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Experts Speak on Growing Prevalence of Child Porn Cases - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Experts Speak on Growing Prevalence of Child Porn Cases

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The news about the arrest of a University of Virginia professor for child porn charges sparked a lot of questions about a growing problem.

The FBI says the number of cases they investigated across the country went up by more than 2,000 percent between 1996 and 2005. Experts say the Internet has helped spur this disturbing problem, where the victims are those who can't protect themselves.

What's shocking for many is the people accessing child porn are likely those you would never expect.

“This is truly an epidemic. It's epidemic not just in Virginia, not just the United States, across the world,” said Rusty McGuire, Louisa County commonwealth’s attorney.

Just this week - two child pornography cases made headlines in central Virginia.

“What the Internet created was a global forum for people that were interested in assaulting children and raping children to be able to meet and normalize their behavior,” said Camille Cooper, director of legislative affairs for "Protect.

University of Virginia associate dean and professor Michael Morris is now at the center of a federal child porn investigation. He faces at least one charge, after allegedly logging onto a child porn site almost 200 times since January.

“They're modern-day, domestic terrorists. They're terrorizing our children. They're in all walks of life,” said McGuire.

Thursday, Joe Leake of Montpelier was sentenced to 115 years in prison for a slew of charges including abduction, object sexual penetration, and 25 counts of possessing child porn.

“In Virginia, there are a minimum of 20,000 individual computers that are distributing hardcore images of children being raped. We're talking small children, infants, and toddlers being tied up tortured and raped,” said Cooper.

Experts say those statistics can be narrowed down to about 400 individual computers distributing child porn in Charlottesville alone.

“I've prosecuted ministers, I've prosecuted executives, wealthy people, average people, everything in between - different race, ethnicity - it doesn't matter,” said McGuire.

According to a December 2012 report to Congress, child porn offenders can be classified based on degree of sexual interest in children, motivation to collect child porn, and tendency to engage in other sex offending. The research shows sexual interest in children and corresponding sexual gratification are significant motivators.

“Once they contact children, once they have this thirst, it cannot be quenched,” said McGuire.

Cooper says the offenders are often controlled by an obsessive and compulsive need.

“What we know about a lot of these child predators is that they lead double lives. On the outside, they look like normal people, pillars of their community,” said Cooper. “The reason that they create this double life is so that they can get away with what they're doing.”

McGuire believes more cases are surfacing because law enforcement is taking the issue more seriously.

“Our philosophy is once you've reached out to start trying to touch children, the only safe place for our children is that you spend the rest of your life in prison,” said McGuire.

The minimum penalty for one count of possessing child pornography in Virginia is five years behind bars.

The full report to congress on federal child pornography offenses gives an in-depth look at the types of offenders and their possible motivations. Click here to read the research in full.

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