Child Sexual Abuse, Alcohol, & Help

September 15, 2013 in CASA, Crime and Courts, Invisible Children, Links To Helpful Orgs, Occasional Authors, Politics and Funding, Public Policy

ChrysanthemumSexual abuse is likely the most horrific crime a young child can endure.

Almost 10% of children today are exposed to sexual abuse; from rape, incest, pornography, touching, fondling or sodomy.

According to the Childhelp organization, the most common ages that child sexual abuse acts are committed are ages 7 to 13.

Within child protection systems, these percentages are much higher and the children’s ages are lower when the abuse begins.

(invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate  Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America

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Bill Murray Stop Child Abuse Now Radio Interview

May 16, 2013 in mike tikkanen speaking, Public Policy, The States

KoalaBill Murray knows the best questions to ask to create a lively and informative discussion on the issues that impact abused and neglected children.

This 90 minute talk is a powerful and comprehensive talk I had with Bill and his panel about our institutions and what needs to change to make our children and communities happier and safer:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bill-murray/2013/05/16/stop-child-abuse-now-scan.mp3   (move the arrow a little bit to skip the music if you wish to start at the conversation).

 

 

Supporting America’s Economy With Bigger Prisons & Longer Sentencing (thank you Jonathan Swift)

March 2, 2013 in Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy

richard ross striking yellow uniform picPhoto Thanks to Richard Ross www.Juvenile-In-Justice.com

It’s becoming apparent to smart business types and savvy investors that the for profit prison industry is a powerful and long term growth prospect.

The world of privatized incarceration holds great promise as a safe bet for long term earnings (a veritable safe haven for a long time to come – with little downside).

These last thirty years have shown remarkable profitability and terrific increases in prison and jail populations even in the hardest of economic times.  What better place to put our capital and invest in America?

There is no end in sight.  Drug Laws, The King Pin statutes, and Mandatory Minimum sentencing guarantee a resilient pool of repeat offenders for many years to come (over 2 million and counting with impressive recidivism rates).

At a low average of $33,000 per inmate per year = $60,000,000,000 each year is just the tip of the economic iceberg.  That doesn’t count the billions spent on parole officers, juvenile justice, or the child protection systems necessary to feed our prison system.

In the words of MN former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz,  “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protective services”.  And most of us fully appreciate the job the juvenile justice system does in preparing our youth for a lifetime inside the criminal justice system.

(note, if there were even fewer resources available to the people doing the work inside the child protection & juvenile justice systems, our numbers and profitability could go up even more – ie, vote no for crisis nurseries, subsidized daycare, and early childhood programs) and join the prison lobby.

Unfortunately, every so often one of our privatized jail systems will get its fingers slapped for providing kickbacks to judges for incarcerating innocent youth or siphoning off millions for private use.  But it is very difficult to discover and the fact that 25% of American juveniles are prosecuted as Adults mitigates those damages when compared financially.

Prison political lobbying strength has grown substantially these past few years, and with the promoting of cheap guns and mandatory minimum sentencing, the promise of more and even longer sentencing will move us a few percentage points higher on investment returns.

The only cloud on the horizon (and it is a very small cloud ) is the threat of a children’s lobby making a big deal about the correlation between children in child protection transitioning to juvenile justice and then into criminal justice.   There isn’t one to date, but if it did appear, we could see a downturn in profitability.

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CASA guardian ad-Litem News From Around The Nation

February 19, 2013 in CASA, Invisible Children, Public Policy

A Family Dinner Guatemala sytle

Without court appointed CASA guardian ad-Litems, America’s at risk children have no voice in the homes they are raised in or during the years they live as state wards in foster care.

Some states (Virginia most recently) are moving toward forcing children back into homes where they have been sexually abused and tortured. The World Health Organization defines torture as “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”.

Every child in my child protection caseload as a CASA volunteer was tortured (most of them for two to four years).  My CASA children had been tied to a bed, left alone for days (four years old), prostituted & sexually abused (as young as 2 years old), beaten and starved.

CASA guardian ad-Litems can be (the only) a voice for a child in a toxic home.

Learn more about how you can reach out in your community to help troubled children. If the program doesn’t exist where you live, contact national CASA and find out how to start one.

Continue reading the collection of recent articles on and about the guardian ad-Litem program around the nation. Feel free to submit your own stories as comments.

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A MN guardian ad-Litem speaks to Montana about child abuse.

April 27, 2012 in Guardian ad-Litem, Public Policy, The States

Not long ago, a mother with two foster daughters drove from MN to Montana in her old beat up pickup truck to defend her parental rights for her children even though dad had molested the children in their home state of MN.

