Mar 23 2017

A Victim Impact Statement

Published by under Child Safety

To My Safely Ever After readers:  Below, a family shares their powerful victim impact statement.  Written by “C”., the victim’s mother, as she faced what no parent should ever have to face… the child molester who victimized her son, in court.  The molester received a minimum of 25 years, thanks to the hard work of the detectives & prosecutors, but in particular to her young son, TR, who was brave enough to come forward.  I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I am grateful for his strength in wanting to help others.  This is their story and they want to share it so that others may be helped. It does contain some graphic language, so please be mindful of any possible emotional triggers.

                                                                                             T.R., A TRUE SURVIVOR / 12 YEARS OLD
On Sept. 1, 2004, my life completely changed. At 4:24pm, our beautiful son, “TR” entered my life, kicking and screaming. What a wonderful surprise this child was, and so loved. He joined our family with Bella, his adoring big sister and his proud father, Michael.

On August 25, 2016, just one week before TR’s 12th birthday, my life completely changed again. This time it was NOT a wonderful surprise. It was a life altering, mind-blowing change that I never could have foreseen. I found out that a man who I had considered my brother, and whom my son called his “uncle/best friend” had molested my sweet boy. I can no longer think of this man as a brother or friend. He will now forever be known to me as scum.

At first, the details were limited. I received a call from my best friend telling me that her 35 year old son had done nasty things to my son. Initially she told me these incidents started when my son was 3. Apparently the most recent was a video of my son in the defendant’s car. In this video, my son was masturbating under the direction of this piece of dirt.

Then my husband and I received a call from Detective S. and it got worse. She told me there was evidence of abuse of other children as well, and believed these incidents went back 15-20 years. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How had I not seen this monster lurking inside the defendant? Worse, how had I allowed my son to be so accessible to this man? The guilt and shame I feel is still with me to this day, and I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself for being so blind.

The one saving grace was the timing that this revelation reared its ugly head. TR would have been with this scum just 2-3 days later for approximately 2 weeks. God knows what more could have been done to TR during that time. I will always be so grateful to the three additional families for having the strength and courage to report the abuse their boys had suffered as well. On top of what they were going through, they thought of TR immediately, and wanted to make sure he was safe. These are amazing people.

I flew down to get TR from my sister’s in South Carolina. I, then, had to do the best acting of my life for the next week, pretending all was good in the world before TR had his interview with the FBI. Thankfully that was done the day after TR’s birthday so he was allowed one more “Normal” birthday. Seeing my son after the interview, with tears in his eyes and such a broken expression was almost more than I could bear.

As more details came out, my foothold on life crumbled piece by piece. To find out that my son was tied to a bed and had oral sex done to him was torturous. Then to find out that there was a second perpetrator who took video of these incidents was crushing. There were pictures and videos of my wonderful son that should never have been made nor seen by anyone. Not the pictures from birthdays, family outings and playing his beloved soccer. But disgusting, immoral, depraved images.

But the worse hit, so far, was being told that the SCUM forced my son to watch these videos with him. What was he trying to do? Create another monster such as himself? To take such advantage of one of the most sweet, considerate and loving children you could ever meet, is beyond my comprehension. I have been told that the scum thought of TR as “special” and likely did not share these images with anyone other than his disgusting collaborator. That does not give me any solace because I no longer believe or trust anything involving this individual.

But this statement should be about TR. I want you to know the real TR, not the one that has been so wrongly depicted in the images and actions taken by this worthless individual. My son is such a compassionate person. He always wants to help his fellow friend. And honestly, you don’t need to be TR’s friend to feel the effects of his caring nature. When TR was about 3-4 years old, he dressed up as a doctor for Halloween. We were trick or treating with friends and suddenly I couldn’t find him. I was panicked. All of a sudden, I saw him in the garage of a neighbor. A little girl had fallen and hurt her knee. My TR took her home to make sure she was ok. He did not even know this child, but he cared.

