Instead, any time the depiction of their abuse is sold, shared, bartered or used privately for a consumer’s sexual gratification, the crime against the victim is repeated.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the PROTECT Act of 2022, which protects children from sexual exploitation by enhancing the penalties for possessing child pornography and by preventing judges from sentencing offenders below federal guidelines.

It is critical that those at the helm of America’s judicial system aggressively enforce the child pornography laws and that once convicted, juries and judges alike impose the full force of the law upon child pornographers and consumers, often one in the same, who create, distribute and possess the actual crime scene of the sexual abuse, exploitation and rape of the most vulnerable among us, our children.

The term “child pornography” as defined by federal law, fails to describe the true nature of the crime of capturing via videos or photos, the sexual violence of children. The new term, “child sex abuse material” (CSAM), as proposed by the EARN IT bill, more accurately describes the sexual exploitation of innocent children whose images are recorded and then traded or sold in perpetuity.

The content both feeds and fuels the sexual appetite of pedophiles and predators and creates demand, for new images and new victims. And the vicious cycle of abuse continues ad nauseum.

For this reason, enhancing penalties for those who view or share CSAM is a necessary in order to deter this atrocity against children and break this cycle of abuse once and for all. Protecting the innocence of children is a non-partisan issue we can all agree on.