We at Family & Children’s Place are shocked and appalled by the behaviors that led Jared Fogle to agree to plead guilty to federal child pornography and sex charges, including traveling to New York to have sex with a 16-year-old girl; however, we stress again to look beyond the headlines to the needs of his victims.
These 14 children – some as young as nine – must be the focus moving forward. Fogle will plead and go to prison, but these children are dealing with their own kind of prison – guilt, shame, depression, severe trauma. They need help, support and therapy to navigate the unwanted and undeserved emotions. They need privacy, too, and protection from a sometimes salacious media.
The details litter the Internet but the issues are more important.
This is a case where, as U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said, a predator used his wealth and status illegally to exploit children. He leveraged resources, notoriety and power to prey upon unknowing children. His crimes laser in on another crime, too: human trafficking. By traveling to New York and paying for sex with a teenager, he sought to turn the youth into a commodity. No human, of any age, should be treated as goods to be bought or sold.
But people like Fogle create the demand for child sex trafficking simply because they are willing to seek out sex with children and to pay for it. This free flow of money makes it profitable to traffickers to lure, blackmail or coerce younger and younger boys and girls into the sex trade.
So it’s important that people – all of us – be vigilant for any evidence or indication of abuse or exploitation, and that we report it. The investigation that led to Fogle’s arrest began with a citizen’s call, a woman who told police he bragged to her about sex with a teenager. Not all cases are that clean or clear, so it’s imperative to be watchful, to be open to seeing or hearing any indication of wrongdoing.
In his plea agreement, Fogle agrees to pay the 14 victims $100,000 each – restitution, as he called it, with the funds intended for counseling, support and other assistance.
For us, this isn’t about restitution, it’s about repair – mental and emotional healing that wouldn’t be necessary but for Fogle’s loathsome behavior. The payments are critical to easing or erasing the trauma suffered by children whose privacy and trust were shredded and shattered.
There are other victims in this story as well – Fogle’s family, his wife and two children, each younger than five, whose lives are forever altered. The wife is pursuing a divorce, so they will, alone and together, have their own trauma roads to travel. We hope for them the very best help possible.
Fogle’s story is writ, but there are other men and women out there, here in Louisville and Southern Indiana and elsewhere, intent on abusing and exploiting children. If you see abuse, even suspect it, report it.