Reaching out to assault survivors
December 3, 2011
Time seems to pass so quickly - where did our summer go? We at Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County have experienced some big changes. We are now a department of Bronson Battle Creek with the organizational change from Battle Creek Health System. We have new spaces for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program at Bronson Battle Creek, and for a Marshall Child Advocacy Center at Crossroads Church and Ministries. We suffered the sudden and painful loss of our dear friend, Patricia Bate, who was our director at Bronson Battle Creek; she supported us in the hospital system, and was a true friend and colleague.
Most recently, we are confronted with the extremely distressing example of the damage done when sexual abuse occurs in communities. Like the Penn State community, ours is home to many survivors who still live in silence about the crimes committed against them. So many do not come forward for fear of not being believed or supported. Much of our work includes serving adult survivors who never told of the abuse done to them in childhood. And like the examples at Penn State, survivors here speak of abusers in their families, neighborhoods, schools and places of worship - people who were meant to be protectors of children, family and friends among their "loved ones."
We are here for those who do reach out for assistance and justice, and we hope that those harboring long-kept secrets of past abuse and sexual assault will feel free to call us for help. We are encouraged when children tell, when teens and adults come forward to seek care and healing at SAS, as many do each year. We have hope that awareness of our services has increased over the past 15 years, so that fewer suffer in silence.
We look forward to a quieter, more peaceful time to reflect on the traumatic and unexpected events of the recent past. We wish health and happiness to all survivors, those known and unknown, and to all of our community partners who share in the work of assisting them.
Peace to all.
Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County
Bronson Battle Creek
Jim Boeheim to campaign against child abuse
by Michael Hill, Associated Press
December 4, 2011
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Two weeks after vilifying two former ballboys who accused his longtime assistant of child molestation, Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim said Saturday he'll campaign against child abuse even though he knows his motives will be questioned.
"We believed in helping kids long before this. I'm sure people are always going to question why you do something, but we're going to do this and continue to do it," Boeheim said.
The comments came a day after a postgame news conference in which a drawn-looking Boeheim apologized in a halting voice for initially disparaging the men who accused Bernie Fine of molesting them as minors. Fine has denied the allegations.
A few people had called on Boeheim to resign or be fired when the accusations first surfaced, and he was criticized as callous for saying the accusations were lies motivated by money.
Boeheim softened his stance last week. After Fine was fired last Sunday, Boeheim released a statement saying he regretted any statements he made that might have been "insensitive to victims of abuse." Then on Tuesday, Boeheim apologized but said again he didn't regret defending his old friend based on the information he had at the time and said he had never worried about his job status in 36 years.
By Friday, he was more contrite. "I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made," Boeheim said. "I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives."
The allegations have rattled the Syracuse community, especially so soon after the Penn State child sex-abuse case in which former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused in a grand-jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
N.J. law making failure to report child sex abuse a crime deserves support
Twice, somebody walked into a locker room at Penn State and caught Jerry Sandusky in the act of sexually assaulting a boy in the shower, according to grand jury testimony. First Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant. Then Jim Calhoun, the janitor.
Neither man told police. Our society responded with moral revulsion, but hasn't charged them with any crime. And that raises some intriguing questions: Can a person ever commit a crime by doing nothing? And how far does your obligation to report go?
In Britain, every citizen is lawfully required to report any suspected terrorist activity to police. In some jurisdictions of the United States, if you see someone dumping toxic waste, you must notify authorities.
Penalties are attached to silence in these cases to prevent great harm to society at large. But we can't criminalize doing nothing in every instance where the public could benefit — that would go overboard, invading our zone of privacy and autonomy and turning us into servants of the state.
Still, protecting children, our society's most vulnerable, must be the priority. Not telling law enforcement when you've witnessed an extreme case of sexual abuse should be a crime. With serious penalty.
New Jersey is one of 18 states that already require every person to report child abuse. But since the definition of abuse is broad and the penalty is just a misdemeanor, prosecutors only press charges if a person fails to report serious abuse and had supervisory authority over kids, or held a license for certain jobs, such as a doctor.
A new bill, introduced Thursday by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset), would make such an act a felony in the case of child sexual abuse — for anybody. If you have a reasonable suspicion and don't report it, you could get up to a year and a half in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
The law deserves support, once a flaw is fixed. It now requires citizens to report sexual abuse to police, in addition to child welfare. The average person can't be required to tell two separate authorities, which already must inform each other of every allegation.
And as with any law, prosecutors, police and judges must use careful discretion when they enforce it. We can't punish anyone who fails to report a highly ambiguous “clue.” We may end up handcuffing the guileless Sister James in John Patrick Shanley's play “Doubt.”
But if you come across a child sexual abuse in progress, you should be required to do whatever you can to stop it — legally, not just morally.
To stop child sex abuse, we need to talk about it
We have recently been overwhelmed by the images and sounds of Penn State, a school rocked by a child sexual abuse scandal. But the question that must be asked is, why was it allowed to continue to happen for over a decade? The answer is sadly simple, when minimum action and silence is the acceptable normal for our children, child sexual abuse will continue to happen.
There are thousands of children across our nation who are suffering at the hands of adults. One in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18. It is a silent epidemic that no one wants to talk about unless a public figure is caught in the act. Then we will rant and rave for a while; and then, like so many times in the past, we will turn off the spotlight and our children continue to suffer in silence.
In 2010, the Child Advocacy Center at the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Dutchess County investigated 312 cases of child sexual abuse, 562 cases of child maltreatment and 92 cases of physical abuse in Dutchess County. These cases involved more than 600 children. This year, the center is averaging 58 children per month.
What can we do about it? We can collectively achieve the elimination of child abuse in Dutchess if we put aside our fears and talk about it. We need to talk about it with our doctors, clergy, and public officials. We need to talk about it with our friends, families and colleagues. Most importantly we need to talk about it with our children. We need to let them know that it is OK to say no when something feels uncomfortable. We need to let them know that if someone does something to them that it is not their fault and that it is OK to tell someone that they trust. Teaching our children about stranger danger is not enough. Ninety-three of abused children know their abuser.
If a child discloses to you or you suspect a child is being sexually abused, please do the following: Remain calm, tell the child you believe them, tell the child it is not his/her fault, report the situation immediately, and make the hotline call!
|» Mandated Reporters: 1-800-635-1522
» Anyone can call: 1-800-342-3720
Most importantly, if the child is in immediate danger call 911! The gravest mistake that was made at Penn State was that no one recognized that a child was in danger and they did not call law enforcement. If this had been done, several children could have been spared the trauma they and their families are dealing with today.
Between the years 2001-07, 10,400 children died from abuse. Seventy-five percent of those that died were under the age of 4. Those that have no voice need each of us to speak up. Please remember, that with one voice, as a community we can eliminate child sexual abuse from Dutchess County. There is no excuse for child abuse!
Joel M. Miller, R-Poughkeepsie is the assemblyman for New York's 102nd District, which includes seven towns in Dutchess County. Kathleen M. Murphy is the executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, located in Poughkeepsie. Their website is www.preventchildabuse.org.
Protecting our children from people we should be able to trust
Parents must be ever vigilant, ask questions
As allegations of child sex abuse continue to build against coaches at Penn State and Syracuse universities, parents are asking themselves: Who can you trust?
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky -- who started the Second Mile, a charity for troubled children -- faces multiple criminal charges of child sex abuse.
Child molestation allegations were made against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who was involved with the Boys Club and Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Closer to home, Bill Fox of Liberty Township, in Tioga County, Pa., -- a former New York City police officer who was nominated for a national Father of the Year award -- was recently sentenced to up to 35 years in state prison for sexually abusing three teenagers.
Former Corning-Painted Post East High School health teacher Teri Decker pleaded guilty in April to endangering the welfare of a child after texting sexually explicit messages with a 16-year-old student, whom she kissed and allowed to touch her buttocks.
She was sentenced to 15 days in jail, followed by probation.
And former Watkins Glen Middle School math teacher and basketball coach Gary Serlo, who was the district's 1996 teacher of the year, was convicted in December 1997 of sexually molesting three adolescent boys.
Sentenced to up to 17 years in a state prison, he was recently paroled and currently lives in Odessa.
"It's tough to say 'how can we prevent this' because you never know," said Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman Jr. who was a road lieutenant or sergeant at the time of the Serlo case and remembers it well.
An Elmira school psychologist, along with Yessman and other experts in treating sexual abuse, said parents can take steps to help protect their children and can be on guard for signs of abuse.
"One positive thing that comes out of these scandals is that it does offer teachable moments for parents to discuss with kids what sexual wrongdoing is," said Dr. Kathy Moore, districtwide school counselor for the Elmira City School District and counselor for Pine City Elementary School.
"Hopefully, we can prevent more kids from being victims."
Watkins Glen case
Gary Serlo served two years in prison in Pennsylvania for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in 1974 for sexually molesting seven boys at an elementary school where he taught.
At some point after leaving prison, he moved to New York and received a temporary teaching certificate in 1983 and a permanent one in 1988.
Watkins Glen school officials were not aware of his past prison sentence when he was hired into the district because Serlo lied about the conviction.
Richard Scuteri, of Watkins Glen, said authorities did not believe his grandson when he told them in 1991 that Serlo, his homeroom teacher, was sexually abusing him. The boy was 12 years old when he confided in his parents.
He and his parents met with the school principal and district officials and subsequently filed written complaints with the district and sheriff's department, according to a court document.
An investigation ensued but was eventually closed without any action taken, the document said.
"My grandson was the first one," said Scuteri, a former mayor of Watkins Glen. "Nobody believed him."
It wasn't until other students stepped forward several years later that the allegations against Serlo were taken seriously, he said.
Until then, law enforcement's attitude was "Oh, no, no, no. He wouldn't do that," Scuteri said.
Serlo was charged with sexual abuse in Schuyler County in 1997. He pleaded guilty to 14 charges of molestation.
Public outrage over the Serlo case, letter-writing campaigns and national media attention led to new state legislation.
The state now requires prospective New York school employees to be fingerprinted for the purpose of completing a criminal background check.
Scuteri said his grandson is in his early 30s now, and he has gotten on with his life.
"But that's something I don't think you ever forget," he said.
Believe your kids
Children rarely lie about sexual abuse, according to the Rape Crisis of the Southern Tier.
Abusers may threaten or convince a child not to tell anyone and that's why most children wait weeks or months before they say anything, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That's if they say anything at all.
According to the national child advocacy group Darkness to Light, most children never report that they've been abused.
"It's embarrassing for them, too, especially if they're a young teen," Yessman said.
"They're extremely embarrassed because they know enough what's going on in the world. It would embarrass them among their friends."
One of every four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, and 20 percent of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of 8, according to Darkness to Light.
"Ninety percent of children, when they're victimized, are victimized by someone that the family knows and trusts," said Moore, with the Elmira City School District. "That's the scary part of it."
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof checklist of behaviors that will pinpoint a child sexual abuser because there is no one profile that fits all abusers.
Talk about it
Communication is crucial to preventing or uncovering child sexual abuse, experts say.
Yessman suggests telling your children, "If anything happens that you're uncomfortable with, come and tell us. Let's talk about.
"We want you to know that if anything funny ever happens between you and a teacher or any adult, you should come and talk to us about it."
Parents need to keep an open dialogue with children and cultivate relationships so they are not immune to what a perpetrator may be doing, Moore said.
"Talking about it with kids is not an easy thing and very uncomfortable for some parents, but it's so important to really keep those lines of communication open," she said.
"Unfortunately, with perpetrators who struggle with sexual abuse, they are good at what they do," Moore said.
"They build relationships with the kids and obviously take advantage of those relationships in inappropriate ways."
Adolescents often have a particularly difficult time communicating with their parents, "and predators know that. That's why they target kids this age," Yessman said.
"A lot of times, these predators make them feel that they're doing wrong, and that they'll be in trouble if it gets out."
They tell their victims they will deny their accusations, he said.
That's what happened to Scuteri's grandson in 1991 in Watkins Glen.
"As far as I'm concerned, the one that's the most guilty one is the cop who didn't do anything about it," Scuteri said.
"The one who was supposed to do the investigation and straighten this out didn't. He dropped the ball. That ticks me off more than Serlo, more than anybody else."
Signs to watch for
"Certainly, there are signs of sexual abuse," Moore said, citing things like talking about a new older friend, suddenly having money, toys or other gifts, and keeping secrets with an adult or older child.
"The thing that's tough is that many of the signs are similar to other anxiety-inducing events, like divorce or death," she said.
"The important thing to remember is that any of these changes -- for example, maybe nightmares or sleep problems, changes in eating habits, mood swings, lack of interest in something that typically is a lot of fun or very interesting -- those sorts of things need to raise flags for parents," she said.
"Not necessarily abuse flags, but flags enough to figure out what's going on."
It is a mistake to think that the failure of Penn State authorities to report abuse is a rarity, child abuse educators, prosecutors and investigators say.
Studies across the country over the past two decades have consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of professionals required to report all cases of suspected abuse fail to do so. That is because they are uncertain of whether abuse occurred, are fearful of making false accusations or are unsure of their obligation.
"Mandated reporting of abuse only works as well as the people it's reported to," said Dan Gleason, a retired Rochester Police Department investigator who is now a private investigator.
"People sometimes try to be judge and jury when the victim discloses. If they don't believe it, they don't report it."
Every state has a law that requires professionals to report all suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment they encounter professionally.
Under New York's law, enacted in 1973, mandatory reporters include physicians, nurses, teachers and school officials, social workers, police officers, daycare and social service workers, and therapists.
Lawmakers in Albany have proposed closing what they see as a loophole in the state's mandated reporting statute that, unlike the law in Pennsylvania, excludes college coaches and administrators in the belief that colleges have little contact with children.
Meanwhile, watching what has been happening at Penn State and Syracuse leaves Scuteri angry and exasperated.
"Who's in charge, and who's doing what?" he said. "What's going on?"
Sex offender registries
In New York, an individual has up to five years after turning 18 to report sexual abuse committed in childhood to law enforcement, said Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen.
There are exceptions. For example, if a child is sexually abused as a 5-year-old, but the crime isn't reported until the child is 10, the five-year rule will begin at the time the report is made to law enforcement or a central registry like the child abuse hotline.
If the sexual crime is a serious A-felony, such as first-degree rape, there is no statute of limitations, Mollen said.
Indicators of sexual abuse
Children often show signs that they have been sexually abused. Some may show many signs, while others only a few, experts said. Below are a list of some symptoms of sexual abuse in children, not including physical signs such as venereal disease and pregnancy.
|Indicators of sexual abuse in young children include:
» Sleep disturbances
» Bed wetting and/or loss of fecal control
» Regressive behavior
» Self-destructive or risk-taking behavior
» Impulsivity, distractibility, difficulty concentrating
» Refusal to be left alone
» Fear of an individual, such as an alleged offender
» Fear of people of a specific type or gender
» Fire setting
» Cruelty to animals
» Problems relating to peers
» Sudden changes in behavior
» Difficulties in school
||Indicators of sexual abuse in older children include:
» Eating disturbances (bulimia and anorexia)
» Running away
» Substance abuse
» Self-destructive behavior, suicide attempts, self-mutilation
» Criminal activity
» Depression and social withdrawal
» Problems relating to peers
» Sudden changes in behavior
» Difficulties in school
Time limits for reporting abuse cases
In New York, an individual has up to five years after turning 18 to report sexual abuse committed in childhood to law enforcement, said Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen.
There are exceptions. For example, if a child is sexually abused as a 5-year-old, but the crime isn't reported until the child is 10, the five-year rule will begin at the time the report is made to law enforcement or a central registry like the child abuse hotline.
If the sexual crime is a serious A-felony, such as first-degree rape, there is no statute of limitations, Mollen said.
Great Falls groups that work with kids say they guard against abuse
No one can assure a parent that their child is safe 100 percent of the time when the parents are away from the child — but area agencies report that they take as many steps as possible to get close to that percentage.
National and local stories of children being subjected to alleged abuse while in the care of others — including some sexual in nature — have parents worrying and wondering exactly how much trust they can put in the hands of those who are charged with caring for their kids.
"We do everything in our power to hire staff and employees of high character," said Sonya Smith, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Cascade County.
The Boys & Girls Club offers afterschool tutoring and programming for children in the community. It depends on teams of staff and volunteers to accomplish the club's goals.
Smith said employees and volunteers go through an extensive background check and interview process in order to work with the kids. The club also offers training seminars on guidelines for working with children. Smith said the club hasn't received a report of any wrongdoing by an employee or volunteer to date.
"We've been very, very lucky," she said.
Great Falls Police Detective Doug Otto said it's common practice for employers to require background checks on their employees — especially ones that work with children. However, those only show criminal history.
"Background checks are only paper deep," said Otto, who specializes in investigating child abuse cases for the department.
He said there are no identifying markers of what can make one person — and not someone else — a sexual predator.
"I wish I could give you a cookie-cutter type, but there isn't one," he said.
One of the simplest precautions parents can take is listening to their child, Otto said.
The next is to know the person or people who are working with their child — even volunteers. Otto said if you know the names of your child's caregivers — whether it be at school, daycare or on the soccer field — the least you can do is go on the Montana Department of Corrections website to find out if they are a registered sexual or violent offender.
Another sign to look for, whether you are a parent or a person in charge of employees and volunteers who work with kids, is how a caregiver interacts with a child.
If a child appears withdrawn or you notice a caregiver giving a child extra affection such as touches or hovering, those could be red flags, Otto said. And if an adult is making an inappropriate comment around a child or doesn't necessarily follow a normal routine with a child, that also could be a concern.
"Again, there's no guarantee on that," Otto said.
Smith said one safety measure officials take at the Boys & Girls Club is the "rule of two," which is common for most child-related activities.
That means the club has two staff members on duty at all times.
Smith said the fact that most of the club's activities take place on site also helps prevent abuse. If kids do have to be driven home, Smith said club officials make sure the driver is the same sex as the last child being dropped off.
Background checks are conducted when a person applies for a job or volunteer position and for members of the board of directors — and they are performed every year.
Being part of the national Boys & Girls Club organization means there are consequences if the local clubs fail to abide by these standards.
"We could lose our charter," Smith said.
Being an organization that has on-site supervision between adults and children is one thing. But what happens in organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, where there is a one-on-one relationship between a child and a mentor?
With a program that depends primarily on volunteers to become mentors to youth, the guidelines aren't any less strict than if a person was applying for a job, according to Tina Cubbage, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Great Falls. In fact, it might be more strict, she said.
Cubbage said a prospective mentor must go through an interview process and a multi-level background check that looks into everything from possible criminal records to driving records, and reports of any negative involvement with the state's Children and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. References are required and the people listed as references must meet specific criteria.
The parents of the children being matched with a mentor also are a crucial part of the process. Cubbage added the organization has staff who offer monthly case management with the children, their mentors and the parents.
Mentors have certain national and local guidelines they must follow when interacting with their little brother or sister, which include things such as never leaving the child unattended or with anyone other than the mentor. In addition, children can't participate in high-risk activities such as boating or riding motorcycles without prior consent from the parent and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"We know what the matches have been up to," Cubbage said.
Still, she noted that there will never be a 100 percent guarantee that nothing will happen to children in the program.
"I know child safety is our No. 1 precaution," she said. "It drives everything we do."
When trying to provide opportunities for kids such as sports, recruiting volunteers is a challenge, especially once a candidate sees the stack of paperwork a prospective volunteer must fill out.
Salvation Army Youth Center Director Gary Bistodeau said that, fortunately, the stack of papers coaches and officials need to fill out on the proper procedures and safety measures they must follow around kids has never stopped anyone from volunteering. He added that youth center officials recently started an interview process with coaches as well.
"There is a huge booklet our coaches have to go through," he said. "It's like buying a house."
Being in a church setting doesn't mean the expectations of safety should be lowered, either.
"I treat all my youth group kids like they're my sons and daughters," said Josh Como, youth director at Harvest Springs Community Church.
Background checks are required on all employees. Como added that because working with children in a church can be a different dynamic, he prefers that a prospective volunteer be connected to a small group in the church for at least six months.
"If it's not someone who's been connected with us, we find someone that knows them," he said.
Like other agencies, Harvest Springs follows the rule of two and even goes so far as to not allow volunteers to go into the bathroom at the same time as a child. Como said that in the case of younger children, volunteers often will seek out a parent to take his or her child to the bathroom.
Working in a church setting also means people can be dealing with a difficult time in their life, and Como said youth are no exception. Confidentiality is key to building trust with a child, but Como said there have to be exceptions.
"All of our office doors are glass-front," Como said. "If we're doing counseling after hours, we make sure to have at least one other person around. Everything stays confidential unless they're going to harm themselves."
Bistodeau said that not only do training, booklets and guidelines help protect kids, it also protects the volunteers from liability.
"We're proactive," Bistodeau said. "In this day and age, it's one of the things you have to do. I would like to see everyone do it."
Otto said that completing background checks and reference checks takes a lot of time and money, but the cost of not doing anything can be greater.
"(Parents) have to pay close attention to these things," he said. "Kids seem like more and more of a target every day."
Volunteers Lend Helping Hands To Child Abuse Victims
December 4, 2011
by Scott Shelters
An observer standing outside 405 W. Third St. may straddle the boundary of normalcy. Most of the surrounding buildings have extinguished their lights for the night, but a passerby would surely notice the men and women wandering within a still-bare office adjacent to the Child Advocacy Program. Volunteers pound nails and hang walls onto the future addition to the program's office until 10 each night.
The sounds of grinding screw guns and pounding hammers don't fit in with those of passing automobile engines and clicking heels. What goes on within the walls of the Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County office, or CAP, doesn't quite jive with the societal definition of normalcy yet either. Executive Director Jana McDermott wants to change that.
When she invites an outsider into the CAP office, she must provide a tour. Sitting a newcomer down in the entryway wouldn't do. Too much could be forgotten; too much could be left unsaid.
CAP takes a multi-room, multifaceted approach to bringing victims justice. At 405 W. Third St., children's voices have come to the forefront. Officials need more rooms in which to hear them.
