A Mission

Enough! For all the things that make our country great, there are some terrible truths that we must face... and soon. The -isms continue to weaken us. And something which should be our greatest source of pain and grief isn't even an -ism at all. It is child abuse.

Ten years ago my life changed when my own child clawed his way into this world. I know first-hand that parenting isn't easy. I also know first-hand that our children are truly voiceless, and until someone speaks up our nation will continue to accept child abuse as a sad consequence of stressed out, addicted, undereducated, or young parents. Throughout 2010 I will be tracking the child abuse stories across the country in this blog. Stand up! Become irate! Be silent no more!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An observation

This past weekend, I found myself doing something I wouldn't normally do. And it was something that made me think of this blog.

My children (age 10 and 8) competed in a "dance competition."

I didn't know what to expect when we decided to enter the competition. I liked the idea of my son and daughter dancing together. I enjoyed watching them working as a team on something new and challenging for them. I was excited about the opportunity for them to showcase what they could do for other people outside our family and their dance studio. And I was encouraged because I knew that they would receive constructive criticism about their skills from one of three professional judges that work the competitions.

My only concern was that I really didn't like the idea of "scoring" dancing. The whole point of dancing is self-expression. It should be for pure joy -- not for earning a score as a part of a quest to be "the champion." That just feels "counter-dance" to me.

But when I got there, I started to regret that we had signed up for this. The dance competition was a slightly more educated cousin of the child beauty pageant.

I had many issues with the whole program. First of all, I had willingly thrown us into confrontational consumerism. It was a "pay to play" program. The entry fee was nearly $100 for this 3-minutes in the limelight, and then there was the cost of private instruction in preparation for the show. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. We hadn't spent much on costuming ... and it was obvious. Molly began to worry that they might lose points because their costumes were not glamorous and were blatantly "homemade." I too felt that self-consciousness rear it's head. And then when they rolled out the table of trophies (just about one for everybody!) -- I really felt like we should have just gone to the trophy shop and purchased something for the kids for $20 rather than going through this whole rigamarole.

The consumerism extended into the lobby, where it was $7 for a program. You basically had to have a program to know when you're kid danced. There was a ban on recording or taking pictures during your child's performance, because, of course, they wanted to sell you these goods out in the lobby. I didn't even ask about how much a DVD was because I saw that they were charging $1 to watch the DVD playing on the screen in the lobby (well, the first two "viewings" were free and then anything after that was $1). I did see the package for five photos -- 75 BUCKS! Insane. And of course there was merchandise and snacks and ... so on.

It just became an exerise for consumerism in my eyes.

But worse than what was happening in the lobby was what was happening on stage... and what relates to this blog.

Act after act brought up dancers, primarily girls. In many cases there were young girls in costumes resembling negligees, wearing heavy makeup (including false eyelashes) and jewelry. I watched as act after act engaged in, what I would call, highly sexualized activities. So there were five-year old girls shaking their rear-ends and chest thrusting in rhythm to music. There were 10-year olds rolling around on the floor, mimicking "angst" and other drama. And there was a teenage couple, dancing to a very melodramatic version of "Fools Rush In," and telling a convincing story of love and heartbreak.

I felt like the world's biggest prude.

But it was a wake up call to me. It signaled just how sexualized our culture for young girls has become. It reminded me of the many stories that I have read in the course of this blog about adult men who seduce underage teenage girls. While they cannot be absolved for this behavior, we must examine the overall culture. What messages are these men getting? What messages are these girls getting and sending.

It led me to realize that girlhood is endangered. Womanhood is being pushed younger and younger. Gone are the days of imaginary friends, skipping rope and constructing forts out of bedsheets in the basement. Instead we are in a day of hyper-drive for young girls where they receive messages earlier and earlier that to make it in this world they have to be beautiful, sexual young women.

I am sick...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jan 9 & 10

As 2010 continues to unfold so do the stories of abuse. Same stories -- just different names. Same stories -- just different cities. Same stories -- just different results.

Sometimes children die.

