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Picture Poison

Picture Poison

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Viewing Pornography for aLiving Can Be Deadly
Viewing Pornography for aLiving Can Be Deadly

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Published by: Judith Gelernter Reisman, Ph.D. on Sep 11, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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autumn 09 SALVO 23
Cries in the Desert 
John Glatt reported thetragic suicide of FBI Agent Patty Rust. In 1999, Rustwas tasked with preparing “detailed drawings anddiagrams of every item inside” the torture collection ofDavid Ray, a pornography-addicted killer. Officer Rust wasa “former Captain in the U.S. Army [and] an experiencedFBI agent with a degree in criminology.”
Viewing Pornography for aLiving Can Be Deadly
//Hazmats_with Judith Reisman/
After spending five days ina trailer viewing the sado-sexualevidence, Agent Rust “walked outof the TOY BOX and shot herselfin the head with her service re-volver, dying instantly.” A stateofficial involved in the investiga-tion stated, “She most probablycouldn’t handle what she hadseen and was exposed to in thattrailer.” The FBI, however, of-ficially ruled that her suicide wasunconnected to her isolated weekof viewing and re-drawing thegrisly scenes.The FBI disclaimer was hastyand ignored the impact thatimages have on the mind. Arthistorian David Freedberg hasdocumented people being “sexu-ally aroused by pictures and sculp-tures”; they “mutilate them, kissthem, cry before them,” he writes.Sir Kenneth Clark notes that allnudes arouse “some vestige oferotic feeling” in viewers. Neu-rologist Richard Restak points outthat “the more bizarre the visualimage, the more likely we are tosee and remember it.”Perhaps the FBI forgot my pre-sentation to its Quantico behav-ioral science unit in 1983. Aftermy briefing on the child pornog-raphy, crime, and violence de-picted in
 the agency purged both maga-zines from its commissary—the FBIbehavioral science director hadgrasped the
causal role of sexual images on behavior 
.Aristotle likened mental im-ages to “tracing with a signetring on wax.” Neuroscientists nowdefine this brain-body responseas “mirroring.” Could Patty Rustsleep at night with those bi-zarre images of torture cruisingthrough her brain, her body, andher memory?
Viewers at Risk
Although the FBI may now claimthat there is no causal link be-tween pornographic images andbehavior, the National Centerfor Missing and Exploited Chil-dren (NCMEC) has faced reality.It has established a “Safeguard”program to alleviate job traumaresulting from visual exposure tosado-sexual materials. NCMEC’sDirector of Family Advocacy Ser-vices, Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, said,“Law enforcement and the legalprofession have come to under-stand the importance of ensuringthat staff involved in this workmust be taken care of emotionallyand psychologically.” “This work”refers to pornography, especially,but not only, child pornography.
24 SALVOissue10
NCMEC’s Child Victim Identi-fication Program (CVIP) is the USclearinghouse “for child-pornog-raphy cases and also serves as themain point of contact to interna-tional agencies for victim identi-fication,” Gilmer-Tullis explained.For a long time, she noted, peoplein law enforcement, the military,social work, and similar profes-sions whose job included view-ing images of child pornography
were afraid to admit they needed emotional help,
lest this reveal“an inability to perform one’s jobor prevent one from advancing intheir career.”Fortunately, that fear hasbeen diminishing, she said, as“level minded professionals un-derstand that this work . . . couldcreate incredible psychologicalchallenges for the viewer at pres-ent and possibly in the future.”In other words, viewing por-nographic images, especially ofabused children, is toxic, what istermed an “erototoxin.” Such im-ages distress even “level-headedprofessionals,” including FBIagents. NCMEC now has a psy-chologist on duty to help staffwho must view this material.The April 23, 2009 edition of the
NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report 
noted that most agencies now of-fer or even mandate counselingfor their affected staff membersrather than moving them to other jobs. In detail:The CyberTipline Safe-guard Project is a multi-focused program . . . de-signed to provide job-specific training and con-sultation to ECD [Exploit-ed Children Division] staffmembers to minimizepotential harm
as a result of viewing objectionablematerial.
This quarter 88 hoursof direct psychologicalconsultation were pro-vided through individualand group sessions witha cumulative total of971 hours during this 27-month OJJDP [Office ofJuvenile Justice and Delin-quency Prevention] grantperiod.Through these ses-sions 91% of all ECD staffmembers and 100% ofstaff members with lessthan 1 year of experiencein the division reportedthey were able to identifyand manage potentialnegative issues that could
hen it comes to lust,
neuroimaging confirmsthat the prurient urge is all-encompassing.Watching pornography calls upon brain re-gions associated with reward, sensory interpretation,and visual processing. It enlists the amygdala and thehypothalamus, [two structures in the brain] whichdeal with emotional information; it also stimulatesthe reward-processing ventral striatum, probably dueto the satisfying nature of watching erotic stimuli.All said, the most notable thing about lust is that itsets nearly the whole brain buzzing, [Adam] Safronsays.” Safron is a research consultant at NorthwesternUniversity who has conducted neuroimaging studiesfocusing on sexual behavior.“These responses are so unique and distinctivethat, in the context of an experiment, it is possible todetermine whether a man is aroused just by lookingat an fMRI brain scan. ‘These are huge effects,’ Safronsays. ‘You’re looking at the difference between some-thing that elicits intense desire and something thatdoes not.’”—from Kathleen McGowan,“Seven Deadly Sins,”
September 2009, p. 50

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