Absurd laws turn sexting teens into child pornographers

By Michael Rosenberg . . . Depending on personal experience, a person in violation of the law is a monster, an errant architect of his own fate, a heedless sinner, or a victim of a cruel system. The nature of crime is that it creates victims and perpetrators, but recently, the number of people prosecuted for crimes in which they are both victim and perpetrator is increasing and therefore making headlines.

 Sexting is the new black sheep

Depending on who is doing the judging, a sexting scandal in a Virginia high-school is either a darn shame or a child-porn case on a massive scale. In Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article Why Kids Sext, she reports on some of the unintended consequences of these situations.

The key components are:
1. A girl (usually a female, but not exclusively) will send a racy or nude picture to a guy on his cell-phone, aka “sexting”;
2. Her intention, according to Ms. Rosin, is either to a) share intimacy inside a pre-existing relationship, b) attract the attention of a potential future mate, c) get herself noticed on an internet-wide scale, or, and most disturbingly, d) because she felt pressured or was blackmailed into doing so;
3. The picture is sometimes shared, sometimes with malice, normally without, and this can lead to some embarrassment for the teens, parents of the teens, and the school administration if somebody reports the incident;
4. The decision lies with the parents or school as to whether to handle the issue in-house or make it a police matter;
5. The police and prosecutors, for their part, have some discretion as whether or not to charge/prosecute the persons involved;
6. In many cases, statutes have for years forced the hand of the courts in subjecting “victims” to prosecution when they produced the images of themselves, ostensibly perpetrating a “crime” against themselves.

At Louisa County High School, Ms. Rosin reports a situation involving a sizable collection of nude photographs of high-school girls, all under the age of 18, posted to an Instagram account. The pictures were taken by the victims themselves and sent to one trusted person who then violated that trust. Police became involved, and a large investigation ensued.

Soon, hundreds of interviews of students revealed a systemic problem: more than a third of the school was involved in sexting, either sending or requesting “sexts.”

 Bearing down on the culprits

The charge of “production of child pornography” carries with it possible long-term imprisonment, invariably creating new registrants, often for life. The investigator in the case of Louisa County High, Major Donald Lowe, began the inquiry into the source of the pictures, ready to find the culprits and act according to the laws at his disposal. At first figuring all the subjects as victims and those disseminating the photographs as suspects, Major Lowe had a change of perspective, like so many who find themselves a part of a system they do not themselves fully understand. Legally, Major Lowe’s victims were also suspects, as they had both produced and sent the pictures.

His mind-set changed at some point, as evidenced by his characterization of the nature of the offenses and offenders, from “victims,” to, “I guess I’ll call them victims,” to “they just fell into this category where they victimized themselves.”

The issues needing immediate redress are two-fold: hasty legislation grossly over-stepping the role of parents of hormonal teens (who are going to express themselves sexually) and the need to give help to those who have genuine criminal conduct because attacking crime with vengeance is like the proverbial “bombing for peace.”

 New crimes

For the past decade, the United States Congress has created over 50 new crimes each year. In an article by John Baker on the growth of new federal crimes, he explores the difficulty in defining “crime” in the federal system, as the term is not given a specific definition. Instead, activities became crimes because Congress applied penalties.
So then, crime, a social construct, is given birth not by an actor in violation of a statute but by the creation of a statute criminalizing what was heretofore not criminal behavior. We create criminals where previously there was no crime and therefore no criminal.

In this way youth become criminals by doing what youth have done for centuries – except for centuries there was no permanent record of their curiosity and their experimentation, and they grew up and led normal, productive lives. Today their indiscretions are captured forever, and their lives are changed forever because of it.

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15 Thoughts to “Absurd laws turn sexting teens into child pornographers”

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  1. Fred

    They shoot themselves in the foot with this law. All the parents who were against us before will have an eye opening experience when their kids are forced to register as SOs..

    1. Maestro


      I don’t think it’s going to open any of the eyes of the parents. They will still look down at us and in defense of their kids they’ll just say “My child didn’t mean to break the law. He/She did something stupid and he/she has learned a lesson. My child isn’t like those OTHER sex offenders”

  2. Today I visited with my probation officer. I had a polygraph test on Monday. I was asked questions about buying beer and if I had ever been on Facebook. I told the examiner I was. When he heard that he told me to wait in the waiting room and he wanted to confer with my PO about this. So he comes out and informs me that I don’t have to take the test but that my PO would contact me. I went there today to talk and explain why I was on there, that they could check my computer but no beans. So I have violated my probation and have to go to court sometime after Halloween.

    While I told the truth about being on Facebook and they could look at my computer I violated his being honest, so now its up to a court as its out of the PO’s hand. Any advice guys? My whole adventure was a deception to start with but they want to ad more to it and Facebook should of known about me to start with.

    All I know is that I tried to reason with my PO but he was stone faced as always and would rather glean or groom me when I visit his office and more of less listens than gives advice. So I don’t know which way to turn. I want to make a stand but I also want to make a stand for others… Now the good book always says think of others better than yourself.

