Author Archives: Roger Canaff

About Roger Canaff

Roger Canaff is a widely known child protection and anti-violence against women advocate, legal expert, author and public speaker. Mr. Canaff, a practicing attorney, has devoted his legal career to the eradication of violence against women and children, first as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia then as a Special Victims ADA in the Bronx, New York, and then as an Assistant Attorney General with the state of New York in their Sex Offender Management Unit. In June, 2009, he joined the U.S. Department of the Army as a Highly Qualified Expert training and advising Judge Advocate General (JAG) military prosecutors on sexual assault and other special victims cases. With over 10 years experience, he has prosecuted cases involving sexual and physical abuse against children and adolescents, and also sexual assault against adults, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Mr. Canaff served in the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, a unit of the National District Attorneys Association in Alexandria, Virginia for two years between assignments as an ADA. He continues to provide training and speak publicly to other attorneys, medical experts, law enforcement officers, victim advocates and the public on all issues related to the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and sexual assault. Currently he serves on the Board of Directors as president of End Violence Against Women, International (EVAW), an organization that provides training, technical assistance, research and advocacy. He has also been featured in two multi-media resource tools, one a training video sponsored by the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) on presenting medical evidence in sexual assault trials, and the other an interactive DVD-ROM produced under the U.S. Department of Justice, President’s DNA Initiative, on developing testifying skills as a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and the Savior Gun: The Adolescent Nonsense That Passes For Leadership In Tennessee

RamseyFinally, someone has an answer!

It’s the Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, and it’s the Savior Gun.

“I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”

That’s as far as the “thinking” goes for this man who currently holds high office in an American state. Having a firearm, at all times, in all circumstances, at the ready and fully loaded, is how Americans need to start living. All the time. Everywhere. Church. School. McDonalds. The supermarket. Back to School Night. That’s the only answer: A perpetual state of itchy readiness for gun violence.

Music this is, surely, to the NRA and it’s sugar-daddy the gun manufacturing industry. But back to Ron and his admonition. It appears to go something like this:  All of you (you who are Christians anyway, and not anyone whose religion I might not trust):

Your new savior is a firearm. Let’s call it the Savior Gun. Having a Savior Gun and being a “good guy” is all that’s needed in Ron’s brave new world. Because after all:

1. The aim of the shooter behind the Savior Gun will always be perfect and true, despite shock, stress, ricochet, the natural non-preparedness of simply living one’s life outside of a perpetual combat zone, the shooter not being a professional or a marksman, the chance of slipping on a pickle chip, and an infinite number of other factors. In Ron’s world, the “good guy” will always hit the “bad guy” and save the day, period. There’s no reason to fear that a roomful of panicked shooters will hit each other, fleeing bystanders, or actual, professional first responders. There’s also no need to worry about whether actual good guys, the professional responders themselves, will know not to shoot the now pistol wielding “good guy,” as his intentions will always, somehow, be crystal clear and apparent during the melee.

2. The Savior Gun will never accidentally discharge and kill or maim the “good guy,” a classmate, bus rider, dinner companion, toddler, or anyone else.

3. The Savior Gun will never be stolen and misused, or fall into the hands of a child.

4. The Savior Gun will never be used in a suicide, a heated argument, or a misunderstanding, given the ease of which firearms make death something that can be dealt from a sanitized distance as an extension of one’s fist.

No, sir. Where the Savior Gun is concerned, all of these inevitable and oft-seen outcomes are either impossible or unworthy of consideration for Ron. Why? I guess he believes that, as a Savior Gun purchased by a Christian, it will itself surely anthropomorphize and adopt Ron’s benevolent Christian principles.

Adults, many of them police officers, understand better than Ron that guns are swords, not shields. Adults understand that the presence of firearms almost always means more death, not less.

Adults understand that the inconvenient realities around the actual nature of firearms, particularly when coupled with human frailty, tend to complicate attractive but dangerous teenage boy fantasies.

Adults understand that the reality of how firearms will likely be used in high-stress situations by non-professionals must temper the understandable but grossly unrealistic urge to view them as infallible protecters of innocence and virtue.

Adults see the necessity of firearms for qualified individuals and understand the importance of allowing individuals to defend themselves and their families appropriately- sometimes even with firearms. But adults also appreciate the grave necessity to control the accessibility to guns, and also the public carrying of them.

Adults know these things because they’re, well, adults.

I don’t what Ron Ramsey is.



