August 19, 2010

Ed Smart on a “Ride for their lives”

Posted: 06:01 PM ET

By Ed Smart

Editor's note: Ed Smart's daughter, Elizabeth, was abducted in 2002 and rescued after 9 months of captivity.  He passionately speaks out about child abductions and safety of children.

When it comes to the safety of our children, parental denial is the one of the greatest risks.  But the true question I continuously ask is, “Is it denial, apathy, or a lack of education?”

In the time since our family’s tragedy, I’ve talked with many parents across the country. I‘m always amazed to discover so many individuals and communities who are uneducated about the issues surrounding child safety. I am also amazed at how many are unwilling to acknowledge what is happening in our society. It is my belief that this apathy has its roots in denial and that it needs to stop.

The lack of willingness to acknowledge these nightmares means our children won’t be prepared or able to help themselves when faced with such a traumatic event.  We must empower them.

In order to help motivate people and support our children, I joined the Surviving Parents Coalition, a non-profit organization that lobbies for funding and legislation to protect children from abduction and sexual abuse. With all of the potential dangers facing our children online and in their own backyards, it is my personal goal to fight for this cause.

This summer in an effort to address this issue, I will join The Surviving Parents Coalition and its founder, Amhad Rivazfar in a bike ride across America.

Ahmad is a Rochester, NY native and the father of six children. In 1988, two of his daughters, ages 8 and 6, were abducted, raped and left to die in the woods. 8 year old, Sayeh, survived; Sara, age 6, did not. Rivazfar is now an active volunteer leader in his community and in the cause for protecting and recovering children from abduction and abuse.

Along with others, he has organized this month-long journey titled “Ride for Their Lives.” It begins on August 21 and is expected to culminate on September 22, 2010.

The ride’s purpose is to focus on four main legislative issues surrounding child abuse and abduction cases:

DNA Collection on Felony Arrest – to lobby for DNA collection on felony arrest, not just on felony conviction. Currently, 23 states have passed some form of DNA on felony arrest legislation, but there are 27 states that should follow suit.

Protect our Children Act of 2008 – a law that gives more resources to the investigation and interdiction of child exploitation cases.

The Adam Walsh Act – The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, and the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act set minimum standards for a national sex offender’s registration and notification system.

It takes a Community; “Not ONE More Child” – A Child Safety Education Initiative that educates and empowers children to recognize, avoid, resist, and escape dangerous situations and violence including bullying, assault, abuse and abduction.

With the ride, Ahmad and I will join other cyclists through 12 states and 26 cities to create awareness for these issues and engage our communities and leaders in a discussion about change.

Like my life before June 2002, we don’t want to think the worst will happen. But that doesn’t mean that it will or won’t.  There are no guarantees in life and we know the unthinkable happens. That is why we must take action.

Sayeh and my daughter, Elizabeth, are moving on with their lives, but don’t want others to experience what they have been through.

There are solutions and not guarantees. We must be proactive for our children’s sake.  Learn more and join us at:

Filed under: Justice

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tonia williams   August 22nd, 2010 4:47 pm ET

My name is Tonia williams i'm 32v yrs old i'm from a small town called Baconton it's in Georgia. And i just want to say that i'm for the same sex marriage because as u can say that i'm a lesbrian myself and i think that everybody should have the right to be with who ever they want to i feel like it discrimenation when we don't have the right as any other human being. I was hoping for them to pass the law here because this is something that i've been waiting on my whole life for to marry the one woman that i want to spend the rest of my life with.

Avery   August 23rd, 2010 7:33 pm ET

He's absolutely right. About a month ago I was a strip mall shopping and there was a 3 or 4 year old boy standing outside one of the stores by himself. I asked him where his mom was and he pointed inside, so I took his hand and brought him inside. When I found his mother I was floored at how casual she was about it, smiling, saying, "That's okay, I told him to just not go on the road." Wow, she was very lucky I wasn't a kidnapper or paedophile because there was amble time for me to take him. *shakes head* Watch your kids people! Please wake up to the dangers in society and take your responsibilties to protect them more seriously.

Michele   August 23rd, 2010 7:58 pm ET

It is so sad to have anything happen to any child in the form of abuse of any kind.

