Thursday, February 5, 2009
Video available at the site.
COBB COUNTY -- Parents of a middle school student who received a rape threat on her school computer are calling on school officials to find out who sent the message.
The 13-year-old girl attends Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs. The girl’s parents said she was terrified by the message and they worry about their child’s safety.
“I know my child and she is shaken up. She was definitely shaken up by it,” said mother Alicia Reckord.
Alicia and Mike Reckord said their 13-year-old daughter came home Friday from school with a disturbing story. Their daughter said when she opened a school laptop in her science class to work on a project, she found a threatening message.
“It said, ‘Hello, this is your stalker. I will rape you a month after you read this,’” said Alicia Reckord.
The parents believe the profanity-laced message in bold type was written by another student who accessed their daughter’s file after she failed to properly log off.
“For my daughter, obviously her safety is number one. And just knowing this happened by a student she is sitting with in a classroom every day,” said Alicia Reckord.
“If something was to happen to her and I knew this letter was out there and something was to happen to her, how could I live with myself,” asked Mike Reckord.
The parents said they’re upset because the school did not immediately notify them when their daughter showed the threatening message to her teacher.
The Reckords filed a police report and the school has opened an investigation, but the parents don’t believe school officials are taking the matter as seriously as they should.
“I’m very upset about it. And the lack of urgency by the school system, to get to the bottom of this matter is really upsetting,” said Mike Reckord.
“Bottom line, she didn’t know who did it. She couldn’t think of anyone who would want to do that to her,” said Alicia Reckord.
The Reckords said they are going to request their daughter be removed from the science class. Alicia Reckord said she has a meeting with the principal Friday morning.
Channel 2 placed calls into the principal’s office and the Cobb County School System but the station has not yet received a response.
By Faroe Robinson
(KCPW News) Several bills regarding sex offenders were discussed on Capitol Hill today. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill modifying a law passed last year, which required sex offenders to disclose their online IDs and passwords to the Department of Corrections. Bill sponsor Representative Jim Bird said under this new amendment, offenders would not have to disclose their passwords, and their user names would not be made public. But he emphasized the importance of knowing offenders' online identities.
"When your daughter comes up missing and the computer is on and the last known identifier on the computer says Charlie Brown 123, would you not want to know who that person is? Because he would know where, or have the potential to know where your child is, so if police or law enforcement can take that information and find out where that daughter is, perhaps we can save some lives. It's very, very important," Bird said.
That bill will now be voted on in the House. Another bill would require sex offenders whose victims were under 14 to have written permission to be with a child that age. It was considered by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. Juab County Sheriff Alden Orem testified in favor of it.
"We are out there trying to protect our most valuable resource, our children, and when you explain to the parents that if this perpetrator would have actually got the child and taken them that then we could do something, but where we just can't do anything because all he did was just attempt the solicitation of the child. It's really a place where we are lacking," Orem said.
Another bill presented in the same committee would require sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies when they move. Bill Sponsor Representative Kenneth Sumsion said it would allow local police to be more aware of sex offenders in their jurisdiction.
By JEFF STRICKLER, Star Tribune
Thursday's announcement of a $1.7 million settlement in a sex-abuse suit against the Catholic order of the Crosiers carried a surprise ending for two plaintiffs in the case.
Fred Guenther and David Bidney already were on emotional tenterhooks as they prepared for the announcement Thursday that their sexual abuse lawsuits against a Roman Catholic religious order had been settled.
The Crosiers Fathers and Brothers, a Catholic religious order with an outpost south of Lake Mille Lacs, had agreed to pay nine plaintiffs $1.7 million in damages and reveal the names of the abusive priests.
When Guenther and Bidney -- who had been best friends in junior high school -- saw each other, the bombshell hit. They had both been abused by the same man but kept it secret for 30 years.
"We had no idea, no idea at all, none," Guenther said after the two embraced in a long hug and Bidney, who was in tears, nodded in agreement. "We didn't tell each other. I didn't tell anyone until I told a counselor in 1998."
Both men described battling emotional demons that broke up their marriages.
"I lost everything, but hiding it was the worst pain of all," Bidney said.
"The money will help with things like therapy," he said. "But without a doubt, the most important part is getting the names and the documents."
The key to the settlement was a suit filed in 2006 by Bob Skjonsby, a former Minnesotan now living in Port Orchard, Wash. Twin Cities attorney Jeff Anderson had eight other cases but was stymied because the statue of limitations on them had expired.
Skjonsby had spent 20 years as a naval officer, and the statue of limitations clock stops running while a person is in the armed forces, meaning that his case was still active. That was the legal wedge Anderson needed.
"As part of that case, we were able to do discovery," he said. "We were able to force the Crosiers to provide files of his case and all the abuse cases that were known to them."
At last, an apology
Thomas R. Carkhuff, the head of the Crosiers in the United States, issued a written statement apologizing to the victims and saying that he hopes the settlement helps the abusers "move toward peace of heart and healing in their lives. We are deeply sorry for these wrongs that were committed in the past by some Crosiers and for the pain that this abuse has caused these men and their families."
The settlement names five of the perpetrators. Two of them, _____ and _____, continue as members of the order but have been removed from public ministry. The others, _____ (the abuser of Guenther and Bidney), _____ (Skjonsby's abuser) and _____ have left the order.
"Bob is the real hero here," Anderson said of Skjonsby. "The Crosiers offered to settle his case for $1.2 million, but he refused. He insisted that they come clean about everything. That was a very courageous thing to do, a very altruistic thing."
Skjonsby, who decided to step forward after his 2-year-old son drowned, said that money was never his motivation.
"The first time I contacted Jeff [Anderson] was simply to ask if he could recommend a counselor," he said. "It took the threat of the money to get the Crosiers to come forward to resolve this issue and provide the names of the other offenders."
At the request of the victims, not all nine names involved in the case were announced Thursday. And that gave Bidney reason to worry.
"Oh, I hope it's no one else we know," he said to Guenther.
By Oliver Mackson - Times Herald-Record
TOWN OF NEWBURGH — A busload of friends, family and supporters of missing Brooklynite Laura Garza gathered in front of the home of Michael Mele’s parents to call attention to Garza’s disappearance a little more than two months ago.
- Why, the parents had nothing to do with it!
By 5:30 p.m., the crowd had swelled to about 35 people. They shouted, “Where is Laura? Where is Laura?” and joined together in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. They carried candles as police escorted traffic carefully around the crowd.
- Why are you idiots harassing the parents, who had nothing to do with it? What's next? Burning the family at the stake? Reciting the Lord's prayer, all the while, spewing hate. How hypocritical of you!
