||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.
JULY - Week 1
Your guide to area meetings and events of support groups
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA): support group, Mondays, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Wholistic Counseling Services Inc., 409 Prospect Ave. 344-4234.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To check on the availabilty of ASCA support groups in your state / area see: www.ASCAsupport.org
Time to fight child sex abuse through education, not restrictions
Abuse survivor Lauren Book wants to teach kids how to say no and speak up
July 9, 2011
Michael Mayo , Sun Sentinel Columnist
If all Florida's tough residency restrictions and anti-loitering laws targeting sex offenders had been on the books when Lauren Book was growing up, she still would have been victimized by a pedophile.
Her tormentor wasn't some stranger with candy lurking in the playground shadows, but a trusted figure in her affluent Plantation home with no known criminal history: Her nanny.
For six years, starting at age 10, Book was molested, raped and beaten by the woman whom her parents told her to obey. Walinda Flores is now serving a 25-year prison sentence.
"I didn't know I could say, 'No,' or 'Stop, it's not OK,' to an adult," said Book, 26, daughter of prominent South Florida lobbyist Ron Book.
Her story is horrific, but not unusual. In roughly 90 percent of child sex-abuse cases, Lauren Book noted, victims are assaulted by "someone they know, love or trust."
Confronting abuser releases the darkness
Half a life after rape by family friend, there's no more hiding
Two sentences set Jolene Loetscher free.
"I know what you did to me," she said to the man standing near his home's doorway. "And I will not be quiet."
With those words, lightness replaced the darkness that had held Loetscher's spirit dormant for more than half her life.
Almost two years earlier, Loetscher had attempted suicide. Power had been building in her since then. Now, on a cold January day, she returned to her hometown to confront the man who had sexually abused her.
"I lost my innocence, I lost time to be a child, but I didn't lose myself," Loetscher says, seven months later. "He could have tried to take that away from me, and for a while he did, but I found it again."
Last month, 32-year-old Loetscher publicly revealed that she was 15 when a family friend raped her repeatedly.
She was one of eight speakers at the first TEDxSiouxFalls event. It is modeled after a decades-old event in Long Beach, Calif., organizer Hugh Weber says.
South Dakotans who are doing extraordinary things or have had unusual experiences addressed the audience.
Until Loetscher's husband, Nate Burdine, approached him about Loetscher as a speaker, Weber had no idea what she had experienced.
"Since I've known her, I've always seen her as a happy person," he says. "I had no idea of the incredible turmoil happening below the surface."
If you don't know Loetscher, you might recognize her face. She was a reporter with KELO-TV from 2001 to 2005. It seemed that whenever a reporter had to stand outside on a cold winter day, it was Loetscher, fuzzy hat pulled over her ears.
She worked in Sioux City, Iowa, before joining Sanford Health's media relations department. Today, she and Burdine operate a dog-waste removal service, and she freelances her media skills.
The abuse remained secret, even from Burdine, whom she met in 2001.
But he suspected what had happened.
"I would have nightmares, and I would yell things out," Loetscher says, "so I think Nate kind of pieced it together."
Triggering the memory
She told no one until she began her MBA studies at the University of Nebraska about three years ago.
Loetscher began returning regularly to Nebraska. She had grown up in Wayne, about three hours north of Lincoln.
Turns out her adviser once lived in Wayne. They began sharing the names of people they knew.
Something in Loetscher's face or manner made the adviser pause.
"She stopped and looked at me and said, 'Did something bad happen?' " Loetscher says. "It was this weird moment, and even now she says, 'I don't know what possessed me to ask that.' But the floodgates opened, and it all came crashing down."
If anything, acknowledging the sexual abuse she'd endured as a teen made life worse. Months later, on a winter day that froze her spirit completely, she looked at her kitchen clock.
It read 5:32 on the last day of her life, Loetscher decided. She opened a big bottle of pills - aspirin or Advil, she thinks now - swallowed the contents, wrapped up in a comforter and prepared to sleep away her pain.
"I thought, I won't wake up tomorrow, but at least I won't be cold, and at least this darkness will stop following me," Loetscher said in her TEDxSiouxFalls speech.
"The tremendous thing was, the next morning, even on a February day, these beams of light came through our wooden blinds. I felt this warmth. I realized I was still here ... and I was here because I had a story left to tell."
Loetscher began seeing a counselor. She shared the story of what had happened with her mother. She prepared to tell it to the public.
But first, she wanted to confront her abuser.
With her husband by her side, she traveled to Wayne. It was Jan. 15, a day she now calls her second birthday.
The day was like none other she'd seen in Wayne, Loetscher says. The sky's white clouds perfectly matched the snow on the ground.
Before Loetscher and Burdine drove up to her abuser's house, they stopped so she could record her thoughts.
The video shows Loetscher huddled in the car seat, her face pinched and pale.
"I just want to record this so I can look back, and I can see how far I came, and I can remind myself that I have nothing to be scared of and that he holds no power over me," she says.
Forty-five seconds later, Loetscher and Burdine walked up the sidewalk to the front door.
She said the two sentences that freed her, then walked away.
Burdine, behind his wife, could hear the man's response. "OK," he said.
That was all.
No denial or apology would have changed how she felt, Loetscher says.
Those two sentences finally released a 15-year-old girl from the squalid back room where he would take off her clothes, run his hands over her body and rape her.
She was a sophomore in high school. She stood only 4-foot-9, and when she drove she needed to sit on two books to see over the steering wheel.
She was so small she wore not the satiny underwear that a teen girl desires but the cotton Hanes worn by much younger girls.
Loetscher remembers once seeing those Hanes pooled on the floor near her feet, just before she was raped.
The next day, she says, he told her he had videotaped it all.
Today, Loetscher doesn't know whether that is true. She doesn't know whether she was the only girl in Wayne he assaulted. In her gut, she suspects she wasn't.
Sharing with the world
For years, she felt no one else ever had this happen to them. Now, she knows it's not true. One in four girls will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, she says. It will happen to one in seven boys. Ninety percent will know their abuser.
And 88 percent of the cases will go unreported.
Loetscher never reported her assault. She didn't tell her father until the day she confronted her abuser.
Now, she is unafraid to tell the world.
The video of her presentation to TEDxSiouxFalls is online. In three days, more than 300 people viewed it on YouTube, and it now is on the TEDxSiouxFalls website.
Weber has seen Loetscher change in the six months since that trip to Wayne. On stage, she is confident and unafraid.
"The transition is astounding to me on a personal level," he says.
"And, there's the message she has to share and her willingness and desire to help others going through the same thing."
Since word of the video began to spread, Loetscher has received many e-mails and Facebook messages, some from others who also were sexually abused.
Sometimes, she is surprised by the person who shares the information. They're the last person, she says, that you would think it would happen to.
But the same thing can be said about Jolene Loetscher.
She doesn't want the story to end here. She intends to build a camp for child sexual-abuse survivors. It also will be a place for adults who were abused as children to come stay and for parents tormented by what happened to their child.
Her abuser cannot be charged because the statute of limitations has expired, although Nebraska does have laws that deal with repressed memories. Loetscher is talking to a lawyer about whether that applies to her.
She would like to see South Dakota law allow adults to pursue child sexual-abuse lawsuits. Without those, she says, abusers are told it's permissible to abuse the youngest of children.
It doesn't matter what happens in a court of law, however. In her video, she says she learned this after her suicide attempt:
"Closure wouldn't exist for me, but I would pray for justice, and I would find peace, and in that peace I would find a purpose."
Today, she adds, "In the end, my justice is my voice. And my justice is my story. I may never see the day he walks into a courtroom, but I've already seen the day that I've told my story."
To view Jolene Loetscher's video presentation at the TEDx conference in Sioux Falls, visit www.tedxsiouxfalls.com
To follow her personal blog, visit www.selfspiration.com
Schools pay price for keeping kids safe
Investigating hotline abuse allegations can be difficult, time-consuming and costly.
by Claudette Riley,
In the 2010-11 school year, hotline allegations of child abuse or neglect triggered 35 investigations involving 39 Springfield school staff members.
That's up from the previous year's 22 investigations involving 24 staff.
Not one was substantiated.
A News-Leader review indicates a spike in hotline calls in the school district. The review also shows that making a hotline call on a school employee -- required by law anytime there's an allegation of abuse -- triggers a process that has brought complaints by teachers and can be time-consuming, difficult and costly:
» The accused employee is typically suspended with pay during the initial investigative phase, which averages two to three days. Plus, in some cases, a teaching substitute is also hired at $82.82 a day.
» At a minimum, each inquiry triggers work by a state investigator and representatives from the district's human resources and school police departments. The employee supervisor, a union representative, attorneys and others can also be involved.
» The district does not calculate total costs connected to unsubstantiated allegations or log, as public record, the types of claims that have been made or time spent investigating them. The president of one teacher group said a recent investigation took weeks.
» Commenting on the apparent spike in hotlined cases, Ray Smith, president of the Springfield National Education Association, said the district initially overreacted to a high-profile case several years ago in which a principal was criminally accused of not hotlining a teacher, and acquitted. Allegations of abuse at that elementary triggered public scrutiny about the district response and officials have since reviewed the process.
(Smith said the teachers believe the hotline calls have spiked. Hard numbers are not available for comparison. District officials didn't start keeping a log until April 2009 but anecdotally couldn't recall any substantiated reports in the past few years either.)
» SNEA has also advocated the district show more discretion when an accusation is "blatantly false." In one case, a female student was told the accused teacher wasn't even at school when the alleged incident occurred. The student then pointed the finger at a different staff member.
In another case, students were caught trying to "get their stories straight on Facebook."
Both teacher groups support taking a tough stance against child abuse and the hotline process, but SNEA has worked to improve the internal process when there are allegations against a staff member.
The district recently made two changes in response to "feedback" from teachers. The district now provides the accused with a copy of the allegations -- absent any names except the person accused -- and changed the location of investigative meetings.
"It's going to be a difficult and unpleasant situation for everybody involved," said Parker McKenna, the district's director of human resources. "The only thing we can do is try to ensure it protects kids to the greatest extent possible."
Hotline reports against school staff, according to Smith, have ranged from the use of vulgar language and fondling a child's bottom to smacking a student's helmet too hard during football practice.
Under the state-mandated reporter law, people in certain professions -- including teachers -- are required to make a hotline call any time there is reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect.
Smith supports taking swift action to protect students but stresses there are misunderstandings and false reports.
"What can be improved is the way the call is handled," he said. "I want them to be able to talk to the adult, who just happens to be a mandated reporter as well. I don't think there's anything in the law that takes away their discretionary judgment."
The district makes time for "critical fact-finding" such as reviewing surveillance footage or checking attendance records.
"We're not trying to actually investigate to determine if it happened or not; we're just trying to determine whether or not the circumstances would have allowed the incident to occur," McKenna said.
"We're concerned about the safety of the child. We always err on the side of caution."
If a trained hotline worker flags the call for investigation, the employee is placed on administrative leave.
"That is for the protection of the employee who has been accused as well," McKenna said. "We've sort of immediately frozen the situation. The situation can't escalate, it can't get any worse and it can't snowball."
But the district now quickly provides the employee a copy of the hotline report. That's one of the recent changes.
"That's simply the allegations," McKenna said. "If there are any names, they are removed."
It's extremely rare for a classroom teacher, in Springfield or elsewhere statewide, to be accused of child abuse or neglect.
It's even rarer for the outcome to result in any action.
Missouri hotline calls identified 104,643 alleged perpetrators in 2009, the most recent year available, and 873 of those were school personnel. Of the 873, 4.1 percent or 36 were substantiated.
In Springfield, any initial report of abuse is handled the same. But when a school employee stands accused, extra layers come into play.
The human resources and school police departments play a role in the investigation. Principals, supervisors and other administrators are typically in the loop.
"It takes a lot of time on the district's part and grief and heartache on the part of teachers," said Glenda Thurlkill, president of the Missouri State Teachers Association. "As uncomfortable as it may be, we want to be respectful of the teachers during the process."
McKenna said investigators typically sit down after a couple days to review any evidence. That's often when the district decides if the employee will return to work.
"We work alongside the state investigator, gathering the same information so what they hear we also hear," he said.
The district used to schedule investigation-related meetings at the school where the accused employee worked. Now, they're at the Kraft Administrative Center.
"The old practice is to bring them back to the school," Smith said. "It just adds to the intrigue and the humiliation."
Any allegation of abuse by a teacher is serious business.
But Smith said even when the allegation is unfounded, it can take a toll on the educator as well as the entire school building.
"Initially, it's devastating emotionally, but they're resilient," he said.
Jill Patterson, chief legal counsel for the Greene County Sheriff, said entities should respond to allegations in a consistent way.
"Who might have done it has nothing to do with hotlining concerns or suspicions about children," said Patterson, who trains mandated reporters, including school employees. "I advocate that all agencies and institutions have exactly the same policy that they follow for an allegation against a colleague as they would against someone they don't know at all. They deserve the same level of investigation no matter who they're accusing and it protects the integrity of the agency and the institution."
But she concedes that it's tough when the person accused works down the hall.
"It's fair to say it's a more complicated situation both emotionally for the person making the call and also because there's probably going to be an internal policy as well," she said. "It has things that are different but it's basic function, it's basic purpose, are exactly the same."
Additional Facts - The process
Parker McKenna, director of human resources for Springfield Public Schools, outlined the process when an allegation of child abuse or neglect names a staff member as the alleged perpetrator:
» If a student makes an allegation of child abuse or neglect against a staff member, the principal or school official who receives the report makes a hotline call to the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.
» Other times, the district is notified by the division's Out-of-Home Investigative Unit that a staff member was named in a hotline report. "In this situation, the district suspends the employee (alleged perpetrator) from duty until the initial phase of the investigation is complete and details of the situation have been gathered."
The staff member is typically placed on paid administrative leave and required to leave school property.
» The district's human resources and school police departments are part of the investigative process, working alongside the state investigator.
» The district regroups to evaluate the situation and determines next steps. "Often, the employee is returned to their normal work assignment," McKenna said.
» If the situation warrants counseling of the employee's performance, or other action, that may occur at this point in the process.
» The results of the state's investigation are forwarded to the district after it is completed and processed.
School personnel call hotlines more than any other group
Teachers, other staffers made 15% of calls in 2010.
by Claudette Riley,
Missouri school officials make more child abuse and neglect hotline calls than any other group.
Of the more than 53,000 hotline calls that were serious enough to trigger investigations or other help in 2010, about 15 percent were made by principals, teachers or other school officials.
That year, 3,360 hotline calls were placed in Greene County, of which 804 were made by either a teacher or principal in the county.
Of the total county calls, 170 calls were substantiated, involving 229 children.
Rhonda Mammen, coordinator of counseling for the Springfield Public Schools, said the district takes that responsibility seriously and trains accordingly.
"The school is definitely the front line. The student feels school is a safe place and they confide in a trusted adult," she said. "Our staff is actually the one that sees the students the most. We see the red flags."
At the beginning of each school year, Mammen said the district asks its more than 3,000 employees to review mandatory reporting procedures.
New employees who have any contact with students are required to complete training for mandated reporters, those required to make a hotline call if they have "reasonable cause" to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect.
"We have, in recent years, really picked up the pace," Mammen said. "The earlier you can catch it, the more you can combat it."
Jill Patterson, chief legal counsel for the Greene County Sheriff, conducts training for school personnel. She recorded a new video that reviews state law and helps educators better combat child abuse.
"One of the reasons we spend so much of our energy on school personnel is because they're one of our greatest allies in the fight against child abuse," Patterson said. "They develop such important relationships with the children, relationships of trust. That's what it takes for children to want to share the things that are happening."
Patterson said the district casts a wide training net so any employees who interact with students are aware of the expectations and know when to take action.
"My goal is more reports are made, not less," she said.
While the district tracks the number of hotline calls made annually, it doesn't disclose that information to the public.
"SPS informally collects this information for internal use only to assist the district in identifying ways to improve the delivery of training and services to ensure we are protecting our students and staff and meeting our obligation to properly report suspected neglect and/or abuse of a child," district spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe wrote in an email to the News-Leader.
"The data we do collect may not accurately reflect the total number of hotline calls. Mandated reporters have the right to anonymity and may choose to exercise that right by not reporting to the district that they have made a hotline call."
The school board recently revised its policy governing child abuse reports, originally adopted in 1992.
Among other things, it designates a specific person -- at this time, it's Mammen -- to serve as the district liaison with the local office of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.
The district liaison oversees training, helps staff identify possible instances of child abuse and neglect, and tracks any changes in the law.
The revised policy approved in late June also requires the liaison to implement a personal safety and awareness program that includes methods for preventing sexual abuse.
Additional Facts SPS Process
If there is "reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect has occurred," Springfield Public Schools personnel have been trained to follow a specific response process.
"Reasonable cause" means that based on observations, training or reports, the individual suspects the child has been harmed or is in danger of being harmed.
Key steps of the process:
» Check to see if medical attention is necessary
» If the alleged incident took place on school property or at a school event, the school police department gets involved.
» Conduct fact-finding and review "immediately available objective evidence" such as surveillance video or attendance records to determine if it's possible the allegation could have happened.
» If yes, then a hotline call is quickly made and key district officials are notified.
» If the trained hotline worker accepts the report, the district will cooperate but doesn't interfere with the state investigation.
» If the allegation involves a staff member, that person is placed on administrative leave, which is typically paid, and he or she must leave school property. The district also conducts a simultaneous investigation.
Erie can prevent tragedies like the death of Alayja Coleman
by BRUCE CLASH and CATHLEEN PALM
Preventing child abuse and protecting children is a shared community responsibility -- each of us has a part to play.
The tragic life and death of 14-month-old Alayja Coleman shocks the conscience and breaks the heart. Her vulnerability in life and death naturally triggers frustration and outrage.
State law ensures that Alayja's death will trigger a comprehensive child fatality review examining the systems (e.g., early intervention, health care, child welfare, public assistance, etc.) that may have intersected in her life, to determine the services delivered and where and how information between systems was shared.
This child fatality review also helps a community understand whether family or community members had concerns about her well-being and whether such concerns were reported to authorities or not. Finally, and most importantly, it permits the opportunity to put in place any needed cross-systems communication, education, or services intended to decrease the vulnerability of children.
Beyond this review, the Erie Times News rightfully used it editorial page to invite scrutiny, but also to refocus the community's attention and energy toward prevention, asking what can be done now "to save our children."
Changing the story for Erie's children requires, in part, advancement of public policies and investments that provide opportunities for every child to be healthy; to be safe; and to live within stable homes among persons prepared for and supported in the toughest job -- parenting.
A proven tool to improve maternal and child outcomes and strengthen the confidence and competence of parents is voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services. There are a number of effective evidence-based programs in Erie, including Nurse-Family Partnership (through the Erie County Health Department), as well as Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers (through the Erie Center for Family Development). These proven programs serve different at-risk populations based on the number and age of children in the family, household income and/or other variables.
The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), for instance, utilizes registered nurses to help improve the lives of first-time, low-income mothers and children.
Additionally, NFP services promoting positive health and well-being outcomes can actually save tax dollars. For example, a 2011 Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation report determined that Pennsylvania state and local governments can save up to $3,364 per enrolled family by the child's fifth birthday (not including federal government savings, or later cost savings from parameters such as criminal justice costs).
Dramatic fiscal challenges facing the state forced tough budget choices that will directly impact vulnerable children and families, there was at least one bright spot in the state budget.
