Archive for the ‘Saving Children’ Category

Our Broken Justice System

When criminals are brought before judges for sentencing, judges should weigh factors including the severity of the crime, public safety, losses to the victim and a defendant’s efforts to change. But all too often judges hand down light sentences to repeat offenders who often go on to commit even more violent crimes. It has become even more common for judges to hand down probation to those convicted of child sexual abuse.

Our Broken Court System

In June of 2013 an 11 year old girl had been sexually abused by her then step-father. (A third degree Felony) He was later arrested and held on a $250,000.00 bond. Even though a great many pages of documents were submitted to Sarpy County Judge Zastera proving that this man had been physically and emotionally abusive to his children and wife for more than 10 years before he was arrested for child sexual abuse, the judge allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual assault, and only sentenced him to two years probation and required him to register as a sex offender! 

Although Judge Zastera required him to have no contact with his step-daughter, he did allow him to live with his three other biological children. Only ten days after he was released on probation, he was arrested again in Plattsmouth, Nebraska after throwing his then 8 year old daughter across a room and into a wall. The father was later transferred to the Sarpy County jail for violating his probation—after police discovered weapons, drugs, alcohol and pornography in his possession. But he was never charged for abusing his biological daughter! He was then sentenced to less than three months in the Sarpy County jail and then allowed to leave the state; where is allowed to abuse others there.

Judge Zastera has since retired from the bench, but now works as a defense attorney for other sex offenders.

Our Broken Welfare System

Many may ask, “Why didn’t the mother just take her kids and leave?” Many times women who live with an abusive partner don’t leave with the children out of fear of retribution from their partner. Some have even had their abusive partner threaten to kill them and their children if they ever left.

But rather than providing therapy and help for these children and their mother, who all suffer from years of abuse, the children are removed from the home and placed in foster care where they are refused contact with their mother and many times placed in separate foster homes.

In the meantime, the mother suffers even more mental anguish from being separated from her children and may begin to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This causes CPS to flag the mother as potentially unfit and the children could be removed from her care several times. 

A typical CPS victim family is living below poverty level. Their main concerns have been to take care of their children and make enough money to pay bills each month. They don’t know what the US Constitution says and have never studied laws about child welfare, thus, they are no match for child welfare social workers whose work-life revolves around court cases and separation of children from their families. So long as families are kept confused and “in the dark” about what’s going on, the social workers have a great advantage over them when they go to court.

There has been a great outcry against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for separating young children from their mothers after crossing our borders illegally. Many are calling it inhumane and demanding the dismantling of ICE because of it.  But where is the outrage against Child Protective Services (CPS) and the hundreds of thousands (Yes, thousands) of children separated from their mothers and siblings? 

In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. In June of 2017, the child welfare system in Nebraska had 4,123 children in foster care. And the numbers keep rising. But instead of being safely reunified with their families, many of these children will languish for years in foster homes or institutions. Nebraska historically has removed children at one of the highest rates in the nation. 

Recently the Omaha World Herald reported that state auditors are calling into question more than $26 million worth of Nebraska child welfare spending from last year. The audit also discovered that a state ward was placed in the home of a foster parent whose son was the ward’s boyfriend—even though the boyfriend was convicted of sexual assault in 2011!

HHS agreed that with the auditors that some matters needed correcting, but disputed key findings in the audit. Isn’t placing a child in the home of someone convicted of sexual assault a key finding? 

Foster Care And Minority Children

Racial and ethnic minority children are overrepresented in the number of children in foster care. African American children, Native American children, and children of two or more racial backgrounds are more likely to be in foster care. Even more striking, the time spent in foster care increases for minority children with two or more racial backgrounds. This is a troubling and complex situation.

The Foster Care Review Office data on DHHS wards indicate that minority children are also more likely to be separated from their siblings during their time in care. This is particularly true for African American children and Native American children. But once children are in the foster care system, there is little variation in well-being by race. Many children of all races struggle with a variety of issues related to being in foster care. 

