Abduction and Exploitation: Victim-Oriented Investigations

Posted: April 29th, 2013

Every day across the United States and beyond, innocent children become victims of abuse; resulting in long lasting effects and trauma to the child and their family. The investigation process in child abuse cases can cause more trauma to the child if not executed properly. The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach is often an effective means to reduce further trauma to the victim because it combines experience of various criminal justice practitioners and professionals and allows for more information sharing among investigative agencies involved. In a MDT approach, professionals from all disciplines utilize their knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide an effective response that is timely, objective, and sensitive to the needs of victims by limiting the number of interactions the child has with investigators.

This month’s MECP newsletter takes an in-depth look at MDT’s and resources that are available to criminal justice professionals investigating child abuse cases. The first article describes MECP’s April webinar entitled, “Multi-disciplinary Team Investigations: A Victim-Oriented Approach.” This webinar focuses on how MDT investigations affect victim recovery and the benefits of criminal justice professionals working together to reduce trauma during investigations. Next, the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) highlights the Child Advocacy Center Model and their work in training and supporting all members of the MDT and professionals responding to child maltreatment.

In addition, MECP honors Child Abuse Prevention Month and Internet Safety Month by raising awareness about these issues in order to remove children from abusive situations and keep them safe. Alicia Kozakiewicz, a survivor of abduction by a predator she met online, provides her story of un-imaginable abuse until she was rescued by the FBI.  Rebecca DeMauro, shares her perspective on her daughter’s disappearance and how to cope with losing a child.

Multi-disciplinary Team Investigations: A Victim-Oriented Approach Webinar

MECP partnered with Maria Gallagher from the Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, and Dave Betz, retired Lieutenant of the Harford County, MD Sheriff’s Office and former Director for the Harford County Child Advocacy Center, for this month’s MECP 3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. webinar series topic, “Multi-disciplinary Team Investigations: A Victim-Oriented Approach.”

The webinar provided an overview of the history of Multi-disciplinary Teams, how MDT investigations affect victim recovery and the benefits of all representatives working together. The presenters addressed the importance of Children Advocacy Centers and their role in the facilitation of an MDT, as well as how the multiple standards from the National Children’s Alliance can help assist an MDT in the community. Betz and Gallagher specifically highlighted the victim advocacy standard as a top priority in child abuse investigations and the incorporation of this standard into the MDT approach increases participation and reduces trauma for a child throughout the investigative process.

To view this recorded webinar, please visit MECP’s Distance Learning Page.

The Importance of Child Advocacy Centers During Investigations

Provided by: The National Children’s Advocacy Center

In 1985, former U.S. Congressman Robert E. “Bud” Cramer, then District Attorney, saw the need to create an efficient community system for protecting abused and neglected children in Madison County, Alabama. This led to the creation of the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC).  Since its opening, the NCAC has aided in the establishment of more than 900 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) in communities nationwide and throughout the world.  These programs have revolutionized our nation’s response to child abuse, serving more than 275,000 children in 2012 alone. The primary goal of the NCAC, and other CACs, is to effectively coordinate the multidisciplinary response to cases of child abuse and neglect.  In Huntsville/Madison County, the MDT is co-located on the NCAC’s campus and works collaboratively to investigate and intervene in these cases from the initial report to the final prosecution and completion of evidence-based therapeutic services to help children and their caregivers heal.

The development and implementation of the Children’s Advocacy Center model, which is wholly integrated within the MDT approach to child abuse, has been anecdotally regarded as highly successful by both professionals and families served.  Research published over the past ten years has consistently supported the effectiveness of this model:

  1. If a MDT is associated with a Children’s Advocacy Center, it is likely the child will be interviewed in a more child-friendly facility than he/she would be otherwise. These interviews are also more likely to be conducted by trained forensic interviewers.[1]
  2. Children, when administered surveys about experiences at the CAC or within a comparison community without a CAC, are less likely to be scared by the process, and caregivers are more likely to be satisfied with the interviews in cases where Children’s Advocacy Centers were used for investigations.[2]
  3. Children served by CACs were more than twice as likely to receive a medical evaluation/examination related to the child sexual abuse allegations than children served by the traditional investigation methods.[3]
  4. Criminal-charging decisions in child sexual abuse cases were made significantly faster in communities utilizing the CAC (80% within 1-60 days) than communities utilizing the traditional investigation practices.[4]
  5. Consistent use of the CAC has been found to dramatically increase the felony prosecution rates of child sexual abuse, almost 200% in one community.[5]
  6. Traditional child abuse investigations were 36% more expensive than CAC investigations (those handled through a multidisciplinary response). The average per-case cost when using a CAC was $2,902; using the traditional investigative approach was $3,949.[6]

