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 3
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.
South Florida a "Perfect Storm" For Human Trafficking
Investigators say South Florida contributes to an estimated $32 billion human trafficking industry worldwide
by Sharon Lawson
(Video included on site)
In Miami, a dirty secret lies beneath the cosmopolitan veneer.
"When you look at South Florida," said Carmen Pino of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "we are like the perfect storm...for human trafficking.
"And now you have organized crime that's taken hold of things and they're working to make billions of dollars off that industry."
Pino, an assistant special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Miami, investigates the trafficking of people internationally and across state lines. The victims, he says, are exploited for labor, domestic servitude or commercial sex.
"It's an absolute huge problem," said Pino.
A recent report estimated $32 billion a year in profits from the 27 million people victimized worldwide.
The number one group at risk by traffickers in America, experts say, is runaways.
Sandy Skelaney, who went from being homeless to getting a masters degree from Yale University, now works at the Kristi House in Miami, a child advocacy center that works with children who are sexually abused. She manages Project Gold, a program that works with girls who have been sexually exploited.
For three years Skelaney called the streets home.
"I was surrounded by young people who were being victimized in the industry," said Skelaney. "They target them and know where to find them."
Florida ranks 3rd in the country for lucrative human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies are trying to get the message out through public service announcements, education and awareness.
Adriane Reesey, a liaison with the Broward Sheriff's Office and President and chair of the Broward County Human Trafficking Coalition, says disturbing trend here in South Florida finds criminals using force, fraud, or coercion to entice the vulnerable.
"It is here and it's in our backyard and in our neighborhoods," said Reesey.
Jenkins: As a community, we can prevent more child-abuse deaths
Reader's View of ROBERT MANWILL
by Jeff and Dorie Jenkins
As the grandparents of Robert Manwill, we want to thank the community of Boise for the love, care and support you have shown our family over the past two years since the passing of our dear grandson, Robert. We, too, have wanted justice for Robert and believe that the Sept. 2 sentences are the first step in that process. This has been a very difficult time for our family. As you might imagine, no one ever wants to think that their own family member is involved in something as horrendous as this. We will not offer excuses for Melissa, and we are so sorry in many, many different ways. We, too, want answers to the same questions that many of you are asking.
We ask the community to remember Robert by preventing something like this from ever happening again. We've tried to think of ways this could have been prevented and we have some suggestions. This is not meant as an accusation of the various family members and friends involved in this case. We recognize that the people responsible for this crime are being punished. But we also believe that it takes a whole village to raise a child.
• Pay attention to your neighbors, friends and relatives. When people you know begin to isolate themselves, it's a good indication that something wrong is happening in their lives. We all need support systems.
• Recognize that some girls and women have their self-esteem linked to “being in a relationship.” Oftentimes, our daughters, sisters and other young women will do anything to have and keep a relationship, regardless of the cost. We need to teach girls at an early age that their self-esteem should come from within and that no one else can give it to them.
• In situations of child visitation with another parent, don't rely on the other parent to call you and report that bad things are happening. Take a proactive role in keeping tabs on your child. Check with them periodically, in person, to make sure they are OK. Don't take no for an answer regardless of the excuses you are given. This also applies to family members and friends who are suddenly cut off from seeing a child they know.
• A child might not tell you something is wrong. As adults, it's our responsibility to find out what is happening in a child's life. If there has been previous abuse in the situation, parents and grandparents should be doubly concerned and on high alert to the potential for ongoing abuse regardless of what anger management classes get passed by the parents in question and regardless of what health and welfare officials say about the safety of the child. Don't rely on anyone else to tell you things are OK. It's our job as parents, grandparents, family members and friends to make sure our children are safe.
• Immediately report any signs of child abuse to the proper authorities regardless of who is involved.
These are just a few of the things we suggest to prevent the murder of an innocent child from ever happening again. We are devastated by the loss to our family, and this has torn us apart. We have lost Robert, Aiden and now Melissa to a senseless and horrible crime that could have been prevented. We will forever be haunted by our own mistakes, our own guilt, and the loss of our beloved Robert.
Child abuse referrals to CYF skyrocket
by IMOGEN NEALE
Teachers are making an average 42 referrals every school day to Child Youth and Family about students they suspect have been abused or neglected.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show CYF received 8102 "care and protection" notifications from schools – including early childhood and kohanga centres – from 2009 to 2010.
Of those notifications, 75% required further action.
Concerns raised by teachers included a wide range of issues, from a pupil regularly turning up without lunch or sleeping in class, to suspected physical or sexual abuse.
A 48-page CYF booklet produced earlier this year for people working with children and young people outlines what child abuse is and the signs people should look for.
They included skin disorders, areas of bruising, very aggressive behaviour towards toys, evidence of self harm and inappropriate sexual play.
The number of notifications from all sectors and services to CYF have nearly quadrupled over seven years – from 40,000 to around 150,000.
Chief social worker Paul Nixon said more than half the notifications came from family violence organisations and police.
Around 12.5% came from the health sector.
In a written statement, CYF chief executive Peter Hughes attributed the jump to greater community awareness and a willingness to contact them with "legitimate concerns".
The figures come in a week Parliament passed a bill making it a criminal offence to turn a blind eye to child abuse.
The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) creates an offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.
Anyone over 18 can be found liable if they live in the same house as the victim, don't live in the same house but are regarded a member of it, or are a staff member of a hospital or institution where the victim resides.
Justice Minister Simon Power said the country had a shameful history of child abuse and the bill would make an example of adults who put their interests before those of vulnerable children in their life.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said no reporting system was perfect but she was confident CYF was "well prepared" to deal with the escalating workload.
Bennett believes the number of notifications from teachers illustrates their commitment to protecting children and she "thank[s] every one of them for standing up and reporting their concerns to Child, Youth and Family".
New picture book encourages young children to report sexual abuse
"Tell Your Secret!" by Rebecca A. McMurry uses child-friendly words and pictures to deal with difficult issue
September 16, 2011
MERCED, Calif. (MMD Newswire) - - "Tell Your Secret!", a picture book by Rebecca A. McMurry, uses pictures and clear writing to let kids know the importance of telling someone when they experience sexual abuse, thus enabling them to help themselves and others.
According to the author, child sexual abuse is an issue with ongoing, devastating long-term effects. This book informs children of what can happen if they report or do not report abuse, using familiar language and easy-to-read text. Kids will discover when it is important to tell someone a secret, even if someone else has told them not to.
"This book should be used by parents, social workers, school psychologists, law enforcement officers and other professionals interviewing children regarding sexual abuse issues," says McMurry. "It's a helpful resource for anyone dealing with this topic."
Inspired to write the book by her years working as a child protective services social worker, McMurry draws upon her professional experience to write a book suitable for all children on what can be a very sensitive topic. The book's direct approach is intended to spark dialog between children and parents, preparing everyone to better avoid or deal with abuse.
"Tell Your Secret!" is available for sale online at Amazon.com and other channels.
About the Author
Rebecca McMurry earned an associate's degree in early childhood education from Merced Junior College, a bachelor's degree in child development from California State University, Stanislaus and attended and completed the Graduate School of Education teaching credential program at UCLA. She has spent most of her life teaching and advocating for children, including 16 years spent working as a child protective services social worker in Merced, California, where she resides.
Are All Adults Potential Predators in Kids' Eyes?
Have parental warnings made our children too suspicious?
My husband Rick, who coaches a youth soccer team, was waiting with our 14-year-old son, Danny, for the rest of their team to arrive when they saw a teenage girl kicking a soccer ball. Rick asked the girl if she wanted to practice with his team and she politely declined.
That well-intentioned invitation earned my husband the moniker "creeper" from Danny, as in "Dad, you're such a creeper."
Now, my son doesn't really believe my husband is a stalker or predator but it seems that these days any adult can be dubbed a "creeper" merely for speaking to a child he isn't coaching, teaching or parenting.
Have we drilled one too many warnings into our kids so that they interpret the smallest act of friendliness on the part of an adult – in broad daylight with other children around – as "creepy?"
When I was growing up, I had adults in my life – parents of friends – who became second parents to me. True, I was closer to the mothers than the fathers, but by the time I was a teenager I felt comfortable talking with the fathers and I certainly didn't consider them "creepers."
I asked a couple of parenting experts if kids' hyper-suspicion of adults is the price we pay for keeping children safe from real predators.
Rochelle Freedman, coordinator of Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House in Bethlehem
, wasn't ready to concede that.
"There's too much fear and sometimes that takes away from children's capacity to have relationships with well-meaning adults," Freedman said.
Bill Vogler, executive director of Family Answers
, a nonprofit counseling service based in Allentown, said his children have called him a creeper for the same crime of friendliness of which my husband was accused.
"I tend to be outgoing and gregarious and talk to strangers and they've called me the same thing," he said. "I've always felt that teaching kids about ‘stranger danger' is a two edged sword."
For example, if a kid is lost at a mall, he needs to be able to go to an adult – but he should be advised to pick a mother with a stroller rather than a man in a trench coat, Vogler said.
Both Vogler and Freedman said parents' focus on "stranger danger" obscures the fact that the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse of children are perpetrated by a relative or someone very close to the victim.
“When you study predators, they do not randomly choose victims…there's a period of grooming,” she said. The best way to protect your children is to make sure they feel comfortable telling you anything, that they have peer relationships and aren't otherwise falling through the cracks.
And they should be allowed to "go with their gut" instinct if someone makes them uncomfortable, Vogler said. “More often than not I think our gut can be right about stuff."
So what do you think? Have we created a generation of hyper-suspicious young people and is that necessary to keep them safe?
Wichita a key spot for rescuing kids in sex trade
by RON SYLVESTER -
The Wichita Eagle
Wichita sits near the crossroads of the nation's sex-trafficking highway.
"The pimps have routes they travel... and they include I-35 and I-70," police Officer Kent Bauman of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit told a gathering of health care providers Friday at Via Christi Hospital on Harry.
Police have documented known pimps recruiting girls as young as 12 from Wichita and selling them for sex across the nation, Bauman said.
They find them:
* At amateur nights in Wichita strip clubs
* On streets and at schools
* Through their Facebook pages
Even children from stable homes in Wichita's affluent neighborhoods can become targets of the billion-dollar commercial sex trade, said Detective Jennifer Wright with the Exploited and Missing Child Unit's task force to fight Internet crimes against children.
"You've got teenagers on Facebook, and it's hard to find a teenager who doesn't have a smartphone with a camera," Wright said. "They're out there looking for independence, exploring their world, exploring their sexuality."
Sexting — the practice of teenagers trading provocative pictures — has become a trapping tool for pimps.
They've posed as teen boys and know how to talk a 13-year-old into sharing a nude photo of herself, Wright said.
"Then all of the sudden, they're getting blackmailed on Facebook," Wright said. "They're being told, 'If you don't do this for me again on your webcam, I'm going to blast this out to all your family and 700 friends.'
"Then it's, 'I want to meet you.' Then all of the sudden, they're gone," Wright said.
Bauman mapped where police have found Wichita girls working the sex trade against their will: San Francisco; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Dallas; Houston; Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Atlanta; Kansas City; Birmingham, Ala.; Shreveport, La.; New York.
