VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Father Fortunato di Noto, founder of a protection agency actively battling pedophilia and child pornography, warns that these forms of abuse are gaining cultural acceptance.
This was one of the observations made Wednesday by the head of the Italy-based Meter Association when he held a press conference at the headquarters of Vatican Radio to release a 2010 report on pedophilia and child pornography.
He noted that on one hand, the Internet social networks are becoming ever more careful in prosecuting instances of pedophilia, but on the other, there has been an increase in infantophilia and “cultural” pedophilia.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office and of Vatican Radio, was also at the press conference.
He stated, “We know how the whole question of sexual abuse of minors has been debated, how the Church has been implicated for reasons we know. Meter’s activity is, concretely, the demonstration that the Church is involved in fighting against the sexual abuse of minors, in all realms, also in the new forms that this terrible tragedy takes on in our society.”
The report included data gathered throughout 2010, through a vigilant following on the Internet by the Meter Association. This was arranged in part with a cooperation agreement signed in 2008 with the Italian police department that deals with Internet crimes, making it possible to get investigations under way in Italy and in the world.
Through this work, numerous individuals have been arrested for detention and sexual exploitation of minors, and dissemination of pornography.
The association counted 69,850 victims of abuse during 2010, all of them children in the pre-puberty stage, that is, up to 12 years of age. Last year for the first time these victims were counted one by one as part of the investigation and denunciation of child pornography Web sites.
The association also reported on the even more alarming problem of infantophilia, that is, sexual interest in children younger than 2 years of age, of which, observed Father Di Noto, “the press rarely, in fact, almost never, speaks.”
The report also denounced the discovery of photo and video material in which minors engage in acts of self-eroticism or in which they are recorded while engaging in sexual acts.
Father Di Noto stated, “The sexual violence perpetrated is the most tragic and unspeakable, often detectable in family and criminal contexts; in some cases ad hoc sets have been made, including in shanty-towns.”
He reported the detection of “absurd blind and bestial sexual violence” against children.
The report warned that these crimes are growing, at a rate of almost 100%. Between 2003 and 2010, a total of 689,394 Web sites of this type were identified. In 2010 alone the association discovered 13,766 Web sites, social networks, services to exchange photo and video files and also e-mail addresses with pedophile content; this number increased from 7,240 in 2009.
Father Di Noto explained that “the personal Web site is still the preferred instrument of pedophiles, who often (in 80% of the cases) choose to equip themselves with generic domains, such as .into, .com, .net — apparently innocuous domains which, however, conceal photos and videos of violated children.”
He noted that “in 20% of the cases we have specific domains from very defined geographic areas.”
The priest also warned, “so-called cultural pedophilia is growing, that is, the proliferation of Web sites in which abuse and sexual violence against minors is presented as a ‘free choice’ that ‘helps’ the child ‘grow’ and that deep down would take up again the ‘noble customs of ancient Greece.'”
In fact, on Wednesday, after years of constant denunciations by the Meter Association, the first international operation began against “cultural pedophiles,” who lobby with the objective of making pedophilia appear as a natural and normal act.
Antonino D’Anna, who coauthored the Italian-language book “Corpi … da Gioco [Bodies … to Play] with Father Di Noto, addressed this topic at the press conference.
The journalist mentioned, for example, the 2006 establishment of the Dutch political organization “Party for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity” (NVD), the first openly pedophile party. This group, which publicly advocated the legalization of child pornography and lowering the age of sexual consent, was able to present itself in the political elections before it was dissolved in 2010.
D’Anna also noted the existence of a “Day of Pedophile Pride,” which is observed every year on April 25 in conjunction with “Alice Day,” dedicated to “love” for little girls, and “Boylove Day,” dedicated to boys, which is observed on June 23 and in December.
The problem, said D’Anna, is that in many pedophiles the “presumption” grows “that almost becomes the certainty of impunity,” so much so that in 2010, Meter pointed out photos and videos with 32 abusers who were not afraid to show their faces.
“The pedophile,” he stated, “is a lucid sick being who has the capacity to live that experience as normal.”
D’Anna noted that in 78% of cases the abusers are men and, as opposed to what has previously been stated, the greater part of them do not have a history of abuse.
“Therefore, this changes the perspective,” said Father Di Noto. “Here we should make a speech in the open air about man and about how he is educated: What is his relationship with woman? What is his relationship with sex and sexuality?”
The priest noted the good news that the number of denunciations against these sites is increasing, that is, the reports sent to authorities by Internet users.
Father Di Noto stated that the number of denunciations through Meter increased from 560 in 2009 to 889 in 2010, which shows “a more developed awareness, a new sensitivity on the part of the so-called citizens of the network.”
He noted a decrease in denunciations of social networks, which fell from 851 to 315. “In this case,” he explained, “the diminution exists thanks to the control that the managers of the social networks carry out,” partially in response to Meter’s denunciations.
The priest noted that there is in general a decreased presence of pedophiles on social networks, due probably to the more severe controls of the managers.
The association reported the following totals of denunciations on the various Web sites last year: Groups (143), Ning (88), Facebook (42), Socialgo (20), Webs (14), and Youtube (5).
It added that the child pornography photos and videos posted on these sites are also decreasing; in 2009 the pedophiles used the social networks to upload 29,250 photos, whereas in 2010 there were only 9,750, that is, a decrease of almost 66%. The videos went from 2,607 in 2009 to only 896 last year.
Often, however, the criminals also use file sharing, peer-to-peer, that is, the interpersonal exchange of material, Father Di Noto stated.
He reported that the association found 209 of these files, which contained 111,692 images and videos of abused children.
Father Di Noto explained that these are “rapid products, quick to commercialize and hand over.”
He added that the peer-to-peer exchange is convenient for pedophiles and also profitable: 70% of the investigations carried out refer to the possession, production and circulation of child pornography material. More specifically, the basic principle is very simple: the more you offer, the more you receive.
The Meter Association has set in motion several initiatives to respond to the problem of child pornography and pedophilia.
In 2002 it created in Italy a national hotline, which by 2010 had received 21,035 emergency calls, in addition to regular telephone consultations it offers.
In 2010 al
one there were 1,262 calls, 103 from abroad, to obtain information on adoptions and care, and denunciations of suspicious individuals, but also to get advice on finding psychological, spiritual and juridical help for these issues.
In addition, Meter supports projects in Paraguay, the Congo and Rumania, offering money to lawyers and psychologists to help “give an identity” to the “invisible children” and to assure them of therapy.
In Italy the association appears as a civil party in trials, sometimes offering economic support. This is useful, explained Father Di Noto, especially because “not all can access free sponsorship, which could be a concrete help for families obliged to pay enormous and draining legal costs, as there is no fund for the victims of sexual abuse.”
Meter runs a first response center, which in 2010 followed and gave concrete help to 862 children. It also works to address new emerging problems such as cyber-harassment or stalking online.
The association is actively involved in prevention, education and information, carried out through the organization of 68 congresses and meetings centered primarily on the topics of the Internet and the new media. It also emphasizes a constant presence in schools, creating places for consultations by minors, teachers and parents, where it is possible to get advice for eventual denunciations of any type of abuse.
Between 2002 and 2009, moreover, Meter visited 184 institutes of middle and higher education.
In 2010 a survey was carried out among 1,722 students of various regions to find out about their habits of using the computer. This research showed that in 62% of cases, young people received invitations to get together with persons they met online.
From April 25 to May 1, the association will sponsor a week for Children Victims of Violence, Abuse and Indifference, designed to raise awareness of these crimes.[With the contribution of Mirko Testa]
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Meter Association: www.associazionemeter.org