In a case where a former U.S. Air Force spouse, Roberto DeLeon, was found guilting of beating his 8-year old stepson to death. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. In this case, the child's teacher had reported suspicions of abuse. Authorities in Japan, where the boy was living at the time, also were aware of "issues" when five months before his death, they found the boy roaming the streets of Uruma City in Okinawa partially dressed and badly bruised. (Jan. 9)

In Oregon, 27-year old Donald L. Cockrell and 24-year old Michelle N. Smith were arrested in the murder of Cockrell's three-year old. There were four other children living in the residence, all of whom are now in the custody of the Clackamas County Department of Health, Houseing and Human Services. (Jan. 10)

Sometimes children live, but with life-long scars -- both physical and mental.

A three-month old baby boy suffered brain hemorrhaging, as well as rib and arm fractures during his tenure being cared for by his 21-year old dad, Matthew J. Hyke from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Hyke reportedly told police, that he wasn't "ready for the baby thing." (Jan. 10)

In Georgetown, Ohio, Adrienne Hogge White and Dustyn M. White were charged with engandering children and permitting child abuse. The details are slim, but the records read, "according to the indictments, between Sept. 8 and Oct. 15, [the accused] being the parents of a child under 18 years old or a mentally of physically handicapped child under 21 years old created a substantial risk to the health or safety of said child by violating a duty of care, protection or support and result in serious harm tot he child. (Jan. 9)

Forty-six year old Stephen G. Loftus from Port St. Lucie, FL, is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim less than 12-years old by an offender 18-years old or older.

Out of Venice, Fl, Dan Quail, 33) is arrested on child pornography charges and is suspected of sexually assualting a boy. Quail worked in a number of youth-related jobs -- including at the YMCA and serving as a mentor to a young boy int he Big Brothers and Big Sister program. (jan. 10)

Michael A. Wierner, 37, otu of Mayville was found guilty of abusing his girlfriend's 13-year old son. He is sentenced to 60 days in jail, three years probation (Jan. 10)

The parents of a 6-year old Detroit girl are charged with kidnapping and child sexually abusive commercial activity. The story does not give the names of the 37-year old mother and 69-year old father. Records do show that the mother is on probation after a 2007 plea to third-degree child abuse. (Jan. 10)

Larry Lee Howell, 31, of Lamar, South Carolina is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, committing a lewd act on a minor, indecent exposure and incest. An interesting note here is that at the end of the story, there are three contact numbers for the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, the Childhelp Pee Dee 24-hour hotline and the CARE House of the Pee Dee which provides services to children who may have been physically or sexually abused. This is the first story that I have seen that includes information about where to get help if you are or you know of someone in a similar situation. (Jan. 9).

Some children are innocent bystanders and get caught up in adult danger

As in Fontana, CA when Humberto Aruajo, Jr. threw a knife at his ex-girlfriend. The couple's 6-month old boy was in the back seat of the woman's car and authorities believe the knife nearly hit the child (Jan.9)

For some, we will never know what's really going on in the home.

Elizabeth Dawn Smith, 35, Orange City, FL, charged with child abuse without great harm. (Jan. 9)

Lewis Clifton, 43, of East Naples, FL was arrested and charged with domestic violence and child abuse. (Jan.9)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Do you question God

Upon hearing about my mission, a friend of mine commented that hearing about these types of stories really makes him question God. How could I have faith when there are such horrible atrocities out there commited against innocent children?

To be honest, although I was knee-deep in this project, my belief in God has never been stronger.

Yes, these stories are absolutely awful. And remember that they aren't just stories -- they are real things that happened to real people, real children. Some have survived to tell their story and some have not, and many are too young to tell about the crimes commited against them.

And although on those cold nights when children are shaken and beaten and sexually abused merely because they are defenseless children... I do know that God is there.

I believe that God created humankind. God gave us brains, and hearts, and independence for us to make our own choices and forge our own lives. I do not subscribe to a theology in which we are merely pawns in God's game of life. God cannot be blamed for these atrocities -- they are clearly human-made.

January 7-8

I've been off for a bit, but am not wavering on this job.