The husband (now living in Montana) had money and knew the courts very well.

This poor woman, that had stuck her neck out to adopt children, was being sued and required to drive 20 hours to defend her parenting rights against a man whose semen samples were on file in Montana in a sexual abuse investigation of their two year old and 12 year old children.

Dad was guilty, but mom knew that sticking a 2 year old and a 12 year old on the stand as witnesses has never worked.  Children are easily confused and not credible witnesses, ask any attorney.

Mom was frightened of the courts, of the man, and of the damage done to her children.  No one in the MN child protection system was able to offer any help, she was on her own.  I felt sick.

As a guardian ad-Litem, I have witnessed many unfair and disconcerting federal and state acts, but this was truly abhorrent.

Upon investigating her husband, it became clear that he had a history of sex abuse, there was proof on file that he had molested his own young children.

Dad had money to sue for custody and mom had no money.  It was an unfair fight.

The fact this mom did not give up, lose her nerve, or commit suicide has always struck me as a testament to her courage and commitment to her children.

When I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN, half of my cases involved sex abuse of children.

Child sex abuse is the most underreported crime in the nation.

The impact of child sex abuse lasts forever.
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The Commonality Of Child Sex Abuse

March 26, 2012 in Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Public Policy

As a long time volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I have witnessed too much child sex abuse.  About half of the children in my caseload had been victimized.  One as young as 2, several at 4 years of age, and most of the older children had been abused for over 3 years.

This is a violent crime that both stigmatizes and terrorizes the child and becomes the twisted fibers in the brain that become the adult.

Without extensive & professional guidance to help the child understand that he or she did not cause the abuse, is not guilty of anything, or even able to have prevented what happened,  lives are lived never saying a word or dealing with the violence & trauma that go on to impact every hour of every day.

This from the Founder of a site dedicated to fighting child sex abuse; http://facsafoundationvirtualexpo.ning.com/

 

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The Most Powerful Suicide Note Ever

March 8, 2012 in Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy

Two of my friends have killed themselves this year and I want badly to know how to help others deal with suicidal thoughts and depression with more than psychotropic medications.

When I wrote INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005, a 70 year old friend asked me out to lunch. After the meal he explained how he told no one of his abuse at the hands of a priest when he was a twelve year old boy and how finally at 45, after 2 failed marriages and several failed business partnerships, he sought out a therapist.

He was still seeing that therapist 25 years later.

Of the children I’ve worked with as a guardian ad-Litem, a high percentage of them have been sexually abused. I have seen the horror of child sex abuse and how 10 or 25 years later, a troubled being still fighting the darkness every day.

Child sex abuse may be the most under-reported crime in America. It could also be the most under-treated horror in America. As a guardian ad-Litem, my first visit to a hospital suicide ward to visit a four year old girl that had been horribly abused was never made public, or when I worked with the seven year old that had been prostituted, or any of the family members that practiced child sex abuse.

There are successful sex abuse recovery programs, but our local governments and state agencies don’t support them in a large scale, and the under-reporting of abuse means most children do not receive the help they need. As these children age, the damage from abuse does not disappear – it is often magnified and becomes a serious behavioral problem.

The medical people at http://www.avahealth.org/ are working to make the discovery and treatment of child abuse a normal part of medical examinations (support them). This would be a big first step in identifying the scope and scale of the problem and making treatment available to those that need it.

This is the longest and most powerful and articulate suicide note I’ve ever read and it has great meaning to me for its power to relate these two incomprehensible sorrows (abuse & suicide).

I could not read Bill Zeller’s last letter without feeling the terror, physical and mental impediments, and daily reminders of his childhood nightmares, adult confusion and suicide.

 

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Stop Child Abuse Now Radio Show Interview;

November 27, 2011 in Invisible Children, Links To Audio, mike tikkanen speaking

I will be talking about my experiences as a CASA (guardian ad-Litem) child protection volunteer on an upcoming interview with Bill Murray & his Stop Child Abuse Now / Community Matters Radio Show http://naasca.org/index.html on December 12th Monday Night 7pm Call in phone: 646-595-2118

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bill-murray/2009/10/13/community-matters–9pm-et-6pm-pt

More about the host & the radio show;

Part 1 of 3) On this episode of “Community Matters” Bill Murray, once a severely abused child, begins to publicly tell his life story for the first time. Now that his parents have died he feels free to do so. Mr. Murray, a long time recovering alcoholic and drug addict, hopes that revealing his past will help explain his passion for serving the community and improve his effectiveness on both the forum he’s founded here at LA Community Policing and the talk show he now hosts under its umbrella. On LACP’s “Community Matters” Bill advocates for members of society who are weak, vulnerable, innocent, socially outcast, abused, victims of crime, and the physically or mentally challenged. He often covers public safety topics such as domestic violence, child endangerment, missing people, homelessness, racism, victim’s rights, judicial reform and homeland security .. among many other things.

