| Today's NAASCA news:
December 18, 2014
Study: At least 786 child abuse victims died despite being on protective services' radar
by The Associated Press
At least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the United States in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities — many of them beaten, starved or left alone to drown while agencies had good reason to know they were in danger, The Associated Press has found.
To determine that number, the AP canvassed the 50 states, the District of Columbia and branches of the military — circumventing a system that does a terrible job of accounting for child deaths. Many states struggled to provide numbers. Secrecy often prevailed.
Most of the 786 children whose cases were compiled by the AP were younger than 4. They lost their lives even as authorities were investigating their families or providing some form of protective services because of previous instances of neglect or violence or other troubles in the home.
Take Mattisyn Blaz, a 2-month-old Montana girl who died when her father spiked her “like a football,” in the words of a prosecutor.
Matthew Blaz was well-known to child services personnel and police. Just two weeks after Mattisyn was born on June 25, 2013, he got home drunk, grabbed his wife by her hair and threw her to the kitchen floor while she clung to the newborn.
Jennifer Blaz said a child protective services worker visited the next day, spoke with her briefly and left. Her husband pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered by a judge to take anger management classes and stay away from his wife. Convinced he had changed, his wife allowed him to return to the home.
She said the next official contact between the family and Montana child services was more than six weeks later — the day of Mattisyn's funeral.
The system failed Ethan Henderson, who was only 10 weeks old but had been treated for a broken arm when his father hurled him into a recliner so hard that it caused a fatal brain injury.
Maine hotline workers had received at least 13 calls warning that Ethan or his siblings were suffering abuse. The caseworker who inspected the family's cramped trailer six days before Ethan died on May 8, 2012, wrote that the baby appeared “well cared for and safe in the care of his parents.”
Many factors can contribute to the abuse dilemma nationwide: The child protective services system is plagued with worker shortages and a serious overload of cases. Budgets are tight, and nearly 40 percent of the 3 million child abuse and neglect complaints made annually to child protective services hotlines are “screened out” and never investigated.
Insufficient training for those who answer child abuse hotlines leads to reports being misclassified, sometimes with deadly consequences; a lack of a comprehensive national child welfare database allows some abusers to avoid detection by moving to different states; and a policy that promotes keeping families intact can play a major role in the number of deaths.
Because no single, complete set of data exists for the deaths of children who were being overseen by child welfare caseworkers, the information compiled during the course of AP's eight-month investigation represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available.
But the number of abuse and neglect fatalities where a prior open case existed at the time of death is expected to be much higher than the tally of 760.
State-by-state breakdown of child abuse deaths
by HOLBROOK MOHR and GARANCE BURKE
The Associated Press asked all 50 states, the District of Columbia and military services to provide information on children who died of abuse or neglect over a six-year span, even as authorities were investigating them or their families or providing some form of protective services.
The overall tally for children who died under such circumstances was 786.
Here is a list:
Alabama: 10 deaths, from fiscal year 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)
Alaska: 4, from 2008 through 2013
Arkansas: 18, from 2008 through 2013 (missing 2009)
Colorado: 18, from 2008 through 2013
Connecticut: 13, from 2008 through 2013
District of Columbia: 4, from 2008 through 2013
Florida: 117, from 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)
Hawaii: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Idaho: 0, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Illinois: 33, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Indiana: 7, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Iowa: 2, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Kansas: 10, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Kentucky: 7, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Louisiana: 30, from 2008 through 2013
Maine: 1, from 2008 through 2013
Maryland: 26, from 2008 through 2013
Massachusetts: 21, from 2008 through 2010 (missing 2011-2013)
Michigan: 22, from fiscal year 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)
Minnesota: 6, from 2008 through 2013
Mississippi: 13, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Missouri: 25, from 2008 through 2013
Montana: Did not provide data. AP learned of one case from a public criminal court file.
Nebraska: 2, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)
New Hampshire: 1, from 2008 through 2013
New Jersey: 24, from 2008 through 2013
New Mexico: 0, from 2008 through 2013
New York state: Did not provide data.
New York City (five counties): 49, from 2008 through 2013
New York (Erie County): 16, from 2008 through 2013
New York (Monroe County): 2, from 2008 through 2013
New York (Nassau County): Did not provide data.
New York (Suffolk County): Did not provide data.
