Darkest Secret: What is classified as child sexual abuse material?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Child pornography arrests are becoming a disturbing crime trend that Middle Tennessee law enforcement wants people to know more about and what it truly entails.

Investigators explain how pictures you post of your child online could end up in what predators call their “collection.”

Jenni Smith is the Assistant District Attorney for Sumner County. She works on those types of cases.

“Bryan Randolph, charged with 30 counts of child pornography. Gary Lynch, charged with 23 counts of child pornography,” Smith said, rattling off a list of men facing charges.

Even after years on the job, she struggles with the crimes against children cases that cross her desk. “There’s disbelief that something like that is happening.”

After reviewing thousands of graphic images, Smith said all children can fall victim if their picture is online.  
 
“Sometimes you’ll see parents posting pictures of their kids on Facebook doing innocent day-to-day activities, running around without a shirt on, or in the bathtub, and my mind automatically goes to, these could be on someone’s computer,” Smith said.
 
Smith explained a legal trend among child predators known as child erotica.
 
“A lot of times I see that they obsess about a certain child, and you’ll see just tons and tons of images, clothed images, of a certain child,” she said. “We can’t charge for those images, but we know what they’re doing with those images.”
 
Also, in these criminal collections, investigators typically see sexual activity with still images and videos, which is a crime.

“The online predator, their goal is to get more of the content that they want,” said Nicholas Christian.

Christian investigates this kind of crime with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. “They’re going to treasure that data that information that no one else has,” and Christian adds they also sell it.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child sexual abuse matieral is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year online industry.
 
Criminals also look for content that shows the same child being re-victimized over a number of years at different ages.

One called the “Vicky Series,” which was created in the U.S., is widely considered to be the most downloaded and traded child pornography series in the world. It shows footage of a pre-teen being sexually assaulted by her father.

“This isn’t a rape that occurred one time. This is all over the world,” Christian said. “Every day people still trade that series of her. She’s being re-victimized every time someone looks at the series.”

That realization haunts Smith. “The worst thing about these child pornography cases is those are victims you’re never going to save – unless they can somehow get identified.”

News 2 investigates the alarming crime trend now coming to light in Middle Tennessee after the COVID-19 pandemic. In a special report, Darkest Secret, learn more about the fight to stop child pornography and what it truly entails – Click here for our special reports.

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