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  April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

Now in it's 32nd year, the month of April was originally set aside by proclamation in 1983 during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan as a way of raising awareness for the issues of child abuse in America.

The Blue Ribbon that's associated with child abuse (much as pink ribbons are associated with breast cancer) was first established in 1989, yet few are aware of it even today.

The statistics show our children (America's TRUE treasure) are being sacrificed at an alarming rate.

Official government figures reveal that some 42 million American adults were abused sexually in childhood, and that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys WILL BE sexually assaulted before they are 18.

Yet child abuse also includes physical assault, emotional and mental trauma, and neglect or maltreatment.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates conservatively that close to 50% of our kids will be effected by one of these types of child abuse before they are 18 years old !!

In 2008, the CDC also said the annual cost of dealing with abuse in the U.S. is an astonishing $124 billion! In addition, they calculate the lifetime costs for all the issues surrounding each one year's worth of abused kids at an incredible $585 billion!! And this figure repeats EVERY YEAR !!!

Each day in April, NAASCA will feature another unique offering to the community encouraging those willing to speak out about child abuse. We hope the themes we've selected will get the conversation going!

Bill Murray
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April 17, 2014



Child Advocacy Center — Giving children back their lives

by Jessica Graham

A report of child abuse is made in America every ten seconds, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

The national child abuse statistics show that almost five children die each day as a result of child abuse and 70 percent are under the age of four. And data shows that 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way.

Dan Christophel, director of investigation with the Child Advocacy Center of Ottawa County said CAC is a safe, child-friendly environment that provides a comfortable space for child abuse victims and their loved ones to interact with professionals.

He said child maltreatment includes all types of abuse but the four common types are physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

“Abuse is an epidemic,” he said.

In the 2013 Ottawa County statistics, 86 children were served at the CAC. Of those the center made first contact with 25 children age six and under, 38 were between the ages of seven and 12 and 23 were between ages of 13 and 18.

The statistics also shows that of those 86 alleged cases, 38 were reports of sexual abuse, 24 physical abuse, five neglect, two witnesses of violence and four were drug endangerment. And of those cases, law enforcement filed charges on 13 with only three convictions.

Christophel said he feels comfortable in all the cases he has worked on where someone has been prosecuted and convicted, whether they served jail time or not, were guilty of the crime.

State law requires every person who has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected, or is in danger of being abused or neglected, must report promptly to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

“Everybody is a mandated reporter of child abuse,” he said.

According to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Reporting and Prevention Act, it is a crime for an adult to have knowledge regarding the abuse of a child and fail to report it to the proper authorities.

The common indicators of child abuse include bruises, burns, black eyes or broken bones. Also a child who is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn may have experienced physical or emotional violence.

To make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect call the hotline at 800-522-3511.

Child maltreatment is a serious problem which can have lasting harmful effects on victims Christophel said.

Christophel said CAC is a place where victims can learn to be survivors.

“Here at CAC we give the child back their life,” he said. “The ultimate goal in the beginning is the safety and protection of the child but in the end the goal is for the child to heal.”



‘John' or Child Rapist? On Holding Buyers of Child Sex Accountable

by Yasmin Vafa, Human Rights Project for Girls

There is no doubt that this is an exciting time for the anti-trafficking movement. In 2013, President Obama expressed a commitment to combating human trafficking, declaring it “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” He also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which for the first time since its inception recognized child sex trafficking as a form of sexual violence, and signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act into law.

There has even been more attention paid to the long overlooked issue of child sex trafficking in the United States—that is, the trafficking of U.S. children—with hearings in both the House and Senate emphasizing the link between foster care and a child's increased vulnerability to being exploited and trafficked. Meanwhile, a new report from Georgetown Law maps out this dangerous intersection of foster care involvement, sexual abuse, and American girls' trajectory into a life of exploitation and slavery.

This new momentum on the issue of trafficking reveals a true tipping point in where we are as a movement. But there is one crucial element that is glaringly absent from the discussion. With as much emphasis as there has been on the crisis of human trafficking and its devastating effects on the lives of millions around the world and at home, there is almost complete disregard for the unfettered demand that is fueling this multibillion dollar industry. Yes, we've made significant strides in recasting survivors as victims, and yes, we have succeeded in bringing more and more exploiters and traffickers to justice; however, we are still struggling to combat the demand side of this equation by pursuing and deterring buyers.

