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September 30, 2014



City nonprofit works on changing ideas of sexual violence

by Jessie Forand

This month the White House launched a celebrity-studded video as part of its campaign to end sexual violence on college campuses. The video comes after a task force formed in January to tackle the issue of sexual assaults of students.

The White House and others cite studies that say one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Rape is in the headlines globally, from college campuses to reports of rape as a means of intimidation and violence at the hands of the Islamic State — also known as ISIL or ISIS in the Middle East.

To learn more about what is being done to address the issue of rape and what is left to do, the Burlington Free Press turned to Cathleen Barkley, executive director of H.O.P.E. Works, a Burlington nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual violence. H.O.P.E. stands for healing, outreach, prevention and empowerment. Below is an edited excerpt of an email interview with Barkley.

BURLINGTON FREE PRESS (BFP): Because it is so often contested, how would you officially define "rape?" How would you define "consent?"

CATHLEEN BARKLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, H.O.P.E WORKS (CB): We tend to use the term sexual violence which encompasses rape, attempted rape, stalking, sexual or street harassment, child sexual abuse, etc. Basically, it is any sexual act committed without the other person's consent. Consent is the voluntary, positive agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. Vermont state statutes and FBI definitions are different.

BFP: What trends are you seeing? Are rape cases at an increase or decrease? How does this compare to the national average?

CB: We are seeing a trend of serving more youth than in previous years. Last year, 53 percent of the people we served were children and youth, ages 24 and under. I think that this trend has more to do with greater awareness and outreach than an actual increase in sexual violence, although it is sometimes difficult to know since sexual violence is such an under-reported crime. It is my opinion that what we see in Vermont is similar to national trends.

BFP: Who are the major players in rape cases? I'm thinking of college campuses as places where we often hear of sexual assaults, for example. What do you see as far as aggressors and victims — females versus males? Ages?

CB: Of the people we served last year, 83 percent were women, 14 percent were men, and 3 percent identified as transgender youth and adults. Thirty-seven percent of the people we served last year were ages 18-24 which is the largest age group that we serve. On average 8-9 percent of the people we serve every year are University of Vermont students.

BFP: What keeps people from calling the police or seeking help elsewhere? What should someone do if they suspect they or someone else has been the victim of rape?

CB: National statistics typically say that approximately 25 percent of assaults are reported. I have seen some that say it is higher and some that say it is lower. I will say that many of the people we serve decide not to report for a variety of reasons.

Being raped or sexually assaulted is a horrific and traumatizing experience. However, you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust. Tell them what happened and talk about your feelings. Talking to someone you trust is important because it is often your first step in healing. You may want to talk to a friend, family member or rape crisis advocate. Getting emotional support through counseling, therapy or a support group can assist you in dealing with this trauma and can facilitate the road to recovery and healing. HOPE Works advocates are available to help you get in touch with a therapist or support group that fits your needs. You can survive this.

Seek medical attention: A medical exam after an assault is recommended to:

• Detect and treat injuries;

• Discuss the possibility of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy and provide treatment;

• Discuss your risk of having contracted HIV from the assault, and possibly offer you HIV prophylaxis;

• Discuss the possibility of rape drugs and testing;

• Gather medical evidence if you choose to report.

Sexual assault nurse examiners are specially trained nurses on call 24 hours a day. In order to be effective at collecting evidence of the assault, the medical exam should be done within 72 hours of the assault — and the sooner the better. It is best not to shower, wash your hands, douche, brush your teeth, drink anything, change the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault, or go to the bathroom before the examination, because this may wash away some of the evidence of the assault. Even if you have done these things, you should still consider seeking medical attention.

In Chittenden County, if the assault has happened in the last 72 hours, you may have a medical exam performed at the emergency room of Fletcher Allen Health Care. It is also recommended that you receive follow-up medical care two weeks after the initial sexual assault exam. The initial sexual assault exam and two follow-up medical exams can be paid for by the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services if you would choose.

