JUNE - Week 2
||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.
Gangs, sex traffickers recruiting online by Wayne Havrelly
PORTLAND -- According to police there have been 42 gang-related shootings or stabbings since January 1.
Saturday a group of experts on gangs and child sex trafficking held a free seminar at Centennial High School in Gresham, hoping to slow down the violent crime by raising awareness.
"I'm looking at it everyday on the news and saying, 'Oh there's another one,' and that's why it's so important for us to talk about this," said Rhonda Davis, an advocate against gangs and sex trafficking. Davis works with a non-profit called the Power Foundation.
Staying ahead of the ever-changing online recruiting efforts of gangs and sex traffickers is getting harder by the day, she said.
Experts believe nearly 80 percent of recruiting is now done over the Internet. So knowing what kids do online has never been more important.
"It's the hardest thing in the world to ask your kids for their passwords to their smart phones or computers, but we just have to do it," said Beryl Morrison, who is a past PTA President for the Portland Council.
Experts said the best way to keep kids safe is to simply make the effort to help those who may be heading for trouble.
"Out of 50 kids you talk to, you might have two of them that get it and turn their lives around, right there you've made a huge difference," Davis said.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams came out in support of expanded foot patrols Friday. Volunteers are being trained to help pull kids back from the gangs before even more of them are killed.
We must end the terrible practice of sexual exploitation of children in Jefferson County
It takes a special kind of evil person to exploit children sexually, but it happens all the time. It happens far too often right here in our neighborhoods, in Birmingham and Jefferson County. Children are sold for sex more frequently than one might think, and they often are taken advantage of by family friends, relatives or even parents.
A study commissioned by the Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham, based on surveys of 56 county social-service providers, shows sexual exploitation of children, whether for pornography or prostitution, is a very real problem in Jefferson County.
One of the greatest challenges of attacking the crime is expressed by Sara Jane Camacho, program director of Freedom to Thrive, an anti-human trafficking organization: "So often this is an invisible crime. This study shows it's really happening in Jefferson County."
Child sexual abuse and exploitation occur behind closed doors. Children are easily manipulated or frightened. And without set protocols and policy to determine whether a child is a victim of sexual exploitation, it is sometimes hard for social-service agencies to identify victims.
A good place to start is with the study "Invisibility: A Study of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Jefferson County."
While social-service agencies and organizations, through anecdotal evidence, know sexual exploitation of children is more common in the county than one might think, it's nearly impossible to estimate the number of such cases because they often go unreported. But what the survey does show is that 87 percent of respondents said children who are sexually exploited in the county are working for a pimp or are being pimped by a parent, the victims are equally divided between blacks and whites, and more than half of the young people identified as victims are homeless youths.
What also is clear is that social-service organizations lack the training to recognize children who are being sexually exploited. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said there are no specific programs in place to help victims, nor are there safe places to take them.
These are serious shortfalls for a problem that is considered widespread in the county.
Without question, Department of Human Resources caseworkers need better training in identifying victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Many times, children will be referred to DHR because they appear neglected or abused. However, according to a DHR child abuse and neglect supervisor in the report, a majority of sexual exploitation cases are "miscoded as a delinquency issue or child abuse." While the commercial sexual exploitation of children often includes physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse, it doesn't fit exactly into any one of those categories.
There is growing awareness of the problem, through community education, media attention and a new state law, passed in 2010, that gives law enforcement authorities more tools to use in going after human traffickers. The Alabama law is considered one of the nation's most comprehensive.
But there is much more to do.
Law enforcement and social-service providers need training to deal specifically with victims of commercial sexual exploitation. A system of shelters, care and counseling is needed. Homeless youths must be encouraged to leave their abusers and to seek help, but if there is not a system in place to help these children, they are likely to return to the cycle of abuse.
The first step, however, is ending the cycle of denial. As this survey makes clear, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is not uncommon in Jefferson County.
This study offers a good roadmap so we can begin to attack the problem. Let's get going.
More Providence children are victims of neglect
PROVIDENCE, R.I.— A new report finds an increase in children who are victims of abuse and neglect in Providence.
In 2010, 867 children in the city were abuse and neglect victims, a rate of about 19 per 1,000 children. That's according to data presented Friday by the nonprofit Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
The organization reported 640 child abuse victims -- a rate of about 14 per 1,000 children -- in the previous year The statewide rate for Rhode Island is 13.3 children per 1,000.
The group's executive director, Elizabeth Burke Bryant, says difficult economic times tend to lead to increases in neglect as families feel more pressure meeting basic needs.
Human trafficking: Team seeks to help those who cannot help themselves
by JIM TUTTLE
Runaway teen girls trapped in a life of prostitution. Immigrants forced to work for little or no pay. People turned into profit machines by ruthless captors.
To many, human trafficking may not seem like it could happen anywhere in the United States in 2011, much less in small-town America. In reality, the modern incarnation of slavery may be right at home in Franklin County and throughout the surrounding area.
It was announced earlier this week that law enforcement and social service agencies in south-central Pennsylvania will form of the state's first task force specializing in human trafficking.
"It does happen in small towns, especially closer to Washington D.C.," said John Fox, resident agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Harrisburg. "To see the forced servitude we're talking about is not that unusual."
Human trafficking refers to the use of force, fraud or coercion to control another person and make them perform labor or prostitution. In many cases of the latter, the victims are vulnerable youth who have been forced into the commercial sex trade.
It is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 American children, most of them adolescent girls, are trafficked for sex within the country each year, according to Krista Hoffman, a criminal justice training specialist with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
The average age for entry into the sex slave trade is 13. Most victims either ran away or were kicked out of their homes.
"Once you're on the street as a kid, you don't really have options," Hoffman said. "Unfortunately, there are adults out there who will exploit that. They'll woo these kids and get them under their control."
Due in part to the presence of several major highway systems, including the Interstate 81 corridor, Franklin and other counties involved with the new response team are especially susceptible locations for human trafficking.
"There are truck stops along interstates, hotels and motels, adult book stores, massage parlors, strip clubs," Hoffman said. "Lots of venues that support the sex trafficking industry."
Fox said that concentrated groups of "transient males" such as truck drivers and members of the military are susceptible to a "higher risk for engaging in the types of activity that drive the demand for human trafficking."
He suspects that the illicit sex trade is more prevalent in south-central Pennsylvania than the trafficking of slave labor, but that aspect of the crime has to be carefully looked for as well. Homeland Security has recently been involved in several such investigations in Franklin County, he said.
In late March, a charter bus was stopped in Chambersburg for allegedly going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone on Interstate 81. About 57 Asian passengers were found on board, and immigration officials detained 18 on suspicions that they were in the country illegally.
Fox said the incident triggered an investigation to determine whether the people on the bus were actually victims of a human trafficking operation. It was determined that they were not.
"Those individuals were carefully screened to determine whether they were being trafficked for the purposes of forced labor," he said.
The passengers on the bus were each taken aside and privately asked a series of carefully designed questions. Investigators in this situation are trying to determine if the people have control over their own identity documentation, financial resources and contact with friends and family.
"If someone else is controlling those things, that's a pretty big red flag for us," Fox said.
Because victims are often foreign nationals, people of limited intelligence and children, sometimes they don't even realize they are victims. Investigators are up against several other challenges including language barriers and an element of fear instilled by the traffickers.
"We get used as a weapon against the victims every day. The traffickers will often threaten them with deportation if law enforcement gets involved," Fox said. "The reality is, we need the victims here as witnesses. It does not behoove our investigation to deport them."
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and PCAR announced on Wednesday the formation of the state's first Human Trafficking Response Team.
District attorneys from Franklin, Cumberland, Adams, Perry and Dauphin counties are participating in the new effort. Representatives from their offices and state troopers will attend a three-day training program scheduled for this week, Fox said.
The training will cover how to interview potential trafficking victims, special techniques for investigating this unique type of crime and how to build an effective criminal case against the alleged trafficker.
In an e-mail, Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal said he was aware of trafficking while deployed with the U.S. military in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He is proud to be a part of the newly formed effort to fight the practice at home.
"It requires a particularly evil sort of criminal to enslave human beings for personal gain," he wrote. "It's completely intolerable anywhere, but it is shameful and embarrassing that it occurs in our own country in 2011."
Sgt. Byron Fassett and Detective Catherine De La Paz of the Dallas Police Department's High Risk Youth Initiative will lead the training program, drawing from their own experience combating human trafficking in Texas, Hoffman said.
"They have developed a wonderful model in Dallas," she said. "They have been able to successfully investigate many cases, and the traffickers have been getting 50 year sentences."
In many cases, untrained law enforcement officers may not be equipped to recognize trafficking, Hoffman said. For instance, when suspected prostitutes were arrested in the past, they were not always properly questioned to determine if they were actually victims.
"Investigators have to be trained how to look at cases and try to spot the signs and symptoms that it might be a trafficking case," she said.
Fogal and Fox compared the new response team to the regional collaboration that takes place with other inter-agency organizations, like task forces to apprehend fugitives and combat drug activity.
"Just because the instances of human trafficking with Franklin County may be very low at this time, that is not necessarily the case for our neighboring counties," Fogal wrote. "And the unfortunate nature of crime is that it spreads out when it is squeezed, much like a balloon. When jurisdictions work together, they can completely pop the balloon."
For more information / to help
More information about the different types of human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world can be found at http://www.poiarisproject.org, a non-profit group dedicated to fighting modern-day slavery.
The group also operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline to collect information about suspected incidents of trafficking. Anyone who may have seen something suspicious is urged to call 1-888-373-7888 .
Tips can also be phoned in to the Department of Homeland Security's national hotline 1-866-DHS-2ICE .
Catholic bishops to take second look at abuse reforms
by Daniel Burke
Religion News Service (RNS)
A review of church sex abuse guidelines will top the agenda when the nation's Roman Catholic bishops meet in Seattle next week (June 15-17). But no major changes have been proposed, according to church leaders, even after several recent reports have raised questions about the rules' power to remove abusive priests.
The stakes at the Seattle meeting will be high, as the bishops struggle to recover their moral authority and end the worst crisis in modern church history.
The U.S. church has spent more than $2 billion on sex abuse settlements, "safe environment" training for staff, and two sweeping studies that sought to explain the causes and context of a scandal that has claimed 15,700 victims since 1950.
The Seattle assembly will also provide a leadership test for Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who will guide nearly 200 U.S. bishops in his first meeting as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In addition to reviewing the sexual abuse guidelines, the bishops will vote on a document that denounces physician-assisted suicide and hear a report on Anglicans who wish to convert to Catholicism using a new church structure.
The sex abuse guidelines, however, are expected to dominate public sessions and private conversations during the three-day meeting.
Even as the bishops attempt to move past the scandal, advocates for victims of sexual abuse and some lay Catholics say recent reports of lapses by bishops in Pennsylvania, Missouri and New Mexico prove that serious gaps mar church rules.
"In three dioceses now, there appear to be loopholes that are being exploited by bishops who appear to be gaming the system," said Nicholas Cafardi, a leading expert on canon law and former adviser to the bishops.
Cafardi and others hope the bishops close those loopholes in Seattle, but a draft proposal provided by the bishops' conference contains no such revisions.
In Philadelphia, a grand jury report released in February accused church officials of keeping 37 priests in active ministry, despite accusations of improper sexual acts with minors. The archdiocese later suspended 26 priests and has mounted an internal investigation.
Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn has apologized for failing to remove a priest from ministry despite a warning from church officials. The priest was arrested in May on child pornography charges. The diocese appointed a former U.S. attorney on Thursday to investigate its sexual abuse policies.
In Gallup, N.M., a lay review board has never met with Bishop James S. Wall during his two years in the diocese, according to the Gallup Independent, a local newspaper.
Together, the U.S. bishops passed two sets of guidelines in 2002, as the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston and spread to nearly every diocese in the country.
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is essentially a set of promises from the bishops to their church. The "Essential Norms" for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy are Vatican-approved rules that have the force of church law.
Neither requires substantial revisions at this time, said Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., chairman of the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
"The charter is working," Cupich said. "We had seven (sexual abuse) allegations that were deemed credible in 2010, out of a church of 65 million Catholics. I think it's working."
Cupich also said it would be rash to revise church rules before the internal investigation in Philadelphia is complete.
"The charter has an iconic status for us. We want to protect its integrity. We are going to be very slow in changing it without having the full picture in a given situation," the bishop said.
Cafardi agreed that the charter and norms have been effective.
"I think they have done a wonderful service to the church in greatly reducing the number of instances of child sexual abuse by priests," he said. "But we know by instances in three dioceses that there are some gaps that it would not hurt to close."
According to a draft of proposed revisions that will be debated in Seattle, the bishops plan to change the policies to bring them into accord with Vatican norms issued in 2010. Those norms equate abusing persons with mental disabilities with child abuse, and make the acquisition, possession, or distribution of child pornography a church crime.
Victims' advocates and canon law experts say the bishops should go further, arguing that church rules will remain ineffective unless they contain penalties for breaking them.
"This isn't a real set of laws, these are procedures that are honored more in the breach than in the observance," said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog website.
"If I was a bishop, I would treat Philadelphia as an alarm. This is one of the largest, most significant dioceses in the country, which clearly ignored the policy," he said.
Church rules also suggest that bishops report all abuse accusations to diocesan review boards composed of lay Catholics. Board members in Philadelphia and Kansas City have said they did not learn of accusations until they were published in the media.
Sexual abuse: Fear and shame make Armenian women keep silence
by Siranuysh Gevorgyan
Armenia-based experts say women subjected to sexual violence keep it in silence out of shame as well as for fear of being blamed by the society for ‘bringing it upon themselves'; hence, they refrain from reporting it to the police so that the wrongdoers be held responsible. Over the past two years, however, experts say, there has been tangible progress in that respect.
Head of the Women's Resource Center Lara Aharonian stated during the discussion held by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on Wednesday (June 8) that the other reason why women avoid going to the police is their conviction that either the police wouldn't believe them or will punish the person who committed the sexual offense.
The first experience of sexual intimacy for 27-year-old resident of Gyumri Seda Grigoryan (surname is fictional) was when her drunk boyfriend raped her under the influence of alcohol.
Living in as traditional a place as Gyumri – the second largest city of Armenia known for its adherence to customs and traditions where sexual intercourse before marriage is strictly condemned – this young woman decided to keep silence about the incident out of fear and preferred to get married to the boyfriend that had subjected her to sexual violence.
