Monday, May 24, 2010

National Missing Children's Day: May 25, 2010

National Missing Children's Day is coming up tomorrow, May 25. This is an annual reminder for me and always brings up questions: Are we still are failing our children by choosing to disbelieve them, discredit them, and fail to honor them as the people who deserve to be heard and protected? Are the cases that we know about -- the Caylees, the Haleighs, the Natalees -- really representative of the hundreds of cases that don't get media attention and yet are happening in cities and counties all over the country every day? I take it as my personal responsibility to share important and lesser known cases with the public. Like the case of Mitrice Richardson. If you have never heard of this case, please check it out at:

As trite and over-used as the expression seems, "Knowledge truly is power." I am not suggesting that parents need to tell kids about the gruesome details of every case in the news, or grill them with statistics. And I'm not suggesting we all need to operate out of fear or concentrate on this every single day. But you can take at least ONE day this year to focus on your child's (or grandchild, G-d child, niece, nephew, cousin, etc.) safety as a priority. Youngsters need to have a solid understanding of how they can defend themselves in ways appropriate to their age. As teachable moments arise in your daily life, keep these safety tips in mind:

1. Be consistent with your messaging with your kids.
2. Become tech savvy, not tech-fearful. In other words - enter the 20th century and get Facebook!
3. Empower your children. Make them understand that you trust them and are trustworthy.
4. Listen to your instincts and teach your children how to find theirs. Find the ut-oh moments.
5. As parents we need to teach our children to find a trusted adult, even if it is not us as the parent, as a safe person to disclose to, if necessary. This is the 'telling person' in your child's life.

Safety talks are difficult for many parents to broach, as they bring them face-to-face with fear of events out of their control. However, children depend on adults to teach them how to be safe. Such talks are also a great opportunity to bond and learn from your child. 

May 25 is simply one day, one reminder about our children, but use this day to remind yourself that our children depend on us to empower them, honor them and especially protect them every day! Here is a final tip from the Klaas Kids Foundation: You can make a wonderful contribution to your children’s safety by reviewing our free Child Safety Kit. You can then set aside some special time on Tuesday, May 25 to role play with your children the safety lessons that are most pertinent to their lives.  If you would like to order your personal free Child Safety Kit, please click here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lawrence Taylor & Terminology

I'm sure many of you have seen the coverage of 51-year-old former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor all over the news in the past week. You may even have seen some of my TV commentary on the subject on Larry King Live (if you missed it, find the show link below in "Features").
If you missed the coverage altogether, here is a recap: basically Taylor was arrested for having sex with an underage child. Before you respond with “but she was a prostitute”  take a moment and think about what you are saying.  Even if a child is receiving money for sex and the features of prostitution exist the reality is that this type of sexual abuse is still exploitation. 

We all know that language and terminology matters.  Nowhere is that more true than in the area of the exploitation of children. (Recall my Huffington Post article discussing human trafficking as Problem of Language).  So here is today’s lesson: children can NOT be prostitutes.  They can be prostituted (by adults) but they can not be prostitutes. The difference in language is critical. And in order to make positive steps to protect children it is time we get our terms straight.

Taylor's attorney, of course, asserts: "My client did not have consensual sex with anyone." But this young girl describes the evening and how Rasheed Davis, her pimp, brutally beat her and forced her to have sex with Taylor. She shares in graphic detail how the condom got stuck in her during the act.?This case is an example of how child abuse, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking is misunderstood in this country. It is happening here in the U.S. everyday!   Sex trafficking is the second biggest criminal business in this country, next to drugs.

In Taylor’s case we have the alleged victimization of a child, who was  apparently exploited and sold for sex. This cannot possibly be her fault. She is not a prostitute - she is a victim. The kid cannot even rent car, vote, lease an apartment, sign a  contract, let alone have a chosen career of prostitution. 

Ronald Monestime from NY said it well, so I will quote: "in a case of this magnitude, or any case for that matter involving a celebrity, every single detail must be examined from a purely objective point of view. This means that every discrepancy must be looked at with a scrutinizing eye.  The justice system as well as the court of public opinion owes that to the accuser and the accused. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world."?
So people lets start with scrutinizing our language.  Terminology that accurately depicts these children as victims will lead to their identification by first responders as victims of domestic minor sex trafficking – prostituted children.
We certainly don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where former NFL hall-of-famers can and do have sex with children forced by others to have sex for money-- prostitutes and try to not go to jail for their acts (I'm not naming any names here). We'll see how this all plays out! Pun intended.