Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Swift Kick in the Complacency

Okay – I’m going to be honest.

When I learned that Winning Kids Inc. had decided to extend its hand of grace to help alleviate some of the suffering of African children, I  felt some impatience. With issues of abuse spiraling into ever-widening circles in North America, why, for goodness sake, would we lose focus and shift our attention from the suffering of abused children in North America? Why would we even consider contributing to the alleviation of atrocities that we can’t possibly understand and expect to make even a tiny dint in the inhumane conditions that have plagued a continent rampant with disease and corruption for generations?

I was happy to have the African Children’s Choir coming to perform for us at the Nov. 20th Fifth Anniversary celebration of Winning Kids Inc. and the launch of my book, "Predators Live Among Us – Protect Your Family From Child Sexual Abuse." The children are so adorable in their colourful costumes and they would definitely attract people to the event – but turn the event into a fund-raiser for the group? Couldn’t we just give them an honorarium and raise funds for expanding our efforts with North American kids?

And then I received an advertisement on my iPad for a book called, "Scared," by Tom Davis. The e-book would be free on the first and second of November. I like free things and so clicked the “download” button. Little did I realize that "Scared" is not a book to be read by anyone who wants to lounge in a comfortable chair and be entertained by a writer with a gift for braiding words. It is a gripping novel that bumps you along a clay road, the air thick with dust, and makes you taste sweaty fear and live in the middle of atrocities that tear your innards from your belly to your heart. As if that weren’t enough, it throws a precious child into the vortex of terror, stands back and watches the reader squirm, biting his or her nails, not daring to read another word - yet totally unable to abandon the vulnerable people of the pages. Dear little Adanna, sweet child. Adanna – fatherless, starving, valiantly struggling to provide food for her younger siblings, then falling into horrendous calamity...

"Scared" is an in-your-face novel that, like a scruffy dog, shakes the self-absorbed, polished world of the iPad user from its North American moorings and lays it, whimpering, at the feet of reality. It then asks, “Now what are you going to do about it?”

The person who began this article is not the person finishing it. I, ashamed, am now someone who has walked a little further down the road. We who claim to put ourselves forth on behalf of abused children do so for abused children wherever they are. We do not dilute our efforts by reaching beyond our borders – we strengthen them. The further we stretch with our arms, the longer our arms become and the greater our embrace.

So now I look at the African Children’s Choir and I see beyond the happy smiles, the colourful twirling and the  brave voices; I see the dangers that threaten to overtake these precious little ones without our help. I see pornography production crews grabbing children, drug lords stuffing murdered children full of drugs and couriering their bodies across country borders, sweatshops and inhumane bosses. I see the sale of child brides, child prostitution, AIDS victims raping little virgins in the belief that it will cure their AIDS. I see four-year-old hawkers and beggars. I hear the AK47s splitting the night air as villages are looted and petrified children are stolen to be turned into terrorists. And I see my tears. Thank God I see my tears. Thank God I am alive and I care.

There are those who snub their noses at novels, claiming that documentaries, biographies and news stories have more weight in acquainting the masses with world issues – but in this instance I disagree. Sometimes, in order to find the reality of an issue, we need to connect with the vulnerability and humanity of a person who symbolizes the heighth, depth and breadth of an issue. We need a sweet little Adanna to move our hearts from North American complacency to the purpose for our lives.

As we celebrate the Fifth Anniversary of Winning Kids Inc. and the Year of the Child, please consider a generous donation to the African Children’s Choir. 

© Diane Roblin-Lee November 15/12

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Silent No Longer

Last fall, I booked a table at a craft show in a small town. My main focus was to promote my Legacy workbooks, but since I had a full eight feet of space, I took along my other books as well, including the booklets I wrote on Predator-Proofing Your Family and the book, Predators Live Among Us.

It was a quiet day – not much action at the craft show, causing an underlying rumble of dissatisfaction among the vendors. I saw a large, rather depressed looking, elderly woman approach my table. She cast a cursive glance across my piles of titles and then stopped, with an almost noticeable startle, as she read some of the titles on my Predator work. She picked up Predators Live Among Us, stared at the front cover for a long moment, turned the book over and appeared to read every word on the back. She went through the same process with all eight Predator-Proof Your Family booklets. Lingering at that area of the table for a good 15 minutes, she finally sighed and began to walk away as if to say nothing could fix the broken places inside.

