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Betrayal of trust: Investigating child porn and trafficking

by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on August 15, 2012 at 9:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 16 at 10:55 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Somewhere near Fairgrounds Park, a 10-year-old girl remembers a strange man waking her up. She was asleep in the backseat of her mother's car.

She wasn't exactly sure where the car was parked and it was dark outside. The man, 30-year-old Brandon Bibbs, climbed on top of the little girl. Bibbs raped and sodomized her, both orally and anally.

"She cried throughout the incident. She talked about asking for her mom and crying. He said to her, 'Be a big girl, it's almost over,'" explained Jennifer Szczucinski - the assistant Circuit Attorney in St. Louis.

Police say the little girl's mother was standing on the front porch of a stranger's home...waiting. That stranger would later tell police that she repeatedly asked the woman if she needed help. Each time, the mother said everything was fine.

Authorities say the mother waited two hours to report her child missing. Once police got the report, it only took a few minutes for officers to find the car and injured child. DNA evidence later lead police to Bibbs.

Authorities believe the mother allowed the man to take her car and her daughter in exchange for crack.

"It was something that law enforcement and our office very much believe was an issue, but it was not something that we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court," said Szczucinski.

The mother pleaded guilty to other child endangerment charges. Bibbs was convicted of raping the little girl. The child is now in therapy and doing as well as can be expected, Szczucinski says.

Abusers who share images on-line

Federal investigators tell News 4 it's rare to come across cases in which a parent trafficks their own child in exchange for money or drugs. But, it does happen.

In central Illinois, we learned of two cases.


"One woman was using her daughter, allowing her daughter to perform sexual acts on her boyfriend while they took pictures," said Mike Mitchell - the resident agent in charge of the Springfield, Illinois Homeland Security Investigations office.

"They were, literally, exchanging them for drugs and/or money in order to get drugs."

In another case, investigators are pursuing charges against a mother accused of molesting her daughter and sending photos of the abuse to the mother's love interest.

What child porn investigations tell us

Most child pornography is made in the U.S. In 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children began a program - aimed at identifying the victims of child pornography. Since 2002, the Child Victim Identification Program says it's identified more than 4,600 children. The majority of those victims are Americans.

Most of those children (65%) are abused by a family member, friend, or an authority figure. (We've seen other research that shows it can be even higher).

"This isn't a topic that a lot of individuals want to discuss. It's a tough topic. Most people are gonna think it's the stranger danger, our kids are abducted off the street and forced into this. When you tell them the vast majority of them have legitimate access to the children who are producing this type of content, they need to realize who has access to their kids," said John Shehan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Investigators say they've made strides in cracking down on people who aim to profit from child porn. In 2006, the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography supported efforts to crack-down on organizations that processed credit card transactions for child porn sites. What was once thought to be a multi-billion dollar industry is hardly making any money in 2012, said Shehan.

"We certainly wouldn't say that its been eradicated because where there is someone who thinks they can make a profit off of children, they will do that and it will re-surge. But, the idea is to keep the coalition active so when those sites pop up, we can notify law enforcement and we can continue to follow that lead," he added.

By and large, investigators say abusers document abuse for sexual gratification and share images in order to obtain new images. So-called "collectors" make trades for new material.

What can be done?

Whatever the motivation (drugs, money, more images), there are countless children who have not been identified. They don't know who to turn to for help because, often, the people they trust are the ones hurting them.

"There's people that see it and, unfortunately, they don't know to recognize there's something wrong. It takes somebody willing to step forward, on behalf of the children, to report this so it can be looked into," said Mitchell.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center says there may be bodily signs (bed-wetting, stomachaches, headaches, sore genitals), or emotional signs (fear, mood changes, acting out, refusing to be left alone with certain people). Some children may display inappropriate sexual behavior with objects or other children. The child may express knowledge about sex that is not developmentally appropriate.

The signs aren't always obvious and many children don't report abuse or will wait years to tell someone.

The NSVRC shares resources and information on its website: www.nsvrc.org/projects/preventing-child-sexual-abuse-online-resource-collection

The NCMEC operates a Cyber Tipline, where tips are shared with law enforcement: www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet

Homeland Security Investigations allows people to submit information anonymously, either by calling 1-877-347-2423 or the calling St. Louis office at 314-244-9900.

 

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