About 5:35 p.m., the crowd began to break up as twilight fell and temperatures fell. There was no sign of anyone in the house.
Nicolas Garza, one of Laura’s two brothers, wrapped his arms around his mother, looked at the house, and said, “It’s hard, man.”
- Of course it's hard, but why punish the family, who had nothing to do with it?
Awilda Cordero, a Bronx-based activist who organized the vigil, shouted, “Why are you hiding!” as she faced the Mele home.
- The parents did not do anything!
Garza was last seen Dec. 3 at the Newburgh Mall with Mele, a convicted sex offender from the Town of Wallkill. Garza met Mele at a Manhattan nighclub and traveled north with Mele and a Dutchess County man, whom police describe as a witness.
She’s not been seen since. Mele has been described by police as a “person of interest” in Garza’s disappearance, but he’s stayed silent. He remains in Orange County Jail on probation violation charges.
- A person of interest, and yet they are crucified by the mob before even being proven guilty at a trial! Make sure you remember that, when in the future, the mob comes out and harasses you for something, you hypocrites!
Among those attending the vigil are Bronx native Louis Contini, a retired NYPD officer who now lives in Rock Tavern, who came bearing sympathy cards for missing Brooklynite Laura Garza’s family.
- Wow, it seems a retired police would know this is harassment, disturbing the peace, etc!
He burst into tears as he expressed his sympathies to the Garza family.
- Yes, nobody is denying it's a tragedy, but why are you harassing and punishing the family, who had NOTHING to do with what occurred? I guess you have to have someone to crucify!
About 30 people, including activists recruited by the Bronx organization Emergency Rights, first appeared at the Newburgh Mall before heading to the Mele home.
- Amazing, here we have an organization, helping with the crucifixion of people who had nothing to do with it. Yep, this world (country) is doomed, and each day, we slide down into the dark pit of hell!
Rockland County jeweler Barry Fixler also appeared. He’s contributed $10,000 toward a $15,000 reward for information about Garza’s whereabouts.
“The goal is to make the public aware that Laura is missing and to let Michael Mele and his parents also have a little remorse,” he said.
- Remorse for what? They have not been to court yet and found guilty, so basically you have been their judge, jury and possibly executioner, before anything of a fair trial! THE MOB SQUAD!
This is what we have become, animals!
WARNING: Video contains violent images, discretion advised!
By Tonya Brown
A retired police officer in Bennettsville admitted in court Thursday to committing lewd acts on six underage boys.
The crimes date back 30 years ago, when the officer headed up a junior police organization. Jerry Starnes was sentenced to five years probation.
The victims wanted the judge to give him probation.
The judge was very reluctant about it and at one point refused to do so, but eventually agreed to the victims' requests.
Thursday morning, 58 year old Jerry Starnes pleaded guilty to six counts of committing lewd acts on young boys.
He retired from the Bennettsville Police Department last week.
Prosecutors say from 1969 to 1981, he ran the department's junior police organization.
They say after the organization's meetings Starnes would give a boy a ride home, but before he dropped him off he would perform a sexual act in the boy's presence.
Prosecutors say that happened with six different boys.
The boys, who are now adults, talked with the judge about what happened, and how its affected their lives. They didn't want to be identified.
"It hadn't been easy, I mean, you think about it throughout your life over the course of 30 years. Friends that you have told about it, you wonder, you know, what they're thinking in the back of their mind. You just have to reassure yourself that he was the one with the problem and you're normal," said one victim.
In addition to giving Starnes five years probation, the judge ordered him to register as a sex offender. He will have to do that for the rest of his life.
These allegations first surfaced in 1997, but Starnes wasn't charged until last April when more victims came forward.
View the entire PDF document here
The research that follows concerns the various impacts of community notification and registration laws (Megan’s Law) in New Jersey. Although this report includes a variety of interesting findings and many ideas that will be explored upon post grant period, this research was embarked upon, in general, to investigate: 1) the effect of Megan’s Law on the overall rate of sexual offending over time; 2) its specific deterrence effect on re-offending, including the level of general and sexual offense recidivism, the nature of sexual re-offenses, and time to first re-arrest for sexual and non-sexual re-offenses (i.e., community tenure); and 3) the costs of implementation and annual expenditures of Megan’s Law. These three primary foci were investigated using three different methodologies and samples.
Phase One was a 21-year (10 years prior and 10 years after implementation, and the year of implementation) trend study of sex offenses in each of New Jersey’s counties and of the state as a whole. In Phase Two, data on 550 sexual offenders released during the years 1990 to 2000 were collected, and outcomes of interest were analyzed. Finally, Phase Three collected implementation and ongoing costs of administering Megan’s Law. The following points highlight the major findings of the three phases of the study.
- New Jersey, as a whole, has experienced a consistent downward trend of sexual offense rates with a significant change in the trend in 1994.
- In all but two counties, sexual offense rates were highest prior to 1994 and were lowest after 1995.
- County trends exhibit substantial variation and do not reflect the statewide trend, suggesting that the statewide change point in 1994 is an artifact of aggregation.
- In the offender release sample, there is a consistent downward trend in re-arrests, reconvictions and re-incarcerations over time similar to that observed in the trend study, except in 1995 when all measures spiked to a high for that period. This resulted in significant differences between cohorts (i.e., those released prior to and after Megan’s Law was implemented).
- Re-arrests for violent crime (whether sexual or not) also declined steadily over the same period, resulting in a significant difference between cohorts (i.e., those released prior to and after Megan’s Law was implemented).
- Megan’s Law has no effect on community tenure (i.e., time to first re-arrest).
- Megan’s Law showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses.
- Megan’s Law has no effect on the type of sexual re-offense or first time sexual offense (still largely child molestation/incest).
- Megan’s Law has no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses.
- Sentences received prior to Megan’s Law were nearly twice as long as those received after Megan’s Law was passed, but time served was approximately the same.
- Significantly fewer sexual offenders have been paroled after the implementation of Megan’s Law than before (this is largely due to changes in sentencing).
- Costs associated with the initial implementation as well as ongoing expenditures continue to grow over time. Start up costs totaled $555,565 and current costs (in 2007) totaled approximately 3.9 million dollars for the responding counties.
- Given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan’s Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable.
MILWAUKEE — An 18-year-old U.S. student is accused of posing as a girl on Facebook, tricking at least 31 male classmates into sending him naked photos of themselves and then blackmailing some for sex acts.
"The kind of manipulation that occurred here is really sinister in my estimation," Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said Wednesday.
Anthony Stancl, of New Berlin, west of Milwaukee, was charged Wednesday with five counts of child enticement, two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault, possession of child pornography, repeated sexual assault of the same child and making a bomb threat.
