Skip to main content /transcript




One Percent of U.S. Children Are Exploited Sexually

Aired September 10, 2001 - 12:12   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we're keeping our eyes right now on a press conference that's just getting underway. I see it's underway now.

We're going to see now Professor Richard Estes with the University of Pennsylvania. He's an author of a study that has shown that an amazing number of American children are exploited sexually. The numbers that we have seen so far this morning, at least that have been leaked from this report, are as many as 400 thousand children. They're talking about perhaps as many as 1 percent of all of the children in the U.S. somehow, some way being victimized sexually.

Let's listen in.

RICHARD ESTES, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: ... has provided the mainstay of financial support for the project.

Don Lane (ph) is here and on the DS at the -- my far left, representing the fund for nonviolence from Santa Cruz, California, a fund that's particularly concerned with issues of sexually-exploited children, particularly in the commercial manifestations of the sexually exploitation.

And Brenda Tilles (ph), who I have not yet met but from -- there you go -- from the WT Grant Foundation in New York also provided financial support for the study.

I also want to identify those members of our international advisory group who are here. These are people who represent all aspects of society, the governmental sector, nongovernmental sector, and many other communities of interests around this issue.

Laura Barnitz is here -- in Washington, aren't you, Laura?

Laura is program associate with Youth Advocate Program International and a member of the Steering Committee for the U.S. campaign against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, an extremely important innovation that's happened in the passed year.

Hillary Batcher (ph), are you here?

Hillary, from the Department of State?

William Carter from the FBI Crimes Against Children unit has been very active with us.

Kathy Freeh (ph) is here from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Kathy is from the Exploited Children unit.

Amy O'Neill Richard (ph), from the U.S. State Department, who deals specifically with issues of trafficking.

Norman Strictman (ph), from the Department of Transportation.

Norman, I saw you a few minutes ago.

Norman is with the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation.

Someone said to me, well, why is the Department of Transportation represented in a study of commercial sexual exploitation of children?

The reason is more than half of our children move across state lines, and obviously they use various forms of conveyances, mostly buses, certainly vehicle, car, vans, and so on, but also airplanes. And so this is an issue for the Department of Transportation in the same way that it is for other agencies as well.

And of course many of the perpetrators of these sex crimes against children are traveling -- what we call the "traveling cases," individuals who make arrangements by Internet to meet children and then fly or train to be with children to engage in sex with them. Also, clearly, a transportation issue.

Ray Smith from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is on our DS, over here to my right.

Some of you may know Ray from a press conference that was held two weeks ago, where Operation Avalanche, which was a multi- jurisdictional effort, multi-agency effort to apprehend -- 100 persons were arrested that day, I believe, wasn't it, Ray?


ESTES: Over a period of time as part of Operation Avalanche for Internet crimes against children. The one Web site involved had more than 250 thousand subscribers to children pornography, each paying a monthly fee for the privilege of downloading child pornography, just to give you some sense of the dimensions of this.

And Ray really has been one of the prime leaders in that movement, along with FBI and other federal investigative agencies, and we've just been thrilled that Ray has been part of our effort with us.

Carol Smelenski (ph), who also is no stranger to this field. Carol has worked for a long number of years in all areas of sexual exploitation, both adult and children. Carol is right there. And Carol is the coordinator of ECPAT-USA. ECPAT means end child prostitution and trafficking originally, but now it has a bit of a new name. But in any case, the central concern of ECPAT is really around sexually exploited children. And later, after the press conference, Carol will be saying a few more things about that.

I also want to acknowledge Marty Scher (ph). Marty will be surprised by this. Marty's director of international protected with the Child Welfare League of America. Child Welfare of America, along with NASW, was -- is one of our partners in this effort. And before Marty, the late David Literman (ph) was a member of our international advisory group, so Marty has replaced David in this capacity.

Also, by way of informational materials, each person should have a copy of the press kit. Also, at the time you signed in, we made available to you copies of various reports. This is the Mexican National report, which was published by UNICEF; it was released in March. I encourage you to get a copy if you don't have it.

This is a report published by our Canadian partners dealing with sexual exploitation of children at the global level.

