Michael Reagan: How I Overcame Child Abuse

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 03:22 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald and Kathleen Walter

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Every 10 seconds in the United States, a call is made about a child being abused, but the laws "always seem to be helping the adults," — a trend Michael Reagan hopes to change.

Reagan, himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and child pornography, along with Childhelp, a national child abuse hotline, have declared a call to action to stop children from being victimized.

Reagan, the adopted son of the late President Ronald Reagan and the president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation, has spent the past 25 years raising awareness about the scourge of child abuse, after detailing his own experiences in 1987 through his book "On the Outside Looking In."

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"So many people really have no concept about how many kids are abused every single year," Reagan told Newsmax.TV. "Just to give you an idea, every 10 seconds, there is a call made about a child being abused. Five children die every single day because of child abuse, and 400,000 children will be taken out of their homes this year because of neglect and abuse. It is discouraged in America and it's the least talked about issue in America. We talk about always helping the children but we always seem to be helping the adults."

Reagan and Childhelp are pushing for all states to adopt Erin’s Law, a mandate to teach prevention education in every school in America. In addition, they want to implement Childhelps' "Speak Up Be Safe" program and to make the country aware of key resources available on Americans' smartphones and by encouraging them to call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. (1-800-422-4453).

Childhelp is a non-profit organization that works to meet the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of abused, neglected, and at-risk children. The organization is not affiliated with Child Protective Services or any government agency, political party, religious denomination, or other entities.

"Childhelp has a back to school program, a Be Safe initiative calling on Erin's Law to be passed in every state in this country that would require in fact the curriculum in schools to in fact teach kids about being safe," said Reagan, who was abused by a day camp counselor in the 1950s, when he was only eight years old.

"Don Havlik was the name," he said. "He died about seven years ago, and he had taken naked photographs of me as an 8-year-old child, and had me in fact develop the photographs when I was almost turning nine. [He] put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'wouldn't your mother like a copy of this?'"

Reagan said his life "absolutely ended" that day.

"I thought I was going to Hell, and I didn't know if people would see me as gay or heterosexual," he said. "My dad ran for governor, my dad ran for president, and I knew there were photographs out there."

Reagan kept his secret for the next 30 years, finally revealing to his father and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1987 what had happened.

Reagan said his father reacted by saying "I'll go out and kick the guy's butt," and Nancy Reagan responded, "Honey, I don't think he has a butt anymore."

But, he told Newsmax, parents also need to be aware about what could be happening to their own children.

"As parents, we're so busy we've forgotten to raise our own children and somehow we're wanting to trust all those who we put our children in their care," he said. "Sometimes we need to be careful."

Havlik died at 83 about seven years ago, and his sister-in-law told Reagan the photographs had finally been destroyed.

"Now think about that, photographs taken in 1953, 1954 were not destroyed until seven years ago because these people use them as trading cards in their lives," said Reagan.

Reagan also said he disagrees with recent New Jersey legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie that bars therapists from helping children overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, including minors whose attractions come from childhood sexual abuse.

"There's a lot of children who are in the homosexual community that are there because it's a safe haven for them having been sexually abused," said Reagan, "They're the ones who truly, in fact, need to have some help. So to opt them out of the situation is not the right thing to do."

Reagan also accused lawmakers of being a "bunch of old fogies sitting on Capitol Hill that really don't get it."

Sex trafficking is a $12 billion per year industry, said Reagan, and there are few places in the United States to help children who have been recruited into the trade.

"It's like America doesn't want to talk about it, because to talk about means we have to accept it," said Reagan. "But just to give you an idea, within 48 hours of your child running away from home, whatever the reason is – they're being sexually abused. Congress talks a lot about it but doesn't do very much about it."





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