But, what is happening is that these laws are so broad that they are hurting young kids and adolescents who have been doing what has been occurring since the beginning of time having sex.

If a 17 year old has consensual sex with a 15 year old they will be subjected to the same harsh punishment as Garrido or Couey or the horrible couple that kidnapped Elizabeth Smart.

What about the young men in their early twenties who are exploring sex online and than are entrapped by the police. These young men have hurt no one but are being baited at their most vulnerable time.

If these laws were in place when they were growing up many of them would also be in prison, convicted of a felony, and have to register as a sex offender.

To truly protect the public safety of our children we need to reform these laws against those individuals who can be assessed as being deviant.

We are locking up the future of our country because of over zealous law enforcement, prosecutors and politicians who want to be reelected!

Stop this madness. If someone is arrested for Romeo & Juliette crimes, or are being trapped by police or are teens sexting than a more realistic punishment should be put in place.

Having a felony and being a registered sex offender is a life sentence. One that is not imposed on the most heinous of crimes – murder.

The registry has grown to be over 700,000 people in our country. They have proven to protect no one but riun many lives of individuals who hurt no one.

Please protect our children by reforming these laws today! Let's track the truly dangerous.

Lila   August 23rd, 2010 10:44 pm ET

It amazes me how many people use the terms, pedophile, predator, child molester, rapist, etc., interchangeably with sex offender. I pray you never have to experience having your child put on the sex offender registry for "sexting" or a Romeo and Juliet relationship. As the net widens on what is now perceived as a sex crime, that risk escalates daily. More than 90% of those listed on the sex offender registry are now first time offenders, many convicted of "sexual crimes" that were not even considered a crime until just a few years ago. Of that 90%, many are children as young as 14. Your child runs a much higher risk of being on the sex offender registry than of ever being victimized by some one on it. Contrary to popular belief, 80% of children are victims of someone they already know and trust, NOT someone on the registry.

Yellowroselady   August 23rd, 2010 11:30 pm ET

States and localities can expect to incur significant costs as they attempt to implement the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). If Vbirgina chose to enact AWA< implementation costs would cause the state to effectively lose @12,097,000. They yearly Byrne grant they would receive is only $400,000. Source (Colst of the Implementation of the Adam Walsh Act for specific states (Justice Policy Institute)

In a 2005 research project, Renzema and Mayo-Wison tooked at 119 studies of moderate and high risk sex offenders who used electronic monitors. The study showed there are "virtually no data" supporting electronic monitoring as a tool for reducing crime (sexual offensed). Controlling Sex Offenders, Pg 22)

There are over 700,000 men, women, teens and children on the sex offender registry for offenses ranging from rediculous to horrendous and the really violent ones are the ones we hear about and that convinces the public all sex offenders are the same. Mr. Smart I have always been impressed by your family and was very happy when Elizabeth was rescued. I am pleading with you to chose wisely what you support with regard to this bike ride. Mark Lunsford is not the model citizen since he had child pornography on his computer when the police went through his house when his daughter went missing and his son was taken into custody for a "Romeo & Juliet" relationship which after threats from Mark the son was not charged and forced to be on the registry for the same offense as many others. Even John Walsh has gone on record as saying the Sex Offender Registry is not being used as it was intended. He also said we need to get rid of all the names on the registry and focus on the approximately 10,000 violent offender and track them.

Legislators know the SO laws need to be changed by say to stand up and say that would be political suicide so they chose to ruin lives and families. Appearing soft on crimes against kids is different than developing a registry for many types of crimes for law enforcement only....not the public, since all studies say they serve no purpose as most offenses are not by persons on a registry as it is today.

Lara   August 24th, 2010 9:51 am ET

I have great sympathy for you and your family Ed. You and your daughter have been through a lot.

I understand your plight as well, but what I do not understand is your focus on blanket laws that take no consideration for individuality. Did you know that if you are caught with Child Porn on your computer, phone or in your possession you will be prosecuted and sentenced more than if you were a mother and killed your own child? Or that you will get more incarceration time for one count of sexual offense against a minor between the ages of 15-18 than you would if you killed another human being? Or that if you got drunk and ran down a dozen people in your drunken haze going home that you would get less time than a 19 year old that was having sex with their 16 year old girl or boy friend, and never be registered on any registry or on any list or even recorded at all? That is the reality of the laws that are currently in place and the laws that are being passed everyday both on the national level and in each state.

