SHERIDAN — One is too many. Local lawmaker Mark Jennings believes one case of child pornography is too many, and he jumped on board in supporting a resolution to help bring awareness to what the document defines as a public health crisis.
The proposed legislation, written by Rep. Lars Lone, R-Laramie, and sponsored by six additional representatives, including Jennings, serves as the first step in tackling the subject of illegal pornography acts in the state of Wyoming.
“The resolution is actually just the front end of that, just to raise awareness that culturally and statewide that we do have an issue and it is related to things like that,” Jennings said.
Lawmakers hope to increase awareness to a point where future proposed legislation will be less shocking.
“The end result will be that, at a point that we think there’s enough recognition of the issue that we can run some tougher laws on child pornography and human sex trafficking,” Jennings said.
The Sheridan Police Department recorded a significant rise in child pornography cases in the past two years, jumping from two in 2016 to seven in 2017.
In the past five years combined, SPD recorded four pornography cases, 14 child pornography cases, five prostitution cases, one child prostitution case and zero sex trafficking cases.
The proposed resolution says pornography increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images and child pornography.
The statewide Division of Criminal Investigation Uniform Crime Report showed overall increases in prostitution and commercial vice from 2012 to 2016 throughout the state of Wyoming. The only year recording a complete decrease for Wyoming from the previous year was in 2015.
Results on whether pornography proves addictive or leads to illegal acts remain inconclusive.
Kirsten Weir published an article in April 2014 for the American Psychological Association that looked into the question “is pornography addictive?” She noted that “whether or not pornography is a diagnosable addiction, it’s clear it hurts some people.”
The resolution also states that young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hardcore but is now considered mainstream pornography “at an alarming rate,” thus causing an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior.
In answering the question, “does deviant pornography use follow a Guttman-like progression?”, authors Kathryn C. Seigfried-Spellar and Marcus K. Rogers through the University of Alabama and Purdue University discovered that younger age of onset for adult porn use was related to later deviant porn use, including child pornography and beastiality.
The legislators concluded the resolution by challenging the state of Wyoming to seek education, prevention, research and policy changes at the community and societal levels “to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.”
“I have zero tolerance for that sort of thing,” Jennings said. “Every family in this country knows somebody that’s been affected in one way or another.”
Jennings said he has a hard time seeing anybody being against the resolution. It goes before the Legislature starting Feb. 12.