For the most of people who watch child pornography, the children they see being sexually abused are anonymous, and they stay that way. But as Al Baker writes in a story for the New York Times, for Matthew Fanning, a retired NYPD officer who downloaded a 15-minute video showing a young girl being abused by a man, his victim’s story came out when he was being sentenced for promoting sexual performance by a child. The girl, now in her 20′s, had written a victim-impact statement which was read aloud in the courtroom.
“I wonder if the people I know have seen these images,” she wrote. “I wonder if the men I pass in the grocery store have seen them. Because the most intimate parts of me are being viewed by thousands of strangers, and traded around, I feel out of control. They are trading my trauma around like treats at a party, but it is far from innocent. It feels like I am being raped by each and every one of them.”
The woman was a repeat victim of child abuse; the sexual acts which Fanning watched were filmed by her father. She said that she dropped out of college because of panic attacks and could not bear to be in crowds of people. And every time, she wrote, she heard of another person viewing the pornography, she felt tortured.
Every time someone is convicted in federal court of possessing or watching pornographic images of her, she files damages; according to her attorney, she is seeking “about $1 million to date for counseling, lost wages, extra educational costs and evidence gathering.” Although she has received more than 50 orders for payment, however, she sees little money because many of the people convicted simply don’t have it.
Fanning apologized in court after hearing the victim statement, saying, “The phrase ‘Lord knows, I’m sorry,’ comes to mind. I would never do anything to hurt anyone.”
This did not, however, stop him from being sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
In addition to helping “Vicky” seek restitution for her ongoing exploitation, her attorney says that they hope her example will encourage more victims of child pornography to come forward. “We ask that her victim-impact statement be read aloud in all cases so the defendant and those in court have an opportunity to realize the effect of this crime,” her attorney said. “I’m hopeful other victims will come forward and realize they, too, can have a voice.”
Photo from Mike Baird's Flickr photostream.