Another example is that if your daughter were to take pictures of herself in anything suggestive and send them to anyone, she is a child pornographer guilty of possession, creation and distribution of child pornography. I am not trying to scare you, I am just pointing out where the laws are at this time.

There is a solution, a solution that will be more cost effective, safer for children and adults a like. (because children are not the only one preyed upon sexually) Stop making the registry public, the public persecution is part of sentencing but it is not intended to be a life sentence in the manner in which it has become. Discontinue mandatory life registrants based on statute convicted under, each individual (this is what we say about children, so when does it stop applying?) has its own capacity for learning and for compassion, effective treatment and support from family, friends and community is what we suggest for even the most heinous of offenders of other crimes, such as Drunk Driving, Drug Addiction (where people get caught for possession and then treated), Murder (for unless they are serial, they have killed who they were going to, and now it's over for them). All of these other 'afflictions' have been found to be treatable and successful with one catch, the offender must be willing to go forward with the treatment. Those that successfully complete treatment and evaluation will be removed from the registry at the appointed time. So the only way someone would end up on the registry for life is if it were found that their risk level is such that even after treatment they still have trouble controlling their deviant thoughts and actions, and it would then be necessary for them to be watched, although always leaving open the option that they could petition the court for release from the registry but would have to prove that they are no longer a danger, which there are effective testing measures out there now that can and would help in that determination process.

Blanket laws do not help, they didn't help in Germany when the Nazi's said they had the answers to all their woes, it didn't work in Austria when they marched in there either. It didn't work when we were first colonies and Britain said we were to pay large taxes but weren't worthy enough to have representation in Parliament, what came after each of those was a monumental war each time. Blanket laws do not work, they eventually cover everyone including those that thought they were a good idea, causing chaos.

The only question I have now is which group is next? Once everyone that can be deemed a sex offender is on the list, then what? But then again who is everyone that can be deemed a sex offender, if you look at what has gone down in the past few years, anyone that uses the internet and has had spyware and pop-ups, or anyone that goes to a public swimming pool or beach, maybe babysitters that change diapers? It doesn't take much to be deemed a sex offender, in fact most of our grandparents would be under today's laws, would you feel that it was necessary that grandpa was on the Register Sex Offenders List of the United States because he married grandma when she was 15 and then made possible your birth by having one of your parents at the age of 16?

Kim   August 24th, 2010 5:00 pm ET

I am a mother of a young man who was in a dating relationship when he was 17. His girlfriend was 14. The father and mother of the girl allowed them to date, thinking he was 16. But when my son told them he was actually 17, his girlfriend lied about his age to her parents. Then all heck broke loose! The father called the prosecutor and police department, my son was arrested a week later. He is now serving 8 years in DOC, 2 years work release and a LIFETIME on the registry as a sex offender.
I'm saddened that the very people who make these laws have become such stuffed shirts as not to remember thier youth and prom nights! I'm also saddened that the few people that have pushed for tougher laws, because of crimes to their children, should be classified as sex offenders themselves.
We need to stop this hysteria before all of our children and families suffer from these laws. It's not the few children that are abducted and murdered, by family members or friends that I'm trying to save, it's the 1000's of teens that are incarcerated that I want to help live a normal life without conviction!
Follow the money and you will see where and who lobby to get these laws passed! The rich get richer and the poor go to jail!
GOD bless our country!

alma farrell   August 25th, 2010 3:06 am ET

I am also a mother of a now 21 year who at the age of 19 was covicted of asex crime. His grlfriend who was 17 at the time told her parents that my son raped her held knives to her throat and used handcuffs during the rape. They had been in a dating relationship for two years. About 6 months before my son was arrestedthey started having sex. The parents put thier daughter on birth control pills. They broke up for awhile and then whent back together and then broke up again. On this day there are 20 calls from her and two that my son made. They met had ORAL sex. They used handcuff like they have before. The next day the police show up and my son is arrested for sexual assualt with weapons and kidnapping adult. He takes a plea because he is scared and his lawyer would talk to him alone. He was scared he was told take this plea or spend the rest of your life in jail. He takes a plea of 10 years in jail 10 years probation and a life time of sex offender. After he was sent to jail I staredt to look into her depostion. The knives where not put at the throat but was shown to her after they had sex. And that SHE put the handcuffs on herself. I call the lawyer and his response is he took the plea sorry.

