MAY - Week 3
||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Pennsylvania child abuse registry posts names before due process
by Bob Bauder
May 22, 2011
In Pennsylvania, a parent can be branded an abuser for spanking a child, and then remain on a state list with pedophiles and felons without the benefit of a court hearing, attorneys say.
"The process puts the cart before the horse," said Aaron Martin, a constitutional attorney with a private practice in Kennett Square, Chester County. "You are first declared guilty by the state, and then it is up to you to challenge that indication to assert your innocence."
Under state law, child protective service agencies such as county Children and Youth Services must investigate all reports of child abuse within 24 hours. When a social worker or police officer deems a report to be valid, law requires the immediate — and permanent — placement of the suspect's name on the state child abuse registry, regardless of whether police ever charge the person with a crime.
Pennsylvania's registry contained 112,580 names last year, the most recent figure available. Registry information is confidential and unavailable to the general public, but school districts, day care centers and other child service groups can use it to screen potential employees. The only way a name can be expunged from the registry is through an appeal hearing, attorneys said.
"The intent is to protect children from future abuse or neglect," said Cathy Utz, interim deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare's Office of Children, Youth and Families, which maintains the registry.
Attorneys advocating on behalf of people who contend they were improperly placed on the registry said their main concern centers on what the state terms "indicated" determinations of child abuse. That's when a social worker — not a law enforcement official or judge — decides an abuse report is valid. Social workers base those decisions on an investigation, which can include medical evidence or a suspect's admission, according to the welfare department.
Nearly 88 percent of the names listed on the registry are there based on the decisions of social workers. State welfare officials said people suspected of abuse are afforded due process through appeals, and the department made system improvements over the years. Letters that are automatically sent to abuse suspects notifying them that their names are being entered into the registry and informing them of their rights were redesigned to more clearly outline those facts. The department includes abuse reports in the letters.
An officer from the welfare department's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals conducts the appeals hearings and decides the cases. Last year, nearly 23 percent of the 1,239 appeals hearings led to removal of names, according to department statistics. One percent of the decisions were upheld. Two percent of the appeals were withdrawn by appellants, and three percent of appellants were denied hearings. Seventy-one percent of the cases are pending.
Michael Race, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Welfare, said hearings take three to seven months, on average, and sometimes longer because of attorneys' postponements and procedural delays.
Attorney advocates complain the system denies people the constitutional right of due process by first placing them on the list, and the appeal process to seek removal takes too long — up to two years in some cases.
Even child advocates see potential problems.
"The registry has to be understood, and people have to have a very timely way to have their names removed so that we can assure fairness and justice," said Cathleen Palm, co-founder and executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, a statewide coalition of child advocates. "If people don't trust the system, then, ultimately, we can't have the safest system for kids."
Some lawmakers have taken notice.
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, who chairs the Aging and Youth Committee, said the committee plans to hold hearings this summer on problems with ChildLine, a 24-hour, state-operated hotline for reporting child abuse tips. She said the hearings should include discussion of any problems with the registry.
"First and foremost, we want to make sure the kids are protected," Ward said. "But we don't want to have people out there who haven't had their just due process. This is something that I will be following up on."
Sen. Ted Erickson, R-Newtown Square, Delaware County, introduced legislation two years ago that would have required holding hearings within 30 days of an appeal and ruling on a case within 45 days. His bill died because it lacked Senate support.
"We're going to try and take a look to see if we can get more support, and I will introduce it if we can," Erickson said.
Critics say legislators and policy makers are reluctant to change the system because they do not want to appear soft on child abusers.
"Over the years, we have tried to address this subject with legislators, and it's a politically touchy subject with them," said Janet Ginzberg, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia who has defended numerous people accused of child abuse.
By law, people found guilty in court of child abuse cannot work with children for at least five years after a conviction.
Utz said schools or child care agencies must get permission from a job applicant to check whether that person is on the registry. She noted that "indicated" reports alone cannot legally prevent a person from getting a job.
But Sara Rose, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Pittsburgh, said chances of employment are slim when a person's name appears on the registry.
"There's no law prohibiting a child agency from hiring someone on this list, but I think it's a very low chance that you're going to be hired," Rose said.
Attorneys typically use pseudonyms or initials in lawsuits to identify clients suing to have their names removed from the registry. They said they do it to maintain confidentiality.
"I think people are understandably reluctant to be identified," Rose said.
Pennsylvania's child abuse registry isn't the only one drawing criticism.
A North Carolina appeals court last year declared that state's registry unconstitutional because it did not permit accused abusers hearings before they were listed, The Associated Press reported. Attorneys in New York filed a class-action suit in that state on behalf of thousands of people for the same reason.
Reports of flaws on the state level are delaying the creation of a nationwide child abuser database that Congress authorized in 2006.
"There's been litigation in a number of states over the years around due process and central registries," said Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law. "The best due process would be to withhold (entering a person's name) until an appeal has been resolved."
Child sexual abuse rampant
by CAROL MATROO
May 22 2011
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation.
Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, physical contact with the child's genitals, viewing the child's genitalia for the purpose of sexual gratification or using a child to produce child pornography.
Child sexual abuse has extreme psychological and physical consequences for children, and can cause the victim to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.
However, the dark side of this criminal behaviour is still to be systematically addressed. That is, the victims and their confidantes most times do not report this matter as its gravity and implications are not thoroughly understood.
This was found after a study on Social Norms and Values was conducted by the Psychological Research Centre at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, for the Ministry of the People and Social Development.
The study, supervised by Dr Derek Chadee, senior lecturer in the Department of Behavioural Sciences at UWI and manager of the Psychological Research Centre, questioned people of various ages, sex, educational backgrounds and incomes on various aspects about child sexual abuse.
Overall, 87 per cent of all age groups stated that child sexual abuse was prevalent or very prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago, while one per cent said it was “not prevalent at all” and two per cent said they did not know.
The study found that there was a high consensus among respondents in thinking that the sexual abuse of children is prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago. Less than ten percent of respondents believed that child sexual abuse was not very prevalent, and a mere one percent of respondents believed that it was not prevalent at all.
Although percentages were high for both groups, females were ten percent more likely than males to think that child sexual abuse was prevalent, the study found.
Respondents from all educational levels unanimously responded by stating that child sexual abuse was prevalent. In examining age, although percentages were high across all groups, older persons were more likely than younger persons to believe that child sexual abuse was prevalent. There was consensus among monthly income groups for stating that child sexual abuse was prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago.
It was found that an overwhelming majority of respondents said that they were likely to report an act of child sexual abuse if the victim was someone in their immediate family. A mere four per cent of respondents said they were unlikely to do this.
The majority of respondents said that they were likely to report an act of child sexual abuse if the victim was someone in their neighbour's family. Less than 20 percent said that they were unlikely to do this.
There were also similar results for both males and females. With regards to education, it was observed that tertiary educated persons claimed to have a greater tendency to report an incidence of child sexual abuse if the victim was part of a neighbour's family. No major differences were observed across age groups.
Contacted by the Sunday Newsday, Minister of the People and Social Development, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, said while he had received the report on the study, he had not had the time to closely study it in its entirety. He also admitted that there were not enough “specialised” psychologists and psychiatrists to draw information from the young victims.
“With regard to child sexual abuse, we know it exists because our Family Services Division picks up cases, sad cases, very unnerving cases and we partner with the police immediately and we have a lot of co-operation from the community police,” Ramadharsingh said.
“Sexual child abuse is under-reported and we know that. There is a lot of confusion, there is umbrage to the person's self-esteem, there's confusion, there are psychological and psychiatric problems. These things cause a lot of harm in society.”
He added, “Even eliciting information from a child, whether they were abused or not, this requires specialised people to get the information out.”
Referring to the Children's Authority, which the minister said came in a piece- meal manner over the course of eight years, Ramadharsingh said his ministry was trying to get the authority up and running.
Using as an example television shows where psychologists use different techniques for drawing out information, Ramadharsingh said this was the level of skill his ministry wanted to recruit for the Children's Authority
“We intend to proclaim the legislation, but we are trying to operationalise the authority right now. We want a board that has been appointed by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, so we have that independence that would do it's work despite ... because remember in the Akiel Chambers case, it was alleged that a wealthy person was involved and suppressed investigations,” he said.
“We have gotten a consultancy done for standards, the authority will operate within international standards because you want to treat this issue as first world countries do. The authority has found a home and we have assisted them to repair the building and outfit it and they should be fully operational within a year.”
Ramadharsingh said the authority was what the country needed and said his ministry was working with the present board, which was set up almost two years ago.
“We don't have a near-perfect system. There is a lot of work to do. We have investigated allegations even at homes and those are not comprehensive investigations, they were just to guide us. Cabinet has approved monitoring officers for homes under investigation. There is a lot of work to do as best as we can, as fast as we can,” the minister said.
Ramadharsingh said his ministry was closely looking at morality and how social structure was changing, adding they had to respond to changes in the society.
“You're studying the shifts that take place in the society and you respond to them and so your policies tend to be modified and changed and shifted to suit what is happening in the society,” he said.
He said his ministry also worked along with Outreach, a non-governmental organisation involved in various activities, including rights of the child. The minister said the Children's Bill, under scrutiny for the past two months by the Legislative Review Council, hopefully would be laid in Parliament within the next two months.
“That is the way we have confronted the issue and we remain open to the public. There is also the Child Line (800-4321). Child Line is an NGO and we quadrupled their resources and they are now a 24/7 hotline. We've asked the Ministry of Education to roll this out in the schools in the absence of our formal campaign, which will come in time,” Ramadharsingh assured.
Triathlete raises funds for area sex-trafficking care facility
by Matt Stephens
May 21, 2011
THE WOODLANDS — Chris Lieto had a significant lead, on pace to potentially run his best Ironman ever Saturday afternoon, but his Achilles tendon ached throughout the race, and eight miles into the run, after more than 120 miles of the inaugural Memorial Hermann Texas Ironman course, he withdrew.
“I was having some Achilles issues the last few months, but I could feel it tug a lot and I didn't want to risk any long-term injuries,” Lieto said. “It's hard to drop out of anything, but to drop out in the lead is tough.”
Although admittedly a little frustrated, he called the event “a huge success all around” because of the funding his nonprofit organization, More Than Sport, was able to raise for Freedom Place, a long term treatment facility for victims of domestic sex trafficking in the area.
Kellie Armstrong, vice president for Arrow Child and Family Ministries, which runs Freedom Place, said Lieto may not have finished the race, but he certainly had an impact on the area.
“We're just so thrilled that he chose our charity,” Armstrong said.
Arrow, based in Spring, is the “largest provider of social services in the state,” serving about 2,000 children in foster care, adoption and other services, Armstrong said. Last fall, Arrow was approached by the Houston Safe House Task Force Now with the idea for Freedom Place, a long-term care facility for sex-trafficking victims. There is a need, she said, because underage victims cannot be charged with prostitution and are sent home.
“If you take them back home, they're just going to run again,” Armstrong said.
In Houston, an estimated 6,000 children run away every year, and one-third of them are lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home, Armstrong said. The I-10 corridor is one of the top routes for sex trafficking in the country.
Arrow has 110 acres about 20 minutes from The Woodlands with plans to use for Freedom Place, Armstrong said. The facility will offer licensed faculty and staff, with all the psychological, medical and educational needs the girls would require. The facility will be able to house about 60 girls initially with the ability to expand.
While Armstrong said the goal is to open Freedom Place this fall, they are 100 percent reliant on donations and need about $5 million to open the facility. She said More Than Sport can be a big part of bringing awareness to the problem, and Lieto's wife Karis called them “out of the blue” about two weeks before Saturday's race.
“It has been absolutely amazing having Chris here. It's extra special to me because my husband (Tommie Behe) is racing in the event,” she said. “I know the type of individuals who run. When they start something, they're committed to completing it.
“This is giving us an opportunity to show what's going on in the community and show this horrible problem going on to the people in The Woodlands who have no idea.”
Lieto founded More than Sport last year and sponsored more than 120 children around the world through World Vision during the Ford Ironman World Championship in October, raising more than $100,000. He got the idea for More than Sport while biking through Mexico near his hotel one day training for an event, when he saw two children playing in a nearby poor village.
“It made me think that in the comfort of our hotel, how oblivious we are to what's going on around us,” Lieto said. “If everybody attending that race had given $30, we could have fed that village for a year.”
In each location where Lieto attends an Ironman, he tries to find the biggest issue faced by that community and raise funds to help support the cause. Lieto said almost everyone he talked to about Houston said sex trafficking is “a big issue here.”
A reception is being held at Crush Wine Lounge at 3 p.m. today for anyone who has donated to the cause. Raffle winners will be announced and a check will be presented from More Than Sport to Freedom Place. Armstrong said she does not know how much was raised.
Although he has never lived here himself, Lieto said The Woodlands “feels like home,” praising the “beautiful course.” His father Jim, who has lived in the community since 1999, had signed up to compete with his son in Saturday's Ironman but broke his hip training several months ago. While neither man was able to complete the event Saturday, Lieto said it is likely he will come back next year.
For more information about Lieto and More than Sport, go to morethansport.org. For more information about Freedom Place, go to www.freedomplaceus.org.
Stop The Menace Of Sex Trafficking
by Dr. Raghbir S. Bains
Prostitution and sex trafficking is the world's oldest social evil. It is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world. Sex trafficking involves the voluntary or involuntary transport of people, primarily women and girls, for the purpose of sex. After all these women are someone's mother, daughter or sister—hidden behind locked doors and pulled curtains, forced against their ‘will' to engage in sex acts with dozens of customers a day. When such women are trafficked into prostitution, there is a possibility that their kith and kin will never see these women again living a family life.
Sex Trafficking is:
A crime where men, women, and young children are taken into control by means of force, fraud, or coercion and are put into prostitution, sex trafficking ring, and many other forms of unfair treatment. It is inevitably a human rights violation that is growing more and more each year in the world.
According to Canadian Encyclopedia, “Heterosexual prostitution (men as buyers and women as sellers) is most common; homosexual prostitution between men exists on a smaller scale; Lesbian prostitution between women may exist but there is little evidence of it in the research literature”.
Annual Intake Into Sex Business
Sex trafficking has been the most profitable but illegal and hidden business in the world. It's a huge industry, it can be very difficult to detect intake and diminish it. Mostly women or children are allured or forcibly abducted and used as sex slaves. Because sex trafficking is so far underground, the number of worldwide victims and their yearly intake is not known, thus the reported statistics vary wildly.
It is estimated by different agencies that each year, between 600,000 and 800,000 women and girls are forcibly transported into the global commercial sex industry. The number will always be an estimate, because trafficking victims don't stand in line and raise their hands to be counted, but it's the best estimate community activists have from different sources.
Trafficking is a Multi-Billion Dollar Business
Once limited to infamous locales such as Bombay in India and Bangkok in Thailand, sex trafficking is now multi-billion internationally organised business being run in San Francisco (USA) also. “Girls as young as 12 to 14 years old are being forced into prostitution, a state Senate Committee was told this morning on May 4, 2011”. Jill Morris, international constituency director of the ‘Not For Sale Campaign' said in a statement, “traffickers take advantage of the legal sex industry in Nevada. Las Vegas has been identified as one of the top ‘hot spots' for prostitution in the world”. This global industry is offshoot of the human trafficking which is estimated to have a market value of 32 billion dollars every year. It involves mega brothels, top-notch hotels, motels, massage parlours and slave houses. The pimps solicit and even use top notch social networking sites that facilitate online web camera use for customers to select the girls of choice.
According to the ShoeRevolt website and other studies as many as 50,000 to 100,000 American-born girls are sex trafficked each year and it involves raking up of multi-billion dollars a year in the U.S. This 32 billion dollar industry of human and sexing slavery takes young children from more than 127 countries to be exploited in 137 different countries, reports the UN. Astonishingly, the majority of their stories are never heard or brought to light.
Prostitution Runs at Posh Places with Changed Profiles
Prostitution is no longer about dingy rooms in narrow lanes of the globalised world. Oftenly introductions are made and deals struck through cyber space or at posh places. The profiles of those involved in the trade have also changed. “The prostitutes are no more minor or poor girls from rural areas. It is a shame that today we find college girls, high status family girls, call girls and even house wives who voluntarily sign up for the business,” says a senior police officer.
In countries like India, where prostitution is illegal and punishable, forcing of young, innocent and poor girls into the business is common. Once an innocent girl is pushed into a brothel, she is practically a prisoner there, as the brothel is securely watched over by criminals and hooligans who would go to any extent to prevent her from escaping. The prostitution dens result in dishonour, stigma, suicides, moral bankruptcy, shocking physical, psychological and sexual abuse, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV-AIDS and untimely deaths.
Rise Up Against the Menace
Unfortunately the crime is not getting adequate attention in our society. Not enough is being done to stop or decrease the acts and crimes that occur every day. The victims are too afraid to get help for fear of being criminalised, stigmatised or their families being harmed by the mafia groups. So we need to create an environment that allows these people to feel safe and secure in getting help for rehabilitation.
Because it is difficult to expose trafficking and to discuss it more openly in the society by using electronic or print media, it is not easily stoppable and the perpetrators cannot be appropriately punished. However we need to fight this problem much more than we are fighting it now.
It is required that the woman should be empowered to control her body, mind, soul and life. Simultaneously, it is responsibility of woman folk also to respect her womanhood and revere honour of the religio-social and familial values of the society she lives in. Let she be not manoeuvred through illusionary glamour and mirage to this industry but bring honour to the family name.
It's about time to join together in the fight to end this crime! Public in general must rise up against the injustice. Let us break the shackles of abuse by creating awareness and educating public by using media, holding seminars and arranging interactive workshops. Respective governments, politicians, justice system, social activists, role models, mentors, religious bodies and youth in general must play a positive role in uplifting the society so that humans live gracefully in peace over this earth.
Dr Raghbir Singh Bains is an eminent community activist who is crusader against the menace of social evils raking up in the society. He can be reached at 604-599-1314 in Canada.
Catholic child abuse analysed
The John Jay Institute report on the child abuse scandals in the USA has been published. It will surprise and discomfort all sides
The big report of the independent criminologists of the John Jay institute into child abuse in the American Catholic church has now been published. There is something in it to upset everyone . For a start there are many cases of child abuse – and though the report does not go into this – there was a great deal of covering up done. But we knew that. What's new in the report is the detailed examination of the causes and of the statistics involved.
The pattern that the investigators have to explain is a steep rise in cases of child abuse though the sixties and seventies, followed by a steady decline but a simultaneous rise in reports of earlier incidents in the late Eighties and early Nineties. That, too, has declined towards the present day.
This is an unusual pattern both of reporting and of offending. For comparison I have extracted from the government's web site the Swedish figures for sex crimes against children under 15 and they show no decline at all since 1991. I'll come back to those later.
The other notorious and unusual thing about the American Catholic cases is that the great majority of them involved boys – something like 83%. The secular pattern is entirely different.
There are three popular explanations for the figures, depending on your view of the Catholic church: if you are a liberal Christian you are inclined to blame celibacy; if you are a conservative, you blame it all on gays; and if you're not a Christian at all you just assume they are all rotten, always have been, and still are.
I don't think this last explanation stands up, for two reasons. The first is that even at its height child abuse was a pretty uncommon crime. The John Jay Institute helpfully compares the number of reported offences with the number of confirmation candidates, to get a rough figure of reported assaults per 100,000. This will tend to overestimate the frequency, because obviously a priest has access to many more children than just confirmation candidates. But it is a consistent measure by which to compare year with year.
So in 1992, when the worst was over, the rate was 15 incidents of reported abuse per 100,000 confirmations. By 2001 it had dropped to of 5 incidents of abuse per 100,000 confirmations in the Catholic Church. There was a similar drop in American society as a whole but less steep and from a consistently higher rate.
For comparison, the Swedish figures for reported sex crimes against all children under 15 was 142/100,000 children in 1992, and 169/100,000 in 2001.
These figures suggest that during the 1990s a child in Sweden, possibly the most secularised country in Europe, was between 10 and 30 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than an American Catholic was by his priest. Even making allowances for the considerable margin of error that must be built into these figures, it's clear that what went on in US Catholic churches was terrible but rather less terrible than what went on at the same time in many other places where Catholicism was not involved. If the US Catholic church is a hotbed of child rape, Sweden is an awful lot worse. (Just to be clear here, I think the idea that Sweden is a dangerous country for children is entirely absurd.)
I picked Sweden for comparison largely because I know my way round the crime statistics there. But the US government figures quoted in the John Jay report show also that Alaska has a rate of reported child abuse that dwarfs Sweden's – 788/100,000 in 2001, or 140 times the incidence of reported child abuse in the US Catholic church at the same period. So there is nothing uniquely rotten about the American Catholic church.
The second reason is sociological. The statistics do show a clear and steady decline in reported cases for the last 30 years, even though much of the reporting did not come in until long after the event. If you want to believe that the level of crime has stayed steady while the number of reports has dropped, you would have to come up with some reason why American Catholics (unlike Alaskans or Swedes) would become less likely to report a crime in a period when the social stigma for doing so has almost disappeared and in some cases considerable financial compensation has been on offer.
Which leaves the other two hypotheses. Was it the fault of the gays? The argument in favour is that the victims were overwhelmingly boys and the perpetrators exclusively men. But the John Jay study rejects this, on two grounds. The first, again, is based on the decline in the number of reported incidents. That coincides with what most people agree has been an increase in the number of gay men in the priesthood. So if gay priests were the problem, you would expect the figure for reported assaults to rise, as they did in Sweden and Alaska. This hasn't happened.
Nor is it the case that men who had had sex with other men before training for the priesthood abused boys in any greater numbers than men who had had sex with women before.
"Priests with pre-ordination same-sex sexual behaviour were significantly more likely to participate in post-ordination sexual behaviour, but these priests were more likely to participate in sexual behaviour with adults than minors. Same-sex sexual behaviour prior to ordination did not significantly predict the sexual abuse of minors."
But gay priests of this sort, if they did abuse, showed a marked preference for male victims.
So perhaps it was celibacy, after all. The trouble with this theory is the same decline in incidence of abuse as was noted before. That was not accompanied by any relaxation in the celibacy rules. It's possible that the discipline of celibacy has simply collapsed in the USA. But the report doesn't suggest this; nor, for that matter does anecdotal (or any other) evidence.
Which leaves the "Woodstock" hypothesis: that it was all the consequence of rapid social change. The combined impact of the sexual revolution outside the Church, and of the Vatican II reforms inside simply broke down the traditional self-discipline of the priesthood along with much of its traditional authority. This is the hypothesis that the report itself favours. But there is a subtlety with this view: if it were only the morals of the surrounding society which made a difference, then – again – the incidence of abuse would hardly have gone down. American society is not more sexually puritanical now than it was in 1975. So, the report argues, it was the impact of the sexual revolution on men who had not been trained to withstand it which was the decisive factor.
Two controversies remain. The first is the report's definition of "paedophile" as someone who only has sex with children under 10. By this definition, less than one in twenty of abusing priests were paedophiles. But it's clear from the figures that there were a lot of abusing priests who did not much care whether their victims were pre-pubescent or not. Nearly one in three of the multiple offenders had at least one victim who was 12 or younger as well as one who was older than 15.
The second is the response of the authorities. This has been historically feeble and sometimes much worse. But that's a subject for another post.
[Because I don't think you can extract the Swedish figures easily from their database if you do not speak Swedish, I'll post a spreadsheet of the relevant bits online if anybody wants to see my workings]
The Star's editorial | A sorry new chapter in church child abuse
The disturbing news that a Kansas City priest has been charged with possessing child pornography adds another chapter in the sorry chronicle of child abuse by Catholic priests. The case again raises the question of whether the church's first priority is to protect victims — or priests.
In December, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was notified of pornographic images on the laptop of Shawn Francis Ratigan, 45. Yet a police investigation didn't begin until this month.
