The CREEPER Act: The Case For Banning Child Sex Dolls And Robots

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

August 5, 2021

By Deepti Govind

Just three weeks ago, the Department of Justice said a 53-year old Maryland resident, Jeffrey John White, was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of files of child pornography. When the case was being investigated by law enforcement in 2020, a search of White’s residence led to the seizure of his laptop and SD card that contained downloaded files of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), plus a child-sized sex doll with anal and vaginal openings.

Similarly in Alabama this March, a 35-year-old who impersonated Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, approached an employee of a local business with a handgun drawn, and then tried to enter the police department building. When law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on Kelcey Turner’s car and house, they found everything from a rifle with more than a hundred rounds of ammunition, hundreds of CSAM images, an infant-sized sex doll, and — even more disturbingly — a daybed set up with stuffed animals and recording devices.

Such cases are not new to Alabama, or really any state, though. Child sex dolls are often shipped from overseas into the U.S., mostly after buyers find them available online. In 2019, when Baldwin County sheriff’s deputies had to search convicted sex offender Bobby Ricky Bible’s trailer, they found a child sex doll, AL.com reported. We will go into more details based on that report later on in this piece.

What many of these cases appear to prove is a statement made in the text of the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act 2.0, or CREEPER Act 2.0: “There is a correlation between possession of the obscene dolls, and robots, and possession of and participation in child pornography.” Yet, the legislation has not managed to pass through Congress ever since an earlier Act, called the CREEPER Act of 2017, sat dormant in the Senate after passing the House in 2018. That a ban on child sex dolls ought to be instituted, though, probably goes unsaid.

To cite another example of how the sale of these can take a really dark turn, a few people may recall an incident last year in which a mother in Florida went through what no parent ever ought to. In August 2020, Terri received a message from a friend alerting her to the existence of a sex doll that resembled her daughter. The doll was advertised on Amazon and other websites as “a high quality sexy dolly live dolls for men” for sale at $559, but looked like her eight-year-old, Kat.

Kat, who suffers from Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), is a child model and pageant contestant. Terri has posted photos of her daughter on a Facebook group where she shares updates on Kat’s illness, community projects, and modeling work. Eerily, the doll was modeled after a photo that Terri had shared on the Facebook group.

“This image had the same socks as my daughter and the same pose as my daughter on our sofa at home. She had that same sweatshirt and facial features as that image, even the same stuffed animal! I couldn’t imagine that some sicko would use my daughter’s photo to create something so ugly and evil to be used for abuse by pedophiles,” Terri was quoted as saying in September 2020 when news media reported on it. Amazon removed the ad for the doll after Terri contacted them. But she knew that wasn’t enough.

Terri partnered with the Child Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit that rescues kids from sexual abuse, to ban the sale and possession of child sex dolls across the country. Child sex dolls were only banned in Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky when NBC 6 reported on Terri’s case at that point in 2020. This year, on June 25, the Child Rescue Coalition reported that Hawaii had become the fourth state to enact such a ban with its new law, SB 834, making the importation, sale, and possession of a childlike sex doll a felony offense.

But, as the Child Rescue Coalition says, there are “46 more US states” and “many other countries worldwide who need to consider passing similar laws.” Before we get into why outright bans on child sex dolls has proven to be difficult, here’s a quick look at the summary of both CREEPER acts.

The CREEPER Act of 2017

This was introduced on Dec. 14 2017 by Rep. Daniel Donovan Jr. in the 115th Congress, which met from Jan. 3, 2017 to Jan. 3, 2019. It was labelled H.R. 4655 in the House and was passed in that chamber on June 13, 2018. It was never approved by the Senate.

Even in the 2017 version of the CREEPER act, the very first finding was on the correlation between possessing child sex dolls and possession of, and participation in, child pornography. A few other key findings listed in the act, which basically aimed at prohibiting the importation or transportation of child sex dolls, were:

CREEPER Act 2.0

The text of this act included the same key findings as the one from 2017. It was originally introduced with the number H.R. 8236 on Sept. 14, 2020 in the 116th Congress, which met from Jan 3, 2019 to Jan 3, 2021, but did not receive a vote. It was reintroduced in the House by the same sponsor, Congressman Vern Buchanon, in January. The last action on the act was taken in March when it was referred to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Why has legislation banning child sex dolls struggled, though? There could be a few reasons behind that. Some free speech advocates have predicted that criminalizing childlike dolls or robots would spark constitutional challenges, as AL.com reported in 2019. Then there is the school of thought that the use of these dolls may actually shield real children from abuse, which — needless to say — has been a controversial approach. And finally, a lot of thought needs to go into how such “toys” are defined so as to prevent other, non-harmful doll sales from being impacted.

Regardless of the challenges, many experts seem to have clearly been in favor of a ban over time, though. As a spokeswoman for a Democratic Florida state senator once put it: “Once pedophiles are sexually triggered, children are in harm’s way.”

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