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.
September - Week 2
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.
Abuse traumatizes developing brains
It would be an understatement to say that the impact of child abuse and neglect on the developing brain is dramatic, far reaching and lifelong. Advances in brain science over the past decade can now map brain activity. We can identify which areas of the brain have specific thought processes as well as behavioral and emotional responses. The unseen consequences -- especially of severe, repeated and prolonged abuse and neglect -- go far beyond the visible scars.
As the brains of young children develop, critical periods occur in which different areas of the brain require specific kinds of stimulation from caregivers if they are to fully mature. Trauma and low levels of proper nurturing occurring during these critical periods is known to have lasting, negative impact on these critical developments that can be lifelong. In later childhood much critical development occurs in the frontal regions of the brain where we know social functioning and the ability to display empathy or caring for those around us and the ability to determine right from wrong occurs. Imaging studies of depressed adults have shown that adults who experienced trauma in early childhood show atrophy in the region of the brain which regulates the stress response and is important for cognitive or educational and vocational functioning.
Changes in brain development also occur in the context of other risk factors, such as depression or substance abuse in the parents and other caretakers.
» Children who are abused are more likely to have sleep disturbance, attention problems, difficulties with learning and memory, low academic achievement and attachment disorder.
» The child who is traumatized over a long period will develop many difficulties that can persist to adulthood. Chronic abuse is associated with later difficulties in the regulation of behavior and emotions which means that more misbehavior occurs as is seen in delinquency.
» Eighty percent of abused children meet the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder by age 21, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide attempts.
» As adults they are more vulnerable to stress and are more likely to have difficulties with substance abuse.
» Nearly one-third will eventually abuse their children.
» As a result of difficulties associated with child abuse and neglect, a study in 2001 estimated the direct and indirect costs of child abuse and neglect at $93 million per year.
Greene County has one of the worst child abuse and neglect rates in Missouri, ranking second among counties. These high numbers are due to more than good reporting by a concerned citizenry, as good reporting is not unique to our community. The high rates in Greene County are real and parallel our high rates of domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty and other indicators associated with child abuse and neglect.
The earlier abused children get help, the greater the chance they have to heal and break the cycle of abuse.
Jim Rives, MA, is vice president of corporate development and Sandra L. D'Angelo, PhD, is director of Missouri PIRC at Burrell Behavioral Health.
Kansas law falls short in combating human trafficking
by MIKE McGRAW
A national anti-trafficking organization is giving Kansas low marks on state efforts to police human trafficking, but Missouri fares much better.
Even though Kansas' governor and attorney general have been strong voices against trafficking, an analysis by the Polaris Project found that the state still lacks the full arsenal of laws considered “critical to a comprehensive anti-trafficking effort.”
“Missouri is in the best category and Kansas is in the second lowest,” said Mary Ellison, director of policy at Polaris. “And that is interesting because (Kansas Gov. Sam) Brownback has been such a champion on the human trafficking issue. Kansas has gotten a start, but there is quite a bit more to do.”
Kansas received only four of a possible 10 points in a state-by-state analysis by Polaris, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Missouri scored seven out of 10 points in the same study.
“In Kansas, we are proud of our free-state history, and we are now bringing that strong spirit to the fight against the modern-day slavery known as human trafficking,” Brownback said in a written statement responding to the report.
The Republican governor added that his administration will continue to work with the state's attorney general on the issue.
When he was in the U.S. Senate, Brownback co-sponsored the original federal anti-trafficking legislation in 2000 and has long been an advocate for tougher policing. And when he was majority leader in the Kansas Senate, Derek Schmidt, now the attorney general, successfully pushed amendments to the state's existing human trafficking law that could force traffickers to forfeit their assets.
Schmidt said he would continue to discuss further steps Kansas can take to find, prosecute and incarcerate human traffickers. He added: “We welcome all suggestions, including these, and will continue efforts to strengthen our enforcement efforts.”
Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year worldwide industry, including in the United States, where sex and labor trafficking of Americans and immigrants are the most common forms of the crime. While Congress has passed tough anti-trafficking laws in recent years, the Polaris group said it's increasingly important that states combat the crime on their own.
The Polaris study noted that Kansas still needs to adopt legislation that would broaden the state's investigative tools. They include requiring training of local police, establishing an anti-trafficking task force, making victims aware of a national anti-trafficking hotline, offering more assistance to victims, allowing victims to file civil lawsuits against their traffickers, and vacating convictions for sex trafficking victims.
In Missouri, Rep. Anne Zerr, a St. Charles Republican who has championed tougher trafficking laws, welcomed the state's relatively high ranking.
“I think we have gotten a lot done,” Zerr said, pointing to a new human trafficking bill signed into law last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.
The law toughens current laws, calling for prison terms of up to 30 years — and life in some cases — and adding fines of up to $250,000.
Though human trafficking once was thought to be a coastal phenomenon, Missouri and Kansas have emerged as prosecution hot spots.
In addition to some child prostitution cases brought under anti-trafficking laws, federal authorities in Kansas City prosecuted in 2009 what was then the largest labor trafficking ring uncovered in the United States. The scheme forced an estimated 1,000 immigrants from several countries to work for low wages cleaning hotel rooms.
Polaris' ratings track 10 categories of state laws. Overall, 11 states, including Missouri, met most of the objectives the group maintains are needed to combat the problem. Fifteen met either five or six of those conditions and 15, including Kansas, met three or four.
The states with the lowest rankings were Massachusetts, West Virginia and Wyoming. No state met all the legislative goals.
Victim's story sheds light on human trafficking
by DAVID HARPER
Jeannetta Taylor says she went from playing with Barbies at age 11 to being coerced into the world of prostitution at age 12.
On Saturday, she spoke at one of a series of events meant to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
Taylor shared her story at "Breaking Chains on Brookside," a Tulsa program to spotlight the existence of - and need to eradicate - human trafficking. Other initiatives were planned elsewhere in the state, highlighted by the Oklahoma Freedom Rally in Oklahoma City.
Proceeds will go toward the efforts of Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans to teach students, teachers, administrators and parents throughout Oklahoma how to recognize the signs of and prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children.
In 2008, the United Nations estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world.
According to Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans, as many as 300,000 young girls are commercially exploited every year as part of the U.S. sex industry. The group claims Oklahoma ranks as one of the primary states for this activity due in part to the major highways that go through it.
Taylor, 40, said she came from a good home but that at age 12 she was in the wrong place at the wrong time with people who forced her into committing acts of prostitution.
She said that back then no one knew much about the issue of human trafficking and the tendency was to blame the victim.
The Sand Springs resident said she was put into psychiatric care in the aftermath of what happened, but by age 18 she had drifted to a truck stop and soon found herself the property of a criminal organization in Texas that for a long time would not let her escape its grasp.
Eventually, she said, she met an elderly woman in Texas who befriended her, helping her get away and eventually build a normal life.
"That woman was a godsend to me," Taylor recalled Saturday. "Eventually I discovered who I really was."
Today, she said, she helps counsel others on how to avoid the perils she endured. She said she's about a year and a half away from earning a master's degree in clinical social work.
Taylor said she has learned "to forgive the people who hurt me and to forgive myself."
Katie Tallent, event manager for the Breaking Chains on Brookside event, said the situation is even more dangerous now than it was during Taylor's youth because the Internet has provided many more opportunities for predators to seduce youngsters.
Taylor said she was forced to stay in the lifestyle through brute force. However, Tallent said other child traffickers use more subtle methods to prey on girls with low self-esteem.
Tallent said Saturday's events will hopefully alert people that commercial sexual exploitation is a real problem in the United States that should be taken more seriously by law enforcement and the community.
"It isn't any 12-year-old girl's idea to be out on the street," Tallent said.
Woman donates $535K to child abuse support group
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A former Indiana woman who overcame childhood abuse and neglect has donated nearly $535,000 to a Fort Wayne advocacy group to fund a program that will teach children to adapt and recover from the trauma of abuse.
Joan Sherman's donation is the largest private donation ever given to Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, or SCAN. Sherman, a former volunteer with the group, tells the Journal-Gazette (http://bit.ly/qC2LpC) that she and her three younger sisters endured a "horrible" childhood growing up in Michigan.
"We had plenty of food and a nice house, never suffered from poverty. But back in those days, in the late 1960s and the 1970s, especially in small-town America, I don't think we really talked about child abuse," she said.
Sherman left home at age 18 and began a longtime career in banking. The former Fort Wayne resident now resides in the New York City area. She became involved with the Fort Wayne group after attending a fundraiser with friends, and served on its board of directors from 2003 to 2006.
SCAN's executive director, Rachel Tobin-Smith, said Sherman's gift will finance a new program that will teach abused children resiliency skills such as self-control to help them adapt and recover from trauma.
"The opportunity to teach our child victims the protective factors that will build their resiliency is a vast window of opportunity," Tobin-Smith said.
She and Sherman hope to leverage more money from the community to help underwrite the cost of supervised visits with children who have suffered abuse not reimbursed by the state.
The Devereux Center for Resilient Children, a nonprofit leader in behavioral health, has developed resiliency assessment and behavioral screening tools that are used with families in SCAN's Family Restoration Division.
The Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children will use Devereux screening tools and provide resources and staff training to help traumatized children.
"It is very exciting to realize that this could have major, lasting effects on the arena of child abuse prevention and intervention services," Tobin-Smith said.
The involved families have already crossed the line of abuse and neglect and are referred by the Allen County court system and the Department of Child Services.
Last year, SCAN helped 27,143 children and adults through a spectrum of prevention and family restoration services.
About 60 percent of families completing that program were able to improve parenting skills and the home environment to a level that allowed their children to return home.
Community groups can help prevent child sexual abuse, advocates say
With kids headed back to their after-school activities, it's a good idea for parents to check out their extracurricular groups' polices on preventing sexual abuse, West Virginia child advocates say.
by Alison Knezevich - The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With kids headed back to their after-school activities, it's a good idea for parents to check out their extracurricular groups' polices on preventing sexual abuse, West Virginia child advocates say.
Church and scouting groups, sports teams, schools, and other youth-based organizations should all take steps to cut the risk of abuse, say representatives of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network and Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.
For instance, these groups should have policies that require initial and recurring background checks for employees who work with kids, said Emily Chittenden-Laird, who is executive director of the advocacy network.
Organizations that serve kids should rely not only on criminal background checks for employees, but also on checks through the state's Child Protective Services, so they can discover substantiated allegations of abuse and neglect, said Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.
"A lot of child abuse cases do not escalate to criminal prosecution," said McKay, whose organization trains groups on how to prevent abuse.
Groups should also prevent situations where children are in one-on-one settings with adults. Experts have found that this can dramatically reduce the risk of abuse, McKay said. If one child and one adult must meet for a personal conference, the adult should make sure that the meeting takes place in an open room where other people can see them.
It is not common for strangers to sexually abuse children, he said.
"People think of somebody in a trench coat on a playground," McKay said. "It's more often someone that the family knows and trusts."
Sexual abuse is much more widespread than most people think, Chittenden-Laird said. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
Many kids never tell anyone about the abuse because they think the topic is taboo and they're afraid of distressing their parents, so it's important for parents to recognize the possible signs and talk openly with their kids about body safety, she said. (See accompanying list of signs.)
They can broach the subject "as soon as [their kids] are talking," she said, adding that parents should know what words their children use for body parts.
Parents should also not blame themselves, Chittenden-Laird said.
"The most important thing is to believe your children when they tell you and to support them and to find the appropriate help for them," she said.
Parents can contact one of the state's 19 child advocacy centers, which work to coordinate investigations and interventions into child abuse cases.
It is important for parents to keep a balanced perspective, McKay said.
"You want to be vigilant, you want to be aware," he said. "But the reality is, I don't want people to be so scared that they don't trust anybody. It's kind of a balancing act."
Traditionally, abuse prevention -- such as school-based lessons that teach kids about "stranger danger" -- has given the responsibility of stopping abuse to children, McKay said. Today, there is more emphasis on what the community can do.
"It's really up to adults to keep kids safe, and that's where these policies come from," McKay said.
Signs of child sexual abuse
Source: Darkness to Light (http://www.d2l.org)
- Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections, or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
- Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from "too perfect" behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.
- Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
- Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever.
Child-welfare groups seek inclusion in plan
by Mary K. Reinhart
Clarence Carter faces tremendous pressure to address a host of problems within the state's Child Protective Services.
But Carter, who oversees the CPS as head of the Department of Economic Security, is asking for patience as he prepares to release a detailed plan by month's end.
Aided by a Kansas City, Mo.-based consultant, he aims to reduce a backlog of nearly 4,000 open cases of child abuse and neglect, fill about 200 vacant caseworker positions, reduce turnover and caseloads, and pay closer attention to families whose children are the subject of multiple CPS reports.
Still, the new director is struggling to gain the trust of his own employees and the broader child-welfare community, many of whom wonder what's taking so long and why they haven't been involved.
Carter has been under the media spotlight since a string of high-profile child deaths and injuries last month, and Gov. Jan Brewer last week called on him to address the growing crisis.
Longtime private contractors and advocates with decades of child-welfare experience say Carter has failed to include them in discussions about agency reforms, unlike previous administrations that called upon them to help solve systemic CPS issues.
The agency is dealing with a record number of kids in custody, an overflowing foster-care system and a stunning increase in the number of open investigations. The backlog reached 3,870 cases in March, compared with a low of 135 cases in September 2009.
The numbers began to climb with the recession and two years of deep budget cuts to the DES, approved by lawmakers and Brewer. Carter arrived in March when system overload already was in full swing.
Chris Scarpati, who founded the East Valley Child Crisis Center 30 years ago, said she and other providers are doing their best to cope with an overwhelmed system without knowing how state officials intend to respond.
"There are a lot of folks out in the field who have been around for many years," Scarpati said. "Instead of reinventing the wheel, it would be nice if their expertise were drawn upon."
And caseworkers say privately that, despite Carter's urging to come forward with problems, they fear reprisals if they do so.
Carter, who took over the agency in March, says he understands their fears, but they are unfounded. "They didn't believe they could raise those issues," he said. "I am going to do everything I possibly can to foster a more nurturing environment."
In an interview this week, Carter said he will develop a plan using recommendations submitted last week by the Change and Innovation Agency. Part of that, he said, is to "unpack" the agency and rebuild it.
"Our child-welfare policy has been policy packed on top of policy, on top of policy . . . so it is almost unrecognizable from the original intent," Carter said. "We ask the (case)worker to do everything."
He discussed some of the changes in a meeting with Brewer last week, presenting her with a 13-page outline that included a section on his plans for reform. Priorities include:
- Step-up recruitment efforts to fill vacant case-manager positions, which will ease caseloads and reduce backlogs.
- Streamline investigations so caseworkers can complete them more quickly; retool and coordinate child-safety and risk-assessment policies.
- Review caseload standards: CPS workers are carrying average caseloads that are at least 60 percent above state standards.
- Reduce turnover by reducing caseloads and backlogs, improving supervision, developing career-advancement tracks and adding new immersion training for new caseworkers in rural areas.
- Communicate successes, including a child-fatality rate below the national average and high rate of children placed with relatives.
Carter's predecessor, Neal Young, hired the consultant to review CPS processes and recommend improvements. The firm, which began work in January, has been paid $202,000 so far.
Senior partner Blake Shaw said consultants helped a team of CPS staff members, including administrators and caseworkers, draft the recommendations.
Longtime child-welfare leaders have questioned Carter's credentials in the field and are frustrated by what they say is a lack of urgency in response to an agency in crisis.
Carter led the nation's food-stamp program and most recently ran the Washington, D.C., Department of Human Services, which does not handle child abuse and neglect.
He said his background has fully prepared him both for child-welfare leadership and for dealing with crisis.
"I am trying to remain sober and focused in the midst of a storm," he said. "I can't be swayed by the angst of the moment. I'm used to standing in the middle of these storms. This is not my first rodeo."
Dana Wolfe Naimark, CEO and president of the Children's Action Alliance, agrees that Carter should not make knee-jerk decisions in response to individual cases. But she said he hasn't brought key players into his loop and that's troubling.
"It's really critical right now that stakeholders be involved and be able to give input and insight. It's been very quiet as to where things are going. There should be a lot of conversation," Naimark said. "While we are not looking for an immediate topsy-turvy change in the agency, we are looking for leadership and dialogue."
Child welfare in Arizona is highly privatized, involving not just CPS caseworkers but a wide range of private contractors, who provide everything from counseling to shelter services. Naimark said she's hopeful Carter will involve stakeholders in discussions before announcing major changes.
"They cannot succeed alone," she said. "We shouldn't expect them to."
Mother accused of beating 2-year-old
DALLAS - A 22-year-old mother is facing child abuse charges yesterday after police say she glued her toddler daughter's hands to a wall, kicked her in the stomach, and beat her over a potty training issue.
Joselyn Cedillo, 2, was on life support with multiple internal injuries at a hospital Thursday, the Dallas Morning News reported. A hospital spokeswoman said she had no information on the girl yesterday. The newspaper, citing police records, said glue and paint were stuck to Joselyn's palms, and that skin had torn away.
Joselyn's mother, Elizabeth Escalona, was crying and hysterical when she called her mother Wednesday from her Dallas apartment, according to police records. The records show that when the grandmother arrived at the apartment, her granddaughter was unconscious on the floor. She took her to the hospital. One of the girl's brothers said their mother kicked the child in the stomach and beat her with a belt and shoe, according to police records.
National Guardsman facing child sex abuse charges
September 9, 2011
Several child sex abuse charges were filed against a Tennessee National Guardsman accused of fondling a 10-year-old relative last month, a Rutherford County Sheriff's detective said.
Suspect James Dean Jr., 47, of 104 Fulwood Court near Murfreesboro, was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery by an authority figure, indecent exposure and child abuse, said arresting Detective Steve Craig.
Craig and Department of Children's Services employee Sherika Goodman began an investigation Aug. 29 after the girl disclosed Dean allegedly fondled her, forced her to fondle him and exposed himself to her, the detective said.
“She did everything she was supposed to do,” Craig said. “She knew something was wrong and needed to tell someone.”
Dean did not give a statement. Craig charged him and booked him into Rutherford County Adult Detention Center where he is being held on $40,000 bond. A hearing is set Oct. 11 in General Sessions Court.
This status quo is intolerable
Arizona's child-welfare agency is trying to do a nearly impossible job with inadequate resources. But there can be no excuse for the depth of the problems at Child Protective Services.
CPS made a fatally flawed decision not to remove a child from a brutal home despite numerous reports of abuse. Now 6-year-old Jacob Gibson is dead. Police say his parents slammed his head against a wall. Too many other children died because our state's child-welfare agency didn't do its job.
Child welfare is complex and difficult. It involves the most fundamental human relationships. Experts on the issue of child abuse and neglect say that even children who are abused love their parents. Taking a child out of a home can inflict a great deal of damage - especially when children in state custody often languish in foster homes for years. Taking a child out of a home unnecessarily is a cruel violation of human rights. In Arizona, children have been abused in foster homes, too.
Leaving a child in an abusive home can result in death. In Arizona, that has become a recurring nightmare.
It takes skill and resources to run a quality child-welfare system. Arizona's has long been underfunded. Mounting evidence suggests it is also inept.
This is a moment when state leaders, stakeholders and experts of Arizona's child-welfare system need to come together and explore how we correct a system that is overburdened and underperforming. We need new thinking and new ideas, because the status quo is intolerable.
The problem is not simply that CPS doesn't remove children from troubled homes. Department of Economic Security statistics show there were a record 11,082 children in state custody in June.
Nor is the problem solely that people are not reporting suspected child abuse. Calls to the child-abuse hotline are up. In the last reporting period, September through March, there was a nearly 5 percent increase in investigations.
Arizona is not alone. Other states also face challenges in designing and running effective child-welfare agencies.
Nor is this the first time Arizona has needed to take a hard look at an agency that just doesn't work right.
In 2007, then-Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, got active after the deaths of three Pima County children. They, too, could have been saved by a well-functioning child-welfare agency. Important reforms were approved the next year, but funding did not follow.
In 2003, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano launched a reform effort after the fatal abuse of a number of children whose families had prior contact with CPS. Reforms happened. Funding was increased, but not enough to meet the needs.
For example, caseload standards were set in 2003 to assure that CPS workers could do a good job with each child. But even in better economic times, those standards were never met. Currently, caseloads are at least 60 percent higher than those 7-year-old unmet goals.
Funding for CPS's parent agency, the Department of Economic Security, was deeply cut in recent years.
Caseworkers make life-and-death decisions. They should be skilled and experienced. But CPS caseworkers have a 25 percent turnover rate, according to reporting by The Republic 's Mary K. Reinhart. CPS hired 82 new caseworkers between January and May. During that time, 87 caseworkers left. You don't build an experienced workforce that way.
You can't turn Arizona's current child-welfare agency into the kind of effective, efficient agency children like Jacob Gibson deserve without facing the fact that adequate funding matters. But chronic underfunding is not the only problem.
This is a moment to rethink the agency itself. It is time to assess how it goes about the nearly impossible job of protecting vulnerable children. It is time to hold the agency and the state accountable.
5 Women Sue Boy Scouts Over 1970s Montana Sex Abuse
by MATT VOLZ
Five women who were sexually abused by a scout leader in the 1970s when they were children in a Montana co-ed program sued the Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday, saying the organization should be held responsible for the man's actions.
The women, who are now in their 50s, say William H. Leininger Jr. repeatedly raped or molested them under the pretense of demonstrating first-aid techniques in the Explorer Scouts program when they were between the ages of 11 and 15.
“They were raped by their scout leader ostensibly when he was supposed to be helping them with their merit badges,” plaintiffs' attorney Gilion Dumas said in a news conference announcing the lawsuit.
Leininger was convicted in 1976 of abusing the five girls and a sixth who is not involved in the lawsuit. He was convicted again in 1982 of another charge of sexual intercourse without consent, according to Montana Department of Corrections records. Leininger died in prison in 2002 at age 80.
The women's lawsuit was filed in Cascade County District Court by Dumas and Kelly Clark, who are both from Oregon, and Missoula attorney Matthew Thiel. Clark and Dumas have represented abuse victims in past lawsuits against the Boy Scouts in Oregon, Alaska and Idaho, including a trial last year in which a Portland, Ore., jury ordered the Boy Scouts to pay $18.5 million to a former Scout who suffered sexual abuse as a child.
That Portland case served as a memory trigger for one of the Montana victims, which led to this new lawsuit, Clark said.
The attorneys said the women only discovered over the past year the direct connection between their abuse at the hands of Leininger and the physical, mental and emotional damage they suffer today, which includes personal relationship problems, depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. They are charging the Boy Scouts of America and the scouts' Montana Council with sexual battery, infliction of emotional distress, negligence, fraud and malice.
They are asking a judge to award them unspecified monetary damages. Clark said he will trust a jury to decide an appropriate award.
Gordon Rubard, executive director of the Boy Scouts' Montana Council, which is headquartered in Great Falls, said he could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit because he had not seen it. But, he said, the safety and health of Boy Scouts members are the organization's top priorities and any individual suspected of abuse is immediately banned from scouting.
“The abuse of anyone, and particularly children, is abhorrent and intolerable – especially to the Boy Scouts of America, for whom the protection and safety of youth is of paramount importance,” Rubard said in a statement.
The women say the abuse started in 1974. In each case, Leininger told the child to remove her clothing so he could demonstrate first-aid bandaging techniques, according to the lawsuit. He then molested and raped each one, and continued to do so for months after that under the pretext of demonstrating the techniques, the document says.
The abuse went on in some cases for a year to 18 months, sometimes on scouting trips in the Northwest and other times in facilities hosting Explorer Scouts functions, according to the lawsuit. It ended and Leininger was arrested after the sixth girl, the one not involved in the lawsuit, told her parents.
Leininger was the head of one of the first Explorer Scout posts after the Boy Scouts opened to girls the program meant to provide training as a bridge to a career or vocation, attorneys for the plaintiffs said. Leininger also was a board member on the scouts' Montana Council and a Boy Scouts district chairman.
The women say in the lawsuit that the Boy Scouts and the scouts' Montana Council failed to properly train and supervise Leininger, and even gave him their highest adult award, the Silver Beaver.
