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Monday, March 10, 2014

How Cutting Edge Research Can Help Psychologists and Judges Protect Children

by Barry Goldstein

One of the most important research studies about the impact of domestic violence on children began as a project to treat morbidly obese patients and help them lose substantial amounts of weight by eating no food but taking supplements to satisfy their nutritional needs. Some patients failed to lose the expected weight because they did not follow the protocol, but it was successful patients who were the ones to drop out of the program. Upon studying the personal records and interviewing the patients who left, Dr. Vincent Felitti came to understand that rather than a problem, the patients had viewed their excessive weight as a protective factor. They had experienced childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse and believed their weight would discourage anyone from attacking them.

These findings led Dr. Felitti with the assistance of Dr. Robert Anda of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to create of study involving over 17,000 middle-age patients in order to understand how childhood trauma impacted their health. This became the original ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) research. The first study was released in 1998 and since that time the CDC has sponsored at least five additional studies in other cities that confirmed and expanded on the findings of Dr. Felitti. There have now been over 80 research papers written for medical professionals about ACE research.

The patients were asked about ten different types of trauma in their childhood. The traumas were selected based on their prevalence in the obesity program. The traumas considered were domestic violence; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; an adult in the household who engaged in substance abuse; was imprisoned; depressed or mentally ill; separation from at least one of the biological parents; emotional neglect; and physical neglect. An ACE Score was created wherein the patient received one point for exposure to each type of trauma. The point was given whether there was one incident or many so the calculation often understated the harm.

The fundamental finding in the ACE research is that children exposed to domestic violence, child abuse and other trauma will suffer more illnesses and injuries throughout their lives and have a shorter life expectancy. The harm is cumulative so that each additional form of trauma multiplies the risk. Other research demonstrates that fathers who commit domestic violence are more likely to also commit child abuse. Thus if a child was exposed to domestic violence, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, that would create an ACE score of 4. If one of the parents also had a substance abuse problem or these events led to the removal of one of the parents from the child’s life the ACE score would be 6. At this level a child has a life expectancy twenty years less than a child with none of these traumas.

On first consideration these findings are depressing, but they also offer an incredible opportunity. If society can protect children from domestic violence and child abuse, we would enjoy a dramatic improvement in the health of children and adults with huge financial savings. The initial reports and articles have been directed at the medical community. This is useful because doctors can use this information to diagnose and treat adult patients suffering from a variety of illnesses that were caused by trauma experienced decades earlier. I am now working with Dr. Felitti to use this research for purposes of prevention.

In 1964 the Surgeon General’s report linking smoking and cancer was released. The tobacco industry initially attacked the report and denied the findings. Today the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association would not consider doing their work without a component to discourage smoking. This has led to a significant reduction in smoking and therefore less cancer, heart disease and deaths.

The ACE research has linked the childhood traumas studied to the ten leading causes of death in the United States. We believe that charitable organizations working to prevent many common diseases and societal problems should include a component to prevent domestic violence and child abuse in their work. This would include organizations working to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, auto-immune diseases, Aids, substance abuse, depression, suicide, eating disorders, PTSD, rape and many other scourges of society.

Understanding the pathways from abuse to illness will help professionals develop appropriate responses to domestic violence and child abuse. Domestic violence involve tactics abusers use to coerce and control their partners. The purpose of the tactics is to frighten and intimidate the victim so she does what the abuser demands even if she does not agree. Even more than the immediate harm from any physical abuse, it is this stress and fear that impacts victims and their children to produce the long-term medical risks. Many common diseases are caused or exacerbated by stress. The stress also causes inflammation which is associated with many health risks. The abuse and stress also lead to eating and sleeping disorders which in turn cause still more medical problems. Domestic violence and child abuse are also linked to depression and PTSD. The laws that require courts to consider domestic violence when making decisions about custody and visitation were based on research that children exposed to domestic violence were more likely to make a variety of poor choices. This leads to problems like substance abuse, crime, prostitution, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, self-mutilation, suicide and depression. Significantly, these health problems and poor decisions interact with each other to increase risks exponentially.

How domestic violence and child abuse harm children is critical to understanding the most effective responses. Some professionals look to individual incidents and tend to focus on physical abuse. In a situation where a man and woman hit each other the professional might make the mistake of assuming the behaviors are equivalent. Aside from whether one assault was more severe, an important question is who is afraid of their partner. In many cases the woman is smaller and physically weaker and so the man is not afraid the way the woman is. Furthermore the physical incident is part of a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior that creates the stress and fear associated with health risks. This is why context is so important to understanding domestic violence. Approaches that look only at physical abuse, minimize the significance of domestic violence, miss the underlying pattern and the impact on the victim or focus on less important issues will fail to protect children from the catastrophic risks described in the ACE research.

The Saunders’ Study: Recognizing True Abuse Complaints

The disastrous impact on children of exposure to domestic violence and child abuse should require that psychologists and judges err on the side of sarety and make sure they can recognize true allegations of abuse. The study by Dr. Daniel Saunders of the University of Michigan was released by the U. S. Department of Justice in April of 2012. Dr. Saunders recommended that evaluators and other professionals receive training about the impact of domestic violence on children. The ACE research confirms the importance of this information.

The purpose of the Saunders’ study was to consider the training of evaluators and other court professionals regarding domestic violence. He recommended that they have training in screening for domestic violence, risk assessment, post-separation violence and the impact of domestic violence on children. Many of the findings from this research raise concerns that court professionals do not have the training they need and this frequently leads to the failure to protect children.

Dr. Saunders emphasized that the selection of evaluators and other professionals to participate was not done on a random basis. He relied on volunteers and it is reasonable to believe the sample was weighted towards the best professionals who agreed to participate because they had greater training and interest in domestic violence issues than their colleagues. Despite this, however, approximately 30% of the evaluators said they did not have all of the necessary training. Even this understates the problem as other questions demonstrated the lack adequate training is far more widespread. Although most evaluators claimed they screened for domestic violence, when asked what tools they used most relied on standard psychological tests. These provide no information about domestic violence which means the evaluators were not conducting any effective screening. Their answers to vignettes further demonstrated inadequate understanding of domestic violence. This is the worst possible situation because these professionals did not have the necessary training but believe they do so they would be unlikely to consult with genuine experts.

Dr. Saunders found that evaluators and other professionals without the needed training tended to focus on the myth that women frequently make false allegations, unscientific alienation theories and the assumption that mothers seeking to protect children from frightening fathers were actually harming the children. Many domestic violence custody cases focus on these issues which means the courts are frequently relying on unqualified professionals. The Saunders’ study found that professionals using these methods create outcomes that hurt children.

