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GADSDEN, Ala. (WHNT-TV News) – The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office says a school presentation about sexual abuse resulted in a man being put in jail on child sex abuse and pornography charges.

Thomas Aaron Craig, 30, is charged in connection with sexual abuse and pornography with minors, according to Sheriff Todd Entrekin. Craig, of Gadsden, was arrested on Thursday, May 21.  He is charged with one count of sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of production of pornography with minors.  All are felonies.

Investigators say Craig allegedly sexually abused a 9-year-old girl over a two-year period.  The girl saw a presentation at school about what to do if you were being physically or sexually abused, and came forward to tell her teacher this type of thing was happening to her. The teacher notified the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and Etowah County DHR.

Investigators say Craig gave consent for them to search his cell phone, and they found more than 35 pornographic photos.  Craig is being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on $150,000 bond.

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office thanks the James M. Barrie Center for helping in the investigation.

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(People Magazine) Following the cancellation of TLC’s hit series 19 Kids and Counting the network has partnered with two of the nation’s leading sexual abuse prevention organizations to create a new documentary addressing the issue.

Breaking the Silence teams up TLC with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and Darkness to Light (D2L) a nonprofit organization that works to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse and will share the stories of survivors of sexual abuse.

In an exclusive First Look clip from the one-hour special Erin Merryn opens up about being a two-time survivor and discusses her passionate fight to end abuse with Erin’s Law legislation, which requires sexual abuse prevention education in public schools and has already been passed in 26 states.

“Like so many survivors, I ended up keeping it a secret for years,” she says. “Now, as a mother with my own child, I want to make sure my children know how to speak up.”

Viewers will also hear from experts during a sexual abuse prevention training given by Darkness to Light, one of the nation’s leading organizations for abuse prevention, where Jill and Jessa Duggar attend following their own family’s experience as they hope to help others and promote adult education for the protection of children .

Breaking the Silence airs Aug. 30th at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.

Aaron Jansen illustration

Aaron Jansen illustration

Carey Restino The Arctic Sounder
July 18, 2015

I had a conversation with my 7-year-old daughter the other night on one of those long drives that Alaska life is filled with. I decided it was time to talk about what is OK and what isn’t when it comes to other people and your body. It’s not a topic that any parent wants to bring up, really. We’d like to think that our little boys and girls will live in a bubble, and will never face any type of aggressive behavior, let alone someone trying to abuse them. But that’s not what the statistics show. So, I took a deep breath.

“So, do you know there are places other people shouldn’t touch you?”

“Yes!”

“OK, good, so what do you do if someone tries to do that?”

“Run away!”

“That’s good. What if you can’t run away?”

Silence.

“Is it OK to shout at them?”

“Nooooo.”

“YES! You can shout at them as loud as you want! Tell them to stop as loud as you want!”

“Ohhhh.”

“And is it OK to hit them?”

“Oh, nooooo. It’s never OK to hit.”

“YES you can! If they don’t stop, you can hit them anywhere you want, especially places you know will hurt! And then run away as soon as you can!”

She grinned.

“Really?”

“Yes! But is it OK to hit a friend at school who gives you a hug because you are sad?”

“No?”

“That’s right.”

It’s the beginning of a much bigger conversation, one that we’ll have every year for a long time. But the simple fact that her body is hers and she has the right to protect it was not intuitive. And if she faced that situation, even armed with the knowledge she now has, she might not be able to fight back for many reasons. But hopefully, just feeling empowered will help make her less vulnerable.

That’s why the passage this week of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act is so important. The act is the beginning of a conversation between teachers and students about sexual assault, teen dating, teen dating violence and youth suicide, all topics that can be uncomfortable to talk about and completely off the table in many families.

But across the state of Alaska, starting in middle school, students will learn these important subjects on an age-appropriate level. Like the simple conversation with my daughter, educating children about what is OK and what isn’t helps them stand up for themselves. And while we may think the knowledge that there are people who might want to hurt them will scare them, knowledge is power. If delivered properly, these messages may save some of these children from a lifetime trying to recover.

Some legislators balked at the cost of these programs. Thank goodness that argument didn’t hold water in the eyes of the majority. Children who have been harmed in those ways more often than not need help for a long time afterward, help that often costs quite a bit. If they don’t get that help, the result is frequently worse, even, both for them, and for the greater public good. In Alaska, where statistics for sexual assault, domestic violence and child assault are alarming, we should be paying closer attention than anywhere else. We also have extremely high rates of suicide, especially among our young people. Coincidence? I think not.

It is time we started talking about these issues. Perhaps not everyone thinks it is appropriate to have a conversation with your young daughter about ways she can protect herself from predators. But we must begin conversations about these things all across the state. We must stop turning away from the uncomfortable nature of sexual assault and abuse, and must stop accepting domestic violence. Erin’s Law and the Alaska Safe Children’s Act is a first step in that direction. Let’s hope it is the beginning of a path of healing for all of us.

Carey Restino is the editor of Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman and The Arctic Sounder, where this commentary first appeared.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Erin Alaska interview

 

(KTOO Public Media)-The Alaska Legislature has passed the Alaska Safe Children’s Act nearly unanimously.

The bill requires schools to provide age-appropriate education meant to prevent harm to children. The section known nationally as “Erin’s Law” teaches students about sexual abuse and lets them know there are resources if someone is hurting them. The second major component focuses on dating violence, and is being called “Bree’s Law.” It is named after Breanna Moore, who was killed last year. Her boyfriend is scheduled to be tried for the murder later this summer.

Over the course of its review, the bill was changed substantially from the original, and became a controversial vehicle for unrelated bills having to do with standardized testing and school contracts with Planned Parenthood.

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Yahoo Parenting -Erin Merryn met with some of the Duggar children in 2013 to discuss sexual abuse prevention at the request of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. (Photo: Erin Merryn)

Erin Merryn is a mother and an advocate for sexual abuse prevention. At age 6, she was molested and later raped by a friend’s uncle. At 11, her teenage cousin began abusing her. The author of three books about abuse, she is the creator of Erin’s Law, which requires public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention. In 2013 — 11 years after Josh Duggar first told his parents he had “inappropriately touched” five girls, four of whom were his sisters — she met with the Duggar family to discuss safe and unsafe touching, not knowing the family’s own history with abuse. Merryn opens up to Yahoo Parenting about the text messages she exchanged with Michelle Duggar this week, the surprising reason why the Duggar girls might be protecting their brother, why the parents are partially to blame for Josh’s alleged repeated molestations – and her own painful experience with childhood molestation.

You’ve met the Duggar family before, and have spoken to some of their children about sexual abuse. How did that first meeting come about?
I was the keynote speaker at a child abuse fundraiser that they were attending. Michelle and Jim Bob approached me afterwards and they said, ‘We love what you’re doing, we want to help you get Erin’s Law passed in other states, we want to help you gain contact with the right legislators.’ And then they left. But 10 minutes later they came back in and said, ‘Erin, we know it’s late, but is there any way you can come to our house and talk to our kids about Erin’s Law?’ So for two hours on September 24, 2013, I sat with nine of their kids, telling them about safe touches, about how people shouldn’t touch you in areas that fall under a swimsuit, and what types of secrets you should tell adults immediately. Only nine of their kids were there – the younger ones. The girls who were abused were out of town, and Josh wasn’t living there at the time. He was already living in DC.

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