Breastfeeding Picture Gets Couple Charged with Child Porn, Children Taken

Jacqueline Mercado of Richardson, Texas, dropped off fours rolls of film at a nearby Eckerd. The pictures that came from them, taken last fall, would tear apart her family.

According to the Dallas Observer:

In one–the photo that would threaten to send Mercado and her boyfriend to prison–the infant Rodrigo is suckling her left breast.

The technician at the Eckerd thought various photos were “suspicious ” and lied to Mercado when she went to pick up the photos, returning only 3 of the 4 rolls. Later, when the police arrived, they confiscated the photos and passed them on to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, which got indictments against Mercado and boyfriend Johnny Fernandez, who had just arrived from Peru when the pictures were taken.

We thought they contained sexuality. If you saw the photos, you’d know what I mean.

(Ew! Don’t you expect a nudge and a grunt following that comment?!)

The couple was charged with “sexual performance of a child”, a second-degree felony which could carry up to 20 years in prison.

This is the photo in question, though fuzzy in the Observer, for obvious reasons,

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The charges centered on a single photo, the breast-feeding shot. Fernandez and Mercado say they took it–although the child had ceased breast-feeding–to memorialize that stage of their baby’s development.

‘We wanted to see if he would take it, and he did,’ says Mercado, explaining through an interpreter that it was a spur-of-the moment notion to which they gave little thought. ‘Johnny never saw the child breast-feeding, so this was for memories. For us.’

Mercado is understandably traumatized by the experience. After the indictments, a state child welfare investigator and two detectives arrived at the couple’s house and rummaged through their stuff, including photo albums. They found nothing related to child porn.

In her native Peru, Mercado says it is not unusual for people to photograph their children nude. They call it–gasp!–natural.

One of the lawyers working on the case for the couple commented,

Their theory, which is supported by nothing, is that these pictures were taken to satisfy the boyfriend’s sexual desires. These aren’t pictures that were peddled on the open market. This wasn’t on someone’s Web site. This is just a mother who took a roll of film and left it off at Eckerd’s. The state used them to arrest her, indict her for a felony and take away her kids.

The same day the house was “tossed” the caseworker recommended the children be taken and put in a foster home. They were.

In March, after the Dallas Observer asked lead D.A. about the case, it was ordered that charges be dropped against the couple.

Still, they don’t have their kids back, though even their Guardian ad Litem recommended that the family be reuinited. Lawyers say that it will happen, hopefully soon.

They ripped out my heart. Even if we get them back, I don’t know how we’ll recover from what’s been done.

When the Observer reported the story, the couple still did not have their children back, but had visitation. They took psychological exams and had agreed to “group treatment for sexual issues”.

As a side note, I know the fear that parents have in taking and developing photos of their children. When my older son was about a year and a half old, we took him camping. I later tried to get the film developed and was told that they wouldn’t release select photos because of Target’s child porn rules. The photos in question were sequential: 1) Baby boy playing by the water. 2) Baby boy no longer wearing onesie. 3) Baby boy no longer wearing diaper, in various splashing shots. I was told,

We’ll give you the pictures on the CD, if you can find anyone else who would develop them for you.

Boy, did I feel dirty! And it was completely their view of my child that made me feel this way. I could only imagine what would happen had the police gotten involved! Thank goodness for a digital camera!

What do you think? Has anything like this happened to you?

Image: Orin Optiglot on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Second Image and Story: Dallas Observer.

Comments

  1. I used to run a photo lab…I never refused to return photos… but then, I don’t think naked babies = porn. I have lots of photos of my kids in the bath, playing bare bottomed, breastfeeding, etc… I always tried to conceal their genitals, however, it looks like genitals aren’t required for a photo to be pornographic. What in the hell is wrong with our society when breastfeeding a baby is pornographic? I took my babies in the bathtub with me… and if they wanted to nurse, we nursed… was that because of some deep-seated sexual deviation? No, it was natural mother-child relations. This is just devastating and huge step backward for our pro-breastfeeding society.

  2. Veggiemomma says:

    There are literally tears in my eyes from this story. It’s obnoxious. I wonder if there is any racism involved in this…seems very presumptuous of the police. If you read this month’s Mothering magazine, there is an article about breastfeeding in Mongolia where mothers often breast until late preschool years and when the children are hurt or upset, the mothers lift their shirts and ‘flap’ their breasts around calling their children to them to be comforted. Now imagine if that were captured by photograph or on film?!? How is it that our ‘white, western’ views of what is supposidly ‘natural’ and normal are actually so narrow? It makes me sick.

  3. This actually occurred in 2003, but got reactivated on social websites recently.

  4. @Ted Good call. I found it through a social media site, too, but had to keep digging deeper to find the original article instead of a repost. Funniest part? I looked at the month and day, but not the year! [slaps head]
    I assume the family is back together! (d’oh!)

  5. Kimberly says:

    Veggiemomma
    Lets put it this way – I have friends that will go hour – hour and a half out their way rather than drive through Richardson and surrounding communities. I used to have to watch Dallas station to get ABC their news was very bigoted. I kept waiting for them to actually use the N word.

  6. I remember this story from years ago. I can’t imagine the horror this poor family must have gone through. Is there any way we can find out how it ended?

  7. The millionth reason why I will never travel to America.

  8. That is horrible. I still bathe with my 5year son and my 1 year old daughter. I still give my 5 year old pumped breastmilk since he no longer nurses. If he was interested in nursing I would let him. Preschoolers are still babies they need comfort and nourishment too!
    The human body is natural and will only been seen as “natural” if you don’t push these modern social belifs on innocent children.
    I even “GASP” take my kids to nude beaches where they can be fully nude with the company of other nude bodies.