Male Child Sexual Abuse, and What Your US Army is Capable Of in Tolerating It: A Call for Outrage

As an Army civilian, I learned first hand that institution’s ability to distort and betray. After pushing back against two mid-level officers, one a pathologically bad manager and the other a manipulative egomaniac, I found myself marginalized, humiliated, and eventually professionally hunted. My record, integrity and work-product spoke for themselves then and now; if they saw me as a bad fit (particularly for things like insisting on more attention to same-sex sexual assault, a suggestion they ignored), they could have told me so. Instead, I was pushed out mostly on lies and laughable complaints. Eventually I learned to keep my head down and to let go of my vision for the job. I was able to leave on my own with official thanks a few months later. I also made lifelong friends and encountered largely honorable and decent people in the service of the Army. Still, it was demoralizing and sobering to see how far an institution can go in the wrong direction, even when most individual players want to do the right thing.

So I cannot imagine, knowing how much more he has invested as an actual warrior rather than a civilian lawyer, the sense of betrayal Sergeant First Class Charles Martland must be feeling. Martland is a decorated Special Forces member who the Army is trying to discharge. In his corner, among most of the people who supervised or served with Martland, is California Congressmen Duncan Hunter.

Martland’s career ending offense? In 2011, Martland and an officer, Dan Quinn, confronted and eventually assaulted an American-trained, installed, and funded local Afghan commander named Abdul Rahman. Quinn and Martland had received an in-person plea from the mother of boy who Rahman chained to a bed as a sex slave. The mother, beaten by Rahman for trying to rescue her son, brought him, limping, to the Americans who put Rahman in place after pushing out the Taliban. When Quinn and Martland confronted Rahman, he casually admitted to the allegations and laughed when it was suggested that he carry himself to higher standards. Then he got hit, although his injuries were reported as very minor.

It’s true that, in war, unholy alliances and difficult decisions must be made. Service members cannot generally react against orders even in ways their consciences dictate. Hence, Martland was punished at the time and has acknowledged the inappropriateness of his actions. Nevertheless, the Army wants him out. Never mind that, like the vast majority of our servicemen and women, Martland and Quinn were justifiably infuriated at both the acts of Rahman and his insouciant response. The Army, the one you pay a substantial amount of a $500 billion annual defense budget toward, is not above ending the career of a decorated, warrior who reacted the way every single instinct his cultural and American military values would have directed him to.

The issue goes far deeper, though, then just a moral balancing test. Forcing soldiers to powerlessly observe (and thus vicariously experience) the sexual abuse of children- within earshot in some cases- is a unique form of psychological torture in and of itself.

The sexual abuse of boys by men in Afghanistan, particularly powerful men, is time-honored and brutally well documented. Our military tolerates this so as not to stress relations with militants it places in positions of power, armed to the teeth, in lieu of Taliban extremists. Not only is this practice ordered to go unanswered in our service people’s midst, but by eyewitness accounts it has actually been tolerated inside of military facilities.

Think about that.

American service people, some of whom have heard the screams of children being sexually tortured in the next room, have had to make gut wrenching choices, understanding the realities on the ground, about responding to the cries of these children. A few of them, driven by the kind of morality, decency and sense of justice we pride ourselves in cultivating in them, have bravely made choices to stop it.

Your Army is ready to marginalize them and kick them out for it.

This is happening even as your Army not only tolerates child sexual abuse in Afghanistan, but also orders its soldiers, against everything they believe in, to literally and personally fortify and arm abusers in a way that allows them access to more victims. And, your Army is doing this in the face of an already alarming rate of suicide among service members.

Your Army, its commanders and its Commanders-in-Chief, present and past, need to account for it to you.


As the Flag Comes Down: God Bless South Carolina, and Dylann, Behold Your Work

flag3You know, Dylann, it’s funny.

No, not you.

There nothing funny about the lives you shattered in a timeless, magnificent city and in an historical and magnificent church. There’s nothing to smile at with regard to the good and decent people you slaughtered, people who even you hesitated before murdering because they were so friendly to you. You’ll never know that level of friendliness or open-heartedness again, and that is just.

But that fact, like you, isn’t funny.

But here’s the thing: I think God is funny, in all of His/Her frustrating inscrutability. Or maybe it’s just the Universe. Or karma.

Whatever it is, It’s laughing at you, and so am I.