The House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing to confront the issue of domestic child sex trafficking. The most powerful segment of the hearing came to light during the testimony of survivor advocate and young woman leader Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew. She courageously detailed the repeated incarceration she suffered—the experience of being locked up for being bought and sold for sex when she was only a child, while the adult men who purchased her for sex were never arrested or prosecuted for their crimes against her. Walker Pettigrew explained:

While in detention, I was so hurt that I was the one who was locked up. It seemed like they always wanted to detain me and my pimp, both people of color, instead of focusing on the buyers who were adults—and primarily white—no one seemed to care about them! It hurt that even when I was released, I knew this cycle would continue because buyers were always going to get what they wanted and get to walk away. Some of them would even pay more knowing I was an adolescent.

Walker Pettigrew's experiences were corroborated when Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) repeatedly asked representatives from the FBI and state police to describe law enforcement's response to buyers of child sex. Both FBI and state police representatives explained that buyers are rarely, if ever, apprehended as a matter of law enforcement policy.

It is important to note here the racial implications of failing to hold buyers of child sex accountable—a point that was reinforced by the state police officer's testimony at the hearing. Traffickers are generally the Black and brown men we already incarcerate. Buyers, on the other hand, tend to be educated, white professionals.

Just as law enforcement must shift its current practices to bring more buyers to justice, so too must the anti-trafficking movement—which takes so much of its language from the anti-slavery abolitionist movement—steer away from perpetrating racial disparities in how we discuss who ought to be criminalized. As a human rights movement, the anti-trafficking community must fight for laws, policies, and practices that hold both the trafficker and the buyer accountable for their crimes.

Much like we do in any other case of child sexual abuse or child rape, those who purchase sex from our children must be brought to justice—and not merely on misdemeanor solicitation charges, but through federal laws that criminalize the purchase of sex with children or state laws criminalizing sex with minors. Because as Walker Pettigrew powerfully makes clear: “This is not prostitution—this is child rape.”


‘People see you doing the impossible and realize it's possible'

Sex abuse survivor passes through LaGrange in world record triathlon attempt

Norma Bastidas is a survivor.

The 47-year-old single mom is a survivor of sexual abuse and violence. When she first spoke out about her abuse, she was ignored, blamed and told to stay quiet, but she continued to speak out.

Now, she has decided to show that persistence and hard work can pay off by seeking to break the Guinness World Record for an ultra-triathlon by completing more than 3,750 miles in 55 to 70 days. Her goal is to bring awareness to the fight against human trafficking in Mexico and the United States, to empower victims and survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking across the world, and to prove that victims can become heroes.

“When I started, people said I was breaking a physical barrier, but if I break this record, then … people see you doing the impossible and realize it's possible,” Bastidas said Tuesday, as she stopped in LaGrange along her trek. “It's a metaphor to let people see that anyone can overcome. I am a survivor, and I can overcome.”

A dual citizen of Mexico and Canada, Bastidas began her quest in Cancun, Mexico, on March 1, swimming 122 miles. Bastidas said she only began swimming about a year ago.

She then biked 2,740 miles into the U.S through Texas, going through San Antonio to Houston, and on to New Orleans, La. When she reached LaGrange, she switched to running and began heading for Washington, DC, a 690-mile trek for which she will attempt to average 30 to 50 miles daily.

Bastidas said she hopes to encourage victims of sexual abuse and violence to speak out and overcome their victimization. She said as long as someone puts their heart into something and works incredibly hard, they can accomplish anything.

Victims of sexual abuse and violence are often targeted at a young age, and it happens in all types of communities, Bastidas said. People can help combat it by speaking out if they see indicators in their community, like substance abuse at home. Factors like that previously have held a stigma of being personal problems, but Bastidas encouraged anyone who sees signs of abuse to report it.

She added that children of single, working parents also tend to be more often targeted. She said community help for those families and can come from support from churches and community organizations.

Bastidas also said that anyone who is a victim should speak up and keep speaking up about their abuse until someone listens. She said when she first spoke out about her abuse, she was ignored and even blamed, but she kept speaking out until she received help.

Bastidas also was almost kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring. She said that the United States is not only a source for sex traffickers, but also a destination.

“This is nobody's choice, if a girl runs away and falls into the lifestyle, she needs a way out,” Bastidas said.

Born in Mazatlan, Mexico, the eldest of six children, Bastidas helped raise her siblings after her father deserted the family while she was still young. She experienced sexual abuse as a child, and sexual violence as an adult. She currently lives in Canada with her two sons, one of whom is losing his sight due to a congenital eye disease.

As a stress release, she began running when she was 38 and in a short span of time decided to become an ultramarathoner to raise money for organizations working to fight blindness.