    1. david

      Hey James…i don’t know if there’s much you can do at this point. Yes, you were honest about Facebook but on the other hand you know you shouldn’t have been on there in the first place.

      My experience has been that probation sets the tone. In my SOT whenever there was a violation it was usually punished- regardless of whether or not the person ‘fessed up.

      At least you didn’t have to take the polygraph. So that’s good. Any questions you fail will bear intense scrutiny- in my SOT if you fail a question it’s assumed you violated that rule. Which is insane because polygraphs are extremely unreliable.

      If this is your first violation maybe it won’t be a big deal. Good luck James..

    2. Fred

      James I think that is terrible. Even if it wasn’t a probation violation it would had likely been a registry violation in many states.

      When I hear things like this I actually feel fear. How hard would it be for someone else to create a Facebook account with my name and pretend to be me. It wouldn’t matter how much I try to explain it away I would still be charged.

      These polygraph tests are designed to get you to incriminate yourself. This is wrong on so many levels, I don’t have the words to express how much it bothers me.

      My advice is do not talk to any more law enforcement or probation officers unless you have an attorney present.

      1. Maestro

        Fred, you said…

        “When I hear things like this I actually feel fear.”

        And that’s exactly what they want us to feel. This is why, no matter what anyone else has to say about probation in a way that ALWAYS sounds like theyre defending it’s purpose… IT SERVES NO ACTUAL PURPOSE other than to try to ruin our lives once we’ve already been punished with actual INCARCERATION.
        No one can ever give us back the years we missed while we were locked up. Then they want to lump probation on top of that to fulfill their own weird psychotic criminal justice agenda!!???

        Listen. I’m going to say it again and again and again until someone, with a little more professionalism and better vocabulary gets the gall to say it for us all –

        There are so many examples to be thrown in the faces of ANYONE who says probation is given because it’s NEEDED in order to slither back into society. BULLSH*T! Probation is OFFERED in order to make you THINK (aka IMAGINE) that you’ll have your freedom after “x” amount of time in prison rather than doing the entire time that can be handed down.

        I’m not at liberty to do this but, someone who knows how to get it started should petition the states to eliminate probation (or find some other use for it) by bringing a lot… I mean A LOT of ex-convicts who have completed probation to a hearing where they can each tell their stories about how probation (not any state or local ordinance) forced them to be HOMELESS which is counter-productive. How probation FORCES/SCARES you into trying to find a job only to tell you that no matter what hours you work when you do find a job and no matter how new of an employee you are, you must still take time OFF from that brand new job each week to go to the probation office. And this can/will/has eventually lead to the loss of the job.

        With enough people to go into those open to the public state hearings, like what you might see on your local access TV stations, we can at least get the pot stirred.
        No one wants HOMELESS sex offenders roaming their neighborhoods, right? Living under bridges where they might be able to SNATCH any little girl that happens to walk home via that bridge…..right?

        Enough is enough with this probation crap.

        Oh…and btw…please do not confuse my gripe against PROBATION to mean that I would also fight the PAROLE board. Parole is something you EARN DURING INCARCERATION.
        I’ve had way too many responses in the past on my posts here and on other sites in the comments section where people say “Parole and probation…” no, no, no…. I only speak of PROBATION. You don’t EARN to be given probation, it’s a PLEA they use to trap you.

      2. Fred

        I am not on probation. I feel fear because because of the sor laws. It is a four year felony in my state. My fight is against the registry.

      3. Emil S

        It’s not just probation.
        In my case, it was time served according to the judge in the court after I was locked up for about two years.My case was a low level felony and I agreed to time served to the DA’s plea deal, I understood that I had to be registered. That’s what I was explained to by my lawyer. But then I found out after the fact that they had added five more years of Supervision on top of my already time served sentence. I contacted many avenues including numerous lawyers in North Carolina, also human rights organizations. But they were all of no use.
        Being in the Supervision is really difficult as the supervising officer or probation officer looks for anything to violate me. Rather than helping to reintegrating into the society, they wants me to re-offend and go back to incarceration. They don’t help you find a job, but then they complain that I am not employed and paying them their $40 monthly fee. They come to my residence (which was difficult find) any time and they have turned my room upside down twice even though they didn’t find anything in the first place. It is a bully and those who feel it understands it. They want to instill fear in us to the point that we look up to them even being able to breathe outside of the confines of jail/prison.
        I know this is injustice but who will listen to me? This country along with the Constitution is dead for me.

    3. Maestro

      James, never mind others. Think of YOURSELF and what YOU really want to accomplish here.
      Firstly, I’m sure you know by now my opinion of probation. It’s rubbish! It’s based on lies and fear mongering.
      Where you went wrong was by telling the truth. Do NOT ever tell those baffoons any more than they need to know (and personally I don’t feel they need to know jack sh*t).
      Worried about “lying” because of your religious beliefs? STOP IT! Lie a little. It’s truly the ONLY way you’re going to live a some-what normal life while on probation. Going behind their backs is what you have to do.
      Think of it this way – When you’re off probation, you can use all the internet you want. And don’t anyone come at me with that “It’s part of your sentence” crap. I don’t care. It’s a POINTLESS part of our sentences because if the system feels we cannot be trusted then don’t let us out. None of us. Sex offender or car-jacker or gas station robber.
      Probation is just another job for those who couldn’t pass the postal exam.

