all things social work

CSA: At PSU, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard recounts abuse

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 1:14 pm | Updated: 1:24 pm, Mon Oct 29, 2012.

Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Retired boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard says he cried for Jerry Sandusky’s accusers after hearing of the former Penn State assistant coach’s arrest on child sex abuse charges nearly a year ago.

A survivor himself, Leonard spoke about his own experiences Monday at the university’s inaugural conference to raise awareness about combating abuse.

Leonard says it’s still a difficult topic, but he wants to be a leader in speaking out about against abuse and encouraging victims to come forward. Experts say cases of child sex abuse are underreported.

Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison after being convicted on dozens of criminal counts. Eight accusers testified at trial.

Leonard says he would tell those accusers that speaking out about their experiences may prevent others from experiencing abuse

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CSA: Pedophiles and pimps score at large sporting events like Super Bowl XLVI


for this article.

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CSA: A local pastor has spoken out about his experience


Darkness to Light is getting increased response for workshops on preventing childhood sexual abuse since the Penn State scandal. A local pastor has spoken out about his experience.

By Adrianne Murchison January 12, 2012

Darwin Hobbs, who is training to become a Darkness to Light facilitator, said he was sexually abused by his stepfather from 10- to 12-years-old.

“For many years I kept it secret and I did not tell a soul until I was about to marry my wife Tracy, in 1993,” said Hobbs, 43, a worship pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, in Norcross.

Hobbs said he told his mother just before his 40th birthday, after his stepfather died. He now talks about it openly, as part of his healing process. “There is tons of shame behind that kind of thing happening. You’re flooded with guilt, all kinds of depression…It’s like I literally died. Like all, sense of normalcy for me was no longer possible,” Hobbs said.

The harm is even deeper if an adult witnesses the abuse and doesn’t stop it. “Because you go though life with a sense of fear and not feeling protected,” he said. Referring to the Penn State scandal, Hobbs said, “I can only imagine if someone said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and you are rescued.”

One in four girls, and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light.

Yet conversations on sexual abuse can often bring an uncomfortable silence.

It’s something that Sandy Springs resident Kim Cunninghis is used to. Since 2006, she has been talking about sexual abuse prevention as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children’s protection agency that Hobbs is training with.

“I would get push back from people saying, ‘I have boys,’ or ‘My kids are older. I would know by now,’ “ said Cunninghis, a mother of two. “I flat out had people say, ‘It’s not in our neighborhood; not in our community.’ “

Since news broke on the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, people are a little more willing to talk openly about sexual abuse and prevention, Cunninghis said.

Calls have increased and more men have expressed interest in Darkness to Light workshops. The sessions raise awareness for parents and people who work with children. “Then you can start having a dialogue with your kids. Or your child is going to a sleepover and you want to be aware of who is going to be in the house,” Cunninghis said.

She added, “It teaches you kind of what to look for in a perpetrator. The grooming process; how long it takes. It’s not just the child that gets groomed, it’s the entire family. And in [Jerry] Sandusky’s case [at Penn State] that was an entire state.”

These can be scary concepts for a parent, said Daren Roberts, a children’s instructor at Alliance Martial Arts, in Sandy Springs, who took the Darkness to Light workshop.

Unlike, say, bullying, sexual abuse is not something people talk openly about, he said. “It’s very scary for a parent to try to conceptualize that there are [harmful] relationships in your child’s day to day life that you are not aware of,” he said. “And you have to protect other kids too.”

The training helps adults talk about their own experiences. Cunninghis said, “People have come forward and given good feedback [following the workshops]. They’ve said, “Yes it was somebody my family knew…”

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Child Sexual Abuse: The Devil We Know vs. the Devil We Don’t

Wise words from Mr. Burrell…–Joy


By William D. Burrell

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 04:30

 It has been just over two months since the news of the arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky broke. The torrent of electronic and print media coverage was overwhelming, but the facts alone are stunning: a career college football coach and pillar of the community charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of a dozen young men over some twenty years.

The after-effects are equally shocking. The Penn State president and two high level university administrators were fired, followed shortly by the departure of Joe Paterno, the university’s iconic head football coach. The legal process—criminal and civil—will take years to conclude, and that time and perhaps more will be needed for the Penn State community to heal.

While Sandusky is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the public record of the allegations against him contained in the grand jury reports paint a portrait of a classic serial child sex abuser with numerous victims over many years.

This portrait is consistent with the evidence we have about the behavior and offending patterns of this group of offenders.

However this case ultimately ends, it provides a cautionary tale about preventing child sexual abuse and an educational opportunity for all of us. This is a particularly important opportunity, given another recent high-profile, equally horrific, example of child sexual abuse.

The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard captured the attention of the nation and the media in 2009 when she was rescued from an eighteen year long captivity at the hands of her kidnapper.

She had been abducted off the street in South Lake Tahoe, CA by a paroled sex offender in 1991 when she was just 11 years old. During her captivity, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and gave birth to two children. Ultimately freed, she told heart-wrenching stories of her captivity that send chills down the spine of anyone who reads her testimony.

The Dugard case is an extreme example of the scenario parents everywhere fear. A child is abducted by a stranger from a public place that is presumed to be safe, and is sexually assaulted or worse. The case has echoes of the 1994 New Jersey case of Megan Kanka, who was abducted, raped and murdered by a paroled sex offender who lived across the street.

The Megan Kanka case triggered swift action in New Jersey. The package of laws known as “Megan’s Law” was written, considered, voted on and passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in four months time, which may be a record. Megan’s Law includes requirements for sex offender registration and community notification of the residence of the more serious offenders.

The philosophy behind this law is that registration of known sex offenders will enable law enforcement to keep track of them and let the public know where the highest-risk offenders them are living.