Court documents said a computer technician found the images — showing girls as young as 3 or 4 — on a laptop Ratigan turned in for repair.
Later, similar images were found on a desktop computer assigned to Ratigan at a St. Joseph church where he had previously served.
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, outreach director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, accused the diocese of breaking its pledge to act quickly and cooperate with authorities.
“What on earth were they thinking?” Dorris said in a statement. “It's clear that a number of church employees, including the diocesan lawyer, knew of the evidence and were involved in concealing it week after week after week.”
In a statement Friday, Bishop Robert W. Finn said the diocese made contact with the police the day after it learned of the images but was told the pictures were not child pornography.
After Ratigan attempted suicide, Finn ordered an evaluation and prohibited the priest from contact with minors. But after Ratigan violated those terms, the diocese contacted police and an investigation found more images on the second computer. Finn said he regrets not seeking a full investigation earlier.
From the earliest days of the Catholic Church's abuse scandal, the most disturbing theme has been the church's efforts to underplay the problem. It cropped up again in a recent study on the causes of abuse, by New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The study relied on data provided by the church, which victims' advocates say has underreported the number of cases.
The study also defined “prepubescent” as children under 10, even though the American Psychiatric Association puts the cutoff as age 13 or younger. Using its questionable definition, the study said only 22 percent of abuse victims were prepubescent.
The Ratigan case will work its way through the court process. But recent events have created a scenario that further undermines the church's credibility and moral authority.
Child Advocacy Center on Rash of Abuse
(Video on site)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - For the third time this month, a Memphis area teacher has been arrested and charged with raping a young student.
On Tuesday, Arlen Wilburn, a teacher at Sherwood Middle School, was charged with rape - the alleged female victim was just 13-years old.
On May 13, Jonathon Austin, a Southeast Prep Academy teacher, was charged with raping a 17-year old girl.
On May 5, Stacy Hopkins, an Arlington High School teacher, was accused of raping two male students.
This kind of abuse is not limited to authority figures. On Monday, a 12-year old was charged with raping a 9-year old boy; in March, two boys ages 7 and 9 years old admitted to raping a two-year old.
This can be a difficult subject matter to discuss with children, but unfortunately in this day and age it's a conversation that needs to be had.
Beryl White with the Memphis Child Advocacy Center joins FOX13 to discuss how to talk to children about abuse, and how you can help prevent these acts from happening.
To report child abuse, call (877) 237-0004 . If you are interesting in becoming a steward with the Child Advocacy Center, call (901) 888-4363 .
Child abuse experts warning parents following Mission sex tape case
by Erika Flores
(Video on site)
The sex tape scandal involving a little girl was only made public after the camcorder holding the material was bought from a pawnshop.
Had it not been turned over to police, some wonder how long would the abuse have continued and would the victim have ever come forward on her own.
Mission Police Sgt. Jody Tittle said it was hard for investigators to watch the tape and hard for them to investigate the victim.
The girl was interviewed at Estrella's House in Hidalgo County where officials see an average of 80 to 100 child abuse cases per month.
Lisa Gomez with Estrella's House said there are some signs to tell if your child is abused such as being withdrawn or nightmares or unusual instances of bedwetting.
Gomez said many sexual abuse victims know their attackers well before the abuse occurs.
She said there are signs to look for that someone may be grooming your child as a victim:
|• Child receive gifts
• Child is favored over other children
• Person finds reason to take the child somewhere
Oakland's Youth Radio wins Peabody Award for investigative series 'Trafficked'
Oakland's Youth Radio is the recipient of a 2011 George Foster Peabody Award for its investigative series "Trafficked."
The two-part report, produced in collaboration with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," exposes child sex trafficking in Oakland - one of the nation's top child sex trafficking hubs.
The series originally aired on NPR in December 2010 and was later featured on the front page of The Huffington Post.
Youth Radio's report highlights the voices of two young women who are sex-trafficking survivors. It also sheds light on police practices that often criminalize victims rather than pursue perpetrators, and the community members who are trying to solve the issue.
The Peabody Awards - the nation's highest honors in broadcasting - recognize excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, producing organizations and individuals.
"Youth Radio set the goal of investigating sex trafficking from the point of view of the youth who are trafficked," said Youth Radio President and Chief Content Officer Ellin O'Leary. "Their perspectives drove our reporting, including our coverage on police practices that target the victims."
Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards, said this year's awards continue the commitment of the University of Georgia and the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication to "challenge media makers and distributors to reach higher, try harder and be ever mindful of their central role in public life."
Fellow winners include WNYC, C-SPAN, BBC, HBO and PBS. This is Youth Radio's second Peabody Award; in 2001, the organization was honored for its body of work.
Youth Radio collaborated with a number of partners in covering and distributing this important investigation, including MISSSEY - a community-based organization for sexually exploited youth - the Alameda County SEM Network, NPR and The Huffington Post.
Support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting made the outstanding work of Youth Radio's investigative unit possible. Downloadable audio and video for this story are available at youthradio.org/trafficked.
Coakley wants sex trafficking banned
It isn't officially against the law in Mass.
by Christine Lee
BOSTON (WWLP) - Sex trafficking isn't condoned by the state, but neither is it officially a crime. Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke with 22News about a bill that will correct that discrepancy.
Coakley testified before lawmakers this week on the bill that will make human sex trafficking a criminal felony in Massachusetts. Coakley said that human trafficking is the second largest, and fastest growing, criminal enterprise in the world. She said victims, on average, are forced through violence and abuse to enter the sex trade between the ages of 12 to 14 years old.
Coakley's bill would punish sex traffickers with up to 20 years in prison and create a task force to study human trafficking in the Commonwealth. “We've got great bipartisan support, I think we have a lot of momentum across the state. We hope that this is a bill - because we are one of four states in Massachusetts not to have a human trafficking felony law - hopeful that this will be on the governor's desk this year," Coakley said.
The Office of the Attorney General says 55 lawmakers support Coakley's bill, including 5 from Western Massachusetts.
Facebook to trawl photos for child abuse
Facebook will introduce technology to automatically trawl photos posted by users for child abuse in an attempt to drive paedophiles away from its service.
by Christopher Williams
PhotoDNA, a system built by Microsoft, will mean Facebook will not have to rely on complaints to police the billions of images uploaded by its more than 500 million users.
The system is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), based in Virginia. It has collected 10,000 images of child abuse from law enforcement authorities to serve as the basis of PhotoDNA, and has millions more on file.
Computers divide the images into smaller sections and calculate a hash, or digital fingerprint, for each. The hashes are shared with web services such as Facebook, which can then automatically compare them to images uploaded by users.
According to Bill Harmon, a lawyer in Microsoft's digital crimes unit, PhotoDNA detects child pornography with “zero false positives”.
“Some images become ‘popular' and are used time and time again – making good targets for the PhotoDNA program,” he said in a post on the Microsoft blog.
Facebook was heavily criticised in Britain last year over its child protection efforts by CEOP, the police agency responsible for tracking down paedophiles online. It followed the murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall, who was lured to her death by a 33-year-old man who posed as a teenager on the dominant social network.
PhotoDNA is just the latest of several safety initiatives launched since by Facebook.
Microsoft has already implemented the system on its Bing search engine and SkyDrive online storage service, and says it detected more than 1,500 illegal images on the former and more than 1,000 on the latter.
“Even though NCMEC is a US-based organization, we found image matches on our services stemming from abuse that has occurred across many countries, including the US, UK and Brazil among others,” said Mr Harmon
“We hope that Facebook's adoption of PhotoDNA serves as a springboard for other online service providers to take advantage of the opportunity available through NCMEC's PhotoDNA program and, in fact, we know that others are exploring the possibility right now".
Walking to fight child abuse
by BRENDA SCHORY
GENEVA – The Kane County Child Advocacy Center will participate in its annual three-mile Champions4Children Walk at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the center, 427 Campbell St., Geneva.
Community members are invited to stop by and increase their awareness in the fight against child abuse, said Lori Chassee director of the Child Advocacy Center. Funds raised will benefit the Child Advocacy Center. The Crystal Bride of Geneva and Costco of St. Charles are helping with sponsorships.
Chassee said this is the fourth year of the statewide walk and second year of the Kane County walk.
“We hope to raise $10,000 for the center to support the mental health needs of victims of abuse in Kane County,” Chassee said. “Last year, we raised just over $6,000. These mental health needs are critical to ensure victims of abuse are able to develop into normal health adolescents and adults and to break the cycle of abuse.”
Staff members and friends are walking and anyone who wants to join is welcome, she said. Registration is $20 per walker or to sponsor a walker. A light breakfast of bagels, muffins, fruit and juice is available for walkers.
Depending on weather, registration will be outside. Staff members will provide tour access to any member of the public who wants to understand how the center works. Participants can also register online at www.cacionline.org and follow the prompts to the Kane County page, Chassee said.
The advocacy center was established in 1994 to ensure coordination and cooperation in the investigation of cases of sexual abuse of children.
Children's Advocacy Centers use a multidisciplinary team to coordinate the investigation, advocacy and medical services for child sexual abuse and serious physical abuse cases. The team includes law enforcement, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, prosecution, medical and mental health professionals.
Nearly 78 percent of all reported sexual assaults occur to children 17 and younger, according to statistics provided by the Child Advocacy Centers of Illinois, a state chapter. Last year, Illinois CACs coordinated interviews and advocated for more than 10,000 children. The Kane County chapter advocated for more than 900 children in 2010.
For more information, call the center at 630-208-5160.
Allegations of Child Abuse Spur Questions of Adopted Services Oversight
by Lauren Maxwell
May 19, 2011
The head of the State of Alaska Office of Children's Services says it's too early to tell if the system failed six children whose adoptive mom is now charged with their abuse.
Anya James was a foster mom for more then ten years and state officials say she passed every check and balance required to keep children in her care. After James finalized the adoption of her sixth child, the state says they had no legal reason to keep tabs on the family.
“At that point it's as if the children are biologically theirs,” says OCS Director Christy Lawton, “and we have no more right to intervene in their family then we would have in the average person's family.”
But Lawton's agency is charged with protecting children and also to respond to reports of suspected abuse, and they got them. Lawton says in the last two years they received several complaints from neighbors, which she says they didn't hesitate to check out.
“We did receive calls and we did go out and do a number of assessments and I can tell you in general terms that if we had allegations of malnutrition or that a child had suffered sexual abuse or physical abuse then it would be a routine part of our evaluations to get some medical evaluations,” says Lawton. “ And we would also look for some medical recommendations as to whether it really was abuse causing what we were seeing or not.”
Lawton says she's not at liberty to talk about specifics in the case but that the details will come out in court.
Until then she says it's clear that the children suffered harm but whether the system was at fault is still to be decided.
Baltimore policies aimed at protecting children
by George P. Matysek Jr.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore employs a comprehensive program designed to protect children from sexual abuse. All archdiocesan employees must complete an application for employment and provide three references. They undergo fingerprint checks and online criminal history. They must also review the Statement of Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth and the Code of Conduct for Church Personnel. They additionally receive training regarding child abuse and the protection of children through an archdiocesan program called “STAND.”
All volunteers must complete an application and review the same statements required of employees. Volunteers who have substantial contact with children must also provide three references, undergo online criminal history screening and STAND training.
Children receive age-appropriate education regarding child abuse and safe environments through the Family Life Catechesis.
Sean Caine, archdiocesan communications director, said more than 75,000 background checks have been completed. He noted that Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien met with a victim of sexual abuse on his first day as Archbishop of Baltimore. Throughout the archbishop's tenure, Caine said, Archbishop O'Brien has recognized the importance of protecting children and promoting healing for victims.
“The archbishop frequently communicates with leaders in parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions about the critical importance of following our procedures to ensure the safety of every child in our care,” Caine said, “and has been unequivocal in stating that it is the responsibility of every church employee and volunteer to create and maintain safe environments for the children entrusted to our care.”
More information is available at www.archbalt.org/about-us/child-youth-protection/index.cfm.
Longview couple in jail after horrific child abuse
LONGVIEW, Wash. -- A Longview couple is in jail after investigators said they starved their children nearly to death.
The Cowlitz Co. Sheriff's Office arrested Jeffrey & Rebecca Trebilcock after a two-month long investigation into horrific abuse of their adopted children.
A 13-year-old boy was being treated at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital for several broken ribs, malnutrition, and hypothermia, amongst other injuries and ailments. Despite being a teenager, the boy is only 4'4" and weighs 49 lbs.
Four other adopted daughters were also underweight and neglected. All five children have been placed in protective custody.
Detectives said the parents put an alarm in the kitchen to prevent the children from accessing food. The children often resorted to eating dog and goat food or weeds. If the children got food without permission, they were hit with a wooden board, according to the sheriff's office.
The investigation revealed that a doctor saw the children in 2008 and warned the parents that the boy's condition was life-threatening.
The family also has four biological children, who aren't believed to be neglected. The parents are also well-nourished.
The Trebilcocks are being held without bail at the Cowlitz Co. Jail on criminal mistreatment and felony assault charges. They are scheduled for their first court appearance at 1pm on Friday.
Jeffrey Trebilcock is an employee of the Longview School District. A sheriff's office spokesman said the children were home-schooled, and Rebecca Trebilcock may have stayed at the home full-time to educate them
Nelson: Abuse allegations call for caution
by Robert Nelson
We have seen the story many times:
Someone recently arrested on suspicion of abuse who had been accused of abuse before.
This time, it involves an eighth-grade teacher in the Omaha Public Schools. Shad M. Knutson, 34, is charged with three counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child based on three allegations: one from 2008, one from 2009 and one from October 2010.
Two of the charges stem from allegations made against Knutson that had been investigated internally by OPS officials. The allegations were deemed, according to one OPS official, “to not be substantiated by the information available to us at the time.”
Apparently, it took a parent calling the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, not school officials, to get anything done about this guy.
The police affidavit detailing allegations made in recent police interviews by several former students of Knutson's certainly paints a picture of a man who preyed on eighth-grade girls.
In those interviews, two girls said they were kicked out of the school after making incidents known to school officials. One of those girls said that after she and her mother complained to the school's principal after a 2008 incident, the principal said the girl was lying and suspended the girl from school.
All of which suggests an outrageous pattern of school officials covering up for a predator in their midst.
Which may be the case.
I may be naive, but I don't believe OPS administrators were as callous as it might appear from reading the testimony the girls gave police in November of last year.
“We work with the information we have at the time,” said Matt Ray, director of student and community services for OPS. “If we suspect abuse or neglect, we immediately contact authorities.
“All I can say beyond that is please understand that every case has so many variables and that, in some cases, there is information that comes out later that we didn't know about at the time.”
Ray can't legally speak to me about Knutson's personnel file or what OPS officials knew and when they knew it regarding allegations against the teacher.
But his message, spin or not, sounded clear to me:
In 2008, the first alleged victim told a different story to school officials, or a much less detailed story, or one that officials believed they had significant reason to question.
Remember the junior-high world:
School officials hear a lot of wild stories: Students telling stories about teachers they don't like. Students misinterpreting, overreacting, taking words or actions out of context. Then, the landmine: the occasional students who know they have the power to destroy a teacher they don't like with a false allegation of misconduct.
If this 13-year-old had told me her story and I knew nothing about the teacher, I would have trouble believing her.
That said, if school administrators were told the full story she told police late last year, they should have contacted state authorities immediately.
Let them investigate it. They're the experts.
Fast forward. Now we learn of an allegation against the same teacher, which is reported to state protective services officials and forwarded to police. Police extensively investigate the third allegation, interviewing more thoroughly sources inside and outside the school who might know more about the first two alleged incidents of improper contact and comments.
Reading a police affidavit with several girls making similar, detailed accusations regarding incidents over three years, it seems quite clear (and assuming the witnesses aren't exaggerating) that major mistakes were made in not reporting this teacher to child protective services or law enforcement.
But as far as OPS officials are concerned now, the question is not only this:
Did OPS officials have, as state statute says specifically, “reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect?”
When did what information come to them, and did they have, at those times, “reasonable cause to believe” that a child was being subjected to child abuse or neglect?
If county attorneys think school officials had this “reasonable cause to believe,” someone at OPS could face a misdemeanor for failure to report child abuse.
Amid this mess, one question lingered for me.
What can a parent or anyone else do if they have reason to believe a child is being abused?
Jeanne Atkinson, public information officer for the Health and Human Services Department, simplified the issue.
“Just call us,” she said, referring to the Adult and Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 1-800-652-1999 . Also, she said:
“Err on the side of caution.”
Locals work to eradicate child sex trafficking
(Video on site)
SACRAMENTO, CA - The statistics are startling.
* Human trafficking is a $9 billion industry and the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century.
..... (CAST- California Against Slavery and Trafficking)
* California is a top destination for traffickers of forced labor or sexual exploitation.
..... (California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force)
* When it comes to child sex trafficking, Sacramento has ranked among the top five cities in the country.
Sacramento has ranked as high as second as a child prostitution hotspot in the U.S. It's up there with cities like Las Vegas, Chicago, New York City and Oakland.
IN-DEPTH COVERAGE: Sex trafficking
The subject of selling sex and children is disturbing to many people, but in the Sacramento region, many community groups have been galvanized to help combat the problem locally and globally.
Nine in 10 young girls involved in sex trafficking or child prostitution in the Sacramento area come from a sexual or physically abusive environment, according to the FBI. To date, a FBI task force has recovered 200 children in the Sacramento area. Several of them were along Watt Avenue in Sacramento in an area often referred to as the Stroll.
"We found two girls as young as age 11," said Mike Rayfield, supervisor of the Sacramento Innocence Lost FBI Task Force. "It's prominent particularly because of the interstate freeway system. We have Highway 80 going through here, Highway 50 and 99, and we're connected with Los Angeles and San Diego and Las Vegas, Reno, Portland, Seattle, so we kind of become a hub."
The interagency task force was formed in 2006 and is focused on rescuing girls and prosecuting the pimps. As part of the annual "Operation Cross Country" investigation, authorities have arrested numerous pimps and adult prostitutes.
Vicky Zito's daughter was 17 when she was kidnapped from a shopping center in the affluent community of El Dorado Hills in March 2008. She was drugged, driven to the Bay Area, and sold for sex on Craigslist.
"My daughter was a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking," said Zito. "She was trafficked from El Dorado Hills to the Bay Area to Rocklin and back to Bay Area."
The FBI task force rescued Zito's daughter eight days later. Investigators said she had been under the grip of a pimp who lived just a few blocks away, ran in the same crowd, and coerced the girl into prostitution. The perpetrator got 12 years in federal prison .
Jenny Williamson, the founder of Courage to Be You and Courage House, is trying to rescue many of the girls victimized by sex trafficking. To date, her organization has raised a $1 million to provide a licensed group home and safe house for girls to escape the streets.
"We want to give them a home to run to," said Williamson. "We have a 3,200 square-foot house. We have 52 acres and a barn. We are ready to take six girls immediately," said Williamson. "We will be able to bring 60 girls home. We'll have 10 cottages -- six girls in a cottage and a house mom."
Williamson and Courage to Be You have held numerous awareness concerts at local area churches from Oroville to Elk Grove to Rocklin. She also has raised money to open a Courage House for girls in Tanzania victimized by sex trafficking.
Williamson said she was initially inspired to take action after seeing Pastor Don and Bridget Brewster of Lincoln combat child trafficking. The Brewsters sold their home and moved to Cambodia six years ago.
"We're not experts, but we knew something had to be done," said Bridget Brewster.
Through their non-profit Agape International Missions, the Brewsters have been battling sex tourism in Svay Pak, Cambodia, and have helped rescue more than 200 girls victimized by human traffickers.
"We're just at the tip of the iceberg right now. A lot of it just got started. With the follow through, I think it'll be amazing to see what happens to combat this evil over the next few years," said Don Brewster.
The Brewsters opened two facilities to help rescue and rehabilitate the girls-helping them build self-esteem, learn vocational skills, and receive spiritual guidance. The couple helped bring five rescued and rehabilitated girls back to the Rocklin and Roseville area. Three of the girls are attending a local high school while two others are in transitional schools.
The couple returned briefly to the area raise funds for their non-profit and to raise awareness to help further their rescue efforts in Cambodia. They return to Svay Pak in June along with about a dozen local volunteers.
"There's other hotspots throughout the country where trafficking is happening and there aren't the resources or facilities up there to help girls or people or to prevent trafficking," said Bridget Brewster.
Meanwhile, Origin Coffee and Tea in Rocklin is committed to combating sex trafficking one cup of coffee at a time. Co-owners Chad Salstrom and Mark South are both pastors. They started the volunteer-run business in January and donate all the proceeds to help rescue, restore, and rehabilitate sex trafficking victims in developing areas in India and Cambodia. They are also working with local girls who have been rescued from the streets.
According to Salstrom, the business is working closely with International Justice Mission. The coffeehouse co-owners say they have already raised nearly $6,000 in sales of crafts made by rescued trafficking victims to go to a recovery home in Cambodia.
"I am surprised how many from our community in the greater Sacramento area are willing to join us to be selfless and fight in this selfish evil," said Salstrom.
Local churches in the Rocklin, Roseville, and Granite Bay area have raised thousands of dollars to help fight sex trafficking. Many of them continue to support awareness events. Bayside Church will hold its "Thrive" anti-sex trafficking conference in August.
Local schools have gotten involved in the fight as well. In May, Oak Ridge High School held a Trafficking Awareness and Self Defense Day, inviting numerous experts in the field, including Truckee Chief of Police Nick Sensley.
Local community groups are also raising money to help sex trafficking victims with events like Run for Courage in Folsom in October
Local lawmakers like Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Sacramento, have also tried to shed light on the problem in the Sacramento region. He hosted a field briefing in Rancho Cordova (this week) which included the FBI, Sensley, Jenny Williamson of Courage to Be You, and Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino. Sorvino starred in the 2005 movie "Human Trafficking" about a young girl trafficked across the U.S. border.
It's estimated that as many as 17,500 victims are trafficked into the U.S. every year, according to CIA research. Many of the victims of human trafficking are children, forced into prostitution. While it happens in developing countries, it's happening more prominently in the U.S.
A new documentary called "Sex and Money: A National Search for Human Worth" just shown at UC Davis, attempts to shed light on child sex trafficking in America.
Executive Producer Morgan Perry said, "People don't believe it's happening in the U.S. ... One of the girls we interviewed was Carrisa Phelps. She's from Fresno. That's where she was trafficked."
"I thought I was the only 12 year old," said Phelps. "I was told to lie."
Perry and her team of fellow journalists will embark on a 50- state tour and show the documentary beginning in August. They hope to effect change.
"One of the biggest issues we discovered while on the road is yes, we have a lot of (child sex trafficking) victims -- maybe 100 to 300,000. We also also have no safe place to put them," said Perry. "They estimate that there's 100 beds for rescue victims in the U.S. and that just means a safe place where these girls can find counseling and restoration and protection from pimps."
Perry went on to say, "One of the issues we found is if law enforcement gets them off the streets, law enforcement has no safe place to put them."
Williamson explained why she believes there's been an influx of time, money, and energy devoted to the cause. "I just think it's the social justice issue of our time," she said.
Deputies: Man faked modeling agency, kidnapped women for sex trafficking
Weylin Rodriguez faces false imprisonment, kidnapping charges.
by Jeff Weiner
A man suspected by investigators of posing as a modeling agent in order to kidnap women for a forced prostitution and sex-trafficking ring was arrested on Wednesday in Orange County, records show.
According to arrest reports, SWAT officers raided an apartment on the 4700 block of Walden Circle about 9 p.m. Wednesday, recovering suspected victims and arresting Weylin Rodriguez.
Investigators identified Rodriguez, 27, as the suspected ringleader. Deputies say Rodriguez and Pria Gunn, 19, often beat and threatened the women they are accused of kidnapping.