"The FBI says we are one of the top cities of origination for sex trafficking," said Karen Countryman-Roswurm, a social worker who coordinates Wichita's Anti-Sexual Exploitation Roundtable for Community Action.
That group brings together social services, health care, police and prosecutors to try to protect the city's young people.
Because of those efforts Wichita is also gaining a reputation as one of the best cities for helping the lost.
Friday's training targeted health professionals who work the front line and are likely to see exploited children show up in their emergency rooms. The sessions aimed to enable providers to identify those in trouble and help them.
"Via Christi feels very strongly that this is part of their mission," said Kathy Gill-Hopple, director of forensic nursing services for the health system's Wichita hospitals.
Gill-Hopple oversees the Healthcare Haven program at Via Christi Hospital on Harry, which provides medical treatment to young people suffering from abuse, including forced sexual labor.
Girls often arrive with severe health problems and terrible stories of their travels.
"I have heard a 12-year-old girl tell about having hundreds of sex partners and being sold to seven different pimps from Atlanta to Wichita," Gill-Hopple said.
Wichita's response is turning into a model for fighting back.
"I think Wichita is ahead of Kansas City, especially in the way they've gotten all these agencies to work together," said FBI Special Agent Benjamin Kinsey, who works for the Innocence Lost Task Force in Kansas City.
That task force has helped find hundreds of children nationwide and helped send hundreds of pimps to prison.
Millions remain lost, however, because pimps travel their routes so frequently that the girls often don't stay in one place long enough to be located.
"We see a lot of Wichita girls in Kansas City," Kinsey said. "But what is Kansas City's problem today may be Dallas' problem tomorrow. That's where the girls will be."
Pimps from other states frequent amateur night at Wichita strip clubs, looking for recruits, Bauman said.
Men buy girls new clothes and jewelry and give them money to lure them into what they will call "the life" or "the game."
After "turning out" a girl or boy — selling them for sex —pimps use beatings, intimidation and torture to maintain compliance.
Many kids turn up dead.
Youth, on average, enter the sex trade between ages 12 and 14.
They have an average life expectancy of seven years, dying from drug overdoses, suicide and murder, Bauman said.
Most are runaways. Bauman said 90 percent of those he's interviewed had histories of sexual abuse.
"They are no different than victims of domestic violence or rape," Bauman said.
These children feed a billion-dollar industry, which is approaching illicit drug sales as the most profitable criminal enterprise.
"It's more lucrative than drugs, less risky and recyclable," Countryman-Roswurm said. "They can sell a bag of drugs one time. They sell a person over and over."
Friday's training aimed to teach health care workers how to identify victims of sex trafficking and find them help.
"We don't rescue them like lost kittens," Countryman-Roswurm said. "We have to finds ways to empower them with survivor skills."
Police would like to prosecute every pimp and stop johns from buying girls.
"But getting children the services they need is so much more important in the broad spectrum," said Wright, the detective, fighting back tears. "No matter where they came from, they're somebody's baby."
Advocacy Center Celebrates 20 Years, Urges Community to Join Fight Against Child Abuse
by Kelley Chambers
Ashley Estell was just 7 years old when she was abducted, raped and murdered nearly 20 years ago.
Today, her winged image brightens the hallway of the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County as a reminder of what the organization has spent the past two decades preventing.
"There's certainly a lot of heartache that comes through these doors, but [the children] come out healthier, happier and safer -- that's the type of children we need to focus on," said Katy Emerson, community relations manager for the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC).
Located in east Plano, the CAC is a nonprofit agency providing "safety, healing and justice" to abused and neglected children through a highly integrated team of local law and governmental agencies and medical and therapeutic providers. Over the years, the center has proven to reduce the trauma associated with reporting child abuse while holding offenders accountable.
Offering services to 100 percent of children identified as victims of abuse in Collin County, the CAC stands out as a child-friendly environment with no waiting lists and is free of charge. There are more than 700 such advocacy centers nationwide, 64 of which are in Texas. However, the facility in Plano stands out among the rest for its effectiveness and community support.
The concept originated from Alabama Congressman Bud Cramer, who witnessed the aftermath of child abuse firsthand while working as a district attorney. When a little girl he was interviewing placed her head on his desk out of frustration and asked Cramer, why can't "you people" just talk to each other, Cramer realized the system intended to help these children actually ended up revictimizing them, Emerson said.
"Having to tell their story over and over is very traumatizing," Emerson said. "And being questioned by the same investigators who handle things like robberies and homicides and who aren't properly trained to interview children revictimizes them."
As much as some people hate to admit it, child abuse is prevalent in Collin County, with the number of reported abuse cases increasing 152 percent in 2009, according to the CAC. In an effort to battle this nationwide epidemic, the center's 55,000-square-foot facility utilizes the power of roughly 250 professionals from partnering organizations including city and county law enforcement, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Collin County District Attorney's Office, as well as clinical professionals, staff members, volunteers and interns all trained to handle every aspect of abuse cases front start to finish.
One of the first steps in the investigative process is gathering a detailed statement from the child. These fact-finding, objective interviews are conducted by specially trained forensic interviewers and are recorded to minimize the number of times a child must tell his/her story. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are also on-site to conduct sexual assault examinations for clients in the medical suite.
Despite its unfortunate origin, the CAC prides itself in being -- above all -- kid-friendly and soothing to those whose lives have been anything but, Emerson said. The center also features supervised visitation rooms, colorful waiting areas complete with video games and toys, a rock wall and basketball area and an art/music/play therapy wing. It also offers treatment plans, counseling and support groups as well. Thanks to generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the center is able to provide a clean and decorative refuge for children facing their fears and struggling to recovery.
Retired grandmother Evelyn Caldwell has been volunteering at the CAC for two years and is on-call around the clock when special cases require child care. Compared to everything she has done in her life, giving her heart and time to a child in need has been the most rewarding out of any job she's ever had. Although some days she leaves the center in tears over a child she has bonded with, Caldwell said she leaves knowing she's helped that child towards a brighter future.
"Any time they need me, anywhere they need me, I'm there any way I can help and I love it," Caldwell said. "This is a case of making the teensiest bit of a difference to help a child. I can't see a time when I'd ever not want to do this."
Amy Thompson uses the gift of gab to spread awareness about the advocacy center, using her personal and professional connections to collect goods for the Rainbow Room, the center's one-stop-emergency-shop for caseworkers. The fully-stocked room consists of everything from clothing to bath products to toys, all of which are donated new. Last month, Thompson -- Sales Director for Magnolia Lodging, which franchises Hilton properties -- organized a donation competition between two local hotels for the center's Back-to-School Fair and was touched by the outpouring of support.
"That building is full of angels, it truly is," Thompson said. "For all the trauma seen in there; it is such a beautiful place."
Having served nearly 40,000 children since its inception in 1992, the CAC's biggest goal is to let more people in the community know it is here and what it stands for, especially in the more rural areas of Collin County. Over the span of two decades, the agency has managed to uphold a 96 percent conviction rate thanks to top-notch law enforcement and team of specialized case workers.
"I don't know any other advocacy center with a rate that high," Emerson said.
Having gone beyond convention and gaining national and international notoriety for its level of service, CAC plans to celebrate its 20-year anniversary with a Teddy Bear Bike Ride in November and its annual Holly Jolly Holiday Project in December. There are also plans to open a satellite branch in the McKinney/Frisco area in Spring 2012 to meet a growing need.
Although little Ashley Estell's image above the serene fountain triggers sadness above all, her death was not in vein, Emerson said. Thanks to Ashley's Law, all convicted sex offenders in the State of Texas are required to register with the state as such upon release. Thanks to this and the dedication of the Children's Advocacy Center, Emerson said, her death has and will continue to educate and protect the lives of thousands within the community.
"There are still those who believe abuse doesn't happen here in Collin County and to think that is just ignorant," Emerson said. "Children's voices are limited -- it is up to us to educate adults so they can be the voices."
For more information on the Children's Advocacy Center, visit www.caccollincounty.org
Children's author charged in second case of sexual assault
A children's book author from San Clemente, already facing charges of molesting a 12-year-old relative, was charged Friday with sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.
Michael William Snyder, 44, is charged with felony oral copulation of a child 10 years or younger and a lewd act upon a child under 14, with a sentencing enhancement allegation for committing a sexual offense on more than one victim.
Snyder, who is being held on $1-million bail, is allegedly a friend of the 9-year-old's family. Prosecutors say she visited his home between January 2008 and September 2010 and that in at least one instance Snyder took her to Sea World and orally copulated her. On another occasion, Snyder is accused of putting his hand up the girl's shirt and rubbing her back.
In March, Snyder was charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old female relative at his home in 2010. He is accused of rubbing her chest and stomach on several occasions with a sexual intent, according to prosecutors, and instructing her not to tell anyone.
Prosecutors say the victim's mother became suspicious that the accused was sexually assaulting the girl when the victim did not want to be left alone with Snyder. The girl then told her mother and she reported it to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which investigated this case. Snyder was charged with four felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14.
Snyder is a children's book author known as "Mr. Mike" and speaks at elementary schools. He is also contracted with the California Department of Developmental Services to do in-home visits with disabled children in Orange County.
Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact investigator Lou Gutierrez of the Orange County district attorney's office at (714) 347-8794.
Women failed to protect children too, says priest
by Fergus Black
September 17 2011
A CATHOLIC priest came under fire last night after claiming that far too many wives and mothers "failed miserably" to deal with the abuse of their children by other family members.
Fr Paddy Banville, a curate in the Ferns Diocese, said a significant percentage of the population was implicated in the cover-up of abuse.
Writing in this week's 'Irish Catholic' newspaper, he said Irish society did not want to hear the truth about child sexual abuse in Ireland.
"There is another category of people that will match the failure of the bishops and probably surpass it; the wives and mothers of Ireland, not exclusively wives and mothers but far too many who failed miserably to deal with the abuse of their children by other family members.
"In exposing abuse within the Catholic Church, we have opened the door to hell and stepped inside the front porch, and standing there in horror some have dared to peer further, into the hallway and reception areas of a very dark and unexplored house," he wrote.
"In time I believe Ireland will discover there is nothing particularly unique in the Catholic bishops' bungling attempts to deal with clerical abuse . . . in fact, I believe covering up is a typical response to child abuse right across the board, at least until very recently."
Reacting to his comments, the One in Four organisation said it had nothing to say about somebody "who could show such complete lack of understanding about sexual abuse".
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said the comments were a good argument for a second nationwide report into the extent of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.
The first such report in 2002 found that more than 80pc of children were abused by those known to them and that just 3.2pc of abusers were clerics.
However, DRCC chief executive Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said that since those findings, a plethora of reports on child sexual abuse had been published and new comparisons were needed.
"To put the onus on the mothers of Ireland in the context of what happened to the victims of clerical child abuse is just shocking," she said.
Last night Fr Banville stood over his comments.
"I know the church failed miserably (in dealing with child sexual abuse) but in time I think we will come to realise that this is a mirror image of the failure in wider society," he told the Irish Independent.
He had not argued that wives and mothers had exclusively failed to deal with the abuse of their children, but was saying that for a mother to discover that their child had been abused and fail to do something was "perhaps the most horrific failure of all".