Sensing this was a meaningful encounter beyond the obvious, I attempted to engage the woman in some light, non-threatening conversation. Before long, she asked me if I was the author of “those books.” I smiled, said yes and made some general comments about my experience with the effects of abuse on individuals and families.

Before long, a spark of life made its way through her heavy despondency and opened the way for her to begin to share her story. She was divorced, the ex-wife of a man so frustrated by life that he lived in a fog of alcohol binges and chain smoking. Prior to the divorce, they lived out in the middle of nowhere. Their days were filled with struggle, fear and insecurity. Although they had a daughter, there was no joy in the home. Relationships were fraught with tension. As soon as the girl was old enough, she left home and, once safely away, told her mother of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father for many years. Horrified, but too frightened to confront her husband with her knowledge, the woman knew she had to get out. It would be another betrayal of her daughter for her to stay.

She finally summoned the courage to tell her husband she was leaving him. He flew into a rage, grabbed his gun and refused to let her leave. For three days, he held her captive in their home at gunpoint. On the third day, he ran out of cigarettes, grabbed her car keys so that she could not escape and said, “Yer not goin’ nowhere!”

He didn’t know she’d had a second set of keys made. As soon as his car was out of sight, she called her girlfriend and burned it down the lane way, never to return.

That all happened about 40 years prior to our chance meeting. The abuse had never been reported. The abuser had gone on with his life, remarried and was now a crossing guard, helping little children to cross the street. The daughter had never had closure and remained distant from her mother.

As we talked, I impressed upon the woman the importance of breaking her silence, getting the man removed from his position of trust and encouraging her 55-year-old daughter to file charges and get some closure. Without names, I had to trust that she would break through the years of despondency and victimization and deal with the situation.

Last Saturday morning, I was having coffee and reading the morning news. The phone rang. I didn’t recognize the voice. A woman said, “You might not remember me, but we spoke at a craft show last year. You gave me a bookmark with your number on it and said I could call. I just want to thank you for your words that day. After we spoke, I talked with my daughter and we called the police and filed charges. So far, he’s denied it, but he’s been removed from his crossing-guard job and now it’s in the hands of the law. You wouldn’t believe the change in my daughter. It’s like she’s a new person. Our lives are changed. My husband is finally going to pay for what he did to her and she doesn’t have to carry the weight of his secrets anymore. Thank you so much for your words that day.”

When silence is broken, the mending begins.
© Diane Roblin-Lee - Oct. 15/12

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scouts Canada – Rebuilding Trust

The worst nightmare of a parent is the fear that a child will fall into the hands of a predator – a skilled manipulator who preys on the vulnerability of precious little ones to satisfy his or her perverted appetites.

A parent’s deepest desire is to see a child develop life skills, strong values, integrity, confidence and the ‘know how’ to face the challenges of life.

When those two fundamentals, the deepest fears and the deepest desires of parents become entwined, the resulting confusion devours trust.

In 1907, founder Lord Baden-Powell, built the Boy Scouts organization on the motto, “Be Prepared.” The idea was to teach boys how to always be in a state of readiness to do the ‘right’thing.

Parents responded out of their deepest desires for their sons. Scout leaders were regarded as pillars of society who would turn boys into fine men.

But as the years passed, whispers began – horifying whispers about boys being molested by trusted Scout leaders – whispers about important men like Saskatchewan’s Fred Miller who, in 1995 was convicted of at least 11 assaults over a period of 36 years.

Was it safe to send a child to Scouts? The questions plagued parents and the entire Scouts Canada organization. Was the reputation of the organization being weighed against the plight of the increasing number of victims?

Aligning itself with its own mantra to “do the right thing,” the Scouts commissioned KPMG Canada to conduct an audit into the way the organization handled allegations of sexual abuse since 1941.

On Monday, June 25th, Scouts Canada released the report to the public. Chief commissioner, Steve Kent, spoke well, saying the review “found no systemic intent to cover up or hide incidents of abuse,” though it did uncover cases where incidents were not handled “with the rigour we would expect.” His transparency and obviously heartfelt apology was appreciated.

Still, it was hard to hear about the review of hundreds of files on leaders who were thrown out over abuse allegations, but were allowed to slink away into the murky silence of confidentiality – and to know that uncounted numbers of victims are living lives that would have been much different, had they never been irreparably damaged by the outworkings of perversion. Thankfully, the Scouts have now handed over all of these names to the police and they are under investigation. Most situations of abuse happened prior to centralization of the organization, before there was any organized accountability.

