Posing for a White House Christmas photo, the young Senate staffer in his navy-blue suit looks to be the picture of a conventional D.C. politico.
Except for one thing: the young man gets his kicks watching men rape infants.
“Babies are some of my biggest turn-ons,” he wrote, according to court documents. “Young rape…I love all that.”
In case you missed the story, D.C. Metropolitan police arrested 27-year-old Ruben Verastigui in February on federal child porn charges. The Republican operative stands accused of trading and receiving videos of infant rape and inviting others to join him in Washington to sexually assault kids.
I should have told you to brace yourself. But to be honest, I’m tired of soft shoeing around this grotesque violence. We should be shouting it from the rooftops. Pedophilia is a national epidemic. And we should leave no stone unturned in a national, nonpartisan campaign to bring its child victims justice.
Like everyone reading this, I’d heard about child pornography, child sex trafficking, and incest. We all know it happens, but the extent to which it happens, I had no idea.
My blinders came off a few years ago when I started fostering abandoned and abused infants.
One was a chubby-cheeked baby with a mop of dark hair; let’s call him Eric.
Eric was healthy and strong, unlike many of the babies I’d cared for.
“Why is he in the system?” I asked the social worker.
“His mother is eleven,” she said.
“What about the grandparents?” I asked.
“Grandma is the reason the girl got pregnant. Grandma offered her to men for money and gifts.”
The social worker shrugged – she’d seen this before – but I stood there with my mouth open. A mother had trafficked her own daughter.
I wish this were a unique situation, but we routinely meet these victims in our pro bono Children’s Law Clinic, too. One of the kids we helped rescue was being sold for sex by a close family member, just as had been done to Eric’s mom. Thank goodness for a relative who had the insight to make the phone call that helped save her life.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every nine minutes, officers substantiate a claim of child sexual abuse. That’s 150 children each day, and those are only the known, substantiated cases. Children living without either parent (foster children) are ten times more likely to be sexually abused than children living with both biological parents.
My four-year-old is scared of green, three-eyed monsters. “Don’t worry, little buddy, monsters aren’t real,” I say as I tuck him into bed. But they are. Real monsters look like us, they socialize and work with us. They coach little league, wait in car lines, and sit next to us in the pews on Sunday mornings. Ruben Verastigui in his polished suit working on Capitol Hill is a monster.
Verastigui, like all criminally accused, has a constitutional right to an attorney. He’ll receive due process and have full access to justice with pleadings, filings, and appeals. His rights will be protected at every stage.
The double injury suffered by abused children is that they have no such legal rights. At Gen Justice, we believe they should. When infants and kids enter the court cases that define the rest of their lives, they often do it without the attorney representation necessary to guarantee justice. Congress can and should remedy this injustice by requiring lawyers for all child victims. At a minimum, justice demands that the abused have the same protections as their predators.
Several stories on this case have highlighted that the accused is a Republican who worked for center-right organizations. I implore lawmakers, child advocates, and the media to avoid using an issue as serious as child rape for political gain. These kids need us – all of us – on their side.
Darcy Olsen is the founder of Gen Justice, an award-winning charity working to mend the broken child protection system through reform and a pro bono Children’s Law Clinic.