EXCLUSIVE: Landmark Anti-Grooming Law Signed in Florida, But Stalled in Illinois and Iowa. Where is the Rest of the Country? | Joe Hoft

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EXCLUSIVE: Landmark Anti-Grooming Law Signed in Florida, But Stalled in Illinois and Iowa. Where is the Rest of the Country? 

 

Landmark Anti-Grooming Law Signed in Florida, But Stalled in Illinois and Iowa. Where is the Rest of the Country? 

Guest post by Jack Gleason 

A mother’s three-year battle to jail the man who systematically enticed her son to make a sex video and perform lewd acts resulted in the first “unlawful grooming and solicitation of a minor” conviction in 2014, has led to a series of laws just passed in Florida. (Thankfully, the man was caught before he was able to physically abuse her son.)

Until now, there have been only two laws against grooming children to accept advances from pedophiles in the United States, one in Illinois and also a Federal grooming law. The excuses in other states have been, “grooming is very hard to prove,” “children would be emotionally harmed by having to testify in public,” and “these charges often rely on hearsay evidence.”

Landmark legislation passed on April 10th in the state of Florida that significantly changes the laws on sexual predation and grooming. There were five different bills signed by Governor DeSantis…

HB 1545 protects children from grooming activities and other sexual offenses. It prohibits an adult from engaging in a pattern of communication to a minor that includes explicit and detailed verbal descriptions of sexual activity, increases penalties for child exploitation crimes such as promoting sexual performances or possessing child pornography. It establishes this conduct as a third-degree felony, strengthening the punishments associated with child exploitation and making them more severe.

HB 1131 establishes a grant program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create online sting operations to target sexual predators.

HB 1235 creates stricter guidelines for sex offender registration. It prevents sex offenders from using a temporary residence to avoid registration, requires sex offenders to register vehicles and vessels used as living quarters with the state and makes it more difficult to qualify for registration removal.

HB 305 expands the evidence that can be presented to a jury in sex-abuse cases where the victim is a minor, and increases penalties on those who take part in sex trafficking of minors. It allows a hearsay statement made by a minor, regardless of age, to be admitted as evidence. It also requires offenders convicted of human trafficking minors to be registered sex offenders on their first offense.

SB 1224 strengthens the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office and helps law enforcement better assess domestic violence situations. It helps children who “age out” of foster care – a particularly vulnerable group to sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, similar legislation in other states has stalled. Iowa’s grooming law sponsored by Rep. Mark Thompson passed the House 94-0 but is now sitting in their Senate committee. The Senate President is Jack Witver who is not calling the bill for vote.

Illinois HB4340 – an amendment to the current criminal code anti-grooming law – is being stalled in committee. This amendment would prevent those charged with grooming from being able to take a plea deal, which will be known as “Andrew’s Law.” The representative responsible for calling this bill for vote in this committee is Illinois 27th District State Representative, Justin Slaughter.

Grooming is a term “used to describe the calculated and gradual process by which an offender sexually abuses a child. It is a horrifyingly planned and manipulative act that makes victims of sexual abuse feel complacent and adds an additional layer of protection for the offender.”

Grooming occurs in gradual stages – establishing trust, building a relationship, and breaking down physical barriers. The perpetrators are often seen as friendly, kind pillars of the community. They purposely choose jobs where they have access to children – daycare, sports coaching, advisors in youth organizations, or date someone with young children.

They establish an ongoing and secret relationship with the child and systematically begin to break down physical barriers through wrestling, tickling, or massaging, which eventually involves touching private areas and further sexual contact.

Needless to say, this abuse results in permanent emotional scarring of the child, up to and including suicide, or may become an abuser as an adult, since this is the history with many pedophiles.

Breaking the cycle of abuse means enforcing strict laws on the books for abusers, which include sexual predator registries, intensive background checks for schools and churches, and prosecution with long sentences.

The current climate of our government and education system is allowing these tragedies to take place on a regular basis as they weaken laws, and either fail to prosecute offenders or give them light sentences and plea deals which quickly put them back in public to offend again.

There has been an organized effort to normalize aberrant behavior in the name of “diversity, inclusion and equity.” “Pedophiles” have been rebranded as “Minor Attracted Persons,” as if this makes it OK. “Age-Gap Love” is another term that has been used.

A child or young person may show signs of being a victim of grooming in different ways…

  • developing an unusually close connection with an older person
  • having gifts or money from new friends that they cannot explain
  • being secretive about their phone, internet or social media use
  • going missing for long periods of time
  • appearing extremely tired, including at school
  • lying about who they have been with and where they have been
  • substance abuse or drinking
  • assuming a new name, having false identification or a new phone
  • being collected from school by an older or new friend

Parents can protect their children by teaching them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate contact (both online and offline), and fostering open and honest communication, without blame or stigma. They can focus on being safe online by deleting and blocking message requests from people they don’t know.

We need honest and accurate voting so we can remove prosecutors who won’t prosecute and judges who accept plea deals. We must protect the most vulnerable and innocent among us, our children.

Michelle Peterson, the mother of the abused child in Illinois, has made it her life’s work to encourage the passing of stricter grooming laws across the country and restricting plea deals for offenders. Sex trafficking investigators now use the 2014 case in Illinois as precedent in their own cases.

She warns… “Parents, protect your children online and on their mobile devices.  Check their text messages, including private messages in the chats of apps (including Bible apps), their email, and their online activity and their online gaming.  Use other apps to have the text messages on your children’s phones go to your phones.  Bottom line, protect your children and fight for your children and that includes fighting for laws that will protect them and voting for those who will protect your children.”

Government officials often react to pressure from their constituents, but also to publicity. Share this article with your local radio, tv and newspapers.

Reach out strongly and directly to your elected leaders. Ask them why legislation on this subject is being ignored or delayed.

In Iowa, their grooming law must be called up for a vote by Senate President Jack Witver. He can be reached by phone: (515) 281-3371 jack.whitver@legis.iowa.gov.

In Illinois, please contact Rep Slaughter and ask him why this bill has not been brought to vote. District Office (773) 445-9700 Springfield Office (217) 782-0010 and Email: office@repslaugher.com.

Stop It Now! USA works to prevent the sexual abuse of children. Their prevention helpline (1.888.PREVENT) provides free, confidential, and direct support and information to individuals with questions or concerns about child sexual abuse. 

 

3 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Landmark Anti-Grooming Law Signed in Florida, But Stalled in Illinois and Iowa. Where is the Rest of the Country? ”

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