As tangible proof of its determination to assure the safely of children in its care  and restore the organization to the intent of its founder, Scouts Canada has signed a three-year contract with Winning Kids Inc. to incorporate their Plan to Protect® into the Scouts’ revised  guidelines. Plan to Protect® is the Canadian STANDARD for child protection and abuse prevention. It will require every Scout leader to willingly submit to the policies, screening process and the time required to be trained – a sure way to rebuild trust.

Melodie Bissell, CEO of Winning Kids Inc. was with Steve Kent in Ottawa for the press conference. In her press release, Melodie welcomed Scouts Canada to the WKI roster of “Going the Distance” members. She said, “The purpose of our partnership is to go the distance with Scouts Canada as they implement their revised child and youth safety policies and protocols.  We will walk alongside of them and assist them with their implementation and training needs.”
Furthering her contention that “It takes a community to protect a child,” Melodie addressed parents, saying, “Parents, it is your responsibility to monitor the whereabouts of your children and say ‘no,’ when a trusted leader wants to be alone with your children. Don’t allow anyone to be in a position of trust with your children unless you know they will avoid isolation, and be accountable for their actions and whereabouts. The protection of our children is a shared responsibility. Listen to your intuition, and be willing to be whistle blowers.”

To the question, ‘Is it not too little too late?’ Melodie continues to remind people that, “It is never too late, for there is always another child to protect, another predator to guard against. It may be too late for those that suffered abuse in the past, for we can’t go back and undo the pain from yesterday, but we can learn from it. Hopefully for the survivors, they will know their tears and prayers have not gone unnoticed or unanswered. We will redeem their pain and invest in the protection of children and youth moving forward. As a community we all have to consider what is our role moving forward to protect children and youth.  We all need a plan to protect!”

© Diane Roblin-Lee, June 25, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Personality Disorder – or Justice Disorder?

After days of painful listening to the emotional, chin-quivering testimony of a parade of alleged victims in the Jerry Sandusky trial, the defense is poised to present its case. Their job is to present enough doubt as to the veracity of 17 felony charges to keep their client from spending the rest of his days behind bars.

So what’s the plan? Apparently, they’re poised to take the angle of a “personality disorder.” Histrionics. Who ever heard of “histrionics?” Is there really a disease that could legitimize the sodomizing of young boys? Well, well, well. How convenient. Are these lawyers really keeping their faces straight as they postulate such a defense? Really? 

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as "a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriately seductive behavior, usually beginning in early adulthood. These individuals are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious." (This description fits a lot of my friends!) HPD is most commonly found in the United States and affects four times as many women as men.1 It has a prevalence of 2–3% in the general population, and 10–15% in inpatient and outpatient mental health institutions.2

So - let me understand this. The defense is going to postulate that Jerry Sandusky molested at least 10 (possibly more) children because he was seeking or starved for attention. The judge should wink at the sodomy, the cries for help, the theft of innocence, the betrayal of trust, the manipulative grooming processes, the pain and the ruination of families because Jerry was less than appropriate in the way he sought attention? Really. Poor Jerry.

Let’s be clear: justice must be served on behalf of people who have been victimized - it’s not a tool that can be warped to protect perpetrators.

Excuses for bad or criminal behavior are usually nothing more than manipulative responses to charges. Excuses cannot excuse crime. Genuine mitigating circumstances should not ever justify or excuse an offense – but may reduce the severity of a charge, and that’s the hope of the Sandusky lawyers.

But let’s look at this for a moment. A husband who molests a grandchild could protest going to prison on the grounds that grandma was getting too old to satisfy him - or that he had been influenced by a flood of pornographic images – or that the child was acting seductive around him – or that he was depressed and “not quite himself”... or whatever. Because he presents an excuse, should his punishment be lessened?

Roll the tape back to the testimony of the chin-quivering Sandusky victims. Their childhoods were stolen. They have experienced homicide of the soul. Their families have been sentenced to a lifetime of tormented efforts to help a wounded son or daughter navigate life and relationships. It doesn’t matter why the perpetrator destroyed their precious child - it just matters that he did it. The child needs justice. The parents need justice. The community needs justice. The perpetrator needs to be locked up.

Are the Sandusky lawyers postulating a personality disorder for Jerry Sandusky – or attempting to establish a justice disorder for his victims?