The study also looked at what Dr. Saunders referred to as “harmful outcome” cases. These are extreme outcomes in which the alleged abuser wins custody and the safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure is limited to supervised or no visitation. These are typically cases in which the mother raised concerns about abuse, but the court disbelieved her. Saunders found these outcomes are always wrong because the harm of separating the children from their primary attachment figure, damage that includes increased risk of depression, low self-esteem and suicide when older is greater than any benefit the court thought it was creating. In most of these cases the extreme outcome was caused by a very flawed process so frequently the opposite outcome would have benefited the children. The frequency of these harmful outcomes confirms the courts routinely rely on unqualified professionals.

Quincy Model 2.0:

Would Anyone Like to Share $500 Billion Every Year?

The ACE research demonstrates the enormous harm caused by tolerating domestic violence and child abuse. It not only reduces the quality and length of millions of lives, but creates enormous economic harm that impacts all of society. Research about the original Quincy Model proves that domestic violence and child abuse are not inevitable and that they can be dramatically reduced by using a group of best practices that are easily implemented. The Saunders’ study provides information on how to reform the custody court system which must be included in order to enjoy the enormous benefits from the Quincy Model with its reduction in domestic violence crimes and child abuse.

A group of leaders in Quincy, Massachusetts first individually and later working together developed a series of best practices to prevent domestic violence crime that became known as the Quincy Model. The people in Norfolk County benefited from this program from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s. District Attorney, Bill Delahunt reviewed the personal records of inmates at a nearby high security prison and noticed that virtually everyone had a childhood history that included domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. He realized that if they could prevent domestic violence crime, all crime would be reduced and that is exactly what happened. A county that had averaged 5 or 6 domestic violence homicides every year had none for several years, then one and back to none.

Some other communities like Nashville, San Diego and Duluth had similar good results with similar best practices. When some of the best practices were abandoned the murder and crime rates went back up. Since Quincy new research and technologies have become available and can be used to strengthen the model. During the Quincy Model some complaining witnesses stopped cooperating after their abusers sought custody in the Probate Court. This undermined but did not derail the Quincy Model because this abuser tactic was less common. Today it is standard practice for the worst abusive fathers to seek custody as a way to regain control over their victims. Most custody cases are settled more or less amicably. Even in cases with abusive fathers the litigation is settled because the fathers love their children and are unwilling to deliberately hurt them by separating the children from their mothers. This often results in a settlement in which the mother gives up resources and financial support in return for custody. The biggest problem in custody courts are the 3.8% of cases which cannot be settled and go to trial and often far beyond. These are overwhelmingly domestic violence cases that cannot be settled because the abuser is willing to hurt the child in order to control and punish the mother. At the same time the abusers are very manipulative and as the Saunders’ study demonstrated the court professionals do not have the training to recognize domestic violence. The problem is compounded by the development of a cottage industry of lawyers and evaluators that earn large incomes by supporting practices that help abusers. Domestic violence is about control and includes control of the family financial resources. Accordingly the best way for professionals to make a good living is to support the side with the money.

Many court professionals are taught to misunderstand these disputes as “high conflict” cases. That assumes the victim and the abuser are equally responsible for the conflict. The courts often pressure victims to cooperate with their abusers instead of forcing the father to stop his abuse if he wants a relationship with the children. The Saunders’ study found that courts frequently place too much emphasis on the emotions and anger of the mother out of proportion of what it says about her parenting. Many court-sponsored committees have found widespread gender bias against women. One common example is blaming mothers for their normal reactions to the fathers’ abuse. Dr. Saunders found that courts are not requiring supervised visitation for alleged abusers as often as they should. Every year in the United States, 58,000 children are sent for custody or visitation with dangerous abusers.

Bill Delahunt created a section in his office to prosecute incest and child sexual abuse crimes. He believed that most allegations are true despite assumptions at the time that children frequently made false complaints. The original ACE study included a confidential questionnaire of over 17,000 middle age patients. 22% stated they were sexually abused as children. They had no reason to lie about this and in fact some patients probably denied abuse because of embarrassment or defense mechanisms caused them to forget. Accordingly we know sexual abuse of children is far more common than we would like to believe. Nevertheless, although research confirms mothers make deliberately false allegations of sexual abuse less than 2% of the time, custody courts are giving the alleged sexual predators custody in 85% of these cases. This means courts are sending a lot of children to live with their rapists. In this context Saunders’ finding that inadequately trained professionals tend to focus on the myth that women frequently make false allegations is especially important.

The same pathways described in the ACE research that cause health problems to children from domestic violence and child abuse also impact direct victims of domestic violence. The Academy on Violence and Abuse studied the medical costs and estimated the United States spends $333-750 billion per year on health costs related to domestic violence. I believe the higher amount is more likely because even in medical settings victims often deny or minimize their partner’s abuse. We spend over one trillion dollars per year on crime costs and at least $200 billion is caused by domestic violence. Many victims, children, third parties and abusers never reach their financial potential substantially undermining the economy. This means in the United States, domestic violence costs us over one trillion dollars annually and should be thought of as a subsidy for abusers. Even the best practices won’t end all domestic violence or related child abuse, but based on past successes, Quincy Model 2.0 can prevent 80% of domestic violence crime and save at least $500 billion annually.

Quincy Model 2.0 is not magic, but just the use of a group of best practices we know can prevent domestic violence. This includes strict enforcement of criminal laws, orders of protection and probation conditions; practices that make it easier for victims to leave; coordinated community response; multi-disciplinary approaches, use of current scientific research and technology like GPS; and reform of the custody courts so abusers can no longer manipulate the courts to gain custody or pressure their victim to return.

Most women will no longer have to cope with domestic violence. Children will live in safer homes and grow up happier and healthier. We will all benefit from a stronger economy, less crime and dramatically reduced health insurance costs. Of course in order to gain these life changing benefits, abusive men will no longer be able to terrorize and control their families. Sounds like the best deal we could ever make.

Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence author, speaker and expert. Barry is the co-editor with Dr. Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE AND CHILD CUSTODY and co-author with Elizabeth Liu of REPRESENTING THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVOR. He is currently working on a book for the general public that is likely to change how society responds to domestic violence. NOT A PRIVATE MATTER: ENDING THE $500 BILLION ABUSER SUBSIDY provides a realistic plan to drastically reduce domestic violence crimes and 500 billion reasons to do so. To learn more about Barry's work, check out and Barry can be reached at

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What a Sociopath Looks Like!

By Heidi Hiatt

Mr. Baffleberg? My cousin’s longtime piano teacher?!

