I find violent crimes against children the most difficult stories to cover.
The first case that haunted me for days was the killing of an entire Filipino household in December 2000. It was my second month as a producer/writer for an investigative Philippine TV program, my first full-time job out of college, and I was assigned to look into the incident that had been dubbed a “massacre.”
Eight people, including three boys between 9 and 13 years old, were found stabbed, hacked or beaten to death at home. I saw photos of the crime scene, and couldn’t forget the images of the children lying naked and lifeless. On the walls of one room was a message written in blood. (A male household helper was later sentenced to almost 400 years in prison for the crimes.)
It was the last story I worked on before Christmas that year, and I don’t remember getting a good night’s sleep till the New Year. The color of human flesh and smeared blood kept flashing in my head.
A couple of years later, I documented the police surveillance and arrest of a man suspected of being involved in the child pornography trade. The pictures of abuse that law enforcement showed my team shrouded me in gloom for days.
It was my first exposure to a child pornography offense, now among the cases I routinely come across in U.S. state and federal courts.
Last year, a South Dakota woman was sent to federal prison after using her 20-month-old son as a human shield during a drunken fight with her boyfriend. The boy died three weeks later while under the care of his father, who was also sent to prison.
A few months ago, a state prison inmate was sentenced to an additional 100 years behind bars for raping two children over a two-year period. He had at least three other known child victims.
There are children being molested by relatives, raised around illegal drugs and physical violence, trafficked for sex work, left to starve.
A decade and a half since I started reporting on crimes, these stories have not gotten any easier to cover. And maybe this should be the case when reporting about society’s weakest and most vulnerable.