You may reach a nurse by calling the Fletcher Allen Health Care Emergency Department at 847-2434 and asking to speak with a sexual assault nurse examiners nurse. If it has been more than 72 hours, you can make an appointment at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England at 863-6326, Women's Choice Gynecologic Associates at 863-9001 or the Community Health Center of Burlington at 864-6309.

Consider legal action. If you report a sexual assault in Chittenden County, your case will most likely be handled by the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations (CUSI). The detectives at CUSI are trained to handle sexual assault and abuse cases. If you file a report, you will be asked to give a detailed account of the assault, but your report is not a commitment to go to court. HOPE Works Legal Advocate is available to answer your questions and help you with the process of reporting to the police. People who meet certain criteria may also be eligible for legal representation as they consider their legal options and/or participate in the prosecution of the offender. Advocates are also available to accompany and support you to court dates. You can reach the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations at 652-6800.

We also offer our 24 hour hotline, support, referrals, support groups, emergency short-term housing, support in accessing relief from abuse orders, and stalking and sexual orders, and economic empowerment programs.

BFP: Can you talk about victim blaming — where do we see it most, why does it happen, how can we make it stop?

CB: Sexual violence is a terrible crime and it is difficult for people to accept that there are people who live in our community (who may be our family members, our neighbors, our children's teachers, our spiritual leaders, etc.) who would perpetrate such crimes. Its frightening to think about the reality that anyone can be a victim at any time. So, one way that people cope with this is to blame the victim for the assault in order to distance themselves from the thought that they, too, could be a victim.

In other words, someone may say, "I would never go on a date with that guy/girl (dress that way, drink that much, stay with an abusive partner, so what was he/she thinking?)." It's a psychological balm that some wrap themselves in in order to deny the reality that they, too, could be a victim one day. Victim blaming is one of the biggest reasons why, in my opinion, sexual violence is so under-reported. We have to build empathy and come to understand that victim blaming only puts us all at greater risk for being assaulted (or risk of our loved ones being assaulted.) It is exactly what rapists want us to be doing because it helps them operate undetected.

BFP: An finger nail polish that detects date rape drugs has been making headlines recently. What are your thoughts on this?

CB: I think that it is normal for people to want simple solutions to a complex problem. I think that we should be focusing our efforts towards creating a culture in which sexual violence is not just an every day hazard of being a woman. We should all take an interest in the issue of ending sexual violence and looking at the cultural norms that support violence. If nail polish helps to get people talking about the issue of rape, then great. If it gives women a false sense of safety, doesn't actually work, or continues to hold only women accountable for ending sexual violence, then I think that there is a potential for more harm than good.

BFP: What will it take to combat rape, ultimately? Do you see this ever becoming a non-issue? What is being done to change views and what sort of outreach do you do to spread prevention work?

CB: I wish that I could say that there may be a time when there is absolutely no sexual violence but I think that we are a very long way away from that. I think that we need to look at the culture that normalizes sexual violence and work to change that. We need to have more accountability for perpetrators and that will mean making the criminal and civil justice systems more friendly to victims while offering adequate resources to victims as they move through the process. Our outreach and prevention work looks at gender norms, power and oppression in our society, media literacy, how to safely and appropriately respond to a situation of sexual violence, how to support a loved one (no victim blaming!) exploring what consent means, and looking how we all can work towards a community in which sexual violence is not accepted.

To learn more visit If you need help, call the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-489-7273.



My mother was sexually abused, says Jane Fonda

by Rachel Clun

Actor Jane Fonda has revealed her mother was sexually abused and committed suicide.

Speaking at an event celebrating the 40 th anniversary of the Rape Treatment Centre, Fonda revealed the personal details to a crowd of philanthropists and activists.

The yearly fund-raising event for the centre, which provides free treatment for victims of sexual assault, was held in Beverly Hills at the estate of billionaire Ron Burkle.