Yellow teeth bared, he raised the knife in a jerky automaton-like flourish as putrid sweat dripped from his stringy reddish black hair…

Is this what you think of when you picture a sociopath? If so, you’re not alone. This is how pop culture often portrays dangerous and dishonest people– in hockey masks, dragging one leg heavily behind them, brandishing weapons, unkempt, socially inept loners who drive noisy ’70s vehicles with human bones dangling from the rear view mirror– and the list goes on.

Unfortunately these stereotypes have numbed our senses and narrowed our vision. Oftentimes, when we hear that someone has been arrested for embezzlement, murder, or other crimes, we see a particular phrase pop up on the evening news: “he always seemed like such a nice guy.” A clean-shaven athletic man in a citrus-hued polo shirt and neat slacks doesn’t really fit the image of a sociopath that we’ve been conditioned to accept.

There are many arguments about how to distinguish between psychopaths, sociopaths, and those with antisocial personality disorder. Sometimes this is explained on a continuum of violence or in the context of just how far someone is willing to go to cover their wrongdoings.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the term sociopath loosely to describe self-serving human beings who can use and harm others without much, if any, conscience flickering behind their greedy eyes. These are people in serious need of the grace of God.

Only someone who looks like me would dare mislead you, dear.

Readers of my blog–some of whom have stood with me in my struggles against sociopaths– know that in my personal experience, a particular type of sociopath stands out. Whether male or female, these people are usually in positions of power and have a habit of ingratiating themselves to their organizations and endearing themselves to the upper echelons.

When someone finally finds the courage to report their wrongdoing, they are so embedded in the organization that the complainant is rebuffed as if they have a personal beef or are overreacting. It is often the whistleblower scrambling to find a new job or legal representation rather than the suspect.

That kind of thinking is exactly what I want American society to overcome. Sociopaths are often not the obvious suspects. They instinctively know how to bury their misdeeds and burn the people who stand up to them. They have a justification for every accusation. There is a rationalization for every questionable circumstance. They are quick to shift the blame and make any victims or witnesses appear needy, crazy, vindictive, or unbalanced.

These behaviors are disgustingly obvious to those trained to see them, or to those who’ve dealt with criminal behavior in their personal lives. It doesn’t take magical powers to realize when one of these people is operating within your family, church, or profession, but it does require an open mind. We must acknowledge that sociopaths don’t live in a colony of caves they all return to at sunrise, but they are among us each and every day.

Even the police have various stereotypes that they employ while analyzing suspects, like, “if they’re not making eye contact, they’re lying to me,” or “they’re not telling me the truth because they’re nervous.” There can be various legitimate reasons for that behavior and that kind of old school boilerplate thinking can lead to extremely wrong conclusions. Many sociopaths are smooth talkers and some can remain cool as cucumbers when questioned about their actions.

Remember this scene from Men in Black?

To my horror I’ve seen some of these people ingratiate themselves to the police and it’s the police who stand up for them when their sins begin to leak out. We do the same thing in our families– “oh, he wouldn’t do that,” or “there’s no way one of our own could do such a thing.”

How do you know? Did you investigate? Did you involve an objective third party who could offer their take on the situation? Did you ask an expert on the suspected behavior? Why would the alleged victim risk so much or pay so heavy a price for turning them in?

Sociopath, to some, is synonymous with serial killer. We need to get over that. Yes, serial killers usually display some degree of psychopathy, but their profiles and motivations can be very different. The same is true of the people I’m speaking of. While sociopaths share common traits, they don’t all work in one field or eat at the same restaurant or look alike. One reason these men and women are so successful at their game of using others for their own pleasure is because they blend in.

Sociopaths can have families. They can be parents. They might be great parents. They can be attractive. They can be popular. They might be highly intelligent or they might be of average intelligence or below and just know how to talk the talk. Some like to keep their names in lights and their good deeds in people’s hearts; they’re the ones who are always volunteering or putting supposed sacrificial kindnesses on display for others to see.

These folks might practice a false modesty but they are careful to cultivate a public persona that just “can’t be the sweet old lady who embezzled $30,000 from the nonprofit’s operating fund.” Yet every day in the news, there’s someone else… and someone else… and someone else whose family or coworkers or organization finally dared to investigate those curious little question marks that started to gather, resulting in an arrest.

He has your best interests in mind. He really does.

Earlier this year, I saw a list that claimed to identify the top ten professions in which psychopaths work,

1. CEO

2. Lawyer

3. Media (Television/Radio)

4. Salesperson

5. Surgeon

6. Journalist

7. Police Officer

8. Clergy person

9. Chef

10. Civil Servant

The list, evidently, comes from a book by Oxford psychologist Kevin Dutton called The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success. I’ve seen similar lists published from time to time. While I see the truth in them, I usually wonder how they came to these conclusions. This list looks pretty logical to me, though, so I’m going to run with it.

What do sociopathic people usually want? Power and control. Money. Influence. Access to victims. Easy pickings. Notice how some of those positions can make great money and some have a profound influence over our culture. Some of these job titles command automatic respect and admiration. Many people can be fearful of questioning the integrity of a journalist, civil servant, or police officer.

But also note that people in these positions can hide behind their job titles and therefore appear as someone they’re not. Priests are expected to be sacrificial and saintly, are they not? Their office in the church allows them to reach many people and do countless good deeds for the sake of Christ. It’s the perfect cover. What a great deal for a dark soul.

The same can be true of police officers. Becoming a cop makes you an automatic hero to some because you’re risking your life for public safety. Many cops are involved in charitable activities and known for their outreach to the community. Some of the same cops might abuse their spouses or sleep with underage girls and boys. Accuse them of wrongdoing, though, and there are those who are quick to hide behind their badges.

How many of us have dated this guy?

Do you see what I’m driving at? Sociopaths frequently place themselves in jobs where they have so much power, such strong union protection, or are so difficult to fire that it’s very hard to successfully prosecute them. They can gravitate towards professions that receive automatic respect. The very job, title, or circumstances that make them seem so admirable can also be the job, title, or circumstances that provide the ideal camouflage for their deviant behaviors. We can and should be willing to look beyond someone’s veneer to find out what they’re really about.

We don’t need to be running about paranoid or quick to label others as sociopaths. But what I want you to take away from this article is that a sociopath might not look or act like what you think they do. We want sociopaths to be obvious and openly devious, but we need to be more in tune with good and evil than that. Christians need to be sensitive to promptings from the Holy Spirit even when they don’t, at the time, seem logical.

