Shari Karney, Esq. legislative crusader and defender
of molested children
by Peter Menkin
This interview with Shari Karney, attorney and commentator contains
adult content of an explicit sexual kind. Know it holds some graphic statements
about child molesting. That kind of material in an interview of a kind dealing
with issues in the news today, like the Sandusky trial, have brought to national
attention the often secret subject of child molesting and about the child
molester. Attorney Shari Karney of Santa Monica, California has been working on
this kind of case with others in the United States and especially California,
almost in the manner of a Crusade. Perhaps as a Crusade, for the interview has
some tones of the Crusade against this evil of the sexual predator.
writes in her biography written for this introduction to the interview:
Karney, Esq. is an attorney and member of the State Bar of California for 22
years, a survivor of incest, and an advocate for children’s rights. She keynotes
at events around the world, speaks on college and university campuses and law
schools. Shari is the author of the soon to be released book, Prey No
Longer–A Step-by-Step Action Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
The interview was held recently with discussion of doing
same starting the week of June 11, 2012 by this writer and lasted an
hour-and-ten-minutes by phone from Mill Valley, California to her office in
Santa Monica, California. It consisted of one single conversation
INTERVIEW WITH ATTORNEY SHARI KARNEY
1. Peter Menkin: In this decade of concern
for children and for parenting roles, the Sandusky trial starts as a major shock
to the public. The former coach at Pennsylvania State is charged with molesting
boys over a long period of time—no one said No to him regarding his
behavior. Not through the years. Your expertise and experience with the legal
and moral subject of child abuse, especially its legislative side and that in
the courtroom, makes you an excellent attorney to ask about these issues. The
obvious question regarding the Sandusky scandal, is Why? Why did no one really
know what was happening to these boys, some younger than 13, many molested from
this 13 year old age through 18, according to the charges? Is this the usual
kind of event situation for the alleged and convicted child abuser in
: I believe that a lot of people know [about abuse, and
specifically in the Sandusky case] [Editor’s note…quote from Washington
Post…Sandusky, 68, is a former Penn State football coach facing 52 counts of
sexual molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period.
].. For example, victim
number four testified yesterday that Sandusky’s wife walked in and saw it ]an
act of sexual child molesting occurring]. It isn’t that people didn’t know. The
truth is that people don’t know.
What I’m going to write about today [are]
the Silent Partners
. [Assistant Penn State football coach]Mike McQueary walked into the showers to see a child
being sexually assaulted. One mother asked [her child when he returned home why
he had]… walked in with wet hair. She was told by him that he had been taking a
shower with Sandusky. She went to the police and she also contacted Penn State.
She may have done this in 1998.
Again, I think that we as a
society say that we love and cherish our children above all, even [more than]
our own life. I have not seen evidence of that when it comes to child molesting
and child abuse.
What leads me to this is the Sandusky case. There were many
who knew about him. It goes even into the home: The incident of child abuse is 1
in 3 or 4 girls; 1 in 5 to 6 boys. The statistics are that 25% of the young
adult population [for] a child under 18 years of age–I mean a child, not a 17 or
18 year old kid.
Even if you take this to a global … UN Report of Sexual
Violence in 2002, they report that 150 million girls, 73 million boys under the
age of 18 experience forced sexual abuse. ] [This means they experience]
intercourse, and other forms of sexual violence. The majority of children abused
are from about 3 to 13.
[Regarding the Sandusky case at Penn State],
morally and as a culture why did they not know. [T]hey did know, but they didn’t
know enough. We do know, but we don’t do enough or don’t do anything.
reason for why
is we value football, and we value celebrity, and we
value keeping the men around, and we value grandpa. We value everyone but the
child who is being sexually abused. That child finds him or herself alienated
and finds him or herself on trial, not the perpetrator.
We as a society don’t
take enough to take action. [People say] the authorities will step in, the
police will step in. It is our secret hidden shame.
It goes on all the time,
and perpetrators do get away with it. Certainly, we really need a children’s bill of rights
. Just like we have a bill of rights for all humanity. …
There needs to be a fundamental right for children.