Subsequent laws adopted in other states and at the federal level have broadened the scope of  Megan’s Law.  Some states now prohibit registered sex offenders from establishing residence close to locations where children congregate (schools, playground, parks and day care centers). To the parent who fears a child abduction scenario, the provisions of Megan’s Law seem like a good idea. We know who the bad guys are, we know where they live, and we’ve made it illegal for them to live near our kids.

But whatever level of comfort the Megan’s Law provisions may provide, the Sandusky case raises a whole new set of issues that represent a larger threat to the safety of our children.

The evidence and experience demonstrates that our children are at much

greater risk of sexual assault at the hands not of a registered sex offender who

is a stranger, but of someone that they know and trust. That person is often also

known and trusted by the child’s parents. And the offense is likely to occur not

in a dark alley or a seedy van with blacked out windows, but at home or in a

place that should be safe, such as a school, a church or a sports locker room. 

A large number of child-victim sex offenders are not known to the criminal justice system.

They have not been caught and registered; so we don’t know who they are. Many of them occupy positions, either paid or volunteer, that involve regular contact with children. The offenders are often respected individuals whose motives are not suspect and whose reputations are often exemplary. They often take months and years to build relationships with children, gaining their trust and often establishing a situation where the child is emotionally or even financially dependent on the perpetrator. This contributes to the reluctance of the child to expose the abuse, and increases the guilt they feel if and when they do.

The allegations in the Sandusky case portray just this type of behavior, played out over many years with numerous victims.

The shock, surprise, disbelief and dismay that surrounded Sandusky’s arrest are also very common with these types of cases. In a recent case that broke in New Jersey just after Christmas, an elementary school vice principal and volunteer coach was charged with videotaping high school athletes in the locker room shower. A person who knew and trusted the alleged perpetrator said, “I have kids of my own and now I’ll never be able to trust anyone with my kids – no teacher, no coach, no one. Because if Pat Lott is dirty, there is no one I can trust.”

If the greater risk to our children is from people we know and trust in places

where they should be safe, what should we do? As a Star-Ledger (NJ) editorial

critical of residency restrictions for sex offenders noted, “To protect our kids,

we have to watch them, educate them and communicate with them”.

This is certainly a much more difficult challenge, but one that we must face up to. Kids need to know the appropriate boundaries for physical contact – what’s OK and what is not. They need to know that it is their right to say “no.”

They need to feel safe in discussing questionable situations and conduct with their parents. Parents too need to be aware of the danger signs, ask questions and take action when justified. Child-victim sex offenders rely on people—parents and victims— not saying anything, not questioning their actions when inappropriate because they are such “good guys.” We need to look behind bedroom doors and locker room doors, not just behind the bushes at the bus stop or playground.

There is an obvious need for leadership at the state and federal level to help citizens and communities address this situation.

We need help in developing and implementing the programs and educational efforts to help parents and their children, teachers and schools, communities and organizations across the country figure out how to meet the challenge of better protecting our kids.

It is unfortunate that the federal government is currently pursuing a strategy that embraces the “register and restrict” approach to sex offenders and attempts to take it to a new level. The Adam Walsh Act calls for the states to contribute information to a national sex offender registry. Significant expenditures are required at the state level. The state of Texas estimated that it would cost some $39 million for it to comply with the mandates of the Act. Some states, including Texas, have determined that the penalty they would suffer (the loss of 10% of federal justice assistance grants) isn’t worth the cost.

While some states may be rejecting the Adam Walsh Act for primarily financial reasons, we should use the opportunity to shift the focus to a strategy that addresses the reality on the ground.

As the Star-Ledger editorial concluded, “Tightening the noose around sex offenders gives is the illusion of safety. But in reality, it would leave our children less safe.”

I was a probation administrator in New Jersey when Megan’s Law was enacted and worked to develop and implement the registration policies for sex offenders on probation. I recall feeling that the effort, while well-intentioned and perhaps effective, would ultimately create a false sense of security for parents.

The true danger to kids was then—and continues to be—not the sex offenders we know, but rather those that we don’t.

William D. Burrell is a regular blogger for The Crime Report. An independent corrections management consultant specializing in community corrections and evidence-based practices, he was a member (2003-2007) of the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Prior to joining the Temple faculty, Bill served for 19 years as chief of adult probation services for the New Jersey state court system. Bill is chairman of the Editorial Committee for Perspectives, the journal of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and serves on APPA’s Board of Directors.  He has consulted, developed and delivered training for probation and parole agencies at the federal, state and county levels. He welcomes reader comments.

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CSA: Caught By a Predator: Woman Speaks Out 10 Years After Her Abduction


January 5, 2002



January 2012


by Luke Gilkerson

His sweaty hand squeezed her hand tightly as they made the five-hour drive to his home, saying things like, “Shut up. Be good. The trunk’s cleaned out for you.” Terrified, 13-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz wondered how she might escape or if she would live to see her family again. Finally, late that night, Scott Tyree arrived with his captive at his home in Herndon, Virginia. He escorted her to his cold basement. There she could see sadistic devices hanging on the wall. And over the next several days Tyree would rape her, beat her, and share images of his new sex slave to his buddies over the Internet.

It has been 10 years since Tyree abducted Alicia outside her home on New Year’s Day, 2002. As she told me the details of her story, she never once said his name. She only referred to him as “the monster.” She recounted for me the details of her four-day-long nightmare.

But for Alicia, the story doesn’t begin the day of her abduction. It begins months earlier in a chat room. Parents, you won’t want to miss what she has to say.

Groomed for Abduction

Earlier in 2001, Alicia met “Christine,” a red-haired 14-year-old girl, online. They became very close, sharing secrets, problems, and girlhood crushes. To the lonely, bored Alicia, Christine represented what she really wanted in a good friend. Even after finding out that “Christine” was really a 31-year-old man named John, this only shook her for a few hours before continuing communication with him. After all, he had been a good friend to her, hadn’t he?