The investigation that led to Rodriguez's arrest began on May 1, when the mother of one of the victims contacted the Sheriff's Office, reporting that her daughter had been missing for two days.
The woman's mother said that, just before her disappearance, her daughter had told her about an agent she'd met from a modeling agency called GMB Ent. All Access Modeling.
The victim's boyfriend led investigators to a Family Dollar store on South Kirkman Road, where detectives say she met Rodriguez.
According to arrest reports, he dropped his card while waiting in line behind the victim, and when the victim picked it up, he told her to keep it. He told her his name was Ricco, deputies said.
Investigators were eventually able to contact the victim by phone, and said she led them to Rodriguez and the apartment on Walden Circle.
After the raid, deputies interviewed the victim, who said Rodriguez had repeatedly beaten her, ordered her to perform sex acts and to clean his house, cook for him and wash his clothes, reports state.
The woman explained that after meeting Rodriguez at the Family Dollar, she called the number on his card. He met her at her home, she told deputies, and drove her to an apartment.
According to investigators, the woman said she slept on a bed with three other women that night. Rodriguez told her he would take her home in the morning, but later refused, the reports state.
Over the following weeks, the woman said Rodriguez threatened her often. She said Gunn watched her in Rodriguez's absence, making sure she didn't try to escape.
Another victim recovered from the Walden Circle apartment told deputies Rodriguez brought her from North Carolina to Orlando, after approaching her about modeling.
She said she worked as a prostitute for several weeks once in Orlando, with Rodriguez acting as her pimp. The woman said she wanted to leave, but feared she would be beaten, reports state.
Rodriguez was charged with false imprisonment, aggravated battery with a weapon, kidnapping and battery in connection with the ring.
He was also charged with failing to update his address with authorities. Records show Rodriguez is a registered sex offender in North Carolina.
Gunn was charged with false imprisonment and kidnapping. Both were being held without bail Thursday evening.
Victims Of Sex Trafficking Get Legal Protections Under New Nevada Law
by Sean Whaley
May 19th, 2011
CARSON CITY – A bill allowing victims of sex trafficking to clear their criminal records of prostitution-related crimes in order to get a fresh start in life was signed into law today by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Assembly Bill 6 is the most recent effort by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, to combat the illegal sex trade in Nevada that frequently involves underage children.
“I am humbled by the support shown for the victims of sex trafficking,” Hambrick said. “It is a serious problem for our community and our country, and I'm proud that we have taken a step to help the victims who were not only forced into the sex trade but had to bear the burden of being convicted of prostitution.”
The bill, which will take effect Oct. 1, received unanimous approval in both the Assembly and Senate.
“It was hard work,” Hambrick said. “We had a lot of people within the community, particularly in the south, a large spectrum from the faith communities, the Jewish Federation, the Religious Alliance in Nevada, the two Catholic bishops, the Episcopal bishop, they all worked hard. I'm just very pleased it got through the way it did.”
Efforts will continue to combat this problem, he said.
“We have to continue this journey,” Hambrick said. “We started this last session going after the traffickers, this one is relief for the victims. The journey is not over with yet. Next session there will be additional bills coming forward.”
According to Nevada law, it is a crime for anyone to engage in prostitution outside of a licensed Nevada brothel; however, AB6 will give Nevada courts the ability to vacate a judgment if the person was a victim of sex trafficking or involuntary servitude.
“The victims of sex trafficking are often recruited as children, and this legislation can give them a fresh start without the conviction for prostitution, something completely beyond their control,” Hambrick said.
The bill is a continuation of Hambrick's successful efforts in the 2009 legislative session to combat human trafficking. He won unanimous support for a bill in 2009 providing for civil penalties of up to $500,000 against those convicted of human trafficking of minor children. Funds collected under the law can be used to provide care to those minors exploited for sexual purposes.
Las Vegas was identified in 2009 by the FBI as one of 14 cities around the country with high rates of child prostitution.
Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation
San Jose, Calif.
May 19, 2011
Thank you, Marshall Jarrett – for your kind words, and for your decades of service to our nation's Department of Justice. More years ago than I'd like to say, when – fresh out of law school – I joined the Department, Marshall was one of my first supervisors. I was – and I continue to be – the beneficiary of his advice and example. And, today, I'm especially grateful for the leadership that he brings to the work we've gathered to discuss and to advance – the work of protecting our children.
Thank you all for being part of this conversation – and for the time that you have taken, and the sacrifices that you have made, to be here in San Jose for our first-ever National Strategy Conference. With this inaugural gathering, we are making history. Not only are we raising awareness about the problem of child exploitation but – by bringing together so many law enforcement officials, advocates, investigators, and prosecutors – we are signaling that, when it comes to keeping our children from harm, a new era of collaboration has begun.
I especially want to thank Francey Hakes – the National Coordinator for this work – and her colleagues from across the Department who have done a great job organizing this groundbreaking conference and developing a comprehensive, cutting-edge agenda. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to recognize the extraordinary contributions of our Combating Child Exploitation Award recipients.
Above all, I'm encouraged to see so many key allies and strategic partners in one place – eager to forge and to strengthen vital relationships, to share information and best practices, and – ultimately – to take our efforts to prevent and reduce child exploitation to a new level. Although Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces and Project Safe Childhood coalitions play a variety of roles and work in many different regions, together, you are keeping our nation's most sacred pledge, and helping to fulfill the Justice Department's most critical missions: ensuring security and opportunity for our children and justice for all.
As everyone here knows, this work isn't easy. In fact – in this time of growing demands and limited resources – your jobs have never been more difficult. But your efforts – to protect children in need and at risk, to support juvenile victims, and to safeguard our young people from exploitation, abuse, trafficking, sexual violence, and online threats – have never been more urgent.
Since the launch of Project Safe Childhood five years ago, investigations and prosecutions of child exploitation crimes have increased dramatically. Unfortunately, we've also seen an historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we've seen a decrease is in the age of victims.
This is – quite simply – unacceptable. But, together, we are fighting back. And our enforcement, engagement, and outreach efforts are making a difference across the country.
For example, in Southern Texas, a dedicated community outreach team has launched a Project Safe Childhood initiative designed to raise awareness about child exploitation, and about Internet safety. They have already reached out to thousands of parents, students, and educators across communities like Houston, Brownsville, and Corpus Christi. In California and Florida, key leaders in law enforcement and in U.S. Attorneys' offices have worked together to engage new partners – efforts that helped lead to a high rate of success in securing tough sentences for sex trafficking and child exploitation offenders. In Arizona, Ohio, and Washington State, prosecutors and law enforcement officials have developed new strategies to aggressively identify and stop those who attempt to exploit children. In Alabama and Utah, leaders in our U.S. Attorneys' offices are seeking out innovative approaches to preventing and prosecuting these crimes. And in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., federal and local agencies are coming together to foster collaboration and to streamline their operations. Meanwhile, in Illinois, passionate advocates like Felice Weiler – a Specialist with the U.S. Attorney's office in the Northern District – are reaching out to victims, witnesses, and their families like never before.
Because of these and other efforts – and with the help of our U.S. Attorneys Offices, our ICAC Task Forces, and network of federal partners – in recent years, we have brought a record number of offenders to justice. We've also taken unprecedented steps to engage community members, parents, teachers, electronic service providers, and international partners in this work. As a result, we've seen remarkable success in identifying and shutting down child pornography rings that span across the globe. And we're now aggressively targeting the top 500 most dangerous, non-compliant sex offenders.
We've also improved the public's ability to report child exploitation crimes – through our Project Safe Childhood website, as well as our cyber tip line. In fact, since the tip line was established in 1998, more than one million complaints have been processed – including more than three thousand in the first week of this month alone.
Last August marked another critical step forward, when the Department released the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. Through this framework, we are formalizing key partnerships; streamlining our education, prevention and prosecution activities; improving information sharing and collaboration; and making the most effective use of limited resources. Going forward, we must apply two of the key lessons we've learned in recent years: that our focus must expand beyond enforcement and prosecutions to include proven prevention and deterrence efforts; and that protecting our children means addressing all federal offenses that involve the exploitation of young people, not just Internet-facilitated crimes.
Today, we know that criminals will go to just about any lengths to evade the law – and, so long as that's the case, we need to use every appropriate tool and available resource to enforce it. That's why, in February, I approved the expansion of Project Safe Childhood beyond the online crimes it was initially created to address. We're now utilizing cutting-edge technologies alongside traditional methods of enforcement and recovery to improve our odds of catching those who prey upon our children – and to more effectively leverage the capacity of our law enforcement partners, as well as the broad network of nonprofits actively engaged in the fight against child exploitation and abuse.
But we need to invite even more partners – from across the public and private sectors – to join us in this fight, and to enlist passionate private citizens who can help bring untapped resources to bear. That's why I'm thrilled that we have so many dedicated men and women with us this week – from our law enforcement partners, to our deserving award winners, to inspiring national advocates like Erin Runnion. After the tragic murder of her five-year-old daughter, Samantha, Erin founded the Joyful Child Foundation in 2002. And she is one of several parents here who has found the strength to channel a devastating personal loss into a powerful call to action.
On behalf of my colleagues across the Justice Department, I want each of you to know that I am committed to answering this call.
Thanks to remarkable people like Erin, to partners in – and beyond – this room, and to each of this afternoon's awardees – I have never been more optimistic about our ability to protect the children we are so privileged to serve.
Across the country, we are seeing – and you are proving – that we can win the fight against child exploitation. And, today, I ask that you keep up – and find ways to strengthen – your critical work.
Once again, I want to thank you for all that you have done – and for your ongoing commitment to build on today's record of progress. As we continue this conversation in the months and years ahead, I look forward to working with each of you to further develop and execute our National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction – and to celebrating additional achievements, and even greater successes, at next year's conference.
Report blames society for sexually abusive priests
A study commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops ties abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. to the sexual revolution, not celibacy or homosexuality, and says it's been largely resolved. The findings are already under attack.
by Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
May 18, 2011
Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States is a "historical problem" that has largely been resolved and that never had any significant correlation with either celibacy or homosexuality, according to an independent report commissioned by Catholic bishops — and subjected to fierce attack even before its release on Wednesday.
The report blamed the sexual revolution for a rise in sexual abuse by priests, saying that Catholic clerics were swept up by a tide of "deviant" behavior that became more socially acceptable in the 1960s and '70s.
As that subsided, and as the church instituted reforms in the 1990s and 2000s, the problem of priests acting as sexual predators sharply declined, according to the study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"The abuse is a result of a complex interaction of factors," said Karen Terry, a John Jay criminal justice professor who led the research team. One major factor, she said at a news conference in Washington, was social turmoil in the 1960s and '70s that led some priests "who had some vulnerabilities" to commit child sexual abuse. She said Catholic seminaries had done a poor job of preparing priests "to live a life of chaste celibacy," as their vows demanded.
The report found no evidence, however, that celibacy itself contributed to sexual abuse. "Given the continuous requirement of priestly celibacy over time, it is not clear why the commitment to or state of celibate chastity should be seen as a cause for the steady rise in incidence of sexual abuse between 1950 and 1980," it said.
It also found no evidence that homosexuality was to blame. While more boys than girls have been abused, the report said, that is probably because priests had greater access to boys. In fact, it said, the incidence of sexual abuse in the priesthood began declining not long after a noticeable rise in the number of gay men entering Catholic seminaries in the 1970s.
News of the report's findings leaked out late Tuesday with an account by Religion News Service, and reaction from critics was swift and harsh. Advocates for victims of child sexual abuse expressed outrage that the report emphasized social factors, which they saw as an attempt to shift blame. A conservative Catholic group objected to the report's exoneration of homosexuality as a cause of the abuse.
William Donohue, the outspoken president of the conservative Catholic League, noted on the group's website that the report found that 81% of abuse victims were male and 78% were beyond puberty. "Since 100% of the abusers were male, that's called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality," he said.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the website BishopAccountability.org, which chronicles abuse cases and acts as an advocate for victims, said the report failed to take the church hierarchy to task for the abuse crisis, and seemed intended "to decriminalize the bishops' response to child molestation."
"But I guess what is surprising me," she said, "is the fact that they're also chalking up the rape and abuse of tens of thousands of children to a vulnerable priesthood responding to social turmoil."
Speakers at the Washington news conference, held by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said church leaders did not try to shape the research, and that the report did not let anyone off the hook.
"None of what is included in this report should be interpreted as making excuses for the terrible acts that occurred," said Diane Knight, a Milwaukee social worker and chairwoman of the bishops' National Review Board. "There are no excuses. There is much that the church has to learn from this report and much of it is difficult. The bottom line is that the church was wrong not to put children first for all those years, all those decades."
David Finkelhor, a sociologist who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said he briefly reviewed the report Wednesday morning and was largely impressed by the breadth and depth of research.
However, he said, "I do think they are unfortunately going to get lambasted on some things, and it may be more of a question of tone and emphasis than actual substance." Chief among those things, he said, is the lack of emphasis on "the terrible mishandling of this whole phenomenon by the bishops and the church hierarchy."
Finkelhor said he accepted the report's finding that child sexual abuse by priests had dramatically declined in recent years. Some U.S. dioceses have done a good job of instituting programs to safeguard children, and society as a whole has gotten better at dealing with sexual abuse, he said.
While critics argue that the abuse being committed today simply hasn't been reported yet, and might not be for decades, Finkelhor said he thought that was much less likely than in the past.
"I think frankly we're much better now at flushing out abuse early on," he said. "I think young people feel much more comfortable coming out and talking about it."
Church Abuse Report Authors Defend Findings as Critics Weigh In
by LAURIE GOODSTEIN
WASHINGTON — The criminologists hired by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops to study the sexual abuse crisis in the church defended their findings on Wednesday at the bishops' headquarters — in particular their thesis that the abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s and dropped off significantly by the mid-1980s.
Sexual abuse victims and experts in the field began to absorb and criticize what is thought to be the most extensive study ever conducted of child sexual abuse within an institution, produced after five years by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
Karen Terry, the report's principal investigator and the dean of research and strategic partnerships at John Jay, said Wednesday at a news conference: “The peak of this abuse crisis is historical. That peak is over.”
The report's conclusion was counterintuitive to many Catholics and abuse victims, because the scandal itself did not peak until 2002 with the revelations that the archbishop of Boston had knowingly reassigned serial abusers to serve in ministries where they continued to have access to young people.
That practice appears still to have been at work until very recently, at least in Philadelphia, where a grand jury in February found that about three dozen priests accused of abuse and inappropriate behavior with minors were still in ministry.
Bishop Blase Cupich, chairman of the bishops' committee on the protection of children and young people, said at the news conference that the Philadelphia situation was an “anomaly.”
Bishop Cupich said the bishops had made great strides in preventing abuse because of policies they adopted at their Dallas meeting in 2002, but he acknowledged: “If we want our people to trust us, we have to trust them. So we are doing our best to make sure that we are transparent with them.”
Victims groups accused the bishops of using the report and the researchers' credibility to try to cap the 10-year scandal.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in an e-mail: “America's bishops hope this will be their ‘Mission Accomplished' moment, like George W. Bush on the aircraft carrier prematurely and conveniently declaring victory in Iraq. Their plan is to act as though the crisis has been clarified and is now past. It's deceptive and disingenuous, but shrewd public relations.”
Among the most controversial findings in the report is the mountain-shaped graph that shows the number of abuse victims climbing through the 1960s, peaking in the 1970s and sharply declining from 1985 onward.
The report theorizes that priests coming of age in the 1940s and 1950s, growing up in families where sexuality was a taboo topic, and trained in seminaries that did not prepare them for lives of celibacy, went on to violate children during the social chaos of the sexual revolution.
Ms. Terry said in an interview that she could not say for sure that the abuse did not predate the 1960s. The researchers were contracted to study only the 1950s and onward.
“We did not investigate the '20s, '30s and '40s,” Ms. Terry said, “so we don't know what the level of abuse was at that time. Did it occur then? Of course. It occurred throughout society.
“Was there more abuse in the 1950s than was reported in our graph?” she continued. “No doubt. However, there is still an increase in the 1960s. That's been shown each year the data has come in.”
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said he found much of value in the report. Mr. Finkelhor said there was a parallel spike in society in general of sexual abuse of minors in the 1960s and '70s. But he said it might simply be evidence that sexual abuse began to be more widely reported in those years.
“We did see that,” he said, “but we said these are cases that have always existed, and we are just hearing about them at the time.”
The report relies on data from the church, other researchers, treatment centers and interviews with abusers, victims and church officials.
Experts in sexual abuse agreed that the episodes of abuse by priests had indeed dropped in recent years, because of increased reporting, better screening and preparation of priests in seminaries and prevention programs for children.
The report found that in 1992, the bishops adopted five very sound principles to prevent abuse. But they were only guidelines, and while some bishops adopted them, others did not.
“What is clear to us was that in many cases the bishops did respond, but they were responding to their priests,” Ms. Terry said. “They were looking to help the priest, to treat the priest, to help him overcome his sickness. What they did not do was focus on the victims and the harm to the victims.”
The Vatican Comes Up Short
The Vatican's long overdue guidelines for fighting sexual abuse of children are, unfortunately, just that — flimsy guidelines for a global problem that requires an unequivocal mandate for church officials to work with secular authorities in prosecuting rogue priests.
Instead, the Vatican has issued nonbinding guidance that punts the scandal back to the authority of local bishops, who still will not face firm oversight or punishment for cover-ups that recycled hundreds of abusive priests.
The directive came two days before a new study of the abuse problem that cites the sexual and social turmoil of the 1960s as a possible factor in priests' crimes. This is a rather bizarre stab at sociological rationalization and, in any case, beside the point that church officials went into denial and protected abusers.
The Vatican directive is also seriously defective for playing down the role of civilian boards in investigating abuses. The lay boards helped force the American bishops to proclaim a zero-tolerance policy that was finally more concerned about raped children than the image of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican guidelines note that abusing children is a matter for secular law and call for dioceses to create “clear and coordinated” policies by next year. But the continuing stress on church priority in what essentially are criminal offenses is disheartening.
Vatican officials say Rome should not interfere with the traditional supremacy of local bishops. That was not the case earlier this month, when Pope Benedict XVI removed Bishop William Morris of Australia from office. The bishop, concerned with the shortage of priests, asked five years ago whether the Vatican “may well” have to reconsider the bar to ordaining women or married men.
No dramatic dismissal was ordered for bishops well documented to have overseen hush payments to victims and relocation of abusive priests. Splendid Vatican sanctuary was extended to Cardinal Bernard Law after he had to resign amid reports he covered up the scandal in Boston.
Most recently, ranking churchmen in Philadelphia rejected a grand jury finding that as many as 37 priests suspected of abuse should not still be serving. The diocese later suspended 26 amid public alarm. This should have been a red flag to the Vatican that diocesan prelates need a no-nonsense fiat in repairing the damage to children and the church from decades of shielding abusive priests.
O.C. sex offender charged with indecent exposure at library
May 18, 2011
A 67-year-old man who is a registered sex offender was charged Wednesday with exposing himself in front of three teenage girls at an Orange County library, authorities said.
Robert Bruce Engel pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of indecent exposure, according to Orange County Superior Court records.
Engel is charged with entering the Rancho Santa Margarita Library on May 9 and exposing himself as he sat across from the three girls, the Orange County district attorney's office said.
The girls reported the incident to a librarian, but the man had left by the time police arrived. The librarian recognized Engel when he returned the following week and called authorities, the district attorney's office said.
Engel was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing May 26.
Texas mom arrested in death of boy
Julianne McCrery charged with second-degree murder
by DENISE LAVOIE and RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) - A Texas woman whose 6-year-old son was found dead last weekend in Maine stands accused of killing the boy and dumping his body alongside a dirt road where it was discovered, authorities said.
Julianne McCrery, 42, of Irving, Texas, was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday in the death of her son, Camden Hughes. The police apprehension of her earlier in the day set off a rapid-fire chain of events in which jurisdiction shifted from Maine, where the boy's body was discovered, to Massachusetts, where McCrery was found and questioned, and finally to New Hampshire, where authorities believe the boy died and the formal charges were ultimately filed.
McCrery was due to be arraigned Thursday morning in Concord, Mass., on a charge of being a fugitive from justice stemming from the murder charge, said New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney.
Preliminary autopsy findings showed that the cause of Camden's death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to Maine's chief medical examiner. The homicide remains under investigation.
Texas public records show that McCrery was arrested at least twice on prostitution charges and once for possession with intent to distribute drugs. In 2009, she was sentenced to one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction of prostitution. In 2004, she was sentenced to three years of probation for a felony conviction of possession of a controlled substance.
The voicemail was full for a Texas phone listing for McCrery.
Her son died Saturday, the same day his body was discovered by a local resident in South Berwick, Maine, near the state line with New Hampshire, officials said. He had not been reported missing, and amid several frustrating days seeking his identity, Maine State Police had released a computer-generated image showing a boy with dirty blond hair and blues eyes.
Christian von Atzigen, of Irving, Texas, said he told police he recognized the boy as the son of McCrery, a woman he and his wife have been close friends with since she and his wife met in school 15 years ago.
"We didn't want to believe it," von Atzigen said.
"Julie's a good person. If you would ever ask me if she would harm a hair on that precious little boy's head, I would say never," he told The Associated Press. "She loves that boy."
Von Atzigen said that after McCrery and her husband divorced, he and his wife remained friends with both of them. He said Camden was a happy boy, and he never heard McCrery raise her voice to him.
"I never even saw her discipline him," he said. "He was just a great little boy, just fun, a good kid, smart as a whip," he said.
Von Atzigen said he last saw McCrery on Easter, when she came to his house to get a part to fix her hot water heater. While she was there, she dropped off some of Camden's toys for his 2-year-old son, he said.
He said he doesn't know why McCrery was in Maine.
"My wife talked to her a couple of days ago and everything seemed OK," he said. "There was no mention of her going anywhere."
It's extremely unusual for a missing child to go unreported. Similar cases happened only twice over the past two years, said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"In the vast, vast majority of these, there's someone, a parent or grandparent, searching for that child," Allen said.
On Wednesday, a telephone tip led police to McCrery at a highway rest stop in Chelmsford, Mass., said state police spokesman David Procopio.
In Maine, the case has led to an outpouring of emotion. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the boy's memory Tuesday night in front of the South Berwick town hall.
Near where the boy was found, people have placed three crosses, dozens of stuffed animals, candles, flowers, a baseball and other children's items. A framed piece of paper says, "God Bless This Little Boy."
Bruce and Laurie Ralph, who live down the street from where the body was found, placed a stuffed animal on the site.
"The whole community has come together and has feelings for this boy, who nobody seems to know who he is," Laurie Ralph said Wednesday as she and her husband visited the site. "You hear of missing children all the time, but when it happens in your hometown — and on your own street — it's scarier."
New bill on child abuse aims to halt false claims
by Sanne Specht
May 19, 2011
An Oregon House bill passed earlier this month aimed at discouraging false reporting of child abuse would have a chilling effect on an area of crime that is already under-reported, child abuse experts say.
House Bill 2183 would make it a violation — punishable by a $720 maximum fine — to knowingly make false allegations of child abuse to police or the Department of Human Services.
"The intent is good. But the unintended consequences could be very dangerous for some children," said Marlene Mish, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center.
Proponents of the bill include House Judiciary co-chairman Wayne Kreiger, R-Gold Beach, and Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford.
The bill is designed to discourage adults from using malicious allegations of abuse in bitter divorce or child custody cases, supporters say.
Esquivel did not return phone calls to the Mail Tribune on Wednesday. Rep. Dennis Richardson, D-Central Point, said he did not promote the proposed legislation. But Richardson voted in favor of the bill on May 3, along with all 30 House Republicans and seven Democrats, in part because he has personal knowledge of a case in which a man was falsely accused of child abuse during a divorce, he said.
