A Response to The Atlantic’s “I, Pedophile” article

On August 26, 2013, The Atlantic published a vile and shocking column from a self-confessed pedophile.  The entire column was written to evoke sympathy for the author’s plight in “suffering” from pedophilia.  He describes his nightly computer sessions where he watched images and videos of children being sexually assaulted as being as satisfying as a “sumptuous feast.”  This behavior lasted twenty years, and ceased only when the author was arrested.  He describes his sexual attraction to children as a “sexual flaw,” as if being sexually attracted to children is the same as having a shoe fetish.  He was sentenced to an appalling 90 days in jail and proclaims that he “never hurt a child.”


“Don’t let them think no one is getting hurt,” said one child in a statement she asked be read in court when offenders are sentenced for trafficking in the images of her sexual abuse.  Another girl, now an adult, can barely function in society, can barely go outside, can barely sustain employment, because she lives with the paralyzing fear that everyone has seen the images of her brutal sexual assaults.  Even worse, she wonders which of the people she comes into contact with have gotten sexual gratification from them, or used them to groom other children to “normalize” the sexual assaults.  Or, as Mr. Goldberg calls it, “the cross-generational lifestyle.”  So, this is where we’ve ended up?  Calling child sexual assault a cross-generational lifestyle? 


The entire tone of Mr. Goldberg’s article is beyond offensive.  It jumps right into depravity.  He seeks to excuse his behavior throughout the article, and claims he never hurt a child.  Really?  In a very well-covered case in Atlanta I prosecuted when I was a federal prosecutor, the FBI agent on the case and I debriefed the offender after his arrest.  We asked him why he had spent 5 years violently assaulting a little girl starting when she was just 5 years of age.  His response?  He needed “fresh” child pornography to trade with others of like mind in order to receive “fresh” images from them.  Was Mr. Goldberg one of those with whom this offender traded the images of the little girl being assaulted with various brutal sexual implements while he wore a clown mask?   Who knows?  Mr. Goldberg apparently doesn’t care.  He didn’t care for the more than twenty years during which he victimized children.  While he never acknowledges it, he was certainly victimizing children.  How many?  I would like to know how many children being assaulted he watched and “collected.” According to him, he deserves our sympathy.  I’ll reserve mine for the little girl who will probably need therapy the rest of her life, and will still likely suffer from increased risk for suicide, self-harm, prostitution, and emotional detachment. 


Without those like Mr. Goldberg to demand child pornography, there would be no market for it.  And, let’s not sugar-coat it.  Mr. Goldberg never reveals it, but he wasn’t just “looking at the pictures and videos that were already a part of my collection.”  These offenders don’t just look.  This is a sexual interaction for them.  They gratify themselves while viewing the images that would horrify and repel most people.  He is sexually interested in children in an obsessive way, which he admits.  He is directly responsible for creating demand for the further sexual assault of children, which he also admits.  He clearly has not one ounce of empathy for these victims.  Why, again, isn’t he spending a long time in jail away from children?


The answer is simple, though sad.  Children do not have a voice.  Oh, sure, everyone professes horror at this crime, and there are advocates out there working to protect children.  But, the simple truth is that children have no trade group, or lobbyists, or the ability to gather and march, or the wherewithal to conduct phone or email campaigns.  Most child victims of this horrible crime never even report the abuse or get rescued from the offender who assaults them.  I’ve seen their faces, and I will never forget them.  Most of them I will never know, never identify, and never be able to help.  Unlike Mr. Goldberg, though, I know they are out there, I know they need our help.  In one case, a little girl wrote a letter to the federal agent who rescued her after a search for her when the images of her sexual abuse surfaced in an investigation.  She told him, “I knew you’d come.  I knew you’d rescue me.  I was begging you to come with my eyes whenever he took pictures of me.  I knew you’d know I was asking to be rescued.  I knew you’d come.”  When will we see the others?  When will we rescue them?  They are begging us to come rescue them.  Instead of rescue, however, we are asked to sympathize with people like Mr. Goldberg, who would rather enjoy a cross-generational lifestyle.  Shame on him.  Shame on the Atlantic.  Shame on us.

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