gical, emotional, spiritual, and physical damage of the abuse remain long after molestation has ended. The Bible speaks vehemently against hurting children and against sexual sins and perversions of all kinds. It also offers hope for healing and forgiveness.
Why does child sexual abuse happen?
The short answer to “why” abuse happens is that we live in a world marred by sin. Often, those who molest children have themselves been molested. They may have been hurt in some other way as well and choose to victimize children in an attempt to regain a sense of power or worthiness. Many times, sexual abuse is a misguided attempt to find intimacy. Whatever the emotional, familial, or psychological history of the molester, sexual abuse is evil.
Molestation or sexual abuse is NEVER the fault of the abused child. Many victims of abuse experience shame and guilt. But children cannot be held responsible for crimes perpetrated against them. This is not to say that victims of abuse are absolved of responsibility for their own actions, including those prompted by scars of the abuse. But there is nothing shameful about having been abused. The shame belongs to the abuser alone.
What does the Bible say about sexual abuse against children?
Caring for children is spoken of highly in the Bible. For example, James 1:27 says that caring for children in need pleases God: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Psalm 127:3 calls children “a heritage from the Lord.” Jesus’ interactions with children (notably in Matthew 18) demonstrate the value God places on them. The Bible speaks often about caring for the weak, poor, and needy—and this would include at-risk children (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; 31:8–9). Followers of Christ are consistently called to love others. Molesting a child can in no way be mistaken for love.
The Bible also speaks strongly against sexual sin. Sex is a gift given by God meant for marriage. Sexual perversion of all kinds is soundly condemned. Sexually assaulting a child is never justifiable; it is always wrong.
How can I heal from being sexually abused?
If you or someone you know is being molested, or you suspect abuse, you must contact the appropriate authorities. If you were abused as a child and suspect that your abuser is still harming others, please report it. Medical, legal, and psychological intervention are likely necessary. Children should never be left in abusive situations. Check with your local department of human services for reporting procedures.
There is hope and healing in Christ, even for those who have been sexually abused as children. The journey to healing will look different for each person. It begins with a recognition of the abuse and the damage it has done. Healing continues as the abused person learns to trust Jesus and release the pain to Him. The road is long and will require safe companions, such as a counselor, a pastor, and loving family members.
Yolanda Schlabach, executive director of Zo Ministries Inc., talks in February 2018 about human trafficking in Delaware. Jason Minto/The News Journal/USA TODAY
A Claymont man and two Wilmingtonians were convicted on Wednesday of trafficking minors for sex via Backpage.com throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Dkyle Jamal Bridges, a 33-year-old from Claymont, and two Wilmington men, Kristian Jones, 25, and Anthony Jones, 35, were found guilty of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion with adults and minors, and sex trafficking three minors by force, fraud or coercion.
Bridges was also convicted of sex trafficking two adults by force, fraud or coercion.
From 2012 to 2017, the three men ran a prostitution ring, trafficking women and girls throughout the mid-Atlantic region, the Department of Justice said.
Bridges used violence and threatened the victims to force them to engage in sex acts for profit. Kristian and Anthony Jones helped run the sex trafficking ring by providing security and reserving hotel rooms, the DOJ said.
A police officer started investigating the case after two minors were advertised for prostitution on Backpage.com. More victims were found being advertised on the site, the DOJ said.
Backpage.com has been accused of being involved in nearly three-quarters of the 10,000 child-trafficking reports received annually by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The site has been sued repeatedly by state prosecutors, sex trafficking survivors and victims’ advocacy groups, and was seized by federal authorities and shut down last April.
This is the mugshot of Michael Lacey, a founder of New Times, a weekly newspaper in Phoenix. Lacey was arrested in California on accusations he conspired to profit from prostitution through classified ads posted on the Backpage websiteSacramento County Sheriff’ Office
Backpage.com, the target of a federal human-trafficking investigation, is, ironically, a Delaware registered limited liability company in “good standing.”
The U.S. web page of the classified ads website was seized Friday by federal law enforcement.
“I’m as curious as anyone to find out why the federal authorities seized them,” said Nick Wasileski, president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government.
Last summer, Wasileski’s group filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the office of Delaware Gov. John Carney and Secretary of State Jeff Bullock’s office seeking information about the state’s communication with federal investigators over Backpage.
More on Backpage: Feds charge Backpage founder after human-trafficking investigation
At the time, Carney’s office said it had no records and referred Wasileski to Bullock and to Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Without acknowledging whether or not the Department of State had any records in its possession, FOIA Coordinator Tammy Stock ruled that such records were not public because they involved pending or potential litigation, according to correspondence obtained by The News Journal.
The classifieds website, which is involved in nearly three-quarters of the 10,000 child-trafficking reports received annually by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has been sued repeatedly by state prosecutors, sex trafficking survivors and victims’ advocacy groups.
This screen shot from the Canadian version of Backpage on April 6, 2018, contains what appears to be a notice from federal authorities that the website has been seized.backpage.ca
Yet as of February, it was meeting all requirements for a business entity outlined in Delaware law, according to Bullock and Attorney General Matt Denn.
“I think it’s great news,” Bullock said when reached Friday evening. He added that federal law enforcement had not given his office instructions on whether the Delaware Department of State could shut down Backpage’s LLC. “But it sounds like this is just breaking right now.”