"This happens more frequently than we would want," Richardson said.
Mish said holding people accountable for false reports is "a good thing." But the bill could have the unintended consequence of keeping children trapped in abusive situations because adults are fearful of making a report that, while true, might not be able to be proven, she said.
"The message we don't want to give is to dissuade people who need to do the right thing and report," she said.
Ashland resident Randy Ellison is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse and board president of Oregon Association of Adult Sexual and Incest Survivors.
Ellison has been meeting with legislators, encouraging them to kill the bill in the House. Now that it has passed in the House, Ellison is hoping the bill will die in the Senate.
"We do not need people worrying about being wrong when deciding to report or not," Ellison said. "We want people to report suspected abuse. If people are in doubt, we want them to err on the side of reporting."
The bill has the support of at least one Oregon senator. According to news reports, Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, testified he was once the victim of a trumped-up claim of child abuse.
Ellison said he had sympathy and empathy for anyone victimized because of a false report of abuse. But statistics show child abuse is the most under-reported crime next to domestic abuse, he said.
"This is a pointless bill that harms the current trend in society of eradicating child abuse and is a slap in the face of every agency that works with child abuse," Ellison said, adding there is already a law on the books that deals with false reporting.
ORS 162.375 states initiating a false report is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,250 fine and 30 days in jail.
Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said the proposed law is similar to the current statute, but focuses more on those who initiate false reports to DHS or a mandatory reporter with knowingly false intent.
Huddleston said his office has proceeded against adults for filing false reports under the ORS in only a few cases. Huddleston added he had not seen many cases he thought would be applicable under the proposed law.
Others who testified against the proposed legislation include the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Network of Child Abuse Intervention Centers, the Oregon School Employees Association, Children First and the Child Advocacy Section of the Oregon Department of Justice, Ellison said.
Wyoming conference: New training targets child abuse and neglect
by JOAN BARRON
?CHEYENNE — Without intervention, a 3-year-old victim of sex abuse usually will come back into the law enforcement system at age 13 as a delinquent, runaway or prostitute, a national expert on child protection said Wednesday.
Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Minnesota, was the keynote speaker for more than 200 social workers and other professionals attending the second annual Crimes Against Children Conference at Little America Cheyenne.
Vieth said the best approach in the frustrating child protection field is to measure progress over decades not years.
One obstacle to ending child abuse and neglect is lack of adequate training of child protection workers.
Vieth said most people who handle cases of child abuse have to learn on the job because universities and colleges have not offered training courses to prepare them for the real-life problems they will encounter.
College training in child abuse cases is inadequate for doctors, lawyers and judges, too, he said.
Vieth, an attorney, said everything he learned about questioning children and the ethics of working with child witnesses was on the job.
The training issue is being addressed by introducing college and university courses for social workers, educators, law enforcement students and other professionals.
The National Child Protection Training Center located on the campus of Winona State University has a federal grant to provide training and technical assistance to child protection attorneys and other professionals in the field of civil child protection.
The center staff also served as advisors to Winona State in developing a child advocacy studies minor as a model curriculum for colleges and universities.
The curriculum includes a full semester on trafficking of children and another on the correlation between poverty and maltreatment of children, among other issues.
This model, Vieth said, is expected to be in use at 60 universities in the United States by the end of this summer.
The course also is in use at two seminaries and curricula are being developed for law and medical schools.
The center covers the expenses of college officials to come to Minnesota to learn how to integrate the curriculum at their institutions.
If the center can obtain enough grants, Vieth said, its goal is to offer its training course on-site and free to front-line child protection workers.
Another major obstacle to ending child abuse and neglect is the reluctance of people to report child abuse, he said.
More than two decades of research, he said, document that most people, even though they know a child is being abused, won't report it.
“Only 35 percent of the worst cases are being reported to the system,” Vieth said.
A 2001 study of teachers disclosed that only 26 percent would comply with the reporting law if a child said he was being sexually abused by his stepfather. And only 11 percent would report another teacher for suspected child abuse.
“This is a huge problem in this country because if you're a little boy and your stepfather is sodomizing you, that is unlikely to change until a report comes into the system,” Vieth said.
Even if the report does come into the system, it may never be investigated, he added, because most reports are screened out.
The nation spends $94 billion a year dealing with the aftermath of child abuse but not nearly enough to prevent it, he said.
Law enforcement agencies also need to train officers in how to recognize and handle these cases.
The Minnesota training center gives each participant a mock child abuse or neglect case to investigate or prosecute.
The center includes mock court rooms, four forensic interview rooms and a “mock house” where child abuse investigations are simulated.
In one exercise law enforcement officers are trained in what to look for in the mock house to signal child neglect, such as the presence or absence of edible food or blacked-out windows, which could mean the house was used as a meth lab.
The Wyoming Division of Victim Services is sponsoring the three-day conference, which ends today.
New South Wales
Top cop says child abuse eating away at society
by Simon Santow
The New South Wales police commissioner has described child sex abuse as a "monster" eating away at modern society and vowed to make a personal crusade against the issue.
Andrew Scipione says the number of people reporting abuse is rising, particularly the abuse that happens in the family home.
Sex Crimes Unit commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec says last year there were more than 6,000 reported sexual assaults in New South Wales.
He says statistics about child sex abuse show an "ugly truth".
"Almost 55 per cent of those were children aged 15 or under. Most disturbingly is that 90 per cent of those cases [was] by someone they knew, and in some of the cases it was by either their father or step-father," he said.
"We need to help our children. It's not OK to be a victim. There are people who are being abused daily. They just don't understand that they can put their hand out for help.
"Family and relatives need to keep an eye and ear out for these people and let's help them through this very difficult time."
Superintendent Kerlatec says despite an increase in the amount of people reporting sexual abuse, it is still largely under-reported.
"The information that's been provided suggests that it is ... for a number of reasons," he said.
"[But] we believe the reporting is increasing because of some of the services that are out there.
"There are a number of victim support agencies that are also working closely with victims, and police are, and continue to be, very vigilant. This is something we've been dealing with for some time."
Superintendent Kerlatec says legislation prevents what can be known publicly about child sex victims.
But he says it is time communities put their hand out and helped victims.
"We need to firstly ask parents and relatives to understand that it is not OK to abuse your children," he said.
"And for those victims who are persevering with this terrible trauma day in, day out, please put your hand out for help.
"There are many who want to help you through this difficult time and remove you from that ongoing abuse."
Superintendent Kerlatec says a lot of people turn a blind eye towards sexual abuse because it is so difficult to confront.
"I draw the analogy [of] people talking about death - they just don't want to talk about it. It's an ugly truth. It is happening daily," he said.
"They're saying that it is not happening in my home, so they turn the blind eye to what may be happening in their neighbour's or in their relative's place."
Superintendent Kerlatec says it is fair to say the same extent of sexual abuse happens around Australia as it does in NSW.
"Talking to my counterparts throughout Australia, it is a common problem. It is something that each jurisdiction is working towards trying to reduce the number of victims," he said.
"I think there's an opportunity now for us to ask the people who are maybe seeing something, who may suspect something, to try and help those victims.
"We can never do too much to help victims. One sexual assault is one too many."
Nashville police investigate severe abuse of infant
Convicted sex offender was found baby-sitting children at motel
by Chris Echegaray
A 6-month-old girl is clinging to life after suffering head injuries in a case of severe child abuse, police said.
Heaven Hamilton was not breathing, had no pulse and her head was swollen when an officer went to Room 132 of Hallmark Inn on West Trinity Lane on Tuesday evening.
The child diagnosed with extreme head trauma is in critical condition at Vanderbilt children's hospital, police said.
Youth Services detectives found that a convicted sex offender was baby-sitting the baby and three other children at the motel while the mother — his girlfriend — was away.
The baby's mother, Rose Hamilton, returned to the motel room and found her baby in distress. She called for help.
Robert Simmons, 35, was convicted and sentenced to six years in 2006 for attempted aggravated sexual battery against a child under the age of 13. He hasn't been charged in connection with the injuries to this child but was charged with violating the provisions of the state's sex offender registry law.
Simmons is accused of violating the law preventing him from living with minors, stemming from his conviction, and of failing to report his true address to the Board of Probation and Parole.
Simmons registered as homeless on April 13. Detectives believe he's been living at the motel since April 15. Sex offenders are subject to community supervision for life.
Simmons remains under investigation in connection with the child abuse case.
The state is getting warrants to charge Simmons with violation of his probation, police said.
Dutch prosecutors demand longer sentences in appeal of shocking child abuse case
KELPEN, NETHERLANDS (BNO NEWS) -- Prosecutors in the Netherlands are demanding longer sentences in the appeal of a shocking child abuse case in which a couple sexually abused a six-year-old girl over a period of more than a year.
The crimes happened between January 2006 and July 2007 at a structure in the town of Kelpen, located in Limburg province, when the girl's mother and her boyfriend repeatedly sexually abused the young girl.
The couple has been identified only as Sylvia O., the girl's mother, and Anton S., who is not the father of the victim but was the boyfriend of O. when the crimes took place. They were previously sentenced to 5 years and 6.5 years in prison, respectively.
Both O. and S. appealed their sentencing in September 2009 and their lawyers have urged the court to either sentence them to time already served or to declare them not guilty by reason of insanity.
The couple, during the investigation, refused to cooperate with the forensic psychiatric observation clinic Pieter Baan Center. However, the investigating team concluded after long observations that O. has a borderline personality disorder which is characterized by varying and intense relationships of dependence, a changing self-image, impulsivity and poor reality testing.
"In addition, there is sexual deviant behavior, where there seems excessive preoccupation with sex and exhibitionist tendencies and sadomasochism," the court said in 2009, citing the investigation by the Pieter Baan Center which concluded that O. has a 'greatly diminished responsibility' because of her mental condition. "Furthermore, it seems unlikely that defendant persistently had no awareness of current reality."
According to court records, both defendants repeatedly raped the six-year-old girl with objects such as a vibrator and a butt plug. The victim was also tied up, despite her cries, and forced to stimulate S.' penis.
"The charges against the suspect (O.) are considered proven that with her boyfriend she repeatedly raped and repeatedly committed indecent acts on the victim, the daughter of the suspect," the court said during O's sentencing in 2009. "[The victim] was at the time of these offenses only 6 years old. Defendant and her then-boyfriend have during a period of months repeatedly applied sexual violence against the little daughter of the suspect and used her as a toy for their sexual acts."
"From evidence and the trial it is revealed that the sexual violence [the victim] underwent included the use of items such as butt plugs, dildos, and a whip," the court added. "These objects were, among other areas, inserted with force into the anus of [the victim]. This happened multiple times while [the victim] resisted. As such it was completely clear to the defendants that this happened against the wishes of [the victim]."
"The defendant has, with her accomplice, carried out very serious sexual violence against a small child. A child who should be able to feel safe in her home with her mother, but who instead was seriously sexually abused by her mother and her boyfriend," the court continued in 2009, according to records. "The court therefore expresses her horror of what defendant and co-defendant have done to [the victim]."
To satisfy their own sexual needs, the defendants also recorded their sexual acts in photos and videos to later watch it again. The computer of S. was also found to contain hundreds of photos and tens of thousands of videos of child pornography involving other children, which were not made by the couple.
The investigation began when the aunt of the victim, with whom she often stayed, got suspicious about the behavior of the child. When pressed about it, the then 7-year-old girl told what had happened. The aunt then informed the father of the girl, who contacted police.
The Netherlands' prosecutor's office said it would demand higher sentences during the appeal, despite their opinion that both suspects were not fully accountable due to their mental condition. It said it would demand 7.5 years in prison for S. and 6 years for O.
But in addition to the prison sentences, the prosecutor's office said it would also demand the defendants to be sentenced to involuntary psychiatric treatment known as TBS in Dutch criminal law.
TBS, which literally means 'being placed at disposal', is served at special TBS clinics and is for an indefinite time. The court evaluates conclusions made by TBS clinics every few years to determine if those being held are able to be released into society.
TBI study shows sex trafficking is widespread in TN
8 counties reported more than 100 cases each in past 2 years
Davidson and three other Tennessee counties reported more than 100 cases of minor human sex trafficking in the past two years, according to a study released Wednesday by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The counties — Davidson, Knox (Knoxville), Shelby (Memphis) and Coffee (Tullahoma and Manchester) — also were among eight counties that reported more than 100 cases of adult human sex trafficking in the same time period. Overall, 85 percent of Tennessee counties reported at least one human sex trafficking case in the last two years and 72 percent reported at least one involving a child. In the Nashville area, Cheatham County was the only county not to report at least one case.
The TBI report, which was mandated by a law passed by the General Assembly last year, was based on surveys and focus groups with law enforcement officials, social service personnel, prosecutors and court representatives. Respondents from each county were asked to select a range for the number of sex trafficking cases they knew of in their county. TBI attributed the highest number reported from each county as that county's number of sex trafficking cases.
Few are convicted
It was the agency's first statewide study on the presence of human sex trafficking in Tennessee. It found that few cases result in convictions. Study participants suggested better training and tougher laws would help combat sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking is the enslaving of women and children who are forced to perform sex acts to make money for their captors. The average entry age of sex slaves is 13, according to the report. The TBI study notes that about 200,000 to 300,000 children in the U.S. are thought to be at risk of being exploited for sex commercially each year.
There have been two high-profile criminal prosecutions in Tennessee. One case is ongoing in U.S. District Court in Nashville and involves 30 defendants who allegedly took part in a Somali Outlaws gang sex trafficking operation in Nashville and Minnesota. In July, East Tennessee authorities arrested a man who allegedly trafficked more than 400 women.
Good is Good: Sex Trafficking in the US
by Tom Matlack, GoLocalProv Contributor
We at Good Men Project Magazine have written extensively about the many facets of the sex industry, making clear that there is indeed room for many points of view when it comes to porn, stripping, and even prostitution. But now I am going to talk about an under-reported problem that is less morally ambiguous: sexual slavery.
Sex trafficking within the U.S. is legally defined as commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud, or coercion or commercial sex acts in which the individual induced to perform commercial sex has not attained 18 years of age. The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the U.S. is between 12 to 14 years old.
The federal law is very clear on this issue: Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
Targetting the vulnerable
Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation keep victims involved in the sex industry. Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much higher rates than most people realize or understand. Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, brothels disguised as massage parlors, strip clubs, and street prostitution.
To understand this problem on the ground, I recently spoke to a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations.
MATLACK: How do you define human trafficking?
AGENT: Two ways: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is basically modern-day slavery, people working and not being paid for their work, living in god-awful conditions. And then the other side is sex trafficking, people that are forced into commercial sex acts against their will.
MATLACK: When you're dealing with young girls, does the definition of the girl being young enough make it human trafficking?
AGENT: If the girl's a minor, she doesn't need to be forced into it for it to be human trafficking. If it's a 15-year-old girl and you're her pimp, even if she wants to go out and have sex for money, that's still considered human trafficking. Once somebody's an adult, you have to be able to prove that through force, fraud, or coercion that this girl was forced into those sex acts.
MATLACK: And so what's the breakdown in terms of the cases that you're pursuing between minors and not minors?
AGENT: I would say it's almost 50-50.
MATLACK: Can you help me understand how common it is?
AGENT: It is a lot more common that people think. Most people can't differentiate between human trafficking and human smuggling. People think that this could never happen here, when actually it's there. You just may not see it, may not know about it, may not hear about it. But, believe it or not, it's a pretty common occurrence.
MATLACK : So how much of what you're doing is folks who are bringing girls and women into the country?
AGENT: At Homeland Security Investigations, we're usually dealing with foreign nationals. But that's not to say we don't have cases that involve sex trafficking with U.S. citizens, whether they're minors or adults. But for the most part, we tend to see more foreign nationals. I'm on a task force that's made up of several federal and state law enforcement agencies.
MATLACK: So when you find confirmed sex trafficking, are you then trying to prosecute the johns, the pimp, or what?
AGENT: For the most part we focus on the traffickers. Unless the john's having sex with a 12-year-old girl and it's readily apparent she's a minor, then that's a whole different thing. But for the most part, the johns don't necessarily know that this girl is being forced into sex. Most of them think, “OK, she's a willing prostitute, I paid her for sex, she had sex. She's OK with it, I'm OK with it, no problem.” It's the traffickers and their organizations that we try and prosecute.
MATLACK: Are they mostly sole proprietors, or are there larger networks of human traffickers?
AGENT: There are networks. Some are just very small, one or two people—maybe a couple of brothers or something—and others are a little bit bigger. For the most part, it's not like a drug organization, where you have 100 people, from the ones that pick the coca leaves, to making it, turning it into cocaine, and then bringing it from Columbia to wherever, into the United States. They're usually not that intricate. They do have people in foreign countries that help provide girls, and so there are multiple players that have their own specific roles.
MATLACK: So just walk me through how it works, and how the coercion works, and what kinds of girls end up in this position.
AGENT: What's common in some of the sex trafficking from other countries, like Mexico, for example, is that it kind of tells a story. The girls meet this guy who treats them like gold, and promises them the world and tell them, “Hey, we can go to the United States, there's work over there, and we can make money and send money back our families, and save money so we can build our own house in Mexico eventually …” So they get these girls and basically jerk them around, into falling in love with them. And once they're here in the U.S., all of a sudden, the grass isn't so green, or work's not there, and then right off the bat it's sort of, “Hey, well, you're here now, you belong to me, this is what you're going to do.” Or they sometimes take a little more of a softer approach: “You know, times are tough, we need to pay rent, this is something you can do to help. You don't need to do it for long, just bring in some extra money.” So psychologically, a lot of the times the guys take over these girls, and next thing you know, the girls are being forced against their will into it.
And usually, when the time comes where they say no, there's a lot of physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse. I mean, a lot of these women feel like they're worthless at this point, and they don't know what else to do. Some girls think this guy really loves them and knows what is best. It's amazing—we have girls in front of us that we know are victims, and even though they didn't want to do this, they don't see themselves as victims right off the bat. They thought that they were doing it because they love this guy, and he's the best thing ever, and he wouldn't do that to them. The guys have such a hold on them mentally.
And there are times where they'll force these girls in with drugs. They'll get the girls hooked on narcotics, heroin, cocaine, whatever it may be. Then it gets to the point where girls can become so addicted to that that that's the only way that they'll be able to get their fix is to go out and do this. Between the mental, physical, and verbal abuse, the traffickers usually have such a strong hold over these girls that they have no control over what is happening to them. And they have no control, for the most part, of being able to get out of it.
MATLACK: What's the youngest girl in a case that you've been involved with?
AGENT: I think she was 13.
MATLACK: So if you can't get them to admit, you can't prosecute, even if you have other evidence?
AGENT: We can. We can use other evidence that has been gathered during the investigation to use that against her traffickers.
MATLACK: So in the cases where you are able to intervene and prosecute, what happens to these girls?
AGENT: We have a guy that's assigned to us full-time; he's called the victim assistance coordinator. He's not a gun-carrying, badge-carrying person. He's a licensed therapist. If we find the girls, besides him being able to talk to these girls, he also helps set up getting them to a shelter, getting them whatever sort of treatments they need. That's what we try to take care of first. If it's a minor, obviously they go right to a shelter because of her age. But, again, she has to want that. We can't force anything on these girls.
And then, later on down the road, depending on where the person is from, if she is from another country and here illegally, there are things that we can do to help give her status, whether it be temporary or permanent while we investigate and seek help.
MATLACK: Do you know what the recidivism rate is?
AGENT: I don't know, but that is always a concern of ours—that the girl could go back to what she was doing. Often, too, these traffickers will threaten the girls' families, and that's one of the big problems we have because these girls have been told, “I know who your mom is, I know who your sister is, where they live. If you ever say anything to the police, we'll kill your family, and we'll kill your kid.” There's usually a lot of threats that keep these girls from running away or turning themselves in to the police.
MATLACK: How do you convince them to believe that those threats aren't real?
AGENT: Well, we don't necessarily try to convince them that the threats aren't real, because we don't know if they are. But we just try to explain to them that the situation that they're in is not right, and that we can help them. We do our best to convince them that what has been done to them for so long is evil and wrong. At the end of the day, it's really up to them. We can't force them to do anything or say anything, but we do everything within our power to help them realize what happened to them, and what they can do with themselves.
MATLACK: Is there anything that you're trying to do on your side to offer an alternative, other than getting these girls into a safe place? Or is that just not part of what you're focused on?
AGENT: Well, it is. There are things in place for us to be able to provide these girls with some sort of immigration relief. I'm talking about a girl from a foreign country. There are visas for trafficking victims, that, if she is a documented trafficking victim, she can apply for. So, that being said, besides the help that we offer them right off the bat, trying to get them into the shelter, I do my best to explain that, first of all, it isn't right what was done to them. Nobody should ever have to go through that.
But they need to ask, because, at the end of the day, if the girl is from a foreign country and just says, “You know, send me home, I'm illegal, I want to go back to Mexico,” or “I want to go back to Brazil,” if that's really what she wants, and that's what she asks for, we can't stop that from happening. But we do what we can to make sure that doesn't happen, because we know that she'll go back there, and she'll be back in the same position.
MATLACK: And in terms of the federal government's stance on this being human slavery, how seriously do you think the government's taking this?
AGENT: They take it very seriously. Human trafficking is basically at the forefront of my agency, Homeland Security Investigations. There's lots of attention, lots of resources, lots of money put into it to make sure that we can do our job as effectively as possible.
MATLACK: I was listening to the Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department talking about how we've measured human trafficking all around the world and never measured ourselves, and now we're beginning to do that because, obviously, there is human trafficking here. Do you have any sense of how we compare to other countries?
AGENT: I really don't know. But we can't be too far behind, and I think that our government is realizing that, and the people are realizing that. People do think, “Oh, that happens somewhere else, not here in the United States,” but every day it seems to surface somewhere. So if I were to take a guess, I would say we're about as high as most countries. We're probably not at the top, definitely not at the bottom, but I don't think we're lacking in terms of human trafficking that is occurring in the United States.
MATLACK: How do we solve the problem?
AGENT: Like anything else, education and information. Like I said, I don't think most people really realize what human trafficking is, but more and more people know what it is. I find myself having fewer people say, “Oh, human trafficking? You mean like the people just jumping the border from Mexico?” And then I have to explain to them that no, that's not it. But education, educating the populace, putting it out there, letting people know what it is and how they can stop it.
Do I think it'll ever stop? No. It's a moneymaker, and therefore there will always be somebody who will want to make an easy dollar. Whether or not that's manipulating another person to make that dollar, it doesn't matter.
MATLACK: How do you think about it compared to the sex trade in general, whether it's stripping or non-human trafficking prostitution, or whatever? Do you think they're related in any way, or is it a completely different kettle of fish?
AGENT: Like just regular prostitution?
MATLACK: Regular prostitution, stripping, porn. There's obviously a great proliferation of the sex trade in general. I'm just wondering whether you think that's at all related to sex slavery, or if it's just a kind of completely different thing.
AGENT: I don't really know. Do I think that the porn industry has anything to do with human trafficking? No. Prostitution, obviously, like everybody says, is one of the oldest businesses, one of the oldest jobs in the world. It's not going away. Are there outside things that influence it? Yeah, probably, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that the porn business, or the stripping, or stuff like that, really has anything to do with it. It's not even a fine line. It's a pretty distinct line between willing and not willing. So I can't really say one way or the other. But there's a big distinction between human trafficking and just prostitution.
Oakland Park couple charged with sex trafficking of minor girls
by Linda Trischitta and Barbara Hijek, Sun Sentinel
11:22 PM EDT, May 18, 2011
OAKLAND PARK —A green porch light drew men to a private home in Oakland Park known as the Boom Boom Room, where federal agents say children were sold for sex.
Pair Charged in Sex Trafficking Ring
At 1 a.m. Saturday, a task force led by the FBI arrested James "Red" Mozie, 34, of Lauderhill, and his girlfriend, Laschell "Shelly" Harris, 37, of Oakland Park.