Seda, now a mother of two, tells she was supposed to marry that man in any case, but the incident “somehow forced her to marry” since she thought nobody else would want to marry her after what had happened [she wasn't eligible for marriage because of her not being a virgin anymore]. She thought if she told the truth to her parents they wouldn't have understood or supported her as she had been dating her then husband-to-be without their knowledge.
That's the reason why she did not even consider going to the police as an option.
To the question how that experience affected her family life Seda replied: “Nine years have passed since then, but I am still unable to forget it; at firsts I felt coldness inside and resentment towards him, but now it's a bit better – perhaps I have forgiven him as time went by, plus we have two children now.”
Aharonian says that last year the center's hotline received 320 phone calls from women, with 35 percent of them saying they had been raped by a known person. In 2009, the center received only 140 calls. Aharonian explains it by raised public awareness. Many of last year's calls were about cases of sexual harassment of middle-age women at their places of employment; there were five cases of teenage rape, and in one of the cases the woman was drugged and raped.
Armenian mass media recently reported a case about a 14-year-old girl in Armenia's southern Syunik province who was raped by her father. The girl's mother learned about it when she took her daughter to a clinic for medical examination and the girl turned out to be pregnant. In this case the mother did not waste a minute and turned to the police, but, as the Hetq online daily reports, the father is still at large.
Artur Davtyan, deputy head of the department for crimes against the individual at the Prosecutor General's office, said during the IWPR discussions that the effectiveness of struggle against sexual violence would go up parallel to raising public awareness.
“While in 2010 the number of solved cases was 82, which is nine more than the year before and that is not alarming, rather the opposite, if we look at it from a different perspective: these cases that were hidden have surfaced,” says Davtyan, adding that those NGOs that have designated hot-lines for reporting violence against women should develop mechanisms of cooperation with the police for reporting the cases.
Aharonian believes that a special group has to be formed at the police to deal with this issue. “This is a highly delicate matter, and people to work in this sphere have to be extremely well-trained,” she says.
Alleged assault at Kings Island raises safety concerns
by Justin McClelland
June 10, 2011
MASON — As police continued Friday to investigate the alleged sexual assault of a young boy at Kings Island, experts warned parents to be more cautious with their children in public areas.
Police said they had no further information on the identity of the suspect in the case.
A sketch of the man suspected of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old boy June 3 restroom near the Diamondback was released this week. The man, who is accused of forcibly fondling the child, has shoulder-length hair and a thin mustache, according to the sketch.
Parents around the community expressed shock and concern over the incident.
“I have always been concerned to take my four children to public places because you cannot trust anyone,” said Jenn Scott of Hamilton. “People have sick minds. We as adults are the ones kids are suppose to be able to trust to protect and... help them. Not beat, sexually assault, or abuse in any other way.”
Researchers estimate that in the United States, about 1 out of 6 boys and 1 out of 4 girls are sexually abused, according to the center for post traumatic stress disorders. Twenty percent of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of eight.
In reported cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is a stranger in only 10 percent of the reported occurrences. In 60 percent of reported cases, the abuser was someone the child knew, but was not a family member, the Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reports.
Arrests in reported child abuse cases are made in 29 percent of cases reported to police, according to Darkness to Light, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse of children by training adults to recognize the signs of abuse. Seventy-three percent of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. Forty-five percent of victims do not tell anyone for at least five years.
It is estimated that only 4-8 percent of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated and most of those are made by adults involved in custody disputes or by adolescents, according to Darkness to Light.
“Who lets a child this age out of their sight? Be it at a Mall, The Grocery Store, or Kings Island. There are Sick and Perverted people everywhere. You have to Vigilante when it comes to your kids. We are the first line of Defense,” said parent Rob Anderson.
Parents need to be cautious anytime they take children to crowded places, said Teresa Wiles of the Warren County Child Advocacy Center. Safety really begins at home by talking to children often about their safety and finding ‘teachable moments” to reinforce safety skills.
Wiles said children under the age of 10 should never be sent into a public restroom alone.
“(Public restrooms) can be very large and confusing for a child and often can have more than one entrance or exit,” Wiles said. “Parents should stay outside a stall or within earshot of their children.”
Older children should use a buddy system when they go off for periods of time away from parents, staying close to at least one friend at all times, Wiles recommended.
Kings Island officials said they were working with Mason police to investigate the incident.
Park spokesman Don Helbig said the park analyzes and discusses security measures on a daily basis but said he could not go into details on Kings Islands' security practices for fear of compromising those measures.
New voice for the abused
As a victim herself, CASA volunteer knows well the topic she'll address.
by Melissa Ludwig
Melissa Anderson, a St. Mary's University law school graduate whose harrowing tale of surviving child abuse riveted many, became a voice for abused children in Bexar County when she was sworn in Friday as a court-appointed volunteer advocate through Child Advocates San Antonio.
“It's exactly what I wanted, to be a voice for a kid that doesn't have a voice,” said Anderson, who survived years of beatings, torture, starvation and sexual assault at the hands of her father.
He's now serving two life sentences in a California prison for abusing Anderson and her 15 siblings.
CASA is a nonprofit that trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services.
Volunteers spend time with a child and make recommendations to the court about the best home placement.
In Anderson's case, she left home at 17 and joined the Army, where she met and later married her husband, Jared Anderson.
The couple have six children, and Melissa Anderson also is the adoptive parent to her younger sister Kayli, 20. With only a fifth-grade education, Anderson worked her way toward a bachelor's degree and eventually, last month, a law degree at St. Mary's University.
After a story focused on Anderson's accomplishments — and tumultuous upbringing — was published in the San Antonio Express-News, CASA contacted her about volunteering for the nonprofit and telling her story though speaking engagements and public service announcements.
“I feel like I am using my story for something positive,” Anderson said. “It has to be done for people to understand the nature of abuse.”
In a state where caseworkers are overworked and underfunded, CASA volunteers often are the only constant adult presence in a child's life during a time of turmoil, said Janet Ketcham, president of the agency.
Volunteers spend more time with the child than any doctor, lawyer, counselor or caseworker, and judges almost always follow their recommendations, officials said.
But they simply aren't enough of them, Ketchum said.
CASA's 380 volunteers serve about 1,325 children every year — one-third of those who enter the system. As the percentage of home removals increases because of state budget cuts and policy shifts, Ketcham said the demand for volunteers is rising.
The agency's goal is to serve all eligible children in Bexar County by 2020, although much more money and volunteers are needed, she said.
At the swearing-in ceremony, Anderson spoke to other volunteers and their families, painting for them a picture of the abuse that she and her siblings endured.
Beginning when she was 3, her brother slept naked and handcuffed in the bathtub. The children starved, and the punishment for stealing an egg or a piece of bread was being rapped on the knuckles with a rubber mallet or having knives thrown at them.
“Target practice,” her parents called it, she said.
Anderson first attempted suicide when she was 8, but said she could not tie a knot properly.
Though CPS never rescued Anderson or her siblings, an Army major named John Crump took Anderson under his wing after she joined the service. He was the first person she told about the abuse, and he encouraged her to see a therapist.
He's now “Grandpa John” to her children, and the namesake of her youngest son.
Anderson also told volunteers that during physical training, Crump and his dog would run up and down steps with the cadets at a football stadium, and she would watch as he stopped every few rounds and let the dog drink water from his cupped hands.
“I wondered how different my life would be if my father had treated me with a shred of the kindness this man showed for his dog,” Anderson said.
CASA volunteers, Anderson said, can change children's lives with the smallest kindness.
“As awful and gut-wrenching as my story is, there are children in San Antonio right now going through worse,” Anderson said. “Go out and be someone's John Crump.”
Human trafficking bill stops short
by Renée Loth
June 11, 2011
SENATE PRESIDENT Therese Murray stood before grieving parents of missing children gathered at the State House last month and issued a heartfelt vow: “God, we will pass that human trafficking bill.'' It was an emotional moment, and with good reason. After years of being among a dwindling number of states with no separate criminal penalties for coerced sex or labor, Massachusetts is on the cusp of enacting a tough new law to stop the effective enslavement of thousands of vulnerable individuals, including far too many children.
But legislators shouldn't congratulate themselves just yet. The bill that unanimously passed the Massachusetts House last week creates a new crime of trafficking in individuals for forced sex or labor, punishable by up to 15 years in prison — up to life in prison if the person trafficked is a minor. It's a crucial tool to end the unspeakable practices happening all across the country: Immigrant women working 14-hour days in debt bondage under threat of beatings or deportation; runaway girls as young as 12 who are drugged, raped, imprisoned, and forced into sex acts in makeshift brothels.
But the House bill focuses hard on penalties for the criminals while stinting on help for the victims — almost always women and girls who are desperate, poor, abused, homeless, or addicted. In the coming weeks it will be up to the Senate to get the balance right.
“This isn't just a law enforcement issue, it's a human rights issue,'' said Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford, who has filed legislation to combat human trafficking for the past six years, with mounting frustration. “We've now had the unfortunate luxury of seeing what's worked or not in other states. If all we pass is a crime bill . . . we're writing off thousands of women and juveniles every year.''
The House bill, based on recommendations from Attorney General Martha Coakley, has one great political advantage: no additional cost. Instead of funding direct new services for victims, it sets up a 21-member task force to consider further steps beyond the criminal penalties. The proposed panel is top-heavy with law-enforcement and government representatives, and doesn't include a seat designated specifically for a victim.
Montigny's bill, which likely will be the template for debate in the Senate, sets up a separate trust fund that trafficking victims can access for legal help, health care, counseling, and interpreters, among other services. The House version allows assets seized during criminal proceedings against pimps or sweatshop operators to be paid in restitution to victims, but only at the discretion of a judge.
For too long, victims of the sex trade have been seen as part of the problem — over half the girls in juvenile detention facilities nationwide are there for prostitution offenses, even though many are below the legal age of consent. Fortunately, both bills have a “safe harbor'' provision that presumes minors arrested for soliciting sex need help, and should not be prosecuted.
But doing no further harm to the victims isn't enough, according to Abigail English, director of the national Center for Adolescent Health and Law. “The trend for them to return to this life and to be re-exploited is almost inevitable if they don't receive the services that can redirect their lives on a different path,'' she said. It's a steep climb even with good support, because the average age of girls first engaging in prostitution is 13. Most know nothing but lives of violence and depredation.
So there is plenty of room for improvement in the bill. Still, the most enlightened criminal statutes won't end human trafficking without a change in the culture. Too many Americans still believe that prostitution is a victimless crime, or even a lifestyle choice. Illegal immigrants and drug-involved teenagers are about the least sympathetic figures around. “There is a high degree of hostility toward young people perceived to be deviant,'' said English. Who will declare that they deserve a big new share of public tax dollars?
After six years of dithering, momentum is cresting to pass a human trafficking bill in Massachusetts. But if the new law only addresses half the problem, too much time will have been lost. To say nothing of lost lives.
Missouri KC bishop responds to concerns with independent investigation
by Benjamin Mann
June 9, 2011
Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn is implementing a plan to improve his diocese's response to cases of suspected abuse, following the recent arrest of a priest on child pornography charges.
“These are initial steps,” Bishop Finn explained, announcing the diocese's initial five-point plan on June 9. “Other actions are forthcoming.”
The plan involves the appointment of Todd Graves, a former co-chair of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group, to conduct an independent investigation of recent events and diocesan procedures.
Graves will issue a public report on his investigation, scheduled to conclude within 30 to 45 days. Bishop Finn said the review would “help us to determine the effectiveness of diocesan policies and procedures in a very troubling situation.”
An independent public liaison and ombudsman will begin fielding and investigating reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior. Bishop Finn said this step would “ensure all concerns are addressed confidentially, respectfully, promptly and appropriately.”
The diocese will also undergo an independent review of its current code of ethics and sexual misconduct policy, while reviewing its staff's familiarity with those policies.
Bishop Finn reaffirmed his commitment to the safe environment training programs that have been in place since 2006.
“The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent wrongdoing,” he said. “We believe that, when adults who interact with children increase their awareness of child sexual abuse, they form a shield that protects children.”
Finally, the diocese has pledged to continue cooperating with local law enforcement.
Diocesan policies already require removing clergy and laypersons from service, pending a full investigation, when there is a credible accusation of abuse.
Fr. Shawn Ratigan, former pastor of St. Patrick Church, was arrested May 19 and charged with possessing child pornography. Five months before, he had been removed from ministry and placed under restrictions after a technician found suspicious, but not illegal, photographs on his computer.
Since then, it has emerged that Msgr. Robert Murphy, Bishop Finn's vicar general, received a report on Fr. Ratigan's “inappropriate behavior with children” in May of 2010, a year before his eventual arrest. The priest reportedly assured the vicar general that he would stop the behaviors in question.
Bishop Finn says he did not read the letter recounting the concerns about the pastor of St. Patrick's. Instead, he relied on Msgr. Murphy's “brief verbal summary” of the report and his subsequent talk with Fr. Ratigan.
The bishop apologized to the faithful of his diocese on June 3, saying he took “full responsibility for these failures.”
2d woman says pastor ignored assault
She tells of advice to forgive, forget
CONCORD, N.H. — A woman says she was sexually assaulted as a teenager and that the pastor of her church told her to forgive and forget instead of doing what the law required: report it to authorities.
The woman commented after a recent trial during which a New Hampshire prosecutor suggested that the same pastor, the Rev. Chuck Phelps, did not do enough to help another young church member, a rape victim.
Phelps, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord and now a pastor at a Baptist church in Indianapolis, has not returned messages seeking comment.
The new accusations were lodged with police by a woman, 34, who says her stepfather repeatedly molested her from 1994 to 1996. She said she was 17 and a junior at Trinity Baptist Church's high school when the assaults began. She left her home in Warner in 1996.
Warner police Officer Scott Leppard confirmed this week that his department is investigating the woman's statements. Leppard said he did not think the statute of limitations would be a factor because the allegations involve the possible sexual assault of a minor, a felony.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,'' Leppard said of the recent conviction and the new complaints.
The Associated Press does not typically identify alleged sexual assault victims, but the woman spoke to the AP about the assaults and her interactions with Phelps on the condition that she be identified only by her first name, Cheryl. “I would tell him, no, stop — and he wouldn't stop,'' she said of her stepfather. “I went straight to my mother when it happened. She acted like it was my fault. When my mom didn't do anything about it, I went to pastor Phelps. He told me I need to forgive and forget about it.''