Gov. Tom Corbett and bipartisan legislative leaders retained investment in cost-effective programs such as NFP and Parents as Teachers. They recognized that even in tight budget times, it is wise to invest in evidence-based home visiting programs for some of our most vulnerable and youngest children because of the solid return on investment.
That singular state budget choice was especially prudent because Pennsylvania, long known as a leader in its approach to early childhood care and education, is now strategically positioned to compete for and, we hope, receive a share of federal dollars for prevention through evidence-based home visits.
Recently Erie County was one of five successful applicants in the commonwealth to be awarded funding from the initial round of federal funding. The challenging news is that Erie will receive the funds, in part, because of the dramatic number of children and families in need -- a consequence partly resulting from an extraordinarily high poverty rate. The good news is that these funds and the proven services they will buy ensure additional children and families at the highest risk will be connected to services that were not possible just a few months ago.
So in response to the question posed by the Erie Times-News Editorial Board: the Protect Our Children Committee would urge everyone to speak up for children and to work together to ensure that policymakers continue to prioritize prevention and invest scare public dollars in evidence-based programs that reduce adverse childhood experiences and can provide a significant return on investment.
It is what we owe to every Pennsylvania child, and it's one small but positive step we can take in the wake of the senseless death of Alayja.
BRUCE CLASH is the state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a bipartisan, nonprofit, anti-crime organization of more than 200 Pennsylvania police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys.
CATHLEEN PALM is cofounder of the Protect Our Children Committee, Pennsylvania's statewide coalition dedicated to preventing child abuse and achieving targeted child welfare reforms.
Naples lawyer, father accused of zip tying up daughter gets custody of younger girl
by JACOB CARPENTER
July 8, 2011
NAPLES — For more than a year, Collier County courts have wrestled with a case that raises unique questions about custody and corporal punishment.
With two parents locked in a bitter back-and-forth, the family court has had to decide who can better care for a 12-year-old:
A father and local lawyer who has admitted to tying up another daughter, then-15, with zip ties and threatening her with a shock-producing device?
Or a mother who has been uncooperative in court proceedings and could be trying to turn her children against their father?
Last month, Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie sided with the father, Jon Parrish, agreeing with two impartial third-party experts. The mother, Julie Price, was offered supervised visits but declined.
The ruling has frustrated Price. She argues Parrish shouldn't receive custody as he faces felony child abuse and false imprisonment charges for tying up their older daughter.
“I don't see how anybody can say that isn't against the law,” Price said in an interview.
Parrish, whose family court attorney declined comment for this story on his client's behalf, has responded by challenging in criminal court whether Parrish even committed a crime.
“I have the duty and responsibility to discipline my child,” Parrish said in court last July.
Parrish, unlike Price, has cooperated with the family court's requests. He also argued Price is trying to turn the couple's two children against him, an accusation backed by an impartial court-appointed counselor. And in recent court filings, he has begun the process of reconnecting with his now-17-year-old daughter — the girl he's accused of tying up.
It's a situation that examines how courts determine custody between imperfect parents, and the limits of corporal punishment.
Tied and threatened
A few details are contested, but the general facts of what happened in Jon Parrish's Naples-area house on May 22, 2010, are undisputed.
Frustrated with his then-15-year-old daughter's behavior, Parrish used zip ties to bind the girl's hands and ankles. He then laid her down on her bed for more than an hour, holding a device capable of producing a shock as they spoke.
Parrish has admitted to these details in court.
Accounts vary about whether Parrish then left his daughter tied up in her room, ranging from an hour to three hours.
One month after Parrish tied his daughter, Price filed to receive custody of the then- 15-year-old and their other daughter, then 11 years old. Parrish argued in court that his actions weren't criminal. Parrish has argued the state can't intervene because the child wasn't physically harmed.
A Florida Department of Children and Families investigation resulted in findings of child abuse, but DCF rulings aren't binding in court.
Erin Gillespie, a DCF spokeswoman, said there's a fine line between legal corporal punishment and child abuse.
“If you're leaving marks on a child for a couple hours after the fact, you're at least getting down the line to abuse,” Gillespie said.
In an interview, Price, whose maiden name is Satterfield, said the couple's oldest daughter “had abrasions, but I think the emotional scars are there much longer.”
Price was granted temporary custody in June 2010 and Parrish wasn't allowed to see the couple's two daughters.
In September, after a four-month investigation, Parrish was charged by the State Attorney's Office with felony counts of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment. Both sides continue to gather evidence, said Michelle Hill, Parrish's attorney in the criminal case.
Change of custody
By December, Parrish was granted supervised visits with the couple's youngest daughter.
In March, after observing three visits with Parrish and the youngest daughter, therapeutic counselor Robert Crawford testified in court that Parrish was stiff but sincere while interacting with the child.
“Here's the bottom line — I don't think Mr. Parrish is a threat to (the couple's youngest) daughter in terms of spending time with her,” Crawford said in court.
Crawford also said Price has a higher-conflict personality, which negatively influenced the couple's children. He added the back-and-forth between parents was harmful and suggested in March that Parrish receive temporary custody.
Judge Brodie required more supervised visits before deciding on a custody change. She also scolded Price in March for sharing information about the case with the children.
After eight more supervised visits over three months, raising his total supervised hours to 23, Crawford reiterated his suggestion that Parrish receive temporary custody.
Holly Chernoff, a guardian ad litem appointed to make impartial recommendations on the child's behalf, agreed with Crawford's suggestion.
During those three months, Price became uncooperative, Brodie stated in a ruling. Price didn't follow through with allowing visits between Parrish and the couple's youngest daughter, and she unilaterally canceled court-ordered appointments.
It left Brodie with a decision: Should the couple's now- 12-year-old live with a father still facing abuse charges, or go against two impartial experts and award temporary custody to the mother.
For deciding custody or a primary residence in such cases, Florida law outlines 13 factors for a judge to consider. Among those pertinent to this case: Which parent will encourage contact and a relationship between the child and another parent, evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, and the need to maintain continuity in a single household.
On June 17, Brodie awarded temporary custody to Parrish.
Five days later, Price wrote that the offer of supervised visits for her daughter was an unacceptable arrangement that could end “any sort of normal relationship with her mother.”
Price has questioned whether Crawford was impartial in his assessment, contending that because Parrish paid for Crawford's services, his findings could have favored Parrish.
Nicole Goetz, a Naples-based family law attorney, said concerns about impartiality from supervisors and guardian ad litems “typically doesn't really come into play.”
“The concept is hopefully they're impartial, especially if that's how they make their living,” Goetz said.
Crawford has been a licensed mental health counselor in Florida since 2002, while Chernoff, a family law mediator, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1983.
Price also denied sharing information about the case with the couple's children, saying they learned about it from friends and media reports.
Fort Myers-based family law attorney Luis Insignares said parents telling children about family court proceedings is “something the courts look at quite carefully,” adding that “it is difficult to prove.”
As for Price's primary contention — that a father facing child abuse charges shouldn't be allowed custody — Insignares said it's a difficult balance for the courts.
“The fact that DCF says something happened doesn't mean the family court has to follow that blindly,” Insignares said. “It's a strong indication, but it's not something that automatically should take place.”
Childhood sexual abuse victims: There's help
July 8, 2011
I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
My story is not unique, and what happened to me has happens to millions of boys across this country and worldwide. In fact, one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach the age of 18.
From the age of 11 to 14, I was sexually abused by a man in my neighborhood. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and I thought I was all alone. I never spoke of the abuse to anyone.
I promised my abuser I would never tell, and for more than 30 years I kept my promise. I buried that secret deep down in my soul, not realizing the effects it would have on me personally as I entered adulthood.
It was not until I appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” (in an episode titled “Two Hundred Men Who Were Sexually Abused,” which aired Nov. 5 and 12) that I was finally able to talk to other survivors about my abuse. I was finally able to release so many years of pain and guilt.
When I returned from Chicago, I wanted to join a “male survivor support group” and I contacted RCASA. RCASA is now in the process of establishing such a group. They also offered me one-on-one counseling, and I must admit it was the best decision I have ever made.
I know I'm not alone in this journey. I know there are more men like me in the Fredericksburg area who are carrying around the same secret I had held onto for years.
I encourage all men who have been sexually abused as a child to contact RCASA at 540/371-6771. We can all heal together.
ChildSafe finding ways to care for victims of child sexual abuse
by Chandler Shortlidge
Sexual abuse of children is never an easy topic of conversation.
But for the past 25 years, a Fort Collins group has been devoted to the care and well-being of these victims
ChildSafe, 1148 E. Elizabeth St., was founded in 1986 by Valerie Macri-Lind, Kandy Moore and Mike Kehl with the mission of repairing the damage done to child sexual abuse victims and their families.
"Our aim is to help them process this trauma, and each child does this in a different way, so we try and work on an individual basis," Macri-Lind said.
Today, ChildSafe has a staff of nine full- and part-time therapists, as well as two master's level interns, and in 2010 served 502 clients, including children, non-offending family members, and adults molested as children.
Aside from being the first and only group-therapy based treatment in Northern Colorado, the nonprofit organization also takes a holistic approach to therapy.
After noticing a general lack of knowledge on healthy eating in clients, members of ChildSafe decided to include nutrition and physical activity into the healing process.
"One of our therapists asked a teen if she had any dinner, and she said 'Yes, I had a piece of beef jerky, a Twinkie and a Mountain Dew,'" Executive Director Jane Bradley said.
Sometimes, the stress of these traumatic events also cause unsafe changes in eating habits, such as anorexia and bulimia, Bradley said.
So in 2009, they invited CSU Food Science interns to develop healthy menus that use uncomplicated and inexpensive ingredients, so after a long day at work, parents would be less likely to fall back on fast food, Bradley said.
They also teamed up with Educo Leadership Ad-ventures to get children and parents outside and active.
"It's difficult for an unhealthy child to learn well at school or therapy. By helping our little clients to have better nutrition and regular physical activity, they'll heal faster emotionally," Bradley said.
Last year, five ChildSafe groups headed up to Red Feather Lakes with counselors to participate in outdoor retreats.
"One of the teens said it was the best experience she had ever had," Bradley said.
They have even brought in CSU music therapy interns this year to try to help children and teens think and feel about their emotions in a new way.
"The intern will ask them to use an instrument, like a drum, to help them express what does happy, or mad, or scared sound like," co-founder Macri-Lind said. Teens will also use lyrics they identify with to help them describe their feelings, as well as write their own, Macri-Lind said.
"I think it was very helpful," she said.
Even though ChildSafe offers a variety of treatments, it's still able to cater to low-income families by using a sliding pay scale.
"The sliding scale goes down to zero, and we have never turned anyone down, and hopefully never will," Bradley said.
ChildSafe relies on donations from the community, as well as grants and victim compensation funds.
"We are always in need of volunteers," Bradley said.
Additional Facts .. INTERESTED?
For more information about ChildSafe and details about how to donate or volunteer, visit www.ChildsafeColorado.org.
3 conferences on child abuse and neglect set for this month in W.Va.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
July 09, 2011
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Three conferences that will focus on child abuse and neglect are set for this month in West Virginia.
The conferences will be held next Thursday and Friday at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, July 18 and 19 at the Bridgeport Conference Center, and July 21 and 22 at the Chief Logan Conference Center in Logan.
More than 680 participants are registered, among them judges, attorneys, social workers, nurses and foster parents. Registration is required due to limited capacity at each location.
The seminars are sponsored by the state Supreme Court and its court improvement program board, and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The theme of this year's conference is planning for timely permanent placements of children.
People upset with Casey Anthony trial can help fight child abuse
by Mary Avila
Across the country many are furious with the Casey Anthony verdict and believe justice wasn't served for her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
“People who are angry and upset need to pick up the phone and call casa or call the children's advocacy centers,” said Alicia Gracia the Executive Director at CASA. “And say how can I help these children now."
CASA is a group of special advocates who volunteer their time to children in cases of abuse or neglect.
Gracia told Action 4 News she sees similar cases like little Caylee's come through her office almost daily in Cameron and Willacy counties.
The director hopes this national story can help shed light on crimes against children going on across the country including here at home.
Just this year Gracia said they've seen over 5000 confirmed cases of child abuse.
“Its horrifying to hear an 8 year old little boy who is being raped by mother's boyfriend to find his mother walked in on them only to say don't be changing rooms if you all are going to be doing that,” said Gracia. “Can you imagine what he felt to look into her eyes and hear her say that."
At Casa they see at least 100 victims of abuse or neglect come through their doors monthly.
Sadly Gracia told us their biggest obstacle is sometimes the parents who just don't seem to care.
“Instead of being asked how are my children...I'll get asked when do I get the food stamps back?"
It's for those young voices who cant defend themselves that Gracia said its crucial others don't stand by and let the abuse continue.
She advised folks to not get intimidated by the courts and by the justice system.
“Work to ensure these children have a chance."
To report child abuse please call 1-800-252-5400.
If you would like to become a CASA advocate its simple, you must be at least 21 years old, take a 30 hour training class, and 3 hours of court observation.
If you're interested please call (956) 546-6545.
Risk Factor Clusters Predict Repeat Child Abuse
by Megan Brooks
July 8, 2011 — Certain risk factors and clusters of risk factors may help predict an abused child's risk for further abuse by his or her caregiver if the child stays in the home, according to research published online July 4 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine .
These include a substantiated index report of abuse, younger age of the caregiver, and younger age of the child.
"These findings might be useful to child protective services (CPS) in identifying at-risk children and making evidence-based decisions regarding child placement, families' service needs, and the duration and intensity of monitoring that families require," Suzanne R. Dakil, MD, and colleagues from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center, Dallas, note in their article.
The findings might also prove useful to policymakers in targeting limited resources to high-risk families.
Using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, the researchers identified 2578 children who remained in the home after a report of abuse to CPS. During the 5 years the children were followed, repeat reports of abuse were filed on 1139 children (44%).
Comparing children with and without repeat reports of abuse, the researchers found significantly more repeat reports for children between 3 and 10 years old and for children with behavior problems and developmental disabilities.
Caregivers who were younger, had an abuse history themselves or a child welfare history, and had health and emotional limitations to work were more likely to have repeat reports of abuse. Repeat reports were also more likely when the family annual income was less than $20,000.
Families with active domestic violence were less likely to have repeat reports, probably because children in those households are more likely to be removed so that they can be supervised more closely, the researchers say.
Recursive Partitioning Analysis
Dr. Dakil and colleagues used a statistical technique called recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) to integrate multiple factors into final risk clusters most significantly associated with re-reports of abuse.
Among the 1139 children with repeat reports of abuse, 45% were substantiated cases of reabuse.
The incidence of repeat abuse was highest in 2 risk clusters:
- The first high-risk cluster consisted of a substantiated index report, the caregiver's not attending a parenting class, caregiver age younger than 41.5 years, and being of non-African American race/ethnicity (repeat abuse incidence, 54%).
- The second risk cluster had a substantiated index report, the caregiver's attending a parenting class, and child age younger than 8.5 years (repeat abuse incidence, 60%).
The researchers say the observation that parenting classes were associated with increased repeat abuse risk, especially in families with younger children, hints that parenting classes "may not be sufficient in length or intensity for some higher-risk families."
The incidence of repeat abuse was lowest (26%) for the risk cluster that had a substantiated index report, a caregiver attending no parenting class, caregiver age older than 41.5 years, and being of non-African American race/ethnicity.
The researchers also found a high incidence (56%) of repeat reports of abuse among children with an unsubstantiated index report. This, they say, highlights an "urgent need to prevent rereports among families that might not be eligible for CPS services."
Because federal and state legislation promote family preservation for abused children, "identifying children at risk is important for persons who make crucial decisions regarding child placement," Dr. Dakil and colleagues note in their report. "For children to safely remain in the home, an understanding of which children are at highest and lowest risk of reabuse is essential," they say.
"Segmenting populations into risk subgroups based on clusters of key characteristics may more directly inform case management by highlighting the special needs of high-risk subgroups, as opposed to the average need of all high-risk families," they add.
Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard: Kidnap Victims Have a Voice
July 8, 2011
Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, both held hostage and sexually assaulted in two of the nation's most famous missing children's cases, are becoming victims advocates by taking their stories to the media in the next few days.
Smart, who at 14 years old was kidnapped and held captive by homeless “street pastor” Brian Mitchell, has taken a job as an ABC news contributor. Her first broadcast assignment will be within the next two weeks, according to ABC. She will not be appearing on the 2-hour special the network is doing on Dugard.
ABC News' Diane Sawyer's interview with Dugard airs this Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST. It will be Dugard's first interview about her 18-year ordeal as a hostage to Nancy and Phillip Garrido. She was kidnapped while walking to school at the age of 11. Dugard was repeatedly raped during the 18 years, and gave birth to two daughters, now ages 13 and 17.
Smart and Dugard are putting a face on the growing problem of child abduction at a time when nearly 2,200 children are reported missing each day, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Tragically, children are abused not just in missing persons cases, but overall 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported.
In a preview of Sunday's show, Sawyer told Good Morning America that Dugard has come away from her time in captivity with what appears to be a healthy outlook.
“She looks with unflinching clarity at what was done to her. The handcuffs, the sexual abuse – she talks about it, she tells about it,” Sawyer said about the interview. "But at the end of the day she says, ‘He's not going to own me. I will stare it down and I will not be afraid.'”
Dugard's memoir, A Stolen Life , is planned for release on July 12. This week's People magazine features excerpts and photos from the book.
“Now I can walk in the room and see my mom,” Dugard told Sawyer, according to ABC. “Wow. I can decide to jump in the car and go to the beach with the girls.”
Smart, 23, is currently a music student at Brigham Young University. ABC said it will honor her educational commitment while using her as a contributor, available in all areas of the company's news division.
"She'll help our viewers better understand missing person stories from someone with the perspective to know what a family experiences when a loved one goes missing," said ABC spokeswoman Julie Townshend.
Smart is not new to the media spotlight. She and her family appeared on Dateline NBC and was interviewed by Katie Couric as well as The Oprah Winfrey Show. In addition to a book written about her experience, CBS produced a TV movie, “The Elizabeth Smart Story.”
Christian Post Reporter
Jaycee Dugard Interview: She's Formed JAYC Foundation to Help Families of Abduction
by JESSICA HOPPER
July 8, 2011
Jaycee Dugard wears around her neck the small symbol of a pinecone. The prickly, sticky object was the last piece of freedom she grasped when Phillip and Nancy Garrido kidnapped her.
"Back then [the pinecone] was the last thing I touched...Now, it's a symbol of hope and new beginnings. And that...there is life after something tragic," Dugard told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview.
Part of her new beginning involves the creation of the JAYC Foundation which stands for Just Ask Yourself to Care. Dugard wants to help other families like hers, families impacted by abduction.
The foundation will use animal-assisted therapy, along with other support services to treat families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences. Dugard will also use the foundation to help facilitate awareness in schools about the important need to care for one another.
Since she and her daughters were freed from the Garridos in 2009, Dugard has spent the last two years healing, learning to speak up for herself and enjoying firsts: like getting her driver's license, taking her daughters to school, simply having family dinners around a table. With the help of family unification therapist Rebecca Bailey and the Transitioning Families team, Dugard and her daughters have worked hard to free themselves from years of manipulation. The therapy includes a unique horse therapy. Just as important as her healing process, is the healing of her family too—her mother who held hope for 18 years that she'd see Dugard again, her sister who was just a baby when she was abducted.