In 1985, the NCAC responded to the growing need of child welfare professionals for training by sponsoring a regional child abuse conference, which quickly grew into the annual National Symposium on Child Abuse.  The National Symposium, now in its 29th year, has expanded its scope to include physical abuse and neglect, internet safety, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and other methods of child victimization.  The National Symposium is sponsored in part by OJJDP, and collaborates with National Children’s Alliance, Office for Victims of Crime, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), and Fox Valley Technical College to provide state-of-the-art workshops.  The 29th Symposium, attended by more than 900 child maltreatment professionals, included a keynote address by Dr. Jon Conte, entitled “Looking Back to Look Forward:  A Quick History of Child Sexual Abuse.”  During the Symposium, the NCAC sought to recognize professionals who exhibited outstanding qualities in working collaboratively with colleagues from a variety of disciplines, in a multidisciplinary team or other setting, to improve the community’s response to child sexual abuse and exploitation.  Based on nominations received by co-workers, the NCAC presented awards in the categories of Law Enforcement, Medical, Mental Health, Multidisciplinary Team, Prevention, Prosecution, and Victim Advocacy.

In addition to the National Symposium on Child Abuse, the NCAC also hosts the annual National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, NCAC Forensic Interviewing Training, and a variety of other trainings for all members of the multidisciplinary team and professionals responding to child maltreatment.

Trainings are available at the NCAC’s National Training Center in Huntsville, AL; as customized trainings for communities around the country and the world, free webinars and other online trainings. A complete list of trainings offered by the NCAC; and access to the NCAC’s Child Abuse Library Online (CALiO) can be found at http://www.nationalcac.org/.

Pictured from left to right: Madison County, AL District Attorney, Rob Broussard; National Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director, Chris Newlin; Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange; Madison County, AL Sheriff, Blake Dorning; Huntsville, AL Chief of Police, Lewis Morris; Madison County, AL Chief of Police, Larry Muncey.


Alicia Kozakiewicz:  Survival of a Victim

Alicia Kozakiewicz

Alicia Kozakiewicz, became the victim of an Internet luring and was abducted to another state where she was held captive, raped and tortured. Realizing, after a miraculous FBI rescue, that other children need not suffer her trauma, she now educates children, families, teachers, law enforcement, governmental and social agencies.

Alicia has trained the FBI, participated in their internet safety films, and has been involved with the PA Attorney General’s Operation Safe Surf, Enough is Enough and the A&E Biography Channel, among others. She also was part of the award winning documentary for PBS, “Alicia’s Message: I’m Here To Save Your Life.” Her mission has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, Fox & Friends, Good Morning America, Anderson LIVE, CNN, and many more, as well as, internationally in a number of publications including People and Cosmopolitan. Alicia co-authored an OJJDP publication, “You’re Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment,” a survival guide for returning abductees.

Alicia testified before Congress, and has lobbied successfully for the Protect Our Children Act and she has dedicated herself to seeing its stateside companion passed in all 50 states. Alicia has received a Jefferson Award and the Courage Award from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in recognition of her efforts. “I’d like,” she says, “to ultimately become the person who rescues the child, and then helps to recover that child’s soul.”

A Survivor’s Account of Abduction and Exploitation

Provided By: Alicia Kozakiewicz

Alicia Kozakiewicz Missing Person’s Flyer

An estimated 2,700 kids are reported missing daily in the United States.[7] I was to become a part of this statistic in January of 2002 when, at 13, I was lured from my home by a sadistic internet predator who held me captive in his basement dungeon, chained by the neck, raped, and tortured, my degradation shared via streaming video.

First responders in my case failed to recognize the gravity of the situation, as there was no sign of visible struggle in our home. I was immediately dubbed as “just another runaway.” Had there been any evidence to the contrary, it was ignored.  The terminology, “runaway,” should never be applied to a missing child. Circumstances not withstanding, law enforcement must acknowledge that a child on the street and away from familial protection, is a child in danger.

Days, eons of terror and agony later, through the excellence of law enforcement and my abductor’s careless boasts online, (which ultimately led to his connection with my missing poster), law enforcement broke down the door to my prison and cut the chain from around my neck. They set me free to return to my family, my home and to my life.

