The case of a Desert Hot Springs school-aide who is accused of child pornography and molestation is sparking conversation about child abuse among parents and kids.
On average, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage treats one sexually or physically abused child every single day, or 30 new children a month.
“Right now it seems to be a little bit higher of incidents of new children coming in, so we are a little bit busier right now,” says the center’s Director and Executive Officer, John Thoresen. “Lately because of the news,” he continues, “we are seeing more incidents of boys coming in, also. It’s awareness and I think hopefully it’s parents talking to their children, “Here’s what’s going on, please tell us if you’ve ever experienced anything like this,” and that’s what’s happening.”
While Thoresen can’t talk about the specifics regarding the case of John Yoder or two others accused in the child pornography ring, he says there is a clear correlation between the timing of the news coverage and the increase in children visiting the center.
Law enforcement officers and detectives often tell Thoresen they are thankful for a resource in the facility called the “Child Observation Room”. In the room, investigators can record activity and conversation in the adjoining room — the therapy room. The therapy room is a welcoming, bright room with couches and artwork on the walls to make children feel comfortable, but it’s also outfitted with surveillance cameras and a one-way mirror. The interviews and evidence gathered here is permissible in court.
“The real goal is to make sure, or to help so that child doesn’t have to go to court,” says Thoresen. “So, if that interview is taped, that can be used as evidence and the child won’t have to go back and testify, because that also can be a traumatic experience.”
Here are a few red flags of abuse to look for in your child:
Lack of eye contact: The victim feels like they are hiding a secret. A slumped posture: An effort to hide his or her body because they feel ashamed Really long or really short showers: It’s a result of feeling dirty inside. Distant or angry: The perpetrator often turns the child against his or her family. Drug or alcohol use: A way to numb painful memories or shame.
Thoresen also says to be suspicious of any gifts your child is bringing home. Many times, abusers will groom their victims with gifts like toys or sporting equipment to earn their trust and “friendship”.
“It is extremely rare for a child to lie about sexual abuse. That just doesn’t happen. Once it comes out and they start talking, they tell the truth,” Thoresen says adamantly.
The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center is located on the Eisenhower Medical Center Campus in Rancho Mirage.
No family is ever turned away due to inability to pay.