||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.
JUNE - Week 4
||Children's Book Fights Sexual Abuse
CHARLES CITY, IA – Trying to protect your child from sexual abuse is becoming more difficult.
According to a report from the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, more than 240,000 children are sexually abused every year… A number that continues to rise.
But, one North Iowa author is fighting the problem through her writing.
As a former teacher, Charles City resident Joyce Crawford is very familiar with the issue of sexual abuse, and what she's done is write a book for children and their parents and teachers to help open up discussions about the problem, so they can work together to prevent it.
“Although it is uncomfortable, it is necessary to talk about,” Crawford said.
To help parents and teachers talk with kids about sexual abuse, Joyce Crawford has written the children's book ‘Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down'.
“Give children the chance to discuss bad touch in a way that was non-threatening.”
Lori Otto and her six year-old daughter Sydney have read the book and discussed the message.
Otto said, “Sydney and I have talked about it, she knows, she's aware and so I hope she has the knowledge that she can come to her parents and talk.”
“I like how it tells children the choices of people that they can talk to,” Otto added.
‘Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down' centers on the fictional story of a seven year-old girl who is inappropriately touched in her swimsuit area by her uncle Joey. But, when her uncle tells her to keep it a secret, she doesn't know what to do.
Crawford said, “Sometimes children can't really talk about things that are happening to them, but they can give you the thumbs up or thumbs down sign.”
However, some people may feel the book is inappropriate and shouldn't be discussed with children at such a young age.
A point the author was ready to address…
Crawford said, “I'm sure there are people who would like to think that this does not happen, but realistically it does.”
And Crawford says if it's not brought up by teachers or parents, children can be left susceptible to sexual abuse.
“They aren't strangers, they're people you know and trust and often the perpetrator is a person that everyone else loves.”
Joyce was signing copies of her book at Otto's Oasis in Charles City Saturday where many parents and grandparents made their way to discuss the story.
And believe it or not, this isn't the first time the North Iowa author has tried to make a difference, she also wrote a book called ‘Don't Call Me Michael' which pointed out the problems of bullying.
‘Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down' is also available for download on the kindle or nook.
Katz's courage bodes well for Connecticut's children
We need to support the reform efforts by DCF chief Katz
by RICHARD WEXLER
Joette Katz was right to refuse to let a child-abuse tragedy deter her from her reform agenda at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. And The Day was right to support her courageous stand.
As The Day pointed out in its June 18 editorial, "No person or agency can be right 100 percent of the time in trying to predict outcomes in volatile homes." Yet all across the country, less gutsy child-welfare leaders have abandoned reforms and run for cover in response to a high-profile death of a child "known to the system."
Katz, in contrast, is standing behind an agenda that not only is better for children's well-being, but also safer than the take-the-child-and-run approach that has dominated Connecticut child welfare for decades.
One look beyond the horror stories explains why. Contrary to the common stereotype, most parents who lose their children to foster care are neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted. Far more common are cases in which a family's poverty has been confused with child "neglect." Other cases fall between the extremes, the parents neither all victim nor all villain.
That helps explain the findings of two massive studies of more than 15,000 typical cases. In such cases children left in their own homes typically fared better even than comparably maltreated children left in foster care.
Several other studies have found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes, a rate far higher than official estimates, which involve agencies investigating themselves. The record of group homes and institutions is even worse. Connecticut over uses such congregate care at one of the highest rates in the nation.
The more that case workers are overloaded with false allegations, trivial cases and children needlessly removed from everyone they know and love, the less time these workers have to find children in real danger - and that's almost always the real reason for the horror stories.
None of this means that Connecticut should never take a child from her or his parents. Rather, it means that foster care is an extremely toxic intervention that states should use sparingly and in small doses. But Connecticut has been prescribing mega-doses of foster care, tearing apart families at a rate more than 45 percent above the national average (a figure that takes into account child poverty levels in each state).
In contrast to the dismal results from over using foster care, every study of "differential response," diverting cases believed to be less serious to agencies providing help instead of investigations, as the new commissioner plans to do, has found no compromise of child safety; and several have found that safety improved.
When children must be taken away the research is overwhelming that another of Katz's priorities, placing children with relatives, is more stable, better for children's well-being and, most importantly, safer than what should properly be called "stranger care."
Sadly, the tragedy in Ansonia won't be the last. Eventually DCF will divert a case it should have investigated and something will go horribly wrong. That's when Connecticut's vast network of private providers - agencies that have grown fat and happy getting paid for every day they hold children in their group homes and institutions - will come out of the woodwork, fingers wagging, trying to scapegoat reform. That's when they'll try to use the horror story to claim that a pendulum that has yet to swing at all has swung too far.
And that's when it will be even more important for the people of Connecticut to refuse to be suckered in and for Commissioner Katz to stay the course.
Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, www.nccpr.org. NCCPR's report on Connecticut child welfare is available at: http://bit.ly/ftcARP.
Onus of dealing with child abuse lies on society too: Bombay high court
by Mustafa Plumber
June 26, 2011
Society at large, and families in particular, lack knowledge of the 3 ‘R's — recognise, resist and report — when it comes to dealing with child molestation and sexual abuse offences. The Bombay High Court has observed in one of it judgment, and appealed to society, to deal with the problem of child abuse, prevalent all around the world.
Studies show that around 15 to 20% of children are abused, and this includes both girls and boys. The high court said, “Unfortunately, in a rural setting, this facet of life is left unobserved, unattended and untaught. Therefore, the crime persists with regular frequency.”
These observations were made by justice Roshan Dalvi, while rejecting the appeal filed by one Laxman Kokare, against a sentence of ten years' imprisonment handed down to him by an Alibaugh sessions court. The court, while upholding the sentence of Kokare, a father of two minor children, said, “Showing leniency to the accused because he has two minor children would mean that fathers of minor children can sexually molest minor children of other fathers. It would be scandalous to suggest that such people, who are a menace to innocent children, can be dealt with by the court with any amount of leniency.”
Kokare was seeking pardon for the crime committed by him on July 9, 2004, when he sexually assaulted a nine year old girl. The girl lived with her siblings after her mother expired, and her father lived separately.
She was on her way to school when Kokare enticed her with a chocolate and dragged her into a field. After the incident, the victim proceeded to school. She was found to be bleeding by her teacher and sent home. There, she narrated the incident to her 17-year-old sister, who took her to the police station and lodged a complaint.
Her ordeal did not end there. The next day, she went in search of the accused with her sister, as she could not describe the accused. They found him, and he was then arrested.
The court said, “The victim in this case is the kind of target that child molesters look out for, and attempt to violate. These are facts of human life that need to be heeded by society at large, and which the judicial should notice.” It further said, “The violence upon the minor child is unmistakable. It constitutes gross violation of human rights.”
Prostitutes in Colombia unite against child abuse
Cartagena -- Prostitutes have united in Colombia's port city and popular tourist destination, Cartagena, with the hopes of protecting children from an international network of pimps and sexual predators, AFP reports.
"I was a prostitute before I was even a woman. I began when I was 10-years-old and I have experienced things you cannot imagine. I know I cannot erase my past, but I can help stop other children from going through the same experience," said Damaris, who came together with four other prostitutes, ages 18 to 49, to speak to a group of taxi drivers.
The meeting was part of the campaign, "The Wall, it is me." The slogan refers to a famous wall that surrounds the historical town and is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The goal of the campaign is to encourage residents to protect children from paedophiles, particularly foreign paedophiles, and to engage the tourist industry in the fight against the international network of child prostitution.
According to the National Institute of Child Protection, as many as 35,000 children are forced into prostitution in this country of 46 million residents.
ALAMOSA - Tu Casa is now hosting groups for survivors of sexual assault, date rape, marital rape, and sexual abuse as a child. These groups are open to the community and area held at the Tu Casa office every Monday starting at 4:30. For more information call 589-2465.
Life in prison for child molester
by Karen Voyles
A Gainesville man with a criminal history of child sexual abuse will spend the rest of his life in prison after his second conviction.
Everett McNeeley, 32, has been sentenced to life for the capital sexual battery and lewd and lascivious assault of a girl who was 5 or 6 years old at the time of the crimes.
McNeeley previously served five years in an Illinois prison for similar offenses involving a 9-year-old-girl in the 1990s.
An Alachua County jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes late Thursday before finding McNeeley guilty.
Assistant State Attorney Bill Ezzell said the sex crimes in Florida happened in about 2006, when the victim was living with her mother.
Witnesses at the three-day trial said McNeeley had access to the little girl because her mother — who knew about his criminal record — allowed McNeeley to baby-sit her.
Ezzell said the crimes were reported after the victim was adopted by her great-grandmother. The great-grandmother told investigators she was looking through some of the girl's Department of Children and Families paperwork when she discovered McNeeley had been spending time with the girl. The great-grandmother spoke to the child about McNeeley, and the child began to talk about the crimes committed against her, Ezzell said.
McNeeley provided investigators with a full confession when he was arrested but did not testify at his trial or sentencing.
Florida law mandates that anyone convicted of capital sexual battery be sentenced to life, so McNeeley was sentenced minutes after the jury's guilty verdict was announced Thursday evening.
Two U.S.-Based Children's Organizations Join Global Effort to Eliminate Online Child Sexual Exploitation
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children Expand Efforts by International Law Enforcement to Curb Problem
ALEXANDRIA, Va. , June 24, 2011
In most households spending time on the Internet is a regular daily activity. While the Internet enables immediate access to virtually unlimited resources for school, work and entertainment, it also poses a potential danger for children. To help combat this growing problem, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and it sister organization, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) have joined law enforcement agencies from around the world to become private sector partners of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) to fight online child sexual abuse.
As a partner of VGT, NCMEC will provide operational support to law enforcement in each VGT country including making CyberTipline referrals available to VGT countries and will assist with victim identification in the U.S. NCMEC will also continue to play a critical role in the U.S. by assisting VGT law enforcement agencies to identify child victims depicted in sexually abusive images.
"Online child sexual exploitation transcends national borders and requires a coordinated global response, "said Ernie Allen , President of NCMEC. "That is why we are proud to become a partner of the VGT alliance, and commit our energy and support to these global law enforcement leaders."
The VGT has three primary objectives:
- To make the Internet a safer place;
- To identify, locate and help children at risk;
- To prosecute perpetrators of child sexual exploitation crimes.
Chair of the VGT, Neil Gaughan , said, "The VGT recognizes that the fight against online child sexual exploitation cannot be undertaken by law enforcement alone."
The Virtual Global Taskforce was created in 2003 as a response to lessons learned from global investigations into online child sexual abuse. The VGT provides an important network for the international law enforcement community. Other members of the VGT include the Australian Federal Police, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the UK; the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the US Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; INTERPOL; the Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates ; the New Zealand Police; and Europol.
The VGT also provides information and support to adults and children on how to stay safe online which can be found at www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com.
About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since it was established by Congress in 1984, the organization has operated the toll-free 24-hour national missing children's hotline which has handled more than 3,372,730 calls. It has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 163,330 children. The organization's CyberTipline has handled more than 1,121,850 reports of child sexual exploitation and its Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 51,414,910 pornography images and videos. The organization works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice's office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
To learn more about NCMEC, call its toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit its web site at www.missingkids.com.
About the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) nongovernmental organization. It is the leading agency working on a global basis to combat child abduction and exploitation. It is the sister organization of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children located in the United States.
Stewards Of Children
by Jeremy Park
Last week, we explored the Power of Positive News and how we can be intentional about promoting more good stories in Memphis. This week, let us discuss a program that takes a direct and comprehensive approach to educating adults and youth-serving organizations to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse: Stewards of Children.
Child sexual abuse is a very real and complex problem, not only in our community, but across America. As a father of two boys, anything that affects their safety and well-being is of high importance to me, especially when you consider these startling statistics: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the age of 18. Ninety percent are abused by someone known to the child, including trusted adults such as parents, coaches, clergy, counselors and teachers. The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old, and most child victims never report it.
We could go on with statistics, but the bottom line is that we need to be proactive in educating adults to be a part of the solution. Ultimately, a child's safety is an adult's job. We teach our children to wear seatbelts and not talk to strangers, but we need to do our part in taking responsibility, as well.
Stewards of Children is the only nationally distributed, evidence-based program proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors. Through a three-hour interactive training session with an authorized facilitator, adults learn seven steps needed to protect children. Steps cover topics like learning the facts and understanding the risks, asking the right questions, properly minimizing one-adult/one-child situations, and communication tips that break down barriers. Overall, the program addresses the tough issues and support necessary to create change in our community.
