Journalist and blogger Heather Mundt and I discuss: A Back-to-School Rule for Kids: Trust Your Gut, 5 Guidelines to Help Kids Self-Protect
A very good friend of mine pointed me to a recent review of Eimear McBride’ novel A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING. The author of the review, Paige Reynolds, includes this very intuitive and honest description of some of the reasons why the sexual abuse of teens can be so damaging:
The novel thus showcases the genuine complexity of sexual abuse as experienced by someone in her teens. It acknowledges the fact that sexual abuse can feel good physically … if not psychologically or socially appropriate, that it is a perceived exercise of power … that it appears to give immediate access to the coveted world of adulthood, that the secrecy demanded by abuse becomes something that belongs to the victim and sutures him or her to the adult abuser, even as it enables more harmful abuse. The novel depicts the convoluted nature of sexual abuse, even as its distressing conclusion confirms that this abuse is fundamentally harmful and can have deadly consequences.
What the reviewer does not discuss, however, is that the glimpse into the “coveted world of adulthood,” the “secrecy,” and the “convoluted world” are keynotes of grooming – the way that a predator flatters and manipulates a child or teen into becoming a “compliant” victim. The adult does this by gaining the child’s implicit trust and love, blurring sexual boundaries, sexualizing behavior, and convincing the child or teen that a positive physical response (even though the child or teen is hurt, confused, shamed, isolated, or disassociating) means that the child or teen wants and needs the abusive behavior.
If a predator can use grooming to create a world that confusing and convoluted for an adult book reviewer, how can a child or teen stand a chance?
The excerpt above also shows some of the reasons why teen victims of abuse experience such profound feelings of shame – because this “convoluted world” makes a teen feel that abuse was his/her fault, he/she wanted it or asked for it, or that the teen is fundamentally flawed. Add in layers of religion (as in cases of sexual abuse by clergy in Catholic or Protestant faiths) or the manipulation of incest, and this convoluted world becomes even more tragic and wrought with shame.
Although this review focuses on a female character, grooming is just as confusing and damaging for boys. I also want to make it clear that it does not matter what the sex of the abuser is. A boy sexually abused by an adult woman can be just as damaged and hurt as a boy abused by a man.
Note: Guilt is the nasty and usually appropriate feeling people have when they have DONE something bad. Shame is the nasty and usually inappropriate feeling people have when they believe that they ARE bad. In cases of slut-, fat-, victim and political shaming, the “shamer” is telling the target that he or she IS a bad or inadequate person.
Social media only adds very public fuel to the fire—in places like Twitter, 20 people with the proper hashtags can suddenly sound like they number in the millions. On Facebook, it can get far more personal.
Sex abuse victims, especially those in the Catholic Church and other religious organizations, know shame and shaming firsthand. Many victims who reported to church officials were told that their accusations were sinful and brought shame upon themselves and their families (unfortunately, this is still very true and common in the Latino community). Even now, Catholic spokespeople try to shame advocacy groups into silence through name calling, minimizing abuse, and victim-shaming. In the Protestant community, victims have been met with physical threats and even child victims of convicted sex offender Greg Kelly are being openly shamed on Twitter.
And there is a reason that people LOVE to use shame: It works. Want to know the #1 reason child sex abuse victims don’t come forward? Shame. Want to know the #1 reason many victims become self-destructive, addicts, violent, depressed and/or suicidal? Shame.
Shame is a powerful weapon. And for anyone who is not a narcissist or sociopath (or a cat), it’s a huge weight to carry. That’s why we need to stop using is as a motivator. Children who are wracked with shame (whether through parents’ words and actions or the words or actions of other important adults) are VERY vulnerable to the flattery and attention of grooming. A child who feels shameful will do anything to feel “on top of the world,” and a child predator knows exactly how to do it … right before the predator sexually abuses the child.
And more importantly: Shameful children are not happy children.
So now what? It’s time to take shame out of the equation. Here are a few ways to raise a child free(er) of shame.
- Don’t use shame to punish your children. There is a big difference between an age-appropriate punishment as a result of your child’s bad ACTION and a punishment that is shameful and tells your child that HE or SHE IS BAD.
- Don’t use guilt trips on your children.
- Never tell your child that he or she is the reason you and your partner are fighting. Never tell your child that he or she ruined your day, a vacation, etc.
- Never tell your child or allow another adult to tell your child that he or she is a bad person, has “brought shame on him/herself and others,” or is “shameful in the eyes of God.”