"It is not just wives and mothers who knew of abuse. So did husbands and fathers, brothers and sisters as well as citizens and priests.
"I am not in any way defending the church but the church is just the beginning of a much bigger picture," he said.
Valley medical personnel see increase in severe child abuse
Valley hospital personnel say they are seeing a rise in child abuse cases and an increase in the severity of injuries in those cases.
by Mike Sakal
Dr. Leslie Quinn, a forensic pediatrician at Phoenix Children's Hospital who serves on the hospital's Child Protection Team, told the Tribune that doctors have seen a troubling trend of child abuse in recent months.
"We are definitely seeing more cases, especially in the last four to six months," said Quinn, who has worked as a forensic pediatrician for the last 10 years. "And we worry about the ones we don't see. Poverty is a strong indicator, and although child abuse is not limited to homes experiencing financial difficulties, it does tend to increase in times of economic stress and correlates with the increase we see in such cases. There's more stress in the home."
Six high-profile abuse cases have surfaced in the East Valley in recent months including the death of a 4-year-old Mesa girl in May. Police say the girl was the victim of a severe beating by her mother's live-in boyfriend. That case is one of four in which police also arrested the mother for knowing about the abuse, but doing nothing about it, or for providing wrong information to police when first questioned.
The details of the abuse are unimaginable: A Gilbert mother is accused of sodomizing her 10-year-old adopted son with a toothbrush, forcing dog feces in his mouth, and burning him with a curling iron and a lighter, according to police.
Also in Gilbert, another mother was arrested after blowing marijuana smoke into her 10-month-old daughter's mouth, according to police.
Dr. Erin Nelson, a forensic psychologist in Scottsdale, said that while it is possible for an isolated incident to result in a child's death, lethal acts of violence against children are all too often the culmination of a pattern of escalating abuse.
"Child abuse is not new," Nelson said. "It's always a problem. For one to be able to abuse a child, there's been a breakdown in one's ability to cope with frustration, or you're talking about a selfish and disturbed person."
Nationally, five children die each day from severe abuse, and in Arizona alone, a child is abused every hour, according to Child Protective Services.
In 2008, there were 51 children who died from severe child abuse in Arizona. That number rose to 64 in 2009, according to CPS statistics.
Statistics for 2010 have not been totaled yet. But Arizona is mirroring the national trend of a rise in child abuse deaths, according to Steve Meissner, a CPS spokesman.
The amount of abuse cases coming through the doors of Phoenix Children's Hospital alone is staggering. The hospital's forensics team consulted with authorities on 183 cases last year, including eight fatalities, half of which occurred in December.
Last year, Phoenix Children's made 463 reports to CPS. The most significant of those included:
• 153, physical abuse.
• 79, physical neglect.
• 63, medical neglect.
• 68, substance exposed newborns.
• 38, sexual abuse.
A lack of connection to the child and inexperience in taking care of children only fuel the abuse when a child cries or becomes unruly while in the abuser's care, Quinn said.
"Often, the live-in boyfriend does not have a connection to the child and they don't have the skills to calm a fussing baby," Quinn said. "They have no emotional investment in the baby, and then, the babies often bear the brunt of their frustration while the mother is out working."
Although bruises from the beatings can eventually go away, physical and emotional scars can remain from the traumatic experience of ongoing abuse, Quinn said.
"How close a relationship the child has with the person who abuses them has a more serious effect on them, especially if it is a parent," Quinn said. "Kids who are physically abused have to find a way ... to emotionally deal with it, and that outcome often depends on the kind of abuse and how long it went on.
"For someone who is abused, it can affect their ability to cope and make rational decisions later, but every person has the inherent ability to adapt to or resist negative experiences in their life."
Child Abuse Prevention Program Trying to Branch Out to Small Communities
by Anayeli Ruiz
It's a big problem in the Basin and it could be happening right under your nose. How do you know if your child is being abused or put in a dangerous situation of possibly being hurt? There's a program that wants to give your child a voice to speak out but smaller communities who want it are being faced with a few challenges.
"Their voices are something that have been silenced for a very long time. This program is hopefully helping them learn that they can use those voices to tell somebody if they are being hurt or touched or anything that could be detrimental to them in the future," Tara Holt, with the Crisis Center in Odessa, said.
"The Who" is a kid friendly program that uses puppets and videos to teach children how to recognize a potentially dangerous situation.
"It's to help them take action to know this is wrong. This is not right, or that's a stranger I don't need to go near that person. To take action and help prevent them from getting put in situations where they are getting hurt," Holt said.
The schools that are in this program are grateful for what the program is doing.
"Anything that we can do to help our children be aware of dangerous situations that they can get in, we are very supportive of," Burnet Elementary Assistant Principal, Edward Gallegos, said.
Now the program is piquing the interest of schools in other counties. The only problem the training is all the way in Dallas.
"Smaller communities don't always have the funding they need to go for training in Dallas or somewhere else," Holt said.
But now there are plans to bring the training program right here to Odessa.
"Primarily myself and some of my coworkers will become facilitators on training anybody in the area. Permian Basin wide for like Lubbock and San Angelo all over," Holt said.
Pretty soon, the Crisis Center in Odessa hopes to be the West Texas training facility for this program.
"We just want to try to get more people in our army in the sense of the Who Program and try to give it more accessible for them to do," Holt said.
The program is hoping to start a training facility in Odessa at the Crisis Center by next year. They hope that this way they can help other smaller communities who want this program for their children.
Film Looks at Sex Trafficking in America
MASON CITY, IA-A recent FBI bulletin labels human sex trafficking as the most common form of modern day slavery.
But the creators of a sex trafficking documentary want you to know - there is a major battle being waged against the crimes.
And they're heading to the North Iowa area to spread their message.
It's not an easy topic to talk about.
Girls no older than 13 being forced to have sex ... so someone else gets rich.
But that's exactly what a group of filmmakers wants you to be aware of.
And the creators of "Sex and Money" are in the area ....urging you to take off the blinders and see a serious problem.
It's a problem not many know about...that in this country there are one to three hundred thousand children who are being used as sex slaves.
Film Narrator Sarah Sampson said, "It's everywhere, literally everywhere. You can find it anywhere. Obviously cities, larger cities there are more because there are more people and different highways or if you have a border town."
And yes...it's even happening right here in Iowa and Minnesota.
Sampson said, “Even in the truck stops..that's where a lot of it happens. There are girls for truckers and so the smaller towns that are random, right off of the highway can find prostitution there."
Sarah Sampson is part of a group traveling to all 50 states promoting the film, "Sex and Money".
She said their mission is to bring awareness to the fact that young kids all over are being sold for sex.
And that the future depends on something being done now to stop it.
Sampson said, "What one generation allows, the next will embrace, and because of our pop culture and just what is normal and acceptable for our generation. We just are challenging that."
Sampson says the average age for a girl to start prostituting is 11. She adds that most of them are brainwashed into believing it's the right thing to do, so getting them out of the situation is tough, that's why having a safe home is so important to heal.
The filmmakers are trying to do something about that - by raising money to help build restoration homes.
Sampson said, "If all these children were not in the position they are today what would happen. Where would they go? They’re obviously, physically and psychologically damaged and so homes need to be open."
The documentary proves the problem is real, and one, they say, that's right in front of us.
Sampson said, "If you see a young girl just wondering around at a truck stop it could be her and so it's hidden in broad daylight which is the crazy thing."
She said the change all starts locally - with our legislators.
She urges everyone to push lawmakers into looking into the issue of sex trafficking in America.
In the mean time, this group will continue their tour through different states, stopping at colleges and churches along the way ... hoping to open some eyes to a serious problem.
We did talk with Cerro Gordo county sheriff Kevin pals about this issue in the North Iowa community.
He says at this time, they are not aware of any trafficking activities.
The film "Sex and Money" will air Friday night at NIACC's auditorium starting at six thirty. It's open to the public.
Survivor of sex trafficking covers painful past with tattoo
by Natalie Brand
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - It's one of the fastest growing crimes in the world: child trafficking. Portland is considered a hub, and the Portland branch of the national group, Stop Child Trafficking Now, which targets the buyers, predators and pimps, is holding a walk this weekend to raise awareness.
"The suffering of these girls has got to stop," said Chelan Rene' Russ, the Portland ambassador of SCTNow. The group aims to prevent child trafficking by targeting buys and predators for prosecution and conviction.
"We work directly with operatives, special operatives that are comprised of former Navy Seals, former CIA agents and FBI agents who are used to going after terrorists. Now they're going after child predators," said Russ.
A friend of Russ and local survivor knows firsthand the importance of the group's work.
"The healing never ends," said the survivor, whom Fox 12 is identifying as Sara.
She allowed Fox 12 to watch as she received a new tattoo from Adorn Body Art in Beaverton Thursday. It's a tattoo to symbolize freedom, strength and growth, which covers an old tattoo of her former pimp's name, which he branded on her skin.
She was forced into the lifestyle at age 17 by a man she met while working at a local department store, a job she held while waiting to begin school at PSU.
"I actually worked in the suit department, measured suits for men. A gentleman came in there quite often to get suits, and he was just amazing," she said.
Sara says he invited her to a dinner party but instead took her to a house in Portland where her nightmare began.
"I thought that night after multiple rapes by his friends, I thought by the morning that was the end of it, but in morning when I woke up, everything out of my purse was gone."
Leaving the lifestyle wasn't easy, out of fear for her life and the lives of her loved ones.
"In my case, they showed me pictures of my sister, getting into her car, walking out of her apartment...When they showed me pictures, they said, ‘She's next,'" described Sara. "Even if my mom called, he would get a gun on the table, set the phone on the table, put it on speaker, and just watch me as I talked to her."
After nearly three years, she decided she had to try and escape.
"I was finally like, ‘I have no worth, no value, nothing to live for, not going to do this anymore,'" she said.
She tried to run from the house but didn't make it far. She was beaten by three men to the ground. A person passing by reported a dead body, and police arrived and took her to the hospital.
Sara spoke to Fox 12 to raise awareness. She's now working with local groups, including the national non-profit Stop Child Trafficking now, to reach out and help others.
Survivors and advocates say addressing the problem must start with keeping it in the public's eye and watching out for potential victims.
"It's as small as that, a small step, but can make a world of difference," said Sara.
Stop Child Trafficking Now's Walk will be held Saturday, Sept. 17 starting at 9:30 a.m. at Oaks Park in Southeast Portland. People can register day of, and the event is free.
Stepmother gets up to 18 years in girl's killing
by MITCH WEISS, Associated Press.
NEWTON, N.C. (AP) — Staring angrily, Adam Baker confronted his wife in a courtroom Thursday after she admitted to murdering his 10-year-old disabled daughter and scattering her remains in the western reaches of North Carolina.
"There are no words to explain the hate I have for you," he told Elisa Baker, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with aggravating factors that included desecrating the body of Zahra Baker, the freckle-faced girl who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after a bone cancer fight.
Elisa Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and to charges unrelated to Zahra's death, including obtaining property by false pretenses, financial identity fraud and bigamy.
She was sentenced to up to 18 years in prison.
Elisa Baker sat in the courtroom teary-eyed before making her plea deal with prosecutors.
