Overheard on CNN.com: Communities, families grapple with sex offenses, child porn
Matthew Smith celebrates his 21st birthday with his family before going to prison for possession of child pornography.
May 14th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Communities, families grapple with sex offenses, child porn

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

One could say there's another side of sex offenders: the way their offenses affect their families. This story, which focuses primarily on younger offenders accused of downloading child pornography,  garnered a powerful reaction from readers who debated the nuances of sex offender laws and the sexuality of young people.

Mothers of sex offenders share responsibility, burden of label

Some readers were appreciative of the article's perspective.

yellowrosela: "Thank you Emanuella Grinberg ... I doubt that any voice of reason will be taken seriously here, but I think this article was an honest presentation from the mothers of registrants. Everyone, except those that blatantly state if you let me go I will 'do it again,' deserves a second chance. That includes you and me. My Bible says in John 8:7, 'He who is WITHOUT SIN let him cast the first stone!' And, by the way, God doesn't grade on a curve. –Vicki Henry"

And some readers didn't feel sorry for these parents. This reader apparently wrote from outside the U.S.

Lauro Andrea: "This is such a disappointing article. It's mothers whining about the quality of life for their sex offender children. No real introspection. No concrete midway solution. Just how they are being persecuted? I was looking to see some redemptive inward look into attempting to trace causes and take responsibility. Instead, whine, whine, whine. I can tell you that if they were in lesser country, their sons would have been full-blown active pedophiles or have been torn to pieces by an angry mob. If you can visit Cambodia and see the damage wreaked by pedophiles who slipped through the net (the hundreds of children every year that get victimized is just staggering) you would kiss your ankle bracelets and be thankful. Better yet, if you can see the horrid prison conditions here that await foreign sex offenders, you wouldn't whine about the liberty you get there."

A lot of commenters wrote in about their personal experiences with various sexual offenses and abuses, involving themselves or others.

Insiteful: "I can truly relate to this. I had an acquaintance who went to prison for such. He had been his mother's No. 1 tech support for her home computer. While her son was in prison, his mom started to lean on me for her tech support. And of course, every phone call or visit, moved onto talking about her son, what he did, and her own feelings of guilt."

Others took a different perspective.

stimpage: "On a daily basis, I see firsthand the damage that is done to victims of child abuse. It never goes away, and these kids are scarred for life. Forgive me if I'm having difficulty conjuring up even a single solitary tear for poor Matthew Smith and the unfortunate situation that he put himself in ..."

People who view child pornography are sex offenders, this reader says.

NoRadicals99: "The moms say that their children only downloaded images, but do not mention that most of the child porn stems from child sex slaves. For that, they do deserve to be labeled sex offenders."

Comments about computer and Internet restrictions led to discussion about children's perceptions of sexuality.

doonerist: "I've always thought the 'no access to a computer' condition to be ridiculous. It's like prohibiting access to a television, or phone. One of the problems with the 'sex offender' label is the lack of levels within the class. There is a world of difference between an immature college kid downloading a few images of child porn out of curiosity and recklessness (and possibly under the influence) and the 30-something man who has thousands of such images and videos stored - evidence of an established, fully considered perversion and knowing violation of the law. And then there is the guy who has gone further and physically harmed children. Yet they all get the same label."

alexDW: "Even little kids are curious about these things. My 4-year-old daughter saw by accident a boy peeing and kept talking whole evening about the little thing hanging out from the boy. Should she be locked up as a sex criminal and pervert? She was certainly curious about things. You think nobody should ever be?"

Some folks talked about the sexualization of young people.

daskollaps: "Our popular culture deems it acceptable to market sex appeal to children, yet it is taboo to view them as sex objects? I don't think pedophilia is OK, but if our government really wants to keep people from treating children as sex objects, they should start from the advertising agencies and the popular media, not just spending money on trying to catch one Internet pervert at a time. I mean, seriously, have you seen the way our teenagers dress nowadays?! Can you seriously tell me that they're not marketed to dress like little sluts?"

