Running 25 Miles For...
Support A Great Cause
Donations for Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker's 25-mile run April 22 will go to support the Child Protection Center in Kansas City.
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The Child Protection Center (CPC) is commemorating its 25th anniversity. The CPC receives COMBAT funding to conduct forensic interviews of children who've been abused or who have witnessed violent crimes, in addition to also providing mental health services.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Prosecutor Jean Peters Bake will start—and finish—her 25-mile run at the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City.
Jean Peters Baker will have a lot on her mind April 22. All these people she cares about… All these causes she supports… All those miles she’ll be running…
Jackson County’s Prosecutor is going to literally be on the run April 22. She’ll be leaving the courthouse at 8 o’clock that Thursday morning to set out on a 25-mile run to commemorate the 25th anniversary of—and to raise funds for—the Child Protection Center (CPC).
Jean will be Running 25 For not only the CPC. She will also be Running 25 For…
- Child Abuse Awareness Month
- National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
- Brave individuals like “Willa” and “Ethan”—and “MB”
- Difference makers who report abuse
- Community partners who help crime victims become crime survivors
- And her colleagues in the Prosecutor’s Office for whom being a Victim Advocate is a calling—not just a job.
Jean will be sharing on this page and social media stories* from her experiences as a prosecutor as the countdown to 8:00 a.m. Thursday, April 22 continues. She is sure to have no shortage of inspiration Running 25 Miles, with this common adage about distance running perhaps as a guide:
Run the first third with your head, the second third with your legs, the last third with your heart
*Jean received permission to share these stories and the names of individuals involved but has chosen to protect their identities using pseudonyms or only initials.
Willa’s story dispels the myth that abused children are broken beyond repair—that their lives are permanently ruined or that they are destined to be abusers themselves. She suffered both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her own father. With support from her high school boyfriend, his loving family and a caring teacher, Willa reported her father’s abuse.
And I prosecuted him. He pled guilty, but showed no remorse and Willa had to endure a protracted sentencing hearing.
The abuse inflicted upon her was some of the worst any child can be subjected to, yet I saw in Willa a quiet resilience. She was badly injured, but not broken. She had to be strong to have survived, and today she is thriving. She found a path to a healthy, happy life.
I attended her wedding several years ago. She’s a health care professional. You might say her whole life revolves around caring for others. The once horribly abused daughter is now a devoted mother—the kind of mother we would wish every child could have.
His mother had a drug addiction and could not properly care for either Ethan or his dozen siblings. But the abuse they would all suffer did not begin until Ethan and his siblings were put into foster care. A person entrusted with “caring” for Ethan, instead, abused him horrendously. He would continually seek to escape this abuse and be reunited with his mother, and eventually the state did place the kids back in their mother’s care.
To avoid being returned to an abusive environment, Ethan and the other children made a pact to protect one another, as well as their mother whenever she relapsed and started taking drugs again.
Ethan and his siblings’ abusers were never prosecuted. Trauma-informed treatment was not available to the children either. Ethan rightfully believes that he could have gotten a stronger start on his adult life—his education and his career goals—had he gotten that kind of help.
But it’s a testament to Ethan’s resolve that he today he managers a restaurant and has real hopes of moving up in the popular restaurant chain. He’s made a great success out of his life, where it matters most. He’s a devoted father, raising two brilliant teenage girls.
For Crime Survivors
It’s a simple fact that squeezing a trigger doesn’t take much skill. Shooting a gun is relatively easy and remarkably dangerous—and is so often done with a wanton disregard for what or who might be shot.
Every year our police departments investigate hundreds of shooting incidents. Many involve families whose homes weren’t being targeted but just happened to be in the line of fire. Bullets shatter windows. They pierce walls, doors and sometimes someone’s flesh.
Although these are criminal cases that might go unsolved and, therefore, never get to the Prosecutor’s Office, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to help these crime victims become crime survivors. That’s why we developed the Caring For Crime Survivors program four years ago.
This program is only possible due COMBAT funding and something the Prosecutor’s Office provides in partnership with the AdHoc Group Against Crime. We focus on getting survivors counseling, if needed, in addition to repairing the physical damage done so their homes can stop feeling like crime scenes and get back to being their homes again.
