September 23

Kickstarter is live!

I have been eager to write this post for so long! My 30 day Kickstarter campaign went live today! For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter and how it works, please refer to my previous post, because I made a fun little introductory video explaining some of the details of this awesome site.

I think what excites me the most is that I am so close to having a book that can truly impact the safety and welfare of children. Awareness is key in preventing educator sexual abuse, and every time someone shares my Kickstarter campaign, awareness is raised. Together we can truly make a difference.

If you back my project, not only will you play a critical role in getting Invisible Target published, but you also can be one of the first to get a copy of the book. There are also other fun rewards to choose from, so please check out the site.

Please check it out and share. Thanks for ALL your support – this has been a very long journey for me, and I can’t believe I am finally this close. I couldn’t have made it this far without so many of you. Here’s to dreams coming true!!!

Click here to visit Kickstarter

September 17

Introducing Kickstarter!

 

After much deliberation, I have decided to self-publish my book, Invisible Target. I am excited to have this book get into the hands of as many people who care for children as possible, because I truly believe Invisible Target is going to help prevent educator sexual abuse.

I have also decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to assist me in publishing the book. Since I’m learning that not everyone is familiar with Kickstarter, I went ahead and made a fun little introductory video explaining what Kickstarter is and how it works. Click below to watch my short video:

Kickstarter Introduction

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about Kickstarter, either regarding Invisible Target or your own project! Kickstarter is an amazing site – check it out!

I am launching my campaign in exactly two weeks – yikes! I have so much left to do, but I can’t wait any longer. This book needs to get out there. I’ll be posting updates on this site of how the campaign progresses. Stay tuned!

 

 

August 16

Back to School Safety Tips

Well, it’s been much too long since my last post! As the summer is winding down for us, and most kids are heading back to school here in Florida, it is a good time to set a reminder to parents about child safety.

The vast majority of teachers are incredible – dedicated, passionate, and oh-so patient with our children. I am forever grateful for my son’s kind and effective teachers he has had through the years. Unfortunately, there is a harsh reality that we also have to accept – there are teachers in many school systems who do not have our kids’ best interest and safety in the forefront of their minds.

Statistics show that nearly one in ten children will experience some form of sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time he or she is a senior in high school. With the dreadful practice of “passing the trash”, where administrations are allowing abusive teachers to quietly resign and move on to other school districts without notifying the new hiring administration of the criminal behavior, parents need a heightened sense of awareness of warning signs.

1. Time alone – Yes, teachers can assist students who need extra help. But the abusive teachers quite often spend a good deal of effort “grooming” their victims, and they build up the students’ trust slowly. Minimizing one-on-one time outside of the classroom can help prevent the boundaries blurring and further lines being crossed. If the teacher is working with a student, leaving the classroom door open and notifying administration of the one-on-one time is best. Parents can inform the teacher as well as the administration that they prefer a group setting for their child rather than one-on-one.

2. Gift-giving – A hallmark of the grooming process is gift-giving. Predatory teachers continue gaining the victims’ trust by giving students special gifts or tokens of their affection. These gifts can be incredibly confusing for a student. S/he can often feel indebted to the teacher for this special treatment, further solidifying the teacher’s confidence that the student will not disclose the abuse. In addition, an air of conditional expectation can accompany this gift. It is not appropriate for teachers to single out students and bestow a gift upon them. If the teacher feels the student is in need of something in particular, s/he can contact an appropriate agency that donates items to needy students.

3. Isolation – In order to successfully lure a student into a world of abuse, a teacher needs to have a tight rein on a student. If the student has strong connections with peers or family, the likelihood of a disclosure of the abuse is higher than if a student is mainly dependent on that teacher for companionship, advice, and a general sense of belonging. Predatory teachers can isolate students from their families and friends in various ways. If a student’s relationships begin to deteriorate, and s/he becomes more withdrawn from normal interests and activities, a red flag should be raised. Signs of increased isolation do not automatically flag an abusive situation; a myriad of reasons could be at the root of it. However, if you see patterns of increased isolation and increased dependence on a teacher – it’s time for action.

4. Technology – The increase in, and accessibility of, technology such as smart phones and social media have become a troublesome contribution to educator sexual misconduct. Accessibility to students has never been so simple or direct as it is today. It is not appropriate for your kids’ teachers to communicate with them individually through Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, or general texts, phone calls, or emails. Be clear with your child that communication of this sort is not acceptable, and be involved in your child’s online habits and activities.