Portions of the proceeds from Dugard's memoir, A Stolen Life, will go to the JAYC Foundation. The foundation is also selling necklaces with the same pinecone charm that means so much to Dugard. A share of the proceeds from the necklace sales will also go to the foundation. You can purchase a necklace or make a donation to the foundation by going to the its web site.
Child Sex Trafficking Continues Despite Craigslist Shutdown
July 8, 2011
Despite a much publicized forced shutdown of the Craigslist adult advertisement section last year, child sex trafficking continues to be a serious problem. Since Craigslist disabled its adult section, several other sites have popped up to capitalize on the market. So what's being done about it?
Tracking Internet sex predators is a tough job. But Wichita's Exploited and Missing Children's Unit does their best every day to keep tabs on what is going on in the world of online sex ads that target children.
In Kansas, local law enforcement tells us there continues to be a growing demand in internet child sex trafficking. This despite a government crackdown on the most widely known meeting place - Craigslist.
"It just displaced it. It moved it around," explained EMCU Internet Crimes Against Children Sergeant Chet Pinkston. "We do believe that the continued efforts of combating it have been affective, but by no stretch of the means are we going to say that we eradicated it."
Police officers like Sergeant Pinkston often see the seedy activities that go on in the darkness of the night. But in today's Internet age, kids have such easy access to anything at their fingertips. Internet sites that disguise themselves as escort services take advantage of that.
"The majority of the escort ads are not escort ads," said Pinkston. "It's simply disguised under that term escort and they're masking prostitution activity."
A number of websites have popped up since Craigslist adult services shut down. But even on Craigslist, it's still there if you know where to clock. Obviously, parents are encouraged to do everything in their power to monitor their children's every move.
"Most parents are trying to do the best that they can and that's obviously what we would encourage them to do," Pinkston said. "Monitor your child's activity. Monitor the sites that they go to. Monitor the amount of time they spend on a computer."
Pinkston also urges parents never to let their child have his/her own computer in the privacy of their own bedroom.
Kids can often be lured into the online sex trade by modeling ads they responded to with their parents permission. That's just one reason why it can be so difficult to track your kids activities.
"But as a responsible parent, you still have to try," said Pinkston. "I can't imagine the number of times my parents lost sight of me in the evening when I'd take off and go across to play kickball, but when dad started driving by in the truck, I knew I was in trouble."
The Exploited and Missing Children's Unit is constantly monitoring questionable websites and if they see anything suspicious, they'll try to engage an ad. Often, that leads to captures, but Pinkston admits that it sometimes seems like a never ending battle.
Sex Slavery Recovery Shelters To Be Set Up In St. Louis
July 8, 2011
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com)
Online sex trafficking is happening right now in St. Louis, MO. Kids who want out of sex slavery have to travel hundreds of miles for help. Now, two groups are now trying to set up life-saving shelters in St. Louis.
St. Louis resident Pat Bradley rescues child sex slaves for his group International Crisis Aid. Bradley's international group is working to build a shelter for recovering child sex slaves in St. Louis. Another group called "The Covering House" is working on a shelter in Southern Illinois.
The sisters of St. Joseph will hold an event to fight human trafficking on Tuesday July 12th at 11:30 at the Millennium hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Public wanted a guilty verdict without the proof
by REKHA BASU
On any given day in America, an estimated 2,300 children are missing. They are abducted by strangers or family members, thrown out by parents who don't want them, fleeing problems at home, including physical or sexual abuse or following drug or alcohol addictions. Most of them don't make the news.
But for the last seven weeks, the nation has been transfixed watching prosecutors and defense attorneys offer disparate but incomplete theories of how a 2-year-old girl turned up dead six months after she disappeared - and why her mother lied about it. And on Tuesday, when the enigmatic 25-year-old Casey Anthony was acquitted of murder, a collective howl of indignation reverberated across the nation.
Why Anthony was not found guilty isn't all that complicated. The prosecution couldn't define a motive, conjure up a murder weapon, witnesses or physical evidence linking her to Caylee's remains. Why we all became so obsessed with the case, and so invested in a different outcome may be the more interesting question. Many were willing to toss out the "beyond a reasonable doubt" clause and make that bratty, self-pitying party girl pay with her life. From death threats on Anthony's parents to a Clearwater, Fla. restaurant sign barring jurors from eating there, everyone thought we knew better.
Yes, the verdict was frustrating, but maybe because we were looking to jurors to provide what neither the prosecution nor the defense could: clarity about what happened to Caylee. That, of course, was not their jobs if the proof wasn't there. Anthony's compulsive lying about Caylee's whereabouts, the "hot body" contest she took part in a week after Caylee vanished and the stench of death in her car did not by themselves prove murder.
So why was the public so willing to suspend the rules of evidence without even hearing any that indicated Anthony was an abusive mother? In part because they hate her: She's a liar. She didn't act the way a grieving mother should. She was foul-mouthed, narcissistic and rude to her parents. She became like the loathsome character in a reality TV show whom everyone wants to see voted off the island. It got personal.
The TV networks shamelessly exploited the story to make it that way, fixating on footage of risque dance moves and pumping up the pretty-white-girl-gone-bad angle. On-air commentators often had little to offer but conjecture.
"Was there any sexual abuse going on in the Anthony home? Vinnie Politan is filling in for Dr. Drew this week," teased a show promo - as if either of them would know. And later, with no hint of irony, anchors acted shocked by the intensity of public reaction - but used it to hype yet another special.
The system worked. Other than one juror who reportedly hired a public relations agent and was seeking pay for interviews, the jurors have acted responsibly. "We wanted to do it with integrity and not contribute to the sensationalism of the trial," said juror Jennifer Ford on Nightline.
The verdict sends several important messages. One is that the protections our justice system offers the innocent can occasionally let some people who are presumed guilty go unpunished, but it's better that way than the opposite. The other is that no one can afford to get it wrong when there's a death penalty. As Ford said on Nightline, "If they want me to take someone's life, they have to prove it - or else I'm a murderer too."
If the jurors did err on the side of letting Anthony go because of that, it's yet another reason governments shouldn't be in the death business. Judging from public reaction, many people, had they been on that jury, would have risked sacrificing an innocent life because they disapproved of her behavior.
So what do we do with all the energy and outrage we developed on Caylee's behalf? Maybe we should put it toward looking out for the countless other children still alive who are homeless, in poverty, abused or neglected and need our help.
A community is in shock after two tragic child abuse cases
by Kevin Usealman
FLINT AREA -- The Mid-Michigan community is in shock as one toddler is dead and another is fighting to survive in two unrelated cases of what appear to be fathers abusing their children.
Neighbors say they could hear a little boy's cries and screams coming from a town house in Flint on July 3 rd . They tell NBC25 that they'd heard possible signs of abuse before. "I saw the child, several times he looked scared for his life,” a neighbor named Angela told NBC25 Thursday. This time, though, Angela said she couldn't just stand by. “The baby was crying for help and she was beating him or throwing him down the steps or whatever,” Angela described. So, she called 911 - an act that may have saved this child's life.
Police arrived at the scene, and soon realized that the 2-year-old boy had been beaten, and had wounds from what appeared to be from a baseball bat. The child's father, 37-year-old Michael Wilkinson, has now been charged with First Degree Child Abuse and faces 15 year behind bars if found guilty. Flint Police are looking for Wilkerson's girlfriend, 25-year-old Gwendolyn Lorraine Thomas, who also faces First Degree Child Abuse charges in the case.
Friends and family of this little boy are now accepting donations at the River Park Townhouses Community Center.
Sadly, another child's similar story didn't end with a rescue.
On the same day, July 3 rd , police were called to a home on Donal Drive in Flint Township for reports of a little 2-year-old girl not breathing.
When they arrived, they found little Tiarra Woodward, with what appeared to be human bite marks and signs of beatings all over her body. They rushed her to Hurley Hospital, but it was too late. She passed away.
Now, Tiarra's dad, 21-year-old Donovan Lamar Haynes, has been charged in connection to her death. If found guilty, he faces life in prison without parole.
Law enforcement officials around Mid-Michigan all have the same reverberating theme: you can help prevent cases like this. Fortunately, Angela stepped up and called 911 before it was too late. Perhaps if someone had reported Tiarra's abuse, she too could have been rescued.
If you believe a child is being abused, you can call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD , or you can contact your local police.
Fired-Up Neighbors Surround Sex Assault Suspect's Home
Police: Man Fondled 12-year-old Girl, Tried To Drag Her Into His Apartment
by Lance Hernandez , 7NEWS Reporter
June 30, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Residents enraged by the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl, surrounded the suspect's home and kept him from fleeing before police arrived.
"What a spectacular thing for these neighbors to do," said Sgt. Darrin Abbink, of the Colorado Springs Police Department. "It takes community involvement to solve crime."
Abbink told 7NEWS that the victim was walking down a hallway of her apartment building at 1060 S. Chelton Road when a neighbor grabbed her and started fondling her.
"He picked her up and tried to drag her into his apartment," Abbink said. "A neighbor saw him and started yelling at him."
Abbink said the suspect, Guylyn Patrick, 37, dropped the victim, got a hammer and started threatening the witness.
"The victim's sister and all of them came to my balcony crying," said neighbor Chris Prince. "When I opened my door, she jumped into my arms and was upset, shaking and scared."
Prince said he contacted several other residents who then surrounded Patrick's apartment and kept him from fleeing before police arrived.
"You do not do that," he said. "You do not threaten someone like that. You do not grab a child or any female."
The victim's mom told 7NEWS she was upset about the attack on her daughter but grateful that neighbors stepped in to stop the assault.
"I'm happy they cared about her," the mother said through an interpreter.
Abbink said that without the neighbors' involvement, the attack could have been worse.
"We need for the public to be involved to help us fight crime," he said. "Six-hundred officers in a city of more than 400,000 people can't do it all themselves. We need people to jot down license plate numbers. We need them to intercede when they see something they know is wrong."
"I thought it was actually pretty cool that all the neighbors came together," said Hannah Wilkerson, a friend of the victim. "Usually none of us talk to each other. None of the neighbors socialize, but since somebody got hurt and it was a child, everybody came together, and I think it was tight."
Abbink said Patrick is facing possible charges of kidnapping, sexual assault on a child and menacing.
7NEWS checked and found that Patrick has a 12-year criminal history in Colorado.
It includes two prior arrests on charges of child abuse along with arrests on charges of assault, menacing with a weapon harassment and resisting arrest.
Letter To The Editor
60s Scoop era youth victims as well
July 7, 2011
To the Editor:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a public apology to the residential school survivors who lived there when it closed.
In his apology he basically caught the churches involved who also contributed money for the abuse residential school children experienced.
We must keep in mind many children died in residential school and some lay in unmarked graves and their death records are not recorded properly.
This apology in my opinion did not have much truth to it because residential school in my opinion did not close.
For something to close it would mean they waited for the last child affected to grow up there. This is not what happened. Residential school children and residential school policies were transferred to the Children's Aid Society. I lived this time period and knew kids who were in residential school and were transferred to the CAS. If these children were in residential school for one day and then were transferred to the CAS and spent five years there, they are entitled to the compensation under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for all the years including time spent under CAS care. This compensation closed the door for the survivors of residential school only.
Residential schools also had non-Native children who lived there. The reason these children were there was because they lived in outlying farm communities where rural schools only went so far. Their parents paid the residential school for their children to live their to further their education.
When these children completed their education they came out to the community with it, where they became social workers, nurses and teachers.
Some of these people became foster parents. I lived with two such people. Of course, these foster parents treated us just as they were taught at residential school. I remember the treatment I received and it is confirmed in my CAS records.
At one time all who lived this experience in the 1960s identified ourselves as the 60s Scoop. However with the buyout under Truth and Reconciliation there is a division among us placed there by the churches involved and the government. Our CAS records that did not begin in residential school were not included in Truth and Reconciliation therefore, we must call ourselves second generation residential school, private institution Children's Aid Society, 60s Scoop.
The transfer of policies and kids are hidden in the words of Truth and Reconciliation and ideas that every one received money. This is not true.
I have spoken to ministers, the front line workers of churches and found they did not know of the Truth and Reconciliation buyout that their church paid out. For this reason I see no reconciliation in it. The money came from the top and some congregations and ministers do not know the truth under Truth and Reconciliation.
Now that our era has to be defined as 60s Scoop, second generation residential school, private institution Children's Aid, we must look also at the third and fourth generations.
When children grow up in a private institution such as the CAS and are abused, it is difficult for them to function in a normal family once they are married and have children. Many lose their children to the system and another generation begins there.
Today children in the system are being diagnosed with attention-issues and hyperactivity and are being medicated by doctors. These kids themselves call the medication “cocktails” because their drugs are increased and changed through time.
Some of these children are so affected by this medication when they are too old for CAS they then are transferred to half way houses where they are being supposedly taught to manage their money and are supposed to learn the skills to function in society.
These children do not have a choice in these addictions. It is forced upon them by system. The horror in this cannot be overlooked.
These children are our future generations and we need them to have healthy minds so they can function normally in society.
In our day we were not medicated in this way. Our generation of 60s Scoop received diagnoses as adults and many of us are diagnosed with some form of mental illness.
To my knowledge many organizations were involved in the Truth and Reconcilition process. However, I don't believe psychiatry is part of it.
With the diagnoses most 60s Scoop members feel some of us are misdiagnosed because by the time we meet with psychiatrists, we are unable to explain all the abuses we have been through.
Many times we are left with an inability to respond to questions and an inability to respond to life. Our voice is no longer with us. Many of us revert back to the days when we could not speak.
Support systems needed for 60s Scoop survivors
Psychiatrists then believe we need medication and begin forcing it upon us. Sometimes this forced medication is for a life time and there is no way a person can get off of it.
If only psychiatrists would understand that most adult children of the CAS are suffering long-term effects of child abuse. Rather than prescribing medication, what is needed is help in creating healthy support systems.
This situation in my opinion is further abuse caused by lack of understanding and not enough public awareness of the sexual, physical, religious and emotional abuse that we have endured in the CAS system.
Many times educated people in these professions believe we are making up outrageous stories. They think we are delusional and medicate us. Psychiatrists hold a lot of power and many of us have witnessed our 60s Scoop friends disappear in medication. They become victims of pills and then needles when their medication is increased.
We have seen our friends stumble in the streets and barely remember their own name because of medication. At the end of this they end up in hospitals. When we lose one of our friends this way we wonder, was it what they did, what they said or was the power of psychiatry “teams” used in the wrong way against one adult child who has already suffered a lifetime of abuse?
Psychiatry must accept and understand that our life experiences are real although our life experiences seem bizzare compared to people who come from the so-called dysfunctional home. Each of us came from many dysfunctional homes not just one and each of us lived through many more abuses than the average person.
We have to find a way to reach education in proper ways to explain this so they can help us as opposed to harm us with medication.
Each of us were abandoned and separated from parents and siblings; this in itself is lifelong pain, not to mention the majority of 60s Scoop children were brought from outlying areas to the city.
Many adult children who were removed from home in this way never fit back into their original families. Many of us did not have an opportunity to meet one or more of our parents because they passed away before we could meet them.
Our families were further torn apart by adoptions and the CAS did not allow us to see our siblings until we were older and no one could stop us then. In foster homes we lived in high movement environments.
In my case it took 25 people to raise me and I left the system at 16.
I lived all over the city and in surrounding towns while I was in care. I was raised under different names and did not know my original surname until I was 14. I am not alone in this. Many have suffered this exact identity crisis.
Once leaving the system the majority of us did not gain much education and lost many concepts educationally because of the moves.
Yet, we now must support ourselves. Because of our backgrounds and lost identity this is not an easy task.
Many of us live on the streets, are sent to jail, are supported by the welfare system and many die from our own hands. Many 60s Scoop kids were sent to reform schools in southern Ontario for doing some petty crime.
CAS did not defend us in court systems in the way they could have. We do not have the comforts of moving back home with parents.
Previous foster parents cannot be bothered with us because there is no money coming their way. These are some of the realities of 60s Scoop second, third and fourth generations.
There are white children in the CAS also but the difference is the white children are not removed from their community like we are. Their families generally live in the community and they are allowed to visit their families.
With us we were punished and moved out of the area if we tried to associate with our siblings until we got to an age where we could not be stopped.
Our parents lived far from us so we would not have had any association with them. The associations we wanted were only with some of our siblings who were in the system at the time we were.
I believe we all should take a stand and start a registry to prove the abuse in the CAS just as Anishinabe did to prove the abuse in residential school. There is no registry for this to date.
Most people are aware of this situation and talk about the wrong doings of children being hurt in the system, but rather than acknowledge it among ourselves.
Isn't it better to truly seek change and do something about it?
In this I honour all residential schools for telling the truth of the abuse each one of you received and for forcing accountability because without you, I could not begin to write this.
Without you, my 60s scoop abuse would be hidden in my own mind and in documents and I would not be allowed a voice because no one would believe this or understand this. Because of you, I along with many others am able to shed light on the 60s scoop second, third and fourth generations.
Formerly of Thunder Bay
Wilmington University Offers Child Advocacy Studies Certificate
(Media-Newswire.com) - The verdict in the Casey Anthony trial has shocked the country. Across the nation people continue to speculate on who committed the most horrific form of child abuse: murder. The sad truth is that over 1,500 children are murdered each year at the hands of those who are meant to protect and care for them. Closer to home in Sussex County, Delaware, the child sexual assault case against a well-known pediatrician, Earl Bradley, has traumatized an otherwise quiet town and sent shock waves through the state. The public is left at a loss for words.
Wilmington University hopes to take the first steps in eradicating child abuse through education. This fall, the University's College of Social and Behavioral Science is offering a Child Advocacy Studies certificate ( CAST ) aimed at anyone seeking to work with children including case workers, teachers, nurses, medical personnel and law enforcement. The certificate will help students recognize the symptoms of child maltreatment, identify intervention strategies and conduct investigative interviews. All the courses are taught by practicing professionals who have significant experience in the field.
Mariann Kenville-Moore, Wilmington University adjunct instructor who teaches the three core CAST courses, is the Director of the Delaware Attorney General's Victim/Witness Program. She has been at the center of many child abuse cases meeting with parents, law enforcement and medical professionals. Kenville-Moore hopes the CAST courses will illuminate the importance of recognizing the signs of child abuse and early intervention.
“For far too long, the systems established to protect children have intervened after too much trauma has occurred. By educating our professionals of tomorrow about child maltreatment, we can intervene earlier, more effectively and with better outcomes for families and our communities,” Kenville-Moore said. She co-teaches the course Responding and Investigating Child Maltreatment with detective Jacob Andrews, a twelve year veteran of the New Castle County Police Department and an adjunct instructor at Wilmington University.
Andrews has spent over three years investigating physical and sexual assaults against children as part of the Family Services Unit. “The [CAST] courses teach students the principles of child abuse investigation, and awareness of the heinous crimes committed against our children. Children are the most vulnerable of victims, and awareness is the first step in stopping the abuse.”
Wilmington University is among a small group of academic institutions that are offering courses in child abuse recognition and investigation. In fact, the University is only the 17th university in the country to offer a certificate in Child Advocacy Studies. Students, regardless of major, can register for the 15-credit certificate that consists of three core courses and two electives. They will learn everything from understanding the profiles of child abusers to forensic interviewing. This fall, courses will be offered at the New Castle campus, the Georgetown site and the Cumberland, New Jersey site. In the spring courses will be offered in Cumberland, New Castle and Dover.
