Overcoming abuse | March 28, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 28, 2014

Overcoming abuse

Twenty years later, the echoes of abuse still linger for three women

by Jay Thorwaldson

Editor's note: This article includes graphic language and may not be suitable for younger readers.

This story contains 4316 words.

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Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jthorwaldson@paweekly.com and/or jaythor@well.com. He also writes periodic blogs at www.PaloAltoOnline.com.


Posted by Predators are Everywhere.
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2014 at 7:54 am

Thanks to the great woman who even though they still feel the pain of being abused. The system is crooked and protects more the criminals than the victims. About 5 years ago, there was a special aide at Barron Park who showed a lot interest in holding the kids by the legs then moved them up an down while he thrust his privates with the children's face. I could not believe it. I told the principal and she said "special education students need a lot of sensory therapy. I knew that was BS, I told her that he was also doing it to regular kids, than she said that it was not ok, and decided to observe him. In a way, I am glad he did, about a month later he was gone. Do not where they moved him. [Portion removed.] I am glad I persisted with the complain and the he also did it to the regular kids, otherwise the principal would have done nothing. These are the people who sometimes takes care of our special education kids. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 28, 2014 at 10:26 am

Very sad story, especially given that so many people knew about this and could have done something to stop it. As for those misguided parents who signed a petition on this monster's behalf, I still see some of this going on in our community at multiple levels.
In the name of political correctness or whatever latest cause they are supporting, I just see people unwilling to call it like it is, and keep on wasting time/resources on lost causes.
Society doesn't owe anybody anything. You either play by the rules, or you deal with the consequences.

Posted by OpenYourEyes
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

@ Carlos,
Thank you so much, for writing your comment above. I see this also, please people, just because your friend/associate/neighbor asks you to sign this/that, please think on it, do your own research if possible. I know so many want to be the best they can be, for themselves/community.

I was never believed by my parents, nor taken seriously, when abuse happened to me.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

You canNOT miss this irony:

"I made the determination that the molest was more of an opportunity, in a certain atmosphere, which (the suspect) did not have in the (school) jobs," Detective Luis Verbera, who interviewed the two alleged victims and Tupou before his arrest, told the Weekly.

Birds of a feather, and all of that.

Posted by PA mother
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

One of the ways to tell if someone is a predator, such as a pedophile, sociopath or psychopath is to ask yourself: Does the person in question come across as magnetic, charismatic, unusually fun, funny, slick, glib, like a big phony or like a sheep in wolf's clothing? People like that often come across in any of those ways because they develop a false, and often convincing persona in order to entice victims they can manipulate and exploit for sex, money or power.

I am a licensed therapist, and my daughter was bullied by a girl in her grade and I by the girl's parents. All three exhibited that superficial, too-good-to-be-true are-they-for-real charm. All three, whenever we spoke up or set limits had neighbors and other parents rallying to their defense, saying that we had made everything up and were really the ones at fault. The girl ended up being expelled from two middle schools for drug possession and bullying and is now in the juvy. The family ended up leaving town, and I heard from numerous neighbors, parents and other kids, without asking story after story of the havoc those three wreaked in many people's lives.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm

The original articles:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Posted by incredulous
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm

In our "rape" culture it is so bizarre to me that we ALWAYS want to give a perpetrator the benefit of the doubt but NEVER do we consider the victim or the one reporting abuse as INNOCENT until proven guilty--actually believing the victim and NOT the perpetrator!

I'm shuddering at the thought of people who will write that the young woman who was 12 should have "known better" should have "told him no." Do you remember when you or your child was 12? There is no way you can stop a seasoned predator like this. She is a brave young woman telling her story and I am so proud of her for telling it. Good luck and I hope you are getting care--especially after this article is published. This is not easy!

I also find is so odd that men who want to volunteer so extensively with little children (or teenagers for that matter) that we don't find that odd? I have very loving and child loving men in my life and they volunteer at times, but it isn't their obsession.

When these men are asked to leave for an odd treatment of children and NO ONE reports them to the authorities and lets the other schools know? Really? We are so intent on taking care of perpetrators and we are so used to it that this always seems like this story is reported over and over. My guess is that many women are going to read this article and either remember her own abuse and report that he molested them as well, will now be able to say to her friends/family "I told you so" or will silently suffer more remembering her suffering.