The 76-year-old fitness guru said she made the discovery about her mother's past while she was writing her own memoir. Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far, was released in 2005 and details her youth, as well as her many years in the spotlight.

While researching the book, Fonda uncovered medical records of her mother Frances Ford Seymour and discovered she had been sexually abused when she was eight years old.

Fonda's mother committed suicide while in psychiatric care aged 42.

The actor said making the discovery helped her understand her mother's behaviour and why she committed suicide when Fonda was 12, in April 1950.

"The minute that I read that, everything fell into place," said Fonda from a podium set up in Burkle's backyard.

"I knew why the promiscuity, the endless plastic surgery, the guilt, the inability to love or be intimate, and I was able to forgive her and forgive myself."

Fonda says there is an "epidemic" of sexual violence, and vowed, "I will support the Rape Treatment Centre for the rest of my life".

Fonda was introduced to the backyard stage by fellow actor, co-star and old friend Lily Tomlin. Other celebrity guests included ­ The Newsroom actor Sam Waterson, and actors Viola Davis and Emmy Rossum.

Former Friends actor David Schwimmer and Will & Grace star Eric McCormack also spoke at the fund-raising event.

The actors asked the crowd to show their support, and five people donated US$100,000 ($115,000) on the spot.

The money will go towards helping the centre offer free mental health, medical and legal support for child and adult victims of sex abuse.

The Rape Foundation Centre also provides free training for sexual assault prevention programs across the United States, as well as free training for first responders.

Founder and president Gail Abarbanel introduced a number of rape survivors who also spoke at the brunch event.

One of the speakers was the mother of the 2012 Steubenville High School assault victim.

She said her daughter was brave to stand up and press charges against her attackers, who were star football players who had community support behind them.

Fonda has long been a supporter of feminist causes.

The outspoken actor has been a member of the V-Day movement to stop violence against women since 2000, and has travelled the world on behalf of the organisation.

She also founded the Jane Fonda Centre for Adolescent Reproductive Health in 2001, which provides research and develops training programs.

Fonda has also donated time and money to teenage pregnancy prevention campaigns.



America's dirty little secret: Sex trafficking is big business

by John W. Whitehead

“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they're not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore. They're minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They're little girls.”—25-year-old victim of trafficking

“Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The mysterious disappearance of 18-year-old Hannah Graham on September 13, 2014, has become easy fodder for the media at a time when the news cycle is lagging. After all, how does a young woman just vanish without a trace, in the middle of the night, in a town that is routinely lauded for being the happiest place in America, not to mention one of the most beautiful?

Yet Graham is not the first girl to vanish in America without a trace—my hometown of Charlottesville, Va., has had five women go missing over the span of five years—and it is doubtful she will be the last. I say doubtful because America is in the grip of a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged sex workers in the U.S. The average age of girls who enter into street prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old, with some as young as 9 years old. This doesn't include those who entered the “trade” as minors and have since come of age. Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. As one rescue organization estimated, an underaged prostitute might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

This is America's dirty little secret.

You don't hear much about domestic sex trafficking from the media or government officials, and yet it infects suburbs, cities and towns across the nation. According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the fastest growing business in organized crime, the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns. It's an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.

In order to avoid detection by police and cater to male buyers' demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country. The Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.

With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that's going away anytime soon. Young girls are particularly vulnerable, with 13 being the average age of those being trafficked. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let's think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry. In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day. It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

With such numbers, why don't we hear more about this? Especially if, as Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children insists, “this is not a problem that only happens in New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. This happens in smaller communities. The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

Unfortunately, Americans have become good at turning away from things that make us uncomfortable or stray too far from our picture-perfect images of ourselves. In this regard, we're all complicit in contributing to this growing evil which, for all intents and purposes, is out in the open: advertising on the internet, commuting on the interstate, operating in swanky hotels, taking advantage of a system in which the police, the courts and the legislatures are more interested with fattening their coffers by targeting Americans for petty violations than actually breaking up crime syndicates.