Again and again on this blog I hammer on the verse from the Manufacturer’s Handbook that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. I want readers to be TIRED of me saying that. The best sociopaths can be the ones who have you feeling guilty for questioning their motives or behavior at all. They’re the ones people in their circles rush to defend or are afraid to take on. Their crimes might even be blatant but they know that others are unlikely to stop them because of their position of authority, the cost of an investigation, or others’ fear.

The bottom line is that we need to stop stereotyping, stop assuming, stop blindly defending those “great guys,” stop protecting people just because we live with them, work with them, or pay the huge bills they send us, and start acknowledging that well-disguised evil can be very close to us.

There is no island of evil and continent of good. There is evil at our elbows and unless we are willing to call it out for what it is, we are enabling it, lazily letting it thrive and breed.

The wacky thing about those bad guys is that you can’t count on them to be obvious. They forget to wax their mustaches and goatees, leave their horns at home, send their black hats to the dry cleaners. They’re funny like that. -Jim Butcher

Drat! Foiled again!

Heidi Hiatt, MA recently graduated as a Forensic Psychologist.  You can read more of her posts at her personal blog, Truth, Justice, and All-American Allergen-Free Apple Pie Straight Talk in a Crooked World

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Victim Impact Statements: A Piece of Justice

by Donna R. Gore, M.A.

Crime: The Domino Effect

The domino effect causes a sequence of reactions where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. It typically refers to a linked sequence of events where the time between successive events is relatively small.

And so it goes… when crime occurs… the dominoes fall…

The Victim Impact Statement
One of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.

Creating the appropriate victim impact statement can be a daunting task for families during one of the most traumatic times in their lives. After the initial loss, the journey through the judicial system can be equally frustrating, time-consuming and emotionally draining, re-traumatizing and bringing grief back to the surface. To best utilize the victims’ right to present a victim impact statement at trial, you must be clear-headed and as objective as possible, which for the crime victim is next to impossible.

Explaining the Overall Impact -
You want to convey the journey and the overall toll it has taken from many perspectives-emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially, your outlook on life currently and projecting into the future, your wishes regarding the disposition of the perpetrator, and changes to the system which negatively impacted and/or re-victimized you or alternately, your satisfaction with how you were treated.

Familiarizing the deciding body with the victim… beyond victimization … It is imperative that you provide a complete portrayal of your loved one both visually and narratively, as this may be your sole opportunity for several years (several years up until the point of your initial court or parole appearance or several years until you obtain another opportunity!) Talk about who your loved one was beyond the crime…. Their assets, talents, what they contributed to the family and to others and their aspirations for the future that were taken away…

Expressing Fear for Your Personal Safety- This is one of your Constitutional rights…(Currently in 33 states and under the Federal Statute - Crime Victim’s Right’s Act enacted in October 2004:***The right to be reasonably protected.

Seeking Restitution- Restitution is payment by the offender to the victim to cover some or all of the costs associated with a crime. It is ordered by a judge and usually paid through the Court Support Services Division, or other entity within your state…To request restitution in a criminal court case, contact the State’s Attorney Office or the OVS victim services advocate, located in the court where the criminal case will be prosecuted.

Social Security Administration
Victims or their family members may be eligible for survivor benefits, Medicare, and other social security benefits. For more information, please call the Social Security Administration (SSA) toll-free at 800-772-1213, TTD: 800-325-0778, or visit the Social Security Administration website.

Workers’ Compensation Commission
Available to employees through their employers, workers’ compensation provides wage replacement benefits and medical treatment for injuries that occurred in the workplace or on company property. For more information, call the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) toll-free, in Connecticut only, 800-223-9675 or visit the Worker's Compensation Commission website.

“Revenge” -Emotional Release Whether you call it “revenge” or “emotional release” or “venting,” there is some latitude given here…as opposed to the criminal court process in which a poker face must be maintained with no emotion allowed whatsoever or you will be banished from the court… It is normal to have emotion and to show your sorrow and anger….

Adding Information to the Criminal Proceeding -  Parole/Pardons Board You may have relevant information pertaining to the defendant for the court or parole/pardons board which can influence the ultimate length or provisions of sentencing. It is important that this information be shared and part of the record. [Ladyjustice- As per Atty. M. Cruz, crime victims are not given the opportunity to provide a victim impact statement during civil trials because the attorney represents the interests of the victim directly in civil proceedings (and could argue for damages on their behalf )… WHEREAS in a criminal trial, prosecutors represent the interests of the State and not the victims directly].

Altering Sentencing Your information could be the determining factor in whether the defendant stays in prison or not. Ladyjustice attended a parole hearing several years ago on behalf of a victim’s family in New Haven, in which following the presentation of the parent’s victim impact statements, the perpetrator was given an additional 10 year sentence!! This also occurred with a friend’s case whose brother was murdered California! You may think that the outcome is always pre-determined… BUT there are those instances in which you CAN effect significant change…

Educating Judicial Officials Regarding Victim’s Constitutional Rights: It is more the exception than the rule that the victim’s rights are known, acknowledged and enforced in whichever arena …. You have to be your own advocate and educate others, obtain an attorney who has expertise in crime victim rights. Even when you “have your ducks in arrow” you probably will have to fight for those rights as you encounter resistance. NEVER ASSUME THEY KNOW AND WILL ENFORCE! …. This writer’s experience is a prime example…

A Forum to Express Forgiveness (In a small percentage of cases) Whether we collectively or individually agree, regardless of the heinous acts of violence resulting in maiming or taking of a life(s), there are those victims who have the capacity to forgive …even murderers because of their strong religious beliefs… [LJ- I say you may have a straight shot to heaven for this more than generous act. Ladyjustice prides herself on being a good person to all those who are deserving…. BUT, she is not THAT generous!]

Related Issues:

In the Intervening Years…..Hypothetically, a perpetrator is sentenced to 25 to 50 years…. Are they actually going to serve all of that time? The answer is “No.” In very general terms, it’s usually the mandatory minimum …perhaps 80% of the sentence in combination with other factors such as” earned good time,” depending on the state and whether determinant sentencing or indeterminate sentencing was ”the yardstick” at the time; whether there were mistakes made in the prosecution and potential issues for appeal and the fact that now…. the rules have changed…. So… law enforcement should never make promises to families about the perp “never getting out.”

What should the family do to prepare in those intervening years? What they should do and what they are able to do are two different matters….

Large proportions of victims put “it“ away in the corner of their minds and don’t want to think about it until and unless they have to... Those of us who are in "the business" of victim advocacy are different, as we have a different personal investment and reasons for staying involved. Those victims who chose not to stay engaged and seemingly “move on with their lives” until the boom drops…they get the call or letter and the dominoes begin to fall ….

