Prostasia Foundation Protecting children by upholding the rights and freedoms of all
Making CSAM scanning simpler

Prostasia Foundation is delighted to announce our new partnership with the Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC), a philanthropic foundation that supports survivor-centered efforts to heal from, prevent, and ultimately end child sexual abuse (CSA).

Our initial grant from JBC is being used to support our work on prevention through peer support to those who are at risk of sexual offending against minors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes making professional support available to members of MAP Support Chat (MSC), strengthening safeguarding measures within MSC, creating public outreach resources, and forging new partnerships with Internet platforms to use MSC as a referral destination for help-seeking users.

We are excited to unveil the first deliverable from that grant, which has already been completed: a new CSEM scanning tool for chat groups. The tool was originally developed for our own use with MSC, but is also compatible with other chat groups that use the Rocketchat self-hosted chat platform. Like Rocketchat itself, our scanning tool has has been released as free, open source software.

This new tool is installed by a Rocketchat site administrator, and can be easily configured to scan specified channels, and direct messages, for images that are known to be illegal, using Microsoft's PhotoDNA technology. A license key to use the PhotoDNA web service must be separately obtained from Microsoft and entered into our tool's settings screen before it will work.

Using this simple tool relieves chat website administrators from the arduous and dangerous task of assessing potentially illegal images, by making it easy to "quarantine" such images where they cannot be seen, and by preserving the details that will be needed to report them to authorities.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in reports of online sexual abuse, including the distribution of abuse images," said Prostasia's Executive Director, Jeremy Malcolm. "This new tool prevents known images of abuse from being exchanged in chat groups, and allows administrators to report attempted abuse to the authorities."

Malcolm highlighted that technical solutions are not a complete response to the problem, however. "To tackle the problem of child sexual abuse at the source, we need to make sure that education and support resources are available to those at risk of offending. We include information about this along with our software."

Welcoming our new board members

This month we welcome two new Directors to strengthen and diversify our Board as we enter our next phase as an organization. Maggie McNeill needs little introduction, as she has spent the past two years as a member of our Advisory Council. Maggie is a sex worker, writer, blogger, and activist.

Jae Snell is a mental health worker, a human rights activist and educator, and researcher who specializes in understanding trauma and paths to recovery, as well as LGBTQIA+ advocacy and public policy analysis. Jae works on the ground with individuals and communities to understand their unique needs and necessary solutions and policy changes.

Maggie and Jae replace Pearl Regalado and Meagan Ingerman who are stepping down from the Board, although Meagan continues to serve on staff as our Program Director.

How the law failed a survivor

Kebryana Jones is an abuse survivor and a victim of sex trafficking as a minor. When the police were called in to rescue her and other girls from abuse, she herself ended up on sex trafficking conspiracy charges, and now faces a lifetime on the most serious tier of the sex offense registry. This is her story.

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CBP's illegal sex doll seizures revealed

One of Prostasia Foundation's most controversial positions is our support for research into the effects of "childlike" sex dolls, whether positive or negative, on actual rates of child sex offending. This became a live issue in 2018 when the CREEPER Act, the first of a spate of laws in the United States and abroad that would ban such dolls, came very close to passage.

As controversial as it is, we stand by the need for such research, which accords with the recommendations of experts and the experiences of practitioners. We reject the stigma-driven arguments of those who object to such dolls as "obscene" even if they are not linked with real child abuse. At the very least, we have a responsibility to investigate whether criminalization of such objects might have unforeseen effects, by removing the availability of a possible sexual outlet for non-offending pedophiles.

We also reject the contention of a few, like academic Michael Salter (known for his Satanic sexual abuse scholarship) who oppose research into the effects of sex dolls on the basis that it is inherently unethical to conduct such research. The scientists who actually work in this area of research disagree. On the contrary, such research is not merely ethical but imperative. And until the results of such research are in, what a person does in private with a piece of plastic should not be of any concern to the government. Previously on our blog, we wrote:

The CREEPER Act is unconstitutional because, even if their use in private for sex is not constitutionally protected (which it is), sex dolls are also often used non-sexually, such as for companionship, as photographic models, or—in at least one known case—as a bereaved father’s memorial to deceased children. Indeed, the dolls manufactured by Trottla, which is the company most often called out in association with the CREEPER Act, do not even possess openings that could be used for sex. Because the law does not even attempt to address the Miller criteria but bans all dolls as obscene without even establishing how the owner intends to use them, the law is certain to be unconstitutional for that reason alone. 