Zahra Baker's biological mother, Emily Dietrich, traveled from Australia for the proceeding and wept when she heard details of her daughter's death recounted at the hearing. Dietrich called the 43-year-old defendant "pure evil" and the slaying a "heinous act."
"My only hope now is she (Zahra) is in a place where she never feels pain. ... In a place where she can feel my love," she said.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid said the crime would haunt the community for years.
"What kind of person would take the life of an innocent child?" he said.
Adam Baker, who came to the U.S. from Australia with his daughter in 2008 after meeting Elisa online, faces multiple criminal charges of his own, although none are related to his daughter's death.
Standing mere feet from Elisa Baker, he told her she had ruined his life. He also said Zahra had looked up to her stepmother, adding: "I trusted you with the most precious person in my life."
"Zahra will never get to go to high school, never have a real boyfriend, never get married and never have children," he said.
Afterward, he said he wasn't sure justice was done.
"It's pretty sad when you get less than 20 years for taking a girl's life," he said.
Elisa Baker's guilty plea comes nearly a year after Zahra was reported missing from her home in Hickory. Initially, Elisa and Adam Baker told police they believed their daughter had been kidnapped, but that story quickly unraveled as police arrested Elisa and charged her with forging a ransom note.
More details about the case — including Elisa's abuse of Zahra — were revealed during the hearing.
Zahra's death was caused by "undetermined homicidal violence," medical examiners said in documents.
An autopsy was conducted even though authorities hadn't recovered many bones, most notably the girl's skull, months after she was reported missing. Several bones showed cutting tool marks consistent with dismemberment.
During the hearing, Dietrich and Adam Baker begged Elisa Baker to tell them where the rest of the remains were located.
"What I truly want to see is Zahra be given the dignity and respect she deserves," Dietrich said.
Elisa Baker's lawyer, Scott Reilly, said without his client's help, Zahra's partial remains might not have been found. He said his client was "truly sorry" for all the pain she caused and pleaded guilty to help bring closure to the girl's family and the community.
Questions still linger, including why the child was killed.
Police in court painted a picture of a woman who habitually bent the truth.
Capt. Thurmond Whisnant, an investigator with the Hickory Police Department, said Elisa Baker told him the girl died Sept 24. Elisa told police Zahra was sick that day and went to bed shortly after eating that afternoon. About an hour later, Elisa said she checked on Zahra but she was "unresponsive." She said she tried and failed to revive the girl.
She also claimed that Adam dismembered Zahra and disposed of her body in white trash bags, but Whisnant said that was a lie.
Investigators found proof that Adam was working that morning with another man on a landscaping project.
One of the biggest questions facing law enforcement was whether Adam was involved in Zahra's death, Whisnant said. Police believe he wasn't. Whisnant said authorities believe that Adam would leave the house early in the morning and return late at night. When he came home, Elisa told him Zahra was sleeping and not to disturb the girl.
Police also described three cases where witnesses saw Elisa beat Zahra. Once the child attended school with two black eyes and was afraid to go home.
It was part of a pattern in Elisa Baker life. The case revealed her as a woman with a troubled past, constantly shifting addresses and staying one step ahead of bill collectors and county social service agencies investigating reports of child abuse. The Associated Press found that she has been married seven times, including several overlapping marriages.
During those marriages, former husbands told the AP that Elisa beat her three children and that social service agencies in several counties had investigated the abuse.
Those who knew Elisa described her as an attractive high school student who became manipulative, cunning and insecure, struggling with obesity. By the time she met Adam, she had immersed in an online world of assumed identities and grandiose stories about her past, according to records and friends.
Prosecutor James Gaither Jr. defended the plea, which stemmed in part from a deal his office made with Elisa Baker to help find the remains. Without her help, they probably wouldn't have found Zahra's body, and, in all likelihood, Elisa Baker would never have been charged in the girl's death.
"As the district attorney, it is my responsibility to weigh the risks and the probabilities in every prosecution. The risk in this case was the Elisa Baker would entirely avoid responsibility for her part in the death of Zahra," he said.
SAVIS extends services to include male survivors of sexual abuse
Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton (SAVIS) is extending its services for male survivors of sexual abuse.
Oakville-based SAVIS is now offering a free, confidential, eight-week group for men ages 18-plus who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
SAVIS says men will have an opportunity to break the shame, stigma, and silence of sexual abuse in a safe and supportive environment. The group's facilitators are Marilyn Oladimeji and Glenn Allan.
There will be an orientation session on Tuesday, Sept. 27 from 7-8:30 p.m. at SAVIS, located in Hopedale Mall, 1515 Rebecca St., Suite 212, Oakville.
The group has its first full meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 7-9 p.m. and for seven more consecutive Tuesdays.
The men's group is part of funding for a two-year pilot project provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General, and in partnership with Family Services of Peel, Central Region's Support Services. Pilot project funding is enabling SAVIS to extend its services to male survivors through additional short-term and face-to-face counselling.
“We view sexual abuse as a societal problem and in the context of power and control, rather than an individual health issue.” said SAVIS counsellor Ingrid Zollikofer.
“We have significant expertise on the needs of survivors, including male survivors, and the unique barriers they face. This pilot project will assist in reducing a longstanding service gap in Halton.”
According to SAVIS, in 2003 a report by Juristat Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics noted that while more than 80 per cent of victims in alleged sexual offences reported to police departments were female, males made up 29 per cent of child victims, eight per cent of adult and 12 per cent of youth victims.
SAVIS estimates that one in six men will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime. Currently, SAVIS provides the following free, confidential support services to males:
• 24-hour crisis line
• Public education programs
• Short-term individual counselling support for male partners or friends of female survivors
• Emergency short-term individual counselling support for male survivors
• Referrals to services supporting male survivors
Pre-registration for the free men's group is required. To register, or for more information, contact SAVIS at 905-825-3622 or visit www.savisofhalton.org.
Ignoring child abuse becomes a criminal offense
by Amelia Romanos
Turning a blind eye to child abuse will now be classified as criminal after Parliament tonight passed a law to hold people accountable.
The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) creates a new offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault, which comes with a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.
Parents or people aged over 18 could be found liable if they had frequent contact with the victim, including if they were a member of the same household or if they were a staff member at an institution where the victim lived.
The legislation was partly driven by cases such as the deaths of three-month-old twins Chris and Cru Kahui from severe head injuries in 2006, after which police struggled to get information from family members.
Justice Minister Simon Power said he was delighted a broad section of the Parliament supported the bill.
"New Zealand has a shameful history of child abuse, and this bill will make an example of adults who put their interests before those of vulnerable children around them," Mr Power said.
The law also doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years' imprisonment, and extends the offence to include vulnerable adults.
The legal duty to those parents and caregivers who have a duty to provide the necessaries of life is extended to also take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult.
Mr Power said the law would strengthen the ability of agencies to hold individuals to account for harming the most vulnerable in our community.
"It ensures that not only will the perpetrators of these acts be held accountable, but also will those members of households who witness those incidents and turn a blind eye to the abuse, or fail take to take measures to stop ongoing incidents," he said.
"But it's my hope that the biggest impact will be to help encourage those in day-to-day contact with endangered children to come forward if they know that serious abuse or neglect is taking place."
The law changes also increase the penalty for possession of an offensive weapon, including knives, from two to three years in prison. The bill passed its third reading 109 votes to 11, with the Greens, Mana Party, and independent MP Chris Carter opposed.
Grant to fund anti-abuse programs
by Lisa Singleton-Rickman - Staff Writer
The Franklin County school system has received a $15,000 grant to teach a shaken baby education program and to host a child abuse prevention program in the spring.
The funding came through the state's Children's Trust Fund.
According to Heather Darracott, the family support educator for Franklin schools, the child abuse prevention program will be held in conjunction with the month of April being Child Abuse Prevention month. She said information will be disseminated to the teachers and staff regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.
“Speakers will come in at the conference (to be held in Russellville's A.W. Todd Centre) and talk about what to look for in children, the signs of abuse and neglect, and it's a great reminder to all our educators that we do have an obligation to report those things when we see them,” Darracott said.
The school district received Legislative funding last year to purchase four electronic dolls specifically designed for the county's shaken baby education program. Educators took the dolls into high school classes and will do the same this year.
“The program is very beneficial for the students because it really covers the gamut,” Darracott said. “We have teen parents, students who have (infant) siblings and those who baby-sit. As for the conference, we'll be offering continuing education credits for nurses, social workers and educators.”
Darracott said she's grateful for the grant, even if it is significantly lower than the $50,000 amount her program sought.
Greg Smith, deputy director of the Children's Trust Fund, said less money at the state level meant that many children's programs received less funding this year or were completely cut.
“We're hopeful that when the economy turns around, we'll have funding returned to the state's general fund budget,” Smith said. “We'll be able to help a lot more then.”
Elizabeth Smart speaks on advocacy for child abuse victims
by Brittany Green-Miner
SALT LAKE CITY
Victim-turned-advocate Elizabeth Smart is using her message to raise money for children's programs in Utah.
Smart, who was abducted in June 2002 and found nine months later with Brian David Mitchell, spoke Wednesday at the Family Support Center's Blue Ribbon Breakfast. Smart talked about her abduction and abuse during that nine months and about her struggles to regain self-esteem after being rescued.
"I made a choice to survive to survive no matter what," she said.
Volunteers for the Family Support Center spent over 71,000 hours last year to help more than 5,000 adults, children and families overcome the challenges of child abuse.
"These experiences are constantly happening to children around us. Child abuse is a bigger problem than any of us realizes," said Smart.
The center costs around $1.5 million to operate each year. Most funding comes from government contracts, but those were cut by 60 percent this year, which means the center will depend more on donations from the community.
Child sexual abuse support group reports continuing high demand for services
DEMAND FOR SUPPORT for survivors of childhood sexual abuse remains high according to the support group One in Four.
Launching its annual report yesterday, One in Four said a total of 931 adult survivors of child sexual abuse sought its help in some shape or form last year.
The group said that 182 people sought counselling whilst 749 people sought help in dealing with Gardaí, the Health Service Executive or in going to a criminal trial.
In addition to this the group said that 21 sex offenders were treated on the sex offender treatment programme, over half of whom admitted to abusing children in their own families.
A total of 23 families affected by sexual violence were also supported.
Of the 182 clients who attended for individual and group counselling, nearly half of those said they were abused in their families, over a quarter in the Catholic Church and 34 per cent by family friends, neighbours and professionals.
Two per cent said they had been abused by a stranger.
Forty-five per cent of the 749 people who sought out the advocacy support programme said they were abused in the Catholic Church with 17 per cent saying the abuse was carried out within their families.
Responding to the findings, the executive director of One in Four, Maeve Lewis, welcomed what she believed was a “positive time” for child protection given the government's commitment to putting in place what she called “robust child protection measures”.
She added: “We have the opportunity to create a workable, effective system in which the needs of victims and the protection of children are both attended to.
“This will only happen if all organisations can work together with the statutory services to create a society where children are safe from sexual abuse.”
County agrees to fund shelter for sex-trafficking victims
County leaders worry the money won't be available
by Mara Stine
In a split vote, Multnomah County Commissioners approved funding a local shelter for sex-trafficking victims.
