KERRI KASEM FIGHTS FOR THE RIGHTS OF FAMILY
Radio host Kerri Kasem, daughter of Casey Kasem, shares her personal story and struggle to get human rights guaranteed.
People think human rights violations are in Timor, Rwanda and Iran. But there are human rights being violated every single day, here in the United States of America,” says Kerri Kasem, an Ambassador for United for Human Rights (UHR).
Kerri, whose father Casey Kasem was the radio host of American Top 40 and the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, experienced that first hand. She lost all contact with Casey when he developed dementia and his wife became his guardian in 2013. His phone and computer were taken away, his staff were fired, and no family or friends were permitted to see him.
Hopeless, helpless, frustrated and angry, Kerri soon learned that she had nowhere to turn—neither the police nor adult protective services could help her.
“I realized there were no rights for adult children to see their ailing parents,” Kerri says. “And the ‘isolators’ did not even have to tell the adult children whether their sick parent had died or where they were buried. My father’s right to family, right to live in freedom and safety, and right to be free from torture were all denied him. Even in death my stepmother violated my father’s rights—his right to nationality—by burying him in a country he’d never been, where he had no family, when he was born and raised in the United States of America and wanted to be buried here.”
Speaking out about her experience, Kerri began receiving hundreds of letters from individuals in similar shoes—traumatized, angry and never to see their loved ones again.
“I knew I had to do something,” she says. “So I began by creating the Kasem Cares Foundation and started traveling across the country educating others on their fundamental human rights and fighting to make those rights a reality through legislation.”
Kerri got the Kasem Cares Visitation Bill passed into law in California. The law allows adult children to ask a judge for visitation rights to an ailing parent or loved one, and mandates that a parent’s guardian tell the children when their parent is in the hospital, whether they have died and where they are buried. (The law does not force visitation if the ailing parent does not wish it.) Now law in 11 states, aspects of it have been incorporated into similar bills in another nine states, that is 20 states passing bills to curb elder abuse, and more in the pipeline.
“People think human rights violations are in Timor, Rwanda and Iran. But there are human rights being violated every single day, here in the United States of America.”
Shortly after the bill passed, Kerri recalls a woman, crying and clutching a letter to Kerri thanking her for her work. The woman told her, “I got to see my dad and be with him before he died because of your bill.”
“At its core, elder abuse is a human rights issue,” says Kerri. “People take their human rights for granted until they are taken away, but you need to know them now.”
Today, Kerri uses UHR’s audiovisual materials to train prosecutors, investigators, law enforcement officers, and adult protective service administrators in the fundamental rights at stake in elder abuse.
“If you know your human rights you can change your city, you can change your state, you can change your country, you can change the world,” Kerri says. “Know what they are and demand that people respect them and uphold them. That is what my experience taught me.”
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