This interview with Shari Karney, attorney and commentator contains adult content of an explicit sexual kind. Know it holds some graphic statements about child molesting. That kind of material in an interview of a kind dealing with issues in the news today, like the Sandusky trial, have brought to national attention the often secret subject of child molesting and the child molester. Attorney Shari Karney of Santa Monica, California has been working on this kind of case with others in the United States and especially California, almost in the manner of a Crusade. Perhaps as a Crusade, for the interview has some tones of the Crusade against this evil of the sexual predator.
She writes in her biography written for this introduction to the interview:
Shari Karney, Esq. is an attorney and member of the State Bar of California for 22 years, a survivor of incest, and an advocate for children’s rights. She keynotes at events around the world, speaks on college and university campuses and law schools. Shari is the author of the soon to be released book, Prey No Longer–A Step-by-Step Action Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
The interview was held recently with discussion of doing same starting the week of June 11, 2012 by this writer and lasted an hour-and-ten-minutes by phone from Mill Valley, California to her office in Santa Monica, California. It consisted of one single conversation block.
INTERVIEW WITH ATTORNEY SHARI KARNEY
1. Peter Menkin: In this decade of concern for children and for parenting roles, the Sandusky trial starts as a major shock to the public. The former coach at Pennsylvania State is charged with molesting boys over a long period of time—no one said No to him regarding his behavior. Not through the years. Your expertise and experience with the legal and moral subject of child abuse, especially its legislative side and that in the courtroom, makes you an excellent attorney to ask about these issues. The obvious question regarding the Sandusky scandal, is Why? Why did no one really know what was happening to these boys, some younger than 13, many molested from this 13 year old age through 18, according to the charges? Is this the usual kind of event situation for the alleged and convicted child abuser in general?
Attorney Shari Karney: I believe that a lot of people know [about abuse, and specifically in the Sandusky case] [Editor’s note…quote from Washington Post…Sandusky, 68, is a former Penn State football coach facing 52 counts of sexual molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period.].. For example, victim number four testified yesterday that Sandusky’s wife walked in and saw it ]an act of sexual child molesting occurring]. It isn’t that people didn’t know. The truth is that people do know.
What I’m going to write about today [are] the Silent Partners. [Assistant Penn State football coach] Mike McQueary walked into the showers to see a child being sexually assaulted. One mother asked [her child when he returned home why he had]… walked in with wet hair. She was told by him that he had been taking a shower with Sandusky. She went to the police and she also contacted Penn State.
She may have done this in 1998.
Again, I think that we as a society say that we love and cherish our children above all, even [more than] our own life. I have not seen evidence of that when it comes to child molesting and child abuse.
What leads me to this is the Sandusky case. There were many who knew about him. It goes even into the home: The incident of child abuse is 1 in 3 to 4 girls; 1 in 5 to 6 boys. The statistics are that 25% of the young adult population [for] a child under 18 years of age–I mean a child, not a 17 or 18 year old kid.
Even if you take this to a global … UN Report of Sexual Violence in 2002, they report that 150 million girls, 73 million boys under the age of 18 experience forced sexual abuse. ] [This means they experience] intercourse, and other forms of sexual violence. The majority of children abused are from about 3 to 13.
[Regarding the Sandusky case at Penn State], morally and as a culture why did they not know. [T]hey did know, but they didn’t know enough. We do know, but we don’t do enough or don’t do anything.
The reason for why is we value football, and we value celebrity, and we value keeping the men around, and we value grandpa. We value everyone but the child who is being sexually abused. That child finds him or herself alienated and finds him or herself on trial, not the perpetrator.
We as a society don’t take …action. [People say] the authorities will step in, the police will step in. It is our secret hidden shame.
It goes on all the time, and perpetrators do get away with it. Certainly, we really need a children’s bill of rights. Just like we have a bill of rights for all humanity. … There needs to be a fundamental right for children.
