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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thinking Out Loud: Child Prostitution

As I watch the news this morning, I am happy, frustrated and saddened all in the same breath. A recent FBI child prostitution sting rescues 105 kids. Yes, KIDS. On the positive, these kids have a chance at a new beginning and a brighter future.... if the system guides them and supports them, which often times it is too impacted to do.

Last year, a similar sting rescued 79 kids. The year before, 69 kids. There seems to be a trend... while law enforcement is doing what they can to clean up the streets, the issue is growing and kids are still being exploited and victimized. These child victims are groomed and brainwashed into this lifestyle. They don't just wake up one day and say, "I wanna be a child prostitute today!" They are coerced and forced into this criminal activity as participating victims. Often times they are beaten and drugged into submission, too afraid or dependent to get help for themselves.

And while education is a no-brainer when it comes to prevention, there must be an elevated level of compassion for these children in the recovery process. Many law enforcement agencies are improving in the way they handle these child victims, especially in Alameda County and surrounding Bay Area cities thanks to the Bay Area HEAT Coalition (BAHC). Agencies now treat these children as victims instead of prostitutes, and there are agencies such as Child Quest International (CQI) and MISSY that advocate for exploited children. But the change needs to come from a sociatial standpoint too.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), also known as sex slavery, sex trade or sex trafficking, regularly involves "runaway" children as young as 11 years-old. And while they are classified as "runaways," there is much more than meets the eye to these situations. As a society, and some law enforcement agencies, who react to  runaways as "spoiled punks who chose this and can now deal with it" or thinking "they'll come home, it's not the important," we need to reevaluate this perspective.

This false perception is extremely frustrating and one of the worse perpetuated sociatial myths! Yes, there are cases of of spoiled runaway teens trying some ill-advised attempt to get their way (or away) from their absentee or helicopter parents. But believe it or not, those are not the norm. Many kids leave home because home is as predatory and dangerous (at times even worse) as the streets they run too. You think a 11 to 14 year-old runs away because they didn't get a new iPad? Think again.

"Many times the children that are taken in in these types of criminal activities are children that are disaffected, they are from broken homes, they may be on the street themselves. They are really looking for a meal, they are looking for shelter, they are looking for someone to take care of them."
                             - FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins

Many times, these victims leave because they are being victimized at home, and they believe they have found love in the arms of a wolf in sheep's clothing. They don't leave to be sexually exploited, they leave for love. These children runaway for empty promises, and as a community, a society, it is our role to embrace the change and see runaway children as what they are, victims.

If you think you know the whereabouts of a runaway child, please email CQI at info@childquest.org

If you believe you have seen a victim of sex trafficking, please call your local police department of the Polaris Project at  1-888-373-7888.

Related:
Sex Slavery Myth Busters
Runaways & Sex Slavery: What You Need To Know
What is Child Grooming?

Editorial written & edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Suspicious Circumstances: 14-Year-Old Female Missing With Her One-Year-Old Son


14 year-old Maria Guadalupe Magadan Torres (DOB 4/15/1999) has been missing from Sanger, CA since 4/13/2013. Maria is missing along with her one-year-old son, Steven Magadan Torres Rodriguez (DOB 4/12/2012). According to the California Department of Justice (DOJ), they are being concealed by Steven Rodriguez (DOB: 6/28/1991). 

A felony warrant is on file for Steven Rodriguez. They may still be in the local area or they may travel to Aspen, Snowmass, Eagle, or Edwards, Colorado. They may also travel to Texas or New Mexico. Maria may go by the nickname Lupe. 

Missing Date: 4/12/2013          
Missing From: SANGER, CA
DOB: Apr 15, 1999     
Age Now: 14
Sex: Female               
Race: Hispanic
Height:  5'3" (160 cm)           
Weight:  160 lbs (73 kg)
Hair Color: Brown     
Eye Color: Brown

Missing Date: 4/12/13          
Missing From: SANGER, CA   
DOB: Apr 24, 2012
Age Now: 1
Sex: Male
Race: Hispanic
Height:  2'0" (61 cm)
Weight:  25 lbs (11 kg)
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Black

Last Seen: 4/12/13          
Last Seen In: SANGER, CA   
DOB: Jun 28, 1992
Age Now: 21
Sex: Male
Race: Hispanic
Height: 5'5" (165 cm)
Weight: 135 lbs (61 kg)
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown



ANYONE HAVING INFORMATION SHOULD CONTACT
Sanger (CA) Police Department - Investigations Unit 1-559-875-8521
Sanger (CA) Police Department - Case #131466
Sanger (CA) Police Department - Case #131468

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Allegiations of Sexual Assualt at Morgan Hill YMCA: 4 Children Victimized by Daycare Worker


Nicolas Lhermine, 20, of Morgan Hill,
was arrested July 12, 2013, on suspicion
of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl
while working as a YMCA daycare
employee. (Morgan Hill Police
Department)

MORGAN HILL, CA -- Two additional victims have come forward to allege sexual abuse by Nick Lhermine of Morgan Hill, bringing the total number of alleged victims to four. Morgan Hill police said they have corroborated the victims' statements and found evidence to support their allegations.

Police began to investigate 20-year-old Lhermine when a 6-year-old girl alleged he forced her to engage in a lewd and lascivious act while attending a YMCA child care program.

Lhermine violated several YMCA policies that were in place preventing staff from being alone with children. Lhermine has been working for the YMCA for the past four years in various capacities.

Detectives said interviews over the past week revealed a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old girl were victimized by Lhermine, bringing the total number of victims to four. Investigators also said they found child pornography on Lhermine's cell phone, including images of a 17-year-old girl.

Morgan Hill Police Lt. Shane Palsgrove said the two young victims came forward during the ongoing police investigation of Nicolas Lhermine who will be facing additional charges.

According to reports, a 5-year-old female told officers Lhermine had taken explicit photos of her and those photos were found by investigators on his cell phone.

“Those unmistakable, unclothed photos were found on his cellphone,” Palsgrove said.

The second victim, Palsgrove said, was a 7-year-old female who said she was molested by Lhermine at the child day care facility.

“Detectives were able to corroborate that statement with other witness statements at the scene,” he said.

Lhermine also soon may face charges involving a fourth child.

“The detectives will be bringing charges (in that case) later this week,” he said.

The former YMCA child care worker was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a six-year-old girl as well as possessing child pornography for graphic pictures of another underage girl.

Lhermine faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted of the original charge.

Judge Alfonso Fernandez also ordered Lhermine not to have any contact whatsoever with any possible victims in the case and then had him held without bail.

"The charges themselves are extremely serious and the alleged conduct is very scary, particularly for parents of small children," said Supervising Dep. District Attorney Steve Lowney. "These types of crimes don't discriminate on the basis of age. The people who perpetuate these crimes are of all ages, races and occupations."

Police said they interviewed a dozen families last week about their involvement with Lhermine at the YMCA child care center in Morgan Hill.

Palsgrove said those interviews will be continuing and additional victims may come forward.

Anyone with information regarding this incident, or who believes they may also have been a victim of Lhermine is encouraged to contact Morgan Hill Police Department Detective Burdick at (408) 779-2101 or the anonymous tip line at (408) 947-STOP (7867).

Courtesy of Child Quest International