New York (Westchester County): 11, from 2008 through 2013
North Carolina: 12, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)
North Dakota: 0, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Ohio: 37, from 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)
Oklahoma: 25, from fiscal year 2008 through 2011 (missing 2012-2013)
Oregon: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Pennsylvania: 26, from 2008 through 2013
Rhode Island: 0, from 2008 through 2013
South Carolina: 12, from 2008 through 2013
South Dakota: 0, from 2008 through 2013
Texas: 76, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Utah: 6, from 2008 through 2013
Vermont: 1, from 2008 through 2013
Virginia: 15, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Washington: 36, from 2008 through 2013
Wisconsin: 20, from 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)
Wyoming: 0, from 2008 through 2013
U.S. Army: 25, from fiscal year 2008 through 2011, missing 2012-2013
U.S. Navy: 1, in fiscal year 2013, missing 2008-2012
U.S. Marine Corps: Did not provide data.
U.S. Air Force: Did not provide data.
Seven states reported a total of 230 open-case child deaths over the six-year period, but those were not included in the AP count because the states could not make a distinction between investigations started due to the incident that ultimately led to a child's death and case files that already were open from incident(s) prior to when the child received the fatal injury. This is a breakdown of those cases by state:
Arizona: 51, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
California: 38, from 2008 through 2011, missing 2012-2013
Delaware: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Georgia: 83, from 2010 through 2013, missing 2008-2009
Nevada: 18, from 2008 through 2013
Tennessee: 31, from 2008 through 2012, missing 2013
West Virginia: 8, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013
Words weild a lot of power
by Nicole Schiener
CAMBRIDGE - Many of us may not have considered our childhood or relationships to be abusive, but we can still recall with clarity and pain the hurtful words of a parent, teacher, partner or friend.
Verbal statements have the power to influence how we feel about ourselves; to limit the choices we make in life; and to even contribute to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
So you can only imagine how devastating enduring bullying, domestic violence or sexual assault can be. Long after physical wounds have healed, many survivors of bullying and abuse continue to be plagued by the damage of another's cruel words.
But it is not just the perpetrator's words that haunt and do damage. It is what is said and not said by those around a survivor.
When a society turns a blind eye to abuse, we send a message to survivors that you are alone and your needs don't matter. Is that really what we want these innocent and courageous people to hear?
In addition, out of ignorance and perhaps to reduce one's own sense of vulnerability, the abuse experiences of children and adults are often minimized and they are blamed for daring to speak up.
With recent high-profile allegations against Ray Rice, Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, as well as countless examples of bullying filling news headlines, I am amazed and saddened by how quickly so many people are to speak up in judgment against the victims.
What many might not realize is that our friends and followers are internalizing this judgement, as they too have been victimized and, like the majority of survivors, did not feel supported or safe enough to come forward and press charges or seek help. And we wonder why so many people suffer in silence.
I feel compelled, as someone working with survivors, to provide some education.
Abuse can happen to anyone and is in no way a reflection of a person's value or worth. No one asks to be violated or hurt in any way. Furthermore, when you learn about the neurobiology of trauma, you will come to understand that many of the contradictory or confusing behaviours that make people question the validity of a survivor's story such as going back to an abuser or not remembering all the details of the event are actually a result of the impact of trauma on the brain.
We are grateful to our local Sexual Assault Support Centre and Dr. Rebecca Campbell for sharing her expertise on this subject recently.
Healing can only happen in a context of safety and compassion. Be a part of the solution by never condoning abuse and bullying and thinking about the impact of your words before you speak. If you are a survivor, please know you are never to blame and you are not alone.
Family Counselling Centre offers a weekly walk-in counselling clinic.
Nicole Schiener is a therapist at the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries.
No means no, it happened should mean it happened
by Kate Taylor
It is a year this week since I was sexually assaulted at a Christmas party. I re-read the blog I wrote at the time, it went like this:
One evening I endured a demeaning three hours of sexual innuendos, harassment and I fear if I hadn't left, assault. (Though I think pretending to air kiss my cheek then pushing my head down to imitate oral sex perhaps counts towards the latter).
With comments made with a hungry glint in their eye, I take a guess they thought of it as a great sport, knowing in any other circumstance their behaviour would not only not be tolerated, it would've probably earned them a slap if not a police call.
They knew I was in a position whereby it would cause massive upset to both hosts and guests if anything were said, and enjoyed this to their advantage.
I came home so outraged and disgusted, somehow I felt like it was my fault, like I could've warded them off better. The plain black shift dress, thick black tights and cardigan – with only forearms and head hinting my pale skin that should have been further covered up… I felt sullied.