In 2012, after facing the challenge of speaking about the sexual abuse, rape and near trafficking experience she suffered, she set out alone from Vancouver, B.C., to run to her birthplace in Mexico – a journey she made to empower victims to stand up against the violence they'd undergone and to fight human trafficking. She chronicled her trip in a book titled “Running Home.”

The current ultra-triathlon record listed by Guinness World Records is by David Holleran of Australia, who completed a triathlon of 26-mile swim, 1,242-mile cycle and 310-mile run for a total 1,579 miles in 17 days, 22 hours and 50 minutes in 1998.

A documentary team from iEmpathize, a non-profit organization with the mission to combat modern slavery and child exploitation, is accompanying Bastidas to capture her event on film. The resulting film iEmpathize will release later this year or in early 2015 will be titled “Be Relentless.” It is planned to feature the story of Bastidas and human trafficking victims and their advocates in both the United States and Mexico.

Money raised from the film will benefit prevention projects through development of materials, programs and curriculums for education projects, and empower survivors through scholarship funds.

During her first U.S. marathon, iEmpathize provided Bastidas with support both in Los Angeles and in Tijuana, Mexico. “Be Relentless” is their first joint project.

“We had just wrapped up a project partnering with Mexico's Commission to End Human Trafficking, a national campaign focused in their federal district,” said Brad Riley, iEmpathize founder and president, in a prepared statement. “And we wanted our next project to be something that would engage multiple sectors in multiple countries, spread the message to an expanded audience, cause people to focus on the problem – without polarizing them or causing them to turn away — and then consider what their role could be in ending sexual exploitation. ‘Be Relentless' is that project, and Norma makes it a reality.”

Riley believes cultural perceptions surrounding the current condition of human trafficking in the United States are inaccurate or reflect a gross misunderstanding of the rate at which this is occurring in our backyards. The “Be Relentless” project will work to demystify what a survivor is, how he or she becomes a victim, and then demonstrate that survivors – and virtually everyone everywhere – are capable of doing extraordinary things to make a positive impact in the fight against human trafficking.

“If Norma can more than double the world's record for the longest triathlon, most people should be able to find a way, albeit small, to transform themselves into ‘everyday heroes' and agents for positive change,” Riley said.

Bastidas believes this ultra-triathlon is a metaphor for life – anything is possible if it's broken down into small parts. She proclaims, “These victims are heroes, they are survivors, and hopefully people at the end of the documentary will change their perception of what a strong person, or a strong human being, or a strong woman is.”

To track Bastidas' progress, check out , and for more information check out and


United Kingdom

UN Calls For Actions To Fight Violence Against Women

Press Release: UN Human Rights Council

LONDON / GENEVA (16 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, today urged the Government of the United Kingdom to consider the best interests of all women and girls in addressing the specific needs of survivors of violence.

“The UK Government has declared violence against women a priority, and in 2010 developed a strategy and other measures to address the problem,” Ms. Manjoo noted, “but a more comprehensive and targeted response to address acts of violence against women and girls is needed.”

“Despite many positive developments, violence against women remains a pervasive challenge throughout the United Kingdom,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

In the course of last year, she recalled, “7% of women in England and Wales reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse. This is the equivalent to 1.2 million female victims. It is also estimated that 2.5% of women reported having experienced any type of sexual assaults. This is the equivalent to an estimated 400,000 female victims.”

“Other manifestations of violence which were reported throughout my visit,” Ms. Manjoo said, “included sexual harassment, gender-based bullying, forced and/or early marriages, female genital mutilation, gang-related violence, so called honour- related violence, and trafficking.”

Women's organizations in the UK informed the Special Rapporteur that black and minority ethnic and migrant women experience a disproportionate rate of domestic homicide, and that women of Asian origin are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than other women as a result of violence.

“A very clear concern was articulated about the shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality in the Government's responses to violence against women,” she warned. “The shift to a formal understanding of equality is working to privilege neutral approaches, to the detriment of gender specific initiatives and programmes.”

The Special Rapporteur also pointed out that the current austerity measures are having a disproportionate impact, not only in the specific provision of violence against women services, but more generally, on other cross-cutting areas affecting women, such as poverty and unemployment, which are contributory factors to violence against women and girls.

“It is important to recognize that the reduction in the number and quality of specialized services for women does impact health and safety needs of women and children, and further restricts them when considering leaving an abusive home, thus putting them at a heightened risk of re-victimization,” the human rights expert stressed.

Ms. Manjoo welcomed the implementation of the 2010 strategy to fight violence against women in the UK, which is accompanied by annual Action Plans developed in consultation with all relevant parties, and monitored across government departments.