“This certificate has been two years in the making,” said Johanna Bishop, Director of the Behavioral Science program at Wilmington University. Bishop credits Lori Sitler, Assistant Professor, with bringing the idea for this certificate to Wilmington University. “It is a passion of hers. This certificate will offer our students a cutting edge educational opportunity,” said Bishop. Professor Sitler has many years of professional experience working with crime victims and currently serves as a board member for the Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware, a non-profit agency that conducts forensic interviews of suspected child abuse victims.
Once given the green light to turn the idea into a reality, Sitler and Kenville-Moore traveled to the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University in Minnesota for training. The weeklong training session on “Implementing CAST at Your University” brought together national experts. Returning with fresh ideas Sitler and Bishop went about convincing Wilmington University's Faculty Senate. Advocates in the community encouraged them. Wrote Randall Williams, Executive Director of Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware, “I firmly believe Wilmington University has the resources, the vision and the determination to successfully implement and sustain the CAST curriculum. The University has a solid reputation in Delaware and beyond and the professors leading the CAST effort are extremely dedicated to and knowledgeable about the interdisciplinary...response to child abuse.”
In April, Faculty Senate approved the new CAST program. Despite the recent, horrific cases of child abuse in the news, there still remains hope for change. “Delaware law is clear,” said Lori Sitler, Assistant Professor. “All citizens of our State are mandated to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The CAST certificate will help our students recognize and respond to the signs of abuse so that, as professionals in the field and parents in our community, they will be able to intervene appropriately. We can prevent this from happening. Education is key.”
Any person with knowledge of the abuse or neglect of a child should call the Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line at 800-292-9582 .
To learn more about the CAST certificate at Wilmington University visit http://www.wilmu.edu/behavioralscience/childadvoc_cert.aspx.
Spotlight on Child Abuse Prevention Services
by Rachelle Blidner
July 8, 2011
When Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) began its work on Long Island 28 years ago, the non-profit organization focused on educating about and intervening in the cycle of abuse and neglect, said Alane Fagin, who has been executive director since the organization's founding. Soon, however, CAPSs' staff began focusing on additional issues that were affecting children, including sexual harassment, rape, bullying and Internet safety.
“What started out as being strictly child abuse prevention has evolved to meet the needs and changing needs of the Long Island community,” said Fagin, of Roslyn, where the CAPS office is located.
The organization, whose approximate 120 volunteers bring free educational programming to schools, began offering programs on these topics in recent years, she said. In the 2010-2011 school year, volunteers educated about 42,000 students on Long Island by going classroom-to-classroom. CAPS also offers programs for adults and trains school and summer camp employees.
In September 2010, CAPS launched the Bully Prevention Center. The center provides educational programs about bullying and has a phone and e-mail bully helpline for children and parents.
“We're here to listen,” Fagin said. “We understand that bullying is a serious problem that affects many young people and sometimes they feel helpless and don't know where to turn.”
While CAPS does not offer as many programs during the summer because schools are out of session, bullying occurs in any place where youth gather, including summer camps, Fagin said. To prevent bullying anytime, there is safety in numbers, she added, and banning together against bullies with friends can stop the bullying. But if the bullying is physical or makes children fearful, they should seek adult intervention, she said.
If your child is being bullied, CAPS suggests that you discuss the following points with your child: stick up for one another, travel in a group, empathize, explore your choices, resist using fists, calm down, leave, enlist the help of others, assert yourself and act confidently and report incidents that make you feel unsafe.
Other tips that CAPS teaches children to prevent bullying and boost self-esteem are:
• Think about talking it out with the bully one-on-one.
• Say something funny to interrupt the bully's script.
• Walk away.
• Do not allow the bully to see you upset.
• Take a deep breath and reaffirm your good qualities by repeating them to yourself.
• Try joining new clubs and activities to make new friends.
• Try journal writing.
• Get immediate help from an adult if you feel you are in physical danger.
Parents and children can call the Bully Prevention Center helpline at 516-621-0552 or e-mail
Breaking the child abuse 'wall of silence'
New Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills started on July 1
July 8, 2011
A proposed law making those who allow child abuse to occur in their own home legally culpable, will make families more likely to hold each other accountable, says the Children's Commissioner.
Dr Russell Wills says the law would work where families are unwilling to speak to police or blame each other in cases where young children have died or been abused.
The recent inquest into the deaths of the Kahui twins again raised questions about a family ‘wall of silence' that may have hampered the police investigation into the twins' death.
The commissioner is positive about the proposed new law.
“By putting pressure on families, if they fail to cooperate, police can lay the lesser but still serious charge of causing or allowing the death, or ‘failure to protect' as we call it," says Dr Wills.
“That means families are more likely to hold accountable the person who caused the injuries or death.”
He says those who “circle the wagons” and do not cooperate will still face charges and a jail term, but he believes not many will go that far.
“Where you've got a family who are refusing to cooperate, once they appreciate that they could all be charged, then you'll find that people are more likely to be held accountable.”
The proposed change in law is part of the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) which is currently before a social services select committee and will be reported back to Parliament on 18th August.
After that, three further steps will be required before a decision is made on whether to pass it or not.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Simon Power says it is too early to say whether the bill will be passed and the law changed before the election.
The proposal is modelled on the English Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (UK), which introduced a new offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult.
But proposals here do not go as far as child protection reforms in England that target the problem of defendants' silence in court.
English law allows a jury to “draw an adverse inference” when a person charged with the offence fails to give evidence in court.
Dr Wills supports the idea of a jury taking into account failure to cooperate or continuing silence, however this is not proposed in the amendment bill before government.
Despite continued efforts in England to reform child protection and children's services, the country is still plagued with tragic cases of horrific abuse.
A recent serious case review of the torture and murder of a three-year-old found the perpetrators were previously known to child protection agencies but failures by police and probation meant authorities were unaware the couple had a child in their care.
However Dr Wills says New Zealand is different to the UK.
“We're different to the UK because things have changed and are changing.”
He says an evidence based approach to changing practice in the health service has already seen non-accidental injury admissions in Hawkes Bay fall by two-thirds.
A new training programme involves participants asking the hard questions and then practicing in role-play, says Dr Wills.
“What we've learned is that staff feel much more comfortable to ask those really difficult questions having done the role play.
“Then you need to give them opportunities to practice those skills until they get really comfortable.”
The Ministry of Health Violence Intervention Programme which started in Hawkes Bay has trained 1500 staff in the region and will be rolled out across the country.
Dr Wills, who started his five year term as Children's Commissioner on 1 July, remains a paediatrician in Hastings half of the time and commissioner the rest of the time.
Why so many child abuse cases in Mid-Michigan?
by Jessica Maki
SAGINAW, MI -
Suspect after suspect, court case after court case. Shocking cases of child abuse.
Abuse that seems to be an apparent epidemic in Mid-Michigan. In just the past week, three high-profile cases.
"In our children's advocacy center we are definitely seeing children coming for suspected physical or sexual abuse, definitely younger and younger, more and more 2- and 3-year-olds," says Suzanne Greenberg, President and CEO of Saginaw County's Child Abuse and Neglect Council or CAN.
Many TV5 viewers have sounded off on our Facebook page, wondering exactly why these cases happen.
Greenberg says she's not sure she can pin-point a reason why, only that it's important for people to report those situations if they are aware of them.
"A lot of people believe because of the economic situation there is more stress on families. That is certainly true but we believe and know that we are getting the word from, look at the case where the neighbor called because they were concerned, that is so critical in preventing child abuse and neglect," says Greenberg.
Greenberg says the CAN council offers programs so situations like child abuse and neglect are kept to a minimum in the area.
"We have a brand new pilot program called Great Start University, that is creating parent education and support program in local churches, in community centers, within preschool programs, where parents already are," says Greenberg.
She hopes those types of programs are the key, to keeping the community aware and children safe.
For more information about what you can do to help prevent and report suspected child abuse, check out WNEM.com's special section.
Experts say homicides show problem of domestic violence, child abuse
In a span of 72 hours earlier this week, three young boys were found dead in a city known to outsiders for its tranquility, taken before they were even kindergarten age, allegedly killed by adults they knew.
It was “a tragic, tragic moment,” Madison Police Chief Noble Wray told reporters on Wednesday.
But the deaths didn't come as a complete shock to local child abuse advocates, who point to an increasingly common problem made more dangerous by a down economy.
“When your wallet's tight it causes stress,” said Hanna Roth, co-founder of the Madison nonprofit Rainbird Foundation, which works to end child abuse. “Throw that into an already challenged life, and you've got a pot headed for boiling over.”
All three victims — a 3-year-old whose mother has been arrested in his death; two brothers, ages 3 and 4, whose mother's boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of killing them — were growing up in households with documented domestic violence, which strongly correlates with child abuse.
“There's a direct connection,” Roth said. “I think these two incidents pretty much prove that point.”
In families where both adults and children are being abused, the need for outside intervention becomes more urgent but can be more tricky, said Julie Ahnen, child protective services manager for Dane County.
If not careful, “our involvement can escalate the already tense situation,” she said. Efforts of recent years at the state and county levels have sought to train social workers to deal with both problems more effectively, and handbooks have been rewritten to collaborate efforts between domestic violence and child abuse advocates.
Details of the county's interactions with families involved in the deaths have not been made public — a law passed in 2009 gives the state 90 days before it has to disclose such information.
Further details also were not made available about the criminal cases against Maria Castillo-Dominguez, 22, arrested on suspicion of reckless homicide in the death of her 3-year-old son, or David J. Hoem, 28, arrested in connection with the 3- and 4-year-old boys' deaths.
Ahnen said her department has seen a steady increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the past few years, which she attributed in part to a higher poverty rate. The department now has 50 social workers after getting funding to add five additional staff two years ago.
Domestic violence cases in the county appear to have increased, as well. In 2003, the county had 2,878 cases, according to state Department of Justice figures; it had increased to 3,260 by 2008, the most recently available data.
Stopping abuse before it turns even more dangerous takes a community effort to recognize signs of abuse and report it, Roth said.
“We've got a child abuse situation where we blame the bad guy,” she said. “Really the bad guy is us if we saw what was happening and did nothing.”
Fueled by verdict anger, push for 'Caylee's Law' starts in Pa., N.J.
by John Timpane, Maya Rao, and Amy Worden
Inquirer Staff Writers
The national wildfire known as "Caylee's Law" has come to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Legislators in both states are drafting proposed laws - in response to public uproar over the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial - that would oblige parents and guardians to promptly report the death or disappearance of a child.
The overnight push for new laws has some lawmakers and legal experts cautioning against "knee-jerk" legislation.
Anthony was acquitted in an Orlando, Fla., court Tuesday of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Caylee was missing for 31 days before her death was reported; her mother was found guilty of misleading investigators, a misdemeanor.
The case attracted white-hot public interest, particularly on cable news and the Web. Outcry against the verdict was immediate. Social media and the blogosphere spearheaded outrage that soon went viral. On Twitter, all 10 "trending topics" Tuesday afternoon were Anthony-related; Casey-related tweets numbered 325,283. A Facebook page titled "RIP Caylee Marie Anthony (2005-2008)" attracted 542,678 "likes" by Thursday afternoon.
Michelle Crowder of Oklahoma, inspired by a "Caylee's Law" proposal on Facebook, created a petition for a federal version of such a law on the website Change.org. Crowder wants to make it a felony for parents or caretakers not to report a child's death within one hour or a child's disappearance within 24 hours. The petition had attracted 443,707 supporting votes as of late Thursday afternoon.
By then, versions of "Caylee's Law" were afoot in Congress and seven state capitals, including Trenton and Harrisburg.
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.) said he would introduce a bill to toughen penalties against those who conceal a child's death. It also would create a new offense of "neglecting to report a missing child."
The Anthony case "riveted the nation and prompted me to take steps to protect Pennsylvania children from similar injustices," Farnese said. He said he was inspired by a slew of e-mails he received after the verdict.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery), said he had not yet seen Farnese's proposal and would review it when it reached his committee. He cautioned against a rush to approve "headline-driven" legislation.
"My first reaction is that too often we pass legislation that is knee-jerk, thinking we solve a problem, and we don't look at the consequences," said Greenleaf, admitting he, too, has been swept up by the pressure to respond to a particularly notorious crime. "That's not good legislation."
Farnese said he didn't consider himself part of a rush to legislate.
"Our job as legislators is to look at trends across the country," he said. "We need to be vigilant."
He said his bill would change concealing the death of a child from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, with a maximum sentence of seven years and a $15,000 fine. It also would create the offense of failure to report a child missing, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In New Jersey, three Assembly Republicans, Domenick DiCicco of Gloucester and Camden Counties, and John Amodeo and Vince Polistina of Atlantic County, said they, too, were at work on a version of "Caylee's Law."
"Caylee Anthony may have been denied justice, but we can make sure New Jersey's laws reflect our commitment to keeping children safe," Amodeo said.
"Caylee Anthony's death is an unthinkable tragedy that gripped our hearts," DiCicco said. "The jury couldn't agree with absolute certainty that her mother killed this precious child, but there's no doubt she did not want authorities to find Caylee."
The "Caylee's Law" movement joins a number of laws named for victims. Perhaps best known is Megan's Law, enacted in 1994 in New Jersey after the rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street.
Of the various "Caylee's Law," proposals, Perry Dane, professor of law at Rutgers University-Camden, said: "Unlike some of the other named laws that have come up in recent years that have seemed like overreactions or had unintended consequences, this one strikes me on its face as one of those perfectly sensible."
Parents and guardians are required by law to provide for and protect children in their care, Dane said, but in the absence of laws specifically aimed at notifying authorities, a "Caylee's Law" may be worth a look.
Rikki Klieman, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said that while she supports the Anthony verdict, she also finds it reasonable in some cases to elevate misdemeanors, such as failure to notify, to felonies.
"But we have to have a debate about defining this," she said. "In some of the proposed laws I've seen, the times are very short. Yes, 31 days is too long, but I can think of many situations in which 48 hours would be too short. We can't put parents and caretakers in a situation that may not be their fault. We have to pay attention to reasonable complications and circumstances."
Some, like Greenleaf, professed unease at laws made in the heat of public reaction to traumatic events or unpopular court decisions. Forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland, of DeSales University in Bethlehem, warned that "if the law and its support are a knee-jerk reaction, then . . . it's part of the spectator-sport aspect of crime coverage" in which people can overidentify, "feeling the win or loss personally."
Greta Van Susteren, the Fox News host , said by e-mail that "99.9 percent of parents report missing children. I hate to think we have to legislate for the one-tenth of one percent who don't. Maybe we have to."
Rutgers' Dane said, "The problem is that such laws can lead to a rush to judgment, and possibly overreaction. We have to look at a proposed statute on its merits, not according to its name."
Accused sexual predator released on bond
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Parents in one neighborhood say they fear for their children's safety because of the very serious allegations against a man they all consider a longtime friend -- a man who is now out of jail.
He is accused of sexually abusing three children, and investigators are looking into the possibility of more victims. Douglas Katzenberger, 43, is facing three charges, including continuous sexual abuse of a child and indecency of a child. Parents of the victims say they trusted this man very much.
We won't identify the parents of the victims who tell a story that began with trusting Katzenberger.
"I thought of him as a family member. You know, my kids wouldn't call him uncle, but he was like that to them," the victims' father said.
"It's sickening. We've spent many nights crying, many nights just throwing things across the yard, beating ourselves up trying to figure out why didn't we know," the victims' mother said.
One of the victims decided to tell.
"He manipulated each child to their personality to know that if I say this, they're not going to tell mom and dad," the mother said.
The 43-year-old is accused in the sexual abuse of three children.
"The victims range from age eight to age 16. The majority of them were family friends, acquaintances of the defendant," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Denise Nichols said.
Prosecutors say the incidents took place at his northwest side home, where Katzenberger is now out on $60,000 bond. When we visited his home on Wednesday night, no one answered.
"The continuous sex abuse case, for example, happened over a period of three years so we do believe that this was ongoing abuse," Nichols.
As parents try to help the victims heal and get them through counseling, they're sharing their story and fear they aren't alone.
"Through this coming out, we're hoping that if there are more victims, they can be strong enough to step forward," the mother said.
"It makes you ill and you think it won't happen to me 'cause I'm always watching, Well let me tell you, it's real, it's out there and it tends to be the dearest of people to your lives," the father said.
If convicted on the three charges, Katzenberger faces up to life in prison.
Closed Mount Bachelor Academy Focus of Suit
Nine Former Students Claim Abuse; Operators Deny Claims
From KTVZ.COM News
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nine former students of one of Oregon's best known “tough love” boarding schools, a facility east of Prineville that was shut by the state two years ago, filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
The suit is being brought by attorneys Kelly Clark, Steve Crew, Gilion Dumas, Kristian Roggendorf, Peter Janci and the Portland law firm O'Donnell Clark and Crew, who often bring child abuse cases in Oregon and around the nation.
The suit alleges claims of battery, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress against Mount Bachelor Academy and its parent companies, Aspen Education Group and CRC Health. The suit seeks more than $14 million in compensatory damages, and punitive damages will be sought as well.
An attorney for the school's operator later issued a statement denying the charges.
That statement is in full below, after the rest of the release about the lawsuit's allegations:
Located 26 miles east of Prineville, the controversial “therapeutic boarding school” known as Mount Bachelor Academy was closed by the state of Oregon in November of 2009 based on the findings of an investigation related to charges of systemic abuse and neglect.
According to a report by the Oregon Department of Human Services, Mount Bachelor Academy reportedly used “punitive, humiliating, degrading and traumatizing” tactics as “treatment” 00– an approach some say stems from the Synanon self-help group of the 1960's, which was rejected as a cult by mainstream mental health community by the late 1970s.
At the time of its closure in 2009, Mt. Bachelor Academy reportedly had more than 75 staff supervising approximately 90 students who were being charged a tuition of $6,400 per month.
“The so-called ‘treatment' that these children were forced to endure on a daily basis at Mt. Bachelor Academy is obscene. Not only did the program ‘break kids down', it did nothing to build them back up,” said Kelly Clark, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “We intend to prove that this wasn't education, it wasn't treatment and it wasn't ‘tough love' – this was abuse.”
The plaintiffs in Wednesday's suit, who all attended Mount Bachelor Academy in the late 1990s, allege: that they were subjected to regular psychological abuse and shaming, including being required to reenact traumatic experiences (such as prior instances of child sexual abuse) in front of their peers; that they were subjected to extreme isolation and prolonged deprivations of food, water, shelter, and basic medical care; that students were required to go days with little or no sleep and were also regularly forced into “chain gang” style labor; that phone calls to their families were limited and were monitored by Mt. Bachelor Academy staff; and that parents were instructed by staff not to believe their children if they claimed malfeasance or abuse – i.e., the children will lie, it is all part of the treatment process, parents were told.
The allegations in the lawsuit are consistent with the findings by the Oregon Department of Human Services. In late 2009, following a seven month investigation, DHS found multiple incidences of “abuse and neglect” and “serious violations of Oregon's licensing standards.”
The DHS report cited nine substantiated claims of abusive practices, including “punitive, humiliating, degrading and traumatizing” activities such as “sexualized role pay and reenactment of traumatic events, such as prior physical or sexual abuse.” The state also found that these were not isolated incidents; instead, “many of [the abusive] behaviors fell within the range of behavior expected, encouraged or condoned by the Mount Bachelor Academy program itself . . . .”