The Memphis Child Advocacy Center is the only agency in Shelby County offering the Stewards of Children program. Four staff members are authorized facilitators who can teach the program and work with organizations on policy and procedure review. Anyone who wants to make a difference in our community and become more educated should consider taking this training.
So, consider hosting a training session for your organization, nonprofit or company, especially if you work with youth, like through a school, faith center or sports organization. If you have employees with young children, it would be a tremendous enrichment opportunity for parents. We will offer training through the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club on Thursday, July 28, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is a nominal cost for the guidebook, but the small investment is well worth it when you consider we might help save a child, like our own.
If you would like more information about the Stewards of Children training, need consultation on policy or advice on responding to a situation, please contact Carol Drake at 888-4363 or email@example.com.
Sex-abuse accusations prompt review of child protection policies
by Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver
June 25, 2011
A concerted effort is underway to strengthen child protection policies in B.C. public schools, which were found to be disturbingly inconsistent last year after teachers in two different districts were accused of sex crimes.
The push for change was quietly initiated in August by former education minister Margaret MacDiarmid following an outcry over Coquitlam school district's failure to call police after young students reported inappropriate touching by a teacher-oncall.
Police only become aware of the allegations months later when parents of another group of children at a second Coquitlam school reported a similar incident.
Around the same time, accusations were levelled against a teacher in Chilliwack. District officials called the police and held a news conference after the teacher was arrested.
A Vancouver Sun investigation at the time found that districts had no common rules about how to proceed when children report abuse at school. Some call police, some contact social workers and some quietly conduct their own investigations and keep the results private.
MacDiarmid decided that this must change and last summer ordered all 60 boards of education to ensure they have comprehensive, up-todate policies with specific directions for employees about how to respond to concerns about child abuse or neglect.
"Parents and the public must have confidence that the education system is doing everything possible to protect the children with whom we are entrusted," she wrote in a letter that wasn't made public at the time. "Recent events, publicized in the media, have encouraged us all to think and talk about child protection and abuse prevention in our schools and about our responsibility for keeping children safe."
The letter, released to The Sun this month in response to a request, was accompanied by a survey for school superintendents, intended to inform the ministry about the extent to which their districts had acted to protect children. That prompted school trustees to contact their provincial association to find out what was expected.
The B.C. School Trustees' Association decided to describe precisely what steps must be taken when there are concerns about child abuse. Association lawyer Judith Clark worked with police and ministry officials to recommend a policy which was distributed last month.
"Many districts will have already dealt with the issue ... but (the sample policy) may give them a chance for some reflection," association president Michael McEvoy said in an interview. "Those that haven't ... will hopefully be able to utilize it to improve their practices."
One key element deals with when districts should contact police, parents and/or social workers.
Parents of children who alleged inappropriate touching by substitute teacher Aleksandr Plehanov were troubled last year by Coquitlam district's refusal to give them information, including the name of the teacher they knew only as Mr. P.
They were angry and upset that school officials did not contact police but conducted an investigation themselves.
"My family placed faith in the system," one mother said in a 2010 letter to the district. "Clearly, in this case, we are left to conclude that the system has let us down but most of all it has let down our children and compromised their safety."
The mother, who can't be named because that would identify her daughter, said she's pleased schools are now taking action and believes Coquitlam has learned a lesson from the Plehanov case. "I think they're making a sincere effort," she said in an interview. "If this were to ever happen again, I don't think they would proceed the same way ... I think they would call the police."
The Plehanov case is still before the courts.
Website simplifies reporting child abuse
by CHRIS SHOLLY
HERSHEY - If you suspect a child is being abused, there is now a simpler way to report it.
Officials from the Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey's Children Hospital and Penn State Law unveiled a new website for reporting suspected child abuse cases in Pennsylvania on Thursday.
A collaborative effort of the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, Department of Humanities and the Center on Children and the Law of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, "The Look Out for Child Abuse" website provides an interactive and free program that guides users through the process of completing a CY-47 form - the state's official form.
"This website is a wonderful new and valuable resource, not only for Pennsylvania but the nation, regarding child abuse and neglect," said Michele Ridge, former first lady of Pennsylvania and a member of the Vision of Hope Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
She praised Penn State for bringing the various departments and resources together to create the website.
"All of us must work together by joining the fight to help protect the hopes and dreams of our children," Ridge said. "With sexual abuse happening at an alarming rate - one in four girls and one in six boys by the age of 18 - it's time for a new approach and a time for a call to action."
The website is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, said Dr. Harold L. Paz, dean of the College of Medicine and head of the Derry Township hospital.
"Unfortunately, child abuse is an all-too-common problem," he said. "And it's vitally important to make it easy for people to access resources that can prevent abuse. This effort is part of our mission to serve the people of Pennsylvania through education and through programs that improve health and well being."
Dr. Benjamin H. Levi, professor of pediatrics and humanities at the College of Medicine, described the site as one of the most accessible. The site includes multiple links to such things as victims' resources, a CY-47 form to report suspected abuse, as well as education and legal components, frequently asked questions and statistics.
"This project has been a long time in coming," Levi said. "Our goal is to make this widely available."
Pennsylvania has one of the lowest rates for reporting child abuse in the country, he said.
"There are not fewer children being abuse in Pennsylvania," he explained. "People don't report it as often."
Levi said organizers will be able to collect anonymous data from the site that will show what kinds of abuse is being reported and from what counties. The staff at the hospital can use that information to help build prevention programs that reach out to the public.
Gary Shuey, social work supervisor at the Children's Advocacy Clinic at Penn State Law, said the website was created for a variety of users, ranging from secondary-school students seeking information for papers to medical professionals.
"We are all very excited about this website and really the potential that it provides for a medical-legal partnership between the school of medicine and the school of law as we join forces to protect children," Shuey said.
He said the website does not change the current processes for reporting child abuse in the state but offers tools to be able to do that.
Cumberland County is part of a pilot project to test a version of the form that can be submitted electronically. If successful, that function would be available statewide.
To report incidents of child abuse, visit the website at pennstatehershey.org/childabuse.
Sheboygan woman charged with child abuse for spanking boy
Gannett Wisconsin Media
A 25-year-old Sheboygan woman was charged Thursday with felony child abuse for spanking a 6-year-old boy hard enough to leave multiple bruises, according to a criminal complaint.
Katie M. Champeau, of 1702 N. 11th St., could face up to three years in prison, if convicted.
According to the complaint:
The boy's mother, a 22-year-old woman, took him to an urgent care facility Tuesday after discovering the bruises after the boy spent several days at his father's house.
The boy's father is dating Champeau.
The child told police that Champeau spanked him with a wooden spoon and had a 4-year-old brother do the same.
The injuries had occurred several days before the boy was taken to the clinic.
Champeau initially denied striking the boy but later admitted her involvement.
She said she was upset that the boy continually kicked her seat on the way home from the store, noting she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
We're winning the fight against child sexual exploitation. Why cut funding now?
by Holly Burkhalter
The State Department's annual report on global trafficking reviews the degradation, exploitation and suffering of millions of children, women and men in brothels, rice mills, fishing boats, factories and farms. To some American diplomats and foreign governments, the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report and its ranking of countries according to their anti-trafficking efforts is a nuisance or an insult. But to trafficking victims, the integrity of the report can make the difference between freedom and slavery.
Consider what has happened in the Philippines. Labor and sex trafficking are common, but prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators are exceedingly rare. The TIP Office placed the Philippines on its Tier II Watch List in 2009 and warned that demotion to Tier III — and the loss of U.S. foreign assistance — was a real possibility if Filipino authorities didn't step up efforts against labor and sex trafficking.
The government, led by newly elected President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, responded. The Justice Ministry issued a decree placing prosecution of trafficking crimes on a fast track. A major labor trafficking case was prosecuted, and corrupt immigration officials were fired.
Perhaps the most promising development is the decrease in child prostitution on the island of Cebu, where collaboration between local authorities and my group, International Justice Mission (IJM), resulted in the rescue of 295 underage girls from brothels; quality care for them; and the arrest of 105 pimps, brothel owners and traffickers. Last October, a group of independent criminologists found that the prevalence of minor girls in Cebu's flourishing sex industry plummeted 79 percent.
The Philippines has by no means eradicated child sexual exploitation or labor trafficking. But the successes in Cebu are likely to be replicated in Manila and other regions through IJM's partnerships with government agencies in the Philippines. If other designated law enforcement groups work as well as Cebu's Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, the exploitation of children in the sex trade will decline dramatically and the effort can serve as a model throughout Southeast Asia.
Credit for these developments goes to the Philippines' government but also to the U.S. ambassador in Manila, Harry Thomas, and to the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for prioritizing trafficking and helping local authorities address it.
The TIP Office's candid report has led to significant changes elsewhere. Pressure on Nigeria, for example, led to a noteworthy increase in government rescue of Nigerian women trafficked to Italy and a surge of trafficking prosecutions. A Tier III ranking of Indonesia several years ago for its poor record on labor trafficking contributed to passage of historic anti-trafficking legislation. The prime minister of Senegal has credited the TIP Report with his government's decision to begin investigating and prosecuting forced child-begging rings.
Although the TIP Report and the TIP Office's superb diplomacy have contributed to countless improvements around the world, the office is under fire from some State Department officials who resent TIP's blunt reporting and vigorous human rights advocacy when it ruffles diplomatic feathers, particularly in allied or powerful countries. And this year, TIP's already tiny budget of $21.2 million in fiscal 2010 (under 0.05 percent of all spending for U.S. foreign aid) for anti-trafficking programs in more than 70 countries was slashed almost 24 percent by Congress.
International efforts to combat traffickers are outgunned, to put it mildly. Trafficking enriches criminals by $32 billion per year. Some things are worth paying for, and ending slavery in our lifetime is one of them. Perhaps because it is a toxic strand of our historical DNA, Americans across the political spectrum care deeply about modern-day slavery. Many would be shocked to learn that more money is spent in a single month for the “war on drugs” than on all domestic and international anti-trafficking programs over the past decade.
The Obama administration should strengthen the TIP Office by making it a permanent State Department Bureau and increasing its staff and resources accordingly. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should protect the Trafficking in Persons Report from being diluted by competing diplomatic priorities and should direct our ambassadors to slavery-burdened countries to make the rescue of victims and prosecution of traffickers and slave owners a top priority.
Congress has a chance to help by passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act before the law expires this year. Failure to do so — and failure to fund its programs — sends a simple message to people who buy and sell other human beings: Feel free.
The writer is vice president for government relations at International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that focuses on victims of sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of violent oppression.
(Language Advisory for audio clip)
Human Trafficking And The Terrible 'Price Of Sex'
June 23, 2011
Before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Eastern Europeans were locked inside an open-air prison. So when it finally came down, many countries were unprepared for what passed through the newly opened gates. In many countries, liberation left a vacuum that filled with lawlessness and deep poverty. In the worst cases, an epidemic of human trafficking, rape and forced prostitution ensnared hundreds of thousands of women.
Photojournalist Mimi Chakarova has sought and recorded the stories of Eastern European women who disappeared into the modern-day slave trade of sex trafficking. Her documentary, The Price of Sex, is showing this week at the American Film Institute's Silverdocs festival.
Chakarova tells NPR's Neal Conan that the stories she recorded could easily have been her own.
"We came from the same place," she says. "I grew up in a village in Bulgaria during Communism. We breathed the same air; we were surrounded by the same conditions."
She says women from Bulgaria, Moldova and other Eastern European countries often end up in Turkey and Greece, which is where Chakarova found her subjects. The women tell stories of being offered jobs as waitresses or hotel maids, accepting, and soon realizing that they were actually being forced into prostitution.
Vika is one of the women Chakarova interviews in her film. She tells Chakarova that she got into trouble after accepting what she thought was a waitressing job in Dubai. She says she blames herself for what she calls her naivete. The experience left her broken.
"You have to keep in mind what they endure after they are trafficked," Chakarova says.
According to Chakarova, the women are sold for $500 or $1,000, money they must then repay their pimps. But that's not all.
"There is this ridiculous amount which is a collection of all kinds of fees which the pimps are imposing on these women," she says, "from their cigarettes to whatever outfits the pimps are choosing for them to showers."
Chakarova says some women know what they're headed into but, because of their current living conditions, choose to do it anyway.
"The level of desperation ... is so huge," she says.
Bruises, burns and broken bones: Are doctors ready to call it child abuse?
by Meg Haskell
June 23, 2011
ORONO, Maine — Physicians are often the first to examine babies and children who have been injured deliberately at the hands of their parents or other adults. The locations of bruises or burns, specific types of fractures and elevated levels of certain blood enzymes are among the red flags that should alert physicians to the possibility that a young patient may have been abused.
