Category Archives: Child sexual abuse

How We Heal: By Joining a Community and Connecting with Others Who Have Been Similarly Wounded

One of the recommendations I make in “Know Thyself” for expressing and healing your Wounded Child is to volunteer for an organization that helps others. One of the ways that I help children heal from trauma is also by inviting them to join the community of my office by contributing something to the Rainbow Wall, a wall of arts and crafts creations made by children in the process of therapy. This wall helps children to know they are not alone, and that even in their suffering, they have something to give to others, which is a representation of progress and hope.

Self Defense for Children

So, about a century after the rest of the cyberworld I got on Twitter, perfect for the short attention span. If the net is monkey-mind, Twitter is gerbil-mind.

I’m tweet-buddy with about 500 sites and get some really cool links from across the spectrum.

Modern Family Life posts an excellent short review of effective self-defense techniques that can be used by children to deter and defuse potential dangers.


Ask your kids to discontinue the journey if they feel something not right even if it’s their usual route on a bright sunny day. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Stay In Numbers

Who cares if you hop into a crowd that gives you the dumbfounded stares? That’s exactly what your kids need to deter advances from any potential attackers.

Be A Whistle Blower

Assure your child that they have every reason to alert the crowd or someone who are able to assist them if they’re pretty sure of just having escaped an attack. Shouting on top of their voice such as “HELP!” or “THIEF!” are good attention-grabbers.

These techniques work for adults as well.

One new factor in daily life is the cell phone, and while we should not over-estimate the potential of the cell phone for getting help in a bad situation, it does keep us connected and cuts down on the chances of being isolated without anyone knowing where you are.

Standing With the Victim

Rei at Daily Kos says something that really needs to be said– A person can do lots of good things and still do something horrible. Julian Assange has won the admiration of many on the left for taking a stand against government secrecy with Wikileaks. At the same time, he is evading charges of rape.

It’s painful and disillusioning when someone we admire has another side. Or when someone who helped us wrongs someone else.

But not recognizing this aspect of human nature– the capability of doing both good and evil, allows the Jerry Sandusky’s to go undetected, and the Roman Polanskis to claim they are victims of conniving children.

A long article last year in the New York Times paints Assange as a complicated man with mixed motives. That article also links to other sources. How accurate the NYT is in the portrayal is under debate.

This is not to declare Assange innocent or guilty. He is doing his best to evade his day in court– which is where these charges belong. It’s not to weight whether his evasion is justified, given the political stakes.

It’s just a few words in support of Rei’s brave post, and in support of all those who are not believed because the perpetrator was above suspicion.

Originally posted on Therapy with Kiersten Marek, LICSW:

I wrote the following letter at the prompting of Stop it Now, a great organization that advocates for public education and action to prevent sexual abuse.  As a clinician who works with sexual abuse, it has been both horrifying and all too familiar to hear the testimony that has come out of this trial.  It seems clear that Sandusky’s actions were very pre-meditated and involved finding victims who would be less likely to speak out, such as the boys from The Second Mile.   This should be a wake-up call for all of us to be more vigilant and attentive to children, and to find ways to ask questions when things don’t seem right.  I was glad when the email came from Stop it Now, providing some samples of letters to send to the editors, and so this is mine.  I hope the Providence Journal publishes it.

Dear Editors,

View original 320 more words

A Nice Old Guy

We like our evildoers to be purely evil, and our victims to be purely good. Victim’s advocates deal with the reality that bad things happen to people who are not perfect, and that people who seem real nice can do bad things. The craving for a pure narrative of good vs bad gets in the way of stopping and fighting crime and injustice.

It’s was in the 90’s that I went to an art show sponsored by Day One, formerly the Rape Crisis Center. This is the kind of organization that is disparaged as ‘feminazis’ by hate radio and as victimology by pundits like Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe. It was at the old School One gallery that paintings and other art were on display and survivors spoke of the effect sexual abuse had on their lives. One of the artists was Frank Fitzpatrick, who had composed a piece of music that incorporated a secretly taped phone call with James Porter, the man who as a priest had molested him decades ago. I still remember the recording of Porter laughing as he admitted what he had done. Frank Fitzpatrick pursued justice for a crime that church and state wanted to bury, and by his courage saved other children from a man who was dangerous for as long as he was at large.