Again, we see our main themes:

Adults who do not see the inappropriateness of relationships with teens
Leroy Kuffel, 52, a former Round Lake Beach police officer had a sexual relationship with a 16-year old girl (the former girlfriend of his son) (Jan. 7)

In Gainesville, Florida Kerrie Jermaine Bennett, 24, was arrested for the sexual battery and child abuse of an 11-year old girl. The girl reported that Bennett was her "boyfriend." (Jan. 8)

Parents under the influence
Jeffrey Scott Detlefs, 57, was driving drunk with his three children in his car (Jan. 7)

Outrageously -- a case worker for the Children, Youth and Families Department in Las Vegas, New Mexico, has been charged with child abuse. Police found cocaine, crack, marijuana, drug parphernalia and several firearms in 27-year old Justina Romero's home -- within easy access of her 2,5, and 11 year old children. On a side note, the CYFD organization fired its deputy director several months ago for having child pornography on his home computer. (Jan. 8)

Overwhelmed, under-prepared parents/caregivers
Brandy Michelle Wellman, 30, dropped her 3-year old daughter off along a US Highway in Michigan. (Jan. 7)

Matthew Ray Peele, 23, out of Tampa, Florida, who threw a two-year old against a bed frame and dropped her on the floor when she wouldn't stop crying. (Jan. 7)

In Kansas City, Ralph L. Willis, 27, was convicted of the murder of a child in his care. He dropped the child and struck him twice because he "wouldn't stop crying." (Jan. 8)

Cara LeBlanc, 31, from New Hampshire beat her stepdaughter for nine-hours, leaving the girl with broken bones and organ damage. LeBlanc was sentenced to a minimum of six years in state prison. The girl's biological father, Daniel LeBlanc, is also charged with using a piece of wood to beat his daughter and waiting two days before seeking medical treatment for the girl after the beating. (Jan. 8)

In West Virginia, 27-year old William Echard and 22-year old Amber Messenger of Clarksburg were indicted on charges of murder and neglect after throwing their 4-month-old girl against a wooden deck and shaking her to death. (Jan. 8)

Out of El Paso County, Texas, 390-year old Jeremiah Lovato severly beat his 15-year old son. (Jan. 8)

the truly sick
In Lonaconing, Maryland a 27-year old man was arrested for sexual abuse of a 6-year old child. (Jan. 8)

the inexplicable
A 13-year old teen is charged in a gang-rape of an 8 year old girl in Phoenex, Arizona. (Jan. 7)

and the idiotic
In Lincoln, Nebraska -- 24 year old Justin Clark faces charges of abuse after giving illegal tattoos to four teen girls. (Jan. 8)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last week summary

January 7
Robert McDougal, 55, from Boulder Creek, CA faces multiple felony charges of child abuse for "a series of acts committed against a single victim over a period of several months. The victim was a member of the McDougal household." The report later states that the child told a trusted adult outside the family about the abuse. That trusted adult promptly reported the matter. Faith McDougal, 57, is also charged with child endangerment.

A Kersey, Colorado man hit his 12-year old son so hard that he broke his nose. Duane David Mix, 39, is also charged with assaulting his wife, a daughter and traumatizing two other children. He bonded out of jail for $3,500.

In Pryor, Oklahoma 25-year-old Trae Allan Choate was sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to felony child abuse against his infant daughter. Choate admitted to putting his finger down the baby's throat when she wouldn't stop crying. The child spent 26 days in the hospital. Since his arrest, Choate has been caught with possession of drug paraphenelia. Sixteen of the 20 year sentence are suspended, leaving a FOUR YEAR SENTENCE FOR THIS GEM OF A HUMAN BEING!

The last story for this day blows my theory of adoptive parents as incapable of being abusers. Renee Bowman, 44, was convicted of child abuse against her 7-year old adopted daughter. The girl confronted her mom in court, stating that people "should never do things to a little girl." The mother is accused of killing two other adopted daughters and keeping their bodies in a freezer.

Abuse in Indiana

I am having a hard time keeping up with all the stories across the country, but I am not going to give it up. There are too many reasons to not give it up.

While I haven't summarized the past couple of days, I must weigh in now on three stories in the Indianapolis area, my hometown.

