Help Parents Find Justice for Their Sexually Abused Son

When the 2-year-old Iowa boy made comments like “Grandma plays with my pee-pee,” his parents initially dismissed it as something that happened when his diaper was being changed. After all, what grandmother would touch a toddler like that? It had to be a misunderstanding, right?

Sure, they noticed certain behaviors that they found “odd,” but always found a way to  explain them away. But by the time he was 3, the parents noticed more strange behavior, and when he used the word “pecker,” they asked him where he had learned this word.

What followed was a parent’s worst nightmare. Their young son detailed stories of “games” he and grandma played while she babysat him, and learned of “rewards” she used to buy his silence. The parents immediately contacted police and a search warrant was issued; the grandmother’s home was raided, and evidence was collected. The police felt certain the child was telling the truth, and that a case existed.

Today, more than six months later, that evidence still sits unprocessed and the county attorney is dragging his feet, claiming that it’s “difficult” to press charges based on the words of a 3-year-old. Without photos, the attorney claims, it’s difficult to prove. The parents have started an online petition, demanding that charges be pressed, and the voices of the victim and witnesses can be heard.

If you believe this grandmother should be held accountable for the sexual abuse of her grandson, please sign this petition and demand that a jury — not the county attorney — decide her guilt or innocence.

Go here to sign the petition and let this child’s voice be heard.

New Cyberware Designed to ID, Thwart Child Predators

From the time the Internet began, it has provided sexual predators and pedophiles with a means to more easily locate victims. But new cyberware developed by a Spanish scientist could turn the tables on predators, making it easier for law enforcement to locate them and prevent further crimes from taking place.

A team at University of Deusto in Spain, led by 28-year-old Dr. Carlos Laordan, has created a history-making piece of technology designed to engage would-be pedophiles in chat rooms — and then collect essential data on them. Dr. Laorden’s program, Negobot, could change the way sexual predators are identified and caught.

The chat program is designed so the bot approaches each conversation like a game with the object of keeping the other person chatting long enough to determine if they are a potential pedophile. It appears online as an emotionally vulnerable 14-year-old girl in a chat room, and uses current slang as well as typos and deliberate grammar errors to make the Negobot persona more believable.  As the conversation progresses, the program attempts to set up a face-to-face meeting with the predator, which would then allow police to move in on the suspect.

Dr. Laorden is quick to point out that this is not a substitute for police efforts, but rather a complement to current efforts to curb predators who find their victims online. Opponents argue that the program is a form of entrapment, but given the amount of sexual exploitation of children that occurs online, this seems more like a promising tool in protecting our children.


Child Advocate Arrested for Sexual Molestation

Every case of child molestation that occurs is chilling and sends yet another reminder that parents have to remain hyper-vigilent about protecting their children. But a new case in York County, Pa., is particularly unnerving.

Earlier this week, police arrested 69-year-old Robert R. Alfrey on charges of indecent assault and related offenses after he was spotted sexually abusing a 2-year-old girl inside a Walmart. Security video footage from the store shows Alfrey following the child and her mother through the store. When the mother became distracted with her shopping, Alfrey began fondling the young girl as she sat in the shopping cart. Another shopper who witnessed the molestation began yelling, alerting the girl’s mother as Alfrey fled the store.

As disturbing as this story is, it took an even darker turn when the York Dispatch reported that Alfrey, who is now free on $50,000 bond, had been sworn in as a volunteer child advocate for the Cumberland County Court Appointed Special Advocate program earlier this year. He had not yet been assigned a case or had unsupervised contact with any minors, according to the newspaper.

Becoming a volunteer requires an extensive background check and thorough training. Alfrey’s background offered no red flags, and his behavior apparently gave no warning signs — even to those who are trained to notice the signs of danger.

This case is a grim reminder that there are many in this world who are intent on harming children, and we have to always be aware of where our children are and who is near them. It also reminds us that we must be aware not only of what is happening to our own children, but to the children around us. The shopper who saw the crime being committed and spoke out did what we hope all adults would do in this situation, although experience tells us that’s not always the case.

