Kananen was contacted by BBC reporter Natalia Antelava after being referred by Michael Petit, president of the national child abuse advocacy program Every Child Matters. Petit was aware of Kananen’s fledgling advocacy program, Amnesty for Abuse, and put the two women in touch. Antelava was so moved by Kananen’s tragic story that she invited her to come to the BBC’s Washington DC bureau for an interview. The documentary is partially available to US viewers at http://www.bbc.co.uk/
Stacey Kananen’s story began when her father, Richard Kananen, Sr., chose to violently and sexually abuse his wife and children. When he vanished from their Orlando home in 1988, no one reported his disappearance. Fifteen years later, his wife went missing and police charged Stacey’s brother, Richard Jr., with murdering both parents and burying their bodies—one under their garage floor and the other in his sister’s back yard. Stacey cooperated as a witness for the State until Rickie agreed to a plea bargain and told police that Stacey helped him murder their mother. She now faced the death penalty.
Her two-week trial, which aired on CNN’s In Session, ended in a flawless, Matlock moment after Diana Tennis, her well-known Orlando defense attorney, unearthed the tiny piece of evidence that conflicted with Rickie’s story and proved that she had been railroaded and was not guilty.
Now that her personal life was no longer private, Stacey Kananen chose to use her story to make waves. She and co-author Lisa Bonnice, an award winning writer for MSNBC.com, have recently signed a publishing deal with Berkley Books. They have created the Amnesty for Abuse program in an effort to assist families in a way that Stacey, a true survivor, feels will be helpful. She knows, from inside experience, what it’s like to grow up in a severely abusive home and not receive the help that is so desperately needed. She also understands the family dynamic that prevents those involved from asking for help: fear, shame and hopelessness. She states, “If my family had received the kind of help proposed in the Amnesty for Abuse program, my brother wouldn’t be in prison and my mother would be alive. I am passionate about making changes in the way child abuse is handled in the ‘system’ and finding ways to help kids who are trapped in violent households.”
Amnesty for Abuse, http://www.amnestyforabuse.com, is a voluntary program for families who wish to escape the cycle of abuse—in a non-judgmental way that keeps them out of the legal system—before heinous crimes are committed. A holistic method of therapy, Amnesty for Abuse addresses all facets of the human condition and family dynamics in order to help families to work together to stay together, if at all possible.
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Amnesty for Abuse is a new program, not yet implemented. The creators, Stacey M. Kananen and Lisa Bonnice, intend to change that, by pitching the idea to anyone and everyone in power within the child abuse advocacy system.