A long, hot shower that burned as it poured over my skin, the scrubbing with a sponge that left my body even more hurt than I was, and the tears that stung my eyes and caught in my throat as I tried to catch for air, it left me no cleaner than when I stepped in the cubicle.
As it happens I was assaulted that evening, but even on a little read blog, I couldn't manage to say it aloud. Over the past few days I have thought long and hard about what, as a survivor, I have felt over the past 12 months. Consciously, not that much. But when I choose what to wear on an evening out, the first night I kissed my partner, it was there. What if it happens again? And it had. I have suffered three accounts already in my lifetime, and a barrage of sexual harassment from adolescence onwards.
This week I have spoken to several people about their stories. One incredible woman, whom I happen to adore, was raped and sexually abused as a young adult by a much older man she called her boyfriend. She didn't say no again, what would be the point? A year later, on holiday with friends, a fellow camper she quite liked crawled into her sleeping bag. She protested, vehemently, did she shout and kick? No, for fear of disturbing others and making a scene. Does that mean there was consent, because a terrified woman didn't shout out her unwillingness from the roof tops? No, it doesn't.
Another friend of mine was assaulted by a stranger at a party, whilst also being in an abusive relationship. On that occasion she did call the police, after taking evidence, they got back to her a month later, there was no trace of him. Her girlfriend at the time paid no sympathy, and became increasingly verbally abusive. This lead to a second abusive relationship that finished some months ago, after it turned into physical abuse and an affair with a married man.
In all instances, these women are left wondering, “why me”? “What do I do, what have I done that promotes behaviour?” Because in our society, it is far too easy for a victim to feel like it was somehow their fault. It was their stupidity. Why did it happen again, why go back, why not shout out?
The past few weeks have seen dozens of opinion pieces on the subject of Shia LaBeouf, who was raped during his recent performance art exhibition #IAMSORRY. The crux of the incident is that Shia would sit in an empty room whilst one of his co-artists would stand outside and offer a ‘prop' relating to the actor for people to take inside. This included a bottle of Jack Daniels, a Transformers toy and indeed, a whip. The perpetrator took in the prop and proceeded to whip him for ten minutes then rape him. Upon realising something was wrong several people entered the room and pulled the woman off, leaving a victim. Many people, including Piers Morgan, have accused LaBeouf of detracting attention from ‘real victims'. Why didn't he push her off? Why didn't they cry out?
Rape, sexual abuse, assault and harassment are rarely clear cut. They are a violation of the physical self, but the internal scars last a life time. Men CAN be victims as much as women. They are ALL survivors. Various agencies have advocated anti-rape campaigns, but most of these are centred around women.
Not only in terms of being the victim, along with directing advice on how said women can protect themselves (try an internet search for ‘ways to discourage rapists'). For support after a crime, methods for recovery rarely feature re-introducing others of the same gender of the perpetrator in a safe environment, thus helping to re-build trust for future relationships of any kind.
One that has bucked the trend, and should be greatly appreciated, is Greater Manchester Police. Their recent campaign has the tag line of ‘Drinking is not a crime, rape is.' along with what has become a popular Twitter trend #noconsentmeansnosex. Our society desperately needs to wake up to this line of thinking, and develop it further across sub-cultures everywhere.
We need to be teaching not only our children, but all men, that not only does no mean no, but anything other than an enthusiastic yes is no too. A year ago I could've been wearing a thigh splitting flesh coloured dress and platform heels, or dressed as a nun, neither one makes me more or less deserving of such behaviour.
I asked those I spoke to if there was one thing they could say to a fellow survivor, and with a sad but brave smile, each and every one said; ‘It's not your fault. You are not stupid, you did what you could. You CAN and WILL get through this.' You are a survivor. You will have dark days, we all do, but the light shines again, it always does.
Next time you hear of someone, whether celebrity, next door neighbour or loved one, who has suffered some form of sexual violence, take a minute. Our default setting, for the sake of humanity, should be to comfort, to listen and most importantly, to believe. We cannot know whether they are telling the truth, but we should always err on the side of kindness until proven otherwise.
New Hampshire Man Indicted On Sex, Kidnap Charges
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A man used death threats, a stun gun, zip ties and a shock collar to control a teenage girl he's accused of kidnapping at gunpoint, imprisoning and sexually assaulting over nine months, according to indictments released Wednesday.
Nathaniel Kibby was arrested in July and initially charged with kidnapping the girl Oct. 9, 2013, in the White Mountains town of Conway. Despite a massive search and widespread public outreach, there was no trace of her except for a letter she wrote to her mother that November.