To this day she had an active myspace account proclaiming her love for him. She tells people that they will get back together and get married when he gets out of jail. She has tried to see him in jail but he refused her request. She also tells people she did this becasue he wanted to break up for good.

We have minors as young as 8 years old on this list. We are losing site of what our laws are to do for the people of this country. We keep adding feel good laws so that the lawsmaker will get more votes becasue they are get touhgt on sex offenders.

I would rather live next door to some sex offender than a drug dealer or a murder.

Let vote our all these lawmaker who want harasser sentence for these teen. YES there are some out there that need to put away for life but give thes kids a chance.

Like Kim said we need to stop this hysteria and protect our children and families suffer from these laws.

I wish John Walsh will step up to the plate and ask that the Adam Walsh be revamp. Under the AWL there are 40 year men who molestered a child who are a lower Tier Level than a 18 or 21 having sex with a 16 or 17. Under the older lawshe would be a level 1 or very lowe risk offender. The theapist in jail feels that he should be a tier 1 but under the AWL he is a level 3. JUSTICE where is it.

Pray for these men and woman they are fighting a war that will never end for them. Just like our servicemen and woman are doing now. They will end up back in jail becasue when they get out there will be no jobs that they can get or no place to live. On probation you must both of these to stay out of jail.

SO are one of the lowest reoffender to reoffend with another aex crime.


God bless.

Matt   August 25th, 2010 10:19 pm ET

Kim, there is a reason your son is a registered sex offender. HE BROKE THE LAW!!! Couldn't he find a girl his own age to date? It's not that hard! In all my 45 years on gods green earth, I have never had to "Date" an underage girl, except when I was 14 as well! It doesn't matter that she lied to her parents about his age, he knew how old he was, and that he was breaking the law. How the heck does a 17 year old even become attracted to a 14 year old? Stop making excuses for him! Remember, he was the adult in that relationship, not her. The responsibility was his, not hers.

Matt   August 26th, 2010 1:21 am ET

So many of you are saying, basically, protect the offenders. That's crazy! If you don't want your children to go to jail, MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE LAW!!! Kim, did you know your son was seeing a 14 year-old girl? And if so, why did you not stop it? I will repeat the same question I asked in my previous statement. How does an adult become attracted to a minor anyway? If I found out that some 17 year old loser was bird-dogging my Niece ( who is 14 ) I wouldn't bother the cops, I'd deal with it myself! There is a name for these people who insist on protecting the offenders. Enablers!

Lara   August 26th, 2010 9:26 am ET

Mentalities like some of you on here is the reason why we have 20-somethings living at home with their parents until they are 30-something. Not starting their lives or their families.

Read this article, who is really to blame here? Everyone wants to blame the offender, but what about the people that accuse them? The false accusations that happen, the using of these unconstitutional laws as retribution for failed or unsatisfying relationships?

I feel the pain of those that have suffered the egregious nature of some of the violent/predatory offenders. Those offenders make up a fraction of the current sex offenders list. That list was supposed to be designed to monitor the most dangerous. Not only to help the community but also to help the offender keep from offending again. Instead the list has been watered down by non-violent offenders convicted under statues that classify them psychologically as violent without any evaluation or medical diagnosis. I don't recall when the government when to medical school do you?

None of us are saying that there aren't people out there that shouldn't be watched just because they are a sex offender, but that there should be a remedy put in place for those that aren't violent that are menaces to society, that are working and have completed treatment programs, have made marked changes in their lives and have become productive, TAX PAYING individuals in this society. Is that what our Correctional system has hung its hat on all these years.

So while you may perceive that we are trying to discount, smother, or stifle your cries of anguish, but that isn't the case, we are looking to also make things safe for everyone and fair for those that work towards that goal of redemption. I am not a christian religious person, but I recall that one of the main dogmas of the Catholic Church is that if you confess to your wrong doings you can repent and be redeemed. How can people that call themselves Christians be so unforgiving? I thought that was the basis of the faith of Christianity.