1. Seligman, Martin E.P. (1984). “Chapter 11”. Abnormal Psychology. W. W. Norton & Company.
2. “Chapter 16: Personality Disorders”. DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2000.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - June 15/12

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’m sitting here reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the controversy surrounding the decision of a church in Milwaukee to pay suspected pedophiles priests to leave the ministry. It turns out that any priest suspected of pedophilia was given $20,000 to get out of the ministry and return to civilian life.

All the predictable points are raised about the pros and cons of the payments.

Naturally, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) protested the payments as payoffs and bonuses to priests for molesting children, saying “You don’t give a bonus to a man who rapes children,” and, “If they paid them anything, it should have been for therapy and counseling.”

Of course the archdiocese defended the payments, saying they’re just an incentive to get rid of the priests without getting into a lengthy, bureaucratic process of removal and the payments were to help the men transition to lay life without completely losing access to needs such as health care.

Whoooooah just a minute. Hang on a minute. I feel like somebody has a great big whitewash brush they’re trying to slap over my sensibilities. I have two problems.

First of all, where is there any mention of the victims here? All the focus is on the poor (suspected) predators who need to be looked after as they transition into the world in which the rest of us strive to survive. They need health care. They need counseling. They need therapy. They need. They need.

I can say from experience that when a church pays more attention to the needs of a predator, whether convicted or suspected, than it does to the needs of the victim, the spiritual fallout can be devastating. When a victim sees all the concern and attention going to the person who robbed them of their innocence, childhood and sense of themselves – and sees their own woundedness ignored – something dies inside. Disappointment in the establishment morphs into disappointment and rejection of God. When the rehabilitation of an offender takes precedence over the healing and restoration of a victim, it doubles the deep sense of victimization and injustice.

Anyone who has read my books knows that I place great importance on efforts to rehabilitate offenders, in hopes their restoration will prevent them from offending again. However, the victims have been robbed of so much and when there is no effort to affirm and attempt to recompense them, the wounding just goes deeper and the victim can build deep resentment against those who did not see the bigger picture. The priority must always be with the victim.

My second issue is with the word “suspected” as in “suspected pedophiles.” Why were they suspected? Someone must have complained. How can a suspicion be strong enough to warrant the paying of $20,000. without a conviction? If there were formal charges laid and the “suspected pedophile” was not convicted, that should mean he was exonerated – so why pay the $20,000.?

Let’s get clarity in dealing with predators. If they are “suspected,” they need to be formally investigated, charged (if warranted) and processed in a court of law – where they are found guilty or innocent. No profession should be above the law in being subject to its requirements. Victims always need to know that they matter to the courts, to the community and to the church. Affirmation of what has been done to them is the starting point for healing. Lastly, when convicted predators are released from prison, we need to do all we can to ensure they do not offend again. But that’s lastly.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 31/12

Thursday, May 10, 2012

...But He Was So Nice!

Paul Gibson seemed to be nice enough. Slight, with reddish hair and beard, a fair complexion and pale blue eyes, he was a trusted member of the Parkdale community. Everybody knew what a fine fellow Paul was. He was the guy who could always be counted upon to help out at the food bank –  the friendly one who took such a kind interest in the kids.

In 2008, a grandmother, who visited the bank for Christmas presents, particularly appreciated Paul’s friendliness. Life was tough for her, looking after her two grandsons aged four and seven. She had taught the children to be polite and they were nice little boys – but she wasn’t as young as she used to be. Paul seemed to understand her needs. It was nice to have someone who obviously cared. By summer, he was baby sitting the boys whenever she had to do errands or  shop. Outings to the CNE and Centre Island became easier because Paul was there to help.

Strangely though, life became more difficult. The happy, outgoing boys weren’t as nice anymore. The seven-year-old was becoming an angry, belligerent child who was no longer doing well in school. He started wetting his bed again and would wake up at night screaming. One day, he kicked Paul in the groin and swore at him. The grandmother was horrified! She had taught him never to speak like that or say those words. When challenged, the boy simply said he “was mad.” Who could have known that the boys had been warned that their family members would be killed if they told about what “the nice man” was doing to them?

Eventually, one of the boys told his parents about the abuse they suffered whenever their grandmother went out. The parents ambushed Paul the next time he went to baby sit and he was charged. Thankfully, he was convicted in February of sexually violating the two boys. He now awaits the results of a psychiatric assessment and could be declared a dangerous offender, a designation which carries an indefinite sentence.