A preliminary hearing for Stancl has been scheduled for Feb. 26. The maximum penalty if convicted on all charges is nearly 300 years in prison.
Officers found about 300 nude images of juvenile males on his computer, according to the complaint. Prosecutors said the victims were as young as 15.
Stancl's attorney, Craig Kuhary, said Stancl plans to plead not guilty to the charges and hopes to reach a plea agreement with the district attorney.
"It's too early in the case for me to make a statement, other than the fact at some point we are going to go into events that had taken place earlier that might have had some impact on what he did here," he said.
He wouldn't go into specifics.
The incidents allegedly happened from spring 2007 through November, when officers questioned Stancl about a bomb threat he allegedly sent to teachers and wrote about on a school's bathroom wall. It resulted in the closing of New Berlin Eisenhower Middle and High School, which he attended.
According to the criminal complaint, Stancl first contacted the students through the social networking site Facebook, pretending to be a girl named Kayla or Emily.
The boys reported that they were tricked into sending nude photos or videos of themselves, the complaint said.
- Well, being tricked has never been a defense before. I'm surprised they are not charging them with sending child porn.
Thirty-one victims were identified and interviewed and more than half said the girl with whom they thought they were communicating tried to get them to meet with a male friend to let him perform sex acts on them.
They were told that if they didn't, she would send the nude photos or movies to their friends and post them on the Internet, according to the complaint. Stancl allegedly used the excuse to get the victims to perform repeated acts, the complaint said.
Seven boys were identified in the complaint by their initials as either having to allegedly perform sex acts on Stancl or Stancl on them. The complaint said Stancl took photos with his cell phone of the encounters.
Hey Greg, why don't you tell us how many of those so called "predators" were actually doing something wrong? I am willing to bet it's less than 1%, but we all know, you won't show that, because then, you cannot grandstand anymore.
By Bryan Rupp
Texas Attorney General Warns of 90,000 Sex Offenders on MySpace & Facebook
The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott is warning parents to watch their kids activity on MySpace and Facebook. Abbott announced in Austin Wednesday, February 4, 2009 that a convicted sex offender was recently arrested for having a MySpace account that was prohibited in the conditions of his release from prison.
_____ was arrested Tuesday, January 27, 2009 in Seguin, Texas. He had previously been convicted of sexual assault of a child.
Abbott says recent results of a subpoena show that 90,000 registered sex offenders have a MySpace account. He says the social networking sites are an easy tool for sex offenders to find their next victim.
- And that is total BS and hype. Check the report, the task force you hired and set up, showed!
from the logic-not-required dept
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has been at the forefront of the crusade to "protect the children" by blaming social networks for exposing them to sexual predators. This has largely entailed strong-arming the networks into doing all sorts of largely ineffective things that make for good political grandstanding. For some time, MySpace has been making moves to appease politicians, presumably thinking that it's better for it to take some action to try and keep them off of its back. It's put in place a system to identify sex offenders that have profiles on the site, using government sex offender databases, to track them down and kick them off. Blumenthal's latest stunt was to demand MySpace and Facebook hand over info on how many sex offenders they'd discovered on their sites; MySpace has obliged, revealing that it's identified 90,000 sex offenders on its site. So, you'd think Blumenthal would be thrilled to have some "proof" that the systems he pushed MySpace to put into place are working, that they'd blocked 90,000 would-be predators from contacting kids through the site. You'd be wrong.
Blumenthal instead says the figure "provides compelling proof" that refutes the study that came out a few weeks back -- the study commissioned by Blumenthal and 48 other state attorneys general -- which downplayed the sexual-predator threat social networks posed to children, like other research before it. So because the system he pushed MySpace to put into place is able to identify registered sex offenders, it supposedly proves that this is a real problem, one that he isn't blowing out of proportion, and that MySpace has "monstrously inadequate counter-measures." While we'd argue that most any counter-measure MySpace uses would be inadequate at stopping sexual abuse (because they're fighting a problem that likely isn't that big), it makes little sense why Blumenthal sees MySpace's success at identifying sex offenders in its system, just like he wanted, as a bad thing. It's really hard for MySpace to fight a problem that isn't there, but that doesn't fit Blumenthal's political version of reality.
Carlo Longino is an expert at the Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Carlo Longino and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.
Good evening. For those of you who focused on the pictures and might have missed the lyrics to the song, I wanted to share them with you, because I couldn’t have written a better personal, musical, testimony myself. The song was entitled, “Bring the Rain” by Mercyme.
I can count a million times, people asking me how I can praise you, with all that I’ve gone through. The question just amazes me, could circumstances possibly change who I forever am in you.
Maybe since my life has changed, long before these rainy days it’s never really ever crossed my mind, to turn my back on you oh Lord, my only shelter from the storm. But instead I draw closer through these times.
So I pray, bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that brings you glory. And I know they’ll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain.
I am yours regardless of the clouds that my loom above, because you are much greater than the pain. You have made a way for me by suffering your destiny, so tell me, what’s a little rain.
It took me 47 years to even begin the journey that brought me to the point I’m at now, and that is still a work in progress. I spent the first 47 years of my life thumbing my nose at God, thinking I could handle things just fine on my own.
My family and I have been through a journey these last, almost 8 years, that, fortunately, most people in this recovery program have never experienced. Most of the testimonies given here are about lives that have been devastated, turned upside down, and restored, from drug and alcohol addictions. My journey of sexual addiction I’m about to share with you, has worldly stigmas and ramifications from decisions and laws that have been made, based upon the political climate at the time, and are extremely unique to this particular area of sexual addiction.
Typically, most men that fall prey to sexual addiction have some sort of family or personal dysfunction at some point in time in their lives. My personal dysfunction consisted of being very shy and intimidated by the opposite sex and a very subtle, yet unexplainable degree of low grade anger and frustration inside of me.
I was the oldest of 3 boys, all 3 years apart, and we were raised by great parents who gave us love and morals, 24/7, and discipline when needed.
My father worked hard and yet still found time to be an excellent father, being very involved in all three of his sons’ lives and activities up to the time he was killed in a pedestrian accident in 1997. My mother had her hands full between raising us, keeping the house up, and working jobs herself on and off throughout our childhood. We weren’t raised as Christians, per say, but I did believe in God, although I had no comprehension of salvation or of a relationship with Jesus, or any interest thereof.
When I became an adolescent, I found a way around my intimidation with and any possible rejection from the opposite sex, through the discovery of pornography. The pornography progressed from magazines to adult videos as I grew into early adulthood.
