To understand the mission set forth in the website "protect.org", one need only spend an hour or so with Grier Weeks, Executive Director of the National Association to Protect Children. Ask him how we got where he is and he will tell you that after 20 years of working on political campaigns, he became increasingly upset with every election cycle that no one seemed to care about fighting for kids. He reviewed a national manual on registered Political Action Committees, as thick as the New York yellow pages, and not one involved the protection of children. Weeks has no personal experience with the work to which he now devotes his life, but he once began making a list of family members and friends whose lives had been impacted by abuse. When the list got too long, he quit counting. His anger continued to simmer.
In 2001 Weeks met Andrew Vachss, a well credentialed attorney/author with a specialty in child protection. Vachss commented that if we had an NRA for kids, everything would change. And Protect was born. Organized as a 501(c)4, a non-profit single-issue social welfare organization, Protect works hand in hand with the National Association to Protect Children, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Their mutual mainstream bi-partisan agenda is reflected in their common website, protect.org. Weeks has equal disdain for Republicans and Democrats who flat out refuse to stand up for kids waiting to be rescued from abuse, violence, and sex trafficking. He is fond of saying that when the house is burning down, you don't stop at the gate and interview the firefighters about their position on the issues, you put the fire out. He just wants politicians to take action.
Protect meets with elected officials to show them absolute proof of the horrific things taking place in their own districts. Promising to make them the conquering hero for interrupting these terrible crimes in progress, they still walk away. He continues to ask the smartest people he knows how this can be but so far has no answers he can accept. There are so many victims now that child abuse is no longer an aberration, it is the norm. Why aren't we all outraged? If law enforcement technology can tell us where these diabolical perpetrators are, why aren't we rushing out to get them? Weeks just can't make his peace with this shocking, even catastrophic social injustice.
Liberals who profess to be advocates for human rights and domestic violence are "criminally silent on this issue, almost complicit," says Weeks. "They are hopelessly conflicted as to issues that should be black and white." When confronted with child pornography on the internet and video, talk turns to first amendment rights and the sanctity of the internet. Child trafficking that takes place in Nepal or Thailand is a clear evil to them. But when a child is trafficked in Kansas or Chicago, they stay silent. It is "unforgiveable, despicable" and forces the conclusion that liberals cannot be taken seriously on anything they have to say on human rights. Weeks is "enormously frustrated."
Protect claims as one of its victories the passage of the California Circle of Trust bill which overturned a heinous loophole in sexual abuse laws giving perpetrators of children under 14 who lived under the same roof as their victim preferential treatment, including probation and family therapy. The child was required to attend therapy sessions with their rapist with the goal of returning the "breadwinner" to the family unit, leaving that child and others in the household vulnerable to continuing abuse. The new bill was opposed by Democrats who demanded victim testimony to prove that the prevailing philosophy of rehabilitation and reunification was not sound. Rebuffed in the first round, Protect gathered a select group of volunteers who researched cases to find victims of this flawed social system, now adults, who may be well enough to speak to its disastrous effects on their lives. Two women were recruited who testified to the unspeakable degradation of being forced to attend counseling with their family member rapists who were later returned to the home. In one case, the younger sister was raped after the reunification. The other woman, as a teenager, had resisted the counseling mandate and was threatened with incarceration in a juvenile facility if she didn't cooperate while her rapist father was sentenced to pick up trash in the park. Their testimony led to a legislative victory in the fight to treat incest as a crime, not social pathology, and insured that children could not be coerced into attending therapy with their rapists. It would be impossible to detail how many future victims were saved the terrible fate of being reunited with their rapists in the home setting to endure more abuse even after they had found the courage to report it in the first place. How can we not care about that?
Weeks likes to point out how Americans fight for sidewalks in their communities, to stop development, to save the environment, to end war, to save the whales. But they aren't willing to fight for kids being raped and exploited every single day. Politicians say, behind closed doors, that children don't vote. Weeks will tell you that whales and guns don't vote either. And he cannot accept that politicians won't spend one ounce of political capital on behalf of children in the worst kind of harm's way.
The Protect organizations have a paltry annual budget fueled by a handful of loyal recruits who give generously each year and a larger group of supporters who give in small amounts when they can because they are so grateful that this self-described "motley pirate ship of pissed off people" have taken up the cause that means so much to them and should mean so much to the rest of us.
What do they want from you and your elected officials? They want the greatest gift you can offer anyone: your attention. They want you to know that prevention of child abuse doesn't work. The perpetrators are mapped and data based and law enforcement, through the use of modern tracking technology, has them dead to rights. There is a moral obligation to act and the time has come. And they want you to know about their 2012 Child Rescue Emergency Campaign to encourage the governors of all 50 states to declare child abuse a state of emergency. Visit the protect.org website page dedicated to this grass roots campaign that needs the support of every community in the country. Make contact with the Protect organizations and let them know you are there. Follow them on Facebook and let your Facebook friends know about this important work. You can be an ambassador on behalf of kids who desperately need our help, who are waiting right this very minute to be rescued.
"If a child makes a cry for help and that child is not protected and put back in harm's way, that's the most devastating and destructive thing that could ever happen to a human being," Grier Weeks says. It's too late for a Merry Christmas for these children, but not for a Happy New Year. Be the change. Save a child.