Kids can be victims or violators

Date: 2006-10-16
Source: usatoday.com

Kids can be victims or violators

Posted 10/16/2006 11:11 PM ET
By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY

Jared and Masha represent the two sides of online child pornography: criminal and victim.

Jared was a child himself, about 12, when he was introduced to porn by older neighborhood boys. Masha was just 5 when she became their prey.

Jared, a Maryland college student who was interviewed on the condition that he not be identified, started with nude images of girls 9 to 13. He moved on to hard-core pornography that showed sexual penetration.

Jared says he never physically violated a child, partly because he grew up in a religious family. Also, he says, he didn't want to hurt a child because the boys who hooked him on porn had molested him.

Even after he realized possessing the pictures was illegal, he says he didn't think he was harming anyone. Then he saw Masha Allen on TV talking about the pain of being a victim. He'd seen her online.

"It made me feel like an evil monster — as if I had helped in hurting her," says Jared, who was charged for the first time last year with possession of child porn and received a suspended sentence. It strengthened his resolve to stop.

"I'm glad he looks at it differently," Masha, now 14, says, but she has "mixed feelings" about him because of what he's done.

Masha was 5, living at an orphanage in Siberia, when a single American man came to adopt her. Matthew Mancuso brought her gifts and hopes of a better life. They flew to his home in Pittsburgh. "The abuse started the night I got there," Masha said at a congressional hearing in May. "Matthew didn't have a bed for me. He made me sleep in his bed. He molested me all the time. Because he didn't want me to grow up, he only let me eat a little bit of food — plain pasta, raw vegetables, no meat. When I was rescued, I was 10 years old but I only wore a size 6X."

Masha's testimony helped sway members of Congress to include a provision, "Masha's Law," in a bipartisan bill signed by President Bush in July that allows victims of child sex crimes to sue their abusers.

Police had tracked pictures of her to Mancuso's computer, and in 2003 he was found guilty of 11 child-porn charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 2004, he was convicted of raping the girl over a five-year period and got a 35- to 70-year sentence; that term begins after he has served the previous sentence.

"I wanted to tell people what happened to me so maybe someone else will be able to talk about what happened to them," Masha says. She is in eighth grade in Douglasville, Ga., where she lives with a single adoptive mom, Faith Allen.

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