The CASE Act: Coming to a Ballot Near You!

Because the California State Legislature just doesn’t get it, a new, powerful initiative is being prepared for the November 2012 California general election ballot. The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act will strengthen penalties against human trafficking and update Megan’s Law for the 21stCentury. I am calling on the good citizens of California to support the CASE Act. Californians are very clear about where they stand on criminal justice and victims rights issues and the CASE Act is yet another opportunity to make good policy.

In 1994, the Three Strikes and You’re Out ballot initiative (Proposition 184) passed overwhelmingly because the law abiding citizens of California were sick and tired of coddling career criminals. The result was a dramatic reduction in crime. Efforts by professional politicians to weaken the Three Strikes law have failed miserably. Jessica’s Law (Prop. 83) passed by a similar margin in 2006, because Californians wanted greater monitoring of sex offenders and harsher prison sentences for child molesters.

Californians also enjoy some of the most expansive and forward thinking victim’s rights in the USA because of voter demands. In 1982, California voters passed the country’s first Victims Bill of Rights (Prop. 8) that, among other things, granted crime victims the right to be notified of, to attend, and to state their views at, sentencing and parole hearings. Marsy’s Law (Prop. 9), which was passed by voter initiative in 2008 expanded upon those rights by adding new protections and safeguards for victims of violent crime.

Two overlooked areas of concern addressed by the CASE Act are human trafficking and online predation. The CASE Act will increase prison terms for human traffickers and increase fines for human traffickers up to $1.5M to fund victim services. It will remove the need to prove force to prosecute sex trafficking of a minor as well as mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement. Sex traffickers will be required to register as sex offenders, and all sex offenders will be required to disclose internet accounts and identifiers. Finally the CASE Act will prohibit the use of sexual history to impeach or prove criminal liability of trafficked victims.

According to the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2000, human sex trafficking occurs when, “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” Between 1.6 and 2.8 million children run away annually in the U.S., half of which are girls. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution or pornography. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. For boys, the entry age is 11-13. These harrowing statistics provide broad justification for the CASE Act, because to turn our backs on the tens of thousands of children being trafficked in California is simply another form of victimization.

Sex offender registration and community notification, otherwise known as Megan’sLaw was adopted by all 50-states in the late 90’s. Megan’s Law is based on the premise that convicted sex offenders pose a threat to society and that the public deserves to know when they are in the community. When Megan’s Law was enacted the Internet was not the ubiquitous presence that it is today. The CASE Act requires registered sex offenders to provide Internet email addresses, social networking profiles and other online identifiers so that social networking sites can scour relevant profiles from their online communities. The concept of convicted sex offenders including their Internet identifiers as a component of the sex offender registration process was successfully legislated in New York in 2008 and has thus far been responsible for removing more than 24,000 sex offender profiles from social networking sites.

I have joined CASE Act authors California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation to get this important measure on California’s 2012 general election ballot. We know that in the United States predators are fulfilling their voracious appetite for underage prostitution with at-risk American teen aged children. This is a stain on our society. We also know that we can stop sexual predators from using the Internet to prey on innocent children by closing the Internet loophole of anonymity via this administrative procedure. Since the California State Legislature is unwilling to take these reasonable steps to create safe streets it is left to citizens like you and I to take control of our own future.
Do you want to help make the CASE Act a reality?  If you live in California you can lead a group of volunteers in your community by helping to gather the 750,000 signatures required to qualify the CASE Act for the 2012 ballot. You can also host a house party to raise awareness and raise funds; or create and conduct your own fundraising event. If you run a nonprofit agency or are sworn member of a law enforcement agency you can endorse this important and groundbreaking initiative. Act now to get in on an effort to create a safer and better California by actively supporting the CASE Act.

Where Have All The Children Gone?

I approach Thanksgiving with mixed feelings. On one hand it reminds me of the family that I no longer have and that makes me feel sad and self-pitying. Thanksgiving also means getting together with family, whatever that happens to mean, and engaging over a sumptuous feast and that makes me feel optimistic and hopeful about the future. However, I cannot shake the feeling that there are missing children who have been forgotten or dismissed by society who will not have an opportunity to break bread with their families this year and members of those families are at best complacent about this sad turn of affairs.

In Gilbert, Arizona the mother of five-year-old Jhessye Shockleyhas been arrested on child abuse charges “directly related” to little Jhessye, and the authorities don’t believe they’ll find the child alive. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the mother has already spent four-years in a penitentiary for child abuse. What is surprising is that she had custody of Jhessye, three of her siblings and was eight-months pregnant at the time of the little girl’s disappearance. How could a racist spewing, child abusing ex-convict who was married to a registered sex offender gain control over a precious five-year-old girl who required nurturing and not torturing. Society failed to protect Jhessye from a monster.

