Pornography Child Abuse and Coersion Essay

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Disease Control and Prevention (2016), as many as one out of every four children have experienced some type of abuse: including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Exposure to pornography, whether accidental or not, can be harmful to children's psychological or social development. However, coerced exposure to pornography is a more extensive form of abuse that coincides with other types of abuse including psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Coerced child pornography may in fact be one of the most harmful types of child abuse because of the multifaceted nature of the crime. The nationwide prevalence of abuse in the United States is over 700,000 children, with prevalence of death at 2.13 deaths per 100,000 children (CDC, 2016). Child abuse is not just an ethical issue; there are proven consequences of child abuse that have been substantiated by empirical evidence in the scientific literature. Only a few of the harmful effects of child abuse include abnormal brain development, impaired cognitive skills development, learning disabilities, poor social or emotional skills adaptation, reduced language development, anxiety and mood disorders, and substance abuse (CDC, 2016).

Exposure to pornography leads to a different subset of effects, many of which relate to the social development of the child. Research has shown, for example, that exposure to pornographic material can lead to rigid gender stereotyping, and even the condoning if not the perpetration of violence against women (Campo, 2016). Lack of self-esteem, mistrust of adults and trouble with authority, self-destructive and self-harming behaviors are also known effects of child abuse (Department of Human Services, 2011). Although these are not causal studies, the harmful effects of simple exposure to pornography are nevertheless measurable. There are also correlations between frequent exposure to pornography and sexually coercive behavior later in the child's life (Campo, 2016). It is therefore imperative to eliminate child exposure to pornography. Yet the more pernicious problem related to the coerced participation of children in either amateur or professional pornography is something that has not bee studied in as much detail. Obviously coercion of any type implies force; the child will often be psychologically manipulated if not outright physically forced to either watch pornography with the perpetrator or perform sexual acts in front of a camera with or for the perpetrator. The long-term effects of such coercive and abusive acts are extensive.

Exposure to Pornography

Exposure to pornography alone can lead to unhealthy and risky behaviors. One study shows, "teens who watch movies or listen to music that glamorizes drinking, drug use or violence tend to engage in those behaviors themselves," (Ross, 2012, p. 1). Other studies substantiate the mirroring effect, whereby children who watch pornography repeat what they see on the video or the images. This could lead to the types of high risk sexual behaviors that lead to a child's being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. Moreover, exposure to pornography has been shown to be a risk factor in comorbid mental health issues such as intimacy disorders, mood disorders, and substance abuse disorders (Ross, 2012). To mitigate the effects of pornography exposure, parents need to take a more active role in their child's education and educators also need to take responsibility for informing children as young as they are able to understand what the difference is between healthy sexuality and unhealthy sexuality, such as pornography that depicts coercion or violence against women. When children are educated early about sexuality, the mystique of pornography may be diminished, thus leading to a healthier and more realistic, age-appropriate developmental attitude toward sex. However, exposure to pornography alone is not necessarily considered abuse.
An abusive situation involving exposure to pornography may be when a child is deliberately exposed to pornography by anyone: any adult or even any other minor.

Coerced Involvement with Pornography

Exposure can in fact be a precursor to coerced participation, especially when some of the commercially produced pornography actually is designed to include images of children watching pornography. By creating pornographic videos in which a child is watching either live or recorded sex, the perpetrator tries to impart a sense of normalization to manipulate the child. "A major use of commercial child pornography is to convince a potential child victim that the sexual acts desired by the adult offender are fun, exciting, can satisfy the child's curiosity and are a societally acceptable means of expressing affection," (Tyler & Stone, 1985, p. 313). In fact, what the child is watching is another child who had also been coerced, abused, and lied to. A young child has malleable mind and can be susceptible to believing an adult or older child who he or she trusts or admires. Therefore, reducing any kind of exposure to pornography through strict monitoring is essential to preventing the next stage: coerced participation in pornography. Unfortunately, child pornography is a global industry and law enforcement often faces great difficulty tracking down the black market sources for child pornographic material, human traffickers, and other perpetrators.

The sex trafficking on minors is a major global industry, integrated with organized crime, and recent research is emerging with alarming statistics revealing the extent of the problem with 5,544 reported cases in the United States alone in 2015 (Mcpherson, 2016). These are just the reported cases; it is likely that the majority of incidents have not yet been reported. Even worse, some children find that when they ask for help or come forward to law enforcement, they become embroiled in the criminal justice system themselves, placed in untenable foster care situations, and end up in situations no better than they had been when they were being trafficked (Mcpherson, 2016). In fact, Mcpherson (2016) notes that law enforcement will end up processing some of the victims of child pornography and child trafficking rings with criminal charges, such as if the minor had been in the possession of a drug or other contraband, or if the child had exhibited behavioral problems. Unless law enforcement takes a more sensible approach to processing the victims of child pornography, it is unlikely that all victims will be willing or able to come forward. The ongoing criminalization of prostitution in and of itself can perpetuate the problem, as many witnesses to child trafficking and pornography, or child prostitution may be afraid to come forward for fear they will be prosecuted as johns, depending on the jurisdiction.

Specific Effects

A wide range of individual and contextual variables will affect the child. The age at which the abuse occurs, whether it was a single incident or an ongoing issue, the exact type of maltreatment, and relationship between child and perpetrator are all factors that will impact the reaction of the child. Some children have psychological resilience as a mitigating personality variables; others are more at risk for exhibiting psychological harm and have low resilience (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). When a child lacks sufficient coping skills, he or she will be more susceptible to physical, psychological, and social consequences. Unfortunately, resilience is also linked to the environmental variables like a supportive home environment. Thus, a child growing up in a household that repeatedly exposes.....

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Campo, M. (2016). Children and young people's exposure to pornography. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved online:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016). Child abuse and neglect. Retrieved online:

Child Welfare Information Gateway (2013). Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved online:

Department of Human Services (2011). What are the effects of child abuse? Retrieved online:,-families-and-young-people/child-protection/about-child-abuse/what-is-child-abuse/who-is-likely-to-be-abused-and-what-are-the-effects

McPherson, G. (2016). The criminalization of child trafficking. Retrieved online:

Prevent Child Abuse America (2016). Understanding the effects of pornography on children. Retrieved online:

Ross, C.C. (2012). Overexposed and Under-Prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content. Psychology Today. Retrieved online:

Tyler, R.P. & Stone, L.E. (1985). Child pornography: Perpetuating the sexual victimization of children. Child Abuse and Neglect 9(3): 313-318.

Wolak, J. & Mitchell, K.J. (2009). Work Exposure to Child Pornography in ICAC Task Forces and Affiliates. Crimes Against Children Research Center. Retrieved online:

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