 

Penn State, Child Abuse, You and Me.

November 13, 2011 in Crime and Courts, Health and Mental Health, Public Policy

In 2005, there were 897 cases of child sex abuse reported in the state of MN.  I knew this because I was a volunteer guardian ad-Litem in MN & writing a book about it, INVISIBLE CHILDREN.

I was only one of five hundred MN guardians IN 2005, and knew this number to be just a fraction of the true number as I personally counted fifty sexually abused children in my caseload & the court system I was working in at the time.

Here’s what I’ve learned about child sex abuse in Minnesota & how it applies to child sex abuse at Penn State.

1)       No One Wants To Talk About It.  Even trained social workers are uncomfortable with this topic and reporting it can mean the fall-out impacting them – it’s easier to let it go.  I have witnessed non-reporting & under-reporting by people working in the field of policing, education, child protection & a friend who admitted years after the fact that he lived near a five year old girl that was being prostituted.  I tell the story in my book of a seven year old girl that was prostituted and not taken out of the home during 48 police calls to her home.

2)     No One Understands.  Very few people understand the lifelong impact the rape of a child has on that child and the adult that child becomes.  Suicides and dysfunctional lifelong lifestyles are common to untreated child rape victims. I have visited 4 year old’s in suicide wards & written about a 7 year old who hung himself and left a note.

3)      This May Surprise You; Our courts are almost incapable of dealing with child rape.  Children make a less than useless witnesses in their own defense.  Brain development of a child guarantees that a good defense attorney will “confuse the witness” which destroys the case.  I have attended conferences at both William Mitchell law school & Hamline University on this topic and listened to judges & prosecuting attorneys (the child’s defender) also admit to confusing the witness in these cases. *In none of the child rape cases in my caseload (about 25) were the molesters ever brought to trial (because the child is not a useful witness – no witness, no case).  If it is not seen and reported (it did not happen—see the problem?)

I predict that many of Jerry Sandusky’s sodomized victims will not come forward because of the serious stigma attached to rape and sex abuse in this nation.

A friend bought me lunch when I wrote INVISIBLE CHILDREN and told me why he had never talked about and would never report his being molested by a priest when he was a young boy.  He also told me what it was like to discover at age 45 the impact of that rape and how it had wrecked two marriages and three business partnerships before he realized his need for help.  He began therapy at 45 & now 70, still seeing the same therapist.

Americans don’t like to talk about sex in even a healthy manner & will further punish people that come forward to talk about it.  Boys almost never do, and only a small percentage of women do.  The stigma is real & we fear becoming part of a messy deal.  Then there’s the history of blaming the victim (even when she’s seven years old) makes reporting so much harder than it should be – see Penn State.

Children don’t have much of a chance in America.

Molesters like Sandusky destroy the lives of hundreds of children over their lifetime.  The child remains severely damaged year after year until help comes from somewhere (usually nowhere). I’ve said about several of the sex abuse children in my caseload that this child has never had a nice day in her life.

Anxiety, terror, Prozac & Ritalin are predictable parts of the life of an abused child.  They feel dirty and often blame themselves for the crime.  Not being able to function normally in school makes life miserable and too often criminal or sexually active & a preteen mother or father.  Just how does one un-teach sexual behavior to a nine year old without professional help?

Predicting the impact in human life years for each Sandusky type abuser, using my 70 year old friend as an example, if only 33 of my friends years are considered (from age 12 to 45), multiplied by just 100 victims (not a high estimate in a case like Sandusky’s) = 3300 years of damage & pain that is rarely reported and even more rarely treated.

In my 12 active years as a guardian ad-Litem, there was almost no effective therapy for the sexually abused children I worked with.

One sad family of four very young and sexually abused children, each had to be placed in separate foster homes because when they were together, the children would sexualize their behavior & at the time, nothing could be done about that.  These children were terribly abused in their birth homes & again by a court system that offered them a fig leaf.  The molester was left in the home and continued his evil behaviors.  The pain these children suffered was immense; the molester once kicked the seven year old so hard she went into convulsions.

How many children had been victimized by Sandusky before 1998 when he was first questioned by police for molesting a boy in a shower?  How many children did he molest from 1998 to today?