The motion, championed by Commissioner Diane McKeel, who represents East Multnomah County on the board, passed 3-2 on Thursday, Sept. 8, with McKeel and commissioners Loretta Smith and Judy Shiprack voting yes.
Board Chairman Jeff Cogen and Commissioner Deborah Kafoury cast no votes, voicing concerns that the funding would be cut in pending budget reductions.
McKeel has become a vocal opponent of human trafficking, or what she calls the commercial sexual exploitation of children. With Interstate 5 running through the Portland-metro region, victims and those profiting from the sex-trafficking industry are increasingly found in East County, she said.
During an FBI sting in February 2009, Portland yielded the second-highest number of sex trafficking arrests and victims in a 30-city sting conducted by FBI agents and local police. Seven girls and six pimps were taken into custody at four sites across the Portland-metro area, including Gresham. Another 14 adult female prostitutes were arrested, as were three clients, or “johns.”
As defined by federal law, human trafficking victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.
McKeel has testified before the U.S. Senate about local efforts to combat human trafficking, including the need for a local shelter for sex-trafficking victims.
Secure shelters are needed to give safe refuge to girls and boys wanting to escape their pimps, McKeel said. Otherwise, pimps who are arrested can threaten and harm their victims, who are key witnesses in the cases against them. Often, the victims are sucked back into a life they hoped to leave, and without witnesses to testify against them, the pimps walk free.
The vote approved about $258,500 to partially fund a five- to seven-bed facility for victims of sex trafficking. The city of Portland, and a contingency of local churches that raised $45,000 for the shelter, also are funding it.
In addition, federal grants could help support the program, which is estimated to cost $410,000 a year.
Twelve people, including Gresham resident Jessica Richardson, testified in favor of funding the shelter.
Richardson spent 14 months being trafficked along the I-5 corridor starting at age 17 after meeting her pimp at a Portland restaurant. When she finally mustered the courage to escape him, there were no resources for her to start over.
“I had nowhere to go, no help,” she said.
Unable to find a job – “even at McDonalds” – she returned to the sex industry for three more years “because there were no other options,” Richardson said. “Funding for these beds is the first step toward a new life.”
Commissioner Smith recalled going on a ride-along with Portland police on 82nd Avenue and seeing officers stop a 12- or 13-year-old girl. Her purse contained the tools of the trade in two forms of protection – condoms and a butcher knife.
“Please, take me somewhere else,” the girl pleaded, eyeing her pimp who was watching from across the street.
“And we didn't have any place to take her,” Smith said. “There is no housing for human trafficking victims here locally – none. This is going to be the only way that they have out.”
The commercial exploitation of girls and boys, young women and men, is so lucrative – and so rarely successfully prosecuted – that gangs are now selling girls instead of drugs to fund their operations, Smith added.
“They get less jail time, so they've switched the game up,” she said.
Cogen and Kafoury expressed support for the shelter, but said the county simply can't afford to fund it.
“It doesn't, to me, feel fiscally responsible to take this action today, a week before we're going to be considering $12 million in cuts to the county's budget,” Cogen said.
Kafoury, who got choked up talking about the vulnerability of those the shelter would help, also said it wouldn't be responsible to vote for funding “when I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't see the funding.”
Human Trafficking Cases Up 600 Percent In NC
Group Working To Provide Help
September 14, 2011
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The number of incidents of human sex trafficking across North Carolina are up 600 percent over the past 18 months, according to local World Relief Inc. Director Tony Williams.
"Slavery did not end. It just changed forms." Williams said.
Williams said his organization works with local churches to identify those who are most vulnerable and provide assistance. Most victims are illegal immigrants who are afraid to go to authorities for help, he said.
"Identification is really the first step towards rescue," Williams said. World Relief provides victims with food, rent, job training, counseling, medical help and other broad services, he said.
Click here for more details.
Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale: A Grant to End Sex Trafficking
by Clay Duda
September 15, 2011
The Women's Foundation of Minnesota
(WFM) recently announced the launch of a five-year campaign to end the sex trafficking of girls in the state through a combination of grants, research, public education, convening and evaluation.
The A FUTURE: Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale campaign will award grants between $40,000 and $70,000 per year for:
- efforts to change state laws to recognize prostituted girls as victims of crimes, not criminals.
- Creating and maintaining shelters for survivors.
- Training youth and youth outreach professionals about sex trafficking prevention.
To be eligible for the grant, programs must focus primary on directly reducing sex trafficking of girls (or gender non-conforming youth) under the age of 18 within Minnesota.
Applications for year-one funding of the five-year initiative runs Feb. 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013. Year 2-3 and 3-4 funding are contingent on organizational performance.
Information for this particular grant is not yet available on the WFM website, but details are available through a downloadable PDF.
More veterans are using PTSD as defense in criminal cases
As awareness of the disorder grows, veterans' lawyers are finding juries sympathetic. But the case of Joshua Stepp, who admitted killing an infant girl, is testing how far that defense can go.
by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
September 14, 2011
Reporting from Raleigh, N.C.
He killed her, Joshua Stepp admitted. He slammed the face of his 10-month-old stepdaughter into a carpeted floor, roughed her up as he changed her diaper, stuffed wet toilet paper down her throat, and soon she was dead.
But Stepp, a 28-year-old former Army infantryman who saw combat in Iraq, insists that he is not guilty of first-degree murder. His post-traumatic stress disorder left him incapable of premeditating the killing of tiny Cheyenne Yarley in November 2009, he and his lawyers say.
Because of his severe PTSD, Stepp was not able to "form the specific intent to kill," his attorney Thomas Manning said. He asked jurors last week to find Stepp guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which lacks the potential for the death penalty.
After a decade of combat overseas, growing numbers of veterans are relying on PTSD as a central element of their defenses in criminal cases. Stepp's trial is being closely watched as one measure of just how far defense lawyers are able to push in arguing that the disorder influences veterans' criminal behavior.
The number of such cases will rise as more veterans return from Afghanistan and Iraq with post-traumatic stress or other trauma from repeated combat tours; already, more than 170,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Thousands of veterans accused of nonviolent crimes have had charges or sentences reduced in the last several years after citing their PTSD as a mitigating factor. Veterans with combat trauma are now often sent to counseling and treatment programs rather than to prison for low-level offenses.
"The idea isn't to get the guy off; it's to help the veterans get the treatment they need. They deserve our help," said Shad Meshad, founder of the National Veterans Foundation and a Vietnam veteran who has counseled soldiers for 40 years.
The prosecutor in the Stepp case told jurors that his defense insults veterans because it "taints their suffering" and "perverts this disease."
On the night Stepp killed Cheyenne Yarley, he had downed rum, bourbon and beer, plus painkillers prescribed for his wife, an Army veteran and Cheyenne's mother, his lawyers said.
He was angry about being called home from a bar by his wife to care for Cheyenne and Stepp's 4-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, his lawyers said. His wife had to go to work.
In vague, halting testimony a prosecutor called "convenient," Stepp said he couldn't recall many details of that night. Cheyenne died of head trauma from multiple blows.
"I can only, like, remember really intense parts," he testified.
He added later: "I don't know, it just like happened, and then I'm there and I'm like, 'What the hell?'"
Stepp's PTSD and his drug and alcohol abuse left him incapable of plotting or intending Cheyenne's murder, Manning said.
"People with untreated PTSD do not have the same checks and balances, or brakes, that the rest of us hopefully do," Manning told jurors.
Stepp had seen fellow soldiers blown apart by roadside bombs in Iraq, his attorney said in court. In one instance, he had to put those pieces in the container available to him: a pizza box.
When Stepp came home from Iraq, he grew more and more damaged by deepening PTSD, his attorneys said. The night Cheyenne died, she wouldn't stop crying and kept soiling her diapers, and Stepp lost control, Manning said.
"There is no pity being asked," Manning told the jurors. All he asked was for them to find that Stepp's PTSD left him incapable of deliberately killing his stepdaughter.
But prosecutor Boz Zellinger pointed out that Stepp repeatedly lied to his wife over the phone and to a police dispatcher while his stepdaughter was dying in the family's apartment.
"What shows his competency more than his deceit?" Zellinger asked the jury. "He had a fixed purpose: to kill that child so no one would see what he had done to her."
He added: "Every single piece of evidence shows the defendant was in control of his actions that night."
Zellinger scoffed at Stepp's PTSD claims, saying defense experts relied entirely on Stepp's own, unreliable statements in concluding that he suffered from the disorder.
He raped Cheyenne intentionally, the prosecutor said. Blood was found on Stepp's underwear, Zellinger said, and the girl's injuries were so severe they could not possibly have been caused by vigorous wiping. "Every orifice that Cheyenne had was injured," Zellinger said.
But Stepp denied sexually abusing Cheyenne; Manning said that the bruises around the infant's anus and vagina occurred when Stepp wiped her roughly as he changed her diaper.
On Sept. 8, a jury of six men and six women found Stepp guilty of first-degree murder and sexually assaulting his stepdaughter.
Manning immediately began putting on witnesses in the penalty phase, where Stepp's PTSD remained central to the lawyer's attempt to save the veteran from the death penalty.
Courts and prosecutors are far more willing now than during the Vietnam era to consider a veteran's combat trauma in sentencing for nonviolent crimes, lawyers say. Veterans' groups credit a growing awareness of PTSD, activism by advocates for the mentally ill and a nation sympathetic to the conditions under which soldiers must operate.
"There is definitely a recognition that the emotional and psychological scars of our veterans are real," said Stephen Saltzburg, general counsel for the National Institute of Military Justice, which studies the military justice system.
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2009 helped pave the way for combat trauma — and military service itself — to mitigate sentences. In that case, the court reversed the death sentence for a Korean War veteran because his military service and combat-induced psychological damage weren't presented at sentencing.
Noting that the U.S. has "a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service," the court said "juries might find mitigating the intense stress and mental and emotional toll" of combat.
Today, more than 80 special veterans' treatment courts have been established nationwide and hundreds more are planned, said Christopher Deutsch, a spokesman for the National Assn. of Drug Court Professionals.
Veterans' courts do not provide "a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Brockton D. Hunter, a Minneapolis lawyer and veteran who since 2002 has represented more than 100 veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Instead, the courts steer defendants toward treatment and probation, often working closely with Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
Although many prosecutors are sympathetic to combat veterans, some PTSD-related defense tactics are viewed with skepticism.
"Prosecutors are always wary of the 'defense of the day,' or trends that … may be overused because there is some perceived broader understanding or acceptance by courts and juries," said Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Assn.
The law, said Elizabeth Hillman, a law professor and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, "is uncertain and evolving."
On Tuesday, jury members told Judge Osmond Smith that, after deliberating for two days, they could not reach a unanimous verdict on a sentence. Following state law, the judge sentenced Stepp to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
L.A. Times suit seeks release of L.A. County child death records
Los Angeles Times sues for the release of records related to the deaths of children under the supervision of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.
by Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
September 15, 2011
The Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a judge to order county child welfare officials to release records related to the deaths of children who had been under their supervision.
Under a law that went into effect in 2008, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is required to release records to the public when a child dies after passing through the protective services system.
"The county has received the lawsuit and is reviewing it, but we cannot comment on pending litigation," said Nishith Bhatt, spokesman for the agency.
