Chief Legal Officer, International Operations
Operation Underground Railroad
Nelson Mandela once said: There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than
the way in which it treats its children.
The people who sexually exploit and abuse children must be held accountable, not only
to society, but to their victims. Incarceration and sex offender registration are ways to
hold these criminals responsible for their despicable acts. Child pornography (or child
sexual abuse material or CSAM) is a horrific crime that plagues victims long after the
initial sexual abuse.
My name is Alessandra Parisi Serano. I work on behalf of Operation Underground
Railroad, a nonprofit that partners with governments here and around the world to help
victims of human trafficking and child exploitation get the necessary after care and
support they so desperately need. Operation Underground Railroad also helps train
foreign law enforcement and other entities who may have contact with potential victims
on how to identify, investigate and prosecute traffickers and exploiters of children. I
recently joined this organization.
For the preceding 18 years, I served as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department
of Justice. I have personally handled hundreds of child exploitation and human
trafficking cases involving thousands of victims during my career. I have seen firsthand
what these victims endure from the initial abuse, but also the continued abuse and
exploitation that the consumption of CSAM causes them, their families and their
communities for years to come. Often times, for the remainder of their lives. The
Supreme Court in the Paroline case recognized this fact when it allowed victims
depicted in CSAM to obtain mandatory restitution from voyeurs, distributers and
transporters of CSAM long after the initial sexual abuse has occurred.
While the initial sexual abuse causes great harm for which many victims never
overcome, CSAM retraumatizes victims for years after the abuse. Every time a person
views the CSAM, that child is reexploited, retraumatized, and reabused. When an
offender is caught viewing, downloading or distributing these horrific images, mandatory
notice goes to the victim that yet another offender viewed the CSAM. Upon receiving
these notices, victims relive the crime.
Persons who download, view, and distribute CSAM cause an increase in the production
of CSAM images. No one wants to see “reruns” of movies or TV – we all experienced
this during COVID when the release of new movies and TV shows stopped – and that
includes voyeurs and distributers of CSAM. With this appetite for new material comes
the increased demand for the abuse of younger kids in more violent, sadistic and
masochistic images according to recent statistics. I personally prosecuted cases with
images of the abuse and exploitation of children as young as premature infants.
The trend by certain judges to decrease sentences far below the advisory sentencing
guidelines and prosecutor’s recommendations for CSAM consumers minimizes the
gravity of the offense. While the amount of material being produced and number of
people consuming this material has increased exponentially over recent years, the
sentences have decreased. This makes no sense. I live in Southern California where
destructive wildfires are a yearly issue. The fires leave hundreds of victims in its wake.
When the fires spread and get bigger, do we put less firefighters on the front line? Use
less water or resources? Less containment measures? No, of course not. That
scenario is akin to reducing sentences for CSAM consumers when the supply is
undisputedly increasing. I say again, it makes no sense.
I hope all of the members of this committee agree that there is no cause more noble
than protecting our children. Whether some crimes warrant long prison sentences is a
debate left for another day. Purveyors of CSAM – especially those with prior conduct
involving sexual abuse and exploitation- deserve to be taken out of society for a
substantial period of time, and to be identified by the public through sex offender
registries. It’s been my experience that offenders are only remorseful because they got
caught, and not because of what their deviant and destructive conduct has done to
countless victims many of whom are unidentified.
The notion that CSAM crimes only involves “pictures” is appalling to most prosecutors
and victim advocates. CSAM depicts real kids who deserve justice. These victims or
survivors deserve our respect and dignity for what they endured. They do not deserve
to be treated with less consideration than the offenders who take sexual pleasure in
viewing CSAM of what is the darkest days of their lives. Our society is better than that.
At least I hope it is. Our most precious resource, our children–deserve it.
For these reasons, I have serious concerns about any nominee with a record that does
not conform with these principles.
I am available for questions. Thank you