Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dennis Hastert, Child Molesters, Homophobia and Transphobia

Child sexual abuse is a scourge that this country tries to overlook, it's an epidemic that no one likes to talk about. Child sexual abuse became a central topic in the media and social media over the last two weeks. The nation reacted in shock when it was revealed that Dennis Hastert was a serial child molester. 

Recently former Speaker of the House was sentenced to 15 months in prison for a number of bribery charges stemming from his sexual abuse of teens when he was a wrestling coach 40 years ago.  In the aftermath of his sentencing there were a number of misconceptions about sexual abusers in general and him in particular.

A number of people, mostly on social media started referring to Hastert as a closeted gay child molester because he molested boys.  Aside from perpetuating a bigoted myth, this is wrong for a couple of reasons.  Closeted gay men and women may have illicit affairs in secret.  They may visit bath houses or adult book stores. They may carry on relationships with someone of the same sex for years.  They don't abuse children unless they are child sexual abusers.

Child sexual abusers can identify as gay, straight, bi, queer, trans or any combination in between. Sexual abuse of children, like rape is about power and control.  It's about sexual gratification but it is NOT about orientation. Child sexual abusers often abuse children of both biologic genders. In 22 years in hundreds and hundreds of cases, the split between people abusing one gender or both is about a 50/50 split.

The most important aspect of child sexual abusers is opportunity.  They most often groom and abuse children they know.  Statistics show that about three quarters of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know.  There are a few child sexual abusers who do abuse strangers but this is extremely rare. The few cases I've done with abusers assaulting kids they don't know have happened in situations like sleep overs.

This brings me to the topic of the hysteria by right wing demogogues about Trans people using the bathroom they identify with.  This is just unadulterated bigotry and hatred. It is patently false that men dress up as women to abuse girls or adult women in bathrooms. As I illustrated above, child sexual abusers don't need ruses and costumes.

Claiming that bathroom laws protect women and girls totally discounts the fact that sexual abusers can be women abusing girls or men abusing boys.  Making sure men don't dress as women to abuse 'little girls' is just code for bigotry.

Dennis Hastert's crime brought the issue of child sexual abuse back to the public eye.  It's a horrific crime that leaves the victim scarred for a lifetime. It's crime that people don't like to talk about and when they do it's important that they use facts, not myth.

Gay men and Trans people are not child sexual abusers because they are gay or trans. That myth is bigotry, not fact. Child sexual abusers are child sexual abusers. Period.




Monday, November 30, 2015

R Kelly: Fame, Talent and Child Sexual Assault

Awards show season is upon us and Sunday night brought the Soul Train Awards to BET.  Generally speaking every awards show has some controversy, but last night's Soul Train Awards was closed out by R. Kelly, creating a firestorm across social media.

R Kelly was tried and found not guilty on child pornography charges in 2008.  He was first charged in 2001 after a homemade pornographic tape surfaced showing Mr. Kelly engaged in various sex acts with an (alleged) minor.  His defense team successfully argued that the age of the of the girl in the video could not be ascertained conclusively. 

Those are the recorded facts of the case.  For many people, who were quite vocal on social media last night, those facts are all that matter.  For many other people, a acquittal in criminal court does not equal innocence, and they argue that no amount of musical talent, celebrity, or money cleanses Mr. Kelly of the fact that he routinely sexually assaulted minor girls.

I have written extensively before about Woody AllenJerry SanduskyJosh Duggar and numerous other predators.  As a 21 year veteran child abuse investigator I've investigated teachers, priests, lawyers, doctors and police all who were serial predators.  They all have a lot in common with R Kelly.  

Serial predators like those I mention have some amount of wealth or influence or both. Their wealth gets them the best attorneys, hush money and most importantly gifts to help along in the grooming.  R Kelly clearly had an excellent legal team as evidenced by his acquittal.  He had wealth and fame to impress the impressionable children and to pay off their families if necessary. 