This person made a jab at child beauty pageants.

aubrie: "Personally, I see it being equally perverse and sick for parents to dress up their little girls for 'pageants' with heels, died hair, gobs of disgusting make-up and Hoochie Mamma outfits and parading around wiggling and singing very adult songs. They should also be charged with this type of crime. I see no difference. Jon Benet Ramsey would be alive today if her parents had dressed her and treated her like a little girl instead of a street walker."

Another person said they think we have to find a way to rehabilitate sex offenders.

Thx4Fsh: "We cannot imprison every sex offender forever. It behooves society to make sure these people will not re-offend. Who is more likely to offend - the person who has a job, home and hope for the future or the person who lives under a bridge, with no job and no hope and only humiliation? The revenge of making them suffer forever may feel good, but it is often destructive and accomplishing the opposite of our goal - to keep children safe."

But on the other hand, says this reader, there has to be a reason people are making such content.

daguz: "Those who view this horrific trash create a demand for it. So yes, you deserve a lifetime of punishment because that child you were viewing will probably have a lifetime of pain."

Who do you go after?

DelishusCake: "One man takes a photo. 200 people look at the photo. Arrest the 200 people who looked at the photo. I'm pretty sure that just solved the problem. Obviously he's not gonna take another photo."

Torrent with care.

emtnap6: "Remember, if you're downloading this crap from a torrent, when its finished, you're automatically set to upload it so other pervs can download it! YOU'RE HELPING OTHER PERVS OUT THERE! So yes, prosecute them accordingly."

A few readers talked about public urination.

GoAwayObama: "We have to have some common sense about this registry thing. My friend in college was busted for peeing behind a Dumpster one night when we were barhopping. The cop said he could see his private parts while he was peeing so he was arrested for exposing himself in public and now is a registered sex offender for life. All for peeing behind a Dumpster at 2 a.m. There are legitimate people who need to be on this list for life; people who are violent predators. Not some 21-year-old college student who couldn't hold it in any longer."

But this reader said watching child pornography contributes to a sad cycle.

Deziann: "If you're watching a video or looking at pictures of children in sexual situations, you're not a lone perpetrator. You're participating in abuse that causes damage for a lifetime. The kids in those images are real live humans. They are not consenting, they may be kidnap victims, and are very possibly being abused by the people who are supposed to be caring for them. And 20 years from now, those former children may well be committing similar crimes. In many instances, a killer kills just once: the circumstances leading up to the crime may have been jealousy, money, fear. Rape, child abuse, sexual battery, etc., are all part of a pattern of 'I WANT' and a lust for power over victims. I'm very sorry for the moms in this story, but sorrier for the victims."

Many expressed sympathy for the parents involved.

shes_a_coug: "Some of these commenters are failing to put themselves in this mother's shoes. Would you dump your child because of the crimes for which he was convicted? Do you do that to your children or a family member - they make one big mistake and you cut them off for life? I've been in a situation as this woman has been, and it was heartbreaking. Unless you've been there, you really don't know. You've made huge mistakes in life, and don't act like you don't. We all have. So when you're pointing your finger at someone else's problems, you better make sure your finger is clean. Nobody's perfect."

How do we discourage sexual abuse of children?

comeonplease: "While I feel for the offenders and families, when will these guys get it? How much more awful do we need to make life for them until people of their ilk decide not to do these crimes? I am for making it more awful for them if that's what it takes. When I take take my grandkids out in public, I am always fearful for them. I always keep them in my vision. When these crimes move down to one time per year or less in our communities, maybe we can take the pressure off. But when I read the police reports in our local daily papers, this is a crime that repeats itself almost daily."

Be careful, urges this reader.

Sandra Walton: "The bad thing about the parents of sex offenders is they do not think about one thing. It is like a drug problem: once you start it is hard to stop. This is sad but true. It scares me a lot. In the town I am from, we have around 177 offenders. It scares me a lot. Another thing: please watch out, on some websites you can type in something and have child porn sites pop up. Even if you do not go to the sites, it stays on your hard drive, so be careful."

As far as keeping your Internet surfing clean, some readers gave suggestions.

Frederick2: "Can you be arrested if by accident you watch a picture of someone naked that looks above 18 but is not? How can you be sure?"

TimGreer: "Try using your best judgment, and if you feel you've stumbled across something that looks off, report it. Pretty simple."