“I still suffer from it to this day,'' she said.
Asked about the allegations, the stepfather told the AP this week: “We're not giving interviews. Thank you.'' The AP is not identifying him, because he has not been charged with a crime.
New Hampshire law requires clergy, among others, to report any suspicion a child is being sexually assaulted. Failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor criminal conviction. Concord police Lieutenant Keith Mitchell said Phelps made no reports of any alleged sexual assaults in 1994 or 1995 involving the woman or her stepfather.
Merrimack County prosecutor Wayne Coull said the statute of limitations on misdemeanors is one year, meaning that Phelps could not be prosecuted now even if he did fail to report suspicions of sexual abuse more than a decade ago.
Cheryl came forward after the recent rape trial involving another Phelps parishioner. Ernest Willis, 52, was convicted of statutory and forcible rape of his children's babysitter in 1997.
What Parents Need to Know about Children and the Prevention of Sexual Assault
by Karin Schumache, Cincinnati K-12 Examiner
It's practically a right of passage in the Cincinnati area: Parents letting their children go to King's Island without adult supervision. The agony of the decision to let a young teenaged child go alone to King's Island is still fresh the minds of many Tri-State parents with older children. For many parents, it's a decision made by “gut reaction.” Gene Dyke of Liberty Township says, “We gave him the talk about being safe, verified who the friends were that he was going with, got the times for pickup, and prayed!:
Most times, the decision to allow a child to go alone to summer fun spots turns out just fine. Other times, there are problems that have long lasting effects on the child and the family. One instance of a horrible day has been reported by Tri-State news stations all over Cincinnati: A child sexually assaulted at King's Island in a park bathroom on June 3, 2011. But what are some things that parent should know before letting a child go on an outing to a summer fun spot or to a summer camp? Now that school is out, this information has never been more timely and important.
One in four girls and 1 in 6 boys are the victims of childhood sexual abuse according to Darkness to Light/Stewards of Children, an agency devoted to the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. Julie Ellison, Cincinnati's Education Outreach Director for the Cincinnati chapter of Darkness to Light/Stewards of Children, has this advice for parents and children to follow:
“All adults play a role in influencing whether or not opportunities exist for youth to be sexually assaulted. You make a difference by practicing the following three steps:
|1. “Learn the facts: Understand how the assault is defined and who is doing the offending.” Ms. Ellison goes on to say that 90% of predators are known and trusted by the child and family.
2. Ms. Ellison continues, “Minimize opportunity and stay alert:” She suggests that a ratio of one child to one adult or older child be maintained when children are at area summer fun spots. She also suggests that parents ask about what policies are in place by the organization that protects children from harm.
3. Lastly, Ms. Ellison suggests that parents, “Act on suspicions and get involved: You are not the investigator but you are a responsible adult who cares about the well being and future of our youth. Talk to young children and older youth. Talk to family, friends, and other adults in your spheres of influence - police each other.”
Ms. Ellison adds that, “Adults who believe this will never happen to children in their life because of where they live, learn, or play are our biggest challenge. Denial, passive acceptance, and/or lack of education around this issue create more risk for our youth. More and more adults moving beyond fear and lack of comfort and into new beliefs or attitudes will create the cultural shift needed to see youth of today (tomorrow's adult) better protected, healthy and whole.”
During the summer, we want our kids to have fun and have the same experiences that other Tri-State children enjoy. With just a little vigilance, we can all, as a proactive community devoted to child safety, make a difference in the safety of children.
Utah rep redefines “serious bodily injury” to include child sexual assault
by Alison Peek, Salt Lake City Political Buzz Examiner
Representative Brad Daw-R, Orem is planning to sponsor legislation for next year's session of the Utah Legislature at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City that redefines “serious bodily injury” to include child sexual assault. He believes this will fill “a hole in Utah's criminal code.” Current Utah law includes acts of violence that cause bodily injury, physical pain, loss of limbs and mental faculties, but not sexual assault.
An April court case prompted Daw's changes to the state's civil commitment statute. Convicted child rapist Lonnie Johnson was facing 20 new sex abuse charges in Utah County earlier this year, but the judge declared the defendant incompetent to stand trial because evaluators found he was not a “substantial danger to himself or society.” Johnson was released and is living in Oregon. Judge James R. Taylor has not dismissed the case, and has set a competency review hearing for November.
Current law allows someone who is mentally incompetent to be held in custody if they are at risk of causing “serious bodily injury.” Daw says this case revealed the problem in the law, as there had not been a case of someone being found mentally incompetent and a child rapist coincidentally. He believes “it seems obvious that anyone who is likely to rape a child presents a risk of doing serious bodily harm.”
Daw has met with the Utah County prosecutor in order to determine how the law could change to avoid these circumstances in the future. He has also consulted with the prosecutor's association and the Utah Association of Counties, and has asked legislative attorneys to draft a bill with the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Subcommittee. Daw plans to sponsor the legislation early in the session for quick passage in 2012.
The loss of innocence
Raising Awareness and Dealing with Child Sexual Abuse
by ADELE PENN
The sexual abuse of children is a tragic, worldwide, social phenomenon and Nepal also has its share of problems. In this country three main areas of child sexual abuse can be identified: Child trafficking and coercion into organised prostitution, domestic abuse including incest and abuse of domestic child workers and finally the abuse of street children. These issues have been widely reported by children's charities and child welfare organisations and as national awareness is increasing there is a greater move to establish a coherent legal and social framework to deal with the problems.
According to Nepal Monitor it is estimated that 7,500 children are trafficked domestically for commercial sexual exploitation annually, from poorer regions of the country to the cities and in some cases onto India or the Middle East. Trafficking in Nepal is prohibited by the 2007 Trafficking in Persons and Transportation Act and penalties ranging from 10-20 years in prison are recommended. However, the report states that some dance bars, 'cabin restaurants' and massage parlours, which facilitate sex trafficking in Kathmandu, are co-owned by senior police officials, army officers and mafia. The consequence is when child welfare organisations go after known traffickers, they are often intimidated and put under political pressure to drop the case or the perpetrators are released without the legal punishment. When brothels are raided there are rarely prosecutions and the perception of the sex workers is that the police just want money. Many organisations e.g. Maithi Nepal, are fighting the problem and rescuing girls everyday, but until corruption is tackled at higher levels this problem will continue to shame Nepal.
There is growing national awareness of what constitutes domestic sexual abuse. It has not yet been legally defined, but it basically ranges from the showing of pornography to minors, to unwanted touching of 'private parts' to full blown penetrable rape. The perpetrators are often relatives or close friends of the victim's family or a child worker's employer. Due to social taboos about sex, it is very difficult for the victim to report the crime without experiencing stigamtisation from the community they are living in. In addition, if the abuser is their step-father or even father and they manage to prosecute them and have them locked up, the family loses the bread winner and is likely to suffer greatly. In many cases, if the girl speaks up, they are ignored, ostracised or even blamed.
These are the silent sufferers . In 2001, 12.5% of 1,500 children interviewed in 5 regions admitted to having experienced non-consensual sexual abuse, this number is rising. Fortunately, through the tireless work of children's organisations such as CWIN and Anradristi to name just two of many, more children are being educated and empowered to speak up. Child NGOs and INGOs have created children's groups and trained up peer educators who in turn visit schools showing pictures, movies and sharing their own experiences. Children can learn about the difference between 'good and bad' touches and what to do if they are experiencing unwanted sexual advances. The government does not support their work much, so a lot of energy is spent to find and maintain donor support in order to disseminate the training across the country to the more remote rural areas, which are greatly affected by this problem. The child welfare organisations would prefer the government of the future to take more responsibility and play a larger, more active role in child protection.
Meanwhile NGOs and INGOs are dealing with the problem. For example, as well as providing shelter for abused children, CWIN has a free childline – 1098 - which is open from 8am to 8pm and is available in Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Pokhara, Hetauda and Nepalgunj. There are plans to open 7 more in other locations and to introduce an online helpline. With this facility, children can talk to trained counselors who can advise them on their rights and how to deal with problems of abuse.
Vinita Adhikari of Antardristi, which runs transit homes for abused girls and education programmes in schools, recommends that the victims report sex crimes to the police. The law states that in order for action to be taken, a police report must be made within 35 days of the incident. The police will then refer the case to a child support NGO. If a girl is raped and ends up getting pregnant, this police report is used to support the child's application for citizenship. Without one or a 'father', currently the child will not be given citizenship. The police, though under resourced, are now working more closely and pro-actively with child organisations in helping to follow up on cases. They are also partaking in training provided by CWIN and other organisations to learn how to deal with child abuse cases more sensitively. This training needs to be held on a nationwide scale, not just in the major cities. Vinita states that more girls than they ever expected are coming forward to register sexual abuse cases and to seek shelter and psychological counseling in their transit homes. This doesn't indicate that the problem is getting worse; it shows that children are becoming more aware of their rights and speaking up. This fact should deter paedophiles.
Sunima Tuladur of CWIN points out that in the present unstable political climate prosecuting some people can be very difficult. Last year, in the case of attempted rape of a thirteen-year old girl, the man first accused the organization of making a name for itself, and then went to unions and political youth groups to ask them to intimidate and put political pressure on the organization to drop the case. He would have succeeded if the girl hadn't had the sense of mind to keep the semen stained item of clothing she was wearing. It was only the positive results of the DNA test that lead to a 5-year conviction. In cases of child sexual abuse, the government has a duty to provide lawyers and cover the costs. According to article 57 of the Children's Act 1992, cases involving children should be given priority. However, due to the amount of grey area surrounding child sexual abuse it often takes several years for a case to be heard. Sunima insists that there needs to be clearer definitions and provisions for all types of child sexual abuse in the new Child Rights Act which is waiting to come before parliament. All stakeholders including parents, teachers, lawyers, the police, social workers and politicians need to become more aware of the facts regarding child sexual abuse.
The 1992 Children's Act, Article 16.1 states that ' No person shall involve or use a Child in immoral profession'. However, this does not cover the alarming findings of CWIN's 2010 report on the sexual abuse of street boys in Kathmandu . Drawn to the city due poverty and broken or violent homes, these boys, some as young as 9, usually are bullied and coerced into preforming sexual acts by older street boys or gang leaders; 29.2% admitted to having non-consensual sex, though it was clear they found it easier to talk of other's experiences rather than their own. 83% of the perpetrators were Nepali males and 10.7% were foreigners. Sunima stated that if a man cannot afford to go to a brothel they will turn to street boys instead. She adds that currently, there is no provision in the law for the sexual abuse of boys. Although some foreign paedophiles are in prison, Nepali men or older street boys have never been prosecuted for forcing or bribing unwilling young boys to have sex. As a result the vicious circle of underage male sexual abuse will continue unchecked until the law recognizes the facts.
The work for the network of child welfare INGOs and NGOs is an uphill struggle. As well as issues of funding, dealing with corruption and an inadequate legal system, these agencies desperately need more trained staff and people educated in child psychology and counseling skills from around the country to get involved at all levels. On a positive note, Sunima and Vinita both stated that recently the police have been working more closely with child welfare agencies and that the legal provision for dealing with child sexual abuse is slowly being revised. Although reporting child sexual abuse may not be easy to do, there are many organisations with dedicated staff who are willing to listen, help and do their best for child sexual abuse victims who speak up and break the silence.
Mental Health Matters: Talking can help prevent child abuse
It is never a pleasant or easy topic to talk about, but some of the single greatest assaults on potential mental health are childhood abuses, especially childhood sexual abuse.
Make no mistake: abuse as a child does not mean someone will suffer with a mental illness, nor does it mean that they will encounter life-long issues — although it is also true that this often does happen.
Like almost all the other topics we raise here, the key to good mental health is prevention of mental illness through preventable causes — and child abuse is a prime example.
Children can be abused at home or when not in their parents' protection.
If someone in your home is being abused — physically, emotionally or sexually — whether they are children or not it creates an environment for mental illness to flourish for all in the home, of any age.
It is up to family members to prevent these abuses and, where they cannot, report them and get help for the family as soon as possible.
We are going to focus on protecting children from the dangers that lurk at summer camp, schools, Sunday school, sports teams and any other place where children are abundant and vulnerable.
It is tempting — and easy — for parents to simply say: “I am not sending my child anywhere!”
Not only is this type of over-reaction likely to prevent a child from amazing and life-changing positive experiences, it also denies the reality parents cannot protect children every minute of every day and that children need to be trained to be their own best protection.
For example, we warn children about strangers, but most molestation occurs from people known and trusted by child and parents.
We also wrongly believe girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse than boys.
By talking to your child and providing them with information and skills, there is a much better chance they can take steps to ensure their own safety when parents are not around.
For pre-school children, you should talk to about which parts of the body are private.
If it's covered by a bathing suit, it's private.
Teach the real names of body parts so anyone can understand what part your child is saying if they are talking about abuse.
Children should have an awareness and appreciation for their bodies and should feel comfortable talking about it.
Talk to your children about “good touches” and “bad touches.”
Any touch that makes them feel uncomfortable is a “bad touch.”
It makes no difference what part of the body it is.
Make sure your child knows nobody should ask them to keep secrets, especially secrets about touching.
If someone wants them to keep such a secret, help them to feel comfortable to tell you right away.
For information to help you teach your child to prevent sexual abuse, try childwelfare.gov/preventing/programs/types/sexualabuse.cfm.
Another place for great resources is stopitnow.org; look for child-abuse prevention kits.
Helpguide.org can be a good place to start as well.
These can be difficult issues to talk about, but not as difficult as dealing with the consequences of taking no steps to abuse-proof your child.
In Court, a Victim Gives Voice to Sex Abuse
by AL BAKER
He had never met the young girl, recognizing her only through a 15-minute video he had downloaded that showed her being sexually abused by a man. Her circumstances were not familiar to him; he knew her only as “Vicky,” the self-titled subject of a series of videos popular in child-pornography circles.
But on Thursday, Matthew Fanning, a retired New York City police officer, came to learn more about Vicky, who is now in her 20s, as her victim-impact statement was read aloud at his sentencing in State Supreme Court in Queens.