National research shows that children who experience four or more changes in placement are likely to suffer permanent damage from the instability and trauma of broken attachments.

The American child welfare systems is badly broken—and the children are the ones who suffer serious harm as a result. Some will be separated from their siblings. Others will be bounced from one foster home to another, never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next. Too many will be further abused in systems that are supposed to protect them.

Caseworker turnover produces another source of instability. Among the Nebraska cases reviewed, 16.8 percent of children had five or more caseworkers while in their latest episode of foster care. An additional 36.8 percent had three or four caseworkers! 

So it’s no wonder so many children fall through the cracks! It was reported that at least 50 Nebraska children—some as young as 4 years old—have suffered from sexual abuse while in the state’s care. And that’s just in the first 4 months of this year! 

For-Profit Foster Care

For-profit foster care homes were originally created to replace government-funded foster homes. For-profit programs are generally revered because they can cut the corners and costs that public systems can’t. But those corners are generally very important and critical for the wellbeing of children. And when corners are cut, it generally means that those who are supposed to care and provide for children are under qualified, not background-checked, and occasionally criminal. In 2013, the LA Times reported that children living in private, for-profit foster care are 33 percent more likely to experience abuse—be it physical, sexual or emotional.

The Omaha World Herald reported that for five years Nebraska has tried privatized foster care; and it has been a terrible failure. A study compared results achieved by state child welfare workers and by the Nebraska Families Collaborative, the private agency that manages child welfare cases in the Omaha area. It found no cost savings and no significant difference—either positive or negative—in outcomes for children and families. “Privatization promised better outcomes at a lower cost, and that has not happened,” the authors wrote in their report. “It was, perhaps, a worthy experiment, but it has failed.” And yet the Nebraska State Legislature continues to be unable to reach a common sense solution for the child welfare problem in our state.

What does the Bible say about this?

The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, he rebuked them and welcomed the children to his side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14) Then Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them. (verse 16) The Bible promotes child blessing—not child abuse.

Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. The Bible prohibits child abuse in its warnings against improper treatment. Though healthy forms of discipline are biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered as physical punishment. There is no place for uncontrolled anger when dealing with children.

The Bible also prohibits child sexual abuse in its condemnation of sexual sin. Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating, and warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. 

In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are often altered for life and without appropriate help, may not ever heal.

Another way the Bible prohibits child abuse is in its forbidding of psychological and emotional abuse. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. 

It has been well documented that many foster parents provoke and exasperate their foster children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow destructive words to pour from our lips—especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children. Child abuse in any form is evil. 

We are told that if we witness injustice that we are to write to our senators and other lawmakers to make our voice heard. In the past I have written to over 20 state senators pleading with them to do something to protect our children from predators that they are forced to live with—either in their own homes or in foster care—by placing restrictions on those who have been convicted of child sexual abuse. Currently, Nebraska has no restrictions on sex offenders of any kind, so being required to register as a sex offender means nothing. The few who responded: Governor Pete Ricketts, Senators Patty Pansing Brooks, Brett Lindstrom, John McCollister, and Sara Howard, told me that there was nothing they could do.

Nothing they can do? According to the Nebraska Legislature website, a senator is called, among other things to: “…right injustices involving the public; establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed; study problems between sessions and determine whether legislative solutions are needed to correct them…”

 CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers who refuse to protect our children and allow them to receive justice are just as guilty as the one who abuse them. Jesus said, “…But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

But it’s not just CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers that are to blame. Anyone who has witnessed, or know of a child being abused and does nothing are as guilty as those in the broken foster care system who refuse to protect our children. “If someone sins by failing to testify when he hears a public charge about something he has witnessed, whether he has seen it or learned of it, he shall bear the iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1) 

God’s Justice

The Bible is very clear about refusing to report the crime of child abuse: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4) “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this’, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Today, Jesus might well say, “I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not welcome me; afraid, abused and in foster care and you did not visit me. Truly, I say to you, when you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 

The Bible reveals that all of mankind’s systems of government will one day be wiped away. This will happen at the return of Jesus the Messiah, which is detailed throughout God’s Word.  “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Dan. 2:44) See also: Revelations 11:15; Obadiah 1:21; Zechariah 14:9

Unlike our current government system, the kingdom of God will not be “left to another people”.  It will not be based upon the ideas of man. This government—the kingdom of God—will be built upon God’s Law, which will be administered perfectly. This newly established kingdom will solve mankind’s most persistent problems, which stem from its flawed systems and governments. But until that day comes, we have an obligation to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak. 