The couple faces charges of recruiting, providing and maintaining minors for commercial sex in the house Harris rented at 2140 NW 29th St., west of Interstate 95 and Northwest 21st Avenue and south of Oakland Park Boulevard.
Mozie and Harris are in the Broward County main jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale and have detention hearings in federal court set for May 25. If convicted of the child trafficking charge, they could face sentences of 10 years to life in prison.
According to the federal criminal complaint, an investigation began in March after a tip to Broward County Crime Stoppers about minor girls working as prostitutes at the residence.
Agents interviewed a 16-year-old girl identified as A.M., who said she sold her body at the house one Friday night in April after she and her 14-year-old cousin, identified as M.J., were dropped off there by two of M.J.'s male friends.
The complaint states that Mozie brought the girls into the house. A.M. told investigators there were 10 to 15 women and girls — some naked, some in their underwear — who were dancing before a group of men in the living room.
She also told agents that she recognized two of the girls, including one from her class at school, and said that people were drinking and smoking marijuana while adult pornography aired on a big-screen TV.
Men would enter the house and go directly to the kitchen to pay Harris, according to the complaint, while other men acted as security.
A.M. filled out an application form that asked for personal information, such as date of birth, as well as her willingness to perform various sex acts. She told investigators that Mozie knew she was 16.
After smoking marijuana that she believes was laced with something else, A.M. was promised tips for dancing in her underwear and 70 percent of any payments for sex, the complaint states.
Customers were given a 30-minute timer and a condom. The teenager told investigators she was paid $240 for the night, after she performed sex first with one man, then with another man and her cousin, M.J.
A.M. also had sex with Mozie, who told her it was part of her orientation, according to the complaint that says the teenager cried when she realized what she had done.
She told investigators that M.J. was paid about $290 and that Harris tracked payments to each girl and stored cash in a small safe in the kitchen, where there was also a computer.
Armed with a federal search warrant, officers found two 17-year-old girls inside the house with two women and 12 men, the complaint states.
Also collected during the raid: egg timers; boxes of Magnum condoms; many cameras, DVDs and CDs; computers; a roll of tickets; job applications; clear plastic bags holding a leafy green substance; several hundred dollars in cash, and green and red light bulbs.
The arrests were made by members of the Minor Vice Task Force, a group led by the FBI that includes officers from Miami Dade Police, Miami Beach Police, City of Miami Police, the Broward Sheriff's Office and Fort Lauderdale Police. The task force is part of the federal Innocence Lost initiative to investigate crimes against children.
FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said that no minors were arrested.
Adriane Reesey, chairwoman of the Broward County Human Trafficking Coalition, was pleased to hear of the arrests. She called sex trafficking, "a lucrative criminal enterprise. The profit from the selling of human beings is surpassing [the profits made from] drug trafficking."
Defendants Allegedly Used Internet Sites Such as Backpage and Craigslist to Recruit Women and Force Them into Commercial Sex Acts
ATLANTA—SOLOMAN MANASSEH MUSTAFA, 37, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and KALANDRA ANNETTE WALLACE, 24, of Jonesboro, Georgia have been indicted on federal charges relating to a sex trafficking ring operating in the Atlanta area. MUSTAFA was arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Christopher Hagy. An arraignment for WALLACE has not yet been scheduled. MUSTAFA and WALLACE face federal charges of sex trafficking, kidnapping, transporting women across state lines for prostitution, and document servitude. MUSTAFA also faces charges of receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor, and of coercion and enticement of a minor for sexual activity. MUSTAFA and WALLACE were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 10, 2011.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “Sex trafficking is unfortunately one of Atlanta's most significant criminal problems. This case, like many, contains allegations of the defendants brutally assaulting women to force them into acts of prostitution in three states. While all of the victims managed to escape from the defendants, many were allegedly beaten, raped, handcuffed, and forced to snort cocaine by the defendant and his co-conspirator before they got away.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, said, “The FBI remains committed to working with our various law enforcement partners in combating human trafficking and bringing forward for prosecution those individuals that would exploit others for personal gain. Public awareness of these types of crimes are not enough. Public involvement in reporting these matters to the FBI or other law enforcement is needed in turning the tide in the eradicating the scourge that is human trafficking.”
According to the indictment and other information presented in court: MUSTAFA and co-defendant WALLACE allegedly recruited and enticed young women via advertisements on Internet sites such as Craigslist and Backpage with the goal of forcing them into prostitution in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Alabama, and North Carolina. MUSTAFA and WALLACE are charged with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking for physically assaulting many of the women, preventing them from leaving hotels or apartments, and forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that two victims were bound with duct tape and placed in a closet. These victims, still bound with duct tape, were ultimately taken against their will to Homewood, Alabama for the purpose of having sex with men. Two other victims were allegedly forced to have sex with men and turn all of the money earned over to MUSTAFA and WALLACE. MUSTAFA's alleged violent behavior was the same with many of the victims: he or WALLACE would pretend to want to date the women, but, instead, MUSTAFA allegedly would rape them. According to the indictment, one victim had a gun pointed at her head and was ordered to remove her clothes and stand naked in a corner of the room. Other women were forced to inhale a white powdery substance that appeared to be cocaine. Two victims were allegedly handcuffed to the bed to keep them from leaving.
MUSTAFA is also charged with receiving child pornography and attempting to persuade a juvenile to have sex with him. MUSTAFA allegedly communicated via text messaging with a young girl whom he believed to be 14 years old. In those text messages, he instructed the juvenile to send him photos of herself. Once MUSTAFA saw the photos, he told the juvenile that she could be his sex slave and he went to the juvenile's home to pick her up. The juvenile left her home by tying bed sheets together and climbing out the window. Fortunately, MUSTAFA let the young girl go in a subdivision close to her home.
The indictment alleges that MUSTAFA and WALLACE also took the identification of some of the victims. After one victim escaped, MUSTAFA and WALLACE kept her identification and used it to rent hotel rooms and a house.
The sex trafficking, kidnapping, and coercion of a minor charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
If anyone has any information about this or any human trafficking case, they are encouraged to report that information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 404-679-9000 .
This case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the FBI's Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force which includes the Atlanta Police Department, the Gwinnett County Police Department, the City of Marietta Police Department, and the Sandy Springs Police Department. Other departments that have assisted in the investigation are the Holly Springs Police Department, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Clayton County Police Department, and the Homewood, Alabama Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Coppedge and Nekia S. Hackworth are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016 . The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.
Man suspected of kidnapping Riverside girl may have other victims, police say
The suspect, who had rented a room from the victim's family months ago, allegedly abducted the 9-year-old while she and her two siblings were asleep and her mother was at work.
by Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
May 18, 2011
A 30-year-old man arrested in the kidnapping and brutal sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl had rented a room from the victim's family months ago and may be responsible for other attacks, Riverside police said Tuesday.
Jose Wilson Rojas Guzman, 30, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, has been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. He is being held on $1-million bail and has been placed on an immigration hold.
"This is a particularly brutal crime," said Riverside Police Chief Sergio G. Diaz. "We'd be very surprised, given what we know about sexual predators, that this was his first time out.... It's altogether possible that this individual left the victim for dead. Her injuries were that severe."
Police said DNA evidence found on the girl matched Guzman. Riverside police had taken Guzman into custody May 9 after spotting his truck, similar to one caught on video surveillance cameras near the crime scene, near a restaurant across from the Galleria at Tyler mall.
The girl was abducted from the family's second-story apartment about 11 p.m. May 7 while she and her two siblings were asleep. The kidnapper crept into the home through an unlocked window. She was found about two hours later in a residential neighborhood three miles from home, dazed and knocking on doors asking for help.
Her mother, a waitress, was at work at the time. The oldest sibling was watching the children, but had fallen asleep, police said.
Det. Roberta Hopewell, who led the investigation, said Guzman had rented a room from the victim's mother for two months and left in January. Investigators are trying to determine where he lived before then — and where he's been living since. They hope it leads to additional evidence and helps them determine whether there are more victims.
Hopewell said the girl, who recently was released from Loma Linda University Medical Center, said she does not remember who abducted her.
"We're very, very happy that we do have somebody in custody," Hopewell said. "Now, hopefully the victim will feel much safer, and the neighborhood will feel much safer."
Child abuse: Why is it so prevalent?
Klamath County chronically has one of the highest child abuse rates in Oregon. The Herald and News asked several professionals who deal with children who have been abused to give us their thoughts on what causes it, and what can be done.
Today's writer is Kim Estes, executive director of the Klamath Commission on Children and Families. The commission is an advisory commission that is part of the Oregon State Commission on Children and Families and is made up of 16 local volunteers. The local group makes recommendations regarding children and families to the Klamath County Board of Commissioners and brings people and organizations together to implement planning and programs.
More than 20 percent of Klamath County residents live at or below the poverty level.
More than 6,100 children in our county depend on food stamps, and 63 percent of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch.
There are 567 reported students who are homeless and 379 children in foster care. With these kinds of statistics, it's easy to see why Klamath County has more than twice the child abuse and neglect rate of Oregon.
The impact of child abuse can be profound. It is associated with adverse health outcomes in children and families, with negative effects that can last a lifetime.
The history of child abuse or neglect can increase the risk of: mental illness, substance abuse, learning problems, social problems with other children and adults, teen pregnancy, lack of success in school, domestic violence and chronic illnesses.
In addition to the impact on the child and family, child abuse and neglect affects the whole community including medical and mental health, law enforcement, judicial, educational and social services. One analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse suggests it costs the nation approximately $103 billion each year.
Child abuse can be more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible sign, other types of abuse (such as emotional abuse or child neglect) also leave deep, long lasting scars.
So what can you do? The first step in helping or getting help for an abused child is to be able to identify the symptoms of abuse.
While child abuse and neglect occurs in all types of families - even in those who look happy from the outside - children are at a much greater risk in certain situations such as living with: domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, untreated mental illness and lack of parenting skills.
By learning common types of abuse and what you can do, you can make a huge difference in a child's life. The earlier an abused child can get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and to not perpetuate this vicious cycle.
Being the best parent you can be involves taking steps to strengthen your family and finding support when you need it. Parenting isn't something you have to do alone. Many agencies and prevention programs in Klamath County play a role in providing supports and services to children, youth and families.
For more information on the warning signs of child abuse and neglect and what to do if you see a child being abused, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD .
To find out more about how you can play a part and help create positive change in our community go the Stop The Hurt website at klamathstopthehurt.org.
Gov. Mead: More needs to be done to prevent child abuse
by Trevor Brown
CHEYENNE -- State leaders and advocacy experts have renewed calls to take preemptive steps to fight child abuse.
Speaking at the Wyoming Crimes against Children Conference on Tuesday, Gov. Matt Mead said the state is showing progress in fostering laws and policies to punish those who harm children. But, he said, those efforts are not doing enough.
"All that is after the fact and after the victimization has already occurred," he said. "Our goal isn't to lock up as many people as possible for victimizing children. Our goal is to not have them become victims in the first place."
State officials joined dozens of health experts, law enforcement members and others for the second annual event to discuss trends affecting child abuse and methods to combat the crimes.
Mitru Ciarlante, youth initiative director for the National Center for Victims of Crime and Tuesday's keynote speaker, said taking early steps to stop abuse from happening should be a top priority.
She said this is because after children are victims or witnesses to violent crimes, that increases their risk by three to six times that they will be victimized again. She added if children are not properly treated after the first incident, it is much more difficult to treat them.
"If a child is victimized multiple times, it is a lot harder to help heal that internal message: 'It must be about me. It must be that I'm bad or dirty or wrong in some way,'" Ciarlante said. "This can really affect their identity development lifelong."
To address cases of abuse, Ciarlante recommends more age-appropriate outreach efforts and greater advocacy for awareness and victims rights. She said professionals also need to better understand how different types of violence - from bullying to sexual assault -- can be related.
But Ciarlante said there is some good news.
She said from 1990 to 2007, nationwide substantiated cases of physical child abuse are down 52 percent, child neglect is down 6.4 percent and sexual assaults on teenagers is down 52 percent.
"This has to encourage us because (child-violence prevention) is a fairly new field -- and only 30 years is a short time to start a movement," she said. "So it seems like we are really gaining some traction."
Mead said an example of Wyoming's positive efforts is its campaign against child pornography that is being led by the Wyoming Internet Crimes against Child task force.
But he said work needs to span across all types of crimes against children and the state can't be satisfied with just thinking is doing a "good job."
"We need to be doing more on the front end," he said.
The conference, which continues today and Thursday at the Little America Hotel and Resort, is sponsored by the Wyoming Office of the Attorney General's Division of Victim Services.
Attorney General Greg Phillips said the information shared during the conference is an important means of accomplishing the goals to reduce the crimes.
"I know for a fact from my years working in prosecutorial offices that these sorts of programs do have an effect," he said. "And if it is to the extent that a perpetrator is captured and incarcerated, it means there will be a number of victims that will never become victims."
Underage sex trade in Atlantic City preys on girls as young as 12
by LYNDA COHEN Staff Writer
“Lisa” never thought she would be selling herself for money.
The Atlantic City High School senior had been rescued from her prostitute mother and drug-addicted father when she was just 5 years old.
Taking her from a troubled life in Atlantic City, the Toms River couple who adopted her were aware of their new daughter's troubled past and worked hard to make the girl happy and feel part of a loving family.
There were special dinner dates and regular manicures, family trips to places such as Disney World and Aruba.
At 16, nightmares began to haunt Lisa, dredging up the childhood sexual abuse she had suffered and making her want to hurt others the way she was hurting. Still, her parents included her in a trip to Mexico.
But a year later, after running away from three programs meant to help her, she found herself in an Atlantic City casino hotel room trying to explain to an older man that the sex her pimp had promised was not something she wanted to do.
Lisa's story is common in Atlantic City.
The FBI says Lisa and the other females in this story are the victims of sexual crimes and as such are not identified in criminal complaints. Accordingly, The Press is not identifying the women in this article with their actual names.
Caught somewhere between the casinos' allure and impoverished neighborhoods lies a secret Atlantic City, where girls such as Lisa are used as a product for those who provide a different kind of entertainment. One in which sex with underage girls is a big business. Girls ages 12 and 13 — some from the southern New Jersey area, others from other states — have been found being sold for sex.
That business is spurred by demand, said Dawne Lomangino-DiMauro, co-chair of the Anti-Trafficking Task Force of Atlantic County, a county-formed board that provides help to human-trafficking victims.
People often connect “human trafficking” to foreign-born victims, said Alex Sinari, a founding member of ATTAC. But the majority are underage Americans, he said. Often, they are teenage girls forced into the life of selling their bodies mostly to benefit someone else.
Unlike drugs, “you can sell a person over and over and over again,” said Sinari, who does outreach for Atlantic City's Covenant House. “Some are sold 30 times in a day. Raped 30 times a day.”
The most recent state Uniform Crime Report numbers show 16 juveniles were arrested for prostitution or commercialized vice in 2009, down 50 percent from the year before. Atlantic County had six in 2008 and five in 2009.
But those numbers are not complete: Girls sold into prostitution are considered victims, so they don't appear in arrest statistics.
“That wasn't even touching on the children who are brought in from another state, who are not street-level prostitutes,” Lomangino-DiMauro said, referring to minors brought across state lines who are then sold into sex uses by other means, such as online advertisements. “The numbers are just astounding when you think about it like that.”
In Atlantic City, there has been one pimp arrest since the beginning of this year and two outstanding cases from last year, police records show. Often, however, it is the women on the street, and not the pimp selling them, who are picked up and arrested.
Teen prostitution in Atlantic City is the subject of a study by John Jay College in New York, Lomangino-DiMauro said. Researchers interviewed both prostitutes and pimps and conducted a census of underage teenaged prostitutes working Atlantic City's streets. College officials confirmed the study but said the report was not ready for publication.
Within 48 hours of a child taking to the street, she will be approached by a pimp or exploiter, Sinari said of his experience working with trafficking victims. “It's just staggering how prevalent this problem is.”
How they get there varies.
“There are all different types,” Lomangino-DiMauro said. “Some are runaways who have been lured, some of them are involved in drugs, some are just on the street and have nowhere to go. Some of them have been kidnapped.”
The street isn't even where police find the majority of the girls these days, Atlantic City police Sgt. Rodney Ruark said. Pacific Avenue has been replaced by craigslist.com and backpage.com.
“There are a few other small escort service websites out there,” Ruark said of online investigations. “We don't see them walking around too much in the casinos.”
‘My first meltdown'
This wasn't where Lisa saw herself three years earlier, when she was a successful athlete at Toms River High School South. But at 16, things changed when the demons that haunted her from her first five years of life started to show.
“That's when I had my first meltdown,” Lisa said.
She was diagnosed as bipolar with borderline personality and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.
Lisa's adoptive mom put her in a hospital and almost lost her job because she wanted to be there for her daughter. About a year later, Lisa was put in her first program to get her some help. She ran away.
Two more programs — and two more runaways — later, she wound up at the Covenant House, a place for runaway teens that gets them the help they need. Lisa was getting counseling and taking her medication. She was at Atlantic City High School, determined to graduate on time. She even found a close friend in ‘Sienna,' who also was bipolar. Unlike the kids back in Toms River who used Lisa to gain access to her backyard pool and the gifts she gave them, Sienna was a true friend.
Lisa was at the Covenant House one day when a girl she knew from school showed up. The girl said she was thinking of staying at the center and asked Lisa to help her move in. Lisa went to the girl's house and was shown an expensive pair of shoes. The girl asked if Lisa wanted to make money in the casinos, but Lisa knew what that meant and said she wasn't interested. Then, the other girls in the house wouldn't let her leave, she said.
Eventually, she sneaked out a back window and got back to the Covenant House.
But Lisa soon got in trouble there, too. During an argument with another resident, she broke rules by making public a private matter. The two-day suspension left her with no place to turn. So, she returned to the girl's home, saying she would work — but just for one night and just dancing.
A few hours later, she was inside a casino hotel room with her bra off, dancing for an older man. The 25-year-old woman acting as her pimp was there.
The next man expected more.
“I'll make this quick and painless,” he told her.
But as the man tried to have sex with her, Lisa couldn't hide her distress.
“I really don't want to do this,” the teen said. Then she began to cry.
Difficulty finding help
Now 18, Lisa still doesn't know why she didn't say anything to the security guard she passed downstairs as she walked the casino floor. At 15, her adoptive mother had shown her a video on human trafficking. When the girl in the video passed by someone who could help her, Lisa wondered why the girl didn't call out. Looking back on her own chance to ask for help, Lisa said she thinks she figured no one would believe her.
That was true when she told them about Sienna.
The day after Lisa worked in the casino, she was able to get her cell phone back from the woman she had worked for and quickly texted a friend and asked her to come get her. But when “Sienna” showed up, the focus for bringing in a new working girl fell on Sienna, an Atlantic City High School senior.
Lisa didn't know Sienna ended up going with the woman. After getting picked up by someone else, Lisa got a call from Sienna saying she was with her boyfriend and was going to New York to work and shop.
“Don't go,” Lisa told her. “There's trouble there.”
It was the last Lisa heard from Sienna. Lisa called Sienna's cell number daily for a month — getting no answer — and told anyone who would listen that her friend was in trouble.
“She was strong about graduating,” Lisa said. “I had a gut feeling that they had her. It was frustrating because I knew she was out there and no one wanted to hear me.”
But Sinari did, and so did the Covenant House's lawyer.
In March, the FBI found Sienna working in a casino. She had never gone to New York. The woman she was working for made her tell Lisa that story, then took her phone, Lisa was told.
“I was so emotional when they found her,” she said. “I thought she was already dead, to be honest.”
Now, Sienna is out of the area and in counseling both for her emotional scars and her addiction that was worsened by the drugs she was forced to take while working.
The misconception, Sinari said, is that these girls — even those not at the age of consent — are willing participants. Even they sometimes give that idea.
“(Expletive) you, I'm here doing this because I want to,” Sinari often is greeted with when he first meets a prostituted teen. “That's the survival instinct.”
“They are not child prostitutes,” Lomangino-DiMauro said. “They are prostituted children. They are commercially, sexually exploited children.”
The sex-charged youth culture doesn't help, Sinari said.
Children, not products
“The word pimp has become a superlative in our society,” he said. “It's a sordid world. You really have to be aware of what your kid is doing out there.”
One Pleasantville father recently learned that lesson.
“Jennifer” left home one Friday night in February, telling her father she was staying at a friend's house. Hours later, Officer Daniel Corcoran found out what the 13-year-old girl was really doing when she propositioned the undercover Atlantic City police officer at a casino.
“It was very heartbreaking,” said Ruark, the Atlantic City police sergeant. “She seemed like she had a good head on her shoulders. She wasn't a drug addict or anything.”
Her father had no idea where she was, Ruark said.
When Corcoran delivered the news — and the daughter back home — the father “was very upset ... he was crying,” Ruark said.
It is unclear why the girl was there or how she got involved.
“I wouldn't think that's something a 13-year-old would come up with on her own,” Ruark said.
But after all he's seen, Sinari isn't surprised by anything anymore.
“It just changes the way you look at things when you roll down the street,” he said during a recent car ride through Atlantic City.
He points to the sign advertising a spa: “When the front door is in an alley, you pretty much know there's sex offered.”
And there are too many willing customers, Lomangino-DiMauro said.
“When there's a demand, unfortunately, the traffickers consider (the girls) a product,” she said. “What society needs to remember is, these are children, not products. To stop the traffickers, you need to stop the demand.”
Getting the girls help is another hurdle.
“Some of the children go back to their traffickers because we don't necessarily have the funding or the resources to get them off the street right away,” Lomangino-DiMauro said. “We do have a group of volunteers who try to assess and work to get them in the right places.”
Lisa, who once wanted to work in fashion, now sees her calling in law enforcement, helping those like herself.
“I didn't like the law when I was younger because they would always take my biological parents away,” she said.
But she knows her mix of street smarts and luck has served her well, and she's hoping to help others like her.
“I don't know how my luck hasn't run out yet,” she said.
But Sinari doesn't think it's luck that saved Lisa time and again.
He sees an inner strength in the girl who has a vulnerability in her dark eyes that belies the tough talk and matter-of-fact exterior. The same determination that helped authorities locate her friend.
“I think it's a character thing,” Sinari said. “I've seen it go the other way. We've buried people who didn't make that choice.”
House briefing studies Sacramento crackdown on child sex traffickers
May. 18, 2011
In legal circles it is known as domestic minor sex trafficking, but law enforcement officials and victims advocates call it contemporary slavery.
"Slavery today is as pervasive as it has ever been in the history of humankind," said Truckee Police Chief Nicholas Sensley, who has specialized in combating human trafficking.
The victims are largely children, he said, and "they are being exploited at a level beyond what we have seen in history."
It has been estimated that more than 2 million children worldwide and 100,000 in the United States are involved in the commercial sex trade.
Sensley was among a nine-member panel of law enforcement officials and victims advocates who talked about the crime and local efforts to combat it during a congressional field briefing led by Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
In 2006, the city of Sacramento ranked second in the nation as a center for child prostitution, according to the FBI. Since then, however, law enforcement agencies and community activists in the Sacramento region have developed what congressional leaders Tuesday lauded as a possible model for a nationwide assault on child sex traffickers.
Those participating in the briefing at Rancho Cordova City Hall included representatives of the FBI, U.S. attorney's office and the Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center. Also participating were victims advocate Jenny Williamson of Sacramento; El Dorado Hills resident Vicki Zito, mother of a trafficking victim; and actress Mira Sorvino, U.N. goodwill ambassador on human trafficking issues.
The briefing in Rancho Cordova was held as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, enacted by Congress in 2000, comes up for reauthorization.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said his office has made prosecution of sex traffickers a priority. Since 2006, he said, charges have been filed in 17 cases with 28 defendants in the region. Ten have been convicted with sentences of up to 40 years in prison.
