KidsVoice Guardian Episode Guide
THE GUΛRDIΛN
Children's issues addressed in each week's episode.
06 / 29 / 2004
Medical Guardianships and Standby Guardianships
06 / 15 / 2004
Medical Guardianships and Standby Guardianships
04 / 27 / 2004
Termination of Parental Rights
04 / 20 / 2004
Teen Suicide
04 / 06 / 2004
Effect of Sexual Abuse, Protecting the Identities of Abused Children
03 / 09 / 2004
Runaways, Teen Prostitution
03 / 02 / 2004
Pedophilia and luring children on the Internet
02 / 24 / 2004
Pedophilia and luring children on the Internet
02 / 17 / 2004
Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault
02 / 10 / 2004
Down Syndrome, Sexual Abuse Allegations
01 / 13 / 2004
Standby Guardianship
01 / 06 / 2004
Media Coverage
12 / 30 / 2003
Runaways, Teen Prostitution and Child Labor
12 / 16 / 2003
Child Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse, Juvenile Boot Camps
12 / 09 / 2003
Absent Parents
11 / 25 / 2003
Homeless Children
11 / 11 / 2003
Medical Guardianships and Standby Guardianships
11 / 04 / 2003
National Adoption Day
10 / 28 / 2003
Teen Drinking, Parental Abduction
10 / 21 / 2003
National Adoption Day, Children Left Alone at Home, Children Placed With Relatives
10 / 14 / 2003
Termination of Parental Rights
10 / 07 / 2003
Runaways, Teen Prostitution and Child Labor
09 / 30 / 2003
Access to Healthcare and Health Insurance
09 / 23 / 2003
Absent Parents
07 / 08 / 2003
Teen Parenting, Interracial Foster Parents, Legal Rights of Grandparents
07 / 01 / 2003
Domestic Violence
06 / 24 / 2003
Acquired Brain Disorder
06 / 17 / 2003
Huntingtonorhood
06 / 10 / 2003
Gang Violence
05 / 27 / 2003
Sexual Abuse
05 / 13 / 2003
Absent Parents
05 / 06 / 2003
Domestic Violence and The Impact on Children
04 / 29 / 2003
Schizophrenia in Children and Adolescents
04 / 22 / 2003
How Children Grieve
04 / 15 / 2003
Termination of Parental Rights
04 / 08 / 2003
Missing and Lost Foster Children
04 / 01 / 2003
Hazing In High School
03 / 18 / 2003
Mental Health Placements
03 / 11 / 2003
Lead Poisoning in Children
02 / 25 / 2003
Autism
02 / 18 / 2003
Ethics in Medicine
02 / 11 / 2003
Runaways
02 / 04 / 2003
Same Sex Marriage
Without Consent Tuesday, February 17, 2004
A late night encounter at a seedy motel exposes Jake’s lifestyle to his firm and his family.

In this week’s episode of The Guardian, Nick represents Luke, a teenager whose

whose mother becomes sexually involved with Luke’s teenage friends and classmates.  Nick tracks down Luke’s father, who is willing to have Luke stay with him.  But when a criminal background check reveals the father’s long history and recent charges of domestic violence, he is ruled out as a potential placement for Luke.  Meanwhile, Jake is badly beaten and sexually assaulted by a sexual partner, then struggles to maintain his privacy and secrecy about his sexuality when questioned by the police.

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Many people associate sexual assault and sexual abuse with rape, molestation and other forms of forced physical brutality, like the attack on Jake in this week’s episode.  It is important to understand that sexual abuse and sexual assault do not require physical force  and include any form of unwanted sexual act or intent to assert sexual control over a victim. This can include rape, molestation, incest, voyeurism and exhibitionism.    That is why the police in this week’s Guardian were investigating Luke’s mother regarding her sexual involvement with her son’s teenage friends and classmates – and possibly with her own son.  Child abuse reports estimate that approximately 1.6 million children are abused annually, and that 88% of child molesters and perpetrators of sexual assault are people that children and their parents know and trust. (for more statistical details and information, visit http://www.debevans.com/protectchildarticle.htm ).

Steps can be taken to protect children from becoming victims of sexual assault. Parents and caregivers should speak to children at an early age about what behavior and touching is appropriate from adults and other children. Children should be educated about their bodies, and be familiar with key words that a perpetrator might use to lure them into a dangerous situation. Still, there are times when a child cannot be protected. So it is important that children be encouraged to speak openly to caregivers, and have no hesitation about asking for help if violated.  When a child discloses sexual assault or abuse, it is vitally important that caregivers reinforce that the child is not at fault and will not be punished for telling. However, children should not be forced to speak about the event until they are ready to do so.  Parents or caregivers should seek help from professionals in counseling and law enforcement who are specially trained to work with victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Victims of sexual assault are stripped of their dignity and likely will experience a sense of loss of control over their lives. Sexual abuse is one of the most disturbing problems that children face. 