      James….before you go beating yourself up with your religious beliefs on the subject of lying to people, stop for a moment and think about how these agents of law enforcement will care less about lying TO YOU! Saying and asking things of you just to try and make you feel comfy in their office as they sneakingly try to pry you for information about how many times a day you use the bathroom.

      They are liars and set ups. Do the same right back to them. The less they know, the better off YOU are.

      Go into that court room and FIGHT! If whoever is representing you doesn’t say something, YOU better.

      “Excuse me but, can you prove that I used FaceBook to try to entice minors to be sexual with me?”
      “What heinous crime did I commit by simply wanting to enjoy the same modern technology that everyone else gets to enjoy?”
      “If you’re so worried about sex offenses happening via social media, then by all means END social media. Because it’s not REGISTERED sex offenders hooking up with your kids on there. It’s people with NO PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORD. Oh, you’ll probably deny that though.”

      STAND UP for yourself. And too bad if the court doesn’t want to hear what you have to say – SAY IT!!! It gets recorded by the court stenographer. I would (and kinda actually did) say these types of things just to make the bastards THINK even for a split second about how ridiculous they are making the issue.

      1. david

        Exactly. From what i’ve encountered, polygraph testing is better for intimidation purposes than detecting lies. The polygraph machine can not read your mind. It measures heart rate, pulse, sweat. The interrogator “interprets” the data and decides whether one is deceptive or not. So it’s very fallible.

        What is really frightening is how when a guy fails a polygraph it is assumed by probation that they actually committed whatever violation they were flagged on. If they say they didn’t do it they are punished for not confessing/incriminating themselves. If they admit something it seems they are punished just about the same.

        Rock and a hard place.

      2. david

        in my SOT group when someone failed a polygraph regarding Facebook they usually went to jail for a few days. Didn’t matter whether they confessed or not.

        More serious questions that were flagged as deceptive occasionally led to new charges. So like Maestro said: Don’t ever let a polygraph bully you into jeopardizing yourself!

      3. Polygraphs are wrong and are merely scare tactics

        Polygraphs are not allowed to be admitted as evidence for good reason – innocent people can fail them and guilty people can pass them. The science has been proven that polygraphs are not an exact science and often misleading. Please research it. Use it to your advantage.

        What ever happened to your constitutional right of not taking the test to avoid violating your 5th Amendment Right of self-incrimination and 1st Amendment Right against government compelled speech by forcing you to take the test? You have those in your corner. Use them. Research them.

  3. Prosecutor with a big ego

    So, let’s bring the comments back to the topic at hand here…..children, sexting and overzealous prosecutors

    From the sidebar, there is this interesting case: “Editorial: Girl’s ‘sexting’ doesn’t warrant criminal prosecution” (http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/10/02/editorial-girls-sexting-doesnt-warrant-criminal-prosecution/91314936/)

    Which stems from this article: Bsau: Can you prosecute a victim for her exploitation?” (http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/rekha-basu/2016/09/30/basu-can-you-prosecute-victim-her-exploitation/91326554/)

    And both of those are offshoots of this original article: Lawsuit aims to block ‘sexting’ charges against teen (http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2016/09/28/iowa-prosecutor-sued-response-sexting-case/91213768/)

    So, can the girl who photographed herself in racy, but not obscene by legal definition, poses be prosecuted? On what grounds since nothing meets the legal definition of obscene? What if she merely kept these non-obscene photos on her phone? Can she be charged with the manufacturing of and possession of, possible intent to distribute, but not actually distributing child porn?

    I think this prosecutor is trying to make a name for himself and teach moral lessons when it is not his place to do so, but the parents place in the end. Those who did share nude photos were dealt with as they should have been. Case closed. Yet he is being challenged and has taken exception to it.

    People know when to say No and they are taught that. People also know how phone apps and sharing apps work today since this generation is raised on this technology. To think and say otherwise is foolish. Next thing you know swimsuit photos will be verboten and burkas issued in Iowa to teach lessons.

    1. thank you for bringing this back to a forum discussing the topic, rather than a group text session.
      the articles you link to help link this race- to -the -bottom to the absurdity it is.
      Prosecutors teaching morality. Huh. That right there is a topic for discussion.

  4. Deb

    This is just for an academic exercise. I do not condone any sexual offense.

    Harm caused by sex offense is aggravated by social shame. In some cases social shame is the only harm. The perpetrator is not responsible for social shame. It is our culture, our religion our moral compass that creates social shame. The laws need to consider this aspect. Unlike other crimes like murder or robbery that directly causes harm to the victim, in a non-violent sex offense, harm is aggravated by the society. Often in teen sex exploration, there is no harm caused and yet one of the participant is punished.

    I wonder if there are any research to analyze sexual experience of animal at young age and how that impacts their adult life.

    It is possible that proper treatment can perfectly heal a sex offense victim. Instead of stigmatizing the victim and paralyzing the offender, we need to focus on education, research and healing.