As a therapist, I urge any of you molested/raped by this man or by someone else seek help. YOU AREN'T THE ONE WHO WAS WRONG.

Posted by Karin Tanaka
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Many, many thanks to Jay Thorwaldson and Jocelyn Dong for researching, writing and publishing this story.

One thing I learned in the process of connecting with these young women and speaking to the Palo Alto police: If, as a child, you were a victim of sexual abuse, you can still file a report with the police - and they can still investigate. They have a year from the time your report is filed to bring charges against the perpetrator. So, if something happened to you as a child that you wish to report now, you can.

A couple of corrections about details in the story.

1. At the time I observed Tupou in my daughter's classroom, she was in kindergarten rather than preschool.

2. At the time my then-husband and I went to the Superintendent of the Palo Alto schools to ask that he make sure that Tupou not be allowed to continue volunteering in any PAUSD classroom, Tupou was out on bail and still facing felony charges of child molestation. The charges had not yet been reduced to misdemeanor - which they were when the children were not allowed to testify (and so the case fell apart).

-Karin Tanaka

Posted by IfYouCare
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2014 at 2:49 am

Please share this story as much as possible. It is still a lesson and there are countless people in the community who knew this "man" but never found out the real truth.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2014 at 11:09 am

As I read more about this story and look into the old articles from that time, I simply cannot understand why so many in our community went out of their way to vouch for this monster and tried to discredit Ms. Tanaka.

As a parent with kids in the district, I hope we can all learn from this incident. As some other posters have mentioned, some of the worst offenders will be charming and charismatic enough to first gain your trust.

In this age of political correctness, I couldn't care less if someone accuses me of some type of 'profiling' if I could do or say something to prevent another case of abuse. Thanks again, Ms. Tanaka, for taking action despite all the backlash you encountered at the time.

Posted by Karin Tanaka
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Thank you, Carlos. I had to take action then, as now. And I'm grateful for the fact that my husband at that time suggested we go to the newspaper when the PAUSD superintendent minimized our concerns.

Despite the blow-back I experienced during that period, the fact that those articles were online and findable by Tori and Beth almost 20 years later meant that they/we had the opportunity to connect and bring the truth to light.

-Karin Tanaka

Posted by Sidebar Missing
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Tupou's arrest was not announced by either the school district or the police department. Police Capt. Tom Merson told the Weekly at the time that no announcement was made because the investigating officers didn't think it would lead to identifying additional victims.

"I made the determination that the molest was more of an opportunity, in a certain atmosphere, which (the suspect) did not have in the (school) jobs," Detective Luis Verbera, who interviewed the two alleged victims and Tupou before his arrest, told the Weekly.
Publication Date: Friday Jul 30, 1999
COURTS: Ex-cop makes deal to avoid prison: Web Link

Posted by Karin Tanaka
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

@Sidebar Missing: I'm not sure what you might be trying to say with your comment and the link posted above. But if you're implying that Verbera's assessment was incredibly short-sighted, and the situation tragically ironic - given that four years after Tupou's Palo Alto arrest, Detective Verbera himself was convicted as an offender - I would agree.

-Karin Tanaka

Posted by I'm out
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

This is an amazing story about the extent to which Palo Alto parents will deny that there is any problem with anything in our wonderful excellent schools. It seems that it has always been this way. If anyone dares to say that there is anything amiss, they are publicly attacked and destroyed. Whether they are a rape victim, or a parent who simply isn't drinking the kool-aid, this community is not one that faces problems or issues.

Whether it is rape, suicide, mental health issues, discrimination against the disabled, bullying, whatever. This story is an extreme example -- a community writing letters in support of an obvious creepy pedo, but actually it is just completely, sadly, typical of PAUSD parents and this community.

This is why my children go to private school. Because this is one scary place full of people who are both in denial and very angry at anyone who threatens to burst their bubble. Even when five or six children die by suicide, all anyone in this town wants to do is blame the parents.

I think I am not shockable by what goes on here anymore because I got to the part where the district didn't care, the schools didn't care, and the parents rallied to the defense of the pedo and I was like, "of course they did. Naturally."