CAP is a coordinated effort of a multi-disciplinary team that includes the District Attorney's Office, law enforcement, Child Protective Services, and medical, counseling and advocacy services. The groups work together on an approach to child abuse allegations, including sexual and physical abuse.
In 2009, the birth year of CAP, Chautauqua County received 2,151 reports of suspected child abuse. One year later, the program served 369 children and their non-offending family members. CAP served 382 children during the first 11 months of 2011. With a growing program, officials want more space to support victims and their non-offending guardians.
"We are trying to reduce the stigma and the 'icky factor' around child sexual abuse," McDermott said. "Coming here gives them a safe, non-threatening place to have their interview ... to tell the story about what happened to them."
Of the children served thus far in 2011, 237 were victims of sexual abuse. CAP figures state a child is sexually abused every six minutes in the U.S. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.
Experts discovered most victims do not contact authorities. Instead, criminals walk free and non-offending parents and victims suffer with their secrets.
"We really focus on the healing of the child and the parent," McDermott said. "The No. 1 predictor for child healing is how the parent, or non-offending caregiver, is able to handle the situation."
The healing begins after accidental or intentional disclosure. A Child Protective Services representative evaluates the situation and determines if the victim qualifies for the program. In addition to those who suffer first-hand abuse, children in the program may have witnessed violence or have been exposed to drugs at home.
A non-offending guardian brings the child into the CAP office, and the tour, or welcoming, begins. The child then plays in the waiting area, and CAP officials take the non-offending parent down the hall for a debriefing on what's to come. Simultaneously, a forensic interviewer, a trained professional, builds a relationship with the child, readying him or her for the upcoming conversation.
The interviewer brings the child into a room and begins to ask questions. Next door, investigators and advocates observe through closed-circuit television. CAP officials record the interview in hopes of eliminating similar questioning in the future.
"These are not interrogations; these are interviews that are done with children. It's important that they're done in a way that doesn't re-traumatize them," McDermott said.
In addition, officials hope to promote justice and empower victims through the interview process. CAP partners follow-up with medical evaluations, mental health services, data tracking and case reviews.
In 2010, CAP became an accredited member of the National Children's Alliance. "Kids that have come here for this initial process want to come back here," McDermott said. "They were heard and listened to and understood. That's what kids need to have in a situation like this."
The late-night workers, with their screw guns and hammers, work for the same goal. They're not so much workers as they are volunteers, individuals donating their time to provide CAP with more offices and rooms for counseling and forensic interviews.
Some are local laborers, like Todd Boardman, Roger Samuelson and Dave Jett. Charlie Hodges, construction coordinator, is employed by Christ First United Methodist Church. The others are employees of Cummins. The company allows workers to use four hours of company time for volunteering each year. More than 40 employees took advantage of the opportunity in November, spending four hours of a scheduled night shift working on the CAP project.
Much of the work, but not all, is done at night. Some contractors, who wish to remain anonymous, offer their services during the day. Hodges and his fellow workers have received material donations from several businesses, including Cummins. "We've been able to do some networking. It's a real community effort," he said.
Each newcomer brings his or her contacts in, and the volunteer outreach extends. "If there's one item they can bring in, it's one less they have to purchase," Boardman said.
The CAP expansion project began Nov. 7. McDermott hopes it will be completed by the end of January.
In the meantime, she plans to begin primary prevention workshops called "Stewards of Children" this month. She encourages community members to get involved. "People don't care about child abuse until someone tells them a story about how they helped the children," she said.
With increased awareness on physical and sexual abuse, talking about and preventing them may become a little more normal.
Illinois trends ahead in cracking down on sex trafficking
by SARAH SUTSCHEK
A national study has given Illinois a “B” grade for its handling of human trafficking cases.
Illinois, for example, is among just four states with laws that allow the judicial system to expunge the convictions of sex trafficking victims who were found guilty of crimes such as prostitution before authorities learned they were forced into the illegal activity. The others are Maryland, Nevada and New York.
Locally, McHenry County has issued charges under trafficking laws, which just last week resulted in seven-year prison terms for two women convicted of involuntary servitude of a minor.
Some states have taken aggressive steps to strengthen their laws, according to the report released last week by advocacy group Shared Hope International. Fifteen states now allow victims to seek civil damages from their traffickers in court.
But 41 states, according to the report, have failed to adopt strong penalties against human trafficking.
Four states – Maine, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming – have yet to impose any specific restrictions on the crime.
Advocates say a patchwork of differing state laws makes it difficult for authorities to target the crime.
Victims sometimes are smuggled in from outside the U.S., but many began as young runaways or simply needing money. Human traffickers target men, women and children for forced labor or services, while sex traffickers make their victims work in the illegal sex trade. The crimes range from smuggling immigrants into the U.S. to work in restaurants or homes to forcing young women into prostitution.
Federal authorities can prosecute traffickers under the Trafficking Victims Protections Act, enacted in 2000, which carries stiff penalties. The law also created a new visa allowing victims of the crime to become temporary U.S. residents. But federal prosecutors have limited resources and often have to rely on the states to crack down on the crime.
Lynne Johnson, policy and advocacy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, said Illinois is a leader in transforming its response to sex trafficking, which is reflected in the high marks in the evaluation.
The Illinois Safe Children Act, for example, decriminalizes prostitution for people under age 18.
“Young people who have been prostituted should be considered crime victims and people worthy of services and assistance,” Johnson said.
But there still are improvements that can be made, she said, such as better services and specialized care to help people leave the sex trade.
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation also is pushing a program called End Demand Illinois, which aims to shift the focus from the arrest and rearrest of women and girls in prostitution, instead focusing on pimps and johns who create the demand for the sex trade.
The human trafficking code in Illinois only recently has begun to be used, Johnson said.
“It was created in 2006 and hadn't been used until about a year ago,” she said. “We just started getting convictions over the last six or so months.”
One of those convictions was in McHenry County, which Johnson said was the only county in Illinois besides Cook to charge under the trafficking code, Johnson said.
In that case, Kari D. “Slim” Knox, 37, and Antwanette “Peaches” Atkins, 44, each were sentenced last week to seven years in prison for involuntary servitude of a minor. At their trial in August, they were acquitted of juvenile pimping and child pornography charges.
The victim, from Kansas, was 16 at the time of the trial and 14 at the time of the incident. She testified that she got into a car with a man whom she had met through MySpace and drove to Illinois, arriving at his Lake in the Hills home on New Year's Eve 2009.
That man, Donald R. “Juan” Jones, also faces charges, but his case is being handled separately.
Under Illinois law, sex trafficking of minors does not require proof that force, fraud or coercion was used to cause minors to engage in commercial sex acts.
That was a fact addressed at Atkins and Knox's trial.
Neither woman actually traveled to Kansas to pick up the girl. And, in fact, neither woman profited from it, either; the money instead was turned over to the alleged pimp, Jones, according to trial testimony.
Researchers say that on any given day in the Chicago area, there are 16,000 women involved in prostitution, said Kristin Claes, communications manager for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
“And that's a low estimate,” Claes said. “The high estimate is upwards of 25,000.”
Underage sex trade and the border: Group works to give trafficking in Oregon red light
by Elizabeth Hovde
As bordering states, Oregon and Washington think a lot about comparative business and tax advantages and disadvantages. For example, business owners in Clark County rightly worry that people shop south of the border to save money on sales tax. And Oregonians now have to worry that Washington's new liquor law soon will have people in the Portland area and beyond heading north to stock up on booze.
The latest state-line issue? A report released last week shows Oregon should be worried it is sending an "open for business" message to an industry no state wants: sex trafficking of minors.
The industry is thriving where it can, and it is wrecking lives. Picture your own teenage or preteen daughter or a friend's daughter when I say that the industry is wrecking lives -- that's whose lives we are talking about. Putting a known face on the victim allows you proper perspective.
Oregon and Washington's differing grades on Shared Hope International's Protect Innocence Initiative are something Oregon should be concerned about. Oregon received a "D" and Washington a "B," using 40 components compiled by Shared Hope in partnership with the American Center for Law and Justice. (ACLJ assisted in a comprehensive analysis of each state's existing laws.)
One of the biggest differences between the two states was how they addressed demand. In Oregon, get caught having sex with a minor, and you can receive a sentence of as little as seven days on a second offense and your crime is considered a misdemeanor. In Washington, a first offense greets you with 21 months at the minimum for a Class B felony. The fine is relatively high in Oregon, however, at $10,000 for a first offense.
As Shared Hope's founder, former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, told me, "Rich? Shop in Oregon!" If you have enough cash to get you out of an embarrassing bind, Oregon's your place.
Because buying sex with a minor in Washington brings a greater risk, pimps will wisely offer customers their "product" across the state line. Portland's tolerance for sex shops and strip clubs already helps create unhealthy appetites for what is considered forbidden sex, putting it at a disadvantage. Having a price tag but no real legal deterrent for buying underage sex adds to the repulsive and dangerous problem facing our kids.
The good news is that the Protect Innocence Initiative, a grading system of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., is more of a road map than it is a scold. See it online at www.sharedhope.org and lead your state lawmaker and attorney general there as well, as they have the ability to try to change the legal landscape for buyers in Oregon. Smith says, "Within each state is a unique framework of laws. And under the 10th amendment, that is how it should be. With the Protected Innocence Initiative, it is our hope and intention that we will strengthen the legal framework in states across the nation to weave a fabric of laws that does not allow one child in this nation to fall through."
On Thursday, Smith released the findings of this yearlong research. She told me producing the report was like giving birth. And if you go through the organization's state-by-state findings, you get the labor.
Shared Hope was founded in 1998 to rescue and restore women and children in crisis near and far. It strives to prevent trafficking, to rescue and restore people trapped in commercial sex, and to exact justice for being part of the supply or demand. Encouragingly, if Oregon simply makes the law tougher on a part of society no one should want to stick up for -- those who knowingly or unknowingly pay for sex with minors -- it can improve. And if the rest of us can make others aware that often the so-called "prostitutes" in Oregon are young girls or women who were forced into the "profession" all-too young and in fear, we could tackle the demand side of this problem along with them. After all, what "good" person would feel OK about buying sex with someone tricked or forced into the industry -- a child or not? It's time people who consider themselves "good" know this is the reality so they can be part of the solution.
Only four states received a "B," the highest grade given this year. Let's make getting straight A's a clear border issue.
Children's Advocacy Center offers kids safe haven while evaluating abuse
by Kim Kimzey
Children have called Tabitha Weber a guardian angel. Weber is clinical director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Spartanburg — an “Angel” in its own right.
The organization provides help to physically and sexually abused children in Spartanburg, Union and Cherokee counties and made the South Carolina Secretary of State's 2011 list of Angels. Ten organizations are annually recognized for exemplary charitable giving.
According to a written statement from the secretary of state's office, 89 percent of the CAC's expenditures went to program activities.
Jo Willa Gramling Lopez is executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC). The majority of the organization's expense base is for therapists and forensic evaluators, and 100 percent of services they provide benefit children, Lopez said. All services are free. The CAC works to help children from birth to 18, as well as developmentally delayed adults.
The organization served 529 clients from Sept. 30, 2010, to Oct. 1, 2011.
Lopez said people often mistake the organization for a shelter. On tours, they ask where children sleep. Once a residence, the sprawling building has been transformed into a non-threatening environment designed to put children victimized in some of the worst ways imaginable at ease.
“It's a resource for children to find somebody who will talk to them on their level about their trauma and help them heal,” Lopez said of the CAC.
“It feels like a home,” she said.
Children are happy to visit and “bounce” in the doors, she said.
Dr. Nancy Henderson, a forensic pediatrician who specializes in child abuse, examines children in a small room unlike a typical clinical setting. Bright blue walls are decorated with murals of colorful hot air balloons and butterflies painted by art therapy students from Converse College. There are toys to distract youngsters. The small examination bed is covered with a light blue sheet with clouds on it.
Weber supervises the clinical staff, which includes seven therapists and five forensic evaluators.
Weber admires the resiliency of child abuse survivors. Many have been shackled, sexually assaulted, their images placed on the Internet. Many others will forever have sexually transmitted infections as a result of abuse perpetrated on them.
Most children are “shamed, beat down, traumatized,” she said.
“It's something that is a lifelong burden they have to carry,” Lopez added.
Weber said it's sometimes hard to find that “glimmer of hope.” Yet she knows the organization helps children share secrets that might otherwise create lasting damage, such as substance abuse and interpersonal problems. They find in CAC a safe place where they don't have to carry their shame and receive therapy to restore their childhood as much as possible, Weber said.
Upstairs are rooms where children receive therapy and forensic evaluations. Forensic evaluation rooms are simply decorated with a table and chairs. Switches turn on cameras that record and transmit footage to a room where law enforcement can watch.
“We are trying to find the truth,” Weber said. “We're not on a witch hunt.”
Though it's rare, some people are falsely accused of abuse.
Forty-five percent of the children they see are younger than age 6, Lopez said. The majority of clients are female. Children are referred to the organization through law enforcement, the Department of Social Services, pediatricians, parents and schools.
CAC has Child Abuse Response Teams that weekly meet and discuss cases. The team brings together pediatricians, law enforcement officers, social workers, staff from the 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office, therapists and others in a multidisciplinary effort to help children.
Abused children generally have 20 sessions of “trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy.”
“It's not all gloom and doom,” Weber said. Crayon drawings displayed on walls reveal that.
One that reads “I (heart) the CAC” hangs in Lopez's office.
Weber said the authorities hate what has happened to abused children. But it has happened and can't be ignored, she said. They work to help children heal and work with a team of others, including law enforcement and the solicitor's office, to hold perpetrators accountable.
Sexual abuse often hidden
by Pat Hill
December 2, 2011
A crime often hidden behind closed doors in the family home, sexual assault is mystifying and brutal.
When a child is assaulted by an adult, the effects are debilitating and potentially irreversible. In the past two weeks, as the nation mourns over revelations about separate sexual assaults at Penn State and Syracuse University, perpetrated by coaches placed in positions of trust, the issue is front and center.
In Teller County, a 59-year-old woman, Karen D. Clark, was arrested Dec. 1 and charged with sexual assault on a minor by a person of trust as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to Sheriff Mike Ensminger, the assaults had gone on for two years.
The case is one of 12 reports of sexual assault on a child in the county this year, of which only one-third will alas be prosecuted. Among reasons often cited are that the child is too young to report the abuse, the parents may be reluctant to put the family through the embarrassment or the district attorney's office fails to prosecute, citing lack of evidence.
With the seeming proliferation of assault cases, nationally as well as locally, public awareness is key to exposing the abuse. The signs are often difficult for neighbors and friends to detect, as perpetrators befriend the victims, volunteer to help in time of need, or encourage their talent, as in the case of the coaches at both colleges.
Revelations written by sex offenders as part of a community-service project at the Arrowhead Correctional Center shine a light on offenders' motivation and detection-escape hatches.
“I was the type that would help out when someone needed something such as a ride, money, something fixed, a car, a house. I would also make sure people knew I was doing this,” wrote one offender. “Then I would bring up incidents where the child was lying. I also set this up by giving the child a toy or money.”
When the child talked about the toy, the offender denied he had given the gift.
Another offender writes about assaulting women who were drunk. “After committing the act, there is always the fear of being caught, but the fear is lessened a great deal by the knowledge that they were drunk. I don't believe they'll even remember what happened,” he states.
In the effort to educate the public about sexual assaults, sex offenders in the treatment program have compiled a list of trouble signs that are often ignored, due to naivete or head-in-the-sand mentality. The list begins with “Be Aware of”:
Be Aware of:
A child's drastic changes in behavior, both negative and positive.
A child's shyness.
If a child does not involve himself or herself with other children.
If a child isn't sharing or reluctantly shares what's going on with his or her life.
If a child does not want to attend films dealing with sexual abuse.
If a child is spending a lot of time with an adult or someone older who is not a parent or guardian.
If a child does not want to go to recess, physical education, or play with other children.
“Sexual abuse and assaults are about control and power, even over children, to satisfy the urges or needs of the perpetrator,” said Jan McKamy, Teller County's victims' assistance coordinator. “And they can do it and get away with it much easier than with (other) adults.”
Teller County victims are offered assistance if the crime is reported. “We just do an immediate band-aid on the emotional shock and wound, then turn the victim over to the investigators,” McKamy said.
However, according to the Wings Foundation, Inc., 90 to 95 percent of sexual-abuse cases are never reported to police. Forty-three percent of assault victims are 6-years-old and younger, while one in three victims is under the age of 12. The foundation further reports that 70 to 80 percent of survivors report excessive use of drugs and alcohol while 27 percent of women suffering from bulimia were sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
The consequences of sexual abuse during childhood are far-reaching, including substance abuse and depression. “Many of them isolate so they don't have to feel different,” said Stacy Sheridan, Wings' program director. “They come to the support group because they don't want to feel alone, to know there are others out there like they are. They struggle with how to make their own children aware of the issue.”
Wings' support groups offer a pathway to healing for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse and assault, with 18 meetings in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs. “There's always a therapist (present) but the group is really run by the members,” Sheridan said.
The foundation is dedicated to breaking the cycle and healing the wounds of sexual abuse.
In Colorado Springs, Wings' women's group meetings are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call Wings at 1-800-373-867 or go to www.wingsdfound.org.
Give professionals skills to detect, report child abuse
If there is a silver lining to be found in the tragedy of the child sexual abuse allegations involving the assistant coach at Penn State University it is that it has raised awareness nationally concerning child abuse and the reporting of child abuse. The Missouri Attorney General has called upon our legislature to change the mandated reporter law to add all adults who witness an act of child sexual abuse to the list of mandated reporters. The frustration with the apparent lack of follow through of reporting in the Penn State case makes this sound like an easy and attractive solution costing no money and sending an important policy message that we are all responsible for the safety of every child.
In application, however, such a measure promises only a quick reaction to a terrible tragedy and not a solution. Unfortunately, we know that child abuse goes grossly underreported by the broad category of individuals that currently have a legal duty to make such reports. We further know that the Children's Division lacks sufficient resources and staff to adequately investigate the reports of child abuse currently reported.
To be successful in the fight to end child abuse we must have trained and effective reporters and trained and effective responders. Punishing untrained reporters is not a viable solution. Instead, the law should require all university students majoring in fields that will require them to be mandated reporters to, as a part of their degree, certification or licensing, undergo training in profession specific skills to detect and report child abuse. Individuals working in such a profession or in a position responsible for the care of children, should be required to undergo annual mandated reporter training including ethics training so, for example, a teacher or coach whose legal obligation may end with a report to the principal will understand the importance of also making the report themselves. Finally, we must prioritize the safety of our children and give the Children's Division and other agencies responding to reports of child abuse adequate resources to effectively investigate those reports.
While expanding the pool of mandated reporters might sound good, we cannot make real progress in the fight against child abuse unless we are willing to make real investments in the safety of our children by training current mandated reporters and adequately staffing the agencies that respond to their reports.
Dan Patterson is the Greene County prosecuting attorney.
Whatcom support available for victims of childhood sexual assault
by JENN MASON
By now we are all too familiar with the sexual abuse charges brought against Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State assistant football coach, and the resulting media frenzy.
Sanduksy has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse against young boys over a 15-year period, a deplorable crime against some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Another appalling aspect of this case is that, unlike most sexual abuse, Sandusky's alleged molestation was anything but secret: a grand jury investigation found that many Penn State employees knew or suspected that the molestation was occurring, including former university President Graham Spanier and 84-year-old former head coach Joe Paterno.
Both have since been fired.
These details are familiar to many of us; the celebrity of the institution and the people involved at Penn State have captured our attention. But when we have long-forgotten about Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and the rioting students, victims will still be dealing with devastating effects of the abuse.
Some may begin using destructive coping mechanisms, including abusing alcohol and drugs, self-harm, or disordered eating. They may experience depression, anxiety and feelings of shame and guilt. They may have overwhelming flashbacks and worry excessively about the same thing happening to their own children.
Though the Penn State case is happening thousands of miles from Whatcom County, the case is having real effects on victims of child sexual abuse here.
Since coverage of the Penn State case began, advocacy counselors have noted that calls on the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services 24-hour helpline from men sexually abused as children have increased.
Reaching out and getting help can be difficult for victims, especially men, but is an essential part of healing.
For men who have experienced sexual abuse, DVSAS will begin a men's-only, 12-week support group, Connections, in January. Connections Support Group will help adult male victims to deal with difficult feelings, identify coping skills, and better understand the effects of abuse. DVSAS also offers advocacy counseling, legal assistance, and 24-hour helpline support to male and female adults and teens affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.
Weeks after Sandsuky's initial arrest, the Penn State case is still garnering significant media attention. At the same time, sexual abuse continues to fly well below the radar in our own neighborhoods.
As adults, we have a duty to protect children from harm.
If you suspect a child is being abused, report it to authorities immediately. Educate yourself on the grooming process and become familiar with local services that can help child victims and their families, including Brigid Collins Family Support Center.
And if you, like many others, are reading about the Sandusky case and are having painful memories of being abused, call the DVSAS 24-hour helpline at 360-715-1563 or 866-715-1563. You are not alone.
Jenn Mason is the Development and Education director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County. You can reach her at 360-671-5714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regents will address sexual assault policies
Branstad requests review of whether college officials should be considered mandatory reporters
The Iowa state Board of Regents is expected to address Gov. Terry Branstad's request to review sexual assault policies at the state's three universities during its regular meeting next week.
The scrutiny over the policies comes in the wake of an abuse scandal at Penn State University that led to the firing of its president, football coaches and several other administrators. The case stems from allegations that a former assistant football coach sexually assaulted at least eight young boys. In some cases, the alleged assaults took place on the Penn State campus.
As part of the review of state policy, Branstad also has asked the Iowa Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force to consider whether changes should be made to include more people, such as college officials, as mandatory reporters.
Right now, Iowa law for mandatory reporters includes those who work regularly with children, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, counselors, school employees and child care workers
Stephen Scott, chairman of the task force and executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, said because university employees typically don't treat, council or otherwise work with children as part of their everyday activities, it may not be necessary to have employees and coaches in higher education undergo the training required of a mandatory reporter.
The task force will meet Tuesday to discuss whether changes need to be made to Iowa's mandatory reporter policy and others related to child sexual assault.