Since we wrote that, sex doll bans passed into law in two states—Florida and Tennessee—and in Australia, in a new wave of moralistic legislation enacted by conservative governments. But what is less well known is that even in states where sex doll bans haven't been passed, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is still seizing such dolls as obscene items.

Larry from New Jersey is a 64 year old man whose doll ordered from China was seized in transit. Larry told us, "After the thirty wonderful years of marriage, I just can’t see myself getting married to someone else.  However, I am not ready to give up sex completely.  There are sex toys that can give physical relief, but a doll allows me to pretend I am with a person." Larry explains his choice of a 40 pound doll by saying, "the smaller size dolls are half the weight of a full size doll and at my age carrying around a 90-100 pound doll did not seem like a good idea."

Unlike many others in a similar position, Larry is contesting the legality of the seizure of his doll, and Prostasia Foundation is assisting him with this. Larry told us, "I highly resent the government telling me how to live my life. A favorite author of mine, Robert Heinlein, wrote that people don’t say 'Pass this law to stop me from doing this thing.' It is always 'Pass this law to stop him from doing this thing.' As long as what an adult is doing, in private, is not harming anyone, it should be no business of any government."

In Larry's petition to CBP for reconsideration of the seizure of his doll, he clearly sets out why a plastic doll, in itself, simply cannot meet the legal definition of obscenity established in the case of Miller v California, which requires as one of its three tiers that the item "depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct":

The object is merely a passive plastic device. The Supreme Court has long held that real human nudity alone is not obscene (Jenkins v. Georgia), and this must apply even more so the “nudity” of a plastic object. … Examples abound of such objects being used by their owners for many non-obscene uses such as photography models, mannequins, and as memorials to family members who have passed away.

Supplementing Larry's petition, Prostasia Foundation has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the government requesting a copy of any policy that supports its seizure of sex dolls as "obscene items." As of the date of this newsletter, the government has failed to comply with the statutory deadline for responding to our request. We will continue to follow up, and may take legal action to compel the government's response if necessary.

We'll allow Larry to have the final word:

100 years we had Prohibition, 50 years ago it was the “War on Drugs”. As a result of those programs, we now have organized crime, drug cartels, one of the highest rates of prison incarceration in the world, trillions of dollars wasted and millions of lives lost or ruined and all because of some busybodies’ insistence on controlling other peoples’ behavior.  Where will the battle over sex toys leave us?"

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Congratulations to our inductees
Congratulations to Cloudflare, ATSA, the IWF, FOSI, and the BADASS Army for their induction into our inaugural Hall of Fame last month.

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Review: The Every Body Book by Rachel Simon
Reviewed by Meagan Ingerman

The Every Body Book is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Written by Rachel S. Simon and illustrated Noah Grigni, this quick, approachable, inclusive guide to puberty and sex is going to become one of your favorite resources for helping kids understand human sexuality and relationships. Simple language and attractive but accurate illustrations are engaging for a wide range of ages. You may even find it interesting and informative as an adult. 

In the US, sex education is not required in all 50 states and where it is offered, it is sometimes abstinence only education. Even the more comprehensive sex ed in the US is rarely fully comprehensive and intersectional. The Every Body Book is an important step in the right direction. I think this relatively short book may be more complete than the sex ed I got when I was in school. (We don’t need to talk about how long it has been since I was in school.)

Aside from anatomically correct diagrams, the book is also populated with inclusive illustrations. Many different bodies and skin colors are represented. Also included are multiple gender expressions and attractions. All this comes together to make a refreshing change from the generally homogonized sex ed taught for white, binary students. Making sex ed inclusive is part of how we end shame and stigma. 

The book even covers different kinds of families instead of relying on the all too common nuclear family model. Unfortunately, non-monogamy is not covered, but the book is a good primer for talking about tough subjects like ethical non-monogamy. Along with this subject, getting pregnant is discussed as well as other methods of bringing a child into a family. Many different kids will be able to see their families reflected. 

The Every Body Book has a special section devoted to gender dysphoria. This is often not discussed with trans people until they are already experiencing it. Imagine giving people, especially kids, a leg up on understanding gender dysphoria and how to handle it. There is help for dysphoria but if you can’t name it, it is harder to ask for help. 

As a childcare specialist, I honestly can’t recommend this book enough to kids and parents. There is always more to add, few books cover everything or even can. But this book is a hugely important set of lessons and information, all packed into 94 pages. The last chapter of the book consists mostly of a list of resources for further information. This book wants you and your kids to succeed at comprehensive sex education. This book sincerely wants to do its part to end shame, stigma, and misinformation regarding human sexuality. 

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Prostasia Foundation
18 Bartol Street #995, San Francisco, CA 94133
EIN 82-4969920
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