But, according to a national expert speaking Thursday in Orono, some doctors either don't recognize the signs of abuse and neglect or are reluctant to report their suspicions to law enforcement or child protective authorities.
At a child welfare conference at the University of Maine, board-certified child abuse pediatrician Dr. Vincent Palusci told participants the physician role is crucial to documenting, treating and prosecuting child abuse and to helping rule it out.
“The medical evidence is often weak in legal cases,” Palusci said, speaking to a packed audience of about 250 social workers, lawyers, law enforcement officials and others who work closely with child abuse victims and their families.
Palusci said pediatricians, emergency room doctors and family practice physicians must stay up to date with new clinical developments in diagnosing head trauma, bone fractures, internal injuries and other trauma associated with abuse. He also put in a plug for the relatively new clinical specialty of pediatric child abuse. Only about 120 pediatricians nationwide are certified, including Dr. Lawrence Ricci of Spurwink children's services program in South Portland, who introduced Palusci at Thursday's conference.
Doctors and other medical professionals at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, Houlton Regional Hospital and Maine Medical Center in Portland tuned in to Palusci's talk through videoconferencing technology.
Dr. Mark Brown, chief of pediatrics at EMMC, said about 35 pediatricians, emergency room doctors and other professionals participated through the computer link. Brown said doctors sometimes are cautious about reporting suspected child abuse for fear of mistakenly implicating innocent parents or other caregivers.
“You always worry about it,” he said. “You want to be precise and take a team approach so there's not just one person making the call.”
On the other hand, he said, giving the parents the benefit of the doubt can be a mistake.
“The next time may be more severe,” he said. “Had you acted earlier, you might have had a normal baby in foster care rather than a baby with a permanent disability.”
Brown said much of Palusci's talk was a review for the EMMC physicians, who stay abreast of child abuse issues.
According to the national Every Child Matters Education Fund, which advocates for the welfare of children in the United States, the rate of child abuse deaths in this country is three times higher than Canada's and 11 times higher than Italy's. Maine's per-capita spending on child abuse prevention ranks among the lowest in the nation, at $31.88. Top-ranked Rhode Island spends $181.34 per person, according to the organization.
In Maine, reported cases of child abuse and neglect decreased from 16,678 in 2001 to 16,191 in 2008, according to statistics from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, while the number of reported child deaths because of abuse and neglect rose from two deaths to four deaths over the same period. The actual incidence of child abuse and fatalities is thought to be much greater than reported.
Accurate diagnosis of abuse-related injuries not only helps remove a child from the abusive environment but also enhances treatment and recovery, Palusci said. In the example of abusive brain injury in an infant, sometimes called “shaken baby syndrome,” early intervention can significantly reduce the likelihood and severity of permanent brain damage and even death, he said.
At the same time, he said, doctors must be careful not to assume a child has been abused, even if the nature of the injuries indicate it. For example, certain medical conditions can leave babies' bones brittle and easily broken, he said, and inquisitive toddlers sometimes do fall down stairs or climb into scalding water.
“You don't want to be the person who ran to an abuse diagnosis that got someone [wrongfully] convicted,” he said. “Then they're going to do a television documentary on you.”
The conference, titled “Hot Topics in Child Welfare,” was the 17th annual child welfare conference in Maine, aimed at increasing collaboration between professionals in the field. Workshops throughout the day on Thursday focused on ethical implications for social workers, successful investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, and strategies for engaging appropriate family participation in cases where children have been removed from an abusive home.
The daylong event wrapped up with a second presentation by Palusci on how children encounter abuse while in hospitals and other medical settings.
The event was organized and funded by the National Council on Ending Child Abuse Deaths, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and the Community Health and Counseling agency in Bangor. Additional support was provided by the Bangor Police Department, Eastern Maine Medical Center, Penobscot Community Health Care and other organizations.
Cooley Works to Keep Children Safe From Abuse
by Aisling Maki
Keita Cooley and just about everyone who knows her always had an inkling she'd end up devoting her own life to bettering the lives of children.
So when she relocated to Memphis from her native Dallas 10 years ago for her husband's job, it was no surprise she ended up working at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, which provides comprehensive services for Shelby County children who are victims of sexual and severe physical abuse.
Cooley, who studied psychology at Southern Methodist University, started out as assistant to the nonprofit's executive director, a position she held for a year before becoming an education specialist at the center.
“I always knew that I'd be helping children in some way,” Cooley said. “I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do, but when the opening came up in the education department, I jumped at it.”
Cooley this month celebrates a decade of service at MCAC, working to prevent child abuse by educating the public – mostly adults – about how to recognize and respond to child abuse and prevent possibly dangerous situations.
Cooley regularly speaks to parents, teachers, company employees, and community, faith-based and professional groups that serve children. She also trains Memphis City Schools counselors to speak to teachers and students about abuse.
“Just this year, we changed our focus,” Cooley said. “We used to talk to children, as well, but the research has shown that what really prevents child sexual abuse is talking to adults. It was a tough decision because we'd been talking to kids for so long, but we made a decision to do what's best for the children in our community, and really happy with it. It's different talking to adults versus kids, but I think it's really making a difference because we're talking to people we never had an opportunity to go to.”
Cooley said one of her biggest challenges is getting parents to understand that talking to their children about sexual abuse is not the same as talking to their children about sex.
“They also say that they don't talk about it because they don't have the words, so we give them the right words and teach them how to talk to their children at different ages,” she said. “This is not a one-time conversation; it's one you have to have over and over.”
One of the defining moments in Cooley's career came recently after she addressed a roomful of teen moms. One of the young ladies, the teenage mother of a 2-year-old child, came to Cooley asking for help, confessing for the first time that she'd become pregnant after she was raped.
“It was a relief to her to know it wasn't her fault,” Cooley said. “One of the things I always tell parents to stress to their kids is it's never too late to tell.”
And one of the biggest surprises in her career came when Cooley's own mother began to open up to her daughter about her own abuse.
“I didn't know a lot about my mom's history until I started working here and she finally told me,” Cooley said. “I didn't understand why she was so protective of us growing up until she told me and it all made sense.”
Cooley said that despite everything her mother's been through, she's been her daughter's greatest role model.
“When I think about the life so many people have after they'd been abused … you'd think my childhood would have been horrible, but she was a great mother,” she said. “She always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. She's so nurturing and I think she's the reason I want to take care of people.”
Always wanting to do more, Cooley and her husband recently became foster parents to two siblings, a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, through the Department of Children's Services.
“We wanted to parent, and we have the resources,” she said. “It's been a lot of fun. They are sweeties, and we've enjoyed every moment of it. If they go back home, it's going to be hard, of course. But I just keep remembering it's not about me, it's about them. Whatever they need when they're here, we're going to make sure they have it.”
MCAC staff members recently celebrated Cooley's 10th anniversary with a surprise breakfast where, in honor of Cooley, her colleagues wore her favorite color – pink.
MCAC associate director Virginia Stallworth said Cooley is an inspiration to everyone around her.
“I'm so impressed by Keita, by what she does at the Child Advocacy Center and what she does at home,” Stallworth said. “She is living out her values in raising these foster children, and she knows the reality for our kids in this community and communities all around – that they need our love, support and protection. We're extremely luck to have her here.”
ISP-Imposed Censorship Coming to Australia Next Month
Two of Australia's biggest ISPs (and telcos), Telstra and Optus, will commence “voluntary” censorship of 500 websites to defend against “child abuse”, even though the child abusers moved off the standard web a long time ago to a galaxy of underground webs far, far away from what you'll find on Google.
Any Australian stupid enough to search the Internet for child abuse material is not only stupid on many levels, but will soon find that 500 sites with child abuse material will no longer appear if access is attempted via Telstra or Optus.
These are the only two ISPs to be named, although media reports suggest that some smaller ISPs are also in on the self-censorship act.
The big concern with any form of censorship is not only where it starts, and for what reasons, but where it ends – and whether freedom has ended up being censored alongside obviously ultra-objectional material such as the filth of child abuse.
Naturally, child abuse materials are already banned, with the police already empowered to come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks if you're the aforementioned “stupid”.
State strengthens child abuse laws, including for sex offenders
Building on his priority to keep Alaska's children safe, Governor Sean Parnell today signed legislation that increases the penalties for child abuse and child exploitation, a press release from his office said.
The legislation also updates statutes related to stalking so the laws recognize new and emerging technology used by stalkers. House Bill 127 was introduced by Governor Parnell as part of his Choose Respect and Safe Homes, Strong Families initiatives.
"We are all aware of Alaska's staggering child abuse and exploitation rates," Governor Parnell said. "It is our obligation and responsibility to put the safety of our children first. I appreciate the unanimous support from the Legislature that will help us fight against those who harm children."
House Bill 127 also:
Raises the penalties for online enticement of a minor for repeat offenders from a class B felony to a class A felony;
Creates a new crime of sending explicit images of a minor;
Clarifies that a person who commits the crime of online enticement of a minor or sending an explicit image of a minor can be prosecuted in Alaska if the victim is located in Alaska, regardless of the offender's location;
Updates stalking statutes to include the use of global positioning systems (GPS) or installation of a device to observe, record, or photograph events occurring within the victim's office, home, or automobile; and
Prohibits a peace officer from engaging in sexual acts with a person in the officer's custody or apparent custody, or in the custody of a law enforcement agency.
Governor Parnell's budget includes funding for two new positions in the Cybercrime Unit. The governor also signed Senate Bill 15. SB 15, sponsored by Senator Kevin Meyer, increases penalties on a registered sex offender or child kidnapper providing alcohol to individuals under 21 years of age.
"This bill is so important, because alcohol and drugs have been shown repeatedly as a 'grooming tool' to lure children and teens into sexual activity," Senator Meyer said. "This disgusting behavior has to stop and every step we take to prevent it protects children all over Alaska. There were very few bills passed this year, so I appreciate the legislature making this a priority and the Governor agreeing to sign it into law."
Grant will help Bridge of Hope fight child abuse
by Mark Young
Thanks to a $2,500 grant from the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation, an educational campaign to fight child abuse will expand from Lincoln County into neighboring counties that are served by the Bridge of Hope Child Advocacy Center.
According to CAC Executive Director LeeAnn Nielsen, her agency will soon receive much-needed funding to provide more outreach and education to several of the 15 total counties served by CAC. Nielson said Thursday that the funding would create an opportunity for CAC staff "to provide an understanding to citizens and increase awareness of child abuse within several communities."
Nielson said the campaign would help citizens in outlying areas of Lincoln County to better understand their role in protecting children by recognizing, responding and reporting abuse.
"Education is a vital piece and essential part of identifying children who may be abused," she said.
There are more than 1 million children abused each year, including 135,000 cases of sexual assault on children in the U.S. However, education about child abuse issues isn't just statistics. It also means understanding the varied types of abuse, knowledge that helps distinguish when a child is being sexually assaulted, physically assaulted or neglected.
Education also plays an important role in informing people how to report child abuse and what role the adult plays in the reporting process once the abuse has been revealed. Since 90 percent of all abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child and family knows, the shock of the revelation can be compounded.
CAC staff members are highly trained and have effective techniques that are non-threatening to children who report abuse. The adult that a child comes forward to with the abuse does not have to be the investigator. Questioning the child could have a negative impact to the child and the ensuing investigation by authorities.
CAC staff members remind adults of their responsibility as a "mandatory reporter" in abuse cases, but also say that citizens should not conduct their own investigations. Simply listen to the child's revelation, try to stay calm and report the abuse immediately to the proper authorities.
Nation's state attorneys general targeting human slavery, sex trafficking
by Beth Warren
June 24, 2011
State attorneys general from across the nation met in Chicago on Thursday to declare war on what they say has become a devastating and pervasive problem in the United States and the world's fastest-growing criminal enterprise -- human trafficking.
Tennessee just became one of six states to pass a law barring prosecution of minors for prostitution because they are victims, not criminals.
In Chicago, Washington state Atty. Gen. Rob McKenna urged all states to pass such laws.
McKenna said three years ago, he thought human trafficking was a crime that happened overseas to other people's children. He said he soon learned that trafficking for labor or sex is widespread in America and is now considered the world's No. 2 crime behind drug trafficking.
"The problem of trafficking is real and around us," McKenna said. "It's modern-day slavery."
The U.S. State Department estimates that 1 million minors are exploited annually by the global sex trade.