After I served 4 years in the military, I experimented with drugs on almost a daily basis until I moved away from that world and came to Florida in 1981. The drugs were a temporary escape from the world, but were not the fulfillment I was looking for and I am fortunate that I was able to walk away from them as easily as I did.
Blaise Pascal, who, in the 1700s, was an atheist French mathematician, who became born again, once said that everyone of us has a ‘God shaped hole’ in our hearts that can only be filled with Christ. Like so many other lost souls, I was trying to fill my hole with sex, drugs, and anger.
After moving to Florida I finally met the woman for me. Her name is _____, and we were married in 1991, and had our son, _____ in 1993. _____ and I both had good jobs, owned our own home, and each owned new vehicles. We even started going to church after my son turned two years old. We didn’t go because I wanted to hear about Jesus. We went because I wanted our son to be around other children, since he was an only child. Life was good and even though I now had a wife, I still had the desire to look at pornography through videos.
I never had any interest in electronics and did not even own a computer until my mother gave me hers in 1999, two years after my father was killed. Once I learned my way around on the computer and discovered all the ‘free’ pornography, I was in ‘hog heaven’. Like most addictions, one thing leads to another, and before I knew it, I found myself having cyber-sex with adult women on line via chat rooms and webcams.
I ventured deeper and deeper into the darkness of the addiction and ended up getting involved in role-playing with the women on line.
The decision to role-play led me to viewing and sharing pictures that I knew were wrong and probably illegal. I kept the addiction alive by buying into Satan’s lie that what I was doing was okay because I wasn’t physically with anyone, and if I wasn’t really with anyone, then it really wasn’t adultery. I also bought the lie that the role-playing was even okay, because it was all just pretend, and besides that, I was in my own home and wasn’t hurting anyone. I couldn’t see it at the time, but my addiction and selfishness were tearing my family apart, day by day.
Yes, there were times when I wanted to quit. The guilt and shame would sometimes eat me alive, and I would come home from work determined to stop and get rid of that world. However, the lies, the anonymity, and the selfishness kept the addiction alive and well until April 19th, 2001.
The doorbell rang at 7:15am on that Thursday morning, and I was greeted by a _____ policeman and 4 federal custom agents. Several emotions were running through me at the time, fear, guilt, and shame, but also the emotion of relief was also present, because I knew my addiction was finally over. The incentive to stop just rang my doorbell. They served the search warrant, asked _____ and _____ to leave, and proceeded to search my house and seize my computer. After they left, I called _____ and she came back home, and I proceeded to tell her all the sordid details of my 40 year old addiction. As expected, she also experienced an attack of emotions with anger being at the forefront. As far as I was concerned, my life was over at this point. _____ would surely leave and divorce me, and _____ would probably hate and want nothing to do with me. Little did I know that God had different plans. About two weeks later, with no where else to turn, I ended up on my knees giving my life to Christ. That began a journey I could never have imagined. He first led me to two small men’s groups where I met my close friends _____ and _____ who, unbeknown to me, God would use in a mighty way throughout the journey ahead. I was baptized by Pastor _____ in August of 2001 and followed that up with the Walk to Emmaus a month later.
God then led me to Celebrate Recovery where my friend _____ and I stepped out of the closet of sexual addiction by giving our testimonies and assisted in starting a Men’s Sexual Addiction Recovery Group in August of 2002.
Each day during this time, I grew closer and closer to God and, to my surprise, _____ made the decision to honor her vows by staying with me until she could see what course of action I would take. All this time we had heard nothing from the government and did not know what they were going to do with my case. That all became clearly evident in November of 2002 when the federal prosecutor called my attorney and told him that they were going to prosecute me after all. I continued in my Walk and tried to hold on to my faith as much as I could. I was convicted on March 5, 2003, and sentenced to 33 months in federal prison, three months later on June 16th. I’ll never forget the morning of that day when I had to say goodbye to _____. Even though having to leave him was a consequence of my horrible choices, it was a heartbreak that I never, ever want to experience again. It baffles me today how some fathers, in the world, can conscientiously choose to abandoned their children, especially after what I went through. God took charge right away in my journey of incarceration. Instead of sending me across the street from the federal courthouse holding cell to the _____ County Jail, He sent me 25 miles up the road to the _____ County Jail. The significance of that is the fact that _____ County is rated the worst county jail in the state while _____ is rated one of the best, as far as county jails go, based upon the conditions and number of lawsuits. I spent a month there and was transferred to the Federal Detention Center in _____. After spending 2 and a half months there, I was transferred to _____ Federal Prison, which was my final destination. _____ is where God presented me with spiritual opportunities I would have never imagined.
He made it clear that I was to perceive my time at _____, NOT as an inmate in prison, but as a cadet at a spiritual academy. He immediately steered me to the church and had me volunteer my services in the praise band.
The praise band qualified me as a ‘leader’ of the church and gave me eligibility to start attending the pastor’s Saturday classes, designed to refine biblically, our husband and father skills. I also attended several evening Bible study classes that were taught by organizations outside of the facility.
I signed up for several Bible correspondence studies, and enrolled in the Bible College that was given by an outside ministry. God had me learning and growing spiritually at an unbelievable pace. I had heard similar testimony by the likes of Jim Baker and Chuck Colson, about how God used their prison time to grow and move them closer to Him than they had ever been before, and now I was experiencing it for myself.
I experienced incredible depth in my growth at the _____ Academy, that has left a permanent, positive scar in my life that I believe will always be with me and will keep me grounded in my relationship with Him, which leads me to one of the most profound points I’ve discovered about recovery. If you want to not only recover, but be free and delivered from whatever your compulsive behavior is, you need to get to the point to where you love Christ more than you do your addiction. Yes, He gives us the tools to use like CR, twelve steps, counseling, and so forth, but that will only take you so far as statistics show. Alcoholics Anonymous only has about a 5% success rate as far as people staying sober. I’ve got to believe that probably 95% of that 5% have a relationship with Christ. Another powerful statistic is the one at the Angola Penitentiary, which, at one time, was the most violent prison in the country. For the past 14 years the Christian warden there has implemented a faith based program for the inmates. Out of an inmate population of 5,000, 2,000 are born again. That, in itself is incredible because the average born again population in prison is about 10%. For the past 14 years the inmates that have left the institution that are not born again, have a recidivism rate of about 80%. The born again inmates that have left Angola have a recidivism rate of 15%.
Before I went to _____, I loved Jesus Christ, but after my experience there, I fell in love with Him and was able to reach that point of loving Him more than my compulsive behavior.
In fact, one of the first things I did upon my release in November of 2005 was buying myself another wedding ring. I now wear two wedding rings, the one closest to my hand is His and the other one is _____’s.