Through the Innocence Lost Task Force, made up of regional law enforcement agencies, about 200 juvenile victims of prostitution have been rescued.
Officials said training to help law enforcement officers recognize juvenile sex trafficking victims and to treat them as victims rather than criminals is essential, and key to apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators.
The victims need the community's help to restore their emotional health to function in society, Wagner said, noting that they typically need a safe place to live, medical treatment, education and job training.
"The government is not responsible for taking care of these kids, we are," Williamson told approximately 200 people attending Tuesday's briefing.
A Natomas businesswoman and mother, Williamson founded a nonprofit organization that seeks to build Courage Houses, homes for children rescued from sex trafficking.
She said the organization has raised $1 million in donations and seeks to operate state-licensed group homes. Williamson also has worked with a foster care organization to develop a training program to help foster parents deal with the special needs of sex trafficking victims.
Williamson urged people to consider becoming foster parents, to volunteer to work with youths in juvenile hall, and to use their influence to increase awareness of sex trafficking and efforts to combat it.
Georgia's New Sex Trafficking Law Step In Right Direction, Advocacy Group Says
by Chandra R. Thomas
In less than two months, on July 1, a human trafficking law that toughens the penalty for sex traffickers and seeks to improve outcomes for victims will officially become law in Georgia.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 200 into law earlier this month. Advocates are praising the measure for many of its key provisions, including that it treats those in sexual servitude as victims; not criminals, allows victims to provide “an affirmative defense” when coming forward and for penalties that allow the state to seize any real or personal property used or purchased by a convicted trafficker. The fact that law enforcement agencies will also receive training on ways to identify and interact with human trafficking victims is also being touted as important progress.
Here's what Renee Kempton , the Atlanta Ambassador for the national non-profit Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTN) had to say about the measure. The organization funds and mobilizes investigative teams that gather information used to convict child predators in the United States and abroad.
JJIE.org: How big of an issue would you say sex trafficking is in metro Atlanta ?
Kempton : This is a huge issue that a lot of people are unaware of. Atlanta is one of the top cities in the country for sex trafficking because of the airport. A lot of businessmen fly into Atlanta just for sex with young girls. They fly in and then they fly back out. According to a report by the Governor's Officer of Children & Families, approximately 490 adolescent girls ages 12-14 get trafficked in the state of Georgia per month. The majority of them — about 360 – are trafficked each month in Atlanta alone. This is happening in our city every day.
JJIE.org: What do you think about the passage of HB 200?
Kempton : Honestly my first reaction is why did it take so long for us to pass something like this in Georgia? This bill seems to be a huge steppingstone. It's definitely a starting point. The bill has some teeth to it; it seems to have some power to divert people away from committing this heinous crime. I hope we can get to a point in Georgia where the penalties can get even harsher.
JJIE.org: This bill that passed was built upon the foundation established by a failed measure introduced last year by Sen. Renee Unterman. She came under fire by some conservative groups in the 2010 session for her measure that pushed for children 16 and under to be treated as victims and not criminals in prostitution cases. What do you think about the criticism she received and the issue in general?
Kempton : At the age of 16 you can barely drive a car in Georgia. If a boy or girl can be accused of rape or molestation for having intercourse with a peer in this state, how can we turn around and say that same child should suddenly be held responsible when they're being pimped by an adult? I think it's absolutely absurd to think that a child under the age of 16 should not be considered a victim in these cases. Children should be treated as such.
JJIE.org: What do you like most about HB 200?
Kempton : I like the fact that they (authorities) can seize property too. I also think it's good that they treat children as victims. Arresting girls who are 16 and under for prostitution and putting them in prison is not right. I also like the fact that they're training law enforcement on how to spot trafficking victims, that is so important. Most girls are not being held voluntarily; they're being given food or something else that they need for survival. It's manipulation and it's wrong.
JJIE.org: What would you change about HB 200, if anything?
Kempton : Anyone who sells a child for sex needs to have more than five years in prison. I would start at 20 years in prison minimum. Five years is a slap on the wrist, but it's better than nothing. I do like the fact that the fine goes up considerably if the victim is under the age of 16. Most girls are trafficked between the ages of 10-13. This means that this law will be reaching most of the victims. The fact that they can get 10 to 30 years and a $100,000 fine is very good. Hopefully that will be a deterrent. It gives law enforcement something to work with. This gives officers and investigators the power to do something about this.
JJIE.org: You seem to like a lot about the bill.
Kempton : Yes. The fact that the victims can claim an affirmative defense when they come forward is huge. A lot of girls are scared to come forward and this creates a safe haven for them to do so. This also helps deter the Johns and pimps because they all thrive on fear. They get her to think she has no one but him. The way this law is written, it provides a safe place for girls to share information with authorities because they are usually controlled by fear.
JJIE.org: How will this bill benefit SCTN efforts?
Kempton : This plays perfectly into our strategy. We go after the pimps and Johns and shut down the demand side. Without laws to back us up that gets increasingly difficult. This law gives us a great jumping board. We use retired police, military and Navy Seals to track down these guys online; our team members are the elite and they know what they're doing. Laws like this just makes their work more worthwhile.
JJIE.org: What is it that you want people to really know about sex trafficking?
Kempton : This is one of the greatest human rights violations of our time. It basically equates to modern day slavery. Selling a child under age 16 for sex is slavery.
JJIE.org: Overall how do you feel about the step Georgia has taken with this law?
Kempton : It makes me feel a bit more hopeful. To be honest it's so overwhelming at times trying to fight such a massive human rights issue. It feels like fighting slavery all over again. At times it's just so overwhelming. It's good to see this law get passed in Georgia. I see this as a beginning. It gives me hope that there's an end in sight.
JJIE.org: What can Atlantans do to support the work of SCTN?
Kempton : We're in 50 cities and on 100 college campuses now. We have an annual 5K race/walk here in metro Atlanta that raises money for the work that we do. This year it'll be 9:30 a.m. on September 24, at East Cobb Park in Marietta. We invite everyone to come out and participate.
For more information on Stop Child Trafficking Now or the race/walk fundraiser, visit www.Atlanta@SCTNow.org or email questions to Atlanta@sctnow.org.
FBI: Child Sex Trafficking at 'Epidemic' Levels
A recent FBI law enforcement bulletin reports that child sex trafficking is an epidemic in the United States, with about 300,000 children at risk of being victimized by the sex trade.
Experts say most child victims in the U.S. are from poor neighborhoods and broken homes.
"Most of the girls that we work with come from a broken home, maybe a single-headed household, where there is a lot of poverty," Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Fund, told Press TV. Fair Fund is an international nonprofit that works to prevent human trafficking and sexual violence in the lives of youth, especially girls, around the world.
The average age of children being drawn into the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old.
"No matter where we would pull in different truck stops, there were always other truckers talking on their CBs to let other truckers know that I was available," Kristy Childs said. Childs became a victim at the age of 12 and was prostituted out in different cities and truck stops for six years.
A new documentary, "Sex and Money - a National Search for Human Worth," exposes the scope of this tragedy inside the U.S.
The producers of the film are currently on a 50-state tour to raise child sex trafficking awareness.
Planned Parenthood May Have Helped Sex Traffickers in Indiana
by Steven Ertelt
With the arrest of people involved in a sex trafficking ring in central Indiana, a state pro-life group wants to know if the Planned Parenthood abortion business offered the operators abortions or other services?
Federal authorities announced multiple arrests on May 4 in connection to a multi-state human-trafficking ring in which women were brought across U.S. borders to serve as prostitutes in the Hispanic community on Indianapolis' northwest side. According to U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, the human trafficking ring had been operating in Indianapolis for several years.
While officials were monitoring the actual human traffickers, staff at the organization Live Action conducted a sting operation in other states to determine whether Planned Parenthood officials would help arrange abortions for the girls victimized by sex traffickers. In New Jersey, Virginia and other states, Live Action found Planned Parenthood staff not only willing to arrange for abortions but ready to help the sex traffickers avoid parental involvement laws and giving them advice on how to return the girls to the sex trade faster following the abortion.
On January 18, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards told the media the abortion business sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicating that “multi-state visits [to Planned Parenthood offices] from men claiming to be engaged in sex trafficking of minors may be a hoax.” Richards' letter was sent in advance of the release of undercover videos from Live Action showing the results of the sting operation.
In her letters, Richards said the abortion business found Live Action had conducted its undercover investigation in Indiana. However, Live Action has told Indiana Right to Life that it had no involvement with any undercover operations in Indiana in which they claimed to be involved in a human trafficking ring.
Knowing that, Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter said his group is concerned that Planned Parenthood may have helped actual sex traffickers in his state.
Indiana Right to Life today will formally submit a letter to Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder asking for investigation into whether the recently exposed human trafficking ring operating in northwest Indianapolis is the same group referenced in Richards' letter and, if so, whether persons engaged in the Indianapolis human trafficking ring received any services from Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
“It appears that we have three parts of a puzzle,” Fichter explains. “Federal authorities have busted a major human trafficking ring in Indianapolis, Planned Parenthood claims a man approached one of its Indiana offices claiming to be engaged in a sex trafficking ring, and Live Action confirms it did not engage in such undercover activity in Indiana.”
“This leaves two major questions that must be answered: was the man referenced in Planned Parenthood's letter actually from the recently busted human trafficking ring, and if he was, did Planned Parenthood provide any services to persons engaged in the human trafficking ring?” Fichter asked. “We will never know the answer to these questions without a thorough investigation from authorities.”
“While Cecile Richards' letter does not specify which of its Indiana offices may have been approached by someone claiming to be involved with a human trafficking ring, Planned Parenthood of Indiana's largest abortion center in Indiana is located on Indianapolis' northwest side in the general area where the human trafficking ring was reportedly operating,” Fichter noted.
The concerns are not unfounded as, in December, 2008, Planned Parenthood of Indiana was forced to fire a staffer from covering up a case of statutory rape.
Irish victims critical of new Vatican guidelines on child abuse
by CATHAL DERVAN
Irish victims of pedophile priests have reacted angrily to new Vatican guidelines that Bishops and not police should deal with child abuse in the first instance.
The Irish Independent has secured details of a report drawn up Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
In his presentation, Cardinal Levada concludes that: “The responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases within the church belongs in the first place to bishops.”
The statement comes in the wake of repeated claims across the world that bishops have shielded child abusers in Church cover-ups.
The Vatican however has claimed that the document is: “An important new step to cleanse the church of recurring child abuse scandals.
It has also urged bishops to co-operate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children.
According to the paper, Cardinal Levada had instructed bishops to send their updated national guidelines for preventing abuse by May 2012.
The guidelines are aimed at ‘facilitating the correct application' of rules that Pope Benedict XVI issued last year on handling sex abuse.
The new document calls on bishops to ‘investigate every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric' and makes distribution of child pornography a crime in canon law.
The new guidelines have been welcomed to a degree by victim support groups in Ireland.
Maeve Lewis of the One in Four survivors' support group said they were dangerously flawed and that bishops had little expertise or experience in recognizing child abuse.
“It is not acceptable that reporting an allegation is at the discretion of a bishop,” Lewis told the paper.
“The Vatican has missed an opportunity to deal definitively with the sex abuse scandal and to protect thousands of children throughout the Catholic world.”
Child abuse survivor talks about the road to recovery
by Veronica Chufo
May 17, 2011
Terry Morris read the story of a girl caged, starved and neglected in Gloucester County, and saw himself reflected in the pages.
The girl was found naked, covered in her own feces and eating flakes of her skin, according to investigators. Shannon Gore, 24, and Brian Gore, 29, were charged with attempted capital murder as well as first-degree murder in connection with human remains found on their property.
Morris, now 45, was abused from age 4 to about 14, mostly at the hands of his mother. "In some ways," the Newport News resident said, "I think mine was comparable to hers, or worse."
Morris grew up in Chicago, the second of six children. He was the only one abused. He learned later that that's often the pattern of abuse — one child is singled out, while the others are spared.
Morris thinks he reminded his "biological mother" — a phrase he uses to emphasize that he doesn't have a relationship with her — of his biological father. "When he left, she was so angry with him, she took all her frustrations out on me."
Over those 10 years, he said, he was lashed with extension cords. Hit with high heels. Beaten with baseball bats. Deprived of food. His head was banged off a radiator. Knives were driven through his hand, and nails through his feet. His mother choked him, digging her fingernails into his throat.
He was pushed into the street and hit by cars, pushed off a two-story building onto the concrete below.
Morris reckons he spent more time living outdoors during those 10 years than he did living inside. He was repeatedly kicked out of the house, forced to forage for food in garbage cans and find clothes and cardboard to keep warm during the cold, Illinois winters.
Finally, he said, when he was almost 14, his mother drove him to Mississippi and left him on the side of a road. He lived in abandoned buildings and cars for months before he was discovered and sent to the Alpha House Home for Boys in Tupelo, Miss.
That's when things started turning around.
Morris began to thrive. He started getting As in school. When he aged out of the boys' home, he lived with a series of foster families. He was accepted into a NASA cooperative education program and started working for NASA right out of high school. He now works at NASA Langley Research Center as a software and avionics integrated hazard analysis manager.
Morris received bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and a doctorate in systems engineering. He completed a fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a certificate of public leadership from the Brookings Institution.
He's the board chair of the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula.
None of Morris' siblings — who weren't starved or abused, who received Christmas presents when he did not — graduated from high school. He said some dabbled in drug use, committed felonies, had children out of wedlock. He sees himself as the ugly duckling in the nursery tale — the duckling singled out for abuse until it one day develops into a beautiful swan.
Now that Morris is married and has two children of his own, he cannot understand what would make a person want to abuse a child.
"It just goes against every biological instinct to help your child do better than you did," he said.
Recovery for Morris took decades. He's struggled with trusting people and faced difficulty in relationships. He tended to pick girlfriends with abusive tendencies, just like his mother. He went to counseling.
"If I had one wish, I'd like to be a fly on a wall and see what a normal, healthy family is like. I would give anything, because I have no idea what that is like."
In 1991, Morris became the national spokesman for the Combined Federal Campaign, an annual fundraising drive conducted each fall by federal employees. The boys' home he stayed in received CFC donations. That role took him to speaking engagements at the White House and at federal agencies. He appeared in a Pentagon video that was aired around the world. Talking about his abuse is part of the therapeutic process. Those who don't talk about it bury it, and it comes out in negative ways, he said.
His story has also appeared on public-service announcements — including one that his biological mother saw.
"I would've hoped that she would've showed some regret," Morris said. "She had zero."
She called Morris and told him that he owed her, he said, because if she hadn't tossed him out, he wouldn't have gotten where he was. She asked for a car.
He didn't buy her a car.
But he has forgiven her. Otherwise, he said, he wouldn't have been able to move on with his life. "When I forgive her, I'm doing it for me. I don't have to carry around that burden with me."
That doesn't stop him from wishing for justice.
One of the worst injustices, Morris said, was that the statute of limitations ran out before he could bring charges. "To this day, my biological mother has never been punished," he said.
If the Gloucester girl's parents are found guilty, Morris hopes they receive a verdict that sends a message to other abusers out there.
Some child-abuse survivors end up replicating abusive patterns they experienced, reliving a generational cycle, said Dr. Bela Sood, medical director at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children and chair of the child psychiatry division at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.
Others — like Morris — shun that path.
"I was just unlucky at that time to be the one who got singled out, but it doesn't have to be the end," he said. "I refuse to let my past completely define my future."
Pawtucket man gets 2 life terms for molesting 4-month-old
May 16, 2011
Thomas J. Morgan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A former Pawtucket man has been sentenced to two life terms plus 10 years for the 2009 molestation of a four-month-old child in his care, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said Monday in a news release.
Superior Court Judge Netti Vogel imposed the sentences on Emmanuel Baptista after a jury in March found him guilty of child molestation and child abuse. He received life sentences on two counts of molestation and 20 years, with 10 suspended on the abuse conviction. The life terms are to run concurrently, while the abuse sentence is to be consecutive.
Kilmartin said that the child's mother sought medical attention for the baby in 2009, after it was reported to her by the defendant that she had choked on a baby wipe earlier in the day. The child was treated at Hasbro Children's Hospital and later by a nurse practitioner.
A medical examination revealed bruises to the child's cheek, lips and tongue, a torn frenulum, abrasions to her pallet in the back of the throat, and an inflamed throat. The exam also revealed significant injury to her vaginal area. X-rays revealed 10 broken ribs and fractures to both arms.
York City detective to receive national award for work on child-abuse cases
Dana Ward said his job requires the help of many agencies.
by REBECCA LeFEVER
York, PA - Coloring pages, homemade cards and photographs cover a bulletin board stretching across the length of Detective First Class Dana Ward's desk.
Each photograph and scribbled note is a reminder of a case he's covered in his 16 years with York City Police.
He investigates an average of 100 cases a year and makes about 25 arrests during that time for cases of child, sex, mental health and elder abuse.
His work has not gone unnoticed.
The United States Department of Justice will recognize Ward for his work with the 2011 Missing Children's Child Protection Award, which he will receive May 25 in Washington, D.C.
"It's an honor to be recognized nationally when I'm coming from little old York," Ward said last week. "But I would like to accept it on behalf of the team."
His team includes members of the York County District Attorney's Office; York Hospital; York County Children, Youth and Families; and the York County Children's Advocacy Center. Without them, he said, he would never be able to put criminals in prison.
One of the biggest cases -- of Ward's career and involving the most local agencies -- involved 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, who died April 6, 2008, after being beaten by her mother's boyfriend, Harve Johnson.
It was the first case Ward was involved in that resulted in the death penalty for child homicide, he said, and a prime example of how local agencies work together.
While local agencies and nonprofits have been amping up their outreach in recent years, Ward still hopes for improvement in trial proceedings. He finds his greatest accomplishments in convicting criminals and taking them off the street, but he hopes for more victim rights in the courtroom.
"It's difficult when you've got toddlers who disclose information, but that's all the evidence you have," Ward said. "It's very frustrating to see someone be acquitted."
But Ward finds encouragement in the notes and pictures that fill his bulletin board. He can point to each photo, given to him by the victims, and describe the case, the children, their parents and the abusers.
One teen was locked in her attic and repeatedly abused by her father. Siblings were hooked up to an electrical contraption and punished. Two girls were forced to watch their father sexually assault their older sister.
And there's a picture of Darisabel, before her body was covered in 72 bruises and lacerations. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Darisabel's mother, Neida Elizabeth Baez, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for not intervening and was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison.
"The cases are difficult, they always are," Ward said. "But I have a lot of support from my family, my co-workers. I can look up at the wall and know I've helped people."
About the award
President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Missing Children's Day in May 1983. As part of this year's celebration, the 2011 Missing Children's Child Protection Award will be given May 25 at the national ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole will be the keynote speaking. Guests will include families who have missing children, child advocates, and federal, state and local agency representatives who have supported programs to locate and recover missing children.
Last year's winners were two FBI special agents from Miami, Fla., who investigated a large online child-pornography case.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
Use your anger to help end child abuse
Wesley G. Hughes, Staff Writer How to write this has proven to be perplexing. I've tried a couple of approaches, when all I want to do is make you as mad as I am and that would be verging on apoplexy. And then have you use that anger to fight child abuse.
Apoplexy is likely how I'll leave this world. I'll learn about one more low-life, who has abused a child terribly, either physically, sexually, mentally or neglectfully and I'll lose it: blow a gasket in the aging brain or ticker and say adios, sayonara, goodbye for the last time.
It was a week ago today when the Sheriff's Department reported that 5-week-old Baby Boy Belvin (neither deputies nor the hospital will tell me his given name) was taken by his mother to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where a pediatrician specializing in emergency medicine found two separate skull fractures, broken ribs, a broken shoulder and bruises all over his tiny body.
This little guy had been on Planet Earth for all of 35 days. Someone had made him a punching bag. He's about the size of one. Not one of those big bags kick boxers train on but one of the pear-shaped speed bags that just dangle there in the gym at eye-level just asking to be hit. Boxers use them to develop timing, fast hands and stamina. They make the leather splat against the wooden overhead rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-tat-tat.
His condition was critical, but BB Belvin is a tough little fella. By Friday, he had been upgraded to fair.
This happened in Yucaipa and his father, David Michael Belvin, 29, was arrested and charged under Penal Code Section 273A: inflicting willful harm or injury to a child. He was booked into the Central Division Jail in San Bernardino and bail was set at $100,000. In sort of an "Oh by the way," he was also booked on an unrelated traffic warrant with $25,000 bail.
Mom wasn't charged.
This is where we remind you that a person is innocent until proven guilty and move on to a discussion of child abuse in the abstract.
I phoned my friend Dr. Rodney Borger, who heads the state's second largest emergency medicine department, which is at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, and asked him about child abuse. He said the best person to talk to is Thomas Sherwin, a pediatrician specializing in emergency medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Dr. Sherwin pulled no punches in talking about the ghastly things done to children by parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, moms' boyfriends, strangers. The list seems never to end.
He said that child abuse is one of the fastest-growing dangers to children, although auto accidents and drowning still lead the causes of death. "The biggest problem," he said, "is that babies are very fragile."
"When someone shakes a baby they can do terrible damage. The brain will jiggle inside the skull and cause bleeding. Their bones are very soft," he said. "Grab an arm or a leg or around the middle" and it can cause fractures, Sherwin said.
"Children that are having children and have no means of support" is another major cause of child abuse he said. "They don't have the maturity."
And Sherwin disabused me of thought that children would stop having sex. "That's not going to change," he said. "Children are under a lot of stress. They are thrust into parenthood when they are not ready."
He talked about grandparents of 30, who themselves don't know how to parent. But he also believes the babies should not be taken away from their young parents. "I don't think that's right either."
I agree with him on that but it was a very costly lesson for me involving my own child and grandchild. No matter the pain, there are things you can't take back.
"Drugs and alcohol are adding to the increase in child abuse, Sherwin added. Listening to him, I learned about a new medical specialty, new to me anyway: forensic pediatrics. These doctors are specially trained to detect child abuse and crimes against children. Loma Linda has three and a special assessment center for working with victims of child abuse away from the fright, hullabaloo, blood, groans and screams of the emergency room.
Sherwin said that child abuse can be generational; the parents may have been abused themselves. They had a recent case in the assessment center where the mother of the child being treated had been treated for the same abuse 15 years earlier.
"When we suspect child abuse, we proceed very cautiously," he said.
Children are injured through neglect "and accidents do occur around the home." He explained the Safe Kids Coalition, which is perpetuated by a grant. For example, it is used if a child burns her hand or falls into a pool but is rescued in time or is injured because the car seat is used improperly and they are brought to the ER; the center "makes a consult and works with the parent to correct the problem."
Sherwin is one of the founders of "The Unforgettables," which buries abandoned newborns and children, who die and the parents haven't the means for burial.
The cost of child abuse is enormous, Sherwin said. The shaken child we talked about earlier could have suffered irreparable harm. "Beyond the emotional and physical costs, a child in a vegetative state costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for care.
"We've had some terrible cases lately," he said, adding that a smile and kindness are important too.
Thanks for the lesson, Doc. We needed it.
Well, are you as mad as I am for the right reasons? Taking care of the children is Job 1. And don't ever tell me your mad just because a few of your tax dollars went to treat BB Belvin or another helpless child.
Because Job 1 is what America is about. If you don't like it maybe Col. Gaddafi will take you in. He needs some new recruits.
Major conference on child abuse set for San Jose
by Howard Mintz
An unprecedented national conference on fighting child exploitation will unfold in San Jose this week, when a thousand law enforcement officials huddle in the South Bay, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The conference, which opens Tuesday and runs through Friday at the San Jose convention center, will largely focus on ways to nab child predators and on efforts at keeping children safe from sexual abuse and slavery. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the Bay Area's top law enforcer, will help kick off the conference Tuesday morning.
