Children exposed to pornography poses risk for predators as it becomes a normality for them

Children are easily lured by sexual predators on the internet. file image

Children are easily lured by sexual predators on the internet. file image

Published Oct 7, 2023


Cape Town - Experts have warned that pornography has become a normality for children who have access to the web, making them more vulnerable to becoming victims of predators and that these criminals may have been exposed to sexual sites from a tender age themselves.

Just this week, the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed a 43-year-old Mossel Bay teacher had been arrested and charged for allegations of sexual grooming of children, sexual assault, rape, exposing children to pornography and using a child to procure child pornography, in that his pupils were his apparent victims.

Eric Ntabazalila, of the NPA, said the teacher could not be identified in order to protect his victims and faces 19 charges relating to sexual crimes and pornography.

“The Grade 7 teacher was arrested at work (local primary school) on September 20 2023 and made his first appearance on September 22, 2023,” he explained.

“The State intends to oppose his Schedule 6 bail application, where he is expected to show the court that it is in the interest of justice for him to be released.

“The victims were learners in his class.”

Ntabazalila said the case had been postponed to October 19, 2023 for the formal bail application.

The arrest comes just a week after 38-year-old, Ashley Perrins, was convicted and sentenced for 1208 charges relating to child pornography.

Perrins was imprisoned for 25 years.

The State proved that Perrins had pretended to be a 14-year-old boy and lured his victim via Facebook, including her friends, and had asked them to share videos and photographs of herself naked.

Shirah Theron, a doctoral student from the Philosophy department, Stellenbosch University is doing extensive research in the field of philosophy of sex and sexual ethics.

Part of her master’s thesis titled “Pornography Conceptualised as an Addictive Substance,” delves into how the brain reacts to pornography and how it can be compared to other known addictions.

She said the aim of her research was to gauge how pornography was addictive and argued that it ought to be considered a substance addiction, rather than a behavioural one.

She told Weekend Argus that via her research it indicated that individuals who begin consuming pornography at a young age are more likely to venture into consuming bestiality or child pornography.

“In other words, in many child pornography consumer and child predator cases, the individuals involved have a lengthy history of pornography consumption that commenced during their formative years,” she said.

“Many interviews with child pornography consumers tend to reveal a recurring pattern wherein pornography consumption became increasingly desensitising over time, until they consumed child pornography for the first time – which they then experienced as novel, taboo and exciting.

“These findings lead me to believe that it is very rare and unlikely that child pornography consumers start out with consuming child pornography from the get-go.”

Theron added, exposure to pornography at a young age has become increasingly normal and this makes children more vulnerable to sexualisation: “As I noted in my thesis, for many children, pornography serves as their first exposure to a sexual experience, which may occur years before they engage in, or want to engage in sexual activities with others.

“I do believe that there is a notable correlation between children consuming pornography and how normalised its consumption has become, and cases of children being sexualised – be it sexualised by themselves and/or by a predator.

“This, I posit, underscores the potential influence of prior pornography exposure on a child’s perception of the normalcy and acceptance of their own sexualisation and, in turn, heightens their vulnerability to grooming tactics employed by predators.

“I believe that this altered perception of normalcy can significantly increase a child’s susceptibility to online grooming tactics employed by child predators,” she added.

Siya Monakali of the child and women’s rights organisation, Ilitha Labantu, said they encouraged early education by parents to their children on how to be protected from sites which may have sexual content.

“Children nowadays are vulnerable to the threat of unexpected dangers that lurk in the online space, thus we encourage parents to explain to their children about the dangers of the online world, as much as it may be fun and exciting,” he added.

“Online access comes with added risks like exposure to inappropriate content, cyber bullying and online predators who often use fake accounts to lure their victims.

“Parents and guardians are advised to be extra vigilant, and strong appeals are made for our justice system to impose the harshest sentences on those who exploit the vulnerability of children online.”

Weekend Argus