At Penn State, that woman
[the boy’s mother] tried to do something for her child. [She was sent home]… Why
didn’t anyone from Penn State step up for it. There’s [that rejection]… tendency
when mothers do try to protect their children. It’s a subject that nobody wants
to talk about. What we call secret
is what poisons us as a culture. If
you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.
2. Peter Menkin: There is a mystery
regarding child abuse, especially the acts that are so usually shrouded in
secrecy. If memory serves correct, you yourself have spoken of this matter.
Importantly for the readers of www.thechildcustodyguide.com , what is a
parent or other responsible party’s responsibility toward a child–in both the
legal sense, and as a good parent? Will you tell us what a parent or guardian
can do about child abuse, especially when they learn of
: [On the question of the mystery, and what to do as a parent
to protect children as good custodians:] First of all, we have to go one step
before that, to be a good parent and a good custodian of children. You have to
be aware, not [about] the man down the street in a raincoat…
The present tense in the commentary by Shari Karney here, the alleged molester
is a present case, active actor in the sexual predator drama.]Most child
molesters groom their victim. Sandusky allegedly groomed his victim. He grooms
them with … one of the victims said in the trial–he treated him like a
girlfriend. He sent him [the alleged victim] gifts, he sent him love letters.
They groom children by treating them like love objects.
Its part of the
grooming act [of the] sexual predator…
As a parent or custodian of a child,
you need to really keep your eyes open with any adult who wants to spend a lot
of time with a child–who treats a child as overly special. That could be an
uncle, a grandparent, a close friend, a local priest, a football coach, or a
teacher. [There is the behavior in action] sign of always there. There are
always signs; there is always behavior. And those signs are people who want to
spend an unusual amount of free time around children.
Those signs are a child
being taken away for events and engagements and sleepovers. Is there an older
kid in the family? People and parents seem to be a little too trusting of the
people around them that they know. They’re distrusting of strangers…but they’ll
let uncle Charlie takes their child over for a sleepover or on a camping trip
and not have another adult supervisor…
If a parent starts to have to
believe…you have to listen to the child, and listen to children—to those under
your adult custody. Children deserve the right to at least have the respect of
being listened to.
Children are second class citizens. I’m not saying that
they’re not spoiled. It’s not about monetary care. It’s not that they aren’t
given food and shelter. It is that they are not being listened to.
one is listening to a child in your care [and] custody. Check it out. It’s like
… if they have to report it, it should be reported to police, social services.
There are two sides. There is the pay attention side, and the other side is the
Parents need to report suspect child sexual abuse. There has to be
some basis for your decision. You don’t have to be the police, the judge, and
the jury. But you do if you suspect it: Take action. You need to be taking
action until something is done.
3. Peter Menkin: Of the cases you have
worked with, tell us about one or two that stand-out in your mind, and give
readers some detail on them. Significantly, tell us some of the thought and
planning that went into your legal work in these cases, or your own scenario, if
not one of the cases you were involved with directly. By this I mean tell us how
you would have considered the matter should have been
: [As an attorney,] I represent adult survivors of sexual abuse
until they have memory of being sexually abused until adults. I am one of those
victims. I did not have memory of my own [of my own] child sexual abuse until I
I would have told you I came from a very middle class, good Jewish
family. My father is a writer, my mother is a therapist. Many survivors don’t
get their memories until they’re adults. [That is] because they repress memory
because it is too horrible. You want to believe that you come from a normal
family, and that your parents love you. And would never do something like
You don’t have the psychological strength to cope with this. It’s hard
enough coping with this as an adult.
I had a case of a 24 year old that was
sexually assaulted by her father on camping trips when she was 3 year old. Her
father would take her to the outhouse, and she would yell and scream to have her
mother take her. Her mother said she said she was being a baby.
all memory but to keep the memory down she took drugs and drank. She got a DUI
[Driving Under the Influence] and as part of her court order, she had to go to
an alcohol and drug 12 step program.
