Hiding in Plain Sight

How aware are we of our surroundings at any given time? I confess that I’m a people observer. I always have been. When I go into public places, I’m always looking around to the point of distraction. What am I looking for? Mostly danger–anyone pacing nervously, anyone with their hands in wrong places, children who look uneasy around their guardians, unscrupulous characters–those sorts of things. I go into full ADHD mode when I’m out. You know those leashes that they make for kids? Well, I should have to wear one when I go out with my wife so she doesn’t lose me.

Why am I so attentive? You could argue that it’s paranoia, but I assure you that I’m not a paranoid person. But I do like to be aware of my surroundings. Maybe we should all be more aware of our surroundings. I can remember working at a Pennzoil oil shop when I was attending seminary. One day our boss pulled us all together and said, “Did any of you see a suspicious guy at the carwash yesterday?” None of us had. He went on to explain that the police stopped at the shop and wanted the video tapes because a college girl was vacuuming her car when she noticed a man snapping pictures of her while masturbating. To my knowledge, they never found the guy.

I recall a time last year when my wife and then 2 year old daughter were with our in-laws at a shopping mall in Grand Rapids. As our daughter was riding the carousel with grandma and grandpa, I noticed a man sitting next to the carousel who looked out of place. The more I watched him, the more I noticed he was infatuated with some young girls riding the carousel. I told my brother-in-law to watch this man’s face when these 2 girls came around. It was disturbing. I reported the man to the carousel operator and she said, “Come to think of it, this man was sitting in the same spot for several hours last night.” After I reported him, she called security on him.

Were these girls’ parents aware that their daughters had a pedo-fantasizer mentally undressing their daughters? From my perspective, they didn’t have a clue. This type of thing happens millions of times a day at any given time. Remember Jaycee Lee Dugard? She was abducted by sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife in 1991 and was held captive in his back yard until discovered in 2009. He did what was a common tactic of many pedophiles–the old “I’m filming something interesting here” trick while actually shooting footage of children. Watch this clip beginning at the 2:30 mark:

This is not an uncommon tactic. Some are more obvious than others. This story is about a pedophile giving a nice Valentine’s treat to a Gresham, OR man’s 5 & 8 year old daughters while walking to the school bus stop. The father recalls: “I saw a guy in a silver car with four doors and he didn’t belong around here. He was staring at my daughters funny.” So he walked around the car to see what the man was doing. You guessed it, he was caught in the act of masturbating. The dad punched the man then the man drove off.

How does this stuff happen so often? I can assure you that I barely scratch the surface of this epidemic through this website. As the son of a pedophile, I can assure you that they truly are hiding in plain sight, a term I borrow from this 1988 article about pedophile preacher Tony Leyva. He sexually abused 100 young boys, but investigators estimate he actually abused around 800 victims. “Brother Tony” was a Pentecostal preacher who spent his time on the road as a very famous evangelist. He passed the boys around a pedophile prostitution ring of other preachers, an organist, and government officials. How does one person sexually assault 800 victims before getting caught? Unfortunately, these numbers are not unique. Statistics are staggering. Pedophiles truly are hiding in plain sight.

We’ve got to be more attentive to our surroundings. We’ve got to be louder. We’ve got to stand up for justice and prevention. If you want to find out what you can be doing within your own communities, you can register for my free 3 hour webinar here. I’ll have guest Les Ferguson, Jr. joining the discussion in the last hour. It’s from 9AM-12 Noon eastern this Saturday. The webinar is open, so you can join it at any time within that 3 hour period. This option is for those who cannot attend the entire webinar but who would still want to hear part of it.

See some of you on Saturday!

Would You Pull Your Kid From School If This Happened?

lomaglio_matthewPublic school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe. There has been a lot of focus on school shootings lately and, while they are tragic crimes, there is a much bigger epidemic than gun crime in our schools. Take a look at the news. Every day at least a few schools are in the news for sexual assault against young children. . . literally. Does anyone else get as mad as I do that this is happening on a daily basis? Does anyone else feel that it’s long past time that we become vocal, march into our schools, and demand they tell us what steps they are doing to protect our children? If you’re not at that point, you should be. It’s well known that the vast majority of sex crimes against children never get reported. There are an estimated over 40 million survivors of child sex abuse in the US alone. That’s more than the entire state of California, our most populated sate. Or, we could pack NYC at its 8.337 million capacity almost 5 times. Since that’s the case, how much sexual abuse is actually going on in the schools? Brian Palmer may be spot on when he says, “Probably millions.”