- Never call your child names (ugly, stupid, evil, bad, hateful) and discourage name-calling in general. Name calling is demeaning to the caller, as well as the target.
Life is hard enough. It’s time to give shame and shaming the boot.
Upcoming speakers will include experts on Bullying Prevention, Child Sex Abuse Awareness and Prevention (read: me), and Substance Abuse
The event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there.
It’s that time of year again. You’ve made the rounds to the local big box and office supply stores. You have scoured every children’s clothing section in a 20-mile radius for “fashion-forward”—yet “tastefully modest”—school wear. You have soccer snacks, cleats, football gear, cheer uniforms and a brand new lunch box.
But there is one more thing your child MUST HAVE, and it’s not in any store, hand-me-down box, or school supply bin: Trust in his or her gut.
How your child USES and trusts his or her gut can be the first and best defense against child sexual abuse.
Child predators try to carefully manipulate children using flattery, gifts, lies, and threats (this manipulation is called grooming) so that the child does not follow his or her instincts and becomes a “compliant” victim—a victim who does not fight and won’t report to the police.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that prizes the use of logic over intuition. We value procedure over instinct. We ask our children to tell us how they solve problems, but we don’t allow the answer: It just felt right. And with that, we are doing our children a terrible disservice.
Unfortunately, it’s also how tens of thousands of children become vulnerable to child sexual abuse by people they know and trust—teachers, coaches, relatives, and ministers.
I have worked with approximately 1000 adults who were sexually abused as children. And while there are many unique reasons that each child was vulnerable, there is also one over-arching theme: when their gut told each victim to turn around and walk away, their minds and the predator talked and manipulated them out of it.
Your child does not have to suffer the same fate.
Experts often call the gut the body’s “second brain.” In fact, with 500 million neurons, the gut is an amazing organ—it reacts to stress, mood changes, and millions of potential toxins that come into our bodies through our mouths. Since many scientists believe that the gut is, in fact, our original brain, it’s no wonder that we have coined terms like “gut feelings” and “gut reactions” for our initial (and often correct) reactions to situations. It’s our original survival instinct.
You want your child to follow this survival instinct and react properly when adults blur boundaries, act inappropriately, or groom children for abuse. You want your child to follow her gut and talk to you if she sees, hears about, or has a feeling that a child is being hurt. You don’t want a predator to con your child into being his or her next victim, and your child’s gut is his or her first defense.
So how can you show your child how to use his gut without scaring him or giving her age-inappropriate information about sex abuse? It’s easier than you think.
1) Talk to your child about gut feelings. This is a very easy discussion to start. Whether your child is a kindergartner or a teen, there are dozens of situations every day where your child has to make a decision that is a part of the gut vs. brain paradigm. Explain how the gut reacts to situations—a great example is talking about stomach “butterflies” during times of excitement or stress. You can talk to your kids about peer pressure, and how peers will try to convince them to do things that go against “gut feelings”—gut feelings that later prove to be correct. Encourage your child to make decisions based on thinking and feeling. I’m not talking about basing decisions on emotion, but telling your child that it’s okay to embrace that “inner instinctual pull” they may feel towards a specific decision.
2) Don’t force your child to hug or kiss adults if he or she is uncomfortable doing so. This is especially important for younger children. When we force toddlers to hug adults when they don’t want to, we reinforce two bad behaviors: we are telling our children that we don’t respect their body boundaries; and we are telling them that it’s okay for adults to touch them in ways they don’t like. We are also implicitly telling them to go against their gut feelings about creepy adults, which will lead to trouble later if another adult tries to groom the child for abuse.
3) Don’t dismiss your child when he or she says that an adult is creepy, even if you like the adult. It’s very easy to tell your child Don’t be silly when she comes to you and says that a particular coach, teacher or neighbor is creepy. But don’t do it. Respect your child’s feelings, ask them why he or she thinks that way, and tell them to steer clear of that adult, while remaining respectful.
4) Tell your child that mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. Enforce the fact that you want your child to talk about mistakes, even if they are embarrassing. Your child is going to mess up. You are going to mess up. Your child is going to make mistakes that infuriate you. As a parent, it’s your job to create proper consequences if rules are broken, but it’s also your job to be an ear. The more you reinforce to your child that he or she can come to you and talk about mistakes, ask for help, ask your opinion, or just be an ear, you are telling your child to trust his or her instincts. You are also raising a child who will be more likely to come to you when an adult acts strangely, tries to blur boundaries, or is inappropriate.