“I wonder if the people I know have seen these images,” the woman wrote, according to the statement, which was read by a senior assistant district attorney, Kateri A. Gasper. “I wonder if the men I pass in the grocery store have seen them. Because the most intimate parts of me are being viewed by thousands of strangers, and traded around, I feel out of control. They are trading my trauma around like treats at a party, but it is far from innocent. It feels like I am being raped by each and every one of them.”
Prosecutors have withheld her real name because she is a repeat victim of child abuse: her father sexually abused her and filmed those acts more than a decade ago.
In her statement, she described enduring flashbacks, nightmares and paranoia. Crowds were unbearable, she said, and she withdrew from college because of panic attacks.
And each time she learns that images of her “naked body being tortured” are at the center of another court case against a purveyor of child pornography, she feels exploited anew. Victim-impact statements from the woman's mother and stepfather were also introduced into the record, though not read aloud. Later, Justice Fernando M. Camacho sentenced Mr. Fanning, 48, of Ozone Park, to up to 10 years in prison.
“The children who are depicted in these vile videos are real children,” said Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney. “The fact that the defendant is a retired N.Y.P.D. officer makes this case all the more disturbing.”
Last month, Mr. Fanning pleaded guilty to two counts of promoting sexual performance by a child: one for obtaining a video featuring a 3-year-old girl engaged in a sex act with an adult male and one for the Vicky video.
In court, Mr. Fanning apologized after hearing the victim's statement.
“The phrase ‘Lord knows, I'm sorry,' comes to mind,” he told the judge. “I would never do anything to hurt anyone.”
As for the victims in the case, Mr. Fanning said: “I pray for them and their families every day. I swear to God nothing like this will ever happen again.”
For the young woman at the center of the Vicky series, offering an impact statement is part of a two-pronged legal approach seeking some relief for her past. When people are convicted in federal court of possessing pornographic images of her, she files motions to receive damages, her lawyer, Carol L. Hepburn, said.
She is seeking about $1 million to date for counseling, lost wages, extra educational costs and evidence gathering, Ms. Hepburn said. So far, her client has filed for restitution in more than 200 federal criminal cases across the country, and received more than 50 orders for payment — though not much money has come in because many defendants have little means.
“We ask that her victim-impact statement be read aloud in all cases so the defendant and those in court have an opportunity to realize the effect of this crime,” Ms. Hepburn said. “I'm hopeful other victims will come forward and realize they, too, can have a voice.”
Ms. Hepburn said her client was one of three victims in the nation who regularly request restitution from people who possess child pornography images — not just from those who produce or distribute it. Whenever the Vicky images show up in a prosecution, the government notifies Ms. Hepburn — although victims and their relatives can ask that the government not do so. In his statement, the stepfather of the victim in the Vicky series said he did just that.
“We don't receive the notices anymore,” he wrote. “The pain and gut-wrenching reminder of receiving enough notices to overflow a 55-gallon drum is more than my family can take.”
Garden Grove school bus driver arrested for allegedly molesting girl
June 8, 2011
A bus driver for the Garden Grove Unified School District was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of molesting a girl for seven years beginning in 1991.
The girl, who is now 25, was 5 years old when the abuse allegedly began. She contacted authorities in April when she realized that bus driver Cody Charles Johnson, 47, had a job around children, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.
Johnson is suspected of molesting the girl about 20 times, department spokesman Jim Amormino said.
"There was substantial sexual contact," Amormino told The Times, "and we were able to corroborate that."
Because investigators uncovered numerous incidents, there is no statute of limitations on the crimes, according to Amormino.
He said Johnson drives special-needs children and has operated buses for the district since 2005.
Johnson was booked on suspicion of continuous sexual abuse of a child. He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Jaycee Dugard to break silence in interview with Diane Sawyer
June 8, 2011
Jaycee Dugard will break her silence about her kidnapping and captivity in an interview with ABC News, the network announced Wednesday.
Diane Sawyer will interview Dugard in July in advance of her upcoming memoir, "A Stolen Life."
The couple who abducted Dugard in 1991 were sentenced last week to prison terms that could keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives. Phillip Garrido, a 60-year-old convicted rapist, was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison. His 55-year-old wife, Nancy, was sentenced to 36 years to life in prison.
Dugard did not attend the sentencing hearing, but her mother, Terry Probyn, read a statement by Dugard directed at Phillip Garrido:
"I chose not to be here today because I refuse to waste another second of my life in your presence. ... Everything you ever did to me was wrong and I hope one day you will see that. ... I hated every second of every day for 18 years. You stole my life and that of my family."
In a portion of the statement directed at Nancy Garrido, Dugard wrote:
"There is no God in the universe that would condone your actions."
Area Child Sex Assaults Rising As Groups Battle Trend
Some Areas Seeing 70% Increase From Last Year
by Don Coleman
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- Sexual assaults on children are part of a growing problem across the Western Slope, but so are efforts to stop them. Data shows that the crime which is starting to spiral out of control might be closer to home than you think.
"If you haven't been sexually abused yourself, you probably know someone who has been," Meghan Ventling, a Family Support Advocate with the Western Colorado Center for Children, said. The national numbers are staggering and the statistics are hard to fathom.
One in six boys and one in four girls are sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18. "It's a lot harder to overcome from sexual abuse than it is a bruise on your leg," Ventling explained. The child advocacy center that she works at helps kids and families recover from such abuse.
In Mesa County, they have tracked a steady average of 300 cases being reported in each of the past 12 years. 2010 was the only year that they saw a slight dip down to 269 cases. In other areas, though, that number is rising.
"Looking at the Delta County statistics, on their own, they're up about 65% to 70% above where they ended 2010," Sue Montgomery with the Dolphin House said. Her child advocacy center serves the 7th Judicial District which includes the Montrose and Delta areas. "At our house, we had heard of 180 cases during our first three years, but just last year, we had almost 200 alone."
Montgomery helped organize a Wednesday night community meeting in Delta where people were able to learn about how bad the problem is locally. The Delta Police Department, Delta County Sheriff's Office, 7th Judicial District Attorney, Delta County Health and Human Services Department, and local victim advocates were all in attendance and made presentations. During the past few months, three high profile arrests have been made in the county. Robert Vicencio faces more than 200 counts while Jeffrey Bigham has more than 800 charges.
"[Law enforcement] treats child sex assault cases equal to homicides during their investigations," Montgomery explained. But what makes this crime even scarier is that most kids who are sexually assaulted are done so by people they know and people they trust.
"It usually starts with someone gaining the child's trust by giving them back-rubs and befriending them," Ventling outlined. "And then they'll gradually get into more sexual acts." In Mesa County, 97% of reported child sexual assault cases involved a known person - most of which, the perpetrators were either the parents or other relatives. Most abusers were men over the age of 18.
At the Dolphin House, 100% of the perpetrators were people the victim knew and trusted.
"We have no 'Stranger Danger' cases at all," Montgomery said. As the criminals face jail time, the victims are often left emotionally scared. Alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and terrible memories often follow these children for the rest of their lives. In many cases, a recovering victim will have these issues resurface and will need additional counseling later in life.
"Being violated by somebody that is close to you is devastating," Ventling said. "As the child gets older and starts dating again, getting married, or becoming intimate, those memories might come back."
These groups hope to help all victims in this situation. But, what might be the most surprising statistic of all is how many cases might be happening that they don't know about.
"The data shows that one out of every 10 cases is reported" Ventling said. "It's scary for us to think that if we are hearing about 300 cases, are there potentially 3,000?"
To report a crime, call 911. For more information about these advocacy centers, you can visit the Western Colorado Center for Children's website or call them at 970.245.3788 . You can reach the Dolphin House at their website or on the phone at 970.240.8655.
Childhood Abuse Can Disturb Sleep in Old Age
by Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
June 9, 2011
Geriatric researchers have discovered that events that took place long ago can disrupt sleep quality among older adults.
Suffering from parental abuse as a child increases a person's chances of having poor sleep quality in old age, according to a research article in the current issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences .
Scientists analyzed information from a sample of 877 adults aged 60 years and above and found that early parental emotional abuse was associated with a higher number of sleep complaints in old age.
Researchers determined that emotional abuse in childhood — rather than physical abuse or emotional neglect — is linked to a poor quality of sleep among older adults.
“A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well-being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives,” said Cecilia Y. M. Poon, M.A., the study's lead author.
“The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world.”
Researchers evaluated findings from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. In 1995, approximately 3,500 adults responded to questions about their childhood. A decade later, they were asked follow-up questions about sleep, relationships, and emotional distress.
In the research, Poon analyzed the answers from those aged 60 and above.
During the second round of interviews, the participants were asked how often within the previous 30 days they had trouble falling asleep, woke up during the night and had difficulty going back to sleep, woke up too early in the morning and were unable to get back to sleep, and felt unrested during the day no matter how many hours of sleep they had.
Emotional abuse was assessed by asking participants how often their mother and father insulted or swore at them, sulked or refused to talk to them, stomped out of the room, did or said something to spite them, threatened to hit them, or smashed or knocked something in anger.
Survey findings suggest emotional abuse during childhood is also associated with poorer relationships in adulthood. Poon speculated that this lack of partner support, associated with stress, may also impede sleep quality.
Childhood Exposure to Trauma Ups Physical, Mental Health Risks
by Rick Nauert PhD
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
June 9, 2011
A new research study suggests exposure to trauma can increase a child's risk of developing learning and behavioral problems, and raise a child's risk of obesity.
Stanford University School of Medicine researchers said the findings could encourage physicians to consider diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder rather than attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which has similar symptoms to PTSD but very different treatment.
Investigators examined children living in a violent, low-income neighborhood and discovered an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and the children's mental and physical health.
Remarkable, researchers discovered that children experiencing trauma were 30 times more likely to have behavior and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.
“In communities where there is violence, where children are exposed to events such as shootings in their neighborhoods, kids experience a constant environmental threat,” said senior author Victor Carrion, M.D.
“Contrary to some people's belief, these children don't get used to trauma. These events remain stressful and impact children's physiology.”
The new study is published online in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.
The findings provide compelling evidence that pediatricians should routinely screen children for trauma exposures, said Carrion, a child psychiatrist.
“As simple as it may seem, physicians do not ask about trauma,” he said. “And kids get the wrong diagnoses.”
The study builds on earlier work that linked declining health in adulthood to the amount or dose of exposure to adverse childhood events.
Events such as various kinds of abuse or neglect; having a household member who abused alcohol or drugs, was incarcerated or was mentally ill; having a mother who was treated violently; and not living in a two-parent household increased the risk of poor health.
Earlier research has found that middle-class men exposed to these events had more chronic diseases in adulthood.
The results of the current study highlight the need for early identification of such adversity-associated health problems, and the necessity of early intervention. Obesity, for example, may act as a mediator to other health problems such as diabetes, cardiac risk and inflammatory illness.
To perform the study, the researchers evaluated medical records from 701 children treated at a primary-care clinic in Bayview-Hunter's Point, a San Francisco neighborhood with high rates of poverty and violence.
About half the children were African-American; the rest came from other ethnic backgrounds. Each child's exposure to adverse events was scored on a scale from 0 to 9, with one point given for each type of adversity. The researchers also evaluated the medical records for evidence of obesity and learning or behavior problems.
Two-thirds of the children in the study had experienced at least one category of adversity, and 12 percent experienced four or more categories. An adversity score of 4 or higher left kids 30 times as likely to show learning and behavior problems and twice as likely to be obese as those with a score of 0. Children with an adversity score of 1 were 10 times as likely to have learning and behavior problems as those not exposed to trauma.
Prior research has shown that about 30 percent of children in violent communities have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which can include the learning and behavior problems detected in the current study, Carrion noted.
Carrion believes a physician unaware of the fact that a child experienced trauma, and noting the child's physiological hyperarousability and cognitive difficulties, may diagnose ADHD instead of PTSD.
That's a problem because the two disorders have opposite treatments, he said. Kids with PTSD need psychotherapy, not the stimulant medications given for ADHD.
“Children can recover from PTSD with the appropriate treatment, which is one of approach and not avoidance,” Carrion said. “By not asking about trauma, we're utilizing avoidance. We're perpetuating PTSD.”
As part of their efforts to address the long-term health problems that stem from childhood trauma, Carrion, his collaborators and several San Francisco community partners are working to launch the Center for Youth Wellness, a one-stop health and wellness center for urban children and families in San Francisco.
The Center for Youth Wellness will combine pediatrics with mental health services, educational support, family support, research and best practices in child-abuse response under one roof. With both public and private support, the center will coordinate the services of multiple agencies to give children a safe and accessible place to increase their resilience to adverse life experiences and improve their well-being.
“We need to create trauma-informed systems,” Carrion concluded, adding that the Center for Youth Wellness hopes to function as a model for such systems across the nation.
People working for the welfare of children need to be on the lookout for trauma and know how to intervene, and how to work with the family and with schools, he said. “If trauma goes untreated, it's very costly for the individuals involved and for society in general.”
Childhood Trauma Linked to Higher Rates of Mental Health Problems and Obesity
Jun 8, 2011
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - STANFORD, Calif. — New research has shown that children's risk for learning and behavior problems and obesity rises in correlation to their level of trauma exposure, says the psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital who oversaw the study. The findings could encourage physicians to consider diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder rather than attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which has similar symptoms to PTSD but very different treatment.
The study examined children living in a violent, low-income neighborhood and documented an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and the children's mental and physical health: It reported, for instance, that children experiencing four types of trauma were 30 times more likely to have behavior and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.
“In communities where there is violence, where children are exposed to events such as shootings in their neighborhoods, kids experience a constant environmental threat,” said senior author Victor Carrion, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. “Contrary to some people's belief, these children don't get used to trauma. These events remain stressful and impact children's physiology.”
The new study is being published online today in Child Abuse & Neglect; The International Journal. Carrion collaborated on the research with scientists at the University of New Orleans and the Bayview Child Health Center, part of San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center.
The findings provide compelling evidence that pediatricians should routinely screen children for trauma exposures, said Carrion, who is also a child psychiatrist at Packard Children's.
“As simple as it may seem, physicians do not ask about trauma,” he said. “And kids get the wrong diagnoses.”
The study builds on earlier work that linked worsening health in adults with their dose of exposure to nine types of adverse childhood events, including being subject to various kinds of abuse or neglect; having a household member who abused alcohol or drugs, was incarcerated or was mentally ill; having a mother who was treated violently; and not living in a two-parent household. Middle-class men exposed to more of these events had more chronic diseases in adulthood, the prior research found. The results of the current study highlight the need for early identification of such adversity-associated health problems, and early intervention. Obesity, for example, may act as a mediator to other health problems such as diabetes, cardiac risk and inflammatory illness.
