| Today's NAASCA news:
March 7, 2014
California releases child abuse identification and reporting guidelines for parents
by Theresa Harrington
SACRAMENTO -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Wednesday issued new guidelines to help parents and guardians report suspected child abuse at schools.
In a letter to school officials, Torlakson explained that California's Education Code requires the state Department of Education to adopt guidelines for parents and guardians to follow if they want to file complaints against those suspected of abusing their child at school. The guidelines define child abuse as negligent treatment, willful injury or harm, sexual abuse, assault, and or exploitation. It does not include a fight between two students under 18, or injury caused by an adult or law enforcement officer attempting to stop a disturbance.
More information is available by visiting www.cde.ca.gov. Click on "Child Abuse Reporting Guidelines."
Child Abuse Cases Rise
The number of child abuse cases has risen steadily around the state but Macon county has seen a spike.
Jean Moore, executive director of the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, says the number of cases at the center is up 40-percent over the last year but funding has been cut by 30-percent over the last five years.
"We're meeting those needs with the same number of people and we just feel like we're not doing it as well as we could be doing it because we don't have the resources and we don't have the time," Moore said.
An annual report by Voices for Illinois Children shows there were 631 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 2013 in Macon county; up a hundred cases from the previous year.
Macon county also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 12-percent. Research shows family economic stress is associated with higher rates of child abuse.
"I'm concerned for our community because there are so many different factors and it's kind of like the perfect storm when I look at the economic factors and I think about family stress, the unemployment rate and high cost of child care and families can't afford appropriate child care," Moore said.
Law enforcement officials in Macon county say calls for domestic disturbances overshadow other calls for service. Decatur police responded to about 28,000 domestic calls last year and the sheriff's office had 340 calls.
Lt. Jamie Belcher with the sheriff's office said, "Domestic violence calls are one of the most dangerous calls a police officer will ever go to... Obviously we want to protect every child that's ever in any type of danger."
Another issue according to Moore is there is no funding for child abuse prevention. The Macon County Child Advocacy Center provides a parenting class but it's paid for by fundraising efforts, because grants for it ran out a few years ago.
Is any failure rate tolerable in child abuse cases?
by Josh Brodesky
SAN ANTONIO — Maybe John Specia is right.
Maybe it really doesn't matter that 20 percent of Texas kids who fell under Child Protective Services' watchful eye in 2008 were re-victimized over the next five years.
Children in troubled families were abused and neglected. The state agency charged with protecting those kids from harm intervened. And within five years, they were abused again.
That's the story for one in five kids in Texas and Bexar County, but maybe that doesn't matter now.
“It's what happened to the children in 2008, so it doesn't really tell us anything about what's happening today or last year,” said Specia, the head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “It tells us what happened five years ago.”
That was then, this is now. It's all ancient history, right?
Tell that to the kids who were re-abused between 2008 and 2013.
Besides, history keeps repeating itself. Year after year in Texas and Bexar County, we see the same stat. One in five kids who receive CPS services will get re-victimized within five years.
“For us to make this decision to either leave them with abusive parents or reunite them before the parents are ready and have that child re-abused within five years, to me, is unforgivable,” said Madeline McClure, executive director of Dallas-based TexProtects, The Texas Association for the Protection of Children.
“That's the No. 1, I think, measure of our efficacy, or lack thereof.”
While Specia doesn't want to ask any questions about this, McClure is asking the right ones.
TexProtects is examining whether caseloads affect this re-victimization rate, or if certain services improve it. Perhaps families need to receive services longer before being reunified with their kids.
“Now I will say from my perspective, clearly we are making reunification decisions too soon or before parents are ready, or we are not keeping our family-based safety service cases open long enough,” she said. “That's what I would guess at this point, but I don't have the statistics to show it.”
Research in other states has shown re-victimization mostly occurs in neglect cases, in families with substance abuse and with children 6 years or younger, McClure said. There are other factors such as family isolation or kids with special needs.
Understanding these dynamics in Texas could help improve family services and prevent future abuse.
“If families are going through CPS and not getting any better, then we need to stop, and we really need to assess, and we need to perhaps change the way we are doing things,” said Judge Peter Sakai, a longtime child advocate and abuse prevention leader.
Or we could just live with it. That's what Specia was implying, even if he didn't mean to, when he said, “It's kids in 2008.”
More accurately, it's kids who were abused at least twice between 2008 and 2013 despite CPS involvement.
Specia also said better reporting could be a factor.
“I think there is a higher sensitivity to abuse and neglect,” he said. “So when you have more cases coming in the front door, you are probably going to have a higher number of confirmed cases, and they receive services.”