These are just a few warning signs that parents and educators can consider as the school year approaches. Please communicate with your children – about everything. Find age-appropriate ways to discuss important topics such as safety and personal boundaries. Our children deserve to be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

April 26

Interview for El Paso, Texas local news channel

Yesterday I was asked to contribute to a story an El Paso news station was airing. Unfortunately, when I get requests for interviews, it usually means a child has been abused. This story involved a former music teacher being arrested for child pornography. Some of the children involved were ages 3-10 years old. My heart breaks for these kids, families, schools, and communities. There is such a need for education and training everywhere. I pray that I get fewer requests for interviews such as these, but somehow I just don’t think this will be the case any time soon.

Click here to watch video 

April 17

Education Action Group article

I was reading through various Facebook posts this morning and found an article in Education Action Group about the Florida legistlation attempting to raise penalties for educator sex offenders. I was surprised and pleased to find that they quoted me from my  Fox 35 interview a few weeks ago. What a strange experience! I am so happy that Education Action Group continues to raise awareness about educator sexual abuse.

Click here to read the article from Education Action Group

April 10

130 – The tragic number

130 – This is the number of teachers who have been arrested for sexual misconduct since January 1st. 130. This is more than one per day. 130. These are the teachers who actually got caught. How many others are still out there? How many kids are enduring this abuse right now? How people cannot see this as an epidemic is beyond me. Senator Toomey is fighting to prevent this number from rising. We need more Senator Toomey’s out there protecting our children. Please click the link below to learn about an important bill in Pennsylvania and what we can all do to help keep students safe:

                                   Click here for story

April 3

Training for Osceola County foster parents – April , 2014

Tonight I had the pleasure of speaking to a wonderful group of foster parents at Osceola’s Children’s Home Society in Kissimmee, Florida. What a caring and dedicated group of people they are!

I felt so blessed to share my story with them and review important warning signs/grooming behaviors to understand. Kids in the foster care system can sometimes be at risk for falling prey to predators who seek vulnerable victims. We engaged in some nice discussion about how to talk to children of varying ages about safe touch, what grooming really looks like, and what to do if suspicions arise. My hope is that each parent walked away with an increased sense of awareness of the prevalence of educator sexual abuse as well as some new strategies for keeping their children safe.

ASO_001

As I drove home, I found myself smiling. I feel surrounded by blessings these days. My divine purpose has been shown to me, and each time I have an opportunity to share my story, I know in my heart that I am exactly where I was meant to be all along. I will never, ever take that for granted.

Hug your kids tonight. Talk with them about everything. Don’t be afraid. If you need help finding the words, contact me – I’d love to help.

March 29

Speech for Pennsylvania rally – March 19, 2014

People have asked me to share the speech I gave at the rally in Harrisburg, PA last week. While intensely personal, I believe it’s very important that people are aware of the long-term ramifications of educator sexual abuse. So, I have decided to include my speech here:

 

Pennsylvania Speech

 

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak today. I want to begin with a question followed by a brief story. By a show of hands, how many of you have children? How would you feel if your child were sitting in a classroom, and her teacher was a known sex offender? I am guessing none of you would want to take that risk and have your child in such close proximity to this type of danger. And yet, by allowing known sex offenders to quietly resign and move on to other school districts, we are doing exactly that. I am here today to urge those of you who have the power, to stop this criminal activity the moment it is discovered, by passing Senate Bill 46, The S.E.S.A.M.E. Act.

I want to share a story with you. There was this middle school girl. She was very lonely, isolated, and in desperate need of a positive male role model in her life. Her middle school science teacher took on that role eagerly, and soon began grooming her for what would become years of control, manipulation, threats, and sexual abuse. After more than 10 years, she was finally able to break away from this man, and she reclaimed her life and freedom. 11 years later, she decided in spite of her fears that she needed to report this abuse to the middle school. The school did nothing. No police report, no police investigation. Nothing. A year following her report she was notified by local police that this teacher had molested two 14 year old girls

What makes this story different from the others you hear about in the news? That middle school girl was me. You are looking at a survivor of educator sexual abuse. This is real. My childhood was filled with pain and torment that no child should ever know.

As a result of this abuse, I have struggled with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks as well as anguishing guilt for not being able to find the courage to make a report sooner. I had great difficulty forming trusting relationships or making healthy life choices for many years. And although I have finally found a wonderful and caring man to share my life, to this day I still experience sexual difficulties, and nearly every time we are intimate, I cry.

I have also grown tremendously. I have discovered this voice of mine that refuses to be silenced any longer. I stand here today representing the thousands of students from Pennsylvania, and the millions of students across the country, who cannot yet find their voices.

In closing, I want to share one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King:

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

I’m here to say we cannot wait while one more predator finds his/her way into another classroom and harms another child. Every day that the S.E.S.A.M.E. Act is not in place, children continue to be at risk. I’m raising my voice to say; NO more PASSING the TRASH, PASS the S.E.S.A.M.E. Act! Will you raise your voices with me? NO more PASSING the TRASH, PASS the S.E.S.A.M.E. Act!!!

Thank you very much