That's why everyone with the money and the ability to get their kid into private school is out of here. Two thirds of Walter Hays 5th grade applied for private school. I think those numbers are only going to climb.

One factor that is is a big problem implicated here is that the elementary schools are too big. You need smaller schools where there can be better supervision and the district does not rely on creepy single male pedo volunteers. Sick. Another problem is that there is reflexive defense of everything that happens in this perfect town, right down to this pathetic case.

Posted by villlage fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm

@incredulous -
Thank you for noting that : "In our "rape" culture it is so bizarre to me that we ALWAYS want to give a perpetrator the benefit of the doubt but NEVER do we consider the victim or the one reporting abuse as INNOCENT until proven guilty--actually believing the victim and NOT the perpetrator! "

Past PAUSD Middle School case comes to mind:
Link - Web Link

@Hmmm - I actually did miss the "alleged victims". Thank you.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I just read the story and am stunned. We moved here after these events and were unaware of them although we lived in a neighboring community. It seems like these predators move from place to place, school to school. I would have liked to see a photo of this guy, just out of curiosity.
Thanks to Karin Tanaka, she has good instincts and showed guts to speak up. Persistent people who CARE are valuable, good people.
It is concerning about the family that moved away to avoid entanglements about their nanny - sad. Who knows if there were other victims at a minimum there were likely many small kids who were uncomfortable at a minimum in their forced dealings with this criminal.
To be brutally honest, I am suspicious of late 30's single males who are hellbent on volunteering with Kindergarteners. Especially those who have moved from place to place (like in this story according to the account)

Posted by ToriTori
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2014 at 7:30 am

@anonymous, the inside photo in the news print story is a photo-shopped silhouette of his side profile. As well as the front cover story, that is also him, not that you can get a good picture of him. However, I sure knew who it was when they published the story. At the time he was in Palo Alto I know he had a pony tail, a balding man with a long pony tail, in the police database he is considered white and in the California Department of Corrections he is considered an "other". His background is pacific islander. By the time he was in the Campbell/San Jose area he had chopped the ponytail and started shaving what little hair he had. Just think Yul Brenner, kind of looked like him.
I hope this story brings closure to people, if they have been searching for it.

Posted by Beth
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I just want to thank everyone for all the positive feedback. Please continue to share this in the community. I hope this brought closure and important information. We chose to have my experiences talked about in a vague way and to not go into details about the abuse of the victims I knew about in Palo Alto. Of course, the reason I was finally was able to speak up as a child was because it became too scary and extreme. I wish I had spoken sooner but I was a child. Please do research on the signs to look for and how to talk to your children about appropriate behavior. I made clear boundaries for myself but didn't know I could speak for others. Thanks especially to those of you who also took the time to read the old stories. I'm not sure how his supporters feel now or if they've read this but I want them to know I don't hold any ill feelings towards them now and hope we can all move forward as a community together.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

Seems a good method to protect children is to use checks and balances, where possible. In other words, ok, you want to bring this late 30's single man in as a "school volunteer," do so WITH supervision, other adults right there also. THAT might work. To turn someone like this loose seems risky (even if I hadn't just read this story).
Another thing, I am unhappy about the PA adults here who quickly rallied to this guy's defense without really knowing what was going on, or taking a cursory view of it, or finding him "funny," I think people should know what they are talking about before asserting themselves in such an important matter. One is innocent until proven guilty, but from the article I see no reason why people here should not have supported investigation and thoughtful examination of this guy once more than one concern was raised about him. I keep using the word "important." The concerns about this guy that were raised seemed important - they were about his behavior around very young children (initially) - and merited more than the briefest review from principals and other authority figures. "We need volunteers" is not sufficient justification to permit a questionable oddball around small children in our public schools.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Can't help but wonder if LV had more criminal activity than even what has been mentioned. He was in a perfect position to be "detective" and criminal at the same time, which we know he was, but how far did his crimes really go? Did he investigate his own crimes? I know that sounds more like a thriller book, but there are many unsolved crimes during his time on the force in PA, and many victims that are not around any longer to come forward, as they have been silenced by whomever committed the crime. Considering what he was caught at, and knowing criminals normally escalate in their crimes, what was he capable of? Not trying to villainize further than deserved, but just good questions to ask..