Only, the rate has been steady even as reporting has increased. Between 2002 and 2008, the number of children CPS served in Bexar County grew from 3,925 to 6,230. But the re-victimization rate stayed the same. It was 19.3 percent in 2002, and 19.8 percent in 2008.
Specia also said he wasn't sure if the abuse in these cases was necessarily severe.
“I don't know how serious these matters were,” Specia said.
Some of these repeat instances might have been the lowest-priority calls to CPS, he said.
Does that really make it better?
Child Protective Services doesn't like this five-year number because there are many variables. A lot happens in five years, and it shouldn't all be pinned on CPS.
Fair enough. But that's no excuse to ignore, or diminish, what's happened to these kids. To do so is a tacit acceptance of failure.
“I am hoping that five years from now, in my term it's a lower rate,” Specia said.
History suggests otherwise.
Victim speaks out to encourage wider discussion of violence
by Ebony Battersby
THE man of the house, a stable, honourable and protective figurehead - is one whom you hold as a benchmark for future relationships.
Except when that man, your father, is the reason for your suffering.
Emma* considers herself a survivor of abuse from her father.
An advocate for expanding the classification of victims, Emma wishes to spread the message that while violence is pervasively common in domestic relationships, focus needs to be aligned on a broader spectrum.
"I do not know of another adult who is being abused by their parent," she said.
"I'd like to get people openly talking about parents abusing adult children, to increase community awareness and research and thus funding on this type of family violence."
Emma was not the only member of her family to endure suffering.
Threats to her children's lives, of suicide, stalking and manipulation were some of the psychological torments imposed upon her.
"Due to the unusual source of the family violence, I did not speak openly with family and friends about the abuse occurring," she said.
"Society expects children to show respect and care toward parents for the nurturing they provided us as children. I found it hard telling a few close people of the abuse.
"Their immediate reaction was disbelief because why would a parent harm a child?"
Fear is an emotion victims of abuse become accustomed to.
In Emma's case, it was not only from her father, but included the negative stigma from society.
Entrenched in their isolation of being minority group victims, a lack of response often exacerbates the issue.
The father figure, traditionally a cornerstone of trust in the family unit, grossly abused the relationship over decades.
With abuse only beginning in her adult years, it was a disorienting stage of Emma's life as she re-evaluated previous memories.
"The bond between parent and child is sacred; they created me," she said.
"I found it difficult to accept, being in the highest position of trust and respect in my life, yet my parent behaved like this."
Emma urges all victims of emotional, psychological and physical abuse to surround themselves with the positive support they need to realise the title "victim" is not of their choosing - or a reflection of character.
*Name has been changed for individual's protection.
Our Chance to Stop Sexual Violence Against Children in Conflict
by Anita Tiessen
When I visited a refugee registration centre in Lebanon recently, I heard stories of young children who have been through shocking experiences. Syrian boys and girls have fled conflict, lost their homes and watched friends and family members being killed. And now these children are facing another threat - the often hidden horror of sexual violence.
Rape and sexual abuse are not solely weapons of war. They also threaten children as their traditional safety nets - like extended family and social care - break down in the chaos of conflict.
Many families fled Syria with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now struggling to make ends meet, devastated by the conflict, they sometimes feel they have no choice but to send their children out to work - picking potatoes in fields, or selling roses and tissues in the street.
Sadly these children are in great danger of sexual abuse. I heard stories of children, especially young girls, who have been sexually attacked whilst out at work.
I also heard heartbreaking stories of girls as young as nine being married off to adult men by their families, because they can no longer afford to feed them.
Children caught up in conflict and wars are experiencing the most unthinkable violations, tearing apart their young lives. And sadly most sexual abuse will go unreported because children have no one to confide in or they fear stigma or retribution.
Without the safety nets that would ordinarily protect children, such as schools, social and health services and extended family, the risk of abuse, violence and exploitation is much greater. Syria is a current and very pressing example of where children need urgent protection.
Ahead of International Women's Day I've joined together with leading women across the UK to call for action. In our open letter published in The Times we urge the UK Government to galvanise international commitment to protect children in conflict.
In June, William Hague is holding the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London. We welcome the Government's leadership on this issue. International leaders must seize this opportunity not only to defend women, but also children who are at high risk of rape and sexual abuse in conflict zones.
Unicef works tirelessly to help children affected by sexual violence around the world. Children who have suffered in this way need vital support - from safe spaces to play, to vital schooling and psychological assistance.
It is also crucial to work with communities to stop violence and abuse happening in the first place - including improving children's understanding of how to protect themselves and building child-friendly justice systems.
Unicef's Child Friendly Spaces can help bring normality back to children's lives and help them recover from trauma. In Lebanon the children I met were drawing pictures and playing games with each other - getting the chance to be children again. It was a million miles away from the horrors they have experienced.
