City police statistics show the most common arrests for child sex abuse felonies involve child pornography, rape and victims under the age of 11 — crimes that have led to federal charges for two city couples this month.
There are few arrests in the city regarding child sex abuse — for most related charges, there were less than three arrests a year since 2015 — and the arrests of the couples for creating child pornography with relatives under the age of five shocked city residents. While such arrests are rare, the felony charges that have occurred most frequently since 2015 are possessing a sexual performance by a child with eight charges and first-degree rape with seven charges, as well as promoting a sexual performance by a child and first-degree sexual abuse with a child under the age of 11, with six charges each.
Charges of incest — such as the charges included in the federal cases — are also rare in the city. There was only one arrest for incest in 2018; from 2015 to 2017, there were no arrests on that charge.
Christopher M. Perry, 35, of 89 Bartlett Ave., and Sarah R. Gates, 38, of 3 Kingsley Ave., were both charged with incest this April, along with other felonies, for creating child pornography with a four-year-old girl they are related to. Brittany E. Berry, 23, of 44 Rickard St. was charged with incest for filming a sexual attack on a relative under the age of 5 and sending the video to her husband, 25-year-old Lawrence C. Berry, who is also facing felony charges.
While charges of incest are infrequent in the city, national statistics reveal parents are the most frequent perpetrators of child sex assaults.
There are 63,000 cases of child sexual abuse each year in the U.S. that are substantiated or supported by “strong evidence,” and reported to Child Protective Services, according to statistics published by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A parent was the accused perpetrator in 80 percent of the cases, according to RAINN.
City police officers find most of the offenders in child abuse cases they investigate involve a relative, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.
“I would say in the majority of our child abuse cases, sex abuse or otherwise, a relative is the offending party,” Strangeway said. “There’s a lot of child on child abuse that goes on, too, as well as adult on child abuse.”
Felonies relating to child pornography are some of the frequent arrests city police make in child sex abuse cases, according to city police statistics.
While cases of the creation of child pornography — such as the cases against the Berrys and Perry and Gates — are infrequent, the possession of child pornography is not, Strangeway said. City police have made eight arrests for possessing child pornography and six arrests for promoting the pornography since 2015, statistics show.
Pieces of child pornography that are actively being traded — such as the pieces the Berrys shared with each other and the pieces Gates and Perry shared between themselves — often involve family members, especially nuclear family members, according to a March National Center for Missing and Exploited Children research report. The pornography is also likely to be especially explicit, the report found.
The report also reviewed actively traded child pornography created from 2002 to 2014 for historical trends and determined the depicted attacks became increasingly egregious. Only child pornography depicting only identified victims was examined in the report, according to the NCMEC.
Prepubescent children were often depicted in child pornography that involved a single victim and a single offender, the NCMEC noted.
While the Berrys and Perry and Gates were creating child pornography, police do not have any evidence they were also selling the pornography, Strangeway said.
“We don’t have any indication that they were,” he said.
In each case, the fact the couples were producing child pornography allowed them to be charged federally.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged the Berry’s with conspiring to sexually exploit a child, while Perry and Gates were charged with sexual exploitation of a child, according to press releases.
Both cases are being prosecuted under Project Safe Childhood, which uses federal, state and local law enforcement and their resources to find people who exploit children over the internet, according to federal press releases. The project also aims to identify and rescue children depicted in the pornography.
While the young age of the victims in the recent federal cases — both the case against the Berrys and the case against Perry and Gates involves children under the age of five — is shocking, it is not statistically unusual.
Children under the age of 12 are victims of 46 percent of all juvenile, forcible sex offenses, according to a May 2012 report by the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Of the crimes reported to police, boys and girls younger than 12 are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault as older children, according to the report. Young children are also twice as likely to be sexually abused by a family member than children older than 12, according to police statistics used by the report.
The report estimates there were 187,100 incidents of sex offenses against children of all ages in 2008.