Please do not believe that we are out here to convince people to turn a blind eye to sex offenders but to see them as they are, people, with problems, issues and the ability to take responsibility for their actions so they too can be productive members of society.

Amy   August 28th, 2010 4:34 pm ET

When I was 22 years, a man broke into my off-campus home and raped me at knifepoint. This one event which occurred many years ago – changed me to my core. Following this – for years, I drank too much, sunk into a depression, and was constantly fearful that it would happen again. I had once been so in control of my life, but afterwards – my life spinned out of control and I had no idea how to get my life back. More than 10 years after this happened – although DNA connected him with other rapes in the area – he remains at large and is no doubt still victimizing others.

We need these laws. And I agree with what Ed Smart said – we are a society that lives in denial. It is easier to live there.... but it doesn't make it safer and it isn't realistic. We need to address these issues openly and head-on in order to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

Thank you to all who are involved with The Surviving Parents Coalition. Because these laws – DNA Testing upon Felony Arrest – are being passed across our country, it will be a safer place for our children. The remaining states must make it a priority to pass these laws.

Lila   September 3rd, 2010 1:19 am ET

Amy, I was raped by my best friend's brother when I was 13. He went on to rape over 90 girls in the years to come and was never convicted of a single one. He still brags FROM THE PULPIT about his conquests. Not one of these laws every seem to apply to the truly dangerous. My first husband raped both of my little girls while I was at work, he was arrested, but managed to pay a lawyer with money he had saved aside, his punishment, 2 years of probation, but yet my 17 year old son, who fell head over heels for a girl he thought was 16, has been on the sex offender registry for 6 years because the girl wrote in her diary that they had had sex (he never touched her, and her mother never bothered to have her examined to verify that) and her mother found the entry. The problem, she turned out to be 14. My son still has 19 years to go. You tell me where the fairness is in our judicial system. Law enforcement is so busy arresting teens and children, that they don't have time to monitor or even arrest the ones who are causing the most damage.

Lila   September 3rd, 2010 12:25 pm ET

Hey Matt, I have a question for you. On your own admission that it is wrong for Kim's 17 year old to date a 14, why is it OK in your book for Mark Lunsford's son, who is 18 to be arrested for fondling a 14 year old in public TWICE? Technically at 17 you are still considered a minor, while at 18 you are considered an adult. It was consensual in both relationships, yet Kim's son is on the registry and Mark's son got off because he had money and connections. Yet it is perfectly OK, because Joshua Lunsford got off, for his dad to consider thousands of other peoples sons "dangerous predators" FOR THE EXACT SAME THING HIS SON DID! Perhaps Mr. Lunsfords involvement is the precise reason that the Ride For Their Lives attendance is down. Maybe people are just plain tired of the hypocrisy of the situation.

Samantha   November 3rd, 2010 9:48 pm ET

Too many today actually still believe that a girl of 14, 15, 16 or 17 does not "understand" what she is doing when consenting to involving herself with sex of any kind. Sex is taught in grade schools and has been for years already. There are co-ed classes. From the day our children are born, we teach them what the word "No" means. That includes our female children. Not just boys.

A girl under the age of 18 herself, does not understand that when she involves herself consentingly with a boy of 18 or older, she is complicit in "his" crime? She does not understand that he will go to jail because of her consent? No longer a "could" go to jail. WILL. Does not – or cannot – understand that his life ends with her?

Thinks it"s "cool" to play the victim? Allow me to tell you something else about underage vixen "victims", as well. Even when they are consenting and have absolutely no problems from having had sex with her older boyfriend, the government will step in to make sure she looks and FEELS like a VICTIM OF RAPE. The government RAPES HER BRAIN.

She could admittedly be having sex with ALOT of older guys, but it's the ONE she wanted as her boyfriend and didn't get that goes to jail. Not any of the others. So exactly where is the government's REAL interest in a sexual offender – if they choose so selectively? Are they after someone because he is a real offender of a real deviant nature, or because he is an easy mark? Because they certainly aren't going after them all – when they can.

And the government does not want the girl who lies through her teeth who has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt to, to go to jail. They just want the innocent guy she's lieing about to go to jail. Perjury doesn't cover "children", either.