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Black Lives Matters March; Women’s March; The Me Too Movement; and recently the student demonstrators marching on Washington, calling for action against gun violence after the recent massacre at a South Florida high school. 

Every one of these protests were supported and echoed by professional athletes, Hollywood entertainers and politicians. Every news channel covered these events almost every day. 

But do you know what none of the media were reporting? What professional athletes, Hollywood entertainers and politicians refused to speak out against? The epidemic of child sexual abuse in homes across the country! In fact, there is more community outrage about animal abuse than there is about child abuse! And the only time the news reports any type of child abuse is when it involves multiple sex trafficking, the death of a child, or some horrendous act perpetrated on a child that the news outlets can sensationalize. 

It is reported that 1 in 5 children have been sexually abused before reaching the age of 18. That means that out of the 500,000 students who marched on Washington protesting gun violence, over 100,000 of them had been sexually abused at some time in their childhood—AND THEY SAID NOTHING!

Nebraska law now requires that any child, age 3-18, who has experienced sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and neglect, witnessed a violent crime, or who has been recovered from a kidnapping or found in a drug endangered environment, be interviewed at a Child Advocacy Center by a trained professional. 

In 2015 4,945 children were served by a Child Advocacy Center in Nebraska alone. And out of those 4,945 children served, nearly half had reported being sexually abused—91% were abused by someone the child knew well; a step-parent, relative or caregiver.

Yet, sadly, for every one child that discloses sexual abuse, many more remain silent. Because they are either too afraid, or too ashamed, or both. The number of child abuse cases would easily double, if every child that should be seen at a Child Advocacy Center under state law was actually provided that opportunity. 

http://nebraskacacs.com/Docs/2015%20Annual%20Report%20-%205.30.16%20-%20Compressed%20V2.pdf

Many of us have heard the stories from the Me Too Movement how traumatic it was for adults to be sexually harassed or assaulted. If it’s traumatic for an adult to be sexually harassed by someone, how much more traumatic is it for a child to be sexually assaulted in their own home by someone they trusted and was supposed to care for them? http://theweek.com/articles/749634/how-metoo-leaving-child-victims-behind

To make matters worse, even when the perpetrators are arrested and charged, most judges only sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender— which does nothing to protect vulnerable children. 

The Sex Offender Registration law in many states do not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in these states does not prevent an offender from attending events, limit employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities—schools, playgrounds, children museums or other public places where children congregate. Some states do not even restrict a convicted child abuser from living with or socializing with their victim! In many states The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. This is another reason many victims of child sexual abuse never speak out or report their abuse—they know that they will never get justice.

There are many organizations across the country who are working with law enforcement and legislators to fight against child sex trafficking and rescue its victims. I applaud the work that they do, but they are they are working on the symptom instead of the root cause. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three runaway teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. And the average age is fourteen. Many of these children will be trapped in prostitution for years before they escape—and the trauma they experience could affect them well into their adult years.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! 

April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are many ways in which adults can make a critical difference in a child’s life. Whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, neighbor, or family member, you can help. 

Caring adults can support the healthy growth and development of children who have experienced abuse by helping them recognize that it’s not their fault and that you believe them. Children who are able to confide in a trusted adult and feel they are believed by that adult will experience less trauma. Children who falsely claim to have been sexually abused only make up less than 1% of all reported cases.

It is time for adults to speak out for those who have no voice!

