With the jailing of one man and four women, the sickening case of a child molestation ring, including at a UK childcare center, comes to a close. It's a disturbing confluence of issues including female sex offenders and the Internet.
In all, police found 16,014 images of infant and child sex abuse on the hard drives of Colin Blanchard, who was sentenced yesterday to indefinite imprisonment. The sources of the image were four women, only one of which ever met Blanchard, and one of whom worked at a nursery.
According to the Guardian, "All of Blanchard's women were middle-aged mothers, divorcees or women who were alienated from their partners, and were suffering from low self-esteem." British press reports describe text logs and Internet communications in which Blanchard demanded that the women abuse young children and babies and then send him photos. They were said to be enthusiastic participants, even competing with each other. Two of them are already in jail; two more were sentenced along with Blanchard to four and seven year jail terms.
Andy Pilling of Greater Manchester Police told the BBC, "Sadly, we expect to see men involved in child abuse, but to see four women being led by a man and each abusing children is probably one of the rarest things that I've ever seen," he said. "Certainly for Colin Blanchard, he has a clear sexual interest in children. The only thing we can say in relation to the women at the moment is that they tried to please him, that they were involved with him in either sexual fantasy or, in Tracy Dawber's case, they were involved in a relationship."
Their profile jibes with that described in a study by the US Center for Sex Offender Management, which found, according to the BBC, that "while some women were driven by deviant sexual urges, others offended where they were alongside a man, either because he had egged them on or because they were coerced into taking part. Women appear to be more likely to offend in a situation where they are a carer, rather than hunt out children to abuse."
Newly-leaked police interview transcripts show that Blanchard's initial defense was to blame the women for manipulating him after they learned he was abused by his father. He said he met one through a Facebook dating app called Are You Interested? in 2008. The Guardian sees in this a "crime of our times": "Real friends and relationships were hard work. They were unpredictable and required constant attention. But Facebook pals could be quashed when he grew bored, and revived when he was in the mood. Here was a convenient, thrilling and tidy way to maintain a modern life, one that did away with all responsibility and consequences." It's clear the Internet didn't in any way create this abusive behavior. But it arguably gave it an outlet that had unprecedented velocity, access, and distribution.