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The NCAA just fined Penn State with $60 million in penalties for covering up sexual abuse by former defensive line coach Jerry Sandusky. And over the weekend the statue of the late head football coach Joe Paterno was taken down, despite students standing guard in a 24-hour vigil to prevent it from being removed. It must be a very difficult time for Penn State, its staff, students and alumni. And maybe in some sense, a day of vindication for the young boys whose lives were shattered by Sandusky’s abuse and Paterno’s willingness to “look the other way.”
These events followed the release of a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh who was hired by Penn State to conduct an internal investigation of how sexual abuse of boys by Sandusky went unreported for decades. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexual abuse, much of which took place on the Penn State campus. The Freeh report shows that Paterno was among five Penn State coaches who knew about Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys, and chose to cover it up. Freeh says that Paterno could have stopped the abuse “if he had wished.”
This is a problem we see all too frequently in our society. We don’t want to “rock the boat,” perhaps putting our own jobs, relationships or opportunities at risk by speaking up and telling the truth. We let children remain neglected and abused and by our actions make them and the crime invisible because we decide to “let it go.”
If Paterno were the true hero that some believe he is, he would have called Sandusky out, even if that meant putting his beloved team at risk of falling from the ranks for a season or two. Adults are supposed to protect children; not harm them, nor to protect themselves or another adult while allowing children to continue to be abused. Really, doesn’t your silence make you an accomplice? And more importantly, what does this say about us if we continue to idolize a man whose inaction contributed to the on-going abuse of children? When you answer this question imagine it was your brother, son, or nephew in that locker room. It’s time to step up, speak out and take action when we know abuse is happening. Each and every day in our country thousands of children are sexually and physically abused. You can make a difference so do something, anything…..because your silence contributes to the problem.
Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President
Guest Post by Malika Saada Saar, Director, Human Rights Project for Girls
The day that Craigslist shut down its adult services section, I got a call from a mother whose daughter was still under the control of a trafficker. “You did it” she said. “The pimps are losing their minds because they can’t put the girls up on the site anymore. They don’t know what to do.”
For a period of time, it did feel as if we had won. I worked with a powerful constellation of the Attorneys General, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, anti-trafficking organizations, the media, and most importantly survivors, to shine the light on how Craigslist was the go-to site for child sex trafficking.
Many folks criticized those of us who fought so hard for the shut down. We were told that shutting down these ads would not end child sex trafficking, and that the ads would simply migrate to another site.
Two years later, Backpage.com is now that other site. At present, it makes up 80 percent of all online prostitution ad revenue.
Were folks right, then, that the Craigslist sex ads shutdown would not do anything to curb child trafficking and exploitation in the U.S.? Are they right now in saying that it is useless to go after Backpage?
No, they are not. The ads did migrate to Backpage, but not in the same numbers. We knew that when the iconic, respected Craigslist got out of the business of child sex trafficking, so too would many of the buyers. In fact, after Craigslist shut down its adult services section, a study revealed that the site’s closure precipitated a 48 percent drop in the overall volume of prostitution ads online.
And the success of the Craigslist shutdown also signaled to survivors and victims of trafficking that their lives were valued. The girls who dared to speak out against how they were sold off of Craigslist were finally heard by a larger public that rarely sees or listens to these hurt girls.
This is exactly why Backpage cannot be allowed to continue to profit from child sex trafficking. We must go after Backpage because no website should be allowed to rely on people selling children for sex for its business model. In just a 12 month period, Backpage has generated almost $27 million in revenue from online prostitution advertising.
And we must go after Backpage because purchasing a child for sex should never be as easy, convenient and acceptable as ordering up a pizza. As long as mainstream — and not the salacious and marginalized — websites like Craigslist before and now Backpage are used to exploit children, demand for a 14-year-old girl for sex will be normalized.
On Thursday July 12th, there will a Congressional briefing hosted by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and the Victims Rights Caucus on child trafficking and the Internet. Human Rights Project for Girls, Ernie Allen from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as representatives from the law enforcement and tech industry will be participating. Certainly those of us from human rights and children organizations will raise the issue of how Backpage is playing a dangerous role in the trafficking of very vulnerable children.
Yes, if Backpage’s sex ads close down tomorrow, child sex trafficking will still continue. But a business model that unapologetically relies on the selling of children for profit will have been dismantled — as well as the legitimization of very young girls’ bodies being bought and sold for sex.