For more information on what you can do to prevent child sexual abuse visit the sites below:

https://www.d2l.org

https://laurenskids.org

http://justiceforchildren.org

http://www.smallvoices.org

Many people have been led to believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws of their state protects children from pedophiles that may be living near their home or their children’s school. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in many states does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

In other words, a registered sex offender is able to legally visit and work at schools, playgrounds, children’s museums, daycare centers and other places where vulnerable children may congregate.

First we have to distinguish between the types of sex offenders. All rapists, whether they are violent or not, are criminals. There are also sex offenders (public exposure, unwanted sexual advances) who, while they committed a crime, are not rapists and who are not violent. But when we are talking about keeping children safe, many parents are concerned about pedophiles. But not all sex offenders are pedophiles. So lumping all sex offenders together does not really add any marginal value to keeping our children safe. The person who got drunk and raped a woman is a criminal, but not a pedophile.

Politicians want you to think that registries are effective because politicians have put a lot of political capital and attention into registries. They want you to think that placing sex offenders on the registry is proof that they are keeping your child safe. But simply focusing on the registry, they neglect to focus on that the real threat to a child. The problem is that the politicians aren’t advocating evidence-based approaches, and aren’t focusing on the fact that more than 90 percent of people who commit child sexual abuse is well known to the victim. The majority of the time that child sex abuse is reported, it is committed by someone who is a trusted family member. On top of that, the majority of children never report sexual abuse when it’s happening. They’re often afraid of their parents’ reactions or fear getting into trouble. They also might believe the abuser when they tell them that something bad would happen if they tell.

We always hear about the sex offender who was on the registry and reoffended, but these high profile cases are reported because they make for good stories for the news media. But such recidivism is not representative of what is going on the majority of the time.

A parent might believe that if they check the local sex offender registry it will help to keep their children safe. The question then is: what else have they done in addition to checking the registry? The people that we need to be worried about the most are not the ones we know are on the sex offender registry.

Children need to be taught safety skills

Parents need to realize that the person most likely to sexually abuse their child is someone they know and trust, and someone who has regular contact with their child. This known and trusted person is likely to violate the trust of the family and child. That is why it is important for a child to have the tools needed to protect themselves from these trusted persons, and to know when to speak up when the trust is violated.

It is not only important for parents to educate their children, but schools need to educate their students too. Because sometimes the abuse is happening at home. And parents and educators need to be properly trained how to identify when a child is being victimized.

I am not advocating that we eliminate sex offender registries. Parents and the public should want to know who has committed sex offenses that may be living near them. And since all criminal records are public information, this information should not be suppressed.

My point is that the sex offender registry is about as effective in stopping child sexual abuse as using a BB gun against a home invader—you might get lucky by using it, but it won’t be a very effective deterrent. The public needs to start to understand that sex offender registries don’t keep people safe the way they think because of the nature of how predators operate when building and then violating trust. That is why the real threat is likely to come from someone known and trusted by the family. The statistics are very clear about this.

Warning Signs

Everyone can take steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children. The web site, stopitnow.org provides prevention tip sheets that can help you take action to keep children and youth safe, whether it’s making a family safety plan, finding a safe school or camp, or safety on the internet.

Signs that a child has been abused:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects.
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems.
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy.
  • Becoming unusually secretive.
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings.
  • Regressing to younger behaviors, e.g. bedwetting, thumb sucking.
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people.
  • Outburst of anger.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts.
  • Self-harm. (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular person.

Behaviors to watch for when adults are with children:

  • Makes others uncomfortable by ignoring social or physical boundaries.
  • Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits.
  • Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even.
  • when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.
  • Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom.
  • Turns to a child for emotional or physical comfort normally shared with adults.
  • Has secret interactions children.
  • Spends excessive time emailing, text messaging or calling children.
  • Insists on or manages to spend uninterrupted time alone with a child.
  • Frequently babysits children for free; takes children on special outings alone; buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.

Since the courts, judges and politicians will do little or nothing to protect our children from sexual predators, it is up to adults, parents and teachers to educate ourselves and our children on the dangers of sexual abuse.

