THE MUDDLE OF DOWNLOADING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY: Gawkers, psychotherapists and the priest penitent privilege

by Tania L. Abramson and Paul R. Abramson

If a California psychotherapist learns that a patient is watching child pornography, that patient must be reported to the police. Some therapists however challenged the reporting requirement, believing that it would deter patients from getting the help they needed.

California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that protecting sexually exploited children was a more compelling reason for upholding reporting laws. The appellate court also emphasized that not only is [child pornography] illegal, the conduct is reprehensible, shameful and abhorred by any decent and normal standards of society.

The clergy, as mandated reporters, also have responsibility for safeguarding children. Though spiritual counselors are exempted from reporting requirements under the priest-penitent privilege, this privilege in California does not include information concerning child abuse.

Producers, sellers and viewers all have culpability for child pornography. Viewers create the market for it. Without markets, producers and sellers vanish.

Obtaining forgiveness from holy confessions, or the prospect of curtailing child pornographic consumption as a result of psychotherapy, never mitigate accountability for this crime or eliminate the rationale for prosecution. All California mandatory reporters thus need to do their jobs.

tania b&w head shot with pearls.jpg
Tania L. Abramson, MFA

Dr. Paul R. Abramson
Professor of Psychology, UCLA

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