McKenna took office Monday as the president of the National Association of Attorneys General. In Chicago, he launched his 2011-12 presidential initiative: "Pillars of Hope: Attorneys General Unite to Combat Human Trafficking."
He rallied for support from a room full of attorneys general, victims' advocates, social workers, police officers, prosecutors and an official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Human trafficking for labor or sex is now a $32 billion global industry, he said. The extent of human trafficking in the U.S. is not known, but some estimates say that 100,000 American minors are the victims of sex trafficking each year.
"Traffickers use modern slavery to victimize the voiceless -- including millions of children -- and don't respect state, national or international borders," McKenna said in a release. "State attorneys general are in a unique position to rally public support for combating traffickers, while using our legal expertise to help protect the vulnerable."
Tennessee Atty. Gen. Bob Cooper has shown support for the fight against human trafficking by teaming with others in September to pressure Craigslist and backpage.com to take down their adult services sections that advertised sex for sale by adults and minors.
Cooper issued a statement Thursday saying he will continue to participate in the national crackdown: "We look forward to working with other attorneys general as well as the TBI and local district attorneys to fight this growing menace."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation teamed with Vanderbilt Center for Community Studies to conduct the first statewide sex-trafficking study.
"It'll keep you up at night. It's terrible," said TBI Asst. Special Agent-in-Charge Margie Quin, who oversaw the study released this year. It estimates that more than 1,200 minors are at risk in Tennessee alone.
Police in 72 percent of the state's counties reported having at least one sex-trafficking case last year involving minors. Four counties -- Shelby, Davidson, Coffee and Knox -- had more than 100 cases.
"They're being beaten, drugged, raped and tortured," Quin said of the victims.
Due to its surprising prevalence, it has become the topic du jour at police stations, courthouses and the state Capitol, Quin said.
"It feels like the whole topic has a tremendous amount of momentum right now," she said.
Tennessee lawmakers just passed a series of human sex-trafficking laws to protect minors and further penalize pimps and their customers.
In a pending Memphis case, federal prosecutors are trying to send an alleged pimp to prison for 15 years to life for allegedly prostituting eight women and four teenagers.
In Nashville, federal prosecutors have charged 29 defendants in a prostitution ring that ensnared girls as young as 12 and pimped them out across the nation.
In Knoxville, one pimp was arrested last year for having trafficked more than 400 women during the past four years.
"There are many other cases that promote trafficking within the borders of the state," according to the TBI report.
The TBI is creating a statewide anonymous hotline that should be in place Oct. 1 to encourage residents to report suspicions of labor or sex trafficking.
To learn more about human trafficking, visit dhs.gov/humantrafficking and polarisproject.org.
CNN Hero working harder than ever to stop sex trafficking
(CNN) -- More than 17,000 women and girls from Nepal become sex slaves every year. Many end up in India, China or other Southeast Asian countries, and roughly half of them are children.
Anuradha Koirala -- the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year -- has been fighting to end this sex trafficking for nearly two decades. Since 1993, she and her organization, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 women and girls.
Recently, Koirala partnered with actress Demi Moore on "Nepal's Stolen Children: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary." For the film, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, Moore traveled to Nepal to meet Koirala and some of the people rescued by her group.
CNN's Kathleen Toner recently spoke with Koirala, 62, about how her life has changed since being honored as Hero of the Year and what work remains to be done.
Kathleen Toner: How did you feel when you were named Hero of the Year in November?
Anuradha Koirala: There were so many other people doing very good things who were being honored, so I wasn't expecting it. I was shocked.
I first thought of all of my girls at Maiti Nepal. I wished I was in front of them. I wished I was in my country. But I knew it was a chance to draw attention to the problem of sex trafficking.
When I returned home, they had a big rally with thousands of youths. I realized that the whole country was eager to work hard to make Nepal trafficking-free. It was wonderful.
Toner: How have things changed for you?
Koirala: I now feel that there is extra responsibility on me. I feel I must be even more committed since people around the globe are depending on me. I need to work even harder to get to the end.
We are working so hard. Our work is the same as before ... but (we want) to monitor more of the border crossings. The border with Tibet is a very important area. ... It's very difficult. People easily take a one-day pass to go across to Nepal, and no one monitors. We've found many girls being taken across the border and being used in different entertainment sectors and brothels, so now (we're considering) working there.
At this point, the most important thing we have to do is surveillance and stop, stop, stop girls from being exploited.
Toner: What was it like to work with Demi Moore on "Nepal's Stolen Children"?
Koirala: She was superb. I have seen artists, film stars, musicians and all kinds of celebrities, but often they look very snobbish, very superior. She was very down-to-Earth. She knew the issue and was really committed.
When we were working on the documentary, we had to go to the home of a girl who'd been trafficked, but it was very difficult. Her village was in the mountains, and her home was on a very steep hill. It was a very hard walk for half an hour.
(Moore) is very determined (to help). When she came to Maiti and met the girls, she was so good with the children. She really is committed to this issue. If more people like her come into this field, then maybe we will succeed someday.
Toner: What do people need to know about this issue?
Koirala: This problem of trafficking children and women needs to be addressed, because HIV and trafficking are synonymous with each other. The fundamental human rights of the girl child are being seriously violated. It is a heinous crime, and it harms the girls physically and psychologically. It's also increasing the transmission of HIV to a larger population.
We have to make more awareness, and everyone should be involved: NGOs, government ministries, police, media, community activists and the entire community. (We) can't reach every affected individual; families and communities need to be assisted and encouraged to take responsibility. ... At the end, the whole theme is sensitizing and increasing awareness of the public on a large scale.
Toner: It's such a widespread problem. Do you think that you are making progress?
Koirala: Yes. If not, I would not have been chosen (as CNN Hero of the Year). But more sensitizing and awareness is needed.
Nothing is impossible if the whole world collaborates. If CNN supports us, if the U.S. government supports us, if all of the world supports us, why can't we (end sex trafficking)? But I think I have to live also for another 20 years.
See the full story on CNN Hero Anuradha Koirala: Rescuing girls from sex slavery
Super Bowl Prostitution Fears Prompt Effort to Protect Kids in Indiana
by Ken Edelstein
Some Indiana lawmakers are scrambling to protect kids from the threat of forced prostitution by adding child trafficking to the state's list of sex offenses in advance of Indianapolis hosting next February's Super Bowl.
Amid all the fanfare and its reputation as a boon to tourism, the Super Bowl has also won some infamy for attracting a sex trade that caters to fans willing to participate in the exploitation of children.
From StarTrib.com of Terre Haute, Ind.:
Before the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas … Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, described the party-filled event as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.”
Law enforcement in Miami, site of the 2010 Super Bowl, also had concerns that underage prostitutes were brought in from Central America for tourists in town for the game.
Indiana state Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, sponsored legislation this year directing a study committee to look at whether current state law on child solicitation needs to be expanded. She's received backing in that effort from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
What's unusual is that any bill toughening Indiana's sex-trade laws would have to be passed early in the legislative session, which begins in January. The bill also would have to be written to take effect immediately upon the governor signing it.
Of course, all that's assuming that the National Football League's current labor dispute doesn't continue long enough to cause the Feb. 5 championship game to be cancelled.
Is spanking a part of raising children or is it simply child abuse?
by Phil Giannotti/Parental Guidance The Star-Ledger
The hot-button issue of spanking recently returned to spotlight as a Texas mother, Rosalina Gonzales, was sentenced to five years of probation for spanking her two-year-old daughter.
When the paternal grandmother noticed the child’s butt was red, she had the child taken to a hospital. They found Gonzales’ daughter healthy, with no lasting injury. Still, they notified the Department of Family and Protective Services who remanded custody of Gonzales’ three children to the grandmother.
Gonzales must complete parenting classes and her children will be returned when the Department of Family and Protective Services decides she is ready to have them back. In court, the judge told the mother that spanking your own child is not allowed.
“You don’t spank children today,” said Judge Jose Longoria. “In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children. You understand?”
Judge Longoria might be interested to know that despite his opinions on spanking, in Texas the law is as follows:
Child abuse going nowhere without help
by Concetta Falcone-Codding
Good people do not want to see or hear about child abuse; it is inconceivable and horrendous. Nevertheless, like the monkeys who tried to stop seeing, hearing or speaking of evil, child abuse exists and continues.
In 2007, the latest statistics available, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations in the U.S., and that doesn't include the children who could not find their voice.
As coordinator of the Multidisciplinary Team/Child Advocacy Center for Windham County, Christine Collins has been helping children find their voice for four years. Very few Danielson residents even know that Wendy's Place exists right within their own borders — a neutral, child-friendly place where children meet with investigators and others when allegations of child sexual abuse or severe physical abuse have been brought to the attention of authorities.
Wendy's Place may bring together state or local police, the Department of Children and Families and a team of professionals who report and access information, all working together to maximize the best outcome for that child and his or her family.
Years ago, children would have to submit to a variety of interviews. At Wendy's Place, the child has a one-time video-recorded interview, which later can be used in court.
“Our purpose is to increase public awareness of child sexual and physical abuse,” Collins told me. “We're willing to come into school systems and teach children and staff what the warning signs of child abuse are, and how to be a better-equipped, mandated reporter.”
My sister was sexually abused for decades without any family member or anyone in the community knowing. Many, willingly or unwillingly, missed the warning signs: self-mutilation, cutting, scratching, head-banging, bruises, seizures, social isolation and more.
“Sometimes there are no signs,” Collins said.
And that's why we need a mandated curriculum in all schools to teach staff and students how to attack the issue of child abuse with the same tenacity as the perpetrator abuses the child.
Collins, who has seen the worst, is optimistic. “Despite an increase in child abuse, more children realize that it's OK to talk about it. It's OK to tell,” she told me.
Child sexual abuse exists within our culture, where more than 300,000 children are prostituted yearly in the U.S., and where children all around the world are forced into prostitution next to military bases and war zones — many not living long enough to see adulthood.
It cannot be swept under the rug. It will not go away no matter how much we close our eyes. We cannot rid ourselves of it any more than we can our own garbage by simply tossing it out the window and hoping it will disappear.
It will still be on the street the next day.
Dutch inquiry finds 'shocking' sex abuse of foster children
A Dutch commission said Wednesday it was "shocked" to discover the scale of sexual abuse of children placed in centres and foster homes in the Netherlands.
"The Samson commission... is shocked by the nature, duration and frequency of sexual abuse cases which have been reported," the commission said in a statement, noting that it analysed some 500 cases.
"More than 65 percent of the reports indicated that the abuse took place for a period of at least one year," the commission said, while in some 33 percent of cases the abuse went on from three to 10 years.
In about 15 percent of the cases the abuse was daily, it said.
The abusers included doctors, psychiatrists, foster parents or siblings, and social services workers, and in some cases minors abused other children.
In two-thirds of the cases where the victims reported the abuse, "nothing was done," the commission said.
Some 36 "current" cases have been referred to Dutch prosecutors, commission spokeswoman Margriet van Lith told AFP.
The Dutch ministries of justice and youth set up the commission to look into child sexual abuse cases from 1945 to the present. Its final report is expected in July 2012.
Child abuse cases escalating in Chattanooga area
The baby who “pooped his pants for the 14th time today.” Failed toilet training efforts on toddlers. A teen report card with too many D's.
“Anybody who's had kids knows the frustration,” said Dr. Annamaria Church, chief of Erlanger's general pediatrics division. “What isn't normal is to lash out toward a child.”
And yet such behavior has become alarmingly routine at Children's Hospital at Erlanger, where Church has seen nine physical child abuse cases in the past six weeks.
Last November, six infants presented traumatic brain injuries at Erlanger after being shaken by a caregiver. Two of the babies died. At the time, hospital officials called a news conference, citing holiday stress, financial pressures and potential unemployment as primary reasons why young parents snapped.
The most recent cases, though, are more of a mystery, Church said Tuesday at another news conference called to discuss child abuse.
“I'm not sure what exactly to blame now,” she said. “Perhaps still the economy. Maybe instead of the holidays, it's the heat.”
Some of the more recent local injuries include malnourishment, broken bones and what Church called “acceleration deceleration” injuries — a possible euphemism for “shaken baby syndrome.”
On Tuesday, Erlanger's public relations team gathered reporters to note the latest uptick.
“I think there's more and more stress in people's lives,” Church said. “They don't know how to cope with it, so they're lashing out at their children.”
Church said she had gotten to know Chattanooga police Investigator Galen Fugh “really well,” lamenting the number of times she's had to summon law enforcement to Erlanger's exam rooms.
Fugh has been part of the police department's family investigations unit about five years, he said. In the beginning of his tenure, he saw “a lot of sexual stuff — fondlings, rapes — but now with the economy the way it is, there's been a whole lot more physical abuse.”