Let me add another depressing fact. The majority of teachers will never report suspected abuse, and they are even less likely to report it if a colleague is suspected of abusing a child. To further complicate the issue, several states have unclear laws describing who mandated reporters are and what the process should be for reporting suspected abuse. Here is a clip of Rep. George Miller, CA discussing his surprise at this:

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No offense to Mr. Miller, but these are the kind of uninformed people running our country. It is their job to stay informed and to do something to make reporting easier. And let me make something clear to my readers: you don’t have to be a mandated reporter to report a crime! Anyone can (and should) report suspected crimes against children. Which leads me to my next story.

A New York prosecutor who recently put a gym teacher in prison for sexually assaulting an 8 year old boy “was stunned by the lack of cooperation he got from the Matthew LoMaglio’s colleagues, 22 of whom wrote letters to the judge supporting him.”1 It gets worse. The assistant principal, Susan Hasenaur-Curtis, had the boy and his mother in her office as the mother explained the fear her son was living in. Susan Hasenaur-Curtis did not report it to Children Protective Services as is required, because she felt the allegations were not credible. This happened in 2006. It wasn’t until 2012 that this boy had the courage to write a letter to his older brother describing the sexual assault. Though he wrote the letter, he kept it hidden in his bedroom where his younger brother found it and gave it to their parents. LoMaglio, like many pedophiles do, maintained his innocence throughout the trial until he finally confessed to a counselor upon sentencing. By forcing it to go to trial, this boy (now 15) had to testify in court while LoMaglio had his posse of 22 supporters on his side. At one point in the investigation, the prosecutor found out there was talk among teachers at Rochester School 19 that went like this: “Are you for the teacher or the student?”

According to statistics, it is very unlikely that this boy was LoMaglio’s only victim. Not by a long shot. I tell you this story because it happens all the time. Ask any prosecutor of sex crimes against children. They will all tell you similar stories of support for the perpetrator, not the victim. My question is, “Would you pull your kid from school if this happened?” My answer is an unequivocal YES! Not only would I pull my kid from a slimy school like Rochester 19, I’d pay for a lengthy article in my local newspaper to let the world know that they are protecting the name of the abusers, not the victims. I would publish the 22 teachers’ names in the newspaper who wrote letters of support for the man who robbed the innocence of an 8 year old. I would demand that they resign. I would let everyone know that assistant principal Susan Hasenaur-Curtis has 0 interest in protecting your kids. She had an opportunity to report a crime and chose not to do it, even though the law requires it. I would ask for her resignation, demand an apology, and ask that she have nothing to do with any organization where children need to be protected.

This story is personal to me. I was asked by my dad to write a letter of support in order for him to get a reduced sentence. I could not. I would not. To do so would have been the hugest slap in the face to every child whose innocence was taken away by that man. I love my dad and still communicate with him, but support he will not find.

I’m a firm believer that silence is another way to support the abusers. By the public remaining silent and not demanding answers from these schools, we are allowing these crud ball teachers, principals, and super intendants to keep doing this without consequence. If you have children in school, go there this week and ask to have a printed copy of their child protection plan. If they give you a hard time or tell you that you can’t see it, go to your local news and let the public know about it. My wife was a teacher in the public schools and I know that teachers are not well informed about policies and reporting procedures. Pennsylvania is getting better because of the recent passing of Act 126. But we are light years ahead of other states in this area, and that’s not saying much. Find out what policies and plans are in place at you kids’ schools. Demand answers and don’t tolerate schools who protect the guilty.

