Seeing abuse leaves mark on kids
by Chad Nation,
WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE
COUNCIL BLUFFS — About 15.5 million children witness domestic violence each year, according to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, and seeing that violence can have long-lasting effects.
Vicki-lynn Kelly, training and prevention educator at the Catholic Charities Phoenix House in Council Bluffs, said abuse directed toward children is often discussed or easy to see, but violence in the home that's not directed at the child is an equally bad situation.
"Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused," Kelly said.
Research shows that children who witness domestic violence show more anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, anger and temperament problems than those who don't see it.
The children also may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency and further victimization.
"Witnessing violence may impair a child's capacity for relationships and parenting later in life, continuing a cycle of violence," Kelly said.
Even families that believe they are hiding abuse from their children usually find the opposite to be true, Kelly said.
She said a number of clients have said they stayed in abusive relationships so the children have two parents in the home or so the children can grow up in a certain house or neighborhood — until they see their child starting to act the same way as the abuser.
"So many have said, 'I stayed until the day my little one started to behave like that,' either at home or at school," Kelly said. "The children have that same aggression they see from their role models."
Children learn behavior from the people in their lives, Kelly said.
"Whatever happens in your house when you are little, you believe it happens in everyone else's home," she said. "Why not act out violently when you haven't been taught another way?"
Fortunately, Kelly said, good intervention in a child's life can mitigate the effects of abuse.
Whether the abused parent decides to leave or a child reaches an age to seek help for the problem, many children can find support.
Kelly said another step in the right direction is a recently changed law regarding parents being placed on the child abuse registry if they failed to keep their children safe from an abuser.
"Ultimately, it will keep more children safe."
Silence allows child abuse to persist, worsen
It was a killing that shocked the community. Heather White had been tortured and beaten for weeks, possibly months.
All along, however, people noticed odd things about the 6-year-old Minden-area child.
Heather wore long-sleeved shirts and pants on warm days, a neighbor noticed. One man said he knew she existed, but he never saw her. A woman standing behind Heather and her family in a Walmart supercenter cashier line noticed hand-shaped bruises on the child's face and neck.
Someone bought a hungry Heather food while she waited alone four hours in a parked car in Shreveport.
Yet no one, it seems, said anything. No one called police. No one contacted child protective workers.
Heather died Dec. 15, 1999, after a savage beating — with a leather strap and boards — that left her unconscious and gasping for breath. The killer, her mother's boyfriend, later was sent to death row.
Some 12 years later, Louisiana's children still are dying at the hands of abusers, and the community largely still remains mute. The reasons for that collective silence are varied and complex, but the impact is measured in the senseless deaths of society's most innocent members.
For example, in Shreveport's most recent suspected child abuse death, a neighbor said she previously heard 1-year-old Denise Avery cry frequently and adults yell at the baby on multiple occasions. Yet it appears the neighbor never reported what she heard to police or the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Denise died Oct. 21 after suffering a severe beating, Shreveport police say. Her 19-year-old mother, eight months pregnant, is charged with second-degree murder. Denise was the second most recent Shreveport child to die of suspected abuse. On Oct. 20, police found the body of 2-year-old Ja'marsay Summerfield in a storage closet adjacent to his Cedar Grove home.
His mother's boyfriend, Tristen Anderson, 26, is charged with first-degree murder.
"It's really important to remember ... children can't report for themselves," said Catherine A. Taylor, assistant professor of global community health and behavioral sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. "Children really have to rely on adults to make the call for them."
ICE HSI targets child predators via Operation Gondola
The Internet has made child exploitation a crime that knows no borders. That's why the Virtual Global Taskforce was formed. The taskforce is an alliance of international law enforcement agencies — with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serving as the only American member — and private sector partners. Together, these partners target and arrest individuals who try to exploit children.
The taskforce recently supported Operation Gondola, a global effort to take down child predators. Just this week, a Falls Church, Va., teacher was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for producing videos of himself engaging in sexual conduct with two female minors. He had more than 75,000 pornographic images and 1,000 videos of children in his possession. Earlier this month, Australian police officers arrested a 44-year-old man for possessing nearly 50,000 child abuse images.
Information in both cases resulted from an investigation spearheaded by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Italian law enforcement officials. Italian authorities identified a website that contained nearly 500 pornographic images of children. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents quickly stepped in and seized the website. The agency then provided leads to law enforcement partners across the globe about individuals accessing those images.
Those leads led to extraordinary results. To date, law enforcement partners have made 32 criminal arrests, 22 indictments, six convictions and 207 seizures in countries across the globe.
Learn more about ICE HSI's efforts to combat child exploitation and the Virtual Global Taskforce.
Boy Scouts failed to report abuser
Records emerging on decades-old cases point to the group's former lax handling of molestation incidents.
by Jason Felch and Kim Christensen, LA Times
October 29, 2011
Rick Turley was 18 when he learned that Scouting offered a unique opportunity to meet boys.
He would show up in a uniform with a sash full of merit badges, charm parents with claims of being a "top" leader and offer to take their preteen boys out for a swim or drive. Then, often after plying them with alcohol, he would fondle or rape them — once going so far as to kidnap a boy in a stolen plane.
Over nearly two decades, Turley molested at least 15 children in Southern California and British Columbia, most of whom he met through American and Canadian Scouting, a Los Angeles Times and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigation has found.
Scouting officials on both sides of the border not only failed to stop him, but sometimes helped cover his tracks, according to confidential Scouting records, court files and interviews with victims, families and Scout leaders.
At one point in 1979, Boy Scouts of America officials decided not to call police after Turley admitted molesting three Orange County boys, the organization's records show.
"We were following exactly the national recommendations of the Boy Scouts of America and its board who set up the rules," said A. Buford Hill Jr., a former Orange County Scouting executive, in a recent interview. "You do not want to broadcast to the entire population that these things happen. You take care of it quietly and make sure it never happens again."
But it did.
Turley returned to British Columbia, signed on with Scouts Canada, which is separate from its U.S. counterpart, and continued his abuses for at least a decade.
Turley, now 58, is still surprised at how often he got away with it.
"It was easy," he said in an interview this month at the Alberta truck-stop motel where he now works.
Turley is one of more than 5,000 suspected child molesters named in confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America. The documents — called the "perversion files" by the organization — include unsubstantiated tips as well as admissions of guilt.
Those records have surfaced in recent years in lawsuits by former Scouts, accusing the group of failing to exclude known pedophiles, detect abuses or turn in offenders to the police.
The Oregon Supreme Court is now weighing a request by newspapers, a wire service and broadcasters to open about 1,200 more files in the wake of a nearly $20-million judgment in a Portland sex abuse case last year.
The Scouts' handling of sex-abuse allegations echoes that of the Catholic Church in the face of accusations against its priests, some attorneys say.
"It's the same institutional reaction: scandal prevention," said Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has filed seven suits in the last year by former Scouts but was not involved in the Oregon case.
Current Boy Scouts of America officials declined to be interviewed and would not say how many files exist or what is in them. Their lawyers have said the records are confidential, in part to protect victims and because some of the files are based on unproven allegations.
"The BSA has continued to enhance its youth protection efforts as society has increased its understanding of the dangers children face," the Scouts said in a statement.
In the 1980s, the Boy Scouts began requiring that at least two adults be present for troop activities. The following decade, it mandated criminal background checks for staffers, a requirement that was expanded to the organization's nearly 1 million volunteers in 2008. Last year, it required child abuse prevention training as well. All suspicions of sexual misconduct must now be reported to police.
Those measures would likely have stopped Turley had they been in place decades ago. Instead, the Scouts' national policy had long recommended keeping abuse and other misconduct a secret.
Turley said one call to police by Scouting officials in 1979 "probably would have put a stop to me years and years and years ago." Instead, he "went back to the Scouts again and again as a leader and offended against the boys," said Turley, who said he has learned to control his impulses.
"That person who was Rick Turley was a monster," he said.
Turley's earliest known molestation was in 1971, when he was working as a truck driver and was a Canadian Cub Scout leader, according to records in a Canadian criminal case 25 years later. He met Joey Day during a delivery on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and soon showed up at the Days' home in his uniform.
"He offered to take Joey into Cubs, and being a Cub master, I mean, who wouldn't you trust?" Day's mother, Eileen, testified in the criminal case against Turley in 1996.
Turley got permission to take the 10-year-old to a nearby lake, where he talked him into skinny-dipping and then molested him. This is what men do for other men, Turley told him, just don't tell your parents, Joey testified in the case.
Over the next two years, instead of taking Joey to Cub meetings, Turley took him to his apartment, where he gave him alcohol, showed him pornography and abused him. On his final visit, Turley raped him, court records state.
Joey tried to tell his father of the abuse, but he reacted by beating him. More than two decades would pass before police learned of Turley's abuse.
In January 1975, Turley showed up at the La Puente home of Eddy Iris, an 11-year-old he'd met at a local Scout meeting while visiting an Orange County family.
"He was knowledgeable about things that I liked. He was extremely friendly. He paid attention to you," said Iris, now 47 and living in Ontario, Canada.
Turley told Eddy's mother that he was "one of Canada's top Scout leaders" and asked if her son could show him around town, she said in an interview.
They played miniature golf, took a demo flight in a small plane at Fallbrook Airport and spent the night together in a sleeping bag in the mountains, according to Iris and police records. If anything worse happened that night, Iris said, he must have slept through it.
The next day, they went back to the airport, where Turley stole a Cessna 172. After takeoff, he turned to his young passenger and asked: "You do realize you've been kidnapped, don't you?"
You do realize you've been kidnapped, don't you?” Turley asked his 11-year old passenger.
The plane soon ran out of fuel and made an emergency landing on a Mojave Desert airstrip. Turley was arrested and later pleaded guilty to felony child stealing. After psychiatric evaluations, he was committed to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County as a "mentally disordered sex offender."
After 18 months, Turley was released on five years' probation and ordered to return to Canada.
Instead, Turley within months got a job at a Boy Scout camp just up the road from the hospital and spent the next three summers working with Scouts in San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
At the time, the Scouts' policy did not require criminal background checks.
By 1979, Turley was a program director at Lost Valley Boy Scout Reservation in San Diego County. That July, he persuaded the leader of an Orange County troop to let his son and two other boys spend an extra night at camp. When he took the boys home the next day, all three told their Scoutmaster they had been molested, according to Turley's Boy Scout file.
Turley "readily admitted what he had done, expressed concern for his action, immediately packed and returned to Canada," said Hill, the former Scouts executive, in a memo.
In keeping with Scout policy, Hill and other officials asked Boy Scouts headquarters in Texas to open a confidential file on Turley.
"The parents of the three boys agreed not to press charges if he would leave, but are quite prepared to do so if they hear of his involvement with Scouting," Hill wrote to headquarters.
The Scouts had been keeping these files, in one form or another, since the 1920s, according to the organization. Only a select few had access to them. Their existence was not widely known until the 1990s, when former Scouts began filing sexual abuse lawsuits.
A confidential 1972 memo that also surfaced many years later in a court case laid out the group's approach to handling cases of sexual abuse and other misconduct.
"Indicate [to the accused] that the BSA is not sharing this information with anyone and only wish him to stop all Scouting activity," wrote Paul Ernst, an executive at the Boy Scouts' national office. He included a standard dismissal letter, which read in part:
"We are making no accusations and will not release this information to anyone, so our action in no way will affect your standing in the community."
Orange County Scout leaders stuck to the policy, telling camp staffers that Turley was called back for active military duty.
"In a week or two we knew the real story," said former staffer Jim Donovan. "The leaders were more interested in covering it up and doing damage control."
Hill, now 82, told The Times he did not recall the specifics of the case but said the policy was appropriate for the time.
"If something like this happens in a church … can you imagine a pastor getting up and saying, 'Listen folks, something terrible happened here yesterday,'" he said. "That's stupid."
As for Turley, Hill said: "Hopefully he went back to Canada and that was their problem."
Turley did go back — to Victoria, British Columbia — and by 1982, became a volunteer Scoutmaster with a local troop, Second Douglas.
Canadian and American Scout officials say they do not know if any information on Turley was shared.
Records in the 1996 Canadian criminal case show that Turley took Scouts across the border for joint events with American scouts in Washington state. A Canadian Scout later testified that he was molested on one trip.
Turley stocked his house in Victoria with candy and ice cream. Children would come to play computer games or watch movies.
Jason Davies, who was 11 when he met Turley, testified in the criminal case that he spent three or four nights a week there and was regularly abused over a decade.
"It's caused lifelong problems for me physically and mentally," Davies told the CBC. "I can't let anyone touch me."
"They could have stopped this if they wanted to," he said, referring to Scouts Canada.
They could have stopped this if they wanted to,” said Jason Davies, referring to Scouts Canada.
At least two Canadian Scout leaders reported concerns to local headquarters about Turley's behavior around children, including that boys were sleeping in his tent on camping trips, court records show. In the mid-1980s, at least two years after he took over as Scoutmaster and several months after the two leaders raised concerns, officials asked Turley to step down.
Rather than call police or throw Turley out, Canadian Scouting officials transferred him to another troop. He left the Scouts a year later.
Turley's past caught up with him in 1995, when a woman he was involved with told police he had admitted to being sexually attracted to children. A sex crimes investigator contacted former Scouts, and Turley was arrested.
He was tried in January 1996 on 10 counts of molesting six children and was convicted of five counts. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, reduced to five on appeal.
Paroled in 2000, he was later caught trying to draw two pre-teen boys into a relationship and sent back to prison. He was released two years later.
Turley expressed remorse in his recent interview but said he couldn't recall everyone he had abused over the years: "It's hard to put a number on it."