Child protection officials in Rotherham, England are facing worldwide scorn for saying that they did not report the sexual abuse of 1400 children because they feared being branded “racists.”
The child victims were horrifically molested and trafficked by men of Pakistani descent over a 16-year period. At the time, government officials knew about approximately a third of the abuse allegations … and did nothing (or impeded arrest and prosecution).
The news and subsequent fears of “racism” made by police, child protection officials, and other social service workers are appalling and disgusting.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising.
For victims, the cry of “racism” is only the latest of a stream of obstacles that children face in seeking justice, accountability, and—in this case—rescue from gang rape and sex trafficking.
Child sex abuse is a crime of shame and secrecy. It is a crime of power. It is a crime of dominance. In the vast majority of cases, the children who are abused lack the ability or the words to describe what happened to them. They live in fear of their perpetrators, whom, they believe, will come after them and hurt them for telling. They are helpless, which is why child sex predators are often confident that they will never be caught or prosecuted.
And this is before children are betrayed by the system. The next hurdle they face is fear. Not their own fear, but the fear and cowardice of adults who should have reported the abuse.
We have seen this in the Catholic Church, where for decades, witnesses and church officials didn’t report abuse because they feared that the church would punish them or that they may besmirch the name of a “good priest.”
In the UK, victims of Jimmy Saville had to fight the now-dead man’s fame and the bastion of the BBC, who protected the legacy of a prolific predator instead of calling the police or reaching out to the hundreds of children television personality may have abused.
Then there is the scandal at Penn State, where child sex abuse victims were forced to confront three huge institutions: A university, a football program, and a coaching legend. All three of these institutions betrayed the children who were sexually molested by Jerry Sandusky. Anyone who stood up for the children ran the risk of “betraying Penn State Football.” And no one was brave enough to do it.
Child predators are smart and cunning. They put themselves into positions where they have limitless access to children. But they also make sure that they make a name for themselves in their communities. That way, child victims are less likely to report. Those who do are even less likely to be believed. It’s a part of the pattern called “grooming,” where a predator uses flattery, fear, manipulation, affection, and twisted logic to con children into becoming compliant victims and con communities into become welcoming supporters.
Did the predators in Rotherdam intentionally do or say something to make child protection officials believe they would be called racists for reporting? We don’t know. But we can assume they did everything possible to keep up the “racist” narrative once they learned of it.
These predators used fear to ensure that they got the implicit support of the people whose job it was to protect the child victims.
Men and women who molest children cause immense damage to our most precious resources: our children. The damage caused by cowardly men and women whose job it is to report abuse—but who are too scared because they fear being called names or hurting feelings—is immeasurable. They will never know or understand the extent of the pain and damage they have caused.
The bravery of one person 16 years ago could have saved 1399 children from abuse.
Being called a racist does not carry one iota of the pain of gang rape or violent sex trafficking. Cowardice must never be an option.
My op-ed in today’s Lafayette Advertiser: Releasing priests’ names a matter of public safety
A couple of things struck me about the recently released clergy file of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese priest Thomas Stitts. I saved the best for last, so be sure to read to the end.
There is the 1985 “mystery letter.” The letter, which became known around the time of Stitts’ death, allegedly “named names” of scandalous priests in archdiocese. Rumors abounded that details in the letter were licentious and detailed. Priests all over the archdiocese begged Archbishop Roach to keep the document a secret.
Where did the letter go? According to the file, it mysteriously disappeared and was allegedly destroyed. Something tells me that copies are still floating around. Stitts knew he was dying and had nothing to lose by writing the letter. He also had nothing to lose by making lots of copies.
But what really gets me is the severe, archdiocese-wide case of memory loss.
It starts in 1995, when the first lawsuits against the archdiocese and Stitts became public. At that time, an archdiocese spokesperson told the public and the press that they had NO PREVIOUS knowledge of allegations against Stitts. Kevin McDonough says the same thing to priests in the archdiocese.
The problem: it’s a big fat lie. Documents in the files date back to 1979. Not to mention the 1985 bombshell letter, and at least one investigation.