John introduced Alicia to Scott Tyree. He too was thoughtful, gentle, courteous, and respectful. He seem to be there for her, waiting on the other end of her computer whenever she needed him. If she got in a fight with her mom, Tyree was there to take her side. If she got a bad grade, Tyree was there to validate her intelligence. When she got in a fight with friends at school, he was there to be a friend when it seemed no one else was. Slowly, for over half a year, Tyree played on Alicia’s teenage vulnerabilities until she was convinced she needed him.

As time went on, Tyree introduced more and more sexual topics into their online conversations. She began parroting back to him the things she thought he wanted to hear. Words were exchanged. Photos were sent. At times they would instant message each other through the night. Facilitated by the anonymity of the Internet, bit by bit Tyree chiseled away at Alicia’s inhibitions.

The process is called grooming. “Grooming is essentially brainwashing,” Alicia told me. “It is taking you apart bit by bit, and putting you back together into who this person wants you to be.” Grooming is “a premeditated behavior intended to secure the trust and cooperation of children prior to engaging in sexual conduct,” says Dr. Raymond Choo, Senior Lecturer at the University of Southern Australia. Offenders, he says, “take a particular interest in their child victim to make them feel special,” and then over time introduce a sexual element to the relationship, desensitizing the child to sexual topics and behavior.

Grooming is something child predators have done since before the days of the World Wide Web, but as Alicia sadly learned, the Internet has become another medium for predators to groom potential victims.

The Million-to-One Rescue

“He was very abusive and extremely sadistic,” Alicia shared with me. “He was an absolute monster: the kind you would watch in a horror movie. He was terrifying and completely overpowering in every single way.”

The morning of January 4, Alicia was chained to the floor with a leather collar around her neck. Before leaving for work at Computer Associates International, Tyree looked into her eyes and said, “Alicia, I’m beginning to like you too much. Tonight we’re going to go for a ride.” Alicia believed this would be the last day of her life.

But Tyree had made one fatal error. The night of her abduction, shortly after arriving home, Tyree posted an instant message to an online friend in Tampa, Florida: “I got one.” He then posted a picture of Alicia using his webcam. At first the man believed it was fake, but later went to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website and found a story about a missing girl along with Alicia’s photo. He knew then Tyree was serious. Later Tyree sent images of Alicia with her arms bound above her head, being beaten, and she was crying.

The Florida man called the FBI the evening of January 3 from a payphone, saying he had information about a missing girl. The next morning the informant called back and gave investigator’s Tyree’s Yahoo screen name: “masterforteenslavegirls.” Using this information, investigators reached a Yahoo vice president in California requesting the IP (Internet Protocol) address. And after placing a call to Verizon representatives in Texas, at 11:30 a.m. they finally learned his name: Scott William Tyree.

It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Tyree was due home any minute. Alicia remembers the moment she heard the pounding at the door. Frightened and traumatized, she crawled under the bed to hide. “We have guns! We have guns!” she heard. Entering her room they found her, stood her up, and draped her in a coat to cover her nakedness. And then—as she says in her 2007 testimony before Congress—”Then I saw the most beautiful letters in the alphabet—FBI—in bold yellow on the backs of their jackets. And I knew that I was safe.”

Scott Tyree was arrested the same day at his place of employment. He is now serving a 19-year prison sentence.

Could It Happen to Your Kids?

It has been a decade since Alicia’s abduction and rescue. After much therapy and years of healing, Alicia decided to start speaking about her experiences to teens. She’s been in countless classrooms and school assemblies. She’s helped out with educational films for the FBI, Enough is Enough, PBS, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General, to name just a few. She’s taken her message everywhere from Oprah to the U.S. legislators.

Alicia’s story may seem fantastic—like something we might see on Law and Order: SVU or a made-for-TV movie. In many ways it is fantastic, but there are also elements of Alicia’s story that are very typical of online predation.

Alicia knows by experience she is not an anomaly. In her travels to schools all over the country, she has met many teens who, like herself, have started venturing into risky relationships online.

Thanks to research funded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Department of Justice, hundreds of case level interviews have been conducted concerning sexual offenses against minors that started with online encounters. The first wave of this research concerned cases in late 2000 and early 2001 (shortly before Alicia’s own abduction).

  • Like Alicia, who was 13 at the time, most victims (75%) were ages 13-15 years old. None were younger than 12.
  • Like Tyree, most (95%) did not try to pass themselves off as minors online. Some predators (25%) shaved a few years off their true age, but still said they were adults.
  • Like Alicia, most victims (61%) did not come from broken homes, but rather lived with both biological parents.
  • Like Tyree, most offenders (64%) spoke with their victims online for more than a month before meeting face-to-face.
  • Like Alicia, most victims (76%) first meet their offender in a chat room.*
  • Like Tyree, most offenders (80%) brought up sexual topics with their victims online, and in only 21% of cases did the offender lie about their sexual interest in the victim.

One major difference between Alicia’s story and most other cases of predation is the level of brutality and violence. Only 5% of cases 10 years ago involved any violence or the threat of violence, and only 3% involved abduction. In most cases (83%) the victim chose to go somewhere with their offender after meeting face-to-face, and most victims (73%) willingly met with their offender on more than one occasion. In fact, half of the cases involved teens who, after the offender’s arrest, said they still felt close to or in love with their offender. Most cases of online predation are cases of statutory rape.

In other words, as far as her abduction and sadistic rape is concerned, cases like Alicia’s are somewhat rare. But as far as her online interactions with Tyree are concerned, Alicia’s case is a prototype. Most cases of predation are not violent sex crimes, says Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC). “But they are criminal seductions that take advantage of common teenage vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance, adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to encounters that the teens know are sexual in nature with people who are considerably older than themselves.”