To perform the study, the researchers evaluated medical records from 701 children treated at a primary-care clinic in Bayview-Hunter's Point, a San Francisco neighborhood with high rates of poverty and violence. About half the children were African-American; the rest came from other ethnic backgrounds. Each child's exposure to adverse events was scored on a scale from 0 to 9, with one point given for each type of adversity. The researchers also evaluated the medical records for evidence of obesity and learning or behavior problems.
Two-thirds of the children in the study had experienced at least one category of adversity, and 12 percent experienced four or more categories. An adversity score of 4 or higher left kids 30 times as likely to show learning and behavior problems and twice as likely to be obese as those with a score of 0. Children with an adversity score of 1 were 10 times as likely to have learning and behavior problems as those not exposed to trauma.
Prior research has shown that about 30 percent of children in violent communities have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which can include the learning and behavior problems detected in the current study, Carrion noted. However, a physician unaware of the fact that a child experienced trauma, and noting the child's physiological hyperarousability and cognitive difficulties, may diagnose ADHD instead of PTSD. That's a problem because the two disorders have opposite treatments, he said. Kids with PTSD need psychotherapy, not the stimulant medications given for ADHD.
“Children can recover from PTSD with the appropriate treatment, which is one of approach and not avoidance,” Carrion said. “By not asking about trauma, we're utilizing avoidance. We're perpetuating PTSD.”
As part of their efforts to address the long-term health problems that stem from childhood trauma, Carrion, his collaborators and several San Francisco community partners are working to launch the Center for Youth Wellness, a one-stop health and wellness center for urban children and families in San Francisco. The Center for Youth Wellness will combine pediatrics with mental health services, educational support, family support, research and best practices in child-abuse response under one roof. With both public and private support, the center will coordinate the services of multiple agencies to give children a safe and accessible place to increase their resilience to adverse life experiences and improve their well-being.
The center, which aims to begin operation by mid-2012, is a partnership between California Pacific Medical Center's Bayview Child Health Center, San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, San Francisco District Attorney's Office, Stanford's Early Life Stress Research Program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Tipping Point Community. Nadine Burke, MD, director of the Bayview center, is also a co-author of the study.
“We need to create trauma-informed systems,” Carrion concluded, adding that the Center for Youth Wellness hopes to function as a model for such systems across the nation. People working for the welfare of children need to be on the lookout for trauma and know how to intervene, and how to work with the family and with schools, he said. “If trauma goes untreated, it's very costly for the individuals involved and for society in general.”
The research was funded by the Lennar Urban Corp. and awards to Carrion from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Evans Foundation.
For more information, visit www.lpch.org.
Torrance police look for man who tried to lure girl into his car near North High
June 7, 2011
Torrance police Tuesday were looking for a man who tried to lure a 15-year-old girl into his car as she walked home from North High School.
The man pulled up to the girl Friday after she left the campus in the 3600 block of 182nd Street and asked for directions, the Torrance Police Department said.
The man then told the girl to get in his car so he could give her a ride. He followed her for a short period as she continued to walk, police said.
The man was described as Latino, in his late 30s with brown hair, bushy eyebrows and stubble. He was wearing a white short-sleeve shirt and spoke in a soft voice with no accent, police said. He was driving a newer-model four-door blue sedan.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (310) 618-5585 .
Search for Ind. student reminiscent of 2000 case
by DEANNA MARTIN - Associated Press
June 8, 2011
Eleven years after an Indiana University student disappeared while on a bike ride, the scene in this college town is eerily similar, with parents and volunteers frantically searching for another missing woman with no sign of what happened to her.
Police they say they have few leads and no suspects but believe foul play is to blame for the disappearance of 20-year-old Lauren Spierer, a petite sophomore from Greenburgh, N.Y., last seen leaving a friend's apartment early Friday after a night out.
"When somebody at 4:30 in the morning - no shoes and has earlier been drinking - goes out and just disappears off a street corner, we feel like there certainly could be foul play involved," Bloomington police Lt. Bill Parker said during a news conference Tuesday. "If she had just decided to go to a buddy's house, we would have heard that by now."
For some on the campus of 40,000 students about 50 miles south of Indianapolis, the agony is all too familiar.
Those searching for Spierer include Eric Behrman, whose daughter, Jill, was 19 when she disappeared in May 2000 while on a bike ride near Bloomington. Hunters found her skeletal remains three years later in a remote field about 15 miles from the city. John R. Myers II was charged later that year and is now serving a 65-year sentence in her death.
"After a period of time - after you've searched, you've exhausted the contacts - that's when a real feeling of fear creeps in," Behrman said. "You realize no one knows where your child is."
Police looking for clues about Spierer used a battering ram to break into the security room and mail room at her apartment building Tuesday evening, according to WTHR-TV and WISH-TV reporters at the scene. Bloomington police declined comment, saying they planned to issue a statement Wednesday morning. But the apartment complex issued a statement indicating police were after computer hard drives and no one was available to let officers into the locked area.
Spierer's parents, Robert and Charlene, and volunteers plan to resume what have become daily searches Wednesday in hopes of finding their daughter.
"We are continuing in earnest every day to search for her," a visibly exhausted Robert Spierer told reporters as his wife, Charlene, wiped tears away. "We're not going to give up."
Bloomington resident Dawn Adams, whose son, Wade Steffey, went missing at Purdue University in 2007, was among those helping look for Lauren Spierer. She said health problems prevented her from searching for her son, whose body was found two months later in a high-voltage utility room on campus, where he'd been fatally shocked.
"It's important to be here to search for Lauren and support her parents," said Adams, a Bloomington resident. "I hope we find her. It's really important to look."
Parker said Spierer went to a sports bar near her apartment with friends Thursday night, then went to a friend's apartment before leaving around 4:30 a.m. Friday. Her friend watched Spierer walk to a corner near his apartment, but no one has seen her since.
Investigators have Spierer's purse and some keys, which were found along the route to her friend's apartment. But Parker said they aren't sure whether Spierer left them on her way to or from her friend's home. She left her cellphone and shoes in the bar.
Authorities directing volunteers have told them to look for clues - a stray piece of clothing left on the ground or anything that raises suspicion. Fliers with Spierer's photograph and a physical description of her are posted around Bloomington and on the Indiana University campus.
Bloomington residents say they hope for a better outcome in the Spierer case than the Behrman case, which dragged on for years.
"Those people went through such a terrible, terrible time," said Sharon Phillips, a Bloomington resident with two adult daughters who volunteered with the search Tuesday. "It's heart-wrenching. Anyone's who's a parent is just going to have that kind of a connection to these people."
Robert Spierer, meanwhile, begged for anyone with any information about his daughter's disappearance to come forward.
"It doesn't matter how casual the sighting was. Every little piece of info we get is important," he said.
Bradley trial over w/o verdict; Explicit child sex abuse detailed
by Amy Cherry
June 8, 2011
The child sexual assault trial of former Dr. Earl Bradley is now in the hands of a judge, but he's not saying when a verdict might come.
WDEL's Amy Cherry was inside the courtroom, where graphic details were made known for the first time.
When Dr. Bradley administered shots to children, he would give them popsicles because he said sugar helped with the pain.
Parents thought it was a nice thing for him to do.
But the pain he may've meant was the kind toddlers endured when Bradley would stick his hands down their diapers or force them to perform oral sex on him until they couldn't breathe.
89 assaults are caught on 13 hours of video evidence, each frame viewed by Detective Scott Garland with the State Police High Tech Crime Unite.
"The level of violence went beyond anything I had ever seen. Nothing prepared me for that," testified Garland.
While watching one of the videos, Garland says he stood up and yelled at Bradley, "Let her go!" as the child yelped out a blood curdling scream.
In another assault Garland describes, a child is dying in front of him. He says the girl was choking and slapping Bradley's leg pleading for him to stop, when she went limp. He says Bradley picked her up by the head and tossed her aside like "trash."
He says the child's face was gray; her fingernails blue. Bradley then gives her mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate her. When she wakes up, he says, "Let's go get a popsicle!" before bringing her upstairs to her mother.
Garland says most child sex abusers go out of their way to shield their identities, but not Bradley. He says Bradley goes out of his way to ensure he and his victims are prominently displayed in all 89 videos.
Garland says some of the assaults happened with parents right there in the room. He says at least one parent questioned a vaginal exam to confirm her daughter's ADHD diagnosis. Bradley had cameras hidden underneath the examination table. He also had pen cameras kept in the breast pocket of his scrubs.
Court adjourned at 3:30pm Tuesday, after starting at 10:15am.
The prosecution only called two witnesses, Garland and Detective Thomas Elliott, who worked for DSP's Major Crimes unit in Georgetown when Bradley was arrested.
The defense offered no cross-examination and no witnesses.
Bradley was in the courtroom in Sussex County Superior Court in Georgetown, looking frail but well-kempt. When standing, he kept his hands behind his back, as though they were cuffed. He answered just a few brief questions from Judge William Carpenter and did not testify.
The former doctor faces a consolidated indictment consisting of 14 counts of child rape, five counts of assault, and five counts of sexual exploitation of a child. All of the victims in this indictment are two-years-old. Just one of the victims is a boy.
The indictment alleges Jane Doe #39 is the two-year-old daughter of Bradley's former employee.
Judge Carpenter has hours of video evidence to watch before he'll issue a ruling.
Survey Tackles Competence of Interpreting Medical Findings in Child Sexual Abuse
by DOUG BRUNK, Internal Medicine News Digital Network
DENVER – When it comes to accurately interpreting medical findings in suspected cases of child sexual abuse, experience isn't the only factor.
Physicians who have completed a fellowship in child abuse pediatrics appear to fare best, as do clinicians who have an expert review their cases at least quarterly, and those who read the Quarterly Update, a newsletter with reviews of published medical journal articles in the field of child abuse.
These findings come from a Web-based survey administered between July and December of 2007, Dr. Joyce A. Adams reported at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. The purpose of the survey was to assess clinicians' ability to recognize and interpret children's normal and abnormal anogenital findings from magnified photographs, and to determine which factors in education, clinical experience, and oversight correlate with correct responses to the survey questions.
Study participants were sent an invitation via Listservs of the American Academy of Pediatrics section on child abuse and neglect, the Ray Helfer Society, the American Pediatric Association child abuse special interest group, and forensic nurses who examine children, said Dr. Adams of the University of California, San Diego.
The 45-question survey covered 20 cases and included questions on the identification and interpretation of findings in photos, clinical management of cases, and knowledge of medical literature. It also asked participants about their profession, specialty, experience, practice variables, frequency of expert review of cases, memberships in organizations, and related continuing medical education activities.
Dr. Adams reported on findings from 197 completed surveys. More than half (60%) were from physicians, followed by registered nurses (22%) and advanced practice nurses (17%). The remaining 1% of respondents consisted of one physician assistant and one researcher. In all, 51 of the respondents (26%) indicated that they had completed an earlier version of the survey that had been presented at previous child abuse medical conferences.
Correct answers to the survey were agreed upon by an independent panel of Helfer Society members in 2010. The expert panel could not agree on the answers to four of the survey questions, leaving a total of 41 questions to be included in the study. Each question was worth 1 point, with a perfect score being 41.
The mean total score for first-time survey takers was 32, compared with 35 for those who had completed an earlier version of the survey. Dr. Adams and her associates limited all further analyses to the 146 first-time survey takers. They conducted analysis of means, bivariate analysis, and multivariate analysis to identify variables significantly associated with higher survey scores.
Total number of examinations performed and number of examinations performed monthly were significantly associated with a higher total score on the survey. Other factors – such as having completed a fellowship in child abuse pediatrics, being a member of the Ray Helfer Society, attending workshops on sexual abuse evaluation, being a member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and reading the Quarterly Update – contributed positively to total score. Using multivariate analysis, researchers found that the three significant contributors to higher total score were being a child abuse pediatrician, having cases reviewed by an expert at least quarterly, and reading the Quarterly Update.
Dr. Adams also reported that non–child abuse physicians, sexual assault nurse examiners, and advanced practice nurses who examined fewer than five children monthly for sexual abuse correctly answered fewer than 70% of the questions.
Dr. Adams acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the fact that it was a convenience sample and that competence in performing child sexual abuse medical evaluations "involves much more than being able to identify a finding and interpret it, although in my view, that is an important part," she said. "It's clear that we need additional studies to determine the appropriate content and the frequency of educational programs for people who do this work, and the best methods to ensure that individuals have their cases reviewed by an expert."
Dr. Adams said that she had no relevant financial disclosures.
Preventing Child Abuse, Neglect in WV
June 8, 2011
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - National children's advocates, meeting in West Virginia this week, want to build a movement to expand on current successes in preventing child abuse and neglect. They're seeing good results they hope could spark a nationwide movement.
Statistics show declines in neglect and abuse cases in West Virginia and other states, says Bryan Specht, a member of the national board of directors of Prevent Child Abuse America . The focus often is on tragic things that happen to children, he says, but that isn't the whole story.
"There are things that can be done to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. Some people will tell us that we'll never eliminate every case of abuse, but what a great difference we could make in the pursuit of that."
Several members of Specht's organization are in Charleston this week to attend Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia's first Leadership Institute. According to the West Virginia group, the gathering is the largest event of its kind they've ever held.
Ben Tanzer, the organization's director of strategic communications, says it's important to note that people want to be good parents but sometimes get into crisis situations, where they feel desperate and isolated.
"No one wakes up and says, 'Today's the day I beat my kid.' They wake up and everything starts falling apart."
It helps to remember how stressful raising children can be, says Tanzer. Communities can provide support for families in crisis, he says, and sometimes all it takes is reminding them of things they already know.
"When my baby's crying, it means they're probably hungry or tired, or need their diaper changed. Your kid's not crying because they're trying to torture you."
America spends $104 billion a year on child abuse and neglect cases, Specht says, adding that the nation could save that money by continuing to prevent many of these cases - and doing so would be beneficial in other ways as well.
"The science is really saying to us, 'This is the right thing to do, for the capacity of our children to learn, for our economy - the kind of society that we could live in, if we provided that healthy opportunity to every child.'"