The organization should have known Leininger was a risk and it should have warned the parents of the children of that risk, the lawsuit claims. There had been enough instances of sexual molestation at the hands of scout leaders by then that the organization should have foreseen Leininger's sexual abuse, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.
Two of the women still live in Montana, while the other three live in Oregon, Illinois and Alaska. They are identified in the lawsuit only by their initials.
Sex abuse survivor speaks out against keeping secrets
Kids need to be taught to recognize danger, she says
by Scott Hewitt -
Columbian Staff Reporter
Don't ever tell anyone. No one will believe you. If you tell, I'll hurt your family. If you tell, I'll keep hurting you. It'll always be our secret.
When Erin Merryn was 6 years old, she was sexually abused by a friend's uncle; when she was 11, she was raped by a cousin — an older boy she loved and trusted. She didn't understand what was going on, but the messages of warning and secrecy came through loud and clear.
On Wednesday Merryn, now a 26-year-old author and activist, came to the Hilton Vancouver Washington to speak out about her survival of childhood sexual abuse and the law that's been passed in her honor in Illinois: Erin's Law, mandating that age-appropriate sexual abuse education be developed for Illinois elementary schools.
“I'm a very determined woman, and I won't stop until it's passed in all 50 states,” she said of Erin's Law.
The information needs to come from school, Merryn said, because it's often family members who are doing the abusing. That was true in her case, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 80 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by a parent or relative.
Merryn, who has written two books about her abuse and survival, was speaking to hundreds of people who attended the YWCA Clark County's 18th annual fundraising luncheon. The Y is a leading local agency that supports and counsels children and women who have faced sexual abuse.
‘There is help available'
In recent years the Y has served thousands of local children — not just fielding abuse complaints and providing help, but reaching out to educate kids in classrooms. “There is help available, but the child needs to hear about it and be able to trust it,” said Y volunteer and patron Dr. Chuck Carter.
Coming to that trust isn't easy for a confused, terrified, threatened child.
As a kindergartner, Merryn lived what should have been a “picture-perfect” life, she said, with loving parents and a good school, and one day she was extra happy to be invited to her first-ever sleepover at a friend's house. Her friend's mother was single and absent a lot, and an uncle served as kid caretaker — except he was usually sleeping in the back room.
This time, the uncle appeared in the girls' room and closed the door behind him. When he saw that Merryn was awake and staring at him, he raised a finger to his lips: you be quiet.
“This strong man, this authority figure, was telling me to be quiet,” she remembered. What else is a little child supposed to do except comply? She didn't say a word. She also refused to spend any more nights at her friend's house.
But once during daylight hours — when she figured it was safe — she was back again, playing with Barbie dolls while her friend had stepped out of the room for a moment, when the uncle appeared, locked the door and raped her. Her friend was screaming on the other side of the door, she said, and she realized that her friend had already been raped by her uncle.
“It's a moment in my life that 20-plus years later I remember clear as day,” she said. “One of those moments you cannot forget.” But she never said a word about it until years later. In fact, her little friend made her “pinkie promise” never to tell — because she was sure the whole family would get in trouble for it.
Somehow, Merryn said, the end result was shameful feeling she had done something wrong.
Secrets and survival
She grew depressed, withdrawn and volatile; her parents were amazed when she put her fist through a glass window. It should have been a relief when Merryn's family moved to a different neighborhood. She thought she was leaving danger and trauma behind. But she was only moving closer to more abuse, it turned out.
She was 11 years old when her teenaged cousin, an older boy who was also a neighbor, started abusing her. It happened over and over again, she said — whenever she was asked to baby-sit the younger children, whenever the families gathered on holidays, whenever she saw him at all. Childhood games like household hide and seek turned into horrific episodes of rape in locked bedrooms, bathrooms and basements by her more powerful cousin.
“This is our secret,” he warned her. “You have no proof. No one will believe you.” It went on for two years, and Merryn felt she could tell no one except her diary.
What finally broke the silence, she said, was when her 11-year-old sister mumbled to her, “Brian is gross.”
“Those words are etched in my mind,” Merryn said. It was obvious what they meant. After keeping the same secret from one another, the sisters talked it all out and then brought the news to their horrified parents.
From there it was a visit to the local Children's Advocacy Center, an agency with a similar mission to the YWCA Clark County. Merryn said she'll never forget how she walked in full of fear and shame and walked out feeling liberated and empowered.
Cousin Brian denied everything at first but eventually confessed. The extended family was ripped apart by the revelation, and some of the relatives on Brian's side don't speak to Merryn's immediate family anymore. Brian was sentenced to seven years of probation, 1,000 hours of community service and mental health treatment; but all that eventually was watered down to nothing very meaningful, Merryn said.
Brian ultimately did write her a heartfelt letter of apology, she said. She chose to forgive him, she said, partially as a gift to herself.
“I needed to reclaim happiness,” she said. “I can't allow this awful thing to define me for the rest of my life.”
Merryn and her sister pursued therapy in a number of different situations, and there were some ups and terrible downs, including a failed suicide attempt. She was a junior in high school when she realized her diaries could be collected into a book; she has now published two memoirs of her experiences, called “Stolen Innocence” and “Living for Today.” She has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and in Time magazine while pursuing justice and healing for sexual abuse victims. She's been braced to see Children's Advocacy Centers spread across the nation, she said, and to help raise funds and the profile of agencies like the YWCA Clark County.
It's crucial that children learn to understand and report sexual abuse, she said, and not to feel ashamed.
“Don't deny yourself the right to talk about this,” she said. Shameful childhood secrets come back to haunt adults when they're 30 and up, she said. Don't think you are alone in your pain, she said, since there are people around you — wherever you are — who have survived similar traumas.
Merryn pointed out that elementary-age children are taught about all sorts of dangers these days — earthquakes, fires, bullying, strangers — but not about this particularly insidious form of danger that can come from the heart of one's own family.
“I thought people like Brian jumped out of bushes and attacked you at night,” she said. “I wasn't worried about my own family.” Unfortunately, that's where the majority of childhood sexual abuse occurs.
Safe secrets and unsafe secrets, safe touch and unsafe touch — these are the age-appropriate concepts Merryn expects to be covered in Illinois classrooms due to the passage of what's known as Erin's Law. The law was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in February; it established a task force that will study the issue and report back to the Legislature by Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, Merryn has earned a master's degree in social work from Aurora University. You can learn more about Merryn, her books and her advocacy at http://www.erinmerryn.net.
“My life is not defined by evil — but by how I have risen above it,” she concluded.
State hopes to train 35,000 Delawareans in child abuse prevention effort
A training program on how to recognize signs of child abuse hopes to reach five-percent of Delaware's population within five years.
Attorney General Beau Biden and leaders of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware gathered at the YMCA in Wilmington Wednesday to announce a coordinated effort to enlist 35,000 Delawareans as Stewards of Children. According to Biden, one of every four girls are sexually abused before age 18 and one out of every six boys will be abused, but only about one of every ten reach out for help.
Delaware already has a law that requires suspected abuse of a child to be reported to authorities or through the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-292-9582. However, Biden says many adults don't know what to look for. Trained facilitators are now working through various community organizations to reach out to adults from all walks of life and train them in how to spot possible indications of abuse of a child.
"If we can get five-percent of our population to do it, we will change the dialogue and we will save and protect kids in a way that we've never been able to do in the state," Biden said.
The Stewards of Children program is a seven-step initiative developed by Darkness to Light, a grassroots non-profit organization based in South Carolina. Its focus includes minimizing situations where a child is left alone with an adult, even if that adult is trusted or in a position of authority. Also, the program identifies behavior patterns and changes to recognize in a child that may be an indicator of abuse.
"This is an important initiative, and it is one that can actually make a difference," Prevent Child Abuse Delaware Executive Director Karen DeRasmo said.
According to Delaware Chief Family Court Judge Chandlee Kuhn, the training initiative is a perfect companion with existing mandatory reporting laws. That's why Family Court made a commitment to have every one of its employees trained. To date, 245 of the approximately 330 people who work in Family Court have gone through the program.
"I really do believe Delaware will be a safer place," Kuhn said.
To find out more about training sessions, call Prevent Child Abuse Delaware at 302-425-7490 or visit www.pcadelaware.org
To find out more about Darkness to Light, CLICK HERE.
CYFD to battle child abuse at NM State Fair
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say more state police and case workers from the state Children, Youth and Families Department
will be on hand at the New Mexico State Fair to watch for signs of child abuse.
KKOB-AM (770) reports (http://bit.ly/ocGFhH) that state police told CYFD officials that they usually need help with lost children, but there have been more cases involving child abuse where a CYFD case worker might have to be called to Expo New Mexico.
CYFD Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines is scheduled to be at the fair opening day to promote a new hotline aimed at reporting child abuse
The New Mexico State Fair is slated to start Friday.
Lawmakers clear way for Race to the Top application
Approve one federal grant so state can seek another
by Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel
September 7, 2011
Florida lawmakers — some reluctant and some angry — agreed Wednesday to accept a federal child-abuse prevention grant, clearing the way for the state to apply for $100 million in Race to the Top funds.
Gov. Rick Scott had asked lawmakers to reconsider the $3.4 million grant, which the Florida Legislature rejected because it was part of the health-care overhaul law.
If Florida does not participate in the "home visiting" grant program, which aims to reduce child abuse, it cannot compete for the federal government's latest Race to the Top funding. That "early learning challenge" competition aims to beef up states' early-childhood programs.
The Legislative Budget Commission voted Wednesday to accept the home-visiting grant, which Florida had participated in previously. The federal government had authorized continued funding — $3.4 million a year through 2015 — but in its spring session the Florida Legislature did not give the state Department of Health the authority to spend the money.
That grant was among millions in federal dollars the state's Republican leadership rejected. They turned down the money because it came from programs now tied to the healthcare law, which they oppose and are challenging in court as unconstitutional.
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, the commission's chairman, said she did not want to accept the home-visiting grant because of the health-care law and because it was a case of "big government" assuming responsibilities that should rest with families.
The grant pays for social workers to visit families coping with domestic violence, substance abuse and other problems, and to help connect them with needed services. Other lawmakers also said they opposed, in principal, a grant that paid for what they called an "intrusive" program.
But because taking part in the home-visiting program was a requirement to apply for the new Race to the Top grant, Grimsley said she would "reluctantly vote yes."
Still, she added, "I can't tell you how angry that makes me. The feds want to shove this down our throat."
Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the commission vice chair, said he understood why some members opposed the grant. But he added, "I think it's also important that we not damage our ability to try to get these Race to the Top dollars."
Scott had requested lawmakers reconsider the home-visiting grant to clear the way for a Race to the Top application and because it was not part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The newest Race to the Top competition aims to help improve the care and education of young children. Florida won $700 million in the first Race to the Top competition, which pushed states to reform public education.
Jane Johnson, Scott's health-care policy coordinator, said the governor "truly supports" a new Race to the Top application, viewing it as a way to "break the cycle" of poverty by helping young children eventually succeed in school.
"I do think this will pay dividends for the state," Johnson said.
Children's advocates agree and have argued that taking part in the federal home-visiting program is important for Florida's neediest children while winning the new competition would help boost the state's existing preschool programs, better train early-childhood teachers and coordinate the often-fractured systems that work with babies and young children.
Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, argued it made little sense to turn down a grant that had helped Florida's at-risk children and, in turn, lose out on a $100 million investment in early-childhood programs.
"These programs make a difference in the lives of children," Rich said. "It's really a tragedy if this state turns down this money and in essence turns down the $100 million or whatever we get from Race to the Top."
The latest round of Race to the Top applications is due in Washington, D.C., by Oct. 19. Johnson said Florida is already working on its application.
The U.S. Department of Education plans to announce winners in December. It has $500 million to divvy up and has said awards will range from $50 million to $100 million, depending on state population and plans. Florida is eligible for the largest award.
Thirty-six other states and the District of Columbia had said previously that they planned to compete for the money.
AG to turn up heat on sex trade patrons
State officials bracing for influx of prostitutes with 2012 Super Bowl
by Maureen Hayden
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Attorney General's campaign to fast-track legislation to combat human trafficking will soon include a new target: Patrons of prostitutes whose demand for purchased sex fuels the illicit flesh trade.