But if you read the letters closely, it gets worse. The archdiocese, including Archbishop John Roach, had knowledge as far back as 1973 that Stitts was abusing kids (page four). This isn’t a new issue in 1993. By the time the archdiocese made its 1995 claim, they had known for 22 years that Stitts was a child molester and that he had admitted to molesting children in every one of his assignments.
By 2013, when the Archdiocese finally publicly disclosed Stitts name, they had known for 40 years that Stitts was a child molester.
And yet the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis claims “transparency”?
40 years. Just think about that.
1) Call the cops, not your college president.
There has been a ton of press about the problem of sexual assaults on campus. Recent government intervention—telling universities that they must have better “policies” and “procedures” to handle the crime—is ALL wrong.
Why? Check out this article from (the most unlikely of places) the Harvard Gazette. Funny that the author didn’t put two and two together about universities’ investigations of sexual assault. But I have, so consider yourself warned …
The same goes for ANY internal investigation of sexual abuse, whether it be a high school, the Boy Scouts, a church, or sports club.
An institution’s first job is to protect itself. If you need an example, take a look at the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The very recent scandal in St. Paul, MN is a good place to start. This isn’t from 10 or 20 years ago, this is right now.
The moral of the story? If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual assault or child sexual abuse, call the police, not your college president or bishop. And read the article above.
2) The problem isn’t the faith; and it’s not the good people in the faith. It’s the bad people who can smell an innocent soul a mile away.
I recently gave a talk at a local, large Christian Church. One of the topics I mentioned was why predators are attracted to jobs in the clergy. I was approached by a woman afterward who told me something that has stuck with me since: “People need to know this. Bad people are attracted to good people, BECAUSE they are good. Then bad people exploit good people, because good people forgive too easily.”
The topic came from this excellent article by Joe Navarro, MA. If you attend any kind of church, no matter your faith or the record on sexual or financial abuse, you will find it a very interesting read.
I teased last week that I had secured an agent for THE WELL-ARMORED CHILD. Now that the paperwork is signed and the deal is sealed, I am very excited to disclose the big news that Katie Reed at Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management (knows a good thing when she sees it and) is representing my parents’ guide to preventing abuse.
Katie is smart, savvy and an excellent editor. Most importantly, as a mother herself, she understands the importance of the cause. And yes, I am really excited about it.
Dust off your credit cards folks, because there’s going to be a book to buy.
I have often mentioned my volunteer work with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. They are the nation’s largest and oldest support group for adult survivors who were sexually abused as children in religious and institutional settings.
In the past few years, their mission has expanded dramatically to help a wide range of victims from many denominations, institutions, and organizations. Don’t let the word “priest” fool you—at their convention last week, I met survivors from/of universities, protestant churches, incest, orthodox, Judaism, Islam, boarding schools, group homes, and the list (quite tragically) goes on and on.
Some of SNAP’s volunteer leaders have come together for a project-specific Indiegogo campaign. They are raising the money to send 2 leaders to 3 cities to train other survivors to set up and grow support groups. It’s a small project, but will have a HUGE impact on survivors in the cities where new groups are formed.
Consider giving $1 or $5 or $3,000. All gifts are tax deductible and will have a DIRECT effect on survivor healing.
I am very excited to announce that I have found a literary agent for THE WELL-ARMORED CHILD. Since I haven’t “signed on the dotted line” yet, I’ll keep the name under wraps.
Besides, everyone loves a little suspense. It builds character.
And yeah … I’m excited.
The big discussion at the 2014 SNAP conference was “everybody’s favorite pontiff,” Pope Francis.
Journalist Jason Berry—who faced raised eyebrows for earlier comments criticizing SNAP’s methods and “skillset“—told the group at his conference speech that SNAP should work strategically to “get a place at the table” and negotiate with the Vatican. (Note: Berry did apologize to the larger group and individuals for his July 29 remarks)
As much as I like and respect Jason, I think he is being suckered in by former Fox News journo/now Vatican communications guy Greg Burke’s carefully crafted Papal PR Machine. It’s the machine that always ensures there are plenty of photographers around to take photos of the Pope washing the feet of an Islamic woman, driving a car, living in a small apartment, and personally calling letter-writers. (In case you haven’t noticed, the PR move of calling letter writers was so successful, it’s been copied by Barack Obama, who is facing abysmal favorability poll numbers).
But just because the papal PR machine is shouting the loudest, doesn’t mean it’s right.
Fortunately, survivors ain’t buying it. I, for one, think a few “authentic gestures” are required.