PCA WV's Leadership Institute continues Wednesday at the Charleston Marriott.
Police identify Scots human traffic gangs
by David Leask
Investigations Reporter EXCLUSIVE
June 8, 2011
NINE major crime gangs are trafficking people into Scotland for the sex trade and forced labour, police have warned.
Chinese Triads and Albanian smugglers are among the groups to have been picked up on the radar of the elite Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) as it steps up its fight with the international underworld operating north of the Border.
Gangsters can make tens of thousands of pounds every year from every person they smuggle into the country illegally, especially in the highly lucrative and increasingly common brothels of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Whitelock, the SCDEA's head of intelligence, said: “We know there are Chinese and south-east Asian crime groups involved, Nigerians and gangs from eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Albania.
“They are all predominantly bringing in women to work in the Scottish sex industry.”
But as police revealed their most detailed intelligence yet about the scale of the trade, Scotland's lead immigration official criticised slow progress in prosecuting human traffickers.
Phil Taylor, regional director of the UK Border Agency for Scotland and Northern Ireland, revealed four major investigations by his officers had failed to result in a single conviction.
He questioned whether Scotland's justice system could move fast enough to deal with serious allegations made by people eager to leave the country.
Speaking at an Edinburgh conference on child trafficking yesterday, Mr Taylor said: “I think the ability of the criminal justice system in Scotland to pursue these cases with sufficient speed and vigour is in doubt.
“I know from my own experience we have conducted four major investigations into immigration offences which may or may not have involved trafficking but were large-scale organised operations involving illegal migration.
“The inability of the collective system to bring those cases to trial is a great worry to me and a matter of major concern. Foreign nationals who are in this category are not going to hang about for three years in order to give evidence against the traffickers.”
Earlier this year, The Herald revealed that Scotland's first human trafficking prosecution was under way.
Human rights campaigners, women's groups and politicians have previously attacked police and fiscals for failing to bring any prosecutions.
The unusually frank criticism from Mr Taylor is all the more damning because it comes from within the system. He wants to see a national task force on trafficking to include police and prosecutors.
“We have to find ways of being more robust, more flexible and more determined,” he added.
“I understand the prosecutors' concerns about bringing new and novel cases before the courts in Scotland.
“The problem for me and the whole of the criminal justice system is that if you never take a case to trial you will never get a conviction.
“And it is always the case that there is a learning curve for the whole system to get to grips with new problems and new cases.”
His concerns immediately provoked a staunch defence of the Scottish system by the Crown Office.
A Crown office spokesman said: “We absolutely do not accept this criticism, which is ill-informed.
“The prosecution service in Scotland is committed to using all of our powers to combat people trafficking wherever it occurs and when there is sufficient available, credible and reliable evidence to do so.
“The Crown can only prosecute what is reported by law enforcement and when there is sufficient evidence.”
The spokesman said there had been a dearth of cases reported but stressed there were currently several investigations under way across Scotland. Fiscals have targeted individuals who they believe to be traffickers over lesser offences, including identity and prostitution-related crimes.
Police last night stressed that they know a lot about the sex industry -– but that their information is more limited on other types of people trafficking, including for forced labour and domestic servitude.
Glasgow detectives are about to begin leafleting large areas of the city centre and the southside giving residents advice on the tell-tale signs of trafficking for both sex and labour.
Mr Whitelock and Mr Taylor were both speaking at the conference which was organised by Tam Baillie, Scotland's commissioner for children and young people.
There are few robust figures on child trafficking, although Mr Baillie earlier this year commissioned a report which suggested that between 80 and 249 children could have been victims.
Mr Whitelock cited official figures showing just five adults and one child had been confirmed as victims of trafficking in Scotland between April 2009 and July 2010. Around 70 people had been referred to police as potential victims in the same period.
But he said the problem was bigger than the figures showed: “I know from intelligence that that is not the true nature of what we are dealing with.”
Church choir director arrested on suspicion of lewd acts with girl in San Bernardino County
A 53-year-old director of a Baptist church choir in San Bernardino County has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in lewd acts with a 15-year-old girl.
Mark Michaels was taken into custody after officers from the Montclair Police Department allegedly observed "inappropriate activity" with the girl inside his vehicle in an alley near the 10200 block of Central Avenue, according to a KTLA news report.
Michaels, a choir director at Bethany Baptist Church, was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, the report said. The girl may have been a member of the choir.
Man who used MySpace for sex with underage girls to be sentenced
Federal prosecutors will be in court Monday seeking a five-year prison sentence for a Harbor City man charged with using the MySpace social networking site to lure underage girls into having sex with him.
Hugo Galindo Gonzalez, 25, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of using the Internet to send information about a minor, according to a court document. The original charge carried a mandatory 10-year prison term.
Using a fake name, Gonzalez would pose as a teenager and negotiate with girls he met on MySpace to set up dates with his "older cousin," authorities said.
In August 2010, when he was 24, he had sex with a 14-year-old girl he met through the site, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jennie Wang said. The majority of his 2,500 friends MySpace friends were underage girls, she added.
"He's an Internet predator," Wang said. "He would tell them, 'Age is just a number.'"
Gonzalez's defense attorney, Richard Nahigian, could not be reached for comment.
Wang said Gonzalez worked as a disc jockey and swim instructor.
He was identified through a tip from the Palos Verdes Estates police, she said.
Reducing child abuse needs community diligence
by SARAH WOMER - SUN STAFF WRITER
The arrest of a Yuma man in the death of a child last week has put a spotlight on the issue of child abuse in Yuma County, at the same time as local observers have noted an upward trend in the problem.
Reports of physical child abuse are rising this year in Yuma County, according to Diane Umphress, Amberly’s Place executive director, who recently reported that from the months of January to April, the organization has assisted 711 victims of various forms of abuse. She noted that these numbers include the primary and secondary victims, which are the child and the nonoffending parent.
Of that number, 41 individuals were assisted the child physical abuse category and 122 individuals were assited in child sexual abuse category.
In 2010, during the same time period, 702 victims were assisted, including 19 in the child physical abuse category and 158 in the child sexual abuse category.
In last week’s case, Victor Noriega, 29, was charged in the death of 21-month-old Danielle Martinez. Police said Noriega, the boyfriend of Danielle’s mother — Sonia Sepulveda, 22 — was the only person at home when the little girl suffered severe internal injuries and died.
Noriega is being held in the Yuma County Adult Detention Center on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse.
Umphress believes the numbers are increasing largely due to the downturn in the economy.
“When the economy is bad, this tends to happen. Abuse issues are always about power and control. When the world goes crazy, they attempt to control their inside world. The sad thing for the children is usually the person that’s abusing them is someone they know and love and care about.”
Over 90 percent of the time, when dealing with sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger but someone that the child knows, like a family member or a friend, she commented.
Umphress added that the community needs to take care of children when they can’t speak out for themselves, noting that every 10 seconds a child is abused in this country and five children are killed daily from abuse. Of those killed from abuse each day, four are under the age of 4.
“These are totally preventable deaths. If you suspect abuse and you don’t report it, it used to be a misdemeanor and now it’s a felony.”
After recently training school teachers on signs and symptoms of abuse through the Children’s Justice Project, Umphress found that the reporting rate of abuse went up because the instructors became more aware of bruises and other marks on their students or changes in behavior.
Umphress shared that parents should also be aware of the children in their neighborhood and their children’s friends.
To anonymously report abuse, call 78-CRIME.
Rich Ryan Productions Presents LEMON MERINGUE at TADA Theater, 7/8-10
by BWW News Desk
The process of recovering lost sections of one's life after childhood sexual abuse is inherently dramatic and theater is a home for powerful emotions. So it's not surprising that plays by survivors are starting to appear on the subject. However, the art related to child sexual abuse has been predominantly women's stories to-date. Rich Ryan, a Long Island-based survivor, breaks the mold with "Lemon Meringue," his new ten-character play with songs by Athena Reich, a survivor/recording artist. The play is directed by Terri Muuss, a theater artist and social worker who is also a survivor. Ryan's Production Company, Rich Ryan Productions, LLC, will present the work July 8 to 10, 2011 at TADA! Theater, 15 West 28th Street, for one-week only. The short run, an Equity Showcase, will also be a fundraiser for a new nonprofit devoted enabling other survivors to break their silence on the issue and build magnificent lives.
The play arises from dialogues between a mature man and his two therapists as he is recovering from childhood sexual abuse, interspersed with flashbacks and musical scenes. The lead character, who bears the author's name of Rich, had fallen victim to a pedophile--shockingly, a pediatrician--who saw that he was abused at home by black and blue marks on his body, a clue that he would be an easy victim. "Rich" takes the audience on his emotional roller-coaster as he ends thirty years of hiding from the truth, facing up to the arduous and scary task of discovering his inner child. Dance scenes illustrate episodes from the "gap" in his life, including the "lost black periods" when he took refuge in drugs and his discovery of sexual intimacy during his thirty year "period of hibernation." Rich's recovery began with a recollection of eating his grandmother's lemon meringue pie, "the last sweet thing before the volcano got me," and this is the central motif and title of the play.
The play has no graphic descriptions or re-enactments of Rich's youthful ordeals. They are not needed when the first-hand experience of so many in the company can give the play such emotional ballast. The production tastefully dedicates itself to a lofty thematic goal: dramatizing the triumph of bravery over resistance and the joy of recovering one's own lost soul. It exposes its audience to a test of strength that most adults rejoice in when they see it, especially if they have ever been brave enough to accomplish something similar themselves. Its reward is the feeling that nothing truly evil will happen to one who survives a test of courage.
Joe DeGise II heads the cast in the role of "Rich from Long Island." He is a performer, writer, and the director of New York's longest running comedy review, Chicago City Limits. He co-founded the improvisation group Unexpected Company (which held regular runs Off-Broadway) and the sketch comedy group Bitter Harmless People. With "Lemon Meringue," DeGise returns to the dramatic stage for the first time in over a decade. He has been featured at both the Aspen and Toyota Comedy Festivals. His film and television credits include "Hacks" (with Jim Gaffigan), "Law & Order," "Live! With Regis and Kelly" and "Nickelodeon."
The cast also includes James Koroni (as teenage Rich), Logan Riley Bruner (as child Rich), Ann McCormack (as Grandmother), Athena Reich (as the "good" therapist), Maureen Van Trease (as the No-Good Therapist), ensemble actors Rhett Hackett and Keith Smith and dancers Carly Fox and Shelley McCaughlin. For their biographical info, please visit the show's website, www.lemonmeringue.org.
Playwright Rich Ryan is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and father of three. He grew up and currently lives in Happaugue, Long Island and works in New York City. Since breaking his silence in 2003, he has been dedicated to raising awareness about childhood sexual abuse and helping others heal from the effects. In 2010, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to share his story with a group of 200 male sexual abuse survivors. Recognizing that sharing one's story can have a profound impact on healing others, and acknowledging the power of theater, Ryan undertook writing this autobiographical play, which is dedicated to all the men and women who have perished from the effects of childhood sexual abuse as well as those who continue to struggle. He has attended many male survivor conferences and his artwork has been displayed at several survivor art shows. Following his undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, Rich pursued a career as a certified public accountant. He has, for the past 18 years, served as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of a large wholesale produce distributor. He recently founded the We Are Many Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to helping others break their silence and build the magnificent lives they deserve. In conjunction with this show, funds are being raised to endow this foundation.
The director and several cast members are also activists who have made significant contributions on the issue of child sexual abuse, working for healing, raising awareness, promoting prevention and advocating for prosecutions of sex offenders:
Terri Muuss (Director/Adapter) is a survivor. She is also a director, performer, educator, writer, social worker, motivational speaker and life coach. Since 1988 she has performed a solo show, "Anatomy of a Doll," which confronts the awakening of memory and the revealed truth of the devastation of the child and the triumph of the woman. It received "Best Theatre-Pick of the Week" from The Daily News as well as a grant from Poets and Writers andwas part of the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2003. Muuss has directed and/or adapted numerous plays including Athena Reich's rock opera "Athena Under Attack," Lisa Ramirez's one-woman show "Exit Cuckoo," Deborah Ortiz's "Changing Violet" (nominated for IT awards for best solo performance and best solo show) and Veronica Golos' performance of "A Bell Buried Deep" from her award-winning book of the same title. She trained for theater at Kean University and AMDA and also earned an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work, where she won the Helena Rubinstein Award for Academic Excellence and graduated with honors. Originally from NYC, she now maintains a private practice as a licensed social worker in Bay Shore, LI, where she lives with her husband and two sons. (www.terrimuuss.com)
Songwriter Athena Reich (Gail, Song-Writer), an internationally-touring musical artist, has done numerous magazine and TV interviews about being a survivor of physical and sexual abuse. She is originally from Toronto and is now based out of New York City. She has released five CDs and her music videos have charted #1 on MTV LOGO. She won Best Comedy Improv on YTV with Judge Eugene Levy and her song "Love is Love" won Best Pop Song at the Outmusic Awards on MTV LOGO. (www.AthenaReich.com)
Rhett Hackett (Ensemble) is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In 2010, he went public with his abuse on the Oprah Winfrey Show and continued to go public through articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, WHYY, and ABC's "Perspective New Jersey." He frequently speaks out for other male survivors, supports the Children's Alliance of Philadelphia and has provided testimony at the NJ Senate Judiciary Hearings on the statute of limitations. He has been married for 20 years and has two children.
Keith Smith (Ensemble), author of the novel "Men in My Town," is an advocate for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse and a survivor of a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault. The story of Keith's ordeal and recovery has been featured in newspapers and magazines. His program, "5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe," has been discussed on radio and television. A member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), Smith has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking an end to the Statute of Limitations in Civil Actions related to sex crimes against children. A Fortune 500 corporate executive, he has served 15 years (six years as Chair) on the Board of a non-profit, social service agency providing crisis intervention counseling to child victims of sexual assault.
Choreography is by Tracey Katof. Set design is by Carly Levin, who is also Production Stage Manager. Lighting Design is by Sam Gordon. Sound Design is by Craig Mallone.
Performances are July 8 to 10, 2011, Friday at 7:00 PM, Saturday at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM and Sunday at 1:00 PM at TADA Theater, 15 West 28th Street (Betw. B'way & 5th Ave.). The show is produced by Rich Ryan Productions, LLC and it is not a production by TADA! Theater. Tickets $18 general admission and can be purchased online at www.lemonmeringue.org or by phone through SMARTTIX, (212) 868-4444. Donations to the We Are Many Foundation can also be made through www.lemonmeringue.org.