At Penn State, that woman [the boy’s mother] tried to do something for her child. [She was sent home]… Why didn’t anyone from Penn State step up for it. There’s [that rejection]… tendency when mothers do try to protect their children. It’s a subject that nobody wants to talk about. What we call secret is what poisons us as a culture. If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.
2. Peter Menkin: There is a mystery regarding child abuse, especially the acts that are so usually shrouded in secrecy. If memory serves correct, you yourself have spoken of this matter. Importantly for the readers of www.thechildcustodyguide.com , what is a parent or other responsible party’s responsibility toward a child–in both the legal sense, and as a good parent? Will you tell us what a parent or guardian can do about child abuse, especially when they learn of it?
Attorney Shari Karney: [On the question of the mystery, and what to do as a parent to protect children as good custodians:] First of all, we have to go one step before that, to be a good parent and a good custodian of children. You have to be aware, not [about] the man down the street in a raincoat…[Editor’s note: The present tense in the commentary by Shari Karney here, the alleged molestor is a present case, active actor in the sexual predator drama.] Most child molesters groom their victim. Sandusky allegedly groomed his victim. He grooms them with … one of the victims said in the trial–he treated him like a girlfriend. He sent him [the alleged victim] gifts, he sent him love letters. They groom children by treating them like love objects.
It’s part of the grooming act [of the] sexual predator…
As a parent or custodian of a child, you need to really keep your eyes open with any adult who wants to spend a lot of time with a child–who treats a child as overly special. That could be an uncle, a grandparent, a close friend, a local priest, a football coach, or a teacher. [There is the behavior in action] sign of always there. There are always signs; there is always behavior. And these signs are people who want to spend an unusual amount of free time around children.
These signs are a child being taken away for events and engagements and sleepovers. Is there an older kid in the family? People and parents seem to be a little too trusting of the people around them that they know. They’re distrusting of strangers…but they’ll let uncle Charlie takes their child over for a sleepover or on a camping trip and not have another adult supervisor…
If a parent starts to have to believe…you have to listen to the child, and listen to children—to those under your adult custody. Children deserve the right to at least have the respect of being listened to.
Children are second class citizens. I’m not saying that they’re not spoiled. It’s not about monetary care. It’s not that they aren’t given food and shelter. It is that they are not being listened to.
Tip number one is listening to a child in your care [and] custody. Check it out. It’s like … if they have to report it, it should be reported to police, social services… There are two sides. There is the pay attention side, and the other side is the action.
Parents need to report suspect child sexual abuse. There has to be some basis for your decision. You don’t have to be the police, the judge, and the jury. But you do if you suspect it: Take action. You need to be taking action until something is done.
3. Peter Menkin: Of the cases you have worked with, tell us about one or two that stand-out in your mind, and give readers some detail on them. Significantly, tell us some of the thought and planning that went into your legal work in these cases, or your own scenario, if not one of the cases you were involved with directly. By this I mean tell us how you would have considered the matter should have been handled?
Attorney Shari Karney: [As an attorney,] I represent adult survivors of sexual abuse until they have memory of being sexually abused as adults. I am one of those victims. I did not have memory of my own child sexual abuse until I was 29.
I would have told you I came from a very middle class, good Jewish family. My father is a writer, my mother is a therapist. Many survivors don’t get their memories until they’re adults. [That is] because they repress memory because it is too horrible. You want to believe that you come from a normal family, and that your parents love you. And would never do something like this.
You don’t have the psychological strength to cope with this. It’s hard enough coping with this as an adult.
I had a case of a 24 year old that was sexually assaulted by her father on camping trips when she was 3 year old. Her father would take her to the outhouse, and she would yell and scream to have her mother take her. Her mother said she said she was being a baby.
She repressed all memory but to keep the memory down she took drugs and drank. She got a DUI [Driving Under the Influence] and as part of her court order, she had to go to an alcohol and drug 12 step program.