Keeping our children safe is the most important task we have.  Remember that those who wish to harm our children are often those we would least suspect; they may be the people who seem intent on helping children. They may be a revered coach, a respected teacher, a trusted youth pastor or, in this case, a child advocacy volunteer.

Keep your eyes open, trust your instincts and remember that we, as adults, are responsible for all children. Together, let’s find a way to get better at protecting them.



Learn More About the Effects of PTSD

June has been designated PTSD Awareness Month and today, June 27, is PTSD Awareness Day. Anyone who has dealt with sexual abuse, either first-hand as a survivor or as the friend or relative of a survivor, knows what a tremendous impact PTSD can have. It affects not only the individual who has been traumatized, but also those who are close to him or her.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has a number of effects that can last a lifetime and be challenging to treat. For those who live with PTSD, anxiety and the other persistent side effects can be overwhelming and lead to other health problems, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, we are constantly learning more about how PTSD affects sexual abuse survivors, and this also includes new information and research about effective ways to cope with and treat it.

Surviving Spirit, an organization dedicated to accomplishing healing through use of the creative arts, has compiled an excellent and thorough list of resources and research on this topic, and you can find a copy of that here. It’s full of useful information and encouragement.


Google Announces Commitment to Fight CSA Imagery

Last weekend, Google announced the launch of a major initiative to curb the ever-growing number of child sexual abuse images that appear online. Using the latest technology, Google can not only better detect these images, but also can aid law enforcement organizations in tracking down and prosecuting offenders.

Google has committed $5 million to end online child abuse imagery, and is giving part of its financial support to partners around the globe who are working on the same cause, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Internet Watch Foundation. In 2011, The NCMEC found 17.3 million images and videos of child sexual abuse online—four times more than what they had found in 2007.

Google also announced the establishment of a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund which will be used to encourage the development of even more effective tools to fight this growing problem.

“We’re in the business of making information widely available, but there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or found,” Google announced in its blog on Saturday. “We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online—and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are caught and prosecuted.”

See the entire announcement at http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/our-continued-commitment-to-combating.html

Miss America vows to fight child sexual abuse

As the newly minted Miss America, Mallory Hagan will spend the next year reigning as America's beauty queen. She'll also use that time to help educate others about childhood sexual abuse, its effects and how to prevent it. The 23-year-old New Yorker told reporters she was inspired by her mother, Mandy Moore, who is a sexual abuse survivor. 

Hagan, who won the crown Saturday night in Las Vegas, has talked openly about how the abuse had long-term effects on her mother, and also has discussed the "rippling effect" the abuse had on other women in the family, including Hagan's grandmother, aunt and cousins. Having witnessed the long-term effects first-hand, Hagan has made it her mission to make child sexual abuse education mandatory in all 50 states. Her ambition is the perfect accompaniment to Erin's Law, which also aims to make education about child sexual abuse prevention mandatory in schools. 

During her tenure as Miss New York, Hagan already has partnered with such organizations as Darkness to Light, Stop It Now! and Safe Horizon to increase awareness and boost education. She'll spend the next year sharing her story, as well as those of the women in her family, as part of her message.



Eleven Priest Sex Abuse Cases Settled in Vermont

Moments before a trial was set to begin Wednesday in Burlington, Vermont, the state's Roman Catholic diocese agreed to settle 11 priest sexual abuse cases. Negotiations had been going on for "a long time," according to the lead attorney for the victims, but it wasn't until about 30 minutes before the trial was set to begin that the church agreed to the settlement.

Although  terms of the settlement include not releasing the amount of money the church will pay, it is estimated to be in the millions. The diocese released a statement that afternoon saying the payout would not affect its charitable operations. 

While the payout will undoubtedly create financial hardships for the diocese, it could have bankrupted them entirely if they lost, said Tom McCormick, a lawyer for the diocese.

In nine of the 11 cases, altar boys were sexually abused by the Rev. Edward Paquette, who was not named as a defendant. Instead, victims chose to hold the diocese responsible for hiring and harboring Paquette, who already had a "known history" of molesting boys when the church brought him on board in 1972. 