To give you another example of his loving nature, TR is an avid soccer player. He loves to watch it and more importantly, he loves to play it. But people get hurt playing this game. TR will rush to the side of anyone who gets hurt. And that person does not have to be his teammate. TR just wants to know that person will be ok and has support when needed. This defendant tried to use TR’s goodness against himself.

I asked TR how he felt about the whole situation, and he looked at a suggested questionnaire to help him discuss his feelings.
He does suffer from anxiety and sleep loss. There have been times when he has come to me because he can’t sleep because of the images running through his head. TR is in counseling, and he does speak to her to some extent and we have had some conversations about the abuse he has suffered but in a limited manner. He is such a compassionate and caring child that he is afraid to say anything to me because he doesn’t want to upset me. He is also afraid, because this disgusting excuse for a human being had told him if he ever told anyone, TR would be the one who would get in trouble. To put that pressure on a young child is heinous.

But guess what, Mr. SCUM? TR is not in trouble. In fact, he is more loved and adored because of his bravery in admitting the truth. Truth is a word that you have manipulated in your mind to suit your own needs. Your SICK and distorted “truth” was that you “didn’t hurt anyone and that this is your way of showing “special” love to TR!” (?!) This was NOT love. This was manipulation for your own selfish, repulsive needs. And I do not accept the excuse that you are “sick.” And I do not believe that you could not have received help for this before August 2016. The help is there, it was just a matter of seeking it out which you CHOSE NOT to do. After getting away with this for so many years, you probably felt invincible and untouchable.

But now the real truth is here, and you have been brought down to the depths that you should forever live in. You like to be touched? I am sure your cell mates will be happy to touch you. Even they know you are the lowest of the low and deserve to be treated as such. I hope you receive back a hundred fold all the pain and suffering you inflicted on TR. Pain is so much more than just a physical manifestation.

You have stolen my son’s childhood. You have violated boundaries that should be sacrosanct. He now has to learn to develop techniques to help him deal with this for the rest of his life and to learn how to fully trust another person.
You have KILLED the person TR was supposed to be.
You tried to break TR’s spirit and loving nature. I am here to tell you that you have not.

TR tells us that he is no longer a victim but a survivor. He knows that this will be a part of him for the rest of his life, but he and we will not let this define him for the rest of his life. He is in counseling and they are amazed at his progress and resiliency. This is in spite of all you did and who you tried to make him be. He will not be a monster. In spite of you, he will be a considerate, loving, compassionate and thoughtful person who is an asset to the world around him. He will be the best man he can be in life. He is the love of my life and nothing you say or did will ever change that.

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Sep 06 2016

Tricky People Tip Saved These 2 Brothers From Possible Abduction!

How the “Tricky People” Concept Saved My Boys

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Jun 12 2016

2016 Summer Camp Safety… 7 Tips for Parents and 7 Tips To Share With Your Kids!

Published by under Child Safety

Summer camp can be great fun and is often a rite of passage for many kids. Camps help our children experience new activities, make new friends, explore diversity, and help foster independence. Plus, it’s pretty great to get them outdoors, instead of sitting behind a computer, TV or video gaming screen. If you’re sending your child to camp this summer (day camp or sleepaway camp), it’s our job to make sure we’re choosing the safest environment we can.
Here are 7 questions a parent should ask when choosing a camp, AND 7 things to talk to your child about as they go off.