Dr. Finkelhor says what puts kids most in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with strangers.  Kids who have a pattern of multiple risky activities online, like meeting lots of people through online text or video chat, are most at risk. Kids must avoid “behaving like an Internet daredevil,” Finkelhor says. Like Alicia, these could be the shy kids looking for someone to meet. Many of them are kids who have a lot of conflicts at home or at school. Many struggle with loneliness or depression. To these kids, a warm, affirming relationship with an adult can seem very attractive. Mix in teenage sexual inquisitiveness, and the disinhibition effect of the Internet, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Beyond Predators: Children Used for Pornography

As I spoke with her, what seemed to be on Alicia’s mind were the countless children who are enduring brutal sexual abuse, at the hands of strangers or (more likely) people they know. She asked me, “If somebody told you that the little girl down the street was being raped, would we do nothing about it?”

Some like Alicia are taken from their homes, trafficked across states or national lines, where they are either used as sex slaves or prostituted in underground brothels. Also like Alicia, images of these children are shared online.

Nonetheless, this kind of sexual brutality is far more commonly committed by perpetrators in a child’s own family or social circle. Researchers at the CCRC state that in spite of all media attention online predators have received, “offenders who victimize children and youth within their families or networks of acquaintances are much more common than those who use the Internet to meet victims.”

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office produced a map showing the locations of half-a-million identified individuals who are trafficking in images of child pornography. Sharing this with me, Alicia was quick to correct this label: “These are actually crime scene images of child rape. I think the term ‘child pornography’ waters it down a bit.” Moreover, one in three dots on the map marks the location of a hands-on child abuser.

This map was introduced as evidence to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. “Law enforcement knows who they are and where they are,” Wasserman Schultz said. “What shocked me the most and what compelled me to get involved in this issue is that due to a lack of resources, law enforcement is investigating less than 2 percent of these known 500,000 individuals.”

This is why Alicia has been traveling throughout the country to convince legislators to pass what has become known as “Alicia’s Law.” Having passed in Virginia and Texas, Alicia is now going after the 48 others states. This law provides law enforcement agencies the resources needed to fight crimes against children, especially when related to trafficking and child pornography.

Alicia has also helped to spearhead the Not One More Child campaign. Hoping for more immediate action, she is petitioning President Obama and the 50 state governors to declare a state of emergency to do something about the untold thousands of kids suffering at the hands of traffickers and child pornographers.

(Our readers can go to and to take action.)

Alicia’s Legacy

“I certainly believe that I was rescued for a reason,” Alicia told me. As my interview with her ended, my heart was heavy, but not nearly as burdened as Alicia felt for the children who have yet to be rescued. More than anyone, she knows something of their nightmare. “They stand beside me,” she said, “the voices who’ve been silenced by fear, by shame, by the grave.”

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CSA: My Daughter was Caught By a Predator: A Word of Warning from One Parent to Another


by Mary Kozakiewicz

Thursday, January 12th, 2012


On New Year’s Day, 2002, my 13-year-old daughter, Alicia, was lured from our Pennsylvania home and stolen to Virginia by a man whom she had been introduced to online. For eight months, this sadistic madman masqueraded as her friend, grooming my daughter, restructuring her thought patterns through coercive mind control, and bypassing those core values which her father and I had labored to deeply ingrain. A 38-year-old computer programmer, father to his own 12 year old daughter, held my little girl captive, chained to the floor by her neck in his basement dungeon as he repeatedly raped and tortured her.

Throughout the entire grooming process, my husband and I were totally clueless, and therefore helpless to circumvent the unfolding tragedy.

Our Lives Before

The night of Alicia’s abduction was blisteringly cold. Outside of our warm family home, redolent of holiday fragrance, the winds raged and whipped snowy ice crystals against the candle-lit windows reflecting our traditional little two-parent two-child family.

It is captured forever in my mind’s eye, this golden moment in time. We were happy, secure–and desperately unprepared for what would follow. To the casual passerby, we would have appeared to be an All-American Norman Rockwell painting, and certainly, that’s what we felt that we were. As with any family, our lives were certainly less than perfection but, to this day, I miss the “us” that we were before January 1, 2002.

Looking back, I treasure my memory of our joined hands; heads bowed in prayer, as we shared those moments we were most thankful for in the year past, and our resolutions for the new.

These were our last moments of grace.

For, in the passage of these ten years, each of us has been irrevocably altered, and our lives overshadowed by the event. One does not survive every parent’s worst nightmare and remain unscathed.

The Nightmare and the Rescue

When Alicia, excusing herself from the dinner table, slipped silently out of our front door and into oblivion, she carried with her the hopes, dreams, and the expectations that for each parent begin the moment our children are born. Hours later, after police reports were made and family members had returned to their own home, we sat curled in terrified misery as through our suddenly silent home, the clock’s tick-tick-ticking counted the seconds of our precious child’s life—and our own—slip-slip-slipping away.

The specialized law enforcement which responded, The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, shared with us in the days that followed that our daughter’s chance of recovery was perhaps a million to one. It would take a miracle…

Nearly hopeless, and brought to our knees us to our knees by grief and exhaustion, we began to do the only thing left to us: we prayed. We prayed for miracles.

And they came.

Days, eternities later, Law Enforcement was able to locate the needle in the haystack that was my daughter, only because the braggart Internet Predator shared Alicia’s abuse and degradation with his fellow pedophilic perverts via streaming online video. Cutting the chains from Alicia’s neck, they returned her to freedom—and to my arms.

Parents Remain Clueless

A decade’s journey behind us, our family has risen from its knees to wage war against online sexual abuse and exploitation. Internet crimes against children have grown exponentially, and no child—or their parents—are safe from these monsters.