We need to own this. We cannot allow unfit parents or guardians to regain custody of children in the aftermath of a history of abuse, criminal behavior and neglect. Our tax dollars pay the family judges, child protection services and other entities designed to protect children from those who would do them harm, yet they are nowhere to be found when they are needed most.  

In Kansas City, Missouri the parents of baby Lisa Irwin have circled the wagons, shut out the authorities, and refused to do media interviews because life isn’t fair. Instead, they have chosen to allow a ‘defense’ attorney from New York orchestrate a sham campaign designed to complicate the truth. Now the case is losing momentum, the investigation seems stalled in its tracks, and hired guns are calling the shots. Baby Lisa deserves way more from her family.

I learned a long time ago that life is not fair. We don’t get what we deserve and we cannot withdraw goodwill from a savings account. Sometimes we find ourselves thrust into situations that are beyond our control without the skill set required to respond effectively. Sometimes shit happens…and just we have to deal with it. If the parents of the missing child are not publicly fighting for her return, then how motivated will the rest of us be? Baby Lisa’s parents have not owned their reality. They are not dealing with it, they are hiding from it. The bottom line is that Lisa has missed her first birthday and will not spend Thanksgiving with her family.

In Bellevue, Washington the mother of two-year-old Sky Metalwala is nowhere to be found. Remember that early on the morning of November 6, her car ran out of gas as she was taking her sick child to the hospital. So, she left the toddler strapped in his car seat, left the car door unlocked and walked a mile with her four-year-old daughter to the nearest gas station. When she returned an hour later the little boy was missing, prompting a massive search effort that has thus far turned up nothing. Funny thing though: the car had plenty of fuel in the gas tank, and she did not return with a gas can. The little boy disappeared, or was reported missing four days after contentious divorce mediation. In 2010, mom was involuntarily committed to a mental health center after her husband claimed she had dreams about killing her children. She also has a profile on a ‘sugar daddy’ website where she is apparently offering herself to the highest bidder. In response Sky’s mom has said that her husband was a “sadistic Muslim Pakistani” and no one had “any idea” how “difficult” the whole affair had been. Dad, who has attended a local Christian church since 2006, has fully cooperated with the authorities since day 1. Trouble is, he is not going to spend Thanksgiving with the little boy the courts refused to allow him to visit.

Certain bio-moms and bio-dads seem to think that they can dispose of their children without consequence as long as they lawyer up and refuse to speak with the authorities. Why does Sky’s mother feel that she can get away with this kind of criminal behavior? Because we live in a post Casey Anthony era where criminal behavior is condoned, excused or otherwise justified. Silence buys freedom and the U.S. Constitution buys cover. If you can’t find the body, you can’t prove the crime. 

In light of Penn State and Syracuse University allegations we need to pay more attention to our institutions. Not only institutions of higher learning, but also those whose job it is to protect children from abuse, neglect and abduction. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is the most high profile of those institutions. In fact the term exploited children is in their name, but what exactly are they doing to protect children who are clearly being exploited?

Are they writing legislation that will hold family judges accountable or make child protection services more responsive? Are they educating society to the danger signs of exploitation or abuse? As I see it, they are simply waiting until the ultimate abuse has occurred and posting pictures of children who are already dead or missing on their website? We owe it to our children to ask the hard questions and hold somebody accountable for this obvious social failure.

Penn State’s Shame

Child sexual abuse is all sexual activity between an adult and child. Certain sexual activity between children is also sexual abuse.

 

In light of recent revelations surrounding the Penn State and now Syracuse University sex scandals, parents are rightly concerned about the safety of their own children. After all, if we cannot trust institutions of higher learning to protect and not exploit our children, then who can we trust? Unfortunately, child sexual abuse has existed in the seamy underbelly of society forever. Usually, we try to ignore it, but sometimes, and this is one of those times, the revelations are so gross and disturbing that we must engage the debate. What is child sexual abuse, what is being done to prevent it, are my kids being abused, and how can I personally engage this issue?

 

The widespread institutional abuse of children has been common knowledge ever since the Catholic sex abuse scandal started receiving broad public attention in 2001. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that individuals that want to abuse and exploit our children will seek positions that will provide them with unsupervised access to children. We see it in the non-profit world, schools, pre-schools, churches, fraternal organizations and the athletic field. This is why President Clinton signed the Volunteers for Children Act of 1998. Now organizations and businesses dealing with children, elderly, and the disabled may use national fingerprint-based criminal history checks to screen out volunteers and employees with relevant criminal records. The Internet has provided a new virtual playground that needs to be the topic of its own story.

 

We should be aware of the warning signs in children and adolescents of possible child sexual abuse. If very young children have knowledge about specific sex acts it is not age appropriate sexual behavior and warrants further investigation. The same goes with young children behaving sexually in public places.