In 1998, a national prosecutor training center opened in Columbia, South Carolina, the capital of the state you tried (and failed) to soil. Over the years it became almost a second home for me as a consultant and trainer of prosecutors nationwide. The University of South Carolina campus (where the building stands) and the city beyond it provided a wonderful training and networking venue for thousands of DA’s from every state and territory. I was proud of the National Advocacy Center. I was proud of South Carolina and Columbia for hosting us. In the typical spirit of Southern hospitality, black folks, white folks and pretty much everyone else we encountered in the restaurants, shops and bars (we’re DA’s, Dylann, we love and need bars), were wonderful to us.

The only thing I thought was unfortunate was the reality of a confederate battle flag that whipped over the state capital building itself until 2000, while hundreds of federal and state prosecutors, many of them non-white and some from as far away as Guam, were shuttled past it from the airport every week. That got less uncomfortable when that flag was moved to the grounds of the statehouse rather than the dome. But still it remained, a hyper-prominent fixture on public ground.

I know it symbolizes “heritage” for many, but really we all knew, both us visiting and, in my experience, most of our hosts in Columbia itself, what it really meant.

Especially to people like you.

You hid behind words like “heritage” to use that flag as a signal. Unfortunately, the government of South Carolina, moving in slow motion and uncertain patterns as most representative governments do, allowed that hiding to continue even as it unfairly stained both your state and the good people who live there.

But now, you, young Dylann, have succeeded in creating a tipping point that would have been unimaginable even five years ago. You’ve inherited the wind; your act of murder has led to the removal of that flag, leaving it now to the only thing it’s good for, which is to commemorate bravery and document history.

But far beyond that even, your viciousness has exhumed truths that will now be discussed and eventually accepted even as they were whitewashed and buried before.

Truths like, just as an example, the real reason behind the Second Amendment, which we’re now discovering was more about enabling slave patrols to murderously put down efforts at freedom than it was the security of free states. That amendment, after all, in its heretofore traditional interpretations, allowed you to legally possess the gun you used to slaughter people in prayer and fellowship. Maybe that interpretation will continue to hold sway.

But now that you’ve foolishly snapped open a valve of righteous anger, long-buried pain and gloriously, tamped-down common sense, who knows?

Were it up to me, Dylann (assuming you’re legally sane, factually guilty and found so in a court of law) you would die at the hands of the state in a lethal injection chamber. I still support such an outcome, although with increasing reluctance as I grow older for reasons I won’t describe here.

But I also know that my view on the death penalty, as well as on the far, broader notions of Judeo-Christian right and wrong that have underpinned my professional life, are all being challenged. And I have to admit as I fade from relevance that those challenges are not unmerited. In fact I believe they stem from the better angels of our nature.

You would know nothing about that. But if you’re lucky, the better angels of our nature will spare you, just as the families of your victims largely forgave you in that remarkable court hearing after your arrest. If you’re less lucky, God help you.

But either way, I hope you can hear the laughter.





For Andre Johnson of Florida State University: What Nine Seconds Are Worth

JohnsonVideo evidence is rarely this clear, even now that it’s far more ubiquitous then when I was prosecuting violent crime. The relevant part between Johnson, the freshman FSU player charged with misdemeanor battery and the woman he brutalized, plays out in about nine seconds. They should be enough to end his NCAA career forever.

If you have a doubt, and you can stomach it, follow second by second what was released by the 2nd Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney today.

At 1:55, Johnson approaches the bar and the woman he eventually punches. They make contact, and she turns and confronts him. If this is as it appears, namely a guy in a crowded place pushing his way to the bar and a woman becoming annoyed and confronting him over being pushy, it’s a scene I’ve personally witnessed play out hundreds of times, usually to no more than a few choice words and dirty looks. At 1:56, she actually raises her fist, but seems to be smiling or smirking. By 1:58, Johnson has grabbed it and pushed it down, and the two struggle until around 2:01. About a second later, she actually does “throw” a punch at Johnson, but it’s a slow, harmless attempt that he appears to easily avoid.

Then comes 2:04.

At that moment, and with a speed that makes her “punch” seem like something in slow motion, Johnson rears his right arm back and then shatters the entire scene with a blow nearly impossible to follow in real time. It not only connects with her face in a way that leaves her stunned and grasping the bar to steady herself, but it also sends pitchers and cups flying. Her hair flies wildly as her head snaps sideways. Given Johnson’s size and athletic prowess, it’s more than a breathtaking display of anti-female violence. It’s potentially life threatening.