What’s an “authentic gesture,” you ask?
Authentic gestures DO NOT include secret meetings with carefully picked survivors (who are asked to attend Mass and are sworn to secrecy until after the meeting). Authentic measures are NOT apologies, and certainly do not describe the deliberate and criminal cover-up of sexual abuse as “sins of omission.”
I’ll go back to my old rallying cry: I’ll believe that the Pope is a champion for real change when he fires convicted child endangerer (I guess that can be a word in this case) and Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn. THAT would be an authentic gesture. Super easy stuff. But too hard for Pope Francis, apparently.
Until then, I’ll pass on a seat at the Vatican’s table. I don’t like the Kool-aid they serve.
I know it’s been a little quiet here at The Worthy Adversary. I have been pounding away at the manuscript for The Well-Armored Child, and it’s summer, so there’s not a lot of quiet time around the house.
But things have not been quiet in the Archdiocese of Hagatna, Guam. And every time I think that things are winding down, something new happens.
Here’s the low-down:
Fr. John Wadeson is a twice-accused priest who was banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. A former member of the Divine Word Missionaries, Wadeson bounced around (New York, Trenton, LA, San Francisco, and Portland) until he found a home on Guam.
Although his past was well-known and posted on the internet, Guam Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron allowed the priest to live and work in the diocese. Apuron even made Wadeson a part of his inner circle, taking the priest to Honolulu to celebrate Apuron’s 30th anniversary.
Then word got out. Local Catholic blogger and whistleblower Tim Rohr started posting information about Wadeson’s past. Other Guam Catholics joined him in his outrage. Why was a twice-accused priest allowed to live and work on Guam? What about zero tolerance? Why was Apuron allegedly punishing whistleblowing priests, but protecting known predators.
Apuron did nothing.
On July 15, one of Apuron’s critics, Fr. Matthew Blockley, reached out to me and asked for SNAP’s help. He remembered that I have been on Guam in 2010 and thought that SNAP could force Apuron’s hand. I was skeptical (I can count on one had the number of times that a statement from SNAP forced an archbishop to action), but I wrote the statement and SNAP sent it out on July 18.
And damn, if it didn’t work.
Then, the shuffling began
Just like Michael Kelly, who fled the country after a civil jury determined in 2012 that he had molested a 12-year-old boy, Wadeson promptly fled Guam on July 24—but not before making a statement saying that all of the allegations against him are false.
Rumors circulated Wadeson was on his way to San Francisco, where he had worked with families and children in the past (he is in the video at 2:50). So, SNAP held an event in San Francisco on July 24 (note that Guam is on the other side of the International dateline and is a day ahead), which got the attention of the SF Archdiocese. They issued a statement saying that Wadeson could not work there . The Associated Press, who picked up the story on July 25, quoted LA Archdiocese lawyer Michael Hennigan restating that Wadeson has no permission to work in LA.
Wadeson was not going to let three archdioceses, local Guam Catholics, SNAP, and the international press have the last word. Today, he put an ad in the Sunday Catholic Paper, saying that he is innocent and is going to sue anyone who continues to discuss the charges against him. Looks like his attorney will be a little busy …
And this all happened in less than two weeks.
Now what? Well, we don’t know where Wadeson is. But here’s what I do know:
1) Apuron should immediately begin the process of removing Wadeson from the priesthood. No one will take him, he has two allegations, and he refuses to sit still long enough to “show his innocence.” If I were him and I were innocent, I would have stayed in Guam and demanded that LA and SF turn over any proof that I am an offender. He didn’t do that.
2) Pope Francis should come down on Apuron … and hard. Now granted, Apuron is part of a long line of bishops who should be removed (Like convicted child-endangering Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn, and discredited St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt). But employing a twice-accused and banned priest, punishing whistleblowers, and then acting like a bully when local Catholics beg for change are NOT ways to be a pastoral leader.
3) Victims and Catholics need to continue to stand together for change on the island. Tim Rohr, Matthew Blockley, and SNAP are unlikely allies who may disagree on many things. But we do agree on this: sex abuse and cover-up have no place anywhere.
4) Guam should send Wadeson and other credibly accused and/or banned clerics to secure facilities where they have no access to children. But that’s just a pipe dream.
So now, back to the manuscript. But something tells me that the Wadeson saga is far from over.
If Pope Francis were truly sorry for the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, he’s take a gander at a little Catholic diocese is California, where a cleric found guilty of abuse in a civil trial is still a powerful priest.
