How can we keep our own kids safe?
Yesterday, the body of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett, who'd been missing since June 25, was discovered. A 14-year-old witness told investigators Brooke's uncle had brought the girl to his home to initiate her into a child sex ring on the day she disappeared, federal officials said in an affidavit released yesterday.
The 14-year-old told authorities she helped Michael Jacques, the missing girl's uncle, take the 12-year-old to Jacques' Randolph home on June 25 to be initiated into the ring. The 14-year-old girl, a relative of Jacques who says she's been forced to have sex with Jacques since she was 9, said she understood that as part of the initiation, the 12-year-old "would have sex with adult males," according to the affidavit in U.S. District Court.
Bennett's former stepfather, Raymond Gagnon, was formally charged Wednesday with obstructing justice in the case. According to the affidavit, Gagnon told police he accessed Brooke's MySpace page from a computer at his San Antonio home after getting login information from Jacques.
Police said they have evidence that postings to the account were altered to make it seem like the 12-year-old had discussed a secret rendezvous shortly before she disappeared. Investigators believe the posting was written "to make it appear that (Brooke) was abducted by someone she met on the Internet," the affidavit states.
Roughly 33% of girls and 14% of boys are molested before the age of 18, according to the U.S. Justice Department. How common are child sex rings...and how do we keep our kids safe?
FBI agent Kenneth V. Lanning, Supervisory Special Agent at the Behavioral Science Unit at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, has done extensive research on child sex rings. In a case study he did of 40 child sex rings, adult males were always the dominant leaders who organized and operated the sex rings. In no case did groups of children or youths seek out an adult for sex, pornography, or prostitution. Young people were selectively gathered together for a sexual purpose, usually implicit in the initial stages.
Although pedophilia is a sex offense in all states, there is a strong need among pedophiles to communicate with others regarding their interest in children. In sex rings, experiences are often exchanged. Photographs of children are traded and sold, as well as sexual services.
Symptoms of Child Ring Sexual Abuse
In one of Lanning's child ring studies, victims displayed the following symptoms:
Physical: stomach aches, headaches, and changes in appetite
Psychological: difficulty sleeping, nightmares, flashbacks, mood swings, phobias, and depression
Social: an avoidance of school, declining school grades, increased peer fighting, running away, and fear of adult males
Behavioral: abusive and sexualized language, withdrawal, suicide attempts, sexual activity with other children as well as with animals and younger children, antisocial acts such as lying and stealing, and sexually aggressive behaviors
For more warning signs of sexual abuse, click here.
As moms, it sickens us to know that child sex rings exist. We mourn for Brooke Bennett's mother in this tragic time, and hope that Brooke's murderer will be brought to justice.