Child sex abuse in our communities  is a huge problem that affects many of the three million children reported to child protection services in America each year.  Cases like Sandusky are rarely identified and even more rarely reported.

Millions of children are impacted for life and this will continue until you and I began to better understand its impact and find our voice for reporting and helping children recover.

*I’ve had extensive arguments with a judge & my supervisor about a singular violent and extended rape of young children in a family and the cruelty of leaving this molester in the home (8 years later he was still practicing his criminal behaviors on a four year old boy).

**National  Center For Victims Of Crime www.ncvc.org

 

New Federal Report; Drop In Child Abuse? I Don’t Believe It

December 19, 2010 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy

The latest federal report on child abuse shows a decline for the third straight year.

From my perspective the decline reflects a change in policy and refusal of child protection agencies to accept cases (MN now rejects 2/3 of all reports of child abuse).

The equation works like this; if fewer cases are investigated, that must mean there are fewer cases of child abuse, which leads to less funding and fewer resources for terrified and traumatized children.

This report flies in the face of what we read in the newspaper and data that relates to abused and neglected children.

More children died last year at the hands of their parents and teen suicides had the highest rate increase in 15 years.

This is the same logic that has hidden child sex abuse from the public eye. When I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005, there were 895 cases of child sex abuse reported in the state of MN.

At that time I counted fifty children that I knew had been sexually abused. There were about five hundred guardians at that time. It is my experience that child sex abuse is the most underreported crime in America.

Again, the equation works like this; if a problem is not reported, it gets no attention and is not perceived by the public to be an issue that needs to be addressed.

Until our communities begin to solve the terrible problem of generational child abuse, our schools will continue to fail, our jails and prisons will remain full, and we will continue to lead the world in the number of very young women with sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.

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Tip Of The Iceberg

June 4, 2009 in Crime and Courts, Guardian ad-Litem, Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Public Policy

\

Star Tribune June 3, 2009

Justice is unequal in sex abuse

Those who molest family members get lighter sentences than outsiders, data show.

Last update: June 3, 2009 – 10:35 AM

 

A young woman in Hennepin County accuses her father of sexually abusing her since she was 12 and impregnating her at age 18.

A 13-year-old Ramsey County girl tells a school counselor that her father had been touching her while her mother was in the hospital.

A 15-year-old Anoka County boy reports to police that his stepfather, convicted of a sex offense years earlier, committed sex acts with him, once in exchange for help with a video game.

In each case, Minnesota sentencing guidelines called for a seven-year or 12-year prison sentence. Instead, each defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year or less in jail and a long probation.

Such lighter sentences are given more often to defendants abusing children in their own families or households than to those who abuse outside their families, a Star Tribune analysis of nearly 1,500 child sex abuse cases shows.

From 2001 to 2007, 33 percent of family or household child sex abuse defendants facing prison time ended up with probation, compared with 26 percent of those abusing outside their families. In the most serious cases where victims were between 13 and 15 years old, the difference was even greater: 37 percent versus 24 percent.

That sentencing disparity troubles some legislators and advocates for victims.

“It’s really unfortunate because … girls and boys who have experienced incest are somehow valued less than girls and boys who have experienced abuse at the hands of neighbors and coaches and teachers and other people,” said Elizabeth Saewyc, a nursing professor in Canada who studies abuse victims in research with Children’s Hospital of St. Paul.

Even family members who initially agreed to lighter sentences for abusers — to protect children from having to testify or to keep a family wage earner working — sometimes come to feel probation sentences aren’t enough as they watch the effect of abuse on the child victim play out for years.

Addendum,

Below are articles from other authors and some  that I have written on this topic over the past few years.

 

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2006/02/19/another-day-in-family-court/

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2006/04/02/the-longest-day/

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2006/06/04/wellness-and-child-abuse/

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2008/09/28/ptsd-study-of-abused-children/

 

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2005/06/15/sigrid-bachmann/

 

 

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In Whose Best Interest?

July 19, 2008 in Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Mike Tikkanen, Public Policy

 

Questioning Child Protection Policies  

What drives the policies and programs that rule the lives of abused and neglected children?

Within the Child Protection system, like most big organizations, the fear of change is omnipresent.

A director closely monitors and directs the critical elements of national/state policies within their jurisdiction. A program gets too edgy, it will lose funding, dry up and blow away.

While this is rarely stated bluntly, there is little question as to what happens when the sub organization seeks to point out failure or demand change outside the national/state guidelines.

I have recently sensed the fear of an administrator torn between making waves to point out a serious system flaw (doing real damage to children) at the risk of drawing the national organizations attention.