She noted that, in order to address shortcomings in responses, the British authorities have piloted and completed the evaluation of a series of initiatives, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, which enable the police and magistrates to exclude a perpetrator from the home for up to 28 days.

The rights expert further noted that, since March 2013, the non-statutory definition of domestic abuse in the UK, previously restricted to “adults”, includes victims aged 16 and 17, as well as the concepts of controlling and coercive behaviour.

During her 16-day mission to the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur visited London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cookstown, Cardiff and Bristol.

The Special Rapporteur's comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2015.


When You're Afraid to Go to Sleep

by Jim LaPierre

It used to surprise me how many of the trauma survivors I serve enjoy horror movies. It took me a long time to get it. Unlike the imagery in your head, you can make the movie stop anytime you want.

She talks about Nightmare On Elm Street and tells me she's like the girl who has already been up for days and eating ground coffee because she's afraid to fall asleep and see Freddie. In her case, “Freddie” is her past abusers. “I watch the same movies every night in my sleep. If I don't stay super busy during the day, I see them playing sometimes when I'm awake.”

She shakes her head vigorously, trying to dislodge the memories that just surfaced. We talk about forgetting and why it doesn't work. Acceptance is slow when the truth hurts this much.

When the thoughts and memories are triggered, she has no sense of being an adult. She is a little girl who is exposed, defenseless, and terrified. She sees that child clearly, sees what she was forced to do, and hates herself anew. Grooming ingrains lies upon the soul of a child.

I hasten to remind her, “You're an adult today. You don't need to run or hide.”

She sees herself as crazy and repeatedly says, “I don't know what's wrong with me!” She's been diagnosed with everything from Bi Polar disorder to Borderline Personality disorder. She's none of these things. She's a survivor.

She's both relieved and angry when we talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Understanding flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and night terrors help her to feel less “crazy” but she's understandably outraged to look back on decades of misdiagnosis and countless medications. “Why didn't anyone ever ask me about what happened?”

“Because you're a recovering addict and too many doctors and clinicians understand very little about addiction and the symptoms people present both when active and when in Recovery.”

(People who don't understand ask why we don't volunteer this information in therapy. It's simple – we were taught not to tell and were generally not believed when we did).

The percentages of people – both in active addiction and in recovery who have survived childhood abuse and trauma are very high. Our stories too often remain unspoken. Opportunities to work through past trauma are conspicuously absent from most professional efforts and are outside the scope of AA & NA to address.

Too many of us suffer silently and alone, all the while unaware that many of our peers, friends, and family are struggling in very similar ways. This needs to change.

My favorite question in therapy is, “How do I…?” It's good to talk about feelings, experiences, and ideas. It's important to get down to concrete steps and strategies that promote change. I talk to survivors every day who pay a very high price for being chronically sleep deprived. I explain the impact that this has on emotion and memory.

The questions remain:“How do I slow down my brain so that I can sleep?”

A lot of us depend on mindless activities like television or Facebook to wear us out. I urge folks to journal. Take all the things that are on the hamster wheel of your brain and write them down. This works in two ways: Write out everything you're concerned with/afraid you'll forget/anticipating. This will relieve stress and promote a healthy perspective if we are willing to separate what we can do something about from what we cannot. The former we plan for and for latter I recommend the Serenity Prayer.

The second form of journaling is to write down what you're trying not to think about. (Counterintuitive)

We push away thoughts and memories because we find them intolerable. They act as boomerangs and return, only to be pushed away again and again. This is a constant battle with self. It doesn't require conscious thought but it's very draining, promotes anxiety, and undermines any sense of safety we might have.

We don't need to write out the whole story – rather we can simply acknowledge what the thought is. We make conscious decisions regarding what we will do with this (ideally work through it in therapy or in other safe places with folks who understand).

The point is to make conscious choices because what we do automatically too often is unhealthy.

No matter what else we achieve in life, the basics remain vital to our health and happiness: nutrition, exercise, sleep, self care. If you have questions about these ASK! If you don't have folks to ask, email me

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.


New York

Man made up dozens of fake child abuse cases

by Conor Mooney and Perry Russom

Kirkwood, NY State Police arrested a Whitney Point man they said reported 48 instances of child abuse, none of which were actually true.

Troopers said from Sept. 27, 2013 to Feb. 17, 2014, Harry Clauson, 43, called a child abuse hot line dozens of times, reporting instances of children being abused, or living in an abusive environment.

"When Child Protective Services calls my department, New York State Police, and says we have a report on the hotline of a child abuse, that jumps right to the top of the list," said Fred Goodall, senior investigator for the New York State Police.

Clauson allegedly made most of the reports anonymously during odd hours of the day, but for some, used the names of other people without their knowing.