The girl, who turned 15 a week after she disappeared, returned just as mysteriously in July, a week before Kibby was arrested.
Media outlets, including The Associated Press, repeatedly published the girl's name and picture after she disappeared and when she returned home. The girl's family and prosecutors have asked that her name and image no longer be published because they fear the publicity and association with sexual abuse will slow her recovery.
Kibby, 34, was indicted in two counties this week on charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, criminal threatening, illegal use of a gun and illegal use of an electronic restraint device. More than 150 of the indictments were heavily blacked-out. The charges carry penalties that could effectively send Kibby to prison for life if convicted.
Public defender Jesse Friedman said Kibby maintains his innocence. Friedman notes the charges are only allegations.
According to the indictments, Kibby threatened to kill the girl, her family and her pets and used a “taser-like” device to punish her when she “carved” information about his identity in a letter to her mother. Prosecutors say he forced her to lie in that letter and made her rewrite it. As he began to fear an investigation, Kibby put a gun in her hand and told her it would be better to shoot him than give authorities any information, according to the indictments. He also forced her to wipe down the surfaces of a shipping container outside his trailer to remove her fingerprints and to pour cleaning fluid into plumbing drains to remove hair or DNA evidence, the indictments say.
Kibby also is accused of falsifying evidence by destroying or removing gags, anti-barking dog collars, a fake surveillance camera and an aquarium pump with tubing that had been used to provide the girl with water when she was restrained on a bed.
The charges say Kibby gagged the girl, put a shirt over her head and face, then put a motorcycle helmet over that. During her confinement, he used the stun gun to control her, made her wear a shock collar, bound her wrists with zip ties and taped her eyes shut, the indictment said.
Kibby told the girl he would only release her if she lied to police about what had happened and what he looked like, the indictments say.
Kibby has been held on $1 million bail since his arrest at his home in Gorham, about 30 miles from the girl's home. He has a criminal history dating to 1998, including convictions on simple assault, criminal trespass and breach of bail conditions.
At an afternoon press conference, Attorney General Joseph Foster said his office doesn't usually address the media after indictments but added, “There are unique aspects about this particular case and the victim that warrant it.”
Lyn Schollett, the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the girl “continues to heal and to thrive now that she is reunited with her family.”
Kibby is to be arraigned Jan. 8-9 in each of the counties where he was charged.
Police said the girl, now 16, was last seen after leaving Kennett High School in Conway. She walked her normal route down a busy road toward home and sent several texts to a friend. But when her mother returned from work, the girl wasn't home. Prosecutors said she “went dark” and could not be traced through social media for the duration of her absence.
Kibby grew up and attended school in Conway, a tourist-dependent town of about 1,800 people in the southeast corner of the White Mountain National Forest. He worked as a machinist at two gun makers.
Stephen Collins opens up about child abuse: “I did something terribly wrong”
The former "7th Heaven" star admitted to sexually molesting three underage girls over several decades
by Jenny Kutner
After several months of reclusion following allegations of child abuse, embattled actor Stephen Collins has come forward to admit that he sexually molested three young girls in separate incidents that spanned two decades. In a statement to People, the former “7th Heaven” star describes abuses that took place between 1973 and 1994, maintaing that he has “not had an impulse to act out in such a way” since then.
“Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret,” Collins writes. “I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent.”
Collins goes on to explain that the recording has led to “assumptions and innuendos” that do not match up with what he says actually happened decades ago, and that he hopes to clarify what took place by speaking out. The actor also explained why he does not have plans to apologize personally to two of the women he abused.
“I did have an opportunity to do so with one of the women, 15 years later,” Collins writes. “I apologized and she was extraordinarily gracious … But after I learned in the course of my treatment that my being direct about such matters could actually make things worse for them by opening old wounds, I have not approached the other two women, one of whom is now in her 50s and the other in her 30s.”
Police rebuked over handling of interviews with child sex abuse victims
Inspectorate report calls for improved training and additional guidance for police over sensitive interviews with children
by Owen Bowcott
Recorded interviews of child sex abuse victims have revealed inappropriate questioning by police and poor compliance with guidelines on gathering evidence, according to a highly critical inspectorate report.
Rooms for interviewing vulnerable toddlers are rarely child-friendly, DVD recordings are at risk of being lost because they are inadequately labelled, and the needs of the child were considered in only a small proportion of cases reviewed, a combined criminal justice inquiry has warned.