DHS determined that “MBA poses a serious danger to public health or safety of children . . . [and] should not be permitted to continue operating as a therapeutic boarding school for children.” Thereafter, in November of 2009, the state gave Mt. Bachelor Academy 72 hours to shut down its program and remove students from its facility. The facility closed on November 3, 2009. Later, in October 2010, as part of a settlement of a suit by Mt. Bachelor against the state contesting the DHS findings of abuse, Aspen Education Group and CRC Health Group (the parent company's of Mount Bachelor Academy) agreed that DHS had reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect had occurred at the school, and that DHS had a reasonable basis to investigate and to seek corrective actions.
The lawsuit names Mount Bachelor Academy and its parent companies as defendants. Those include Aspen Education Group – a national conglomerate of therapeutic boarding schools which, at its peak had nearly 40 youth programs throughout the United States – as well as Aspen's parent company, CRC Health Group. CRC Health Group is a large national healthcare corporation owned by Bain Capital, a private equity firm with $65 billion in assets.
Wednesday's lawsuit is part of a larger response to decades of abuse and mistreatment in so-called “tough love” facilities – both inside and outside of the Aspen Education Group.
According to previous news reports, at least four children have died in Aspen-owned facilities since 2004. One of those incidences occurred in Oregon in 2009 – the death of student Sergey Blashchishen during a wilderness hike in the Redmond-based Sagewalk Wilderness School.
Blashchishen, a minor at the Sagewalk facility, collapsed in August of 2009 while hiking on his second day Aspen's Sagewalk program. Staff had reportedly ignored repeated signs of a serious medical problem, and the boy died at the scene. The lead sherif's investigator on the Sagewalk case recommended that the Lake County district attorney file homicide charges. Sagewalk had previously been the subject of the nationally broadcast ABC television series “Brat Camp” in 2005.
As Peter Janci, one of the Plaintiffs' attorneys explained,“Many ‘tough love' schools have been a breeding ground for abuse – isolating vulnerable kids and subjecting them to debunked so-called ‘treatments' by unqualified staff, while their parents are kept in the dark and bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars.”
Problems of abuse, injury and even death are present throughout the “tough love” industry. Some reports indicate that more than two dozen teenagers died in such facilities between 1990 and 2001.
The lawsuit is one in a growing number of actions by individuals who survived these facilities, only to be left with serious, long-term psychological injuries. Several weeks ago, a civil suit was filed against Silverado Academy in Utah for claims related to a staff member's sexual abuse of at least 10 boys.
Previously, in 2006, attorneys for another group of individuals filed a major lawsuit alleging neglect, fraud and abuse against the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools and related entities. That suit is still pending in federal court in Utah, and now includes 353 plaintiffs who allege they were wronged by therapeutic boarding schools and their related entities.
“This is a watershed moment in exposing organizations that have profited from broken promises to desperate families,” said Clark. “We believe that institutions like Mount Bachelor Academy need to be exposed for what they are and held accountable for the permanent damage they have done to the lives of vulnerable teenagers entrusted to their care.”
Clark and his firm are among the most prominent child sexual abuse attorneys in the nation, having brought over 300 claims against such organizations as the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, the Boy Scouts of America and dozens of other youth-serving organizations.
Clark has twice won landmark child abuse cases at the Oregon Supreme Court, and last year was lead counsel in a six week sex abuse trial against the Boy Scouts of America resulting in a jury verdict of nearly $20 million.
A response from Greg Chaimov, a lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, on behalf of client Mount Bachelor Academy
While we have not yet had the opportunity to evaluate the allegations in the complaint filed today, we would like to go on record that Mount Bachelor Academy was successful in resolving the dispute with the Oregon Department of Human Services last fall after abundant evidence was collected that showed the allegations of abuse made to the Department were unfounded.
DHS initially took action based on students' allegations, but withdrew its orders, including the suspension of Mount Bachelor Academy's license, after further information became available. Given the favorable terms of the settlement agreement, we agreed to dismiss our various legal proceedings against the state. We also independently decided to leave Mount Bachelor Academy closed due to the fact that the sudden and erroneous closure of the campus effectively shut the program down the year prior.
For over two decades, Mount Bachelor Academy (MBA) positively changed the lives of over 1,000 troubled young people. MBA was a program specifically designed for troubled students who had failed to progress in other settings. It was designed to help kids confront the worst of their behaviors and take ownership of them, whether that be substance abuse, sexual acting out or other issues. This approach proved successful at producing positive, life-changing – and, in some cases, life-saving – results. The numerous positive testimonials provided by families and students over the years further attest to the success of MBA.
MBA and its parent companies never condoned or participated in the mistreatment or deprivation of any students. As we understand, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit attended MBA prior to its acquisition by a nationally recognized network of therapeutic schools and programs that espouse comprehensive best practices and safety protocols. While we cannot comment on specific allegations from individual students due to HIPAA privacy regulations, we vigorously deny any and all charges of mistreatment.
Full Text of Suit Against Mount Bachelor Academy (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
Caylee Anthony and Robert Manwill: Public Reaction Parallels
July 7, 2011
BOISE, Idaho - More than 2 million people have signed up on Facebook to leave their porch lights on to honor Floridian child abuse victim Caylee Anthony, and social networks have also been abuzz about the recent trial for the murder of 8-year-old Robert Manwill in Boise.
While the two trials had different outcomes - Caylee's mother was acquitted and Robert's stepfather was found guilty - Prevent Child Abuse Idaho volunteer Dawn Larzelier says there are parallels in the public discussion. In both cases, it's obvious the public wants to do something to help children, she says, and turning on a light or wearing a ribbon is a starting point.
"That's great from an awareness perspective. But can you imagine what would happen if we were actually doing something to prevent child abuse from happening to begin with? If 2.2 million people got behind that effort?"
Larzelier says child abuse and neglect can happen in any neighborhood - and at the same time, every person in every neighborhood can do something to help create a safer environment for children.
"You know, little things, like when you have an extra $15, do you buy a bottle of wine? Or do you put it aside to make a donation to your abuse-prevention organization?"
Larzelier has other child-abuse and -neglect prevention tips, such as offering to help when parents are overwhelmed, or volunteering for community, school or church groups that offer education about child development.
More tips and resources are available at www.OnetoughJob.org.
Child Abuse Deaths Down In Kentucky
Number Still Above National Average
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The latest report on child abuse deaths shows Kentucky has lost its No. 1 ranking, but is still above the national average. The only forensic pediatrician in the state said the improvement in ranking is due in part to increased awareness and training.
Two hundred nurses from around the region are learning how to recognize, treat and prevent child abuse at work and at home, after "the shaken baby bill" passed last spring requiring the training for healthcare professionals, social services and law enforcement.
Kosair Children's Hospital said it sees about 75 cases of abusive head trauma each year, one-third of those cases resulting in death. Experts said in these cases, the explanation of the child's injuries usually does not match the trauma suffered, and medical professionals need to know the difference.
"When it's a case of abusive head trauma, almost always either the child comes in with no history of trauma. Yet the child clearly has suffered trauma to the head, or there's a history that is just not consistent with what we're finding," said Dr. Melissa Currie.
Currie said the most common trigger for abusive head trauma is crying. Offering help to new moms, and teaching caregivers it's OK to lay a baby in a safe place and take a break, goes a long way in preventing these deaths and injuries.
Childhood Abuse and Adult Headaches Form Complex Connection
by MICHELE G. SULLIVAN
Internal Medicine News Digital Network
July 6, 2011
WASHINGTON – Between 20% and 40% of headache patients have endured some kind of maltreatment during their early lives, several epidemiologic studies have concluded.
Yet no study has ever pinpointed exactly which individuals exposed to a particular type of abuse will develop a certain type of headache – or whether they will get headaches at all, Dr. Gretchen Tietjen said at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society.
Nor has any study ever conclusively proven the benefit of screening headache patients for childhood abuse, or even helping those patients cope with their history.
Many studies have attempted to show a benefit of screening and treatment, but these generally "come up empty-handed" said Dr. Tietjen, director of the headache treatment and research program at the University of Toledo (Ohio) Medical Center. "It's very difficult to identify the downstream evidence of morbidity and mortality, and there is even some concern that we could actually cause harm by [recalling events] that are going to be very difficult for a patient to deal with. The risk/benefit ratio for this has never been clearly elucidated."
Multiple animal studies, and now some clinical ones, have found that chronic early life stress induces a host of physical changes that compromise the body's ability to cope with stress later on. These changes can manifest not only as headache, but as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and chronic fatigue. Anxiety and depression can emerge as well. And some research even suggests that early stress can lead to a lifelong elevation in inflammatory response, setting the stage for a host of other disorders.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study confirmed a strong association between childhood stress and adult headache. ACE included more than 17,000 adults and examined the relationship between frequent headaches and eight early stressors: emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; domestic violence; parental separation or divorce; and living with an adult who was mentally ill, a substance abuser, or engaged in criminal activity (Headache 2010;50:1473-81).
The study found a dose-response relationship between adverse events in childhood and the frequency of adult headaches, said Dr. Tietjen, who was a primary investigator on ACE. With a possible score of 0-8, subjects who reported having five or more early adverse experiences were more than twice as likely to also report adult headache.
Then again, "not everyone who has a stressful childhood or is abused as a child will develop headaches," Dr. Tietjen said in an interview.
The who's and why's are still elusive, said Dr. Linda Carpenter, a psychiatrist and researcher at Brown University, Providence, R.I. The end result emerges from a complex and still somewhat mysterious brew of innate temperament, stress type and duration, and environmental mediators. Animal data not only support a neurobiologic link, but an epigenetic link as well. Chronic stress has the ability to change DNA expression, permanently altering the way a body responds to stress. And those changes may even become part of a new generation's genetic makeup.
Some research also suggests that a new environment can reverse the physical changes of chronic stress. Rats separated from their mothers as babies develop elevated stress responses as they mature. But after living in an enriched environment – a cage with interconnecting burrows and toys to play with – their corticosterone levels during a stress test returned to normal (J. Neurosci. 2002;22:7840-3).
Individual perceptions can moderate or enhance the downstream effects of early maltreatment, said Dr. Elliott Schulman, an ACE coauthor. What one person perceives as a stressful, abusive situation may not trigger the same response in another. The reaction of adults aware of the early situation can also color the final picture, said Dr. Schulman, a neurologist at the Jefferson Headache Center, Philadelphia.
He described a patient with refractory headache who recalled girlhood vacations during which a relative "repeatedly groped her." She reported this to her parents, who assured her that "groping" was not sexual abuse. "If the person believes it was abusive, then it was, for that person," said Dr. Schulman, who routinely addresses abuse during his patient intake. Before the initial visit, each patient receives a registration packet that includes a personal history questionnaire. At the very end of the questionnaire, after the social and marital history, it asks: "Have you been abused?"
The patient can check yes or no and, if the answer is yes, he or she can select the type – physical, emotional, or sexual. "This is akin to every other assessment we do," he said. "We ask if patients are smoking, exercising, sleeping well, having unprotected sex, using drugs. We incorporate all this into a routine history. And now that I have incorporated this question as well, I have found out patients want you to ask. If you do, they will tell you."
The next question is what to do when the answer is yes.
"Often, I find that I am the first person who has ever asked, the first person the patient has ever told, and it can be a very emotional time," Dr. Schulman said. He added that he tries to ascertain the current situation. "If the abuse is ongoing, I get an abuse advocate involved and try to help the patient get to a safe place."
If the abuse is in the past, the discussion centers on the possibility that counseling could not only help the patient come to terms with the experience emotionally, but improve headache outcomes as well.
Dr. Tietjen said she also addresses the issue in a questionnaire about life stress. If the response is positive, "I explain that this might have changed their response to stress, and although I can't change what happened, there are ways to deal with it. We discuss the idea that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be really helpful, rather than adding another pill."
Dr. Carpenter said she takes a different tack. "I don't engage in conversations about it," she said. "I try to educate the patient about it if there is a history of early life stress by saying, ‘You are biologically programmed to be prone to the effects of stress the rest of your life.' "
Stress management is key for these patients. "I tell them to become an antistress expert so that any new stress that enters their life doesn't refuel the entire system," she said. Having this knowledge is very useful for people and helps them leverage multiple modalities of stress management – yoga, exercise, diet – so they can manage their stress and improve their outcomes. "These are very real things people can do to get better, and by doing them, they learn to be less aroused by stressful events."
Dr. Tietjen did not report having any conflicts. Dr. Carpenter reported receiving numerous research grants from pharmaceutical companies, as well as being a member of several speakers bureaus and advisory boards for pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Schulman said he had no disclosures.
Casey Anthony case sheds new light on child abuse in southeast Wisconsin
There is help for parents feeling overwhelmed
July 6, 2011
The Casey Anthony trial in Florida shed new light on the issue of child abuse in Wisconsin; an issue that affects thousands of kids every single year.
In 2009, there were more than 38,000 reports of child abuse in Wisconsin - and there were likely thousands more that went unreported. Here are a couple cases -- and please note, the details are rather graphic.
- In Milwaukee on January 21st, an 18-month-old girl was taken to a hospital by her father. She had a "massive injury to the brain, multiple liver lacerations and bruising on her abdomen, back and thigh. The father later admitted to shaking here, striking her and knocking her to the floor where she hit her head."
- In Clark County on February 7th, a seven-month-old baby suffered "severe brain trauma, a skull fracture and paralysis on one side. A relative reported finding her lying on the floor beneath a baby swing." But doctors said the injuries were consistent with a whiplash motion.
Eloise Anderson is the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families. She said on Wednesday, "We need to pay attention to our own communities because we have a lot of mothers that are close to this, because of stress, who need our help."
If you're a parent that's feeling overwhelmed and want help or if you're someone who wants to report abuse, there is help. CLICK HERE to begin.
High Risk of Rereport in Child Abuse Cases
July 6, 2011
WEDNESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- A large percentage of children who remain in the home following an abuse report are at an increased risk of rereports and reabuse, according to a study published online July 4 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Suzanne R. Dakil, M.D., from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues examined risk clusters associated with higher or lower risk of new abuse reports in 2,578 U.S. children reported to the child protection system for child abuse, who remained in the home following an initial abuse report.
The researchers found that, during the five-year follow-up period, 44 percent of the children were rereported. Based on bivariate analyses, there was a higher probability of rereports for children with behavioral problems (49 versus 38 percent), caregivers with an abuse history (33 versus 16 percent) or a child welfare history (38 versus 25 percent), and families with an annual income lower than $20,000 (70 versus 60 percent).
Substantiated reabuse was found in 45 percent of reports, with two risk clusters having a higher incidence: the cluster with a substantiated index report, where a caregiver is not receiving a parenting class, is of non-African-American ethnicity, and is younger than 41.5 years; and the cluster with a substantiated index report -- a caregiver receiving a parenting class, and the child's age being younger than 8.5 years.
"Among children remaining in the home following an abuse report, specific risk groups have higher and lower incidence of rereports and reabuse. These risk group categories may be useful to child protection services and others in identifying at-risk children and making decisions about placement and services," the authors write
Ashton Kutcher and his anti-trafficking activism may be easy targets, but The Village Voice's arguments downplaying underage sex trafficking are seriously flawed, says Michelle Goldberg.
by Michelle Goldberg
July 6, 2011
The Village Voice, which has been accused of profiting from underage sex trafficking, is out to prove that underage sex trafficking barely exists. “I remember the last couple of mass panics. Do you?” wrote Tony Ortega, the paper's editor in chief, on Wednesday, comparing the hype about domestic sex slavery to the hysteria around satanic day-care abuse in the 1980s. Back then, innocent people were sent to prison for ridiculously lurid and often physically impossible crimes. Now, he writes, “In the second decade of the 21st century, we are being told that there's a widespread, growing, and out-of-control problem to fear in our country. And it has a catchy name: ‘trafficking.'”
In an investigative series titled “ The Truth Behind Sex Trafficking,” the Voice and some of its sister papers have set out to debunk the notion that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is either widespread or increasing. Its reporters have done a commendable job of tearing apart some of the groundless and probably inflated statistics that anti-trafficking activists throw around. But they have replaced them with equally implausible figures minimizing the scale of the problem. They've substituted denial for hype.
So far, the most high-profile piece in the series was last week's Village Voice cover story attacking the anti-trafficking activism of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, two juicy if easy targets. It centered on Kutcher's claim that there are “between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today,” a number often cited by activists and journalist alike. As reporters Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin, and Kristen Hinman show, that number comes from a study that purports only to measure the number of children “at risk” for commercial sexual exploitation, and even then, its methods and assumptions seem flimsy. The reporters quote Jay Albanese, former head of the Department of Justice's research division, now a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. “There's tons of estimates on human trafficking,” he says. “They're all crap ... It's all guesswork, speculation ... The numbers are inherently unbelievable.”
But Albanese tells me he did not mean to imply that domestic sex trafficking is not a serious issue. “To go from saying that these are not actual counts of any sort to saying that this is not a problem is going way too far,” he says. “It's clearly missing the point. It's like saying we really don't know how many people are truly at risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer, so therefore the problem isn't that big.”
As The Village Voice freely admits, it has a vested interest in this debate. Village Voice Media owns Backpage.com, a major adult-services classified website. Until last year, the site was second only to Craigslist in the sex-ads business. Activists accused both sites of enabling the trafficking of underage girls, and under mounting pressure, Craigslist shuttered its erotic-services section last September. That made Backpage even more lucrative. According to the consulting firm Advanced Interactive Media Group, “Backpage.com's revenue from online prostitution ads in 23 U.S. cities increased 15.3 percent to at least $1,671,685 in September compared with August.”
Since then, activists have been calling on Village Voice Media to shut down Backpage's sex ads. The Rebecca Project for Human Rights ran ads in papers owned by the company saying, “Each year, 100,000 children are sold for sex in America—many through your website, Backpage.com. Do you really want to provide a platform for predators who pay for sex with girls?” A Missouri teenager filed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media for aiding and abetting her pimp, Latasha Jewell McFarland, who used Backpage.com to sell her for $100 per sex act when she was 14.
The Rebecca Project erred by uncritically repeating the 100,000 figure. The truth is, no one has good numbers about the extent of sex trafficking. But the Village Voice figures are, if anything, even less reliable than the ones anti-trafficking activists use. Its reporters came up with a number by tallying child-prostitution arrests in the country's 37 largest cities over a 10-year period, finding a total of 8,263, an average of 827 per year. “Compare 827 annually with the 100,000 to 300,000 per year touted in the propaganda,” the story says.
“ 'The fact that The Village Voice, of all newspapers, is not getting the connections around race and class with this issue is mind-boggling to me,' says Lloyd. ”
Actually, don't. There are enormous problems with trying to extrapolate the extent of sex trafficking from police arrest records. Rachel Lloyd, the founder of New York's Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, or GEMS, a nonprofit that serves victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, points out that in her state, 16- and 17-year-olds are charged as adults, and so don't show up in child-prostitution arrests. Girls who are even younger than that show up in the adult statistics as well if they lie about their names and ages, as many do.
