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Slaves No More: Women Successfully Push Lawmakers To Pass New Abuse Protections

TOPEKA--Largely because of the actions of two abuse survivors who turned into powerful advocates, Kansas will have new protections for people with disabilities.

The Kansas Senate and House voted unanimously to pass a measure that would create the Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Persons with Disabilities Unit within the state attorney general's office.

The bill, which awaits a signature by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, also would require state agencies to send all abuse reports to the attorney general's office within 10 days of confirmation or denial of such allegations, and would give the office authority to ask for those records if there is a reasonable suspicion that a person has been victimized.

The legislation was prompted after the November 7 convictions of former group home owner Arlen Kaufman, 69, and his wife, Linda Kaufman, 62, on a total of 61 charges of forced labor, involuntary servitude, health-care fraud, Medicare fraud, and making false representations. In January, Mr. Kaufman was sentenced to 30 years in prison, while his wife was sentenced to seven years.

Former residents with mental illness had testified that over a 20-year period the couple abused and mistreated them, forced them to do household and outdoor tasks entirely in the nude, and then intimidated them to keep them from reporting the abuse. They also said Mr. Kaufman held therapy sessions during which he forced them to perform sexual acts, which he and Mrs. Kaufman videotaped.

Some former residents said that their pleas for help -- even to local law enforcement -- were ignored.

Nancy Jensen and Lynn Kohr, both residents of Kaufman House in the 1980s, lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill.

"It's a big relief, and it sends a big message," Kohr said. "It shouldn't ever happen again, because I don't want anybody else to go through what we did."

"Lawmakers reach agreement on servitude case legislation" (Lawrence Journal-World)

"Kaufman Victims Become Advocates For Reform" February 10, 2006 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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