  9. Diana Dosorio says:

    This is a great insult to motherhood and shame to those who view breastfeeding as something indecent. Dirty is what is on the minds of those who consider breastfeeding as a sexual behavior towards a baby.
    This officers should all go to sexual therapist themselves, since they all have their minds so twisted.
    Many Americans unfortunately still live in a world of hypocrisy and ignorance, the puritanism, that still runs the lives of many US born.

  10. Not to worry.. with every leap we make forward, comes a few small steps back.. this poor family has gone thru a great deal in order to bring something to light for all of us – my heart goes out to them .. breastfeeding is beautiful and natural and it is coming back (thank goodness) but it will have a huge impact on our society, as women stop buying bottles and formulas, and babies stop getting gastrointestinal problems, earraches, allergies ..
    I use to run a photo lab as well and I could not imagine putting someones family at risk, but we do live in a society that does try to teach us that we are anything but natural.. sex is not even natural, its to be looked at as perverse and dirty, alot of times.. so no wonder someone would see a baby suckling its mothers breast and think dirty thoughts .. its a sad truth, but everyday we are reconstructing that. and all we can do is teach our children better and hope we make a positive impact on the lives of others, for the benefit of all humanity.

  11. Add a new word to the American dictionary.

    Policetard.

  12. As a photographer, this story disturbs me deeply. The problem with American society today is that nudity automatically equals sex.
    It must take serious grit for some ‘retail store’ to say that the picture of a child suckling his mother could be in any way construed as sexual. If I were this family, I would sue the heck out of the city for false arrest, and false allegations.
    It is absolutely appalling to me that the ‘mind behind the counter’ at Eckard is allowed to determine what the underlying intent of someone’s photos, are.
    Some American Conservatives needs to grow up, and realize that they aren’t the only people on this Earth, and that people in other societies do things that we may not understand. Our misunderstanding doesn’t make it a crime.

  13. remind never to go to that store, the police shoiuld get a life along with the stupid dist atty.

  14. We had a picture of our kids with friends taking a bath when they were around 3 yrs old. It was posted up on facebook together with a bunch of other photos of kids being kids. Recently FB contacted us and asked us to remove that picture as it could be thought to be offensive. Go figure…

  15. USA! The free country!

    OK, free from what?

  16. Everything is about money. A breast feeding mother is endangering the manufacturers of baby food. It has nothing to do with child porn. To all who know, a child fed by her own mother grows up to be healthier and smarter than a child drinking formula milk which has exactly the opposite effect.

    Besides this, single mothers are a reality – marriage has become obsolete. Children are not concerned as to who their father is anymore. A woman can have as many men her life and children know exactly what their mother is doing.

    Single mothers, have more responsibilities. They have to work hard to make ends meet. Worrying about their upbringing and worrying about all the uncensored stuff they get to see is the least of her concerns. She has to make sure they get ready for school and come home at night.

    The kind of family values that once existed are no longer there. Children tend to become more mature and much more aware in comparison to kids who grew up in families. There is no father figure. The know the men in their mother’s lives, none of them who are their fathers. Come and go

    Drinks are easily available at home, they don’t have leave home to have them. If real life were to be portrayed on online, it would be called porn and child porn if children are seen in it. The picture of a breast feeding mother would be called child porn, hence it would be illegal.

  17. @Jeddy: While I appreciate your comment, your broad generalization of single moms is actually pretty disgusting. The people that most children of single moms (the ones I know, myself included) are exposed to is other single moms or parents of the kids’ friends. I personally have strict rules about not dating around my kids.

    Please don’t base your thoughts about single moms on stereotypes. What you said isn’t true of anyone I know (and have seen only on TV).

  18. it is very helpful

  19. I still bathe with my 5year son and my 1 year old daughter. I still give my 5 year old pumped breastmilk since he no longer nurses. If he was interested in nursing I would let him. Preschoolers are still babies they need comfort and nourishment too!

    The human body is natural and will only been seen as “natural” if you don’t push these modern social belifs on innocent children.

    I even “GASP” take my kids to nude beaches where they can be fully nude with the company of other nude bodies.

  20. We had a picture of our kids with friends taking a bath when they were around 3 yrs old. It was posted up on facebook together with a bunch of other photos of kids being kids. Recently FB contacted us and asked us to remove that picture as it could be thought to be offensive. Go figure…

  21. There are literally tears in my eyes from this story.

  22. USA! The free country!

    OK, free from what?

    do you think so?

  23. The human body is natural and will only been seen as “natural” if you don’t push these modern social belifs on innocent children.

    I even “GASP” take my kids to nude beaches where they can be fully nude with the company of other nude bodies.

  24. I still bathe with my 5year son and my 1 year old daughter. I still give my 5 year old pumped breastmilk since he no longer nurses. If he was interested in nursing I would let him. Preschoolers are still babies they need comfort and nourishment too!

    The human body is natural and will only been seen as “natural” if you don’t push these modern social belifs on innocent children.

  25. “Poop Dick” was attacked for one simple reason. The four characters pictured above endured severe early childhood trauma. Their daddies beat the shit out of them, abandoned them, and/or sexually abused their prepubescent little bodies. Daddy’s abuse/abandon created the psychological impulse for them to traumatize an ostensibly inferior peer as a form of subconscious retribution directed at their paternal malefactor. They needed “Poop Dick” to feel the pain that they felt in their fragile psyche.

  26. This is a great insult to motherhood and shame to those who view breastfeeding as something indecent. Dirty is what is on the minds of those who consider breastfeeding as a sexual behavior towards a baby.

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