In recent years, federal law enforcement efforts have focused on cracking down on child pornography. A review by this newspaper in 2008 found that child porn cases had become one of the Justice Department's fastest-growing areas of prosecution, with the number of such cases jumping from just 30 nationwide in 1995 to more than 2,000 a year a decade later.
That trend has continued in the Bay Area's federal courts, where it has been common for dozens of child porn cases to be filed annually. Federal prosecutors filed 29 child porn cases in local federal courts in 2010, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Haag, who took over as U.S. attorney last year, said last week that the child porn crackdown continues to be a high priority.
Several cases resolved in the past year in San Jose federal court illustrate how tough the prison terms have become for defendants convicted of possessing or peddling child porn.
Last year, David Miller, a San Jose man, pleaded guilty to transmitting and possessing hundreds of images of children engaged in sexual conduct and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Another San Jose man, Wendell Scott, pleaded guilty to similar allegations and was hit with a five-year term.
Nevertheless, state and federal law enforcement officials say such material is proliferating on the Web, feeding the exploitation of children. Holder is expected to address the issue in a keynote speech on Thursday. San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore also is expected to participate in the conference.
After publicity from child abuse charges, Bucks man now faces 195 sex crimes involving children
May 14, 2011
by Larry King, Inquirer Staff Writer
The alleged crimes, filling 14 single-spaced pages, are a study in sexual depravity and child abuse.
To prosecutor Jennifer Schorn, the charges filed Friday against unemployed Bucks County tattoo artist Walter Meyerle amount to "one of the largest child-abuse cases I've seen by one individual."
Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran took it a rhetorical step further. "I'd like to see him in a room with SEAL Team Six for five minutes. Let them take care of it," he said, referring to the commandos who killed Osama bin Laden.
Meyerle, 34, of Falls Township, stands accused of 195 crimes - most felony sexual assaults - involving 14 children.
2 more victims identified in sex assault cases
by CINDY HORSWELL
Additional teenage victims have been identified as part of separate investigations into two men charged with sexually assaulting children, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office said this morning.
Officials had been exploring whether both men — arrested and charged in recent days with aggravated sexual assault - had targeted other children in sexual assaults in Liberty County or elsewhere.
One of the suspects, Donald Leeroy Ballard, 48, of the Daisetta area, was a part-time Little League baseball umpire. James Eric Brown, 29, of the Westlake area in Liberty County, is the other man charged.
Ballard is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy after luring him into a residence with the promise of video games and entertainment. Sheriff's officials this morning said they are meeting with a 15-year-old boy who the initial victim and another juvenile have indicated was also assaulted.
Officials today also said Ballard may have umpired in Harris County in addition to Liberty. He was arrested last week after authorities received a report about the abuse.
Brown was allegedly obsessed with his girlfriend's 12-year-old daughter, before brutally assaulting her on at least two occasions, Capt. Rex Evans said
Brown was arrested Friday after he allegedly assaulted the girl at her home that day while her mother was away, Evans said.
The sheriff's office today alleged that Brown's second victim is the 14-year-old sister of the already identified 12-year-old girl.
Officials said Brown is a prior sex offender from South Carolina involving a 2006 case which he allegedly has failed to ever register for as a sex offender.
Advice for Parents
Parents should talk to their children about the danger of being sexually exploited online, and they should monitor their children's Internet use along with online video gaming, an area where pedophiles are increasingly operating.
Parents should also understand that teens are not always honest about what they are doing online. Some will let their parents “friend” them on social networking sites, for example, and will then establish another space online that is hidden from their parents.
Youngsters often employ a secret Internet language to use when their parents are nearby.
- PAW or PRW: Parents are watching
- PIR: Parents in room
- POS: Parent over shoulder
- P911: Parent emergency
- (L)MIRL: (Let's) meet in real life
Parents can get more information from our "Parent's Guide to Internet Safety" -- http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guid
Agents on our Innocent Images squads around the country take part in overt and covert operations to stop online child predators and to identify victims.
During investigations, agents sometimes pose online as teens to infiltrate pedophile networks and to gather evidence by downloading files that are indicative of child pornography. During the investigation of known suspects, undercover agents may also “friend” people the suspect is associated with.
“Pedophiles regularly create bogus online profiles,” said Special Agent Greg Wing, who supervises a cyber squad in our Chicago Field Office. “Usually, anyone associated with that profile is either a fellow offender or a victim.”
The Online Threat Continues to Grow
In a new video blog, Executive Assistant Director
Shawn Henry warns against the dangers of online predators.
- Watch Video | Download (50 MB)
from the FBI
May 17, 2011
It's a recipe for trouble: naive teenagers, predatory adults, and a medium—the Internet—that easily connects them.
“It's an unfortunate fact of life that pedophiles are everywhere online,” said Special Agent Greg Wing, who supervises a cyber squad in our Chicago Field Office.
When a young person visits an online forum for a popular teen singer or actor, Wing said, “Parents can be reasonably certain that online predators will be there.” It is believed that more than half a million pedophiles are online every day.
Agents assigned to our Innocent Images National Initiative are working hard to catch these child predators and to alert teens and parents about the dark side of the Internet—particularly when it comes to social networking sites and, increasingly, online gaming forums.
Pedophiles go where children are. Before the Internet, that meant places such as amusement parks and zoos. Today, the virtual world makes it alarmingly simple for pedophiles—often pretending to be teens themselves—to make contact with young people.
Even without being someone's “friend” online, which allows access to one's social networking space, pedophiles can see a trove of teenagers' personal information—the town they live in, the high school they attend, their favorite music and TV programs—because the youngsters often post it for anyone to see.
“The younger generation wants to express themselves, and they don't realize how vulnerable it makes them,” Wing said.
For a pedophile, that personal information is like gold and can be used to establish a connection and gain a child's trust.
There are basically two types of pedophiles on the Internet—those who seek face-to-face meetings with children, and those who are content to anonymously collect and trade child pornography images.
Those seeking face-to-face meetings create bogus identities online, sometimes posing as teenagers. Then they troll the Internet for easy victims—youngsters with low self-esteem, problems with their parents, or a shortage of money. The pedophile might find a 14-year-old girl, for example, who has posted seemingly harmless information on her space for anyone to see. The pedophile sends a message saying he goes to high school in a nearby town and likes the same music or TV shows she likes.
Then the pedophile cultivates a friendly online relationship that investigators call “grooming.” It could continue for days or weeks before the pedophile begins bringing up sexual topics, asking for explicit pictures or for a personal meeting. By that time an emotional connection has been made—and pedophiles can be master manipulators. Even if an actual meeting never takes place, it is important to note that youngsters can be victimized by such sexually explicit online contact.
Even worse than posting personal information for anyone to see is the fact that many youngsters will accept “friends” who are total strangers. “ Nobody wants to just have five friends online,” Wing said. “It's a popularity thing.”
Special Agent Wesley Tagtmeyer, a veteran cyber investigator in our Chicago office who works undercover during online investigations, said that in his experience, about 70 percent of youngsters will accept “friend” requests regardless of whether they know the requester.
Tagtmeyer and other cyber investigators say a relatively new trend among pedophiles is to begin grooming youngsters through online gaming forums, some of which allow two-way voice and video communication. Parents who might be vigilant about monitoring their children's Internet activity often have no idea that online video gaming platforms can pose a threat.
“Parents need to talk to their children about these issues,” he said. “It's no longer enough to keep computers in an open area of the house so they can be monitored. The same thing needs to be done with online gaming platforms.”
Father of girl slain by her mother breaks his silence
by Lorri Helfand , Times Staff Writer
May 17, 2011
Derrick McMillin was tormented as he watched his little girl fight for her life. Her sandy hair was shaved off. Her eyelids were purple. A piece of gauze on her forehead covered the spot where a bullet had exited her skull.
Kassidie Rae McMillin's vital signs were spiking. Her breathing was rapid.
"I wish she would let go," McMillin told his mother, who was beside him at All Children's Hospital early Saturday.
Within seconds, her breathing eased. Within hours, she was gone.
"It was kind of like she was waiting for me to say it was okay," McMillin recalled Monday.
Soon, he would make a decision to let his 10-year-old daughter live on in other children by donating her organs.
And he would learn what was going on in his ex-wife's mind Thursday night in Dunedin when she decided to put her daughter to bed, shoot her in the back of the head and then kill herself.
It didn't make sense to him.
"She loved that child dearly and often called her her miracle child," said McMillin, 36.
On Monday, he got a copy of the suicide note that Tina Marie Foster left for her husband, William.
Tina Foster told her husband she couldn't live with him or without him. She felt like a failure.
"I couldn't even take care of my daughter. I had to take her with me. I had no choice. I would not want her going through her life without me in it," she wrote.
The couple was breaking up.
"Well now you can move on with your life now that me and Kassidie are out of it," she wrote.
• • •
McMillin pieced together his daughter's last night at home after talking to William Foster and one of Tina Foster's friends.
The Fosters had been having marital problems. On the eve of her 40th birthday, Tina Foster told William that she wouldn't be there when he returned to their Dunedin home from a religious class that night. Everyone was expecting Tina to move into a Kenneth City condo next door to her brother, McMillin said.
But when William Foster got home late Thursday, he found Tina and Kassidie clinging to life in Kassidie's room. Kassidie was in her bed, a bullet through her brain. Tina was lying on her back, a gun still in her hand, McMillin said.
Tina was pronounced dead, and Kassidie was whisked off to the hospital. A .45-caliber handgun was found at the scene.
William Foster told McMillin that he was concerned about a family member and was keeping the gun so the relative wouldn't harm himself. The gun, which had a trigger lock, was kept in a case inside a closet. The key was tucked away in a bag, and William Foster didn't think Tina knew where it was.
Early Friday, a sheriff's deputy paid McMillin a visit and broke the news. McMillin, who was arrested for oxycodone possession in 2009, is staying at a residential drug-treatment program.
McMillin was taken to All Children's, where he was by his daughter's side for most of the weekend.
Doctors removed part of Kassidie's skull to relieve pressure on her brain and later operated again to help drain the fluid. But late Friday afternoon, a doctor told McMillin that his daughter was not improving. The doctor said he could perform surgery to remove the damaged part of her brain, but he doubted it would improve her prognosis.
"He was basically telling me she was already gone," McMillin said.
He decided it was time to let her go. The doctors stopped medicating her and let nature take its course. By Saturday morning, she was gone.
McMillin decided to donate her organs. Sunday night, doctors harvested her liver, both of her kidneys and her heart valves.
"It was the least I could do," McMillin said. "If I couldn't save my daughter, at least I could change other children's lives."
McMillin has been in treatment since November. Over the past several months, he visited with his daughter every other weekend. He treasured time with his little girl, who loved hugging him, eating chicken fried rice and curling up with her grandma's cocker spaniel.
He says he's been clean for eight months, and he's determined not to lose his sobriety.
"I'm going to be even more motivated," he said. "Not for myself, but for my daughter."
Tina Marie Foster's suicide note
I am so sorry that it had to end like this but I could not live with you and I could not live without you. I have never loved anyone the way I love you but you would never let me show it. I feel like such a failure all the time, can't get a job, etc. I couldn't even take care of my daughter. I had to take her with me. I had no choice. I would not want her going through her life without me in it. I am truly sorry for hurting you and I know you are gonna have a rough road ahead with Sim (a family member). Well now you can move on with your life now that me and Kassidie are out of it. I hope you will eventually find peace. I Love You! Tina.
Maine police to view video for clues to boy's ID
May 16, 2011
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine— Police in Maine are planning to collect and examine videos from surveillance cameras in the South Berwick area in hopes of being able to identify the body of a young boy found dead along a remote road.
State Police Sgt. Chris Harriman says the only way investigators are going to be able to identify the boy is if someone recognizes him and calls police.
The body was found Saturday off Route 4 outside South Berwick.
Police say there are no missing-person reports filed for a boy fitting the description.
The boy is 3 foot, 8 inches tall, weighs 45 pounds and is believed to have been between 4 and 6 years old. He had dark or "dirty" blond hair and blue eyes.
Police have not released a cause of death.
Police praise bill to speed searches
by Stephane Massinon
Police are praising a first-in-Canada bill that will give them quicker access to missing persons' phone and banking information.
Police Chief Rick Hanson said that with the provincial government passing Bill 8, officers looking for missing people will be able to apply to the courts to get their phone and banking information.
Previously, that could only be done if they believed a crime had been committed.
With the new legislation, police will be able to apply for the information in court for all missing persons cases. Or, in emergencies where a missing person is at risk, police will be able to skip the court process and issue a demand for records.
Hanson said that information will also help investigators determine sooner whether a crime has taken place or if someone has run away.
"As the time goes on, the best way to determine that something untoward has happened to that person is if you can access their cellphone records.
"Are they using their phone some-where? Did they just run away? Are they just on an extended leave somewhere? Is somebody accessing their bank account?" said Hanson.
"If we get that information ahead of time, we will do a far better job of investigating."
The law, passed last Tuesday, stipulates that information must be confidential and only used for finding missing people. The information must be kept separately from other police records.
Wayne Wood, spokesman for the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner, said the office reviewed the legislation.
"We were able to review the legislation when it was first introduced and we're satisfied there's a good balance of privacy versus enabling the police to do their duties," said Wood.
"If someone feels that the police have overstepped and breached their privacy, they can still come to our office, file a complaint and we would investigate it."
Missing Children Society of Canada executive director Amanda Pike said any step to help police is a "step in the right direction."
If someone's missing, they'll look
Outdoors skills needed for this job
by: Erin Madden
Combining his love of the outdoors with his passion for helping others, Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. Randy Antonio created and heads Winnipeg Search and Rescue, a chapter of Search and Rescue Manitoba. The local organization's members support police in missing-persons cases, assisting with searches in and around Winnipeg.
Growing up in a remote Manitoba town, Antonio, a former military member, has knowledge of the outdoors as well as survival skills and training. But his drive and passion for assisting in missing-persons cases come from more than that.
"I have a special-needs son and I have an aunt who was a victim of homicide years ago, who was dumped in the bush, killed after a night out with a stranger," explained Antonio, who also spearheaded the creation of the Winnipeg Police Service's ground search and rescue unit and co-ordinates it.
"That all kind of led to this. It's just a natural fit for me," Antonio said.
Now in its fourth year, Winnipeg SAR assists in five or six searches each year, usually assisting the RCMP.
Kevin Williams, a fire instructor with the province of Manitoba, is now entering his second year of service with the group. He said volunteers with the team benefit from extensive training in search-and-rescue techniques. Not only is that useful when in the field, but the training exercises are fun, giving members the chance to network with other outdoors enthusiasts with similar interests.
"I just love hanging out with the gang and the group. We all come from a very diverse mix of people," said Williams, a father of two.
Ingrid Kampff, a WPS civilian member, came on board as a volunteer after attending a course for work.
In addition to serving as a searcher on the volunteer team, she helps out as a team leader, training other volunteers. Kampff said she enjoys the physical challenge of the job and the feeling when the team can provide closure to a family who has lost a loved one. But she warns the volunteer role isn't for everyone.
"It's really easy after you've gone out for a few days to really get discouraged. You're achy and you're tired and you're cold and you're wet."
Winnipeg SAR is recruiting new volunteers. Antonio said they must have outdoor skills.
"We don't get called in 20-degree weather in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. We get called at three o'clock in the morning when it's snowing or raining and miserable," explained Antonio.
He said many of the volunteers are campers, hikers, hunters or military personnel. "That's the kind of people we're recruiting."
If you would like more information or would like to become a volunteer with Winnipeg SAR, please contact Randy Antonio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All volunteers must submit a criminal-record and child-abuse-registry check, and must be healthy and physically capable of the work. Volunteers are responsible for purchasing the supplies in their deployment kit.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at email@example.com
Holly Bobo Abduction: 1-month wrap-up; ‘Someone knows something'
by Isabelle Zehnder
PARSONS, Tennessee (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) -- Friday marked one month since Holly Bobo's abduction from outside her Darden, Tennessee home – officials say someone, somewhere, knows something that could help bring her home.
A local, who wishes to remain anonymous for the safety of his own children, said, “The focus must be on finding Holly. Everything else is second. Once we find Holly then we can focus on the ‘who, the why, and the how',"
Holly is the 20-year-old nursing student who attended classes at University of Tennessee Martin in Parsons about seven miles from her home. On April 13, Holly prepared for school like any other day. At around 7:30 a.m. and from inside their family home her brother, Clint Bobo, saw Holly walk into the woods with a man dressed in camouflage clothing. Clint believed it was Holly's boyfriend.
Turkey hunting season was in full swing when Holly went missing, so seeing someone in full camo would not have raised a red flag, locals said. It wasn't until Clint went outside and saw blood on the ground that he realized something was wrong and immediately called 911.
[Note: Some sources have requested to remain anonymous for the safety of themselves and their own children since Holly's abductor is on the loose. It is the responsiblity of the news writer to respect their wishes and to protect their identity.]
Landscape of one small tight-knit community
It is clear that Holly is loved not only by her family, friends, and community, but by those who have gotten to know and care about her since she was abducted on April 13. It has also been made clear that those who know the Bobos love the Bobos and will do anything they can to help them.
According to locals, the landscape of their small, tight-knit community of Decatur County has changed. People must watch their children more closely and be on heightened awareness for their own personal safety.
Before Holly went missing you didn't see pink ribbons on every mailbox or people wearing matching missing person's T-shirts adorned with Holly's picture that read “Foot soldiers for Holly,” or “Pray for Holly's safe return.” You didn't see missing person's posters and pink bows on people's cars – all reminders that nothing is or likely will ever be the same in their small and close-knit community.
“Our little community will probably never be the same,” an anonymous souce from Parsons said during a phone conversation Friday afternoon.
“We've got to stay focused on Holly. Our community will come together to determine how to be safe and how to remain safe. That can be anything from starting Neighborhood Watch programs to bringing education and information to the students and their families to enrolling students and women into self-defense classes," the local said.
For a start, there is a free online resource with safety tips so people can arm themselves with knowledge on ways they can protect themselves and their families. Read: Big city crime comes to small tight-knit community; safety tips (links to safety tips written by former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt are provided toward the end of the article.)
Public is a valuable, free resource, part of a team
The public is a valuable and free resource in finding missing persons. It is something that should never be overlooked and that should be valued. They can work as part of a team in assisting to help find missing persons and solve crimes.
Local, state, and federal agencies have the resources, training, equipment, and expertise to access information and solve crimes. They have conveyed that the public acts as their eyes and ears to provide them with the information they need to help solve cases.
“It's not only their job, it is their responsibility,” one local said. “Police and prosecutors may even know who the perpetrator is in a case yet can't make an arrest until they have sufficient evidence that will ensure arrest, prosecution, and conviction so that justice is served.”
“Law enforcement must get it right the first time as they have one chance at not only incarcerating the perpetrator, but also at convicting them so that they are no longer a threat to society,” she said.
Providing tips and how to make an anonymous tip
It was recently reported that the TBI is overwhelmed with tips and leads. The TBI said Friday they want "solid leads" that come from witnesses with first-hand knowledge, and also want tips that come in the form of rumor as those often turn into solid leads.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Criminal Intelligence Unit, Jason Locke, said in an email Friday afternoon, “A tip or lead could be based on first-hand knowledge of an event or fact, as well as simply passing on a rumor.
“Obviously if someone has first-hand knowledge or information that can be corroborated, that could be considered a ‘solid lead'. However, rumors that are passed along to law enforcement are often times tracked back to their origin and substantiated as well, thus developing into a ‘solid lead'.
“On a case of this magnitude, we would encourage anyone with any information to pass it along to law enforcement,” he said.
There is someone, even several people, out there who know what happened to Holly. It's time to come forward and tell what happened and stop the family's ongoing nightmare.
“We know that there is that one clue that's out there and that one person may have that one piece of information, so please call us,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman, John Mehr, said in a live interview with Channel 4 News.
When crime occurs people know about it. The perpetrator or perpetrators know what he or she did.
Most importantly there are often others who are privy to what happened, or at least to the fact that an individual or individuals are in some way involved in the crime, but are too afraid to come forward with information.
For this reason Special Agent Locke said people can provide tips anonymously by:
- Calling 1-800-TBI-FIND begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-TBI-FIND end_of_the_skype_highlighting , a person does not have to provide their name; or
- Visiting the www.tbi.tn.gov website. Once on the website click on " Wanted: Earn a Reward " then " Email TIPs to TBI"; again a person does not have to provide their name
Agencies that continue working on Holly's case
One month after her abduction, law enforcement agencies are still actively working on Holly's case, following up on hundreds of tips and leads they continue to receive daily.
TBI Special Agent Locke said in an email Friday afternoon that the following agencies continue conducting the investigation:
- Tennesse Bureau of Investigation (TBI)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
with assistance from:
- Numerous local police departments
- Numerous local sheriffs' departments
- Other state agencies
- Other federal agencies
Why is the family not saying anything?
Law enforcement has historically advised families against public discussion of their cases when they believe it's in the best interest of the victim and the victim's family.
It is very likely that the Bobos have been advised against talking to media or others about their missing daughter.
On May 12, WBBJ-TV News Anchor Will Nunley reported that a month after Holly went missing family members have declined to speak with him thus far and that he continues to confirm what he can, when he can.
Another local wishing to remain anonymous said Thursday morning, “If my child were missing I would take every measure possible to find my child.
“I would think I'd be screaming it from every mountain top.
"However, if an agency, especially the FBI or the TBI that are trained in working these cases told me that going public could harm my child, or the chances of bringing the person or persons responsible for their disappearance to justice and get them off the streets before they could harm someone else, I would do exactly what I was told.”
“I'm not naïve in thinking mistakes are never made by law enforcement. But if I were in the Bobo's shoes and I had this many agencies, including the FBI working on my child's case, I believe I'd listen to their advice.”
Why is law enforcement withholding some information?
People are asking why law enforcement is withholding information from the public, such as items located during the search and DNA results of blood evidence from outside Holly's home. There are times when law enforcement feel it is prudent and in the best interest of the victim, their family, and the investigation to withhold certain pieces of information from the public and the media.
“What I have to question is why do some people believe they need to know this information? What are they going to be able to do with it anyway?” a local wishing to remain anonymous asked Thursday.
She said she's curious about the DNA results like everyone else but that if she knew the results there's nothing she could do with that information. If the officials aren't releasing it, she said she believes it's for good reason. “When you have the FBI, the TBI, and other agencies on the case, an entire community trying to help, and even other people who don't even know the Bobos trying to help, then God help me that we should have faith in our officials trying to solve this case,” she said.
She added, “I think the officials want this case solved just a much as anyone else.”
Police said Wednesday that they don't have that much to release and they're holding back information that “only her [Holly's] abductor would know.” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an April 29 email, “When you are trying to solve an unsolved crime, the only person who knows more about it than law enforcement is the person responsible.”
"What investigators try to do is to find out through facts and evidence as much about the crime as possible," Helm added. "Eventually, an investigation will lead to an interview of the subject.
"Through that interview, with knowledge of facts and evidence, an investigator will know if the subject is telling the truth and/or has first hand knowledge of the case.
"What an investigator doesn't want to happen is for a subject to start telling what they know and saying they only know it because they heard it on TV or read it in the paper.
"A good investigator will want there to be information that only the subject and the investigator know when they sit down to talk. Many times, especially in cases where there's not a lot of evidence, an interview of a witness or subject is very important to solving the crime," Helm said.
Former FBI Profiler Clint Van Zandt added, “Law enforcement will sometimes withhold information in a case as a means of determining the validity of information provided by someone who suggests he/she has single source knowledge of the matter.
“An example could be a potential eye witness or a potential suspect in the case.”