My point to this whole story is understanding what was going on in Paul Gibson’s head when he so ‘generously’ volunteered at the food bank, ‘befriended’ the harried grandmother and her two grandsons and so ‘kindly’ spent his time ‘helping’ her with the boys and ‘making life easier’ for her.

It’s called, “grooming.” Behind Paul’s gentle smile and friendly offers of assistance, were dark thoughts of the perverted things he was going to be able to do to those little boys as soon as he could get them alone. Grooming is a carefully planned strategy for gaining the trust of both the children and the parents or caregivers. It requires the planned establishment of a legitimate connection to the child that will allow for the process of time the “grooming” takes. Teaching, bus driving, sports coaching, camp counseling and volunteering to help with children’s activities all offer opportunities to be alone with children with no adult supervision. In order to protect our kids, we have to understand and be on the lookout for “groomers.”

One characteristic shared by all child molesters is that they are finely tuned manipulators and they recognize their adeptness at manipulating people to achieve their own ends.

In her book, The Manipulative Man, Dorothy McCoy referred to the ICD-10 (the mental health manual used in Europe) in listing the following characteristics to watch for in classifying someone as a manipulator:

  • Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
  • Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations
  • Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them
  • Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence
  • Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment
  • Marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behavior that has brought the patient into conflict with society.
While these are guidelines for identification, not every manipulator will exhibit all of the characteristics and those who do, will do so in greater and lesser degrees.

Manipulative men hide in plain sight. They hide their true selves from everyone.

Child molesters hide in the hope that their victims will be too ashamed to tell the awful secret.

Paul Gibson did not have any history of police involvement in his life. He would have passed a police check with flying colours.

Not all nice men and women are nice men and women. We have to get savvy for our kids.

1. McCoy, D. (2006). The Manipulative Man, Adams Media, Avon, Mass. p.9.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 10/12

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vigilance or Vigilantism?

Last Monday, a website was launched by a Christian group in Alberta whose purpose is to make public the names and addresses of people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Until now, of all the countries in the world, only the U.S. has had a public registry where any citizen can do a search for predators in their area and find the details on each one. Nowhere else has the information on offenders been put on official websites. While this new site is not an official Canadian website, it will have the same effect – even though the information may not be as complete.

In Canada, a national sex offender registry came into force in December 2004, requiring convicted offenders to register within 15 days after being released from prison. Offenders are required to reregister annually, and reregister within two weeks of changing their home address. Only accredited police agencies have access to the information through the national sex offender database, maintained by the Mounties.

The launching of this new, private site gives rise to several questions. Will a public registry ensure the safety of children? What is the downside? Will this really make for a better society?

I believe this site will cause more problems than it will solve, that children will actually be placed at higher risk and it will turn a certain element of society into a pack of vigilantes.

Don’t even think about labeling me as soft on predators. As someone who has had her family and marriage destroyed by two of them, I’m hardly a naive “do-gooder” who has been manipulated into feeling sorry for these people. Quite the contrary. But neither am I so blinded by revenge and hatred that I cannot see clearly and find the course of action which will most surely protect our little ones. Having said that, I absolutely believe that violent offenders and repeat offenders need to be locked up permanently. No question.

But what about the offenders who have been “scared straight” in prison or are so genuinely remorseful that they can be rehabilitated? The myth that offenders usually reoffend is just that - a myth. In my booklet, “Smart Justice,” I underline the dangers of a knee-jerk response to predators who, following release from prison, try to rebuild their lives and re-enter society. I did a ton of research in my writing and was concerned about the findings of some of the researchers and treatment providers who determined that the stress and instability following release can make offenders more likely to relapse. For example, a professor at Lynn University in Florida reported that psycho-social stresses like a lack of social support have been linked to repeat offenses among criminals.

I watched a documentary that followed the lives of several child molesters after their release from prison in the U.S. The vigilantism engendered by the public registry made it impossible for them to support themselves or their families, have relationships or re-start their lives in any way that could contribute to society. Some have formed horrible, scary communes from shacks in the woods where they live in exile from society. Is that what we want in Canada – communes of people united by the red letters on their chests? Depression and loss of hope can become precursers to reoffending, sometimes purposefully, because life on the outside is harder than in prison.

I’m not ready to risk the safety of any child who could become some predator’s ticket back into a place where it’s warm and they serve three squares a day.

We need to be smart - not impulsive. We need wisdom. We can’t afford the luxury of following our natural inclinations in responding to child molesters.