“You see it from weeks old to 171/2 years old,” he said.
Nearly five children a day die as result of child abuse nationwide, with a majority under age 4, according to Childhelp, a national nonprofit focused on preventing child abuse.
Erlanger has coded 191 individual patients as child abuse cases within the past year, according to hospital spokeswoman Pat Charles.
Strangely, Church said, some cases incorporate “medical abuse,” named for wayward parents who make a baby sick or make a healthy baby appear sick. They later use the medical community to “further do things to the child” — unnecessary lab tests, X-rays, CT scans, lumbar punctures, anti-seizure medicine — based on what the parent says.
“It's amazing how creative parents can be,” Church said. “It's a psychological disorder in the parent.”
Church noted that, while even teenagers are victims of abuse, most of the incidents she sees involve children teetering on either edge of the talking threshold. Kids who aren't able to express what's wrong to their parents — 2-year-olds and younger — along with potty-training toddlers are among the most abused, she said.
All the abuse is preventable, law enforcement and hospital officials stressed. They recommended placing an incessantly crying baby in a crib, then going to another room to calm down.
Hospital officials provided two hotlines — one for parents that will “help talk you down” and another one that allows any Tennessean to report suspicious behavior.
“Everyone is a mandatory reporter,” Church said.
State's child trafficking law to be scrutinized
by Maureen Hayden
Tribune-Star Statehouse Bureau
INDIANAPOLIS — The 2012 Super Bowl is expected to bring thousands of fans and millions of dollars to the state's capital city, but some state lawmakers fear it may also bring a bustling sex trade that exploits children.
Prompted by concerns of past Super Bowl host cities that reported an influx of underage prostitutes, some legislators are looking at how they could fast-track legislation next year that would add child trafficking to the state's sex offenses.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency about this,” said state Rep. Suzanne Crouch, a Republican from Evansville. Crouch authored the bill that directs a legislative study committee to look at whether current state law on child solicitiation needs to be expanded.
Backing the push for a change in the law is Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is part of a national effort by state attorneys general to combat what they see as a growing problem of human trafficking that forces vulnerable minors into the sex trade.
Before the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, one of Zoeller's colleagues, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, described the party-filled event as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.”
Law enforcement in Miami, site of the 2010 Super Bowl, also had concerns that underage prostitutes were brought in from Central America for tourists in town for the game.
Zoeller wants legislators to act before the 2012 Super Bowl, scheduled to be played in Indianapolis in February — if an ongoing lockout by the National Football League over labor disputes with its players is resolved soon.
The issue of child trafficking has been assigned to Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, which holds its first meeting Thursday. The commission has also been tasked with looking at increasing penalities for other sex offenses against children.
Profiting off the commercial demand for sex isn't a new issue, but timing is playing a role in the push for a change in the Indiana law.
Indiana Deputy Attorney General David Miller, who handles legislative issues for Zoeller's office, said current state law makes it a crime to solicit a child for sex, but doesn't cover the organized exploitation of children by people who profit from the sale of sex with minors.
To revise the current by early February, legislators would have to pass a bill early in the next session, which begins in January. They'd also have to make it enforceable as soon as the governor signs it.
“It would take a very coordinated effort but I think it's possible,” said state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a Republican from Danville who chairs the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, where such a bill could originate. In addition to the issue of human trafficking of minors, legislators on the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission will also be looking at increasing penalties for other sex crimes against children
State Sen. Randy Head, a former prosecutor from Logansport, has been working with Steuerwald on legislation that would give prosecutors more tools to go after sexual predators who threaten their young victims or use the Internet to solicit sex from minors.
Head said predators have stayed ahead of the law in the use of technology, employing social media to lure young victims and hiding behind it to protect themselves from prosecution. “It's something we absolutely must address,” Head said.
The commission will also look at potential legislation that could expand the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children.
Sex trafficking victim testifies, then vanishes
Related: CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery
Portland, Oregon (CNN) -- Among the strung out addicts with zombie eyes and the beaten down prostitutes loitering by neon-lit entrances to adult video stores, Kelsey Emily Collins would have stuck out.
She was from out of town and too young to be where she was.
As she would later testify to a federal grand jury, a man 20 years older than her drove Kelsey 170 miles down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Portland's 82nd Ave.
There amidst the strip's seedy motels and lingerie stores where customers can buy backroom lap dances and more, the plan was simple: sell her to as many men as possible.
After that first night in January 2008 when she made about $1,000, all of which she later told investigators went to her pimp, Kelsey went right back to work as a prostitute.
One night, police stopped her getting out of a customer's car.
Kelsey was 16 years old.
From the moment she was born, Sarah Collins, Kelsey's mother, said she had to fight to stay alive. Plagued with intestinal problems, she spent most of the first year of her life in the hospital.
It was pretty nervewracking. Sarah would later deny to her other three children that Kelsey was her favorite. But there was no point arguing it.
"Her older sisters always told me I treated her like the princess," Sarah said. "When you have a child that's that ill, you had a bond you can't disguise."
But life wasn't getting any easier.
Sarah and her children fled an abusive husband. They fled the state and changed their names. Sarah's ex-husband is serving a 20 year prison sentence for the abuse of her family and with another decade to serve, she feels like he's not an immediate threat.
Sarah's youngest daughter had been called Emily until age 7, but they changed her name when the family fled.
Now she was known as Kelsey.
She was a girl with two names and, as her mother would discover, two lives.
"As soon as she hit puberty she started getting into trouble," Sarah said. "I thought she was going to be the one who was going to give me no trouble. Instead she did everything her sisters did times ten."
At first Kelsey ran away to go to parties, her mom said, to drink and smoke. She totaled Sarah's car during a joyride.
After Kelsey stole a stranger's car to go to the mall, Sarah called the police.
"That's how she became involved in the juvenile system," Sarah said. "It was not helpful to her. She wouldn't come home so they'd put her in juvy or she wouldn't go to school and they'd put her in juvy. It was like a revolving door."
Then Kelsey was arrested for prostitution. Sarah was stunned.
"I spent too much time energy and money to keep you alive!" Sarah screamed at her daughter. "I am not going to let you throw your life away!"
Four years later she shakes her head at the memory of those fights.
"I missed all the signs." She said. "I didn't think she was being forced to do it."
Kelsey was silent about who or what made her sell her body. She was failing drug tests, absent from school and, Sarah believes she was in love with the same men who sold her to strangers.
Sarah saw signs of physical abuse. Kelsey denied her boyfriends were responsible and said the bruises and black eyes came from fights at school.
"When I went into court the fifth or sixth time she was picked up for prostitution and I am like, 'I don't know what to do!'" Sarah said. "'I am begging for some help here.'"
Sgt. Doug Justus was also looking for help when he arrived at the Collins home a month after Kelsey's Portland arrest.
Justus headed the Portland Police Bureau's vice squad. Although he had been a cop for over twenty years, Justus was a recent convert to the idea that police should target the men who were forcing young girls to sell themselves.
"People didn't any know better, there was no education, there was no training," he said. "It was 'real cops catch a bank robber."
But after seeing underage women manipulated into believing they loved the same men who beat them down and sold them again and again, Justus had a change of heart.
Sex trafficking, he says "is domestic abuse on steroids."
But prosecuting sex trafficking is another matter.
"It is very difficult, said Ernest Allen, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
According to Allen, trafficking in the United States is not as easy to spot as in other countries where victims are often held in bondage.
Allen said U.S. victims are commonly targeted for their emotional frailty and troubled home lives.
"In the US these are runaway, throwaway or homeless kids," Allen said "They feel a misplaced loyalty and fear for their safety. This is organized crime."
Allen said even if sex slavery isn't as visible in the United States, victims here pay a terrible price, forced to turn over their earnings to alleged pimps and enduring beatings.
Over the last eight years, Allen said a partnership with his organization and law enforcement has led to the conviction of 700 pimps and the rescue of 1,600 kids who were sexually trafficked.
Underage prostitution, Justus said, attracts hardened criminals out of simple economics.
"You can only sell the drugs once, these girls you can sell over and over," he said.
To reach Kelsey, Justus took a different approach than police had in the past; he told her she was a victim.
"It took her a while because she hadn't heard that before," he said.
Gradually Kelsey opened up to the detective about the man who sold her in Portland.
"He bought her clothes, got her condoms, taught her what to do, how to do it," Justus said. "Everything. And he kept every penny.
"She said all she did was have sex all night long."
Kelsey promised Justus she would testify in the case against her pimp.
Justus brought Kelsey to Portland with her mom to testify to a grand jury. Sarah said her daughter was afraid.
"She sat outside the courtroom in the car and cried," Sarah said. "She could've run at that point. She wasn't in handcuffs. She didn't though.
"She sat there and cried on my shoulder and said 'Mommy I am scared.' I told her it was the right thing to do."
Kelsey was released to her mother who says she couldn't navigate the red tape to get the counseling her daughter needed.
"What she did was so brave and then they tell you she's too old for this program, too old for that program," Sarah Collins said.
For girls who have been trafficked, said Ernest Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, returning to their old lives is not an option.
"You can't go home and have a happily ever after," he said. "You can't pick up where you left off in the ninth grade."
About a month after she testified Kelsey told her mother she was taking the bus to see a new boyfriend in Seattle.
It was Mother's Day, 2009 and her family never heard from Kelsey again.
Kelsey's disappearance caused inter agency tensions, said Justus.
"There was a lot of fallout," he said "Political boundaries went up. I know it was hard on everybody but let's swallow our pride, say we made a mistake, work together as a team and solve this thing."
Federal prosecutors indicted Kelsey's alleged pimp for trafficking in June 2009. He pled not guilty.
But in March 2010 the indictment was dismissed after Kelsey, the star witness in the case could not be found.
Justus believed Kelsey was targeted for speaking out.
Three months later, the alleged pimp would plead guilty to trafficking in a separate case. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for trafficking a 14 year old girl into prostitution.
Whether or not he can prove it, Justus has his suspicions about what happened to Kelsey.
"I truly believe she was killed for testifying in this case," he said. "The federal government didn't do their job, they didn't protect her."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland said federal prosecutors were unable to discuss Kelsey's case since it is "an ongoing investigation."
But in a statement released to CNN, U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton said, "Our heart goes out to Kelsey's family. We are pursuing every viable option and doing everything we can to put together this puzzle."
Sarah Collins has lost faith.
"They used her and they threw her away," Collins says of the prosecutors.
She said she doubts anyone is still seriously pursuing what happened to her daughter two years after she vanished.
She has finally put away Kelsey's clothes and lives with the fear that perhaps she will never know.
But she did find some answers in a letter Kelsey wrote to a friend:
"I have a new way to make a lot of money for us," 16-year-old Kelsey wrote.
A boyfriend had come to her with the idea of selling her body.
"I couldn't believe he was asking me to be a whore."
Kelsey's mom said the boyfriend was convinced he could get Kelsey to go along.
Kelsey's letter continued, "The next thing I knew I was."
ICE protects children, arrests criminals
As the most vulnerable members of society, children deserve to be protected and allowed to grow in a safe environment. Unfortunately, there are criminals who try to exploit or harm them.
Recently, two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents were recognized for their work towards catching child predators at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC.
The ceremony honored law enforcement personnel who have demonstrated exceptional efforts in the recovery of missing children and the investigation of child sexual exploitation. Senior Special Agent (SSA) James Kilpatrick from the ICE HSI Pittsburgh office spearheaded Operation Goodbye and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Emily Arnold from the ICE HSI Philadelphia office helped take down child predator Kenneth Schneider.
"Awards are great, but it's rewarding in itself to catch child predators. Everyone at ICE knows that every time we put a predator in jail, it protects a child from being harmed in the future," said one of the honored agents.
SSA Kilpatrick spearheaded Operation Goodbye, which sought individuals who created and distributed child pornography. Kilpatrick worked alongside agents and prosecutors in 10 different judicial districts. Together, they infiltrated a group that used asocial networking site to post and share images of children engaging in sexual acts. This infiltration eventually led to the discovery of an online forum, where child pornography was distributed. ICE agents identified approximately 50 individuals involved with sites. Twenty-three have been convicted.
Taking Down Kenneth Schneider
SAC Arnold began investigating Kenneth Schneider with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in August 2008. Schneider was a U.S. citizen and international attorney who lived overseas for long periods of time. He served as the founder and president of the Apogee Foundation, an organization that sponsored children at fine arts schools throughout the world. Agents suspected that Schneider engaged in sexual acts with children. Their investigation helped identify a victim, a student sponsored by Schneider's organization.
