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In the Media

Op-Ed: How to Conduct a Child-Abuse Investigation in Tampa, Florida

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By Aine O'Brocken
Oct 11, 2008 in Politics
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Child abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families seem to be a strange and completely un-understandable phenomenon all over the state of Florida. Here is one example, from the Tampa area.
HOW TO CONDUCT A DCF—DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES—INVESTIGATION IN TAMPA, FLORIDA:
NOTE FROM WRITER OF THIS ARTICLE: All comments by the writer are in bold-face type.
Below and in bold-face, you will find a record of significant items that the investigator and the deputy Sheriff either did not notice, chose not to notice, or did not consider as part of this investigation.
Please note that many of the items below are highly significant in view of the fact that Arlen Slobodow has been accused of sexually molesting his sons, as well as abusing them in a wide variety of other ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally and even spiritually.
So…on to the methodology of investigating an allegation of child abuse by social services folk in Tampa. If you were the employee involved, your venture might go like this:
1. Park your car on the street near the house of the suspected abuser.
2. Slip quietly up the front walk, ring the bell and/or knock timidly, hoping the perpetrator will not answer.
3. When no one responds, return very quickly and quietly to your car.
4. Return to your office.
5. Call home of abuser…leave message: “This is Ms. Marvil, of DCF. I will be stopping at your house on Wednesday afternoon, about 4:00 to investigate an allegation of sexual abuse that has been filed against you. Please acknowledge this call, and verify that you will be available during this time.”
6. When abuser fails to acknowledge your call, you make another call a week later, offering a different time, and once again asking for verification.
7. When abuser again fails to acknowledge your call—after another week has passed-- report to your supervisor that no one seems to be present in the home. Ask if you have the correct address.
These are children who should have been in school. Where were they during this time?
8. Having verified that you do, indeed, have the correct address, and the correct phone number, attempt another contact. This is your third call, and two weeks have passed since your original attempt to schedule an interview with this alleged abuser about his alleged sexual abuse of his two sons. You may now begin to worry a bit about the children involved. You have in hand an abuse report from a local person—right in the Tampa area--whose identity must remain confidential, and yet you cannot seem to locate either the children or the alleged perpetrator.
These are children who should have been out and about with friends. Where were they during this time?
9. Just for the sake of your own peace of mind, you drive past the residence once more. There is no sign that anyone, children or adults, are present in the house. Very Strange. It has now been three weeks since your original attempt to schedule an interview with this man and his allegedly abused children.
These are children who surely would have been seen in their swimming pool—or at a window.
10. Finally, after a full month, you call again, and a friendly, pleasant gentleman answers, (said gentleman offering in his tone and attitude no hint of the sociopathic tendencies you might have expected in a pedophile who subjects his own children to a wide variety of sexual and other abuses.) Why of course! He would be happy to have you drop by for an interview.
Please note that a full month has passed since the investigator tried to begin her investigation
A month would more that provide time for signs of sexual abuse to vanish. In addition, bruises or welts—which I understand to be among other abuses that were reported—would have time to heal
And so the interview—after a month of waiting and wondering if the house is actually occupied--is scheduled as suggested: Wednesday afternoon, about 4:00—only a month later than originally requested.
11. At just before 4:00 on the newly-designated Wednesday, meet with Deputy from the Hillsborough Country Sheriff’s office, on the street outside the home of the suspected abuser.
12. Walk boldly to the front door with the Deputy. He has a gun, after all. You can now feel safe—just in case this Arlen Slobodow fellow actually turns out to be a child sexual abuser.
13. Knock firmly on the door, emboldened by presence of said Deputy and the aforementioned gun.
14. Enter house. Interview children in the presence of the father, the accused sexual predator. This, of course, will make certain that the children, with the support of their father will be a simple interview, and they will be sure to disclose any abuses—sexual, physical, mental, emotional or verbal you’ve heard that they have suffered at the hands of this “grow-your-own-victims-style” predator.