Part of the reason Porter got away with his crimes for so long was the complicity of the Catholic Church leadership, who helped Porter move from parish to parish when the truth threatened to come out. Part of the reason is that law enforcement is politically entangled, and no one wants to provoke powerful institutions. Part of the reason criminals like Porter can hide in plain sight is that to adults they are nice old guys, and they choose their victims well. If the child has some trouble, or is afraid of getting into trouble, they can be intimidated into silence. It’s easy to make a child think they are to blame, and if the message they are getting is that some victims are ‘asking for it’, then society is complicit as well.

There’s the kind of wild-eyed maniacs who jump out of alleys, and they are scary. But more common is the criminal who acts pretty normal most of the time and is only dangerous to some people some times. As long as we expect bad guys to wear horns and victims to wear halos, these abusers will continue to find it easy to hide in plain sight.

The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle recently interviewed one of the former victims who came forward to speak truth to power, 2010 Republican candidate for governor, John Robitaille–

Father Porter: Remembering the evil

Mr.Robitaille is a survivor of James Porter’s predations on children. His testimony may help other adult survivors and stand as a warning against the complacency and willful blindness that allowed these crimes to go unpunished for so long.

New Leadership, Rules at Harrington Hall

The Projo reports that a new agency will be running Harrington House and sex offenders will no longer have reserved beds there. From the Projo:

CRANSTON — The state has hired a new agency to run the Harrington Hall homeless shelter, ending a controversial arrangement in which beds were being reserved for convicted sex offenders.

Starting July 1, the Urban League of Rhode Island will be out, and the House of Hope Community Development Corporation will be in.

The switch does not mean sex offenders will be turned away if they show up needing a place to stay, but it does mean the shelter, about a quarter-mile from a playground and about a half-mile from the nearest school, will no longer reserve space for them.

Steve Stycos on Cranston Schools Budget, Volunteer Policy

Steve Stycos of the Cranston School Committee provided the following update:



The Cranston School Committee will resume its effort to balance its budget Thursday June 4 at 6:30 PM at Western Hills Middle School. Although state funding for education is still undecided, the school committee must cut at least one to two million dollars from its budget. The committee requested $2.6 million more from the mayor and city council. We received $1 million. In addition, there is $1.7 million in stimulus money in dispute. The mayor says if we receive the stimulus money, we will not receive the $1 million increase.

We also budgeted for $1.2 million in union concessions, but have not reached an agreement with the teachers union leaving us about $1 million short of our goal.Areas for possible budget cuts include the EPIC program, the elementary instrumental music program, some sports and the elementary guidance program.

After listening to many parents, my top priority will be preserving the elementary instrumental music program. I think the elementary instrumental music is more important than EPIC because it is open to all children and impacts upon instrumental music at all grade levels. If we cut the elementary program and children start instrumental music in middle school, our middle and high school programs will suffer.

Parents may want to communicate with school committee members about their priorities. I do not find simple communications of “don’t cut that program,” helpful unless I know what cuts are preferred.

In recent months, my budget cutting efforts have focused on the school lunch program’s $250,000 deficit. I chaired a committee to reduce the school lunch deficit which met weekly. A report of a committee is at under “Committees and studies.”

The school committee accepted our report and endorsed some of our proposals to cut spending. We are in the process of cutting holidays for three hour school year employees from twelve/year to seven/year and reducing their sick days. We are also seeking concessions from the unionized cafeteria workers (the sixteen who work more than three hours a day.) In addition, we cut the hours of cashiers in the elementary schools from three hours a day to two hours a day and laid off three 3 hour workers.


The school committee also endorsed the school food service committee’s proposal that if a elementary principal can collect the daily lunch money without using a cashier, the school will receive $1000 for its use. The principal must devise a method to collect the money with existing employees or volunteers and then the plan must be approved by the central administration. I hope this will be a fairly easy way for schools to make some money while cutting lunch program costs. If you are interested, you should discuss the idea with your principal.