USDOJ: Project Safe Childhood Operation Announced Following Indiana Man’s Guilty Plea to Multiple Child Exploitation Offenses
WASHINGTON – David R. Bostic, of Bloomington, Ind ., pleaded guilty today to multiple charges of sexual exploitation of children relating to his participation in an international conspiracy to sexually exploit children through the trading of child pornography, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett of the Southern District of Indiana and Michael Welch, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. To date, a related operation has led to the identification and apprehension of 20 suspects in the United States and abroad and the rescue of more than a dozen children.
Bostic, 25, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the Southern District of Indiana. Law enforcement agents arrested Bostic on November 17, 2010, following the execution of a search warrant at his residence in Bloomington, which uncovered evidence that Bostic produced child pornography and was a member of a group that traded sexually explicit images of children, primarily babies and toddlers. Within days of his arrest, an operation was launched to identify and apprehend other members of the group.
According to court documents, Bostic engaged in the sexual exploitation of children on multiple occasions to produce sexually explicit images of the minors, including four females, between the ages of two months and three years, as well as a male who was four years old. Bostic distributed the images to the group with whom he traded child pornography.
“David Bostic and his co-conspirators committed horrific acts of abuse and exploitation against infants and toddlers, and then distributed images of these acts to others around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The crimes to which Mr Bostic pleaded guilty today are among the most heinous imaginable, and we are aggressively pursuing others in connection with this operation. We will deal swiftly and harshly with predators who exploit the most vulnerable in our society.”
“Among the most important missions of this office is to keep Hoosier children safe from those who would prey upon them,” said United States Attorney Hogsett. “The production of child pornography is a heinous crime against a child, because it perpetuates the sexual abuse of that child for as long as the images exist, particularly where, as here, the images are distributed to like minded individuals. This then fuels the twisted fantasies of those individuals, and endangers children around them.”
“This investigation required the cooperation of local, state, federal and international law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Welch. “These partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who would do harm to the most innocent victims of all and to ensure there is no safe haven on the internet for pedophiles.”
Bostic is charged in two separate cases filed under seal in February 2011 and unsealed today at his plea hearing. A criminal information charges Bostic with 36 counts of the sexual exploitation of children for his production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. An indictment charges Bostic with one count of conspiracy to distribute child pornography, one count of conspiracy to sexually exploit children through the international trading of child pornography, 22 counts of distribution of child pornography and five counts of sexual exploitation of children. The indictment also charges Domminich Shaw, 31, a resident of the United Kingdom; Richard Szulborski, 20, of East Texas, Penn.; Shaun Kuykendall, 32, of Summerville, S.C.; and two other individuals currently charged only as Person 1 and Person 3.
Bostic pleaded guilty to all counts in the criminal information and indictment. Bostic faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for each count of sexual exploitation of children and conspiracy to commit sexual exploitation of children, 10 years in prison for each count of possession of child pornography, and 20 years in prison for each count of distribution of child pornography and conspiracy to distribute child pornography. Bostic also faces a lifetime of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine.
The other defendants charged in the indictment are pending trial. They are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. DeBrota and A. Brant Cook of the Southern District of Indiana and Trial Attorney Michael Grant of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case was investigated by the FBI; the Indiana State Police; the Kokomo, Ind ., Police Department; and the Brownsburg, Ind ., Police Department.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov .
Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Untangle the Knot Photographic Exhibition
Colliding Galaxies ASCA Untangle the Knot
Part of the Head On Festival being held at Frances Keevil Gallery, Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) presents its Untangle the Knot Photographic Exhibition.
At the exhibition you will see creative and innovative photographic interpretations of the theme ‘Untangling the knot of child abuse’. Participants were asked to submit photographs of any object tied in a knot of any material, which symbolised the tangled threads and lasting impact created by child abuse.
Award-winning photographer Mark Tedeschi has kindly donated “Colliding Galaxies” to be auctioned at the Exhibition Opening on Thursday evening in order to raise funds for ASCA.
ASCA is the key Australian body supporting and raising awareness about child sexual assault. It works towards providing solutions and support for survivors of child abuse, of which there are more than 2 million in Australia.
9th to 11th of June from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Report: Fatal child abuse, neglect decline across state
by Will Higgins
Fewer Indiana children are dying of abuse or neglect, according to a report released Monday.
The Indiana Department of Child Services' annual Child Fatality Report found that 38 youngsters died of abuse or neglect in fiscal 2009, compared with 46 deaths in the previous fiscal year.
"This means things are better in the state of Indiana," said DCS Director James W. Payne.
Among the 38 deaths, 24 children died as a result of abuse and 14 as a result of neglect.
While the overall number of deaths was lower, the number of youngsters killed in traffic accidents was up, the report showed.
Four of the six children younger than 19 who died in car crashes from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009, were unrestrained, which DCS counts as neglect.
Payne said that "no one in child welfare" thinks measuring fatalities is a good way to judge an agency but that the annual report is state-mandated.
"The benefit of this report," he said, "is it draws attention to a problem." In this case: traffic deaths.
Traffic deaths were particularly high during the study period -- the highest since 2004, when 11 were reported -- but lack of proper safety restraints is a perennial problem. Since 2005, three-quarters of children who died in traffic accidents were unrestrained.
After announcing the fatality report results at the Indianapolis Zoo, DCS officials introduced car safety experts who explained proper use of car seats. Krista Congwer, who works with IU Health's Riley Hospital for Children Automotive Safety Program, said 90 percent of car seats are installed improperly. She said she was pleased to see a line of about 20 cars waiting for assistance with car seats as Monday's event was starting.
State law requires children to ride in car seats until they are 8 years old. But Dr. Marilyn Bull, a pediatrician at Riley, said children should be in a seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Most 8-year-olds are not that tall, she said.
Ryan Klitzsch, traffic safety director for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said that although the number of children 15 and younger killed in traffic accidents has declined since 2007, there is not enough evidence to call it a trend. He said educational efforts must continue to reduce fatalities among youths.
Johnson County resident Danielle Lane, 24, brought her three children. She said she thought her oldest, 7-year-old Ashton, was fine without a booster and could use an adult seat belt. After learning he wasn't fine with just a seat belt, she picked up a booster seat for him at the event.
Ashton wasn't happy about the idea but agreed to use the booster.
"I'm really glad I came," Lane said. "I thought I knew the requirements, but I didn't."
Human trafficking conference draws law enforcement officers to Salt Lake
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah group is fighting a problem it says could surpass that of the sale of narcotics in the world: It's the multibillion dollar industry of human slavery.
Every day, children are bought and sold for sex — and not just in developing countries, according to Child Rescue, whose mission is to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S. and Canada.
On June 1 it hosted its inaugural National Human Trafficking Law Enforcement Training conference in Salt Lake City. More than 300 law enforcement groups from around the world came to learn more about how to recognize the crime.
Human trafficking isn't a crime that only happens outside of the country, In May, prosecutors filed charges against a Salt Lake County woman accused of trying to sell her 13-year-old daughter's virginity.
"This is sex trafficking," said Celeste Lojik, of Child Rescue. "It's sad to me because a lot of people, they think sex trafficking doesn't happen in Utah, doesn't happen in America. It's ‘out of sight, out of mind.'"
That's why Child Rescue raised thousands of dollars to bring law enforcement to Utah to train officers how to look beyond the obvious.
"We probably hear about a case a week of either sex or labor trafficking: either through a tip or through police reports or through somebody contacting the FBI," said Salt Lake police detective Robert Woodbury.
As part of the Utah Human Trafficking Task Force, Woodbury works those tips trolling the Internet. Most of his cases involve young girls being trafficked in and out of Utah.
"But then they come back around to Salt Lake City and Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas over to Los Angeles; and it's called a circuit," Woodbury said. "They stay for three, four or five days and then move on to a different city."
Victim advocates say it's rare to see the faces of these victims, mainly because they're in lengthy legal battles. Emotionally, it's really hard for them to talk about the subject and they fear for their lives.
"They can come out and speak, but their pimps could find them and they could be killed or taken back into trafficking," Lojik said.
But one woman put her fear aside. She agreed to give officers a first-hand account of being trafficked among Los Angeles' rich and famous.
"It's teaching and trying to get a task force to think in a different mentality (than) that these girls are the criminals," Lojik said. "Instead, that they're the victims and we need to go after the johns and the perpetrators."
Advocates say traffickers and victims are extremely discreet in their behavior. So, if something doesn't look right, report it and let police investigate.
Fighting the sex trade on multiple fronts
June 07, 2011
by Other Voices The Plain Dealer
There was a conversion of events this weekend that made us pause to celebrate. On Friday, The Plain Dealer reported the FBI arrest of an Elyria man charged with "forcing a 16-year-old girl to work as a prostitute." We are grateful to the many criminal justice professionals who recognize that when a minor is engaged in a commercial sex act -- or when there is coercion, threat or force involved -- this is not prostitution, but sex trafficking.
On Friday night, volunteers showed up by the dozens on Lorain Avenue between West 45th and West 80th streets for "Operation John Be Gone." Their silent protest sent a message that "johns" should go home. We are grateful for their wisdom to target the demand side of prostitution.
Hundreds more attended multiple performances of Cleveland Public Theatre's "Without Words . . . Moving Against the Sex Trade" at Gordon Theatre this weekend.
Inch by inch, our community is recognizing that commercial sex workers are often not choosing this work, but are manipulated, coerced, threatened or forced. Only when we label this activity accurately as sex trafficking can we begin to eliminate it from our neighborhoods. Then we have a chance to save the lives of women and girls who deserve better than this form of modern-day slavery.
Sondra Miller, Bay Village
Miller is the vice president of community engagement at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
Pakistan is source country for sex-trafficking of children
Despite laws prohibiting it, forced labor to pay debts are very common in Pakistan. A report by the U.S. Government in 2009 describes the Asian country as a source, transit and destination of the traffic of men, women and children into forced labor and sexual exploitation.
The main aspect of human trafficking in Pakistan is that of forced labor. Mainly in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, working in brick kilns, carpet, agriculture, fisheries, mining, leather tanning, and the production of glass bangles are mostly widespread. According to the report, the estimates of victims of forced labor are very different, but along with those of forced marriages and women who are traded to settle disputes among tribal groups or as a means of payment, are likely to exceed one million.
In a study in 2003, the NGO Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, based in Karachi, reported that more than half a million people were forced to work in brick kilns. The Pakistani National Coalition Against Bonded Labour, composed of a group of local NGOs, describes the phenomenon as "one of the last known forms of contemporary slavery responsible for this condition experienced by millions of people around the world". Apart from paying the debt, parents are selling, or looking to sell their children for other reasons. In the town of Vehari, in southern Punjab, women were seen in the streets, whose husbands were drug addicts, and were trying to sell their children because they were not able to feed them, hoping they could have a better life. Or, again in Vehari, children put up for sale in order to allow their mother a transplant.
In a recent report, the Asian Development Bank has highlighted the fact that since the beginning of 2011, the cost of food has increased by 10% reducing 6.94 million Pakistanis to poverty. The prices are too high, the wheat has increased by 10% and rice by 13.1%, and people cannot afford to provide their children even just one meal a day. In Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, two parents have sold a child for a bag of wheat flour. According to a member of the district of Vehari a strategy to create a social safety net for the poor, creating employment and controlling inflation is of fundamental importance.
Help abused children out of darkness
by Dan Hillman
I understand, and I don't like it. Parents must be scared to death that someone may be hurting or sexually abusing their children -- and all of us should be. Yet, the individual and collective response to this epidemic is not logical or rational.
It is unimaginable that children are being sexually abused. I get that it is difficult to accept. After working for 37 years with children, even I don't want to believe that our society is so depraved as to allow the sexual abuse of our children. We are passively allowing the sexual abuse of our children. There is no other explanation.
There are 37 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. That represents an epidemic -- a quiet, hidden, secret, dark and horrific epidemic of children being tortured. Almost 17,000 abused boys and girls from our area have been served by Child Enrichment since 1978. More than half of all children served now are treated for child sexual abuse.
Attempting to get people's attention to this has turned me into a Chicken Little-like character, yelling as loudly as I can -- not falsely "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" but truthfully "Our children are not safe! Our children are not safe!"
Ninety-five percent of the sexually abused children served by Child Enrichment last year were abused by someone trusted by their family. Often, it was someone they loved, and whom everyone trusted. Often it was a father, uncle, grandfather, stepfather, brother or stepbrother.
How do I reach the huge percentage of people who do not believe this risk, or who cannot even think about it? How do we, as a society, move toward actually preventing child sexual abuse?
One way is for each adult, especially parents and people who work with children, to attend Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children. Darkness to Light is a revolutionary child sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. This program will motivate you to courageous action in the protection of children.
Child Enrichment is offering free training in Darkness to Light, and you are invited: 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, June 9, at the Augusta Library, 823 Telfair St. RSVP by calling (706) 737-4631 . The worst thing any of us can do is to deny the problem and do nothing.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Abused Children.)
Open door: Why the term 'child porn' should not be used
The readers' editor on... sensitivity in discussing images of child abuse
by Chris Elliott
If a newspaper publishes a style guide to ensure the accurate and consistent use of words and terms, the equal and opposite reaction that naturally follows is a series of requests for changes in those rules.
It is healthy that the guidelines are tested, and editors should respond to changing public attitudes. It is not always right or necessary to chase demotic style, but few would regret the changes in public attitudes that have followed the development of a different kind of language used to describe mental ill health or physical disabilities.
Readers have strong views on the language, which range from irritation at the misuse of "might" and "may" (mea culpa – in an early column), or "bored of" rather than "with", to more powerful changes they would like to see implemented in the Guardian's style guide.
One such request came after a columnist writing about superinjunctions - a word that is often misused to mean all injunctions, including, very occasionally, in the Guardian – produced the following sentence: "Child porn on the net is censored, and its users prosecuted."
The reader had very strong objections to the phrase "child porn". He said: "Please can you not call it this in future articles of this nature – 'child porn' is both a very offensive and trivialising term to use, especially (but not exclusively) to people who have been abused and filmed." They have suffered an everlasting offence, he argues, being abused and exploited as children, and then knowing that this is online somewhere for ever. "These images or films are of children being sexually abused or exploited (quite literally crime-scene photos or films). Porn they could only be described as if the media is aiming their stories at paedophiles. 'Indecent images' is a far more accurate and acceptable term." The more such images are described as porn, the more it suggests an element of consenting adults: "The more this legitimises this crime in the eyes of the offenders, and also (my own view), the more it 'normalises' it in society," he writes.