7 QUESTIONS A PARENT SHOULD ASK:

1. Are you ACA accredited? Not a foolproof guarantee, but it does indicate they’ve taken the necessary steps to meet health and safety standards, and also indicates that the camp takes its responsibilities seriously.
2. How do you screen staff:
* Who are the counselors (high school or college students, hired hands?)
* What are the camp’s training and supervision policies?
* Who supervises the counselors and CIT’s (counselors in training)?
* Is there any staff training regarding physical boundaries, certain language or
precautions concerning discipline?
* How are employees screened?
Background checks, fingerprinting, sex offender register? Again no guarantees, but you’d be surprised who or what can slip through the cracks if the camp administrators don’t do their “due  diligence” ahead of time. The camp administrator should be able to answer this question quickly and clearly. Don’t settle for excuses like “we know everyone here, we’ve never had to worry about it…”
3. Who’s sleeping where / who’s changing where/What kind of supervision is there during this? No supervisor, CIT, or counselor should EVER be changing in front of the kids they’re in charge of. In plain English, counselors should never be UNCLOTHED when kids are around! This is for the kids’ safety as well as the reputation of the camp and the counselors. Older kids should have separate sleeping quarters from younger children.
4. Is the staff trained to recognize signs in someone’s behavior that indicate they should not be around kids? Child molesters are notorious for finding ways to be around children and hide their “true selves” around unsuspecting or naïve employers. Their typical grooming trick is to favor one child, and then take that child out of group activities to do something “special” elsewhere. Let your camp administrator know ahead of time that your child is to stay with the group at all times unless there is a serious medical emergency. They should not be alone with one adult or counselor in a private environment (like the changing rooms, cabins, woods, etc.)  Counselors are mandated reporters — the camp must do this staff training with counselors before the job starts!
5. How do they handle emergencies such as: lost child, injuries, severe allergic reactions (food, insect bite, etc.) Staff should be CPR trained, and there should be some kind of medical staff, nurse, or medic available.
6. What’s the ratio of staff to children? A good standard to go by: 2 staff members per 8-10 children, depending on age groups.
7. Can I meet my child’s counselor or communicate by phone, at least on the first day? If possible, meet your child’s counselor ahead of time or at least on the first day of camp and let them know you and your child have set up certain family rules and have had conversations about appropriate boundaries and behaviors. When YOU put out a “visible parent vibe”, you significantly lower the risk of someone targeting your child.

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions.
It’s ok to ensure that your child’s summer camp experience is both fun and safe! NEXT…

7 THINGS TO TELL YOUR CHILDREN AS THEY GO OFF TO CAMP:

1. You’re the Boss of Your Body! No one is allowed to touch you in any way that makes you feel yucky, weird, or uncomfortable. And no one should try to play any kind of “touching games” with Private Parts… not an adult, a counselor or another camp kid.
2. It’s OK to say “Stop Touching Me” or “HANDS OFF MY BODY” to anyone at camp… including another camper, a bigger kid or even a grownup or counselor. You actually have to teach kids HOW to say this ahead of time and tell them they have permission to tell anyone to “stop touching.” Practice this before they go off to camp.
3. Stay with your group all the time, especially on field trips and outings. Even if you’re bored or restless, it’s not okay to go wandering off somewhere else.
4. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or you’re having any kind of problem, tell your counselor right away. DON’T WAIT. Be honest with your counselor and let them know if you need them to help you with anything. No one should make you feel guilty, or “yucky”.
5. If your counselor doesn’t help you or is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable, tell another safe grownup at camp – maybe another counselor or the camp director. (Parents: be sure your child knows several different counselors or adults at camp ahead of time.)
6. Set up a code word or phrase in case your camper wants to call you for help or to come and get them in an emergency. Often, a kid may not want everyone to hear that they are calling home or even WHY they are calling their parents. A code word between the parents and child is a great way to set up a “safety system” and it really helps your child feel like “my parents have my back!”
7. Tell your child clearly: YOU are my #1 priority… and I will always stand by you and believe you if you are scared or sad about any experience. You can tell me anything & I’ll support you. PARENTS: WE HAVE TO LET OUR KIDS KNOW AHEAD OF TIME THAT WE HAVE THEIR BACKS, NO MATTER WHAT.

Remember: practice makes perfect. Go over a few safety rules and scenarios before they leave for camp. Keep the dialog light but clear. If it’s their first time at sleepaway camp, let your child know it’s normal to feel a little homesick at first. That just means you love your family! In a few days, it will pass as you get involved with all the fun, new activities. Enjoy!

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May 14 2016

Would Your Child Know This?

