In light of the guilty verdict for Richard Janusz on multiple counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, there are some important lessons that can be revisited.
Before doing that, however, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the jury for listening to the facts of a very difficult case. I want to thank the state’s attorney’s office and Sycamore police for their years of dedication and hard work on this. I am humbled by all of you and consider it a privilege to work with prosecutors, law enforcement, and child protective services on a daily basis in striving to bring justice to children and their families.
Most of all, however, let me say that the bravery and perseverance that the child victim and her family have shown during the past four years have been an inspiration to us all. They have inspired us to continue fighting the fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. They have inspired us to keep striving for those happy endings, when sometimes they seem so few and far between.
Something I want to impress upon the community is that abuse overwhelmingly (93% of the time) occurs at the hands of someone that the child knows and trusts. Offenders work hard to “groom” victims and their families, and for this reason, it is imperative that parents and other caregivers talk with, listen to and believe their child if they disclose abuse.
Research shows that false allegations of child sexual abuse are exceedingly rare, so the best way to start helping is by believing. Children have little to gain in lodging a false allegation. In fact, for them to seek out a trusted adult and disclose abuse takes an incredible amount of courage.
The final piece I want to remind parents of is this: after the Children’s Advocacy Center (the school or another provider) conducts Erin’s Law education in your child’s school, talk to them about what they learned. Ask them to name people who they could disclose to or confide in if you’re not available.
You don’t have to wait for the annual Erin’s Law presentation at schools, either. You can talk to them about the courage of Janusz’s victim and discuss other cases in the news, especially those involving people a child should be able to trust, such as a teacher, relative, clergy member or coach.
Children’s Advocacy Center director