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U.S. Federal Prosecution of Commercial Sex Abuse of Children Nearly Doubles

October 12, 2017

One of the things that U.S. Justice Dept. (DOJ) often gets right in recent years is the prosecution of those who sexually abuse children.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the annual number of defendants prosecuted for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) charges nearly doubled between 2004 and 2013, from 1,405 cases to 2,776. The annual number of suspects referred to U.S. attorneys for CSEC offenses also increased (54%) during this period, from 2,972 suspects to 4,579.

From 2004 to 2013, a CSEC crime was the most serious offense investigated (i.e., lead charge) for 37,105 suspects referred to U.S. attorneys for investigation. Suspects referred for possession of child pornography (72%) made up the majority of all CSEC suspects, followed by child sex trafficking (18%) and child pornography production (10%) suspects.

Nearly all (98%) CSEC defendants convicted in U.S. district court received prison time. This was higher than the percentage of persons sentenced to prison in all other major offense categories—property (63%), public order (64%), violent (91%), weapon (92%), drug (93%), and immigration (96%). Most (97%) convicted CSEC defendants received prison-only sentences, less than 2% received prison terms combined with community confinement, and less than 1% received probation or probation with confinement conditions.

Overall, most suspects arrested for CSEC crimes were male (97%), U.S. citizens (97%), white (82%), had no prior felony convictions (79%), and were not married (70%). The median age of CSEC suspects was 39 years, and more than half (56%) had no more than a high school education.

While the sexual abuse of children remains a huge problem in the United States, it is much worse in many other countries.

While there is not yet any hard data available, it appears that under the Trump administration the inertia created by the Obama adminstration under Project Safe Childhood has not yet been affected by the realignment ordered by Trump that would put greater emphasis on large-scale crime where more money can be seized.

What the U.S. is still lacking are effective treatment and prevention programs. Locking up offenders gets offenders off the street but doesn't address the root cause of the problem and it appears that the problem will continue to grow more severe. 

The easy access to pornography that the Internet provides has sexualized vast numbers of American children. This leads them to engage in sex at an early age with other children and adults. This imprints a foundational pattern for future sexual desire related to children, which can lead to the sexual exploitation of children.

Just as acccess to pornography in print, on TV and radio is regulated, access to online porn should also be regulated. Filtering software can help but is easily circumvented by kids with basic computer skills.