A likely scenario is that they suddenly panic…or are steadfast in their anger and resentment…. "Why should I change anything in my life when he is the criminal, not me?"

This is a normal “self preservation type reaction…. They are fearful and angry of the impact for which they have no control They feel that they are not responsible to do anything…for they never asked for this to occur… Thisisalltrue… However, it is cliché… But is what happens when we are busy making other plans. In fact, “someone “must deal with it….

Therefore, a few suggestions:
If you cannot or chose not to be involved with what will occur in the intervening years, you must not live “in a dream world” thinking it’s over for good ….. In fact, that chapter may be over… You must:
Accept the possibility that you may have won the battle, but not the war….
Be vigilant…. You do not have to immerse yourself in crime victim issued daily…. But you must have a working knowledge of the process, your case and the potential for it to “rise up out of the ashes” again
Hire an attorney who is skilled regarding crime victim issues or seek out pro bono legal

Services in your state:

Should I or Should I Not Attend a Sentencing or Hearing?

According to Michelle S. Cruz, Attorney and Crime Victim Advocate, time has not been a true friend to victims when it comes to misinformation by prosecutors and other judicial persons providing advice. Even in November 2013, their attitude is cavalier on this matter, frequently telling victims,(regardless of the type of case,) ”Oh, you don’t have to bother…It’s no big deal…)

How many times have we heard that one and then…. It turned out to be a significant event. Whether for expediency or laziness, victims need to decide if they should be there as part of their rights…and never be told “It’s not as big deal.” Information is power…. Your option is always to have your assigned victim advocate or your private attorney appear on your behalf and report directly what transpired.

How Did It All Begin?

We could not conclude this discussion on crime and victim impact statements without paying homage to the person credited with giving the first official victim impact statement….

Doris Gwendolyn Tate (January 16, 1924 – July 10, 1992) was an advocate for the rights of crime victims. following the murder of her daughter, actress Sharon Tate. She worked to raise public awareness about the United States corrections system and was influential in the amendment of California laws relating to the victims of violent crime.

Doris was born in Houston Texas, and mother of three daughters. In 1969, Sharon, was at the beginning of a film career, and married to film director Roman Polanski Eight months pregnant with their first child, Tate and four others were murdered at the Polanski’s' rented Beverly Hills home in a case that was sensationalized throughout the world.

The killers were eventually identified as Charles “Tex “Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, acting on behalf of the leader of their group, Charles Manson.

All four were found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death, along with Lesley Van Houten, who had not participated in the murder of the Tate victims, but had participated in the murder of a Los Angeles couple the following night.

The death sentences were overturned before they could be applied. when the State of California temporarily abolished the death penalty.

For more than a decade after the murders, Doris Tate battled depression and unable to discuss her daughter's death.

The Turning Point: In 1982, Doris was told that Leslie Van Houten had obtained 900 signatures supporting her quest to achieve parole. Tate mounted a public campaign against Van Houten, winning the support of the National Enquirer, which printed coupons for people to sign and send to Doris With more than 350,000 signatures, Tate demonstrated that a considerable number of people opposed Van Houten's parole, which was denied.

She later became an active member of the Victim Offender Reconciliation and Justice for Homicide Victims groups. She founded COVER, the Coalition on Victim's Equal Rights, and served on the California State Advisory Committee on Correctional Services as a victims' representative.

She was part of a group that worked toward the passage of Proposition 8, the Victim's Rights Bill, which was passed in 1982. It allowed the presentation of victim impact statements during the sentencing of violent attackers.

Tate became the first Californian to make such a statement after the law was passed, when she spoke at the parole hearing of one of her daughter's killers.

In 1984 she ran for the California State Assembly as an advocate for victim's rights. Though unsuccessful,, she continued to campaign for changes to existing laws, and was involved in the passage of Proposition 89, which allowed the governor of the state to overturn decisions made by the Board of Prison Terms.

Tate's assessment of Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten concluded that their crimes were so vicious as to warrant execution. While addressing Charles Watson at his 1984 parole hearing, she said,

"What mercy, sir, did you show my daughter when she was begging for her life? What mercy did you show my daughter when she said, “Give me two weeks to have my baby and then you can kill me?

When will Sharon come up for parole? Will these seven victims and possibly more walk out of their graves if you get paroled? You cannot be trusted”. She confronted Watson again at his 1990 parole hearing.

The Doris Tate Crime Victim’s Bureau

How Far We’ve Come:

Judges and juries care about what you have been through. It hasn’t always been that way.

Victim advocate Jo Kolanda describes a sentencing hearing she attended in the 1970’s:

“I went to court for the sentencing of a defendant who had been convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. With me were the mom and dad of the young woman he killed.

The offender’s parents, friends, and pastor told the court what a wonderful guy he was. The victim’s parents asked the assistant district attorney to ask the judge if they could tell the court about their daughter. The judge said they could not because . “It would be inflammatory.” Then he added that….. “He couldn’t understand why this simple traffic case was cluttering up his court calendar in the first place.”

[Reference: Janice Harris Lord, ACSW-LMSW/LPC For Mothers Against Drunk Driving Copyright © 2003 Mothers Against Drunk Driving, James Rowland, founder of the Victim Impact Statement; Anne Seymour of Justice Solutions in Washington, D.C]

Other References

Donna2Donna Gore created a service program for crime victims and offers her assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. She recognizes that this could be of great value to not only the crime victim, but to the court system as well.

By using Gore’s services a crime victim can be coached on how to best present their victim impact statement. From her vast experience volunteering in the courtroom, she is able to act as a liaison with advocates who may not have the same experiences. Working with the court advocates, attorneys, and prosecutors, not only will the crime victims’ voices be heard, they will be presented professionally, courteously, and effectively.

Donna R. Gore is a consultant and trainer with the Office of Victim Services within the US Department of Justice. She is the host of the internet radio show, Shattered Lives which broadcasts every Saturday at 5pm Eastern time on the Inside Lenz Network.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dylan Farrow Speaks Out about Sexual Abuse

by Barry Goldstein

The original ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study led by Dr. Vincent Felitti included interviews with over 17,000 middle age and middle class patients of Kaiser Permanente. In a confidential survey 22% of the patients said they had been sexually abused as children. They had no reason or benefit for lying and it is likely some denied sexual abuse out of embarrassment or a variety of defense mechanisms. In other words this is certainly a conservative figure for the percentage of children sexually abused in the United States.

