CHILD EXPLOITATION RESTITUTION FOLLOWING THE PAROLINE v. UNITED STATES DECISION

Statement of Linda Krieg
For the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
Acting CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 
March 19, 2015

Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Jackson Lee and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to submit this written statement on behalf of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

As Acting Chief Executive Officer of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”), we are reminded daily of the harmful and devastating impact of child sexual exploitation.  We commend you for holding this hearing to examine the critical issue of restitution for child pornography victims.

NCMEC was created as a private, non-profit organization in 1984 and designated by Congress to serve as the national clearinghouse on issues relating to missing and exploited children.  NCMEC provides services to families, private industry, law enforcement, victims, and the general public to assist in the prevention of child abductions, the recovery of missing children, and the provision of services to combat child sexual exploitation.  NCMEC performs 22 functions, several of which relate to assisting victims of child pornography.  

NCMEC has multiple programs to assist law enforcement, families, child victims, and the professionals who serve them on cases of sexually exploited children.  Our Exploited Children Division has two core programs to facilitate the reporting of child sexual abuse content and help identify current child victims and prevent future victimization—the CyberTipline® and the Child Victim Identification Program®(“CVIP”).

CyberTipline

NCMEC’s CyberTipline is the national mechanism for members of the public and electronic service providers to report suspected child sexual exploitation.  In the 16 years since the CyberTipline was created, more than four million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation have been made to the CyberTipline in eight different categories, including the possession, manufacture and distribution of child pornography. 

The reports are reviewed by NCMEC staff who examine the content, use publicly-available resources to add related information, and then make the reports available to law enforcement in appropriate jurisdictions for potential review and investigation.  Reports are triaged continuously to ensure that reports of children who may be in imminent danger get first priority.

The number of reports received through the CyberTipline continues to increase exponentially each year.  In 2014, the CyberTipline received over 1.1 million reports—double the number received the year before—and, in the first two and a half months of 2015, the CyberTipline has already received more than 800,000 reports. 

 

Chart Showing volume of CyberTipline Reports


One reason for this dramatic increase is that child pornography is an international crime and there is a worldwide proliferation of child sexual abuse images and videos being sent via the internet between offenders across the globe.  Once distributed in this manner, it is impossible to eradicate all copies.  

Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP)

NCMEC’s CVIP serves as the central U.S. repository for information related to child victims depicted in sexually exploitive images and videos.  Its dual mission is to: (1) provide information relevant to child pornography investigations; and (2) assist in the identification of child victims depicted in the images.  CVIP staff use NCMEC’s Child Recognition and Identification System (“CRIS”) to review copies of child sexual abuse images and videos taken into custody by law enforcement and submitted to NCMEC to determine which image or video files include child victims previously identified by law enforcement.1  If it appears a child in an image or video was previously identified by law enforcement, CRIS generates a Child Identification Report that includes information on the series2 and contact information for the law enforcement agency that originally identified the child.  Importantly, CVIP staff can also provide law enforcement with information on images and videos that depict children who remain unidentified.
Since CVIP was established in 2002, NCMEC has reviewed more than 138 million child sexual abuse images and videos at the request of law enforcement, and CRIS now contains information on over 8,600 child victims who have been identified by law enforcement.  NCMEC continues to work with law enforcement on cases involving the thousands of child victims who have yet to be identified and/or recovered, and there are new victims every day. 

The number of images forwarded to CVIP for review continues to increase dramatically.  In 2014, CVIP staff processed in excess of 4,612 requests from law enforcement comprising more than 28 million images and videos.  There was an 18 percent increase in files reviewed by CVIP between 2013 and 2014; and, last month alone, CVIP staff processed nearly 3.3 million child sexual abuse images and videos for review. 

Of particular concern are actively traded series of child abuse images.  Actively traded series comprise a group of sexually abusive photos of one or more children together that NCMEC has seen in five or more CyberTipline reports and/or CVIP case review requests from law enforcement. 