Victims of sexual abuse often need a great deal of help and support to overcome their grief, confusion and anger.  In addition to needing a strong support system from family and friends, there are other places victims can go to for help. The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault can be reached at 717-728-9764. The Rape, Abuse and National Network can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Domestic Violence and The Impact on Children

Hearing or seeing domestic violence traumatizes children psychologically and has a devastating impact on their emotional and psychological well-being.   Statistics suggest that children who witness domestic violence are:

·        24 times more likely to commit sexual assault crimes

·        50% more likely to develop substance abuse problems

·        74% more likely to commit crimes against another person

·        6 times more likely to commit suicide.

Violence is a learned behavior. Statistics suggest that 90% of children who live in violent homes witness acts of abuse. A study reported in Child Advocate newsmagazine indicates that in families where domestic violence is present the likelihood of child abuse and neglect is fifteen times greater than in the overall population.  Other studies conclude that half of all men who batter their wives also are abusive to their children and that women victims of domestic violence also are far more likely to abuse their children.  

There is a generational pattern of family violence.  Domestic violence literature suggests that boyswho witness domestic abuse are five times more likely to abuse their female partners than boys who grew up in non-violent homes.  Another study concluded that 75% of boys who witness domestic abuse struggle with behavioral problems throughout their lives.

Many children who witness domestic violence suffer emotionally, physically and developmentally. Some children are physically injured when trying to intervene to protect the battered parent.  It is not unusual for children who witness domestic violence to experience guilt, shame, fear and low self-esteem. Other consequences include nightmares; acting aggressively towards family, friends or property; stomach problems; bed-wetting; insomnia; and verbal, cognitive or other developmental delays.

Children who witness domestic abuse frequently develop unhealthy beliefs about themselves, the world, and the nature of relationships. They may conclude that it is typical for conflicts to be resolved with violence, and that it is appropriate for men to assume the dominating role in a relationship.

Visitation between children and a domestic violence perpetrator must be carefully considered.  By demonstrating abusive behavior, the perpetrator has shown inappropriate parenting and a lack of consideration for the emotional well being of the children.

Some judges, caseworkers and attorneys believe that unless the father has abused the children, his abuse of his wife is not relevant to evaluating his capability to be a good father.  Focusing on whether the children have been abused ignores the fact that spousal abuse has a dramatic and detrimental impact on the emotional and physical health of children.  Children may identify with the “victor” in the violent altercations they witness.  Children as young as six or seven begin to model the behavior of the aggressor and see violence as the acceptable method of producing desired results. A child may try to manipulate the victim by saying something like: “Give me what I want or I will tell Dad to hit you.” Witnessing repeated acts of violence may cause children to lose respect for the victim instead of sympathizing with them. Sadly, many of these child-witnesses later either will repeat the behaviors they witness or accept violence in their own adult relationships because they never learned other ways to relate or resolve conflict.

Many professionals believe that the most effective stand a victim can take is to separate themselves and their children from the perpetrator. Unfortunately, without strong community support systems, the abuse often worsens upon separation. One study found that 75% of calls to the police requesting intervention in domestic violence disputes were made after separation.  The abuse often escalates as the perpetrator becomes desperate to retain control. Many women who have stayed with their perpetrator report that they only stayed after their children were threatened.

It is important to limit the children’s exposure to parental conflict and to be aware that the greatest risk of violence is during visitation exchanges.  There have been several cases where a father has murdered his spouse and/or children while picking up the children for visits.  The potential for continued violence must be taken into account when courts determine what custody and visitation arrangements are in each child’s best interests. 

It is important that the courts and the community take an active role in protecting children from domestic violence. Rarely is the emotional impact on children addressed. Without a support system, it is difficult for victims to protect themselves and their children.  Professionals should be ready to strategize and follow-through with carefully planned interventions. 

One approach and resource that has helped in several communities is the idea of supervised visitation centers—a facility where parents can safely exchange children and where supervised visitation is available if needed.  That type of arrangement supports a continuing and safer relationship between the father and child without endangering the mother and children. 

Although children may not be the physical victims of domestic abuse, they will carry the images, sounds and emotional scars of domestic violence throughout their lives.  It is important to take steps to break the generational cycle of domestic violence by helping children to understand that there are other ways that adults in relationships interact and resolve conflict.   

The Guardian, set in Pittsburgh, airs nationally on CBS at 9:00 PM, Tuesday evenings. KidsVoice Executive director Scott Hollander is Technical Consultant for The Guardian. His brother David Hollander is the Creator and an Executive Producer of the series.

KidsVoice protects the rights of abused, neglected and abandoned children. Through in-depth investigation, KidsVoice attorneys and child advocacy specialists deliver informed recommendations and advocate for the child's best interests - in court and beyond - to ensure that the most appropriate services are in place to protect children from future harm and provide a safe and permanent home for every child. KidsVoice provides a voice of hope, a voice for rights and a voice of experience for children who cannot speak for themselves.