In a case sure to wind up on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a Michigan man has confessed to convincing women to sexually abuse their own children, and record the acts for his titillation.
According to the NY Daily News, forty-one-year-old car salesman Steven Demink met single moms on dating sites, where he pretended to be a therapist and fellow single parent (he is neither) and used photos of male models instead of his own picture. He somehow convinced women in several states that getting naked with — and, in some cases, abusing — their children would somehow be therapeutic, and he got the moms to send him photos and webcam footage of this "therapy." According to the AP, he managed to get the mom of an 8-year-old autistic boy to "engage in sexually explicit conduct with her son as a way to teach him about sex" — all while he watched. In some cases he said he would date the mothers if they did as he asked.
Demink has pleaded guilty to child porn charges, and will be sentenced in June — he could get anywhere from 15 years to life. Meanwhile, the moms he conned face jail time too. One has plead guilty to producing child porn and could get 15-30 years in prison; another has plead not guilty and awaits trial. Seven children have been taken from their homes as a result of Demink's horrifying scam.
Clearly the moms involved do bear some responsibility for abusing their kids — it was their job as parents to protect their children from people like Demink, not victimize them on his behalf. At the same time, there's no indication that they themselves were pedophiles, or that they had prior histories of abuse — it's quite possible that, if Demink hadn't come along, they might still be raising their children in a reasonably healthy way. And the fact that he was able to con so many moms may speak to how vulnerable people can be to someone posing as an expert, even if that person tells them to do things that seem abhorrent. Parents of autistic kids in particular are deluged with advice from people with questionable credentials or no credentials at all — obviously this is no excuse for sexually abusing a child, but it's not impossible to imagine a mom so overwhelmed with different recommendations that she thinks teaching her eight-year-old about sex through actual sexual contact could be normal. So while the mothers do deserve punishment for what they've done, it's clear that Demink didn't just exploit kids — he also prayed on vulnerable parents with lies tailor-made to break down their defenses. Here's hoping his sentence is a long one.
Michigan Man Steven Demink Conned Moms To Sexually Abuse Their Own Children: Authorities [NY Daily News]
Redford Twp. Man Pleads Guilty In Child Porn Case [Detroit Free Press]
Authorities: Man Persuaded Moms To Abuse Kids [AP]