So what am I suggesting? The only thing that makes sense to me is permanent lockup for violent and repeat offenders and permanent electronic monitoring of those who have been released into the community. GPS offender tracking technology monitors offenders day and night, raising the offender’s level of responsibility for his or her own actions, which in turn protects the community.

The logic is that a sex offender is a suspect when any sexual crime is committed. Wearing an electronic bracelet would clear anyone who is under suspicion by providing proof positive of the person’s whereabouts. Conversely, it would also aid in apprehending the perpetrator.

When a crime occurs, the location of the offenders would be matched against a crime incident database to validate or rule out possible involvement by a particular offender. Any released offender who truly commits to a changed life should be happy to wear one – for his or her own security as well as that of anyone else.

Electronic monitoring can be used to ensure that an individual remains in a designated place, does not enter proscribed areas, or does not approach particular people (i.e. complainants, potential victims or co-offenders). A person can be continuously tracked without having their movements so restricted that they can’t work or conduct a productive life. An active real-time offender tracking system can alert either a victim or police if the offender enters certain restricted areas (i.e. a home, workplace or school).

If the rationale against permanent monitoring is based on the concept of freedom following the legally proscribed period of incarceration, how does a public registry fit that rationale? It eliminates freedom permanently.

Frankly, I believe that when a crime has been committed against a child, a perpetrator signs away his or her right to freedom for life - so freedom isn’t my issue. My issue is with using wisdom in how we legislate the restrictions.

Will a public registry really make for a better society? I don’t think so. Judging from my research, it won’t make our kids safer and it will encourage licence for a mindless pack-mentality. Justice needs to be smart. Justice needs to get the job of protection for our kids done right. Justice needs to foster effective vigilance - not vigilantism.
© Diane Roblin-Lee - Apr. 29/12

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month in the U.S.

“My child will never be molested. Our friends and family are all nice people who would never do such a thing.”

Really. I used to think that, too. Sadly, we’re no longer living in a Beaver Cleaver world.

While “Child Abuse Awareness” month is October in Canada, it’s April in the U.S. The hope is that focusing on awareness for one month will lead people to be more aware throughout every day of the year.

The following Canadian statistics, while impossible to rely upon because of lack of reporting and false reporting, are the most recent and best reflection we have of the overall prevalence of the sexual abuse of children in Canada.

* 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience an unwanted sexual act.
Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offenses Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 175)
* 4 out of 5 incidents of sexual abuse will occur before the age of 18.
Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offenses Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 175).
* 95 % of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.
Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offenses Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 215-218).
* Children and youth under 18 years of age are at greatest risk of being sexually assaulted by someone they know.
Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg 6, 21).
* While children and youth under the age of 18 represent only one-fifth of the population, (21%) they were victims in 61% of all sexual offenses reported to police in 2002. (A total of 8,800 sexual assaults against children and youth were reported to police, 2,863 of which were sexual assaults against children and youth by family members.)
Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics – Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE, Vol. 23. no. 6. Released July 2003. (pg. 7, 34)
* In 2005, the rate of sexual assault against children and youth was over five times higher than for adults (206 children and youth victims compared to 39 adult victims for every 100,000 people.)
Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480 -7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 20)
* In 2005, girls under 18 years experienced rates of sexual assault that were almost four times higher than their male counterparts. (For every 100, 000 young females there were 320 victims of sexual assault, compared to a rate of 86 male victims for every 100, 000 young males.)
Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 21).
* Sexual assault against children by family members was more then three times higher for female victims than for male victims (108 compared with 32 incidents per 100, 000 population). (Rates of sexual assault are higher for female victims than for male victims regardless of the relationship to the accused.)
Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 22).
* 54% of girls under 21 have experienced sexual abuse; (22% of these female victims reported two or more sexual offenses.)
* 31% of boys under 21 have experienced sexual abuse; (7% of these male victims reported two or more sexual offenses.)
Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offenses Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg 180).
* 60% of all reported sexual assaults are against children.
Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2001). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2001. Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Government of Canada (pg. 13)
* 30-40% of sexual assault victims are abused by a family member.
Non-parental relatives – 35%
Friends and Peers – 15%
Stepfathers – 13%
Biological Fathers – 9%
Other Acquaintances – 9%
Boyfriend/Girlfriend of Biological Parent – 5%
Biological Mother – 5%
Source: Canadian Incidence Study (CIS) of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2003: Major Findings Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. 2005. (pg.52)
* Very few cases (2%) of substantiated sexual abuse involve a stranger.
Source: Canadian Incidence Study (CIS) of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2003: Major Findings Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. 2005. (pg.52)
* Child and youth victims who were sexually assaulted by family members were on average 9 years old compared to 12 years old for victims of non-family members.
Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2002). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2002. Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Government of Canada (pg. 35).
* 64% of sexual offenses reported to police took place in a residence
26% took place in public and open areas, and
11% took place in commercial places.Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics – Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE, Vol. 23. no. 6. Released July 2003 (pg. 9)
* Boys 4-7 years of age were 3 times more often the victims of sexual abuse than boys of other ages.
* Girls aged 4-7 and 12-17 were twice as likely to be victims of sexual abuse as girls aged 0-3 and 8-11.
Source: The Juristat presents Child Maltreatment in Canada РCanadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Authors: Nico Trocm̩ and David Wolfe. Ottawa, Ontario: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2001. (pg. 24)