[Yes…of course I’m being sarcastic! No way were these children going to speak the truth about their father’s abuse when they knew full well that if they spoke the truth, they would get the s*** beat out of them when the investigator and the Deputy departed.
These kids are manipulated and terrified by this man. There is no way they are going to be able to help themselves. They are too far lost in what might be called a “jungle of child abuse.” If they ever escape, then escape will happen through the efforts of someone else. Only there doesn’t seem to be much of anyone else. Except me—and who the hell is going to believe an obnoxious, little, old, lady retired teacher from the back woods of Washington State?]
Let me emphasize again the difficulty of conducting an investigation after the alleged abuser has interfered with the time factor of the investigation—and caused said investigation to take place a month or more after it was originally planned.
Let me emphasize again that signs of sexual abuse could heal in a month.
Let me emphasize again that the bruises and welts reported by that someone in the Tampa area would no longer exist, after a month has gone by.
Let me emphasize again that the month this father bought for himself by whatever means—a trip? Pretending to be absent? Locked doors and windows to give the appearance of absence?—meant time for him to whip his sons into line and be sure the investigation turned out in his favor.
15. Take note of two or three toys carefully set out, to prove that the children have toys to play with.
What I know that the investigator did not know, is that these children are allowed to have virtually no toys. Toys they receive from their mother are routinely broken because “These are not good toys. They come from ‘bad Mom.’”
I’ve heard also that there are two drawers of toys—one which the father calls “good toys,” which can be used in his particular form of sexual abuse. These toys will fit easily into a child’s anus, while the father bites or otherwise assaults the child’s penis.
The other drawer contains “bad” toys—gifts from Mom or toys which are not useful to a father bent on sexually using his sons.
16. Take note of the television, carefully turned to age-appropriate children’s programming.
These children are seldom, if ever, permitted to watch television. It always goes on if someone from social services is scheduled to visit, however
17. Take note of food in the kitchen and in the refrigerator, to prove that the children are adequately fed.
Yes…there is plenty of food in the house. Yes…there is plenty of food in the refrigerator and the pantry and other storage places. What the investigator does not know and has no way to learn, however, is that there are times when this father takes great delight in seating himself and one of the boys at the table with a full and tasty meal—while the other boy will actually face a plate with perhaps a single French fry and a drop of catsup—or a single bean, which is all he will be allowed to eat that night.
18. Note the clean house as well as the number of bedrooms—to prove that the children have satisfactory surroundings, and each have their own room.
Of course the house is clean. What kind of man do you think this is? Child sexual abuse in unclean surroundings is no fun at all. And unless the area is clean, he cannot use it as a suitable background for snapshots and videos of child pornography, which these kids have disclosed is one of the things he uses them for.
19 . Ask the children a few questions: Does your father ever punish you? You know the difference between good touch and bad touch. Does anyone ever touch you with a bad touch? Do you always have plenty of food? Is the house always nice and clean like this? Do you like to play with your toys? What are your favorite TV programs?
20. Listen carefully to the children’s answers and record them.
Child #1: Sometimes he punishes me by making me go to my room and stay there for a while. Then he comes to my room and talks to me about why whatever I did is wrong.
Child #2: That’s right. Sometimes he punishes me by making me go to my room and stay there for a while. Then he comes to my room and talks to me about why whatever I did is wrong.
Child #1: Oh, yes. I know the difference between good and bad touch.
Child #2: Oh, Yes. I know the difference between good and bad touch.
Child #1: Oh, no. Nobody ever touches me with bad touch.
Child #2: Oh, no. Nobody ever touches me with bad touch.
Child #1: Yes, we always have all the food we want.
Child #2: Yes, we always have all the food we want.
Child #1: Oh, yes. Our house is always clean.
Child #2: Yes…our house is always clean.
Child #1: Yes. We have lots of toys. And we like to play with them.
Child #2: Yes. We have lots of toys. And we like to play with them.
Child #1: I don’t really have a favorite. I like cartoons.
Child #2: I don’t really have a favorite, either. I like cartoons, too.