Schneider was indicted in January 2010 for traveling to engage in sexual acts with a minor and transporting a minor for sexual acts. He was arrested in Cyprus in March 2010 and was convicted on both counts in October 2010. He is currently incarcerated and awaiting sentencing.
Learn more about ICE's efforts to combat child exploitation.
featuries writing by
survivors of child sexual
abuse in the state.
'AUTHENTIC VOICES': Survivors of child sexual abuse put their lives to words
A North Dakota project offered child sexual abuse survivors an opportunity to write what's on their minds. They've done just that - and now others will benefit from a booklet-sized collection of their efforts, according to project organizers.
by Chuck Haga
It’s an unusual book signing scheduled in Grand Forks today, a book signing by authors who didn’t know they were authors until a few weeks ago.
Earlier this year, advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse in North Dakota invited those survivors to write about the abuse and how they’ve dealt with it. Or write about anything in your life, they said.
It’s your life.
Many survivors took up the challenge and wrote poems, short stories or declarations, and these have been collected in a booklet called “Authentic Voices,” which was published this week by Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.
Two book signings are planned in Grand Forks Wednesday, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the UND Bookstore, and from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Grand Forks Public Library.
The booklets are free while supplies last.
“These are people who are very willing to share their stories so nobody else has to go through what they went through,” said Karen Van Fossan, who organized the project for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.
“I’ve been more moved than I imagined I would be,” she said in late May, when she discussed the project and urged more survivors to contribute. “There is a real generosity in the people who’ve shared their writings.”
The voices project “is a great opportunity to raise awareness in our communities that child abuse and neglect is happening,” added Tim Hathaway, state executive director of Prevent Child Abuse. “It’s happening here in North Dakota. It’s happening to people we live and work with.”
The project “also gives people a chance to express themselves,” he said.
“We know there’s sex abuse that’s never reported because people are afraid, scared that they’ll have more problems. This can give voice to that and maybe help somebody else.”
The North Dakota Department of Human Services and Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota have joined to offer help to parents trying to make decisions on child care for the summer.
The agencies have developed a brochure to provide answers to some of the most common questions concerning supervision of children.
The brochure is titled, “Home Alone: Is Your Child Ready?”
“It can be a challenge for parents when deciding whether their child is ready to stay at home alone because kids mature at different stages and there is no ‘magic’ age,” said Marlys Baker, children protection services administrator in Human Services.
The brochure and other resources for parents are available online at http://www.pcand.org or by calling Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota at (800) 403-9932.
Community vigilance: 10 steps people can take to help combat human trafficking
by Siddharth Kara, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is a Harvard fellow and author of the award-winning book, "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery." For more than 15 years, he has traveled around the world to research modern-day slavery, interviewing thousands of former and current slaves. Kara also advises the United Nations and governments on anti-slavery research and policy.
Whenever I talk on human trafficking, I am almost always asked what people can do to help.
To be sure, the forces that promote human trafficking are immense -– from extreme poverty, to corruption, lawlessness, population displacement, gender and minority bias, economic globalization and others. In the face of such vast and complex forces, everyday citizens can feel powerless to make a real difference.
Nevertheless, there are vital steps that individuals can take to help bring an end to human trafficking and other forms of contemporary slavery.
Beyond increasing your knowledge of the issue, perhaps the most important way individuals can contribute is to form a system of human trafficking vigilance committees in their communities.
It may sound daunting, but here are a few simple steps to get started.
1. Learn about the many signs that indicate a person may be a victim of human trafficking or some other form of forced labor.
2. Assemble a core group of individuals who will set up and manage your Community Vigilance Committee (CVC).
3. Recruit other community members to join your CVC, such as neighbors and local business owners. Make a plan that suits everyone on how and when you can meet to discuss your efforts.
4. Make contact with local law enforcement, especially a local human trafficking police unit if you have one, to set up a system of reporting to a point person should any member of your CVC witness a sign of human trafficking. Follow the guidance of local law enforcement on the best ways you can assist them.
5. Make contact with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on human trafficking (especially shelters), to discuss your plans and set up a system of referral should you need to pass along information about a potential human trafficking victim in your area. Follow the guidance of these NGOs on how you can be most effective in assisting them.
6. If there are no relevant NGOs or shelters in your area, think about setting one up!
7. Create a website in which you share your progress and learnings, so that you can coordinate with other CVCs to expand your reach, and also learn from each other about how to be more effective.
8. Set up a “Google Alert” for human trafficking. This will help you stay on top of trends and developments in the field.
9. Make contact with your local and state lawmakers to learn more about what they are doing to combat human trafficking in your area. If you feel they are not doing enough, try to persuade them to do more.
10. Should any member of your CVC see something worrying from the list of signs of human trafficking - do not intervene in any way individually or as a group. Meet and discuss what you have seen and report to local law enforcement as soon as possible.
If you follow these 10 steps, you will be well on your way towards making a considerable contribution in the fight against human trafficking.
As dedicated as law enforcement, NGOs, and local governments may be, they cannot be everywhere at all times. It is up to individual citizens to expand the “eyes and ears” of traditional anti-trafficking actors by taking ownership of their communities and being as informed and vigilant as possible.
Countless human trafficking victims have been freed, and numerous cases have been prosecuted thanks to the efforts of Good Samaritans who noticed something was amiss, and reported to police what they saw.
Today’s global anti-trafficking movement will benefit mightily from community vigilance efforts, which serve as vital initiatives individuals can undertake to help in the fight against human trafficking, one community at a time.
In Depth: New billboard campaign in Seattle unmasks child sex trade
This week, CNN's In Depth series, "The CNN Freedom Project," is highlighting the growing efforts to stop the trade and exploitation of human beings.
This morning, Linda Smith, founder and president of
Shared Hope International and former US Representative, talks with Carol Costello about her organization's new billboard campaign, "Do You Know Lacy?."
Aimed at raising awareness of child sex trafficking by focusing on the plight of Lacy, one young girl who represents the thousands of children being prostituted in the US and around the world, the campaign will soon launch nationally.
Indiana Survivor of child sexual abuse ready to move on
June 20, 2011
A local survivor of child sexual abuse is at long last in a position to move on with her life.
The man who molested her repeatedly when she was between the ages of 4 and 8, her former stepfather, has finally been sentenced to prison, although that was long in coming.
The Survivor -- that's what we'll call her for the purpose of this column -- couldn't bring herself to report the man's crimes, for reasons we'll explain, for most of a decade, until she was 16. And after she finally did, and he rather quickly confessed, the criminal case still took the better part of two years to work its way through the court system.
But now it's finally over. Or should be.
The molester in recent weeks received a prison term in excess of 40 years, only a few days before his victim was presented with her high school diploma.
But there's a matter of a recording -- of the statement the Survivor gave to police, detailing her abuse, in 2009 -- that continues to trouble her.
The molester's first attorney -- replaced between his guilty plea in December and sentencing hearing this month -- purportedly provided him with a DVD of the Survivor's statement. In an April letter to Judge John Feick, the molester recounts viewing the copy he made of that recording -- in an audience also made up of his relatives and family friends -- "over and over and over."
While his point is to maintain he molested the Survivor "only" about a dozen times, not the 50 suggested by police, even the molester admits it seems odd he was given a recording of his victim's statement for home viewing.
"I honestly don't understand why I was given a copy of (his victim's) interview statement," the molester wrote, "as I was under the impression they were considered 'highly confidential' and strict property of the courts ..."
The Survivor is troubled that the recording likely remains in the hands of people who, to put it mildly, were not appreciative of her efforts to seek justice against their friend and family member.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Judi Calhoun said Monday she would explore legal remedies to both recover the DVD in question, and to prevent such distribution of sensitive material in similar cases.
Shattering a family
In many ways, the Survivor's case is a text-book example of how child sexual abuse can wreak havoc on a family.
The molester married her mother when the Survivor was a baby, and the married couple soon produced a son of their own.
The Survivor loves her younger brother. And for years, when she contemplated telling her mother, or authorities, about what the molester had done to her, she couldn't overlook that coming forward would likely cost her brother his father.
"I didn't want to take away (my brother's) dad," she recalled.
However, after years of nightmares, flashbacks and an overall feeling of being "very sad," the teenager decided "I couldn't take it any longer."
She told her mother, and soon found herself giving that recorded statement to Muncie police investigators.
The Survivor's mother found herself playing two different roles, trying to help her daughter maintain the courage to pursue prosecution, and at the same time comforting a son whose own life had been turned upside down by his father's crimes.
There remains a sense of unfinished business for the Survivor's brother, in that his dad never tried to explain his crimes to his son, or even really said goodbye in their final visits before the molester was sent to prison.
While shaken by his experience, the Survivor's brother hasn't let his family's tragedy derail his life. He remains a stand-out student and athlete. He's also very supportive of his sister.
And, aware he lives in a state where felons usually serve only half the sentence imposed by a judge, he doesn't rule out the possibility of salvaging some semblance of a relationship with his dad down the road.
Their lives to this point suggest the son could teach the father a thing or two about what it means to be a man.
'Don't be afraid'
Their experience with the criminal justice system has been both frustrating and re-affirming for the Survivor and her family.
They speak very highly of those who helped them through it -- Calhoun and the police investigators assigned to the case, others who work within the system, members of their extended family and school personnel, among others.
The pace of the case, especially given that the molester had quickly confessed, was frustrating, with several delays in its resolution.
The Survivor often came away feeling "(the molester) had more rights than the victim."
She and her brother have had access to extensive counseling, as has their mother, who wonders how families without the financial means for such help ever truly recover.
"How do they rebuild their lives?" she asked.
The mother still deals with guilt, in large part because she allowed her daughter to visit her by-then-ex-husband after finding out he had earlier molested another child. And those visits are when much of the abuse took place.
The mother said her ex-husband had persuaded her that his earlier behavior, which didn't result in prosecution, had been the result of drug abuse at an earlier stage of his life, and would never be repeated.
"I still trusted him with my kids," she said. "That's where I have the terrific guilt, because I didn't protect my children. ... He didn't look like a pedophile."
As things turned out, though, that's exactly what he looked like.
As for the Survivor, she's considering a career in public service, and says she might one day write a book about surviving her childhood trauma.
And she definitely wants to do what she can to help children who have suffered as she did.
Her message to them?
"Don't be afraid to tell. There are people out there who are willing to listen."
Keep children safe on the Internet
As the heat of summer keeps us indoors, we are reminded once again how important it is for us to talk with our children about appropriate use of technology. June is Internet Safety month and Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, along with the Verizon Foundation, is pleased to provide you with these suggestions to help ensure that children develop safe and smart practices when using technology.
» Establish clear rules as to what information they should not give out, how long they can spend on the computer, who they can and cannot chat with, etc. Install security software. Keep control of screen names and passwords.
» Keep computers in a room where they can be monitored. Select kid-friendly search engines. Be familiar with what they are doing and who they are interacting with. Have open communication with your children.
» Report suspicious and inappropriate contact. Keep on learning about the latest technology. Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana offers Internet Safety workshops for parents and children. To get involved, call our KIDLINE at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373). For more information on Internet Safety, please visit www.pcal.org.
Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital Joins Fight Against Human Trafficking
(Video on site)
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. is now training its health care personnel to identify victims of sex trafficking, CNN reports.
In the training session, hospital representatives lecture on the history of sex trafficking in the area, how to recognize victims, their authority to intervene, and who they should contact.
Craig Tindall, senior vice president of Grady Health System, tells CNN that it's all about prevention. As those in the health care industry are more likely than most to treat a victim, Tindall says training is imperative.
Often times when they finish these training sessions they ask the question, "How many of you now think you've seen someone in this situation?" and hands are all in the air. So, again, it's all about awareness of the problem and what we can do to impact it.
According to Children Of The Night, Atlanta has one of the highest levels of child prostitution among U.S. cities.
Documents Uncovered by JW Detail Shocking Sex Slave Trafficking Operation in Houston, Texas, Operated by Illegal Aliens
June 20, 2011
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today it has obtained documents from the Houston Police Department detailing a shocking sex trafficking operation run by illegal aliens, including a former prostitute, Maria Rojas, who had previously been deported. The documents indicate that police officers responded to service calls to the business co-owned by Ms. Rojas on at least 60 occasions, and were well aware of the criminal activity taking place at these establishments, but apparently did not check the immigration status of any of the arrestees or Ms. Rojas. Houston, Texas, has in place an illegal alien sanctuary policy, Houston PD General Order 500-5, which prohibits police officers from inquiring about the citizenship status of any person.