A public awareness campaign themed with a buyers-beware message is in development, driven by concerns that the 2012 Super Bowl will spur an increased demand for commercial sex in the host city of Indianapolis.
The goal is to increase awareness of a billion-dollar criminal enterprise and to convey the message that prostitution isn't a victimless crime.
“We need a change in attitude, particularly among men, that patronizing a prostitute is OK,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “It's not.”
The effort is part of a larger initiative launched by the National Association of Attorneys General in June to combat what they see as a growing problem of human trafficking that forces vulnerable people, especially children and illegal immigrants, into the sex trade. The U.S. State Department estimates the global sex trade exploits about 1 million minors every year, with an increasing number in the U.S.
Zoeller said many are victimized, threatened with violence, fearful of prosecution or, in the case of illegal immigrants, fearful they'll be arrested and deported.
“It's modern-day slavery,” Zoeller said.
In Indiana, the focus of the anti-human trafficking initiative centers on the Super Bowl and accompanying week of parties and festivities that prosecutors like Zoeller say attract prostitutes and their profiteering bosses.
Two years ago, Miami police estimated as many as 10,000 prostitutes flooded the city when it hosted the Super Bowl; two men were prosecuted and convicted by federal authorities after they ran an ad on Craigslist's Miami board advertising sex with a 14-year-old girl as a "Super Bowl Special."
In January – just weeks before the 2011 game – the Texas attorney general declared the Super Bowl as “one of the biggest human-trafficking events in the United States," when he announced he'd beefed up a unit assigned to investigate traffickers of underage prostitutes and sex workers brought in from Central America.
Fearing a similar Super Bowl scenario, Zoeller has asked state legislators to fast-track legislation when they convene in January that would make the sex trafficking of children a separate crime and enhance penalties for those who profit from it.
But in addition, Zoeller's staff, lead by Deputy Attorney General Abby Kuzma, is also working with state and local officials on a public awareness campaign with a primary message that sex trafficking exists because buyers create the demand that fuels the prostitution industry.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department created a website, soon to be launched, that aims to counter the visiting sex trade with resources for its victims and warnings for potential patrons that “prostitution is illegal,” said IMPD spokeswoman Linda Jackson.
Zoeller and Jackson declined to give details on what more is to come, but past preventative efforts in other Super Bowl states may offer some clues.
Before the last Super Bowl, Texas police used an electronic billboard near the Dallas Cowboys stadium to post mug shots of men arrested for patronizing prostitutes, featuring the message: "Dear John, You Never Know! This could be you."
Local Dallas TV stations also ran public service announcements like the one recorded by Dallas Cowboy Jay Ratliff delivering the message: "If you're one of these men buying these young girls, I'm telling you that real men don't buy children. They don't buy sex."
Zoeller said the campaign to combat sex trafficking has to go beyond law enforcement and echo Ratliff's message. He said men in particular need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the casual attitudes and what he called “locker-room humor” that trivializes prostitution.
“As men, we have to step up and say we don't condone it,” Zoeller said.
When The Trafficking Victims Protection Act Fails
According to the Department of Health and Human Services' fact sheet on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)
: The TVPA ... created new law enforcement tools to strengthen the prosecution and punishment of traffickers, making human trafficking a Federal crime with severe penalties.
For example, if a trafficking crime results in death or if the crime includes kidnapping, an attempted kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, attempted aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the trafficker could be sentenced to life in prison.
Traffickers who exploit children (under the age of 14) using force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sex trafficking (a commercial sex act) can be imprisoned for life. [As defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the term "commercial sex act" means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.] If the victim was a child between the age of 14 and 18 and the sex trafficking did not involve force, fraud or coercion, the trafficker could receive up to 20 years in prison.
Moreover, the law addresses the subtle means of coercion used by traffickers to bind their victims in to servitude, including: psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents, activities which were difficult to prosecute under preexisting involuntary servitude statutes and case law.
According to WPBF, ABC's West Palm Beach affiliate, two women who were victims of a sex crime when they were underage but who settled their civil lawsuit with their attacker, Jeffrey Epstein, "are now suing the federal government, saying their civil rights were violated when prosecutors chose not to try Epstein."
Jane Doe Nos. 1 and 2, the two victims, are suing the government because they weren't consulted while Epstein was negotiating his plea deal with the Department of Justice. Their attorney, Brad Edwards, argues that is a violation of the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004.
According to the WPBF report, Epstein's attorney, Roy Black, argued that the written negotiations between Epstein and federal prosecutors shouldn't be made public. He said:
We are here because these are important issues for the client ... And I don't mean to make light of that, but these are important issues both for crime victims, for defendants, for defense lawyers, for prosecutors. These are important things that the courts are going to have to wrestle with. Congress passed statutes that have to be followed, and the court now is going to have to determine what are the contours of that.
If Black's argument is correct, then the most important question for the court remains: why wasn't Epstein prosecuted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to begin with?
Brad Edwards, the attorney representing the victims, said he just wants what is right for his clients. "What we really want is for the victims to have fair rights in court," he said. "Everybody's always catering to the defendant, and before the defendant gets a sweetheart deal, maybe we can prevent some of that if the victims were given the rights that the Legislature says they deserve."
As Black points to in his argument, "Congress passed statutes that have to be followed" -- only those that he refers to aren't exactly what should have been argued on behalf of his client. Instead, the TVPA, which should have applied in the first instance, can still be pursued today if new victims come forward in the same jurisdiction (Florida), or a different jurisdiction, such as New York, London, Los Angeles, Santa Fe or the U.S. Virgin Islands, where other victims might not have filed charges.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was made into public law (PL 106-386) by Congress in October 2000 to prosecute child sex traffickers. Child sex traffickers are defined as those who commit sexual crimes against minors. The TVPA aims to prosecute sex traffickers while at the same time protecting and helping rehabilitate underage victims who suffered sexual abuse under the TVPA criteria.
April Rieger wrote a compelling report in the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender that clearly explains why the TVPA at times fails to protect victims in the United States. In her report, "Missing the Mark: Why the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Fails to Protect Sex Trafficking Victims in the United States," Rieger quotes Susan W. Tiefenbrun, who explains:
Traffickers successfully lure women into sex work because these women are victims of poverty, of the social practice of marginalizing women, of the failure of some cultures and societies to place a value on traditional women's work, and of the lack of education and employment opportunities for women in developing and transition countries.
In Jeffrey Epstein's case, although he was not convicted of trafficking underage girls, his minor victims living in the United States certainly fit some of the criteria that facilitated his sexual abuse, including lack of a formal education, underprivileged families and lack of employment opportunities, by the sheer fact of their age coupled with stringent U.S. child labor laws.
West Hartford church to host seminar on sex trafficking
WEST HARTFORD — When it comes to sex trafficking, few associate this commercial exploitation of children with America. Fewer still associate it with Central Connecticut.
But the sex trafficking of minors does, indeed, exist in our backyard.
According to Love146, a nonprofit organization combating child sex slavery and exploitation, trafficking generates about $32 billion annually, making it the second most lucrative crime in the world.
Statistics indicate that two children are sold every minute and more than 100,000 American children are forced into prostitution and pornography each year.
In Connecticut, in locations such as New Britain's Berlin Turnpike, Hartford and Bridgeport, dozens and dozens of minors are forced into sex trafficking. In June, a federal judge sentenced a New Britain man to 26 years in prison forcing two 14-year-old girls into child prostitution. Commercial sexual exploitation is rampant — even in Connecticut.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Love146 co-founder Rob Morris will visit West Hartford's Calvary Fellowship to share with members and guests the plight of children engaged in forced sex trafficking and pornography.
He will share stories from the field and outline practical ways communities can partner to abolish the sexual exploitation of children.
“Slavery is still one of the darkest stories on our planet,” Morris said. “But for us, the hope of abolition is a reality. Love146 believes in helping grow the movement of abolition while providing effective, thoughtful solutions. We believe in the power of love and its ability to affect sustainable change. Love is the foundation of our motivation.”
Calvary Fellowship meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at Conard High School, 110 Beechwood Road, West Hartford. Calvary Fellowship features contemporary music and offers biblical teaching and Bible classes for children. For more information, visit www.calvaryhartford.com
Group works to stop human trafficking
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Human trafficking, the coercion of someone to perform sexual acts, targets victims from children to adulthood.
"It preys on those who are the absolute weakest in society, and we really do need to make this a priority," said Clark Stuart.
Stuart head S.C.T. Now or Stop Child Trafficking Now. The former Navy Seal found and dismantled terrorists in the military.
"Our background was combating terrorist networks, and commercial sexual exploitation is commercial network not much different than a terrorist network," said Stuart.
The average age of a child caught in this vicious sex cycle is 12 to 13 years old, when children are the most vulnerable and easily manipulated, said Stuart. Technology has also helped to move predators or pimps inside to children's homes.
"The internet is the new street corner. It's much more difficult to identify them on the internet. When they are on the street, it's personal. Now it's cyber side. Unless you set up to go meet that person, it makes it much more difficult to find them," explained Stuart.
Bobbi Jo Reed remembers how she was caught in that dangerous cycle of child sex trafficking at the age of 12. There was no internet, but she was lured by a man who said all the right things.
"They suck you in, telling you they love you, and then they turn on you and bite you like a snake. Then they tell you ‘if you leave, I'll kill your family.' Mine didn't. He just threatened to kill me," said Reed.
Reed was beaten, raped repeatedly and sexually exploited for years. Miraculously, she survived and is now the executive director of 11 safe houses. She finds other girls and women who were like her.
When asked for ways to spot a child in trouble, Stuart offers the following advice: "Know who your kid's friends are, know where they are going. Be an engaged parent. If you have a computer, make sure it's in a common area. Know who they are communicating with online cause that's where they get connected."
Both Reed and Stuart are fighting for the same cause to Stop Child Trafficking Now, but they say the community needs awareness. On Saturday, Sept. 17, S.C.T. will host a 5K Walk and Run. It begins at 9:00 a.m. at Ilus Davis Park, 901 Oak St. in Kansas City, MO. There is no registration fee to walk. For those wishing to participate in the 5K certified, chip timed race, the cost is $30 until Sept. 15 and $35 from Sept. 16 until the day of the race.
For more information on the Stop Child Trafficking Now organization or the walk/run, click here.
We play at throwing sex abusers to the sharks, says child abuse therapist
In the latest of Metro's series to highlight the importance of support for child sex abuse victims, a leading therapist gives a revealing insight into how counselling aims to repair the damage.
Letting children who have suffered sexual abuse lock up offenders on a remote island surrounded by shark-infested waters is one of the methods employed by therapist Linda Shaw.
The ‘three islands' therapy is an ingenious way of allowing the children to take charge of the process, she says.
Ms Shaw works with youngsters aged between four and 18 at an NSPCC project in Gillingham, Kent. They may have been through the spectrum of abuse from inappropriate touch to rape.
With younger children she tends to use play but it may take a long time to build up trust.
She explained: ‘There's one island where the child lives, which is linked to a second island but protected with a drawbridge which they control, allowing who they want to join them.
‘A third island is surrounded by sharks and has no means of escape. Seeing who they place on which island can be very illuminating.'
She said one boy wanted to enact war games with her but his army always had to win. ‘Suddenly, I was allowed to throw hand grenades at his soldiers and the next time I was allowed to kill them all. This was his way of showing he was accepting me.'
Some older children who have suffered abuse may have been ‘emotionally frozen' at the age when the abuse took place.
‘You may get a sophisticated-looking 16-year-old who may play like a seven-year-old,' said Ms Shaw.
Something as seemingly innocuous as a noise can prompt a flashback, she said. ‘Even very young children, who you think might not recall things, may have had their brains short-circuited by trauma, and these triggers will make the memories come flooding back,' she added.
CSRA Credit Union Donates $5,000 to Child Enrichment, Inc.
September 9, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga .,- CSRA Credit Union a division of Associated Credit Union donated $5,000 to Child Enrichment, Inc.
Since its start in 1977, Child Enrichment, Inc. has helped over 16,000 local, abused, abandoned and neglected children overcome their experiences and rebuild their lives.