It’s not really a choice, for a program director torn between losing funding (organizational suicide), or safeguarding the organization by not speaking out.

This question would be less problematic if our institutions were getting the results they were designed to achieve (if results were positive).

To this point, Kathleen Long, author of ANGELS AND DEMONS clearly articulates,

If you measure the success of our institutions by what it is they actually create versus what they were designed to create”, (the following are my words) our Child Protection system creates mentally unhealthy youth, future felons, and pregnant teenagers.

Children in Child Protection are suffering twice the level of PTSD as soldiers returning from Iraq.
80% of children aging out of foster care are leading dysfunctional lives.

Almost half the youth in the juvenile justice system have at least two severe mental health diagnoses.

The amount of psychotropic medications prescribed to children in Child Protection is horrendous (and the vast majority of these children receive grossly inadequate mental health care).

Will abused and neglected children forever remain stuck between the sexual abuse, violence and drug use within a dysfunctional family and the unresponsive and under-resourced agencies chartered to care for them?

One of my first cases involved a judge returning a four year old boy to his father. The father was in prison and had a court order in an adjacent state to stay away from young boys (due to his sexual assaults on young boys).

Over a four year period this boy was tied to a bed, left for days alone in an apartment, starved, sexually abused and beaten severely. Recovering from this type of abuse might have been possible had he received sufficient care and resources. He did not.

The boy is now 19, and his life was altered forever in many terrible ways by a judge’s misguided decision to return him to his father.

Would a judge that understood the depth and scope of the problems abused children suffer from have made the same decision? Do we routinely appoint judges to Child Protection cases that do not understand or appreciate the nature and substance of the issues that will forever impact At Risk children? I think so.

I have many more sad tales from 12 years as a guardian ad-Litem. Most people working in Child Protection have similar stories.

This is not a small problem. Three million children a year are referred to Child Protection agencies in America. If witnessing the rape and assault of your mother were considered child abuse, the number would be closer to Six Million.

The cost of making better decisions for our At Risk kids would be exponentially less than the costs we continue to pay for with disruptions in our schools, crime in our communities, ongoing institutionalization, and of course, the misery of millions of children growing up to lead unhappy and dysfunctional lives (and starting their own unhappy families).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Tell us your story, comment, or perspective.  Think of someone you would like to send this to? Press the “share this” button below.

Torture vs. Child Abuse

June 15, 2005 in Events, Guardian ad-Litem, Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Public Policy


Century College held a talk by Sigred Bachmann from the Center for Victims of Torture on the impact of torture last night. She is a bright and articulate lady who lived through the horrors of nazi concentration camps, and made a new life for herself as a pediatrician, and now a speaker and helper for victims of torture.

There is a striking similarity in the language used to describe war torture victims and victims of child abuse.

“Repeated or prolonged exposure to violence or deprivation”, is what happens to abused children and torture victims.

Children in American child protection systems are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. The average length of child sex abuse in America is four years.

Abused children and torture victims suffer from the same kinds of trauma. They exhibit many of the same kinds of problems. They need the same kinds of long term mental health therapies to allow them to rebuild their traumatized mental states, learn coping skills, and how to function in our communities.

The concept of trust, that is so easily taken for granted, is one of the significant long-term barriers to recovery. Children are violated and deprived by their own mothers and fathers. Many children never rebuild a level of trust sufficient to have a spouse or even a close friend.

Abused Children have the problem of self-loathing overcome because they subconsciously believe they are responsible for the abuse they have suffered.

War torture victims don’t have this problem. They know the inherent evil of their torture.

There is no book a child can go to that explains what normal is or the terrors that are being done to them. They have no one to turn to, they can’t even tell their parents.

Today’s war torture victims are finally finding Centers for Victims of Torture to help them rebuild their lives. It takes years of therapy and hard work to function again. Sigrid felt seven years was about the average length of time for a victim of torture to be rehabilitated.

Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers

What we are now doing is not working. Ask any teacher, social worker, mental health worker, or juvenile police officer that seek better results from the institutions they work in.

Unfortunately, many educators and child workers have become jaded to the negative public image of the system and do not believe that there are viable answers to overcome the problems that are ruining these children and our schools and communities.

America has suffered from years of educational failures, high crime and high rates of incarceration, unsafe schools and communities, and growing urban blight.

“The difference between that poor child and a criminal is about eight years”, MN Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz.

We have the skills, resources, and knowledge to successfully treat the mental health problems of abused and neglected children. Today, we simply need the awareness and the will to do so.