"It's very frustrating because it is a total misalignment of our resources," said Julia Hepworth, director of Child Protective Services.

For every report of child abuse, law enforcement must respond to the residence in question, and expose children to sensitive interviews.

"When you have this number of false reports, it's really hard to go in and say 'What if this is true?' If you don't you could be making a fatal mistake," said Hepworth.

There were more false reports made from the same location as Clauson's 48 claims making the total number of false reports 83. Goodall said the suspect in the other 35 false claims has not been charged.

Officials arraigned Clauson in the Town of Chenango Town Court and took him to the Broome County jail on of $1000 cash bail and/or $2000 property bond.

He is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and 48 separate counts of making false child abuse reports to the New York State Child Abuse Hot line.



Elected officials, experts to meet in Lake Oswego to discuss child abuse

by Special to The Oregonian

A roundtable panel discussion including elected officials and experts in the field of child abuse will be held on Tuesday, April 22, at Lake Oswego City Hall.

The meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Room 3 at 380 A Ave.

The panel will include: United States Senator Ron Wyden, United States Representative Kurt Schrader, state representatives Brent Barton and Julie Parrish, State Senator Chuck Thomsen, Clackamas County Commissioners Jim Bernard and Martha Schrader, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, Oregon City Superintendent Larry Didway, Children's Center Medical Director Dr. Sue Skinner, and FamilyCare Health Plans Medical Director Resa Bradeen. KATU Channel 2 News Anchor Anna Canzano will moderate.

The discussion will begin with an introduction to the Adverse Childhood Experiences research. The study shows that the cost of failing to intervene in child abuse comes in the form of chronic, life-shortening physical and mental health conditions and challenges. The panel will proceed to have a conversation about policy issues and solutions that mitigate the damage of child abuse and support intervention efforts. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Children's Center worked with Representative Kurt Schrader to arrange this panel discussion as part of the local effort to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

“Our hope is that the citizens of our community will attend and help us address this public health epidemic head-on,” said Children's Center Executive Director Barbara Peschiera. “We're thankful that so many of our leaders are coming to the table on behalf of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”

As Clackamas County's sole agency providing medical evaluations, forensic interviews and family support services to children who are suspected victims of child abuse and neglect, Children's Center plays a vital role in ending the trauma of abuse for local children.

Children of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds are referred to Children's Center for suspicion of abuse.

Learn more at



Session aims to reduce child abuse


Close your eyes and remember the most humiliating event of your life. Kristel DiGravio–Ferguson gives that instruction when she trains fellow law enforcement officers on handling child-abuse victims.

Then, she asks them to imagine that they are 7 years old and have just lived through that experience—and have to share every excruciating detail with a group of strangers.

DiGravio–Ferguson, an investigator with the Caroline County Sheriff's Office, spoke at a child-abuse prevention event in Spotsylvania County earlier this week.

She told the crowd that she and another investigator have a saying when they arrest a sexual predator, “One down, a million more to go.”

Dealing with child abuse—physical, emotional or sexual—is tough for law enforcement officers, who often have to take on roles as social worker and psychologist, DiGravio–Ferguson said.

The victims typically are traumatized by the abuse.

“Most of these perpetrators are not people these children don't know,” she said. “These are people who are supposed to love and support them, whether it's financially, emotionally or spiritually.”

And that increases the feelings of shame and guilt that victims feel, DiGravio–Ferguson said.

Those feelings make it hard for victims to talk about the crime, said Melanie Gardner, an art therapist with Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault.

Gardner talked about the toll sexual abuse takes on young victims, who often act out because they can't deal with the emotions that result from the abuse.

Some can't talk about the trauma, because they've been told not to talk about sex. Others don't even have the right vocabulary. A 5-year-old, for example, doesn't know the words to describe being raped.

Instead, young victims often exhibit new behaviors: bed-wetting, nightmares, aggression, promiscuity or cutting, Gardner said.

“These children are trying to say something,” she said. “It's just not always verbally. They're doing the best they can with what they have.”

Gardner and another speaker—Dianne Bachman, a licensed clinical social worker—emphasized the need to seek help for any child if there are signs of abuse.

The Virginia child-abuse prevention hotline is 800/552-7096.



Crisis Nursery Helps Victims Of Child Abuse

by Edward Moody

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Child abuse continues to be a major problem in the Twin Cities metro, leaving many children without a safe place to stay.

A local organization is doing its part to provide shelter for these kids, and you can help. The Crisis Nursery in Minneapolis is a spot where children come from tough family situations, and there are a few ways people can come in and volunteer their time for kids who need it.