This is the second time in three years that the diocese has had to settle cases related to Paquette's molestation of young boys. In 2010, the diocese agreed to pay a $17.6 million settlement for 26 counts of child molestation by priests; 19 of those lawsuits specifically identified Paquette as the perpetrator.  

And while no amount of money can make up for the suffering of the victims and their family, it's gratifying to see the diocese being held accountable for its actions. It's also a genuine shame that it takes a court of law to make them take responsibility. 




Rising Reports of Sexual Abuse Send Parents in Search of Information

With new reports about sexual abuse cases making both local and national headlines on a nearly daily basis, parents are on high alert, claims a story in the Boston Globe. A topic that has, for years, been kept quiet is being pushed to the forefront, and parents are taking note.

One year after Jerry Sandusky was arrested for child sexual abuse, the landscape has changed dramatically. Institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America have been implicated for protecting child molesters within their ranks, and the need for information and education is stronger than ever. Instead of convincing themselves that this could not happen to their child, parents are taking time to educate themselves about predators and to learn how to protect their children from child molesters. 

If there is anything positive that has come from the Sandusky case, it's that it has permanently changed our willingness to talk publicly about child sexual abuse. And that has given victims the courage to stand up, speak up – and see their perpetrators be punished for their crimes.

If you are a parent or adult who is interested in learning more about prevention, please check out our booklet, "Pedophiles Don't Discriminate: How to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse." Published by the Sexual Abuse Resource Network, this concise but informative book teaches parents how to talk to a child about sexual abuse (regardless of the child's age!), how to identify signs of possible sexual abuse, what to say to a child you suspect is being molested and what to do if you discover a child is being sexually abused. 

In addition, this book offers a resource section with recommended books and websites to further assist with education, prevention and sexual abuse recovery. Best of all, it is available for just 99 cents and you can buy it here.

For more information, you can also visit the Pedophiles Don't Discriminate website.


Sexual Abuse Scandal Hits California Church

A Sunday school volunteer at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., allegedly used his role to form relationships with children in the church – and then sexually abuse them. Christopher Bryan McKenzie, 48, became a child care volunteer at the 3,000-member church toward the end of 2007 and, according to court documents, he sexually abused at least one child multiple times from 2009 to 2011, and used another child to distribute obscene material.

While the church did not allow children to be left alone with an adult, it appears McKenzie used his position to form relationships with the parents outside the church – which then gave him access to the children. 

The allegations surfaced after McKenzie was arrested Saturday on charges of sexually abusing two boys unrelated to the church. Those incidents occurred from the 1990s until 2007, and after pastors announced McKenzie's arrest, two families from the church came forward with the additional allegations.

As yet another scandal unfolds, it is a stern reminder of the need for parents to be on high alert about who is allowed to have access to their children. Because McKenzie had never been arrested for his previous abuses, he passed the church's background check and screening. Remember that 90 percent of all children are sexually abused by someone they know, love or trust – and be aware of who your children are spending time with. Educate your children about how to protect themselves from predators, because innocence is too valuable to be lost so young. 



Female N.H. Lawyer Held on Federal Child Exploitation and Pornography Charges

Lisa Biron, a prominent conservative lawyer from Manchester, New Hampshire, will remain in federal custody on charges that include sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Biron, 43, reportedly used Craigslist to find a female victim under the age of 18, then took her across the border to Ontario, Canada, for sexual purposes. She then convinced the teenager to allow her to film the abuse.

On Friday, a judge ordered that Biron, who is associated with a large coalition of Christian lawyers, remain in custody because she poses an ongoing threat to her community. Among the charges facing the lawyer are transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, possession of child pornography and five counts of sexual exploitation of children. Her laptop reportedly held a number of videos and images of child pornography. 

The federal charges are in addition to district level charges of child pornography that were fiiled Oct. 9. Those charges stemmed from five videos and two photos found on her computer which showed an underage teen girl engaging in sexual acts with an unknown male.  As a condition of her release, Biron was ordered not to have contact with children under the age of 18. 

She will be held until the begining of her trial, which is presently set for Jan. 8.