There I was, the next day, national news, captured in video yet again: A slight blonde with an FBI cap perched upon my head. My smile was so wide that my braces glinted in the sun as my parents and I reveled in our reunion. A perfect all American family, traumatized, yes, but still standing strong as we walked arm in arm into our home secure in the belief that it was all over. Life would go on - not by a long shot.

I wasn’t free because my abuse didn’t end there. I was repeatedly victimized, not only by the media, but also by the public who believed what they read, word for word, and then had the gall to judge a child for being victim of such horrific events. I had somehow survived a vicious madman only to be thrown to the wolves of uneducated public opinion, as internet safety education was basically nonexistent at that point in time.

Had I been taught to safely surf the web, I might not have fallen prey to an online monster whom I believed was my friend. That is why, as soon as I found the strength, my family and I created the “Alicia Project” Internet Safety and Awareness Education program, enabling me to share my story with other children. My goal was, and is, to empower children with the knowledge to protect themselves online.

My days were filled with symptoms of PTSD and intense flashbacks. Not surprisingly, friends became non-existent. I felt alone and damaged. My future seemed so bleak that at times it was hard to believe that there would ever be a better tomorrow, for I developed amnesia, and increasingly, the yesterdays were disappearing. This madman had stolen my past and the universe suddenly spoke a language of which I had little experiential understanding.

Therapy was problematic in and of itself, as coercive mind control by an internet predator was a whole new field of study. Shockingly, my attorney informed me that there was to be no doctor-patient confidentiality per the Federal Courts as anything I might say was subject to subpoena. This, coupled with the onslaught of feelings and emotions upon my return which created an intense burden of misplaced guilt, may have been the greatest deterrent to my recovery. My ability to trust had also been shattered. While many of my agonizing memories were somewhat clarified, others had become fragmented and were indescribable.

Thankfully, my family held those cherished memories for me, painting with them a foreseeable future. My family was there for me day and night. They never allowed me to give up or think that I might fail. Ultimately, I am a survivor because we were in this together.

As a survivor, I ask that those of you who hold the lives of children in your care to realize that simply because a child has been rescued does not necessarily mean that he or she is recovered. You must consider the plight of those traumatized children who will not have the kind of 24-7 support that I’ve had. Intense trauma leaves victims with a huge hole inside of them, which can be filled with drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. But with guidance, we can instead fill that empty spot with positive attributes such as faith, goals, hard work, and a commitment to personal excellence.

My family and I have chosen to fill that void with advocacy. Through communication, education, and effective, (adequately funded) legislation, other children need not suffer as I have. I have been able to take this horrible ordeal and give it purpose.

The glory of it all is that through saving the lives of other children, I’ve found my own!

You can find more information about Alicia and other advocacy work she is doing in the field by visiting her pages on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aliciaproject

Twitter: twitter.com/aliciaproject

A Mother’s Perspective of Child Abduction

Provided by: Rebecca DeMauro

Rebecca DeMauro’s daughter, Andi

May 15th, 1999, is the day that changed my life forever. My beautiful 12-year-old daughter, Andi, was kidnapped from her father’s rural Arkansas home and driven 10 miles away to an adjacent town. It was there that her kidnapper drove her down an old logging road, raped and strangled her, leaving her nude body in the forest covered in shrub brush. Thirty minutes after her abduction she was reported missing. Her younger step-sibling had witnessed the entire thing.  They said a man in a red truck came to the door and told Andi that her grandparents were sick and she had to go with him. Police were on the scene within 45 minutes of the time she was taken. It was the last time anyone ever saw Andi alive.

Initially, law enforcement was convinced that Andi had run away. She had had an argument with her stepmother the night before. They told us they suspected she had taken off with her friends and would be back soon. When it got dark and Andi had not returned, as her mother, I knew something was wrong. Very wrong. I knew my child. She was afraid of the dark. She never would have left without shoes or purse, and she would not have left those children alone. After searching all night and having located all of the friends she had supposedly “run off” with, the sheriff told me they were turning it into a criminal investigation. Those words terrified me. He said it was as though she had fallen off the face of the planet. He called the FBI. I cried like I have never cried before. I felt helpless.

In the past 14 years I have given a lot of thought to all that happened during those horrible three days of hell on earth. The feelings I experienced were all over the board. One second I was completely convinced that any moment a police car would pull up with my little daughter inside. I even envisioned it in my mind. The next second I thought about the possibility of us never finding her. Then the worst thoughts entered my mind. What if she were not alive? I tried to push that idea out of my head, but there was a nagging feeling in my heart. I knew that she would never stay out overnight, alone in the dark, no matter how mad she was at her step-mother. I had an ominous feeling that something was very wrong. I was right.