One of the many consequences of incarceration was being away from _____ who had become one of the strong legs of my recovery stool. What was I going to put in place of the physical relationship with her?
I prayed for two weeks about this concern and I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me in the form of a conditional promise. He told me that if I completely surrendered and submitted to Him, He would take away my sexual drive and reserve it solely for _____. That was in December of 2003 and I’ve been delivered through that promise ever since.
Five months prior to my release, with everything seeming to be coming together like clockwork, the enemy took the opportunity to rear his ugly head big time! I called home one evening and found out that the _____ City Council voted to start sending notification letters to all the neighbors of any sex offenders living in the neighborhood. Because of this, my wife and son did not want me to come home because of the obvious problems that these letters could present. Needless to say, I was devastated, confused and upset with God. He had been training me to be the godly husband and father He wanted me to be, and now this? I went through some intense spiritual warfare which developed into a chemical imbalance of anxiety. I slept only an hour a night for 3 months. It was, without a doubt, the worst 3 months of my life. However I never turned away from God as I saw His hand working almost immediately.
Right away I received two offers for a place to stay and a job opportunity waiting on my return. Praise God! He also promised me that I would eventually be back with my family and be involved in music/ministry. I stood on those promises even when it didn’t ‘feel’ like they were materializing.
I was released on November 4th 2005 and went to stay with friends from church. I also started my job at an adult day stay center.
It was incredible to see God use the church to help support not only myself but also _____ and _____ as well.
I began to see why God allowed the notification letters and allowed me to not come home. He used the letters as the catalyst for me to go elsewhere, not because of any repercussions of the letters, but because He wanted _____, _____, and I, to get to know each other again before I moved back home.
I stayed at _____ and _____’s for 7 months when the Holy Spirit made it clear that it was time to go home. The letters continued with absolutely zero negativity or repercussions whatsoever.
God had begun fulfilling His promise of restoring my marriage and family one day at a time. I assumed that the promise of the music ministry was the CR praise band that I was a member of but little did I know that He had bigger plans ahead.
In May of 2007 I was laid off of my job at _____ and God began leading me to the music/ministry He had planned for me. As I searched for jobs He reminded me of the fact that I used to entertain the clients at _____ with my guitar and song. I started putting my name out to the assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and adult day care centers and God started opening doors at an incredible rate. I bought some equipment and set up a music ministry/business that has now given me an opportunity to minister and witness to the folks who are often forgotten about. In addition to supplementing the family income, this ministry also provides me the opportunity to take care of all the household chores, shopping, and errands. The beauty of that is that it relieves _____ of all that responsibility and extra stress and gives her more free time in her life. Lord knows she deserves any and everything I can do to serve her for standing on her vows the way she did. _____ stood, in the gap, despite the living hell that _____ the heathen put her through. I will never ever lose perspective of that.
I finished my probation period on November 3rd of this year. During my probation I was not allowed to go onto any school property, which denied me the opportunity to see _____ perform in the _____ High School Marching band for his first two years, as well as any other band concerts or extra curricula that was held on the school grounds. It was rough on us for the last 3 years because it placed the burden on _____ of having to juggle her work schedule in order to get _____ to and from all of his events and appointments, while I had to sit helplessly silent on the sidelines.
However, God, in His infinite sovereignty, orchestrated the timing of the end of probation to coincide with _____’s last football game.
I was able to attend the last game, of this year, and his last band competition the Friday and Saturday after my probation had ended, and I also have his junior and senior years ahead. Praise God!
For three years I also had to attend a secular group that I was, at first, not happy about, mainly because the counselors there did not want to hear about Jesus and what He did for me. That was a huge problem for me, because if you want me to talk about my life and recovery, but leave Jesus out of the discussion, then I don’t have a whole lot to say.
However, God used the opportunity to fulfill the plans and purposes He had for me at the time. As it turned out, I was able to end up witnessing there regardless, throughout the three years, and became an example of hope to the other men. Praise God again!
Of course the enemy did not like what was going on and did his best to try and dismantle the transformation and family restoration. Because of the enemy’s shenanigans, I had to stop coming to celebrate in February of this year, but I am blessed to say that I have returned to celebrate and will continue to attend the Men’s SA group. I am certain that part of what God wants me to do, is to witness and testify for Him, and help other men who struggle with this darkness and bondage, in hopes of being able to assist them with their recovery, keeping them on this side of the legal system and, most importantly, letting them know about Jesus.
The federal system has really tightened the consequences of this offense to the point that if I had been convicted of my offense 30 months later, I would have been mandated to a 5 year minimum prison sentence and lifetime probation. Praise God again!
Despite all of that, I refuse to acknowledge the world’s definition of who I am, by labeling or calling myself a sex offender. I committed a sexual offense 8 years ago, but I am now a new creation in Christ, and will live my life according to His definition of who I am. Besides that, even though I used drugs for six years, from 1975 to 1981, but have not used in 27 years, I would not stand before you here today and say, “Hi, I’m _____ and I’m a drug user.”
I also believe Christ wants to use me and other men like myself, to help de-stigmatize the perception of this addiction and the many offenses and areas that fall under the umbrella of the addiction.
As I said in the beginning, this addiction, and in particular, my offense that accompanied this addiction, has stigmas attached to it. Some of the stigmas are necessary and justified, but several are being slanted and sensationalized by the media.
If we, especially Christians, depend solely on the media for our information, we would be in constant darkness. We can’t de-stigmatize until the public is factually educated.
Case in point that most people do not know that 85% of sex offenses against children are committed by family members, friends of the family, or people that they trust, such as teachers and coaches.
The media portrays just the opposite through presentations such as the Dateline saga. A study was done in 2007 by the _____ Department of Law Enforcement. _____ of the _____ County Sheriff’s Office reported that “Some sex offenders do re-offend, but it’s also proven that the majority of these crimes are committed by known perpetrators.
The greatest threat to your child is not someone lurking in the park. It’s someone you know. Someone who may have even been in your home, who isn’t listed on a website”. From this study it was also reported that out of the 534 sex crimes committed in _____ County in 2006, only 3 involved registered sex offenders, a recidivism rate of less than 1 percent. I learned from a seminar I attended a couple of years ago, that the sex/pornography industry generates more revenue in one year, than Major League football, baseball, and basketball combined!
The world has conditioned us to believe that sex, and even sexual immorality is normal, to the point of legislating same-sex marriage and adoption. The irony of that is, that sexual immorality is one of the few sins God tells us to ‘run from’, and that the sin of sexual immorality, is mentioned more in the Bible than any other sin. From God’s perspective, anyone who has had sex outside of marriage and/or is engaged in any type of sexual immorality, has committed a sexual offense.