On February 17, 2011, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas announced the indictment of Maria Rojas and her brother, Jose Luis Rojas, on sex trafficking conspiracy charges. They and eight co-defendants were also charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Maria Rojas, who was deported following a 1999 arrest for prostitution, was charged with illegally reentering the country after deportation.
The indictment alleges that Maria and Jose Luis Rojas ran a sex slave trafficking ring since at least August 1999. The scheme involved luring young women into the country illegally from Mexico with false promises of employment, then forcing them to work as prostitutes at La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante in Houston. Maria Rojas and Javier Guevara Belmontes (a legal resident) co-owned the locations. The remaining defendants were illegal aliens who served as managers or employees of the businesses.
Judicial Watch filed an open records request with the Houston Police Department (HPD) on March 8, 2011, seeking documents related to police contacts with the individuals named in the indictment and police activity at the locations related to the conspiracy. Documents produced to Judicial Watch from the HPD show law enforcement officers responded to service calls at the businesses co-owned by Maria Rojas on average once a month over a five-year period and to a residence co-owned by Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes on an additional eight occasions:
- Police documented 48 calls for service to La Costeñita between 2006 and 2011. Nine of these events involved vice squad investigations and/or arrests for prostitution, and during this time frame 12 individuals were arrested for prostitution. There were 17 cases of assault (including three shootings and a stabbing). There was one cocaine possession arrest (in May 2008) and one armed robbery arrest (in December 2007).
- There were 12 documented police calls for service to El Club Restaurante between 2006 and 2010. These included four burglaries, two assaults and a shooting.
- Between May 2006 and November 2010, Houston police responded to the residence of Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes eight times. On three occasions, police spoke with and documented a complaint by Jose Luis Rojas. On November 1, 2010, Jose Luis Rojas reported an armed robbery by six unknown assailants. Three weeks later, Jose Luis Rojas reported receiving a telephonic death threat.
According to the Houston Chronicle , police officers were well aware of the illegal activity taking place at the La Costeñita location:
So notorious is the bar that undercover Texas alcohol investigators long ago documented its seedy intricacies: an escape hatch, a hidden passageway leading to decrepit and gated houses of prostitution described as “horse stalls.” Federal, state and local agents learned by name and face many key characters who operated La Costenita and made repeated — but only partially successful efforts — to stop them.
Despite the repeated visits to these establishments, Maria and Jose Luis Rojas continued to operate their sex trafficking operation unfettered for approximately a decade. A simple check with ICE about Ms. Rojas, any of the arrestees or the young girls forced into prostitution, would have indicated their illegal status, and might have led to the earlier termination of the sex slave trafficking ring.
However, Houston is a de facto sanctuary city because of Houston PD General Order 500-5. The order, signed by former chief Sam Nuchia in January 1990, states in part that “officers shall not make inquiries as to the citizenship status of any person, nor will officers detain or arrest persons solely on the belief that they are in this country illegally. Officers will contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regarding a person only if that person is arrested on a separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor) and the officer knows the prisoner is an illegal alien.”
“Sanctuary policies in Houston allowed young women to be victimized by illegal alien sex traffickers. Houston and other sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law and thwart control of our borders. And they lead to the brutal crimes associated with human trafficking. So while the Obama administration goes after Arizona for furthering our nation's immigration laws, it ignores cities like Houston that think they don't have to obey laws concerning illegal immigration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Sex offenders arrested on alleged parole violations after Wilmington motel raid
June 20, 2011
Stuffed animals, teen magazines and children's underwear were found in a Wilmington motel that was home to dozens of convicted child molesters and registered sex offenders, authorities said Monday.
Eight people were taken into custody in the Friday raid for alleged parole violations, including possession of child pornography or narcotics.
Most of those arrested were middle-aged men whose previous offenses included lewd and lascivious conduct with children or other sex crimes, said Det. Patricia Batts of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Other items seized included video games, cartoon videos or DVDs, sex toys and baby magazines.
"Some of these things are used to lure young kids," said Batts, who supervises the LAPD's Harbor Division sex unit. "A baby magazine, like if you or I had a child? There's no need for them to have that except the pictures excite them."
The Harbor Inn in the 700 block of Flint Avenue is a hub for sex offenders because of its history as a state-funded waystation for newly released prisoners, Batts said.
The government no longer subsidizes offenders to live there, but a California law that restricts sex offenders from living and working near schools and parks keeps the legacy alive.
The motel is in a business district, but non-offenders also live there. Authorities had received reports of children coming in and out, although no evidence of that turned up during the raid, Batts said.
The sweep was designed in part to instill public confidence that parole officers do keep track of parolees.
Batts said once offenders are off parole, authorities can only monitor their compliance with registration requirements.
"We don't have a lot of control," she said. "We're concerned with cuts in the state budget, violations will not be taken seriously enough."
The raid was organized in response to reports that children were visiting the motel. A hand-written sign in the lobby reads: "No Kids."
One man convicted of a violent sex offense was arrested with a bag of pornography and sex paraphernalia. The children's underwear were found in the room of a convicted child molester.
Authorities also confiscated a computer and several digital media devices.
Officers from the Inglewood, Long Beach, Montebello and Los Angeles police departments, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, the L.A. County Probation Department and the Department of Children and Family Services took part in the raid.
Governor Signs Tougher Sex And Labor Trafficking Bills
Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed into law bills that substantially increase the penalties for sex and labor trafficking.
The measures show the state's “commitment to end trafficking in human beings” and “send a strong message against exploitation of human beings in any context,” Abercrombie said.
He was joined in the ceremony by Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and a number of legislative and community leaders who backed the bills.
House bill 240 makes many sex trafficking offenses class A felonies, punishable by 20-year prison sentences.
Lesser related offenses also have been increased to class B felonies which carry 10-year terms of imprisonment.
The new law also allows the Attorney General to expend witness security and protection funds for the safekeeping of prosecution witnesses in sex trafficking cases.
The law previously stressed use of such funds in organized crime and racketeering related investigations.
The labor trafficking bill, House Bill 141, was passed and enacted as a major criminal case is pending in federal court here against local farm owners accused of illegally importing and exploiting hundreds of agricultural laborers from Thailand.
Like the sex-trafficking measure, the labor bill elevates many trafficking activities to class A and B felonies.
Rape awareness aim of Sunday's SlutWalk in Seattle
SlutWalk, the social movement sparked by a Toronto policeman's comment about rape and dressing provocatively, came to Seattle on Sunday afternoon.
by Katherine Long
Seattle Times staff reporter
A feisty crowd of chanting, sign-waving, self - described "sluts" marched down Pine Street from Capitol Hill's Cal Anderson Park to Westlake Center — stopping traffic, confounding tourists and drawing an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers.
Seattle's event is part of an international series of slutwalks, which got their start earlier this year after a Toronto police officer told a group of women that to avoid being the victims of rape or abuse, they should not dress like sluts.
The suggestion that women are to blame for a rape or sexual violence because of the way they dress has inspired activists to organize walks in Toronto, Boston, Dallas and Ottawa, Ontario. On Saturday, about 200 participants marched in the Spokane SlutWalk. Seattle police estimated about 500 participated in Sunday's event.
"This is too much — we don't want to put up with it anymore," said Robin Sacks, one of the organizers of the Seattle rally, who will be a University of Washington freshman this fall. "We're against rape victims being implicitly or explicitly blamed for the assault."
The crowd was equal parts women and men, young and old.
And while plenty of participants went all-out to be provocative — fishnet stockings, corsets, Lady Gaga-esque platform boots — others were dressed in bluejeans and sweatshirts.
"This is as bold as I get," joked Judy Farbach, who wore shorts and a T-shirt. She is a founder of the group Adult Survivors of Child Abuse — Kitsap County.
Farbach said she was 6 when she was raped by a family member; she was wearing a Brownie uniform at the time. Her attacker called her a slut, implying that she could be treated as something less than human, she said.
The walk's organizers aim to turn the word "slut" from an insult into a positive word to describe a woman who enjoys sex.
"I had someone call me a slut one day, and I said, 'Yeah, I am,' and he had nothing to say," said Alison Powell, who recently returned to the U.S. after living in Africa.
She described herself as both a rape victim and a woman who enjoys sex without wanting to be bound to a long-term relationship.
Powell, wearing a lacy camisole and the word "tramp" on a sticker on her chest, said her message to men was, "You're welcome to flirt with me, just don't touch me, or you'll lose a hand."
Some of the participants brought their husbands and boyfriends. Amanda Woodard of Seattle walked with her friend Peter Donnelly; both of them wore stockings and high heels.
"As a gay man and a drag queen, it's about empowering everyone to be whoever they want to be," Donnelly said. "Dressing up for me is dressing however I want — there's no reason why it should be any different for a girl."
The marchers chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, sexual assault has got to go" and "So what, I'm a slut," as they passed the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle.
The unusual mix of people — women dressed in skin-baring outfits, men dressed as if they were practicing for next week's Gay Pride Parade and many dressed in regular street clothes — seemed to bewilder some tourists
"It's hard to figure out what this is," said Mike Shannon, who was visiting from the Tri-Cities with his friend Leslie Craven. Shannon pointed into the crowd: "There's a couple of topless ones."
"Only in Seattle," Craven said.
South Sudan minister decries child abuse
by Ngor Arol Garang
June 18, 2011
(JUBA) - Agnes Kwaje Lasuba, the minister of gender, social welfare and religious affairs of the government of South Sudan on Saturday decried all forms of child abuse, especially violence and exploitation.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune follow her remarks on the occasion marking the Day of the African Child day the minister lamented that worldwide, children experience violence, exploitation and abuse, and are engaged in exploitative conditions of work or trafficked for labour in difficult conditions.
“Children in circumstances such as these are seeing their human rights infringed in the most fundamental ways of suffering, both physically and psychologically,” she said. Lasuba added that every child needs an environment where laws, services, behaviors, and practices minimise children's vulnerability to risk as well as strengthening their own resilience.
Minister Lasuba opined that effective child protection depends to a large extent on changing the mindset of families and communities so that attitudes, beliefs and practices that harm children will no longer be tolerated.
“The most effective child protection system is re-enforced by positive social consensus. Attempts to impose change from outside often leads to resistance,” she added.
She made it clear that the government of South Sudan highly supports initiatives maximizing partnerships between national governments, civil societies, the private sector, international NGOs and bilateral and multilateral organisations in promoting child protection.
The official assured that her ministry will always encourage the development of a common approach to programs and advocacy and ensure that the best effective systems for protecting children are established for the protection of all children in South Sudan.
While noting that a related argument is that the concept of child rights is opposed to family and social units, she pointed out that the Children's Act 2008 gave parents centre-stage in their children's development.
“The legal instruments equally oblige states to respect, protect and support parents so that they are able to give their children appropriate guidance and be directors as they grow up to adulthood,” she concluded.
Giving an overview of the network, James Wani Igga Maring, Speaker of South Sudan Legislative Assembly who spoke as chief guest on Thursday, June 16, at the Day of the African Child celebrations in Juba spoke about the fate of children who had been displaced from their homes.
The leading member of the South Sudan's party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), said the increase in refugee and internally displaced children is caused by poverty, conflicts, failing states, natural and human disasters and climate change. According to him, some children move with their families, others move independently, while others are trafficked for their labour or to be sexually exploited.
The theme of this year's celebration was “All together for urgent action in favour of street children''.
The official said that the theme for this year's celebration as chosen by the African Union is a simple call for all governments, civil society, NGOs, communities and children to act decisively by putting in place strong administrative and legislative measures, working together as a community and providing the necessary support for those children who work and those who live in the streets.
He explained that the African Child Day is commemorated every year on 16th June, mainly as a remembrance to the massacre of young people in the 1976 Soweto uprising of students against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. He revealed that it is evident that in the African continent, a number of children are increasingly forced to the street as a result of poverty, abuse, torture, rape, abandonment or orphaned by wars and diseases.
“As a government under the leadership of President Comrade Salva Kiir Mayardit, we are committed to the protection of children and promotion of their welfare. You are all aware that the president has pronounced a zero tolerance to child sexual abusers especially rape and has on several occasions highlighted government's resolve to ensure children are protected and given the chance to grow,” he stated.
He finally called on South Sudanese and non-South Sudanese residing in the region to take urgent action to help of street children.
To help these children, Igga said the parliament of South Sudan has enacted a Child Act that he expects all other institutions of government to implement. He hopes all parts of government will work together to strengthen institutional cooperation between stakeholders to support rights of individual children who are in difficult situations across the region.