Notice the similarities in the answers provided by the children. Could these answers be the product of forced memorization?
These similarities are quite obvious here in my theoretical presentation of the answers. My purpose here is to assist you in noticing that the same almost uncanny similarities appear in the investigator’s report. Could these children have been coached? Could they have been forced to memorize responses? Are they afraid, in front of their father, to stray from the memorized script he has prepared for them?
16. Say 21. Say good-bye to the alleged pedophile and the children. Return to your office and write the following report:
Child protective investigator met with Hillsborough Deputy Lavallee who wrote Report #06-182223. As child protective investigator and [Deputy] arrived to…residence a van pulled up dropping off one of the sons. Family friend stated she took some kids to Adventure Island and was dropping off [child].
Face-to-face with father, Arlen. Father stated he resides in the home with his two sons. Currently [the other child] is at a friend’s house for a sleepover. Father agreed to pick up [child] and bring him to the home for interview. Re: allegations. Family has lived in Florida for about three years. They previously lived in Maryland & Washington D.C. Father stated that biological mother, Elsa is currently serving a 20 year sentence for conspiring to commit murder against him & accused him of sexually abusing their two sons.
Notice that this father—who has been accused of sexual abuse by his sons, rather than by the mother—neatly links the unjust imprisonment to the claim of child abuse and ties the two ideas into one tidy little package, although the two have nothing to do with each other. Notice here, as well, that Elsa Newman has never been the one who reported abuse. Doctors have reported. Police have reported. Friends, acquaintances, neighbors have reported. Teachers have reported. The children’s guardian ad litem—their attorney—reported. The head of the supervised visits center reported— during a time when Arlen Slobodow was allowed only supervised visits.
Father stated mother had her best friend…
This is blatant falsehood. In the first place, Margery Landry was a family friend, rather than just the mother’s friend. In the second place, Elsa Newman, the mother of the two boys, knew nothing of Landry’s plans. Newman was trying every possible avenue of working within the system. Landry was the one who decided, on her own, to step outside the system.
…try to kill him in front of his children in 2002. He was shot twice in the leg.
Further, Landry had no intention of and made no attempt to try to kill him. Landry had a gun because she had previously been assaulted by Slobodlow and was afraid of him. It seems that Slobodow saw the gun when Landry was trying to pull him away from his son, whom she believed him to be actively sexually abusing the boy at that very moment.
Slobodow tried to turn the gun on Landry. During their scuffle it discharged, and he was struck by one of the two bullets Landry had loaded in the clip. Burn marks on his hand seem to indicate that he may actually have shot himself. Although there were both entrance and exit wounds, Slobodow’s pajama bottoms, covered with blood, had no sign of bullet holes. I guess Landry was right about his state of undress—nude from the waist down.
Another blatant falsehood: although one son—the son in bed with him—may have witnessed this incident of accidental shooting, the other did not.
Yet another item of note: Had Elsa Newman known what was going on, she would never have allowed a gun in the same house with her children.
Father stated abuse reports out-of-state were unfounded and…
No, out-of-state abuse reports were NOT unfounded. Abuse reports had been made by such authorities as Dr. Jill Scharff, who was the treating psychiatrist for the boys for nearly a year—and who filed an abuse report. Others who filed reports included doctors, teachers, police, the GAL—or attorney for the children—and others.
…he stated he has no criminal record history.
Slobodow’s claims that he had no criminal record in Maryland are false. He had been accused of assault by Margery Landry, and he had more than once violated protective orders taken out by Elsa Newman to protect herself and her sons from this violent father.
Father state he has full custody of both boys…
No, Slobodow does not have full custody. He has physical custody by virtue of the fact that his ex-wife is unjustly imprisoned. Since the criminal trial interfered with family court hearings, she was never deprived of custody. The two parents actually share legal custody. In addition, Newman has religious custody, which means that the father should raise his sons as either conservative or orthodox Jews. This he refuses to do.