Fortunately for us, He is full of love and forgiveness, despite our wretchedness, as long as we say yes to free His free gift of grace and mercy; and surrender and submit to His will.
In closing let me say to the folks here that are struggling with this darkness but have never said yes to Jesus. You can use these tools He’s given us such as the steps, counseling, and the groups, until the cows come home, but if you don’t say yes to Christ and develop a love for and a relationship with Him, you’ll never be free.
You have to get to that point where you love Him, more than you love your junk. I can say this with conviction, passion, experience, and authority, because I’ve walked the gauntlet.
God now wants me to spend the rest of my life, devoted to helping others with this bondage which can only be accomplished through Jesus, giving Him all the glory.
I could not stand before you and Him here today and claim deliverance, and 7 and a half years of sobriety, without Him.
If you’re here for the first time and are wondering if you are in the right place, I can only answer that by saying this: You are in the right place if you are willing to work and give it all to Christ. Today is the day of salvation.
It’s time to quit trying to fill that Christ shaped hole in your heart with everything but Jesus. He’s here and He’s calling you. Can you hear Him? It will be the most important decision you will ever make in this lifetime, because after this life is over, it’s too late. There are no ‘do-overs' after that.
My name is _____ and I’m a Christian who’s been delivered from sexual addiction by the grace of God and all the wonderful people, tools, and opportunities He’s given me in the last 8 years. Thank you all for being here and listening. God bless you and remember that Jesus loves you and so do I. Thank you.
View the article here
By Associated Press
MISSOULA (AP) - A former Missoula police officer, who spent more than a year on administrative leave, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal child pornography charge.
Daniel Jason Huntsinger is charged with a single count of receipt of obscene material and is scheduled to enter his plea on Feb. 12 in U.S. District Court in Missoula. The plea agreement filed with the court does not contain a sentencing recommendation.
Prosecutors say Huntsinger used a computer owned by the Missoula Police Protective Association to access a subscription child pornography Web site.
Huntsinger began working in Missoula in January 2000. He resigned from the Missoula Police Department in September 2008.
By Conal Pierse, Managing Editor
In a shocking move, the networking site MySpace recently removed over 90,000 users that they had identified as sex offenders in an attempt to make the site safer for children. The number of culled accounts is undoubtedly shocking, and has been used by the likes of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as evidence to the fact that “social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators.” And while this may be true, the actual risk is nowhere near what many think.
- Yeah, because he thinks sex offender and sexual predator are one and the same. But if he was smart, he would know, there is a big difference. He just uses this to grandstand, like most politicians do, when election time rolls around!
In fact, the danger posed by these individuals is relatively low. They aren’t hiding behind anonymity—as their being identified as sex offenders can tell you—and don’t present the same level of threat as predators who use aliases or pretend to be children themselves.
Protecting children requires education on net safety in conjunction with classic “stranger danger” tactics; however the problem here is of a different scale. Despite what we typically think of when we hear the term “sex offender,” this wasn’t an army of child-hungry rapists. These were 90,000 people who have been horribly stigmatized as being the very worst amongst what encompasses a variety of crimes.
As a result of highly publicized cases, the general population assumes that sex offenders are more prevalent, more likely to re-offend, and more likely to commit a horrific crime than they actually are. Tales of child molestation that reach the national level are so shocking that they stick in our minds, and we then overestimate their likelihood of occurrence because of the availability heuristic.
While I don’t excuse the behaviour of sex offenders, their risk to the community is exaggerated. The more brutal crimes of rape, sexual assault, and child molestation are most often committed by friends, family, and acquaintances of the victim. Similarly, while sex offenders are five times more likely than other criminals to commit another sex crime, their rates of recidivism are quite low.
According to 1994 study by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 5.3 per cent of men who had committed rape or sexual assault re-offended within three years, and only 3.3 per cent of all sex offenders committed another sex crime during this period. What’s more, when compared to other criminals, sex offenders were less likely to commit another crime (43 per cent versus 68 per cent of non-sex offenders). However, despite this, they are still ostracized and are considered to pose great danger to public safety.
Watchdog groups in the US turn sex offenders into pariahs, and their monitoring tactics lead to harassment. Whereas other criminals are forgiven for their transgressions, tools intended to protect communities from sex offenders serve instead to mark those individuals for humiliation. In Canada, the sex offender registry is currently confidential, but they are no less looked down upon and despised.
Though a sex offender serves their sentence, they’re never truly regarded as having been rehabilitated. Long-term mandatory registration serves as a constant reminder that they’re no longer trusted and makes them guilty until proven innocent. Yes, some of them pose a threat to the community, but they’re not the only criminals that fall into this category. In the interest of safety, registration criteria should be both expanded and made more stringent. All individuals deemed to be violent or dangerous, regardless of the nature of their prior crime, should be required to register in such a fashion with the RCMP. Meanwhile, non-violent sex offenders whose crime is of a lesser nature, and who have been determined by professionals to pose no significant threat to their communities, should have no further legal obligations than their non-sex offender counterparts.
Some of these 90,000 banned users might have posed a threat to our children, but ostracizing them isn’t the correct approach. The real danger isn’t hiding in plain sight, and protecting our children can’t be achieved by blanket bans, whether it be on the Internet or in our cities with “predator-free zones.” These people have done wrong in the past, it’s true, but when even Tom doesn’t want to be friends with them, you know that we’re going too far.
By: Justin Huggins
In the United States of America, perhaps more than in any other country, there exist many discrepancies that we've come to call double standards: a seemingly benign term that hints at the complexities and senselessness of human reason. Most of the time these double standards apply to easily discernible traits: sex, race, creed, sexual orientation, party affiliation and so on.
In some weird way, too, these discrepancies make sense to us, or at least we try to make sense of them. However, in some cases, the double standard lacks any semblance of rationale and thus reveals some aspect of the absurdity that characterizes our species. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the recent death of a Michigan man.
His name was Thomas Pauli, age 52. He was homeless, but his defining characteristic was his label as a registered sex offender. He died last week in the unrelenting Michigan cold after he was denied a spot at a local shelter. Social workers say his status as a sex offender made it impossible to accommodate him since a state law prohibits sex offenders from staying within 1,000 feet of schools.
Now, just to be clear, I think sex crimes are among the worst of crimes in our society, and in no way am I defending or condoning the actions of Thomas Pauli or any other sex offender. However, I would like to explore an inexplicable double standard that pervades our society.
As strange as it may seem on the first read, we place our sex offenders on one of two lists: on the first, those we condemn to hell for their crimes, and on the second, those we place upon a pedestal for their contributions to society. We hate most and vow never to forgive them, and yet we forgive some and come to respect them. There's very little rationale behind this phenomenon that we unconsciously accept, for the crimes of sex offenders are indisputably heinous.
