Feature | The Face of Child Porn: Gina Zhdilkov thought her family was safe from the child porn that ruined her childhood. Then the FBI investigated her husband. 

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One late night in January 1997, Gina Zhdilkov set out from Los Angeles International Airport in a rental car driven by her then-husband, Roger Greer. They were going to slay, as Zhdilkov wrote in a poem afterwards, “a withered, old dragon,” to set his “captive maidens free.”

The dragon was her father, Herbert Becker, who lay unconscious in a hospital bed in Los Angeles. Zhdilkov, then 35 years old, called him a dragon because he hoarded gold coins in drawers throughout his house. A neighbor had found the 82-year-old widower collapsed in the bathroom of his house in Paso Robles in central California. His son had arranged for Becker to be transferred to a hospital near his home.

Becker had molested and raped Zhdilkov, she says, from age 3 to 13. He had told Zhdilkov if her mother ever found out about the abuse, it would kill her. When her mother died of a stroke in 1993, Zhdilkov started to remember details of her abuse. For two years from 1994, she went to therapy in Salt Lake City where she then lived. By the end of 1996, her therapist felt she was coping sufficiently with her post-traumatic stress that she could stop her sessions.

But Zhdilkov had lingering doubts as to whether she was remembering all her father had done to her. In particular, she suspected he had used her to make child porn. With her father’s collapse, she decided it was time for the truth.

Greer and Zhdilkov pulled up in the driveway of the house in the Paso Robles’ retirement community a little after 2 a.m. In the garage, Greer worked on opening a padlocked trunk. Zhdilkov went through the bedroom, rifling through Becker’s sports jackets. For 23 hours straight, they searched the house. All they found were some pornographic stories. Some of the things he wrote about, she remembered him doing to her. Finally, she sat on the edge of the bed.

“I was crazy to come here,” she said to Greer. “We’re not going to find anything.”

Greer insisted on searching Becker’s closet again. “Bingo,” he said and held up a cloth moneybag. He pulled out negatives. “God, Gina, this is sick.”

“That’s my mother,” she said of one negative. “That’s me. I don’t know who that is.” They were horrific images of little girls, of teenagers, and her mother penetrated with bizarre objects. “You don’t want those images in your mind if you don’t have to have them,” Zhdilkov, now 47, says.

For several minutes, she was in shock. Then, it was as if a dam had burst inside her. She screamed again and again in the voice of a 3-year-old child, “He hurt my

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mommy.” Greer tried to calm her down, fearing her screams would draw the police. She had to get her father’s blood out of her veins. She flew into the bathroom, desperate to find something to cut open her wrists. Greer forced her to down a large alcoholic drink, and she passed out.

Greer and Zhdilkov burned most of the negatives in her father’s fireplace. She took back to her therapist the images of her and items she recalled her father using to abuse her, such as a pair of handcuffs. Through all this, Greer was constantly by her side. Ten years later, though, in 2006, Zhdilkov learned that the very person who helped her recover from her childhood abuse shared some of her father’s aberrant sexual tastes. It was no longer Herbert Becker she had to expel from her veins. Rather it was the man with whom she found love for the first, and, she prophecizes, last time in her life, her third husband, Roger Greer.

In January 2008, 52-year-old Greer began a 33-month stretch in a Seattle federal penitentiary, SeaTac, for the possession of child pornography. He also has to pay a fine of $2,500. Court documents state he had 600-plus still and video images which “consisted predominantly of … naked, lasciviously posed photographs of prepubescent females.” Through a prison spokesperson, Greer declined an interview request.

Zhdilkov, who is half-Jewish, draws a comparison of sorts between what she describes as Greer’s “complete betrayal” of her with child porn and the Holocaust. “It’s like marrying a Holocaust survivor and after the wife goes to bed, he gets on Nazi Websites and collects pictures of the bodies,” she says.

An experienced therapist for sexual-abuse victims, Zhdilkov gives an eloquent definition and depth to the suffering of the voiceless victims of child pornography: the hundreds of thousands of unidentified children whose visually recorded torment floats eternally around the Internet. According to a 2006 congressional record, Salt Lake City FBI agent Juan Becerra says an estimated 3 million images of child pornography are on the Internet. Much of the child porn comes from Southeast Asia and former Eastern Bloc countries. A 2003 U.S. State Department report noted that children were being kidnapped and even purchased from Russian orphanages for sexual abuse and child pornography. Child pornography is big business, generating $20 billion a year. And that’s not including individuals who trade privately with other collectors.

While some make hefty sums from child porn, others have to live with the consequences. Zhdilkov’s life charts the saddest of circles: from a child-porn victim in the 1960s, when her father would, she surmises, sell photographs of her abuse to supplement the family income to that of an unwitting wife of a man who victimized hundreds of children by illegally downloading images of their suffering off the Internet. She also lives with the knowledge that the images her father took and sold of her may well still be in someone’s collection. Her story, for all its horror and undeniable pathos, offers a window into a complex, murky world that the term “kiddie porn” renders all too simple to digest. Porn comes with associations of freedom of choice for adults who perform sexual acts for the camera. There is no freedom in photographs of terrified, naked children, Zhdilkov says.

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