When she stopped taking drugs and drinking her memory started to surface. She is one of the cases I took to overturn the Statute of limitations in California. Her case went to the California Supreme Court. The California Court of Appeals applied the doctrine of delayed discovery to adult survivors of child abuse. It is by definition [in this case now favorable to] adults who were sexually molested as children.
What he [the 3 year old girl’s father] did [on the camping trips]…is he would use her to masturbate with…It was oral and he would put his member in her mouth–he would climax. He had intercourse with her at six, and he sodomized her at six. The Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, and sent the case back to the trial court. The father appealed to the Supreme Court of California. In the meantime, I lobbied in California with…. people to get the law changed in California. We prevailed: SB108. What it did was it changed the California statutes of limitation in the civil code. It was a civil case. This was to sue him for what he did [when she was] a kid. He settled the case and she got money damages. It was an extremely modest amount of money.
4. Peter Menkin: In your own career, talk a little about the legislation you’ve worked on of your making, and that of others? The success of same is part of the news value in this question, but if the legislation did not pass, let us hear about it from your vantage as a knowledgeable person who is a commentator on these matters? Where may a reader go to learn more of these cases? Links to more about these matters is helpful, for tell us the place on the internet readers may go on these legislative matters. These places may be California links, or for similar matters in the public sphere in other places.
Attorney Shari Karney: We started the passage of legislation. They are still working on this legislation. The California Supreme Court just came down on the amendment. My opinion is there should be no statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. It should be treated like kidnapping or murder. People shouldn’t feel so sorry for the abusers, [like] it’s a mental illness, or something. People [practice] sexual abuse because it feels good to them.
I think there is no cure; I don’t believe there is a cure. I don’t think aversion therapy works; I don’t believe castration works. I think what would work is somebody who fully admits it and looks and looks and finds the right person who can really help them through this. All the prison system stuff, the electrocuting them when showing them pictures of children… In my humble opinion, I don’t think there is a cure. I don’t think it’s a disease. If you don’t have a disease, it’s hard to find a cure.
When you have sexual pleasure for a certain activity, I think when you have sexual activity, your brain gets hard wired. Of family predators, they are opportunistic predators. It is criminal activity. It is a crime.
It is a crime. We don’t treat it like it is. Our law system says it is a crime.
I do think that legislation and legislative change is needed and helps. It brings awareness and it brings accountability. Law is the last bastion of morality, because law cannot make you a moral person. Our laws don’t make you a good or bad person. It just catches those as the last gatekeeper trying to keep society moral.
There’s one link that I want people to look at: It’s the The National Conference of State Legislators: www.ncsl.org …[S]earch: “State civil statutes of limitations and child sexual abuse cases.” There is a statute of limitations
I want every survivor to be able to download it. I don’t want some kid 17 years old who doesn’t have $22 to not buy a book. I’m also on Facebook, I talk about all this stuff on Facebook and Twitter.
5. Peter Menkin: Thank you so much, Shari, for taking the time to talk to this reporter. Now as we come to the end of our conversation of this day, please speak about something that you want to say that wasn’t covered? Where will you be speaking or appearing next for public hearing on these matters of child abuse, and their related custody issues?
Attorney Shari Karney: I am going to be speaking at a national conference of therapists who treat survivors of sexual abuse in Canada (go to my website to find it). I’m going to be teaching the first child sexual abuse seminar at Loyola Law School this summer. The reason I’m doing this is Sandusky. It made me realize every attorney along the line dropped the ball. They dropped the ball; I think in part, if we don’t educated lawyers on this issue, we’re not going to have educated protectors. The name of the course is Child Sexual Abuse Seminary: Loyola Law School in the fall, Monday nights. (Go to my website to find it).
I’ll be speaking to a couple of corporations to do corporate motivational speaking. I have just finished the memoir of my own story: “Girl Behind the Curtain: Twisted Obsession, Love, and Law; One woman’s Journey”.
Interview by Peter Menkin