And that is worth fighting for. Because, whether we want to admit it or not, our daughters are the new commodity that gangs and organized crime are now selling. The girl trade has replaced the drug trade.
Sadly, these girls are among the estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children who are vulnerable to being sold for sex by traffickers every year in the United States, according to the Department of Justice. And, astonishingly, the average age of a prostituted girl in the U.S. is 12-14 years old.
We can obfuscate the dirty little secret in America that girls are being sold for sex. We can make ourselves feel comfortable by talking about the girls who are prostituted in India and Thailand as victims of sex trafficking, but cast aside the girls sold off of Backpage as hookers or just bad girls. We can minimize the ugly business of commercial sexual exploitation of both women and girls as just escort services. And we can talk about the first amendment and the Internet, rather than the human rights issue of American children propertied and sold for sex.
Or, we can start asking the very difficult question of why in 21st century America, is any girl for sale, and off of a legitimate website like Backpage?
Guest Post by Tara Pringle Jefferson, The Young Mommy Life
When my husband and I met, he already had his bachelor’s degree and was working on his Master’s. As the first in his immediate family to graduate from college, he wanted to make a career out of helping other people make it to college. Of course, I found that very appealing.
So we talked for a long time. We lived in the same dorm so we saw each other all the time. We were “just friends” for about eight months. During this time I had the biggest crush on him and he acted like I was just one of the many women he had in his life as a friend. *sigh* I wanted to be more than friends but didn’t know how in the heck to get out of the friend zone.
Then one day, we were sitting in my dorm room and he asked me for a piece of paper and a pencil. I raised an eyebrow as if to ask, What for? He wouldn’t say.
So I gave him what he asked for and waited. He wrote something down and then folded up the paper and gave it to me.
I unfolded it and read the note. “I know you just got out of a relationship, but when you feel like you’re ready for a relationship, when you’ve had time to figure out what you want, keep me in mind when that time comes along.”
My heart fluttered. Really? After all this time, he felt the same way I did? He wanted to be more than friends too? I THINK I JUST WON THE JACKPOT!
We started dating almost immediately and have been inseparable ever since. That was 2004.
Now eight years of relationship and five years of marriage have passed. And I find it amazing that I actually love him more now than I did way back when, when I thought I would explode from being so giddy all the time.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was hyperventilating. I was young, I was in college and babies weren’t in my plans for at least another five years. But my boyfriend never wavered, never let me see if he was scared too. He held us together while I freaked out. He’s a pretty quiet guy, but he’s consistently there when I need him.
We were just two young kids, growing a family and trying to figure life out. I know he had to have some of the same concerns and questions I did, but he was our anchor. He kept his head down and kept moving, never once complaining about the long hours at his job or the demands I put on him at home or the tireless work of being a good dad. He never once complained.
So on our fifth anniversary, I thank him today for being so reliable.
For believing in me when I decided to start my own business.
For pushing me to keep going when I felt like that was too much for me.
For being a strong role model for our kids.
For fixing the internet when it goes out, or fixing the printer when I’m on deadline for class.
For picking up dinner on his way home when he knows I’ve had a busy day.
For surprising me with little “Just because I care” items.
For tickling our kids until their cheeks turn red.
For giving our kids as many kisses as they can stand.
For listening to our kids when they come to you with any concern, large or small.
Thank you for being my rock. I couldn’t do this without you.
Many people are preparing to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl. It’s a time for celebration with lots of food and friends gathered around the television to watch one of America’s largest sporting events.
What too many people don’t know is that the Super Bowl has a dark side, one that reduces girls and young women to products for sale—and I am not just talking about the ads that reduce women to sex objects. I’m talking about the increased occurrence of domestic commercial sex trafficking.
Just like last year in Dallas, Texas, news reports project that thousands of girls from around the country will be brought to Indiana by their traffickers otherwise known as pimps to be sold for sex before, during and after the game.
There are several good initiatives to stop sex trafficking in Indiana including emergency legislation that passed that brings stiff penalties those who sell girls and young women for sex but also grassroots efforts including nuns calling hotels to educate front desk and housekeeping staff how to spot and pamphlets being passed out to taxi drivers.
NFL players are also supporting the “I’m Not Buying it” campaign, sending a message to Johns. See the video of Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboy’s Defensive player.