The Board of Regents meet Thursday in Ames, and the issue likely will be addressed during the board president's report.
“Right now, we may well consider whether to expand the list of mandatory reporters to include people who are part of the regents program, but there are other categories I would see as a higher priority,” Scott said.
He said a better option for universities is to ensure they have policies in place that would prevent situations like those that allegedly occurred at Penn State from happening in the first place.
All three of Iowa's public universities do have policies to address sexual assault, and the Board of Regents has its own formal policy. The Board policy was re-examined three years ago after an alleged sexual assault at the University of Iowa involving three student-athletes.
Representatives from the universities declined to comment until after Thursday's meeting.
“It's a far better approach because it's preventative and it addresses the basic problem without involving thousands of people in training for policies they'd likely never have to use if effective policies are in place,” Scott said.
Pennsylvania Jim Boeheim issues unabashed apology
by Andy Katz --
(Video on site)
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was angry and defensive when the allegations of sexual molestation were levied against his longtime associate head coach Bernie Fine.
Boeheim lashed out at the accusers. He called them liars and said they were seeking money.
But Boeheim has gone through a metamorphosis of emotions over the past two weeks and accepted Fine's firing Sunday night by university chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Friday night, he took another dramatic step. He apologized.
Boeheim entered the postgame news conference after Syracuse's 72-68 win over Florida and said he had to address a few pressing issues.
|"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made," said Boeheim, who was emotional in delivering his remarks. "I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused."
Boeheim said he consulted with a number of people about his statement, but he said no one forced him to issue an apology.
Advocates for sex abuse victims criticized Boeheim and sought his resignation or firing for his disparaging remarks, which included telling the Syracuse Post-Standard: "The Penn State came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about, money."
Sunday night, Boeheim issued a statement that said he regretted his comments.
His postgame news conference Tuesday after a win against Eastern Michigan was a bit more combative and there wasn't a full apology.
"I reacted without thinking," Boeheim said about his initial response. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'm trying to learn from my mistake. That's all I can say. There is an investigation going on, which I fully support. We all need to know as much as we can as to what happened."
Boeheim said he spent Thursday at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse. He said he has raised money for the cause but now wants to take a more active role.
Earlier Friday, newly named assistant coach Gerry McNamara said the Fine case and firing has weighed on the staff. Boeheim said it has consumed him.
"It's been everything," Boeheim said. "I haven't really thought about the game. I didn't worry about my players being focused. I was focused for them at practice.
"But this is, this whole topic, it's not harder on me; it's people who have been abused, that's who it's hard on," Boeheim said. "I've given a lot of money and raised a lot money but I want to do more in the future for kids in this area and McMahon/Ryan is the best place in the area for kids to go and talk. They need to get this message out. They're not even concerned about me raising money but concerned about getting this message out. I will do everything I can do, whether I'm coaching or not coaching. I've always been committed to kids. There's no question in my mind that the issue of abuse is the No. 1 (issue) that we should all be concerned about in this community. That's what I'm going to try to do."
Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis said the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four. Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in the fifth or sixth grade.
A third accuser, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, came forward Sunday. He said he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room after a game. He said Fine touched him "multiple" times in that one incident.
ESPN's Outside the Lines released Sunday an audio recording made in 2002 between Davis and Fine's wife, Laurie, where she admitted knowledge of abuse when Davis was a child. Cantor said that she fired Fine based on the release of the recorded conversation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service are leading an investigation of child molestation allegations against Fine.
Earlier in the week, USA Basketball's Jerry Colangelo told ESPN.com that Boeheim's spot as the top assistant to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for the 2012 London Olympics was safe, as was his role as the chair of the USA Basketball junior national team. But Colangelo said he would be monitoring the situation. He said Boeheim was a personal friend.
Boeheim said he hasn't wavered in his game preparation. McNamara echoed Boeheim's comments earlier in the night when he said that the team hasn't lost focus and wasn't distracted.
"When I'm with the team, I'm with them 100 percent," Boeheim said. "They are focused on the game. I don't see a distraction."
Florida coach Billy Donovan had an extended handshake with Boeheim after the game in which he offered his support. Donovan said he has known Boeheim for years, as a rival player at Providence and over the past two decades as an opposing coach, and considers Boeheim a friend.
"I just told him I'm thinking about him," Donovan said. "I don't know the details of what's going on, but I feel I know Jim Boeheim very well. He's always been great to me as a player and in coaching and with USA Basketball in the summer. I've known him for 25 years and I appreciate what he did for me as a young coach. Eventually the truth will come out. I know how much time he has invested in this program and what he's done. I feel for him. He's a great man and a great coach and he's built a heck of a program. And that's why I know that it's hard on him."
Boeheim said his decision to visit the McMahon/Ryan facility is just a continuation of his commitment to children.
"I'm continuing with what I've been doing," Boeheim said. "I'm not trying to do something to change somebody's opinion."
Center of Penn State Scandal, Sandusky Tells His Own Story
by JO BECKER
The former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, in his first extended interview since his indictment on sexual abuse charges last month, said Coach Joe Paterno never spoke to him about any suspected misconduct with minors. Mr. Sandusky also said the charity he worked for never restricted his access to children until he became the subject of a criminal investigation in 2008.
The failure by Mr. Paterno to act more aggressively after being told in 2002 that Mr. Sandusky had molested a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the university's football building played a role in Mr. Paterno's firing last month after 62 years at Penn State. Mr. Sandusky, in the interview, said that Mr. Paterno did not speak to him or confront him over the accusation, despite the fact that Mr. Sandusky had been one of his assistant coaches for three decades and was a regular presence at the football team's complex for years after the 2002 episode.
Mr. Sandusky, in a nearly four-hour interview over two days this week, insisted he had never sexually abused any child, but he confirmed details of some of the events that prosecutors have cited in charging him with 40 counts of molesting young boys, all of whom came to know Mr. Sandusky through the charity he founded, known as the Second Mile.
Mr. Sandusky said he regularly gave money to the disadvantaged boys at his charity, opened bank accounts for them, and gave them gifts that had been donated to the charity.
Prosecutors have said Mr. Sandusky used such gifts as a way to build a sense of trust and loyalty among boys he then repeatedly abused.
Mr. Sandusky, after repeated requests, agreed to the interview because he said his decades of work with children had been misunderstood and distorted by prosecutors.
“They've taken everything that I ever did for any young person and twisted it to say that my motives were sexual or whatever,” Mr. Sandusky said. He added: “I had kid after kid after kid who might say I was a father figure. And they just twisted that all.”
Yet over the course of the interview, Mr. Sandusky described what he admitted was a family and work life that could often be chaotic, even odd, one that lacked some classic boundaries between adults and children, and thus one that was open to interpretation — by those who have defended him as a generous mentor and those who have condemned him as a serial predator.
He said his household in State College, Pa., over the years came to be a kind of recreation center or second home for dozens of children from the charity, a place where games were played, wrestling matches staged, sleepovers arranged, and from where trips to out-of-town sporting events were launched. Asked directly why he appeared to interact with children who were not his own without many of the typical safeguards other adults might apply — showering with them, sleeping alone with them in hotel rooms, blowing on their stomachs — he essentially said that he saw those children as his own.
“It was, you know, almost an extended family,” Mr. Sandusky said of his household's relationship with children from the charity. He then characterized his close experiences with children he took under his wing as “precious times,” and said that the physical aspect of the relationships “just happened that way.”
Wrestling, hugging — “I think a lot of the kids really reached out for that,” he said.
Mr. Sandusky said his wife, Dorothy, known as Dottie, ultimately had some concerns about the household dynamics. He said she had warned him not to neglect his own children — the Sanduskys had adopted six children, including one from the Second Mile — “for the sake of other kids.” Mr. Sandusky recalled one scene after a Penn State football game that underscored her concerns.
“I remember the kids were downstairs, and we always had dogs,” he said. “And Dottie said, ‘You better go down and check on those kids, you know those Second Mile kids after football games.' I went down, and I look, and there goes a kid flying over a couch, there goes a dog flying over a couch. And I go, ‘I don't think she wants to see this.' ”
He said of his household: “Yeah, I mean it was turmoil. It was turmoil.”
During the interview, conducted at the home of his lawyer, Mr. Sandusky was at times subdued, but occasionally capable of humor — some of it awkward laughter about his legal jeopardy and ruined reputation, some of it bright amusement at a recalled anecdote about his own father, who himself had worked with disadvantaged and disabled children, or a moment of remembered comedy at one of the many summer camps he helped run for children.
He grew most animated when talking about his relationships with children, and he grew most disconsolate when he, with a touch of childlike reverence, spoke of Mr. Paterno and Penn State, and the damage his indictment had caused them. “I don't think it was fair,” he said.
During the interview, Joseph Amendola, Mr. Sandusky's lawyer, captured what he asserted was his client's predicament:
“All those good things that you were doing have been turned around,” Mr. Amendola said, speaking to his client, “and the people who are painting you as a monster are saying, ‘Well, they're the types of things that people who are pedophiles exhibit.' ”
Prosecutors, in their indictment of Mr. Sandusky, charged him with a horrific array of abuse, including the repeated assaults of young boys.
Mr. Sandusky, in the interview, confirmed aspects of what prosecutors have said was a manipulative scheme: he gave money and gifts to Second Mile children, including computers and golf clubs. However, Mr. Sandusky presented his actions in a benevolent light.
“I would call kids on the phone and work with them academically,” he said. “I tried to reward them sometimes with a little money in hand, just so that they could see something. But more often than not, I tried to set up, maybe get them to save the money, and I put it directly into a savings account established for them.”
Sometimes, he said, he found work for the children at his football camps. Sometimes he bought them shoes or a shirt with his money. And sometimes, he passed along gifts to them that had been given to the charity by donors. “I never bought a computer for any kid; I had a computer given to me to give to a kid,” he said. “I never bought golf clubs. People gave things because they knew there would be kids. They wanted to get rid of things.”
It is unclear whether the supervisors or directors of the charity knew of Mr. Sandusky's setting up bank accounts or giving away donated gifts. Investigators with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office have subpoenaed the financial records of the charity, but say they have been alarmed to learn that some records from some years are missing.
Jack Raykovitz, the executive director of Second Mile, resigned after Mr. Sandusky's indictment.
Mr. Sandusky, in the interview, said Penn State officials had contacted Mr. Raykovitz after the episode in 2002. An assistant football coach has told investigators that he saw Mr. Sandusky raping a young boy in the football building's showers, and that he told Mr. Paterno some version of that scene the following day. Mr. Paterno has testified that he then informed the university's athletic director, Tim Curley, that Mr. Sandusky had done something sexually inappropriate with a young boy.
Mr. Sandusky, in the interview, said word of an episode with a young boy in the shower reached Mr. Raykovitz. He said he talked with Mr. Raykovitz, and identified the boy he thought Penn State was concerned about. Mr. Sandusky, though, said Mr. Raykovitz did not see fit to limit his interaction with youths, in part because he was aware of the nature of Mr. Sandusky's mentoring relationship with the boy, and in part because he knew Mr. Sandusky had undergone repeated background checks clearing him to work with children.
Mr. Raykovitz's lawyer, Kevin L. Hand, called Mr. Sandusky's account inaccurate, but refused to say more.
As for Mr. Paterno, Mr. Sandusky said the two never spoke about any incidents, not the episode in 2002 or an earlier complaint of child molestation made against Mr. Sandusky in 1998 that was investigated by the Penn State campus police.
“I never talked to him about either one,” Mr. Sandusky said of Mr. Paterno. “That's all I can say. I mean, I don't know.”
Mr. Paterno, through his son, Scott, has denied knowing about the 1998 investigation at the time it happened.
“He's the only one who knows whether anybody ever said anything to him,” Mr. Sandusky said of Mr. Paterno.
In the interview, Mr. Sandusky, the longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State, said that his relationships and activities with Second Mile children did cause some strain with Mr. Paterno, but only in that Mr. Sandusky worried that having some of the children with him at hotels before games, or on the sideline during games, risked being seen as a distraction by the demanding Mr. Paterno.
“I would have dreams of we being in a squad meeting and that door fly open and kids come running through chasing one another, and what was I going to do?” he said. “Because, I mean, Joe was serious about football.”
Mr. Sandusky, despite expressing concern about talking about the formal charges made against him, did talk about his relationships with several of the eight people cited as victims by prosecutors last month. He said his relationships with more than one of them had extended for years after the suspected episodes of molestation or inappropriate behavior.
In 1998, the mother of a child reported concerns to the Penn State campus police when she learned her son had showered with Mr. Sandusky at the university. After an investigation, Mr. Sandusky admitted to the police and child welfare authorities that he had most likely done something inappropriate, according to prosecutors. The local district attorney declined to prosecute.
In the interview this week, Mr. Sandusky said the boy and his mother remained a part of his life for years. He said that the mother had sought him out for tickets to Penn State games for her son, and that Mr. Sandusky had contributed financially years later, when the young man, interested in the ministry, went on a mission.
“He went to Mexico in the poverty-stricken areas and worked with the kids and things like that,” Mr. Sandusky said of the young man. “He showed me, he sent me pictures of he and the kids.”
In the grand jury report, prosecutors cited Mr. Sandusky's attempts to reach some of his accusers. He acknowledged that he reached out to at least one, but said he thought the young man might be a character witness on his behalf, and was unaware that prosecutors had listed him as a victim.
Asked how he came to be involved more closely with some children rather than others, Mr. Sandusky said he got to know many of them at Second Mile summer camps.
“Some of them sought me out,” Mr. Sandusky said.
Mr. Sandusky, facing grave charges and the possibility of imprisonment, discussed how much was now missing from his life, and how much more might be missing in the future.
“I miss coaching,” he said. “I miss Second Mile. I miss Second Mile kids. I miss interrelationships with all kinds of people. I miss my own grandkids. I miss, I mean you know I'm going to miss my dog. So, I mean, yeah, I miss, yeah. Good grief.
“I used to have a lot of contact with a lot of people and so that circle is diminished, and as it diminished, you know Bo is still there,” he said of his dog. “And I swear he understands. I swear he knows. And you know I love him dearly for that.”
Teacher in trouble after alleged panty party with young girls
A tree-trimming party with elementary-school girls dressed in bras and panties has landed one teacher in hot water.
Teacher Kimberly Crain, 48, is the focus of an ongoing investigation by authorities in Shawnee, Okla., a member of the police chief's office told The Times on Friday morning.
Crain invited five girls to her house for pizza and tree-trimming. According to media reports, she asked the girls to put on Christmas-themed underwear and then took photos and video of the children.
Oklahoma's News9.com reports that the FBI is involved in the investigation. From that report:
Parents said five girls in the third and fourth grades were invited to help a female school teacher put up a Christmas tree at her Shawnee home.
"I didn't mind because my daughter had gone there before," said the mother of one of the alleged victims who is only going by the name Amanda.
Crain reportedly turned in her resignation on Thursday at McLoud Elementary School in McLoud, Okla. A school representative, when asked to confirm the information Friday morning, replied: "No comment."
A search warrant affidavit is cited by the Smoking Gun website, which says Crain asked the girls to change into bras and panties bearing phrases like "Ho! Ho!"
A call to the Pottawatomie County district attorney was not immediately returned.
|“There is no cure. This isn't Dr. Phil.”
...... -- Tim, sexual abuse survivor
||New York Survivors at Vera House speak out
by Dana O'Neil -- ESPN.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Margarine. The mere thought of it, even the word itself, for years sent Craig into dizzying tailspins. He could never understand why.
And then one day four years ago, a man knocked on his door and it all came flooding back, a lifetime of repressed memories so vile and sickening they literally imprisoned Craig in his house for two years.
When he finally emerged again, it was on a stretcher. He'd tried to kill himself and only a chance 1 a.m. visit from his son stopped him from succeeding.
It is now six months later and Craig is sitting at a square table at Vera House, a Syracuse-based outreach and advocacy center for victims of abuse.
Three other men are with him. They, like Craig, were sexually abused as children -- Ed and Tim by their fathers, Dan by a neighborhood football coach.
For Craig, it was the man on the other side of the door, his stepfather who had brutalized him from the time he was 4.
Only Craig didn't remember it until he was 47.
"You could never have made me believe in repressed memories. How could something like that happen to a person and they don't remember it?" said Craig, 51. "But now I understand it all. The margarine, I could never understand why I reacted so strongly. When he came back into my life, I just snapped. It was like a bomb went off."
The men, all part of a male survivor group at Vera House, have come to share their stories at a particularly gut-wrenching time. Just a few miles from where they sit, Syracuse University is reeling amid news that former associate men's basketball coach Bernie Fine is being investigated for allegedly molesting two former ball boys and one other.
In the absence of formal charges or indictments, the city and the university wait anxiously to see what shoe might drop next and where it will land.
Two weeks ago, scandal took permanent root at Penn State, where a grand jury indictment of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky led to a tsunami of emotion and action in the aftermath of sexual molestation charges, sweeping up 84-year-old head coach Joe Paterno in its wake.
These four men, however, have gathered at Vera House not to pile on, but to redirect. They are tired of hearing about Joe Paterno and Jim Boeheim, about tainted legacies and scarred universities.
They want to talk about the victims, about the ones who have been identified in these two cases and the countless others who are too afraid to come forward.
And they want more than anything to talk, to open the floodgates of conversation on a topic still considered so taboo it remains inconceivable.
"Jim Boeheim doesn't need to be fired. Jim Boeheim needs to be educated," Ed said. "Everyone does. I was listening to the 11 o'clock news and someone said they couldn't believe this was happening at Syracuse. Guess what? It's probably happening in your neighborhood. It could be happening next door. We have to start talking about it."
And so these men are here to talk, to share their own painful pasts in the hopes of saving someone else's future.
Dan didn't have the luxury of repressed memories.
Molested by his football coach from the time he was 11 until he was 13, he carried the knowledge around like a two-ton albatross.
"I fully expected I would take it to my grave," he said. "I felt like my own life couldn't go on if I let my secret out. I didn't want to be stigmatized. I didn't think I could face my friends if they knew or society in general."
Dan married, had a family and became, in his words, a "pretty good alcoholic." Eventually forced into marriage counseling by his wife, he finally spilled his secret when he was 38, telling his therapist what had happened to him as a child.
It sounds inconceivable, to live with something so heavy and hurtful without screaming to authorities, to someone.
And those questions -- Why wait? Why not say something? -- are often the first posed when someone like Fine's alleged accuser, Bobby Davis, comes forward later in life.
"I've been in recovery for close to 17 years and I probably know nearly 100 survivors and I don't think any of them are in their 20s or 30s," Dan said. "Everybody holds it in."
That includes Dan, Ed, Tim and Craig.
All were grown men before they sought help and admitted they were abused.
What outsiders fail to grasp is that people who speak out may be men, but it is the child who harbors the secret. An adult knows to go to the police or to tell someone. A child doesn't.
Especially when a child is molested not by some bogeyman hiding in the bushes, but by family members or friends, trusted grown-ups who to the outside world look like they are being kind or helpful to the child. Who, a child thinks, will believe me?
Sandusky and Fine were both revered, highly respected professionals, men with important, high-profile jobs.
"Everyone looks at it with an adult's perspective," Ed said. "You have to look at it through the eyes of an 8-year-old and that's impossible to do. My father was supposed to be raising me and setting a good example. Instead he was having sex with me."
The overwhelming need to keep it secret is compounded by the fact that they are boys.
Tim's sister also was abused by their father. She sought help years before her brother did.
Boys are taught to "man up" and don't "cry like a baby" or "act like a little girl."
"It took me years just to say I was a victim," Dan said. "I fought that in therapy. I didn't want to consider myself a victim. That meant I wasn't tough. That meant I didn't do enough."
When Ed was in elementary school, he finally worked up the courage to walk into his guidance counselor's office and say that his father was abusing him.
His guidance counselor quickly shooed him out the door and never spoke of it again.
Neither, really, did Ed until seven years ago when he first arrived at Vera House, instead suffering the abuse until he was 14 before freefalling as an adult into drugs and failed relationships.
He's not angry with the guidance counselor, considering his inaction more indicative of the ignorance of the times than callousness.
But now he sees less of an excuse for such insensitivity. Though we are still climbing the educational curve, there is clearly a more heightened awareness of the signs of abuse and an understanding that it does occur.
And that's why Ed can't forgive Boeheim for his initial outburst. The day after Davis went public with his allegations against Fine, Boeheim labeled them a "bunch of a thousand lies," and said he believed Davis was only looking for money.
Ed understands the coach needs to be educated, but he also knows the impact of words.
"How many people heard that and now are going to wait another 30 years before speaking?" he said. "I don't care about anything he said after that first reaction. I am sure there are people who were this close to talking and now they're this far away [spreading his arms wide]."
And it's not just Boeheim. It's all of the public reactions at Penn State and Syracuse that have victimized people all over again. Randi Bregman, executive director of Vera House, said frequently when there is a national news story centered on abuse -- if a woman is killed in a domestic dispute, for example -- the program's hotline numbers spike significantly.
That hasn't happened.
"Would you come forward?" she asked. "Look how these people have been treated."
It's Boeheim's statements and it's the students who rioted in support of Paterno. It's the anguish over the coach's dismissal instead of the anguish for the eight men allegedly victimized by Sandusky when they were young.
And it's the standing ovation Boeheim received when he took the Carrier Dome court on Tuesday evening.
"What exactly are you applauding?" Ed asked.
But even the legal system, the one designed to protect the abused, is flawed. When Davis first went to Syracuse police, he was told his case wouldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.
In New York, the statute is five years for a felony, beginning when the victim reaches the age of 18.
"Because of the nature of the crime, you keep it silent," Dan said. "A 23-year-old isn't going to come forward. There's no statute of limitations on murder. This is just as vile."
"No," Craig added. "It's the same. Our souls have been murdered."
Tim was nearly 50 years old when he finally confronted his father, the man who had sexually, physically and psychologically assaulted him from the time he was 5 until he was 17.
"I was petrified," he said. "He just sat there with his eyes closed and I was terrified."
The terror, the shame, all of it is never far from the surface.