Chicago authors and activists Mikki Kendall and Jamie Nesbitt have written and tweeted extensively about R Kelly's predilections.  Not only was Kelly's limo seen around neighborhood schools, but his crew would routinely approach young black girls with invites to see Kelly.  These predatory behaviors didn't start in 2001. They go as far back as at least 1993. Nor did they stop in 2008 as several people can attest to. 

This brings up another point, in the case of R Kelly as is all to often the case elsewhere, the victims are girls and boys who are targeted for a very specific reason.  In the case of Kelly, those girls were young and black.  Black girls are sexually victimized as minors at a far higher rate than white girls and in general a higher rate than other girls of color. 

There are many theories as to why this is, but in the main it's because black girls are sexualized at a much younger age.  Again, I'd refer you to Mikki Kendall on Twitter and the hashtag #FastTailedGirls. Viewing black girls as sexual objects at a young age is disgusting, but unfortunately true. It's because young black victims are less likely to be believed.

These views of black girls are also why they're trafficked at much higher rates and at much younger ages, but that's a column for another time. 

In cases like Sandusky, the predator specifically went after boys who were in his youth program. Boys who were troubled, whom he bought off with gifts and trips.  Boys who he thought no one would believe.  

Woody Allen allegedly sexually abused his young daughter.  Josh Duggar abused his sisters while they were sleeping.  Again, preying on people whom they could portray as confused or mistaken. Children who most likely would not be believed. 

One other point to make in the Kelly case.  Many people have made mention of consent. For those who saw the sex tape, many thought that the young girl 'knew what she was doing' and therefore consented.  This is not unlike the Rob Lowe sex tape with the minor girl in 1988. 

People assume that girls in their teens are in control and want to be involved with these adult men. What they don't understand is that their 'consent' is purchased with gifts, celebrity and threats.  It may appear that they were willing participants but their will is compromised by the wealth, power and fame of the abuser.  The abuser threatens to ruin  the girl, or threatens that no one will believe her. Fear is a powerful motivator in these cases. 

The R Kelly case demonstrates that wealth, celebrity, and the very specific targeting of a very specific type of child, can and often does let a predator go unpunished.  

Regarding the controversy that was rekindled by Kelly's appearance Sunday night, I can only say this, no amount of fame, talent or money will change the fact that he's a predator and his targets are still roaming Chicago playgrounds. 



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Open Letter To Governor Bruce Rauner

Dear Governor Rauner,

Let me introduce myself, my name is Patrick pronounced with the Atrick, (sorry I'm a sucker for Digital Underground). Anyway there's a few things that we need to discuss.

I've been a loyal, hard working State of Illinois employee for 21 years.  I make a middle class salary that supports my wife and two daughters. You claim that you are for the middle class, but recent behavior on your part suggests that you are ready to lay off or lock out 30,000 plus middle class workers and I really wonder why that is?

I mentioned that I've been a loyal employee, but I should probably expand on that.  I'm a child abuse investigator for DCFS.  I've routinely seen things that few people have the stomach for and fewer still have the emotional capability to handle.  Horrible things Governor, death, broken bones, sexual assault. Things that people don't want to admit exist, much less see and investigate.

I'm not pretending that I have the toughest job in the state. I know that all State employees have their difficult days.  People don't realize that we work for children, elderly, poor, and disabled people.  We protect your highways through the State Police and we build your highways through the DoT.

You, Governor Rauner have vilified State Employees. You routinely belittle what we do with hare brained schemes like trying to hire back retirees to replace us. You demean our dedication and service to the public. We're not the problem, sir.

I'm sure you know, sir, that all State Employee's salary combined makes up 7 % of the State of Illinois budget. 7% of a 31 billion dollar operating budget is 2.17 billion.  Your personal wealth is rumored to be over a billion dollars perhaps as much as the 2.17 that all state employees make.

You have lost your ability to empathize with common people. You said publicly that you would debate anyone any time regarding your economic plan. As evidenced by your dodging debate with Representative Mike Smiddy you've shown you're all hat and no cattle with regards to challenging people to debate.