So far I haven’t seen arguments made (as were made richly and stupidly after Ray Rice brutally punched his then-fiance into unconsciousness) that Johnson was provoked somehow or “defending himself.” In any event, they’d be irrelevant also. Call me old fashioned or even sexist; I’ve been hit by women, albeit rarely, and I would never strike one back. But even under as gender-free an analysis as we can make, Johnson met a harmless swat with a vicious, cocked punch, and at a woman a fraction of his size.

To be clear: Legally, he deserves the exact same treatment as anyone else in his position. Given a black eye on the victim that prosecutors could still see days later, in my view he should spend at least a long weekend in jail, bear a criminal conviction, and maybe probation. Academically, he should be able to continue his education at FSU if he can do so appropriately on scholarly merit alone. He should certainly be able to rehabilitate himself, perhaps after serious mediation and reflection. But his NCAA playing career should be over. Not just at Florida State but everywhere. I concede readily I know almost nothing of his athletic career or his character otherwise. I also lack experience with college football itself other than as a casual observer, let alone with disciplining NCAA athletes and determining what standards are most appropriate when meting out punishments for off-the-field conduct.

Regardless, I’ll say confidently that Johnson should be banned from college sports forever, period. This view is not about retribution or disgust with Johnson himself; I find his behavior disgusting, but I have no desire to forever demonize an adolescent for what might well involve lingering impulse control issues. Further, American football, as much as it also exemplifies strict discipline and the plain decency of sportsmanship at its best, also rewards blunt force and quick, violent reaction. It has certainly rewarded Johnson in that regard, and the mixed signals have perhaps proved toxic. Similar to the challenge the military has in developing warriors who can still act morally and with grave restraint whether or not under direct command, football demands line-drawing and a delicate balance between the unleashing of violence and the crucial mettle of self-control.

Still, Andre Johnson’s stunning failure to make these distinctions is exactly why, as unfortunate as it is for him, he must be made an example of and stripped of a privilege he squandered in a pitiless, inexcusable rage. Nothing short of that sends a message sufficient in terms of moral clarity and the rightful demands of a civilized society.

For football, nine seconds is enough.

Cathy Young Wants Feminists to Describe Rape As “Ugly Sexual Encounters.” Don’t Let Her.

It might be irony, the way it’s commonly portrayed. Or it might just be rank hypocrisy. Whatever it is, Cathy Young, in her May 20, 2015, post embodies it.

The caption under the istock photo the Washington Post chose to accompany this vacuous and alarmist piece was the following: “We need to stop prosecuting bad behavior as rape.”

Really? As if a non-stranger rape prosecution tidal wave has formed, blocking all other efforts to seek justice at the courthouse?

No, that’s not happening, but thankfully we have Cathy Young showing us the way to avoid such abominations, what with her two anecdotes about regretted sexual encounters and literally nothing else. What’s funny, though, is that Cathy herself admits fully that she 1) didn’t view the negative sexual encounters she describes as a crime, and 2) she didn’t report them as such.

Welcome, Cathy, to reality. That’s what pretty much all women and men do, and by the way? It’s what the vast majority of victims do when the “encounters” actually are, objectively and by any statutory definition, rape. And this wasn’t just when you were young, Cathy. It’s still true now. And it probably will be for a very long time.

I’m sure Cathy would point out though, that what prompted her breathless piece was the idea that legions of women like her, armed now with 2015-era “feminist” notions of victimhood, are poised to suddenly push open the floodgates of litigation to incorrectly and unjustly imprison men who simply used “seductiveness” to turn a “no” into a “yes.” Ms. Young would have us believe that a few reasonable initiatives regarding consent, and a renewed movement against an age-old scourge have somehow eviscerated fair judgment in the average person and created a monster of inaccurate reports and false victims.


In fact, rapists now, just as rapists when Cathy Young was in her teens or twenties, rely on myths, shame, and fear in order to keep their victims silenced. In terms of what Ms. Young has brought to the issue, this means being 1) silently obedient to Cathy Young’s interpretation of their experiences, and 2) repentantly observant of the Washington Post’s clever istock choice of an obviously whoring slut searching for her pumps under a man’s bed.

The message? If you believe you’ve been raped, you’re probably wrong, and you probably did something to either bring it on or otherwise allow for it to happen.

So blame feminism. Blame the “liberal media.” Blame yourselves, certainly.

Just never blame the rapist. In Cathy Young’s world, there are far fewer of them than there are hysterical and litigious versions of you.