When Alicia was lured and abducted, the Internet was in its infancy. Most parents, myself included, knew little to nothing of this new technology that had begun to forever restructure the ways in which humanity would interact with each other. Unbeknownst to parents, schools had begun teaching our children how to surf the net, but were neglecting to teach them how to protect themselves online.

Sadly, today, having presented the Alicia Project Internet Safety and Awareness Program to thousands of children and their parents, we have found that many of them remain as clueless as we were.

This is not acceptable! Parents must educate themselves to the dangers their children are encountering each and every time they set their fingers to the keyboard. The tragedy that Alicia and our family suffered may be on the extreme end of the spectrum, but the danger that every child is constantly exposed to every time he or she goes online is no less damaging. The availability of hardcore porn, which incessantly attacks even the innocent and unsuspecting children as they surf the web, desensitizes them and endangers their future ability to maintain decent loving marriages. Indeed, young people have shared with us their Internet addiction as well as their fear that the Internet has led them to prey on younger children.

So, what can parents do? We can do a lot!

The Sexualization of Our Children

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that, through media, our children are being sexualized far beyond their ability to cope with the psychological ramifications. Subsequently, we must cease to hide behind those psychological defense mechanisms that give a false sense of security.

After Alicia’s recovery, the general public chose to believe that we were poor parents and to place the blame on our family rather than on the predator. Thus, they were able to convince themselves that if we were “bad parents” as compared to their ”good” parenting, then their resultant “good child” was safe. But quite the opposite is true.

The web is a level playing field for predators. Every child—yes, your little prince or princess—is vulnerable. Alicia’s abductor initially began the grooming process by simply being her friend and by giving her seemingly unconditional love, something that any responsible parent setting boundaries and enforcing consequences can rarely compete with.

Therefore, as parents we must strive to communicate with our children in an open and honest manner when discussing the Web and its inherent dangers. Despite the discomfiture we may feel when discussing sexually taboo areas with our children, kids need to know that they can confide in us without our becoming judgmental. Predators will use that same fear and shame as coercion.

On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that, as their safety is our responsibility, nothing should be left to chance. Privacy issues are no argument when the need for monitoring software arises. We lock our doors and our liquor cabinets. We surreptitiously sniff their breath for evidence of cigarettes or alcohol. Logically, if we hold them to geographical boundaries and curfews, we should do so on the Internet highway as well. Remember: it’s their home, but it’s our house and our computer. As such, we have the right to monitor usage.

Also, as parents, we must stand and demand effective legislation to keep our children from the hands of predators; especially those which supply funding and resources for the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, such as Alicia’s namesake, Alicia’s Law. Call your local legislators; ask them what laws they are endorsing to battle child sexual exploitation. Vote accordingly.

All too often I have been asked whether I suffered from feelings of guilt, and my answer has been that I do not. I know that I did everything that I could have to protect Alicia utilizing the information that I had been given at that time.

But I am a mother, and as parents, we are ultimately responsible, aren’t we? I would give anything to have known better, to have saved Alicia from that monster.

Consider this your wake-up call, moms and dads. How will you answer that question?

. . . .

Mary Kozakiewicz is a member of Team HOPE, dedicated to empowering the families of missing children. She is also a member of the Surviving Parents Coalition, advocating for education and legislation that will help to prevent crimes against children. Along with her husband, Charles, and daughter, Alicia, she has participated in Internet Safety films for both Law Enforcement and the private sector.

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Attention all parents: What are your children doing online?

The movie Trust is available for streaming on Netflix.  I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t rate it.  However, I can comment on the subject of the film.  It happens all the time.  Under parents’ noses.  Without their knowledge.  It happens to “good girls.”  To bright girls.  To daughters whose mothers think it would never happen.  In high school.  In middle school.  

Learn about online dangers.  The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a great resource at

One study, the Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later (2006), is posted at  “As detailed in this report, the risks to children, particularly teenagers, in cyberspace include exposure to

  • Unwanted sexual solicitations (1 in 7 youth)
  • Unwanted exposure to sexual material (1 in 3 youth)
  • Harassment —threatening or other offensive behavior directed at them (1 in 11 youth)”


Attention all parents: What are your children doing online?


Wednesday 7 December 2011

If you are a parent, or even a teenager  (though what you’re doing here, reading this goodness only knows)  then I have a key piece of advice for you.

This weekend, watch the film Trust.  Produced and directed by David Schwimmer, the geeky one in Friends who almost but never quite got his woman, it is essential viewing.

If your teenager spends hours glued to their phone or buried in their rooms online on a laptop or PC, “chatting” or doing “nothing” then you have to see this film.  Because instead of just shrugging and getting on with the dishes, or smiling to yourself that you know where yours are and what they are doing, this film will show you just how at risk they really are.

Sadly, Trust didn’t get a wide cinema release this summer, so you’ll need to go and buy the DVD.  That’s because it had no major distribution backing and also because it did not fit easily into categorisation.  Indeed, David Schwimmer struggled to get a low enough rating for the film so young teens could get to see it (he failed in the end).  It contains some harrowing scenes, it has quite a lot of swearing, and also some violence.  It’s a hard film to watch, especially for parents, but it’s a must see.

The story centres on a 14 year old girl who meets a boy online who turns out to be a wolf in teenage clothing.  He is actually a 35 year old paedophile who grooms the naive and gauche 14 year old, meets her and sexually abuses her.  The film shows how it is done – how easily it is done – and then the fall-out from what happens.  Abuse has a terrible impact on children, and on whole families, whether perpetrated from within or outside their nest: at times, you will be watching through your fingers.