Here’s the situation: Fresno priest Eric Swearingen was recently appointed the pastor of a Visalia, California, parish and will oversee four parishes and a school.
The problem? Well in 2006, a civil jury found 9-3 that Swearingen had sexually abused Army Sgt. Juan Rocha when Rocha was a child.
How is Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa able to justify this? Well, his predecessor Bishop John Steinbock said the jury “got it wrong.” But Ochoa takes a different tack.
Swearingen’s trial ended in a mistrial because the jury did not think that the Fresno diocese was liable for the abuse. So Ochoa believes that Swearingen has a “get out of jail free card” and that his civil guilty verdict doesn’t count.
But remember: a CIVIL JURY found the Swearingen HAD abused Rocha. And in a 2008 settlement, the Diocese of Fresno settled with Rocha for a large, undisclosed sum.
This is low-hanging fruit for Francis. Why should victims accept the Pope’s apology when men like Swearingen are frolicking around with full access to children?
In a Visalia Delta-News article about Swearingen’s recent appointment, the cleric’s supporters, including a private eye hired for the family, are still trying to damage Rocha’s credibility. Parishioners applaud how Swearingen can “relate” to them. That alone should send chills down your spine.
How many more court victories does Rocha need to show them that Swearingen must be removed?
The only way that this will change is if parishioners stand up and raise a stink. Refuse to go to Mass. Protest. Hold meetings and invite the media. Tell Bishop Ochoa in a very public way that they deserve better than a priest who was civilly found guilty of child sexual abuse. They must tell Bishop Ochoa and Pope Francis that children and victims are far more important than predator priests. Parents and parishioners NEED to stand up for their children.
Because “Zero Tolerance” is a failure. Francis’ failure.
Grooming is a predator’s “ticket” to your child. It is the careful means by which a predator befriends, flatters, builds trust, removes inhibitions, and blurs sexual and body boundaries in order to make a child an “easy” target for abuse—a child who does not fight back and is far less likely to report.
Grooming is a slow and insidious process, intended to manipulate the child into thinking that the abuse is his or her fault and ensure that the child is confused and will not actively resist. It is such a successful tactic that the majority of child sexual abuse is not under physical force or the threat of physical force. It also helps a predator ensure that the victim is less likely to report the crime, due to the child’s shame, guilt, and confusion.
Many predators also carefully groom families so that if the child does disclose, his or her parents will not believe the child.
Some signs of grooming include when a predator:
- Shares secrets with a child
- Gives a child gifts or money
- Gives a child alcohol, drugs, or pornography
- Spends large amounts of time with the child alone
- Engages in long hugging, touching, kissing or “accidental” touching that is sexualized
- Takes the child alone on overnight trips
- Tells the child s/he is “mature” for his/her age
- Engages in sexual talk or jokes
- Discusses adult subjects with the child, including marital problems, emotional troubles, financial difficulties
- Threatens the child if the child tells the adult’s secrets
This list is by no means comprehensive. But remember: your gut is usually your best guide. If something makes you feel “hinky”, go with your gut, ask questions, and do everything in your power to stop the cycle of abuse.
This blog has long rallied against the problem of the cover-up of sexual abuse in public schools. Unfortunately, the victims in these cases—when they are ready and able to come forward and get accountability— usually don’t have criminal and civil rights to expose the abuse. As a result, victims and the public are seldom, if ever, able to learn the full story.
The only times we do get a peek into how alleged sex offenders in public school are treated (unless they are arrested) is when scandal breaks. For example, when the Miramonte child sex abuse scandal broke in Los Angeles, we learned a ton: accused teachers were suspended with pay; teachers arrested for abuse were getting huge payoffs; teachers unions were paying big money to block bills which would have expedited the removal of sex-offending teachers; and, of course, we learned about the infamous “teacher jail,” where teachers accused of inappropriate contact sit idly at taxpayer expense.
For parents and the 99.9% of good teachers out there, this is appalling stuff. Children are second priorities and the reputations of an entire class of hard-working, law-abiding public educators are sullied.
But a little law in Hawaii may be starting a revolution.
On Friday, Hawaii’s civil window for victims of child sex abuse was extended for two more years. But it was also expanded. The new law added the state and counties as potential defendants. That means that if kids were sexually abused in public schools and institutions, they have the next two years to come forward and expose the crime. And if the crime was covered up by a government official, school administration, or bureaucracy, we will find that out, too.