Scouts Canada officials declined to discuss Turley, instead saying in a statement that "the concern and regret felt by Scouts Canada toward those who have been victimized in the past is beyond measure."
The group now acts swiftly to remove those suspected of abuse and alert authorities, the statement says.
In the Portland abuse case last year, former Scout Kerry Lewis said the organization failed to protect him as a 12-year-old in the 1980s from a known molester. The judge in the case allowed into evidence about 1,200 of the Scouts' "perversion files," covering Lewis' time in the Scouts. The $20-million jury award was the largest yet against the Scouts, which had lost, settled or won some previous cases. Similar suits are pending around the country.
After their use at trial, the Scouts petitioned the court to keep the files closed, a move opposed by media outlets seeking their full disclosure.
A coalition of victims' rights and child advocacy groups also want the files opened — with victims' names redacted — arguing that it "will end the Boy Scouts' ability to deny its child abuse problem" and encourage others who were molested to come forward.
"It is likely that there are thousands of victims who remain locked in avoidance and denial — imprisoned by the continuing veil of secrecy," the group wrote in court papers.
Timeline: Richard Turley's legacy of abuse
Paper trail: Internal memos, court documents
Predators in plain sight: Priests accused of child abuse appear beyond the reach of law
Editor's note: Gary Tuchman reports on allegedly abusive Catholic priests who are living, unsuspected, in communities across the country on CNN Presents, Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.
by Gary Tuchman and Jessi Joseph , CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - Former LAPD Detective Federico Sicard still remembers the Monday he arrived at a school to interview children who said a priest had molested them, even though the visit took place 23 years ago.
Sicard found four children at the school, Our Lady of Guadalupe in East L.A., who said they'd been abused by Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, a priest who'd recently arrived from Mexico.
But police never had a chance to interview Aguilar.
“We went to interview the priest and they told us he's no longer here,” Sicard, who spent more than 20 years on the case, said in a recent interview. “He's gone. He was taken to Mexico.”
Church officials said they found out about the alleged abuse on a Friday in early 1988 and met with Aguilar the next day to remove him from ministry.
According to a police report, Aguilar told church officials at that meeting that he planned to return to his native Mexico at the beginning of the following week.
The police were notified on Monday morning, but it was too late. Aguilar had already fled the United States for Mexico.
“We made a call to child protective services. Nobody was answering the phone. It was 5 o'clock on a Friday,” said Tod Tamberg, the spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
“Monday morning the call was made – a notification was made – and Aguilar Rivera, during the weekend, fled without telling anybody, to Mexico,” Tamberg said.
Sicard said if the police had been notified earlier, Aguilar would have been detained.
After Aguilar fled, more reports of his alleged abuse surfaced. The Los Angeles District Attorney later filed a warrant for his arrest, charging Aguilar with molesting 10 children.
Aguilar is still wanted in Los Angeles for 19 felony counts of lewd acts against a child.
He had been in the U.S. for only nine months.
“We'd love to know where he is, we really would,” Tamberg said. “I mean, the letters demanding his return don't expire. We'd like him to come back and face justice.”
Aguilar is one of hundreds of former Catholic priests who have faced sex abuse allegations and who now live unmonitored in unsuspecting communities.
For decades, accused priests who were kicked out of the church for allegations of abuse blended back into society. No one keeps track of where they live.
“Unfortunately, they've never been convicted,” said Tamberg. “They're private citizens and so they're free to move about and live where they want to.”
Nearly 6,000 priests have been accused of molesting children in the United States since the 1950s, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Very few of the accused ever make it to a criminal trial, often because by the time the victims come forward the statute of limitations for the crime has passed. At that point, even if a priest admits to the abuse, he cannot go to jail.
CNN has learned that Aguilar allegedly continued his abuse of children after fleeing to Mexico.
In 1992, four years after leaving the U.S., Aguilar surfaced in Mexico City. Still a priest, he was assigned to the church, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, where he met Joaquin Mendez.
“I met him being an altar boy,” said Mendez, 30, who remembered him vividly. He said Aguilar became a close friend of his family.
“Honestly, his presence made me feel uncomfortable. His breath smelled really bad. It was a disgusting smell. Even now I feel the scars of those memories,” said Mendez.
Mendez was 13 years old when, he said, Aguilar called him into his bedroom at the church.
“He said, ‘Come on in. Let me show you some music tapes I made.' So I go in and then he forced me to pull down my pants. He raped me,” Mendez said.
“I got away from him however I could,” Mendez continued. “He threatened me not to say anything to my family because if I did he was going to do the same thing to my brother.”
But Mendez found the courage to come forward. He said he told his parents and they went to the police.
Aguilar left Mexico City in 1995. Over the next 10 years he continued working as a priest in small towns in the Mexican state of Puebla.
Five formal complaints have been filed against Aguilar in Mexico since his return from Los Angeles. Aguilar is still wanted in Puebla for statutory rape, but authorities there say they've lost his trail.
CNN recently received a tip that Aguilar had been seen in Jonacatapec, a small farming town in the Mexican state of Morelos, about two hours south of Mexico City.
Emiliano, a Jonacatapec farmer, told CNN he had seen Aguilar twice. He said he recognized Aguilar from the news. Emiliano took CNN journalists to a bus stop outside of town, the last place he had seen Aguilar.
At the bus stop, a woman told CNN she rides the bus with Aguilar. “I saw him on the bus and he said I should take care of my baby,” she said. “That was all.” She had no idea about his past but agreed to show us where she believed Aguilar lived.
Once in the neighborhood, CNN was unable to find anyone else who knew Aguilar.
Sanjuana Martinez is a Mexican journalist who has written a book about Aguilar. She has also interviewed the priest himself.
“I said I can't believe it that he's talking with me,” Martinez said.
In a phone interview with Martinez, Aguilar repeatedly denied the allegations, including the charges made by Mendez.
“All of this has been a series of defamation, slanders,” Aguilar told her. “That is what all of this has been.”
Martinez said she believes it is unlikely Aguilar will ever be arrested in Mexico.
The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Hugo Valdemar, said the church has no further responsibility for Aguilar.
He said the church disputes the claim of rape by Mendez but acknowledged that Aguilar may be guilty of other abuse.
“I'm not saying he may not have done things, because we have the impression that he did,” Valdemar said. “The church has done what needed to be done. It suspended Nicolas Aguilar. He is no longer a priest.”
But church officials in Mexico did not defrock Aguilar until 2009, years after they knew about the alleged abuse. Valdemar said that it's not the church's job to hunt down suspects: ”This is a job for the police.”
Tony De Marco is a Los Angeles attorney that represents Joaquin Mendez and others who say they were abused by Aguilar. “There is no desire on the part of the church here to see that he be prosecuted and put in jail,” De Marco said.
De Marco said he would like to see the same policy changes in Mexico regarding victims of clergy sexual abuse that have been made in the U.S.
“You've seen things like zero-tolerance policies, you've seen compensation to victims, you've seen prosecutions of priests and most recently – finally - prosecution of those who facilitated and helped these men ... continue to molest kids,” said De Marco. “Change can happen. That's my client's belief and that's my belief.”
But for now, Aguilar, and hundreds of other accused priests throughout the U.S. appear to remain beyond the reach of the law.
European Parliament supports stronger legislation against child sexual abuse
Brussels– The European Parliament today approved the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on combating sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
“The Commission made it clear one year ago that the EU will not tolerate children being used as objects to satisfy the sexual desire of criminals, or traded as commodities. I am extremely pleased that the European Parliament and the Council have lent their support to this proposal,” said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs. “With this directive we can make a difference. We are making it easier to prosecute and prevent crimes against children, and we are strengthening the protection of victims. I am confident that this new EU legislation will make a real difference in protecting children from these horrible crimes.”
The Directive, including a number of amendments adopted in the Parliament today, closely reflects the Commission's proposal.
It notably includes provisions not only on the prosecution of offenders, but also on the prevention of offences and protection of child victims. It provides for the right of employers to ask for information on criminal records, and for awareness raising campaigns and the training of professionals as preventive measures. The directive also introduces the obligation for Member States to remove child pornography pages hosted on the Internet in their territory and to take action to have them removed if hosted abroad.
The EU Member States in the Council are now expected to formalise the political agreement and adopt the Directive shortly.
The terms ‘sexual exploitation' and ‘sexual abuse of children' refer to different forms of acts, such as sexual relations with a child under a certain age or under coercion, child prostitution or child pornography. These are particularly serious crimes against children, who need special protection and care, and ones that produce long-lasting and serious harm to child victims. Yet fighting these crimes is very difficult. Children are vulnerable, ashamed and often afraid to report what has happened to them.
In March 2010, the Commission tabled a proposal for a Directive (see IP/10/379 and MEMO/10/107) to substantially upgrade EU Legislation, namely Framework Decision (2004/68/JHA), which ensured a minimum approximation of national legislation but had considerable shortcomings. The proposal has been discussed with the Council and the European Parliament, and a political agreement was reached on a compromise text in June 2011.
The new Directive will make it easier to fight crimes against children by acting on different fronts:
On criminal law, a wide range of situations of sexual abuse and exploitation will be criminalised, covering new phenomena helped by the Internet, like child grooming, webcam or web viewing of child pornography. More detailed provisions on levels of penalties (6 different levels from 1 year to 10 years' imprisonment) will ensure greater consistency in classifications of the severity of the offence and will reduce differences between Member States' legislation.
To combat abuse by travelling sex offenders (so-called “child sex tourism”), national authorities will be able to prosecute nationals abusing children abroad, and organising travel to abuse children, or advertising sex abuse opportunities will be prohibited.
To facilitate the criminal prosecution of offenders, it will now be possible to initiate cases in all Member States up until the time child victims reach majority; confidentiality rules will no longer be an obstacle to preventing professionals working with children from reporting offences; and the police will be obliged to set up special units to identify child victims (especially of child pornography) with effective investigative tools.
Child victims will enjoy more protection in the form of extensive assistance and support following an individual assessment of each child, as well as measures to facilitate access to legal remedies and to avoid trauma from participating in criminal proceedings.
To prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, convicted offenders will be individually assessed, and will have access to special programmes to prevent them from committing new offences; background checks for candidates applying to work with children will be easier and more comprehensive; and education, awareness raising campaigns and training to detect child sexual exploitation will be deployed.
To disrupt the distribution of child pornography on the Internet, Member States will be obliged to ensure that child pornography pages hosted in their territory are removed and must take action to have them removed if hosted abroad. They may also set up procedures to block access by users from their territory if they wish.
For more information:
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs
and Homepage DG Home Affairs
Northwest a human trafficking hot spot
PASCO, Wash.—Human trafficking is often a silent crime behind closed doors, but did you realize the northwest is known as a hot spot? Attorney General Rob McKenna met with students at Columbia Basin College in Pasco on Friday to get people talking.
He says there are three main reasons why the northwest is a prime location. 1. We sit on an international border. 2. We have more organized street crime than most of the country, and they've moved to sex trafficking. 3. We have a young population, which means if they're kicked out of their home or run away they're more vulnerable.
Currently there is no local data, but the Attorney General is now working to gather more information.
"It's likely that local law enforcement isn't yet even categorizing certain crimes as being trafficking crimes, because they haven't been asked to, and they don't recognize it as trafficking crimes," says Rob McKenna, Attorney General.
McKenna says there is now training at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy, Prosecuting Attorney's Association, and at social service providers so they will know what to look for.
He also says the community can help by speaking out if they see a neighbor has a domestic servant, or if they see a young person walking in an area of prostitution.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-3737-888 or NHTRC@PolarisProject.org
Sex-Trafficking Victim Describes Break For Freedom
Caroline Germann Now Helps Homeless, Runaway Youth
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
A Kansas City woman is telling her story of being part of a child sex-trafficking ring and how she finally escaped that lifestyle. Caroline Germann said she had not started kindergarten when she was molested by a neighbor.
"Growing up, I always thought that was the type of relationship I was supposed to have with a man," Germann told KMBC's Diane Cho. Germann said she was in and out of dozens of foster homes. As a runaway, she said she started having survival sex at the age of 13.
"It's just having sex to meet your basic needs -- food, shelter, clothes," Germann said. By age 21, Germann said she started working at a strip club. It was there that she said she was introduced to crack cocaine, and it did not take long for her to meet her pimp.
"They took me into the bathroom, checked me out to see if I was worth keeping," Germann said. She told Cho that she went through a boot camp for prostitutes, learning the ways of the street. Night after night, Germann said she was in and out of cars on Independence Avenue, performing sex acts countless times a day.
"Traffickers, they're good at looking for people and exposing what their vulnerability is and exploiting it," said Carrie Rosetti, the executive director for The Kansas City Alliance Against Human Trafficking. Rosetti said traffickers use the components of abuse, power and control tactics on their victims.
"We're talking sometimes gang rapes, beatings, torture, sleep deprivation, starvation -- all kinds of tactics -- isolation, moving people from city to city so they no longer know where they are," Rosetti said. Germann said her pimp is also the father of her 5-year-old daughter.
"The other girls could have left or could have run and told the police on him, but he just knew I wasn't going to do that, so he would punch me in front of the other girls," Germann said. Activists said it is a problem that will only continue to grow.
"To a trafficker, a child is high profit and easy to move around, easy to control," Rosetti said. "A trafficker can make $632,000 a year by selling four women or children. So there's definitely a market for it."
"I was, like, in a mental prison. The psychological brainwashing that was done in the house, you just didn't leave it. It was was like grooming, loyalty and you had respect. You just didn't walk away," Germann said.
