Limited Access and Procedures Point to Concerns of Iowa’s Child Abuse Registry

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DES MOINES, Iowa — From domestic abuse-related convictions to probation violations where Akil Jabbar admitted to carrying a gun although he was a felon. The 39-year-old has never shied away from his run-ins with the law. Most recently, the former Creative Visions employee is accused of enticing a minor with illegal drugs and alcohol. Jabbar remains in the Polk County Jail after a judge decided a request to reduce his bond in December.

In the past, Jabbar spoke openly with Channel 13 about his previous gang activity as a victim advocate and intervention specialist for the Des Moines non-profit, Creative Visions, that helps at-risk youth and adults. However, some who know him say there was something he was hiding.

During the summer of 2009, a woman says Jabbar preyed on her in her own home. She was 11-years-old at the time. She accuses Jabbar of secretly filming her inside of her bedroom. Channel 13 is protecting her identity for safety reasons.

“I was getting ready to go to my friend’s house, and I heard something vibrate and fall down. I found the phone and picked it up and found it was recording,” the woman claims. The alleged victim says she looked at the recorded videos, then immediately deleted them. She said she was afraid to show them to her mother, who was dating Jabbar at the time.

“There were two videos. One was of him stepping away from the camera like he was setting it up, then he walked out of the room,” the alleged victims says. “He then came back in to check to see if it was still going and that it was adjusted right. It then showed me coming in to my room and getting undressed. I had a towel on then took it off. I was doing my hair and lotion. All that stuff,” she says.

The alleged victim’s mother tells Channel 13 that a year prior, she found another recording of her daughter. She claims Jabbar convinced her it was nothing, just a way to monitor the girl’s activity.

“I was really sick. I realized he lied the first time and I believed him. I felt guilty and ashamed. I felt like I could have protected my daughter and didn`t. I was angry,” the woman says, whose identity is being protected out of the safety of her daughter. The woman says the family tried to press charges that summer, but since the videos were deleted, police told them they didn’t have a case. She says the accusations were brought to the Department of Human Services (DHS), the organization that ultimately placed Jabbar on the child abuse registry list after he and the alleged victim were interviewed.

According to DHS, child protection workers are responsible for investigating reports of suspected child abuse. If the abuse is substantiated, it is considered to be founded and the offender is placed on the registry. The allegation never turned into a formal charge against Jabbar and a DHS spokesperson could not confirm to Channel 13 if he was placed on the registry. Officials say only child care facilities and certain employers have access to it, otherwise the registry is not available to the public.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I don’t know why our society would protect abusers,” the girl’s mother says.

A Problematic System

“It is problematic in many ways,” says Alex Kornya with Iowa Legal Aid. “Any process that does not involve as a core part of the process, access to counsel or access to good information I think is fundamentally flawed.” Kornya explains the registry as a civil process, not a criminal matter.

“Hearsay is completely usable in these circumstances. It doesn`t have many of the protections that a criminal procedure such as a sex abuse registry would.” He says since offenders are not given the right to an attorney in a child abuse registry cases, it is one of the main reasons the public has extremely limited access to it.

“This system, as flawed as it is, does attempt to strike a balance between the less reliable information created by this process,” Kornya says. “Without these protections and their right to know by the parties who are most potentially impacted by it.”

According to DHS, offenders are placed on the registry for up to 10 years. Those who are placed on it have the chance to appeal. A DHS spokesperson says the registry does not appear on standard background checks. Employers must specially request the information. DHS says it is not responsible to notify employers if an employee is placed on the registry.

Creative Visions, Jabbar’s most recent employer, says it did not issue a background check on him when he was hired. Since then, its CEO has decided to require all employees to undergo a background check. A previous place of employment, Urban Dreams, says it is uncertain if a background check was preformed. The alleged victims wonder had Jabbar’s employers known, would he still have been allowed to work with young people.

“I wasn`t aware that he was able to work with youth, otherwise I would have said something and notified them of his record and questioned why he was able to work with youth,” the alleged victim’s mother says. Adding, Jabbar’s most recent child enticement accusation validates what her daughter endured a decade ago.

“In a way, I feel like my daughter is getting justice through him being caught this time,” she said.

Those placed on the registry can appeal, however, due to the restrictions of the registry, Channel 13 was unable to confirm if Jabbar tried to do so. Although we applied to be granted access, we did not hear back. According to DHS, in 2018, 33,579 cases were investigated to determine if an offender should be placed on the child abuse registry. Of those investigations, 3,116 perpetrators were added to the list. Although, DHS says data collected from last year is not complete due to open cases from December. In all, there are roughly 50,000 people on the child abuse registry.