Through NCMEC’s work on these series, alarming statistics have emerged.  For example, NCMEC is aware that some series have been circulated hundreds of thousands of times—this means that images and videos depicting this child’s abuse are being sent repeatedly to offenders around the world.  Additionally, NCMEC has also obtained information concerning the relationship of the abuser to the child victim in actively traded series.  This information demonstrates that the majority of the abuse is committed by an individual known to the child victim.  Of the child victims who have been identified by law enforcement, 77% were victimized by an adult they knew and/or trusted

Chart showing Actively Traded : Relationship of Explorer to Child


Further, of the identified victims whose images are actively traded, about half of the victims are boys (41%) and half are girls (59%).  Sixty-four percent of these series depict prepubescent children; an additional 9% depict infants and toddlers; and 27% depict pubescent children.3  In addition, a review of the actively traded series reveals the kind of sexual abuse most often depicted in the images and videos including oral copulation (44%), anal and/or vaginal penetration (52%), manual stimulation (60%), bondage and/or sado-masochism (11%), and urination and/or defecation (11%).4

Growth in Collection and Trading of Images

NCMEC’s experience indicates that the number of images being collected and traded by offenders worldwide continues to expand exponentially, and these images include graphic and violent abuse and feature young children, including infants.  Despite criminal and civil efforts to stem its tide, child pornography remains a pervasive and growing problem.

In recent years, the demand for and trade of child sexual abuse images has been increasingly facilitated by technological advances, including the increased use of digital recording devices, more storage capacity, and faster Internet speeds.  The ready availability of digital cameras (with no need for an outside photo developer), recording devices, and smart phones has facilitated the creation of new child sexual abuse images and videos, while increased storage capacity and faster Internet speeds have permitted offenders to view and share larger numbers of photos and videos—with some offenders having collections containing tens of thousands of images and videos.  In particular, the growing popularity of “peer-to-peer” file sharing, which permits direct, anonymous file-sharing between two or more users without cost to either user, has made distribution a common aspect of child pornography offenses.  Collectively, these technological changes have facilitated offenders’ ability to create, possess, and distribute ever-larger volumes of child pornography. 

Child pornography is a market-driven crime that always demands the production of new content, thus encouraging continued production of images by the direct exploitation and abuse of vulnerable children.  The high demand for child pornography leads individuals to sexually abuse children and “commission” the abuse for profit or status among other offenders.  Child pornography offenders span all geographic, professional, educational, and income levels.

As these images continuously proliferate and are traded online, child pornography victims suffer a perpetual invasion of their privacy and re-victimization as new offenders seek personal gratification from viewing the child’s rape and sexual abuse.  It is simply impossible to ensure the removal of images and videos of the victim’s abuse from an unknown offender’s personal collection and prevent their continued distribution on the Internet.  Thus, once an image of a child’s sexual abuse is placed online, that image remains and can be viewed and traded perpetually.

Offenders who possess child pornography images perpetuate the ongoing harm to child victims.  Indeed, each notification to a child victim that a new offender has been arrested for possessing images of his or her abuse further exacerbates a victim’s psychological injuries.  NCMEC believes it is critical to ensure prosecutors and law enforcement have adequate tools to combat those who engage in the online sexual exploitation of children for their personal gratification.  It is crucial that children whose sexual abuse images are distributed online can receive adequate recovery for the harm they continue to suffer.

Every individual who views, possesses, creates or distributes child pornography contributes to the grave harm suffered by child victims.  Restitution can never undo the damage these victims have suffered, but it can provide necessary funds for them to receive therapy and compensate them for the entirety of their losses.  The full cost of the harm suffered as a result of the global trafficking of child sexual abuse images should be on the shoulders of the guilty perpetrators and not the innocent victims. 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you and the Committee with our views on the impact of this horrible crime.  We look forward to continuing to work with you, the Committee and other Members of Congress on ways to ensure restitution is available for victims of child exploitation. 

1NCMEC knows which children are identified and when their images are being traded and/or viewed by offenders only if we are informed by law enforcement.  NCMEC has no independent means to make an assessment of how widely a child pornography series is seen or traded.

2Offenders often name a collection or “series” of child sexual abuse images and/or videos taken of a single or multiple child victims over a period of time.  A series typically includes abusive and non-abusive images of the child victim(s).

3The term “prepubescent” is used to describe any child who does not show signs of sexual maturation whereas the term “pubescent” is used to describe children who show signs of sexual maturation – often these are middle or high school-age children.

4Data reflects actively traded, identified series as classified by NCMEC as of December 31, 2014.  The percentages do not sum to 100 because some series contain images depicting content in multiple categories.