"There is no cure," Tim said. "This isn't Dr. Phil."
The reality is, there is only management. There are normal days that suddenly go haywire and quiet nights when childhood insecurities resurface.
"You sit there at 3 a.m. and you think about walking into a room, worry that people are thinking, 'Look at that schlep,'" Tim said. "You know they aren't in your heart, but it's still there."
"Or," Dan added, "you think people who know are keeping their kids away from you."
Not long ago, Tim said, he was passing through a metal detector at the New York state capitol. He went to get his change out of the bowl, tipping the bowl toward him. A security guard asked him not to tip it, but Tim didn't hear him and so the guard said it again, more forcefully.
"And I just cowered," Tim said. "There's this voice that sounds like my father and I'm suddenly in this infantile state. You don't know it's coming. There aren't any warnings."
That's why he and the other three men laugh when people scoff at the timing of Davis' allegations, labeling the timing "convenient."
"There is nothing convenient about this," Craig said.
Instead they are certain that for Davis, the Penn State news served as a trigger, an out-of-nowhere reminder of what he had been through.
"I'm sure he's not alone," Dan said. "I think I'm pretty stable and yet for the past month all I've been able to think about is Penn State and Syracuse and Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine. What about these people still holding on to their secret? What are they doing? I'll tell you. They're drinking more. They're yelling more. They're fighting more because they can't get away from it."
And they shouldn't try -- that's what these men want to stress.
They want victims to know that they can get help privately, that they don't have to be like Davis and go to the media or even the police. They don't even need to share the name of their molester.
They just need to get help.
"People don't realize how messed up they are," Craig said. "They don't realize how falsely they're living their lives. This affects everything you do and you don't even know it."
His friend gave him the analogy, but it's a good one and so Ed shares it with everyone.
He likens his abuse to a rock in a pocket.
"You're holding on to it, holding on really tight," he said. "Over time, it gets smaller and smaller. Eventually it's just a little pebble. It's never gone, but it's more manageable."
That's what therapy does. That's what getting help does.
And that's why these men are talking.
They want other victims to know they aren't alone, that harboring their secret won't save them. Talking about it will.
They also want the public to know that this abuse is real, that hiding it doesn't mean it didn't happen and that living with it, even when the rock becomes a pebble, is never easy.
None of them slept well the night before their interview, second-guessing their decision to participate, worried how the conversation would be construed.
But they showed up.
And they will again and again. They will go on the radio as Dan did, and to local colleges, including Syracuse, if the universities will have them.
They will share their stories -- "go ahead, dig into my life," Ed said -- and answer the impossible if it helps generate conversation, if it creates awareness, if it saves one person.
Already the television trucks are leaving Syracuse. The news cycle will move on.
But the abusers -- the predators -- will never go away.
And so Craig and Dan and Ed and Tim will talk until they can't talk anymore. To the community, yes, but also to the victims.
Because they were once victims, too.
Now they are survivors.
Really, they are heroes.
* * *
Victims of sexual abuse are encouraged to seek help by visiting local outreach centers or RAINN.org, the website for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
All of us must be vigilant against child sex abuse
by MARLA BEHLER
In light of what has happened at Penn State University and now at Syracuse University, the issue of child sexual abuse again has been brought to the forefront and into the thoughts of many people. Disbelief and anger fuel countless conversations and news reports. This information hits close to home, leading us to question our daily lives: How safe are our children when we leave them in the care of others?
These ruminations are not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, there is a lesson to be learned here. Child abuse and sexual child abuse in particular cannot be swept away as a “dirty little secret.” We must educate our young to come forward — to reject any shame or guilt. We teach our children to be wary of strangers; we teach them to say no to drugs. We must also teach them a basic tenet to protect them from sexual predators, and that is to believe and trust their feelings. If a person they know and rely on makes them feel uncomfortable in any way, small or large, they need to get away and tell someone. The reality is that 90 percent of children who have experienced abuse know their offenders well. They are relatives, friends, neighbors and coaches — and they have taken the time and effort to build a relationship with the child. This type of situation does not evolve overnight. The perpetrator sets about to foster trust and create a situation where access is made easier through familiarity, dependence and comfort.
Parents and other caregivers as well must be aware — and vigilant. The truth is child abuse is much more common than we generally think. Statistics tell only part of the story since many cases continue to go unreported. Despite this, studies have shown that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18. These numbers are unacceptable.
We may understand why some children remain silent. But there is no excuse for adult witnesses to such crimes. There is a moral and ethical imperative for everyone to report suspected child abuse. Fortunately, when a report is made in Putnam or Westchester counties, we have a Child Advocacy Center where a team of professionals — from law enforcement, Child Protective Services, the justice system, and medical and mental health organizations — work together to ensure that the child is safe and gets the services needed to start healing.
The writer is program coordinator, Child Advocacy Center of Putnam County.
Penn State to donate $1.5 million to help sex-abuse victims
Penn State University, still coping with the fallout from a sex-abuse scandal involving a former football coach, will divert $1.5 million from its athletics programs and donate it to groups that help victims of sexual violence, the university announced Thursday.
The planned donation to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is part of the school's response to the scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
Head coach Joe Paterno and the university's president were forced to leave last month because of the scandal.
In announcing the commitment to donate the funds, the school said the money would come from Penn State's share of this year Big Ten bowl revenues.
“As a university and as people within a caring community we believe it is essential to take a deeper look at the core issue of child sexual abuse and to openly acknowledge the scope of the problem,” Penn State's new president, Rodney Erickson, said in the announcement.
"Our own experience shows that child sexual abuse greatly impacts individuals and entire communities," Erickson said. "It is now our responsibility to assist in raising awareness and in helping fight this insidious and often secret crime. We hope that our partnership will help break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse and lead to better protection of our children."
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, based in Enola, Pa., is a nationally recognized leader in the field of sexual assault response and prevention. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the group's expertise in 1999 by awarding it the contract for a new National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the nation's main information center on sexual violence. The coalition won the nationally competitive cooperative agreement again in 2004 and 2009, the university said.
“I am pleased that Penn State wants to establish a partnership with PCAR to utilize our knowledge, experience and resources,” said Delilah Rumburg, chief executive of the coalition and the resource center, in the announcement. “It shows strength to take a tragic situation and turn it into an opportunity to grow and learn.”
University president Erickson also urged the Penn State community to support existing efforts to raise funds for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a counseling and crisis hotline.
Erickson has increased the university's visibility on the issue since Sandusky was charged on Nov. 5, the day the scandal broke. On Wednesday night, Erickson appeared at a forum at the university's student union building and pledged to raise ethical standards so that anyone who witnesses abuse would know the morally correct response, not just the legally required action.
According to the grand jury in the Sandusky case, an assistant coach said he saw Sandusky raping a young boy in the school's showers in 2002 and told Paterno, the head coach. Paterno then passed the information on to other university officials.
The boy was associated with a charitable group founded by Sandusky, who was known to bring children to the campus. Sandusky has denied the molestation charges though he has admitted showering with the child.
The grand jury said the allegations against Sandusky were not immediately brought to the attention of authorities.
The scandal and its fallout has led not only to the ouster of Paterno but also President Graham Spanier, who was forced to leave by the board of trustees. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down. Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report to police.
Meanwhile, the first civil suit in the scandal has been filed. A plaintiff identified only as John Doe, now 29, alleges that at age 10 he was assaulted by Sandusky. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, names as defendants Sandusky, the charity he was associated with and Penn State.
The plaintiff is not part of the criminal case against Sandusky.
Penn State, PA Coalition Against Rape join to fight child sexual abuse
Penn State commits funds from bowl revenues to prevent, treat sexual abuse and violence
December 1, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has formed a partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to extend the collective reach of their programs in preventing and treating sexual abuse and violence throughout the state and nation. The University has committed $1.5 million to fund a variety of initiatives the partnership will undertake. The funds will come from Penn State's share of this year's Big Ten bowl revenues.
"As a University and as people within a caring community we believe it is essential to take a deeper look at the core issue of child sexual abuse and to openly acknowledge the scope of the problem," said University President Rodney Erickson. "Our own experience shows that child sexual abuse greatly impacts individuals and entire communities. It is now our responsibility to assist in raising awareness and in helping fight this insidious and often secret crime. We hope that our partnership will help break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse and lead to better protection of our children."
Erickson said there are many ways that PCAR and Penn State can combine resources and expertise to effectively combat one of society's most devastating crimes. According to national statistics, in the United States alone, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.
"We believe PCAR's goals closely parallel the University's goals in education, research and outreach, and in the broader area of public policy development," Erickson said. "We can and will do more to stop and prevent abuse."
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, based in Enola, Pa., is a nationally recognized leader in the field of sexual assault response and prevention. PCAR's staff and the NSVRC work closely and collaborate with many external partners to identify the best expertise and resources to address and prevent sexual violence against children and adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized PCAR's expertise in 1999 by awarding it the contract for a new National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the nation's principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence. PCAR won the nationally competitive cooperative agreement again in 2004 and 2009.
"I am pleased that Penn State wants to establish a partnership with PCAR to utilize our knowledge, experience and resources," said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of PCAR and the NSVRC. "It shows strength to take a tragic situation and turn it into an opportunity to grow and learn."
"No one can undo the trauma experienced by sexual assault victims, but we can improve policies and protocol to increase safety for people of all ages and help people channel their anger and outrage into positive action and involvement," she added, "to transform the 'norms' for everyone regarding how they respond to suspicions and allegations of sexual assault."
Penn State Vice President for Outreach Craig Weidemann will head the team that will work with PCAR/NSVRC in establishing a formal plan and budget.
Erickson noted that the partnership could focus on a number of areas over the next three years, including:
|-- Professional education and development for Penn State employees;
-- Curriculum content and certificate programs;
-- Educational outreach initiatives to communities throughout Pennsylvania;
-- Promotion of public awareness about child sexual abuse;
-- Assistance in developing research priorities on child sexual abuse and sexual violence;
-- Public policy development; and
-- Internships and other educational opportunities for students.
While Erickson pointed out PCAR's statewide presence, expertise and closely aligned goals as major factors for forming this unique partnership, he also encouraged Penn Staters to continue to support the grassroots effort already undertaken by alumni to benefit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). In the last month, Penn Staters have helped fund RAINN 's online counseling and crisis hotline services. Alumni and friends can show their support for RAINN by contacting them at http://www.rainn.org/ProudPSUforRAINN.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, formed in 1975, is the oldest anti-sexual violence coalition in the U.S. The organization represents 51 sexual assault centers that serve victims in the state's 67 counties. Each year these centers provide confidential services, at no charge, to more than 30,000 men, women and children affected by sexual abuse. Visit http://www.pcar.org or call 800-692-7445 for more information or to make a donation to support PCAR programs and initiatives.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides leadership, consultation and technical assistance by generating and facilitating the development and flow of information on sexual violence intervention and prevention strategies. The NSVRC works to address the causes and impact of sexual violence through collaboration, prevention efforts and the distribution of resources. For more information, visit http://www.nsvrc.org or call toll-free at 877-739-3895.
RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, operates telephone and online crisis hotlines and provides online counseling to families impacted by child sexual abuse with ongoing, one-on-one support. Visit http://www.rainn.org or call 800-656-HOPE (4673) for more information.
For more information, contact Kristen L. Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape at email@example.com or 800-692-7445; or Rodney Kirsch, Penn State's senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-863-4826.
Contact Kristen Houser email@example.com 800-692-7445 http://www.pcar.org -- Contact Rodney Kirsch firstname.lastname@example.org 814-863-4826
Fewer Kentucky children died from abuse or neglect, state reports
by DEBORAH YETTER
Eighteen Kentucky children died from abuse or neglect during the past fiscal year — fewer than the 33 deaths the previous year, according to a report the state released Thursday.
Ten of them were in families that had previous involvement with state social service officials, according to the annual report of child abuse deaths and serious injuries from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
But the report — required by state law — is a sharply pared-down version compared with those from previous years. Just 15 pages long, compared to last year's 29-page report, it provides limited information and omits much of the detail of past annual reports.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said it's good news that fewer children died from abuse or neglect.
But he criticized the cabinet for cutting down the report and revising the format, saying it makes it difficult to compare findings from previous years. Brooks said he's also disturbed the report was released three months after the Sept. 1 deadline specified in state law.
“They are scrambling to get it out three months late,” he said. “At a time when this issue needs some transparency and more visibility, they have given us the Reader's Digest version.”
Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff issued a statement Thursday calling the document an “objective and evaluative report. Hopefully, this report can facilitate a greater level of understanding of the work conducted in Kentucky's child welfare system.”
The issue of child abuse deaths is attracting increased scrutiny from officials and some lawmakers, who have scheduled a meeting of the interim House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting Dec. 19 to question cabinet officials about the matter and go over the annual report.
Brooks, calling the report a “failure,” said it appears to obscure any meaningful measure of the state's child welfare system because of the dearth of detail.
For example, it omits the total number of reports of suspected abuse — averaging more than 70,000 annually over the last five years. Advocates say that's an important statistic because it shows how many cases the cabinet screens out as not meriting investigation.
ESPN: Guilty of Child Abuse by Omission?
December 1 2011
If you're not Catholic, it's easy to distance yourself from the decades of abuse that Catholic priests and those figures of authority in the Catholic Church have heaped upon their young parishioners. The disgust that we all feel as humans is much more tolerable when we can disassociate ourselves as a group from those sick priests.
Hell, I'm not a Catholic. That doesn't happen in my religion.
However, when the innocence of youth is murdered by those in a secular world, then there's no alternative and no cultural or intellectual divide. We all must act and react instantly.
Unfortunately, ESPN chose the path of those whose athletic programs and “brand” identity trump the welfare of our children.
Pedophiles and pederasts are a cagey group. They often leverage a position that is part parent and part superhero to exercise a dynastic prerogative that preys on the will of those in their charge. It's murder in the first degree, as these deviants lie in wait and conspire to gain their sick gratification at the cost of the life of their victim. There is a more blatant way to state this, but I'll refrain from lowering myself to a street standard in this one case.
As we all seethe and question what went on in full view and knowledge of guys like Joe Paterno at Penn State, we may offer excuses for an old man's behavior. To me, there is no excuse. Had it been one of his kids that was being defiled by his assistant coach, I'm sure that today, the defiling would be at the hands of fellow inmates.
I guess though, if you talked to Paterno during the time of his awareness, he might have offered the opinion that it's not the duty of Penn State's athletic program to report child rape to police. After all, Penn State was pursuing a winning record and didn't want to tarnish their program.
ESPN might offer the same excuse. A very well-known lifestyle reporter shared a link to a website called Sports by Brooks that lays a foundation that should result in the incarceration of every ESPN executive and broadcaster that was aware of the latest alleged outbreak of terror at the hands of the associate head basketball coach of Syracuse. Hell, even Paterno notified the VP in charge of the Penn State campus police.
ESPN Senior Vice President & Director of News Vince Doria has issued this statement: ”From a professional standpoint, our role as a journalist is to seek out information and vet that information and when we're satisfied with the credibility of that information to report it to the public. It's what journalists do. It's not necessarily the journalist's role to go to the police with potential evidence that at the time we didn't believe was strong enough to report ourselves.”
He is responding to an interview that ESPN conducted with Laurie Fine, wife of Bernie Fine, Syracuse's former head basketball coach for the men's team. In that interview, Laurie dropped a dime on her husband that should have resounded in the hallways of ESPN. Instead, her acknowledgement of her husband's sexual abuse of children that was recorded in 2003 resulted in ... nothing.
Fine's ravings totally blew the doors open on her husband's "issues.” ESPN could have been proactive and done what any parent would do to protect the integrity of not only their children but any child within their purview.
Children who are being courted by college sports programs put them in a position where gifts, praise and attention are lavished upon them. The coaches who give them the keys to vacant and well-furnished condos, access to perks and special treatment, and offer them adulation, set up a relationship that results in easy access to the trust of a child.
This is what they destroy: trust, innocence, and a child's belief in themselves as they grow into their sexuality. Destroying that trust is tantamount to murder in the 1st. For some reason, we feel that these people can be rehabilitated. I don't believe they can, and they must be eliminated from society.
ESPN is culpable in its omission of the facts as it knew them. Vince Doria's excuses should have a familiar ring as we wallow in the mire of professional and college sport's marginalization of their most important demographic: children. As we would spit on a person that walks by someone in need without offering any assistance, we also must shun and ostracize those who use children for their own sickness, without regard to the future of those children, and the lives that they snuff out.
Children are continually given the finger not only by the molesters but also by overpaid athletes whose disregard for their youngest and most impressionable fans are ruining professional basketball, baseball and football.
Paterno's obligation to report to the police can be debated for as long as you want. He screwed up. He ruined his legacy by not being proactive, and putting his sick assistant coach above those who he allegedly molested. There is no debate about ESPN's responsibility.
I'm not the only one calling for an investigation and criminal charges being levied against those at ESPN who are responsible. Please see Sports by Brooks website.
Have something close by to vomit into.
Residents take a stand against child abuse during vigil
by Hannah Cruz - The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Candlelight reflected on the faces of teary eyed Norman residents Thursday night as a solitary voice encouraged attendees to take a stand against child sexual abuse.
“As you leave tonight and as you go back to your places of influence tomorrow, I hope you'll remember those four words: ‘do right' and ‘fear not.' Be the voice of a child. Change the course of a life for a person, for a family, and for our community one voice at a time,” United Way of Norman President Kristin Collins said.
In light of the recent child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, several Norman organizations came together at 6 p.m. Thursday on the University of Oklahoma's campus to hold a candlelight vigil and community forum.
The night began with attendees gathered at the campus' South Oval. Attendees held on to burning candles as they listened to live music and various local leaders speak about personal survival stories.
The event was co-sponsored by Bethesda Inc., the Center for Children and Families Inc., Mary Abbott Children's House, Norman Public Schools, the Norman Area Exchange Club, the OU Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work and United Way of Norman.
Katie Fitzgerald, executive director of the Center for Children and Families, said during the vigil that Cleveland County is third in the state in the number of confirmed abuse cases. In 2010, she said, 442 child sexual abuse victims were served by Bethesda, and 486 children were interviewed at Mary Abbott.
Stressing the far-reaching affects sexual abuse has on any community, Fitzgerald asked attendees to say “I will be a voice for chidren” as each lit their candles.
“I'm sure that each one of you are here tonight because you want to protect and care for the children in your lives in the best way possible,” she said. “Some of you may be survivors of abuse — like me — standing up to say we will not be ashamed because we were victims, and we are not going to shy away from this subject just because it makes some people uncomfotable.
“Together, we can do so much in preventing child abuse from happening, and we can bring healing and hope to the lives of children who have suffered. But make no mistake about it — all paths to prevention, to healing, to hope begin with one person's voice.”
The vigil also included a live singing performance from Anne Roberts, former executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, a story about abuse from Kay Christiansen from Bethseda, and a poem read by Steve Wells, OU School of Social Work assistant professor.
Emily Clinton, president of the board of directors for Center for Children and Families, admitted to crying throughout the vigil and said she came out to be with the community that was working to prevent abuse.
“I thought the message was very clear,” she said, “and hopefully this makes people feel empowered to go out and speak up for kids.”
Patrick Moore, a counselor for sexually abused boys at Bethesda, said those who suspect that child abuse is occuring should report it to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services by calling 1-800-522-3511.
After the vigil, a forum was held at the OU Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work to discuss signs of abuse and neglect and how to report abuse, as well as allow the public to ask forum panelists questions.
Panelists included Christiansen, executive director of Bethesda; Kathe Cantrell, a family advocate for Mary Abbott Children's House; Anil Gollahalli, vice president of the University of Oklahoma; José Chavez, deputy chief of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department; and Sharon Heatly, director of counseling for Norman Public Schools.
For more information on child abuse, visit or contact any of the following organizations: Mary Abbott Children's House, www.abbott-house.org, 579-5800; Center for Children and Families Inc., www.ccfinorman.org, 364-1420; or Bethesda Inc., www.bethesdaok.org, 364-0333.
Child Protection: Support Those Who Act as Shield
December 2, 2011
If Floridians suspect that child abuse is occurring, they can and should report it to the state hotline. It's an important safety tool, but it would mean little if not for the people assigned to follow up on those calls: child-protection investigators.
They are often unheralded and criticized for the failures that sometimes occur on their watch. But child-protection workers perform a vital job — one that most people probably could not handle.
The workers' caseloads are high, but their salaries are not.
Daily, they confront poverty, dysfunction, neglect, substance abuse and the stress of knowing that family violence could occur — or already has.
In such circumstances, doing what's best for the child involves painful judgment calls: Would she be better off in foster care or at home? Can the parents be trusted to reform or will they relapse?
Child-protection workers don't always succeed. Some burn out. Some make heroic efforts but fail anyway. Some misjudge. Still others inexplicably drop the ball in ways that lead to tragic results, followed by a firestorm of blame.
One such case happened last February in South Florida, where a couple stands accused of murdering their adopted daughter and torturing their adopted son. Teachers and others had warned that the girl showed signs of maltreatment, but intervention proved flawed. In the aftermath, the Florida Department of Children & Families instigated changes and two firings.
Florida's been through it before. Annually, the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee analyzes the previous year's fatalities — those verified to have been from abuse or neglect — among children younger than 18. The figures for 2009 (the latest available) found 192 such deaths, with most of the victims age 5 and under. Almost half of the cases involved "drowning or unsafe sleep," the state report says.
The analysis sheds light on the pathological conditions in which some children live. It also shows what child-protection workers are up against:
"Research shows that the added stress families face during economically depressed times contributes to an increase in child abuse and neglect," the report says. "The risk of child abuse and neglect is even greater in families where the parent: abuses alcohol or drugs, is isolated from their families or communities, has difficulty controlling anger or stress, appears uninterested in the care, nourishment or safety of their children, or seems to be having serious mental health or personal problems. These factors were present in a significant percentage of the 192 child death cases reviewed."
With so much need, it is imperative that Florida lawmakers ensure adequate funding for child-protection efforts. Education, day care, job training, substance-abuse treatment and parenting programs also can help break the deadly cycle.