Justin Sheets, 22, is accused of treating his 3 1/2 month-old son like a ragdoll, swinging him around by one arm and his legs, slapping his face and genitals and then dropping him on his head. Medical reports show that the child also has healing fractures on his left arm, both forearms, both shins and a current broken right ankle. The baby is also underweight.

In a second case, a babysitter is being questioned about severe head injuries a 14-month-old suffered while in her care. Medical reports revealed that this child too showed evidence of previous brain injuries.

In a third case, two high school swim coaches face charges of child seduction. Seth Sexton, 23, and Matthew Brown, 27, face multiple felony counts of seducing girls. The victims were 16 and 17 years old.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hidden Monsters

Stories pulled up from Thursday again run the gamut, from people who must seem monsterly from the outside to those who keep their monsters well-hidden behind trusted facades.

In California 25-year-old Shane Adair Vicars was an after-school instructor who used his position of access and power to molest multiple children participating in the program. This is his third role in child-centered jobs. One can only imagine the true number of victims.

Another story out of Missouri will have you thinking twice about whom you trust with access to your children. Captain of the police force for Fredericktown and trusted Boy Scout leader, 42-year old Kenneth Tomlinson II admitted to sexually abusing boys.

In South Sioux City, Nebraska a repeated criminal is now being charged in connection with a sexual assault of a barely teenage girl. According to court documents, Juan Antonio Hernandez, 37, was drunk, forced a 10-year old to drive him and the victim to a makeshift campground where he sexually assaulted the 13-year old.

Back to California where medical records on a dead 5-year old boy out of Sacramento reveal that "the only areas of the child's body not diagrammed with injuries are the palms of his hands." The boy died while in the care of the mother's boyfriend, Eduardo Zamora. The mother, Amber Ingram is also charged. Also in California, Albert Frank Clifford and Courtney Alice Osborn are charged with abusing a 2-year old girl. After the child presented with bruises, medical examinations revealed that she also had arm and foot fractures, as well as a previous skull fracture.

In Connecticut, John J. Berkery, 35, and Christine M. Berkery, 32, were arrested and charged with two counts each of risk of injury to a minor and cruelty to persons. Their one-year old and fourteen-year old children have been removed from the home.

Vaughn M. Parker, out of Maryland is accused of repeatedly punching his teenage daughter in the face during a dispute.

In New York, 21-year old Kimberly Shaffer was arrested for child endangerment when she failed to seek medical care for her baby after 23-year old Tyler Barrett assaulted him. Barrett allegedly hit the ten-month old in the face with a bottle, causing a black eye and cuts. The baby also had severe diaper rash.

Kyle Rogers, 3, died of blunt head injuries after being left in the care of a relative. Victor Weber, 30, was sentenced to 57 months to 15 years in prison for the death. Reports said that Weber had been hitting the boy in the head with his hand for a period of six months.

Another story of a child's murder comes out of Denver, Colorado. Thirty-one-year old Jacob Garcia is accused of injuring his girlfriends 18-month-old son so badly that the child died. The toddler suffered "subdural bleeding in the brain" and had bruises on his body. Garcia maintains that the child ran into a hallway and fell. Also in Colorado, Milagro Espinal, 37, was charged with domestic violence, assault, child abuse, reckless endangerment and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

In Arizona Terri Sullivan, 27, told a judge, "I did not do what I was supposed to do," after her child starved to death. Sullivan admitted that not only did she not regularly feed her baby, but she did not obtain help when it became clear the baby was dying. The baby was 6-weeks -old when she died. She will serve a life term with parole possible after 25 years. The baby's three other siblings are in Child Protective Services.

Clifton Haugen, 23, blinded his 4-month-old in a beating. Again, after arriving at the hospital, doctors determined that in addition to the current traumatic brain injury and fractured ribs, the child had several older injuries in various states of healing. The father states he was merely holding the boy when he went limp. The mother claims the father fell with the child down a set of stairs.

Finally, out to beautiful Maui, where even the sunshine and warmth we find stories of coldness and neglect. Police say parents of a 7-year old and 11-year old failed to properly care and prtect their children when they allowed them to play with fireworks int he bed of a pickup truck shortly after midnight New Year's Day. Both children suffered second and third-degree burns.