Possessing Internet Child Pornography Is A Serious Crime With Serious Consequences, Study Finds

Contact: Erika Mantz
UNH Media Relations

June 7, 2005

Editors: Janis Wolak, a researcher in UNH’s Crimes against Children Research Center, is available for interviews at (603) 862-4691.

DURHAM, N.H. – People arrested for possessing Internet child pornography have typically committed serious offenses and received serious sentences, according to the first national study of the problem by researchers at the University of New Hampshire. The study found the majority of child pornography possessors caught by the justice system had downloaded sexually explicit images of very young children and images that graphically depicted sexual penetration. More than half had molested a child or attempted to do so.

Allaying concerns that law enforcement has been unresponsive to the problem, the study also found substantial numbers of arrests and high rates of conviction and incarceration. According to the authors of the report, this success is due in part to the incontrovertible evidence that child pornography investigations typically find.

The report, "Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings From the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study," was authored by researchers Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell from the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes against Children Research Center, with funding from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and U.S. Department of Justice. The study involved surveys and interviews with a national sample of more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies.

“This study documents the inherent seriousness of child pornography possession,” said Wolak. “Although their identities are often unknown, the children in these graphic images were sexually abused and exploited. People who view and possess these images are adding to the burdens of these young victims, whose trauma may be increased by knowing their pictures are circulating globally on the Internet with no hope of being removed.”

The study found a broad spectrum of individuals and law enforcement agencies around the country were involved in bringing child pornography possession cases to light. Key recommendations call for increased efforts to encourage individuals to report pornographic images of children and more resources for law enforcement in the handling of these cases.

The full report is available on the CCRC Web site at http://www.unh.edu/ccrc under “Internet Crimes against Children” or on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site at http://www.missingkids.com under “Featured Publications” or by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800 THE LOST (1-800-843-5678).