Indiana has started a “Don’t Try it Here” campaign to let traffickers/pimps know that it’s not ok to sell girls for sex. The problem is that last year when the game took place in Dallas, Texas last year officials there were also very serious about stopping this. Yet it is estimated that 10,000 girls were brought into the state for that very purpose. About 100 people were arrested for trafficking.
I commend Indiana for all of its efforts and for the grassroots leaders out meeting with hotels and taxi drivers. The truth is we have to stop the problem at the root. Each of us needs to stand up and say out loud “I do not condone this kind of treatment of girls or young women. It is not okay to pay for sex from girls. We are outraged when it happens over seas and we must be equally outraged that it happens in the USA.
So when you are sitting around with your friends this Sunday I ask you to raise the question: what can we do to stop violence against girls and young women? Don’t accept the answer that the problem is too big for us to solve. Reality is the problem is too big for us NOT to solve.
By Dani De Land in her own words…
Twenty-five years ago, life was much different. The Internet and email didn’t exist. A telephone was a landline, and if we were lucky, we had a phone with a 30- foot cord that would allow us to walk into another room for privacy. A cell phone seemed as large as my gym bag, we still borrowed sugar from our neighbor (whom we knew the name of) and for me, a normal family structure was still there.
Normal. What is that? I’ll explain what was normal for me at that time and what happened to change that dynamic.
My mother was the pillar of my family, but was slow to grasp the fact that my father was abusive to both my younger sister and I. In April of 1987 she became very ill and was permanently removed from our home. During the year to follow, I was forced to grow up. To clean the house, to watch, take care of and be responsible for my sisters and suffered an accelerated level of physical abuse from my already abusive father. It truly was the kind of abuse you see on made for T.V. movies. After one particularly horrible ‘rage’, my sisters and I were actually removed from the home, only to be placed back with our father just a year later after my mother passed away in 1990.
During the time I lived with my father, I started skipping school, was drinking when I did go and eventually just stopped going. I didn’t want to be there with my dad so I would do what I could to not go home, including sleeping behind bakeries and on the porches of my friends home. Five months after I moved back in with my father, I received the worst beating of my life and within a week of that, was raped by two ‘friends’ of the guy I called my boyfriend. I was done with life. I was 14.
As I stated, I was spent. I knew that was wrong, but I didn’t have it in me anymore. What was the point? I started pricing guns, looking for things to take in the house to overdose on. I was going to kill myself. It was just too much. Why was life so not fair? I called a rape crisis line and was told what happened wasn’t my fault. I hung up. I didn’t believe it.
I decided to tell my dad and my counselor at school about the rape and desired suicide, and that decision is what changed my life forever.
I was again taken from the home but this time placed in a psychiatric hospital for treatment of depression and suicidal tendencies. After 8 months of intense therapy I was placed at the Florence Crittenton Home in Jackson, MI June 1991. I felt torn about my new home. It was a huge change, but one for the better. There were no more beatings. I was never yelled at or threatened. I got to laugh and be a silly girl and find myself! (I was all ready to move to Seattle, find the lead singer to Pearl Jam and marry him, LOL!)
A few months after arriving at ‘The Crit’, I started attending school…and stayed in school (whew hew!). Not only was I going, but I was excelling.It was because of the support of the Crittenton staff that I graduated in the top of my senior class. For the first time in my life I had the support I so desperately needed, and found out that anything is possible I was taught to excel and to reach high, to be RESLIENT with everything I do in life.
Without these teachings, I would not have had the mind set to go on to finish broadcasting school, to work in fitness, intensely train for 10 months to get up on stage for my very first body building figure competition, or to travel and speak on behalf of so many other young women that are in the same place I was 20 years ago.
Florence Crittenton Services for me was a fertile garden where positive, healthy seeds were planted. The seeds of responsibility, caring, strength, EMPOWERMENT were all planted by the supporting programs and staff of ‘The Crit’ starting back in 1991, and the roots are so deep, the tree is still growing today.
25 years later, life is MUCH better, greener, more peaceful…abuse free, because of Crittenton Services.
Today, whenever the opportunity comes my way, I speak on behalf of young woman, to tell my story with the intention of setting an example. I haven’t lived a perfect life. However, I am RESILIENT and I do BELIEVE that I AM NOT INVISIBLE…healthy habits picked up by the women who guided me. I want to show them that life doesn’t have to always be traumatic. Dreams can be a reality. A healthy life is a reflection of healthy choices. In my heart, I know if these young women are SHOWN exactly what healthy choices’ means, what those choices look like and are shown by example how to apply them to life…well, maybe I can make a difference in one of their lives, just as my examples showed me.
