In late November, a talent manager who represents young children was arrested and charged with eight felony counts stemming from the alleged abuse of a young boy. A few weeks earlier a casting associate who worked on high-profile films was arrested for neglecting to update the authorities when he began to work under a different name. Fifteen years earlier, the man had been convicted of abducting and molesting an eight-year-old child.
These cases and others like them, including many that never make it to the authorities, are shining a spotlight on what some say is a very serious problem in Hollywood. Several former child stars, including Corey Feldman and Alison Arngrim, have spoken publicly about their own sexual abuse at the hands of industry insiders.
"I always keep quoting the bank robber Willie Sutton," Arngrim said Tuesday. "When they asked him, 'Why do you rob banks,' he said, 'That's where you keep the money.' People who are child predators ... go where the children are."
Arngrim said that Hollywood's environment and the foreignness of fame make parents, whether naïve or nefarious, easily misled and child actors easy targets. According to Arngrim, whose abuse ended a year before she began acting as Nelly on "Little House on the Prairie," she didn't know she could reach out to show staff for help. "I was a kid, and I was too dumb to know these were people I could have told who probably would have done something."
Paul Peterson, a former child star and president of A Minor Consideration, said that legislation regarding child labor laws is forming too slowly.
"Children in the entertainment business are exempt from federal child labor laws," he said. "Now the animals in the entertainment business aren't exempt from international standards, but in the United States of America to this day, and in a lot of production centers, there are no rules in governing the employment of children in the business." Peterson said that parents are always a child's first line of defense.
Paula Dorn, a mother of a child actor, co-founded Biz Parentz, a foundation supporting families with children in the entertainment industry by "explaining away the oddities of Hollywood."
"It's very, very foreign to the way you would normally raise a family," Dorn said. "And when something is off, it's too often just dismissed as well, that's Hollywood. That's 'Hollyweird.'"
How can parents navigate these waters? As a person in the industry, either behind the scenes or in them, is this something you’ve witnessed or experienced?
Alison Arngrim, former child star (Played Nellie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie") and spokesperson for The National Association to Protect Children, an organization working to improve child protection laws.
Paul Peterson, former child star and President of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit that supports young performers.
Paula Dorn, Co-founder of Biz Parentz, a foundation supporting families with children in the business.