After passage of the 2008 law, the county initially released records for nearly all deaths. But after The Times began reporting on social worker errors, the release of documents slowed. Additionally, county staffers began to redact the records more heavily, leaving many unreadable.
In 2010, the county's Office of Independent Review found that child welfare officials, working with law enforcement agencies, succeeded in getting records withheld, even though police investigators hadn't first reviewed the files. The result has been blanket roadblocks to disclosure that resulted in "a virtual paralysis of the [law's] intent," according to a report by the county watchdog office's lead attorney, Michael Gennaco.
County officials promised to follow Gennaco's recommendations and improve the flow of information. But more than a year later, the changes have not been implemented.
In addition to The Times' suit, child advocates on Wednesday sued the California Department of Social Services in San Diego County Superior Court, seeking to overturn regulations they say unlawfully allow counties to keep secret possible causes of deaths among children whose safety is supposed to be monitored by government agencies.
The lawsuit by the Children's Advocacy Institute alleged that the state rules unlawfully obstruct disclosure of key documents in child fatality cases. The suit targets regulations that require a coroner to decree with complete certainty that a specific act of abuse or neglect killed a child before case records can be publicly released. That standard improperly excludes cases in which mistreatment, such as malnourishment, was a potential contributing factor, the suit says.
ICE delivers back to school message: Beware of online child predators
BOSTON - As a new school year begins and children research classroom assignments online, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) alerts parents to more closely monitor their children's Internet activities to avoid child predators.
The warning is supported by data showing more than 1,100 criminal arrests nationwide so far this fiscal year. These arrests are part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE HSI initiative launched in 2003 to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. The arrests led to more than 2,100 seizures of images and other evidence by ICE HSI special agents in support of their investigations. Since its inception, Operation Predator has resulted in than 6,000 child predator arrests nationwide.
"Our goal is to help safeguard families from these online predators who prey on unsuspecting children by expanding our efforts using the eyes and ears of parents," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston. Foucart oversees HSI throughout New England. "Our message is simple: parents, pay attention!"
HSI teams with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to prevent child exploitation throughout New England. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces help state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This help encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services and community education.
In New England alone, ICE HSI has made approximately 50 criminal arrests so far this fiscal year that led to more than 20 criminal indictments for various child pornography law violations, including possession, distribution, and interstate travel to engage in sexual encounters with minors.
These coordinated law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children have resulted in significant penalties. Recent cases include:
- Brad Warner, 33, of Acton, Mass., and former co-founder of HammelFit, a Massachusetts fitness and education program designed for children under the age of seven. Warner was sentenced to more than 12 years in a federal prison for receipt and possession of child pornography.
- Douglas Perlitz, 40, of Connecticut, who pleaded guilty to traveling overseas to engage in sex with a minor, was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for sexually abusing at least eight minor victims over a 10 year period. A Connecticut federal judge also ordered the distribution of nearly $49,000 in restitution to 16 victims in the Perlitz case.
- Jonathan Zahra, 27, a former Plainville, Conn., middle school technology aide, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manufacturing child pornography. After his prison term he will also serve 10 years of supervised release.
- Julie Carr, 33, of Mars Hill, Maine, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release for child pornography production.
- James Raymond, 29, of Auburn, Maine, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release for transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity. Raymond, then a music teacher in the Auburn school system, transported an 11-year-old student and her younger sister from Auburn to Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire. On both trips, Raymond made sexual advances.
- Scott Wilson, 41, formerly of Somersworth, N.H., was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the purpose of having the child engage in illegal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. Once released from prison, Wilson will be required to register as a sex offender and will be placed on supervised release for the remainder of his life.
- Robert M. Lopes, 43, of Coventry, R.I., pleaded guilty to receipt and distribution of child pornography, was sentenced to five years in federal prison and lifetime supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution to a victim who appeared in a series of child pornography videos.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Child sex abuse claims mount against Boy Scouts
September 13, 2011
by Dan Cook and Laura Zuckerman
PORTLAND, Ore/SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Four Oregon men sued the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday for $20 million over childhood sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of a pedophile knowingly appointed as their scoutmaster in the 1970s.
The four lawsuits, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, accuse the national Boy Scouts and its Cascade Pacific Council of negligence, fraud and sexual battery of a child in connection with the repeated molestation of the men, then aged 12 to 15.
The suits, each seeking $5.2 million in damages, are the latest in a barrage of such claims facing the Boy Scouts, headquartered in Texas, since the group was found liable and ordered to pay nearly $20 million last year for a pedophile case from the 1980s.
A separate case was filed against the Boy Scouts last week by five women who say they were sexually abused as girls by the leader of a coed Scouting program in Montana during the 1970s.
The latest cases bring to at least 35 the number of individuals who have lodged child sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 11 states since 2007, said plaintiffs attorney Kelly Clark, whose Portland firm has spearheaded the legal action.
Boy Scouts officials say various sexual abuse allegations involve a small fraction of the 1.1 million adults who volunteer for the nonprofit organization, which last year reported cash and other assets in excess of $1 billion.
The group cites new safeguards instituted during the past decade, including tighter screening of adult volunteers, although computerized criminal background checks only became mandatory for new volunteers in 2003 and for existing volunteers in 2008.
"Youth protection is part of the DNA of our program," said Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boys Scouts of America, adding that while the group was "proud of the program and volunteers, even one incident of abuse was too many."
"Scouts, their parents, volunteers and professional staff are all taught to recognize, resist and report abuse," Smith said, adding that BSA policies forbid adult volunteers from ever being alone with a scout. He declined to address the latest specific allegations.
The lawsuits claim the Boy Scouts of America was aware since the 1960s that "scouting posed a danger to adolescent boys because historically noticeable numbers of adult volunteers ... were discovered to be child molesters."
As in the abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is accused of covering up misconduct by wayward priests, Tuesday's suits claim the Boy Scouts "concealed the problem of child molestation by Scout leaders."
PRIESTS VS. SCOUTMASTERS
The mounting litigation has tarnished the wholesome image of a 100-year-old largely volunteer scouting organization that prides itself on building good character, citizenship and personal fitness among the 2.7 million youth -- mostly boys aged 8 to 17 -- who are its members.
"Like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts have been exposing children to sexual predators for decades," said Grier Weeks, head of the child abuse prevention lobby PROTECT.
"In the process, they've also exposed themselves to enormous financial liability," he told Reuters. "The question is, which did they care more about? If it was boys, there will be a long, clear trail of aggressive attempts to protect. If it was themselves, there will be a trail of silence."
Clark cited some key differences between the Catholic church and the Boy Scouts, which he said was essentially targeted by outside pedophiles seeking easy access to boys.
"You don't have to be trained or anything. You just show up and raise your hand and swear and you're a volunteer," he said.
Last year's trial shed light on records the BSA kept on suspected or confirmed sexual abuse by leaders and volunteers. The jury was permitted to review 20,000 pages from what were termed the "perversion files" or "ineligible volunteer files," dating from 1965 to 1985, before rendering a verdict.
Those files show that during the 20-year period, an average of nearly 60 leaders or volunteers a year were discovered molesting children, Clark said.
The Boy Scouts dispute that figure, and the organization is fighting to keep those documents from being made public in a case awaiting a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court.
Smith said the files "have always served solely as a barrier to entry" for those deemed ineligible to serve as Scouting leaders.
The four new plaintiffs said they were abused in the 1970s by then-scoutmaster Steven Terry Hill, who was put in charge of their troop after the Boy Scouts learned he had been accused of molestation while serving as a scout leader in California.
Hill was acquitted in the late 1970s of sex abuse charges related to the Boy Scouts in Portland. But he was convicted in 1991 on four counts of sodomy and furnishing drugs and alcohol to a minor stemming from an unrelated sex-abuse case involving a 17-year-old boy. He was released from prison in April after serving about 20 years, Clark said.
A deposition Hill gave while incarcerated, and other corroborating evidence, suggests that the California Scouts council arranged for him to be transferred to Portland, where in 1976 he founded Troop 76, an elite group whose mission was "high adventure" activities like river rafting and mountain climbing, Clark said.
Clark acknowledged no direct evidence that the national BSA knew of Hill's transfer, but added, "We would argue that the local councils are ... agents of the (national) Boy Scouts of America. What an agent knows, the principal knows."
ICC asked to probe pope on child abuse
September 14, 2011
by Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
Human rights lawyers and victims of clergy sexual abuse filed a complaint Tuesday urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children by priests.
The formal filing of nearly 80 pages by two advocacy groups in the United States, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests.
"The high-level officials of the Catholic church who failed to prevent and punish these criminal actions have, to date, enjoyed absolute impunity," the complaint says.
A court spokeswoman said the prosecutor's office would examine the papers, "as we do with all such communications." The first step will be "to analyze whether the alleged crimes fall under the court's jurisdiction," said Florence Olara, the prosecutor's spokeswoman.
Complaints about the Vatican and child abuse by Roman Catholic priests have been received at the court before, court records showed. But Ms. Olara said details are not normally disclosed by the court unless a case goes forward.
Lawyers familiar with the international court said it was unlikely that the complaint against the Vatican would fit the court's mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican, said he had no comment.
Vatican officials have often said the decisions about priests accused of abuse are made by bishops -- not by the Vatican hierarchy -- and that the church is far more decentralized than is widely believed.
But the lawyers and abuse victims from the U.S. and Europe who held a news conference at the court Tuesday said their action was necessary because all the investigations and prosecutions of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in various countries had not been sufficient to prevent continuing crimes and cover-ups.
In addition to Pope Benedict, the filing asks the court to prosecute Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the previous secretary of state and current dean of the College of Cardinals; and Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that receives cases of clergy sexual abuse that are forwarded by bishops.
September 14, 2011
Some 931 adult survivors of child sexual abuse attended a leading support organisation last year, figures reveal.
One in Four said demand for its services remains high, with 182 attending for counselling and 749 for help in dealing with gardaí, the Health Service Executive, or going to a criminal trial.
The One in Four 2010 annual report reveals that 21 sex offenders were also treated through the organisation's treatment programme. Over half of thse individuals had abused children in their families.
Some 25 families affected by sexual violence were also supported.
According to the report 182 people attended for individual and group counselling. Of these, 48 per cent had experienced abused within the family, 27 per cent had suffered clerical abuse, 34 per cent were abused by family friends, neighbours or professionals, and 2 per cent were abused by a stranger.
A total of 749 individuals attended One in Four for advocacy support in reporting to gardaí, the HSE, or attending a criminal trial.
Chief executive of One in Four Maeve Lewis said the organisation makes the protection of children a priority.
“This is a very complex issue. We have to balance the needs of vulnerable and distressed adults who have reached out for help against the real possibility that the person who sexually abused them is currently abusing other children," she said.
“We believe this information must be passed to the child protection services if we are honestly to intervene in the cycle of abuse," she added.
KENYA: Sex-trafficked women and girls also vulnerable to organ trafficking
by Gitonga Njeru – Women News Network – WNN
(WNN) NAIROBI: With the highest rate of human trafficking in East and Central Africa, several nongovernmental organizations in Kenya are now under investigation by INTERPOL , the world's largest international police organization, with 188 member countries. The Interpol Sub-regional Bureau for Eastern Africa is based in Kenya's capital in Nairobi.