At the same time, sites like Backpage.com have taken underage prostitution off the streets and put it behind closed doors, where it's far harder to detect and prosecute. According to Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, a former federal prosecutor who now heads the State Department's anti-trafficking office, the vast majority of prostitution arrests involve police posing as either prostitutes or johns. Arrests are thus largely “limited by who it is that pimps are putting out in the open,” he says. While police have started paying attention to the Internet, “the rule continues to be that enforcement patterns are on street prostitution,” says CdeBaca.
Finally, as Lloyd points out, the anti-trafficking movement has worked hard to get police to stop arresting trafficked girls and to start treating them as victims in need of services. According to a February story in the Seattle PostGlobe, “last year alone, the Seattle Police Department's Vice and High Risk Victims Unit recovered 80 prostituted youth,” compared with 40 the previous year. Because they weren't arrested, these kids don't show up in The Village Voice's figures. (On the paper's website an interactive map, replete with graphics of sexy silhouettes posing beneath a street lamp, says there's an average of only 14 underage-prostitution arrests in Seattle annually.)
Unfortunately, the Voice story perpetuates the very regressive ideas about “real” trafficking victims that activists have spent a decade fighting. At one point, the reporters get one of the researchers behind the disputed number to admit, “Kids who are kidnapped and sold into slavery—that number would be very small.” Indeed, he says, there are probably only a few hundred such victims.
But a girl hardly needs to be kidnapped to be trafficked. Many are pimped out by men who claim to love them, or by relatives. Some are runaways or addicts. It has taken activists a long time to convince law enforcement that these girls are victims of a crime, not perpetrators. The typical trafficking victim “isn't a kid from Middle America, frankly,” says Lloyd. “This is a kid who's been abandoned and failed by every institution. The fact that The Village Voice, of all newspapers, is not getting the connections around race and class with this issue is mind-boggling to me.”
The Village Voice reporters didn't contact Lloyd, or the progressive, feminist anti-trafficking activist Malika Saada Saar, founder of the Rebecca Project. Instead, they focus on the anti-trafficking movement's evangelical Christians, as if the whole issue were simply a canard invented by repressive Puritans. It's certainly true that faith-based groups, many with politics that liberals find abhorrent, do anti-trafficking work, and that some of them get government grants for it. From a First Amendment perspective, there is much to criticize in the federal funding of religious organizations. It was certainly troubling when the charity belonging to the odious Franklin Graham got money from George W. Bush's anti-AIDS PEPFAR program. But it would be incorrect to conclude from that that the AIDS crisis was overblown.
It's hard not to be cynical about self-righteous Hollywood stars and their causes célèbres, and worthwhile to be skeptical about statistics. But it's also easy for critics to assume a knowing pose without knowing much at all. “This is something that certainly exists,” CdeBaca says of underage sex trafficking. “People come and spend a lot of time and effort and attention on it. Then the debunkers come in. And people remain enslaved.”
Sex trafficking in Tucson
July 7, 2011
TUCSON - We don't usually hear about it, but don't let that fool you. Child sex trafficking is a major problem, and it's right here in Tucson.
On Wednesday night, the heads of the new Southern Arizona Human Trafficking Task Force got the word out.
They met to discuss better ways of training law enforcement and prosecutors on the issue.
One victim of childhood sex trafficking was also there to share her story of how she survived, and in her first interview without her face being blurred, she sat down with News 4 Tucson's Danielle Todesco.
"I was prostituted and worked in massage parlors and different things under the control of a pimp," said trafficking victim, Amira Birger. At the age of 17, she was sold by a friend to a pimp, who took over her life for the next seven months. All the while, she was just eight miles from her home.
"I wasn't able to eat or speak, I couldn't take a shower. There was this control over me," she said it is mind control that traps these young girls. She said she never thought to run or seek help. She got out when her pimp released her, after catching wind of a criminal investigation.
That man is still on the loose, an unsettling thought for Birger, "Fearful all the time, because I don't ever know when that's going to come back to haunt me."
Yet she still stands up and tells her story to keep other girls from going through the same thing. She says every time she tells it, it heals her just a little bit more. "Every girl in America is at risk of being sexually abused because of the lack of awareness," she said.
Jerry Peyton is helping to raise that awareness. He started the Southern Arizona Sex Trafficking Task Force and hopes to stop the problem. The main goal, to help the girls in the system rebuild their lives. "I can't imagine something more degrading and violating than to be used 10 to 15 times a day by men you don't know," he said.
Peyton says awareness needs to being with parents and teachers, but especially the kids, "The girls were ignorant," he said, "they didn't even know when guys were targeting them either through the internet, on Facebook, at the mall."
Eight years later, Amira is now a full time student, wife, and mother to four kids. Jerry Peyton hopes to open a home for the girls who are rescued from this within the next year.
Senator Clark joins Senate to crack down on human trafficking
July 6, 2011
The following was submitted by the Office of State Senator Katherine Clark:
The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation that cracks down on human trafficking in Massachusetts with strong criminal penalties for forced labor and sexual servitude, Senator Katherine Clark announced. The bill also establishes important protections for victims of human trafficking.
“This is a critical step as we work to eliminate this horrific enterprise that violates human rights, attacks public safety, and undermines social and economic progress,” said Senator Clark. “I am proud the Senate passed this important legislation that will give law enforcement the necessary tools to combat this horrendous and exploitative crime.”
“We must protect victims, especially children, and prevent these kinds of heinous crimes from occurring in the Commonwealth,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said.
“Today's vote is another major step toward ending the exploitation of victims for sexual servitude and labor in our Commonwealth,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
The Senate bill includes criminal sentences up to five years in prison for attempted trafficking, up to 20 years for trafficking adults, and up to life imprisonment for the trafficking of minors. Businesses involved in trafficking would face up to a $1 million fine for the first offense, with a mandatory minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life for a second offense. These offenses also carry a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence.
The legislation also removes any statute of limitations for trafficking crimes and creates a 15-year criminal penalty for trafficking human organs.
The Senate bill updates sex offender registration laws to include human trafficking. This would require anyone convicted of the crime to register in Massachusetts as a sex offender and would require the Department of Correction and the Department of Youth Services to notify law enforcement of the release of convicted sex traffickers.
In an effort to further protect and help victims, the legislation takes several steps including the creation of a “Victims of Human Trafficking Trust Fund” which will be funded from fines and convicted human traffickers' forfeited assets. The fund provides restitution and funding for victim services and related work done by law enforcement.
Additionally, items used in the commission of the crime (buildings, cars, boats, etc.) are subject to asset forfeiture. Half of the proceeds go to the Victims' Fund. The other half is split between the police and either the Attorney General or the district attorney prosecuting the case.
The legislation also:
Establishes an Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, comprised of state officials, law enforcement, victims' services organizations and trafficking victims to investigate and study rates of human trafficking, prevention, and the treatment of victims;
Increases the penalty for soliciting a prostitute, and increases the penalty for soliciting sex from a person under 18;
Allows defendants who are victims of human trafficking and charged with prostitution to establish a defense of duress or coercion;
Establishes a “safe harbor provision” that allows the commonwealth, defendant or court to request a hearing for a child arrested for prostitution to instead receive protection services;
Requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide services to sexually exploited children and to immediately report to the district attorneys and the police any child the department believes to be a sexually exploited child;
Amends the mandated reporting law so that mandated reporters, such as doctors, social workers, teachers and probation officers, must report to DCF when they have reasonable cause to believe that a child is sexually exploited;
Establishes a process for victims of trafficking to bring civil actions; and
Increases potential sentences for “Johns” to 2 ½ years in a house of correction and creates a mandatory $1,000 fine.
The legislation will now return to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Moderator for international online community of pedophiles sentenced
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A Georgia man was sentenced to 11 years in prison Tuesday for distributing child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Joseph Gittings, 26, of Cumming, Ga., was arrested in November 2009 as part of the international takedown of the "Boy Lover Network," (BLN) an on-line forum dedicated to the discussion and promulgation of man-boy love.
"Each child seen in these pornographic videos is an innocent victim of those who produce, possess, transport and share child pornography. Unfortunately, these images are being viewed over and over again, perpetuating the abuse of these children," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Atlanta. "ICE will continue to diligently work with our law enforcement partners to identify child predators and bring them to justice."
In March 2009, the Australian Federal Police arrested a long-time member of the BLN. This individual identified Gittings, who was known online with the screen name of "Joe Cool" as being a senior member and administrator of BLN. According to the Australian defendant, Gittings lived in the United States but worked closely with Amir Hurwitz, the Netherlands-based leader of BLN, with Gittings providing technical support and participating in the senior leadership of the forum.
Having received this lead from Australian law enforcement, ICE HSI special agents confirmed that "Joe Cool" was, in fact, a senior administrator/member. Additional investigation linked the moniker "Joe Cool" to Gittings and placed him at a residence in Cumming.
The ICE agents were eventually able to develop a United States-based cooperating source, who was also a BLN member, who knew Gittings personally. This source provided information concerning Gittings' collection of child pornography and his willingness to distribute these illegal images to others. In October 2009, Gittings provided the cooperating source with two DVD's filled with images and videos of child pornography.
As part of the international takedown of BLN and its senior membership, ICE HSI arrested Gittings in November 2009 on charges of distributing child pornography. He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2010. Several other BLN members in the Atlanta area have been prosecuted federally for their sexual exploitation of boys.
Senior District Court Judge William C. O'Kelley sentenced Gittings to 11 years in custody, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Gittings will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from federal prison.
"While everyone is free to express their views, when their thoughts become actions and they collect and share child pornography, they step across the line separating free speech from crime. This defendant clearly crossed that line and for that he is being justly punished," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jill Steinberg and Robert McBurney prosecuted the case.
The investigation that led to this case was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Risk Factors Predict Repeat Abuse
When child abuse has been substantiated, a number of risk factors can predict the likelihood that abuse will be repeated if the child is returned to the care of the abuser, according to a prospective cohort study.
For instance, when the parents or caregivers were in their teens or twenties, were survivors of abuse, and had never taken parenting classes -- the child faced a 54% risk of being harmed again, wrote Suzanne R. Dakil, M D, and colleagues from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
But the risk was higher even higher -- 60% -- for children younger than 8.5 years who were returned to parents that had taken parenting class, the researchers reported online in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Because both Federal and state laws encourage keeping children in the family home if possible after abuse, it's crucial that accurate ways of predicting future risk be identified, Dakil's group stated.
Previous research into risk factors for repeated abuse has been limited in its focus primarily on individual factors, rather than the interaction of many factors.
To look for patterns of characteristics associated with risk of repeated abuse, Dakil and colleagues used a statistical technique known as recursive partitioning analysis, which can identify multiple variables associated with a given outcome.
They identified 2,578 children in the National Survey for Child and Adolescent Well-Being who remained in the home after a report of abuse, following them for five years.
Child characteristics included in the analyses were age, sex, race, and health, while caregiver characteristics included age, marital and employment status, education, and physical and emotional health.
Family and environmental characteristics included stress from unemployment, poverty, or drug use, social support, and domestic violence.
A total of 44% of children in the sample were reported to child welfare authorities again after the index report.
Bivariate analysis determined that these repeated reports were more likely when the child was between 3 years and 10 years of age and had behavior disturbances or developmental delays.
A new report also was more likely if caregivers were younger, had themselves been abused, and were limited in their employment because of health or emotional problems.
A family factor associated with repeated report was income below $20,000, while active domestic violence was less likely.
The finding of lower risk in the presence of domestic violence may be explained by the possibility that children in such homes are more likely to be removed or to be provided with closer support and monitoring, according to the researchers.
The recursive partitioning analysis identified risk clusters beginning with the determination of whether the index case had been substantiated, and found that in unsubstantiated cases, 56% were reported a second time.
Among the 1,252 substantiated index cases, 38% involved a second report.
However, this rose to 86% when the caregiver had a history of abuse and was younger than 33.5 years, the child was younger than 12.5 years but showed no behavioral difficulties, and when five or more children were present in the home.
A cluster of characteristics associated with low incidence of repeated abuse -- 26% -- was a substantiated index report, older age of the caregiver, no parenting classes, and non-African-American race.
"The findings, which go beyond prior research via a data-driven approach to identifying risk clusters, demonstrate that some risk factors, when combined, are powerful predictors of a child's future abuse risk," wrote Dakil and colleagues.
The finding that risk was still high in cases where there had been parenting classes suggests that classes may not be adequate for high-risk families, and additional support or removal might be considered, they noted.
And the increased risk seen with low income and behavior difficulties signals a need for assistance in basics such as housing, employment, medical care, and behavioral services.
In contrast, lower-risk families might not need these intensive services.
"These findings might be useful to [child protection services] in identifying at-risk children and making evidence-based decisions regarding child placement, families' service needs, and the duration and intensity of monitoring that families require," the researchers concluded.
They acknowledged that their study was limited by reliance on caseworker reports, which can be influenced by high worker turnover, and families being lost to follow-up.
Acquittal is a swift ending to Casey Anthony case
Jurors find the Florida woman not guilty of first-degree murder or aggravated manslaughter in the 2008 death of her daughter Caylee, 2.
By Amy Pavuk and Bianca Prieto, Orlando Sentinel
July 6, 2011
Reporting from Orlando, Fla.
The facts of the case were as awful as they were compelling: A little girl reported missing by her grandmother and found dead months later. A young mother accused of murder who sat silently behind the defendant's table as prosecutors described her partying lifestyle.
And its conclusion came swiftly. With the seven-week trial in session during the holiday weekend, the Casey Anthony jury got the case Monday — and reached a verdict Tuesday after deliberating for less than 11 hours.
Jurors acquitted Anthony of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, as well as aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. She was convicted of four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.
Anthony will be sentenced Thursday and faces up to four years in prison. But she could be released that day if she receives less than the maximum sentence and credit for time served. She could have faced the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Anthony, 25, wept after the clerk read the verdict. As soon as jurors left the courtroom, she tightly hugged defense lawyer Jose Baez, then the rest of her defense team.
"Casey did not murder Caylee; it's just that simple," Baez said.
Prosecutors sat solemnly in their seats, looking stunned. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton shook his head slightly from side to side.
Across the room, Anthony's father, George, wiped away tears. Without speaking to Anthony, he and his wife left the courtroom escorted by police while the judge thanked the jury.
"While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life," the elder Anthonys said in a statement. "They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives."
Defense lawyer Cheney Mason lashed out at the media and legal pundits who have been following the case since 2008.
"I hope that this is a lesson to those of you that have indulged in media assassination the last three years," Mason said at a news conference.
Caylee disappeared in June 2008, and her grandmother reported her missing a month later. Her decomposed body was found that December in woods near the Anthony home. Duct tape was on the remains, but the coroner could not determine a cause of death.
Prosecutors contended that Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who loved to party. They said Anthony tattooed herself with the Italian words for "beautiful life" in the month her daughter was missing and crafted elaborate lies to mislead everyone, including her own parents. When Cindy Anthony asked where her granddaughter was, Casey Anthony said she had been taken by a babysitter — who proved to be nonexistent.
Anthony's lawyers contended that the toddler accidentally drowned in the family pool, and that her seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father, an allegation he denied.
Anthony did not testify.
The jurors — seven women, five men — declined to talk to the media, and the judge ordered their identities kept secret.
Because of the intense media attention in Orlando, jurors were brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered for the trial, which began May 24.
Cable TV, social media fuel Casey Anthony trial fascination
Thousands of people turn to the Web to vent their outrage over Casey Anthony's acquittal on charges she killed her daughter while cable TV outlets like HLN reap big ratings.
By T.L. Stanley, Special to the Los Angeles Times
July 6, 2011
The media circus came to town, this time not in Los Angeles but in Orlando, Fla.
In a case compared to the courtroom dramas of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, the trial of Casey Anthony — if there were any doubts before — became a full-fledged national legal spectacle Tuesday after outrage erupted over the jury's decision to acquit the young mother on charges she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, with chloroform and duct tape.
Twitter blazed with righteous anger over what was largely viewed as a surprise verdict and anchors for a host of cable news outlets, which had trumpeted their extensive courtroom coverage particularly as the trial picked up momentum with viewers, could barely conceal their shock — and sometimes did not even try.
"The devil is dancing," said HLN's Nancy Grace, whose vigorous and unabashed pro-prosecution coverage helped lift the central Florida case to national prominence. "There's no way this verdict speaks to the truth."
The case's robust ratings, both locally and nationally, were fueled not only by tabloid-ready details, but also by social media, which routinely hummed with the trial's inner workings, according to media experts. During the trial, local ratings showed that more than half of TV sets in Orlando were tuned into the trial's live coverage at any given time.
But far away from the Disney-dominated tourist hub, trial coverage ratings set new records as well. Viewers latched onto the salacious case and its shocking conclusion, boosting the wall-to-wall coverage on cable channel HLN to the best ratings in its history.
The network, second only to Fox News in June, saw dramatic jumps in its audience, as much as 86% in prime time thanks to extensive trial coverage, with spikes that initially came from the Midwest (Chicago) and South (Atlanta) but expanded to major markets like Los Angeles and New York.
Dubbed "the social media trial of the century" by Time magazine, the case generated untold number of tweets, including from the 9th Judicial Circuit Court itself, where the case was tried. In a sign of the unusual cultural reach of the case, reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted Tuesday after the verdict: "WHAT!!!!???!!!! I am speechless."
Caylee-dedicated pages on Facebook gathered tens of thousands of followers and millions of people watched live-stream video feeds of the trial. Within a minute of the verdict on Tuesday, there were thousands of posts and comments, mostly condemning 25-year-old Anthony.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald, Washington Post, RadarOnline and the Daily Beast were among the outlets to live-stream the case, as did local stations around the country such as WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C. And two media companies, Progressive Lifestyles and Orlando's WESH-TV parent Hearst TV, even launched digital apps with live streaming, news stories, case files and updates — both of which instantly became big sellers.
Social media certainly played a pivotal role in bringing the case to national attention, but the case at its core may have simply appealed to people's primal instincts, said Stuart Fischoff, a senior editor at the Journal of Media Psychology.
"This is scarier than the average murder case because there's a sacredness that we assign to motherhood," he said. "The idea that a mother could kill her child flies in the face of every archetypal notion we have. It's monstrous. And we're revolted by that, but we're also fascinated. And we want revenge."
The rubber-necking is likely to continue. HLN, which had adopted "Justice for Caylee" as its tagline, will continue to sort through the fallout, trying to interview jurors, witnesses and others involved in the case. And though Anthony escaped conviction on more serious charges, she still faces sentencing for being found guilty of misdemeanor offenses of providing false information to law enforcement.
"We will be fully engaged through sentencing, for national reaction, making sure we meet everybody who played a role," said Scot Safon, HLN's executive vice president. "People who've followed the trial will want that opportunity."
HLN, spearheaded by Nancy Grace, has followed the case since Caylee was reported missing three summers ago. Safon said he'd expected viewer interest around opening statements, closing arguments and other trial high points, but found enough audience demand to add a 5 p.m. daily wrap-up show and expanded prime-time segments.
"We've seen strong and sustained and growing interest throughout the entire trial," he said. "The numbers never wavered."
A litany of lies from Anthony — that she had a job at Universal Studios and a nanny who kidnapped her child — have all been uncovered in a case that HLN's Grace has said played out "like a classic Greek tragedy."
Joline Gutierrez Krueger, a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, kept hearing people, particularly moms, in her New Mexico community talk about the case. She recently wrote a front page column detailing her own obsession that has included tuning into endless hours of trial coverage, starting at 7 a.m., searching Google Maps for the crime scene and letting all her summer reading gather dust.