You can find more tips at: http://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/warning-signs

Between 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse in the United States every day. The actual number is most likely higher because many victims are coerced or threatened not to tell, so many incidents go unreported. 90% of victims were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well—A step-parent, relative, family friend or caretaker.

Many adult survivors of child sexual abuse struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety attacks, insomnia, depression, and self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. Only a few have been helped with therapy.

But sadly, many victims of child sexual abuse go unnoticed in our school districts because teachers and school administrators are not properly trained on how to spot a victim of child sexual abuse.

Hope For Victims

A curriculum has been developed by Senator Lauren Book of Florida, (M.S. Ed) with a team of educators and psychologists to teach children critical personal safety information in a age appropriate way called, “Safer, Smarter Kids”. Effectiveness testing has showed a 77% gain in children’s knowledge of critical personal safety information after completing the program.

For more information on the “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum you can visit: https://safersmarterkids.org/teachers/curriculum/ 

1 in 5 children are abused, molested and raped in their own homes every day! And even when the perpetrators are arrested and charged, most judges only sentence them to probation! Child abuse and neglect can have long lasting effects on people that cost the United States over $124 billion each year.

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0201_child_abuse.html

Millions of abused people are walking around our communities right now struggling with low-self esteem, delinquency, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Simply because no one spoke up for them when they were being abused as a child.

So what can we do to prevent this epidemic? Write to your senators and representatives in congress demanding that they introduce bills to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes against children and reform the Sex Offender Registration law so that it protects our children.

Many people believe that the Sex Offender Registry laws protects children from predators. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in many states does not prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons.

Since last year I have written to the Nebraska governor and 20 senators as well as the president. I mailed seven more letters today. I recently received a response from three Nebraska senators letting me know that they have introduced bills in support of stricter punishment for sex offenders. Unfortunately these bills do nothing to protect victims of child sexual abuse.

I am only one person. Imagine what would happen if more people did the same.

Below is a sample letter that you can copy and paste and add names and addresses to. Feel free to forward this to your friends. I believe that together we CAN prevent child sexual abuse.

 

Your Name

Your Address

Senator’s Name

Senator’s Address

Dear Senator,

I am writing to you because many politicians speak out against human sex trafficking and have proposed all kinds of bills to fight against it. But very few (if any) bills have been introduced to protect children from perpetrators who sexually abuse children in their own homes.

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse in the United States. The actual number is most likely higher because many incidents go unreported. 90% of victims were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well—A step-parent, relative, family friend or caretaker. And 69% occurred in the victims’ home. Children’s Advocacy Centers served more than 311,000 children around the country in 2014. Two-thirds of the children served (205,438) disclosed sexual abuse.

The Sex Offender Registration law in most states do not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in these states also does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

The police do their job and arrest these criminals, but then the lawyers and judges allow them to plead guilty to a lesser charge and hand down light sentences or probation that allows them to re-offend, placing the public at risk. Many times there is more severe punishment for someone who abuses animals than for someone who abuses children. This should not be!

There should be a federal law in place to hold perpetrators of sexual child abuse accountable and reforms made to the SOR law so that it protects our most vulnerable citizens—our children.

Sincerely,

Your Signature

Your Printed Name

I am a sexually abused child.

I cannot make my own choices.

I cannot speak and be heard.

I cannot vote for change in the court system that is rigged against me.

I cannot control what adults do to my body.

I cannot defend myself against my abuser.

I cannot defend myself against my family when they do not believe me.

I am a sexually abused child. And no one speaks out for me.

1 in 5 children like me are sexually abused in the United States. And 90% of us know who our abuser is—Step-parents, family friends, relatives and babysitters.

I was sexually molested by my step-father when I was only 11 years old. My grandparents let me live with them to protect me from my step-father. I was glad to be away from my step-father, but I missed my mom, my bother and my sister. After two years my step-father was finally brought to trial on charges of felony sexual assault of a minor. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to testify and he was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual assault and was only sentenced to two years probation and required to register as a sex offender. This is not unusual. Approximately 66% of all child sexual abuse charges end in guilty pleas to lesser charges before trial.