In a safe space, children can use art and drama to express themselves and come to terms with their experiences. These children are the next generation of leaders for Syria but all they have known for the last few years is violence.
We need to prevent them from becoming a lost generation and carrying the legacy of conflict with them forever.
In June UK ministers must do everything they can to ensure the Summit prioritises measures to help children report sexual crimes and hold their abusers to account, and also to make sure more funding is available for psychological and long-term support for child survivors.
The upcoming Global Summit is our chance to step up and take important strides to prevent more children from suffering these horrific violations.
Take action at www.unicef.org.uk/endsexualviolence
Review: Orphanage Of The Animals' depiction of trauma off target
by Cameron Woodhead
Karen Corbett's Orphanage of the Animals hinges on abuse, especially child abuse, and the trauma it causes. It's an expressionistic play that attempts, in the playwright's words, to ''ethically represent trauma in ways that subvert voyeurism''.
The play takes place on a set of dilapidated cardboard boxes, where five adult actors - Jasper Bagg, Susan Bracewell, Corbett, Francesca Waters and Russell Walsh - flicker between the child-like personae of trauma survivors and adult abusers. A chorus of bad mothers sing, chide and screech the piece into being.
Five kinds of abuse are depicted - psychological, emotional, sexual, physical and institutional - and although the performers are locked on stage together, they inhabit isolated internal realities.
There are some ambitious monologues. Bracewell transforms from a moody teenager spitting the world out of her mouth into a woman from a developing nation selling children for profit; Corbett shifts from a nicotine-deprived scabber into a bizarre fugue that blends Catholic allegory and mental illness.
Waters is the most stable presence, as a girl who takes refuge from a life of poverty and criminality by compulsively leading the cast into playful games. Bagg and Walsh portray the anger of the trauma survivor, or the way trauma can mutilate one's ability to communicate.
Orphanage isn't easy to watch and very little in the play achieves its aim. If Corbett and co-director Catherine Samsury were trying to achieve the sort of distressing figures arrested by trauma - both adult and child, yet neither - that Peter Greenaway did in the film Drowning by Numbers , they unequivocally fail.
While the writing has a certain demotic vitality, it needs to harness a more poetic sensibility and more shapely structure to really probe and reconstruct the underlying psychological reality of trauma. Perhaps it needs to accept the inevitability of narrative, too. As it stands, Orphanage bites off more than it can chew: its dramaturgy is so opaque and fractured it's sometimes difficult to know what's going on, let alone care.
Trial begins for U.S. Army general accused of sex crimes
by Colleen Jenkins
FORT BRAGG -- An Army general will be accused of forcing a junior officer to perform oral sex, grabbing her genitalia against her will and having intercourse with her in public places when the U.S. government lays out its case against him on Friday.
But Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's lawyers say he is innocent of any sex crimes and is the focus of a rare court-martial against a top officer because military leaders wanted to look serious about cracking down on sexual violence in the service.
The government targeted the married one-star general despite flimsy evidence based on the word of a female captain who revealed their three-year adulterous affair in a fit of desperation and jealousy, Sinclair's defense says.
"They have the testimony of one person who has been utterly discredited at every turn," said Richard Scheff, a civilian lawyer who serves as Sinclair's lead attorney.
Lawyers will set a roadmap for where the trial is headed when they give opening statements on Friday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Their audience will be a panel of five two-star generals chosen to decide Sinclair's fate.
Sinclair, 51, a married father of two, faces up to life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge, forcible sodomy.
On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to lesser offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and possible dismissal from the Army.
Sinclair admitted to having an extramarital affair with the captain 17 years his junior as well as seeking nude photos from other junior female officers and viewing pornography while he was deployed in Afghanistan. He denies sexually assaulting the captain and says the relationship was consensual, although inappropriate by military standards.
The charges saw him stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 and sent home to Fort Bragg, where he remains on active duty.
He was required by the trial judge to provide specifics of his wrongdoing as part of his guilty plea, and more salacious details will likely emerge as the proceedings unfold.
The defense says text messages, some of them sexual in nature, and the captain's journal entries support Sinclair's claim that the relationship was consensual and that the captain pursued him.
Prosecutors, however, say Sinclair used his superior rank to force the woman to stay in the sexual relationship and threatened to harm her if she exposed the affair.
The Satanic Child Sex Abuse Case That May Have Inspired ‘True Detective'
The Hosanna Church was the heart of a child sex abuse scandal shrouded in reports of devil worship and rituals with cat blood and pentagrams. Is this the case behind 'True Detective'?
by Steven Ward
Is there any monster in this world worse than man?
The residents of the small, south Louisiana town of Ponchatoula discovered in 2005 there were monsters committing unspeakable acts to children and animals. The evil was reportedly carried out inside a church.