And yet most discussions about child sexual abuse are distorted by the issue of false allegations. There is a substantial group of people lying about child sexual abuse allegations. It is the people who have a financial or personal interest in supporting the myth that women and children often lie about sexual abuse. This group includes the priests and church officials who fought so long and hard to conceal the Catholic Church scandal; Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State administrators who protected him; Richard Gardner who concocted Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) to earn obscene amounts of money and protect pedophiles; the cottage industry of evaluators and lawyers who make their money supporting abusers; “fathers’ rights” organizations that are more concerned with the power and control of abusers than the health and safety of children; judges and court administrators who don’t want to admit how often they have failed to protect children and numerous other perpetrators. And as a letter from Dylan Farrow tells us, it includes Woody Allen. These scoundrels are comfortable accusing others of lying because they have been lying about the frequency of false allegations.

On this planet, we only get one chance at life. One chance at a happy, healthy and productive life. In this country we now know for sure that at least one-quarter of our children must live their only life as victims of child sexual abuse. They not only suffer the unspeakable violation, but the never ending aftermath. As a result of the actions of a predator that we failed to protect them from, the children will suffer more illnesses and injuries throughout their only lives. They will suffer far more physical and emotional pain throughout their one life. They are likely to use a variety of defense and coping mechanisms many of which will bring them still more harm. And their one life is likely to be shorter.

The Saunders’ study found the evaluators; judges and lawyers tend to pay far more attention to mothers’ anger and emotion all out of proportion to what it tells us about their parenting. The mothers see the pain and suffering their children are being put through by abusive fathers and the widespread failure of the courts to protect children. The mothers had been taught since grade school that our courts would protect victims and certainly children. How can they not be angry and emotional? This is their child’s one chance at life. What nerve to tell mothers and children to get over it, cooperate with the abuser, the child needs their (abusive) father, and we don’t believe you, and DON’T DARE BE ANGRY AND EMOTIONAL.

Perhaps the courts need to look in the mirror. They might be able to see that under current practices although mothers make deliberately false allegations of child sexual abuse less than 2% of the time, in 85% of these cases the alleged and really likely sexual abuser is given custody. And there goes the child for years of unspeakable abuse and with it goes the child’s last chance for a happy life. The statistics from court cases and from the ACE study confirm the courts are getting a high percentage of cases wrong and erring on the side of destroying children’s lives. AND YET COURT OFFICIALS SINCERELY BELIEVE THE SYSTEM IS WORKING.

Dylan Farrow Letter

Dylan Farrow is a brave young woman who recently released a letter describing the sexual assault against her by her adoptive father, Woody Allen. Her letter was published on a blog by New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof. This was a major news story and controversy when Dylan was seven-years-old and first revealed her father’s abuse. Shortly thereafter, he revealed a romantic relationship with a 19-year-old girl who was essentially his stepdaughter. They later married.

In her letter, Ms. Farrow described how Allen had engaged in many acts that we would understand as grooming a victim. Dylan tried to hide but he usually found her. She described some of the details of his sexual assault on her that led to her complaint. This resulted in a medical investigation, criminal investigation and custody dispute in which Allen used the common abuser tactic of seeking custody to punish the mother (actress Mia Farrow) and regain control.

The medical investigation at a hospital in Connecticut came to the conclusion that there was no sexual abuse. It is important to consider context in this case and understand that at that time, like today, many professionals do not have the expertise they need to investigate child sexual abuse claims and many professionals believe the myth that women and children frequently make false allegations. Allen sought to promote this myth by immediately claiming that Mia Farrow was pressuring Dylan to lie because of the problems in the relationship between Allen and Farrow. In her letter, Dylan revealed that the enormous pressure created by Allen caused her mother to ask if the allegations were true and told her it would be ok if she needed to recant.

The prosecutor decided not to bring criminal charges based on concerns about how serving as a witness would impact the child. At the press conference announcing the case was being dropped the prosecutor clearly stated that he believed the child. He was severely criticized for this statement and charged with an ethics violation, but it seems ethical for the prosecutor to support the victim and make the point that the lack of prosecution does not mean the allegations are false.

The custody case resulted in a rare successful outcome. Mia Farrow won custody of the three children and Woody Allen was denied any contact. This is an extremely rare outcome in custody cases as there was and still is a strong bias to include fathers in children’s lives. As mentioned before, custody courts rarely believe even true allegations of sexual abuse. Accordingly, the outcome suggests the evidence against Allen was incredibly strong.

Dylan described some of the consequences to her from Allen’s abuse. She said that she cut herself, suffered eating disorders and emotional problems. All of these issues are consistent with being a sexual abuse victim and support the validity of her complaint.

Misunderstanding of Innocent Until Proven Guilty

In her letter, Dylan Farrow discusses that the ambiguity of the outcome led many people to a view of “who can say what happened” and then continue as if nothing was wrong. This is a common problem, particularly in the case of celebrities. There is good reason to believe Kobe Bryant raped the woman, who complained about him, but after typically aggressive legal and public relations tactics, the charges were dropped and a settlement arranged. He has gone back to his old life and is generally treated as if no rape ever occurred.

The public has a fundamental misconception about the meaning of “innocent until proven guilty” that works against victims. This is a basic constitutional right that I fully support. We believe it is important that no one be convicted of a crime and imprisoned if they are innocent. Accordingly we have a standard that the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. We are willing to accept the fact that many dangerous criminals will walk free because of the importance of protecting innocent defendants up against the immense power of the government. Even with the protections we see cases in which a defendant’s innocence is demonstrated after many years in jail.

Innocent until proven guilty is an important principle, but it applies only to the government. If there were rumors that a neighbor had molested children, no responsible parent would allow their children to play in the neighbor’s home. The rumors might be completely unfair and untrue, but the potential risk to children is so catastrophic that it would be neglectful for any parent to expose their children to the danger. No reasonable parent would say that the neighbor is innocent until proven guilty so I have to let my children play in his home. The admonition does not apply to the general public, but only to the government.

In the case of Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen, the information went far beyond the rumor stage. We have a credible victim and know that in the context of custody disputes, which applies to this case, less than two percent of sexual abuse allegations are deliberately false. Allen has claimed that the complaint was in retaliation for his romantic relationship with Soon Yi Previn. She is the adoptive daughter of Mia Farrow who at the time shared three children with Woody Allen. In other words she was the equivalent of his stepdaughter. At the very least this relationship raises issues about Allen’s sense of boundaries.

