By Leslee Kulba-The Buncombe County Commissioners joined other local jurisdictions in proclaiming April Child Abuse Prevention Month. Are you going to wear a blue ribbon, or are you going to rescue a child?
According to the web site of the HERO Child-Rescue Corps (protect.org), “a safe and conservative estimate would place the number of US individuals actively engaged in child pornography trafficking in the hundreds of thousands.” Investigators at the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center determined that 40 percent of persons caught red-handed with child pornography had also sexually assaulted children, and another 15 percent admitted to only abortive attempts.
Then, abusers often have more than one victim. For example, last year, rock star and charitable “ambassador for young people” Ian Watkins was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison after his ex-wife said he raped or abused hundreds of children. A conservative estimate would therefore place the estimate of sexually abused children also in the “hundreds of thousands.” It is bad enough that even one child would fall victim to a pervert.
Back in 2006, at the invitation of Mayor Terry Bellamy, Grier Weeks delivered a presentation to Asheville City Council. He told of some of the awful situations from which children had been rescued. At last, government was focusing on liberating captives, protecting innocents, and defending human rights. But the presentation was upsetting, bringing tears to the eyes.
From time immemorial, child abuse was hard to detect. The perps lived in the shadows, taking advantage of victims too clueless or too afraid to defend themselves. But not anymore!
In 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act ordered the Attorney General to implement software to track internet predators. In an op-ed, Weeks related, “That technology was deployed, and nearly overnight US law enforcement began seeing and sharing information on an estimated 300,000-500,000 suspects trafficking in horrific video and photographs of children being raped, abused, and even tortured.” He described the scene as “the buzzing hive of domestic child pornography trafficking, as it happened in real time.”
The software showed law enforcement exactly where people were viewing kiddie porn, 55 percent of whom, from the above estimate, would at least try to lure children into living out their sick fantasies of mischief. Unfortunately, law enforcement has never had enough resources to conduct a search and rescue operation for the lion’s share of the children. To date, it cannot even investigate 2 percent of the cases. Government would prefer to buy junkets for corporate cronies, consultants to study synergies, or artwork that creates a community feel.
Weeks, who as executive director of PROTECT continues to advocate for the children in meaningful ways, not the least of which is trying to get government to – in the name of Sam Hill – prioritize its funding, shared these choice words with the Tribune.
“National Child Abuse Awareness Week used to be a month-long parade of hypocrisy, when we pretended as a nation to really care about child abuse. Today, it’s a shell of its former shell. In the news, child exploitation, abduction and abuse have mostly become entertainment. But even so, a national rescue effort for the hundreds of thousands of children being used like sexual commodities can’t compete with searching for a couple of hundred corpses at the bottom of the Pacific.
“Child advocates (and I don’t claim that title for myself) like to say, ‘Child abuse is bipartisan.’ It is: both parties ignore it. For over a decade, PROTECT has been fighting to get politicians to act. What we find is a lot of Democrats whose hearts don’t bleed for raped children and a lot of Republicans who are ready to go out and string up child predators as long as it doesn’t cost a single damn dime of taxpayer money.
“The bottom line is this. Abused children don’t need awareness. They need adults who will fight for them, who will treat them like all of their other ‘special interests.’ That includes spending for law enforcement and social services . . . for prison cells and mental health services. People seem to think that ‘if only people knew’ about all the horrible things done to children, something would change. People do know. They are aware already.”
It is painful, if not impossible, for the human mind to comprehend the suffering of hundreds of thousands of children. The normal response is to switch off and think of happier things. Besides, if it were easy to stop child predators, somebody would have done it already. Tuesday morning, Glenn Beck devoted a segment of his radio program to telling his audience to do all they can and then pray for help and more ideas.
The HERO project is a new initiative supported by Weeks’ organization, the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It employs disabled veterans from the US Special Operations Command, many of whom are visibly seriously injured, but all of whom desire to continue serving their country. They have fought terrorists abroad, and now they want to fight them in their own back yards. The web site refers to them as “guardian angels” and their mission as a “holy war.”
The plan is to put the special training 200 heroes have received to good use. Public and private funding is solicited to pay them to do what government won’t fund. Perhaps government is too concerned with creating jobs to worry about meaningful employment.
Commissioner Ellen Frost shared some more statistics as she read the proclamation. Over 5 million children are reported as abused or neglected in the United States, over 125,000 in North Carolina, and over 4000 in Buncombe County. On average, 4 children die from neglect or abuse a day. Commissioners Holly Jones and Joe Belcher spoke of the need for individuals to get involved and take action. But talk of action can do as little for delivering innocent children from monstrous torture as wearing a ribbon or writing a newspaper article.