A splinter cult reportedly formed by leaders and members of the Hosanna Church became the salacious heart of a child sex abuse scandal that rocked and shocked the community following newspaper and broadcast reports of devil worshipping and occult rituals involving animal blood and pentagrams.
Last month, Nic Pizzolatto, the South Louisiana-reared creator of HBO's critically acclaimed pulp-thriller True Detective, told an Entertainment Weekly reporter that viewers of his show can piece together parts of the plot and forthcoming ending by Googling the words “Satanism,” “preschool,” and “Louisiana.” Pizzolatto then said, “You'll be surprised at what you get.”
His hint points to the Hosanna Church scandal from 2005.
A staff writer at The Baton Rouge Advocate, my editors sent me to Ponchatoula to investigate, meet people, and find out whatever I could about the church and what may have happened. The area was unfamiliar to me. I covered other parishes but was sent there because the reporter who usually covered the area was out on vacation. I spent a few days in Ponchatoula, met some locals and wrote three articles for my newspaper that ran in May and June of 2005.
Everyone I met said they couldn't believe what we were all reporting.
I couldn't help but think of the cliché of neighbors telling the media that the guy who turns out to be a serial killer was always so nice, quiet, and normal. But looking back, it's unclear if members of the community I interviewed were more traumatized and disturbed by the accusations of the occult or the actual sex crimes themselves.
Back in May 2005, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards told The Baton Rouge Advocate that members of the Ponchatoula cult accused of sexually abusing children and animals said they carried out the practices for years as part of a devil worshiping ritual involving cat blood.
“This is hard to talk about and harder to believe, but some of the suspects have told us their intention in all of this was devil worshipping,” Edwards told the Baton Rouge newspaper.
Most of the community, with a population of just more than 6,000, were in disbelief when the media reports first surfaced.
Ponchatoula was known then and still today as “America's Antique City” with its concentrated downtown area lined with antique shops. The town is also recognized internationally for its Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
“We are in disbelief about of all of this. Never in a million, million years would we have guessed that Louis was capable of these things. Somewhere along the line, things went wrong for him,” community member Judy Hooter said in the Advocate in 2005.
The Louis she mentioned is Louis David Lamonica.
Lamonica was 45 in 2005 when he walked into a neighboring sheriff's office on May 16 of that year and confessed to detectives that he had sex with children and animals. Lamonica was the pastor of Hosanna Church right before it closed two years before in 2003. He went on trial in August 2008 after he was charged with four counts of aggravated rape of his sons when they were ages 11 or younger.
According to trial testimony reported by The Baton Rouge Advocate, an hour-long confession by Lamonica to detectives was played to jurors where Lamonica talked about the occult activities.
The cult began in 2000, Lamonica told deputies, with the dedication of an infant girl to Satan by placing the child in a pentagram, sacrificing a cat, and sprinkling the girl with its blood. “And then, (we) stopped worshipping God and worshiped Satan," Lamonica told the deputies in the confession.
He went on to tell detectives that Hosanna had two churches—one for God, in the sanctuary, and the other for Satan, in the youth room. Lamonica said his sons were selected for sexual abuse and cult members—including women—all participated.
Both of Lamonica's sons recanted the allegations that they were raped. Lamonica was one of seven people indicted in the case, and was later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison.
All these years later, it's still unclear if the devil worshipping and occult details that were given to detectives ever actually happened. There was no physical evidence, such as the existence of pentagrams on the floor or buried remains of sacrificed animals, presented at Lamonica's trial.
Were stories made up by those accused to hide the truly evil acts alleged in the indictments?
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, who prosecuted Lamonica, told The Baton Rouge Advocate in 2008 that the case was never about satanic cults.
“This case, from our perspective, had nothing to do with a church or a cult or any sort of high pressure situation. This case is about child abuse and molestation,” Perrilloux said.
The people of Ponchatoula were also left wondering if the occult had anything to do with the crimes.
“I honestly don't know if those things happened or not,” said Pat Ory, a member of the community who knew Louis David Lamonica but left Hosanna Church in 1997 when the church was called something else.
“It took a while for us to even go back to a church after all of that,” Ory said recently. Ory recalled the Hosanna Church scandal as “very stressful.”
The defense theory in the Lamonica case was that there was a cult at the church but it had nothing to do with worshiping the devil. Defense attorney Michael Thiel presented testimony at the trial that the cult was Christian but it held the members in such power that Lamonica falsely confessed.
The jury disagreed.
No one knows for sure what kind of impact this story had on Pizzolatto and how it may fit into the True Detective storyline. But the Hosanna Church scandal is a story that proves once again that the monsters we should be scared of most are the ones that live right next door.