…and is court-ordered to take the boys three times per year to visit mother in prison in Maryland. Father stated sexual abuse allegations all began after divorce/custody issues began. Family has a Maryland appointed [guardian ad litem], Mr. Alan town….[One child] stopped counseling about 6 months ago (Dr. Mark Prang, Psychologist),
Father stated both children are doing very well in school
The boys may be said to be doing well in school if one ignores such things as wild fluctuation in grades over a period of time: anything from A’s to B’s to C’s to D’s— or if an investigator does not notice that one boy turns himself virtually into a recluse during his first period class, a clear sign that something is bothering him. Might it be that sexual abuse just before he leaves home each morning would cause such behavior?
& he has no concerns for their well being at this time. Father stated children’s pediatrician is Michael Gaynor.
Father stated there are no court restrictions as far as him taking the children out of state.
I believe this is untrue. I believe Slobodow was not supposed to remove the children from the Maryland/DC areas—but he did, anyhow.
The children were born in Washington D.C. But family lived in Maryland then moved to Florida. Both children went to Essrig Elementary.
L. moved to Muller Magnet School & H. went to Ben Hill for one year then Williams M.S.
Notice the frequent changes in schools the boys attended. Such changes are typical when an abusive parent does not want teachers to have an opportunity to observe a child or children over an extended period of time.
NOTE [from DCF investigator]: While investigator was conducting the interview father contacted G.A.L. attorney Alan Town by phone who requested to speak to investigator. Investigator advised a current abuse report has been received in Florida and department is aware of on-going history with family. Investigator advised he will be contacted at a later date as collateral.
Interesting timing for this call. Could it have been pre-arranged so the GAL—the attorney supposedly looking out for the children’s interests—would have been forewarned and available to take a phone call and become involved in the investigation at this time?
NOTE [from investigator], F/F with one child. Child stated he is 10 years old in 4th grade at Muller M.S. Child stated he lives with brother, father, 2 geckos & 1 hamster . He takes care of the hamster and his brother takes care of the 2 geckos.
All these pets seem to have died sudden, horrible and inexplicable deaths. The hamster was crushed behind a dresser. One of the geckos was also crushed. I don’t know what happened to the other gecko, but he seems also to have been disappeared. This is typical of what happens to the pets of an abused child or children.
Investigator established [understanding of] good and bad touch. Re: allegations—child denied any type of bad touch by father or anyone else.
On the other hand, before the boys left Maryland and before their mother was unjustly imprisoned, they had disclosed abuse not only to their mother, but to a variety of other people, including Dr. Jill Scharff, who actually reported the abuse.
Child stated he likes Florida a lot. He stated the weather isn’t as cold as Maryland. Child stated he likes playing on the computer, playing with his hamster or going swimming in his pool. Child stated he has a lot of friends who come over to his house or he goes to their house. He stated he has family like his paternal grandparents who live in Florida and come to visit them. Discipline – Child stated father tells him to go to his room for a while then he will come in his room and talk to him about why whatever he did was wrong. Same for brother. Child presented as an articulate white male with no visible marks of abuse.
Well damn! Of course there were no visible marks of abuse! This father had a month’s warning of the pending investigation! In addition to that, I find it difficult to believe that this investigator would have looked for blood in the underwear from rectal bleeding…or for bite marks on genitals…or for rash on the buttocks…or whatever else would testify to sexual abuse. The hardest abuse in the world to prove seems to be abuse by a member of the victim’s family. A neighbor accused as Arlen Slobodow has been accused would find himself quickly imprisoned and the abused children placed in the custody of their mother.
Child was polite & answered all questions. Child’s facial expressions made an impression to investigator that he has been through this type of questioning numerous times.
Or that he was hiding the truth, for fear of his abusive father’s wrath.
Or perhaps he really had been through it many times, as this allegedly pedophile father had taken them through repeated simulated interviews.
Somehow I have a picture in my mind of this man setting his two sons on a couch and seating himself in front of them with a coffee table between him and them. On the coffee table is a knife—a very sharp knife.