Writing for the Herald-Tribune, reporter J. David McSwane has put together one of the most chilling and insightful investigative reports into sex trafficking in America. “The Stolen Ones” should be mandatory reading for every American, especially those who still believe it can't happen in their communities or to their children because it's mainly a concern for lower income communities or immigrants.

As McSwane makes clear, no community is safe from this danger, and yet very little is being done to combat it. Indeed, although police agencies across the country receive billions of dollars' worth of military equipment, weapons and training that keeps them busy fighting a losing battle against marijuana, among other less pressing concerns, very little time and money is being invested in the fight against sex trafficking except for the FBI's annual sex trafficking sting, which inevitably makes national headlines for the numbers of missing girls recovered.

For those trafficked, it's a nightmare from beginning to end. Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed. A common thread woven through most survivors' experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.

Holly Austin Smith was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison. Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old. “I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn't have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”

As McSwane recounts: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,' as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel's eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”

One particular sex trafficking ring that was busted earlier in 2014 caters specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it's a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.

What can you do?

Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

Insist that law enforcement agencies in the country at all levels, local, state and federal, funnel their resources into fighting the crime of sex trafficking. Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities. The future of America is at stake. As YouthSpark, a group that advocates for young people points out, sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

Stop feeding the monster. This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. The U.S. is a huge consumer of trafficked “goods,” with national sporting events such as the Super Bowl serving as backdrops for the sex industry's most lucrative seasons. Each year, for instance, the Super Bowl serves as a “windfall” for sex traffickers selling minors as young as 13 years old. As one sex trafficking survivor explained, “They're coming to the Super Bowl not even to watch football. They're coming to the Super Bowl to have sex with women and/or men or children.”

Finally, as the Abell Foundation's report on trafficking advises: the police need to do a better job of training on, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds; and “we the people” need to stop hiding our heads in the sand and acting as if there are other matters more pressing.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (SelectBooks) is available online at He can be contacted at



High court to hear religious man's child abuse case

by Stephen Herzog

Missouri's Supreme Court will hear arguments this week regarding whether a Springfield man who practiced a certain type of Christianity is guilty of abusing his children.

Peter D. Hansen, 50, was convicted by a jury in 2011 of abusing one of his children by locking him in a bathroom “for days at a time” and restricting what the child could eat. Judge Dan Conklin suspended a three-year prison sentence and placed Hansen on five years probation with 100 days in the Greene County Jail.

Hansen, who is a Seventh Day Adventist, argues that his religion encourages vegetarianism and that the punishment of his children does not constitute child abuse.

Court records show Hansen was married and had two children from a previous marriage. The family was evicted from their home in April 2009 and lived in a car for a couple of weeks before their local church allowed them to live in the building.

“The family had little money, but continued to live by the principles of their church in that environment, eating mostly vegetables, grains, legumes and some fruit, two meals a day, drinking water and exercising,” Hansen's appeal says.

Prosecutors say the boy was limited to about two cups of food per day.

The children were sometimes punished by being placed in one of the church's bathrooms, which was not large enough for the children to stretch out.

Prosecutors say there is sufficient evidence to prove Hansen “inflicted cruel and inhuman punishment by locking the minors in a small, dark and cold bathroom for days at a time.” Prosecutors also say Hansen's withholding of food was a cruel and inhuman punishment.

Hansen says the state's evidence failed to prove either of those convictions.

Springfield police and Children's Division investigators arrived at the church the day before Thanksgiving in 2009 on a call of possible child abuse.

Hansen's wife, Melissa, answered the door and said Hansen's daughter was in a partitioned area and Peter and his son were “out of town working on a construction project.”