She said she finally decided after six years that she needed to escape her lifestyle when she was pregnant with her second daughter. She said it took the birth of her daughter to realize what true love is. Germann said she called her mother, whom she had not spoken to in years, and asked for help. She had a warrant out for her arrest and turned herself in. She went to a treatment center out of town for 30 days, and then went to a recovery center for women and children, where she had her baby.
Germann said that she now helps other young girls in Kansas City working as a street outreach coordinator, helping homeless and runaway youth at a local organization. Germann said her pimp was investigated by federal agencies, but they could never pin human-trafficking crimes against him because she said other girls would not testify against him. She said he is currently serving time behind bars for drug-related charges and is expected to be released soon.
Rosetti said that while law enforcement is helping combat the problem in Kansas City, there is no funding to help victims with resources once they are rescued. Rosetti said the community can get involved by educating themselves on what human trafficking is and by raising money for local organizations that help victims.
"The public is one of our most important partners in addressing this problem. We do receive tips from the public, and I strongly encourage any member of the public who sees anything that tells them something isn't right, if their gut reaction tells them there's something wrong, then I urge them to act on it and contact law enforcement and they'll respond and investigate every lead they receive," U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips said.
SC caseworkers plan to cut child abuse, neglect
by JIM DAVENPORT,
The Associated Press
Each year, state social workers are unable to substantiate thousands of reports of child abuse or neglect, yet hundreds of those cases later result in harm to children. South Carolina officials said Thursday they aim to improve that record with a review of caseworker practices.
The state's Department of Social Services director said she hopes it will mean at least 250 fewer children are harmed in the months after caseworkers have determined abuse and neglect are unfounded.
DSS Executive Director Lillian Koller told caseworkers about the new safety standards directive at a monthly meeting in Columbia.
Koller said the state is meeting or exceeding all federal child safety standards.
But Isabel Blanco, a Koller deputy director who oversees child and adult welfare services, said the standards of what constitutes harm to a child may not be clear enough and people may differ on how to apply them. The new standards will make it clear that caseworkers shouldn't repeatedly find that allegations of abuse or neglect are unsubstantiated.
“We know where there is smoke there is fire and that's too dangerous of a situation to have when it comes to a child's life,” Blanco said.
Last year, caseworkers determined 11,802 children were being abused or neglected, said Andre Barclay, who studies data for the Fostering Court Improvement Project.
Meanwhile, Barclay said, caseworkers couldn't substantiate abuse or neglect involving 16,943 children. In that group, more than 700 children, or 4.3 percent, were victims of substantiated maltreatment within six months of the first report of abuse or neglect.
Koller said the agency wants to cut the rate to no more than 2.8 percent. That would mean about 250 fewer instances of subsequent child abuse or neglect.
“This measure will help us drive down the victimization after unfounded cases,” Koller said. “It will unquestionably enhance child safety of the children of South Carolina.”
Advocates say the change will create one of the nation's toughest standards.
State audit: Welfare systems fail to protect abused, neglected kids
October 28, 2011
Bernice Yeung, California Watch
Child welfare officials say they are reviewing recommendations in a state audit released yesterday that found serious problems with the child welfare system, ranging from registered sex offenders living or working in homes for foster care children to a failure to investigate deaths due to child abuse.
“This report concludes that California can and must provide these children better protection and support,” the Bureau of State Audits report [PDF] stated.
The review of county child welfare systems, which are overseen by the State Department of Social Services, was prompted by the 2008 deaths of several children in the Central Valley, including 10-year-old Seth Ireland, who was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend despite repeated reports to Fresno County's Child Protective Services.
“It is our obligation to ensure these tragedies are never forgotten and that we do everything in our power to ensure the welfare and safety of our children,” Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, said in a statement. He called for the audit in February.
The report made recommendations and advised the Department of Social Services to use federal criminal databases to ensure that registered sex offenders are not living or working in foster care facilities, and encouraged internal death reviews by county agencies.
“Safety of children is our top priority, and we will review the audit and continue to work with licensed facilities and counties to identify the best ways to ensure the safety of children,” said Michael Weston, a spokesman for the social services department.
The report examined child welfare services in Alameda, Fresno and Sacramento counties. State officials also planned to analyze data from Los Angeles County, which is home to nearly half of the foster children in the state, but the county refused to release the relevant records. Auditors are slated to issue a separate report on Los Angeles in January 2012.
The state's analysis found a number of problems related to licensing and oversight of foster care facilities and a lack of consistency in reviewing abuse-related deaths.
The most glaring problem, according to auditors, is that the Department of Social Services did not heed a 2008 audit recommendation to use Department of Justice databases to identify “sex offenders who may be inappropriately living or working in its licensed facilities or in the homes of foster children.”
According to the audit, licensed child welfare facilities and foster care homes matched the addresses of 1,000 sex offenders statewide, and 600 of those were considered high risk. But the Department of Social Services said the audit's approach relied on outdated addresses, and a resulting investigation resulted in the revocation or temporary suspension of licenses to eight facilities statewide. Additionally, 31 people either living or working in licensed facilities were ordered to stay away from these foster care homes.
Still, social welfare experts say that licensing of child welfare facilities has been an ongoing concern in California.
“I don't think it's surprising,” said Jacquelyn McCroskey, a child welfare professor at USC's School of Social Work. “I was very happy that they called attention to the licensing because it has been neglected and it really is an essential building block for keeping safe.”
It currently is not illegal for registered sex offenders to live in a foster home, a “loophole that needs to be closed as soon as possible,” said Alisha Gallon, a spokeswoman for Perea, the Fresno assemblyman.
The report also noted that because it is not required by law, some counties did not conduct internal reviews when a child in the care of county protective services dies. About 100 children [PDF] died in California due to abuse or neglect in 2009.
“The report underscores the importance of getting everyone involved in figuring out what happened when a kid dies so we can prevent it from happening again,” said Ed Howard of San Diego's Children's Advocacy Institute. “For too long, there has been a lack of accountability and leadership in foster care that has been masked by appeals to protect the privacy interest of kids when in reality, the net result is a lack of accountability, a lack of attention and a lack of demand for reform, which is hurting kids.”
In Alameda County, for example, a case involving a domestic violence victim who had reportedly hit her children was classified as an emotional abuse case by the child welfare agency. A week after a social worker made a home visit, the mother was accused of killing one of her children. The audit cited this case as an example that "underscores the importance of reviewing such child deaths to determine whether opportunities exist to improve policies and procedures to prevent similar tragedies in the future."
“Ultimately, it was a nice ability to get some confirmation of different processes we have in place in Fresno,” such as an internal death review system, said Howard Himes, incoming director of Fresno County's Children and Family Services. “The recommendations are addressed specifically to the state, not to the county, but we will work closely with the state to implement them, and we look forward to that.”
Perea is considering legislation that would mandate internal reviews of any deaths of children under the care of Child Protective Services, a spokeswoman said.
The audit also found that counties like Alameda do not meet the state standard for ongoing case visits to children's homes. Officials there acknowledged that making ongoing case maintenance visits was a place where improvements could be made, but “overall, we fared pretty well and we have, over the last five to 10 years, worked on system improvements,” said Sylvia Soublet, spokeswoman for the Alameda County Social Services Agency. “It's something we do continuously, and we are always looking at where and how we can get better at what we do.”
There has been a notable increase in the use of expensive foster family agencies, the report said, from 18 to 29 percent in the past 12 years. “We estimate that the growth in the percentage of placements with foster family agencies, which have dramatically higher rates than licensed foster homes, has resulted in spending an additional $327 million in foster care payments between 2001 and 2010 – costing an additional $61 million in 2010 alone,” the audit said.
California child welfare agencies received 480,000 allegations of maltreatment of children in 2010 and substantiated 87,000 of these allegations, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research. About 57,000 children were in out-of-home placements in California as of January 2011. The state estimates that California's systemwide child welfare budget was about $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2010-11.
Child porn effort snares 25
by JOHN FRANK
RALEIGH N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday the arrest of 25 of the state's "hardcore child exploiters" and said it was just the beginning of an effort to crack down on Internet pornography and child sexual abuse.
As a result of "Operation Spyglass," authorities arrested 24 men - including five from Wake County - over five months on felony charges ranging from the possession and distribution of child pornography to indecent liberties with a minor. Another man, Louisburg dance teacher Bruce Anthony Howard, was charged Thursday with 11 counts of child sexual exploitation.
Those arrested include a Sampson County teacher, a Robeson County firefighter, an active-duty Marine captain and a Wake County television editor with The Learning Channel, the attorney general's office reported.
Cooper, who stood with North Carolina's three U.S. attorneys at a press conference, said many of the men will face federal child pornography charges, which carry mandatory minimum sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison.
In one case, Cooper said, investigators raided a house and found a young girl being physically abused. In other cases, authorities seized computers containing thousands of illegal photos and videos of abused children.
The men from Wake County charged with distribution of child pornography were John David Herron, 30, who faces 20 counts; Kyle Martin Inch, 26, who faces 11 counts; William Johnson Blankinship, the TV editor, who faces 10 counts; Jean Paul Berard, 31, who faces four counts; and Edward Joseph O'Brien, 38, who faces one count.
'We will get more'
Cooper said the arrests are the initial results from the statewide sweep.
"We will get more," he said. "This crackdown not only targets high-volume dealers but sends a strong message to anyone trading in the business of child sexual abuse that this is a crime and it will not be tolerated in North Carolina."
State Bureau of Investigation officials who helped lead the operation said relatively new technology and data from Internet service providers lets officials pinpoint the location of high-volume traders in child pornography. They refused to disclose further details.
Cooper also used the event to appeal to state budget writers not to cut law enforcement funding amid budget deficits. "We need to send a message that public safety is a top priority," he said.
Vigil reaches out to victims
by Sara Hall
Community members gathered to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence at the sixth annual HOPE Candlelight Vigil on Thursday at Morton Park.
Angie Hunt, housing program director for HOPE of East Central Illinois, said the organization hosts the event not only as a way to observe those who have been victimized, but also a way to raise awareness for an often unspoken cause.
"We need to put a face to it," she said. "It's important that we know domestic violence can happen to any one of us."
Hunt said the event is designated as an outlet for victims and survivors to speak out against abuse.
She said the victims' response is overwhelming, yet empowering.
"It's powerful," she said. "It's heartbreaking, but it's also victorious. You go through every emotion."
Hunt, who survived domestic violence 20 years ago, said the statistics of abuse are unacceptably high, and that it is her mission to provide those looking for shelter and a way out of their current situation.
"That's what helps women," she said. "We've got to get them to a safer place and life."
Hunt said she is especially inspired to hear family members of survivors speak at the event.
"They appreciate the support," she said. "It means a lot to them to publicly honor their loved ones."
Domestic violence survivor Kelly Rardin described the event as "amazing," saying it is a way for domestic violence survivors to have their voices heard.
"It brings up a lot of memories, but it also enables you to rise up. You know you're not alone," she said.
Rardin, who also shared her personal story of domestic violence at the vigil, said her ex-husband of 21 years physically and emotionally abused her.
However, through the support of HOPE, she was able to rise above his abuse.
"It's a cycle," Rardin said. "If you don't stop it, it will never end. I will never let a man treat me like that again."
Camille Gordon, a HOPE employee for the past six years, said she appreciated the support of the community attending the event to take a stand against abuse.
"I love being here for the women," she said. "That's why we do it. We have people with us every day. It's never easy."
Gordon said the abuse does not stop with adults. She said women coming to HOPE often bring their children into the shelter for safety as well.
"It's heartbreaking," she said. "A lot of times (going to HOPE) is the first time they've ever felt safe. It's nice to see a weight lifted off their shoulders."
Brenda Rowling, a HOPE employee for 18 years, said she enjoys the satisfaction of knowing the organization helps give hope to those affected by domestic violence.
"It's rewarding to see someone get on with their life and have us help them to do that," she said.
Local band Motherlode performed at the vigil.
Also at the vigil was the Clothesline Project, a creative outlet in which women decorate shirts to express their thoughts on surviving abuse.
Kaitlyn Cobb, a senior psychology major and intern at HOPE, worked closely with the Clothesline Project.
"It lets them express how they're feeling and stand up to domestic violence," she said.
Erika Butler, a junior business management major, said she came to the event as a way to show her support for survivors.
"It's important to build empowerment and build confidence in women," she said.
Josh Nugent, a senior psychology major and member of Delta Chi, said he personally knows women who have been affected by domestic violence.
"It's an important topic that needs to be addressed," he said. "It's an issue that happens all over."
Sammy Sheely, a freshman biological science major, said she was glad to see such a large crowd in support of the event.
"It's a shock," she said. "It's good to see a lot of people here because it helps bring more of an impact."
Another Super Bowl, Another Sex Trafficking Panic
by Mark Kernes
Oct 27th, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. —Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has a problem: What to do about all the forced prostitution that he's sure will be happening when Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl this winter on February 6.
Of course, Zoeller's actual problem is that he (and his cadre of advisors and consultants) haven't yet figured out that most of the women involved in prostitution have affirmatively chosen their profession—and that all those statistics he's been reading about the number of trafficked women and children in the U.S.—he's claiming that "[a]s many as 300,000 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 are lured into the United States' sex industry annually"—are staggeringly inflated.
"He [Zoeller] said the recent track record of America's most-watched sporting event suggests that along with it comes an uptick in women, especially those under age 18, who are brought into the United States illegally and forced into prostitution," wrote Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press .
See, even though the Indianapolis 500, Indiana's biggest sporting event, draws hundreds of thousands more fans to the city than a Super Bowl, Zoeller's sure there'll be more hooking because, "It's the international focus. It's a different kind of sporting event."
