Children who are abused at home are especially vulnerable to becoming the victims of adult predators, as was the case of the 15-year-old Tennessee girl who was kidnapped by her teacher.
According to the girl’s father, teacher Tad Cummins, 50, brainwashed his daughter. Court documents from the parents’ recent divorce show that the father accused Cummins of having used his position of authority to “prey upon her, groom her, and ultimately entice her into running away with him.”
The girl was found safe with her teacher last week at a remote cabin in Northern California.
The mother of ten was turned in after her children wrote letters to the Department of Children’s Services, describing physical abuse such as being hit until they bled and getting knocked unconscious with a wooden board. Reports also stated that the mother “banged the 15-year-old’s head on a washer, and at another point, she threw the girl down basement steps and locked her inside.”
She is scheduled to appear in court next month and has pleaded not guilty to five counts of abuse and neglect involving several of her children.
Abused children are susceptible to manipulation disguised as help, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “They’re very vulnerable to the grooming because this is an adult who seems to care about them and is interested in them, and that’s probably something they’re not getting elsewhere,” he said.
Teachers, coaches and other people in authority are often the perpetrators of sex crimes against minors, said Finkelhor, noting that laws protecting children from statutory rape or abuse by authority figures are put in place because “we want these people to be thinking about the welfare of children without having their own sexual gratification become part of the equation.”
Cummins has been federally charged with bringing a minor across state lines for sex and is also facing state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.
According to the teacher’s attorney, the girl had not been forced, threatened or coerced to run off with her teacher, because she considered him a “friend.”
The mother has been ordered to stay away from the children, court records said.
A relative of the girl said that Cummins knew the teen was being abused and took advantage of the situation.
The caretaker of the cabin where Cummins and the teen were found will reportedly receive a $10,000 reward on Friday for notifying authorities.
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