December is such a busy time of year, wrapping up projects at work, attending holiday events and making time to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments. Looking back at 2011, I am especially proud of the work that’s being done by The National Crittenton Foundation, an organization whose Board I serve as a Trustee and Secretary for the Board.
In 2011 alone, the organization received a significant grant from the Walmart Foundation, helped bring more than 30 young women and girls together to tell their stories of healing from the trauma of abuse, launched a new policy series in partnership with Georgetown Policy Center, and engaged hundreds of new supporters in their work—either as advocates or donors or both.
Last week I was honored to host a “We Are Not Invisible” fundraising reception in Washington, DC. I enjoyed seeing friends and meeting new ones who share our commitment to girls and young women.
Together with your support we can continue to create more opportunities for young women to break the silence and give voice to the reality of their lives!
It is encouraging to know that we each can make a difference and help young women reach their full potential. As you shape your plans for 2012, I hope that you can find a way to become more involved in the Foundation’s work—young girls and young women across the country are counting on it.
Gina E. Wood
What are you thankful for?
Crittenton Staff, Former/Current Crittenton Program Participants
“I am thankful for the Prince that I was blessed with about five years ago, having the opportunity to be in foster care & having a huge stepping stone to becoming a successful single mother & being able to accomplish as much as I have through the years. Meeting such wonderful positive people along the way & having a God that always came through 24/7.” – Catherine K
“I am thankful for my family whose worlds of wisdom and love keep me grounded. I am thankful for my friends whose loyalty and honesty keep me balanced. I am thankful that despite it all, my house is filled with joy. I am thankful that I’M STILL HERE! I can smile, laugh and be kept in God’s perfect peace.” – Holly
“I am thankful for the life Jesus gave me and for the blessing I was given to create life. My daughter Charnee is what I am most thankful for. Her compassion,her drive and determination, her insight, and the way she takes all of her talents and gifts to create excellence astounds me. I am thankful for my family and the way time and God ‘s grace has healed all wounds. I am thankful for the opportunity to tell my story and to speak on behalf of those who currently do not have the voice or platform to speak up for themselves. I m thankful for my friends who have always believed in me and also given me tough love when I needed it. I m thankful to be dating someone kind and gentle. I’m thankful to have met all of you [Crittenton staff, former/current Crittenton program participants]… I could go on and on these are just a few things I’m thankful for. I love you all.” – Charese
“I am thankful for my family, friends and life. I am surrounded by some of the most caring loving souls in the universe who lift me up on a daily basis and feel very blessed. I’m thankful for the little things; the little winks you get from God that remind you he’s there. I’m thankful and grateful to be a part of this crazy, beautiful world! Love you!!! – Dani
“I am thankful for my teddy bear of a husband, my fabulous family and friends, and the strong, empowering young women and women I have met in the last three years. All of you have made an impact on how I live my life to the fullest.” – Jessie
“I am thankful for all the life experiences I have lived through and for the lessons in each and every single one of them- good and bad. I am thankful for my wonderful support system who encourages me to bring out my best (that’s you guys!). But most importantly I am thankful for my children. Without my munchkins I would have never learned the meaning of limitless love.” – Lisette
There’s no doubt that the media the last few weeks has been filled with coverage about sexual abuse. My question is where has everyone been all this time? The sexual abuse of our children and the willingness, ability and even practice of most people to look the other way is not new nor is it news. Sadly, it seems that once the issue hits college football and impacts a legend such as Coach Paterno everyone wants to be part of the conversation. I’m not disputing that positive changes may come from this series of events and I do tip my hat to the Trustees at Penn State for doing the right thing. Nevertheless, in my heart of hearts I sigh and think – talk is cheap and short-term reactions are not what we need.
While coverage of Penn State has been going on, far less time and space has been dedicated to looking at the complex events surrounding the suicide of Ashley Billasano whose cries for help (144 tweets during the 6 hours before her death) and calls for justice for her abuser and trafficker were loud and clear. How many people didn’t take her seriously and
ignored her demands for help are not yet clear but one thing is certain–we failed her.