Apparently he's confused about the fact that when pretty much everyone else in the world says "football," they're talking about what we call "soccer." Apples and oranges, don't'cha know?
But no; Zoeller's paranoia will be prostitutes' problem, if he has anything to say about it.
After a September 30 "training session" called by Zoeller for "law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates," he's urging the state legislature to pass a new law that would criminalize "the organized exploitation of children by people who profit from the sale of sex with minors"—or as we know them, "pimps," whose activities we suspect are already illegal.
"Our goal is to increase awareness that prostitution isn't a victimless crime," Zoeller claimed. "Many of these young women who enter the sex trade are often physically forced, coerced, raped or imprisoned by their traffickers."
Trouble is, apparently all that force, coercion, rape and imprisonment is really, really well hidden.
"If they [police] know what to look for, what questions to ask, we're hoping we can identify more victims and serve them," said Abby Kuzma, director of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office.
And if they can't find "victims" to "serve," they'll do their best to create them. Just three days after the confab, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police (with a Fox 59 News crew in tow) raided three massage parlors in Marion County, seizing massage tables, computers and arrested two women, neither of whom were minors, and neither of whom appeared to have been "trafficked."
Not too surprisingly, officials in Dallas, Texas, the site of the most recent Super Bowl, made similar predictions about the impending rampant sex-trafficked child prostitution, yet interestingly, no one appears to have done any follow-up after the 2011 Super Bowl to see how many trafficked child prostitutes were discovered servicing Super Bowl attendees.
Perhaps in Indiana, the news media will be a bit more thorough.
Human trafficking forum urges international partnerships
Cracking human trafficking rings is highly challenging without international collaboration.
Oct 28, 2011
The China Post/Asia News Network
Experts from around the globe gathered and exchanged tactics and logistics on battling crimes against human rights yesterday, at the 2011 International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking, in Taipei.
Taiwan held its fifth annual anti-human trafficking workshop at the Taipei Howard International House yesterday, this time aiming to strengthen international cooperation on the basis of the four Ps -- prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnership -- with the focus laid on the last P.
Human trafficking is a crime that crosses national borders and has long been of global concern. As defined by the US Department of Homeland Security, such actions are exploitation-based, and always involve actions induced by force, fraud, or coercion. In the case of commercial sex acts, "sex trafficking;" for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude or slavery, "forced labor."
Cracking human trafficking rings is highly challenging without international collaboration. For one, victims often fear cooperating with authorities and in many cases would simply prefer to return to their home countries. If a victim is willing to speak up, in addition to the language and cultural barriers, the necessary asylum, psychological and health treatments all need to be taken care of. Comprehensive global partnerships are vital to mitigate such challenges.
Taiwan has also seen cases of human trafficking, Premier Wu Den-yih pointed out at the closing ceremony. Wu pointed out that "In the olden days, families would sell their daughters for prostitution in times of economic struggles."
The nation has long been striving to counter attack. Beginning from November 2006 when the "Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan" was approved by the Executive Yuan, a series of measures have been taken against the crime, and in June 2009 the "Human Trafficking Prevention Act" was finally authorized.
Institution and implementation of the act has led Taiwan to leap from the 2006 Tier 2 ranking on the Trafficking in Persons Report (the TIP report), as announced by the US Department of State, to Tier 1 in 2010 and 2011.
While only 32 countries across the globe were ranked as Tier 1, Taiwan and South Korea are the only Asian countries so recognized, Wu said. The government will continue to fight human trafficking through establishing international contracts on the matter, and also through joining forces with domestic non-governmental organizations.
Montgomery's proposal stirs debate over child welfare
by Mary K. Reinhart
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's proposal to require police, not Child Protective Services, to investigate child-abuse allegations spotlights a key dispute over how to improve the state's child-welfare system.
In a variant on proposals dating a decade or more, Montgomery wants an investigative unit separate from CPS to decide whether police or caseworkers handle certain abuse reports.
If investigators deem a child a potential victim of serious abuse, authorities would segregate the child from other family members, including siblings, and place the child with a specially trained foster family. CPS would have no further involvement.
Child-welfare debate over the years often centers on the CPS' dual role as an investigative and social-services agency, and second-guessing over cases that go wrong often revolves around why caseworkers didn't remove the children.
Montgomery said current law and policies requiring law enforcement and CPS work together aren't being followed. He said he's appalled at the number of recent child deaths – 15 dead children in the 11 months he has been in office – and the fact that four of the children had open CPS files.
“CPS has proven itself incapable year after year in dealing with children who are victimized,” Montgomery said. “They don't remove children that they should. And those children wind up dead. We're not going to do this anymore.”
Clarence Carter, director of the Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services, was traveling Wednesday, and other officials in his office would not comment. Carter and Montgomery are expected to co-chair Gov. Jan Brewer's task force on child safety, which she will name later this week.
But other child-welfare advocates say Montgomery's plan goes too far.
Dana Wolfe Naimark, CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, said she understands Montgomery's frustration in light of a string of child-abuse injuries and deaths, including 6-year-old Jacob Gibson, who was the subject of five CPS reports before his Aug. 14 death.
“Law enforcement is no silver bullet. And we know that from the Jacob Gibson case, where police were called to the home multiple times,” Naimark said.
“And still Jacob ended up dying a horrible death.”
Naimark said CPS and police have separate but overlapping missions.
Both may be necessary for a child's safety and well-being.
Jury awards former foster child $2 million from state of Oregon over abuse suffered at hands of foster parents
by Aimee Green
A Multnomah County jury unanimously awarded $2 million Wednesday to a former foster child who was abused and starved for two years while under the watch of state child welfare workers.
An attorney for the boy successfully argued that the Oregon Department of Human Services repeatedly failed to protect the boy despite repeated reports to a child-abuse hotline. The boy lived in the Clackamas County foster home of Thelma and William Beaver from 2002 to 2004. He weighed more at age 1, when he moved into the home, than at age 3, about the time he was removed from the home.
B.D.'s older sister, then known as Jordan Knapp, also suffered. She weighed just 28 pounds at age 5, when she was flown by Life Flight helicopter to OHSU with a broken skull. The girl's injury -- not a long list of reports of suspected abuse to the hotline -- spurred DHS to remove the children from the foster home for good. Attorney Scott Kocher filed suit on behalf of Jordan, and days before B.D.'s trial, settled the case with the state for $1.5 million.
The children, along with a younger sister, have since been adopted by one family. Their adopted mom hugged B.D.'s attorney, John Devlin, after the Wednesday's verdict was announced.
Jurors awarded precisely the amount Devlin had asked for.
"This isn't just about helping (B.D.), it's also about helping other foster children by getting DHS to do a better job," Devlin said. "The defense was not only that (DHS) didn't do anything wrong, but that (B.D.) wasn't abused and starved."
Attorneys representing DHS weren't available for comment Wednesday.
Juror David Filmer said he was convinced that DHS didn't do enough to protect the boy, especially after his second hospitalization for failing to gain weight.
"We all really felt that the system was flawed," Filmer said. "That calls would come into the help line, and ...the response was insufficient."
At least 10 of the jurors spread the fault among the State of Oregon and five current and former DHS caseworkers and supervisors: Lesley Willette, Steve Duerscherl, Shirley Vollmuller, Peggy Gilmer and Audrey Riggs. Willette and Vollmuller still work at DHS, while the others have retired, Devlin said.
Because the jury also found that the boy's civil rights were violated, Devlin can seek that his attorneys fees be paid for by the state.
The 3 1/2 week trial included testimony from about 50 witnesses, said Devlin. The boy, who is now 10, took the stand for a short while. He spoke of lingering memories of life in the double-wide trailer that his foster parents and seven other children shared. He said he remembered being forced to sleep in the dog house.
According to lawsuits filed on behalf of the boy and Jordan, the Beavers horribly mistreated the children. A child advocate nicknamed the boy "Mr. Won't Smile." And DHS workers didn't believe Jordan when she repeatedly told them of her suffering. According to her lawsuit, her hands were beaten with a wooden spoon, she was hit with a hairbrush, she was held upside down by her feet and her head slammed against furniture and door frames, and she was forced her to sleep outdoors without blankets.
Thelma Beaver was sentenced to five years in prison for criminal mistreatment of Jordan, and William Beaver received two years of probation. for a lesser charge.
Jordan still faces challenges in her life, but the settlement "will make a big difference in making sure her future is as good as it can be," said Jordan's attorney, Kocher.
The boy has made a "remarkable" physical recovery, Devlin said. The jury's award will compensate the boy for what could be life-long psychological trauma.
"He's not the same kid he was when he was placed in the Beaver home," Devlin said.
A&M coaches speaking up for children
by CASSIE SMITH
October 27, 2011
Texas A&M University baseball coach Rob Childress reminded local residents Wednesday that there are plenty of abused and neglected children in the Bryan-College Station area who need help.
One way to do that, he added, is by becoming a Court-Appointed Special Advocate on behalf of those kids.
"The amount of kids continue to grow -- so does the need for the amount of CASAs," Childress said during the unveiling of a new media campaign on behalf of child advocacy programs.
Texas A&M football coach Mike Sherman and basketball coach Gary Blair are joining Childress in teaming with the nonprofit Voices for Children Inc. CASA of Brazos Valley to encourage residents to advocate for children who've been placed in the state's custody.
The coaches are participating in a new statewide campaign by shooting individual and group commercials for the Texas CASA -- advertisements the organization hopes will reach a broad audience.
Coaches from Texas Tech, Baylor, the University of Texas and Texas State have also signed on.
Texas has the highest rate of child abuse in the nation.
Incorporated in 2000, Voices For Children trains CASA volunteers from the community to follow a child through the welfare court system, a journey that often lasts 12 to 18 months. The volunteer advocates for the child throughout the process.
Last year, 78 people donated more than 6,000 hours advocating for 183 children. The organization raises its funds through foundations, federal, state, and local government grants, special events and individual giving.
Liana Lowey, Voices for Children executive director, said the organization particularly needs male volunteers who can serve as positive role models for boys.
"More than half the children in foster care are boys, but only 18 percent of the volunteers statewide are men," she said, adding studies show children with CASA volunteers spend less time in foster care.
The nonprofit has served 30 percent more children this past fiscal year than previously, she said.
"It's such a bittersweet topic to say we're growing and serving more children because it means more children are being abused ... It's not a role for everybody, but there is a child out there waiting for there to be someone speaking up for them," she said.
Kevin O'Neill and his wife, Anne, have been CASA volunteers for almost 10 years.
"You see all the kids in foster care and some of them really have had some bad situations," O'Neill said.
It's a rewarding process to help the children find permanent, stable and loving homes, he said. Sometimes the only consistent person in a child's life is a CASA volunteer because they're being bounced from foster care to foster home, he said. That's why it's so important to have volunteers advocating for that child's best interest, he said. O'Neill said he's helped 10 children.
"Every one of them is better off than when they came into the system," he said. "But I'm just a small part of it."
Voices for Children Inc. CASA of Brazos Valley
115 N. Main St. in Bryan,
* In 2010, 227 Texas children died of abuse and neglect and nearly 59 percent of those children were infants to 6 years old.
* Nearly 43,000 children were in foster care the same year.
* Voices for Children, Inc. CASA of Brazos Valley had 79 CASA volunteers advocating for 183 of the 296 children in the tri-county area, donating 6,000 hours of time.
For more information, go to voicesforchildreninc.org, becomeacasa.org or casaofthesouthplains.org
The Hidden Wiki: an internet underworld of child abuse
Beyond the web we use every day there is a lawless underworld of child abuse and black marketeering that is difficult for authorities to investigate, Christopher Williams reports.
by Christopher Williams
A rare shaft of light has shone on one of the darkest corners of the internet in recent days. A latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah, it is a place where rape and murder are openly advertised, and earthly authorities appear almost powerless to intervene.
This is the lawless world of darknets and specifically the Hidden Wiki, a site that isn't on the web, that nobody reaches directly from Google and that can only be accessed using special tools.
This digital underworld has come to the attention of law-abiding web users thanks to an illegal, if arguably not immoral, act. Last week, Anonymous, a self-styled digital protest movement, hacked into Lolita City, a website advertised on the Hidden Wiki that offered gigabytes of images of child abuse to paying paedophiles.
Anonymous “hacktivists” first approached the company hosting Lolita City and demanded it remove the abhorrent material. When their demands were ignored, they launched a two-pronged digital assault, forcing the hosting company offline and breaching the security of Lolita City's systems to publicly expose the login details of more than 1,500 paedophiles.
“It does not matter who you are, if we find you to be hosting, promoting, or supporting child pornography, you will become a target,” Anonymous said.
The action attracted attention in part because it represented a significant shift in tactics for Anonymous, which has previously targeted government agencies and corporations for hacking. But for many the mere existence of the Hidden Wiki and its unsavoury yet openly available contents was revelatory.
The site does not just help paedophiles, who are even offered advice on creating new secure websites to distribute more images of child abuse. It also promotes money laundering services, contract killing, cyber attacks to order and restricted chemicals, along with instructions on how to make explosives.
There is nothing technically remarkable about the Hidden Wiki itself. It looks like any other basic website, with user-updated lists of links, organised into categories.
“The big deal about the Hidden Wiki was that it was put up as the dark market of ideas and wares,” said Scot Terban, an independent security researcher who was among the first to draw attention to the Hidden Wiki outside its underground audience.
“It's kind of like any black market operation except this one was in cyberspace and pretty much completely anonymous.
“Because it was anonymous, people felt free to trade openly in illegal things, mess around by putting up ads for services like hired assassins, and in the end, became a haven for paedophiles and their content.”