When she stopped taking drugs and
drinking her memory started to surface. She is one of the cases I took to
overturn the Statute of limitations
in California. Her case went to the
California Supreme Court. The California Court of Appeals applied the doctrine
of delayed discovery to adult survivors of child abuse. It is by definition [in
this case now favorable to] adults who were sexually molested as
What he [the 3 year old girl’s father] did [on the camping
trips]…is he would use her to masturbate with…It was oral and he would put his
member in her mouth–he would climax. He had intercourse with her at six, and he
sodomized her at six. The Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, and sent the case
back to the trial court. The father appealed to the Supreme Court of California.
In the meantime, I lobbied in California with…. people to get the law changed in
California. We prevailed: SB108. What it did was it changed the California statutes of limitation
in the civil code. It was a civil case. This was
to sue him for what he did [when she was] a kid. He settled the case and she got
money damages. It was an extremely modest amount of
4. Peter Menkin: In your own career, talk a
little about the legislation you’ve worked on of your making, and that of
others? The success of same is part of the news value in this question, but if
the legislation did not pass, let us hear about it from your vantage as a
knowledgeable person who is a commentator on these matters? Where may a reader
go to learn more of these cases? Links to more about these matters is helpful,
for tell us the place on the internet readers may go on these legislative
matters. These places may be California links, or for similar matters in the
public sphere in other places.
: We started the passage of legislation. They are still working
on this legislation. The California Supreme Court just came down on the
amendment. My opinion is there should be no statute of limitations for child
sexual abuse. It should be treated like kidnapping or murder. People shouldn’t
feel so sorry for the abusers, [like] it’s a mental illness, or something.
People [practice] sexually abuse because it feels good to them.
I think there
is no cure; I don’t believe there is a cure. I don’t think aversion therapy
works; I don’t believe castration works. I think what would work is somebody who
fully admits it and looks and looks and finds the right person who can really
help them through this. All the prison system stuff, the electrocuting them when
showing them pictures of children… In my humble opinion, I don’t think there is
a cure. I don’t think it’s a disease. If you don’t have a disease, it’s hard to
find a cure.
When you have sexual pleasure for a certain activity, I think
when you have sexual activity, your brain gets hard wired. Of family predators,
they are opportunistic predators. It is criminal activity. It is a crime.
is a crime. We don’t treat it like it is. Our law system says it is a
I do think that legislation and legislative change is needed and
helps. It brings awareness and it brings accountability. Law is the last bastion
of morality, because law cannot make you a moral person. Our laws don’t make you
a good or bad person. It just catches those as the last gatekeeper trying to
keep society moral.
There’s one link that I want people to look at: It’s the
The National Conference of State
…[S]earch: “State civil statutes of limitations
and child sexual abuse cases.” There is a statute of limitations [section] in my
book, “Prey No Longer.” Subtitle, A Step by Step Guide for Survivors of Sexual
Abuse”. Readers can get this at Amazon.com
, and they can download
the book on Kindle for 99 cents.
I want every survivor to be able to download
it. I don’t want some kid 17 years old who doesn’t have $22 to not buy a book
also on Facebook, I talk about all this stuff on Facebook and
5. Peter Menkin: Thank you so much, Shari,
for taking the time to talk to this reporter. Now as we come to the end of our
conversation of this day, please speak about something that you want to say that
wasn’t covered? Where will you be speaking or appearing next for public hearing
on these matters of child abuse, and their related custody
: I am going to be speaking at a national conference of
therapists who treat survivors of sexual abuse in Canada (go to my website to
find it). I’m going to be teaching the first child sexual abuse seminar at
Loyola Law School this summer. The reason I’m doing this is Sandusky. It made me
realize every attorney along the line dropped the ball. They dropped the ball; I
think in part, if we don’t educated lawyers on this issue, we’re not going to
have educated protectors. The name of the course is Child Sexual Abuse Seminary:
Loyola Law School in the fall, Monday nights. (Go to my website to find
I’ll be speaking to a couple of corporations to do corporate
motivational speaking. I have just finished the memoir of my own story: “Girl
Behind the Curtain: Twisted Obsession, Love, and Law; One woman’s
[Attorney Shari Karney’s website is here
.]This interview originally