For parents, there is nothing more horrifying than discovering that your child has become the victim of a sexual crime.
While there are many different types of sexual offenses out there, child pornography is one of the most sickening of them all.
But how big of an issue it is? We've all heard of or seen the FBI's most-wanted posters or the TV crime dramas. Then there was the case of ex-Subway pitchman Jared Fogle going to prison for possession of child pornography, among other twisted things.
Are these isolated incidents? Or is this a growing issue in the United States?
Independent Journal Review wanted answers to these questions. We were put in touch with Mike Rock, a former U.S. Army Green Beret-turned-computer forensic analyst for the Department of Homeland Security.
Rock spent ten years in the U.S. Army, four of which were as a Green Beret. As a Green Beret, he helped hunt down high-value targets in Afghanistan.
But the constant use of his body from mission to mission, operation to operation ended up with Rock having to hang up his rifle. Rock medically retired from the military in 2014. The seven-month transition from military to civilian life was a difficult time for Rock. “I was on different pills for the pain. I took double what I was supposed to. I wanted to be with my brothers on the battlefield,” Rock said.
But then something changed. Rock was told about the H.E.R.O. Child-Rescue Corps, a non-profit, anti-child crime organization of military veterans that's partnered with The National Association to Protect Children, U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement, and U.S. Special Operations Command.
After a 10-month unpaid internship, he joined the Department of Homeland Security as a computer forensic analyst. Since he specializes in finding child porn, Rock is the guy who analyzes the crime scene. And as stomach-churning and heartbreaking as it may be, part of Rock's job is to look through smartphones and computers for child pornography and identify the crime. Rock has seen — and continues to see — some absolutely horrific things.
Disclaimer: The following information is extremely graphic and may upset some readers.
“I've watched videos from newborns to teenagers getting molested or sexually assaulted. One of the most horrifying videos I ever saw was a group of men breaking into a women's home, who had an infant. She was home alone. They recorded themselves raping the mom and the one-year-old baby. And they recorded their dead bodies,” he said.
IJR asked Rock about how big of a problem child pornography is. His answer was quite unsettling.
“When I was in training, they pulled up a live map of the U.S. where a little red dot popped up every time someone downloaded child porn in the United States. In just fifteen minutes, the entire map was red.”
Rock pulled back the curtain on one way that child pornographers communicate with each other openly. “It isn't just downloading child porn, though. People will go to these dark chatrooms on the open internet, and they will offer their kids to each other. Like they will say, 'I have a two-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter,' and they will offer them,” he said.
It gets even more sickening than that. “People will go out and have kids just because they want a child to molest, or they want a kid at home to make child pornography with,” Rock said.
Child pornography isn't just a crime that is isolated to a particular demographic, either. “We will go to someone's house, and we will have a ton of agents there. And people will come outside and say, 'what are you doing here? He didn't do anything!' It happens at the trailer park, the house in the suburbs, or the mansion on the hill,” Rock stated.
Rock drove his point home further about how even the wealthiest people are sometimes involved:
“You could live in a neighborhood filled with millionaires and you don't know that there three people just on your street that are huge into child pornography.”
“It is a highly widespread problem,” Rock said. “It could be the mechanic at Jiffy Lube or a neurosurgeon, and these people come from all walks of life. There are even some who will become dentists and pediatricians so that they can have more access to children. They will dedicate their entire life to being able to be around more kids for the purpose of child pornography.”
Rock opened up about the level of disturbing sophistication some child pornographers have. “Tech savvy child pornographers can hack your webcam on your computer, your smartphone, your iPad, even the baby monitor camera. I keep a piece of tape over my webcam at all times.”
According to Rock, the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies are fighting child pornography around the clock, but they “barely make a dent” because it's such a massive issue. “It's a growing problem because technology keeps advancing and more and more countries are coming online,” Rock emphasized.
With how significant an issue it is, Rock recommends for parents to monitor how their kids use technology. He says, “Educate yourselves more and your children on what to watch out for, they could be talking to someone online who claims to a 15 or 16-year-old, but in reality that's a 45-year-old child pornography user who wants to make them a victim.” Rock added, “Bad guys are pretty smart. they know what they're doing, and many times, it's easy to fall for their tricks.”