Young women as well as girls who are trafficked can also become a living supply for human body organ transplants.
“Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of using their organs, in particular kidneys, is a rapidly growing field of criminal activity,” says INTERPOL. “In many countries waiting lists for transplants are very long, and criminals have seized this opportunity to exploit the desperation of patients and potential donors,” continues Interpol.
The trail of corruption in Kenya may also reveal human trafficker's collusion with Kenyan authorities which may include the police and intelligence, as well as the judiciary. This alleged collusion may enable the illegal industry to grow as it goes ‘unchecked' inside the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most prevalent destinations for trafficked organs is Western Europe and the United States. These destinations have the highest number of patients waiting for a new kidney, liver, heart or pancreas.
Organizations currently under investigation are based in Kenya's capital Nairobi and in Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city. For legal reasons the organizations cannot be named since investigations are ongoing and there are pending court cases.
Investigations are also revealing that young girls under the age of 16 have been trafficked to Europe and the America's.
“Victims are often misinformed about the medical aspects of the organ removal and deceived about the sums they will receive. Their health, even life, is at risk as operations may be carried out in clandestine conditions with no medical follow-up,” continues INTERPOL.
A growing number of naïve young women, who's families are tricked by traffickers into thinking they will have a better life once they are in their respective western countries, can find themselves trapped inside an illegal organ ‘donation' crime ring as their own organs are removed without their consent.
While many are trafficked for commercial-sex-work or for work as domestic household servants, a growing number of women are trafficked into and out of the Kenya for other purposes.
With the growing global rise of diabetes, along with the damage the disease can create in the kidneys, the demand for kidney transplants is on the increase. Currently Kenya has over six million diabetics and over 2 million people in need of kidney transplants.
Global organ trafficking is not something new.
“Organ trafficking appears to be occurring as flagrant and direct violations of the law of many countries with a flourishing of broker nations, intermediary brokers and corporations,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003. “The consequences are not merely for individuals; trafficking also has major “social, economic, medical and political” repercussions for involved countries,” continues the WHO.
Organizations in Kenya currently under the attention of INTERPOL are also being investigated on matters relating to local kidnappings of young women and girls who have allegedly been taken to backstreet Kenyan clinics in order to remove their internal body organs, such as their kidney and/or liver.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) is also investigating over 15 Kenyan based organizations involved in collusion with the illegal practice. Investigations are also looking into the misuse of donor money which has been connected to human trafficking.
“It is a shame that organizations that are supposed to protect the voiceless are now abusing their rights,” said Omar Hassan, a commissioner with KNHCR. “Many senior Non Governmental Organization officials have become wealthy over a short period of time and cannot account for their wealth,” he outlines. In 2011 KNHCR has been receiving international acclaim in its efforts to fight justice.
Even though KNHCR has been active over the last year in exposing human traffickers, many obstacles have also been in the way. Individuals inside Kenya who are immune to legal accountability, despite the new 2010 Kenya constitution, are still part of the norm.
While the majority of women who enter Kenya with human traffickers are brought into the country for sex purposes, a growing number are entering the country largely to donate internal organs for what could be considered ‘a throw away fee.' Some of the most unfortunate women are not paid anything for their contribution and only left for dead.
A percentage of these ‘donations' come through backstreet clinics in Nairobi and Mombasa. The illegal procedure comes with many dangers. Unethical doctors involved in the organ trade are often short on proper or adequate training with safe transplant medical procedure.
Kidneys and pancreas are the most common human organs illegally transplanted. Illegal heart and corneal transplants are also found in Kenya.
Today a Kidney transplant in a well respected Kenyan hospital can cost as much as $20,000. But a poor South East Asian immigrant in Kenya can receive just $650 in a backstreet clinic in Nairobi for a donated kidney. In South Africa the price is much higher. Someone interested in selling their organs can be paid up to $20,000 or more to ‘donate' a kidney in a public hospital.
As the needs for kidneys increase throughout the world the rates for kidney transplants also rises. In 2007, the cost in Russia for the sale of one kidney was set at approximately $25,000. In 2011, the total medical expenses for a kidney transplant procedure supervised by a medical team in a standard U.S. hospital is a staggering $262,900.
The situation for organ trafficking is strongly dependent on supply and demand.
“In the United States for instance, kidney donations between 1990 and 2003 increased by only 33% while the number of patients waiting for kidneys grew by 236%,” says author and Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
Currently Kenya has no enforceable law that regulates the transplant of kidneys or other internal body organs. There is also no reliable law that protects women, men or children from this kind of trafficking. Analysts have blamed the growth of illegal back-street clinics performing organ removal to the lack of laws in the country.
Located near the bottom of the list by German human rights group Transparency International with a 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index of 2.1, Kenya shares its position with Russia, Cambodia, Tajikistan and Congo-Brazaville.
Brought to the industry by a desire for financial gain corrupt government officials; organ brokers; airport officials; doctors and hospital personnel; police mortuaries and organ banks and repositories perpetuate the rise in the globalization of organ trafficking.
Recent 2011 improvements in corruption in Kenya have been visible though as judicial reforms aim to give stronger legal culpability to government officials causing some Kenyan leaders to face increased legal examination and accountability.
“Already, the country is in the process of extraditing a former Finance government Minister to the United Kingdom to face charges of money laundering,” says Judy Thongori, a family law attorney based in Nairobi.
Kenya's new constitution is expected to come into full implementation in 2012 when the country holds its first election under the new system. With laws and policies on the table, lawyers say that justice inside the country will improve as new laws and the new constitution are fully established.
“Justice is still on since the constitution was promulgated last year. But we hope by next year, many of the pending cases will be solved fairly,” says Thongori. ”The new law gives hope to many Kenyans, unlike the previous one; it holds many leaders accountable for their actions.”
While numerous Kenyan women are trafficked outside of Kenya to provide human organs for organ transplants, many others are also trafficked into the country to provide live potential organ donors. Most women who become victims to these traffickers easily fall through the cracks, as many come to Kenya from conflict affected regions in and surrounding Somalia.
“Of late there have been so many migrants from Somalia who have been involved in all sorts of activities such as prostitution. Most illegal immigrants in the country come from war torn Somalia Republic,” continued Thongori.
In an attempt to slow the tide of trafficking, the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently working with respective countries to return trafficked children, who have been identified, back home to their families.
Organ trafficking is also an issue for children. According to the United Nations Convention Against Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Protocol, outlines the punishment for traffickers, especially for those selling women and children through exploitation.
“Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs,” says the protocol.
Consent of the victim is “irrelevant” says the Palermo Protocol. Transporting, harboring and holding a child for exploitation is considered by the protocol to be ”trafficking in persons” even if none of the usual means of trafficking are employed.
“We are doing what we can to make sure that many of these children return safely to their families. It is not an easy process since the laws in some of those countries mostly in Western Europe give a lot of requirements,” said an official in the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is not allowed to speak to the media. In the past few months, the country has deported hundreds of illegal immigrants to their home countries as a way to battle human trafficking and dealing.
But how many legal patient recipients for organ transplants are most of the women in Kenya?
“…the circulation of kidneys followed established routes of capital from South to North, from East to West, from poorer to more affluent bodies, from black and brown bodies to white ones and from female to male or from poor, low status men to more affluent men. Women are rarely the recipients of purchased organs anywhere in the world,” says Professor Scheper-Hughes.
A new Birth and Deaths Registration Bill 2011, which is still in review in Kenya's transitional parliament, may be instrumental in tracking illegal crimes in the human organ trade, which can happen easily without consent or public knowledge after death.
For the first time a formal registration of all deaths and births in Kenya will be “compulsory,” which hopes to help with the problem of illicit human organ harvesting. The ‘cause of death' is also required to be included on all death certificates and signed by a medical officer who has knowledge or who has been in attendance at the death.
Under the new law, those taking charge of the body after death, such as administrators of funeral homes or mortuary facilities or other institutions handling a body following death, will also be traced and named.
Shining a light on child sexual abuse
Hockomock Y program trains community members in helping spot the problem
by AMY DeMELIA - SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
September 13, 2011
NORTH ATTLEBORO - The Hockomock Area YMCA has enlisted community members to help with the battle against sexual abuse of children.
Town officials, church leaders, school personnel and interested community members met on Monday for a presentation on the Hockomock Area YMCA's efforts to implement the Darkness to Light program in its five member communities of North Attleboro, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield and Sharon.
"We're really excited about having the opportunity to have a powerful and sobering discussion about how we can protect children," said Ed Hurley, president of the Hockomock Area YMCA.
Darkness to Light is a national non-profit organization based in Charleston, S.C., that has expanded to 49 states and 27 countries.
The organization focuses on empowering adults to recognize and react to the signs of sexual abuse of children through its 2 1/2-hour "Stewards of Children" training program. Already, 103 people in North Attleboro have taken the training workshop, including Hockomock YMCA employees, park and recreation staff, school nurses and administrators.
"It's not a church problem. It's not a coach problem. It's not a YMCA problem. It's a community problem," said Tony Calcia, the YMCA's vice president of child protection and social responsibility. "As a community, we have to stand up for our kids."
According to the Boston University School of Medicine, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
"That's 20 percent of children," Calcia said. "It's an epidemic, and we need to stop it. If 20 percent of kids were getting injured on school buses, how fast would the government and everybody step in to fix it? For far too long, childhood sexual abuse has been shrouded in secrecy."
Calcia said sexual abuse has an emotional toll on the victims and an economic toll on the community at large.
Intervening and treating a victim of sexual abuse costs about $14,345, meaning that about $3.4 billion is spent on those efforts each year in the United States. The Hockomock Area YMCA is aiming to train at least 5 percent of its member communities in the "Stewards of Children" program. The goal is to train 930 adults in North Attleboro within the next four years.
The Y has been reaching out to local schools, youth groups and park and recreation programs to solicit volunteers interested in receiving the training.
The training costs $10 per participant, but the Y is willing to work with organizations unable to completely fund the cost.
Illicit Flirtations: Acclaimed Author Rhacel Parrenas Explores Sex Trafficking and the Mafia in Tokyo
September 13, 2011
Parrenas offers a sociological portrait of Filipina hostesses and waitresses in Tokyo's red-light districts that is clear and compelling enough for the lay reader... Publishers Weekly Review - 8/29/2011
Parrenas illustrates why their diminishing numbers is not a "victory" in the global anti-trafficking campaign... To write this book, the author herself worked as a hostess in a Tokyo nightclub; her immersion in the world lends the book powerful authenticity.
In 2004, the U.S. State Department declared Filipina hostesses in Japan the largest group of sex trafficked persons in the world. Since receiving this global attention, the number of hostesses entering Japan has dropped by nearly 90 percent--from more than 80,000 in 2004 to just over 8,000 today. To some, this might suggest a victory for the global anti-trafficking campaign, but Rhacel Parrenas counters that this drastic decline--which stripped thousands of migrants of their livelihoods--is a setback.
Parrenas worked alongside hostesses in a working-class club in Tokyo's red-light district, serving drinks, singing karaoke, and entertaining her customers, including members of the yakuza, the Japanese crime syndicate. While the common assumption has been that these hostess bars are hotbeds of sexual trafficking, Parrenas quickly discovered a different world of working migrant women, there by choice, and, most importantly, where none were coerced into prostitution. But this is not to say that the hostesses were not vulnerable in other ways.