Proof that teaching the tricky people/safety rules concept works so much better than ineffective “stranger-danger.” Huge thanks to this Mom blogger for sharing how Safely Ever After’s safety rules helped her son avoid a “thumbs down” tricky person. A great read here. http://timewellspent.today/the-tricky-people-concept-and-how-it-saved-my-boys/

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Jun 12 2015

“My Child Would Never Do That” Dateline NBC 6/7/15

Last Sunday’s Dateline episode was a huge eye-opener for many parents. (If you missed it, click the Dateline link here.)  Below is a checklist for parents to review with their kids. It’s not about being a helicopter parent, it’s about teaching them how to handle certain situations and how to be independent. You wouldn’t drop a kid in the deep end of the pool and tell ’em to swim… unless you’ve really taught them how to first AND you know they’re ready.

What Every Kid Should Know…
A 12-Point Checklist for Parents & Kids To Review

Teaching kids “safe-smarts” doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming for parents.   For everyone…Put out a vibe that says you’re not an easy target.  DISTRACTION means “easy target” to a perpetrator.  Whether you live in Smalltown, USA or a big urban city, every kid should know the following:

1. No headphones in your ears, no talking on the phone or texting. A perpetrator has the upper hand if he can take you by surprise.
2. Do a visual inventory & stay ALERT. Are there risky spots along your route: alleys, doorways, parking lots, empty lots or deserted buildings? If so, avoid whenever possible or be extra attentive if you must take that route.
3. Don’t be too polite, especially to someone you don’t know. You don’t have to “help” anyone who approaches you needing assistance (directions, carrying packages, looking for lost pets, etc.). It’s OK to say “Sorry, can’t help you today.” Asking a kid for help is one of the oldest tricks in the book!!
4. Disengage… “cut the conversation” and MOVE ON.  The longer you keep talking to someone who’s trying to get you to do something, the more likely they’ll eventually be able to talk you into it, which means: #5 below!
5. Know You’re Exit Strategy and GET OUT OF THE “Danger-Zone” immediately. Remove yourself from the perpetrator’s easy access. Change direction, cross the street, go into a nearby store or business.
6. Have established “Safe-Stops” along the way where you can go quickly if you’re getting an “uh-oh” feeling from anyone. (Especially for kids who walk home from school everyday!)
7. Stay Out in the Open. No shortcuts through secluded areas where you cannot be seen.
8. Go “Bananas”! If you’re grabbed or accosted, start yelling…. “Help, Call 911, This is not my parent.” Drop your belongings, run, kick. Do whatever you need to do to call attention to yourself.
9. Don’t Obey The Perpetrator! If someone says “don’t run/don’t yell” – you should RUN AND YELL. That perp. is actually telling you that if you RUN and YELL, chances are he’ll have to stop trying to victimize you.
10. Never, ever get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know, or even with someone you know, unless you’ve gotten permission ahead of time from your parent. Sometimes a perp. is a stranger, but sometimes it can even be someone known to the family. A kid’s response should simply be: “Sorry, not allowed”.
11. Have a “FAMILY CODE WORD”. If anyone (even someone you know) tells you they were sent to pick you up, ask for the CODE WORD. If that person doesn’t know it, it means they’re lying. Get away quickly.
12. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. That “Uh-Oh Feeling” is the best barometer for letting you know something’s not right. Don’t ignore it!

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Mar 06 2015

Keeping Up With Kids & Social Media!

Remember when all you had to do was “friend” your kid on Facebook and you could keep up with their online socializing. Those days are long gone. Once the grownups starting enjoying Facebook themselves, it became “uncool” for kids, plus there are so many newer, faster, jazzier ways for them to socialize online now. Instant gratification seems to be the norm here. So, here’s what you need to know, parents:  the apps and social sites they’re going to, how they work and the pros/cons and everything in between.  Click on this link to learn the 15 Apps & Social Media Sites Kids Are Using right now.

Thank you to Common Sense Media for putting it all together!

 

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