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The Science of Sex Abuse

1-14-2013 National:

Is it right to imprison people for heinous crimes they have not yet committed?

On a Saturday night in the summer of 1998, an undercover officer logged in to a child-pornography chat room using the screen name Indy-Girl. Within minutes, a user named John introduced himself and asked her, “Are you into real life or just fantasy?” Indy-Girl said that because of the “legality of it” she had never acted on her fantasies. But she soon revealed an adventurous spirit. She was a bisexual college sophomore, she said, and had learned about sex at an early age. “My mother is very European,” she explained.

John, a thirty-one-year-old soldier stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had been using the Internet for less than a year. He began downloading child pornography after watching a television special about how Internet child porn had become epidemic. He hadn’t realized that it existed. In the five months since he’d seen the show, he had downloaded more than two thousand images from child-pornography news groups. In the anonymous chat rooms, he felt free to adopt a persona repugnant to society. He told Indy-Girl that he was a “real-life pedophile,” adding, “At least here I can come out and admit it.”

“What’s the kinkiest you’ve done?” Indy-Girl asked. John said he’d had sex with a ten-year-old while her parents were skiing, and with a fourteen-year-old at a night club in Germany. Indy-Girl recognized that she was too old for him, which was “depressing,” but she offered that her little sister liked older men. “Maybe you could intro me,” John wrote. “We could meet somewhere discreet.”

John had been in the Army for eight years, serving in Desert Storm and Bosnia, and had graduated from Penn State with a degree in history. He was thinking of leaving the service, in part because he felt picked on by other soldiers. He had been commended for having a memory for technical details, but he was also nervous, nerdy, and eager to please. At all stages of his life, he had been afflicted with the sense that he was just a “wannabe.”

Unlike other people John met online, Indy-Girl seemed to like him. After a week of conversations, she asked John if he was “r/l” (real life) about the meeting, and when he said that he was she sent him a soft-focus digital image of a girl who she said was her fourteen-year-old sister. “Now don’t be mean when you see it,” she warned. “She still has some of her baby fat, she’s kinda embarrassed.” Undeterred, John described how the three of them would enjoy one another’s company: they could have sex in the shower or in a field of flowers. He encouraged Indy-Girl to “talk dirty” and “let your imagination go wild,” but she cut him off, explaining, “I’m not the cyber ...continued... by Rachel Aviv

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