Illicit Flirtations challenges our understandings of human trafficking and calls into question the U.S. policy to broadly label these women as sex trafficked. It highlights how in imposing top-down legal constraints to solve the perceived problems--including laws that push dependence on migrant brokers, guest worker policies that bind migrants to an employer, marriage laws that limit the integration of migrants, and measures that criminalize undocumented migrants--many women become more vulnerable to exploitation, not less. This book gives a long overdue look into the real world of those labeled as trafficked.
Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, PhD, is a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California. She has received more than 100 invitations to share her work at universities, government and nongovernmental institutions throughout the US, Europe and Asia. Her research on women's labor migration has been featured in various news media outlets including: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Parrenas was a full professor at the University of California, Davis and Brown University. She is a leading expert in the Sociology of Intimacy and Women's Labor and Migration.
The missing piece of the U.S. anti-human trafficking effort
by Youngbee Dale
WASHINGTON , September 13, 2011—Many people in the U.S. believe that the problem of domestic violence and broken family structures only affect the immediate family. They also believe that pimping is the responsibility of the individual, and fail to understand the factors that contribute to the choice.
However, sexual exploitation and trade are no longer the problem of a pimp and his family alone. It is becoming a serious problem for U.S. society as a whole. The U.S. has been on the forefront of the fight against global human trafficking for a decade. Every year, its resources are geared towards the effort to stop human trafficking around the world. In 2010, the U.S. awarded $5.5 million to combat human trafficking in Haiti. Just last week, it also granted $500,000 to local law enforcement and other groups in Buffalo, New York to improve their anti-human trafficking efforts.
But, unless the U.S. addresses the problem of American youth entering the sex industry to pimp others, its fight against human trafficking will never stop.
One scholar says that the problem of American youth pimping others, among many other crimes, is attributed to the lack of proper role models in their lives. Surely, youth need positive role models who will teach them that exploiting others are wrong and that their actions bear consequences. But that is not enough. They also need changes in their mindsets that they can be anything but “a drug dealer, a thug, or a pimp in the hood.”
Meet Prontiss Houseworth. He was arrested for sex trafficking women in Nashville, Tennessee just a few weeks ago. According to local news, Prontiss allegedly threatened to kill the victims and their families if the victims refused to prostitute for his financial gain.
The victims stated that Prontiss put them in the back of his car with the child locks on and transported them against their will from Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee. They also testified that upon arrival in Nashville, Prontiss confined them in a motel room for four days and forced them to have sex with several men. At the time of arrest, Prontiss was only 18 years old, which suggests that he likely have started pimping other women as a minor.
Surely, different cultures and environments influence a child in different ways. But no child ever says that he or she wants to grow up and become a pimp unless he or she experienced some sort of trauma in one's life. Prontiss probably had some reason for turning to a life in the sex trade.
Research on former pimps reveals a glimpse of truth as to what might have caused someone like Prontiss to begin pimping young women. The research says that some people become pimps because it gives them a sense of power. One former pimp said he grew up with a mother who was exploited by her male partner. He said his mother's boyfriend physically, verbally, and sexually abused his mother on a regular basis. He further stated that he became a pimp to become more powerful than his mother's boyfriend and eventually to retaliate against him.
Other former pimps said they began exploiting women as means of survival. One stated that after the state placed him in foster care, his foster father sexually abused him on a regular basis. After he ran away, he began pimping to support himself.
Some people say they became pimps because they wanted to feel respected. One former pimp said that he chose to become a pimp after watching his neighbor. His neighbor wore nice clothes and drove a fancy car. The neighbor also had many girls who prostituted for him. He said that it seemed to him that the neighbor was powerful, strong, and respected, and he wanted that life style.
Though all pimps had different reasons to begin exploiting others, they all shared two common denominators from their childhood, poverty, domestic violence and broken family structures. While the U.S. needs to continuosly combat human trafficking with harsh penalties and detterence, it also needs to find a ways to prevent young men from entering sex industry to exploit others.
Human trafficking is a reality in Puget Sound
by GREG ALLMAIN
Federal Way Mirror reporter
September 12, 2011
Human trafficking is a stark reality in the Puget Sound, although many may not be aware that it exists in the region.
Because of this lack of awareness, the Federal Way Soroptimists are holding a forum on human trafficking at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at Federal Way City Hall.
By definition, human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar feels this is an important forum for residents because the problem of human trafficking is here in Federal Way — and is very real.
“It's amazing, everybody thinks it's somebody else or that it only happens in other countries,” she said. “It happens right here. It's your neighbor's child.”
In 2010, Federal Way police made 20 prostitution arrests total, four of them involving juveniles, said Deputy Chief Andy Hwang: “We had two cases against pimps, and 14 adults arrested for prostitution.”
Regionally, Hwang said the Seattle Police Department made 20 prostitution arrests involving youth in 2008, 30 arrests involving youth in 2009, and 50 arrests involving youth in 2010. The increasing numbers may come from the changing face of human trafficking and juvenile prostitution, one that's shifted from the streets to the online world.
“Streetwalking is not as prevalent. They're doing an online type of business now,” Hwang said.
“They arrange to meet at a hotel with customers or some other place. It's tough to enforce from a law enforcement point of view because they're not visible on the street like they used to be.”
Hwang said many youth, most of which are young women, come from difficult circumstances before finding themselves in the dangerous position of selling sex for money.
“A lot of them come from broken homes, were maybe abused in their childhood, so there's not a lot of support around them. And then these guys come around and start grooming them, maybe by being their friend, by buying them stuff,” Hwang said. “Next thing they know, they're in that world where they're being exploited for sex.”
Both Kochmar and Hwang said they hope the Sept. 29 forum will increase awareness in the community.
“They need to understand what's happening in their own community, in their own neighborhoods,” Kochmar said. “They need to understand what's happening to their children, what could happen to their children. We have people in our community who will step up and help. They just need to know what the problem is.”
Hwang said awareness is the first step in combatting human trafficking and its related activities.
“It's important that we talk about it, recognize the issues surrounding young women particularly, and that they're being exploited for sex,” Hwang said. “Awareness is a way to extract them from that lifestyle. It's important for parents and other adults, to love these kids unconditionally. (They need someone) to provide support, to know what's going on with them.”
Check it out
Federal Way Soroptimists are holding a forum on human trafficking at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at Federal Way City Hall. A five-member panel will share information about human trafficking issues in the region. The lineup includes District 30 State Sen. Tracey Eide; Chris Johnson, policy director for state attorney general Rob McKenna; sister Donna Freed of Sisters United Against Human Trafficking; Andy Hwang, deputy chief of the Federal Way Police Department; and Robin Schildmeyer of the Genesis Project.
Begin the conversation with children about sexual assault, KCSARC urges
by TRACEY COMPTON
Renton Reporter Staff writer
September 9, 2011
As schedules change and children head back to school and sports programs, now is the time to talk with them about sexual-assault prevention, urges a local resource group.
"From my standpoint everyday is a good day to talk about safety," said Lindsay Palmer, director of education and prevention at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC). "But I can also understand why it's not necessarily the topic at the dinner table that you want to bring up everyday."
Some parents may find broaching the subject of sexual assault daunting or uncomfortable. But, the group has found there are ways to work the topic into conversations with youth in an appropriate way.
Taking cues from KCSARC, Kim, a Renton mother of two, has done just that with her elementary and high school-age children. A victim of sexual assault, she asked only to be known by her first name.
Kim started talking to her children about safety when they were toddlers. Just last year, when her daughter was 9 and her son 13, she revealed to them the abuse she suffered when she was a child.
"I was very young when a pedophile victimized our family," she said. "It has been very powerful for me and for our family to share an appropriate level of detail."
Kim started preparing her children by talking to them first about protecting the area of their body covered by their bathing suits. Then the conversation evolved as they got older to things like using the buddy system and never getting into a car with a stranger. She also looked to the media for ways to open the conversation with her children about inappropriate relationships and abuse.
Kim has sat down with her children and asked them what they thought of a particular news story, how they would have protected themselves and asked whether they would have told her about the incident.
Palmer agrees with Kim's tactics and said talking with children about sexual assault should be an on-going conversation.
The national statistics for child sexual abuse have gone down, Palmer said, and can be attributed to several factors.
The media and parents talking to other parents have raised awareness on the issue.
The "pretty horrific" situations brought in the news "raise the awareness for parents and also organizations that work with youth to say, 'Do we have policies in place, have I talked with my kids about safety'," Palmer said.
Parents encouraging their friends or other family members to talk with their kids about safety has helped too.
It is easier to converse with other parents on the issue when kids are younger, Kim said.
"When the children were more in the pre-school times, I think there were more opportunities for parents to have conversations and bring up these issues," she said. "But as your children age, parenting becomes more of an isolating thing."
This is where having an ongoing open dialogue with your children about their day and their life in general becomes key.
Having this sort of dynamic, Palmer said, will keep parents aware of who is new in their child's life or who is taking a different role in their life.
Sexual assault remains to be the biggest threat from people that the child or family knows.
"When we look at the statistics, we are looking at approximately two-thirds of people who offend youth are known to either that youth or the family in some way or another," said Palmer.
Parents need to keep in mind that trusting adults are needed in order for child to grow up strong, healthy and thriving, Kim said.
The conversation around safety and sexual abuse should not cause anxiety and keep children from feeling they can't rely on adults in their lives, she said.
"You can do it in a way that appropriately prepares them given their age and at the same time as a parent, you can learn signs to see if your child might have been abuse," said Kim.
Renton-based KCSARC is a community sexual-assault program that provides legal advocacy, therapists for children, teens and adults, and family advocates. It also offers education through community presentations. There is a 24-hour Sexual Assault Resource Line at 1-888-99-VOICE (86423) or view resources online.
Child abuse victims demand compensation
A group of men, who were abused as children whilst in state care in the Great Southern, are demanding government compensation.
Dennis John McKenna managed a government-run boarding hostel, and abused six boys between 1977 and 1985.
The victims were staying at the hostel while they attended a nearby high school.
McKenna pleaded guilty last month and is behind bars awaiting sentencing in October.
One of his victims, Todd Jefferies, is among those now seeking an ex-gratia payment.
"It's the acknowledgment and you know putting some light on what has been a dirty little secret that no one's really wanted to deal with," he said.
He and other victims have hired Perth lawyer John Hammond who is fighting for compensation and a public apology for his clients from the State Government.
"The state has a lot to answer for, for anything like this to happen to young teenagers is unforgivable," he said.
"Given that some of the victims have told me that the school or the hostel was aware of what was going on, that people in positions of authority had knowledge that there was at least the possibility of child abuse going on, then the state has a lot to answer for," he said.
Mr Hammond says payments offered under the Redress scheme, which was set up to apologise to people abused whilst in state care, do not go far enough.
He says his clients are seeking ex-gratia payments.
"That's a payment over and above what Redress has offered, because to me for the state to try and walk away from this for $13,000 a head is an insult to the people involved."
The Attorney General Christian Porter has been contacted for comment.