Shining the light of truth on the dark deeds of men

On December 19, 2005, The New York Times published a stunning series of articles describing the descent of a young teenager into the dark world of Webcam pornography, and of his long struggle to break free of his addictions after six years, first as a victim and later as an active perpetrator. He became a Federal witness and provided law enforcement officials with the identities of hundreds of pedophiles who had sponsored and encouraged his activities in various online incarnations over the years with gifts and cash totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The story of Justin Berry’s "coming of age" is deeply disturbing reading.  Indeed, if I did not know at the outset that it would have a "happy" ending, I doubt I could have endured it. As a parent with two very young children, to read of the sexualization of the innocent and naive by influential adults fills me with an equal measure of fear and rage. I look into the faces of my little ones and cannot imagine them being used as tools for the puerile gratification of twisted men. Nor is it inspiring to think of what dangers lurk in the shadows for future years.

However, I am grateful that stories like this are being told. As awful as these details are, they eliminate widespread ignorance of the dangers facing our children, and bring hope that such activities will be brought to a swift end. Of course, the threats against families will continue to grow more subtle and insidious, but as long as there are good men in the world willing to face such evils head-on, exposing them to the harsh light of truth, there is great reason to be optimistic in these troubled times.

The reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, deserves special recognition. This man did more than write a stunning expose of an evil and clandestine industry. He (and his colleagues at The Times) saved a life. By the last sentence, I was wiping the tears out of my eyes. This is journalism that truly matters.

Read the article first, then Eichenwald’s essay:

  1. Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World by Kurt Eichenwald
  2. Reporter’s Essay: Making a Connecting With Justin

On August 20-21, 2006, Eichenwald published a two-part follow-up to his December article. He goes deeper down the rabbit hole, so to speak, and what he finds isn’t pretty. There’s no personal story to tell, and what he reports is even more disturbing. But it’s necessary.  If you read these articles, find your children and give them a big hug afterward.

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