The documentary, Leaving Neverland, has sparked a national conversation about child sex abuse. P.A.X.A. founders talk about warning signs of child sex abuse and predator watch outs. 90% of chid sex abuse is done by a family member, family friend or trusted individual.
Given all the news with R. Kelly and the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, parents need to know warning signs to protect their children. This morning, we sat down with Tania Haigh from P.A.X.A. who is hoping to do her part to end child sex abuse after this epidemic impacted her family.
CHICAGO — R&B artist R. Kelly will be vacating his West Side recording studio, according to his lawyers.
A judge issued an order on Feb. 8 limiting the artist’s access to his studio between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. and ordered it to only be used as a recording studio — not for residential purposes.
In a statement Wednesday, attorney Steve Greenberg said R. Kelly was repeatedly harassed while doing his job in the studio during the limited hours we was allowed to be there.
He said the judge’s ruling was “without any logical rationale.” He compared the artist to Beethoven, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Winston Churchill, among others, and said history has “admired creativity” through the years.
“R. Kelly can never be creative and do his job under the circumstances which leaves him no choice but to leave his building,” Greenberg, said in the statement.
The Chicago Sun-Times said the Cook County judge also prohibited use of the second floor Tuesday, after building inspectors found faulty stairs. Photos were shown in court of the inside of the recording studio from the Jan. 16 inspection.
The ruling came a week after Chicago building inspectors found code violations at the R&B star’s recording studio on the city’s near West Side during a court-ordered inspection. Those violations included evidence the industrial space was used as a residence.
Kelly came under fire after women featured on a Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” made new sexual misconduct allegations against the singer. Kelly has denied the allegations.
“The public should not rush to judgement,” his lawyer said in Wednesday's statement. “Almost all of the statements in the documentary were previously debunked, by facts, and rejected by the police, judges, and a jury. A hashtag does not make people truthful or credible.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx held a press conference in January asking any potential victims to come forward.
High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti said he has identified two victims that were underage and handed over a sex tape to Foxx’s office for potential prosecution. The States Attorney’s Office has not commented on that information.
In the meantime, Tania and David Haigh have been checking out the building’s exterior and said they have big visions for the building.
The building is for sale $3,999,000, and through their foundation, Parents Against Child Abuse (P.A.X.A.), the Haighs want to provide an education center and safe place for children who have been victims of sexual abuse. The pair started a GoFundMe page to help purchase the building.
“Ultimately what we see this is a headquarters for parents against sex abuse and a healing center for survivors,” Tania Haigh said.
The aftermath of the recent “Surviving R. Kelly” cable series has led several local organizations to encourage sex abuse victims to seek out the help available to them.
Oak Park community activist Anthony Clark hosted a “Believe survivors” forum Feb. 13 at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, where he invited representatives of various organizations that seek to assist victims to talk about their services.
“The issue of rape culture, sexual assault, sexual violence, sex trafficking — it’s strange to me when we attempt to discuss these specific issues, it’s hard for people to discuss and talk about them,” Clark said. “This issue is so pervasive. It’s in every corner in our lives.”
The event was initially scheduled to include Lizzette Martinez, who appeared in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary. The TV series delves into allegations of sexual abuse of women and girls by the singer. Martinez has said R. Kelly picked her up as a 17-year-old in a mall and took advantage of her desire to be a singer.
Clark said Martinez was set to fly in from California, but she ultimately had to cancel.
“A lot of wounds were reopened, and she’s battling and fighting right now,” Clark said. “She wishes she could be here, but self care is important and she’s taking care of herself right now.”
Among those speaking was Tania Haigh, co-founder of Oak Park-based P.A.X.A., or Parents Against Child Sex Abuse. Haigh said it is her organization’s goal to assist parents with the difficult conversations of speaking to their children about sex abuse, even at an early age.
“The truth of the matter is there are a lot of ways we can dig into our children earlier,” Haigh said. “Talk to them about their bodies. Predators are attracted to children starting at age 0 in different stages. We’re really bullish about educating children about predators.”
According to Haigh, 90 percent of child molesters or pedophiles are known to their victim and the victim’s family, and can typically be described as “manipulative.”
“They take advantage of your trust and our children,” Haigh said. “Quite simply, it’s about asking questions. Ask them ‘Has anyone every touched you?’ It’s not just age 2-4, but you’re on top of what’s happening on that play date or that eighth-grade trip or that sleepover. We are trying to educate parents.”
Rahasad Singletary, a physical education teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School, said the school’s curriculum has changed greatly since the 1990s to teach healthy relationship habits.
