by James Patterson
(NNPA)—K.L. is seven years old and here are the things that she is not responsible for:
Her mother is a prostitute.
She lives with her mother in a trailer park.
Her mother invites different men to their home.
Her mother, 22, is accused of using a social networking site on the Internet to proposition a strange man: sex in exchange for money.
K.L. told a Department of Child Services worker that the man, 47, came to their residence, and her mother had sex with him on the floor while K.L. was in the same room lying on the couch trying to go to sleep, as she had school the next day.
Authorities allege that K.L.’s mother taught her how to have sex with her and with the man.
Her mother took pictures of K.L. naked, both still and video, using a cell phone and told authorities that she forwarded the photographs to the man.
K.L. said her mother introduced her to sex “toys.”
The girl also told the DCS worker that when an adult touched her inappropriately, it made her feel “mad, sad and angry.”
According to K.L., her mother told her that she would be “whipped” if she told anyone about what was going on there.
On April 8, K.L.’s mother, Heather Gibson, was arrested by Indianapolis police on numerous charges. She faces four counts of Class A felony child molesting, four counts Class C child molesting, neglect of a dependent, and two counts of vicarious sexual gratification. Her bond was set at $80,000. The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper does not identify victims of sexual crimes.
The next day, Justin Lashaway of Greenfield was arrested in K.L.’s case by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. He was charged with three counts of Class A felony child molesting, and two counts of vicarious sexual gratification. He is being held without bond.
According to papers filed with the Marion County Superior Court, at one point K.L.’s mother began molesting her and K.L. told her mother, “No.” But her mother just kept on doing it.
In another instance, K.L. said her mother started molesting her again when Lashaway was at their home. After watching them a while, he wanted to do the same thing to K.L. When he tried to do so, “K.L. wrapped her arms across her chest,” the court papers said. “According to K.L., the man responded by saying, ‘Hey,’ and her mother responded by saying, ‘Uncover yourself!’ ”
“The allegations in this case are horrendous,” said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. “I’ve never seen a case where a mother is alleged to have solicited a predator from a popular online directory and then participates and allows her seven-year-old daughter to be molested.”
Gibson told police that she met Lashaway through a “Personal” advertisement on the Craigslist social networking Internet site about seven months ago. The Hancock County man paid her utility and housing bills in exchange for sex. After a while, she said, Lashaway said their arrangement was not enough for him and indicated that he wanted her to send him explicit photographs of her daughter, which she did. She said he also mentioned that he wanted both her and her daughters to become his personal sex toys.
In another case, a 9-year-old girl told Child Advocacy in Indianapolis that she was molested by her step-grandfather in 2009.
T.S. was spending the night at her grandmother’s home because she had a dental appointment the next day. When her grandmother went to bed, her step-grandfather took her to the basement to play pool, according to court records. Once downstairs, said the girl, he made her smoke a cigarette and take a sip of his beer. He then lured her to a detached garage with the promise of a gift. Instead he forced her to engage in sex. He told her if she did not do it, he would hurt her grandmother.
Otha Hamilton, 45, was arrested on April 12. He was charged with one count of Class A child molesting. His bond was set at $100,000.
Beverly Newman, an Indianapolis child advocate, believes that involving children with sex does lifelong damage to their minds. “There is no erasing, ever, the images of watching sexual acts by a child,” said Newman, who has a doctorate in education and child psychology. “Those images cause flashbacks throughout the child’s life, and a variety of other consequences, which could include problems with intimacy or just the opposite: Very uncontrolled sexual behavior, and very poor choices of mates throughout her lifetime.”
Unfortunately, children become accustomed to abusive relationships as the norm, Newman said. “When they get into a relationship they see that as normal, they really don’t have a juxtaposition to guide them into happy relationships.”
Newman, who has 15 years of experience working with childhood sexual issues, said, “The whole matter of childhood sexualization cannot be exaggerated in terms of permanent damage to children. Whether it involves exposure to pornography, watching sexual acts of others or molestation of the child himself, the damage is immeasurable.”
This is exactly why perpetrators expose children to pornography and perform sex in front of them, Newman explained: “They want to normalize in the child’s mind childhood sexuality. That’s their goal. There is a whole movement in favor of childhood sexualization, the peak time of which is eight years old. They start with children sometime in infancy but definitely by pre-school age.”
Experts say as many as 20-30 percent of children are sexually exposed or contacted by adults, teenagers or other children who are being victimized themselves.
“These child predators are very tragically involving other children at schools, day care centers, youth camps and even child sleepovers,” added Newman. “Sleepovers are very, very risky due to the unsupervised time children are watching TV or movies, on the Internet, sleeping in the same bed with each other or sleeping with a whole group of children. Parents need to be vigilant.”
Signs of sexual abuse in children
•Cowering behavior, particularly around the predator
•Sexual behaviors, such as thinking nothing of doing sexual acts with other children, animals or with themselves
•Indiscriminate with respect to the gender of their victim (Catholic clergy)
•Victimization can cause problems with sexual identity resulting in homosexuality
•Child sexual victims can have a psychological construct, in which they can identify with and even have sympathy for the perpetrator
(James Patterson is a staff writer for the Indianapolis Recorder.)