Graphic scenes in children’s books make minors more vulnerable to sex crimes, according to a longtime investigator who now runs a nonprofit organization aimed at preventing and combating child sexual abuse.
Thomas Hampson, of Illinois, has voiced concerns to Cowboy State Daily regarding two books that survived challenges Sept. 1 and remain in the Kelly Walsh High School library in Casper.
The books are “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” by Laura Erickson-Schroth with other contributors. Cowboy State Daily reviewed and roughly summarized both books on Thursday.
Hampson called them pornographic.
“(These books) destroy childhood innocence,” said Hampson. “Parents, churches and government should be in the business of protecting childhood innocence, not destroying it.”
Now retired, Hampson was selected in 1973 to serve on the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission, a specialized intelligence enforcement operation through which he conducted multiple investigations into child sex predator operations. He now runs truthalliancefoundation.org.
“When children are exposed to sexual activity, it piques their curiosity, reduces their inhibitions and makes them more vulnerable to be exploited by more aggressive peers – and also slick predators who are older than them,” he said.
Hampson said early exposure to sexual images and literature normalizes sex acts, which makes it less alarming to children when predators “groom” them. Grooming can start with a sexual joke, exposure to “soft porn,” sexual touching and other gradual advances designed to accustom the child to sex acts against them, said Hampson.
“This is a problem that’s going to come back and haunt us for years to come,” he said.
Hampson theorized there are many people in the United States who believe children have a right to experience sexual pleasure.
“I’ve seen the damage (that philosophy) does to people over time,” he said, citing early sexualization, promiscuity, drug abuse and relational problems.
He noted that in nearly all criminal cases, the law does not acknowledge the possibility of “consent” by child victims of sexual abuse. That premise holds true generally in Wyoming’s courts as well.
“(Graphic book advocates) are ignoring the law, ignoring the laws against sexual activity for children and basically are encouraging children to engage in sexual activity,” he said. “The consequences are that kids are going to be sexually exploited more.”
Librarians And Educators Exempt
Disseminating obscene materials to minors is a misdemeanor in Wyoming punishable by up to one year in jail and $6,000 in fines.
But educators and librarians are exempt from the obscenity statute if they’re disseminating obscene materials in the course of “bona fide” school or library activities.
Hampson said he would like to see that exemption removed from the law.
But Wyoming legislators may not be as eager to cement censorship solutions in the law. Two legislators Tuesday expressed concerns with turning to statute to settle a controversy that has in the past been controlled locally.
What is pornography to some may be educational to others, said a Wyoming state employee who consults with school librarians.
Paige Bredenkamp, Wyoming State Library school library consultant, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that librarians try to represent everyone through the literature on their shelves.
“Librarians typically try to keep in mind everybody in the community,” said Bredenkamp. “(To make) sure everyone is included in the types of materials that are acquired.”
Bredenkamp said the Kelly Walsh High School librarian would be the best authority on why “Gender Queer” and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” were included in the school’s collection.
Kelly Walsh High School librarian Tabitha Smith-Herron, who was identified as the school’s librarian in Natrona County School Board meeting minutes from April, did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Despite multiple inquiries, Natrona County School District No. 1 has not identified Smith-Herron or any other individual as the person who ordered the two controversial books.
Bredenkamp said multiple school districts in Wyoming are facing book challenges now or have recently, including in Campbell, Park, Sheridan and Laramie counties.
“Pretty much every county has had to deal with (challenges),” she said.