But the film also shows how pervasive technology is in our lives and also how sexualised our society has become.  And this is the hard bit for parents – the film also demonstrates how easy it is for us to take our eyes off the ball, to be too caught up in stuff to truly give time and space to our teenagers.

Anyone who has ever raised one will know what a tough gig that is.  They go from being engaging, enchanting creatures to cuckoos.  Too big, too awkward for themselves, never mind us, normative behaviour deserts them.  Especially speech and sharing.  Oh and being tidy, coherent, thoughtful and appreciative.  You are either glowered or grunted at.  If you are really lucky you get the odd contemptuous look.  But you have to stick with it and on the odd occasion when they actually want to communicate, drop everything and listen.

We also need to understand that the internet is simply a place.  Somewhere they go to hang out.  And if they were doing that physically, you’d want to know where they were going and who they were going with.  Parents need to start asking the same kind of questions – and ignoring the one word “nowhere” and “no-one” answers – when their teenagers go online.

Because just as when they head out the door, everytime they go onto an online space there are potential risks.  And while you cannot be there with them – god forbid, you’d want to – you should at least attempt to satisfy yourself you know where they are going and with whom.

Of course, knowing these things isn’t enough.  We also have to instil in our young people an ability to keep themselves safe.  Resilience had gone out of fashion in child care lingo but actually it is vital.  We cannot always protect our children – including the ones we don’t know – and we need to give them the skills to keep themselves safe.  Knowing how to sniff out trouble, knowing how to avoid it, and knowing how to handle it when it comes knocking are key essential life skills.

Watch the film and afterwards, go find some advice on what you as a parent should be doing to keep your child safe.  You’ll find it online, naturally.

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CSA: karen e fennell’s blog: Why Treatment and Recovery are Important


Wed, 01/11/2012 – 14:21 — karen e fennell

I think it is important to recognize the work done by those who have who have suffered childhood trauma. Today I want to acknowledge bravery.  I know many of you seek treatment for personal relief, or because someone has recommended you do so, but I don’t know if you take any time to understand the significance of what you are doing.

Abuse tends to be generational; it is the “gift” that just keeps on giving.  Statistically, 80% of those who abuse have an abuse history.  Let me clarify that a bit; it doesn’t mean that 80% of all abused children will go on to abuse, but 80% of those who do abuse, have been harmed during childhood.  Those are pretty big numbers; treatment and recovery can bring that statistic way down.

Surprisingly, the harm passed down generation to generation doesn’t always come packaged in brutal sexual assault either.  Without a proper understanding of how sexual abuse has affected the survivor, there is a chance that that survivor can unwittingly pass down the wrong message.  I will give you an example.

I worked with the “Smith” family.  I was seeing one of their sons, but I spent time a significant amount of time with the entire family.  Their son, “Jeff”, age 20, exhibited all of the classic symptoms of PTSD, he was depressed, anxious, had a history of self injury, felt guilty and ashamed of sexual activity, and couldn’t manage to keep his life on track.  His two sisters were struggling in a similar fashion.  The interesting thing was that there was no evidence what-so-ever of any sexual abuse.

Jeff was part of a really great family.  The parents were happily married and the environment was supportive and loving.  His childhood was unremarkable; no bullying or difficulties with peers.  He was a good student, as were his siblings.  The family had enough money to travel and have Jeff attend good schools.  Nothing was out of place except one glaring issue.

Jeff’s mother, “Becky”, had a horrendous sexual abuse history.  She had been brutalized by her grandfather on a weekly basis for many of her young years.  The abusive grandfather died before Becky married.  The trauma was so intense that Becky never mentioned it to her spouse and was too ashamed to seek treatment.

When the children were young, Becky tried to be a wonderful mother and wife, but suffered from bouts of deep depression.  She felt uncertain as to how to be a good mother and often found herself disengaged from her children.  That emotional detachment was felt by her babies and small children; mommy just didn’t feel “right”.   Jeff and his siblings learned early on to feel unsafe and wary of the world because they could sense the fear that their mother carried.

But probably the most harmful aspect of their infancy and early childhood was Becky’s feeling of perversion when she changed diapers, bathed and clothed her children.  Becky was so damaged by her grandfather and her boundaries so twisted, that she felt like a predator when she performed the necessary tasks of motherhood.  She felt like a child molester when she cleaned her son’s penis, she felt ashamed when they stood naked waiting to be dressed, she was overcome with a sense of guilt when she washed their little bodies in the bathtub.

I want to be perfectly clear here…..Becky never did anything inappropriate with those children, but she conveyed a message that the normal, loving touches by her were somehow perverted and twisted.  The certainty that she was being sexually perverse raced through Becky’s mind every time she touched her children and they sensed and absorbed her guilt and shame.  Jeff and his siblings became abuse victims through their mother’s message that her touch was somehow wrong and shameful.

It took some time for the entire family to get back on solid ground, but they did.  And they did it by letting go of the secrecy and talking openly about their experiences.  By being brave, the family has done a great job of greatly reducing the chances of the next generation getting caught in the cycle of abuse.  I am certain that horrid abuse dished out by a grandfather can be buried with this generation.

So my hat is tipped to all of you who are not hiding.  You are brave.  You are strong.  You are part of the solution to ending the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse.  Well done….I am proud of each and every one of you.

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CSA: Penn State’s New President Doesn’t Think This Is Penn State’s Scandal

Great…more head-sticking-in-sand.  –Joy


By Dom Cosentino

 Jan 13, 2012 2:40 PM

Rodney Erickson, the new president of Penn State, is taking questions from concerned alumni this week at a series of townhall-style meetings. Though he’s promised a new era of openness and transparency, Erickson displayed plenty of evasiveness and contradiction even before he set out for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with a final stop in New York City slated for tonight.