West Valley City Police Lt. William Merritt said, “While some information in an investigation may be released to the public by an investigating agency, other information is not because it could hinder progress or reveal investigative techniques that are sensitive in nature.
“We also have to sometimes confirm the veracity of a statement made by a witness or suspect.”
Asked for his opinion as to why some information is not released to the public and media, Frank Park, Sheriff of Tooele County in Utah said, “The only information that the investigators would, or should, be willing to release is information that may be helpful furthering their investigation.
“Vehicle color, perpetrator description, anything in an abduction case that would help in the apprehension of the suspect.
“Information gathered from a crime scene may be handled differently due to the value of such evidence when using it in prosecution.
“Also, some items, particularly pictures, may be withheld from public display to protect the family of the victims.
“But, as I stated earlier, there is often some piece of evidence that will tie the suspect to the crime scene that only that one person would have knowledge of. That information is guarded closely by the investigations team to help with solidifying a conviction.”
He added, “Each and every case in different and the investigation of the case often determines what information is released.”
How much grieving can a family take?
Sometimes one has to wonder just how much a grieving family can take. It's bad enough their daughter was abducted from her safe haven – her home. It's even worse when the family is attacked online, their lives put under a microscope by people who know very little about them or the investigation.
They take little bits and pieces they read online and in the media and run with it, often not stopping to think that the information being disseminated may be incorrect, and with no regard to how the family will feel.
It's easy to stand on the sidelines, far removed from the situation, drawing conclusions based from information put online by unconfirmed, unsubstantiated information that people post as fact.
What you read online is not always fact. Anyone can say anything. They can claim to be something they're not. It's important to research and be sure that information you're reading is based on fact and that people who contact you are who they say they are and that you can verify their credentials.
“It is truly sad to know that people are trying to promote themselves and their ideals at the expense of others,” Bring Them Home's Bee Herz said during a phone conversation Thursday night.
Reporting in Holly's case and community support
There was an outpouring of community help and support during the critical time when Holly went missing, as well as a tremendous amount of law enforcement effort and presence on the scene immediately after Holly was abducted.
Not always seen in missing persons' cases, but observed in Holly's case, was a local news anchor willing to remain on the scene for weeks after Holly went missing.
Will Nunley stayed on the scene, tirelessly providing accurate and timely news updates to the public via Twitter.
Those updates were not only beneficial to the volunteer searchers and locals who depended on the information, but to media reporting from afar. It assisted in providing accurately what was happening, as it happened.
Timeline of events this past month:
Day 1 – April 13:
It was reported Holly's abduction took place outside the Bobo family home around 7:30 a.m. when she was leaving for school
Sheriff Wyatt said two 911 calls were received around 7:30 a.m. the morning of April 13 reporting Holly's abduction; one from her brother, one from an unidentified woman – the TBI has chosen not to release the name of the woman making the call and said they have no record it was a neighbor
Initial reports: Holly was dragged into the woods screaming following a home invasion
Holly's cousin and country music star Whitney Duncan made an appeal to Holly's safe return on Twitter
250 local community members volunteer to search for Holly
Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt said some 150 local, state, and federal law enforcement agents were on the scene, including TBI's Violent Crime Scenes Unit, the Highway Patrol, TBI agents, federal agents, neighboring sheriffs and others, on day 1
Volunteers searched on foot, on horseback, and on ATVs; some helped with kitchen duty, others shuttled searchers while some held down the fort at the command center
Asked why so many agents on day 1, Sheriff Wyatt said they were taking every precaution for “whatever it might be, then that's what we're trying to prepare for”
Search dogs and helicopters used on day one
- Community said they were in shock
- Holly's pastor Don Franks, who said he'd known Holly all his life, said the community response was “exceptional”
Day 2 – April 14:
- Holly's parents, Dana and Karen Bobo, hold press conference and make an emotional plea for the safe return of their daughter; law enforcement present, Karen nearly collapses
- Dana says he believes someone from their local community may have abducted Holly
- Woman working at local school with Karen said she heard Karen scream and cry uncontrollably upon hearing news that her daughter may have been abducted
- People start attacking Holly's brother; their cousin Whitney Duncan comes to his defense on Twitter and Facebook asking that people not believe the speculation and that the family could not give further details as they did not want to hinder the investigation
Day 3 – April 15:
- Reports camo clothing and phone found in parked car said to be false
- Police announce they found Holly's lunchbox near a creek
- Reports indicate Clint saw Holly being led into the woods, not dragged into the woods
- Investigators said Clint saw blood outside the family home and believed the man with Holly the morning she vanished was her boyfriend, not a stranger
- Investigators said they believe Holly feared for her life and complied with abductor's demands
- Investigators said there was no home invasion
- Police said Clint and Holly's boyfriend, Drew, were not suspects or persons of interest in Holly's abduction
- Volunteers continue searching during storm and tornado warnings
- Sheriff estimates 1,500 people searching for Holly
- Holly's cousin posted on Facebook: “Lord have mercy. I feel like I'm walking in a nightmare.”
Day 4 – April 16:
- Experts say finding lunchbox gives them direction
- Investigators agree Holly's abductor likely someone from the community
- Search focused on 4-mile wide area about six miles from Holly's home
- Officials plead for the same number of searchers
- Community raises $25,000 reward for safe return of Holly, $5,000 from local businessman
- 900 volunteer searchers present by late morning
- TBI announces search for Holly still rescue effort
- School buses shuttle volunteers, volunteers work to feed crowd
- Some stay at fairgrounds overnight
Day 5 – April 17:
- Initially volunteers asked to arrive at noon; police change their minds and ask them to arrive at the usual 7 a.m. meeting time
- Officials did not comment what prompted request for earlier start time
- Officials said they had a lot of ground to cover
- Community asked to think about anything unusual they may have seen the day Holly vanished
- 1,535 volunteers registered, estimated 2,000 actually searched
- TBI announces they'd received some 250 leads
- TBI announces other items belonging to Holly were found, do not disclose what they were
- TBI says no one ruled out as suspects, causing sea of online rumors
- TBI said small amounts of blood found outside Holly's home were being tested
- News conference, no plans to scale down search effort
- Dive teams searching several waterways
- Officials request volunteers bring horses and 4-wheelers
- Officials said they had a new direction to search, did not disclose what the direction was
Day 6 – April 18:
- Whitney Duncan appears on Good Morning America with a tearful plea for Holly's safe return
- TBI director Mark Gwyn said they were looking at every bit of evidence found
- TBI director announces he believes Holly and abductor are no longer on foot and that the abductor is familiar with the local area
- TBI director asks public, once again, to think back on the days surrounding Holly's disappearance: Did they see anything different? He stressed possibility of someone excessively cleaning a vehicle, possibly an ATV – click here for list of what he said people should look for
- Online rumors and attacks against Holly's brother grow; Whitney Tweeted that he is not a suspect and that he has been cleared for good reason
- TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm says no one has been ruled out but the focus on developing suspect is outside immediate family and friends, and that Clint and Drew, Holly's boyfriend, have been helpful and cooperative and that Clint was being treated as an eyewitness
- Helm says focus is developing person of interest who may have missed work, an appointment
- Governor Bill Haslam increased reward amount by $50,000; total reward now $75,000
- Dive teams search waterways using imaging technology to map bottoms of bodies of water near Holly's home
- Investigators trying to ascertain which items found by searchers were linked to Holly
- Search centered on Natchez Trace State Park north of Holly's home
- About 300 volunteer searchers on the ground
- TBI director says about 30 new leads, now about 280 leads to follow
- Lt. Wilbanks of Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) says no arrests made, no dramatic evidence found, still an active search
Day 7 – April 19:
- THP announced trying new search tactics
- Heavy police presence witnessed
- Five roads closed near Holly's home
- Law enforcement stopping everyone going in and out of the area for new information about Holly's disappearance
- Investigators canvass Holly's neighborhood, go door-to-door
- Continue imaging technology to map bottoms of bodies of water near Holly's home
- Tennessee Sheriff's Association adds $5,000, reward now $80,000
- TBI announces they have nearly 300 tips
- TBI director Gwyn addresses sea of online rumors and accusations saying, “We don't deal with rumors. We stick to facts. As long as leads come in we will be here.”
- TBI spokeswoman Helm addresses rumor Holly's disappearance was a hoax saying, “There is no possible way this was a hoax”
- TBI would not comment on Holly's cell phone activity
- TBI spokeswoman Helm confirms still search and rescue effort
- Authorities call for more volunteers; about 300 people signed up by 10 a.m.
- TBI announces search continued with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies
- Searchers asked to come at 9 a.m. due to threat of tornadoes
Day 8 – April 20:
- TBI spokeswoman Helm says DNA results are back on blood found in driveway; results will not be released
- Tennessee State Trooper announces searchers will take next day off to rest while investigators regroup
- Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt spends time talking with Bobo family; scheduled to share special message during candlelight and prayer vigil
- Community-wide prayer vigil scheduled at 7:30 p.m. at fairgrounds
- Nearly 3,000 people attend vigil
- Local news reporter Will Nunley tweeted sheriff's message from family “Do whatever it takes to bring her home”
- Online attacks against family continue
- Dozens of Facebook pages created in Holly's name; some not properly monitored and taken over by “trolls” posting hurtful comments causing more pain to the family
- Reports people create fake Facebook profiles and spread vicious rumors about Holly's family
Day 9 – April 21:
- Kevin Bromley, spokesman for the Bobo family, speaks on HLN's Nancy Grace Show
- Bromley criticized for lack of responses; he made it clear he was there to talk about Holly, her family, how strong they are, the community, and how involved they'd been in the search
- Law enforcement holding information close to the vest, Bromley respecting their wishes
Day 10- April 22:
- Authorities call for high number of volunteers to search through the weekend
- Welcome people on ATV and horses, as well as on foot
- Warn people to watch out for snakes and take precautions for ticks
- 603 volunteers registered by noon Friday
- Focus of weekend search closer to Bobo property including stretch of land known as “5 forks” up the road from Bobo property
- Searchers discuss finding ticks on their bodies
Day 11 – April 23:
- Law enforcement continue searching for Holly and processing leads
- Volunteer search groups out on foot, ATVs, and horseback
Day 12 – April 24:
- People from community gather for Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m., then search
- Small group of volunteers said to battle heat with hope, still determined
- Focus of Sunday's search was on Holladay Road which connects Bobo's home to Interstate 40
- Jason Greer with Henderson County Rescue Squad says looking for things like purse, bag, keys, jewelry, anything that could be thrown from a car
- Volunteer finds item officials say was a “significant” lead
- Officials confirm the item found belonged to Holly
- Searchers were asked to reassemble late in the day, something that had not happened before
- Less than 100 volunteer searchers registered to search Easter Sunday
- Holly's mom wanted to come hug and thank everyone personally but it would have been too emotional
- Searchers continue picking ticks off their bodies after searching
Day 13 – April 25:
- Volunteer search called off due to severe and dangerous weather conditions
- Law enforcement officials continue pouring through leads
Day 14 – April 26:
- TBI Director Gwyn confirmed the item found Sunday was believed to belong to Holly; sent for analysis
- New lead said to bring renewed hope to Holly's family
- Volunteer search called off due to severe, dangerous weather conditions
Day 15 – April 27:
- Volunteer search called off again due to severe and dangerous weather conditions
- Investigators continue to pour through leads
- TBI spokeswoman Helm says investigation is narrowing; they know more than they day when Holly first went missing; says investigation more focused, will continue to follow up on all leads
- While not confirmed, this could be the reason volunteer ground searches were called off
- TBI said searches will resume if and when they receive information that would lead them to search a certain area)
- National Day of Prayer – services around town planned to remember Holly in prayer
- Children release pink balloons for Holly from Parsons Elementary
- Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt said he attended several prayer services; Holly remembered in everyone's prayers; very emotional time for everyone as they all want to find Holly
- Sheriff Wyatt says of Holly's family and community, “When they hurt, we hurt”
- Community asked again to search properties for clues; don't touch them if you find them, call 1-800-TBI-FIND begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-TBI-FIND end_of_the_skype_highlighting or sheriff at 731-852-3714 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 731-852-3714 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
- Family spokesman Bromley says family remains hopeful Holly will be found unharmed
- Sheriff Wyatt confirmed many still believe Holly is alive, “We believe in God, we believe in prayer, we believe in miracles,” Decatur County resident, Joan Cagle said
- Dana and Karen Bobo issue statement to press thanking everyone for their help and pleading for Holly's safe return
- Jason Everett Nickell, the registered “violent” sex offender who was arrested on April 18 on two counts of stalking that occurred on April 6 and 7, reportedly took a truck to a local body shop to have totaled sometime between the time Holly went missing on April 13 and April 18 when he was arrested; the manager of the shop confirmed via phone that the vehicle in question brought in by Nickell was a truck; she refused to comment further
- Locals concerned law enforcement is not enlisting in their help to search
- TBI spokeswoman admits they had to scale back but says investigation is ongoing; “You just can't sustain that large an operation for a lengthy period of time”; says this remains an active “abduction” investigation with a local command post
- TBI spokeswoman Helm confirms specialized weekend search did not uncover any dramatic new details as hoped
- Helm says items found belonging to Holly have not “cracked the case”
- Jackson Sun reports Special Agent in Charge of TBI investigation in Jackson, John Mehr, asks for factual information, nothing that is rumor; asking for people who saw something out of the ordinary such as vehicle parked in area between 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. April 13
- Williamson County Sheriff Long and deputies joined the search; traveled to Parsons and traversed rugged terrain and covered almost nine miles on foot
- Helm confirms several people have been fingerprinted for elimination purposes; no one has been arrested that was fingerprinted, she said
- TBI spokeswoman Helm confirms TBI does not collect missing persons statistics in the state of Tennessee
- Locals become frustrated; out-of-towners also frustrated, having to cancel flights since search was called off by officials
- Helm responded saying TBI would let volunteers know if and when they need them to search; she said they would resume searches if they determine a specific area needs to be reexamined
- Helm says TBI will not confirm who made the second 911 call, but she was not aware of a neighbor calling 911
- Helm says again TBI will not confirm items found or results of DNA testing; police said they're holding back on information that “only her [Holly's] abductor would know”
- Pastor Don Franks writes note “No child is safe until we find Holly Bobo …”; his statement was scanned and put online
- As a result, Pastor Franks was wrongly, with no evidence of any wrongdoing, attacked online with accusations that he may have been involved in Holly's disappearance (something that is happening more and more when people speak out in missing persons' case) – these online attack are, sadly, closing many families down from talking and reaching out to the public for help
- One local comes to Pastor Franks' defense, says she's known him for 34 years, and that he just buried his own grandson [Brennan Dukes] yet is out there tirelessly searching for Holly
- Several questions sent to TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm May 9 were unable to be answered; Helm said in an email: “I'm not going to be able to confirm any of the questions you sent me over the weekend at this time – as we aren't releasing specific details of our investigation or anything about potential persons of interest. There are no volunteer search efforts scheduled at this time. We still have agents who are working leads daily.”
- On May 11 was asked if there were any future searches planned, and to discuss a search said to have taken place at a quarry over the weekend, Helm said, “We have nothing new to release to the media at this time. There are no future searches planned as of today and there was not a search at a quarry over the weekend.”
- On May 13 Jason Locke, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Intelligence Unit for the TBI confirmed persons can leave anonymous tips by calling 1-800-TBI-FIND begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-TBI-FIND end_of_the_skype_highlighting without providing their name, or they can visit the www.tbi.tn.com website and click on “Earn a Reward,” then click “Email TIPs to TBI” and provide the tip anonymously by not providing their name.
- Special Agent Locke also stated the TBI is accepting all tips people believe could be relevant to this case, including first-hand knowledge and rumors that may ultimately be tracked back to their origin and substantiated, possibly developing into a solid lead
- Blogtalk Radio Show to discuss case canceled for security reasons
- The issue of Holly's mother, Karen Bobo, working with a psychic came up this week; it was said Karen had plans to work directly with a psychic and that those plans were canceled at the request of law enforcement officials; law enforcement has not confirmed if Karen had plans to work with a psychic, or if they requested she not do so – more on the use of psychics in missing persons cases forthcoming in a future article
Mass. AG presses anti-human trafficking initiative
May 15, 2011
BOSTON— Attorney General Martha Coakley is pressing lawmakers on an initiative to crack down on human trafficking in Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, Coakley joins Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley at a Statehouse press conference to highlight the measure.
Coakley has filed a bill that would establish the state-level crimes of human trafficking in labor and sex and create an Attorney General-led task force to study the illegal trade. The bill also increases the penalties for so-called "Johns" to address the demand side of human trafficking. Massachusetts is one of four states without a state crime of human trafficking on the books.
Conley backs separate legislation designed to shift the focus from prosecuting teens involved in the sex trade to giving them the services they need to escape prostitution.
Bill would protect children trafficked for sex
by Amy Forliti
Minneapolis — When she was 13, Amber Whitefeather met a smooth-talking man on the streets of Minneapolis who seemed to have it all: He wore a silk suit and snakeskin boots, drove a car with Jersey plates and, above all, seemed like he could be the protector she never had.
He got her a fake ID and brought her to Dallas, where she made money for him by selling herself for sex. The rest of her teenage years were spent turning tricks, taking beatings, and getting shuffled in and out of adult jail cells around the country.
It would've made a difference in her life, she says, "if somebody would've came out there and said, 'Girl, let me help you.'"
Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would ensure young people engaging in prostitution are treated as victims - not criminals. Prosecutors in the Twin Cities and Duluth areas have already thrown support behind the so-called "safe harbor" law, saying the new approach will get kids the treatment they need and keep them safe.
"Sexually exploited kids are not criminals. They are children in need of protection. They are crime victims," said Jeff Bauer, director of public policy for The Family Partnership, an advocacy group in Minneapolis that is shepherding the bill in the Legislature.
If passed, Minnesota would become the fifth state to protect children from being prosecuted for prostitution. New York was the first to pass safe harbor language in 2008, with that law taking effect in April 2010. Washington, Illinois and Connecticut followed.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates at least 100,000 children are victims of commercial sexual trafficking and prostitution each year, but says the number is conservative.
"Sexually exploited kids are not criminals. They are children in need of protection." - Jeff Bauer, Family Partnership
Current Minnesota law defines children in prostitution as both delinquents and victims. Advocates say children and teenagers arrested for prostitution land in the juvenile justice system instead of being sent to foster homes or getting treatment, creating a cycle that's hard to break.
The new language says anyone under 18 accused of prostitution will not be treated as a delinquent. Instead, they'll get services that could include counseling, medical care or short-term shelter.
While some local agencies are already taking those steps, the law would make it uniform practice across the state. If passed, it would take effect in 2014, giving police and prosecutors time to be trained on the new approach.
St. Paul police Officer Heather Weyker, an investigator with the Gerald Vick Human Trafficking Task Force, said something as simple as shelter can make all the difference. She cited the case of a girl who became pregnant at 13, then was removed from her situation and put in a foster home in a rural area.
"Even though she might not like the idea of being in a foster home, it's the safest she's ever felt in her 13 years," Weyker said. "That was an initiative of safe harbors."
Weyker is among several law enforcement officers who spoke Saturday at a panel about sex trafficking. The panel is part of a two-day event sponsored by Breaking Free and MATTOO, or Men Against The Trafficking Of Others. The event, which started Friday, is designed to teach men and the general public about sex trafficking.
"I feel very strong about getting the girls out of prostitution, and more so about the sex trafficking," Weyker said. "I don't think a little girl at the age of 5 or 7 wants to be a prostitute when they grow up."
Many of the girls she encounters have had a bad life and are struggling to survive.
That was the case for Whitefeather, who was molested by her stepfather at age 10 and soon began running away from a mother who she says didn't want her. When she was 13, she met her pimp, who brought her across the country.
"Basically, what I was just doing was just searching for someone to love me. I was searching for a father figure," Whitefeather said. "He said, 'We're going to be together for life. We're going to be doing this as a family.' It was more like a family team effort, like I'm a part of something."
She was given fur coats and manicures. But she said if she didn't bring in $1,000 a day to support her pimp's heroin addiction she was beaten and sent back on the streets to work, even if bloody and bruised.
She felt no one cared about her. And when she would get locked up with adults, no one told her she was a victim, or that her life could be different.
"It's just a horrible thing when they get them young, because it just sets a pattern of destruction," she said. "It's just a hole in your soul."
Whitefeather escaped shortly before her 18th birthday, but by then the damage had been done. She began stripping to make a living and using drugs. Now, she's in recovery and "fighting for her life" as she works to make a better life for her and her three children.
"When you are young, you think, 'Oh, I'm untouchable. Nothing can happen to me,'" she said. "You don't even realize that everything you are doing is affecting you. ... I've always known that I survived my teenage years to help share my testimony to educate young people and stop them from making the same choices.
"This is about breaking the cycle of destruction that is destroying our families," she said.
Lured by false promises
Three months ago, Gabriella (not her real name) escaped from the pub she was forced to work at after being repeatedly engaged in sex against her will. The 31-year old Filipino was tricked into prostitution in Singapore under the notion that she was coming here to work as a waitress. On her work permit issued by the Ministry of Manpower, it is listed that she was employed by Dotcom Entertainment Pte Ltd as a Performing Artiste. Police investigations subsequently revealed that this company does not exist.
The US Trafficking in Persons 2009 report cited Singapore as part of a group of countries thatare not doing enough to address trafficking. The women illegally trafficked into Singapore usually come from neighboring countries in Asia such as Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and China.
According to the United Nations Global Initiation to Fight Human Trafficking, Asia has the highest number of 56 per cent (1.4 million) of the 2.5 million trafficked worldwide. 43 per cent of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, out of which 98 per cent are women and girls.
However the International Human Rights Report 2010 states that “Singaporean authorities misrepresent the number of trafficking victims by eliminating those who were deceived into migrating by false promises.”
Gabriella is a single mother of an autistic eleven year-old son. She came to Singapore with the sole purpose of earning more money to support her child's education. She was recently diagnosed with leukemia and relies on pills to regulate her white blood cell levels.
Despite all these setbacks, this strong-willed lady maintains that she wants to see her former employer prosecutedand see his pub closed down. “I don't want another lady to become like me. It's very bad you know,” Gabriella said in her broken English, tears streaming down her face. “Boss told me if customer like us, we got to give extra service [sex],” Gabriella says. Even saying the word “sex” made her wince.
One of her colleagues even tried to convince her, “You're here already so you do what you do. You treat your customers like your darling, your sweetheart.”
The pub makes about $300 for one night of sexual services given by her. Women like her are not protected – no condoms are used in her case – which means she not only could get impregnated anytime but she is also exposed to STDs.
Every evening, Gabriella and her colleagues would take a taxi together to report to work. One day, she and another girl gave the group the slip and ran away to the Woodlands checkpoint. The other lady crossed the border into Malaysia, leaving Gabriella stranded at the checkpoint.
Eventuall, she found help with a local non-governmental organization and lodged a police report against her former employer.
The Criminal Investigation Division is now working on her case.
Recounting the incident is painful for her. “It makes me remember,”she says, as tears continue to stream down her face, “it's too painful.”
Her parents back home are aware of her situation. “My mom kept crying” Gabriella says.
She was hospitalized once when she first escaped, and that cost about $2500 for a three day stay at the Singapore General Hospital. Gabriella has to report to the hospital once a week now for check-ups to monitor her white and red blood cell balance, which she said has improved slightly since. She suffers from a loss of appetite, occasional shooting pains down her body and has lost a substantialamount of weight since she left her hometown. The doctor told her that her condition does not require chemotherapy, but rather ten years of medicinal pills. She is worried the moment she leaves after the case is closed and she is sent home to her country, she will not be able to continue her leukemia treatment anymore as she would not have the help she is being given here in Singapore.
Despite having escaped from the sex trade, she has suicidal thoughts sometimes. “I try my best for my son, but now I don't know. Sometimes I feel like dying.”