Chained to a bed, beaten, sexually abused, & starved for four years & the perpetrator was never charged, nor was the mother who prostituted her seven year old daughter (49 police calls to this home), nor was the man who kicked his seven year old sex victim so hard that she went into convulsions (I met her 4 year old sister in the suicide ward at Fairview Hospital).

The man who kicked his 7 year old sex victim into convulsions had been charged with murder in another state but not accused of anything he did to that girl over many years.

The man who chained the boy to the bed had previously spent most of his adult life in prison for the types of crimes he was soon to commit on his 4 year old son, he was never charged with anything he did to his son (4 long horrid years of abuse), and the woman who prostituted her daughter was never charged either.

Governor Mark Dayton signed a long time in coming, very important bill making child abuse an actual crime in Minnesota.  Whether or not the new law will make a big difference in the lives of abused children will take a while to see.

In my experience, in the cases above for example, none of the people in the child protection system recommended bringing charges against the perpetrators because the damaged very young children would have had to testify in these trials (and children make terrible witnesses as they are easily confused and their testimonies are almost always useless).

As the guardian ad-Litem on these cases, I was told by the judges & my superiors that my choice was to remove the children from the home (and away from the perpetrator) with good odds of winning the long term safety of the children, or to go to battle with a 5 or 7 year old as my witness against a perpetrator & legal system stacked against the child (which I watched happen in a trial in Montana – with 2 & 11 year old victims)

So, while this law is necessary and important, without changing the very core of how we address the entire child abuse issue, it is likely that only crimes against children that can be photographed or caught in the act will be prosecuted.

It remains true in this nation as of today, that the only law protecting children at a federal level, is the “Imminent Harm” doctrine, that allows for the removal of a child from a home where his/her life is in danger from abuse or neglect.

This just doesn’t seem like enough protection for young vulnerable children.    Keep in mind, the World Health Organization defines torture as “extended exposure to violence & deprivation”.

Let’s keep this conversation going.

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Minnesota governor advocates for abused children

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Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill toughening criminal penalties for child abuse. Democratic Representative Jeanne Poppe and Senator Dan Sparks sponsored the bill after meeting with Mower County prosecutors. The legislation became frustrated after hearing that a Dexter couple could only be charged with a gross misdemeanor for chaining their son to his bed.

The bill signed into law changes the definition of what constitutes unreasonable restraint of children. Instead of prosecutors having to prove the confinement or restraint of a child by a parent caused “substantial bodily harm,” they would only have to show it caused “demonstrable bodily harm.” Those convicted of the felony charge could face up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine

The signing of this bill is a perfect example of public servants who genuinely listened to a child’s horrible experience and made the decision to actively put into place a law that would make a positive difference so that other children would not have to endure the same thing.
There are several Minnesota organizations working to prevent child abuse and neglect in our communities. Contact any/all of the following organizations to see how you can help-

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Minnesota

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (PCAMN)





  1. Michael, it’s a frustrating road, but keep it up! We need people like you in the middle of the system! This story is too common.

    Governor Mark Dayton..thank you, but your work is not done yet…

    I’ve always regretted not finishing my law degree…From my vantage point, our juvenile judicial system/family law has run amuck. There is no oversight, accountability or punishment for people within the system who are biased, sick or just bad practitioners. Although legal protection for these positions/people is understandable it also serves as a gateway for mistakes, bias and long term trauma for the children involved. One example within the family court system, we have untrained/poorly trained volunteers (CASA’s – with their own unresolved issues) making legal decisions for our children…it may be economical, but highly ineffective for the children. Every child is put into a box based on the current pop psych trend (ie dads can’t parent,kids can’t thrive without their father, parental alienation, reconciliation no matter what the abuse is/was and my favorite…the parental evaluation), this IS their training.

    My question…is there anything that can penetrate the system? How does one go about changing how our juvenile justice system works?

    As for our criminal juvenile justice system, there is no “justice” for the victims – the children. Unfortunately, the community believes in the system UNTIL they become a part of the system; and are typically victimized. They are at a complete disadvantage even if they are “good parents” they don’t know how to play the game. The parents are beat down and isolated with no where to turn. The system has the last word and the final word and it is the kids who lose.

    My children tell me the [local] police are the LAST people they would call if there was a crime against them; and many of their peers agree.

  2. Did I read this correctly….It is 2012 and Minnesota is just now making child abuse a felony? OH my….. I guess better late than never !

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