Denn could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
Shelter lawsuit: Phoenix domestic-violence shelter files lawsuit against Backpage
In an interview with The News Journal earlier this year, Bullock said his office did not have “legal authority” to dissolve the company. Denn’s hands similarly were tied because Backpage doesn’t have a physical presence in the state and courts have consistently ruled that federal law protects Backpage and other websites against civil or criminal sanctions stemming from the content of their users’ posts.
In January, a multi-agency law enforcement operation in Delaware named Backpage as the primary mode of communication for initiating and arranging sexual encounters during a two-day crackdown on prostitution across New Castle County that produced more than 40 arrests. Eight of the 11 men charged with patronizing a prostitute were from Delaware.
On Friday, Michael Lacey, a founder of the New Times tabloid and a co-founder of Backpage, was charged in Phoenix in the apparent culmination of the human-trafficking investigation, according to his lawyer.
Authorities had spent months probing whether Backpage served as a willing participant in the online sale of sex, including with underage girls.
Attorney Larry Kazan, told The Arizona Republic at the federal courthouse in Phoenix on Friday afternoon that Lacey had been charged. Kazan said he did not know how many counts Lacey faced because the 93-count indictment was sealed.
On Friday evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said in an email that a judge had ruled the case was still under seal.
In 2016, a California judge rejected a state attempt to prosecute Backpage operators.
In that case, a judge found that free speech provisions of the Communications Decency Act protected the operators from such prosecution.
At that time, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris accused Backpage of “raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims.”
Harris, now a California senator, said the operators “designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock has been a chief advocate for incorporation bills in Congress that benefit the First State. (Photo: SAQUAN STIMPSON/SPECIAL TO THE NEWS JOURNAL)
“No, I frankly never heard of it,” Bullock said, adding that he has since contacted Denn’s office to see if the Secretary of State has any authority to suspend Backpage’s operations.
The answer: It doesn’t.
Last summer, Nick Wasileski, president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the office of Governor John Carney and Bullock’s office seeking information about the state’s communication with federal investigators over Backpage.
At the time, Carney’s office said it had no records and referred Wasileski back to Bullock and to Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Without acknowledging whether or not the Department of State had any records in its possession, FOIA Coordinator Tammy Stock ruled that such records were not public because they involved pending or potential litigation, according to correspondence obtained by The News Journal.
“I don’t know why Delaware would allow a company like this to function…” Wasileski said in a recent interview. “I would think that if I sent a FOIA about a federal investigation that would raise red flags and go up the chain of command.”
Wasileski’s inquiry was treated strictly as a FOIA request, a Bullock spokesman said recently, and did not warrant further investigation at the time.
National media reports spanning a decade have linked anonymous Delaware LLCs to high-profile financial crimes. Delaware entities, which are not required to disclose ownership information, have appeared in connection with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
More recently, Delaware LLCs were implicated in scandals tied to President Donald Trump. According to a Wall Street Journal report, a Trump attorney used a Delaware company, Essential Consultants LLC, to transfer $130,000 to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election. The money was part of an agreement to ensure she would not divulge information about an alleged affair with the president, the report said.
A federal grand jury indictment released in October stated that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates shielded from U.S. authorities millions of dollars in payments from the Ukraine, using nine Delaware LLCs.
Denn’s office has determined that the Delaware Code, as it is written, does not permit the state to pursue dissolving a specific LLC for moral misconduct, leaving only common law remedies, DOJ spokesman Carl Kanefsky said.
“A cooperative effort among multiple law enforcement agencies may most effectively address any illegal conduct,” he added. Kanefsky would not comment on whether there is an active Backpage investigation involving Denn’s office.
Delaware leaders point out that the vast majority of businesses flocking here are above the bar. The state has a nearly $1.3 billion stake — one-third of its general fund — in keeping companies happy by offering maximum flexibility and privacy for company directors. Bullock says he supports proposed legislation at the federal level to force American companies to disclose more ownership information.
In 2014, Delaware enacted stiffer criminal penalties against those involved on the demand side of human trafficking while helping victims rebuild their lives. Delaware again strengthened the law last year, targeting those “advertising”, “patronizing” or “soliciting” people involved in forced labor or sexual servitude.
Since 2014, the AG’s office has prosecuted nine human trafficking cases, but none against advertisers due to protections under existing federal law, Kanefsky said.
Shutting down one website doesn’t solve the problem because others will fill the gap, according to Abigail Rodgers Layton, director of the DOJ’s Family Division.
Delaware attorney general Matt Denn announces the formation of the Coalition for Delaware’s Kids, a statewide group requesting $55 million in funding to benefit low-income children. (Photo: Daniel Sato, The News Journal)
State Rep. Helene Keeley, D-South Wilmington, who championed both pieces of human trafficking legislation, expressed concern last week that Backpage continues to be registered in Delaware. She said she plans to sit down with Bullock and members of Delaware’s Congressional delegation to determine the proper course.
Backpage was on Biden’s radar years ago, according to Patricia Dailey Lewis, former director of the DOJ’s Family Division. Dailey Lewis now heads the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children.
State law enforcement officials routinely used Backpage to uncover human trafficking networks, she said. During the Super Bowl and other major sporting events, traffickers would bring in vans full of children to large cities, after coordinating with clients on Backpage, she added.
Broad interpretations of the First Amendment have allowed this practice to continue without consequence, according to Daily Lewis.
“The First Amendment doesn’t cover a person yelling fire in a crowded movie theater,” she said. “It also doesn’t protect people who enjoy having sex with children.”
Child molestation is a sad reality, but it is not beyond God’s ability to overcome. God can redeem and restore. We praise Him “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). The “more than we can imagine” includes healing and forgiveness.
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