“Child abuse and child sexual abuse are insidious and often hidden aspects of our society. It's difficult for most people to acknowledge or understand child abuse, yet with 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse, we are experiencing an epidemic,” says Executive Director of Child Enrichment, Inc. Dan Hillman. “Financial support from donors like CSRA CU is critical for the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy to be provided to child victims of abuse and sexual abuse.”
Started by a group of physicians, nurses and social workers, Child Enrichment, Inc. provides forensic interviewing of children suspected of having been sexually abused, expert court testimony and court advocacy for the victim, as well as counseling for the victims and their families.
“On behalf of CSRA CU we are honored to support Child Enrichment's service to the children of our community,” said CSRA CU's Division President Leah Eldridge.
Associated Credit Union is headquartered in Norcross with 26 branches in metro Atlanta and four offices in Augusta serving over 155,000 members. Providing low-cost services, ACU is ranked in the top 150 credit unions in the United States.
New Adult Survivors of Child Abuse group meeting
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA): support group, Mondays, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Wholistic Counseling Services Inc., 409 Prospect Ave., Scranton, PA. 344-4234
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
by KELSEY SAINTZ
September 6, 2011
In many child sexual abuse cases, warning signs are present but aren't recognized by those close to the victim.
Anyone who supervises children — including parents and other family — and organizations that work with children are encouraged to attend a free training session Monday evening to learn about the warning signs of abuse.
“It's really about awareness,” said Kellie Lavigne, the executive director of the Shoshone County Women's Resource Center. She attended the Coeur d'Alene-based training and said it's “invaluable.”
The Stewards of Children program is a comprehensive sexual abuse prevention training program that educates people to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It's presented by the ICARE Program of St. Vincent de Paul and the Shoshone County Child Abuse Task Force.
Attendees will receive an interactive workbook for the training and will see interviews with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. They will also receive a certificate upon completion of the program.
The training also welcomes adult survivors, Lavigne said.
Some tend to use alcohol to self-medicate and suppress memories, but they can manage to live a healthy life with help and understanding from a victim advocate's organization, she said.
“If they don't know why they're acting out as adults, something possibly could've gone wrong in their childhood,” she said.
The training is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Silver Valley Memorial Hall in Kellogg. It's at 110 N. Hill St., attached to My Big Fat Greek Deli. The child abuse task force will provide beverages, and food may be purchased from the deli.
RSVP is mandatory — call ICARE at 676-1515 or Kimberley at the women's resource center at 556-0500
Program to train people to recognize child abuse
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and officials from Prevent Child Abuse Delaware today are unveiling a statewide program called Stewards of Children that aims to train people across the state to recognize and respond to the signs of child sexual abuse.
The public, private and nonprofit partnership plans to train 35,000 adults – or 5 percent of the state's population – over a five-year period. About 600 people have already been trained in Sussex County, said Patricia Dailey Lewis, director of the Delaware Attorney General's Office Family Division. Lewis added that while first responders have been trained in this, they want to also involve the general public.
“We want to train UPS workers, we want to train bank tellers, we want to train people [at] church,” Lewis said. “We want to train anybody who cares about any child.”
Anyone wanting to learn more about the Stewards of Children program can contact Kellie Turner at 425-7490 or email@example.com. To learn more online, visit www.pcadelaware.org/programs/soc.htm.
There may be a $10 to $15 charge for the 2 1/2-hour training, which can be performed at different locations.
County offers abuse prevention program
by Marilyn Gray
Yellowhead County will be offering abuse-response training in Wildwood Sept. 15, after receiving a request for the Little Warriors course in the area.
Professional trainers from Little Warriors Edmonton will be holding the course at the Wildwood Seniors Centre from 9 a.m. to noon at a cost of $15.
"The course was requested by people in this area," said Yellowhead County FCSS outreach coordinator Sarah Leach.
"This training is great for anyone who is working with children," said Leach. "Not even just working - if you have a large extended family or your kids are always bringing over other kids you could benefit from it."
The workshop will help participants understand the facts of child sexual abuse, including incidence rates and effects on individuals and society.
It will help attendees understand how sexual abuse happens, that adults are responsible for the protection of children and the importance of screening staff and volunteers who work with children and adolescence.
Participants will also be given the resources to react responsibly to incidents of child sexual abuse.
"If you ever get information from a child about abuse you're going to want to be sure to react appropriately," said Leach. "Often, if something is happening to them, children tend to think it's their fault. So if they say something to you and you say the wrong thing they may never talk about it again."
Leach said Hinton residents and other non-county residents are welcome to attend the session and the County would be open to hosting similar programming in other communities in the Yellowhead if it was requested.
This session is co-sponsored by the Wildwood Public Library.
Participants are asked to register ahead of time so that adequate seating can be provided.
For more information, or to register, call 1-800-3935.
Manchin, Rockefeller Announce Nearly $400,000 to Protect West Virginia Children from Sexual Predator
The funding comes from the Child Sexual Predator Program, which promotes partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies to reduce and prevent child endangerment by sexual predators.
Manchin, Rockefeller, Rahall Announce Nearly $400,000 to Protect West Virginia Children from Sexual Predators
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, along with Congressman Nick Rahall (all D-W.Va.), announced that the state of West Virginia will receive $388,280 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services office to prevent child sexual abuse. The funding comes from the Child Sexual Predator Program, which promotes partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies to reduce and prevent child endangerment by sexual predators. These agencies aim to establish and enhance strategies to locate, arrest and prosecute child sexual predators and exploiters.
“Keeping our children safe, secure and happy is at the forefront of every parent's mind,” Senator Manchin said. “This funding will help state and local police work together with federal law enforcement to arrest sexual offenders and keep our kids out of harm's way.”
“We must protect children from the threat of sexual predators, and this grant affirms our commitment to doing all we can to make sure youth in West Virginia are not exposed to such danger,” said Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “This protection is increasingly important as technology develops, accessibility increases, and predators target vulnerable youth. This funding will help local, state and federal officials protect children in West Virginia from people wishing to do them harm.”
“As our children and grandchildren return to school this year, we want them to learn and grow in a safer world,” said Rahall. “These funds will assist our state and local law enforcement in community policing initiatives and in keeping our children out of harm's way.”
New Book Takes Readers Inside the Life of an Abused Child
Author reveals her personal story of pain, sorrow, forgiveness.
Panama City, FL (PRWEB) September 07, 2011
It was the hope to prevent future victims of abuse that led author Jeanne Byrns to write her memoir, "The Eyes Have It" (published by Trafford Publishing). Detailing her years of abuse – physical, sexual, mental and emotional – Byrns opens her life to the reader in this deeply personal exploration.
“The book is not simply a journal of wrongs and injustices,” explains Byrns, “but that of overcoming and changing my life. My struggles to understand why I was a victim and to forgive my tormentors helped me to become a stronger person and also to become a person other wounded survivors turn to for comfort.”
Depicting her uncommon family dynamic and her struggles to overcome her childhood as an adult, Byrns reveals a unique coming-of-age story that illustrates the power of the human spirit to heal and, ultimately, to flourish.
“How could someone experience so much misery, neglect, and abuse and yet become a person capable of such warm, loving relationships? Find Jeanne's secret and let it inspire your relationships.”
- Charlotte Battin, M.A., counselor; State of Florida Governors Award for Associate Master Teacher
“Painful … wise … poignant … A rare look into the horror of child abuse through the eyes of a victim.”
- Amelia Grey, author of A Taste of Temptation and other books
“An amazing journey through extreme abuse, neglect, and poverty to a life of purpose fulfilled by love, creativity and service to others. A true story that will give hope and encouragement to all who read it and especially to those whose circumstances seem hopeless and insurmountable. A testimony to faith, endurance and God's unending grace and mercy freely bestowed on those who ask and those who seek.”
- Sandra Piscani, R.N., B.S.N., M.N., Formerly Staff Counseling Specialist, University of Minnesota Teaching Hospital and Clinics
About the Author
Jeanne Byrns is a successful sculptor, artist and medical assistant. She is a mother of five and grandmother of five. She has overcome a history of mental and emotional torture, as well as physical and sexual abuse. The Eyes Have It is her story of what happened and how she overcame that abuse.
Trafford Publishing, an Author Solutions, Inc. author services imprint, was the first publisher in the world to offer an “on-demand publishing service,” and has led the independent publishing revolution since its establishment in 1995. Trafford was also one of the earliest publishers to utilize the Internet for selling books. More than 10,000 authors from over 120 countries have utilized Trafford's experience for self publishing their books. For more information about Trafford Publishing, or to publish your book today, call 1-888-232-4444 or visit trafford.com.
Walkers, Runners Needed for Montgomery 5K to Fight Child Trafficking
The SCTNow 5K Walk/Run 2011 will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at ?Lakewood Creek Elementary School? in Montgomery.
Carolyna Castaneda was reading the newspaper when she came across an article about the sex trafficking and child abuse
of a 5-year-old North Carolina girl by her mother.
“I was horrified by it,” the Montgomery resident said.
The more she read about the case, including the child's subsequent murder, the more Castaneda felt compelled to act. She contacted the Stop Child Trafficking Now
organization and asked how she could get involved.
In 2009, she became a community ambassador for the organization, and last year helped coordinate the SCTNow 5K Walk/Run in Oswego, which had more than 100 participants and raised just over $3,000.
This year, the run is in her home village, and her goal is to get 300 participants. The SCTNow 5K Walk/Run 2011 will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Lakewood Creek Elementary School
in Montgomery. Registration is free, but there is a suggested fundraising minimum of $100.
The third annual National Walk/Run Campaign will be one of 33 events held across the country to help bring an end to child sex slavery.
Castaneda said there is a misperception by some that child trafficking is not happening in this area. But in reality, Chicago is actually fifth in the nation for the crime.
“It's considered one of the top hubs,” Castaneda said. “People travel in and out of Chicago daily from this area.”
The money raised through SCTNow events such as the 5K Walk/Run is used to stop child trafficking by targeting the source: the predators who drive the sex industry. SCTNow "partners with specially-trained operatives familiar with what it takes to infiltrate, investigate and bring to justice the predators victimizing children worldwide," according to its website.
“A lot of times now you have so many police officers being laid off that (police departments) don't have the manpower to make sure they have a strong case,” Castaneda said. “(Those working with SCTNow can) make sure when they go after pedophiles, there's a very solid case to put these predators away for a long time.”
Castaneda hopes to see a good turnout for this year's fundraiser.
“I want to make this event bigger every year and get more people aware of what is going on and affecting our children,” she said.
Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult and registered as a participant. The event will include several family-friendly activities, including a bounce house for children and face painting.
The Montgomery Police Department
will help issue child identification kits which will include the child's picture, fingerprints, and voice recording.
Castaneda hopes the 5K Walk/Run will get more people get involved with SCTNow.
“Then we can hold more events and do a lot of different fundraisers,” Castaneda said.
For more information, contact Castaneda at Montgomery@sctnow.org
, or visit the event's website
National Children's Alliance director says issue is nationwide
by KRISTEN CATES
According to Teresa Huizar, the director of the National Children's Alliance in Washington D.C., Montana is hardly alone when it comes to problems in addressing child abuse, and there are solutions that she thinks should be adopted nationwide.
What would help in preventing child abuse from a national standpoint is having more data readily available, Huizar said.
"Child abuse is a public health matter," she said.
She's in agreement with a report recently completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office that indicates states are not adequately disclosing child abuse fatalities and that it often goes underreported.
"We still do not know accurately the scope of the problem," she said. "There is a serious undercount of child abuse fatalities. ... You can't craft a solution without knowing the problem," Huizar said.
The National Children's Alliance is the accrediting body for child advocacy centers across the nation, including one in Great Falls that is expected to get its accreditation from the organization by next summer. Advocacy centers are a central hub that allows law enforcement, county attorneys, child psychologists, social workers and doctors to work together in investigating claims of child abuse.
Her agency also advocates for the following national reforms to address child abuse and prevention:
» Ensure that expectant parents and new parents have access to parenting classes where enrollment is not income specific. She said states such as Georgia and Hawaii have implemented programs such as this. And in states like Colorado, law allows for nurses in hospitals to help new parents adjust to the transition from the hospital to home.
