A Principal Problem

Why didn't Joanne Talazus believe the child who said his counselor abused him?

And there was bad touching, he said. It occurred in the office, Christopher said.

The boy was vague about when the touching began and when it ended. A report filed by Hotchkiss, the teacher's aide, pertains to the 1993-94 school year. Christopher himself told police about an incident that may have happened in 1996, but he wasn't sure of the dates.

Christopher remembered the day he and his mother were called into Talazus' office. He recalled sitting at the end of a long table facing off against Talazus and Ruelas. He told Talazus that Ruelas had been touching him.

But no one believed him.

Christopher has agreed to be a witness in Ruelas' upcoming criminal trial.
In the meantime, he has filed a $25 million claim against the Osborn School District and Longwood Elementary School, Ruelas, Talazus, and school superintendent Wilma Basnett.

Christopher's victim, his 8-year-old sister, has filed a separate $25 million claim against the same parties.

Michael Vaughn, a lawyer for the siblings, says in legal documents that what happened between Christopher and his sister might never have happened if Christopher had not been molested by Ruelas, and if school officials hadn't abandoned him.

After Ruelas sexually abused the boy, and after Talazus called him a liar, Christopher "became angrier and angrier," the attorney says.

"As research has established, children who are molested often go on to molest others," Vaughn says, adding that Christopher's victimization of his sister was a "direct, proximate and foreseeable result of the sexual abuse."

Vaughn says both children face lifelong problems.
In the face of the credible evidence gathered against Ruelas and Talazus by Phoenix police, I figure the district will offer Christopher and his sister substantial settlements--in the millions.

But even if they're paid multimillion-dollar settlements, they face uncommon problems throughout their lives.

Christopher will be a registered child molester. His picture will appear on the Internet. And it's likely he will re-offend if he has a chance.

Frank Putnam, a child psychiatrist who specializes in the effects of sexual abuse on children at the National Institute of Mental Health, says boys who have been sexually abused often tend to become sexual offenders with "high rates of recidivism."

Christopher's sister faces other problems. Girl victims, according to Putnam, "internalize" the trauma, suffering from severe depression and other psychiatric maladies that plague them throughout their lives.

I wonder if Ruelas ponders any of this as he sits in his cell at the Madison Street Jail.

And I wonder if Joanne Talazus, who will be arraigned on June 1, takes the time from thinking about her own legal problems to reflect on the little boy who sat in her office five years ago, the little boy she called a liar.

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