My hope? Other states will look to Hawaii as an example. And a revolution will begin.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie just signed a law that extends Hawaii’s two-year civil window for sex abuse victims.
But there’s more: victims in public schools are NOW eligible for accountability under the new law. For the first time, sex offenders in public schools and the people who covered up for them—including powerful unions and other gov’t officials—are liable for the crimes of predatory gov’t employees.
Thank you Senator Maile Shimabukuro for your tireless work on behalf of victims.
From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:
New law adds time to file abuse suits
By Derrick DePledge
Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Friday signed a bill into law that will extend a window for another two years to file lawsuits over decades-old childhood sexual abuse and allow suits to be brought against the state and counties.
Dozens of child sex abuse lawsuits have been filed in Hawaii against the clergy, churches and others over the past two years after the state temporarily lifted the statute of limitations to bring claims. The new law extends the window until April 2016 and adds the state and counties as potential defendants.
Victims must prove gross negligence on the part of private organizations or the state — a legal standard meant to discourage frivolous accusations.
The Roman Catholic Church and others have opposed lifting the statute of limitations on lawsuits, arguing that it is difficult to defend against abuse claims that could be decades old. But the church had urged that the state and counties be covered by the law if it were extended, contending it was unfair to hold only private organizations financially accountable for abuse.
Abercrombie vetoed a similar bill in 2011, citing concerns about due process rights and the unknown financial liability to the state.
“I think the issue trumps the state’s interest as expressed then,” the governor said Friday. “I think you have to put the human condition first.”
Abercrombie also signed a bill into law Friday that lifts the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of first- and second-degree sexual assault and for the continuous sexual assault of a minor under age 14. Murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and murder-for-hire had been the only other crimes under state law with no statute of limitations.
“People can tell their story, and they don’t have to do it within a certain amount of time,” said state Rep. Mele Carroll (D, Lanai-Molokai-Paia-Hana), chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, who had worked on both sex abuse bills.
Abercrombie signed several other criminal justice bills into law Friday, part of a flurry of bill signings this week. The governor has a Monday deadline to inform the Legislature of bills on his potential veto list. All bills awaiting action that are not on the list automatically become law.
The signings Friday included a law that clarifies that police officers cannot legally have sex with prostitutes as part of sting operations, a law that criminalizes so-called “revenge porn” as a privacy violation and a law that sets a mandatory minimum of one year in prison for habitual property crime.
New laws would also establish a fund for victims of human trafficking, financed by fees on people convicted of labor trafficking and prostitution crimes, and a fund to fight Internet crimes against children, financed by fees on people convicted of child abuse and enticement offenses.
The law on Internet crimes against children is known nationally as “Alicia’s Law,” named for Alicia Kozakiewicz, a Pittsburgh girl who was 13 when she was abducted and assaulted in 2002 by a man she met in an Internet chat room.
**Update** Thanks Glenn Reynolds for the INSTALANCHE!
This press release crossed my desk this morning. Apparently, the White House and the US Department of Education didn’t check to make sure that their “model” program knew how to report suspected abuse.
As I have noted before, child-on-child abuse is just as damaging as any other kind of child sexual abuse and should NEVER be covered up.
Sac Lawsuit: “Model” Educational Program Didn’t Report Sexual Abuse
Six-Year-Old Violently Molested by 10-Year-Old
White House-Praised Program Knew of Risk, Did Nothing
Regulators Cited After School Program for “lack of supervision” in Restrooms
In a lawsuit filed last month, the mother of a 6-year-old victim of child sex abuse charges that officials at a popular Sacramento-area after school program knew that a 10-year-old student had a history of sexually provocative behavior at the school, but did not inform parents or Child Protective Services of the danger.
The suit, filed in Placer County Superior Court, says that STAR NOVA, an afterschool program operating at Twelve Bridges Elementary, had evidence that a 10-year-old student in the program had engaged in dangerous behaviors, including making other children undress, sexually-explicit language, and violence. Instead of intervening and contacting Child and Protective Services or law enforcement, school administrators did nothing to stop the child.
In March 2013, the lawsuit says, the now emboldened 10-year-old took the six-year-old special needs student into the bathroom, where he forcibly undressed the younger boy and sexually assaulted him. The victim reported the abuse to his mother, who informed officials at Twelve Bridges Elementary. School officials filed a report with CPS that day. As a result of an investigation by Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division, the STAR NOVA Program was cited with a civil penalty and required to inform all new and returning parents of the allegations, which Social Services deemed credible.