The preceding information was assembled with thanks by Little Warriors, a national charitable organization, based in Canada, focusing on the education and prevention of child sexual abuse. Little Warriors also provides information about the prevalence and frequency of child sexual abuse and information about healing and support resources.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Child Molester or Pedophile?

It can be helpful to know that child molesters are not necessarily pedophiles and pedophiles are not necessarily child molesters. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder defined by a distinct sexual preference for pre-pubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 111-R), published by the American Psychological Association, gives the following definition of pedophilia:

“Recurrent, intense, sexual urges and sexual arousing fantasies of at least six months duration involving sexual activity with a pre-pubescent child.”

Thus, an individual can be a pedophile without actually engaging in a sexual act. Simply having fantasies about sexual activity with a child over a period of at least six months will qualify. Many pedophiles never engage in actual criminal activity. They just stay at home and think about it. They often have large collections of child pornography or child erotica. Staying close to children is high on their list of priorities. The most common type of pedophile is the immature individual who has never been very successful maintaining peer relationships. Those who lack social contact often spiral down deeper and deeper into a fantasy world.

Pedophiles who actually engage in child molestation become “child molesters.” They often use their collections of erotica and pornography to show to their victims as part of the grooming process of seduction. They think that when their victims see the photographs, their inhibitions will be lowered and they’ll be more inclined to accept sexual activity as something people do normally. Some use photographs and videos they have made of their victims to blackmail them into further sexual activity.

Child molesters, on the other hand, by definition engage in sexual acts with children, but they will generally go after older victims as well as children. Ninety-five percent of them are male. Only 10 percent are strangers to their victims. Fifty to 60 percent are family members. According to a Public Health Agency of Canada fact sheet, 25 percent of molesters are teenagers. The rule of thumb used by professionals is that child sexual abuse occurs when a person touches a child for sexual gratification and is four years older than the child. (Curious playmates of the same age are protected by the age issue.)

Because family members are often hidden from the criminal justice system, it’s difficult for researchers to get a handle on the true extent of the problem. They have been more successful in characterizing family friends and trusted adults outside of the family. These people usually don’t use violence on their victims. They “groom” them, or set them up for the molestation by gradually establishing bonds with the child. By the time the first touch happens, the child has been so conditioned that he or she hardly knows what’s happening.

Molesters victimize children for other motives as well as sexual gratification. Sometimes it’s just part of the mistreatment they direct toward people in general. Usually, they have low self-esteem and view children as less powerful objects on which to vent their anger or sexual frustrations. The main criteria for choosing a victim is availability. It could be anyone, anywhere, who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They can be strangers who forcefully attack children they don’t know or individuals or family known to the child who use the situation to their own advantage with no concern for the victim.

Those child molesters who prefer sex with children can have an astounding number of victims over a lifetime, if not caught. They choose particular victims and groom them for abuse through developing a relationship of trust, buying them gifts and honing in on their emotional weaknesses. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, in more than 90 percent of cases of child rape, the offender was well-known to the children or their parents. These are pedophiles who have carried their fantasies into reality. Some are brutal and physically cruel, while others are more gentle in their approaches. They manipulate relationships to the point of expressing their perversions.

©Diane Roblin-Lee, April, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So What’s The Big Deal About Watching a Little Child Porn?

Get this. The mother of a 26-year-old man, caught with more than 1,200 images of child pornography on his computer (some of which he traded with others) is trying to get his 14-year sentence shortened. According to her, the fact that he has spina bifida and “could never be a threat to anyone, including a child, “should qualify him for early release.