Investigators found the daughter sitting at a desk working. She said she was often punished by being isolated from the rest of the family or being restricted from eating “luxury foods like fruit, or butter.” The girl said she was often hungry, according to court records.

She also told investigators that her brother was in the building next door. When investigators went to that building, they found that it was held to about 54 to 58 degrees.

Investigators say they found the boy in a bathroom and it appeared that he had been sleeping. There was a sleeping bag, foam pallet and pillow on the floor, along with some books, utensils and dishes.

Documents say the bathroom was about “six by seven, or five by six” feet in size.

Peter Hansen arrived while investigators were talking to the boy. Hansen said the bathroom was “like a hole for a 14-year-old and I'm OK with that.”

Hansen said the children were bad and had bad attitudes and were being punished.

At that time, the children were taken into protective custody and the parents were arrested, according to court records.

The children were taken to the hospital where a doctor determined the children were “receiving inadequate calories for appropriate weight gain and growth.”

A nurse noted the boy's ribs and shoulder blades were “visibly prominent,” according to court records.

During the trial, the jury watched videotape of the girl's interview at the Child Advocacy Center.

She said the children were placed in “lockdown,” either in the bathroom or in a partitioned area in a classroom.

“I had already been in the bathroom,” the girl said. “I was going on my third week. After I had been put inside the walls, I was told no communication, and my brother was put in what we called ‘the hole.' After that, they decided to put my brother outside. After being put in my area for a week, they decided to let me out. It was only for the weekend, though. Monday afternoon, I was put back in because I was struggling with some math and English.”

“The walls” the girl references appears to mean the partitions that were put up in the classroom to seclude her.

The girl said she was let out for about 30 minutes each day to ride her bike or run. Otherwise, she was kept in the bathroom to do homework.

She said she would knock on the door when her homework was finished.

“After all my school work was done, I would have to turn the light off and sit there on the hard floor and think about what I had done, “ she said. “It got pretty cold in there.”

The boy reported similar punishments, according to court records.

When police interviewed Peter Hansen, he admitted he put the children in isolation for punishment, but he denied withholding food.

Some church members said they often saw the children outside and that they appeared healthy.

A jury eventually found Hansen guilty of two counts of child abuse.

Hansen was sentenced on May 31, 2012, and since then has appealed the ruling.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday.


New York

Federal suit: Suffolk workers missed signs of abuse before death of child


The beating death of 18-month-old Roy A. Jones III in 2010 could have been prevented if social workers, physicians and day care providers in Suffolk County had reported signs of abuse to the state child abuse hotline, according to a federal lawsuit.

Marie Jones of Shirley, the boy's paternal grandmother, is pursuing the suit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip against the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, Stony Brook University Hospital, Southampton Hospital and Hollywood Nursery in Riverhead.

The suit, filed in 2011, claims workers who treated the boy before his death on Aug. 1, 2010, observed signs of physical abuse but did not report the information to state child protective service authorities as required by state law.

Newsday has reported on the boy's death and the 2012 criminal trial that found his mother's boyfriend, Pedro Jones Jr., guilty of fatally beating the child, but the federal lawsuit has not been reported.

Depositions of the boy's family and other witnesses are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, said Michael J. Collesano, a Manhattan attorney representing the boy's estate. Marie Jones is seeking an undetermined amount of money in damages, Collesano said.

"The doctors and nurses didn't report what we believe were pretty straightforward signs of physical abuse," Collesano said. "If they had collectively done so, there is no question that it would have sent up a red flag that could have saved him."

Jones declined to comment.

County and hospital attorneys argue in court filings that they upheld their responsibilities.

"The defendants at all times acted in good faith in that they reasonably believed that they were exercising and acting within their statutory and constitutional powers," Assistant Suffolk County Attorney Arlene S. Zwilling wrote in an Aug. 13, 2013, court document. Spokesmen for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone did not respond to requests for comment.