Child Psychiatrist Faces Multiple Allegations of Sexual Abuse
Cases Cover a 20-Year Period
by Ron Zimmerman
December 1, 2011 — Child psychiatrist Charles Henry Fischer, MD, was fired November 14 from the Austin State Hospital in Texas for suspected sexual abuse of his patients.
Subsequently, on November 22, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended his medical license after determining that Dr. Fischer "has demonstrated a pattern of sexually abusing teenage boys in his care for inpatient psychiatric treatment over a period of nearly 20 years."
Dr. Fisher, 59, has not been charged with a crime, but the Travis County (Austin) district attorney's office has confirmed it is preparing a grand jury indictment.
According to the medical board's order, Dr. Fischer allegedly abused 7 boys, who ranged in age from 13 to 17 years, during individual "counseling" sessions in his office.
It is also alleged in the order that an eighth patient was sexually abused by Dr. Fischer at another facility in 1992, and that he additionally acknowledged to investigators that "there was another allegation involving a ninth patient" during his psychiatric residency in San Antonio in the 1980s.
Texas Medical Board spokeswoman Leigh Hopper told Medscape Medical News that investigators from the state Department of Family Protective Services took new statements from alleged victims and confirmed the allegations to the disciplinary panel of the state medical board.
"Dr. Fischer has the right to appear and give evidence at another hearing that will determine if the temporary suspension should stay in place," Hopper said. However, she added, a new law in Texas gives the board authority to revoke Dr. Fischer's license immediately, "not just if he is convicted, but if he is simply arrested for child sexual assault, abuse, or indecency."
Contacted at his Austin home by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, which first broke the story, Dr. Fischer's only comment reportedly was: "You'll have to ask the hospital about that."
However, Dr. Fischer's attorney, Antonio Cobos, subsequently issued a statement "categorically and vehemently denying any allegations of misconduct."
The Department of Family Protective Services alerted the Austin State Hospital that it had "confirmed" 2 cases of sexual abuse. The agency uses the term "confirmed" if its investigation shows, through a preponderance of the evidence, that the allegation is supported.
In its suspension of Dr. Fischer's medical license, the Texas Medical Board determined that Dr. Fischer's "continuation in the practice of medicine constitutes a continuing threat to the public welfare."
"Unfounded" Allegations Confirmed
Dr. Fischer reportedly earned $185,000 a year from the state. An Austin American-Statesman newspaper article quotes Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services, which oversees state hospitals, as saying Dr. Fischer was accused of sexually abusing patients in the past.
"There were previous allegations against Dr. Fischer over the years. Each was reported and investigated outside the agency, but the allegations were never confirmed," she said.
According to records at the Travis County district clerk's office, in 2002 a grand jury heard charges of child sexual assault against Dr. Fischer but did not indict him.
However, after this latest allegation, Dr. Fischer had restrictions imposed on his conduct. He was not allowed to touch any patient or provide counseling behind closed doors, and could not conduct counseling sessions beyond 5 pm.
A typical abuse investigation by the Department of Family Protective Services is completed within 12 days, according to the agency's annual data book, yet the investigation into Dr. Fischer's alleged behavior took far longer than most.
"This investigation took a lot longer than average because it's very complicated, with old allegations going back many years," department spokesperson Patrick Crimmins told Medscape Medical News . "It was much more complex and time-consuming than typical."
Crimmins added that he could not release information about the earlier cases that were previously determined by his agency to be "unfounded," but are currently listed in the medical board's suspension order as "confirmed."
Dr. Fischer's case has resulted in the issuance of more than half a dozen new rules outlined in a memo issued last week by Mike Maples, assistant commissioner for mental health and substance abuse services in Texas. The memo was sent to the superintendents of all 10 state hospitals.
Among these rules is one stating that staffers accused of sexual abuse at the state's psychiatric hospitals must now be transferred or put on emergency leave while under investigation.
"We have a responsibility and duty to ensure a safe treatment environment for patients and staff," Mr. Maples wrote in his memo. "Recent events have identified opportunities to provide additional protection for both patients and staff."
Other new requirements in the memo include:
- Staffers may not provide unplanned individual therapy outside usual times unless 2 staff members are in the immediate vicinity.
- Therapy or treatment room doors may not be locked during sessions.
- Staff may only provide individual treatment services in rooms with windows or other locations where they can be directly observed by other employees. If windows are not available in therapy rooms, staffers must leave the door open or take patients to other public locations, such as a picnic table or park bench.
- All class I abuse allegations, which include sexual abuse or very serious physical abuse, must be reported to Mr. Maples' office immediately.
A nonprofit organization officially designated by the federal government to protect the rights of the state's disabled, called Disability Rights Texas, reports it has also launched an immediate inquiry into cases involving Dr. Fischer's 8 alleged victims.
Last year, Texas state investigators confirmed 39 cases of sexual abuse in facilities that are either state-run or contracted by the state. Yet investigators "confirming" an allegation of abuse are rare: Less than 2% of more than 2100 abuse allegations made in state psychiatric hospitals in 2010 were confirmed by the state.
One of the boys was allegedly abused at the Waco Center for Youth, where Dr. Fischer worked as a contractor, and another allegation came from a patient he saw under a treatment services contract at the Southwest Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Antonio.
Dr. Fischer received his medical license in 1978 from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. State records indicate Dr. Fischer completed his general residency and was licensed as a psychiatrist in 1984. He received further training in child psychiatry and also served on a committee that developed state guidelines for prescribing psychotropic medication to foster children, according to those records.
In addition to the Austin State Hospital and the Waco Center for Youth, state records indicate that during his career Dr. Fischer has been employed as a psychiatrist at the Southwest Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Antonio, the Lutheran Social Services Residential Treatment Center for Girls, and the Central Counties Center for Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
Patchwork of US state laws on human trafficking hampers efforts to crack down on crime
by Associated Press
December 1, 2011
A new report says 41 states have failed to adopt strong penalties against human trafficking, and advocates say a patchwork of differing state laws makes it difficult for authorities to target the crime.
In Connecticut, for instance, the strict penalties for sex traffickers are among the toughest in the nation. Neighboring Massachusetts, meanwhile, had no statute specifically targeting sex trafficking until one was signed into law days ago.
The report released Thursday by the advocacy group Shared Hope International said more than a dozen states have passed new crackdowns, but four states — Maine, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming — have yet to impose any specific restrictions on the crime.
“Each state's laws show omissions in protective provisions for child victims and (they) lack strong laws to prosecute the men who rent the bodies of other men's children,” said Linda Smith, the group's founder and president.
As many as 15,000 victims of human trafficking are brought into the U.S. each year, according to advocacy groups. They say there could be more than 100,000 victims in the country now.
Victims are sometimes smuggled in from outside the U.S., but many started out as young runaways or simply needed money. Human traffickers target men, women and children for forced labor or services, while sex traffickers make their victims work in the sex trade. The crimes range from smuggling immigrants into the U.S. to work in restaurants or homes to forcing young women to work as prostitutes.
Holly Austin Smith said a man at a mall promised her a job after she ran away from home at age 14. She said she was swiftly brought to a motel in New Jersey where two adults gave her a dress, put makeup on her face and dyed her hair.
“Within hours I was on the streets of Atlantic City having men forced on me,” said Smith, now 33 and an advocate of stricter sex trafficking laws.
Federal authorities can prosecute traffickers under the Trafficking Victims Protections Act, enacted in 2000, which carries stiff penalties. The law also created a new visa allowing victims of the crime to become temporary U.S. residents. But prosecutors have limited resources and often have to rely on the states to crack down on the crime.
Some states have taken aggressive steps to strengthen their laws, the report said. Fifteen states now allow victims to seek civil damages from their traffickers in court. Four states — Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and New York — have laws that vacate convictions for sex trafficking victims.
Other states were criticized in the report for failing to pass strict laws. The report also found that 10 states have yet to adopt sex trafficking laws and that 19 don't make it a crime to buy sex acts with a minor. It also found that Iowa, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Wyoming have no laws making it a crime to use the Internet to purchase or sell sex acts with a minor.
Washington Attorney General Robert McKenna, president of the National Association of Attorneys General, said policymakers have to play catch-up to establish consistent policies to rein in the crime.
“Having a strong, fairly uniform set of laws across the country is very important, because traffickers are mobile, their victims are mobile and we don't want traffickers to be moving their victims even more trying to evade stronger state laws, by moving to states with weaker laws,” he said.
The state definitions of illegal trafficking that vary from federal standards can also make it more difficult to get additional protections and services from the U.S. government, said Kirsten Widner of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University's School of Law.
“And if they have no definition at all, that could be a real problem,” said Widner.
One high-profile battleground was Massachusetts, which for years faced pressure from advocates to enact anti-trafficking laws. In November, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill that would impose a life sentence on anyone found guilty of trafficking children for sex or forced labor. It also allows prosecutors to look at first-time offenders under 18 as victims rather than criminals.
“We have focused on the very people who have been victimized the most,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley, who pushed for the bill. “What the bill does is change the lens around on that. That's why implementing this is going to be difficult. I think we can do it. It's a real change in the way we've approached it.”
Some advocates, though, say more aggressive enforcement of the laws, instead of strict new ones, may help crack down on the crime. State authorities need to implement the laws on the books, better coordinate with federal prosecutors and spend more resources trying to identify victims, said Mary Ellison, a director of policy for the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group.
“Traffickers make their money on the backs of the most vulnerable and there's not as much of a risk because laws aren't implemented as strongly as they want,” she said. “Until they see these laws implemented, they're not going to be deterred because they're making tons and tons of money exploiting and enslaving people.”
Human Trafficking Presentation by Calhoun Child Abuse Prevention Council
Human trafficking may seem like a faraway problem, only affecting people from the most exotic and desperate parts of the world, but it is seen very close to home.
Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the United States. It is defined as when a person is recruited or transferred through some form of coercion or deception and exploited, mainly for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Women and children are the primary targets.
The Calhoun Child Abuse/Prevention Council is highlighting this issue at its Annual Meeting on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 6 p.m. at Riverside Country Club. Carmen Kucinich will give a 90-minute presentation on the subject.
Kucinich is a Licensed Professional Counselor with the State of Michigan. Her work began as a caseworker with the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Agency followed by six and half years at Safe Harbor Children's Advocacy Center where she worked as a forensic interviewer and therapist for sexually abused children and children that witnessed domestic violence.
Ms. Kucinich has testified as an expert witness in the areas of the Native American culture, forensic interviewing and children's counseling. Ms. Kucinich is currently a Victim Specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation working with federal crime victims. Ms. Kucinich is one of the original members of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and has had the opportunity to provide two interviews with local media stations and participate in three expert panels on the topic of human trafficking.
"Domestic Human Trafficking is everywhere, in the forms of labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers use force, fraud and/or coercion to control their victims. There are many victims from Michigan who find themselves trafficked in other states. People can become involved in the solution by becoming educated on what Human Trafficking might look like and knowing how and where to report suspected human Trafficking. Law Enforcement need community members to help combat this growing problem."
Those interested in attending the meeting should RSVP to Karmel at the CAN Council at (269) 962-2562 or email their RSVP by December 1st to email@example.com. The cost is $15 and includes hors d'ouerves and beverages.
The CAN Council has been the designated child abuse and neglect prevention organization in Calhoun County since 1981. Learn more about the CAN Council by going to www.calhounprevention.org.
|Darkness to Light
The Mercy Child Advocacy Center has two counselors, Sherrie Schweder and Mandi Korinke, who recently attended a "Darkness to Light" training session in Charleston, N.C.
They will soon be scheduling classes for child-serving organizations and any concerned adults regarding how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
While a lot of programs focus on teaching kids how to prevent abuse, this progam's focus is on adults, shifting the burden from the children to help adults recognize signs of child abuse.
Schweder returned from the Darkness to Light session with '7 Steps to Protecting Our Children."
1. Learn the facts. understand the risks.
2. Minimize opportunity.
3. Talk about it.
4. Stay alert.
5. Make a plan.
6. Act on suspicions.
7. Get involved.
For more information, go to www.D2L.org
||Advocates lead child abuse victims from darkness to light
by John Quinlan
Yet again, child-abuse allegations have people shaking their heads in disbelief. Looking at the Penn State scandal, people are asking, How could this happen? How did it go unreported for so long? Why didn't somebody do something?
And as Amy Scarmon and Sherrie Schweder, forensic interviewers with the Mercy Child Advocacy Center, see it, "stranger danger" is too often overemphasized by those who would keep children safe.
Studies have shown that 90 percent of victims know, love and trust their abusers. And that makes it truly confusing, The culprits are friends, relatives, neighbors and coaches.
This familiarity abusers have with their victims is what Scarmon and Schweder most often find in their jobs, which involve interviewing children who are suspected of being abused. They get referrals from law enforecement personnel, the Department of Human Services and even prosecutors.
"And our job is to get information from the children," said Scarmon.
Incidents such as the Penn State scandal help alert the community, making us aware of the types of things that are happening to children, Schweder said.
"It kind of brings to the forefront some of the work that we do. But I don't think it changes anything we do," she said.
"We stay fairly busy and we both work fulltime and this is all that we do," Scarmon added.
Understanding what keeps child victims silent is easy. They fear that revealing the abuse will bring harm to them or those they love, loss of affection and punishment. Child sexual abuse thrives in a climate of silence, secrecy and shame. Releasing child victims from this climate of fear is a tough job but a rewarding one, they said.
"I think we would both agree we really love our jobs. And some people would find that hard to believe because of the stuff we deal with every day," Scarmon said. "But I love working with kids.
"And probably the most rewarding thing is giving the kids the opportunity to tell their story. They get to have some control of the situation where normally they've never had control of what's going on. So it's rewarding for us."
The most frustrating thing for Scarmon and Schweder when it comes to dealing with all of this is the organizational policies in place. Youth groups, schools and churches have these policies in place through which they do their own internal investigations before the information gets passed on to those authorities who really need to get it, Scarmon said.
"They're going to look into it ," she said. "And I think a lot of places do that. And I don't know that you're doing a lot of good for the kid in that situation. It really needs to be passed on to legal authorities or social services so they can do what they need to do to protect the kid. Because in this case at Penn State, the kids didn't get protected even though people knew about it. That shouldn't have happened."
The organizations can carry on their internal investigations at the same time that there is an outside investigation involving law enforcement and juvenile protection services, Schweder added.
"In this case, the safety of children was compromised because the right people weren't contacted right away," Schweder said. " I mean how did they know that this coach didn't have another kid come over the next day to work out with him?"
"And it should be a person who has firsthand knowledge of what's going on. It shouldn't be that person who reports to one of their supervisors who then reports to another supervisor who then reports to legal authorities," Scarmon said.
Both women stressed that authorities need to be contacted even if there is only a suspicion that child abuse is occurring.
"There are not going to be legal ramifications for them because they reported this abuse," Scarmon said. "All they need is suspicion to report it. That's the main thing."
SIGNS OF ABUSE
Schweder said there a wide variety of signs displayed by children who are being sexually abused. They act in so many different ways that it is tough to narrow down speciific signs.
"What we always tell parents is to just be aware if there are any changes in behavior or changes in their emotional affect," she said. "If they're not wanting to participate in activities or go places that they used to really enjoy, if their behavior is significantly different than what it used to be, those can be signs that something is going on."
Child abuse is usually such a secretive thing, free of witnesses, making the child feel alone, especially since the predator is often someone they know and trust, Scarmon said. In this respect, the Penn State scandal was outside the norm.
Unlike at Penn State, where an act was witnessed and people should have known what was going on, in most cases of sexual abuse, when people witness something, what is seen taking place isn't so clear-cut, she noted. But if your radar is up because of what you see, maybe someone taking an unnatural interest in a child, then there must be a reason.
Often, Scarmon said, they notice that kids have tried to tell someone what is happening but the message gets lost in translation. People may not believe what the child tells them or simply not understand it.
"Or they think they're telling but they're really not saying everything that happened," Scarmon said of abused children. "In their mind, they told, but maybe only told a piece of what's going on."
"Or they say, 'I don't like to go to someone's house because they're mean to me,'" Schweder said. "And so, in their minds, they're telling but they're not actually telling what that person would need to know to make a report and start to get things investigated."
Scarmon said older children also have a harder time because they experience a sense of shame and guilt because they have a better understanding of what is going on. "They take some personal responsibility for what happened," she said. "The younger kids don't always necessarily take on that responsibility or even understand that."
And although the "stranger danger" warnings have been overused, children should be taught that no matter who the person is, if you are uncomfortable with something that he or she is doing, you've got to tell somebody, even if the predator is Grandma or Uncle Joe. "You have to tell," Schweder said.
Fayette agencies say child abuse problem plagues county
by Cindy Ekas
Panelists from seven agencies educated the public about the serious child abuse problem that continues to plague Fayette County.
About 50 teachers, counselors, health care professionals and residents attended a forum held Wednesday night at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
Although the forum was not directly related to the recent child abuse scandal at Penn State, panelists said the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky served as the catalyst to bring public attention to the serious issue.
"When something like this comes about, it becomes a teachable moment to educate the community and our students about a serious problem like child abuse," said Robert Ruggieri, president of Penn State Fayette's Human Service Family Development Association. "If it will bring light to this social problem, it's worth it. We want to make this problem visible and advocate for these victims.
"We want to educate the public about who to call and how to report suspected child abuse," Ruggieri added. "It's an opportunity for HSFDA to do something good for Penn State, the community and the students."
Gina D'Auria of Fayette County Children and Youth Services, said poverty has a direct correlation to child abuse, adding that CYS investigated about 200 additional cases this year than it did last year.
In 2011, D'Auria said CYS has investigated about 1,400 cases, which is only a small percentage of the actual cases that took place this year.
In addition to poverty, D'Auria explained that child abuse is also related to domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
"If there is domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse in a home, it's much more likely that sexual, physical and emotional child abuse is taking place," D'Auria said.
Dr. Richard Ball, a professor of administration of justice at Penn State Fayette, said most prison inmates are victims of child abuse who become violent themselves because of the trauma they endured.
"My students always ask me what's the main reason people are in prison, and I always tell them it's directly related to child abuse," Ball said. "In many cases, they can't deal with what happened to them and they become violent and victimize other people."
Jacquie Fritts, executive director of the Fayette County Crime Victims' Center, said sexual abuse happens to girls, boys and women who are raped.
"It's one of the lowest reported crimes," Fritts said. "There is also a problem with dealing in human trafficking where children are adopted and then sold for sex. It's time that we stood up to help prevent sexual assault."
Fritts said statistics show that one in six girls and one in four boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 17.
"These children have to feel safe to tell someone," Fritts said. "We like to think that parents can't do that to a child. We need to start talking to family members. We need to make sure that abuse decreases for the next generation. We need to have compassion for these children."
State Rep. Timothy Mahoney, D-South Union Township, said his most important job is trying to bring funding back to Children and Youth Services.
"We need more funding in Fayette County," Mahoney said. "We are in a crisis situation with child abuse. It's time we get involved."
Jo Ann Jankoski, professor of Human Service Family Development at Penn State Fayette, said it's time for the political process to put kids first.
"People still think about kids as property and that's wrong," Jankoski said. "Child abuse has been around since 1873. The first woman who suspected child abuse reported it to the SPCA because there was no place to go to report it. Today, there are still more shelters for animals than there are for girls, boys and women who are abused."
Joan Mills of A Child's Place at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, said great resources exist in Fayette County for preventing and reporting child abuse.
During her career, Mills said she has investigated about 25,000 cases of child abuse, which is the fourth-leading cause of death for children.
"We need to let children know that it's not okay to keep secrets," Mills said. "Keeping secrets is the first step of the seductive process of sexual abuse. We need to train our children to act on their gut feelings."
Trooper Tim Kirsh of the Pennsylvania State Police encouraged the public to "report, report, report" child abuse.
"I heard the number that 1,400 child abuse cases have been investigated this year," Kirsh said. "I can tell you that the number is extremely low because of the cases out there that aren't reported and investigated. The victims are children who don't have a voice. These kids are very vulnerable and fragile. We need to do everything we can to protect them."
Reporting Child Sex Abuse is Public's Job, Local Experts Say
Community members and expert panelists engaged in a spirited and informative discussion at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center Tuesday night.
by David Snyder
How do we report sexual abuse? Why do we fear reporting it? And how do we address it with young children?
In the wake of the sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University, the Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) finds itself fielding more and more phone calls and e-mails from individuals wanting to learn more about the ultrasensitive topic.
Tuesday evening at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills, the BCAC brought an expert panel to a town hall event to put discussion of child sex abuse—a crime predicated on secrecy and silence—out into the open for a passionate, engaging and honest dialogue.
More than 60 people showed up for the discussion, many of whom work with children in the community as therapists, clergy and educators.
With child sexual abuse at the forefront of the news, many wanted to know how they could prevent such heinous acts from happening in their own backyard.
The BCAC also tried to dismiss many of the myths that go along with reporting the crime.
“It is unfortunate that an incident like Penn State is what shakes us to wake up and realize that these things do occur,” said BCAC executive director Adam Rosenberg, who moderated the discussion.
“We hear allegations like Penn State all the time—that there are people who suspected abuse, but didn't report it and that kids who tried to get help didn't get any help. It's our mission to make sure that we reduce future abuse. We can use this as a teachable moment.”
The seven person panel consisted of authoritative voices from across the child sexual abuse domain, including Baltimore County prosecutor Lisa Dever, Department of Social Services representative Kris Debye and Baltimore County Public Schools counseling coordinator Timothy Patrick Hayden.
While each panel member spoke of different personal experiences and weighed in on various topics, one message was preached in complete unity: there's no harm in reporting an incident. The worst thing to do is shrug of your suspicions and move on with your day.
It's that kind of mindset, they said, that allowed a situation like what happened at Penn State to go on for so long.
Said Debye to those in attendance, emphatically: “If you're concerned, it must be for a reason. Call it in.”
For many, though, it isn't so simple.
The panel explained how numerous individuals suspect child abuse, but don't alert the authorities due to of a slew of reasons, including the fear of being wrong and the reluctance to even get involved. Many audience members admitted by a show of hands that they didn't know child abuse reports could be made anonymously and confidentially.