Maybe it was an empty promise or maybe you felt that Smiddy would be polished enough to clean your clock.  So here's the thing, I will challenge you to a debate. I'm a common man. I have a mortgage and debts and I make a middle class wage. I'm no orator and I'm no politician.  I will give you the respect your office deserves if you will give me the common decency my service deserves.

My job is difficult but I love it.  All of us love it. We love working for the people of the State of Illinois.  We're not greedy, we're not lazy, we're not dumb. We love our state.  We love serving the people. I'd love to have this debate in person and I hope you take me up on my offer.

Sincerely,

Patrick Perion AKA Quad City Pat

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Duggar Debacle

Trigger Warning

I wasn't going to write about the Duggar clan and the story about Josh molesting his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teen.  Then Megyn Kelly of FOXNews interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.  It's hard to put into words how colossally self serving the interview was.  Not only that but it minimized one of the most serious issues of our time, the sexual abuse of children.


First lets start with the facts as they have been presented by the family.  When Josh Duggar was a teen he confessed to Jim Bob that he had touched his sisters and another girl over and under their clothing while they were "sleeping".


In the interview Jim Bob and Michelle claimed that the girls didn't know because they were asleep.  I've literally interviewed hundreds if not thousands (the cases run together trust me) of children.  Many of them say, "he touched me when I was sleeping" or "I was pretending to sleep".  For the elder Duggars to assume  that the girls didn't know is ridiculous at best and an outright lie at worst.


Jim Bob stated that "it wasn't like rape".  I'd like to respectfully call bullshit.  Sexual abuse does  have different degrees but the it's still a violation and one victim may be just as traumatized by touching as another is by rape.  The degree of victimization is in the mind of the victim, not the parents and not the public. 


Jim Bob and Michelle talked about being devastated when they found out.  The did send Josh away for a while, but paid no mind to the trauma their daughters experienced.  If this had been handled properly at the time Josh and his sisters would have been sent to specialized treatment for offenders and victims. 


The Duggar family has made terrible mistakes in this case, but they are hardly alone.  Sibling abuse is very common. The families that take it to  the authorities, despite how difficult it is are the families I truly admire.  Covering up for you child isn't being a good parent.  Confronting the issue, is.


Since the Duggar's failed all of their children miserably, here's what should be happening now.  If this case was in Illinois, there would be a hotline report on Josh's own children for Risk of Sexual Abuse.  This is taken when an offender has access and it is unknown if he has completed treatment and or an evaluation determining that he is at low or no risk to reoffend. 


As is evident in the show, Jim Bob and Michelle still allow Josh to be around his siblings who are still minors, so a report of risk would be taken on  them too.  If Josh sees an evaluator who determines him to be low risk, the reports would be unfounded. If not he would be indicated (founded) as would the elder Duggars and the family would be ordered into counseling.


Despite their best efforts to paint themselves as victims, the Duggars have only shed light on small part of their creepy family.  If any good comes of this, I fervently hope that kids who are being abused speak up. I hope that parents that find out about sibling abuse come forward.  Coming forward takes courage. In the end, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar aren't just failed parents, they're cowards. 










Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No, White People and Media The "Mom in Yellow" Isn't a Hero

In the ongoing unrest and rioting in Baltimore and the media coverage of it, several narratives have emerged. The one that is getting all kinds of play is the "Mom in Yellow", Toya Graham.  People from the Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to Lester Holt have praised Ms. Graham for grabbing and beating her son on camera to get him to disengage from potential rioting. This thinking is naive at best and dangerously reckless at worst.

There has long been a myth in America that says, essentially, 'Black parents need to beat their kids so the cops won't have to.'  This myth is not just perpetuated by African American people but is reinforced by White people who think if African American people are "respectable" they won't get harassed by law enforcement. 

This myth has led to an uncountable number of child abuse reports that I have investigated in the last 21 years. Nationally African American children make up 14% of the population yet 31% of the foster care children are African American.  In Illinois the numbers are shocking. Black children make up 18% of the population and 68% of the foster care population.