The Hidden Wiki relies on free software called Tor to accomplish this anonymity and to remain out of sight of the average web user. Tor users' internet traffic is bounced around a global network of computers that obscure its true source. A website on the network, such as the Hidden Wiki, can only be accessed by those who have installed the Tor software, and its own location is also obscured.
So when a user accesses the Hidden Wiki, neither end knows with whom they are really communicating. Any police or intelligence authority trying to investigate the trade in images of child abuse or contract killing would find it much more difficult than under normal circumstances on the web.
The irony of this is that Tor was actually invented by the US government and the software itself is completely legal, at least in the West. While it can help paedophiles avoid detection, it also helps dissidents in Iran and China to circumvent online censorship and surveillance. Tor is now maintained and developed on a non-profit basis by a group of talented security engineers with funding from the US state department.
“When I wrote about the Hidden Wiki before, I had already contacted the FBI and they knew of it,” said Mr Terban.
“They said that it was in the Tor network, and there wasn't much they could do. The way I see it, in this instance, the Anonymous collective did a public service by exposing it and Lolita City. The authorities either lack the skills to do this, or, they are legally bound not to.”
Some security experts disagree with Mr Terban's positive view of Anonymous' action, which has sparked a debate about online vigilantism. Investigations could have been compromised when paedophiles were exposed, it's argued.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, British policing's specialist agency for investigating child abuse, is aware of the Hidden Wiki and other darknets, and the challenges they pose.
“We cannot talk about specific sites for operational reasons. However we are aware that some child sex offenders are using these systems in an attempt to conceal their identity and activities,” a spokesman said.
“So called ‘hidden sites' are not new and the system they use poses some challenges to law enforcement. We continue to use a variety of techniques to monitor online environments used by offenders so we can identify them and safeguard children.”
It's some task. Estimates vary wildy, but the Hidden Wiki is just one part of an underground internet which is thought to be hundreds of times larger than the web most of us use every day.
'Serial child predator' gets 30 years for sexually abusing Lame Deer girls
by CLAIR JOHNSON
A federal judge sentenced a Washington state man Wednesday to spend 30 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting two Lame Deer girls.
In sentencing James Hisbadhorse, 44, of Tacoma, Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull went well beyond the guideline range of about 15 to 20 years.
A 30-year term, Cebull said, was the only sentence that would protect the public from more crimes by Hisbadhorse. The sentence was within the statutory maximum of life.
The judge ordered the sentence to run consecutively to an 18-year sentence that Hisbadhorse received in 2007 in Washington. Hisbadhorse pleaded guilty in the Washington case to raping and sexually abusing two girls, including repeatedly raping a 6-year-old girl.
Cebull flatly rejected a request by assistant federal defender Dave Merchant for concurrent sentences to give Hisbadhorse some hope for release.
“What kind of hope do you think was offered to these little girls?” he asked. No matter how much counseling the victims may get, they will live with the abuse for the rest of their lives, Cebull said.
“You are, Mr. Hisbadhorse, a serial child predator,” Cebull said. “You committed the crimes in a serial fashion. You'll pay for it in a serial fashion.”
Hisbadhorse pleaded guilty in April to aggravated sexual abuse and to abusive sexual contact for molesting two Lame Deer girls who were both under the age of 12 at the time. There was no plea agreement.
“I've changed a lot since I've been in prison,” Hisbadhorse said. He said he had accepted responsibility.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd said the abuse went on for about a year beginning in April 2005 in Lame Deer. Two girls told authorities during medical exams and in interviews that Hisbadhorse had sexually abused them.
Law enforcement officers questioned Hisbadhorse about the Lame Deer assaults in Spokane, Wash., where he was incarcerated in state prison for sexually assaulting two other children, Hurd said. Hisbadhorse admitted sexually abusing the older Lame Deer victim two times while drunk but denied the allegations of the younger victim, she said.
Merchant argued for a 15-year, concurrent sentence, saying Hisbadhorse was drunk when he committed the assaults and that by pleading guilty, did not put the victims through a trial.
“He had nothing to lose by going to trial. He chose to do the right thing,” Merchant said.
Also, because of the federal conviction, Washington parole authorities indicated that Hisbadhorse likely would have to wait longer to become eligible for parole, Merchant said.
“This is a man who just shouldn't be out of prison,” Hurd said.
Erin Merryn's Law would mandate child sex abuse education
by Kat De Maria
A woman who was a victim of sexual abuse says more needs to be done to make children aware of the problem. She says that education needs to happen in schools. And some of New York's lawmakers agree. As our Kat De Maria tells us, Senators David Valesky and Jeff Klein are planning to introduce Erin Merryn's Law.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. --"My innocence was killed, my childhood was taken. My voice was silenced. And I lived in that silence," Erin Merryn said.
Merryn says starting when she was six, she was sexually abused by a neighbor, then at 11 by an older cousin.
"(It) brings me back to remembering being six-years-old being abused. Now I have somebody I love and trust abusing me," Merryn said.
Merryn didn't tell anyone until she was 13 and she suspected her sister was also being abused. She says she learned in school not to take candy from strangers and to stay away from drugs and alcohol, but nothing about things like inappropriate touching or secrets. Now, at 26, she's working to get a law passed to require child sexual abuse education.
"Where I was failed in my childhood. I don't want other kids to be failed," Merryn said.
Tuesday in Syracuse, Merryn joined Senators David Valesky and Jeff Klein, who are planning to introduce Erin Merryn's Law.
"If we're really going to take this problem seriously, if we're really going to protect our young people and make sure they're not victims of abuse, we need education," Klein said.
"We as legislators have to do everything we can to protect our most precious resource, the children of Central New York and New York State," Valesky said.
The education would start as early as preschool and be age-appropriate. Advocates from agencies like McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Site and Vera House say they work with victims as young as six.
"I think it's important that we get to the younger Kindergarten through second graders so they can understand what self-esteem is about, who are the safe adults to go to," said McMahon Ryan Executive Director Julie Cecile.
"Legislation that requires all schools to give this information to children helps to create a safer society for those who need us most," said Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman.
Valesky and Klein are sponsoring Erin Merryn's Law as members of the Senate's independent democratic conference, which does not have a counterpart in the Assembly. But the senators say they expect broad support.
"This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue for anyone who cares about kids and children and doing the right thing," Valesky said.
Valesky and Klein say they plan to introduce Erin Merryn's Law when the Senate convenes in January. If passed, they're hoping to have curricula in the schools next year.
Erin Merryn is working to pass her law in all 50 states. So far, it has been adopted in Illinois and Missouri.
Montgomery proposes new system of child protection
He's been in office for 11 months and already he's seen 11 children beaten to death, some of them because Child Protective Services “missed the right call.” Now Maricopa County's top prosecutor is proposing a major change in the way Arizona handles reports of child abuse.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery wants to create a new unit to initially investigate calls, taking them out of hands of CPS and bringing in trained investigators. The unit would be independent of CPS and would serve as the gatekeeper of a new two-track system set up to handle abuse and neglect.
If an investigator believes that criminal abuse has occurred, the case would be routed to police and CPS would have no involvement. If a social services response is warranted, the case would move to CPS.
“Let them focus on what their core competencies are, which is to try to come up with a case plan to keep a family together …,” Montgomery told me. “Let's let them be successful at that mission then let's take part of what they're doing right now and put it somewhere else where it can be successful and give kids a fighting chance.”
Kids like Janie Buelna and Jacob Gibson and Annie Carimbocas, all beaten to death this year after CPS walked away.
Montgomery, who will serve on Gov. Jan Brewer's task force to reform CPS, says he envisions several changes to state laws, aimed at strengthening protections for children. He also was involved in the 2008 efforts to reform the agency, efforts that he says were thwarted at every turn by child-welfare advocates who had the backing of then-Gov. Janet Napolitano and who staunchly opposed any proposal that would undermine efforts to reunify families.
Montgomery shakes his head at the reunification-at-all-costs philosophy, pointing out the children are the only crime victims that we set out to send back into the arms of their abusers.
“When a woman is caught in that cycle of domestic violence, we try to get her to a safe house,” he said. “We try to get orders of protection so that there can be no contact. We encourage her to leave, get a divorce, never see that person again. And yet we as a society will deliberately walk that child back into the arms of the person who criminally abused them and say we can make this good. Nonsense.”
Under Montgomery's plan, a unit of investigators, certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, would handle the initial calls to the Child Abuse Hotline. The unit would be separate from CPS but could be a part of the Department of Economic Security unit which investigates welfare fraud.
If an investigator believes that a child had suffered abuse serious enough to warrant a class four felony, he would route the case to police. The child would be placed with foster parents trained specificially to deal with crime victims. Upon conviction, the case would move to severance of parental rights – with the burden shifting to the parents to demonstrate why they should get to keep their kids -- and adoption.
If an investigator believes the case is one in which a social services response is warranted – for example, neglect due to not having proper supervision or overzealous parental discipline – the case would go to CPS, which would provide services to support the family.
Montgomery believes a two-track system, based upon the degree of threat and harm to the child, could actually lead to far fewer children being removed from their homes because the standard for removal could be higher in the CPS system, where the child is not at risk of serious injury or death.
“There's one part of the community that says we never take away kids soon enough or fast enough to keep them safe. Another part of the community says we take kids away too often and the government is way too intrusive. If you bifurcate this, you can also have two different environments in which the respective rights and needs to keep kids safe are balanced.”
It's a masterful idea: entirely different responses for entirely different circumstances.
If people trained in investigative tactics are making the initial call on whether a case is a crime, then maybe a few Janies and Jacobs could be saved.
And if CPS caseworkers aren't laying awake at night, worrying about making a mistake that could lead to a child's death? Well, maybe we wouldn't have to have 11,000 kids in foster care.
“To some degree,” Montgomery says, “we have unfairly expected CPS to try to have big hearts and open arms and at the same time have an iron fist.”
Mental health study group formed in wake of Delaware child sexual abuse continues
Lawmakers question DHS officials on child abuse cases, policy changes
by Sara Goldenberg
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - State lawmakers continue to call for an overhaul of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
On Tuesday, a handful of DHS commissioners met with state representatives.
State Representatives Mike Sanders and Richard Morrissette met with two DHS commissioners last week.
This week, several more commissioners voluntarily attended another meeting addressing concerns over the management of DHS, as well as several cases of child abuse and deaths under the department's supervision.
According to the DHS, 129 children have died while in state care in the last decade. In recent years, numerous cases of child abuse and neglect have come to light.
Three years ago, an audit of DHS made recommendations for changes. Lawmakers say only a few of the audit's suggestions have been taken since then. But DHS officials say they implemented recommendations that they could, under a strained budget.
Lawmakers questioned how they could reform the system, when there are still many unanswered questions. They asked DHS commissioners if specific cases involving the deaths of children under the agency's care had been reviewed. Commissioners answered yes, there were reviews, but were unable to elaborate.
So lawmakers are pushing for change.
"I'm going to suggest, maybe to my two colleagues here, that we put a petition on the ballot to change the constitution, to change this commission. We can do it next year, and put it on the November 12th ballot," said Rep. Richard Morrissette (D- Oklahoma CIty).
DHS officials say they're working with lawmakers in an effort to show transparency.
"None of us are Superman. None of us have a magic wand. But if we work together, I believe we can get this ball pushed down," said Brad Yarbrough, the newly appointed chairman of the DHS commission.
Lawmakers also pointed out that the director of DHS, Howard Hendrick, has not undergone a mandatory annual review since 2008.
DHS officials would not set a date on Tuesday for that review to be held.
A separate task force has also been formed by Speaker of the House Kris Steele, to come up with a strategy to reform DHS. In the meantime, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has formed its own special review committee to take a look at possible changes.
Baby P lessons are STILL not learned: Medical staff failing to spot signs of child abuse
- Ofsted says doctors and nurses often place too much emphasis on the mother's needs
- Report says role of abusive fathers has been ignored
by Steve Doughty
Hundreds of babies have died at the hands of drunken, drugged or violent parents because medical staff did too little to save them, a damning report said yesterday.
In case after case, they failed to spot the warning signs of abuse or to realise a child could be in danger before it was even born.
The critical Ofsted report reveals doctors and nurses often placed too much emphasis on the mother's needs at the expense of the baby, underestimating its ‘fragility'.
The role of abusive fathers and the dangers they posed had been ‘marginalised' or ignored.
There has been increasing concern about how local authorities and medical staff care for vulnerable children following the death of 17-month-old Baby Peter Connelly in 2007. He suffered months of abuse at his home despite being on the at-risk register.
The Ofsted inquiry looked at hundreds of cases in which children suffered death or serious injury at the hands of their parents, known as serious case reviews, between 2007 and 2011.
Investigators focused on the role of health workers who came into contact with families, such as GPs, midwives and health visitors. They said: ‘The agency most frequently involved with babies is health. In some serious case reviews this was the only agency that had involvement with the families.'
The report stated the deaths of babies under a year old were often a result of shortcomings by NHS staff, who failed to do their jobs properly or to tell each other what was going on.
In one case, a baby boy starved to death after a GP failed to carry out basic checks on his weight.
Another baby was shaken to death after the health workers assessing his family failed to notice the father had a long criminal record.
In a third, a depressed mother suffocated her baby. Doctors and health workers were so worried about protecting her privacy, they failed to report that she could be a risk to her child.
Ofsted examined 210 cases of deaths and serious injuries to babies under a year old from 2007 to this year.
It found ‘repeated examples of agencies underestimating the risks from parents' background and lifestyle', including drug or alcohol misuse and being abused as a child.
Among problems were failures to check on mothers before a child was born.