There is no proof that the allegations were false. An investigation at a Connecticut hospital found the allegations to be wrong. The prosecutor, while declining to prosecute said there was probable cause to support the complaint. Perhaps most revealing is that the custody decision gave Mia Farrow custody and denied contact for Woody Allen. Many in the public may not realize how significant this decision is. The custody courts have a huge bias favoring keeping even the most abusive fathers in children’s lives. In cases involving sexual abuse allegations, 85% result in custody to the alleged abuser. The Saunders’ study from the U.S. Department of Justice found that courts do not limit alleged abusers to supervised visitation as often as they should. So for the custody court to deny the father a relationship with his children demonstrates there was strong evidence that the allegations are true. It is important to understand that if the evidence made it 90% likely Allen molested Dylan; this would justify the custody court decision but would also justify the decision not to prosecute criminally.

Much of the public and indeed many professionals do not realize how difficult it is to prove child sexual abuse. Many types of sexual assault do not leave physical or DNA evidence and in other cases the physical proof may be gone by the time the child reveals the assault. Nevertheless, many people expect physical proof or DNA evidence and this alone can create a reasonable doubt in some minds. As the letter from Dylan reminds us, sexual assault is an extremely painful and embarrassing experience. We would not expect an adult rape victim to speak about the worst event in her life without developing a trusting relationship with her therapist and yet many professionals expect children to reveal all the details after very minimal discussion designed to create trust between the child and investigator. In this case it appears that the reluctance of Dylan to speak openly with strangers was used by Allen to try to discredit her complaint.

Children often do not fully understand the significance of what the offender did to them. They may worry that they are at fault and might be punished. Accordingly, it is normal for them to first reveal to the person they most trust and to tell only part of the story in order to gauge the reaction. In this like many other cases the child tells her mother, but when the mother has a dispute with the alleged perpetrator, her involvement is viewed as suspicious. When more information comes out later, this is treated as undermining credibility by those unaware it is a normal response by children.

The underlying problem in this and so many other child sexual abuse cases is that society’s response is terrible. It is not easy to create an atmosphere and response system that allows one-quarter of our children to become victims of sexual assault. The press has to fail to cover scandals as they did with the Catholic Church and Penn State until long after it should have been obvious, and as they continue to do with the custody courts. We maintain the myth that women and children often make false allegations of abuse. As the Saunders’ study demonstrated, this myth results in inadequately trained professionals routinely disbelieving true allegations. The failure to prosecute or even make child protective complaints against abusers encourages their sense of entitlement and permits them to find still more victims as Jerry Sandusky did.

It is the harmful atmosphere, belief in the myth and misunderstanding of innocent until proven guilty that encouraged the public to move on with their lives, give Woody Allen a pass and let him continue to live a life filled with fame and honor. But there is an unacceptable price for giving Allen a pass. In doing so we hurt Dylan and the people who love her. Dylan’s letter demonstrates the pain caused by a Hollywood community that continues to honor Allen for his work seemingly without concern for his treatment of his daughter.

Alec Baldwin, who is specifically mentioned in Dylan’s letter, responded by saying the issue is none of his business. This is unsurprising from someone who has promoted a pro-pedophile theory that seeks to prevent accountability for abusers while destroying the one chance thousands of children had for a good life.

Our belief in innocent until proven guilty must not prevent the public from providing support for victims like Dylan. We have every right to shun Allen for what he did and what we believe he did. I used to enjoy Woody Allen’s movies, but I haven’t seen any since I heard the complaint. When I think of Dylan lying on her stomach in the attic, nothing Allen can produce will ever be funny. The public response obviously matters to Dylan, and that is enough for me, but it really has a far greater importance. Allen’s continued acceptance sends a terrible message to abusers that they can expect to get away with the most horrific behavior.

The message to children is even worse. Your one chance at a good life doesn’t matter. Don’t dare challenge someone wealthy and powerful. Men have the power to use and abuse children’s bodies. So be quiet and don’t dare to complain. If you think this is not the message consider that one of Sandusky’s victims explained why he didn’t come forward sooner. He didn’t think anyone would believe him.

We must believe our children. They lie about other issues but not sexual abuse. We cannot continue to take one quarter of our children, permit miscreants to sexually assault them and deprive them of their one chance for a happy life on this planet. It is a painful and difficult subject, but we cannot continue to hide our eyes and our hearts. We must believe Dylan. Thank you Dylan, for being the voice for so many children who have been silenced and abandoned.

Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence expert, speaker, writer and consultant. He is the co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor, co- authored with Elizabeth Liu is designed to train attorneys to present domestic violence cases and was released in April of 2013. Barry can be reached by email from their web site

For more information about the new book, including access to the first approximately 50 pages or to purchase the book go to the publisher’s web site at Elizabeth Liu and I have convinced our publisher to make available the last section of our chapter about GALs that lists and explains the best practices for GALs in domestic violence cases. You can now download and print this information and share it with your GAL. Everyone is welcome to share this information. I also hope you will check out my new Face book page, Barry Goldsteins Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor. Barry’s web site, is back up and running with new material.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So Who REALLY goes missing?

         by Cynthia Caron                       
Alzheimer's:  This disease touches many lives. Those with cognitive disorders are at risk of becoming a missing person due to confusion and becoming lost or wandering. Many of those who have gone missing have families that depend on us to help locate their missing loved one.

Developmentally Challenged
 Those who are developmentally challenged are very much at risk and we work with many families whose missing loved ones disappear who are developmentally challenged.  There is a higher rate among those who are young adolescents due to their vulnerabilities. They are always considered endangered and may qualify for a "Silver Alert", depending upon the laws set forth in their state.

  With the increasing amount of loved ones diagnosed with autism each year, an increase also occurs with those who suffer with autism who go missing.  We've noticed that many of those who have autism, and go missing, are usually children or teens.  Depending on the level of their cognitive awareness determines the probability of where we may need to focus in locating them. Those who are higher functioning may be "wandering" the streets and find themselves in situations in which they are at risk of becoming harmed and/or taken advantage by others. Some are manipulated and persuaded to leave the comforts of their homes with false promises of "love" in which they are invariably "preyed upon" and are at high risks of danger. 

Those who are at a lower level of cognitive awareness may wander from their family and are highly drawn towards water. Studies are ongoing as to why and unfortunately many that become missing for more than 48 hours are commonly located passed away in a death by water. (Lakes, streams, ponds, pools, etc.)

Special and Medical Needs
From Diabetes, epilepsy to traumatic brain injury, (Stroke or brain damage) those who have possess any of these condition "types" are also at risk of becoming a missing person due to a medical incident/accident to confusion from cognitive awareness.

Emotional Disorders  
 Commonly known previously as "mental illness."  A large number of families of missing come to us whose loved ones have battled emotional disorders and have disappeared.  Families are already very exhausted, stressed and many have spent years helping their loved family members by advocating for them and assisting them through their low emotional states. Emotional disorders is a very difficult "find" for a missing loved one because many have the intelligence capabilities that can keep them missing for a very long time. 