Someone earlier said "he broke the LAW". Don't "LAWS" apply to the entire population? Isn't our country a "LAND OF LAWS"? Talk about hypocrisy!

Yes, we are losing our children because our government is raping them. Taking their lives for an inborn, natural instinct that has yet to mature into a more appropriate solution. It is a scientific FACT that no human being's part of the brain responsible for judgement matures until the age of 22. But NOBODY defends our children based on FACTS.

Anyone who believes a person under the age of 25 is an ADULT, needs his/her head examined! And yes, a 17 year old boy CAN be attracted to a 14 year old girl. A 21 year old boy can be attracted to a 16 year old girl, and vice versa. It all depends upon the specifics of that person's maturation processes. Period.

But NO, a MAN of 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 should not touch a "child" or teenager. Teen at 17. Up until the date of her 18th birthday. Yet, upon that very date, she can legally have sex with anyone she wants, any AGE she wants. Can you imagine a 30 or 40 or 50 year old sleeping with your 18 year old daughter, even consensually? That, to me, is pedophilia. Just LEGAL.

Will girls ever be held responsible for NOT saying "NO" to an 18 year old boy? Ever read the news? Here's a good one for you: a 19 year old boy goes to jail as a sex offender for having sex with his 17 year old "child" girlfriend. But an adult is arrested for serving alcohol to underage "children" in college because 21 is the age for drinking as an "adult". The news on this was that the adult served a ( male ) child the age of 19. I thought 18 was the age one became an ADULT? Only for SEX, it seems.

When does the imbalance end? As long as politicians use our children for their political agendas, it never will. Easiest crime to prosecute and win on. There is NO innocence when it comes to SEX.

Prisons are a BIG BUSINESS. Ridiculous to think of them as costing tax payers, and I am sick of hearing that one! Research how much money the government makes off them. Unbelievable. And then – on the internet – I just read how the BOP is looking for ways to get more sex offenders imprisoned. Not looking for sex offenders to get them off the streets. Getting more sex offenders for their jails. Because it PAYS them well.

The Sex Offender issues are propagandized B.S. and our government has won over the public's minds through fear-mongering and brainwashing. "Our children are our most valuable posessions". And they want to "posess" them ALL.

This is not protection. It's about who can turn who against who, so that the politicians can win on the easiest, most popular issues to win on!

Do you know what the "law-abiding" citizens of our country responsible for the imprisoned "sex offenders" DO to those S.O."s – or ALLOW others to do to them while incarcerated? Do you CARE?

When you do, if you ever do, write back – but don't wait until it's YOUR kid it's happening to. Then it's too late for you, too. And you'll have helped be responsible for it by your blindsided, brainwashed lack of objectivity for it before it happened to you!

The "Innocence Project" is only for those who can provide DNA evidence as proof of their innocence. The voice of the public is all a "sex offender" has to rely upon. Speak up and stop this insanity. Stop our government from abusing our children. They must be stopped.

I sat in a court and watched a man in his 60's walk FREELY out the door; dressed in a sport coat and tie – after admitting his fingering his 10 year old granddaughter – while on PAROLE for the VERY SAME THING. The Judge just set another date for him to return. My stomach sank to the floor.

My son was arrested for having had sex with an "underage" girl who stalked him to death and fabricated Instant Message exchanges involving him. If I publicized those IMs, you'd be floored. His screenname wasn't even spelled right! And the time stamps, as they call them, didn't have brackets on them – they had the number ONE after them, in error. She couldn't type.

But that was the government's PROOF that HE was online with her! And HE was talking to her about their having had sex! And no DEFENSE attorney could defend that???? Public Defenders – the extension to the Prosecutor's offices. Everyone pleas.


I am not done....... everyone will be hearing about my son's case soon enough. You just won't believe it. It is the scariest thing on the face of this earth. Our government is terrorizing us all. If they don't have you in their clutches yet, they will eventually. If you believe their madness, then they already DO.

I am truly sorry to any and all of you who REALLY have suffered through a horrific experience. There is no justification for it. I pray for your strengths to continue healing as a survivor of your experience. None of my attitudes or beliefs or knowledge can ever bend me enough to think that a rapist is not really a rapist. He is. And he does need to be off our streets. The REAL ones.

This will never be my issue.

Thank you.

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