In one case, a newborn baby in Devon died six days after being allowed to leave hospital at just 13 hours old, even though NHS agencies had detailed records about the parents' alcoholism, domestic abuse and concerns about the neglect of older siblings.
Dangerous fathers were often ignored. One baby who suffered 16 broken bones, which were deliberately inflicted, was said to have a ‘supportive' father. In fact, he had a criminal record and was aggressive when drunk.
In another case, a prematurely born baby was discharged from hospital against medical advice.
Nurse visits were stopped and a GP failed to properly check the boy's weight. He died at a few months old from multiple organ failure and malnourishment.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said the problems highlighted why it was so important to have set up the Munro review into child safety.
Chris Cuthbert, for the NSPCC, said the charity was ‘deeply concerned' by the report and added: ‘It is clear that babies are still being let down by overstretched services. We will shortly publish our own research on the issue.'
Child sex abuse UK web content cut
A total of 87,000 web pages featuring images of child sexual abuse have been deleted over the past 15 years, according to a foundation which polices the internet.
But while the proportion of criminal pages hosted in the UK has dropped significantly, foreign-hosted websites remain a problem and images are becoming increasingly extreme.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), based in Cambridge, is the UK's hotline for reporting criminal content online and is celebrating its 15th anniversary by highlighting the impact it has had after assessing 370,000 web pages and removing 87,000 containing criminal content.
Chief executive Susie Hargreaves said the foundation was proud of the work it had done so far but added that combating the continued threat remained a priority.
She added: "Although we've had tremendous success domestically, child sexual abuse content on the internet is a problem the IWF and the industry are eager to tackle wherever it is hosted.
"With the industry and partner hotlines' support we've been able to remove 87,000 web pages containing some of the worst content depicting the rape and sexual torture of young children and babies."
Since the IWF was launched, the volume of UK-hosted child sexual abuse content has reduced from 18% in 1997 to less than 1% since 2003 but there is still a problem with child sexual abuse content hosted around the world.
During its history 45% of worldwide web pages assessed and removed featured images of children aged 10 years and under, including babies. Over the past four years this figure has risen to 73.5%.
The foundation says this suggests content is becoming more extreme and all reports to the IWF are assessed by a team of analysts who have an exemption within the law to enable them to view potentially criminal content.
When child sexual abuse content is found and hosted within the UK, it is shared with the police and removed within hours thanks to the responsible actions of the online industry.
Texas sexual assaults appear to target sorority's alumnae
Texas police are searching for a man who allegedly broke into the homes of four former members of the same sorority and sexually assaulted them.
The alleged attacks -- all on alumnae of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority -- took place this year in the Dallas area, in the north Texas cities of Plano, Coppell and Corinth, police said. Plano police released a surveillance video (later aired by CNN and other media outlets) shot in April showing the suspect, a heavyset black male in his late 30s to mid-40s. Investigators declined to say where the video was filmed.
The alleged victims were all black females in their mid-50s to mid-60s. They say the suspect had information suggesting that he knew them, but investigators say they believe the man was a stranger who had been casing their homes in preparation for his attacks.
The suspect may have obtained an old sorority directory or tracked would-be victims with Delta Sigma Theta license-plate holders, jewelry or other items, Corinth Police Capt. Greg Wilkerson told The Times.
“We're confident that that's a common denominator between the four victims — what we don't know is how he's obtaining the information,” Wilkerson said.
All of the assaults occurred in "residential settings" between 9:15 p.m. and 4 a.m. when the victims were alone, Wilkerson said. The alleged attack in Corinth, 35 miles northwest of Dallas, took place Oct. 14.
Identifying the suspect has proven difficult both because the victims were often asleep when the man entered their homes and because he attempted to conceal his identity, Wilkerson said.
Corinth police and other departments investigating the assaults were processing physical evidence Tuesday to determine if they have DNA from the suspect, Wikerson said.
“Once we get the lab results back and determine if there is DNA, we'll reach out to other agencies and see if they match,” he said. Authorities will also compare any DNA obtained in the assaults to that in the CODIS database to determine whether it matches that of any known offenders.
Wilkerson described the suspect as weighing from 275 to 300 pounds, between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9 inches tall, balding or with a shaved head, and a distinctive "swagger." The suspect appears to wear glasses in the surveillance video, although he did not wear them during the Corinth attack, Wilkerson said.
The victims are members of different chapters of the sorority, Wilkerson said. Police have advised members of the sorority in the Dallas area to be on the alert, not to wear sorority insignias or to go out alone at night.
The sorority's Washington-based headquarters issued a statement this week urging members in the Dallas area to take precautions.
“While it is not yet confirmed that these victims were targeted because of their affiliation with the sorority, we are erring on the side of caution and are advising our members in the Dallas area to take the necessary precautionary measures," Cynthia M.A. Butler-McIntyre, Delta Sigma Theta's president, said in the statement. "We encourage members to be alert, remain aware of their surroundings and to call the police if they see anything suspicious or feel threatened.”
Panal addresses human trafficking
by Sean Keister
October 26, 2011
A representative from Sacramento's Opening Doors came to Sacramento State Thursday, where she spoke about the human trafficking epidemic in the Sacramento region.
Human trafficking is an issue that continues to grow. It is defined as a pattern of power and control used to extract labor or services for financial or material gain.
It is said that 50 percent of all human trafficking is sex exploitation, such as prostitution. While the other half is labor.
To a crowd of around 45 students, the speaker, Tanya Shannon shared the horrors of human trafficking.
Shannon started in January 2008 as an intern at Opening Doors before the group got funding to have a separate human trafficking department at Opening Doors. She became that program's director.
"Due to the current economy, human trafficking is growing exponentially," Shannon said. "There is a lot of work that needs to be done."
Sacramento has been ranked third of cities in the nation in the amount of trafficked. Between 14,500 and 17,500 are victimized every year.
With the economic crisis, places like massage parlors that use trafficked prostitutes go unchecked by the police who do not have the resources to do regular stings.
"Resources are dwindling, so we now heavily rely on volunteers for our organizations," Shannon said.
California is the top destination in the country because of the number of harbors and airports in the state.
Tutie Snowden, junior sociology major, hopes to help fight the issue of human trafficking through the degree she is working on.
"My eyes were open after seeing this documentary about very young girls being exploited," Snowden said. "I got very emotional and decided to change my major from psychology to sociology."
Sacramento has ranked as high as second on the list of cities with the highest amount of child prostitution.
It was not until 2005 when Senate Bill 1569 was enacted, which made human trafficking a felony in California.
"It really made me sad because I didn't realize Sacramento was a hub for trafficking and how many people were exploited," Snowden said. "I just want to help these victims."
Anise Shah, graduate international affairs student, has long been aware of the issue of human trafficking.
"Being an international student, I had focused so much on that aspect, I hadn't realized what a huge problem it was here," Shah said.
Senior journalism major Madina Noristani is the president of Peace and Conflict International. The group is making human trafficking their issue to bring attention to the campus this semester.
"I was just really happy just to see how many people came out, and really care about what we stand for," Noristani said. "I hope we can encourage others to change."
Sacramento is appealing to traffickers because of the large, most-often exploited immigrant population. The city's convenient location on the Interstate 5 corridor between I-80 and Highway 50 is also a factor in its popularity among traffickers.
"It's happening in our own backyards," Noristani said. "We want people to keep their eyes open to this issue."
Mother fights for reform of law to help other children
October 25, 2011
by Deb Gau MARSHALL
A southwest Minnesota woman is petitioning for a change in how reports of child sexual abuse are handled, at both a state and national level.
Sarah Guggisberg of Clara City says she's working for better communication and faster response in abuse cases, after seeing the suffering sexual abuse has caused her own family.
"We need to be aware of the effects of sexual abuse," Guggisberg said. "It needs to be a priority."
Guggisberg is calling her proposed changes "Jacob's Law," after her son Jacob, 12.
Guggisberg said her family's life was changed in the spring of 2009, when Jacob told her he had been a victim of sexual abuse four years earlier.
"Jacob was scared that he was in trouble," for being abused, Guggisberg said. Jacob told her he had been sexually assaulted by a neighbor while on a visit to his father, who lived in Lyon County, Guggisberg said. Guggisberg said after reporting the abuse, she learned authorities had received information about Jacob's case, related to other abuse complaints. But she maintains she was never contacted about it.
"I should have been informed," Guggisberg said, because she would have been able to get counseling for her son more quickly. "We could have dealt with this a long time ago."
Instead, Guggisberg said, Jacob was struggling to cope with his abuse. He attempted suicide, she said, and is now receiving therapy for post-traumatic stress and depression.
Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes and Southwest Health and Human Services Director Christopher Sorensen said they could not discuss or confirm Guggisberg's claims, both for client confidentiality reasons and because the incidents in the claim involved minors. However, Sorensen said, SHHS is investigating the situation.
Telephone messages left by the Independent for Jacob's father, Michael Gould, last week and Monday were not returned.
Guggisberg said she didn't want to lay blame in her son's case, but wants to help prevent other children from going through what Jacob did. "When nobody does anything about it, that's worse than the abuse itself," she said.
Guggisberg created a Facebook group for Jacob's Law, and has created online petitions at several sites. One petition is addressed to the Obama administration at the White House's "We The People" site, www.whitehouse.gov/petitions. Titled "Make the crisis of child sexual abuse a national priority," the petition calls for legislation requiring both parents of a child to be notified when sexual abuse is discovered, expedition of the court process in abuse cases, stricter penalties for abusers, and increased funding to the U.S. Department of Social Services Administration for Children and Families. As of Monday, the petition had a total of 1,568 signatures, with a goal to reach 25,000 signatures by Nov. 7.
A petition is also online at change.org, with 362 signatures out of a goal of 500, and on www.thepetitionsite.com.
Guggisberg said she also contacted Minnesota Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, about taking action on a state level.
Vogel said, at this point, his office is researching current state statutes to see whether the kind of protections Guggisberg is calling for are already in effect. If not, he said, it's an issue worth pursuing.
"We want to ensure that children don't slip through the cracks," he said.
Child advocacy center in Jackson is helping victims of abuse and their families
by Tarryl Jackson
Persuading victims of child abuse to share what they endured is challenging, Allison Yeomans said. Part of her job is to make them feel comfortable enough to open up.
“It's scary for them,” said Yeomans, a forensic interviewer and a Child Protective Services worker for the Jackson County Department of Human Services. “Kids don't want to talk. They don't want to say those things that have been going on.”
With a new child advocacy center in Jackson, local officials are trying to make the interview process less daunting for victims and their families.
“This is a safe place for children to talk about what happened,” Yeomans said.
The child advocacy center recently opened in the Center for Family Health, 505 N. Jackson St. It aims to help children in one location instead of referring them to other counties and having them go through interviews with different people.
It is a collaboration between the Center for Family Health, Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, county Department of Human Services' Child Protective Services and other organizations.
The center includes a room where a forensic interviewer can talk to a child. Law-enforcement officials, attorneys and others can observe through a two-way mirror. Since the end of August, nine interviews have taken place.
Officials do not know how many victims will be referred to the center. Jerome Colwell, director of the state's Department of Human Services Jackson office, said the Washtenaw Child Advocacy Center sees about 40 to 50 families a year. He predicts that the Jackson center could see just as many.
From September 2010 through September 2011, Child Protective Services workers in Jackson County were assigned 1,645 child-abuse cases to investigate. Of those, 47 went to court.
“There is a high volume of abuse and neglect in this county,” said Jaclyn Caroffino, children's services supervisor for the local Department of Human Services. “They are not all going to warrant the use of the (child advocacy center).”
Until recently, victims had to be interviewed multiple times at different agencies, from the police department to the hospital to a mental health center to the prosecutor's office.
After the third or fourth interview, the child's story can become disjointed and weaken the prosecutor's case against the accused, officials say.
They also said that system did not give children and their families the support and services they need to begin healing.
“I'm very excited about the prospect that we will be able to help kids who are victims of sexual abuse and reduce the trauma that comes with it,” Jackson County Prosecutor Hank Zavislak said. “It's a more compassionate way of dealing with these kids.”
AWARE Inc., which offers shelter and other services to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, is providing crisis counseling for victims, families and care givers who are referred to the center.
Wendy Gonzalez, executive director of the Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect of Jackson County, is applying for grants to provide the center with an abuse prevention program. It would educate adults about what to look for if they suspect child abuse and how to prevent it in the first place.
The program will also focus on helping organizations keep perpetrators out with proper background checks and policies to protect children.
“A lot of children don't tell a trusting adult for months or maybe even years after the abuse has happened,” Gonzalez said. “It's really hard for them.”
Scouts Canada dismisses reports it didn't share child abuse allegations
Insists it doesn't withhold information about abusive volunteers from police.
by Douglas Quan
Any time Scouts Canada receives a report about possible abuse, it will immediately suspend the volunteer leader in question and then notify police and child-welfare agencies, a spokesman said Monday.
"I can confirm that in all instances of abuse allegations, that information has been shared with the police and child-protection services," Scouts Canada spokesman John Petitti said. "That is true now and, as far as we can determine, that is true of years past."
Petitti said any suggestion that Scouts Canada has failed to share information with authorities about abuse allegations "either recently or many years past" is false.
But the organization was unable to answer other questions first raised by CBC News and its documentary series The Fifth Estate — including how many individuals have been suspended or terminated because of suspected abuse and whether the organization was searching its records to see if anyone may have slipped through the cracks.
Scouts Canada also declined Monday to respond to a report that said Scouts Canada has signed confidentiality agreements with more than a dozen sex abuse victims as part of out-of-court settlements in recent years.
