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A local expert attends the World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World in Rome

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Patrick Trueman, president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington, was among the worldwide experts to attend the World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World in Rome Oct. 3-6.

The conference was organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, in collaboration with WePROTECT, a U.K.-based global alliance to fight online sexual abuse, and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” the first Italian help line for children at risk.

The event called attention to the unprecedented sexual exploitation of children, according to Trueman. “Throughout the world, people working on the issue of child sexual abuse often do not highlight what we do — sexual abuse through exposure to pornography,” he said.

Trueman, who served as a former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, said there is now greater awareness of the worldwide problem of sexual abuse of children and the harm that pornography causes.

“The Rome conference and the Declaration of Rome is meant to spurn action in various religions, government and industries,” he said. “I believe this will have a ripple effect throughout the years.”

The Declaration of Rome was released Oct. 6 with a call to develop or strengthen programs to highlight the abuse of children and call attention to the scale of the abuse. Some steps include urging parliaments to “improve their laws to better protect children and hold those accountable who abuse and exploit children,” and for leaders of technology companies to “commit to the development and implementation of new tools and technologies to attack the proliferation of sex abuse images on the Internet, and to interdict the redistribution of the images of identified child victims,” according to the statement.

Virginia law prohibits the distribution of hard-core pornography, but it was last prosecuted in Stanton around 10 to 12 years ago, according to Trueman.  

Trueman said there is a general lack of enforcement of federal obscenity laws. “Real harm from porn comes not from the porn shops because there are few of them today, but from internet distribution,” he said. “We have federal laws that prohibit distribution of hard-core porn via the internet, but the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t been prosecuting it for the last nine years.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017