Singletary said the high school has partnered with organizations like R.A.D. and Sarah’s Inn to teach self defense and to break the cycle of violence for students.
“Society puts a lot of pressure on young men at an early age of what a young man is supposed to be,” Singletary said. “Society says a man is tough, strong, a provider, aggressive, he talks the lead, etc. All these different stereotypes, they don’t even need. What if a kid doesn’t fit in that box? It’s OK if you’re not one of those. Once you figure yourself out as a young man, you can have healthy relationships.”
The goal of such programs, Singletary says, is to educate students to unpack their emotions before unhealthy anger can set in. Singletary added that “most sexual assaults take place between two people who know each other.”
“We start talking about what manipulation looks like or coercion looks like,” Singletary said. “We teach this so we can empower the people around us to build a community and a school.”
Zachary Draves of Pillars Community Health says his organization seeks to educate youth about dating violence and healthy relationships by using techniques such as visiting local schools.
“We’re making sure we have this conversation with everyone, especially men and boys,” Draves said. “It’s discussing what is a healthy masculine identity and how we can create masculine identity that’s on our own terms rather than what society hopes men have to be. When we talk about R. Kelly, we need to have a talk about toxic masculinity.”
Deirdre Harrington, also with Pillars Community Health, works closely with a hospital treating survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
“I didn’t realize how pervasive it really was,” Harrington said. “This issue is personal for a lot of us. We talk about it all the time, but it’s so sad that for so long no one was listening to survivors.”
CHICAGO (CBS) — On Tuesday, a judge ordered that no one is allowed to use the second floor of R. Kelly’s warehouse, and the recording studio on the bottom floor can only be used during normal business hours, 9-5.
But CBS 2 reporter Charlie De Mar saw several people coming and going later, including Kelly’s personal attorney, who got buzzed into the building.
“I’m just seeing what’s going on. I’m not the real estate guy,” Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg said as he waited to be buzzed into the R&B singer’s recording studio around 7:30 p.m. “I don’t know what the judge ordered because I didn’t see it.”
Kelly’s real estate attorney Melvin Sims did speak after a judge ordered that nobody is to be inside the warehouse after 5 p.m.
After Greenberg, a woman walked in with food just before 9 p.m.
“We do feel like this was a manufactured emergency,” Sims said. “There was no emergency here all along, and it seems the judge has sided with us.”
That emergency is in reference to inspectors being called out to the studio at 219 N. Justine St. earlier this month after reports of people living in the commercial space.
“To show up like that with all the different inspectors, that’s a special occasion,” structural engineer Allan Gold said. “It doesn’t look commercial at all. It looks very residential.”
“A couch on the premises does not make it a living room,” Sims said.
Photos from that inspection show a bathroom that appeared to be in use with racks of clothes hanging, a living room, and a staircase secret to the city, built without permits. The warehouse piled up more than 60 violations.
“Unimpressive, uninspiring, gross” said Tania Haigh with Parents Against Child Abuse. “There was something that compelled me tonight to be like I just want to see where this is for myself because a lot of damage, I think, has been done here.”
The warehouse where Kelly is the tenant has come under scrutiny in recent weeks since the airing of a Lifetime docuseries outlining a host of accusations of sexual abuse by Kelly.
Roughly an hour later Greenberg emerged and said nothing about his time inside the studio.
“I’m going to get chop suey,” he said.
The city did make a move to vacate the property altogether, but the judge did not agree with that motion. Both sides will be back in court next month.
Recently the city of Chicago was rocked by a series of articles written by the Chicago Tribune exposing Chicago Public Schools for their failure to protect children, including decades of reports of child sex abuse, mishandling of or failure to report cases, no enforcement of mandated reporting and hiring practices that overlooked background checks. Despite having multiple policies in place that should have prevented these cases, the school district overlooked and ignored them. Now they are launching a new office to handle the fallout.
And while P.A.X.A. applauds Chicago Public Schools for launching a new Office of Student Protection, it’s hard to not be cynical about their motivations. If CPS cared more about keeping children safe from sexual predators than its own reputation, why did it take a Chicago Tribune investigation to create this new initiative?
For those who are not familiar with the investigation, the Tribune found that since 2011, the District’s law department found credible evidence of administrative misconduct in 230 out of 430 reports. In the 100 cases that they investigated, the Tribune identified 70 employees that were involved, from teachers to coaches, janitors to bus drivers.
The Press Release issued by CPS is woefully inadequate in addressing the concerns of Parents Against Child Sex Abuse (P.A.X.A.).
Let’s not let the creation of the Office of Student Protection distract from the fact that hundreds of children were sexually abused at CPS schools, by CPS employees, who broke rules and laws in a lax environment. What good are policies, rules and laws if they aren’t enforced, as evidenced by the Tribune’s articles.