Dever also mentioned that she's seen several different cases in which individuals didn't come forward because they felt they needed “more evidence.”
The resounding message from the panel was to let the authorities make the decisions and do the investigative work. It's the obligation of the citizen to safeguard a defenseless child by involving those with the means to protect him or her.
“It's everybody's responsibility to report abuse when they see it,” Rosenberg said. “Reporting abuse shouldn't be a difficult or scary process. People need to know that if they see or hear abuse, it's our responsibility to pick up a phone and dial 911, or to call child protective services to say they suspect something happened.
“We have a great team in place working with police officers and social service workers and our own treatment professionals, but we can't do anything unless you the public do your job to phone in a report and let us do our job.”
Why can't we stop child abuse?
Usually this time of year people are celebrating family, but this month we're being reminded home life isn't always idyllic.
by Jerry Large
Usually this time of year people are celebrating family, but this month we're being reminded home life isn't always idyllic.
Two of the most-read stories on seattletimes.com this week are about parents abusing their children.
The stories generate emotions I don't know what to do with, emotions I don't want to feel, so I tried to turn them off and switch to a rational approach, a search for solutions. Is there anything the rest of us can do to prevent such atrocities?
Suppose people had to pass a child-rearing test before being issued a procreation permit?
That's never going to happen, and for some good reasons, but without effective intervention the most important structure in society is left to chance. And the most vulnerable of us are left to life's lottery.
Some circumstances can be prevented, but some aren't so easy to address.
They are all different, some involve people who have psychological problems or who are, perhaps, just mean, and some involve people who are ignorant.
More children suffer from neglect than abuse, and even more from plain poor parenting.
I read about the signs of unhealthy parenting and went over a long list of types of dysfunctional families.
I read a university study of intervention practices. I came up with no more of a solution than I started with. We are doing what we know to do already, but not always well enough and sometimes that is a tragedy.
In both of the current local cases, the parents say they were trying to do what was right for the child. The parents of Hana Grace-Rose Williams, of Sedro-Woolley, allegedly beat her and let her die outside in the cold. The mother said 13-year-old Hana was rebellious. The parents, who have six biological children and another adopted child (Hana also was adopted), apparently were influenced by a book on child rearing that champions the use of stern measures, including physical punishment.
What they are accused of doing is far from my definition of loving discipline.
Another couple, Brittainy and Samuel Labberton, were convicted last year of starving their infant daughter because they didn't want her to get fat. Monday, a judge in King County made permanent the removal of that child and their two other children from their custody.
The couple had been offered parenting classes, mental-health and anger-management services among other help, but weren't interested, according to court documents.
I can't imagine any of that would have worked in this case. It's better for the children that the couple didn't persuade the state they were going to be better.
Brittainy Labberton, 22, is pregnant again. That child should not be left with her, either.
In these sorts of cases, we do much better at prevention and reaction now than a few generations ago, before we had multiple agencies and organizations dedicated to protecting children. And we can get better still.
Child-protective agencies around the country must deal with both neglect and abuse cases, which means dealing with parents who just need information or maybe help with stressful financial situations and those who do harm intentionally.
In 2009, Washington reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 70,193 abuse or neglect referrals, which were dealt with by 76 screening workers and 242 investigators.
Some tragedies can't be prevented, but if we had a few more people handling cases, I think we might have fewer losses to grieve.
Break the silence of sexual abuse
by Erik M. Scheub
In 2002, Bobby Davis went to the police in Syracuse, N.Y., to report that Syracuse University associate men's basketball coach Bernie Fine had molested him when he was a ball boy for the team. Davis was told the statue of limitations had passed and nothing could be done unless he knew of any ongoing or recent allegations.
Like many survivors of child sexual abuse, Davis was lost and felt he had nowhere else to turn.
Flash forward to November 2011. Thirty minutes after the story broke about former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing boys over a span of 14 years, Bobby Davis sent a text message to his stepbrother. The text read, "This is what happened to me."
As of Sunday, Fine is no longer the associate head coach of Syracuse's basketball team. Two other men have come forward to report that Fine had molested them, and he is now under investigation by a grand jury, New York state police and the U.S. Secret Service. A recorded phone call from 2002 between Davis and Bernie Fine's wife, Laurie, was released to the public. In the phone call, Laurie Fine said she knew "everything that went on" with her husband, adding that "he thinks he's above the law."
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse gain access to children and use their positions of trust in many instances to be able to abuse and molest without detection. Perpetrators are skilled at creating a false sense of trust and often continue to commit crimes just below the radar. People who know about the sexual abuse of a child need to come forward and report it right away. We also must actively address real and perceived barriers to disclosure and reporting. Under Indiana state law, people must report abuse or neglect to law enforcement services if they suspect or know of maltreatment of a child under specific circumstances.
With that being said, we must admit that we live in a culture of silence, especially on college campuses. Coaches and other figures in positions of power and authority are treated in high regard and worshipped for their accomplishments.
We must work endlessly in our communities to bring attention to this crime and to care for the survivors. We can only hope that the attention these two high-profile cases have brought to the topic will help survivors come forward to receive the help they need and to help prevent such crimes from happening in the future.
To learn more about sexual violence toward children and to find resources on prevention and response, visit the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault's website at www.incasa.org. Find out how you can make a difference.
Scheub is director of media and public relations for the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
US child sex abuse cases tighten coaching scrutiny
by Jim Slater
WASHINGTON — Two high-profile US child sex abuse cases involving college assistant coaches have sparked calls for more background checks and tighter scrutiny on adults working with youth in sports.
Former Penn State University assistant American football coach Jerry Sandusky faces charges of sex abuse with eight boys over a 15-year period -- one witness telling a grand jury he saw Sandusky rape a 10-year-old boy in a shower.
Sandusky, arrested on November 5, denied any sexual abuse but has admitted showering with young boys and was charged in a civil lawsuit by another man with more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse in his home, on campus and on road trips.
Concerns that administrators knew about claims against Sandusky but did not tell police led to the firing of Penn State's president and legendary gridiron coach Joe Paterno. Two others face criminal charges.
"Why were so many people, for so long, making choices that protected the institutions and not the children?" asked Jeff Anderson, lawyer for the alleged victim in the civil suit against Sandusky.
"It's not just about Penn State, it's about all of us."
Only a few weeks later, Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired after allegations of child molestation surfaced involving claims by three men.
Fine called the allegations "patently false" and no charges have been filed but some critics have called for the firing of Jim Boeheim, Syracuse basketball coach for 36 years, who was Fine's friend and assistant.
"What happened on my watch? We will see," Boeheim said. "There's an investigation under way. There are no charges. We'll see what happened on my watch. Everything that I can control, I hold myself responsible for."
Child advocacy groups want more background checks on coaches and volunteers, more training on sex abuse awareness and prevention, at least two adults with children at all times and written policy on youth and coach interaction, steps similar to those taken after scandals in the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America.
"We want the public and especially parents to ask: Who are these people guiding our children and youth? Have they passed a background check?" said Justin Mayer, founder and president of the Center for Ethical Youth Coaching.
Debbie Yow, athletic director at North Carolina State University, told USA Today that all schools should conduct background checks on coaches and other staff hires, saying: "It's a basic obligation. Unfortunately, it's needed."
In an editorial, the Patriot Ledger newspaper of Quincy, Massachusetts, said the scandals "must lead all youth sports organizations to take a closer look at how better to protect young and vulnerable athletes who often revere the men to whom their growth and safety has been entrusted."
But the newspaper also warned of judging all youth sport coaches harshly, saying: "The vast majority of coaches help athletes become better people. The vast majority of men in those roles live up to that image."
The latest scandals hit US sport teams beloved by millions but are far from the first involving coaches.
US 1984 Olympic women's gymnastics coach Don Peters was been banned for life by USA Gymnastics in November after two former gymnasts said he sexually abused them in the 1980s.
Former Canadian junior hockey coach Graham James was jailed for 3 1/2 years after being convicted of sexually assaulting two players about 350 times over 10 years.
USA Swimming banned at least 46 coaches and officials for life, mostly for sexual misconduct, and partnered with a child protection firm last April.
One coach, who was sentenced in 2008 to 33 years in federal prison, secretly videotaped teen girls undressing in locker rooms. Another was sentenced in 2009 to 40 years in prison for molesting young swimmers for more than 30 years.
An Indiana teen girl's family sued USA Swimming in early November saying the governing body should have done more to protect the girl from sexual assault from a former coach who was jailed for felony sexual misconduct with a minor.
Protect Youth Sports, a group that helps screen staff and volunteers, said on its website that lessons must be learned.
"Every organization that works with children needs to look at what happened and do some self-evaluation of their current sexual abuse prevention strategy," the group said, stressing a need to encourage abused youth to speak out.
"Silence is terrible because it protects and enables the molester to keep on molesting and it deprives the victims of the help they need."
US lawmakers will examine federal child abuse laws in a December 13 Senate hearing.
"No child should ever be subjected to sexual abuse," Senator Barbara Mikulski said. "And no adult should ever turn a blind eye to such abuse."
A Tale of Two States and Three Survivors: The Legal Obstacles Relating to Syracuse University's Sex Abuse Scandal
As of this writing, three (maybe four) men have come forward to allege that, as boys, they were sexually abused by Syracuse associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine. At first, Fine's boss, the legendary Jim Boeheim, stood by Fine and attacked the first two men, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, claiming that they were just doing it for the money.
How wrong he was. Boeheim was smart to back off after a third man, Zach Tomaselli, came forward—for it is virtually certain that Davis and Lang were not doing it for the money; for those two, there appears to be little or none to be had.
New York's Too Short Statutes of Limitations for Abuse Cases Would Likely Cut Off All Recovery of Damages by Davis and Lang
Davis, 39, and Lang, 45, cannot bring civil lawsuits in New York or pursue prosecution under New York's state law, because New York has some of the worst statutes of limitations in the United States. They are positively barbaric.
In New York, for anything other than a first-degree felony sexual assault occurring after 2006, the statute of limitations (“SOL”) cuts off prosecution when the victim is 23, at the latest. For civil claims, too, a victim would have had to file his suit by age 23 at the very latest, and likely much earlier than that. Thus, Davis's and Lang's ages alone prove that they simply can't be in this “for the money.” All appearances suggest that all they are “in it” for is justice.
Pennsylvania Law May Allow Tomaselli to File Civil Claims, and May Also Allow a Criminal Prosecution
The third alleged victim, Zach Tomaselli, is now 23, but even he likely has no recourse under New York law. His civil claims expired on his 23rd birthday. And it is unclear if his criminal case could be pursued now, either, because we don't know exactly how severe the abuse was. A prosecution for the most severe sexual assault felonies might be possible, but if the abuse was anything lesser, the SOL has already expired.
However, Tomaselli reports that the abuse he suffered occurred in Pittsburgh, which means it is worthwhile for him to investigate Pennsylvania law, and the possible prospect of filing a complaint in the Pennsylvania courts, or convincing prosecutors to initiate a criminal case.
Until 2002, Pennsylvania was as bad as New York regarding child sexual abuse SOLs. Once you turned 20, you were shut out of court. But in August 2002, the state extended the civil SOL to the victim's 30th birthday. Then, in 2005, it extended the criminal SOL to the victim's 50th birthday. Neither extension, however, was retroactive, which means that if someone turned 20 before August 2002, he or she would not get the benefit of the 10-year civil extension without putting forward a legal theory alleging misrepresentation, fraud, or conspiracy. If someone turned 50 before 2005, he or she did not get the benefit of the 2005 extension, as it seems Tomaselli should.
But the Tomaselli case seems to have a problem—not a legal problem, but a possible problem with convincing prosecutors to go forward, and convincing a civil jury to grant him an award. The problem is this: Tomaselli himself is currently facing charges for committing child sexual abuse in Maine. Thus, would-be prosecutors and civil case attorneys and jurors many not find Tomaselli a sympathetic victim.
In many ways, though, it is unfair to lose all sympathy for abuse victims who go on to commit abuse themselves. Those who have been sexually abused have a higher likelihood than others to commit child sex abuse as adults. Of course, not all victims do so, but empirically, the likelihood is higher.
Tomaselli also alleged on Anderson Cooper's show that he was abused by his father before he was abused by Fine, which is another not unusual situation. Somehow, child predators sense which children might have weaker defenses than others. Why shouldn't someone like Tomaselli be able to file charges against, and successfully sue a child predator who ruined his life?
Our States' Crazy Quilt of Widely Varying Child Sexual Abuse SOLs
This simple comparison of child sexual abuse SOLs in two contiguous states, New York and Pennsylvania, should give readers an idea of the confusion and complexity when we widen the lens to take in all 50 states.
I have a website, www.sol-reform.com, for which I regularly update a 50-state survey of criminal and civil SOLs for child sexual abuse. It is a Herculean task that takes a large team of students to accomplish. Not only must the law in 50 states be kept current, but updates are constantly occurring, as the law is in constant flux.
Whatever limitation is set in a particular state, eventually a case of heinous abuse is discovered that is time-barred—leading to a grave injustice. Then the state extends the SOL so the next equally heinous case will be covered. But unless the SOLs are eliminated, there will always be the next awful case.
Because of this dynamic, most states' SOLs have been evolving and lengthening gradually. Many had initially set the SOL to begin running only 2 years past the act of abuse (Alabama has not evolved very far from that rule, nor has Tennessee). Much more encouragingly, some states, such as Delaware and Florida, now have eliminated child sexual abuse SOLs completely.
Between the state-by-state variations and the constant flux, many survivors—especially those who are not yet at the point where they feel comfortable revealing their abuse to anyone, let alone an attorney—must be confused about when (and where, if the abuse occurred in more than one state) they can or cannot bring a lawsuit or seek the initiation of a prosecution. Indeed, I've noticed that even reporters and legislators often don't have a clear understanding of the SOL rules. Who can blame them?
Moreover, the patchwork of SOLs creates perverse incentives. For instance, perpetrators may seek out states where the SOLs will be most friendly to them. Last year, South Dakota made the highly unusual move of reducing its child sexual abuse SOL so as to short-circuit child-sex-abuse claims by Native American victims against Catholic priests. Sadly, I've heard it said that South Dakota has, as a result, now become a mecca for abusers. I don't know how one would prove that, but it would make perfect sense.
Child predators naturally seek out the best situations for finding one child after another—vocations like priest, rabbi, and teacher, and avocations like Boy Scout troop leader and coach. Short SOLs are predator's friends, as are institutions that value and enforce secrecy.
Many states—like Pennsylvania—have engaged in piecemeal extensions of their SOLs. The result is a crazy quilt of limitations designed, unintentionally, to flummox victims and perplex the lawyers who are trying to help them.
It's High Time to Standardize Civil and Criminal Child Sex Abuse SOLs Nationwide, and to Create SOL Windows to Allow Civil Claims From Earlier Years to Be Brought
The impulse to set SOLs defensively and reactively is understandable, but the time has come to standardize SOLs for child sex abuse across the country in order to better protect children. Perpetrators take their victims across state lines all the time, and no state should be effectively inviting these perpetrators in, by dangling in front of them the incentive of short SOLs, with all of their welcome secrecy and anonymity.
Let's face it, sexual predators don't deserve the peace of mind that comes from an expired statute of limitations. Given the compulsive quality of the disorder, and the fact that abusers rarely grow out of their penchant for abuse (some even abuse in their 80s), SOLs for child sexual abuse are just plain perverse. They help no one who is deserving of help, while they directly endanger the next child who is the “right age” for the perpetrators' sick desires.
Striking the right balance would mean eliminating childhood sexual abuse SOLs in every state, and enacting an SOL “window.” Such a window would permit those who suffered abuse but whose SOLs had already expired to bring civil claims despite the expiration (though, due to a Supreme Court constitutional-law precedent— Stogner v. California -- on criminal law and retroactivity, no expired criminal SOL can be revived).
This approach may sound extreme to some readers, and it would be for most crimes, but for child sex abuse, along with murder, SOLs simply make no sense. Imagine the spoken truth that would roll through the courts if the SOLs in each state were removed and SOL windows put in place instead! Predators right now are successfully grooming our children — because none of their victims have yet made it to the courts on time. Just think of all those years that alleged perpetrators Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine had with children before someone blew the whistle. You can't give those years back to the victims, but you can make sure that more recent victims have more opportunities to stop abusers than those who preceded them.
With an SOL window, these perpetrators would be exposed and the children who otherwise would have been their victims would be protected.
The Federal Government Could Do Much to Address Child Sexual Abuse By Withholding Funds From States that Do Not Suitably Address the Problem
This is not an arena, though, where the federal government can unilaterally force the states to alter their criminal and civil laws. Instead, the federal government can create incentives for the states to fix their SOLs or punish those states that refuse.
How? The way the federal government very often convinces the states to act—through the power of the federal purse. The federal government ought to condition the receipt of state funds on improvement in criminal and civil child sex abuse SOLs. Indeed, the federal government ought to threaten to take future funds away if the SOLs remain as backward as they are in, say, New York, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Alabama—to name a few of the worst.
SOL windows would help Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, and the millions of victims who are now middle-aged, and have not yet come forward. There will be many more of them, as it seems the tipping point has now been reached; we seem to be able now to put the shame where it belongs—squarely on the shoulders of the abusers. In the past, victims felt too ashamed to come forward. That seems to be less often the case now.
Our problem is not just the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy, or the Fundamentalist Mormon Church's prophets, or any one big college football program. It is men in positions of power—the Masters of the Universe, to draw from Bonfire of the Vanities —who rule their domains with too few around them who are capable of challenging them. It is long past time to empower the victims to level the truth at the institutions that have benefited too long from their imposed silence. For that, SOL windows, and reforms, are the perfect tools. And if states won't adopt these reforms, the federal government ought to attach steep costs to their unconscionable refusal.
1st Penn State abuse suit comes from new accuser
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.— Hours after a man contended in a lawsuit that Jerry Sandusky sexually abused him more than 100 times, Penn State leaders pledged to raise ethics "to a new level" on a campus coming to grips with the shocking criminal allegations against the school's once-revered assistant football coach.
President Rod Erickson and other administrators faced pointed questions at a student-organized town hall forum Wednesday night, part of what Erickson promised would be a new emphasis on transparency.
Authorities have charged Sandusky with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year span, and the state police commissioner has criticized school leaders for failing to do more to alert authorities to the allegations.
Ethics would be raised "to a new level so that everyone at the university understands not just the legal thing to do, but the moral thing to do, so that we learn to do the right thing the first time, every time," Erickson told about 450 attendees at a crowded auditorium at the student union building.
Students appeared grateful to get answers more than three weeks after Sandusky was charged Nov. 5, hopeful it would aid in the arduous healing process.
"I think this is a good start for a lot of good things that can happen at the university," said student Andrew Comes, 21, following the two-hour forum. "It's a singularly bad event, but there can still be positive repercussions and good things happening from it."
Earlier Wednesday, a new accuser who is not part of the criminal case said in a lawsuit that Sandusky threatened to harm his family to keep him quiet.
The 29-year-old, identified only as John Doe, had never told anyone about the abuse he claims he suffered until Sandusky was charged last month with abusing other boys. His lawyer said he filed a complaint with law enforcement on Tuesday. He became the first plaintiff to file suit in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal a day later.
Sandusky has acknowledged that he showered with boys but denied molesting them. His lawyer did not immediately return a message about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Sandusky abused the boy from 1992, when the boy was 10, until 1996 in encounters at the coach's State College home, in a Penn State locker room and on trips, including to a bowl game. The account echoes a grand jury's description of trips, gifts and attention lavished on other boys.
"I am hurting and have been for a long time because of what happened, but feel now even more tormented that I have learned of so many other kids were abused after me," the plaintiff said in a handwritten statement his lawyer read aloud at a news conference in Philadelphia.
The lawsuit seeks tens of thousands of dollars and names Sandusky, the university and Sandusky's The Second Mile charity as defendants. The man says he knew the coach through the charity, which Sandusky founded in 1977, ostensibly to help disadvantaged children in central Pennsylvania.
The man was not referenced in the grand jury report.
His lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said he believes Sandusky was a predator who could not control his sexual impulses toward children. He harshly criticized officials at Penn State and The Second Mile.
"We need to address the institutional recklessness and failures," said Anderson, who specializes in clergy sex abuse lawsuits. "Was it because of power, money, fear, loyalty, lack of education?"
Erickson said after the forum he had not read the complaint. Asked if the school was prepared for the financial and legal exposure that might accompany what could be the first of several civil suits, Erickson said, "Certainly we have insurance coverage for the costs that will be involved, and we'll respond appropriately."
The charity said it would respond after reviewing the lawsuit but added: "The Second Mile will adhere to its legal responsibilities throughout this process. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff said Sandusky gave him gifts, travel and privileges after meeting him through his charity in 1992. The abuse began shortly afterward, the suit said.
Anderson suggested that it ended four years later because Sandusky was not sexually interested in older teens.
Anderson described Penn State and the charity as entwined institutions, and he contended that both failed to ensure that children were safe when they took part in trips and activities. He declined to say which bowl game the boy attended.
Sandusky took one boy he molested to the Alamo Bowl in Texas in 1999 and threatened to send him home when he resisted his advances, the grand jury said.
The bowl proved to be Sandusky's last game as Penn State's defensive coordinator. Once the heir apparent of longtime football coach Joe Paterno, Sandusky left after Paterno told him he would not get the head coaching job.
John Doe's lawsuit seeks a minimum of $400,000 in damages for sexual abuse, negligence, emotional distress and other claims. The accuser long thought he was the only victim and was mired in guilt and self-loathing, his lawyer said.
"Now that I have done something about it, I am feeling better and going to get help and work with the police," the accuser wrote in his statement.
Anderson declined to specify what sexual acts his client says took place, but he called them "severe." Nor would he say which police agency his client contacted on Tuesday.
Police in Philadelphia and State College said they were not aware of such a complaint. The attorney general's office, which led the grand jury investigation, and state police said they could not disclose if a report was filed.
A university spokeswoman said police have received two complaints since Sandusky's arrest, the most recent from a prison inmate in Oklahoma, and both have been turned over to the attorney general's office. Anderson said his client John Doe is not that Oklahoma inmate.