The fundamental problem with the "Mom in Yellow" narrative is the underlying racism that blames Black mothers for their sons being hassled by police. "If only they had raised their boys right" I hear it from a few African American people, but I really hear it all the time from White people. Unfortunately I hear it from far too many colleagues. Sadly, this myth has not prevented incarceration or death for African American people. It's only reinforced generation after generation of whites thinking that if 'they' just 'behave' they won't be unfairly targeted.

Now, specifically referencing the Ms. Graham, I fundamentally get that she was trying to save her son. I have no problem with that. My quarrel is that by physically hitting and punching him, she was not only lauded as a hero, her behavior reinforced so many stereotypes of Black mothers, it made me a little sick. 

Ms. Graham's physical assault reinforced the myth I've described above, but it also reinforced the myth and extremely racist trope of the "angry black woman".  It reinforced the racist trope that the only way to control a young black man is to be more violent. Commissioner Batts actually said he 'wished more parents would take control' of their children like the Mom in Yellow did.

All of this thinking is exactly why Baltimore happened. Beating African American children hasn't solved the problems of cops targeting African Americans. Black people being respectable hasn't stopped their oppression by Whites. Freddy Gray was probably disciplined by his parents and told to watch out for the police and he's still dead.

It's incredibly easy to offer simplistic solutions like "I wish more parents were like the Mom in Yellow".  The complex issues that affect the African American community aren't so easily answered. Those issues will continue to plague Baltimore and America forever. No amount of "beating them before the cops do" is going to change the color of black people's skin. 



Monday, April 13, 2015

Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau is a Female Predator

On April 10th, ABC's 20/20 featured a new Barbara Walters interview.  The subjects were Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and her husband and victim Vili Fualaau.  The hook for the interview was that that Fualaau's are soon celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. To call this entire thing creepy is an injustice to creepiness. 

During the interview, the audience was treated to some inner details of Letourneau's abuse of Fualaau How she was smitten with a 12 year old boy when she was 34, and how one kiss turned into "an affair" Letourneau detailed a night when a shared a kiss after spending the summer helping him develop a gift for drawing.

"The incident was a late night that it didn't stop with a kiss," Mary said. "And I thought that it would and it didn't."

The problem with this entire interview is that this wasn't an affair.  It was child sexual abuse. Period. Mary Kay Letourneau was the first female predator of the modern media era. Her abuse of Fualaau was just as heinous as Jerry Sandusky, and she employed many of the same techniques. 

Developing a bond with the child over some months before making a sexual move. Using her authority as a teacher to enhance that bond and no doubt fawning over his drawing skills are textbook predator moves. I've written extensively about how the really good predators take their time. She was a really good predator. 

People don't like to think of women as sexual predators, and I have only done a few cases in 21 years involving female perpetrators of child sexual abuse.  Female predators do exist, but they tend to be under reported. Even a Google search of "Female sex offenders" turns up little in hard data. There is however, a copious amount of anecdotal information

What many female predators have in common is that they usually seek out their victims in situations like schools and day cares. Like male predators they choose their victims from vulnerable populations, kids with dysfunction at home. Kids who are needy. Vili Fualaau "grew up impoverished without a father and a tumultuous relationship with his mother. In other words, a perfect victim. 

Tracking down and locking up female predators is often times difficult, especially if the victim is a teen, these women aren't seen as predators or abusers. The boys who are abused by attractive young teachers are hailed as conquerors and not given the societal permission to understand that they were abused. 

The media reports abuse of boys by female teachers as "threesomes".  Other outlets report that the teacher "solicited" the student. In the case of Letourneau- Fualaau ABC chose to call it an affair. All of these cases are child sexual abuse. Attaching the words "child sexual abuser" to these cases gives them the stigma they deserve. 

In the 20/20 interview, Mary Kay Letourneau-Fualaau said she wanted to be taken off the sex offender registry. She said she wants to return to teaching. This should never happen. She may think she has atoned for her abuse but listening to her husband tells me that his pain lingers.