This is what Erickson told a gathering of 650 alumni last night in suburban Philly, according to the AP:

“It grieves me very much when I hear people say ‘the Penn State scandal.’ This is not Penn State. This is ‘the Sandusky scandal,'” he said. “We’re not going to let what one individual did destroy the reputation of this university.”

Hmm. Yeah. Two longtime Penn State administrators have been charged with perjury in connection with Sandusky’s alleged crimes, and Penn State is paying for their defense. Penn State University police had a 100-page report about an allegation against Sandusky in 1998—when he was still on the Penn State football coaching staff—but no one at Penn State did anything about it, nor did anyone at Penn State even seem to know it existed for more than a decade. The former head football coach of Penn State’s own testimony indicates he couldn’t be bothered to disturb anyone’s weekend after one of his subordinates told him he saw a child allegedly being raped in a Penn State football building shower. One month after that, Penn State sold land to Sandusky’s charity. And as all that was going on, Penn State’s former head football coach, a Penn State trustee, and the chairman of Sandusky’s charity were pursuing a $125 million real-estate venture that was the idea of Penn State’s former president. Penn State allowed Sandusky to host overnight football camps at Penn State branch campuses as late as 2009. The new Penn State president has said he and “nearly all individuals at the university” were blindsided when the grand jury issued its findings against Sandusky and those two Penn State officials, at least before he wasn’t, but don’t bother asking him anything else about that. Sandusky himself even watched a Penn State football game from the former Penn State president’s box months after the former Penn State president, the former Penn State head football coach, the now-on-leave Penn State athletic director, a Penn State assistant football coach, and another top Penn State administrator testified before the grand jury. And that football game was played just one week before the charges against Sandusky were handed down.

Nope. This scandal has everything to do with Jerry Sandusky and nothing to do with Penn State, or with the people still running the place. Nothing at all.

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CSA: 35% of Child Sex Abuse Caused by Minors


Additional information/follow up from a previous post on children with sexual behavior problems. –Joy



Sunday, Jan. 08, 2012

(NEW YORK) — Recent high-profile cases of child sex abuse have roused national revulsion against the adults who perpetrated them. Rarely mentioned is the sobering statistic that more than one-third of the sexual abuse of America’s children is committed by other minors.

For many of the therapists and attorneys who deal with them, these juvenile offenders pose a profoundly complicated challenge for the child-protection and criminal justice systems. It’s a diverse group that defies stereotypes, encompassing a minority of youths who represent a threat of long-term danger to others and a majority who are responsive to treatment and unlikely to reoffend. “There’s a long continuum, from kids who will never do it again to a kid who probably will be an adult rapist/pedophile,” said Steve Bengis, executive director of the New England Adolescent Research Institute in Holyoke, Mass. “It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ yet we end out with public policy that’s geared toward the worst 5 percent.”

That public policy includes a federal law, the Adam Walsh Act, with a requirement that states include certain juvenile offenders as young as 14 on their sex-offender registries. Many professionals who deal with young offenders object to the requirement, saying it can wreak lifelong harm on adolescents who might otherwise get back on the track toward law-abiding, productive lives. [It’s Joy.  I do not believe that juveniles with sexual behavior problems belong on a sex-offender registry.]

Some states have balked at complying with the juvenile registration requirement, even at the price of losing some federal criminal-justice funding. Other states have provisions tougher than the federal act, subjecting children younger than 14 to the possibility of 25-year or lifetime listings on publicly accessible registries that include photos of the offenders.

Delaware recently had a 9-year-old child on its registry. Several other states have registered 12- and 13-year-olds. “We’re bringing down a very heavy hammer on the head of kids, with significant life-altering consequences,” said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction that’s foolhardy beyond imagination.”

Nicole Pittman, a Human Rights Watch researcher, has been analyzing the impact of registration on the children who get listed, and says states should halt the practice. But she knows it’s a longshot quest. “Most legislators do not believe children should be on the registry — yet it’s the kiss of death for most politicians to vote against any sex offender law,” she said.

Basic data about child-on-child sex abuse is detailed in an authoritative, Justice Department-sponsored analysis of crime data from 29 states. Conducted by three prominent researchers, the 2009 analysis found that juveniles accounted for 35.6 percent of the people identified by police as having committed sex offenses against minors. Of these young offenders, 93 percent were male, and the peak ages for offending were 12 through 14, the researchers found. Of the victims, 59 percent were younger than 12 and 75 percent were female.

The report referred to a popular misconception that juvenile sex offenders are likely to reoffend, and said numerous studies over the years have shown the opposite — that 85 to 95 percent of offending youth are never again arrested for sex crimes.

University of Oklahoma pediatrics professor Mark Chaffin, a co-author of the 2009 report, says efforts to deal constructively with juvenile sex offenders are complicated by the tendency of some legislators and others to lump them together with adult sexual predators. “That used to be the message — that we should apply the template from what we know about adult pedophilia,” Chaffin said. “Now that the data has shown most of those assumptions were wrong, it’s difficult to undo those messages that people in the advocacy and treatment fields were putting out a generation ago.”

Experts say the young offenders differ from adult sex offenders not only in their lower recidivism rates, but in the diversity of their motives and abusive behavior.

While some youths commit violent, premeditated acts of sexual assault and rape, others get in trouble for behavior arising from curiosity, naivete, peer pressure, momentary irresponsibility, misinterpretation of what they believed was mutual interest, and a host of other reasons. Some cases involve sibling incest; sometimes the offenders have autism or other developmental disorders that lessen their ability to self-police inappropriate conduct. “There needs to be a highly discriminative response system,” said sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. “It needs to differentiate between the kids we should stigmatize as little as possible, who are probably going to be fine with some kind of education, and others who need a lot of intervention, including maybe incarceration, because they pose a tremendous risk.”