What's your take on this issue? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice • Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    They want to legalize gay marriage and now this news.... just further evidence gays shoule be kept far away from kids.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Hamsta, from what I understand, many of these cases are of males viewing images of females.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Hamsta, there is no correlation with child p o r n and being gay.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    I am dumbfounded at the Mothers' Questions in the article about where her son would live, Job, dating, and marriage.
    The first question on my mind would be getting him a good therapist! Your son is looking CHILD POR NOGRAPHY for goodness sakes!
    Second Question would be has he actually rayped someone innocent soul?
    Third question, if so, this childs' welfare, mental and physical is of more importance than a secret... hands down!

    May 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Should read "some innocent soul"

      May 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mom

    If any child of mine would get their "Jollies" by injuring or watching a child be injured, I would disown them. No discussion.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Why was my comment deleted?

    @Mary: agree wholeheartedly.
    This man pled GUILTY of downloading child p o r n...I'm not feeling one bit sorry for him, nor his situation.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      I just restored a couple comments that got filtered.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    @ banasy, glad to see we're on the same page; this would be a rare occurrence... wouldn't you say?
    @ hamsta, Agreed on the ga y marriage, yet the article didn't say if the por n was depicting boys, girls, or both. Although all po rn is a beastly subjugation to the little ones; clarity of the po rn being viewed would have been a side-note to the main focus of the families who deal with their relatives crimes.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dazzle ©

    @hamsta, the article is about downloading child porn which IS a criminal offense. Foolish people who do this, think it is just between them and their computer. I pity them not one bit and their families should completely disown them once they are sent to prison.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dazzle ©

    Take 2. @hamsta, this article is about downloading kid po rn. This is a criminal offense. Foolish people who do this think it is between them and their computer. I pity them not and their families should disown them.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Portland tony

    I personally cannot see how some can find gratification in the molestation of any child. I would probably go to jail for mayhem and possibly murder if I were put in a position to stop the sexual exploitation of just one child. ..........Parents don't usually bear any responsibility for their offspring's mental aberrations any more so than raising a burglar.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big Monsters spawn little monsters

    True, none are born molesters. It's a learned behavior. Who taught the child? Who didn't take notice of what the child was learning?

    FACT: Child molesters are children who were introduced to s ex at a very early age before their young minds could grasp it, leading to confusion. The stigma attatched to this all-to-common situation doesn't exactly encourage molested children to seek help when they get older either. Especially since their parents didn't get them any help. Most modern parents just have the good Doktor drug their child, or were involved in se xual misconduct themselves...too bizzy. (www.SSRIstories.com)

    PARENTS: Don't even think for one second that even your young children don't know if you are cheating on your mate (they can feel it) or hiding your pornyo (they already found it)

    Young children are like sponges. They soak it ALL up. What? You thought you could outsmart them? Really? Whoa. 😦

    May 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Big Monsters hatch little monsters

    (still having trouble posting)

    May 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hamsta

    @ everyone if everyone thinks im wrong, then why do preachers that do little boys usually have child porn?

    May 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dazzle ©

    @phiip, it is obviously you, knock it off with SSRI's. Is this a pay per click for you? SSRI's saved my life.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hamsta

    @dazzle i have to agree with phillip on this one. this isnt one of his alien bmw j38 flying saucer conspiracy fantasies. i have seen the effects of these medications first hand. these drugs are worse than crack or heroine. my main point is that gay people arent born that way, they choose to be gay. being gay is a mental illness and can be treated with medication. adhd is a lie.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @hamsta, you and I have been over the made up diagnosis and the over prescribing of benzos and SSRI's. In my case a proper diagnosis of a brain chemistry imbalance and a mild dose of Setraline literally saved my life. Hence the reason I became a psychologist. I don't have enough scientific evidence to back up your hypothesis on why people are gay but again that isn't my specialty.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Keepalowprofile

    How long would it be before the images become boring?

    Then what... the real thing.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edward C.

      I know what you mean. We have to watch every single male that reads Playboy. Just seeing a playmate will soon not be enough. They will have to start raping them at some point.

      May 15, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
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