“I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth” (Job 29:17 ESV)

10 Year Old Sweetie

Sweetie There are a lot of pedophiles out there taking advantage of very young children–exploiting, humiliating, sexualizing, and dehumanizing them. With the explosion of the internet, access to child porn and the ability to remain anonymous has pedophiles lined up like a school of piranha waiting to sink their teeth into the next unsuspecting youngster. Experts say the problem is getting worse, not better. I would agree. Even since I began this site a few months ago, the type of traffic coming to my site has attracted more and more sickos. My dashboard tells me that today, January 28th, the top searches that led people to my website are “child porn,” “children porn,” “child porn vk,” and “young chaild sexy pron” (spelling mistakes are intentional by frequent child pornographers who try to remain undetected).

I hear a lot of personal stories of children who are being exploited by adults who justify their evil twisted behavior through a number of avenues. Here’s the deal–nothing can justify this kind of behavior. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Not addictions, not “lust,” not desire, not lack of sex from your spouse, and certainly not the claim that young children come on to the perpetrator. These sex crimes don’t “just happen.” They are fantasized about. They are planned. Every detail is meticulously planned, down to what amount of pressure the perpetrator’s hand will have as it grazes the young child’s genitalia for the first time.

Why do I share these things with you? Because we don’t want to believe that it’s true, or that it happens that often, or that it could happen to our own kids. We’d like to think that this is such a rarity, and that the media just blows it out of proportion. I’m here to tell you, experience and knowledge has opened me up to a whole new world–a huge world. And I’m learning that denial does nothing to stop pedophiles. Fear does not stop them. Rules do not stop them. Belief in God does not stop them. So what will? You will. People like you and me who are loud. I mean unapologetically loud, and who will be a voice for the victims of these heinous crimes. People who have no fear of reporting abuse can at least deter child molesters and let them know that we’ve had enough. We are no longer afraid to speak out and to stand up for what is right. There is a war being waged and the wrong side has been retreating for years. It’s time to take innocent territory back.

One more thing. . . for those of you who cruise the internet looking for “young chaild sexy pron,” heroes like this may just be setting a trap for you when you think you are masturbating on camera for a 10 year old child:

Safe cruising!

Protecting Your Kids: Preventive Tools For Parents

There’s an irony that comes with technology, convenience, and efficiency–the more “advanced” we become, the more fragmented our knowledge is and the more socially isolated we become. Unfortunately, isolation of children makes them vulnerable targets for abusers, and it certainly doesn’t make for healthy relationships within the family structure. Here’s a great video to illustrate how social media actually makes us more isolated:

A professor once told our counseling class that being BUSY is an acronym for Being Under Satan’s Yoke. It would take me a few years to find out just how prophetic that statement was. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words” (yes, it does say business, not busyness. . . but much business creates much busyness!). In a time-crunched environment, I’ve found that busyness is something that keeps many of us educators from finding the time to network our resources for protecting children. I get asked a lot, “What are some resources that you can point us to?” To be honest, I find myself asking that same question. The frustration at the lack of a clear pooling of resources has actually been motivating. I’d like to work on a project to create a network of resources–from prevention of abuse to what constitutes good organizational policies, to what steps to take for finding and funding victim counseling, etc. The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there. The bad news is that, for now, there’s no good networking of these resources that I’m aware of. I’d like to change that.

As for now, I don’t have such a tool developed. Therefore, when I come across valuable resources, I will highlight them via my blog. Today I’d like to highlight the work of Lauren Book. She is a survivor of child sex abuse and I just finished her memoir on abuse titled It’s OK to Tell: A Story of Hope And Recovery. The book is excellent and I highly recommend it. Lauren took the worst imaginable experience and has turned it into an opportunity to arm children with the tools to prevent abuse from happening to them. She is the founder of Lauren’s Kids. Their mission is “To prevent sexual abuse through awareness and education, and to help survivors heal with guidance and support.” She and her dad have successfully lobbied for funding to keep counseling centers for the sexually abused opened in Florida.

I’m also impressed with the curriculum that Lauren has gotten into the schools in Florida. I checked out her Safer, Smarter Kids for parents and was really impressed. I highly, highly recommend spending some time on Lauren’s site, viewing the curriculum, and going over it with your children. When I speak places, a question that always arises comes from parents of young children. They want to know to know what they should be teaching their kids and how they can arm their kids with knowledge to prevent abuse. Fortunately, now I can point them to another great resource!