While they may not be plagued with a lower intelligence level, they are in fact at-risk due to their emotional disorders, which in many cases can have disastrous outcomes including self-harm and suicide.  Those who are at higher risk of becoming a missing person are loved ones who have chosen to go off their medication(s). 

Some of the most common diagnosed loved ones who go missing are those who suffer with depression, Bi-polar disorder or Schizophrenia. Many times they are young adolescents who are in the process of receiving a diagnosis but disappear prior to it being confirmed. (This is very common in those between the ages of 18-24 and are college students.)

Missing loved ones become missing due to numerous "accidental situations" such as off road vehicle accidents, those lost in mountains while hiking or even "freak" accidents and can become a missing statistic due to not being able to locate or find them timely. A large majority located deceased are also known to have gone missing from a public gathering in which alcohol was served.

One does not have to be intoxicated or legally drunk to suffer an accident which can be fatal. Far too often we assist families of young college age students (primarily young men) who leave a public gathering, pub or nightclub (under the influence and not legally intoxicated) only to be located deceased with a death by water. (Same common to those with cognitive disorders, above.)

LostNMissing established the campaign, and website, "Friends Don't Leave Friends Alone" [2] as the same young deaths we believe could have been avoided had the person left with someone else and did not stray off alone from their friends.

 It is very unfortunate but it is known that many women, and men, who go missing and are in the process of a separation from their spouses, or boyfriend/girlfriends, may disappear and a very high rate is due to foul play and by the hands of those they were leaving. This is a very complicated missing person case as families are enduring not only the pain of their loved one missing but also in states of confusion as to why law enforcement processes seem so complicated.

 Families find there are many barriers, due to the legal system and laws, that stand in the way of finding their missing and loved family member. In nearly all cases the family already is aware that their missing will not be located safely and this adds to the stress and trauma.  Detectives and investigators must adhere to the law of "just cause" in order to find needed answers.  This frustrates law enforcement, as well.  While many may want to do full "homicide investigative procedures", if there is not "just cause" to enable them...their "hands are tied." (Example: Luminol spraying a home, arresting a potential suspect and "making them talk" are just two examples of many tactics families expect, but is halted due to laws that protect those who are suspect.)  Because a case may turn to a homicide investigation, or may be classified as missing with foul play, organizations are limited in what information is presented to them (and sometimes to the family, as well) to enable finding the missing loved one.

 Law enforcement will always take the lead and organizations assist by making pleas to the public for awareness of the missing person.  At LostNMissing we will focus on looking for a "living missing loved one" and respect that law enforcement is looking for a deceased missing person.  By doing this we are making sure the family of the missing receive both aspects of a missing persons' case. When presenting a missing loved one as possibly being "alive and out there" invariably is also assisting law enforcement because the awareness campaign of seeking the missing loved one may bring tips/leads that can help make a break in the case. 

We also know, and have experienced, many cases in which all indicators show the missing may have been a victim of foul play (with homicide investigating) and the missing person is invariably located safely. Unless solid evidence (such as an obvious crime scene) exists, we always go with the hopes that the missing can be found alive and well.

Human Trafficking 
Missing loved ones can become victims of human trafficking and quite a majority that are trafficked is for sex purposes. According to the FBI website, they explain, "It's sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves.They are trapped in lives of misery-often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay.

 We're working hard to stop human trafficking-not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists."  [2] While primarily those missing are young women, young men are known to have been trafficked as well.

Drugs of Abuse
 When a loved one is under the influence of drugs and/or associates with those who buy, sell or take drugs...this puts them at risk of danger in which they can possibly become a missing person. We've had cases in which those have been located safely and living a life "off the streets" in a drug dazed world and we've had missing loved ones who were located deceased a victim of drug activities, suicide under the influence (or through withdrawal) or due to an overdose.

Of One's Own Choice with cognitive awareness and decision making 

Surprisingly, this is one of the lowest common causes of an adult person's disappearance. Highest among minors. Yet, adults receive very little media and public awareness.

Unfortunately the "general public" has the misconception that this is the "number one reason" someone is missing, especially as it pertains to adult males.

We certainly do need to have this category, and fact is...we wish this was the reason most loved ones go missing as the alternative reasons are not usually with a good ending.  85% of our missing adult cases end each year with the missing adult either located deceased or known to be deceased and no body recovered.

Those  missing, of their own free will, are due to their own choice to leave their present life. Again, a very low percentage of adults, high for teens. (ex: runaways.)  These decisions are made with cognitive awareness, are usually planned and usually are the easiest cases to locate the missing person as they leave more "trails" for investigations to track their whereabouts.  Some of the more common reasons are: To start over a new life, to escape and hide from law enforcement, to experience life outside the rules of a parent/guardian (commonly known as "runaway"), to escape an abusive person by going into hiding or to "live off the land" away from everyone, to start a new life with another person, or due to joining a cult.

Abduction/Kidnapping While rare, abduction is a possible cause for a missing loved one (both adults and children) to have disappeared. Parental abduction is the leading cause of missing children in this particular category along with abduction for trafficking purposes.  Lower on the rate of statistics is the kidnapping for the purposes of rape and/or murder. It is also extremely rare that one is kidnapped for the purpose to extort money in exchange for their safe return. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the major causes for missing children are:
  • The most recent, comprehensive national study for the number of missing children estimated in 1999: [3] 
  • Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
  • More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
  • More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
  • An estimated 115 children were the victims of "stereotypical" kidnapping. These "stereotypical" kidnappings involved someone the child did not know or was an acquaintance. The child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently.

Over 2,000 go missing in the United States EVERY day in the USA.
No person, no family is exempt from the trauma of having a loved one disappear. Every person, and every family, from all walks of life can have this happen at any time....and feel lost, confused, worried, fearful and will turn to us for help. We are here for those families and hope this public awareness campaign provides more clarity as to the plight families of missing have and the need for the public to assist whenever someone goes missing in their community.


Cynthia Caron
LostNMissing, Inc.
NamUs-Victim Advocate (NH)

LostNMissing Inc., is an all-volunteer national tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (the "code") and qualifies as a public supported organization under Sections, or Categories: P99 (Human Services - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C.); M99 (Other Public Safety, Disaster Preparedness, and Relief N.E.C.); I01 (Alliance/Advocacy Organizations). LostNMissing is organized and incorporated under the laws of the State of New Hampshire. We never charge a fee for our services.
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