 

Behaviors to watch for when adults are with children include: inappropriate touching, hugging, or kissing, particularly when the child resists. Secret interactions with children also raise a red flag. When the adult seems ‘too good to be true’ and offers to babysit, take your children on unsupervised outings, lavishes gifts or inappropriate praise, you have reason for concern. Signs that an adult may be at-risk to harm a child include spending most of their free time with kids, and having a ‘special’ child friend that may change from year to year.

 

Signs that a child or teen may be at-risk to harm another child include spending inordinate time with younger children rather than peers, or forced sexual interaction on other children. Also, children may be at-risk of harming other children if they have not received appropriate counseling for their own abuse issues.

 

Coach Jerry Sandusky

So, how do we as responsible adults combat the insidious onslaught of child sexual abuse in our own communities? Insist that groups and organizations that you interact with to have written and transparent policy guiding adult/child behavior. Support local non-profit organizations that deal with child abuse issues and report instances of suspected abuse.

 

Society needs to look upon this as a learning opportunity. The Catholic Church has not yet recovered from their ongoing sex scandal because they did not respond appropriately. Instead of facing the situation head on, they tried to cover up, dismiss and deny sexual abuse in their own ranks. To that end, their standing in the world and the faith based community remains tainted. Were it not for their ubiquitous position and unprecedented wealth the Catholic Church would not have survived their shame.

 

Any individual involved in the cover-up of child sexual abuse at Penn State or any other institution of higher learning needs to be removed from their position of trust and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Society demands that the safety of children is the highest priority and those that abuse that trust must be held accountable. To do less is simply another form of child abuse.

 

In light of these new charges and allegations every school in America now has the opportunity to evaluate their own internal policies. They can get ahead of the situation by sweeping their own records. How have they handled sex abuse situations in the past? Take a look at current allegations and decide whether they have made the correct choices. If they take that step then the Penn State and Syracuse victims will at least have a legacy.

FCC Regulatory Action on Trucker TV Could Save Lives

When North Carolina truck driver Beano Francis spotted a white Ford Escort headed south on Interstate 85 in July, he recognized the car from an “Amber Alert” and quickly notified authorities. Police say the West Virginia man driving the car had “met” the 13-year-old girl online before abducting her and credited Mr. Francis for his fast action, but he was actually just the latest trucker to answer a family’s prayers and help an abducted child return safely home. 
It was big news, but professional truckers responding to Amber Alerts is actually fairly common – it was even the second success story in North Carolina in July alone. My family’s introduction to the long-haul trucker community came when my daughter Polly was kidnapped in 1993 and the drivers helped circulate flyers far and wide. You rapidly realize that truckers are out there on the roads and at highway rest stops, convenience stores, gas stations, and fast food restaurants where persons on the run frequently try to escape.
So it has been a bit mind-boggling over the past several years that a broad-based alliance that includes the foundation we formed in the wake of Polly’s murder, KlaasKids, has been unable to convince the Federal Communications Commission to approve a proposal that would literally bring hundreds of thousands of new truck drivers into the missing persons loop.
The proposal we support has been made to the FCC by Clarity Media Systems, LLC, a subsidiary of Flying J Inc., the company that owns and operates all those Flying J travel plazas. Under U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, commercial truckers must spend at least ten hours or more per day resting. If the trucker’s cab becomes their “living room on the road,” then those Flying J plazas are their community centers.
However, one service that truck drivers have never been able to access in their on-road living rooms is basic television. Clarity has proposed to change that by providing 70 channels of television programming, including five of its own locally-produced channels to entertain and inform truckers. This localized, low-powered system would reach truckers in these on-road living rooms, effectively creating a video hot spot limited to within the truck-stop perimeter – but they need FCC approval.

Perhaps most importantly for those concerned with missing persons, Clarity’s proposal includes a Public Safety and Alert channel that will allow truckers to receive news flashes, special reports, and full-length programming about unresolved missing person cases from local television stations, national cable and satellite channels, and Clarity channels. And in addition to high-profile cases, the service will also feature lower-profile cases that may have failed to receive media attention, including missing adults excluded by their age from the Amber Alert system.
We at the KlaasKids Foundation know firsthand the valuable role that informed long haul drivers can play in fulfilling our mission to recover missing persons and look forward to working with the Alert effort to highlight specific cases.
To many of us, this frustrating case just seems like such a no-brainer: It costs the taxpayers nothing; it provides professional drivers with a service they want and need; it saves lives. We will never know how many people might have been saved in the years this has languished in the FCC process, but surely it is time to allow Clarity to implement its proposal.
Let’s face it, we sure could use more of those trucking heroes like Mr. Francis in North Carolina. Families hoping for just such a miracle should not miss their chance because of regulatory inaction.