Take, for instance, the case of world-renowned director, writer, actor and producer Roman Polanski, and a clear double standard emerges. In 1978, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. At that time, Polanski was in his mid-40s. The minor was a 13-year-old girl whom he plied with alcohol and Quaaludes. He engaged in oral, vaginal and anal sex with the girl. He ignored her pleas to stop throughout. It sounds pretty atrocious, right?
But the saga doesn't stop there. Polanski then fled to France, where he held citizenship, and thus could avoid the risk of extradition to the U.S. Since then, he has yet to return to American soil, although he continues to work and continues to garner critical acclaim.
There are some of us who rejoice in the death of Thomas Pauli, claiming he got what he deserved - namely, a ruined life and an untimely death. There are many more of us who celebrate Roman Polanski. In 2002, for instance, Polanski won the Academy Award for Best Director for "The Pianist." At the ceremony, which he did not attend, he received a standing ovation from those in attendance. Polanski, a sex offender who has served no prison time for his crime, had enriched our culture, and for that he was forgiven - celebrated even. He has yet to be shunned by society in the same way that Thomas Pauli was, and I wager that when this eminent director dies, his death will net more notice than that of Thomas Pauli.
While Thomas Pauli and Roman Polanski best epitomize the two extremes of this double standard, it's important to realize that there are many more men and women who fall somewhere on the continuum we've concocted. Most of these sex offenders fall on our first list, the one with hell as their final destination. But some - perhaps more than we care to admit - have wound up on our second list for no apparent reason at all.
My logic tells me that this method by which we forgive the crimes of sex offenders is bizarre and unfair. What kind of society are we if we can forgive, ignore or even forget the crimes of one but not another? We can't be bothered to shelter one. Instead, we call him the scum of the earth. But to another we give a golden statuette and praise his ingenuity. If the crimes of these two men are equally appalling, then why do we make this distinction?
The answers to these questions reveal something wholly unexpected about our psychology, for the answers are simple. Why? Because we cherish our celebrities, prize their work, celebrate their status and envy their money. In our eyes, they can do no wrong.
Because one sex offender is immortal, and the other simply human.
- Justin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By SUSAN CARROLL
Program was supposed to target dangerous fugitives
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement program designed to target the most dangerous immigration fugitives has swept up mostly non-criminals in recent years, newly released documents show.
The National Fugitive Operations Program, created in 2003 with the mission of locating and deporting fugitives who are national security or public safety threats, resulted in the arrests of more than 62,000 people through the end of the 2007 fiscal year.
Of those arrests, roughly 18 percent involved fugitive immigrants with criminal records, according to a report released Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute (PDF), a nonpartisan think tank in Washington D.C., which obtained the data from ICE. Roughly 48 percent of the arrests involved immigrants with outstanding deportation orders and no criminal record. The remaining 34 percent were simply identified during a raid and arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, the report said.
ICE officials have said the fugitive operations program gives top priority to cases involving violent fugitives, including gang members and child sex offenders. A series of internal directives, however, shows the agency steeply increased an annual arrest quota for the fugitive teams in 2006, while relaxing a requirement that 75 percent of targets have criminal records.
The result, critics say, is that ICE shifted focus and went after “low-hanging fruit,” people who were easy to arrest, instead of the most violent offenders.
“In spite of the fact that the program supposedly prioritized its targets based on their dangerousness, the program primarily arrested the easiest targets,” said Margot Mendelson, co-author of the MPI report.
According to the report, the percentage of arrests involving fugitive immigrants with criminal records declined from 23 percent in 2003 to 9 percent in 2007.
ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said ICE has significantly increased arrests of criminal fugitives in recent months. So far this fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, ICE’s Fugitive Operations Program recorded 12,114 arrests nationally, although he was unable to provide a specific number of arrests for fugitive immigrants with criminal records.
Arrest record in Houston
The national findings in the MPI report mirror local trends.
Of the 1,587 arrests made by Houston’s fugitive operations teams in the 2008 fiscal year, 17 percent were for people with criminal convictions, said ICE officials.
Palmore defended the agency’s arrests of non-criminals swept up by the fugitive teams.
“While ICE prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives — even those with no documented criminal history in the United States,” Palmore said.
The program is one of ICE’s fastest-growing initiatives, said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow with MPI and a former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner.
Over the past five years, program funding has totaled more than $625 million.
The memos detailing ICE’s internal quotas and field directives were obtained in January by an instructor and students at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Peter L. Markowitz, director of Cardozo’s Immigration Justice Clinic, said the agency’s memos provide context for the decline in arrests of fugitive immigrants with criminal records. An ICE memo from early 2004 required no less than 75 percent of fugitive operations targets be classified as “criminal aliens.”
Peter L. Markowitz, director of Cardozo’s Immigration Justice Clinic, said the agency’s memos provide context for the decline in arrests of fugitive immigrants with criminal records. An ICE memo from early 2004 required no less than 75 percent of fugitive operations targets be classified as “criminal aliens.”
That requirement was removed in 2006, while the fugitive operation teams’ annual quotas were increased to 1,000 arrests per year, up from 125. For the first time, the teams were allowed to count any arrest — not just those of fugitives and criminals — toward their totals.
The change allowed ICE to report a record number of “fugitive arrests” — more than 15,000 in fiscal year 2006, up from nearly 8,000 the previous year. The number for 2007 looked even more impressive, with 30,407 arrests, although MPI’s data showed that only 9 percent involved fugitive immigrants with criminal records.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently issued a directive that puts the removal of immigrants convicted of crimes at the top of the agency’s priority list.
By Heath Urie (Contact)
LONGMONT - A 53-year-old Longmont woman was arrested Wednesday on suspicion that she drugged a male friend during a backyard barbecue and then raped him, police said.
Janice Lynette McCarl was booked into the Boulder County Jail at 7:40 p.m. Wednesday on suspicion of sexual assault, a class-three felony.
Longmont police Cmdr. Tim Lewis said reports of female-on-male rape are very rare; one victims’ advocate said this was only the second local instance she could remember happening within the past decade.
Lewis said McCarl is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a 50-year-old male friend.
“She allegedly took unwanted advantage of this friend in a manner he did not want or approve of,” Lewis said.
The man told detectives the incident happened on Nov. 9 at his Longmont house and involved “unwanted penetration.”
A police report released Thursday details the graphic allegations.
The man reported that he was at a barbecue at his home with McCarl.
He said he felt “funny” after some drinks — which he later told investigators were drugged — and went inside and passed out.