This program is true its name. It’s literally all about caring.
Caring For Crime Survivors
“Although a case might never be passed along the to the Prosecutor’s Office for charges, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we can do to help these crime victims become crime survivors who are better able to get on with their lives.” The Caring For Crime Survivors program—created by the Prosecutor’s Office and operated in partnership with the AdHoc Group Against Crime, with funding from COMBAT—can provide referrals to counseling and facilitate repairs to property damaged during a crime. AdHoc has many of the doors pierced with bullets transformed into artwork. » MORE
Among the most gut-wrenching fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that when kids aren’t in school they don’t have teachers watching out for them. It was shocking—child abuse is always shocking, never something you get use to—the amount of abuse cases the Child Protection Center began dealing with last summer.
Teachers can really make all the difference. They can and do save abused children’s lives.
Yes, teachers are legally mandated to report suspected abuse. But every year the Prosecutor’s Office sees dozen of child abuse cases in which teachers do more than just report. They follow up. They make sure the child is being protected from further harm. In these cases, the teachers are heroes.
For Police Officers
I want to cite just one example of a police officer making all the difference in a child’s life.
When an 11-year-old boy called 911 to say he had accidentally stabbed himself with a knife, the responding officer was skeptical the boy had harmed himself accidentally. The officer pulled the boy aside, away from his parents, and asked him if he needed protection. When the boy mouthed the word “yes,” the officer took immediate action. The officer was the living embodiment of “protect and serve,” saving this little boy from suffering further abuse.
My office prosecuted and a jury convicted the boys’ stepfather.
No little girl should have seen what MB did four years ago this month.
She was in the car waiting for her father when he was fatally shot during a robbery outside a Raytown grocery store. This was a tragic case in which the Child Protection Center’s ability to thoughtfully conduct a forensic interview with a child proved invaluable.
Fortunately, this was one case in which multiple witnesses provided testimony, leading to a conviction. But the one witness who stood out the most was MB. Despite her grief, she was resilient and brave.
So, I’m running for MB and all the children like her who’ve had loved ones stolen from them by violence. And this is why I’m running for CPC whose compassion and thoroughness in interviewing to children like MB—at the most traumatic time in their young lives—is essential to helping the Prosecutor’s Office seek justice in crimes like this.
For Children’s Division Workers
Their job is nothing short of doing everything possible to assure the safety and well-being of all children. But Children’s Division Workers receive precious little praise and are often maligned. Their due diligence, I know from experience, has rescued many children from abusive situations right here in Jackson County.
Sadly, the stresses that come with this job are tremendous, including what can seem like overwhelming caseloads. The burnout rate among all social workers is high. Unfortunately, among the budget cuts made in Missouri last summer due to COVID-related shortfalls were in the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services.
The timing of these cuts, eliminating 96 positions from the Children’s Division, could not have been much worse as we were seeing more child abuse incidents being reported last summer here locally and throughout the state—not mention across most of the nation. Reducing the resources allocated to protect our most vulnerable citizens brought to mind one of the most poignant lines from the 2015 Best Picture Academy Award winner Spotlight: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
Report a concern to the MDSS Children’s Division:
Child Abuse or Neglect • 800-392-3738
School Violence • 866-748-7047
Human Trafficking • 888-373-7888
I’ll be running for all the dedicated Children’s Divisions Workers who find themselves having to the extra mile—many days up hill—to try and protect our kids.
For Doris Cannon, Marilyn Layton & All Our Victim Advocates
I'm running for all my dedicated colleagues in the Prosecutor's Office and especially—during Victims' Rights Week—for our our Victim Advocates.
They are truly committed to doing all they can for victims and their families.
They Found Their Calling
Combined, Doris Cannon and Marilyn Layton have more than a half-century of experience as Victim Advocates in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. For both being an Advocate is more than just a job; it’s their calling. Advocates serve as liaisons between the victims—or their surviving family members—and the attorneys in the Prosecutor’s Office. They guide victims through the complexities of the legal process, attend all court hearings with them and can refer them for counseling and other services. “The families I work with have been going through probably the worst experience of their lives," says Cannon, who is assigned to homicide cases. “If I can do anything to help them get through it, I’ve done some good. That’s what keeps me going.” » MORE