The school committee continues to debate a proposed policy requiring all school volunteers to have a criminal background check. After meeting with several PTOs and listening to their concerns, I proposed that casual volunteers at public events (sports events, book fairs, school parties) not be required to have a BCI check. My amendment, suggested by Rhodes PTO president Julie Bradley, however, would have required tutors, after school program volunteers and field trip volunteers to get background checks. The amendment failed 6-1, although three other members of the committee have expressed concerns with the proposed policy.

I will not support a policy that requires people selling hot dogs at high school football games or scooping ice cream at school socials to get background checks. I hope a compromise can be reached, but I worry that fear of child molesters may severely cripple parent involvement in our schools.

The policy will again be debated at the June 15 school committee meeting. Check the meeting agenda on line at to be certain.

I am glad that Mr. Stycos articulated the concern for people not volunteering because of the new BCI policy. While the principle of screening people more closely who are in our schools is a good one, I am worried about people not volunteering because they have a minor infraction on their record that they don’t want the schools to see, because they are embarrassed about it. I also think a lot of people who only volunteer once or twice a year, at a special school-sponsored Halloween party, for example, might forget about getting their BCI until it is too late, and then they will not be able to volunteer.

As to Mr. Stycos’s statement about hot dog vendors at football games, I was under the impression that vendors would be exempt, as was specified by Andrea Iannazzi in the interview she did with me about the policy.

Cranston Schools Consider Policy to Require BCI Checks for All Volunteers

The Cranston School Committee will be considering a new policy to mandate background checks for all Cranston school volunteers, the result of a subcommittee which has been meeting since September of 2008. The policy will be voted on at two consecutive School Committee meetings. Recently I emailed school committee member Andrea Iannazzi with some questions about the pending policy.

Kiersten Marek: How will this be implemented?

Andrea Iannazzi: The policy is available at Policies take two consecutive votes (without amendments) to pass the School Committee. This policy will be enacted 30 days after passage (to allow for time for background checks).

Kiersten Marek: Will current volunteers all need to go through the screening?

Andrea Iannazzi: Yes, all volunteers will need to go through the screening.

Kiersten Marek: Will they not be allowed to continue if they do not get screened?

Andrea Iannazzi: Yes, the policy mandates background checks for volunteers.

Kiersten Marek: How long will they be given to get the screen?

However long they’d like. There is a thirty day period until the policy is enacted. However, no one will be allowed to volunteer until they have
submitted a background check.

We have tried to make it as user friendly as possible. The application is part of the policy. A prospective volunteer can fill out the application and hand everything in to Human Resources at Briggs. Cranston Public Schools will take care of the rest (getting the check, forwarding results, etc.).

Kiersten Marek: Will fingerprinting be required? Will the background check need to be repeated periodically?

Andrea Iannazzi: Fingerprinting is only required for those who have not lived in RI for at least a year.

Volunteers would only need to get a background check once.

Kiersten Marek: Who will the funds be given to for administering the background checks?

Andrea Iannazzi: We have set aside $2500 in “Safe Schools” funding. CPS will pay the
Attorney General’s Office for those needing assistance (until the $2500 is spent).

Kiersten Marek: What criminal charges will make a person ineligible to volunteer in the schools (obviously any sexual offender status, but are there other charges that will be included?)

Andrea Iannazzi: This is determined by State law and includes child molestation, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, robbery, arson, felony drug charges, etc. See RIGL § 23-17-37,§§ 11-37-8.1 and 11-37-8.3.

Kiersten Marek: What about parents who volunteer in the schools through their PTO? Will they also need to have a BCI on file?

Andrea Iannazzi: Yes, everyone must submit a BCI check. The only exceptions are listed in the policy… “This Policy may not apply to parents observing classrooms, guest speakers, performers, student mentors who are enrolled in Cranston Public Schools, truancy court personnel, newspaper reporters, vendors for school related
items such as rings, yearbooks, delivery vendors, and alike, provided they are accompanied by the Superintendent or school personnel.”

This policy is the result of a SubCommittee that I chaired. The Committee consisted of Jane Wall (Parent, Woodridge), Pam Schiff (Parent- Park View), Peter Nero (Assistant Superintendent), Dr. Laura Albanese (Principal- Stone Hill), David Alba (Principal- Glen Hills), Donna Tocco Greenaway (School Committee- later replaced by Frank Lombardi), and myself. We began meeting in September of 2008.

