August has been a monumental month in the fight to end impunity for child predators.
First, nearly 800 lawsuits were filed against the Boy Scouts of America for facilitating child sex abuse. As more information becomes public, abuse in the Boy Scouts is expected to eclipse similar crimes in the Catholic Church. At mid-month, hundreds of civil lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions that protected them were filed in New York State when the Child Victims Act’s one-year “look-back” window opened. Thousands of additional suits are anticipated.
Then there is the Jeffrey Epstein case. On August 9, the initial release of previously sealed Epstein court records named former Senator George Mitchell and previous New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as alleged child sex traffickers. The next day, on August 10, Epstein was found dead in his jail cell after an apparent suicide.
Regarding the Boy Scout lawsuits, USA Today headlined, “Teachers. Doctors. A small-town Mayor. New sex abuse claims against Boy Scouts suggest leaders exploited prominent positions.”
This headline and the details of the Epstein case may seem shocking to many Americans who have an inadequate understanding of who predators are, how they operate, the professions and institutions they exploit, and the enormous toll they extract on child victims, their families, and our communities and country.
Child Sex Trafficking in the US
For the past decade, I’ve been publishing on how to end impunity for child sex trafficking. My book, Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape, details a research agenda for public policy change necessary to halt America’s fastest-growing crime. Key to stopping the crime and protecting our children is an open database with demographic details of all federal and state trafficking arrests and prosecutions – a predator database.
Our collective failure, as a country, to understand and stop child predators is a result of limited data. The most recent collective federal data on child sex trafficking details 37,105 perpetrators referred for federal prosecution between 2006 and 2013. Of these cases, 82 percent were committed by white men. Beyond that basic demographic, little is known.
Who are these predators? Where did they work? Did they use their professional position to traffic children? Did the institution cover-up the crime and protect the perpetrator? How many children were trafficked in the workplace? Are there professions with a concentration of perpetrators – such as pediatricians or special education teachers – where these preparators have access to vulnerable children and a position of power that provides impunity?
No one knows. The data has never been collected.
Another example of the importance of predator data for an effective anti-trafficking policy is the National Criminal Justice Training Program’s announcement that the Department of Defense’s internet networks ranked 19th most active (out of 2,891) on child pornography trading sites. In response, U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Mark Meadows introduced the End National Defense Network Abuse Act to stop the U.S. military from facilitating child sex trafficking in the workplace.
"The measure, End National Defense (END) Network Abuse Act is said to give military leaders tools needed to get rid of child pornography on DoD's network, go after offenders and protect children" https://t.co/NB1PSWaygL
— Dr. Lori Handrahan (@LoriHandrahan2) July 3, 2019
Accurate perpetrator data, underpinning good policy, is also the foundation for budgetary decisions about resources needed to fight this crime and protect children. If America understands who is trafficking children and how, through access to a public database detailing the arrest and prosecution demographics, policy changes at the state and federal level would be sweeping.
It all starts with the data.
Powerful White Men
Over the past decade, child sex trafficking in America was most often committed by powerful white men in leadership positions in our homes, schools, police stations, courts, government, volunteer organizations, hospitals, and elected political positions. Child sex trafficking is embedded in our workplaces and institutions. Overwhelmingly, white male leaders have been using organizational positions to commit the crime and to serve as protection from prosecution.
Now, in the fading days of August, journalists are starting to report what the torrent of child sex abuse lawsuits is exposing. USA Today, for example, reported that
“accused tend to be men of stature in their communities … police officers and members of the military, teachers and a mayor, doctors and a child psychologist. Their prominent positions offered them easy access to children.”
America needs comprehensive perpetrator data on all trafficking arrests and prosecutions so that the nation can understand the scope and who the predators are to hold them accountable and to stop the crime against children. Our workplaces, public institutions, and communities must be secured. Our children must be protected.
The predator database needs to be built. I’m ready. Who is with me?Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.