By Anderson's count, the grand jury report lists 17 adults made aware of complaints or suspicions about the coach over the years, including those who knew of a 1998 complaint that Sandusky had showered with a Second Mile boy. Police pursued that mother's complaint and compiled more than 100 pages of investigatory notes, but no charges were filed.
Had John Doe known about that, he might have come forward to a parent or counselor years ago, Anderson said.
In State College, administrators sought to reassure students worried about the unintended ramifications of the scandal, such as the reputation of a Penn State degree.
After several questioners mentioned they felt shamed by the scandal, vice president Henry Foley, as part of an answer about the school's top three priorities, told students to focus on academics and to "recognize that none of you are guilty. ... You may feel shame, but none of you are guilty. Just keep doing what you came here to do."
An overflow crowd watched the forum in another auditorium at the student union, while students at Penn State branch campuses could also email questions.
The grand jury said the allegations against Sandusky were not immediately brought to the attention of authorities even though high-level people at Penn State apparently knew about at least one of them.
The scandal has resulted in the departures of Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down.
Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report to police. Sandusky is charged with child sex abuse. All maintain their innocence.
Erickson told reporters after the forum that Spanier was currently on sabbatical, and that as a tenured faculty member would have the right to teach if he so desired.
Several students also asked about the treatment of Paterno, who was the only school leader fired in the scandal's aftermath. Erickson said afterward he could not offer a detailed answer because it was the trustees' decision.
He reiterated there was no truth to Internet-fueled rumors that Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium would be removed, or that the Paterno name would be removed from the campus library to which the Paterno family had donated millions to help build.
"At some appropriate time down the road, I'm sure there will be an opportunity to also reflect on the many years of service Joe and (wife Sue Paterno) provided the university and the many good things that they've done for Penn State," Erickson said, eliciting brief applause.
Child abuse claims against eighteen priests in Tuam archdiocese, audit reveals
by Mary O'connor
Allegations of child sexual abuse were made against 18 priests in the Tuam archdiocese from 1975 to 2011, according to the Review of Safeguarding Practice in the archdiocese, just published. Ten of these priests were deceased when the review was undertaken in June 2011.
Two priests in the archdiocese were convicted of committing an offence or offences against a child or young person since January 1975, the study - which was undertaken by the Catholic Church's child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church - reveals.
Some 25 allegations involving priests of the 56-parish archdiocese which comprises almost all of Co Mayo and about 65 per cent of Co Galway, including the Aran Islands, large parts of Connemara and areas such as Corrandulla, Lackagh and Tuam - were reported to the Gardai.
Eight of the priests against whom allegations were made are “out of ministry” or have left the priesthood, according to the 21-page document. All of the priests who were the subject of allegations are no longer in ministry or are retired. Five of the total of 18 priests - who were the subject of an allegation arising from their past ministry - are not from the diocese but live in it.
The publication outlines that all cases were “complex” and “challenging” in terms of establishing the credibility of the allegation. It states that “serious harm” was done to children by a “few” priests of the archdiocese.
“The records demonstrate that since the installation of Archbishop Neary the archbishop has met allegations with a steadily serious approach, taking appropriate action under existing guidelines and rapidly assimilating the lesson of the necessity for the removal of the priest, where there is a credible allegation, pending investigation.”
It outlines that prior to Archbishop Neary's tenure there was on occasions “delay” in taking such action.
“It is also fair to say the archbishop has met resistance in asking a priest to step aside from public ministry. It is to his credit that in spite of opposition Archbishop Neary has maintained his authority and kept some men out of ministry where there is evidence to suggest that they should be viewed as dangerous and should not have access to young people.”
Among the eight recommendations in the review is that the archbishop should consider writing to all complainants on receiving a “credible” allegation offering support and counselling. Others suggest that following the removal of a priest from public ministry Archbishop Neary sets down in writing the restrictions imposed on the respondent and the supervision, management and reporting arrangements. The report also suggests that the archbishop might consider appointing a support person whose sole responsibility would be the support of complainants.
In a statement Archbishop Neary said he had apologised to the survivors of child sexual abuse in the past and wished to reiterate his apology.
“Foremost in my thoughts are the survivors of child sexual abuse and their families, the harm and the hurt which they have experienced and the courage which they displayed in telling their story. I invite anyone who has been abused to come forward and report the matter either to the archdiocese and/or to the statutory authorities.”
He stated the report illustrates that “strong procedures” have been put in place to ensure that children are “safe and cherished” in Tuam archdiocese.
“I warmly welcome the report of Ian Elliott, the CEO of the national board, and am very happy that he has adjudicated so positively on the way things are being addressed in our archdiocese. This is an enormous tribute to all working in this area. It is very encouraging to see that their work has been recognised, affirmed and appreciated in the report. They convened and worked long hours to address the problems of sexual abuse in a fair and transparent manner. I want to thank all who were involved in this important work for the way in which they have given so generously of their time and expertise. Each parish now has a trained child safeguarding representative.”
He said as archbishop he addressed these “sad situations”. “I was convinced that it would be impossible to do so without involving lay people, particularly parents and especially mothers who have been nurturing, cherishing and protecting children day in day out. I appointed an advisory panel, men and women, professional and highly qualified lay people, religious and priests from whom I have taken advice in dealing with cases of abuse. Conscious of the urgency and centrality of safeguarding children the safeguarding committee has worked diligently and voluntarily to ensure that the safest possible environment is created for children in the Catholic Church in our archdiocese.
“This is not something, however, about which we can become complacent. The safeguarding and cherishing of children in the Catholic Church must continue to remain a challenge for all of us. Counselling help is available at the dedicated helpline - Towards Healing at Freephone 1800 303416 or log on to www.towardshealing.ie"
Meanwhile the HSE National Counselling Service (NCS) is offering support and assistance to people who have been affected by clerical child abuse.
“The NCS helpdesk can be contacted confidentially on freephone 1800 303 529 from 9am to midnight (today) Thursday and Friday December 2 and from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 and thereafter as required.
“Callers to the helpdesk can speak in confidence to a helpdesk advisor who will listen and assess their needs in a sensitive and non-judgemental manner. Callers will be given clear information and advice to allow them to make informed choices regarding the service best suited to meet their particular requirements.”
The HSE said it recognises that the publication of such reports can prompt adult survivors of childhood abuse to come forward, in some cases for the first time.
“Helpdesk advisors are available to support all those who make contact with the helpdesk, to listen to them and help them to decide on how best to proceed with their disclosures. The NCS is working with a number of agencies nationally to ensure that people who make contact with the helpdesk are facilitated in accessing a service appropriate to their needs, whether that is local counselling services in their area, telephone counselling, advocacy or support services provided by a range of agencies.”
Tom McGrath, the director of counselling with the NCS in the north west, encouraged all those affected by the publication of the reports and clerical abuse in general to contact the helpdesk and find out what is available for victims locally and nationally.
“This information may be important not only for victims but also for other family members who often carry a great burden of hurt and distress.”
* The HSE National Counselling Service helpdesk is available on freephone 1 800 303 529.
* The National Rape Crisis 24-hour helpline for victims of rape and sexual abuse is available 24 hours seven days a week on freephone 1800 778 888.
|Shared Hope International
Read the report
"In our understanding of human trafficking, we are today about where we were with the problem of domestic violence about 40 years ago — low levels of awareness, low levels of law enforcement response, almost no services for victims."
- Rob McKenna, Washington state attorney general
||States Fail In Fight Against Sex Trafficking
by CARRIE JOHNSON
(Audio on site)
Too many states still inadvertently provide safe havens when it comes to sex trafficking — even when children on the streets bear the consequences. That's the conclusion of a new report released Thursday by the advocacy group Shared Hope International.
The study grades each state on whether it has laws to protect children who are pushed into the sex trade — and to punish the adults who seek out those services.
Leaders of the group say there's lots of room for improvement.
More than half of the states they examined got grades of D or F.
"I was absolutely shocked when we started sending people into states [posing] as sex tourists, and they would go in, and they would come into the city maybe from another country, maybe from another state, and they could buy kids so easily," says former Republican Rep. Linda Smith of Washington. Smith founded Shared Hope International after she left Capitol Hill.
Smith tells NPR that she's devoting all her energy to making life harder for criminals and to helping victims, especially children, who are trafficked for sex and domestic work.
Laws in Washington state and Texas are strong, Smith says, but many other states are falling down on the job — miserably.
"They didn't have trafficking laws, or if they had a trafficking law, it didn't deal with commercial sex ... or didn't distinguish between children and adults," Smith says. She says the report, prepared with the American Center for Law and Justice, is designed to help states draft model laws to help fight trafficking.
And she has an important ally: the National Association of Attorneys General, which put the fight against human trafficking at the top of its agenda this year.
The president of NAAG, Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna, says there's a lot of work to be done.
"In our understanding of human trafficking, we are today about where we were with the problem of domestic violence about 40 years ago," he says — "low levels of awareness, low levels of law enforcement response, almost no services for victims."
McKenna says the area is so misunderstood that experts still aren't sure how many victims suffer every year. He says estimates start at around 100,000 people in the U.S.
Around the world, he says, the United Nations and U.S. data show human trafficking ranks only behind narcotics as one of the most lucrative and fastest-growing criminal enterprises.
Halloween decorations lead to arrest of sex offenders
A four-day sweep of sex offenders' homes in L.A. County led to the arrests of five probationers for allegedly decorating their homes for Halloween and making them inviting to children, officials said Tuesday.
Three of the five were taken into custody.
One was "a probationer who had a trap door in his bedroom leading to a basement where officers found a chair and rope," L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
The county Probation Department also arrested a married couple, "both on probation for molesting their own children, who had their home fully decorated for Halloween and were in possession of drugs and child pornography," Antonovich said.
Sex offenders under probation are supposed to keep their front porch lights off and blinds and curtains drawn on Halloween, Antonovich said.
The Probation Department said a team of 40 probation officers searched 251 residences. Another 122 probationers were in compliance with their probation terms.
From the FBI
Silver Spring Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Distributing Child Pornography
Possessed over 866,000 Images and 8,100 Movies Portraying the Sexual Abuse of Children; Also Admitted Sexually Molesting Three Boys
U.S. Attorney's Office - November 30, 2011 -
District of Maryland (410) 209-4800
GREENBELT, MD—U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. sentenced Gary Callis, age 42, of Silver Spring, Maryland, today to 20 years in prison, followed by supervised release for life, for two counts of distributing child pornography. Judge Williams ordered Callis to pay approximately $24,000 in restitution to one of the victims of his sexual abuse for treatment and counseling expenses. Finally, Judge Williams ordered that upon his release from prison, Callis must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Colonel Marcus L. Brown, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.
According to Callis' plea agreement, in November and December, 2009, two separate FBI undercover operations in San Diego and Richmond, respectively, used file-sharing programs to download images from a user, later determined to be Callis, which depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The Richmond undercover agent also engaged Callis in a chat, during which Callis stated he looked forward to trading images and that he “had some boy relations” with boys aged 6 to 14 and was presently looking for 14- to 20-year-old boys. Callis specifically described to the undercover agent his molestation of a boy from the time the child was 6 years old until he was 12 years old.
On February 26, 2010, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Callis' residence in Silver Spring, and seized three external hard drives, two laptop computer, a computer tower and a memory card. A subsequent forensic examination of the digital media revealed that Callis possessed over 866,000 images and 8,100 movies portraying the sexual abuse of children. Agents found that the collection was highly organized, divided into folder titles with a number or letter, then further subdivided by a child's name or a description of the contents. Callis' computers also revealed that his primary means of trading child pornography was through the file-sharing program where the FBI undercover officers discovered Callis.
Callis was present during the search of his residence and admitted to investigators that in 2000 he had sexually molested a teenaged neighbor who was visiting his house, and in 2003 had begun molesting the son of his girlfriend, who was 7 years old at the time.
As part of the plea agreement, Callis has also agreed to plead guilty in a related case in Montgomery County Circuit Court, and agreed that the Circuit Court shall impose a sentence of 17 years in prison in that case, to run concurrent with Callis' federal sentence. Callis remains detained.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland's program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, Maryland State Police, and Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney LisaMarie Freitas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf, who prosecuted the case.
It's Uncomfortable, But Talking About Child Sexual Abuse is the First Step
by Linda Lowen
Child sexual abuse is one of those topics that if introduced into a conversation stops everyone cold. We just don't discuss it because it's so gross, distasteful, and horrific. And when allegations of child molestation and pedophilia implicate those we respect and revere, there's an even greater reluctance to hear the circumstances.
So it's extraordinary that despite cultural taboos and discouragement from authority figures, children and young adults broke through the wall of silence in State College, PA and ended any possibility that alleged perpetrator and former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will prey on other kids.
While that story is widely accepted as fact, the incidents at Syracuse University that led to the firing of assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine are still being hotly debated in the court of public opinion and investigated by various entities including federal and local prosecutors. What makes the Syracuse situation notable is that the accusers are all grown men, adults who had to overcome the innate impulse to keep this terrible secret from their past buried.
No one comfortably admits to being a victim of childhood sexual abuse without a great deal of soul-searching and (if they're lucky) professional help in the form of therapy. I know - I was molested when I was 4 years old. This is the first time I've ever said it publicly.
I'm doing so because the Syracuse incident hits home for me in two ways. Like these men, I didn't confront what happened until I was an adult. And when I say it "hits home" I mean that literally. I live in Syracuse.
If these men can find the courage to speak their truth to the community and the rest of the world, so should I.
Yet it's easier for me. I can talk about this because nobody is scrutinizing my every word and screaming that I'm a liar.
But that's not the case for Fine's alleged victims Bobby Davis, Mike Lang, and Zach Tomaselli.
The hurdle that these three faced in deciding to come forward is that much higher because their decision puts them in the middle of a media circus. And it reveals what may be the greatest violation any heterosexual male can be subjected to -- forced sexual acts at the hands of a same-sex perpetrator.
Rape and sexual assault at any age is devastating. But for a child, it's literally life-changing and not in a good way.
Whatever hesitation I may deal with in going public is multiplied five-fold for male victims who carry the long-term scars and struggle to cope without turning to self-destructive behaviors. Adults, like children, find it easier to talk about what happened when the listener is caring, non-judgmental, and supportive.
There's been talk of putting forth a federal law mandating that anyone with any knowledge of child sexual abuse report it to authorities. Whether that law moves forward may not be as important as the fact that we're talking about it.
We can't end child sexual abuse until we can talk about it, listen to its victims, give them support and protect them from further humiliation and judgment. Keep talking. Even when Penn State and Syracuse fade from the headlines, we have to keep talking.
Child sex abuse is preventable
Every time I hear details of the Penn State scandal, it makes me sick. The allegations of child abuse, whether or not proven, point to a systemic problem of sexual abuse by authority figures in this country.
In my role as general counsel for the State Board of Education, I represent the state in license revocation and suspension hearings. Plainly stated, I prosecute teachers for their licenses when they do bad stuff. While most teachers here do great work and would never put a child in a compromising position, some don't. Many of my cases involve crimes of sexual battery or statutory rape by an authority figure. The things I see and read are disgusting, but through parent education, they can be prevented.
The incidents that occurred at Penn State can happen to any child — even YOUR child. But they don't happen to every child. Why? Because predators find the easy prey. In cases where teachers have lost their licenses for statutory rape by an authority figure, sexual battery or even inappropriate communications with students, one common theme exists: The adult has unquestioned access to the child.
I recently attended a conference where one presenter interviewed a former teacher who had a sexual relationship with his student. What stuck out to me is that the perpetrator said the child's parent gave him all the permission he needed to spend large amounts of time with the child, without asking the purpose for and details of the interactions. In that time, the sexual battery occurred.
Here are some tips to help you prevent what happened at Penn State from happening to your child:
Know who is in contact with your child. Insist that every person coaching or teaching your child, or sponsoring or chaperoning an extracurricular activity, has been background-checked.
Ask and listen to details about your child's day. Your child may not tell you of misconduct right away, but if they know you care, they will eventually tell you. This may also help them find the voice to protest misconduct before it occurs.
Notice changes in your child's behavior. In one of my cases, the parent noticed the child, who usually spent time with the family, retreating to her room and closing the door for long periods. The mother started investigating and eventually discovered more than 100 sexually suggestive emails between her child and the teacher.
Be brave. Don't be afraid to have tough conversations about sexual boundaries. By 5 years old, my mother had ingrained in me not to let anyone touch my genitals. Her conversations got more detailed with age. When I got to fifth grade, and I had a weird feeling about my teacher's suggestive comments toward me, I knew it was inappropriate and promptly told my parents.
Believe your child when he/she tells you something inappropriate has taken place. Never write it off as a figment of your child's imagination. Pay even more attention if your child has a history of behavioral or emotional disturbance. When I read interviews with perpetrators, I notice a common defense: “Don't believe it. The student is a known liar/trouble-maker.” Now either that is true, that a child would willingly lie on an adult, or predators pick those children who are “less believable” to prey on. I think the latter is more likely.
Report it immediately. If the abuse happens at school, tell the administrator. By Tennessee statute, they are required to report it to police; but follow up to make sure it gets done. If it occurs outside of school, report it to the police. Follow up to make sure it is investigated and cooperate with the investigation.
In an ideal world, no adult would prey on a child. Unfortunately, our world is less than ideal. Be vigilant in protecting your child against sexual abuse. Remember that you are your child's greatest advocate.
Here are a few resources to help: Tennessee Department of Children's Services, www.sworps.tennessee.edu/child_abuse_reporting/start.html; Children's Advocacy Centers, Tennessee Chapter, www.tncac.org.
Dannelle F. Walker, Esq. is a licensed attorney who serves as general counsel for the Tennessee State Board of Education. Email Dannelle.Walker@tn.gov.
(Video on site)
Editorial: Child sexual abuse
The following is an editorial from FOX6 WBRC-TV General Manager Lou Kirchen, first aired on Tuesday, November 29, 2011:
Some things are just too evil…too cruel to be imagined. Child abuse, sexual or otherwise is one of those. Maybe that explains how good, decent people can turn their heads the other way when they get the sense that something is just…not…right. Maybe a child expresses their discomfort with another adult, or is reluctant to be left alone with that adult…or maybe the adult seems to act too familiar with the child…but we think…surely this can't be what I think it is…and what if I'm wrong and if wrongly accused, this adult's career or personal life is ruined? What if you are right and a child's life is ruined?
Several years ago, when I lived in South Carolina, I volunteered with an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and to treating victims and their families. One of the most startling facts I learned is that nationwide…one out of every five children will be a victim of sexual abuse. Unimaginable, isn't it! And usually, this abuse comes from someone the child knows and should be able to trust…a family member or someone in authority.
Unfortunately, another statistic I learned is that child abuse is cyclical…the abused very often becomes the next generation abuser. When will we take ownership of this issue and make whatever changes necessary to protect our children…put their security and mental health first…to break the cycle? What do you think?
If you would like to respond to this editorial, email firstname.lastname@example.org, write
P.O. B ox 6
Birmingham, Alabama 35201
or call 205 583 4328
Who to turn to when abused kids need help
The scandal of a sexually abused child at the hands of a trusted adult unfolded like a sad flower last month at Penn State.
Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing eight boys. But on March 1, 2002, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary told head coach Joe Paterno that he had witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy in a Penn State locker room shower.
Among various public reactions to the scandal was anger aimed at McQueary for not rushing in to stop the abuse and for not calling police immediately.
But what could have been done in such a situation? And, if confronted with a similar situation, what should someone do?
“It's the natural tendency not to get involved or to avoid complicated, scary things that are observed,” said Jim Otepka, executive director of TriCity Family Services. The Geneva nonprofit organization provides low-cost mental health services to residents of Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles, including therapy for children who have been sexually abused.
“Child abuse should compel anyone to act,” Otepka said. “But for folks not trained or required to confront it as part of their professional work responsibilities, the natural tendency is to minimize. It is a terrible, risky thing to get involved – a can of worms. There's not enough ... awareness of how to deal with it.”
The publicity surrounding the Penn State scandal has provided an opportunity for experts to explain what can be done if one witnesses child sexual abuse happening or if there is suspicion that it is happening.
Lori Chassee, director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center in Geneva said even mandated reporters – such as teachers, doctors and childcare workers who have been trained aren't always sure of what should be done.
The advocacy center was established in 1994 to ensure coordination and cooperation in the investigation of cases of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of children.
“A lot of people don't know what to do or don't believe what they're seeing,” Chassee said. “The natural inclination is to try to interpret what they've seen as accidental. It's psychological denial.”
• • •
Anyone call call 800-252-2873 and make a confidential report of suspected child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Because DCFS is responsible for a limited focus of child abuse and neglect, Chassee said the best action is to call the police.
“The focus of DCFS is child protection,” Chassee said. “Police do criminal investigation and accountability where appropriate. And DCFS can work hand-in-hand – as they do in a program such as ours – and anyone who is uncertain can call that 800 number.”
But the most direct and effective action an adult can take is to call 911, she said.
“If a child tells you there has been an abuse, you need to call the police,” Chassee said. “If you observe an abuse, you need to call the police. If you suspect an abuse, you need to call the police. In the Penn State example, there was actual observation of conduct. If you saw someone shoot somebody, you'd call the police. If you saw someone robbing a bank, you'd call the police. If you see someone injuring a child, call the police.”
When most Parent Teacher Organizations want to do a child safety program, they focus on Stranger Danger, stranger abductions, good touch/bad touch and Internet safety. Almost none of them ever ask for training on how to respond to observed or suspected child sexual abuse, Chassee said. Yet 97 percent of those who abuse children sexually are family members or close friends, she said.
“Frequently, they do not want to hear about the reality of abuse,” Chassee said. “You look at people with different lenses. If there is a stranger [abusing a child], you have no context, no background, no bias. But if it's a person you know, you will always color favorably to the adult. ‘There must be a misunderstanding. I must have mis-seen that or misheard that.' That is exactly what these predators count on, is to be given the benefit of doubt over a child, and the silence allows them to operate unencumbered and continue their violation of children in our midst.”