» Child death review teams are crucial and should be strengthened in each state so that a better analysis can be made of child deaths as a result of abuse or neglect.
» Coroners need to be better trained on pronouncing the death of a child at a scene, rather than in a hospital, because they may not be medically trained to recognize the signs of child abuse.
This also will help lead to better diagnosis of infant deaths as "sudden infant death syndrome." It is her belief that too often a death of an infant seems inexplicable, and is ruled as SIDS.
Huizar's opinion is that of many child abuse prevention advocates: Not enough is being done nationally to address the issue, she said.
"Very much we'd just love to work ourselves out of a job," she said.
Dealing with people who exploit children sexually
I read in the paper last week about the case of a man who has had psychological disorders of one kind or another from an early age, and who was convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl. It reminded me of all the cases of sex abuse I've encountered while practising here.
If a sex offender-specific evaluation had been completed on the convicted man when he was convicted for two counts of sexual exploitation of a young person, previous to this particular incident, I believe he would have been deemed a high risk to re-offend. If that was done, then either it was ignored or there was no realistic resource available to follow up on it. Sex offenders at a high risk to re-offend should be enrolled in secure, sex-offender treatment programmes, and their release into the general public should be contingent on their progress in treatment.
In the current situation the man convicted of child sexual abuse was being treated at the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute (MAWI) for at least one of his psychological disorders, but MAWI is not set up to address the treatment needs of sex offenders who often manifest impulse problems, developmental cognitive delays, and other aspects associated with paraphilias. It is also often the case that professional clinical staff in community mental health must follow the laws of the land governing involuntary commitment. If a person manifests no conscious intent to hurt himself or others, and that person is taking medication and cooperating with treatment, there is no reason to keep him or her in the hospital. It would actually be against the law to do so.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes paraphilias as “recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviours that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”. They include things such as voyeurism (peeping at others in their bedrooms), non-consensually rubbing private parts against people in public places, paedophilia (using children for sex), sadism (cruel and brutal sexualising of others), and fetishes (the dependence on objects as a way to create or maintain sexual gratification). Paraphilias are considered psychological disorders, but their treatment requires accurate and careful diagnosis and focused therapy, with accountability and (in the case where this disorder results in a crime) security and monitoring.
And here is where it becomes necessary to point out an ugly truth. A very small percentage of child sex offences occur with a stranger attacking a child. Most often child sex abuse involves family members. It's not the people of the world, like the man in the paper last week, that most children need to be protected against; it's Uncle So and So or even their own brothers and/or fathers. When family members offend their children, people are loathe to deal with it, and I've learned from years of practice here that Bermuda has a long history of concealing the sexual offences of family members. There is even a euphemism to make it sound less alarming. People call it being “interfered with”.
Personally, I think child sexual abuse rises above the level of nuisance that is conveyed by the normal use of that word, “interfere”. Grown men who exploit children sexually often destroy a child's sense of innocence, trust, and safety. They sexualise the child long before the child has the emotional and even cognitive capacity, to understand what sex is and how it fits into the normal adult life of a human being. There is no going back.
So, what would be considered best practice in dealing with people who sexually offend against children? There are steps in the process, especially as outlined by the international organisation called the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (http://www.atsa.com). ATSA indicates that the majority of sex offences committed go unreported and undetected; consequently, all methods of assessing the risk of future sex offences rely on re-arrests and re-convictions and produce substantial underestimates of relative risk. They further maintain:
“Research has identified risk factors that can be used to identify those sex offenders at a higher risk to re-offend. Several researchers have studied particular combinations of risk factors which, in designated combinations, are associated with different levels of risk for future sex offending. These are typically known as “actuarial tools” and are similar to actuarial tables utilised by insurance companies to determine relative risk.”
Because the actuarial type risk assessments customarily used to evaluate sex offenders depend in part on an offender already having been adjudicated, the process in some countries is as follows:
|(1) The police investigate, gather and document evidence, and bring a strong case against an accused.
(2) The courts decide whether or not the accused is guilty or innocent. If innocent, the process stops right there. If guilty, the court orders a sex offender-specific evaluation prior to sentencing in order to ascertain the level of risk to re-offend.
(3) The psychologist conducts that evaluation using actuarial risk schedules, based on psychological testing, review of records, and clinical interview. (This would normally include physical measures of deviant arousal and polygraph as well, but these are currently not available in Bermuda).
(4) Then, the court reconvenes and, taking the risk assessment contained in the sex offender-specific evaluation into consideration, imposes sentence. The sentence would include assignment to an organised sex offender treatment programme. (In the case of high-risk offenders this would take place in secure settings, ie prison; in the case of low- to some medium-risk offenders, this would take place in outpatient, community sex offender treatment programmes).
I believe both the needs of offenders and victims need to be considered in this issue. Offenders are not happy, successful people, and they have a lot to lose if they re-offend. We are all aware of the tragedies associated with being offended against, and the social outrage when a case such as the one recently reported occurs. It helps when people think through the complexities of the situation and take comprehensive steps that can make for lasting change. Momentary thoughtless reaction does little by way of prevention.
A team approach to combat sexual abuse
September 6, 2011
I am writing in response to a letter in the Watertown Daily Times on Aug. 24 regarding one of our society's most serious problems, child sexual abuse. There are victim services organizations and state agencies that are proactive in the fight against this heinous form of victimization.
The Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County (VACJC) is the “umbrella” organization that operates a state Child Advocacy Center (CAC) as a partnership grant. Our CAC coordinator facilitates a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) comprised of the VACJC, local law enforcement including state police, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, Watertown City Police, District Attorney's office, Jefferson County Probation Department, Fort Drum Criminal Investigation Division, Fort Drum Emergency Services, Samaritan Medical Center, Insight Forensic Counseling Service and Jefferson County Department of Social Services.
The CAC is a single point of contact where the young victim can be interviewed in a child friendly atmosphere. Upon Child Protective Services and/or law enforcement request, the CAC coordinator activates the team when a child victim is sexually assaulted and a forensic interview is required. When necessary, medical examinations can be completed on premises.
The VAC advocacy staff, Child Protective Services caseworkers and other team members who are involved in the case assess the needs of the young victim and the family, and then links them to other direct services they may require mental health/counseling, medical services, etc. The advocate is available to help the child and their family members navigate the criminal justice and judicial system if necessary.
The case is reviewed by the MDT periodically for updates until the case is resolved. We all work together and in tandem to reduce the trauma to the child victim and their nonoffending family members while simultaneously bringing as many offenders as possible to accountability so a sense of justice is achieved.
The staff of the VACJC and all of our volunteers are required to complete an in-depth state Department of Health approved 40-hour rape crisis certification training to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to work with individuals in our community who have been traumatized by sexual violence whether adult or child.
Finally, the VACJC employs a community education/prevention specialist. This person educates middle/high school students in four school systems in Jefferson County. She uses the DOH approved safe dates curriculum to educate and make our students aware of how to establish healthy relationships and some of the danger signals to be aware of in a relationship.
Elaina F. Marra
The writer is executive director, Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County.
Zoeller challenges online classified site to 'get tough' on illegal ads
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined 45 other state attorneys general recently in challenging Backpage.com for its ongoing failure to effectively limit prostitution and sexual trafficking activity on its website.
In a joint letter to the website's lawyers, the attorneys general said hundreds of advertisements have been discovered that solicit illegal services despite the website's claims of having strict content policies in place.
"The Internet has become a haven for prostitution advertisements," Zoeller said. "These advertisements are often a cover for the terrible crime of trafficking minors and others. Attorneys general want to make sure online sites like this do not become hubs for human trafficking and other illegal activity."
However, since 2008 more than 50 cases in 22 states involved the trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors through Backpage.com.
"The only way for Backpage.com to completely stop trafficking on its site is to take down all adult services advertisements," Zoeller said. "Children aren't legally capable to consent to be sold for sex and every effort must be made to combat this crime and protect our children."
According to the letter, prosecutors in Washington state are handling a case in which teen girls say they were threatened and extorted by two adults who marketed them on Backpage.com. One of the adults rented a hotel room and allegedly forced the girls to have sex with men who answered the online advertisements.
Backpage.com, owned by Village Voice Media, LLC, is the top provider of "adult services" advertisements, according to the AIM Group, an interactive-media consultancy. The multimedia company, which owns 13 weekly newspapers in the U.S. including Indianapolis' NUVO magazine, admits its involvement in advertising illegal services.
In a meeting with staff at the Washington State Attorney General's Office, Village Voice board member Don Moon readily acknowledged prostitution advertisements appear on the website. In a June 29 article published nationally by the Village Voice, the corporation criticized those concerned about child sex trafficking as "prohibitionists bent on ending the world's oldest profession," acknowledging that, as a seller of adults services advertisements, "Village Voice has a stake in this story."
Industry analysts suggest that Village Voice's stake in adult services advertisements is worth about $22.7 million in annual revenue.
Zoeller said the letter from state attorneys general makes a series of requests to Backpage.com, asking that the company willingly provide information in lieu of a subpoena. For example, in order to substantiate the claim that the company enforces policies to prevent illegal activity, the attorneys general ask that Backpage.com describe in detail its understanding of what constitutes "illegal activity," and whether advertisements for prostitution fall into that category.
Attorneys general also ask how many advertisements in the website's adult section and subsections have been submitted since Sept. 1, 2010, how many of those advertisements were individually screened, how many were rejected and how many were removed after being discovered to be for illegal services.
In 2008, Indiana and 41 other states' attorneys general reached an agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal listings, in an effort to reduce crimes such as human trafficking. Craigslist ultimately removed its "erotic services" section in May 2009.
Through the National Association of Attorneys General, Zoeller is part of the "Pillars of Hope" Presidential Initiative to combat human trafficking. Zoeller is also a member of the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force.
Child Sex Trafficking in Our Fair City? Say It Ain't So
Disturbing trends among teenagers reflect a growing national problem.
You might have seen that disturbing film from the mid-'80s called Blue Velvet
, in which a young man discovers a sinister underworld lying just beneath his idyllic suburban home town. It came to mind recently when I went to a luncheon held in honor of Sharmin Bock
, prosecuting attorney for Alameda County and candidate for San Francisco District Attorney.
As she discussed the need for greater collaboration between local cities and towns, Sharmin shared one unsettling story after the next, detailing how criminals prey on our young by coercing, forcing and trafficking them into sex slavery. Yeah, I know, not exactly something you want to hear about when you are eating cobb salad and drinking a cooling glass of ice tea. But there it is.
Sharmin told us of one Volvo-driving mother in a well-to-do town in Contra Costa County who dropped her two 13-year-old daughters off at the mall one afternoon. She didn't see them again for weeks. They had met a seemingly nice young man who invited them over to his house to meet his friends. The girls were held hostage and repeatedly sold as sex slaves until the FBI were able to rescue them. This isn't Thailand, people, or a made-for-TV movie; this is here.
UNICEF's website states that as many as 1.2 million children worldwide are trafficked every year for cheap labor or sexual exploitation. According to Shared Hope International and confirmed by the U.S. Congress, more than 100,000 American children are exploited in domestic sex trafficking. The average entry age: 12-14 years old.
Daphne Phong, founder of Fremont-based California Against Sex Slavery, explains, “Gangs are moving beyond drugs to the more lucrative sex trafficking. You can sell a person over and over again, but you can only sell a drug once.”
Sharmin says, “Human trafficking is not a Third World or international phenomenon—it is a well-documented domestic problem occurring in our own backyard.”
Oakland and Sacramento are considered national hotbeds for sex slavery. Sadly, San Mateo County is not far behind. According to Sharmin, traffickers keep their victims enslaved at the hotels that ring the San Francisco airport to service businessmen and other travelers.
But surely, this couldn't happen here in Our Fair City?
I reached out to Liz Schoeben, founder and executive director of Counseling and Support Services for Youth. Her organization joins with elementary, middle, and high schools up and down the Peninsula to help troubled youth. In fact, this fall they will work at six of our elementary schools here in Palo Alto.
When we spoke, Liz assured me she had not heard of any cases of the nature Sharmin had shared. And then she hesitated. “Well, there is a new, deeply disturbing trend we are seeing in the high schools. Upperclasswomen, typically seniors, are luring freshman girls to parties and pimping them out to the senior and junior boys.”