The CBC quoted a former boy scout, Mark Johnston, who said he was forbidden from disclosing the amount of a settlement he signed with Scouts Canada.
"The fact that you're not allowed to talk about it, you feel victimized again," Johnston said.
But a Toronto lawyer says large organizations, including Scouts Canada, are much less inclined these days to press for sweeping gag orders than they were in the past due to public outcry.
Elizabeth Grace said there's been a general recognition that gag orders that prevent sex abuse victims from discussing the underlying allegations are "reprehensible and problematic" and are a fundamental breach of freedom of expression.
Grace, who has represented about 40 plaintiffs in lawsuits against Scouts Canada over the past decade, said she could not recall one occasion during the process of resolving a lawsuit when Scouts Canada sought to prevent a plaintiff from talking about the abuse he suffered.
"The more offensive, problematic kinds of confidentiality terms regarding what happened to a plaintiff, these are not being pushed to the same extent as they were at one time," she said.
Confidentiality agreements today tend to be more narrow in scope, typically revolving around the amount of the settlement, Grace said. And even in those cases, defendants are more open to allowing for exceptions, such as allowing plaintiffs to discuss details of settlements with their close family members or financial and legal advisers.
Defendants sometimes seek to prevent a plaintiff from disclosing the fact that there was a settlement and this can be a little more contentious, Grace said.
Rob Talach, a London, Ont., lawyer who has represented clients in lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said Monday while public outcry has had a "persuasive effect" in reducing the number of defendants insisting on sweeping gag orders, the fact that they are still seeking confidentiality terms at all is problematic.
"Muzzling is still active and in play," he said.
Any time a victim steps forward, it has the potential to create a "snowball effect" and prompt other victims to come forward, Talach said.
"The public exposure is kryptonite for the sex offender," he said.
St Kitts & Nevis
VOW calls for end to child sexual abuse
Voices of Women (VOW) a non-profit organisation has called on all Nevisians to help break the silence of child sexual abuse on Nevis. VOW has organised 3 months of activities to sensitise the Nevisian public on child sexual abuse and its effect on victims and their families. These activities will help to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
In a recent interview with reporters, Ms. Carol Williams Vice President of VOW and Ms. Gwenneth Browne President of VOW concluded that ending child sexual abuse can only be accomplished by sharing the solution of prevention, awareness and education with more people. This, in turn the two noted will build momentum and over time, change the way the nation and culture cares for, protects and nurtures the children.
Williams, who has some 30 years professional experience dealing with child sexual abuse, and believes that learning the facts about child sexual abuse helps to prevent it. "Talking about it helps prevent it. We want people to know that there is no shame in the disclosure, that in order to help the victims and their families it has to be disclosed and discussed," she said.
Browne who also has 4 years experience in psychology explained that VOW is focusing on child sexual abuse because they believe that they are part of the community and whatever happens to the community happens to them. "We are the voices of the community." This decision she however, noted has been impacted by the recent increase of incidents and reports of child sexual abuse in the Federation and Nevis in particular. "In the Federation and globally there has been an influx of child sexual abuse of both genders and it is now an epidemic," she observed. She explained that due to this reason VOW has beefed up its public education and awareness on the issue by hosting 3 months of activities from October to December to sensitise the public. These 3 months of campaigns will be done under the theme "breaking the silence, let your voice be heard," and this Browne disclosed can be done through poems, short stories, messages or thoughts. The public is advised to participate in this initiative.
According to Williams it is not that there have never been incidents of abuse before "but the reporting and response to child sexual abuse has improved." This she noted suggests that the report of abuse is increasing, implying growing awareness and willingness to confront the problem. However, she noted that it also suggest that the actual number of child sexual abuse cases is increasing. She explained that they have decided to have 3 months of activities to make a personal connection with the community through radio interviews, town hall meetings, TV appearance and interviews with the media. "We want to help break the silence of child sexual abuse, that's our main goal," she said.
Also as part of activities organised is a walkathon on the 23rd of November and the unveiling of the 100 women poster on the 24th of November. Williams explained further that once the abuse happens there is a crisis level, "we are quick to respond during the crisis, once the crisis passes everything goes underground and we stop talking." She noted that child sexual abuse is a difficult problem to address in small societies like St. Kitts and Nevis because of confidentiality, "everybody knows our neighbours, and we have lots of relatives within our neighbourhood." She also noted that accurate data's on the prevalence of child and adolescent sexual abuse are difficult to collect because of problems of underreporting and the public's definition of what constitutes such abuse.
However, there is general agreement among the two experts that child sexual abuse is not uncommon and is a serious problem in the Federation. Sexual abuse of children by male or female perpetrators they both noted is damaging to both girls and boys. Williams informed that perpetrators look for their victims, "it is a premeditated violence, they look for a vulnerable woman and when the mother is vulnerable the children are also vulnerable. It is either the woman is not financially well-off or she just got out of a bad relationship, "she cited. She also informed that 92 percent of child sexual abusers are males and that they are usually close relatives or friends of victims.
She advised families of victims of child sexual abuse to, "teach our children prevention and to say no loudly and do whatever they have to do to get away. Tell someone, keep telling until someone listens and do something about it. Sexual abuse is about power and control and sex is the weapon. It is violence, offenders choose children because they are easy to control and we have to teach our children that they are not at fault. When abuse is suspected, an appropriately trained health professional should be consulted," she advised.
The mission of Voices of Women is to empower women through advocacy, capacity building and fundraising.
RI targets human trafficking
by JIM BARON PROVIDENCE
Like any other commodity, sex would not be sold if there was no one to buy it.
That's why the RI Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT) is pointing an accusatory finger at men who patronize prostitutes as the real source of suffering and degradation.
There is a cause and effect relationship, the group says, between men paying for commercial sex acts and traffickers exploiting victims. There is a cause and effect relationship, they add, between an man purchasing a sex act from an 18, 25 or 35-year-old “and a pimp who stakes out a neighborhood, ready to prey upon the next runaway he can coerce into prostitution in exchange for food and a place to stay.”
RICAHT is launching a “Time to End the Demand” campaign focused on convincing, cajoling and shaming “johns.” From now until the end of the year, 16 RIPTA buses will carry large “Dear John” ads on their sides as they roll down Rhode Island roads. The ads will feature photographs of Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Providence Sen. Rhoda Perry and Laura Pisaturo, former director of advocacy and legal services for Day One, the sexual assault and trauma resource center in Providence, and a message to johns about the implications of their activities.
“Without you and your cash, sex trafficking would not exist,” some of the bus messages read.
RICAHT is spending about $7,000 on the campaign.
At a Statehouse press conference Monday, RICAHT Chairwoman Tammy Dudman read one of the messages aloud, telling johns “you are the reason why pimps and traffickers are inspired to find younger girls – that's right, younger girls. The average age of entry into prostitution is 13, with pimps preying on their victims within 48 hours of a child running away from home.”
“I firmly believe this a generational quest,” Dudman said. “Without educating the next generation to the myths around prostitution and sex trafficking, we won't be able to end this.”
Dudman called Roberts “a critical partner in combating the crime of sex trafficking in our state.”
Roberts congratulated RICAHT “for getting this really blunt and really direct message out there in a very public way.
“These are pretty bold and direct messages, and I'm proud one of them comes from me” Roberts said, “This is about saying we don't need to be prosecuting the victims of sex trafficking, we need to be stopping the perpetrators.”
“These are daughters, these are mothers, these are real people and you are victimizing them when you take your cash out to purchase sex from one of them.”
Kilmartin, lauded as the first RI attorney general to prosecute and imprison sex traffickers, declared, “I like this message. You know what? We're not going to focus on the victim, the woman or in some cases the child who's been put out on the street for prostitution purposes. We're going to focus on the purchaser who really provides the demand factor that makes this possible. We're going to emphasize that you are part of this problem as much as the pimp. Our office will gladly prosecute you as well as the pimp because you're the two big parts of this problem. We're going to fight you with every means we have under the law.”
Perry, who sponsored the state's first sex trafficking law, as well as follow-up legislation, said, “Human trafficking, especially young women, exists because there is money in it. It persists because there is a market for it.
“Disrupting this demand, as well as punishing the suppliers and users is essential,” she said. “The focus should surely be on the issue of demand; we need to get this cruel industry out of Rhode Island once and for all.
Perry said education is a key part of the solution, “Education by mothers, by wives, by sisters, by lovers and by friends. We have to educate our men so they know that seeking sex from a trafficked woman is not appropriate and they should not do that.”
“John is a highly sanitized term,” Pisaturo told reporters. “Because men who buy sex from minors are abusers and child molesters. Zero tolerance for johns and pimps and traffickers is overdue.”
Kilmartin acknowledged that police departments have occasionally targeted johns in sweeps and stings for years, but said Monday, “from a prosecutorial standpoint, there are much stronger laws and many stronger tools today,” to go after the demand side of the sex trade.
Seven — including high school football coach — arrested in underage sex sting in Wichita
by TIM POTTER and STAN FINGER
The Wichita Eagle
GARDEN PLAIN, Kan. | Seven people — including Garden Plain High School football coach Todd Puetz — have been arrested in a law enforcement operation targeting human trafficking, authorities announced today.
The arrests were made late Friday and Saturday nights, Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred said.
The special operation was conducted in response to a surge in the number of human trafficking cases in Wichita over the past couple of years, he said.
“It was a pro-active assignment due to the issues and problems that we have with child sexual predators in our community,” Allred said at a briefing held by police. “I'd like to say it's successful, but it's really not, because when you get this many people, it's kind of a sad commentary of what's in our community.
”When you arrest this many people, you know it's a problem.“
Five of the men are from Wichita, one from Garden Plain and one from Hays, he said. They range in age from 25 to 59.
All of them communicated electronically that they were interested in having sex with an underage girl, Allred said, and six of the seven made an attempt to meet with a girl for sex.
Another four people are under investigation and could be arrested later, Allred said.
He declined to offer many details about how the operation was conducted because authorities plan to do more of them.
The Garden Plain coach and teacher has been suspended from all duties, school district superintendent Tracy Bourne said today.
Although he would not release the coach and teacher's name, arrest records show that it was Puetz, 39.
”We did have an incident over the weekend… one of our staff members was arrested,“ Bourne said. ”That staff member has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.“
The teacher/coach is on administrative leave with pay, Bourne said.
Because he is a teacher, Allred said, authorities will be looking into whether he was engaged in human trafficking in Garden Plain.
A relative of Puetz, who asked that her name not be used, said his family is ”very supportive“ of him.
”It's just not all black-and-white,“ she said, standing on the front porch of his home. ”We're just waiting for other things to come to light.“
Records show the others arrested in the operation were:
—Viraqd Weerappumac, 51, Wichita
—Reginald Shepard, 35, Wichita
—Joshua Hetzel, 26, Wichita
—David Walter, 59, Hays
—Chris Squires, 25, Wichita
—Kyle Miller, 25, Wichita
The three-day operation was a month in the making and involved the FBI, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, Wichita police and Sedgwick County sheriff's officers, Allred said.
Federal charges could result from the arrests, he said. Investigators will be meeting with the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office later this week or early next week to present evidence in the cases.
Sex-trafficking nightmare focus of panel discussion
October 25, 2011
An Oregon family whose daughter was the child victim of a convicted sex offender will share its story Thursday during a presentation aimed at getting out the message, "Girls are not for sale."
The free event, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Medford, also will include a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Medford Police Department, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, Sexual Assault Victim Services and the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force.
Janet and Jerry Kearney, of Clackamas, will talk about how their daughter Shelby Eichner, an exemplary student, was ensnared at age 17 by convicted sex offender Anthony Pranzetti, who had a record of drugging minors, using them in sexual activities and introducing them to prostitution. They will discuss how an average, middle-class family can easily come face-to-face with this danger, said Shelly Culbertson, president of Soroptimist International of Medford.
The Kearneys and their daughter are committed to telling others their story and to letting families know what they can do to prevent trafficking situations from happening, Culbertson said in a press release about the event.
Prior to encountering Pranzetti, Shelby was a model student, athlete and daughter. Her goal was to become a doctor. But Shelby's life took an abrupt detour on a hazardous road during May 2009 when Pranzetti snared her on the Internet.
Within in a week of their face-to-face meeting, playing upon her desire to be an outstanding student, he introduced her by trickery to methamphetamine, Shelby's biography states. He combined meth, alcohol and physical violence to weave a web that kept her ensnared in his trap.
He brainwashed her to the point that she believed that a relationship filled with random bursts of violence was normal. He tried to persuade her to participate in group and casual sex with others whom he would select. Despite her refusals in that area, he still managed to videotape their personal sexual activities and then broadcast those videos without her knowledge across the Internet.
Pranzetti was eventually caught in a criminal act unrelated to Shelby.
"We learned the true nature of Shelby's relationship," Janet Kearney says in her biography. "He had her convinced that if this occurred they both had to commit suicide. After intervention, she spent almost two months in the psychiatric hospital and rehabilitation center."
Shelby was addicted to meth. Her brain had deteriorated, Kearney writes, adding nine months later Shelby did manage to testify against Pranzetti, who was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"As her mother I have supported her every step of the way, but still ponder at how this happened to my daughter," Kearney writes. "I considered myself a model mother and great provider. I am concerned now that if this could happen to my family, then it can happen to anyone. It is now my mission to speak up and help other families."
If you go
What: "Addressing Human Trafficking Locally," a talk and panel discussion
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27
Where: Sacred Heart Catholic Church Parish Hall, 517 W. 10th St., Medford
Air crew on lookout for human traffickers
by Gareth ROSE, Home Affairs Correspondent
October 25, 2011
AIR crew on flights to Scotland are to become key players in the war on human trafficking by being trained to look out for victims and criminals, in a new effort to tackle slavery and prostitution.