Twelve Bridges Elementary is in the West Placer Unified School District. Because the 10-year-old is a minor, his identity and current situation are confidential.
“STAR NOVA boasts that it was selected as a model program by the White House and U.S. Department of Education. Yet, when a child in the program exhibited dangerous sexual behavior, STAR NOVA turned a blind eye.” said Dr. Joseph C. George, an attorney for the victim. “As a result, an extremely vulnerable six-year-old special needs child was sexually assaulted.”
He also praised the victim in this case.
“It is extremely difficult for a child to talk about sexual violence,” George said. “The fact that this child told his mother about the abuse is the only reason a sexually violent child was stopped. STAR NOVA administrators could have intervened and saved the victim and others from the trauma of abuse, but they didn’t. Organizations like that should not be allowed to supervise children.”
You can read the lawsuit here .
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has a lesson for all of us, and I don’t think it’s the lesson he intended.
The situation: When asked by victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson in a recent deposition if he knew in the 1984 that child sex abuse was a crime, Carlson responded, “I’m not sure if I did or I didn’t.” The result: he didn’t report. Countless children were put at risk and many others were abused because he couldn’t pick up the phone and call the police.
Which leads to the following question: Do YOU know how to report suspected or witnessed abuse?
I am going to go into much greater detail on this subject in my upcoming book, but I feel that it’s necessary to post and repost this information as much as possible.
First, some assumptions: I consider everyone a mandatory reporter. Child sex abuse is a crime with lasting consequences. There is a victim and an alleged criminal. If you see or suspect abuse, it’s an adult’s civic and moral obligation to report.
If you are a mandatory reporter in the eyes of the law, your employer should provide you specific training on your reporting procedures. If you have not had that training in the past year, demand that your employer provide it to all mandatory reporters at your work.
How to report child sexual abuse
If you are a victim or witness abuse:
1) If you are a victim of sexual assault, call 911. If it is not an emergency requiring immediate medical care, call your local police department and ask to speak to someone who can take a report of the sexual assault of a(n) child/adult. If you feel that it’s necessary to call 911, do it.
2) If you see sexual abuse taking place, call 911. Treat the crime like a robbery, car accident or shooting. It’s a crime that needs immediate attention.
NOTE: Do not rely on your institution (whether it be a church, school, university, community group, or your boss) to do the reporting for you. If you witnessed a shooting, you would call the cops, not your supervisor. Child sex abuse is the same. Plus, we have seen time and time again that institutions (especially churches and universities) are NOT in the abuse investigation business. Internal investigations do not protect victims and do not protect the rights of the accused.
If you suspect child sex abuse:
1) Call the ChildHelpUSA national child abuse reporting hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD. They also have a website that is well worth your review now, before you encounter a situation where you need immediate answers. When you call the hotline, a trained crisis operation will talk to you about what you saw, what you suspect, and the next steps you should take. They will carefully walk you through the entire process.
2) Call the specific agency in your state that handles the investigation of child sex crimes. You can read a list of them here. I suggest going over them now, before you are in a situation where you need to report.
3) If you suspect that a child who is not your child is being abused and the parents are not the suspected abusers, talk to the parents. If you think that the parents will not take action and the child is in danger, call ChildHelpUSA. They will help you assess your suspicions and alert you of the next steps you should take.
NOTE: You are not an investigator and you do not need to have “proof” of the abuse to report. That is the job of the police. Report your suspicions and let law enforcement do its job.
Some red flags:
1) Your employer says that you should report suspected abuse to them before calling the police or ChildHelp. (Think of it this way – if there was a shooting going on, you would call 911 without getting your supervisor on the phone, right?)
2) If an employer or institution says that they “need to investigate this internally” before calling ChildHelp, the police, or social services.
My take? Report anyway.
And if you’re scared or reticent of “making a mistake” by reporting:
Organizations like ChildHelp were founded to help people correctly report crimes. They also can tell a concerned adult when there is no crime to report.
Most of us will never be in a situation where we need to report. But we will encounter people who need our help. Learn what sexual behaviors in children are healthy and which ones need direct attention. Learn the signs of abuse. Learn the signs of sexual grooming.
Most importantly: Talk to your kids. Chances are they will listen.