Friday, February 05, 2010

It Happens Every Day by Robin Sax

Sex Crimes against Children are always a shock when they get reported in the media, and especially when big-name stars, like Michael Jackson and Roman Polanski. But unless the crime is really heinous or involves a multitude of people, it is generally not reported or reported in small print on back pages of the newspaper.

But just because it's not trumpeted each time it happens, don't think that it never happens or that it happens only rarely. Or make the mistake of thinking that since kids are resilient and able to bounce back that such abuse is something they can shrug off easily. Worse yet, don't fool yourself into thinking that it's only strangers your kids have to worry about when it comes to sexual molestation. This book shows us that of all sexual assaults in 2008, 67 percent occurred to juveniles, and of those, 93% knew their attacker.

That's not just "Have seen around before", but fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, babysitters and neighbors, among others. And sexual assault cases are discovered every single day. As a prosecutor, Robin Sax has plenty of experience with child molestation and child sexual assault: she's the one who goes after the people who do it, and they don't stop unless they are found out and stopped. Some of the stories will horrify you- about a father who would take his daughter out in his truck and sexually molest her there. He used to do it at home, in the middle of the night, until she'd told her mother what was happening. Her mother bought her a lock for her door, but didn't do anything else. So instead of having her at home, he'd do it in his truck instead. Luckily, someone saw him and called the police, which got him arrested.

In the past, the girl would have had to repeat her story many times, but now, with a team approach to prosecution, the victim is treated much more gently- and is only interviewed once, while her siblings (if any) are removed from their parental custody and taken care of as the case goes forward. LA County is at the forefront of this new approach to prosecuting child molesters, and has led to many more convictions, and fewer traumatized victims.

Sax takes us from the moment the crime is discovered and offender arrested, all the way through to the day in court and eventual conviction. Along the way, she defuses many accusations leveled at Child molestation accusations: that they are a weapon in a divorce case with one parent versus another, that the child is lying, that the child changing his or her story means they are lying, and perhaps the most pernicious, that children will lie about these things in the positive but not the negative. Not only does she point out why these accusations are lies, but show why each are wrong, and even shows cases where the child says nothing happened when it did and defends the molester. Sometimes out of love, and sometimes out of fear.

From there, we get a glimpse of what goes into the trial of the child molester and the way the victims are prepared for the trial, learning not to feat the court and the stand- or the questions of their molester's defense attorney. She also tells parents how best to prepare their children so that this doesn't happen to them, or if it does or has, that they aren't allowed to suffer in silence.

This was a chilling and saddening book to read, but there was a fair amount of joy, too, because Robin Sax is more than just a prosecutor- she's a successful proesecutor- so most of the cases she's taken on have ended with jail time for the molester. But that large number of cases hasn't jaded or hardened her. She still fights as much as she's able for the victim, and she gets her man, or woman.

Reading this book also allows the reader to see the criminal justice system at work, on behalf of the victim, and the many long strides that have been made when it comes to questioning victims of child sexual assault and child rape. It's not just something that happens to older kids, but even babies have been molested. At least Sax doesn't list the pity-partyfest that would come from the "justifications" that the molesters use for their actions.

Another interesting and well-written book. Although you may not agree with the author about what steps can be taken and must be taken to eliminate much, of not all, of the monsters that prey on children, there is one way you can pretty much ensure that this never happens to your child- listen to them and don't judge them for what they say. If your child is afraid to tell you what happened to them out of the fear of not being believed, or thinking that you will be angry with them for the incident- it's as good as letting the molester have power over them. If all the molester has to say is, "Go ahead and tell! No one is going to believe you anyway!" and the child is already considered a liar- the child will know the molester speaks the truth.

Similarly, raise your children to have confidence in and believe in themselves. Molesters pick on the kids who are already troubled and problem children. But if the child is loved and believed, and knows that, and the molester knows it, he is unlikely to pick that child to molest- it's simply too much trouble for him. This book is packed full of good advice like that among many other useful pieces of information. I highly recommend this book on a troubling topic- it will make you angry, make you cry and also make you want this to never happen to any child you know- and help you if the unthinkable *does* happen to your child. It's not always a pleasant read, but a necessary one? Definitely.

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