The Department of Justice has announced the arrest Anthony Mangione, of the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for South Florida, on child pornography charges, proving once again that the stereotype of the creepy trench coated stranger is no measure of perversion.
Charged in a three-count indictment for transportation of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography, Mangione, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, will face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
What makes this case particularly sickening is that ICE has a specific mandate to target and investigate child pornographers, child sex tourists, and human traffickers, and the agency holds one of the most comprehensive databases of child pornography on the planet. As head of the department Mangione presumably had access to everything in that database.
Protect your child from sexual exploitation in both physical and digital forms
- Talk, Talk, Talkto your children about appropriate and inappropriate conversations, pictures and touching. Start when kids are young, talk frequently, and make the conversation’s focus practical, not scary.
- Keep your perspective. Yes, there are sexual predators online, and yes they are trawling for targets, but they are not stalking every child every moment of the day or night. Only a fraction of youth will experience full blown solicitation, but all children should be forearmed.
- Warning kids about ‘creepy strangers’ is off target. Predators look like anyone else.
- Instead of saying don’t let strangers talk to you about, or touch you… (which implies it’s ok if others do), say no one – not mommy, not daddy, not brother, not uncle, not family friend, no one – is allowed to make you feel uncomfortable, talk to you about your body, touch you in private places, or take photos of you undressed or barely dressed.
- Leverage Family Safety Tools, and do your own checking in.Depending on the age and maturity of your child/teen, use family safety settings and tools (also called parental controls) that are transparent (so your child knows what’s being monitored) that can help detect potentially at-risk communications.
- Though Facebook is the most popular social networking site, it isn’t the best site for young teens – and it does not allow access for users under 13.
- Instead use one of the social networking sites that was actually designed with safety as a core principle from the ground up. You want a site that uses moderators and screening as these vastly decrease the likelihood that your child will be solicited by a predator – whether that be a sexual predator, an emotional predator, a physical predator, or a reputational predator.
- Help tweens and teens understand that sending a sexual image of themselves to someone else can have far reaching consequences. There is a whole segment of the population beyond their boy/girlfriend who is very interested in seeing these pictures, touching the pictures, kissing the pictures, and masturbating to the pictures. Should their photo fall into the hands of a person interested in child pornography, it is likely to be traded and shared my thousands of times.
- Listen, Listen, Listen to your children. Your kids won’t tell you about risks if you aren’t listening and being thoughtful.
- If you have a history of freaking out, taking away their internet access, etc. when they come to you about something, then you’ve taught them not to come to you. This increases their vulnerability as the very people they should be able to turn to have made themselves unusable.
- Build trust that you will be calm, listen, and find the right solution no matter what they bring to you.
- It is never the victim’s fault. God-forbid that any child should be abused, but statistics say a percentage of kids will experience sexual exploitation instigated either online, or offline. It is never their fault. As with all sexual crimes, there is only one person at fault— the predator.
- Sexual acts with minors are illegal and exploitive, and as a society, everyone must be committed to protecting minors, even when they act against their own best interests. Yes, they might have done things that put them at greater risk, but they are the victim, not the abuser.
- Understand that sexual predators frequently try to make a child believe that the abuse was the child’s fault or something they wanted because if the child feels guilty or ashamed they will be much less likely to report it. Predators may say, “You wouldn’t have contacted me if you didn’t want it,” or “I only did this because I thought it was what you wanted.”
- If a parent or authority figure says to an abused child or teen something like “What were you thinking?” or “What was your part in this?” the child or teen may see that as siding with the predator. If the adult in any way reinforces the predator’s message of guilt, they remove the last shreds of hope from the child that they will be believed, nurtured, and protected by those they need support from the most.
For more information on how to protect kids and teens from online exploitation see my instructions for Protecting Kids.
If you believe a child is being abused, or know an child abuser, don’t hesitate. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline 1-800-THE-LOST, use their website’s reporting tool or call your local law enforcement agency.