If any of you know of other great resources out there, please let me know via the comments section.

Come On! Families of Pedophiles Have to Know, Right?

This is a common misperception–that families of pedophiles had to know that a perpetrator was in the family. Think of Ariel Castro. His family was quickly indicted in the eye of the public. The questions abounded: How could he have 3 girls tied up in his basement for years and nobody in the family had a clue? You mean nobody noticed anything odd about his behaviors? And what about Jerry Sandusky? In his case, people did know that abuse was going on and covered it up. This fuels the perception that already exists in the public. What’s going on? Do family members and close friends know and just choose to cover it up?

As the son of a pedophile, I cannot speak for other families but I can share my experience. Here are a few of my observations:
We Family Members Did Not Know–Not only did we not know, but we daily live with the guilt of not knowing. At the end of the day, our ignorance did nothing to stop him from abusing so many victims. The questions for me usually appear in the form of nightmares (literally). How did I not see it? How could I not have seen the signs? Why did I never question odd behavior that I had seen over the years? Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat after seeing faces of children crying out for help. The guilt of not knowing never leaves.

There Was No Cover Up–To state, suggest, or imply that the family of a perpetrator somehow covered up abuse only adds to our multi-layered pain. It is a traumatic thing for a family to find out that one of their beloved family members had been abusing young children for years. My world stopped 2 years ago when I found out and there are still days when I wake up and have to wrestle with the reality of my own father being a pedophile.

Imprisonment Is Not High-Five Worthy–Now that we do know, and our dad is currently serving a life sentence in prison, we do not celebrate that fact. Don’t get me wrong. He is where he needs to be and worked hard to get there. But it brings no comfort to know that he will die in prison. He is still our dad and, as such, comes a whole gamut of raw emotion. Many of my siblings are still wrestling with whether they should contact him for the first time since being incarcerated. Holidays are weird, too. Do we bring it up? Do we pretend that everybody’s happy? Certain places trigger different memories and emotions for different family members. We try to be sensitive to that when we get together for holidays.

There Can Be Redemption In Not Knowing–Because my family did not know, I have dedicated my life to teaching others how to know that someone is abusing children. Admittedly, much of my drive is fueled by guilt. I get very mad at myself for not taking time to educate myself on abuse, or opening my mind to the possibility that one of my family members might just be an abuser. Because of this horrible experience, I am hopeful that I can offer help to others and stop abuse before it happens. I’m not under the illusion that abuse will cease. But I live under the reality that each of us has a responsibility to inform others and protect the innocent. It’s people like you readers who are making a difference. We need you.

In between college and seminary, I took one year and drove truck coast to coast. It was always something I wanted to do, and I’ve driven off and on over a 10 year span. In 1,000,000 miles, I’ve seen a lot of treacherous road conditions and have witnessed hundreds of accidents, many of them fatal. Nothing, in my estimation, compares to the deception of freezing fog. One night in 2008 I left home and it was 35 degrees and foggy. I climbed to the top of the mountain on US 30 before my descent at a 6% grade for the next 8 miles. Only a small guard rail separates the road from a cliff that drops down a few hundred feet to the bottom. The road was perfectly dry and everything seemed good. However, I had a bad hunch. Something didn’t feel right. I decided to “stab” the brakes on the flat to test the dry pavement. Instantly, all 18 tires skidded. . . big time! I was on sheer black ice–freezing fog. I was faced with the challenge of getting an 80,000lb truck down a 6% grade on a sheet of ice. It was quite literally the scariest time of my life.

What’s my point? There were enough signs telling me that black ice was a possibility. Thick fog, high elevation, near freezing temps, and dry looking pavement. Yet, even with knowledge and experience I’m repeatedly fooled by black ice. I can count at least a dozen times that I’ve nearly lost control from unexpectedly hitting a patch of black ice. Yet every time there were definitive signs which I ignored: cold temps, saturated air, a glassy look to the pavement, a different sound from the tires (tires get quieter when you are on ice), ice building on mirrors, and “soft” steering. In each and every one of those scenarios, I legitimately did not know that I was entering an ice patch. There was no cover up! But I’ve driven enough to know that ignorance is not an excuse. We have got to always be vigilant, be defensive, be attentive to signs, and pass on information that can inform others and ultimately save lives. Let’s work together to help families identify ways that they can protect their children before abuse ever happens.

