Chances are they're sitting next you in church. They live next door to you. They're professional manipulators.
They're Internet child predators. And they're a bigger problem than Oprah Winfrey and you probably ever imagined.
Winfrey pleaded Monday with America to take a stand against child pornography and predators -- an issue that's exploded far more than most of us ever could have imagined.
It's an issue many of those who haven't been affected by it don't realize is there or how big it's become. You know it's happening somewhere, but not to what extent.
With red dots popping up on a U.S. map to show the average number of pedofiles in a given day that trade pornographic images, Winfrey showed just how much of a problem child pornography has become. Within a matter of seconds, the number of red dots exploded across the map to a sickening level.
"The number of predophiles and child pornographers online would literally blow your mind, and the demand is so high for new material that the videos and photographs are getting more brutal with younger and younger baby victims," Winfrey said.
In an attempt to shock viewers into action, Winfrey read aloud an instruction manual circulating around the Internet telling predators just how to molest and rape girls as little as newborn babies. It told how to use pacifiers to penetrate children. It told the size pencil predators should use to penetrate girls depending on their age. It also told how to videotape it, and how to not get caught.
Winfrey's push was to support Senate Bill 1738 -- a piece of legislation before the U.S. Senate this month to create jobs and resources to help put child predators behind bars.
Representatives from Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin's offices said via telephone Monday that they are both co-sponsors of the bill and support its passing.
"This has nothing to do with the politics, it has everything to do with us putting our money as a nation where our talk has been and doing something, actually putting the funding behind what is necessary to catch these [predators]," Winfrey said. "This is a dark evil prevading our country and we're not going to change it unless we provide the money."
Even Winfrey herself said she didn't know how big of a problem online child predators were until going into this show.
"We've heard this for years -- that the Internet is the Wild Wild West for predators and for these images. I don't think that most of us have a clue what's really going on."
This isn't the first time Winfrey's gone after child predators
- In 1991, Winfrey testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a national database of convicted child abusers. The "Oprah Bill" was signed into law in 1993.
- In 2005, Winfrey launched the "Oprah's Child Predator Watch List" and pledged a $100,000 reward per case for information that leads to the arrest of fugitives featured on her show and Web site. Nine of the featured fugitives have been captured, Harpo said.
-Officials only are able to investigate two percent of the leads they get. Why? Because they're largely understaffed and can't handle tracking every case.
-Agents at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children scan through up to 200,000 images a week of child porn being traded on the Internet
-Three out of four children being abused know the person who is abusing them.
-About the Protecting our Children Bill:
-Will authorize over $320 million over the next five years in desperately needed funding -for law enforcement to investigate child exploitation.
-Mandate that child rescue be a top priority for law enforcement receiving federal funding.
-Allocate funds for high-tech computer software that can track down Internet predators.
Call Your Senators
If you choose to contact your senators by phone, be sure to tell them, "Vote yes on Senate Bill 1738--The PROTECT Our Children Act." Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin both already support the bill.
Write to Your Senators
If you choose to write a letter, fax, telegram or e-mail, you may use the following sample letter--and modify it how you see fit.
I know that you believe, like I do, that we must do everything possible to protect children from sexual predators. That is why I am asking for your help.
Last year alone, U.S. law enforcement identified over 300,000 criminals who were trafficking in movies and pictures of young children being raped and tortured. Experts say that one in every three of these criminals has local child victims. Child pornography trafficking over the Internet has given us a trail of evidence that leads straight to their doorsteps, but the vast majority of these children will never be rescued because investigators are overwhelmed, outnumbered and underfunded.
As your constituent, I urge you to do everything in your power to pass the PROTECT Our Children Act (S. 1738, Biden-Hatch). This bipartisan legislation passed the House 415-2, but it is now the victim of petty partisan politics.
Now that we know where these children are and how to protect them, there is no excuse for the Senate to fail to take action this session.
(Your name here)
Instructions for How to Copy and Paste the Letter
To copy and paste the letter into your senator's web form at www.senate.gov, point your mouse arrow at the beginning of the text that you want to copy. Click your left mouse button and hold it down. While holding the left mouse button, drag your arrow to the end of the text that you want to copy. Release the button. The text should be highlighted. Place your mouse arrow over the highlighted text, click your right mouse button once and let go. A new menu should appear. Select Copy from the drop down menu. When you get to the message form field for your senator at www.senate.gov, point your arrow at the beginning of the message field that you want to copy your text to and right click with your mouse. Click Paste from this menu. Submit your form and help our children!