Virgin Atlantic, which puts on seasonal flights between Glasgow and Orlando, Florida, is the first airline to take on the role, with the help of the UK Borders Agency and anti-trafficking campaigners have urged other airlines to follow suit.
Cabin crew will also have access to a 24-hour helpline to report concerns to UKBA.
Earlier this month Stephen Craig, 34, and Sarah Beukan, 22, became the first people ever sentenced for human trafficking in Scotland.
However, they were responsible for moving women around the UK, rather than bringing them into the country and there has still not been a prosecution in Scotland for traffickers working on an international basis, although campaigners are convinced it is taking place.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow Community and Safety Services, which runs the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (Tara) said: “People are trafficked from all over the world to meet the demands of the global sex industry. Airline travel is commonly used by traffickers – sometimes in conjunction with false documentation – therefore we support this proactive action by Virgin Atlantic to train their employees to spot signs of trafficking.
Raising awareness of this appalling industry is vital to disrupt the criminals and assist the authorities in tackling this problem. We would encourage other airlines to adopt similar policies.”
Anonymous attacks massive child abuse site
But attacks could damage police investigations.
by Darren Pauli
Anonymous has attacked a private file-sharing network accused of hosting 100GB of child pornography material and released doxed information on more than 1500 alleged users.
The online collective said it was “disgusted by these ... traumatic images” and crashed the hosting servers as part of “a pledge to fight for the fallen”.
The Hidden Wiki darknet contained a section called Hard Candy which contained links to child exploitation material that was not available to the public internet.
Of the linked websites, Lolita City was said to contain more than 100GB of exploitation material.
It accused Freedom Hosting of providing most of the illegal content and sent the organisation a warning to remove the material.
“We infiltrated the shared hosting server of Freedom Hosting and shut down services to all clients due to their lack of action to remove child pornography from their server,” Anonymous said in a post.
A statement by the accused hosting provider reportedly captured in a screenshot by Anonymous said slow MySQL queries were run by a registered user resulting in denial of service.
It said backups were made daily and kept for a month.
While Anonymous' efforts to fight child exploitation were commendable, it may hinder law enforcement investigations.
Nigel Phair, former Australian Federal Police officer and co-founder of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, said the group should not attack exploitation web sites.
“If police were investigating, it could destroy evidence,” Phair said.
“They shouldn't be acting as vigilantes. If they find this content, they should notify authorities.
“As enticing as it may be, don't DoS [cause a denial of service].”
Phair said police collect IP addresses of users who access exploitation content. If the attacked darknet was being monitored, the logs of anonymous vigilantes could be mixed with those of suspects.
This would be exacerbated if denial of service attacks were launched using IP addresses linked in botnets.
Attacks also increased the risk of suspects fleeing or increasing security and obfuscation measures.
Anonymous members should contact “any competent law enforcement” agency to report online exploitation content.
“Like any other crime-related information, this type of data would be well received,” Phair said.
In a post, Anonymous called on law enforcement to investigate doxed users.
He said the government should establish an anonymous online crime reporting tool similar to Crime Stoppers that would process tips in a clearing house.
Victoria's worsening child abuse crisis
by Grant McArthur
ALMOST 1000 Victorian children were found to have been seriously neglected by their parents in just one year.
Shocking revelations of abuse included incidents of toddlers being left to starve among human waste, rat infestations and used syringes in their toy boxes.
Child protection workers received a staggering 5828 complaints of neglect in 2010-11. In the worst substantiated cases, overworked investigators found children left in conditions so bad they had to remove their rotted teeth and teach them how to sit at a table.
In 936 cases, the Department of Human Services' 1100 officers proved serious abuse by parents through neglect. In almost 300 cases neglect was accompanied by physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for them.
Following eight months of requests by the Herald Sun , the State Government agreed to release details of some of thousands of cases of abuse confronted by child protection workers, which have caused a crisis in the system.
Horrifying conditions children were found in last year included:
TWO children, aged five and six, living among a rat infestation, cockroaches, drug paraphernalia and human waste.
One child had golden staph, and both were in poor physical condition and had rarely experienced normal childhood activities, such as bathing or sitting at a table.
A FOUR-year-old girl, who had been exposed to domestic violence and medical neglect all her life, was malnourished because her parents had never given her food suitable for a toddler.
Despite her age, she could still not eat solids, had terrible tooth decay, and had never been toilet trained.
The girl had poor gross motor skills and could barely communicate.
FOUR primary school-aged children living in a house so cluttered and dirty it was unsafe. There were faeces on the floor, and food scraps and dirty dishes throughout the kitchen.
The mother had mental health problems. The children were not attending school, and the parents were beating the children to manage their violent behaviour.
One 13-year-old-girl had suicidal tendencies.
THREE-and four-year-olds living in a home with syringes all over the floor and in their toy boxes.
There was a sharps bin in the children's bedroom with an exposed lid, and piles of empty food packages were scattered throughout the home. One child had seeping gashes in her head from lice, and the children were developmentally delayed.
Victoria's top child protection officer, Robyn Miller, said the struggling child protection system needed more front-line officers.
Ms Miller praised the State Government's decision to allow release of the shocking details, saying it was the entire community's job to overhaul the crisis, not just that of the Government and the Department of Human Services.
"We have been working very hard around reform for a number of years in Victoria, and compared with other states, we're actually doing well in terms of early intervention and support for families," she said.
"The volume of work and the need is so great.
"Getting more experienced people to do the home visits, carrying the actual cases - that is the priority."
In thousands of less severe cases, struggling parents were referred to community-based family support agencies.
They were also given advice to help them improve their parenting skills.
Only a small number of complaints were deemed to be "inappropriate reports".
Breaking the Silence on Child Abuse in America
by Teresa Huizar
Executive Director, National Children's Alliance
In response to the recently aired investigative news report on child abuse fatalities in the United States by the BBC, I want to call attention to the importance of child advocacy in the U.S. This issue deserves our attention now more than ever before.
This multimedia, 22-minute story, entitled "America's Death Shame," began airing Monday, Oct. 17 on BBC World News affiliates, including PBS and NPR stations in most American cities. The focus of the broadcast is on the magnitude of child abuse -- and particularly child-abuse-related deaths -- in America. The underlying sense of shock at the enormity of this problem is apparent throughout the broadcast and serves as a powerful reminder that this is not the norm anywhere else in the industrialized world and should not be accepted as such in the United States.
One statistic cited in the report states that 66 children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in the industrialized world, and of those, 27 die in the U.S. -- the highest number of any other country. How is it, the report asks, that every five hours a child dies from abuse or neglect in America? How is it that America has the worst child abuse record in the industrialized world?
To understand the issue, the BBC examined Texas, one of the states with the highest total number of child deaths from abuse and neglect in the U.S. In 2009, the rate of deaths from child abuse In Texas was 4.05 per 100,000 children -- as compared to 2.46 per 100,000 children in New York (as noted in " America's Death Shame"). The BBC interviewed Texas Child Protective Services workers, law enforcement officials, doctors and lawyers, and even spent time at the Houston Child Assessment Center, a Children's Advocacy Center fully accredited by the National Children's Alliance. The findings were startling, and sadly, they are not uncommon in communities across the country.
This is familiar territory for our organization and for the thousands of individuals who assist in fulfilling our mission every day; however, what the BBC report brings to light are connections that are all too often ignored. For example, the report draws a connection between Texas' low rate of removal of children from the home, and the state's high child death rate as a result of abuse. The report also questions the premise of the federal mandate of family reunification, under which all federally funded child protection agencies operate (as noted in "America's Death Shame").
It is our opinion, and that of many of our colleagues in the Children's Advocacy Center arena, that a strong social safety net can mean the difference between life and death for a child. The truth is, child death resulting from abuse and neglect is a preventable problem. In support of the BBC's stance, to achieve maximum prevention, we must focus on the following strategies:
- Prevention programs , including nurse visitation programs to at-risk parents and children, education programs, and social safety net programs.
- Breaking the silence: far more cost-effective than integrated programming, we as a society must break the silence surrounding child abuse. By engaging in a national discussion on the epidemic of child abuse deaths, we will raise awareness of the issue and hopefully earn the attention of our federal government, which has the power to enforce a national strategy to protect our children against abuse and neglect.
The BBC report takes us one step closer to our goal by presenting an opportunity to start and enhance the conversation in local communities. I encourage readers to share links to the report and the accompanying radio interviews -- helping to break the silence and protect our children on a national level.
Please visit The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths to learn more about how you can get involved and support this movement.
Students seek to combat sex trafficking
by Sohee Khim
Over cupcakes from Bent Spoon and bags of popcorn, students gathered at the Rocky-Mathey Theatre on last Thursday night to watch “Very Young Girls,” a documentary on domestic sex trafficking. The screening was Princeton Against Sex Trafficking's first event of the year.
PAST was founded by Rafael Grillo '14 and Shikha Uberoi '13 last April. One of their main campaigns is the Red Thread Movement, which sells bracelets made by girls rescued from brothels in Nepal. The group said it hopes to raise $1,500 through sales this semester.
The group was founded with the goals of raising “awareness about the gravity of human trafficking occurring nationally and internationally,” tackling the “sources of the issue and possible solutions by engaging and coordinating with third party organizations” and engaging politically “by bringing together policy-makers, field experts and others ... to discuss the ramifications and solutions of human trafficking,” Grillo said in an email.
According to Grillo, there are up to 27 million trafficking victims in the world today.
“It's stuff we don't hear about every day ... We take it for granted that domestic slaves don't exist,” he said before the film.
“While we're watching [the film], think of some solutions,” Uberoi said to the group. “We're all smart; we're Princeton students.”
Following the screening of the documentary, Janice Holzman, the director of communications and development for Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, discussed the film with the audience and held a Q-and-A session. According to its site, GEMS is “the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.”
“I was really excited thinking of screening this film,” Holzman said. “College students are in the unique position of being able to change the conversation ... Things have changed a little, I will acknowledge that. Five years ago, I don't think anyone had heard about domestic sex trafficking.”
However, she said that the work is still not done, as domestic trafficking is still occurring today, and many of the girls who fall victim to it do not have many options.
“About 70 percent of the girls we serve have some involvement in foster homes,” she said. In these girls' lives, there isn't much parental involvement, and usually one or both parents are or have been incarcerated.
Holzman also emphasized that the girls were victims, even if they had “chosen” the life by walking into it.
“In terms of choice, choice is a funny word for a 12-year-old,” she said. Because they are so young, they do not have the capacity to make good choices for themselves.
“What's really at stake is the age of the young girls we serve at GEMS,” Holzman said.
Another problem that GEMS addresses is the stigma associated with being a victim of sex trafficking, according to Holzman.
“People don't see or haven't seen domestic victims as victims” because “there's comfort in seeing foreign victims,” she said. The girls are “really stigmatized even within their own environments.”
“A lot of what we do is address some of that [stigma] and give them a house that feels like a home ... a place where we're not going to judge them,” she added.
Riviera Beach church provides safe haven for victims of human trafficking
by Alexandra Seltzer
They've read about it in school. They've seen documentaries on it. They've witnessed it on neighborhood streets.
Local residents say human trafficking - the modern-day enslaving of human beings for labor or sexual purposes - is a problem in Florida, and that Project Unite could help to put an end to it.
"We see this all the time," Vontavious Robinson, 22, said this afternoon. "I've seen prostitutes. I don't know if they're being forced to do that."
"Some people send kids to us for slavery," added Dennis Collins, 26. "It's been happening for decades."
Project Unite, a group formed to combat human trafficking, had its first forum today at St. George's Episcopal Church.
Its leaders said it was created to raise awareness of the issue and the church on West 22nd Street will be a place for victims to come and eat as well as have someone to talk to.
"South Florida is a hotbed of human trafficking," said Jeff Goldberg, assistant logistics manager of Palm Beach County's Emergency Management Department.
Every 30 minutes a person is trafficked into the United States, he said. And 73 percent of victims are under the age of 25. Florida is third in the country, behind California and New York, in terms of the number of cases, he said. Victims are either trafficked locally or are brought in from places such as China, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Costa Rica.
"Here in Palm Beach County, there's labor trafficking. There's sex trafficking. Sometimes they get crossed," he said. "What may start here could spread to other areas or what starts in other areas could spread here."
Victims are often promised a better life in Florida but really it's just "a better lie," said Brandy Macaluso, coordinator of victims services for the Coalition of Independent Living Options.
Sometimes women are told they can work as housekeepers and then when they arrive in the country they are thrown on the streets to sell themselves, she said.
Sheila Acevedo, Project Unite's chairwoman, said with the church's aid, she helped three women and two kids who were human trafficking victims to safety. One was a 15-year-old who was often arrested on prostitution charges while she was living with a man in a trailer park.
"There are a lot of people that don't understand," she said. "Women on the streets are not choosing to be on the streets and high on cocaine. They are being trafficked."
Project Unite is led by the sorority group Chi Zeta Zeta of Zeta Phi Beta, the Palm Beach County Coalition on Human Trafficking, and the Soroptimist International of Palm Beach.
The Soroptimist group received a $4,500 grant in September from a national organization, the Soroptimist Club Grant for Women and Girls, to support Project Unite.
The church will provide a safe haven for local victims of trafficking. Victims can come to the church and will be provided food and counseling.
Members of Project Unite hope victims will come forward more often now and word will spread on the street about the group eventually minimizing the number of human trafficking victims. And some residents believe it could.
"It will help," Robinson said. "If they keep pushing it."