Programs in place to keep at-risk youngsters from falling through the cracks
by Doug Cook
The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Like many of the colleagues in her field, Barbara Wisler-Waldock, director of the Family Resource Center at Yavapai Regional Medical Center's East campus here, firmly believes that educating young parents is a primary key to combating child abuse.
For the past several years, Wisler-Waldock has helped spearhead the hospital's state-supported Healthy Families prevention program, one that provides weekly in-home visitation services from six well-trained family support specialists to high-risk parents before abuse and neglect can occur.
These YRMC specialists' services are used to build a relationship between the specialist and the family through parenting education and assessments on a baby's growth and development. In any given year, specialists visit with approximately 165 families in the county, Wisler-Waldock said.
"When people talk about child abuse, they immediately look at something that has already happened - it's after the fact," she said this past week. "And what we believe is really taking that terminology out of the equation and looking at it as giving every new parent, whether this is baby No. 1 or six or seven, an opportunity for education and materials to bring about healthier parenting and healthier families."
This Wednesday, Prescott Valley-based Prevent Child Abuse Arizona - a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing the abuse and neglect of this state's children - will receive money from a fundraiser conducted at the Pine Cone Inn in Prescott to bolster its mission, which is similar to that of the hospital's Family Resource Center. The event runs from 4-9 p.m. at 1245 White Spar Road in Prescott.
Becky Ruffner, executive director for Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, said that the inn and the Prescott Chamber of Commerce designated her charity as the recipient of the fundraiser's profits.
The nonprofit serves the entire state, although it has a number of programs in Yavapai County.
"The dollars raised will help us to reach more parents and educate them about coping with crying infants and the dangers of shaking to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome," Ruffner said. "That is an ongoing program here at Yavapai Regional Medical Center and Verde Valley Medical Center (in Cottonwood)."
Ruffner specifically praised the Healthy Families prevention program, which is nationally accredited under the state's Department of Economic Security. In many cases, the aforementioned family support specialists educate new parents from the time of their child's birth to age 5. They also hand out information to parents about other community resources.
"Getting new parents off to a good start is the best way to avoid painful and expensive problems later on," Ruffner said. "This program is 97 percent successful in preventing abuse and neglect."
However, at YRMC East's Birthing Center, the core program is called "First Steps." The program's clinical coordinator and a staff of First Steps volunteers meets and greets each new family prior to their newborn's discharge from the hospital, providing them with a bag of educational materials on parenting and a baby's first year of life.
Staff members then jot down information about the family and ask permission to maintain contact with the parents by phone, usually within the first week of their return home. Staffers subsequently make calls periodically during the baby's first month of life.
"Those calls might focus on a reminder about bringing the baby in for his or her lab work, immunizations, how the family and the baby are sleeping, eating issues, etc.," Wisler-Waldock said. "Every family can use not only educational materials, but have a point of contact if they have any questions or want to follow up on something."
Ruffner said she is often asked about how big of a concern child abuse is in Yavapai County.
"I just like to say it's a huge problem for any child who is not being protected and nurtured," she said.
In this county, Ruffner estimates that there are probably about 1,200 reports per year of abuse phoned in to Arizona's Child Protective Services (CPS) hotline. CPS subsequently investigates the reports and determines whether the allegations are true.
"They (CPS officials) may then remove the child and place the child in a foster home or with relatives," Ruffner said.
More than 300 children in this county are currently in foster care, Ruffner added, but those cases go back several years. She says more than 80 percent of all children going into foster care in this county, as well as other places, is tied to their parents' drug and/or alcohol addiction. Poverty is another growing concern, as parents can't afford food, shelter and medical care for their children in a poor economy.
Nonetheless, Ruffner says child abuse and neglect is "an equal opportunity problem" across all demographics and all cultures. Often, she added, trouble follows young parents who are unprepared for the myriad challenges and stressors of raising children.
Community support is necessary for these families to get off on the right foot, she added.
"Most children coming into foster care today are babies - children under the age of 3," Ruffner said. "About 65 percent of reports involve neglect, and that may be anything from a child home alone to wandering in the street to kids who are playing in a pool where they shouldn't be."
Yavapai County Superior Court's Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) coordinator Tracy Sauer said that as of the end of May, about 270 children were in the county's foster care system because they had been either abused or neglected.
CASA, which is found in every Arizona county, certifies, recruits, trains and oversees child advocates in Superior Court. Yavapai County currently has 90 active advocates, which includes those in Prescott and the Verde Valley.
"We go out and look for volunteers who come in to be a voice for the child in court," Sauer said. "They (advocates) go out and they look at different aspects of the child's life, like their foster placement, their relatives, their biological parents, their school needs, their personal needs, and medical and mental health needs. They look at all different kinds of things and report back to the court."
There is genuine concern for every victim of child abuse and neglect in this county, and CPS officials and CASA child advocates labor diligently to serve every youngster that enters foster care or is a candidate for adoption, Sauer added.
"A CASA volunteer signs on with the idea that they're going to follow a child's case all the way until it dismisses," Sauer said. "That could mean an adoption or reunification with the parents, if the parents are deemed as safe. Just about every advocate has seen an adoption at one point or another."
To report a suspected incident of child abuse or neglect in Arizona, call the CPS hotline at 1-888-767-2445 .
Martins: summer camps would be safer, under new measure
Bill to ensure more camp safety delivered to Gov. Cuomo
Summer's first official day is June 21, and parents who are now beginning to think about sending their children to summer camps can be assured that local leaders are working to ensure more camp safety. An amendment that was introduced by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Elmont) to require directors of overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camps to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment was delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 10.
Martins' amendment, S3777A, passed the Senate, 56-0, in April, and was passed by the Assembly on June 1, after being substituted for companion legislation, A5519 — sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright, of Suffolk County. Martins said that the legislation gives children yet another line of defense by requiring that camp directors report suspected child abuse, regardless of the location where the abuse may have occurred.
“It only makes sense that when it comes to our children's safety, we take the guess work out of required reports of suspected child abuse cases,” Martins said. “We already require so many different professionals to report, and it is clear that camp counselors in their position of supervision of our children should be added to that list of mandated reporters.”
Martins said the impetus for the amendment was “a loophole” in the state's current legislation regarding camp abuse. The New York Department of Health currently requires camp operators to report abuse or maltreatment that may occur at camp, but directors are not included as mandated reporters abuse that may be witnessed in other settings. Under the current law, he added, directors that report suspected abuse could be liable for civil liability actions, such as slander or defamation. However, by requiring camp directors to report mistreatment, S3777A helps protect directors who witness abuse, making it easier for them to come forward.
“Camp Directors are in a very unique position to see children over an extended period of time and see the signs that can help identify signs of abuse,” Martins said. “
Helen Hoffman, a Franklin Square resident and longtime children's advocate, said that she believes Martins' amendment will help ensure needed protection for children, and that the measure came at an important time, since so many camps are currently planning for the summer months. Richard “Kiki” DeBrosse, president of the Elmont Youth Soccer Club, agreed. “Giving a camp director or camp coach the mandate to report abuse is critical,” she said.
Today is the last scheduled day of New York's legislative session.
End CSEC Day brings awareness of sex trafficking of young girls - a recap
June 19, 2011
Sex Trafficking, in Brooklyn?
A little known fact to most Brooklynites is that Brooklyn is also home to many girls that have been trafficked for sex. In most cases, underage prostitutes are forced into prostitution and are therefore victims. Acknowledging these girls as victims opens the door for compassion and victim support services. GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services) is the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve these girls. They offer workshops and training to raise awareness, in addition to an annual End CSEC Day.
End CSEC Day
Participating in yesterday's ‘End CSEC Day' at Central Park were staff members from GEMS; the young girls in their survivor and leadership mentoring program; and members of AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) sorority who also provide mentoring services to the GEMS girls.
What is CSEC?
GEMS defines CSEC as sexual activity involving a child in exchange for something of value, or promise thereof, to the child or another person or persons. The child is treated as a commercial and sexual object. According to statistics cited by OCFS (New York State Office of Children and Family Services) there are 2,253 children victimized by commercial sexual exploitation every year. The 2007 OCFS report states that 85% of the children in NYC are female; 67% are Black/African American; and 20% are Hispanic/Latino.
Activities for this End CSEC Day were designed to attract the attention of passer byers on the busy corner of 59th Street and Columbus Square. There were a few trivia games challenging a participants knowledge of CSEC, as well as a questions box, where one could write any question to be answered by one of the CSEC representatives.
As part of their healing, the girls are encouraged to express themselves through art, play and poetry. The girls jumped rope, played hula hoop and danced in competition and invited the audience to join in. On display, on the ground, was a series of hand painted posters arranged in the shape of a subtle ‘S'. Each poster represented the theme “Girls Like Us”.
To a growing number of passer byers, about 10 girls read their poetry describing an aspect of their lives of sexual exploitation; one girl sang a song she wrote that ultimately brought her to tears - to which her 'sisters' responded with praise and comfort.
At the end of the girls' poetry reading, Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS, thanked them for presenting their personal writing (and singing) in front of a crowd of strangers. She also appreciated them for the ongoing support they offer each other whenever it is needed.
Ms. Lloyd went on to define GEMS, and described who is affected by CSEC. She also reminded the audience that the girls are not victims anymore. Instead, they are survivors and leaders, and currently make a difference by speaking and training the community. She asked the audience, “What are you doing to make a difference?”
To that end, pledges were made available for participants to define what they would do to make a difference.
What are you going to do to make a difference?
Overall, the event was effective for raising awareness for people in the area. What would be nice to see is an End CSEC day in neighborhoods that represent the population at risk. If you agree with me, or are interested in having awareness brought to your community, please leave a comment below, or contact GEMS directly.
Tennessee legislation eyes 'safe harbor' for young sex victims
by Beth Warren
June 20, 2011
State lawmakers from Memphis are lobbying for shelters in Tennessee's four largest cities to rescue children and teens ensnared in the sex trade.
Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, and Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, are working together in the effort to provide safe places for victims transitioning out of servitude.
"We're talking about very young people being victimized and exploited," Marrero said.
Nationally, victims as young as 5 have been identified. Police believe the average age of victims is 13.
"It's a horrible, horrible thing, a sad commentary about our society that there would be a market for that kind of victimization of young girls," Marrero said.
Police and social workers in 72 percent of the state's counties had at least one case of sex trafficking of minors last year, according to a study by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Vanderbilt Center for Community Studies.
Shelby, Davidson, Knox and Coffee counties had more than 100 cases.
Tennesseans reported spotting victims at massage parlors, on the streets and for sale online, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's website. Under a new Tennessee law, police are expected to view minors as victims, no longer charging them with prostitution and getting them off the streets and to a safe place by tossing them in lockup.
The new law requires police to return the minors to their parents or legal guardians. But in many instances, the minors don't come from stable homes.
Some mothers trade their daughters for drugs. And many of the minors ran away from abusive homes or the child welfare system, child advocates say.
Coley and Marrero say they will sponsor a "safe harbor" bill that would create shelters for victims in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.
"It's a refuge for people who are victims," Marrero said. "We would love to have some sort of nonprofit. That's our fantasy."
U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton said in an e-mail Friday that he was in favor of the safe-harbor proposal.
"Without a safe and stable place to live, many trafficking victims are at a very high risk of returning to prostitution since it's often the only life they've known," said Stanton, whose office prosecutes human-trafficking rings. "And if they go back to the streets, they could easily be revictimized either by the same trafficker or by a different pimp."
Tennessee lawmakers passed four anti-human-trafficking bills earlier this month to better protect victims and crack down on pimps and their customers. Coley and Marrero were among several of the bills' sponsors who attended the governor's bill-signing ceremony in Nashville.
"He said this was a good issue" and that he wanted to be briefed this summer about other changes that need to be made, Coley said of Haslam.
Coley plans to head to Nashville next week to begin talks with Haslam's staff about a safe-harbor bill and a proposed law to allow victims to sue their pimps at the state level.
Earlier this year, Stanton launched the Civil Rights Unit, which is currently prosecuting a Memphis trafficking case involving a dozen victims -- including four minors.
"One reason I implemented the Civil Rights Unit was to ensure that we were in the strongest possible position to help trafficking victims," Stanton said.
Federal law already allows victims to recoup money from their traffickers.
"That money cannot undo the emotional and physical abuse trafficking victims suffer, but it at least gives them the financial resources to start putting their lives back together," Stanton said.
Tennessee is one of the more progressive states in attacking the growing national problem, said Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs for the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"They're ahead of the time," she said. "They really are seeing the problem that children are being victimized by not only the pimps but also the customers."