One small voice speaks out for other child porn victims

Date: 2006-05-04
Source: theage.com.au

One small voice speaks out for other child porn victims

By Bob Kemper, Washington
May 4, 2006

SHE is known as Disney World Girl, the Internet Girl or, more precisely, the Internet Porn Girl. But Masha Allen finally has an identity all her own and a newfound voice, and she is intent on telling the world how she, and an untold number of children like her, have been allowed to suffer.

Masha was born in Russia to a father who abandoned her and an alcoholic mother who stabbed her. She was five years old and living in an orphanage in 1998 when an American man showed up to take her to what she thought would be a wonderful new life in America.

But the world Matthew Mancuso, a 39-year-old divorced engineer from Pittsburgh, brought her into was the furthest thing from wonderful. Masha's supporters, who were due to appear with the now 13-year-old girl at a congressional hearing in the US, to be held overnight Melbourne time, after having gone public with her story on national TV in December, say the adoption system, schools, social workers and police all failed her.

Mancuso, who on his adoption forms requested a five-year-old girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, raped Masha that first night home then regularly for the next five years, her case records state. He limited her food so she would remain slight and look younger. At age 10, she wore clothes made for a six-year-old.

Investigators say Mancuso took hundreds of pictures of Masha partially clothed or naked in several humiliating poses, and uploaded at least 200 pictures of her to the internet. They have been traded and sold by pedophiles ever since.

Maureen Flatley, an adoption consultant working with Masha, said law enforcement officials believed 80 per cent of the pedophiles under investigation around the world had at least one picture of Masha in their collections. "He procured her just for these purposes," Ms Flatley said.

Canadian police found Mancuso after identifying the backgrounds in Masha's pictures, including a fountain at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Mancuso, now 46, is in a federal prison hospital in Massachusetts that manages sexual predators. Authorities said that with federal and state charges from Pennsylvania and Florida still pending against him, Mancuso was unlikely to ever be free again.

Masha was readopted by Faith Allen of Douglasville, Georgia. After hearing about her case, Georgia Republicans Phil Gingrey and Johnny Isakson teamed with Massachusetts Democrats John Kerry and John Tierney to introduce legislation dubbed "Masha's Law", which would triple the penalty to $US150,000 ($A197,000) for those who download child pornography. It also would change the law so victims over 18 could sue anyone who buys, sells or distributes pictures of them taken at an earlier age.

"When I heard the description of how this Mancuso was able to go to Russia and fill out an application asking for a girl of a certain age, eye colour and hair colour — that's just scary, scary," Mr Gingrey said.

Masha, Ms Flatley and others will testify before the House subcommittee on oversight and investigation. Senator Isakson and Mr Gingrey are confident "Masha's Law" will eventually be approved. But it's less clear whether the Georgia girl's case will spark more expansive legislation that would increase regulation of adoption.

Ms Flatley said there were no national standards on adoption. How thoroughly the homes of prospective parents are investigated and the adults themselves are checked varies by state. In Masha's case, Mancuso had a daughter whom he was accused of molesting, but neither that girl nor Mancuso's former wife was interviewed, Ms Flatley said.

In TV appearances in December and January, Masha said having her pictures still circulating was worse than the five years of abuse she endured with Mancuso. At least the abuse stopped, she said.

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