Lifting the curtain on child sex abuse in Hollywood

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.”

Read more.

  • ron chandonia

    The comments at the LATimes site are instructive. Among them are comments defending the “adult entertainment industry,” attacking religion generally and the Catholic Church specifically, and suggesting that sexual involvement with older children is no big deal. One recent poster, already under heavy attack, makes what I think is an astute observation:

    I just finished reading through all the comments and what chilled me to the bone is the similarity to the dialogues that I used to hear 40 years ago when the gay rights movement was first gaining traction. If any of you recall, homosexuality was then considered “abnormal” and morally repugnant. Today it is an accepted lifestyle. The same type of evolution occured concerning illegal drug use, with many of the people I knew using drugs without a shred of guilt. I predict that the same type of thing is now occuring with pedophilia. In 30 or 40 years, it will no longer be immoral, and those engaged in it will feel no guilt.

  • mrpkguy

    Want to bet this scandal goes nowhere – publicity wise? Where are the LA Times investigative reporters on this? There is tons of ‘dirt’ to be dug up……and you can bet it’s there! But just let one priest be accused and it makes headlines big time. Has the New York Times stepped up to the plate as yet and what are they waiting on? – this stuff has been going on ever since the movies have been around. Hmmmmm…….maybe too much money and too many big names involved. Besides Christ’s own Church, yes the Catholic Church, probably has not had a hand in the problem so we will find little or no exposure in either of the newspapers.

  • pagansister

    Those responsible should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, just like those in the RCC and else where. The movie makers shouldn’t get special treatment because they are who they are anymore than those in religious life. Wish I could be surprised at this new, but unfortunately, I’m not.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    I doubt it. Many behaviors commonly accepted decades ago as either non-immoral or hidden have become widely scorned these days: spousal abuse, drunk driving, unrepentant addiction.

    The sexual abuse of children will never become accepted because rational human beings know that minor are incapable of giving consent. That’s a huge difference from gay adults consenting to have a relationship. We might suggest that homosexual acts are immoral, but adults, by and large, are capable of making adult choices–even bad ones.

    Some Catholic leaders have already gone the route of suggesting that sex with older teens is no big deal, and that clergy were seduced.

    The big difference is that we expect priests to be moral and bishops to protect innocents from predators. Most people know that while media celebrities are admired, they are not expected to be virtuous as religious leaders are.

  • Mark

    Todd, you have some good points on some things that are viewed in a negative way in general, but they are still very prevelent as any trip to a womens shelter will easily demonstrate. Addiction is still out there in a huge number of movies and is far from seen as negative as we still see jokes about it as if it were cool. I hope that taking advantage of a child in any way is held to full punishment. I also think this includes anyone under 18 years of age. I note that planned parenthood has been caught working with abortion of girls under age and nothing is done to punish them. We saw the stings on the Acorn groups assisting people on tape who were supposedly bringing in under age girls for prostitution and do not remember any going to jail.

    I would like to see a massive full court press on all abuse no matter who does it with the same vengence that comes to a priest and the Catholic Church. How about the studios in Hollywood who covered up these crimes being punished for millions of dollars and those involved in jail and never allowed in any form of media the rest of their lives. School districts who do not report and punish teachers or other school employees and have all fingerprinted so that they are easier to track as is now done in parochial schools.

  • daisy

    This story is going nowhere. Judging by the Hollywood response to Roman Polanski a lot of important people in Tinsel town are dirty.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “Judging by the Hollywood response to Roman Polanski a lot of important people in Tinsel town are dirty.”

    It’s the same with some bishops and their clergy. Through the seminary system and the clerical culture, they associate more closely with “their own.” Addicts groom allies as skillfully as they groom victims. It’s human nature. Or, if you will, sin. There is nothing that typifies social sin like co-dependents defending addicts. I wouldn’t expect the film industry to be any different from the Church.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    I wouldn’t judge Hollywood’s approach to addiction by comedies. Although I thought Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters showed some keen insights on addiction and codependent behavior. Another serious treatment that impressed me was Clean and Sober.

    The stings on ACORN were largely discredited. And as for PP, you and I might disagree, but the reality is that PP personnel feel that a higher principle is involved with giving information and choice to teen girls. Count me a skeptic on the principle of sting operations–the ends do not justify the means. My concern is that the pro-life movement loses more fence-sitters with lies and deception than it does with Tiller-style executions–which are bad enough.

    School districts protect themselves legally on all fronts. Most are content to let a predator go without a reference rather than risk a full-blown legal battle. We would need a national education organization to track teacher predators, and I doubt the present political climate would stand for it.

    The Church, however, is different, claiming a universal governance. Bishops are tainted all the way up the chain because of their handling of sex predator clergy. I know that strikes many as unfair, but it is a consequence of the enormous responsibility placed on clergy and especially bishops. More is given, more expected.

    Hollywood uses sex to sell movies, so my expectations there are very low indeed. If Billy Ray Cyrus can attest (in jest or whatever) that a Disney show destroyed his family, I’m inclined to consider that a parable for anyone who will listen.


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