Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gosch: Kids need more protection...child abuse prevention:

The Des Moines Register.com


Gosch: Kids need more protection

Mom shares her story of a missing son as she urges child abuse prevention.

Noreen Gosch, center, and others gathered recently in West Des Moines where her son Johnny was last seen in 1982. / ANDREA MELENDEZ/THE REGISTER

Great strides have been made in Iowa and nationally to protect children from kidnappers and other predators, but more needs to be done, Noreen Gosch told more than 100 people Friday at a conference in Des Moines.
Gosch and other advocates shared some sobering facts about child abductions and human trafficking in the U.S. during a daylong Iowa Preventing Child Abuse Conference.
The disappearance of her 12-year-old son Johnny in 1982 captivated the country and Gosch has been working in the 30 years since to improve the response by law enforcement and others once children go missing.
“I vowed my son’s case would not go down as just another tragedy that happened,” she said.
It’s still unclear what exactly happened to Johnny, though Gosch believes his disappearance was the result of organized crime.
“Just because you may not want to believe something doesn’t mean it isn’t true,” she told an audience that included Drew and Heather Collins of Evansdale whose daughter Elizabeth, now 9, and niece Lyric Cook-Morrissey, now 12, have been missing since July 13.
About 800,000 children are reported missing each year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of those, 98 percent are recovered, said Bob Lowery, executive director of the missing children division of the center.
He said it is critical to educate children that it is alright to fight back when they are in danger.
Gosch was successful in passing a Johnny Gosch law after her son’s disappearance, which said police did not have to wait a certain time frame before investigating a missing child case.
Now new legislation is being proposed to help alert the public of such a disappearance.
Robin Arnold of Cedar Falls did not know either of the cousins abducted from Evansdale this summer, but she began advocating for changes after hearing the case didn’t meet the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert.
Chuck Hurley, vice president of the Family Leader, a faith-based nonprofit organization in Des Moines, said Iowa made strides earlier this year when stricter human trafficking legislation was signed into law.
The law broadens the definition of the crime to include purchasing “commercial sexual activity” from a victim of human trafficking. It also added that ignorance of a victim’s age is no defense against human trafficking charges and creates a new felony offense for force or recruit of a minor to engage in commercial sexual activity.
Now Hurley said the key is to push the state Department of Public Safety to aggressively investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.
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