Okay. Don’t get me started here. I need to wipe the froth from my mouth on this one.

What is this mother thinking and where was she when she had the opportunity to nurture fiber and integrity into the heart of her child? What part of not hurting the children featured in the images is she not getting? Does she not understand that when her son (who is arguably more diseased in his mind than in his body) watches child porn, he is participating in the abuse of that child? If there were no market for the product, there would be no product. The fact that this young man’s hands cannot physically touch the child through the computer screen does not prevent his eyes and brain from doing the job of molestation. People who watch child pornography are child molesters. They just molest with different parts of their bodies than do molesters who are in the actual presence of a child.

The problem is that child molesters don’t just fall out of the sky and appear in our lives; they are raised, often by nice people who would be horrified if they knew what their kids were into. While someone who becomes a child molester is responsible for his or her choices, it’s incumbent on every parent to be vigilant with what their kids are reading and finding on the internet. It’s not nice visiting your loved one in jail, wearing an orange jump-suit.

In the process of doing my research, it appeared that almost every case of child molestation was rooted in some form of pornography. It encourages an appetite for increasingly graphic images that has no bounds.

Michael Briére was a nice computer worker who never had any involvement with the police, until little Holly Jones walked by his house one day. Little did anyone know that he had been watching child pornography and fantasizing about molesting a real child. When he walked out his door that day, she was “just there” and the rest is tragedy.

Last month, the police arrested 60 men (including three teens) in Ontario and charged them with hundreds of child pornography offenses. These people came from all ages and walks of life - professionals, blue-collar workers - even a day-care worker. Many of them are probably asking, “Hey - what’s the big deal about watching a little child porn?” Some no doubt claim innocence on the grounds that they “didn’t touch any children.”

The subjects of the pornography, 22 little children, have all thankfully been rescued, but their childhoods have been stolen and their lives will never be the same. Their abilities to trust and have normal relationships will be affected for life.

Child pornography is not constructed from bricks and mortar, steel, plastic or fabric. Child pornography uses real children as its raw material - human children with needs, feelings, futures and dependence on adults to keep them safe. According to Karyn Kennedy, executive director at the Toronto-based Boost Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention, “One difficult aspect for victims is that many of the images will be irretrievable now that they’ve been shared online. I’ve heard victims that are 40, 50 years old talking about having to come to terms with knowing that somewhere somebody is looking at a picture of them.”

According to Det.-Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police, “In any of the Canadian crime trends this is probably one of the only crimes that is still on a fairly substantial increase.”

Thank God for the people in the trenches like Insp. Scott Naylor with the OPP’s child sexual exploitation unit who are out there doing all they can to protect our kids. “We’re constantly building software and changing software and manipulating software, because the people who are trading this are constantly moving from one method of training to another.”

They, and every parent with a child who has been abused, understand why watching “a little child porn” is a huge deal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two Years for a Lifetime

Two years for Graham James.
A lifetime for his victims.
Yesterday's sentence for James' abuse of Theo Fleury and Todd Holt left everyone shaking their heads in disbelief. How could any judge, with any comprehension of the magnitude of the effects of abuse on a victim and his or her family, determine that a two-year sentence (of which James will probably serve only 16 months) in any way brings justice to the situation.
If Graham James were a first-time offender, one might think that the judge might have had reason to give some credence to his words of remorse and repentance. But Graham James is no first-time offender. A previous conviction (for the abuse of Sheldon Kennedy and another victim) landed him in prison, serving 20 months for a three-and-a-half year sentence. What's his next sentence going to get him? Six months? Probation and a bit of community service with kids?
One of the most dominant characteristics of the character of an abuser is the ability to manipulate people and situations. Yesterday's judgment was a reflection of James' artful power of persuasion with the judge.
There is evidence that prison does its job with some first offenders. There are cases where predators have turned themselves around and gone on to live productive lives. However, a two-time offender needs to be put away where he can no longer threaten the safety of young people. If prison hasn't done its job the first time, it's unlikely that it will turn an offender around the second, third or fourth time. We have to keep our kids safe.
Hopefully, the just-passed omnibus crime bill, C-10, will make people who fantasize about molesting vulnerable kids think twice before daring to indulge their perversions.
Thank God for the architects and labourers of Bill C-10 and the officers in the trenches who strive, day after day, to protect and rescue victims of abuse. Thank God for the clear-headed politicians who made their voices count for the children of Canada.