During the interview Vili Fualaau describes a dark journey since he was 13. Stating "I'm surprised I'm alive today" describing bouts of depression and substance abuse. Both common reactions of sexual abuse victims. 

In what may be the most surreal part of the interview, the Fualaau's were asked what their reaction would be if their daughters came home and told them they were 'sleeping with' AKA being abused by their teacher. Their response? They both said they'd be shocked and upset. Vili stated “I don't support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older,” Vili said. “I don't support it.” 


Vili sounds like a guy who totally wasn't abused doesn't he? 

Female predators are real. Sexual abuse of boys like Vili Fualaau is far more common than reported. Mary Kay Fualaau is the most famous case, but there are dozens and dozens every month. The victims are preyed upon just as surely as if  the perp were a man. Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau doesn't deserve to be removed from the registry. She made her bed (literally) and now she has to continue to lie in it. 





Thursday, April 9, 2015

Who Judges the Judges?

Trigger Warning Child Sexual Abuse 

This week in a ruling that shocked people across the country, A California judge reduced the sentence of a man who was found guilty of raping a 3 year old. Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly said that the rapist, Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto didn't intend to harm the girl. . In 21 years of investigating child abuse, I can tell you that thinking is not isolated, it's shockingly common.

The sexual abuse of children is something that most people don't like to think about.  Americans for the most part don't understand or want to understand how prevalent it really is. When a shocking story like the Sandusky Penn State case hits the media, people are aghast. Most people assume that convicted child rapists like Sandusky go to prison forever. Sadly that is not the case. Nationally the average sentence of child sex abusers is seven years.

In the Rojona-Nieto case, Rojona-Nieto cornered his 3 year old cousin in a garage and raped her. When her mother came looking for her, Rojona-Nieto covered the child's mouth to stifle her screams. It was only after the child complained of pain that her mother started asking questions that led  to the arrest and conviction.

Judges like Kelly are hardly rare. In the counties where I work, we've had similar issues with minimal sentences for child sex abusers, depending on the whim of the judge. Some judges do understand the seriousness of the conviction, other's adhere to the "the child must have done something" or in the case of teen victims the child was "as much in control of the situation" as the rapist.

A number of years ago I worked a case in which the perpetrator was convicted of sexual penetration of 4 children under the age of 4. In Illinois that is a class X felony punishable by a sentence of 6-30 years on each count. He was sentenced to a total of 40 years of a possible 120. Part of the rationale was that his offense was oral penetration, not vaginal or anal.

In another case, the judge convicted the man on fondling charges to 4 years in prison but found the man not guilty of sexual penetration because the girl said the man put his penis in her 'butt' but did not say that it hurt. This despite the legal definition being 'any contact however slight' so literally touching a child's anus or vagina with the penis is sexual penetration in Illinois.

In yet another case a judge found a man not guilty of raping a teen aged boy because the boy was chubby and the man's penis "couldn't possibly penetrated the boy in the way the boy described". These are just three cases that I'm personally aware of. There are dozens and dozens more and that's just in 3 relatively small counties.

Part of the problem is lack of understanding by judges.  As mentioned above people don't like to think about this subject.  There has been improvement in sentencing and in the understanding of victim's credibility in recent years due to a concerted effort to educate the judiciary, but there is still a long way to go.

Judges need to be educated not only about the suffering of victims, they need to understand that the intent of the perpetrator doesn't matter. Remorse doesn't matter. The involvement of alcohol and substances doesn't matter. All that matters is that they sexually assaulted a child.

Judges also need better understanding of recidivism of child sexual abusers. Studies vary but anywhere from 15-40 percent reoffend and are caught.   That number is conservative because child sex abusers who are released from prison are much savvier in their approach and often don't get caught.

Judges like Judge M. Marc Kelly are commonplace.  Judge Kelly stated that the perpetrator did not intend to harm the child and was remorseful.  I'd ask what part of forcible rape isn't harmful? As to remorse, every child rapist I've helped put in prison is remorseful. Remorseful that they got caught.