Currently, there is no entry in the Guardian's style guide that covers this area. The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines pornography as "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings".
I don't think it's the case that all adult pornography is legal, but much is, and for the present discussion we will put aside a further argument about the demeaning and corrosive effect it may have on individuals who view it. But the reader makes a strong point that he then reinforces by describing the attitude of child welfare organisations to the term.
For instance, the Internet Watch Foundation, which fights child abuse on the web, states: "The IWF uses the term child sexual abuse content to accurately reflect the gravity of the images we deal with. Please note that child pornography, child porn and kiddie porn are not acceptable terms. The use of such language acts to legitimise images which are not pornography, rather, they are permanent records of children being sexually exploited and as such should be referred to as child sexual abuse images. If you see such content online please report it to the IWF."
The NSPCC only uses the term "child abuse images". The reader adds: "This is what the NSPCC have previously said to me: 'The NSPCC would agree with you that the expression "child porn" gives a misleading and potentially trivialising impression of what is a very serious crime. The NSPCC typically uses the term "child abuse images" as we consider this offers a more accurate indication of what these images portray'."
David Marsh, the editor of the Guardian's style guide, agrees, as do I, that this is a sensible change to the way the Guardian refers to images of child abuse. He intends to create a new entry in the guide and inform all staff of the new style. Of course, a new style guide entry doesn't stop the terrible abuse of children, but when we describe such images it will separate a despicable crime from a broader area of human sexual activity that washes back and forth across moral and legal boundaries that are harder to define.
Keith Smith, Stranger Abduction Sex Assault Survivor Breaks His Silence After 36 Years. Uses Experience to Educate Adults on "5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe."
A message of hope for others. "Out of fear, shame and guilt, I've been silent for over three decades, sharing with very few people the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. Now."
East Windsor, NJ
June 6, 2011
(PR.com) -- In 1974, at the age of 14, Keith Smith was abducted, beaten and raped in his hometown of Lincoln, Rhode Island by a stranger. Although his attacker was arrested and indicted, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in the streets of Providence before his court date. Thirty-six years later, no one has ever been charged with his murder.
"Out of fear, shame and guilt, I've been silent for over three decades, sharing with very few people the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. It's time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they're not alone and to help victims of sex crimes understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience," Smith said.
“I'm speaking out to share my personal experience and what I've learned over the years to help people understand the personal and societal effects of childhood sexual abuse. With the personal and societal cost of childhood sexual abuse so high, it's necessary for parents, grandparents and anyone with responsibility for the health and safety of a child to be aware of my 5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe," said Smith.
The story of Keith's assault and his transition from sexual assault victim to survivor has been featured in newspapers and magazines and his program, "5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe" has been discussed on radio and television.
About Keith Smith
Keith Smith, author of Men in My Town, is a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault Survivor, a Fortune 500 corporate executive and an advocate for child safety. Keith has lobbied government officials to prevent cutbacks to programs serving child victims of sexual abuse and he's testified before the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee promoting legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children. He has fifteen years of service as a member of the Board of Directors of a non-profit, social service agency providing crisis intervention counseling to child victims of sexual assault, including six years as Board Chairman.
Irvington girl's death calls into question how DYFS investigates abuse
IRVINGTON — Four times between March 2006 and April 2008, anonymous tipsters called the state child abuse hotline to report that a woman in their Irvington neighborhood was screaming at her three children and beating them with a belt.
Each time, the Division of Youth and Family Services investigated, found no injuries or harm and deemed the abuse and neglect allegations against Venette Ovilde "unfounded," closing the family's file for the last time on May 1, 2008.
Now Ovilde's oldest child, 8-year-old Christiana Glenn, is dead from an untreated broken leg and malnutrition. Ovilde, 29, is sitting in jail. And child welfare veterans and advocates are questioning whether investigators missed any clues that could have foretold the family was headed for tragedy.
Police have charged Ovilde with aggravated manslaughter and child endangerment in the death of her daughter, whose body was found inside the family apartment on May 22. Police say she deprived Christiana and her surviving son and daughter of food and medical care. Ovilde's roommate, Myriam Janvier, 23, is also facing child endangerment charges.
The other children, 7-year-old Christina and 6-year-old Solomon, are at University Hospital in Newark.
The handling of the case is undergoing separate evaluations by Allison Blake, commissioner for DYFS' parent agency, the Department of Children and Families, and Judith Meltzer, a national child welfare expert appointed by a federal judge to supervise an 8-year-old overhaul of DYFS functions. Both declined to comment for this story.
But at least two child welfare veterans say Blake and Meltzer also should examine what the agency means when it calls a complaint "unfounded" and how the agency should deal with a family that has more than one "unfounded" complaint.
"To me, ‘unfounded' means nothing happened," said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a family policy and advocacy group. "There needs to be an examination of how investigations are conducted. These were very serious allegations of abuse."
According to a confidential document obtained by The Star-Ledger , anonymous tipsters claimed they could hear Christiana's mother beating her and her younger brother and sister with a belt on numerous occasions. One caller said she left the children alone to visit a boyfriend.
DYFS changed the meaning of the term "unfounded" in 2004, when the agency was undergoing a top-to-bottom overhaul to settle a class-action lawsuit over the agency's poor supervision of foster children.
Before 2004, investigators could deem a complaint "substantiated," "unsubstantiated with concerns" or "unfounded." DYFS eliminated the "unsubstantiated" category out of concern that investigators were not trying hard enough to gather the facts.
"Many of these unsubstantiated cases should have been substantiated and weren't. (Investigators) were sitting on the fence," said Susan Lambiase, associate director of Children's Rights, the national advocacy group whose lawsuit led to DYFS' court-supervised reform. The state made the right call, she said.
The term "unfounded" now can mean one of two things: There was no evidence the abuse happened, or there was some evidence but not enough to make a finding of abuse or neglect.
Christiana's case suggests the dual meaning isn't serving children well, said Jesse Moskowitz, who was DYFS' in-house counsel and assistant director from 1989 to 1993.
The department "changed the common and legal definition to one which embraced not only false or erroneous allegations, but those in which it was clear there was some reason for concern, but the investigator, due to time or witness or other constraints, including skill levels and caseload pressures, was unable to substantiate," he said.
Moskowitz recalled a case in 2009, when 9-year-old Jamarr Cruz of Camden died from a beating delivered by his mother's boyfriend who had a history of physically abusing a child. Two months earlier, DYFS had investigated an abuse complaint against him and declared it to be unfounded.
"If there is any chance that the confusion between the plain meaning of words, and the tortured technical meaning applied by DYFS led to misunderstanding, case closing and to Christiana's death, the law and policy must be changed," Moskowitz said.
New Jersey is like most states that use only two categories to identify whether a child abuse claim was proved, said Linda Spears, public policy director for the Child Welfare League of America, a research and lobbying organization.
More important than the terms is how a caseworker uses the information each time a new complaint arises, Spears said. It's up to the caseworker to go beyond a case's final determination and delve into the file to find out what was happening in the home. "I would want to know what were the allegations last time and the seriousness of them, and what level of risk did you identify last time?''
The thoroughness of these prior investigations is what the court monitor will evaluate, Lambiase said. It's too early to judge DYFS, especially because the agency had no contact with the family for three years, she added.
The results of the monitor's review should be made public, Lambiase said, so the system is accountable to the public.
Child dies after being sent from foster care to her parents, renewing questions about L.A. County's troubled children's services agency
Toddler Tori Sandoval was released from foster care to her biological parents and died months later, her body bruised. Police and county social workers say the parents are suspects.
by Garrett Therolf, Times Staff Writer
June 6, 2011
The two-page letter landed in the judge's chambers at the Los Angeles County Children's Court last fall, registering "grave concern" for the well-being of 17-month-old Vyctorya Sandoval.
Linda Kontis, co-founder of a foster family agency that contracted with the county to provide care to the girl, complained that the court system hadn't properly considered the risks of returning the saucer-eyed toddler known as Tori to her long-troubled biological parents.
Months after the letter was written, Tori was dead. Healing bruises covered her body, according to a court document that children's services officials filed. A rib was fractured. Blood tests suggested she died thirsty and hungry. For six hours, doctors tried to save her after she was rushed to an emergency room.
No charges have been filed, but police and county social workers say the parents are suspects in the investigation of Tori's death on April 24. She had turned 2 the month before.
Her case has sent fresh shock waves through the county's child protection bureaucracy, still struggling to implement reforms after more than 70 maltreatment deaths over the last three years of children who had been under the system's supervision.
Investigators are awaiting a final autopsy report, and details of Tori's life and health have not been disclosed. But Kontis' letter has called into question whether the court system and the Department of Children and Family Services did all they could to safeguard the girl. Kontis declined to comment.
Kontis' letter was one of two warnings officials received about Tori's welfare in the months before she died, according to sources familiar with the case. A friend of Tori's former foster parents, Jennifer Nichols, said the couple phoned in a report to the children services department after hearing from the girl's relatives that Tori's condition was worsening.
Document: Read Linda Kontis' complete letter
Elise Esparza, a friend of Tori's relatives, said she barely recognized the once-boisterous girl when she saw her the month before she died. "She was very pale looking and gaunt in the face. I said. 'Something is wrong.'" After Tori's death, Esparza said she was present when the girl's mother described Tori pulling out her own hair and pinching herself.
Despite concerns among those who knew Tori, the court and the county left the girl with her parents, who lived in a Pomona apartment before their daughter died. Social worker visits were ordered, but interviews and records indicate that during the period she was with her parents, Tori's weight dropped from the 50th percentile to below the fifth percentile for children her age.
Jackie Contreras, the county's interim children's services director, said one department worker has been placed on desk duty because of possible lapses in monitoring Tori. Confidentiality rules bar her from discussing the case, she said.
County officials have labored to correct recurring, systemic problems in child protective services. Last year, frustrated county supervisors complained of slow progress before the former children's services director, Trish Ploehn, was ousted.
The county has touted its success in cutting foster care rolls by nearly two-thirds since 1997, to fewer than 20,000 children. Nearly nine of 10 children returned to their parents do not have a substantiated maltreatment incident in the first year. But critics point out that the rate of unsuccessful reunifications has nearly doubled as the county has allowed increasingly troubled families to reunify.
And three years ago a state Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care reported that court hearings for foster children average just 10 to 15 minutes, providing children no meaningful voice. The panel's recommendations to reduce court caseloads have been stalled by budget problems.
Kontis wrote that hasty reunification efforts and a poorly conducted court hearing in September potentially put Tori at risk.
"I know that reunification is primary and always work toward that goal. However, there are cases where common sense must prevail and history is relevant," said Kontis' letter, which was written shortly after the September hearing. A copy was obtained by The Times.
Michael Nash, the presiding judge in Los Angeles Juvenile Court who supervises the commissioner who handled Tori's case, said he received and answered Kontis' letter. But the correspondence is confidential because of state rules, he said.
Tori was removed from her parents after her birth and joined eight older siblings in foster care, according to the letter sent by Kontis, who had access to extensive files on Tori. The family has had 11 referrals to child protective services for alleged domestic violence, child abuse and other issues, according to other sources with access to the family's files.
Jennifer Dalhover, Tori's 35-year-old mother, could not be reached for comment. An attorney representing Joseph Sandoval, 20, Tori's father, who was arrested on a probation charge after the girl's death, did not respond to messages.
The couple had a tempestuous relationship that included allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse committed by Dalholver against Sandoval when he was a minor, according to Kontis' letter to the court. More recently, Dalhover obtained a restraining order against Sandoval, citing domestic violence, Kontis wrote.
Several months before winning custody of Tori, Dalhover and Sandoval dropped out of contact with county social workers and discontinued court-mandated programs meant to prepare them to reunify with the girl, according to Kontis' account.
In June, they resurfaced in a Pasadena homeless shelter with a newborn child and restarted their efforts to regain their daughter, Kontis wrote. Seventy-seven days later, with their parenting programs still unfinished, they appeared at the September court hearing asking to reunite with Tori, according to Kontis' letter.
"I … have been in many children's courtrooms over the last 20 years, and I have never seen any conducted in the manner in which I witnessed that day," Kontis wrote to the court.
The hearing was closed to the public and the transcript is sealed, as is customary in juvenile cases. State legislation that would open such hearings has been placed on hold until next year, partly because of opposition from the union representing many county social workers. Kontis was among those who attended Tori's hearing.
According to Kontis' letter, the court commissioner who approved the reunification, Marilyn Mackel, "dominated her courtroom with intimidation and anger, to the point that the attorneys present barely spoke above a whisper with simple answers," Kontis wrote.
The commissioner appeared distracted when one of Tori's siblings spoke, and "reams of concerns and pages of documentation" were not acknowledged, Kontis wrote. Tori's court-appointed attorney, Robert Vasquez, told Kontis that "the history of the family does not matter, the goal is to reunify," she wrote.
Mackel did not respond to an email message or calls to her chambers and the court press office or an interview request left at her home. Leslie Starr Heimov, Vasquez's supervisor at the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, which represented Tori, said that she was stunned by Kontis' letter and that it mischaracterized Vasquez's analysis of the case. She said Vasquez had discussed Tori's case with Kontis for 30 minutes in the hallway outside the court hearing and had explained why he felt she would be returning to a safe home.
"At the time she was sent home, was there evidence to suggest that she was being hurt by her parents or that she would not be safe in their care?" Heimov asked. "If not, then the law says that she should be returned."
Heimov echoed staffers at the Edelman Children's Court in Monterey Park, where Tori's case was heard, who said Mackel and Vasquez have reputations for being conscientious. Mackel is said to delve deeply into children's histories for her cases, and Vasquez frequently arrives shortly after dawn to prepare his arguments.
After she was returned to her parents, Tori remained under the oversight of the Department of Children and Family Services until she died and should have received frequent visits from county social workers.
Internal affairs investigators at the children's service agency are looking into whether those mandated assessments were conducted and, if they were, what social workers observed. Meanwhile, Dalhover, according to interviews with county officials and friends of the family, recently became pregnant with her 11th child.