We will have the national study of sexual exploitation of children in Canada in two weeks. So, as of today, I do not have specific numbers for Canada, though I certainly am in a position to talk about the relationship between Canada and the U.S. with respect to trafficking of children, because we've learned quite a lot about that.

In addition, we also have the U.S. National study, which is available by Internet. We will give you the URL address on the Internet, where you can download, if you wish, the full report. It's fairly extensive. You'll be relieved to know the executive summary, which is only 40 pages in length. So we have the interest of protecting trees as well.

But, in any case, all of the material you need by way of background for understanding this horrific problem within the North American free trade region are now available to you, and I hope that you feel free to get the necessary copies and to use them on behalf of these children.

The focus of this news conference is on the most neglected and least visible groups of abused children in the United States. And this group of children that we're talking about I refer to as child sexual exploitation; that is it's an umbrella category that includes three different types of exploited children.

The first are those that are referred to as child sexual abuses cases. These are largely noncommercial cases of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, 96 percent of all the sexual abuse that occurs in the United States today, the 105 thousand substantiated cases of child sexual abuse, are inflicted on children by persons already known to the child; 49 percent are inflicted by acquaintances of the family, or acquaintances of the family, and include sports team coaches, religious people, neighbors next door, persons in the large network that the family members and the children would know and trust. However, 47 percent of all of these cases of child sexual abuse are committed by family members themselves against children, particularly very young children, fathers and step fathers, uncles, older sibling, even grandfathers.

So that altogether, between those two categories, you have 96 percent of the total.

Only three percent -- four percent rather, of all cases of confirmed child sexual abuse in the United States is inflicted by strangers against children.

So what I was raised with, the notion of avoid the stranger, don't get in cars with strangers, don't accept candy, and so on, I think that we should still teach our children on that. But the danger is not only from the strangers. The dangers by far are people known to the child and to the child's family, including the family members themselves, and this requires a measure of vigilance that I think that most people in our society are not really prepared for.

But the problem is actually horrific, and child sexual abuse, although it's noncommercial, involves three forms of abuse to children. The first is rape and molestation; the second, is the involvement of children in pornography; and the third form is the intentional closure of children to the sexual acts of other, including the sexual acts of parents, where parents permit children to actually witness intercourse and other sexual activities that parents and their friends are engaged in. Those three categories constitute what we call child sexual abuse.

The second major category is also not commercial in nature, and it's called child sexual assault. And these are for sure real heavy duty criminal offenses, and they involve forcible rape, forcible sodomy, forcible sexual using objects of various types, and forcible fondling of a child, and we have more than 100,000 cases of those cases each year as well.

And unfortunately, most of those cases are forcible sexual assault are inflicted by acquaintances and family members as well. Only 13 percent of cases of sexual assaults are committed by persons who are strangers to the child. So again, it portrays of this picture of the family and the local community in which the child lives as being a very dangerous place indeed for all too many of our children.

The third category is the focus of this press conference, and that's the commercial sexual exploitation of children. And by that, I mean, children who are involved in the performance of sexual acts of various types in exchange for something of value to the child. Often that exchange is money. But equally often, the exchange may be for something else. It may be for food, shelter, clothing, and in many cases, even drugs, where children perform sexual favors or perform mercenary services, sexual mercenary service in exchange for drugs and other things.

We have three major categories that we have been concerned with. And as you can tell of the people who made up our international advisory group, we have experts in each of those areas that work closely with us. The first is child pornography.

HARRIS: We've been listening to professor Richard Estes from the University of Pennsylvania there, delivering the disturbing report that he and his panel have researched. Some 400,000 children every year, the victims of rape, molestation, pornography, being exposed to sexual acts and forcible sexual assault. Ninety-six percent of these cases, he says, are perpetrated by family members or acquaintances of the children. He says it's kind of odd that in the old days, you used to tell the children not to get into the cars and not be friendly with strangers, but it seem as though the bigger threat comes form people they know.

We'll continue to keep our eyes opened and peeled for this press conference and the information that will come from that, and we'll report that for you later today on the network here of CNN.

Boy, big time, change gears on that one.



Back to the top