"It's such a shocking crime that it begs for an explanation," Gutierrez Krueger said by phone.
Anthony, who faced first-degree murder and six other charges, was accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter in summer 2008. The child's body was found six months later in a swampy area near the Anthony family home.
The defense claimed it was an accidental drowning in the family swimming pool, followed by a misguided cover-up engineered by Anthony and her father, a retired police officer. Prosecutors argued that Anthony, tired of the burden of single motherhood, killed the toddler by using chloroform to knock her out and duct-taped her nose and mouth shut, before tossing her body into the woods.
No one involved in the case disputes what came next: Anthony partied hard, got a tattoo, shopped with stolen checks and took part in a "hot body" contest. She didn't report Caylee missing for a month.
"Here's a nice, middle-class family who could be our neighbors and whose lives seemed to be perfect," Gutierrez Krueger said. "I think we're trying to find out what went wrong by watching this trial. If we get some answers, we'll find out they're the anomaly, they're not like us after all. We want to be assured of that."
Sensationalizing child deaths through the court process does little to help end child abuse
The Casey Anthony trial has captivated our nation like so many high profile cases in the past, but at the end of the day these types of trials seem to do more harm than good for the efforts of child abuse prevention across America.
Despite intense public and media scrutiny of cases such as Susan Smith in 1994, JonBenet Ramsey in 1996, Andrea Yates in 2001 and Baby Gabriel in 2009, the numbers of child deaths from abuse keep rising. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made every year, or about one every 10 seconds. The 2009 Child Maltreatment report from HHS estimates that 1,770 child abuse deaths occurred in 2009, or five per day. This number has been increasing for the past five years. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Child abuse is an epidemic and brutal deaths happen every day.
“In addition to the tragic death of Caylee, four other children died that day and die every day, yet we aren't talking about them,” said Kristi Murphy, Clinical Director at the Childhelp Children's Center of Arizona. “Instead of feeling helpless while watching this trial, Americans should feel compelled to protect the children who are in their lives and help parents who are struggling.”
Great strides have been made in recent years with better reporting, new legislation and increased awareness, but there is still much to be done. According to UNICEF, research estimates that almost 3,500 children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse and neglect every year in the industrialized world and of the 27 richest nations in the world, the United States, Mexico and Portugal rates of child deaths are 10 to 15 times higher than other countries. The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 was $104 billion.
Free resources are available such as the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, a 24-hour free crisis hotline that is staffed by degreed counselors. The Childhelp website has many resources and tips for children, parents, professionals and offers statistics, definitions and information about child abuse.
“Government isn't going to fix this – case loads are too high and budgets are too low,” said Murphy.
“That is why everyone, including the media, needs to offer help and resources to families and parents that are struggling- we have an obligation to our children and an obligation as citizens within our communities to be advocates for those who cannot speak up; they deserve nothing less.”
About Childhelp ®: CEO and Co-Founder Sara O'Meara and President and Co-Founder Yvonne Fedderson started Childhelp in 1959, establishing it as a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect and at-risk children. Childhelp's approach focuses on advocacy, prevention, treatment and community outreach.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD ® , operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and receives calls from throughout the United States, Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. Childhelp's programs and services also include residential treatment services; children's advocacy centers; therapeutic foster care; group homes and child abuse prevention, education and training. Childhelp also created the National Day of Hope ® , held each April during National Child Abuse Prevention Month that mobilizes people across America to join the fight against child abuse.
For more information about Childhelp, please call 480-922-8212 or visit www.childhelp.org.
Casey Anthony Let off: List of 10 Women Who Killed Their Children
By IB Times Staff Reporter
Casey Anthony trial verdict has made a majority of those who have been following the trial gasp in shock as Casey was let off from first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter. However, she was convicted for four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement officials.
Jurors gave this shocking verdict after hearing 91 witnesses and 30 days of testimony, with stunning revelations, disturbing evidence and even more disturbing behavior.
Meanwhile, children under the age of 5 in the United States are more likely to be killed by their parents than by anyone else, according to to FBI crime stats in 1999.
Parents were responsible for 57 percent of these murders. Women commit less than 13 percent of all violent crimes but they are responsible for about 50 percent of all parental murders.
More than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Three to five children a day are killed by their parents. Homicide is one of the leading causes of death of children under age four, yet we continue to "persist with the unrealistic view that this is rare behavior," said Jill Korbin, expert on child abuse, who has studied mothers who killed their children.
Here is the list of 10 women who killed their children:
Andrea Yates , a Houston resident, killed her five young children on June 20, 2001 by drowning them in the bathtub in her house. On July 26, 2006, a Texas jury found that Yates was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Patricia Blackmon , at the age of 29, brutally murdered her two-year-old adopted daughter Dominique Bryant in Dothan, AL in May 1999. She was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to death.
Kenisha Berry killed her newborn son by duct-taping his mouth and arms, and placing him in a dumpster in 1998.
Debra Jean Milke , at the age of 25, was arrested for complicity in the murder of her only child, four-year-old Christopher Conan Milke. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, first degree murder, kidnapping, and child abuse. In January 1991, Judge Cheryl K. Hendrix sentenced her to death.
Dora Luz Durenrostro killed her two daughters, age 4 and 9, and her son, age 8, when she was 34 years old in San Jacinto, California in 1994.
Caro Socorro , at the age of 42, killed her three sons, ages 5, 8 and 11, in Santa Rosa Valley, California in 1999.
Susan Eubanks murdered her four sons, ages 4, 6, 7 and 14, in San Marcos, California, in 1996 when she was 33. She was sentenced to death on April 5, 2002.
Caroline Young , at the age of 49, killed her 4-year-old granddaughter and 6-year-old grandson in Haywood, California.
Robin Lee Row was 35 years old when she killed her husband, her 10-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter in Boise, Idaho in 1992.
Michelle Sue Tharp was 29 years old when she killed her 7-year-old daughter in Burgettstown (Washington County) on April, 1998.
Grants help ABC House fund programs to combat child abuse
ABC House, a nonprofit organization, located in Albany recently received several grants from local businesses and organizations to help support the fight against child abuse and neglect.
State Farm granted $3,500 for the ABC House Community Education Program.
This program's main goal is educating middle and high school students and the community at large through presentations about child abuse and personal safety. Topics such as internet safety, domestic and dating violence, and protecting infants from injury are among many which are discussed.
Funds for this program also are used to support Girls' Group, a program for at-risk teenage girls that helps young girls with self-awareness and a positive body image.
Pacific Power Foundation is funding a new child sexual abuse prevention training program for adults who work with children called, “Darkness to Light.”
This training will be provided for a low cost of $15 per person — to cover materials — and this program will be offered to any interested community organization starting this summer.
Fred Meyer in Albany provided a $100 gift card to be used for Girls' Group supplies.
The National Children's Alliance and The Bill Healy Foundation together have provided funding for the hiring of a part-time medical provider to handle the increase in the number of cases of children who are being seen for medical exams and consultations.
The Doris and William Scharpf Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation matched the first $14,000 in donations at the ABC House Celebrate Hope dinner in April.
Samaritan Albany General Hospital's Social Accountability Budget granted $4,250 to fund trauma counseling sessions for children who have been abused.
Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital's Social Accountability Fund gave $3,000 to support Advocacy Services to children and their families.
Target Distribution Center gave a gift card to provide juice and healthy snacks for children who come to ABC House for services.
Meyer Memorial Trust granted $25,000 to ABC House for the hiring of an Administrative Assistant to help with administration and financial record keeping.
South Albany High School Community 101 students and Santiam Christian School students contributed a total of $1,050 ($525 each) to pay for 14 additional counseling sessions for needy families.
ABC House is the only local child abuse assessment center serving Linn and Benton counties and is now in its 14th year.
ABC House has provided services to 5,000 children in our communities. ABC House addresses emergent and critical community need, and offers a continuum of services.
The ABC House provides a safe, respectful, healing environment for children who have been abused.
For more information on the ABC House and what services it offers, or to donate, visit online at abchouse.org, or call (541) 926-2203 .
Sex Trafficking Victim Escapes, Was Forced to Undergo Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
A young teenage girl who was recently found after spending more than a year as a sex trafficking victim is an example of the kind of concerns pro-life advocates presented earlier this year about Planned Parenthood.
The girl became entangled in a snare of a Cleveland, Ohio couple running a sex trafficking ring and she eventually found herself pregnant as a result. Once pregnant, the perpetrators took the young girl to Detroit, Michigan for an abortion and made a fake ID for her to allow her to escape the state's parental involvement law on abortion.
From the WEWS-TV report:
Family members searched unsuccessfully for a 15-year-old Cleveland runaway for almost one year. Then a break came earlier this month.
On June 11, Cleveland police got a call from a teen girl who told them she escaped from an apartment on the city's west side after being a sex slave and unknowingly being infected with the HIV virus.
The now 16-year-old girl admitted to authorities that, at first, she willingly moved into the apartment of Richard Morris, 28, and his wife Tranace, 23, on W. 174th Street in September 2010 when she ran away from her family's house. At that point, her family reported her missing and she was soon after profiled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The girl met Richard Morris on an Internet chat room in late 2009. After talking via the web for several months, Morris began picking her up from her house and she told authorities she began engaging in consensual sex with both the husband and wife.
According to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, Morris never told the girl he had HIV and ended up getting the teen pregnant. That's when Morris created a fake ID for the teen and drove her to Detroit for an abortion.
That sounds very much like the problems Live Action uncovered in an undercover sting operation at multiple Planned Parenthood abortion centers earlier this year where video footage showed staff at the abortion centers helping alleged sex traffickers obtain abortions for underage girls.
The footage showed three centers in southern Virginia, a Perth Amboy, New Jersey abortion business and a Planned Parenthood center in Richmond , Virginia all having staffers helping the alleged sex traffickers find information on how to obtain abortions without facing scrutiny and get STD testing for the girls.
A Planned Parenthood staffer in New Jersey has already been fired , New Jersey officials are looking into a shoddy abortion center Planned Parenthood referred to in its video, and the Virginia attorney general has received the full footage of the Richmond Planned Parenthood expose'. All three of the new videos clearly show staff willing to aid and abet the sexual trafficking and exploitation of minors and young women and the videos, Lila Rose of Live Action says, provide more evidence of a clear, disturbing pattern of gross misconduct by Planned Parenthood.
The videos have a Roanoke, Virginia abortion facility staffer suggesting the sex trafficker consider going to the health department instead of taking the girls he is victimizing to the Planned Parenthood — because it would be easier to hide the illegal activity.
“They're discreet. They're confidential. They, you know, don't tell people what's going on, because — frankly — it's nobody's business,” the female Planned Parenthood staff person is shown saying on the video. “And the thing is, see this is the thing a lot of people don't know that. . .Right, through the Health Department.”
Rose, commenting on the videos earlier this year, said, “The only acceptable response to encountering a self-identified sex-trafficker of underage girls is zero tolerance. The only ‘professional' response is to immediately call law enforcement to the scene and push for an arrest. Our investigation – and their response – continues to show that an institutional crisis has engulfed the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. If you're a sex-trafficker of minors or young women, you have a partner in Planned Parenthood. But if you are a minor or a young woman, you are not safe at Planned Parenthood clinics.”
The perpetrators in Ohio, Richard and Tranance Morris, didn't have to take the young girl to Michigan to force her into an abortion that would cover up their crimes. They could have stayed in Ohio, since Planned Parenthood there has a history of not informing the authorities about cases of sexual abuse and statutory rape of young girls.
Meanwhile, back in Ohio, the story of the young victimized girls ends with her discovery.
Tips led Cleveland police to the home on multiple occasions, but they could never find the girl.
“The police went over there so many times,” recalled neighbor Shakara Welch. “All the residents were outside and they always came up empty handed and we wondered why,” she said.
That's because prosecutors would later discover Morris had a video surveillance system that alerted him to when police were coming. When they searched the apartment the victim was always hiding in a compartment inside a couch.
“This is not that much different than when they're moving young children from one city to another city and having the sex slaves,” said Mason. “This is not that much different except that it was happening here in our neighborhood.”
In the end Mason says it was the victim who alerted police. “They began to beat her and and assaulted her when she wanted to leave. She then left their house and ran to a neighbor's house and called 9-1-1,” said Mason.
Morris and his wife now face a 14-count indictment, including kidnapping, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, felonious assault and more.
Richard and Tranace Morris are currently behind bars in the Cuyahoga County Jail and will be arraigned on Friday. They face dozens of years in prison if convicted of the crimes.
The teen girl is currently living in a group home and undergoing counseling.
Police reports indicate no sex trafficking
by Rachel Vickrey
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Coffee County is one of four major locations across the state for human sex trafficking.
However, not a single report from the Tullahoma Police Department completed during the past two years indicates any human sex trafficking incidents.
The TBI report released in June suggests that Coffee, Davidson, Shelby and Knox counties each have more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking during the past two years. The numbers were gathered from an anonymous e-mailed survey the bureau distributed to law enforcement agencies, juvenile and family courts and group homes that potentially deal with human sex trafficking and other sexual abuse crimes.
Although the Tullahoma Police Department and Coffee County Sheriff's Department were listed as survey participants, officials aren't sure who – if anyone – received the e-mailed survey.
“We're unaware that anyone from this office participated in the survey,” said Police Chief Paul Blackwell. “We haven't found any record that indicates Tullahoma has even one case of human sex trafficking.”
Blackwell suggests it's highly possible that some agencies interpreted the definition of human sex trafficking as something else.
“TBI's definition in the survey was ‘a for-profit sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person performing such an act is under the age of 18 years.' I think that takes away the cases of sexual assault that would not be raises to the level of human trafficking because it's not for profit as far as we know,” said Blackwell.
Some survey participants might have included aggravated assault or intimidation in their personal definition.
“Historically, we have not had anything within the past two years that gives any indication of human sex trafficking,” said Blackwell.
In a letter by TBI Director Mark Gwyn in the report, Tennessee Human Sex Trafficking and Its Impact on Children and Youth 2011, he calls human sex trafficking “sexual slavery at its worst” and went on to explain that “…traffickers are difficult for law enforcement to investigate and a challenge to prosecute” and calls for harsher penalties for the crime.
“Human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common that previously believed possible. Focused on victims between the ages of 9 and 17, the study pulled together details that found children are moved from city to city in the state and sold as prostitutes. Tennessee, simply because of its geographical position to Atlanta and the large number of interstates that cross the state, is conducive to a traveling business. Many times those promoting prostitution transport the child victims to large entertainment events or sporting venues where people are traveling through or visiting the state. These visitors, often referred to as ‘sex tourists', quite often become clients,” stated Gwyn in his letter.
“I have no reason to doubt TBI but I would like to see a breakdown of the data. I would like to ensure the community that any issue of human trafficking would be handled properly and encourage people to seek help if faced with any criminal situation,” said Blackwell.
The anonymous survey was sent to people in social services, law enforcement and group homes.
“If one person felt they came in contact with more than 100 cases in the past two years they could indicate that on the survey,” said Kristin Helm, TBI spokesperson. “Someone in social services, a counselor or therapist might come in contact with that many people.”
Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves echoes Blackwell's comments on the survey but mentioned his department's participation in a Craig's List sting operation that produced about 30 arrests with various charges.
“But that's a far cry from more than 100 cases. I just can't put a great deal of stock into a report generated mostly from Survey Money results,” said Graves. “People can say anything with no reason to be entirely accurate.”
The report states human sex trafficking is often confused with prostitution.
“When I think of trafficking, I think of forced prostitution,” said Graves.
Haven of Hope, a local non-profit domestic violence services program, keeps its records confidential. The organization offers assistance for sexual assault victims, which could include human sex trafficking.
“Human trafficking is an underground type of victimization. Many of those victims may not want to go to the police because of embarrassment,” said Mona Mason, Haven of Hope director.
In the report, TBI states several assumptions and limitations on the data.
The study includes 4,461 participants with specific backgrounds.
“Some participants who have limited or no training in identifying human sex trafficking would have difficulty recognizing a minor victim. …The conceptualization of human sex trafficking varies among individuals,” according to page 11 of the report.
Near the end of the report, a quote from Coffee County was included at the bottom of page 60.
“My experience with human sex trafficking was a father who was abusing his daughter and then letting his friends participate for a fee.”
There was no source other than “Coffee County” listed for the quote.
The Tennessee Human Sex Trafficking and Its Impact on Children and Youth 2011 report can be found at www.tbi.state.tn.us.
PA child abuse numbers raise questions
July 5, 2011
By Patriot-News Editorial Board
Given that the latest state report on child abuse shows the numbers are going down, it's easy to assume everyone would be relieved.
Unfortunately not. Doctors are raising serious red flags about how Pennsylvania's narrow definition of child abuse is causing too many cases to go undetected, too many children unprotected.
Dr. Rachel Berger of the Children's Advocacy Center of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC wrote recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “We believe statistics about abuse and neglect of children in our state do not accurately reflect what our children are experiencing. And without reliable data, we cannot address the safety, health and vulnerability of Pennsylvania's children.”
Given these concerns, the governor, legislators and Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander need to call for a closer look at the system to determine whether Pennsylvania needs to revamp the way it identifies child abuse.
Available information points to questions, at the least, about the state's reporting system. Pennsylvania is well below other states and the national average when it comes to figures of investigated child abuse cases. In the commonwealth, 8.3 of every 1,000 children are involved in an abuse case. The national figure, however, is 40.3, according to the federal Administration for Children and Families.
The state also is below the national rate for children receiving child protective services, and there are questions about how the definition of child abuse is handled county by county. In sparsely populated Potter County, the rate of cases is 3.5 per 1,000 children yet in Dauphin County it is 1.5.
These numbers show a troubling pattern and require a fresh look at our system of tracking abuse. Especially, as Berger points out, when individual cases just don't make sense. A baby suffers or even dies from abusive head trauma, but if there is no perpetrator determined, the child is not considered a victim of child abuse under Pennsylvania's definition.
Physicians at Penn State, along with Penn State Dickinson School of Law, want to be sure doctors and others know enough about abuse to report it. They recently unveiled a new Look Out for Child Abuse website to provide one place where people who are required to report suspected child abuse can go for information on identifying abuse and reporting it. The site can be used by teachers, doctors, police, child care providers, clergy and nurses.
In addition, the creators are working with Cumberland County Children and Youth Services on a pilot program that allows electronic reporting of child abuse by those who are mandated to do so when they suspect seeing it. The hope is that if the process goes well in Cumberland County it can be used statewide.
As physicians and experts statewide question whether Pennsylvania has the right tools in place to stop child abuse, the new public welfare secretary and state officials should quickly assess if there is a serious problem with the state's reporting system and make changes to better protect our children.
Child abuse prevention imperiled
SCAN tries to keep programs alive despite declining funding
By Angela Mapes Turner | The Journal Gazette
FORT WAYNE – Michelle Archer hopes her family can move out of relatives' homes and into a house this month.
That would be one more step on a long path toward self-improvement that for Archer has included participation in a program to improve her parenting skills.
But those kinds of programs have an uncertain future as state funds dry up. Children's advocates are looking to other sources to pay for parenting programs they feel are as important as ever with child-abuse cases on the rise.
Archer has participated in Healthy Families, a program offered in Allen County through Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) that has been gutted by successive years of funding cuts.