Three days after the abduction of my daughter, a man, Karl Roberts, a reclusive uncle by marriage, failed a polygraph and confessed to the FBI and Arkansas State Police that he had done something very bad the evening of May 15th, 1999. He led authorities to her body. He was then charged with first degree capital murder. He received the death penalty and currently resides on Arkansas’ death row where he is still appealing his conviction. He has been on death row for longer than Andi was alive.

I am now a consultant for Fox Valley Technical College and I train law enforcement on the family perspective of child abduction. As a crime victim, I believe it is important for law enforcement to know what goes through the minds of family members when they are faced with the abduction of their child. It is important for law enforcement to listen to the victim’s family. Assumptions are often wrong in the case of a child abduction. Don’t assume the child has just run off with friends when they have never done anything like that before. The family does know the child best.

I am fully aware that law enforcement can become jaded after many runaway cases that end up with the child coming home the next night. However, I’m encouraging law enforcement to investigate each case as its own. Consider with each case that this case could be a true stranger or predatory abduction. Additionally, be very compassionate to the family of the missing child. Show sympathy and empathize with their situation; consider what it would be like if it were your child that was missing. Additionally, keep the family informed regarding what is happening with their case. The “not knowing,” is what destroys people emotionally. Families usually understand that law enforcement must do their job, but remember, it is their child you are searching for and they are scared beyond words. Take some time to brief them on the search efforts or assign a liaison from the police department to stay by their side.

Finally, remember that in the event of a worst case scenario, your investigation, regardless of whether you are law enforcement, the prosecutor, victim coordinator, or counselor who deals with the family later, is only one step into a very long process of the criminal justice system. Victims will be sad, angry, devastated and grief stricken. There will be tears and frustration.

The people I remember most during this long journey were the ones who had been able to look me in the eye and offer some words of encouragement. It truly is a long hard road and what a crime victim needs most is that one extra push from time to time, to let them know that they can survive this, that their loved one shines through them, that they can be their child’s voice and create a legacy.

I encourage anyone reading this to be that person, be the one who offers support. As awkward as it may seem, the words, “I’m sorry,” or “I am thinking of you today,” go a long way. After fourteen years, there is not one day that goes by that I do not think about Andi, and to know that others have not forgotten her is very important to me. I encourage you to be that person who goes the extra mile.

Upcoming Events

May 15, 2013: National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony

This year OJJDP will commemorate Missing Children’s Day with a ceremony on May 15th, 2013. The ceremony will honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts in helping to keep our children safe. For more information about this event, please visit here.

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We Want to Hear From You!

MECP invites you to share your stories about your organization’s contributions to the juvenile justice field. It is our goal to expand awareness about all the issues surrounding missing children and child exploitation as well as increase understanding of the impact of your work — its value for practice, policy, ongoing research, advocacy and more importantly, for youth, their families and their communities. We’d also like to promote networking opportunities so organizations across the country can connect with one another.

Help others by sharing your success story. The best ones will be featured in our monthly newsletter. To submit your story, please visit us online. Thank you for all you do to make a positive difference in our children’s lives.


  1. Cross, T. P., Jones, L. M., Walsh, W. A., Simone, M., & Kolko, D. (2007). Child forensic interviewing in Children’s Advocacy Centers: Empirical data on a practice model. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(10), 1031-1052.
  2. Jones, L. M., Cross, T. P., Walsh, W. A., & Simone, M. (2007). Do Children’s Advocacy Centers improve families’ experiences of child sexual abuse investigations? Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(10), 1069-1085.
  3. Walsh, W. A., Cross, T. P., Jones, L. M., Simone, M., & Kolko, D. J. (2007). Which sexual abuse victims receive a forensic medical examination? Child Abuse & Neglect 31(10), 1053-1068.
  4. Walsh, W. A., Lippert, T., Cross, T. P., Maurice, D. M., & Davison, K. S. (2008). How long to prosecute child sexual abuse for community using a children’s advocacy center and tow comparison communities?  Child Maltreatment, 13(1), 3-13.
  5. Miller, A., & Rubin, D. (2009). The contribution of children’s advocacy centers to felony prosecutions of child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(1), 12-18.
  6. Shadoin, A. L. (2007). Demographic and attitudinal characteristics predicting taxpayer willingness to pay for child maltreatment prevention. Huntsville, AL: Social Metrics, Inc.
  7. National Center For Missing and Exploited Children  2011 Annual Reporthttp://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC171.pdf