We need long-term commitments to deal with root causes of abuse and we need to say no to the culture of violence we have created in this country. On the eve of Thanksgiving lets take a minute to be honest and admit we could all do more to identify and end the cycle of abuse in our families and communities.
The time for talking has long been over each day we don’t take action a child’s life is destroyed. Just like we did before Penn State with our allies we are going to keep pushing forward for our children because they deserve better.
Our country’s economic hardship has made it difficult for individuals to dig into their pockets to give to new causes. Some can’t even continue to donate at the level they did 5 years ago. THANKFULLY innovative opportunities have been created for the public to give to causes (e.g. airline miles, stocks, mutual funds, etc). Shopkick is one opportunity that enables individuals to donate actual dollars without dipping into their bank account(s) or paycheck. All a person has to do is download the Shopkick app on their iPhone, iPad or Android and start collecting kicks (points), then donate the kicks to a Shopkick “Cause.” The kicks translate into dollars for an organization’s “Cause.” Based on the number of kicks a “Cause” receives, Shopkick cuts a check to the organization.
Fortunately, The National Crittenton Foundation has been selected to be a Shopkick “Cause.” Crittenton’s first Shopkick check was received last month. We are so thankful to Shopkick as well as the individuals who donated kicks to our cause. Start giving or continue to give to The National Crittenton Foundation “Help Girls Heal” cause through Shopkick. We greatly appreciate it!
iPad2 Shopkick Contest:
Whoever donates the most kicks to The National Crittenton Foundation from November 15, 2011 through December 15, 2011 will win an iPad2 from The National Crittenton Foundation. For more information about Crittenton’s iPad2 contest go to our Shopkick contest page.
Really, thongs for little girls – say it’s not true! Sadly, it is true.
I was at a the OJJDP conference a couple of weeks ago and heard Dr. Sharon Cooper give an excellent, though alarming presentation on the impact of the media and fashion on young people. I spent most of the time shocked with my mouth open wondering why I didn’t know the information she was sharing. Everyone at my table had the same reaction and we all work with girls and teen women. Be prepared to be scared and Google mirror neurons or watch this short PBS video and then think about the images of girls, young women and women with which we are all bombarded each day in the media.
Now, I’m old enough to have been part of the women’s movement and say what you will about what it did and didn’t achieve, and who, it did and didn’t include but this sort of sexualization of girls did not happen under the watchful eye of the feminists of those days and I include myself here. Question is, how did we get from there to where we are today? Were we asleep, silent, too busy enjoying our newly won opportunities, or overwhelmed struggling to make ends meet, or all of the above? Whatever the cause, we’re in bad shape now and our girls and young women are paying the price.
The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released an excellent report in 2007 and 2008 . The following excerpt is from the report.
There are many examples of the sexualization of girls and girlhood in U.S. culture. Toy manufacturers produce dolls wearing black leather miniskirts, feather boas, and thigh-high boots and market them to 8- to 12- year-old girls (LaFerla, 2003). Clothing stores sell thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-old girls (R. Brooks, 2006; Cook & Kaiser, 2004), some printed with slogans such as “eye candy” or “wink wink” (Cook & Kaiser, 2004; Haynes, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Merskin, 2004). In the world of child beauty pageants, 5-year-old girls wear fake teeth, hair extensions, and makeup and are encouraged to “flirt” onstage by batting their long, false eyelashes (Cookson, 2001).
And these are just a few examples. Many of you will recall that recently J.C. Penney and Forever 21 came under serious public scrutiny for the marketing and sale of sexist slogans on T-shirts for girls and teens. But really, the sexualization of females of all ages is everywhere not just in products marketed to females but in ads to sell everything from beer to men’s cologne to cars. There will be people who argue that sexuality is a normal part of a healthy life and I agree with that but sexualization is not. Again from the APA report:
Sexualization occurs when: 1) a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics; 2) a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; 3) a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; 4) and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.
Let’s end where we began, can you imagine buying a thong for your 7-year old? You retort (in your head) “hell no.” Okay so you answer no but in households across the country there are plenty of parents answering yes. Children don’t buy these items parents do…so it’s us, the adults, who need to say no.
So, HELLO women and men it’s time to get serious about shutting this down and being outraged and vocal about it. Sexualizing women is demeaning and degrading but sexualizing little girls should be a crime. What kind of life and self-image are we setting the girls in our lives up for if we allow this to continue? Time to take a stand…for the girls!–Jeannette