Children's advocates buy into the ounce-of-prevention, pound-of-cure school of thought when it comes to averting child abuse. SCAN grant writer Jennifer Boen said the agency has had to cast its net wider – and ask for smaller sums of money.
“We are having to go to more sources for funding than we ever had to in the past,” she said.
Healthy Families has the pedigree to attract funding. It's a nationwide, research-based program designed to work with overburdened parents in their own homes, including families with possible histories of trauma, domestic violence, mental health or substance abuse issues.
The families in the program have not abused or neglected their children, but they have family or home stressors that put them at higher risk.
Archer, 35, already had two sons and a daughter when she gave birth to Teriann Geisleman, now 3.
“It's not my first rodeo,” she said.
But she had concerns, enough to convince her to enroll in Healthy Families.
One of her sons has a speech impediment that wasn't caught until he was 3 years old; years later, he still struggles.
Teriann's father, Archer's partner of nearly seven years, is a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq. Terry Geisleman, 42, said he has struggled with anger and communication issues since his second deployment.
“I didn't know how to deal with people when I got back,” he said.
Archer is a talkative counterpoint to her partner's reserve. She likes working with her hands and says she's going back to school in hopes of becoming a licensed practical nurse, but in the meantime, she's working a factory job.
She was working six or seven days a week when her older children were toddlers, and certain tasks, such as breaking the kids from their bottles and potty-training, fell to the children's grandmother.
With her younger daughter, Archer said she knew she needed to ask for help.
She learned more about the practical aspects of parenthood as well as the more intangible skills – how to deal with squabbles between her two daughters, for example, and impose disciplinary time-outs. Before that, she had trouble disciplining children in a structured way and would give in to their demands too easily, she said.
“I learned new parenting skills,” she said. “New ways to handle the stress.”
Teriann clomps in adult-sized dress-up shoes on her tiny feet. Her grandmother buys them from thrift stores; the white platform sandals are of a style popular in the late 1990s.
Geisleman, Archer and the children moved out of an apartment in April and have been staying with family in hopes of being able to afford a rental house this month.
Their stresses have continued since Teriann's birth. Archer's sons live with relatives in another county so they can attend a school where she believes her son gets better speech therapy, and Geisleman was laid off just before Christmas.
Both say they have benefited from the services provided through three years of Healthy Families – not just in terms of parenting, but in learning how to set personal goals.
Archer now recommends the program to any new parents she knows, even though the stress hasn't always made it easy for Archer to follow through with her caseworker's guidance.
“I'm like, ‘Stop riding me,' ” Archer said, “And she's like, ‘That's what I'm here for.' ”
More cuts expected
Families enroll voluntarily in the program, usually referred by their physicians or caseworkers through other social services.
Already, Archer and her family stand to receive less support through the program than others who have participated in the past. SCAN used to offer it for the first five years of a child's life, but now the group can afford to offer it only for three years.
This fall, SCAN anticipates an additional $700,000 to $750,000 cut to the program and the loss of more support workers, Boen said.
SCAN tracks all the local families that go through the program; the enrolled families that complete the program remain free from cases of abuse or neglect 98 percent of the time, according to the agency's most recent data, Boen said.
That information goes a long way toward convincing donors to support the program, and SCAN has had success with getting grants from organizations such as the Rothschild Foundation. It has also sought more support from individual donors and fundraisers but it hasn't been enough to offset consecutive years of cuts by the state.
Last year, Healthy Families served 1,280 families; this year, it's on track to serve 675 to 750.
Meanwhile, SCAN continues to track rising rates of child abuse and neglect in northeast Indiana. In 2009, the most recent year for which state data are available, more than 2,300 children were abused or neglected in Allen and eight surrounding counties.
That's an increase of 30 percent from the previous year, according to the state's data. The need is there, but the staffing isn't, Boen said.
Boen said the agency is having difficulty convincing donors to take over funding of a program that used to be government funded. They don't want to become the agency's lifeline to funds for the rest of a program's life, she said.
But SCAN argues it's a pay-now-or-pay-later scenario. In Allen County, the cost to put one child into foster care from an unhealthy home situation is more than twice the cost of one year of Healthy Families services for an entire family, according to Boen's research.
Other states are trying to justify their expenses for similar initiatives. In the state of New York, for example, a study of the program showed for every dollar invested in Healthy Families New York services, the rate of return is $3.16 by the time a child is 7 years old.
“It's the preventative services we keep cutting,” Boen said. “The taxpayers don't realize we're going to pay for it out the other end.”
In homes with substantiated child abuse reports, study identifies groups at higher risk for reabuse
Children who remain in the home after a substantiated report of abuse may have more or less risk of further abuse depending on certain characteristics of their caregivers, according to a report published Online First today by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine , one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
A sizable minority of children involved in abuse cases reported to child protective services (CPS) are at increased risk of more reports (rereports), some of which are substantiated (reabuse), according to background information in the article. "Federal and state legislation promote family preservation for abused children, so identifying children at risk is important for persons who make crucial decisions regarding child placement," write the authors. "For children to safely remain in the home, an understanding of which children are at highest and lowest risk of reabuse is essential."
Suzanne R. Dakil, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center, Dallas, sought to identify those groups by using recursive partitioning analysis (RPA), a way of identifying "the clusters of factors most significantly associated with the outcome." They examined data from the National Survey for Child and Adolescent Well-Being. A rereport, the primary outcome, was defined as any new report within five years of the initial (index) report. Cases of reabuse were determined by assessing rereports and classifying them as substantiated (supported), indicated (unsupported but suspected) or neither. The authors applied RPA to divide the data into higher-risk and lower-risk groups.
The authors identified 2,578 children who remained in the home after a report of abuse; 44 percent were rereported within five years. The likelihood of rereports increased when children were between ages 3 years and 10 years or had behavior problems and developmental disabilities; caregivers were young, had an abuse or CPS history or were prevented from working by health and emotional limitations; families experienced domestic violence or earned less than $20,000 per year; or when index reports were substantiated. Of the rereports, 45 percent were classified as reabuse; the researchers determined groupings of characteristics that increased or decreased the likelihood of reabuse.
The study's findings, according to the authors, show that combining certain risk factors produces a strong predictor of a child's risk of future abuse. "These findings might be useful to CPS in identifying at-risk children and making evidence-based decisions regarding child placement, families' service needs, and the duration and intensity of monitoring that families require," the researches state. "In addition, the findings might prove useful to policymakers in targeting limited resources to high-risk families."
Seattle Mayor speaks out on child prostitution in adult classifieds
by Catherine Holland
SEATTLE -- Hollywood celebrity Ashton Kutcher is a big fan of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
At around noon on Friday, Kutcher, an activist fighting to end human trafficking, tweeted:
"I think every mayor should take human trafficking as serious as @mayormcginn in seattle http://t.co/BaxIDoz #dna"
Kutcher's tweet was in reference to McGinn's request that Village Voice Media stop carrying adult classified ads in their publications that include some forms of child prostitution.
Village Voice Media operates Backpage.com, an online classifies website, as well as the Phoenix News Times, Seattle Weekly, and several other similar weeklies throughout the country.
Friday, McGinn wrote a letter to the CEO of the Village Voice, stating the seriousness of sex trafficking in Seattle and the shocking number of minors who get swept up and are never heard from again.
McGinn said just this year, the Seattle Police Department found four cases of underage sex trafficking on Backpage.
Site staffers in Seattle say they make sure inappropriate and illegal content either does not get posted or is reported to the proper authorities.
“I understand that you have existing policies aimed at preventing the trafficking of minors,” McGinn wrote. “But the problems remains. It's time to reexamine your policies. We must do better.”
He concluded by inviting the Backpage.com staff with sit down with him and Seattle's chief of police.
Kutcher and wife, actress Demi Moore, have launched a campaign to raise awareness about child sex slavery in the U.S. The Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA) campaign is called "Real Men Don't Buy Girls."
The Village Voice has taken issue with the figures DNA cites, claiming that between 100,000 and 300,000 children forced into the sex trade each year.
"The statistic was hatched without regard to science. It is a bogeyman," wrote Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin and Kristen Hinman in a piece titled "Real Men Get Their Facts Straight."
Trial to begin in slaying of gay middle school student Larry King
Brandon McInerney, who was 14 when he shot King in an Oxnard classroom, faces 1st degree murder and hate-crime charges. The defense will argue for voluntary manslaughter, saying he was young, immature and provoked.
By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
July 5, 2011
When he was just 14, Brandon McInerney walked into an Oxnard classroom, took his seat, pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his backpack and shot the student sitting in front of him. Then he tossed the weapon to the floor and walked out.
The victim, Lawrence King, was an openly gay student who McInerney reportedly thought had a crush on him.
This week McInerney, looking more like an adult at the age of 17, will be tried in a high-profile murder case that rallied the gay community and triggered calls for greater protections of young homosexuals on school campuses.
Prosecutor Maeve Fox says she will outline a straightforward case in opening arguments set to begin Tuesday in a Chatsworth courtroom. The Oxnard teenager carefully planned and carried out the Feb. 12, 2008, execution of his eighth-grade classmate, she said. He brought a gun to school, positioned himself directly behind King during a morning computer class and fired twice into the back of the 15-year-old's head.
McInerney then dropped the gun and walked out the door in front of two dozen horrified classmates and a teacher, Fox says.
Prosecutors have added a hate-crime allegation, arguing that McInerney's actions were spurred in part by a hatred of gays, in line with his alleged neo-Nazi sympathies. If convicted, he faces 53 years to life.
McInerney is being tried in adult court under the provisions of Proposition 21, which allows prosecutors to bring murder charges against juveniles as young as 14 for certain serious crimes.
McInerney's lawyers, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, say their client doesn't deny the killing. But they argue it was voluntary manslaughter because the adolescent was provoked by King's repeated sexual advances.
Fellow students say the two had clashed for days over King's expressing his attraction to McInerney. King, who was living in a children's shelter because of problems at home, had recently gone to school wearing eye makeup and women's accessories.
McInerney was humiliated by King's advances, his attorneys said. He came from a violent home and decided to end his misery in a way that made sense to him — with a gun. He shot King "in the heat of passion caused by the intense emotional state between these two boys at school," Bramson said last week outside the courthouse, where jury selection was underway.
A voluntary manslaughter conviction would prevent a life sentence, Wippert said, making McInerney eligible for release before he's 40. Even a finding of second-degree murder would virtually assure that he wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was in his 70s, his lawyers said.
The defense will stress McInerney's age at the time of the crime, and may summon a psychologist to talk about the maturity and critical-thinking abilities of a 14-year-old. In essence, they will argue that McInerney didn't have the maturity to deal with King's schoolyard taunts.
"Age will explain his behavior and his response," Wippert said. "How a 14-year-old reacts is different than how an older person would react."
The defense could face a challenge in portraying McInerney as a naive youth. At the time of the shooting, he looked young and sweet-faced. In court recently, the defendant was a tall, lanky young man dressed in crisp Oxford shirts and khaki pants.
Wippert said he's not worried that jurors won't be able to see the confused young boy of three years ago.
"Part of the job of the jury is to understand that this happened when they were in middle school," Wippert said.
Pretrial court proceedings have delayed the case as McInerney changed lawyers and defense attorneys petitioned to remove the Ventura County prosecutors and a judge from the case, claiming they were biased. Those motions were denied.
The defense sought a change of venue and the case was first transferred to Santa Barbara County before settling in the Chatsworth courthouse in Los Angeles County. A defense request to unseal King's juvenile records was denied by a California appeals court.
The killing triggered an emotional outpouring that included candlelight vigils across the country and a day of silence in April organized by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, a New York-based group dedicated to preventing harassment of young gays and lesbians on school campuses.
Students at the school, E.O. Green Junior High, organized a peace march attended by hundreds in the days after the shooting. Several states have passed laws specifically outlawing bullying of homosexuals at school, and California strengthened its own anti-bullying laws.
Still, bullying of gays remains a problem. After a spate of suicides by homosexual youths last fall, including that of 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, activists, celebrities and others posted YouTube videos with the It Gets Better Project to inspire hope in struggling youths.
Eliza Byard, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's executive director, said progress is being made in communities and schools that proactively address issues of bias. The network will be closely monitoring the McInerney case, she said.
"It's a coda to an unbelievably tragic situation," she said. "This is a case where at least two young lives were destroyed."
New rape crisis center opens in Sumter
By JADE ANDERSON
Sumter County has a new rape crisis agency, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands.
"We intervene at an early stage so that the victim gets help now instead of nine or 10 years down the road. If we can keep that from happening, the impact of the trauma is lessened," Executive Director Ginny Waller said.
The YWCA of the Upper Lowlands Inc. no longer offers direct services. It, however, continues to offer sexual assault and prevention education and domestic violence assistance. Victims who call the YWCA will be referred to Sexual Trauma Services, a private, nonprofit agency that has been serving Richland, Lexington and Newberry for a number of years.
Sumter was added to its service area on March 15 and has had seven hospital calls for Sumter since then.
"Last year we served 1,559 victims, and it's estimated that only 16 percent report," Waller said. "About 5,000 were reported for the entire state. People say, 'I don't know anybody who was sexually violated,' and I tell them, 'You do. They've just never shared.'"
What her organization offers is a 24-hour, seven days a week hotline for people experiencing a crisis.
If someone goes to a hospital and reports they've been sexually assaulted or sexually offended, the hospital staff calls her agency, Waller said. A staff member then comes to the hospital.
"We allow the victim the opportunity to talk without feeling judged in any way," Waller said.
A victim's advocate is already in the Sumter area, but Waller said her organization is looking for more.
Advocates talk to the victim about their options. For one thing, the exam is free.
"We talk to them about the rape kit and what their options are for reporting," Waller said. "They can now report anonymously. The No.1 reason for not reporting is fear of law enforcement."
She said the federal law changed two years ago, and South Carolina just adopted it in January of this year.
"The old tradition was the hospital would just pick up the phone, 'we've got a sexual assault victim,' and call law enforcement and us automatically," Waller said. "That doesn't give the victim a choice."
Now, if victims choose not to report, they have a year to change their minds.
"Usually, about a month before we'll contact survivors and let them know they are nearing the deadline in case they want to report," Waller said. "If not, the kit is destroyed."
Also under South Carolina law, if the accused rapist is the victim's legal spouse, the victim has only 30 days to report.
Sometimes the victim will call the hotline before going to the hospital.
"It gives us a great opportunity to tell them about the anonymous reporting option, and we direct them to the nearest hospital," Waller said. "We encourage them to go get medical help. Then when they get to the hospital, they call us and we go."
Usually those who call the hotline were probably assaulted days, months or years ago, she said. If it is within 120 hours of the assault, Waller said evidence can still be collected.
Following an assault or if an adult is experiencing flashbacks to childhood abuse and feels she or he is in a crisis, the center offers crisis counseling. The agency has four licensed counselors.
Following the initial intervention, Sexual Trauma Services offers up to six months of counseling. If a person needs further counseling, he or she is referred to someone in the community who works with the agency.
The nonprofit is also looking for Sumter counselors who are willing to help.
Group therapy is also an option, and the agency has nine groups in the different communities they serve.
If a person chooses to take the legal route, the center provides legal aid to go with the victim to report the crime and to court with them to sit through the trial. They also offer to talk to employers to assist them in understanding what the employee is going through, and if the perpetrator is in the home, they work with partner agencies in the community to find housing.
"We offer comprehensive services to the victim, (and) it's all free," Waller said. "We are free to victims because they should never have to pay for what happened."
Her organization is also working with Tuomey Regional Medical Center to get two nurses trained in forensic examinations and to be able testify in court.
"It's really super on so many levels because most hospitals don't have anyone of this caliber and specialty," Waller said.
The nurses are expected to begin training later this summer, but even after that there will be continued training and supervision.
"It's a long process," Waller said. "It takes a year to complete the process and get certified. It's really exciting to see those kind of changes, and we just got here."
Law enforcement has also been more than willing to work with her agency, Waller said.
"We're going to be able to have great working relationships to serve survivors the best way we can," Waller said.
She also met with the solicitor's office.
"We're very excited about having their expertise come in and assist in preparations for the case," said 3rd Circuit Solicitor Ernest A. "Chip" Finney III.
He said he has a "sizeable number" of sexual assault cases from before he took over in January, and said he's had a few new cases come in as well.
"There has been a shift in public perception that has had an impact on our court system and the lives we deal with," Finney said. "We want the best resources and people to intake and go into the system because that has a large determination in the success we have presenting cases in courts."
He said things are better than even 10 years ago.
"I've seen a large difference in what I think was the stigma attached to trauma to children and women," Finney said. "We now focus on those areas. Teachers, nurses and social workers are much more aware of the dangers, so we can do a better job identifying them and getting the cases prepared and in court."
Online: Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands website, http://www.stsm.org
Father says false child abuse claims are ‘too easy' to make
By Martin Shipton, Western Mail
A father of young children whose family was investigated following a false allegation of child abuse says it has become too easy for malicious accusers to be taken seriously.
The father, who lives in Newport but did not want to be named, said the ordeal he and his family had been through had been “pretty traumatic”.
Last month the Western Mail reported an 82% rise in child-protection referrals in Monmouthshire over a period of just 12 months.
The increase reflects a national trend.
After reading the story the father contacted us and said: “My family was recently the victim of an apparent malicious referral. Out of the blue we had a visit from social services acting on an anonymous tip-off via the NSPCC website.
“Social services have since delivered a glowing report explaining that there is no case, that we are a tight and loving family and that the tip-off was unfounded.
“My point is that it is clearly too easy to mobilise social services for malicious reasons or devilment. My case will be one which has boosted the number of referrals, but how many others in that 82% rise are also unfounded, either because they are malicious or mistaken?
“A parallel would be when people make hoax calls to the fire service or call them out for a cat stuck up a tree. While the fire engine is arriving at a hoax call, there may well be somebody on the other side of town dying in a fire because there is no engine to save them. Similarly, while social services were – rightly – investigating my case, there was no doubt some child on the other side of town who genuinely needed their help.
“I appreciate the need for social services to act on all tip-offs. In the wake of high-profile cases such as Baby P, social services need to be seen to be thorough and to act on all information received.
“However, from my own experience I do worry about the ease with which social services can be misused and misled for malicious intent.”
John Cameron, head of NSPCC's child protection operations, said: “Less than 1% of calls to the NSPCC Helpline turn out to be malicious. Out of the 16,000 calls to the freephone helpline last year, approximately 80 were of a malicious nature.
“These are often calls from members of the public with concerns about a child in situations that have been misinterpreted or misunderstood. I do not believe these are deliberate attempts to cause harm.
“We have a responsibility to take every call seriously. The recent rise in serious child abuse calls shows our Helpline is needed more than ever.
“We can all play a valuable part in helping to keep children safe in all communities. Immediately reporting concerns about the welfare of a child will ensure that they can be properly assessed and appropriate action taken. By not acting, the child or young person could remain at risk.”
Mr Cameron said that adults with concerns about the welfare of a child could contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 , text 88858, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nspcc.org.uk
A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said: “Our social services department investigates every referral it receives. The council has adopted this policy to prevent anyone from slipping through the net. We believe it is better to investigate someone's concerns, even if we believe the child is not at risk.
“Our social workers are already dealing with high case loads and it is irresponsible for people to make hoax calls unless there is a genuine reason for concern.
“If someone has a worry about a child's safety it is better they get in touch, even if it turns out to be unfounded. We would rather someone report than not and for it to be found intervention could have protected a child from being harmed.”