“Oh yes, senior girls getting paid by senior boys for sex with the younger girls,” Liz clarified. “We have seen incidences of this in a number of high schools in our area.”
Beyond all of the unsettling moral issues, I wonder if those upperclasswomen realize they can be prosecuted as child sex traffickers? The laws have finally caught up with the reality of this kind of torture. State law AB 22, passed in 2005, established human trafficking as a federal crime, but the sentencing is weak. Sharmin says there is more to do.
She and others, such as Daphne Phong, are working to toughen the trafficking laws in our state. They are lobbying to establish an initiative on the November ballot that will lengthen jail time from the maximum of eight years to life in prison, force convicted child sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, provide services for victims, and require mandatory training for law enforcement. You can learn more on their website.
I asked Liz what parents and the community could do? She said, “The best way to protect our children is to stay connected, to be in their life and to know what is going on.”
So, I put down my laptop and went on a walk with my daughter. Just like in the movie, the yellow sun was shining, the blue and black birds were singing, and I knew there was so much more than meets the eye in our idyllic suburban town.
Study finds child sex abuse education is key
by Rachel Carbonell
An anti-child sex abuse organisation says it has new research which shows educating children about sexual assault is one of the most effective ways of preventing it.
Bravehearts says an analysis of more than 500 of its clients shows a direct link between the education program it runs in schools and a spike in the number of reports it receives about the sexual assault of children.
Executive director Hetty Johnston says the results show education of young children can make a big difference.
"We're getting between four and eight disclosures directly to Bravehearts as a direct result of going into the schools and delivering our education program," she said.
"So the program goes into the school and within days - sometimes a week, sometimes a little bit longer - we get these disclosures coming."
The Bravehearts education program uses a live musical performance to get the message across to children aged three to eight.
It has been delivered to thousands of primary school children in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
"The message is simply about their private parts - 'no-one else to touch, no-one else to see, they belong to me'," she said.
"This message is repeated, repeated, repeated. You can almost see the penny dropping in these children.
"What we do know is even though the offenders are very known and trusted and even loved by the children, children are disclosing."
The program has some government funding but otherwise relies on community support and fundraising.
Ms Johnston would like to see it rolled out across the country and says it could halve the incidence of child abuse in Australia and save millions of dollars in the long term.
"If we reduce the incidence of child sexual assault, if we work with these children, we're going to reduce the incidence. And as a result of that we will reduce the incidence of youth suicide, of depression, all other kinds of mental health, drinking, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime," she said.
"Research tells us that it's costing us billions of dollars every year to mop up the carnage of child sexual assault.
"Every time a child is sexually assaulted ... there's a conservative estimate of $180,000 that it costs us."
Chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation Dr Joe Tucci says such programs are valuable, but they are likely to identify child sex abuse rather than prevent it.
"Prevention itself ... has to be targeted at adults. It has to be targeted at increasing adults' commitment to protecting children," he said.
Ms Johnston says Bravehearts is not promoting child education as the sole strategy, but one to be used in conjunction with others including educating adults and dealing with offenders effectively
Child sexual predators known to parents
by Petrina Berry
A study of Australian child sex abuse cases has found nearly half of parents involved knew their child was interacting with a child sex offender.
The study is based on a survey by child protection group Bravehearts of 556 child sex victims who have used its services.
Consistent with national and international research, it found girls were more likely to be sexually abused than boys, with 72 per cent of victims being girls and 28 per cent boys.
On average the children were about six years old when they were assaulted.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston released the findings on Tuesday in Brisbane, telling reporters that some parents and the community were letting children down.
"The most alarming finding for me was that 45 per cent of people knew that their children were interacting with someone who had offended before," Ms Johnston said.
"They believed they would not do it again, so they allowed their children to be in the care of that person.
"I understand the dynamic of that, but we have to get this as a community that offenders never stop offending until they are caught."
Tuesday marks the 15th year of Bravehearts' signature event, White Balloon Day.
This year's event aims to raise $500,000 to support child sexual assault victims.
In Australia, 59,000 children are sexually assaulted every year, with an estimated one in five children subjected to assault before their 18th birthday, Bravehearts says.
Child protection is in the spotlight in Queensland due to the recent discovery of the remains of Daniel Morcombe, who was 13 when he went missing in 2003, sparking Queensland's highest profile missing child case.
His parents Bruce and Denise have been recognised for their efforts to promote child safety, along with Ms Johnston.
Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said child safety messages were gaining momentum to a degree not seen before.
He said almost eight years of campaigning by the Morcombes to find their missing son and to educate other children on how to ward off predators were working.
But Mr Atkinson said abductions were rare and in most cases children were abused by relatives or someone they trusted.
"Children often feel they can't tell anyone and sadly the offending continues," he said.
"We've had cases of people offending against three generations of children before someone has spoken out."
Queensland's Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves on Tuesday told parliament he would ask the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian to consider releasing a summary of all abuse cases it investigated and its recommendations.
The state's role in protecting youths from abuse has been under a cloud due to the suicide deaths of two teenage girls in Maryborough in 2009.
Both had been in state care, and one had complained to authorities about being abused.
Failings in the system were linked to one of the girls' deaths.
Mr Reeves had previously resisted calls to release information about the girls' contact with authorities before they died, prompting accusations of a cover-up.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Local DA's office gets state grant to fight sex crime targeting young
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NORTHAMPTON - The Northwestern district attorney's office is one of two in the state to secure money to fund programs aimed at capturing and prosecuting child sexual predators.
Over the next two years, the Worcester County District Attorney's Office will receive $500,000, while the Northwestern DA's office will receive $493,000.
The grants were awarded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, part of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bernard Melekian, the COPS office director, said agencies who received the grants have developed aggressive strategies to fight crimes against children.
The Massachusetts district attorneys plan to use the money to update forensic equipment, enhance training and pay for overtime for officers investigating crimes against children.
Time now for calm and rational debate on child abuse
September 5, 2011
ANALYSIS: There is too much at stake for confrontation with the Vatican to continue, writes STEPHEN COLLINS
THE EAGERLY awaited response of the Vatican to the scathing criticism made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil last July following publication of the Cloyne report has left the Government in a quandary.
In his speech to the Dáil in July, Kenny voiced the deep anger of the Irish people at the failure of the Catholic Church to deal adequately with child abuse and he received widespread praise for taking such a strong line.
However, the detailed response from the Vatican makes clear that the Taoiseach was factually wrong to suggest that the Holy See “attempted to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago”.
That suggestion, which was based on an assertion made in the Cloyne report, involved a misinterpretation of the Vatican's response to a framework document on child sexual abuse produced by the Irish church.
The Vatican document also pointed the finger back at Ireland, in terms of both church and State, for the failure to adequately deal with the issue of child abuse over a number of decades.
Statements made to the Dáil in 1997 by Michael Noonan, who was then minister for health, and his junior minister Austin Currie, are quoted in the Vatican response. At that time both ministers explained why they had not introduced mandatory reporting of child abuse, and argued that the best interests of children were their paramount concern.
The Vatican was making the point in a not very subtle fashion that a senior member of the current Government shared precisely the same concerns about mandatory reporting as elements of the church at the time.
The Vatican statement also makes no bones about laying responsibility for the failure to deal with abuse at the door of the Irish bishops and clergy. The statement spells out in detail that there was nothing in canon law or church regulations that prevented priests or bishops from informing the State authorities about allegations of abuse made to them.
In his initial response to the Vatican statement Kenny said over the weekend that he did not regret his Dáil speech, while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore maintained there were aspects of the statement that were “highly technical, highly legalistic, very much dancing on the head of a pin”. In fact it is a bit unfair to dismiss the Vatican document in such terms. The detailed rebuttal of a claim that the Holy See set out to frustrate an inquiry by the Irish State into child abuse is more than “dancing on the head of a pin.”
Kenny and Gilmore have no apology to make for venting the anger of the Irish people at the church's failure to deal with abuse in the past but it is now time to move on and deal with the present and the future.
Both men now face the choice of whether to continue with a confrontational approach to the Vatican or to try to calm things down and engage in rational debate about the central issue which is how to deal with the issue of child abuse.
There is so much at stake, not just in terms of diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Vatican and the issue of child abuse, but there is also a range of practical issues that impinge directly on the welfare of the Irish people on issues such as education and health where long-term damaging consequences could arise from a continuing rift.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, expressed the hope that the Vatican response, which he described as measured, would be understood and would not become an occasion for further polemics. “Polemics really do very little for the protection of children and the support of survivors.”
There is too much at stake for polemics to take the place of debate. Kenny, Gilmore and the Government were right to make the Vatican aware of the anger felt at the way child abuse was dealt with by the church but now that the anger has been vented it is time to take a more considered approach.
For instance, the stated determination of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to make the seal of the confessional illegal is both pointless and gratuitously insulting to practising Catholics.
There is no suggestion in either the Cloyne report or the Murphy report that the seal of the confessional served to cover up a single case of child abuse.
The real problem was that the clergy did not respond adequately to information that was openly given to them about abuse by victims and their families.
Attempting to legislate on confession would bring the law into disrepute as it would be unenforceable.
It would also represent an arrogant abuse of power by the State not all that dissimilar to the abuse of power by an overweening and powerful Catholic Church in the past.
Director defends Montana's child protection efforts
by KRISTEN CATES
and KIMBALL BENNION
A series of recent high-profile child abuse cases in Montana has led some people to question the efficacy of the state's child protection systems. But child abuse and neglect in the state aren't as easy to identify and address as people would like to believe, according to officials and experts.
"Child protection is very complex work," said Cory Costello, field services director for the Children and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. "You want to make the best decisions in every case."
Dr. Nancy Maynard of the Great Falls Clinic, a pediatrician who has years of experience examining children believed to have been physically or sexually abused and/or neglected, said it's not always a cut-and-dry answer when it comes to suspected abuse.
"You can have bruises that can be nonaccidental, but appear accidental," she said. "Sometimes I can't tell (people) exactly what they want to know."
But the difficulty in determining whether abuse occurred doesn't mean Montana is failing to do its job in protecting children, Costello said.
"I think we do a lot of things well," Costello said. "I think the staff are really committed to doing difficult work. I think we do our training well. We're insuring our workers are prepared."
Maynard said there is a really good team of community partners and law enforcement officers in Great Falls that does good work in terms of responding to suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
"We have a really good law enforcement team that responds to allegations," she said.
Costello also outlined how Child and Family Services works on a typical report of abuse to provide people with a better understanding of the agency.
If a person suspects abuse or neglect of a child, he or she can call Montana's child abuse hotline at 1-866-820-5437. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is staffed by professional social workers. That department is called centralized intake.
Those social workers are trained to take information from a reporting party and determine the appropriate level of response from Child and Family Services. They use guidelines based on Montana law and division policies to help determine if a child is in imminent danger.
Based on the information social workers receive, the report of abuse is classified into three different responses. The first is request for services, the second informational report, and the third and highest priority response is for child protective services.
Costello said there are three different levels of response within the category of child protective services. A priority one call means a protection specialist must respond within 24 hours, a priority two call means a specialist has 72 hours to respond, and a priority three call allows for up to 10 days to respond.
"In general, what (centralized intake) is looking for is an imminence of danger," Costello said.
Request for service calls usually mean someone is requesting services or additional support from the department. It is the least-frequent response from the division, possibly because it is the only response mechanism where people are directly requesting help from the department, Costello said.
"I think it's scary for them," Costello said.
Of the 13,828 reports of suspected abuse or neglect identified in 2010, only 9 percent were considered request for service calls.
Informational reports are for informational purposes only. Costello said centralized intake has a list of criteria it uses to determine if the report should be made for informational purposes only, and therefore doesn't require the involvement of a child protection specialist.
Costello urges people to call the hotline again, and file another report, if they continue to witness abuse after reporting it once and they don't feel they're getting the right response from the department.
"Don't be afraid," she said.
Of the total reports of suspected abuse or neglect identified in 2010 in Montana, 33 percent were classified as informational report calls. Costello couldn't speculate if more of the informational calls should be classified into other, higher priority calls.
