A story that’s been lurking on the sidelines for several months (just Google “Corey Feldman”) has finally made the Los Angeles Times:
Advocates and professionals who work with victims of child sexual abuse say predators exploit the glittery lure of Hollywood to prey on aspiring actors or models. They assert that the problem is more widespread than the industry is willing to acknowledge and have called for tougher laws and better screening of those who represent or work with children.
“Unlike other settings, such as Little League, Scouts, day care and school volunteers, where adults who have unsupervised access to children are required to comply with fingerprinting requirements, there are no such standards in the entertainment industry,” said Paula Dorn, co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit group for families of child actors.
The most recent case involves Martin Weiss, a longtime talent manager who specialized in representing young actors. He was arrested Nov. 29 and charged with eight felonies stemming from his alleged abuse of a boy who came to him for help in pursuing a music career. He is being held on $800,000 bail.
Weiss’ arrest came within weeks of a report that a man who was convicted of child molestation and abduction 15 years ago had been helping to cast young actors in major Hollywood films, using a different name than the one listed in the sex offender registry . Jason James Murphy, 35, faces felony charges of failing to file name and address changes with authorities.
The recent arrests prompted a bill, expected to be filed this month with the California Assembly, that would require licensing and criminal background checks for those who work with actors under age 16. It would prohibit registered sex offenders from serving as child managers, photographers, career counselors or publicists.
“Under the existing law, talent agents are regulated; however, casting directors, managers and photographers are not. This loophole makes it very easy for a predator to gain access to children working within the entertainment industry,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose).
Experts say addressing the problem is overdue.
“This is just like the Catholic Church pretending that priests never molested people in the past,” said Dr. Daniel D. Broughton, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic and expert on child sexual abuse. “What’s surprising to me is why it hasn’t come out even stronger and sooner.”