On Wednesday, June 28, Assemblyman Joseph S. Saladino (R-Massapequa), hosted a compelling Parent Training Seminar at Farmingdale Public Library, called Protecting our Children from Sexual Predators. The meeting room at the library was about half full for the occasion, with concerned parents and members of the community eager to learn more about the increasing epidemic of sexual abuse and Internet predators.
"Of all the things we have worked on, such as tax relief and protecting the environment, nothing is as important as this," Saladino said. "Protecting our children is my number one priority."
Saladino presented staggering statistics, such as one in four girls, and one in six boys are sexually abused before they reach adulthood. According to Saladino, child sexual abuse is reported up to 80,000 times a year but 88 percent of all sexual abuse cases go unreported. Also, according to Saladino, a sexual abuser will have an average of 117 victims in their lifetime, not including repeat offenses on a single person. Saladino continued to report the recidivism of these sexual predators is stronger than a heroin addict.
Anthony Zenkus, the coordinator of education at the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN) was also on hand to present more information. Since its inception in 1979, CCAN has worked closely with Child Protective Services and police departments. Zenkus said the median age of all rape victims is 9 years old and 67 percent of all sexual assaults occur to children 17 and younger.
Furthermore, he stated 93 percent of the time the abuser is someone the child knows and 59 percent of the time it will be a close trusted member of the family.
"This is all based on the trust factor," Zenkus explained. "The child will trust a close family member which opens them up to some sort of sexual abuse."
CCAN offered informational packets to educate children on how to avoid contact with potential sexual predators.
Two themes strongly emphasized to the parents were the necessity to create an open line of communication in the household so the child doesn't feel uncomfortable disclosing information and the need to have a strong monitoring system when children are on the Internet.
Saladino said he and his fellow assemblymembers have passed much legislation in respect to child predators and civil confinement.
"I am taking a holistic approach," Saladino said. "We have to educate our community as well as getting these laws passed to protect our children."
Laws that have been passed already include the strengthening of Megan's Law, which requires more convicted sexual offenders to be filed in the Sex Offender Registry, update their photos each year and report any changes in address. Also, the statute of limitations has been lifted on violent rapes and sexual assaults.
Other potential laws that are currently on the table include civil confinement, which is preventing the release of the most dangerous predators after their prison terms, instituting longer sentences, requiring all criminals to provide DNA samples and creating the felony crime of attempting to lure a child through the Internet.
"I will not rest until the day these laws are passed," Saladino says.
Elaine Czizik, who said her daughter was abused by her father for years before it was reported, made the most gripping speech of the evening.
"The worst is yet to come after the child discloses that they've been abused," Czizik said. "You don't know who you can trust anymore or who to talk to."
Shortly after her daughter's disclosure, she was lured over the Internet by a man from Texas and was held in captivity for 38 days, Czizik stated.
That's where the CCAN intervened. They have been involved with the Czizik family ensuring all the needs of the victim were met. Now, just a few years later, Czizik's daughter is 20 years old, attending college and working her way towards a psychology degree so that she can help children who have been through the same situation as she.
There are currently hundreds of sex offenders living in Nassau County. Parents for Megan's Law, a not-for-profit national community and victims' rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse, maintains a database containing Level 2 and Level 3 offenders living in Nassau and Suffolk counties. To access the New York State Sex Offender Registry call 800-262-3257 or visit www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us. To contact the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect visit www.coalitiononchildabuse.org or call 747-2966.