Children who are victims of abuse stay at the Crisis Nursery, whose mission is to end child abuse and neglect and to create strong, healthy families. Joel Bergstrom with the Crisis Nursery said they do that through several programs, starting with their shelter.

The Crisis Nursery has a crisis help line where parents can call and talk with somebody about a family situation. They also offer a parent education class and home visits for some families.

Bergstrom said the facility offers a number of volunteering opportunities. Those range from child care providers, which is a six-month commitment, volunteering at least every other week for a three or four-hour time frame.

There's also several short-term volunteering opportunities, which including cooking meals for the kids.

Bergstrom said the kids at the Crisis Nursery range from newborns to age 6.


South Carolina


Don't ignore the signs of child abuse

Child abuse is so abhorrent, so ghastly that some people will believe a lie rather than accept that someone could be that cruel.

They'll accept the tales of a child taking multiple tumbles that explain away bruises and sores. They'll accept images of a child being slight when they are actually malnourished. If it means they don't have to recognize child abuse, some people will agree to just about anything.

But as a society, we can't do that. We can't sit by and disregard what our gut is telling us is wrong. Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and, sadly, far too often they find themselves at their most helpless in their own homes when under the care of tormented family members or friends.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. In South Carolina, there were 11,439 confirmed cases of abused or neglected children in 2012, and more than 12 percent of those involved children less than a year old. Children aged 3 and younger comprised 34 percent of the confirmed cases.

The Department of Social Services handles this colossal workload. The life of a DSS case worker is filled with filtering tragic circumstances. Day in, day out, DSS sees the ugly belly of society, the one most would like to pretend does not exist.

The quality of the job it is doing, though, has come under fire recently. A Senate panel is investigating the state agency, and S.C. DSS Director Lillian Koller spoke before the panel Wednesday, asking for more time and more money (DSS has roughly 1,000 front-line social workers, up from around 850 last summer). The agency is being questioned following complaints of ignored cases of abuse that have, in some cases, led to children's death.

Critics, particularly coroners, have said their efforts to investigate children's deaths have been hampered by the slog of the agency's bureaucratic shuffle. Lawmakers are awaiting results from an audit review of DSS before moving forward. The children of the state need a resourced, qualified and competent agency protecting them.

The Pee Dee has seen horrific instances in recent years of unhinged abuse. The tragedies of little girls like Bennettsville's Edna Hunt and Florence's Ty'Lashia Grant indicate failure on a broad level where a system of checks and balances fell short. That system starts with government agencies such as DSS but extends to neighbors and friends.

South Carolina requires certain authority figures — physicians, emergency personnel, mental health professionals and teachers — to report child abuse to the appropriate authorities. It can be done anonymously. Potential warning signs include repeated bruising, social awkwardness and malnourishment. In parents and caregivers, warning signs include drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, young mothers, the presence of a paramour or multiple children in the household.

When the signs of abuse are present, suspicions should be reported. But these signs aren't always visible to everyone in every situation. Children project in different ways. Even toddlers can be adaptive to a certain degree.

No one can always know what's going on behind closed doors, but people have to heighten their awareness of their surroundings and not be willing to accept a story that does not add up. Someone who notices a small sign of abuse might be the only lifeline a child has to escape a brutal situation.

Report it. And then report it again. Heed the warning signs. Bring in other sets of eyes. If a family has isolated itself, even an effective state agency will have difficulties investigating it. Don't stop until the story is that the child is now safe.

Not all signs of abuse will pan out. That's OK. Our children are worth the trouble of a failed query.


North Carolina

Groups aim to combat child abuse

by Josh Birch

Child abuse affects hundreds of children in Eastern Carolina every year.

Tedi Bear is an East Carolina University program devoted to helping children who have been sexually and physically abused.

Tedi Bear also tries to educate the public about child abuse through classes like Stewards of Children, a free class that any adult can take.

"We target child care providers, schools, churches, places that work with children in particular to get this message out there," said Kelly Baxter, the Community Educator for Tedi Bear.

Pitt County is one of the eastern counties to utilize social workers in the schools. Cassandra Campbell is one of the social workers who trains school employees to look out for signs of abuse, like changed behavior and physical bruises and cuts.

"I have found over the 20 some years that I've been doing this that children will tell," Campbell said. "But they just need to feel safe and secure when giving information."

Tedi Bear helps between 600 and 800 children every year across the east.

Julie Gill is the director of the group and says advocacy centers are essential.

"Prior to advocacy centers, children were basically re-interviewed and re-examined and taken from place to place, and that itself became abusive," said Gill.

