Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Guest Blog: National Young Woman of Distinction, Alexa Iannace Works To End Child Pornography

I earned my Gold Award by creating a documentary on child pornography and using it to spread awareness of this important issue. In order to make my documentary, I interviewed five experts—a
state police trooper who specializes in cybercrimes, a judge in the court of common pleas, an assistant district attorney, an expert psychologist, and the senior vice president and COO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
I presented my documentary to undergraduate criminal justice and social work students at DeSales, Drexel, and Marywood Universities, as well as to district attorneys through my county’s bar association for their continuing legal education credits and to the Southeast PA Cyber Crimes Taskforce, whose audience included representatives from 10 agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. I ultimately presented the documentary to a total of 100 people, and all of them told me they learned something new.

When I started to think about what type of a Gold Award project I wanted to take on, I knew that I wanted to address an international issue. Additionally, my father is the Pennsylvania State Police trooper I interviewed in my documentary. When I was growing up my father taught me about the dangers of the Internet and about the seriousness of the child pornography problem. As far as I know, many preventative programs exist to educate students, parents, and teachers about the dangers of the Internet. However, there are no programs like mine that define the specific issue, clarify misconceptions about it, and shine a light on its magnitude and proliferation.
Unfortunately, not a lot of people understand the scope and size of the issue of child pornography because it is such a new type of crime. The truth is frightening. According to the NCMEC, someone in the victim’s circle of trust produces 54 percent of actively traded child pornography. In 2014, the NCMEC received 1.1 million “cyber tips” related to child pornography and child online exploitation. The expected number of cyber tips in 2015 is 5.2 million. Additionally, 70 percent of actively traded child pornography features victims aged from infancy through prepubescence.

When Girl Scouts of the USA told me that they named me one of the 2015 National Young Women of Distinction, I cried. I cried because it had been a big dream of mine that I never thought could become a reality. I also cried because I realized that Girl Scouts, through my national award, could provide me with a larger platform for fighting child pornography.

Why did I choose this topic for my project? Frankly, because child pornography makes me angry. And over the past couple of months, I have come to recognize that I can serve as the inspiration for other girls to take on a Gold Award project that addresses an issue that makes them angry. To any girls out there who want to earn their Gold Awards, my advice is to start with a conversation. Find someone who tells you something that changes your view of the world. Get passionate about it. Use your passion as a guide to fix the injustice that you find in your community. To quote Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Child pornography is not something that I have forgotten or have stopped fighting against. I am currently working with professors on my own campus, American University, to see how I can best spread my message to students. In particular, I will continue the work of my Gold Award project next year as part of my sophomore social action project within American University’s Leadership Program. Additionally, I will continue to work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on their efforts to spread awareness of this issue.

The 2015 National Young Women Of Distinction recipients will be celebrated on October 7, 2015, at Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, New York. For those who can’t attend the event but still want to be a part of the conversation,  join via livestream or follow #NYWOD15 on Twitter. As part of this prestigious honor, the Kappa Delta Foundation affirms its commitment to girls by providing $50,000 in scholarships to Girl Scouts’ National Young Women of Distinction. GSUSA will be matching the Kappa Delta Foundation’s gift with an additional $50,000 in college scholarships for the ten extraordinary young women.