The study by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has recommended improved training and additional guidance for sensitive interviews with children, many of whom are often as young as four- or five-years-old.
The inspection came in the wake of the scandal over Jimmy Savile, and amid a sharp increase in the number of child sexual abuse and rape cases being investigated.
The criminal justice system is currently piloting the pre-recorded cross-examination of child witnesses in an effort to prevent them from going through a lengthy courtroom ordeal.
“Inappropriate praise or congratulations were communicated to the witness in several cases,” the report found. In one case an “interviewer encouraged the witness to touch the officer on the bottom to demonstrate the alleged offence”; in others the child was occasionally left alone.
“Too often interviewers focused on concepts which present difficulties for children, such as dates and times, length and frequency of events, and weight, height and age estimates. This was evident even in cases involving very young children,” the report, Achieving Best Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse Cases, noted.
Around 70 interviews were examined by the inspectorates, which found there was often insufficient preparation before children were questioned. The audio and visual quality of the recordings was not always satisfactory, the report found.
Interview rooms in which young victims give evidence appeared “sterile with little thought for putting children at ease, and not child-friendly”, the study added.
“Child sexual abuse witnesses and victims are being short-changed by the criminal justice system,” said Michael Fuller, the chief inspector of the CPS. “Police and [prosecutors] need to offer children more support for these delicate and often difficult interviews.
“We owe it to them to ensure that these pre-recorded interviews are carried out in a rigorous manner, to ensure fairness and to achieve the best evidence possible.”
Dru Sharpling, one of HM's Inspectors of Constabulary, said: “We were very concerned to find that children in cases of sexual exploitation and rape are being let down. They aren't being provided with the support they need to give their ‘best' evidence to the court.
“Inspectors found poor compliance with best practice guidance, poor planning and quality assurance, and insufficient consideration of the needs of vulnerable children. The gap between best practice and actual practice is widening.”
Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli sex abuse: Police admit chances were missed
Opportunities to prosecute Jimmy Savile and a former mayor of Scarborough over claims of historical sex abuse of children in the resort were missed, North Yorkshire Police has said.
A 10-month inquiry found ex-mayor Peter Jaconelli and Savile would have been likely to face prosecution if they were alive today.
Savile had a home in the seaside resort and Jaconelli ran an ice cream firm.
The force's internal inquiry found "no evidence of misconduct" by officers.
North Yorkshire Police began its Operation Hibiscus investigation into historical abuse allegations after a BBC Inside Out report earlier this year which prompted 35 people to come forward.
Police said 32 of the cases related to allegations against Jaconelli between 1958 and 1998 and five related to behaviour by Savile between 1979 and 1988, with two people claiming they were abused by both men.
Savile, a Radio 1 DJ who also presented the BBC's Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It, died aged 84 in October 2011 - a year before allegations that he had sexually abused children were broadcast in an ITV documentary.
Jaconelli was mayor of Scarborough in the 1970s and died in 1999. He was stripped of his civic honours by the town council in May after the child sex abuse allegations came to light.
North Yorkshire Police say they are sorry they missed opportunities to arrest the men
North Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy said: "The findings of Operation Hibiscus clearly suggest that there would have been sufficient evidence from 35 individual victims for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against Peter Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile, had they been alive today.
"The available information indicates that, historically, the police missed opportunities to look into allegations against these men whilst they were still alive.
"North Yorkshire Police apologises to the victims who made the brave decision to come forward during the past 18 months."
But the force said it had not been possible to pursue lines of inquiry that would have involved interviews with Savile and Jaconelli, during which they may have disputed allegations against them.
The allegations against Jaconelli included indecent assault, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, gross indecency and rape.
Accusations against Savile ranged from sexual assault (or indecent assault under current law) to rape, police said.
Relatives of the former mayor have said they were not aware of any evidence that he committed any sexual crimes.
The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), conducted an investigation into North Yorkshire Police's handling of the historical allegations against Savile and Jaconelli after the force made a voluntary referral in April 2014.
It related to how the force responded in 2012 to information about alleged offences committed by Savile in the 1970s, and to allegations made against Jaconelli nine years after his death.
Mr Kennedy said: "A comprehensive investigation into these matters has now been completed by the Professional Standards Department.
"It concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct but there was evidence of organisational failure, with a number of lessons to be learned which have now been rectified for the future.
"This included actions such as clearly defining search parameters when checking historical records and ensuring that the appropriate department conducts such searches.
"Furthermore all operational meetings must be recorded, ensuring a full audit trail of decision-making throughout the process for openness and transparency."