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A Hormone Cure for Sex Offenders? : THE SEXUAL TRAFFICKING IN CHILDREN An Investigation of the Child Sex Trade by Daniel S. Campagna and Donald L. Poffenberger (Auburn House: $24.95 , cloth; $17.95, paper; 240 pp.)

January 17, 1988|Jason Berry | Berry received a 1986 Catholic Press Assn. award for an investigative report about pedophilia. and

Midway through this grim, timely and erratic book, a scent of scandal arises--the kind that, if verified, would send the pulses of congressmen and certain foreign correspondents racing.

In a chapter titled "International Child Sex Trade," the authors write that during the Vietnam War the U.S. military subsidized "recreation and rest centers" for servicemen in East Asia. That R&R afforded access to prostitutes is hardly shocking; lonely men of war seek such places. Then comes this:

"Apparently little was done by military authorities to monitor the age of the male and female hustlers. Even now, returning community-development workers from the Philippines have reported to (Defense of Children International, based in Geneva) that child prostitution seems higher in the vicinity of U.S. military bases. It has been alleged that military personnel figure at a disproportionately higher rate in the pedophile exchange lists confiscated by some police departments. Similarly, the establishment of the new U.S. military basis in Honduras appears to have given rise to an increase in the incidence of child prostitution in that country. Newspaper reports from the Hondurans have been so vehement in their complaints about the conduct of some off-duty servicemen that the U.S. ambassador was obliged to go on local television in an attempt to placate the populace."

In a book with footnotes, the above passage has none. Campagna, who teaches at Castleton State College, and Poffenberger, who teaches at West Virginia Northern Community College, do not identify the source alleging that the military contains a "higher" rate of pedophiles exchanging child pornography nor do they cite a society base line for the comparison.

Both charges are troubling enough on face value and weaken the book for lack of substantiation and more diligent probing. For example, a recent report on Honduras in America magazine by San Francisco writer Jeffrey Gillenkirk made reference to bizarre murders of children in the town of Comayagua, bordering the Palmerola military base: Locals claimed that servicemen were responsible, but no one was charged.

Why didn't Campagna and Poffenberger quote from the Honduran newspaper articles? What exactly did the ambassador say? Elsewhere, the authors refer to travel agencies that specialize in tours providing access to child prostitutes, but they don't name the agencies. Why not? A child bordello is described, but not identified. Kidnaping is another subject given little treatment in these pages.

More generally, "The Sexual Trafficking in Children" offers compelling insight into the dark existence that swallows many American youngsters on the streets. Most, in flight from abusive parents, without money, fall into a new cycle of abuse at the hands of pimps, pornographers and profiteering child molesters--"an elusive criminal subculture so furtive and alien that most people are unaware of its presence."

Long-distance truck drivers play a pivotal role giving young hitchhikers rides--sometimes in exchange for sex, sometimes out of genuine compassion. The authors write that "cooperation of the trucking industry could make it more difficult for the runaway population to graduate into the life style of prostitution."

As many as 1.2 million children appear to be involved in some form of sexual victimization, with 150,000 who "participate regularly in child prostitution." The authors concede that data on child sexual abuse is problematic; most cases occur in the home and are under-reported. But the surge of criminal activity and cases involving custodial figures is unmistakable.

Victims frequently grow up to victimize others. Experts are divided on rehabilitation prospects of perpetrators. Many judges and case workers consider pedophilia--the sexual fixation of an adult on children--to be an incurable pathology. Campagna and Poffenberger suggest otherwise; however, their approach is an odd one.

In the 1960s the Sexual Disorders Clinic of Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore pioneered use of Depo-Provera, a synthetic hormone that had been used on male sex offenders in Europe in lieu of surgical castration. Depo-Provera is also a female contraceptive. It has not been sanctioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but it is increasingly used on consenting rapists and child molesters in treatment programs as well as prisons. It has two key effects: lowering testosterone, which fuels the sex drive, and uprooting the brain pictures of children--or women--as erotic stimuli.

In a brief review of other aversion techniques and treatment procedures, such as group therapy, the authors add a new twist, stating that Depo-Provera "reduces an adult's sex drive to that of an 11- or 12-year-old"--a statement not found in the Hopkins literature. In a chapter of vital significance, the authors avoid analysis of studies about this drug.

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