Most child molesters are only sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender. Many think the Sex Offender Registry law keeps sex offenders away from places where children play, but in many states the Sex Offender Registry law does not prevent a sex offender from visiting schools, playgrounds, children’s museums or even from living with or socializing with other children. The Sex Offender Registry law can only require that the sex offender register their required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

The police do their job and arrest these criminals, but then the lawyers and judges allow them to plead to a lesser charge and hand down light sentences or probation—which places vulnerable children like me in danger. Many times there is more severe punishment for someone who abuses animals than there is for someone who abuses children. I don’t think this is right!

I was lucky. I had grandparents and family members who protected me and helped me get therapy. But many children aren’t so lucky. Some end up in foster care and are abused even more. And lots of times no one believes them, so they run away and end up worse.

You can be a voice for kids like me who cannot speak for themselves:

1. You can write to your senators and people in congress and demand that they make laws that hold convicted sex offenders and the courts accountable for their actions concerning child molesters.

2. You can join an organization that helps prevent sexual child abuse and tell others to join too.

3. You can talk to your children’s school about preventing sexual child abuse.

4. Talk to your kids about sexual child abuse and teach them what to watch out for.

The worst thing you can do is stay quiet about sexual child abuse. If you suspect that a child is in danger, say something.

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or war veterans who somehow lost track of their lives and forgot how to get back to the life they once knew.

But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth.

Many factors contribute to the overall number of homeless youth each year, but common reasons are family dysfunction, exiting the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and sexual abuse. Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes.

These young people often flee abuse at home, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen.

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse in the United States. 69% occurred in the victims’ home. 90% were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well. (A step-parent, relative, family friend or caretaker) The actual number is most likely higher because many incidents go unreported. Children’s Advocacy Centers served more than 311,000 children around the country in 2014. Two-thirds of the children served disclosed sexual abuse. (205,438)

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as: sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained  years of age.”

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires states to develop minimum definitions of abuse or neglect. CAPTA’s definition of sexual abuse includes: “The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.”

Last year, the National Center for the Missing & Exploited Children recorded that of the 11,800 endangered runaways, one in five were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

Girls are likely to become victims between the ages of 12 and 14; boys and transgender youths are likely to become victims between the ages of 11 and 13.

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent.  Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators.  All of these factors may lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope.

Less than 4% of all adolescents exchange sex for money, however 28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions; thus, it is easy for them to fall into the trap of sex slavery. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex.

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children  that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to child sexual abuse and the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

More than the 500,000 attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. on January 21st to stand up for women’s rights—including health care reform, abortion rights, equal pay for women and protesting sexual assault and the rape culture.

According the statistics on sexual child abuse, out of the 500,000 who attended the Women’s March in Washington,100,000 of them either knew a child who was sexually abused, or was the perpetrator of sexually abusing a child themselves. And and yet no one spoke out against that!

Silence is one of the most common failure in preventing child abuse. In 2 Samuel 13, upon learning that his sister Tamar had been raped by her brother Amnon, Absalom stated, “Keep silent my sister, he is your brother, do not take this matter to heart.” (v. 20) Tragically, not much has changed in over three thousand years. Too many respond to the epidemic of child abuse with the same dangerous silence.  A silence that is too often preferred over acknowledging the existence of such evil within our midst. A silence that is too often preferred over the hard work required to develop and implement effective child protection policies. A silence that is too often preferred over the cries of hurting children.

I for one, will not be silent. I will continue to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Will you join me? Write to your senators, to those who were elected to represent you in congress, and to the president.

Just like those who marched in Washington, we can make it known that we will be silent no more!

https://www.1800runaway.org/runaway-statistics/third-party-statistics/

https://www.nn4youth.org/wp-content/uploads/IssueBrief_Youth_Homelessness.pdf

https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics

https://www.nsopw.gov/en-US/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

https://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/61124.htm

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/capta2010.pdf