North Carolina requires anyone over the age of 18 to report any suspected cases of child abuse to the police.

Campbell wants to ensure everyone knows that abuse can strike any child.

"It doesn't matter what the profession is. It doesn't matter how much money you make," Campbell said. "It crosses the board. It's a human issue."

Fore more information about Tedi Bear and the classes they offer, visit their website.



Good Samaritan allegedly stops alleged child abuse

TULSA, Okla. – A case of alleged child abuse at an east Tulsa hotel on Tuesday night led to two babies being taken from their parents.

It happened at a hotel near 41st and Highway 169, police say a woman walking by stopped a mother from allegedly suffocating her baby.

“Someone walked in and saw the mother holding a pillow over the older child's face and telling him to be quiet,” said Cpl. Greg Smith with the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa police said Stormy Jones and Brendan Dixon allegedly became drunk and fought violently in front of their 22-month and 3-month old babies.

Police said the parents and their babies just moved to Tulsa from Pennsylvania and were living out of the hotel room. The father is accused of also breaking out a hotel window.

Police say Jones was allegedly upset with her child making noise during the dispute and began to smother one of her babies with a pillow. A good Samaritan pleaded for Jones to stop putting the pillow over her baby, and police said it probably saved the baby's life.

FOX23 talked to that Samaritan, but she did not want to go on camera.

“She saw what she thought was inappropriate behavior with the child with the pillow, and she yelled stop. And fortunately she did comply with that,” said Smith.

Dixon is charged with public intoxication, but police said more charges of criminal mischief could be filed for alleged damage to the building he created during the dispute.

The children are in the custody of the Department of Human Services.



Delaware renews effort to combat child abuse

by Mark Eichmann

With the hope of reducing the number of incidents in the First State, this year's Blue Bow campaign seeks to train more than 35,000 Delawareans to recognize the signs of child abuse,

Nationally, about one out of every ten children will experience abuse. In nine out of ten of those abuse cases, the perpetrator will be someone who is close to the victim.

In Delaware, the child abuse rate has decreased. Roughly 1,500 substantiated cases of child abuse were reported in Delaware in 2013, compared to 1,700 cases in 2012. While the decreases are encouraging, and reflective of a similar national trend, child protection advocates say that there are still too many children suffering.

"When a child is abused, life changes," said Leslie Newman, CEO of Children and Families First. "It's everyone's responsibility to assure that all of Delaware's children have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment."

On Wednesday afternoon, Newman was joined by other child advocate groups at the Blue Bow campaign launch event in Wilmington. The blue bow, a symbol used to represent child-abuse prevention efforts, honors a Virginia grandmother who tied a blue bow on her car antenna after her grandson was killed as a result of child abuse.

Community impact

While the state has a mandate to continue efforts that protect children from abuse, these efforts are said to have an impact on the community at large. It's something Patricia Dailey Lewis has witnessed first-hand as the director of the family division in Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's office.

"Take a walk around any of our facilities where we house perpetrators of violence on our communities and find out how many of those people were abused as children," Lewis said. "Where does this violence begin? It begins with child abuse and domestic violence. It begins in the home. It begins when people are victimized by the only people they trust."

While some people may have suffered abuse without any long-term effects, that is not the case for everyone. She said five of her brothers were hit with a belt while growing up: four of them were fine, but one died at the age of 42 after years of alcohol and drug abuse

"Abuse and violence begins in our home and it destroys our neighborhoods," Lewis said.

Seeing the signs

This year, the Blue Bow campaign is focused on training 35,000 Delawareans to identify the signs of child abuse. That training will utilize the Stewards of Children program, which includes a five step guide to prevent and identify possible abuse.

On the prevention side, the guide suggests eliminating isolated or one-on-one situations between children and adults. The program also encourages ongoing dialogue with children about their bodies and the appropriate boundaries.

To identify signs of abuse, the training material encourages adults to watch for signs of withdrawal, anger or fear of people or situations. A suspicion of abuse should be investigated.

"People who offend are rarely seen in the act of sexually abusing a child, but they are often seen breaking rules and pressing boundaries," the guide states.

The training program has already been implemented at the YMCA of Delaware with positive results, according to YMCA CEO Deborah Begatta-Bowles.

'Guaranteed to reduce abuse'

In addition to the training program, the state is also touting a program, proved over decades, to reduce incidents of abuse. Gov. Jack Markell called for an expansion of the Nurse Family Partnership program during his State of the State Address in January.

Through the NFP program, nurses make home visits to teach first-time, low-income mothers how to care for their babies.