Child advocates say the lawsuit highlights the need for stricter enforcement of the state's "mandated reporter" law, which requires health care workers, educators and social workers to notify the state's child abuse hotline of suspected abuse.

Violators of the reporting statute face misdemeanor charges carrying up to $5,000 in fines, up to a year in jail time and revocation of their professional license.

"These kids are vulnerable and cannot speak up for themselves, that's why we need teachers, doctors, guidance counselors . . . to make these reports," said Anthony Zenkus, education director for the Bethpage based Safe Center LI, a nonprofit that provides counseling to abuse victims.

'Signs of physical abuse'

Roy A. Jones III died after Pedro Jones Jr., who was not related to the child, punched the boy in the chest. A Suffolk County Court jury found Jones, 24, guilty of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

The lawsuit argues that health care and social workers could have intervened on multiple occasions before the murder.

In November 2009, the boy was "treated at Southampton Hospital suffering from injuries that indicated initial signs of physical abuse," according to the suit.

On July 19, 2010, the boy was vomiting and taken to Southampton Hospital before being transported to Stony Brook Hospital. There, he was "diagnosed with a fractured skull and the doctors . . . also noticed other signs of physical abuse," the suit says. A day later, the boy was returned to the custody of his mother, Vanessa Collins Jones, and her boyfriend.

The lawsuit also claims two Suffolk Child Protective Services workers assigned to the boy were negligent by not enforcing a Jun. 4, 2009, court order of protection that stated the boy was "neglected" by his mother and father Roy A. Jones Jr.

Requirement to report

Collesano said he requested and received the boy's child protective services record from the state, but that confidentiality laws prevented him from releasing them. The State Central Registry hotline was established in 2007 and provides county child protective service workers with a database to track abuse complaints.

Anyone who suspects abuse can call, but certain workers -- including teachers, doctors and social workers -- are required to report their suspicions. Once a complaint is received, county CPS workers have 24 hours to investigate and determine whether the child is in peril and needs to be removed from the household, or whether the family is in need of other social services such as counseling.

Stony Brook University Hospital settled with the family for $40,000 in the State Court of Claims, Collesano said. A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the federal lawsuit.

Southampton Hospital spokeswoman Marcia Kenny said the hospital could not comment due to the federal suit. In addition to Bellone's office, Hollywood Nursery did not return requests for comment.



Palmer man gets 88 years for decade of child sex abuse

by Chris Klint

ANCHORAGE -- A Palmer man originally charged with sexually abusing a boy and a girl dozens of times over the course of a decade faces close to a century in prison as part of a plea deal, according to Alaska State Troopers.

A Monday AST dispatch says 49-year-old Robert Cunningham pleaded guilty Friday to two first-degree counts of sexually abusing a minor, as well as one count of possessing child pornography. The victims, a 5-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy at the time of the initial offenses, are now 19 and 23 respectively.

Troopers had been investigating the case since being informed of it in January 2013. An indictment against Cunningham in April of that year included 46 counts of sexual abuse of a minor -- 41 in the first degree and five in the second -- plus two counts of possessing child porn. The specifications describe a variety of sex acts against the victims, both relatives of Cunningham.

“Cunningham fled Alaska during the investigation and was subsequently located in Oregon,” troopers wrote. “With assistance from the Oregon State Police, (Cunningham) was taken into custody without incident. (He) was subsequently extradited back to Alaska.”

A memo from Cunningham's sentencing Friday says the victims were not present, with a prosecutor presenting five sealed sentencing exhibits. After presentations by both sides' counsel and a 12-minute period off the record, Palmer Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen pronounced her sentence.

“Kristiansen imposed a sentence of 88 years to serve in jail, 15 years of probation and lifetime sex offender registration,” troopers wrote. “Cunningham is still awaiting sentencing in federal court for a related child pornography case.”

Kristiansen previously issued an arrest warrant for Cunningham on $100,000 cash bail when he left the state. He also has a 2001 federal conviction for possession of child pornography.

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