“We run a big risk if we get it wrong,” he added. “We fail to protect the public on one hand, or we ruin the lives of young people who might otherwise be headed in a healthy direction.”

In most cases of child-on-child sex abuse, the public never hears about it. Experts say many incidents are never reported in the first place, due to the shame or embarrassment of victims and their parents, and most of the cases that are reported are handled confidentially through the juvenile justice system.

An exception was the highly publicized case of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old foster child in Florida who hanged himself in 2009. Post-mortem investigations determined that he had been a victim of sex abuse perpetrated by an older boy, had touched some of his classmates in sexually inappropriate ways, and was on several powerful psychotropic medications.

In response to his death, Florida formed a task force which concluded that Gabriel’s problems with sex abuse were not addressed effectively by the long chain of adults who dealt with him. The task force recommended upgraded training about child-on-child sex abuse and development of an alert system to better monitor children with sexual behavior issues. “With Gabriel Myers, the big thing was lack of training,” said Robert Edelman, who has worked with many abused children as a mental health counselor in Gainesville, Fla. He said investigators, counselors and case managers involved with child-on-child sex cases should be required to get special certification.

The ripple effects of such abuse were evident in another case that Edelman became engaged in, involving a man now in his 20s who was molested at age 8 by an older boy, and later — at 15 — was charged with molesting his half-sister.

During a counseling session after that arrest, Edelman noticed slashes on the youth’s arm — he’d tried to kill himself out of remorse for abusing the sister.

In his early 20s, the man was arrested for a domestic violence incident involving his wife, Edelman said, and at one stage faced the possibility of having his children removed from the home because he’d been labeled a juvenile sex offender. “Something that happened to him when he was 8 was still being carried around 15 years later,” Edelman said.

Veronique Valliere, a psychologist with a counseling practice in Fogelsville, Pa., has worked with numerous youths implicated in sex offenses, ranging from those she deemed highly unlikely to reoffend to others who posed a clear long-term menace. One such case, she said, involved a youth who began molesting younger children when he was 12 or 13 and was showing signs of developing pedophilia. “By 14, he was so sophisticated that he could sexually assault a child sitting next to him in church — or in the backseat of a car,” Valliere said.

Despite extensive attempts to treat the young man, the abuse continued, and Valliere said he is now serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence for child sex abuse he committed as a 22-year-old. “He was a rare case,” she said. “He had every opportunity to get better. We did everything we could do, but he just wasn’t willing to manage himself.”

Looking nationwide, experts differ as to whether sex abuse by juveniles is proliferating or abating.

The latest juvenile crime data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that arrests of juvenile sex offenders declined by about 25 percent from 2000 through 2009. That would mesh with a decline in child sex abuse committed by adults, as well as a decline in the overall juvenile crime rate.

But data from New York City, Florida and elsewhere indicates that the prevalence of child-on-child sex hasn’t dropped noticeably. In any case, forms of abuse evolve with the times as sexting becomes a common youth activity and easily accessible online pornography affects some children. “There’s a fear of technology — parents don’t think they can control it,” said Marsha Levick, who has been working with colleagues to dissuade prosecutors from criminalizing commonplace teen sexting activities.

For parents, it’s often hard to discern warning signs about potentially dangerous sexual activity or to identify youths who might pose a threat to their own children. “It would be less scary if we could come up with a stereotype … so as a parent we could say, ‘Stay away from this type of child,'” said Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency. “There is no typical youthful offender. They come from all backgrounds.”

Safe Horizon serves adult victims of rape and sex trafficking, but Arnow said the child-on-child sex abuse cases are among the most difficult. “We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm,” she said. She recalled investigations of children as young as 7, and the arrest of an 8-year-old.

In New York City, sex offenders aged 7 through 15 usually end up in family court, where the main goal is rehabilitation, not punishment. “We’re supposed to consider needs of juveniles and the need for public safety, so it’s balancing act,” said Thea Davis, chief of the family court’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. Cases often end with plea bargaining and probation. The most severe outcome is an 18-month placement in a secure state-run facility for juvenile offenders.

The hardest cases, Davis said, are intra-family cases where a cousin or brother abuses a younger cousin or sibling. “Immediately you have to separate the perpetrator from the victim and make sure the victim is safe,” she said. “But you also have to think that in the long run you’re dealing with a family, and you’re not going to keep them separated forever.”

Virginia White, a family counselor with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, deals with young victims of sex abuse, including those targeted by siblings. “The parents are in a tough place — they feel guilty a lot,” she said. “And the victim is often torn, because the other sibling may be removed from home.”

Ideally, parents as well as the offending child should be involved in treatment, according to Jay Deppeler, president of an agency called Edison Court in Doylestown, Pa., that runs a residential treatment program for adolescent male sex offenders.

However, Deppeler said stigma and fear of consequences probably deter some families from telling authorities about cases of intra-family abuse. “The family may circle the wagons, and the abuse may persist,” he said.

Another challenging type of abuse cases involves youths who are autistic. Lawrence Sutton, a psychologist from Pittsburgh, recently assessed 37 youths in a residential sex-offender unit and found that 60 percent were autistic. He said these youths, many of them past victims of sexual abuse, can be treated successfully if the reasons for their behavior problems are understood. Many don’t know how to form relationships, “how to make friends,” Sutton said. “Most of them have done to others what was done to them at some point.”

Deppeler recalled one autistic young man who came through Edison Court as an outpatient. He had committed a sex offense as a 14-year-old and later — after turning 18 — committed a property-related offense that sent him to the adult criminal justice system. As a result, the young man became obligated to apprise prospective employers of his full record, including the juvenile sex offense — making him “virtually unemployable.”

“Long term, I fear his prospects are quite bleak,” Deppeler said. “What do we end up doing with a guy like that?”

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