"These visits are guaranteed to reduce the number of incidents of child abuse," said Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, a longtime advocate for children's issues. Markell's proposal would expand the number of mothers served in the program from 200 to 500 at a cost of about $1.3 million.

Denn encouraged those at the Blue Bow campaign launch to call their lawmakers, and urge them to support funding for an expansion of the NFP program. despite the difficult budget year that legislators face

"I'm very hopeful and very determined that this particular item stay in the budget because there are actual, real live kids who are being born in the next calendar year who will not be abused as a result of this happening," Denn said.



Tri-County CASA seeks additional volunteers as child abuse cases increase

by Mark Friedel

CLAREMORE — From 2010-2013, Oklahoma has seen an increase in children entering foster care. According to Oklahoma Department of Human Services reports, approximately 11,000 children are in state's custody because of child abuse or neglect — 4,000 in the Tulsa area alone and more than 100 in Rogers County.

Judge Dynda Post, who serves Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties in the state's 12th Judicial District, said with the growing numbers statewide, there is a need for more court appointed special advocates (CASAs), as well as foster families.

The local court appointed special advocate program, Tri-County CASA, serves Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties. Headquartered in Claremore, Tri-County CASA's mission is to help find a safe, permanent, nurturing home for children as quickly as possible.

“CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court,” said Post. “Each volunteer has a case, and they focus on those children's needs and write a report. Whether it's that the child needs glasses, or that they enjoy a particular hobby or sport — it's the little things that count, and sometimes their needs get lost throughout the court process.”

Post said there have been circumstances when CASA members have found distant family members who were interested in adopting the child, resulting in a permanent safe and healthy home placement

The Tri-County CASA program includes a total of 40 members, with nine members currently in training.

Angela Henderson, Tri-County CASA program director, said volunteers are information gatherers that meet the families, interview the children and provide their reports to the court.

“We deal with physical, sexual abuse and charges against the parents; but most of the time, there are no charges involved,” said Post. “Overriding reasons for the relocation of a child include drug usage and domestic violence. Those are hard problems to fix because a lot of times it's generational.”

She said there are second, third generational families where violence coexists quite often, and it is a combination of parents being unable and unwilling to correct the problem.

“The number one problem is selfishness. These parents keep having babies and they're not able to take care of the ones they have, and we wonder why the numbers are growing,” said Post. “When a child comes into custody, the goal is reunification or we look for other permanency. Half of the cases, children are in traditional foster homes, and the others are in relative foster homes — grandma and grandpa or aunt and uncles, etc.”

Other permanent placements involve non-relative kinship, such as teachers.

Post said another reason for the increase in the amount of children in state custody, has to do with the time it takes for jury trials to be settled.

When parents are determined to be unfit to raise their children and a motion to terminate permanent rights is ordered, parents have the right to a jury trial. They almost always exercise that right, said Post.

“Jury terms begin April 21, and that's a two-week term. We don't have another jury trial until September,” she said. “We try not to carry over to the next term because we don't want to leave anybody hanging in legal limbo. These children cannot have permanency plans until the trials are complete, and some of these children have been in custody 15 and 16 months already.”

She said this does not include the appeal process that parents have the right to exercise. The time for appeal averages 18 months.

“We've had children waiting for a permanent home for easily three to four months.”

In Oklahoma, jury trial terms are held during January-February, April, September and October.

Post said the jury trial aspect can change.

“Our CASA would like to see some legislative changes. The law says a judge only has to interview a family who's child has been placed into state custody, every six months,” Post said. “The law should be every three months because if we interview the child's parents and they have made tremendous progress, we can begin to start the reunification process faster. All good reasons to have the hearing more frequently.”

So far this year, Rogers County has filed 13 new child abuse or neglect cases — each with multiple children involved. Post said the district has taken six Rogers County children into custody since Monday.

“More funds need to be allocated for prevention services at the federal and state levels. We have to start upstream, because that's where the pollution is,” said Post. “If we can reduce the amount of children in custody by 15 percent, then we've made a major accomplishment.”

There is a tremendous need for foster families in Rogers County, she said.

In an arrangement with OKDHS, TFI Family Connections has been working to recruit and retain foster families. TFI will help support families as they interact with OKDHS throughout the foster care approval process, during placement and care of children in their homes and help provide an understanding of the child welfare system.

TFI is also a Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) provider. TFC is residential behavioral management service provided in foster home setting, serving children ages three to 18 with special psychological, social, behaviorl and emotional needs.

For more information on foster parenting, call Jason Cecil of TFI Family Services at (620) 231-1069 or (800) 279-9914.

For more information or to volunteer for the Tri-County CASA program, call (918) 343-1515 or visit

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