About a half-hour later, he claims, he awoke with a painful sensation. He said he remembered waking up intermittently with the woman’s “hands in him.”
He said he could not fully wake up or move, and remembered the woman telling him, “It is OK, go back to sleep.”
He told detectives he recalled waking up the next morning to find the woman sleeping next to him — her shirt covered in blood and lotion, and a bottle of Lubriderm on the table near the woman.
In response to his questions about what happened, McCarl allegedly laughed and said, “What did I do, kill somebody?”
They had coffee together and she left, according to the report.
The man said he spoke with the woman later on and she admitted to drugging him that night, but would not say what she used.
“She apologized to him and he told her that was mean, nasty and disgusting,” police wrote in the report.
Detectives have been investigating the report since then, police said, and arrested McCarl on a warrant.
Lewis, the Longmont commander, said McCarl and the man had a consensual intimate relationship prior to the incident.
On Thursday, a Boulder County judge set McCarl’s bond at $10,000. He denied her request to reduce bond.
According to records with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, McCarl has two arrests in 2000 for using fraud to obtain dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs.
Janine D’Anniballe, the executive director of Boulder’s Moving to End Sexual Assault, said the Longmont case is only the second time in her 10 years with the agency that she’s heard of such an incident.
“These types of cases, where there is an adult woman with an adult male, are very rare,” she said. “Certainly, women can be offenders, but usually their victims are children or young adults. Men can be victims, but usually as children or young adults or with male perpetrators.”
D’Anniballe said there is often a stigma associated with anyone who is a victim of a sexual assault, but that effect is magnified for male victims.
“There’s this idea that, because he’s a man, he should have just enjoyed it,” she said. “In this case, that is a gross misstatement.
“I think what he did by coming forward is extremely brave. It is no less a rape than any other kind of rape. We need to be supportive and understanding.”
Grade-school Lolita: ‘So Sexy So Soon’ - The sexualized childhood and how it affects kids younger than you think
In their new book “So Sexy So Soon” authors Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne write about the trend of children becoming sexualized at a young age due to media images and marketing campaigns that encourage youth to be “sexy,” and they offer advice on how parents can protect their kids. An excerpt.
Chapter one: Never too young to be sexy
It has never been easy being a parent. But today, it has gotten even more difficult. A 2002 survey by an organization called Public Agenda found that 76 percent of parents felt it was a lot harder to raise children today than when they were growing up, and 47 percent reported that their biggest challenge was trying to protect their children from negative societal influences, including disturbing and confusing images, violence, and age-inappropriate messages appearing in the media. How would you have answered this survey? Are you, too, having a hard time trying to protect your children from negative influences? Are you finding it difficult to set and enforce limits on the media that your children are exposed to — to determine how much, when, and what? As parents, you are often told that it’s your job to “just say no” to all of the inappropriate content out there, and that this will solve the problem. But just saying no won’t solve the problem, and anyway, you can’t say no to everything! Instead, we simply have to deal with the popular culture in our children’s lives, often at the most unexpected times, in unforeseen ways, and whether we want to or not. This book is designed to help you do just that. And in order to be able to do so, the first order of business is to examine and recognize when and how the new sexualized childhood is influencing children from a young age.
Several recent books and news and research reports have expressed concern about today’s sexual attitudes and behavior of many adolescents, and increasingly even tweens (eight- to twelve-year-olds). These accounts often make it seem as if the behavior in question suddenly appears out of a vacuum when children enter high school (or middle school). Rarely do we hear about what was happening in the early years that paved the way for what is happening with teens.
There is a lot going on in children’s lives around issues of sexuality and sexiness that is important for the caring adults in their lives to recognize. The following stories from parents and teachers make it very clear that if we are to understand and deal with the sexualization of childhood, we must begin our efforts with very young children.
Crying in the bathtub
Jennifer reported that one evening not long ago, her seven-year-old daughter Hannah began crying in the bathtub. Alarmed, Jennifer asked what was wrong. Hannah responded, “I’m fat! I’m fat! I want to be pretty like Isabelle — sexy like her! Then Judd would like me too!” Jennifer knew Isabelle, a very thin, very popular girl in Hannah’s class who wore “stylish” clothes that Jennifer thought were inappropriate for a seven-year-old. Jennifer put her hand on Hannah’s shoulder and said she liked Hannah’s body — it was a wonderful body for a seven-year-old and she certainly didn’t need to lose weight. But Hannah continued to cry and to say that she wanted to go on a diet. Jennifer felt uncertain about what to say or do next. In her view, Hannah had a normal body for a seven-year-old girl. Jennifer thought it must be abnormal for such a young child to be thinking about diets, let alone wanting boys to like her for being “pretty” and “sexy.” But, normal or not, Jennifer saw that Hannah was truly concerned and distressed, and she wanted to do something to help.
As Jennifer strove to understand Hannah’s outburst, she was tempted to put a lot of the blame on Hannah’s friends, who were becoming increasingly influential and important to her. Recently, Hannah had come home from a playdate talking about having had a fashion show with her friend’s Bratz dolls. Jennifer was concerned that when Hannah and her friends played together they often acted out going on “dates” and having weddings with their Barbie dolls, but she was truly horrified by the time they spent at other houses with Bratz dolls — by their name, their anorexic-looking bodies, their overt sexuality and hookerlike wardrobe, as well as by the focus on shopping and appearance as the point of the play. When she voiced her reservations about Hannah’s having the dolls, Hannah said that everyone else had them and that she loved playing with them at other children’s houses. She and her friends liked dressing them up and having them go shopping and out on dates. Although Jennifer didn’t give in, she wasn’t sure what she would do when Hannah’s birthday arrived the following month. She was certain some other girls would give these dolls to Hannah as gifts. Even if Jennifer took them away, she knew Hannah would continue to play with them at her friends’ homes. Recently, Hannah had begun to nag about joining the Bratz website, an online community where kids can play and buy things for their Bratz dolls in cyberspace, along with other children who are logged on.
Deep down, however, Jennifer realized that what worried her most was where this interest in appearance, popularity, and sexiness would lead. If Hannah was dissatisfied with her body at the age of seven, she wondered how she might feel at thirteen. Jennifer had seen news stories about an increase in precocious sexual behavior among children and teens, and she knew that eating disorders were on the rise, even among little girls. Were Hannah’s tears about her body the first sign of such trouble for her? What was the relationship between concerns about body image and sexuality? And what did she mean by being “sexy” anyway? Knowing how high the stakes were, Jennifer felt almost desperate to find the right way to respond. But she was upset with herself for feeling unsure, even anxious, about knowing the right thing to say or do.