P.A.X.A. Parents want justice for the abused.
Any employee who broke the state’s mandated reporter laws should be prosecuted.
Any employee who broke the school district’s rules regarding sexual abuse reporting protocol should be fired.
Those who did not break rules, but acted unethically or in an inappropriate manner should be disciplined and new rules should be put in place to prevent future sexual abuse from occurring.
The public firing of a couple of principals is not sufficient. P.A.X.A. wants CPS to clean house: top to bottom.
P.A.X.A. Parents want a voice. Nowhere in the press release does it mention that parents and parent groups will be involved in this “innovative” 20 member team that will report directly to the CEO of CPS. Recent history has proven that bureaucratic incompetence can provide an environment where sexual predators roam hallways and hundreds of children are sexually abused. P.A.X.A. believes that only active parent participation can guarantee that the Office of Student Protection is not just another toothless bureaucratic layer.
P.A.X.A. Parents want to tilt the power balance toward protecting children.
No more tiptoeing around the subject of child sexual abuse. Administrators, teachers, and CPS employees need to acknowledge that sexual predators need access to children and schools are perfect environments for predators to connect with children. It is therefore, your job, from janitor to superintendent, to protect children from these predators. It takes vigilance. If administrators care more about squashing a potential scandal than protecting children; if teachers and unions care about “protecting one of their own” than protecting children; if coaches and employees look the other way because they want to keep their jobs—then children will continue to be sexually abused at CPS schools.
We'd like to thank our board member Mica Zgutowicz for representing P.A.X.A.
at the Chicago Woman Week Non-Profit Program on June 7th.
Mica spoke on the panel about her role as a board member for P.A.X.A. and what it entails to be on a board for a cause she believes in.
P.A.X.A. continues to be a bold voice in the conversation surrounding child sex abuse. With a 24-hour news cycle, it's easy for parents to become numb to the headlines and not truly realize the severity of the issue. However, the headlines don't lie. By highlighting these stories, P.A.X.A. hopes to illustrate the facts: child sex abuse isn't bound by income level, neighborhood or race. Whether in the music world, academia or Hollywood, it happens around us every day.
We invite you to follow us on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and chime in on the latest, including the #muterkelly campaign, recent news announcing the Michigan State University settlement and the public outcry over insensitive scenes in the movie Show Dogs.
Please save the date and join us November 10th, 2018, for an evening of education & empowerment, followed by our annual fundraiser to take place in Oak Park, IL.
Anti-Sex Trafficking non profit, Selah Freedom, invited P.A.X.A. to participate in a PBS Documentary filming by Visionaries, a production company that highlights non-profits and causes. The documentary will air in 2019.
By ChicagoNow Staff, Thursday at 9:46 am
Editor's note: The below is contributed content via David and Tania Haigh. They are Chicago-based parents who have seen firsthand how damaging childhood sexual abuse can be to victims and their families. In 2017, they launched P.A.X.A. to help parents identify signs of sexual abuse and protect their families from predators.
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, newly founded nonprofit, Parents Against Child Sex Abuse (P.A.X.A.), is raising its voice to save children from sexual abuse and empower parents to act locally to prevent sexual abuse in their community. P.A.X.A., founded by parents, for parents, believes parental awareness and involvement is the key to reducing and eliminating abuse.
Top Ten Things Parents Can Do to Protect Their Children from Child Sex Abuse:
1. Recognize that there are predators in your community that are physically and sexually attracted to your child, no matter the age.
2. Begin the conversation with your kids about OK Touch vs. Bad Touch as young as age Two.
3. Educate your kids about the actual names for body parts (vagina/penis/butt).
4. Ask your children if anyone has ever touched her vagina or his penis at least once a year.
5. Believe your children if they answer you in the affirmative. Stay calm and demonstrate love & support.
6. Avoid sleepovers and situations where adults are alone with your child.
7. Educate yourself on child sex abuse symptoms for your child’s age group.
8. If you see something, say something. It’s better to be wrong than not speak up.
9. Demand sex abuse safety & accountability in all children institutions—schools, daycare/Montessori, camps, youth groups, music lesson/classes, sports teams, etc.
10. Report Child Sex Abuse - to the Department of Children and Family Services, the police and mandated reporters (doctors, teachers, etc.). It’s a crime, treat it as such.
For more information regarding these tips, visit P.A.X.A.’s helpful INFO CENTER on its website, at www.paxa.online, which helps illustrate the extent of the issue, as well as provide actionable tips for parents and community members to prevent and uncover child sex abuse.