Here is a video for your viewing pleasure, so you can see just how fun black ice can be. Stay safe!:

My Child Is More Important Than Your Feelings

Jesus loved people. . . enough to offend them at times. Sometimes he name-called. He liked to use the word “hypocrites” for religious people who treated others poorly. One time, after calling a group of people “hypocrites,” Jesus’ followers said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12 ESV). Did Jesus apologize? Nope! He responds with more name calling. . . “Let them alone; they are blind guides” (Matt. 15:14).

We are a reactive society. When someone is offended, Twitter lights up like a Christmas Holiday tree, death threats included. Because we are a reactive society, we often become reactive to others’ reactions. I find myself sometimes worrying to the point of paranoia about hurting someone else’s feelings because I don’t want the hassle of being ridiculed or threatened. Blogging about child abuse is difficult. I try very hard not to be offensive or to hurt people’s feelings. But then I remember that Jesus wasn’t concerned with massaging hurting feelings. He was concerned with love, justice, and being a voice for the broken and marginalized–in spite of mobs of people who threatened to imprison or kill him.

I get a lot of people who ask me a lot of questions in a lot of different ways, but essentially most of them boil down to this: “How do I protect my kids from abusers?” In order to answer this question, we must first know something about the abusers. First of all, child sexual abuse is about power and control more than it is about sexual attraction. To be sure, the vast majority of pedophiles have normal adult sexual relationships and only about 7% of pedophiles report being attracted only to children. So begs the question–why do perpetrators risk so much to sexually molest young children when they are also attracted to adults? Why not pursue a sexual relationship with an adult, or have an adult affair, or have sex with adult prostitutes? Granted, there are many factors and many of them are complex, but studies with pedophiles show that the thrill of doing something so out of the ordinary is part of their enjoyment. So is the ability to control and manipulate. Plus children are extremely vulnerable, easy to sexually manipulate, and easy to keep quiet. People with deviant sexual patterns find ways to isolate and victimize children. If we were to oversimplify things for a moment, we could say that deviant thrill seekers find vulnerable people and they attack.

To illustrate this in a visual way, there is a “game” that’s rapidly gaining popularity among teenagers in the streets. You may have heard of it. It’s called Knockout. The idea is for a group of teens to randomly find the most vulnerable person walking on a sidewalk or riding a bike. Whoever sucker punches the person and knocks them out cold (or kills them) is the Knockout King. They target defenseless women, children, and the elderly. There literally are no restrictions on who is targeted. It’s tough to watch, but it is happening and it’s becoming popular:

Child molestation is, in some ways, a lot like the game Knockout. Perpetrators find the most vulnerable kid, groom them, sexually assault them, and move on to their next victim. To make matters worse, many pedophiles are very good at manipulating the feelings of adults and can easily make them feel bad for a number of different things. If you draw boundaries to protect your child from abuse and someone makes you feel bad for that, remember that your goal is not to protect the feelings of others. It’s to protect your child.

If anyone gives you a guilt trip (and they will) for not allowing your child to go on a sleepover, or if someone makes you feel bad for any reason whatsoever, remember that your child is more important than others’ feelings. Predators prey on vulnerable people by acting as if their feelings are hurt. Don’t fall for it. Keep the focus on your child’s well-being. If you begin to soften your approach on setting boundaries for your child, just remember the game Knockout. Let your guard down for a second and someone could eventually swoop in for the sucker punch.

Sometimes protecting your child means that you will offend people. Sometimes other people may have hurt feelings. You may jeopardize relationships or be labeled a whack job. But guess what? God expects us adults to be protectors of children. There is no excuse for negligence. Keep protecting your child and stop worrying about protecting the feelings of others. . . . without guilt.