Kiersten Marek: Thanks, Andrea. This policy will be discussed at tonight’s school committee meeting, taking place at 7 pm.

How Can We Miss Him if He Won’t Go Away

I’ve refrained from writing about Roman Polanski’s latest efforts to paint himself as the real victim of his rape trial in 1978. I don’t want the discriminating readers of Kmareka to think I’m cyberstalking him. I’ve already written about the reluctance of the media to call him what he is. So for the record:

He is not that interesting. He’s a perp, doing what perps do. Minimizing his crime and maximizing his pain and suffering, there in Paris. He’s hired a lawyer to make a case that he should be allowed to have his charges dismissed without coming to the US and facing a court. His victim, who is a non-famous, adult woman living an ordinary life, has to see her name in the papers every time he does something like this, but he doesn’t seem to care.

What is worse, much worse, is that the press blamed the victim at the time, and thirty years later, still fails to acknowledge the nature of his crime.

Bill Wyman, in Salon, takes apart the media spin

Feb. 19, 2009 | Bad art is supposed to be harmless, but the 2008 film “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” about the notorious child-sex case against the fugitive director, has become an absolute menace. For months, lawyers for the filmmaker have been maneuvering to get the Los Angeles courts to dismiss Polanski’s 1978 conviction, based on supposed judicial misconduct uncovered in the documentary. On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that if Polanski, who fled on the eve of his sentencing, in March 1978, wanted to challenge his conviction, he could — by coming back and turning himself in.

Espinoza was stating the obvious: Fugitives don’t get to dictate the terms of their case. Polanski, who had pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, was welcome to return to America, surrender, and then petition the court as he wished.

I doubt Polanski will take the risk. Bill Wyman’s essay is excellent, and long overdue. I haven’t seen anyone else hold the media to account for their enabling role.

As a society we have become more tolerant of sexuality in the last thirty years. We speak more openly and acknowledge choices and relationships among consenting adults. At the same time we have become less tolerant of adults who exploit children. That’s progress.

If Roman Polanski is determined to get back in the papers and re-open his case, then let the press report the real story. So far, he’s been able to tell it on his terms, with the press going along. It’s unpleasant to admit that a man who is admired by so many could commit a crime like that. He’s still important, and important men never do those kinds of things, do they?

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner– SANE

It was 1989 at Women and Infants hospital. I was a counselor-advocate for a woman seeking emergency care after a rape. She told me she had been abducted by two men who talked about killing her. She managed to run away and hide in the woods. She was grateful to be alive.

We waited for hours in the busy emergency room. Triage demands that the most emergent patients be seen first, and a rape exam is low on the list.

Finally the doctor arrived. She rushed into the room and stared at my client coldly. ‘Is this the woman who was supposedly raped?’

I was shocked, but kept silent so that the doctor could do the exam and leave, and this exhausted woman could finally go home.

This woman was in pain, with wounds physical and emotional. No one wants to be her, no one wants to be in that place. I’ve often wondered whether the doctor’s contemptuous manner covered a fear that any woman, even she herself, could be a victim.

I volunteered for two years with the Rape Crisis Center, (now Day One), and quickly lost the illusion that women are the more nurturing sex. In fact, the doctor, police officer, or nurse you want is the one with respect and compassion. That person can be male or female. Women might be more empathetic in general, but that’s no help when you run into a woman like that doctor. There were many other doctors both male and female who were kind and professional. It’s character, not gender.

This summer Day One held a class for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Nurses who complete the program take call to respond to an emergency room when needed. This spares victims a long wait and frees the emergency room doctors from having to take out time from other urgent needs. SANE nurses have a much better record of collecting evidence, documenting, and offering antibiotics and the ‘morning after’ pill to protect against sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. The evidence collected from the rape exam can be crucial if a case goes to trial. DNA evidence can help to convict the guilty or exonerate the innocent.

The SANE program is not cheap. Emergency room services and trained professionals are needed. In Rhode Island State Crime Victim Compensation Program will pay the costs so that victims are not billed for their care.

This will remove a barrier to women, children, and men who are victims of sexual assault and need emergency care. Day One, formerly the Rhode Island Rape Crisis Center, can be reached at 421-4100. The Victims of Crime Helpline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-494-8100.


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