The other 59 percent of reported alleged incidents in 2010 were classified as child protective services calls, which is where a lot of the difficult work is done, Costello said.
Child protection specialists, the initial responders to these calls, are individuals who have a college degree in social work or a human services related field. Costello said that when these specialists are hired, they go through a 12-week training program based out of the University of Montana. Outside of that, they are not required to be licensed.
The first six weeks of training are spent in the classroom studying things such as forensic interview techniques, writing an affidavit and understanding other peripheral issues. The next six weeks are spent in the field, working with a supervisor.
Once properly trained, child protection specialists can begin responding to the child protective services calls, which is when they determine if a child is safe, and then work to substantiate the alleged abuse.
A child can be removed from a home immediately, but an affidavit has to be filed in court within 48 hours to grant the state temporary custody while the investigation is ongoing. If the court doesn't agree with the departments claim, the child must be returned home. In the meantime, a case worker has 60 days from the day of their initial response to substantiate the report, which then can result in more court action.
Costello said a specialist can be called to a home where abuse or neglect was reported, determine that a child isn't in imminent danger and still file a report within 60 days that substantiates the claim and leads to the child being removed from the home.
Costello said the goal is to keep the child in the home, but if specialists can't do that, they work to place the child with a next of kin while awaiting court hearings.
In addition to documenting cases and being prepared to testify in youth-in-need-of-care hearings, specialists also work with families and the court to come up with treatment plans for offenders, so a child can be returned to his or her immediate family.
Costello said that it's important to work toward reuniting a family because research shows that being able to successfully live with their family creates the best outcome for children. That can be a challenging concept for some people, even case workers, to accept, Costello said.
"We struggle with the tightrope we walk," she said.
Costello said the reason such protocols are in place is because without them, people's opinions would sway decisions and case results would be all over the board.
"We have this whole list of factors we're looking at," Costello said. "It's a very complex process. Those standards are driven by the law. It protects the family and protects the children."
Federal guidelines require that states have in place child death review teams and citizen advisory boards. In Montana, the Fetal, Infant and Child Mortality Review teams examine all regional and local deaths of children younger than 17, and determine if policies need to be changed or advocate for better legislation.
In addition, the state is required to have a citizens review board, known in Montana as the State Advisory Council, which Costello said meets quarterly. Regional citizens review boards report to the State Advisory Council.
Costello said that in the last two years, the board mainly has been charged with reviewing cases and listening to different agencies advocate for a need, for example, to find additional foster parents in Montana.
But the state advisory board also brings forth its own concerns or topics that members would like to see addressed.
"They've brought their own concerns and information," Costello said. "They have a driving factor."
Costello said Child and Family Services is in the midst of implementing a national model called "Safety Assessment Management Systems" as the result of a mandatory federal review that Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services undergoes every six years — the last being in 2008.
Montana is one of the few states that adopted this model, which calls for more comprehensive investigations, developing a different approach for referrals, better defining children in immediate of danger versus impending danger, as well as examining adult functioning, parenting practices and discipline.
"It improves outcomes for families," Costello said.
She also said the department has had a lot of success with its family group decision-making meetings, which include everyone from the child protection specialist, to a family member or friend that a parent wants present, mental health specialists and more.
Caseloads of child protection specialists are always a concern. Costello said it's hard to determine an average number of cases specialists handle at any given time, but she suspects that it is around 12 or 13 in Cascade County.
However, she noted that there are many instances in which one case involves multiple children, multiple parents and several attorneys.
Going forward, DPHHS public information officer Jon Ebelt said that the large budget cuts the department faced in the 2011 legislative session, should not impact the work Child and Family Services does. The department made sure the budget cuts didn't result in any cuts in services from local health departments for children and families.
"The number one goal is protecting our children," Ebelt said. "Our workers are doing more with less, and are maintaining that level of services. We've done a good job of looking within our department for efficiencies."
Costello said the state law is designed to protect the rights of individual families, but that means the department is constantly analyzing its role as intermediaries.
"We want to honor the rights of parents to parent their children, so long as the kids are safe," she said.
PROTECTING MONTANA KIDS: A THREE-PART SERIES
Sunday: Recent deaths of young children because of alleged abuse and neglect cast doubt on the effectiveness of Montana's child-protection services agency.
Monday: A look inside the child protection system from the perspective of Child and Family Services Division caseworkers and administrators.
Tuesday: Experts and concerned citizens weigh in on the best practices for child-protection services in the state and nation.
Website launched to stop child abuse
Kids are being encouraged to "Play Your Part" when it comes to identifying friends or schoolmates who could suffer from abuse.
The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) web-based initiative also extends to boyfriends, teachers, neighbours, youth workers and others who might be able to help a child in need.
Launched in Sydney on Monday, website aims to get people involved in preventing child abuse.
"We all have a part to play in preventing child abuse and neglect, whether we're parents, relatives, neighbours, policy makers, businesses, journalists or employers," said NAPCAN president Olya Booyar.
Playyourpart.org.au and a linked YouTube channel feature case studies along with skits and DIY music videos.
Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services Julie Collins said the federal government had provided $300,000 to support the program, which was released at the start of Child Protection Week.
"The Australian government is unwavering in our resolve to ensure children and young people are able to flourish in happy and healthy environments," she told reporters at the launch.
Ms Collins said the Gillard government was working on a national audit on child protection.
"Protecting children and their right to a safe and healthy life is one of the most important responsibilities of all governments," she said.
"The audit provides directions and priorities to help target future research, including the government's national research agenda for protecting children, which will be finalised later this year."
Research undertaken by NAPCAN last year found 92 per cent of Australians thought child abuse was a major problem, with the majority of those surveyed not knowing what they could do to help.
Ms Booyar said called on all NAPCAN supporters to put their information on the website.
"Put (your) clips up on the YouTube site so everybody can share ... it takes a community to raise a child," she said
Clusters of child sexual abuse reports are not uncommon, says child advocate
September 5, 2011
Barton Deiters, The Grand Rapids Press
BYRON CENTER – One father looks at the seeming plethora of sexual assault accusations made against a pastor , a soccer coach , a youth activity leader and a school bus drive r and he remembers how hard it can be for those coming forward.
His daughter was the object of sexual desire by a former teacher at South Christian High Schoo l in Cutlerville. James Bruce Valkema eventually pleaded guilty to having sex with the 15-year-old and is serving out his 8- to 40- year prison sentence .
“She knew what was happening was wrong,” said the father who remains unidentified to protect the identity of the victim – his daughter. “She couldn't stand keeping the secret and she came forward. She took the high road.”
But the process was painful. Even though 33-year-old Valkema pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the teen found herself an object of scorn and judgment from some supporters of Valkema , her father said.
The girl changed schools and has given up athletics and other social events she previously enjoyed.
“She's cocooned herself,” said her dad. “She's not the same girl she used to be. I'm not the same guy I was before this happened. It has been very disheartening.”
The father said although his daughter continues to heal, she feels it was worth it to make sure that no one else was ever victimized as she was.
“Guys like this need to be punished,” he said. “I encourage every victim to come forward.”
Sue Powers is a therapist at the Children's Assessment Center in Grand Rapids which assists law enforcement in the objective, professional interviewing and assessment of child victims of alleged sexual assault.
Powers says often kids fail to recognize that people in a position of authority are capable of doing anything harmful to them.
Therefore children can often acquiesce to the predator's admonition that the abuse be their secret and will not report the abuse even to their parent.
“There was a case where an abuser told a young boy that if he told, his mother would be taken away from him,” Powers said. “So he protected his mother for years.”
She says it is common for disclosures to come years after the abuse occurs. It often occurs when child victims become adults and realize that the behavior perpetrated against them was not normal.
According to the Center's statistics, almost half of Kent County's 6,000 to 8,000 child sexual abuse cases occurs against children younger than 6 years old. The majority of those children are white and 62 percent of those children abused are girls.
Of those cases, the FBI estimates the national average for reported cases is less than 10 percent of those that actually occur.
She said often when cases do break, they do so in clusters. She said it can be that when victims know that other victims are coming forward, it helps ease the process to some degree.
“I think people can feel empowered when there are reports in the media about the abuse,” Powers said.
“Lots of these kids feel like they're alone, like they are the only one this has ever happened to.”
She said part of the answer is for parents to talk to their children and let them know that if something happens to them, they are able to safely talk about what has happened to them.
“Children need to be able to talk to an adult they trust,” Powers said.
Modesto concert highlights reality of human trafficking
by Nan Austin
September 5, 2011
Seventeen-year-old Emily Blair hasn't met anyone who was taken and sold for sex, but she knows it happens, and she knows it happens most often to girls no older than she is.
The Enochs senior and her teen team are behind an eclectic concert Friday to raise awareness about human trafficking and money to do something about it.
Traffickers are at least recruiting here, because Stanislaus County teens are turning up in raids in Alameda County, said Carol Shipley, Stanislaus County's assistant district attorney. Shipley said she suspects far more of it goes on, but few here know what to look for.
That's where Emily's concert comes in.
"They know it's here, but they haven't been trained yet," said the Modesto teen. Proceeds from the concert will go toward training for law enforcement about human trafficking, Emily said.
A program at her youth group of Centenary United Methodist Church opened her eyes.
"I thought it was really important for teens to know this is happening," Emily said in a moment between speaking engagements to civic groups and her tennis matches. She's also editor of the Eagle Eye school newspaper and is taking honors and Advanced Placement classes.
Her good deed has turned into an education of its own in time management, large event planning and public speaking. She's developed a two-minute speech, a 10-minute speech and a PowerPoint presentation that are getting good use.
She's also learning to ask for money — not usually in her nature, Emily said. "The first day we went to every store in the mall. We were rejected by every store in the mall. That was a bad day," she said.
Then a friend of the family pitched in, a business owner she knew through her church helped out and from there it's gotten easier. Sponsors printed the 1,000 tickets and have covered most of the concert's costs.
She started working on the concert in May — "the day after my last AP test," she said. Months of intense preparation will all come together Friday — timed to be over before midterms.
The strumming of acoustic guitarist Megan Slankard from Tracy will open the show. Slankard will slip out immediately after and rush to another concert engagement that night. Local heavy metal band Wicked Jester is performing for free. Radio Friendly, a Christian rock band, will bring its sound — and its sound and lighting equipment for the show.
Emily said she's had help from community mentors, but most of the work is being done by local teens.
Enochs senior Andrew Wong filmed and produced the video they'll première at the concert. A leadership assignment brought classmates together to describe teens most at risk of being tricked into virtual slavery: Lonely. Lost. Abused. Angry. Overwhelmed.
In short, any teen at some point, noted Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. O'Malley formed the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit in her office, called HEAT Watch.
The unit is where Emily found information and inspiration. The unit's law enforcement training service is where concert proceeds will be going, Emily said.
O'Malley, a former sex crimes lead prosecutor, described human trafficking as one of the most vicious and destructive crimes she sees.
Those who haven't heard of it soon will, she predicted. Safer and more profitable than drugs, trafficking of 14- to 16-year-old girls is attracting those involved in other criminal activities, O'Malley said.
"It's really money-driven," she said. A child put on the street at 10 a.m. will bring in an estimated $1,000 before the day's work ends at 7 or 8 p.m. Unlike a prostitute, young sex slaves "won't see a dime of that," O'Malley said.
Other experts estimate that a minor brings in about $600,000 a year.
What distinguishes trafficking victims is that they are lured in. Girls typically agree to go on what they think is a date, but instead are taken far from home, beaten and repeatedly raped. Once taken, victims are isolated, their phones, clothes — anything familiar — stripped away.
"Sadly, what we see is once the power of the trafficker sets in, they are less likely to try to get away," O'Malley said. Even if left alone, "they're too frightened to death to go through the door."
The number of children taken isn't known.
Alameda County has prosecuted 229 suspected traffickers and convicted 140 since 2006. Some of the rescued teens were abused before or emotionally needy — kids likely to be at risk. Others were "just teenagers, thinking there's no danger in the world," O'Malley said.
It could be anyone, maybe someone getting into a car right now, right here, and that's what pushes Emily.
The Stop Human Trafficking Concert will be 6-10 p.m. Friday at Enochs. Gates open at 5 p.m. Cost is $5 for students, $7 for adults.