And somehow I can hear him saying, “Boys,”—only he would use their names—“Boys, you see this knife? You see how sharp this is? There’s a woman coming to talk to you sometime soon. We need to be sure to have the right answers for this woman, so I don’t have to use this knife on any portion of your anatomy, if you see what I mean?”
And I can see two young heads bobbing vigorous and terrified assent, clearly aware of what portion of their anatomy Daddy Dearest has in mind.
“So let’s practice a little. Why is this woman coming to see us?”
“H” responds first. “I dunno.”
“L” follows. “Mom has been telling bad stuff about you again.”
“Ahhhhh,” says Daddy Dearest. “L” has the right answer.” His hand moves a little closer to the knife. “Now…the woman will probably ask you about good touch and bad touch. Do you know the difference between good touch and bad touch?”
“Yes, sir,” say the two in unison.
And on and on the questioning goes, with the knife staring the two boys square in the eye, hour after hour or perhaps day after day and week after week—until Daddy Dearest is sure that they have the answers he wants ready on the tips of their tongues.
Not only did this alleged abuser take them through how to talk, but he also worked with them on how to draw. He would take them to the basement and have them draw pictures: bad pictures of “bad mom,” and nice pictures of “dad.”
F/F with other child. Child stated he is 12 years old in 7th grade at Williams M.S. He stated he lives with father, one brother, 3 geckos and one hamster. He stated he takes care of the geckos. Investigator established [understanding] of good and bad touch. Re: allegations – child denied any type of bad touch by father or anyone else.
Child stated all this must be connected to his mother who is “kinda weird.”
RED FLAG! RED FLAG! RED FLAG! This not what Daddy Dearest has told him to say (which, of course, I know, but the investigator would not have known). It is hedging on the part of the child. Does this kid perhaps hope that the investigator will pick up on the red flag and ask some questions about what he means when he says his mom is “kinda” weird? If so, the investigator missed an opportunity. Her miss could have been a deadly mistake for these children.
He stated he has asked his mother in the past why she does these types of things but she never answered him.
Another red flag! Having taught 7th graders for years before I retired, I can say unequivocally that this is an unusual turn of phrase for a kid in 7th grade: “…why she does these types of things…”
Child stated she has said that his father does all kinds of things that he hasn’t.
Actually, it was the children themselves who made these disclosures of abuse—to a treating psychiatrist, Dr. Jill Scharff, who then reported the abuse; to a police officer who interrogated them for hours in an attempt to force them to recant—and who was finally successful; to a police officer who escorted one of the boys to a restroom, but who said nothing, as well as to many others.
Child says he likes living in Florida because it isn’t cold.
The truth is that when the children lived in Maryland this child loved winter sports such as ice skating.
He stated he has a lot of friends that he spends time with either he goes to their house or they come to his house. He stated his grandparents who live in Florida come to visit and spend time with them. He stated he likes to play video games, tag outside with friends at night or use the computer. Discipline- child stated his father will make him go to his room for a while then he’ll come back and talk to him about it. He stated if that doesn’t work, his father will ground him by not allowing him to play with his video games for about a week or two. Same for his brother.
He stated his brother gets punished more than he does.
Red flag! If one child is being “punished” more than another, this is one of the signals teachers and others required by law to report abuse of children are taught to watch for.
Again, please notice the similarities in the responses of the two boys, as recorded by the investigator.
He thinks it’s because he [the other child] is just younger. Child’s facial expression made an Impression to investigator that he has been through this type of questioning numerous times.
Sure has—during practice sessions with Daddy Dearest.
Residence is a 4 BD/2BA home with no visible hazardous conditions, adequate food & furnishing. Both children have their own bedrooms.
And you will never notice that as soon as you depart, the toys are put away or broken, especially any that might be gifts from their mother…the television is turned off...perhaps the computer goes back on, so the father can go back to work on the child pornography he allegedly makes and collects…the doors and windows are locked…the food disappears to be doled out at the whim of the father.
How in the name of heaven does anybody prove anything about a man like this?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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