• • •
Child-advocacy agencies are using the Penn State scandal as a launching pad to push adults to learn how to take greater responsibility for reporting child sex abuse. Among them is Darkness to Light, a nonprofit founded in 2000 with the mission of reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse through public awareness and education.
Cindy McElhinney, director of programs at Darkness to Light, has had so many media interviews in the past two weeks that she had to fight through laryngitis.
“This is certainly the most public dialogue that we have seen around the issue,” McElhinney said.
The Darkness to Light website offers sobering statistics, among them that the country has 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse and that one in four girls will be sexually abused before turning 18.
“This is what we have to help people understand,” McElhinney said. “It's not that creepy guy in the park in a trench coat. It's a family member or someone who has infiltrated our family and seeks one-on-one time with our children. The reality is, more than 90 percent of abuse takes place by some one known to the family and trusted.”
The group estimates only 10 percent of children disclose their abuse. Many do not tell anyone until they are well into adulthood and delay dealing with the aftermath, McElhinney said.
“Child safety is the job of an adult,” McElhinney said. “It is important for us to teach children good touch/bad touch. But adults have to bear the burden of stepping up and speaking out when something does not look or feel right with respect to the well-being of a child.”
In calling on adults to step into reality, the website offers an introductory guide for adults interested in preventing child sexual abuse. Called “The 7 Steps To Protecting Our Children,” it speaks to recognizing and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Children who are being abused have been tricked or manipulated or shamed into silence,” McElhinney said. “How can we put the burden on them to get out of that situation?”
• • •
“For sure, it should not be on the children,” said Barbara Blaine, who founded Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in 1988. “The average age of a victim reporting abuse is 42. What tends to make victims speak up sooner is if they get some kind of treatment or counseling. Or if they learn someone else is reporting the predator. Most victims assume it's their fault and don't tell anyone and end up feeling guilty about it.”
Blaine said she was abused by her family's parish priest in Toledo, Ohio, in 1969, the summer she turned 13.
“I did not tell until 1985 when I was 29,” Blaine said. “They [church officials] told me I was the first one to report it, but he had been reported in 1969. Church officials did not help, and that is when I started SNAP. They did not remove him from ministry until the producers of the Oprah show called the bishops in Toledo because I was going to be on Oprah.”
Blaine acknowledged many abuse cases occur in the home, but a lot happens outside of it as well because parents willingly let their children spend time with adults they trust.
“My parents would have had a hard time believing,” Blaine said. “They thought it was an honor that the priest wanted to spend time with me.”
Blaine's advice echoes that of others who work to protect children from abuse and educate adults on how to prevent it.
“No one knows what a child molester looks like,” Blaine said. “They are completely normal and competent in every other aspect of life. It's not like you could see or recognize a mark on their forehead or see predictive behavior ... but when you see something, say something.”
Places for help
If you suspect or know that a child is being sexually abused call your local police department, the Kane County Child advocacy Center at 630-208-5160 or the Department of Children and Family Services hotline at 800-252-2873
All Six Victims ID'd in Child Sex Abuse Case Expected to Testify Against Ex-Penn State Coach
by Jana Winter
All of the alleged victims identified in the child sex charges against disgraced ex-Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky are expected to testify next month in open court, a lawyer for one of the victims told FoxNews.com, despite claims by Sandusky's defense team that some of the victims would recant.
Slade McLaughlin, one of two Philadelphia-area attorneys representing "Victim One," suggested there was little doubt about the testimony.
"In ordinary course of things, it would be expected that all victims would testify," McLaughlin said.
Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight young boys over 15 years, allegedly using his charity The Second Mile to find his victims. The grand jury report notes that two of the victims have not been identified despite eyewitness accounts.
The other six are expected to take the stand at the upcoming hearing set for Dec. 13, including the Clinton County youth known so far only as Victim One. The alleged victim kickstarted the investigation by telling authorities he was being abused by Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator under legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
The case has engulfed Penn State in scandal over how school officials responded to what they knew about the allegations, and it led to the firing of Paterno and the university's president. Two other school officials were hit with charges of perjury and failure to report allegations of child abuse to authorities as required by law.
McLaughlin said he and Michael Boni were retained last week by Victim One and have been busy preparing their client for the hearing. The victim, now 18, is still experiencing emotional turmoil over the abuse by Sandusky, McLaughlin said.
Sandusky's attorney Joseph Amendola has said repeatedly that some of the alleged victims would recant their allegations. He also has said one of the victims cited in the grand jury report would be coming forward with a different story, casting doubt on the allegations involving him.
Amendola downplayed the upcoming testimony in an email Tuesday to FoxNews.com.
"We believe there's a significant possibility at least one and perhaps two of the alleged victims may testify no sexual contact occurred between them and Jerry Sandusky," he said, while acknowledging that others likely will claim "sexual acts" or "inappropriate touching" occurred.
Sandusky has denied the charges against him, though he admitted in a TV interview that he had showered with boys after camp workouts.
Program shines light on abuse
For 14 years, Nightlights has been brightening the lives of abused children in Larimer County, shining its light into the darkness of abuse. But, what is NightLights?
Is NightLights a tree? Although the NightLights Tree that stands 50 feet tall and is illuminated with 25,000 blue lights and features giant ornaments of children's faces has become a landmark in Old Town, NightLights is something even bigger.
Is NightLights an event? Every Dec. 1, we come together as a community to enjoy live music and tasty treats. Although thousands of people have made it their family tradition to be there when the tree is lit, NightLights is much more than an event.
Is NightLights a fundraiser? Even though the NightLights event is free for all who attend, it has become one of the community's largest fundraisers for abused children in Larimer County. Businesses, families and individuals sponsor lights on the NightLights Tree to provide for more than 1,500 abused and at-risk children locally during the Christmas season. These donations also support emergency funding and services to the children served by 18 valuable youth agencies in the New Year.
Thanks to event sponsors and the business members of Realities For Children, 100 percent of every donation directly serves children in need when there are no other resources available. NightLights, however, is something more amazing still.
To understand what NightLights is, it is important to understand the issues of child abuse. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic and educational level and across all ethnic, religious and cultural lines. In the United States, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds; and by the end of each day, five children will have died as a result of abuse. Colorado has seen a 30 percent increase in child-abuse deaths during the past four years and has ranked as high as the third-worst state in the nation for child-abuse deaths. Last year alone, Larimer County fielded 5,848 reports of child abuse.
These are statistics that certainly would be easy to turn away from. Unfortunately if we do so, we allow such atrocities to continue. Edmund Burke eloquently stated, "All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Doing "nothing" is not an option; we simply cannot allow those who would harm children to remain protected by the darkness and silence they thrive upon.
The 25,000 blue lights on the Nightlights Tree represent the international color of child-abuse prevention and awareness. The event is how we come together as a community to be a voice for those silenced by abuse, and the ornaments of the children remind us that those served are not a statistic. Each child has a name and a face and deserves to be protected and cared for. The funds raised have become an essential thread of the child protective services fabric in our community and help to ensure that no child is forgotten.
So NightLights is a tree, an event and a fundraiser, but perhaps the best answer comes when you ask one of the children who have been given a NightLight in the darkness of their abuse just what NightLights is all about. The answer is as simple as it is powerful; NightLights is hope.
For more information about NightLights and the children served, visit www.GiveaNightLight.com or call (970) 484-9090.
Craig Secher is the president of Realities for Children Charities in Fort Collins.
Ireland Report: 6 Irish dioceses don't conceal child abuse
by SHAWN POGATCHNIK
DUBLIN (AP) — Six Catholic dioceses in Ireland that shielded child-molesting priests from the law in the past have adopted policies that effectively protect children from sexual abuse today, the Irish church's own investigatory arm reported Wednesday.
The findings of the church's National Board for Safeguarding Children represented the start of a project to test whether the Irish church — long responsible for harboring pedophiles in the priesthood — is protecting children from sex predators today.
Bishops in the six dioceses welcomed the findings and expressed remorse for past concealment of crimes.
"We are truly sorry for the terrible deeds that have been inflicted on so many by a small minority of priests," said Bishop Philip Boyce of the northwest diocese of Raphoe. He conceded that he and other bishops had placed the needs of victims below "the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the church."
Irish bishops created the board in 2008 to inspect the child-protection policies of every Catholic diocese and religious order in Ireland, and to recommend systems which ensure that suspected child abusers are reported to police and health authorities.
Those subject to Wednesday's reports — the Archdiocese of Tuam and the dioceses of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Derry, Dromore, Kilmore and Raphoe and Tuam scattered throughout north and west Ireland — all volunteered for scrutiny.
The board's chief executive, Ian Elliott, said examinations of their records showed that all had protected priests from potential prosecution since 1975 but in recent years have begun reporting such suspicions to Ireland's police and health authorities "promptly and comprehensively."
However in many cases, the investigators found, bishops still were not telling Vatican authorities. In 2001 the most powerful Vatican committee, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instructed bishops worldwide to report any cases that contain "a semblance of truth" to the committee.
The report into Boyce's Raphoe diocese found that such cases were being referred to the Vatican only if the priest in question faced criminal prosecution or if the diocese wanted the priest to be defrocked, a sanction that requires Vatican approval.
Elliott said he hoped his investigators could examine the child-protection policies of all 188 dioceses, religious orders and other Catholic institutions in Ireland within the next two years. But he cautioned that the church had given him no power to compel cooperation and the handover of records, only to publicize "details of any noncooperation."
The board's first report, in December 2008 into the County Cork diocese of Cloyne, forced its bishop, former papal aide John Magee, to resign. It found he was ignoring and undermining the church's own crime-reporting policies as recently as 2007.
California babysitter who advertised online charged with abuse
by Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A teenager who advertised babysitting services over the Internet and was believed to have "conversed" with scores of parents has been jailed on charges of sexually abusing two boys of a Los Angeles-area client, police said on Tuesday.
Jordan Liu, 19, was arrested after one of the boys told his mother about being molested during a discussion she was having with her him about the Penn State University sex abuse scandal, police in suburban Glendale said.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period in an investigation that led to the dismissal of the university president and the school's legendary football coach, Joe Paterno.
Two other university officials face perjury charges in connection with the case.
The mother whose 8-year-old boy Liu was accused of molesting told police she read her son a news article about Penn State, hoping she was "providing education and awareness".
"She tried to use that as a tool, to try to break the ice," Glendale Police Sergeant Tom Lorenz told Reuters. "And as she's reading it, and explaining what these things were to the child ... the child broke down and told the mom, 'The babysitter has been doing some of those things to me.'"
Lorenz said the family had scheduled to have Liu come over that evening, adding, "They canceled that, obviously, and contacted the police department instead."
Lorenz said investigators corroborated the 8-year-old's account of abuse, as well as allegations of sexual assault on his 3-year-old brother.
"The investigation is just starting to go beyond these victims," he said.
Liu had been babysitting for the family for eight months, taking the 8-year-old boy on outings at least once a month during that time. The family first became acquainted with Liu through an online baby-sitter referral service, Lorenz said.
He said the investigation found that Liu may have conversed with more than 100 parents via the Internet, but it was unknown how many hired him as a babysitter.
"We don't have any information to lead us to believe there may have been other victims," Lorenz said, adding that police were hoping Liu was arrested before others were victimized.
"If there are other victims, we'd like to make sure they get the help and counseling they need," the sergeant said.
Liu pleaded not guilty on Monday to eight felony counts of sexual misconduct, including sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10, unlawful touching and performing lewd acts on a child, Lorenz said.
The suspect, who described himself at his booking as a photographer, remains in custody in lieu of $2.7 million bail.
Child sexual abuse: Four steps America must take
by Michele Booth Cole
A toxic, ubiquitous plague on our society, child sexual abuse, thrives in an environment of darkness and silence. The Penn State scandal has brought this crime out of the shadows, shocking our national conscience and proving that the malignancy only grows when individuals and institutions fail to confront allegations of abuse.
Every day, my colleagues and I see the pain that silence and other incredulously bad choices beget. Our work places us on the front lines of care for child victims of abuse. Their sense of trust and safety have been eroded, if not eviscerated, by not only the predator who committed the abuse but also by the grownups who failed to protect them.
Adults who stand by and do nothing in the face of suspected or known abuse aid and abet the crime, whether intentionally or not. Not only do they betray the victim, they raise the odds that other children will fall prey to the same predator.
We must end the culture of silence. Now. Child abuse is a community problem and a national threat requiring an unwavering, proactive response. The nation's war on terror has conditioned us to say something if we see something. America's children deserve nothing less.
Here are four steps America should take to raise awareness and urge responsible action:
1. acknowledge the scope of the problem,
2. shatter myths by publicizing the facts,
3. emphasize every adult's responsibility to report suspicious activity or known abuse,
4. provide guidance on how to report and prevent abuse to every adult and institution that serves children.
Child abuse occurs in epidemic proportions nationwide and across the globe. In the U.S. alone, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their eighteenth birthdays, according to Darkness to Light, a national child sexual abuse prevention organization. These national statistics apply to our nation's capital.
Further, there are a lot of deeply entrenched myths about child sexual abuse that are linked to harmful outcomes. One of the most deep-rooted and erroneous beliefs is that strangers pose the most danger to our children. However, fewer than 10 percent of abusers are strangers, according to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Conversely, more than 90 percent of sexually abused children know the perpetrator. The greatest risk to children comes from those they and their families know and trust.
Another powerful myth is that pedophiles look and act creepy. The fact is people who abuse children look like everyday people: our relatives, our teachers, our coaches, our friends. The predators typically go out of their way to appear trustworthy and to gain the confidence of unsuspecting children and adults.
Learning to recognize the signs of sexual abuse against children is critical to combating it. The symptoms can range from emotional to physical and are not always easily detectable. Note to parents: SLOW DOWN and give children the time from you that they need and deserve. The more attention we pay to our children's daily routines and behavior, the better our chances of spotting variations that might indicate a problem.
Reporting suspected or known abuse is a must if we are to protect our children. All states, U.S. territories and the District have laws identifying persons who are required to report child maltreatment. Mandatory reporters include social workers, teachers and other school personnel, health care professionals, mental health professionals, child care providers, and law enforcement officers.
The District has especially strong reporting laws that expand the list of mandated reporters to include domestic violence workers and animal control officers. Beyond the legal mandate, any and everyone who witnesses or suspects child abuse has a moral obligation to report it to authorities.
Child abuse is a crime of opportunity. Pedophiles are drawn to settings where they can gain easy access to children. So schools, sports leagues, faith centers, and clubs are prime targets. A child's home is often a prime danger zone.
Our children are in crisis. The good news is we can do something to stop and prevent abuse. As we embark on the season of light and giving, long defined by children's joy and innocence, what a fitting time to take up the charge. On December 8, the organization that I direct, Safe Shores – The D.C. Children's Advocacy Center, is holding a public learning forum on ways to protect children from abuse. We invite you to come out and become part of the solution. For more information, contact email@example.com or 202-645-4436.
The national dialogue that Penn State has sparked mustn't stop now. As a nation, as a community,we simply must continue to talk about the ever present danger of child sexual abuse, both with our children and with other adults. We need to be on fire to protect every child and take action until every child is safe from abuse. It's a choice. I do wonder what history will show we chose.
Michele Booth Cole is executive director of Safe Shores, a direct service nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and working directly with child victims of sexual and physical abuse in the District of Columbia.
Indiana Be a hero; a sexually abused child may be depending on your help
by Rachel Tobin-Smith
Last year more than 550 children in northeast Indiana needed the help of an adult to investigate the possibility of child sexual abuse — 550! By the end of October this year, 443 children were interviewed for possible sexual abuse. Someone helped these children by reporting suspected child sexual abuse. These adults were brave enough to call the police or the Child Protection Hotline and report their suspicions of abuse of a child.
Was it easy to make that decision? Perhaps. It isn't always easy to decide what to do because we second-guess ourselves. We want to be sure. We ask ourselves: Did I really see what I think was happening? Am I just being overly suspicious?
But for these children the adults were brave. They were their heroes.
As citizens, though, our job is not to confirm abuse. It is to report suspected child sexual abuse. We are not the experts. The police, Child Protective Services, the forensic interviewers at the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children are the experts. They will do the job of asking the questions. Our job is to be the child's voice, to call in suspected sexual abuse.
What would you do if you didn't walk in on the act but had suspicions sexual abuse has occurred? How would you know the signs? This can be a gray area.
Child behaviors that may indicate child sexual abuse has or is occurring include:
|excessive fear of being left alone with a certain adult;
a drop in grades;
sudden change of attitude;
torn, stained or bloody underclothing;
pain, swelling or itching in the genital area;
difficulty walking or sitting;
bruises or bleeding in the genital area;
getting an STD;
frequent urinary or yeast infections;
age-inappropriate seductive behaviors or inappropriate sex play;
premature understanding of sex;
over-concern for siblings;
weight change; suicide attempts, especially in adolescents;
or negative reaction to physical contact or affection by any adult or by one particular adult.
Be the kind of adult who allows a child to talk. Listen. If a child tells you someone has touched his private parts, be nonjudgmental. Use phrases such as: “I'm glad you told me. This is important information. Let me get help for you.”
Hold back comments such as “Why didn't you tell me? Why did you let that happen to you? I can't believe this person would do such a thing.” Those phrases only cause the child to go quiet. Listen and believe. Stay calm. Reassure the child. Then act! Call the hotline. The number in Indiana is 1-800-800-5556.
You can remain anonymous. State law requires the Department of Child Services to protect the identity of those reporting abuse or neglect allegations. DCS keeps the name and contact information of all report sources confidential.
As you listen and learn from the Penn State tragedy, please remember that hundreds of children in northeast Indiana count on each of us to report what we see, to tell their stories, to reach out to the authorities, even when it is tough and scary. Be a hero. A child is counting on you!
Rachel Tobin-Smith is executive director of SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect).
The shame of Virginia's laws on reporting childhood sexual abuse
by J. Michael Sharman - Editorial Columnist
The amount of shame Pennsylvania is suffering from the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal is enough to impact the whole state for a long time. Pennsylvania, though, can at least be proud that her laws allowed her to criminally charge the Penn State University officials who failed to report the suspected child abuse.
On that score, Virginia has nothing to be proud of. Virginia has no law requiring university officials to report suspected child abuse, and even if it did, Virginia has no law which could criminally punish anyone for failing to report suspected child abuse.
Almost all the states have “mandatory reporter” laws identifying the persons who must make a report when they suspect that a child is being abused.
Forty-three states have made a mandatory reporter's failure to report child abuse a misdemeanor or felony crime with possible jail time.
Virginia is not one of those states. Failing to comply with Virginia's “mandatory reporter” law will net a violator a mere $100 civil fine. Even a second offense only has a thousand dollar civil fine as a maximum punishment.
All the drivers involved in an auto accident in Virginia (whether or not they are at fault) have a statutory duty to “immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible… and report… to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency.”
It is a Class 5 felony (up to 10 years in prison) to fail to make the accident report if there is property damage over $1,000. If there is no injury and if the damage is less than $1,000, then a failure to make the report is a Class 1 misdemeanor (up to one year in jail.)
Say, for example, there is a four-car chain reaction fender-bender at a stoplight and it causes more than $1,000 in property damage. All four of the drivers can potentially be charged with a felony if they fail to report the accident.
But a doctor, coach, middle school teacher, or other mandated reporter in Virginia only receive a civil fine of $100 if they fail to report a child's sexual abuse.
Our laws obviously need to be re-adjusted when a driver can get up to 10 years in prison for failing to report an auto accident but a doctor's failure to report a child's sexual abuse can only result in a $100 fine.
We ought to adopt the same punishment as Arizona:
“A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, except if the failure to report involves a reportable [sexual abuse] offense, the person is guilty of a class 6 felony.” A Virginia Class 6 felony carries a maximum 5 years incarceration.
It would also be well for Virginia to expand the mandatory reporter definition.
Perhaps we could adopt the same broad requirement that Indiana has which simply says “an individual who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect shall make a report.”
Or maybe we could use Missouri's language which requires reports from all “person[s] with responsibility for the care of children,” which would, of course, include parents and stepparents.
If we don't want to be that bold, we could at least expand our mandatory reporter law to match Pennsylvania's language which requires all “staff members of a public institution, school, facility or agency” to report suspected child abuse.
It would be a true shame for Virginia's laws to continue to protect our cars more than our children.
After Penn State scandal, a teaching moment on child sexual abuse
by LAUREN BOOK - laurenskids.org
As a victim of sexual abuse from age 11 to 17, I know my abuser stole the biggest part of my childhood, robbed me of my innocence and forever changed my life in ways that cannot be repaid or restored.
When I hear people complain that they're tired of the ongoing press coverage of the Penn State sexual-abuse scandal and ask whether it all might be a little overblown, it makes me wonder, “What will it take?”
The Penn State case has taken the national epidemic of sexual abuse against children and made it a mainstream topic — finally — for debate and dialogue throughout our country. This case triggers a level of outrage that should lead to overdue changes in our society's indifference toward and tolerance of sexual abuse of children.
The simple, sobering fact is that childhood sexual abuse is rampant and needs to be addressed with changes in public policy and public education. In the Penn State case alone, consider that:
• An eyewitness allegedly saw a 10-year-old boy being raped and didn't intervene or call police.
• The top coaching staff at Penn State apparently knew about these allegations but didn't limit the abuser's access to young boys.
• The school system and the foundation that supposedly existed to help children repeatedly allowed the alleged abuser to have time alone with the victims.
One good thing to come from this case is that it has made all of us more comfortable talking openly about this issue in schools, at dinner tables and at work places across the country.
Americans are asking themselves: What would I have done? Would I have trusted my eyes and acted on the spot to rescue a child? Would I have jeopardized my career and the reputation of a school I loved? Would I have faced embarrassment and ridicule? Or, would I have taken the minimum steps required by law and looked the other way?
Those conversations are a good start, but they're not enough.
If we are serious about changing our culture to reject sexual exploitation of children, we need to change our laws to demand greater, personal responsibility of every adult and institution to step up and do the right thing, even when the consequences are painful. At a minimum, we need to:
• Make it clear that everyone is required to report suspected child abuse no matter what the abuser's relationship with the child. Currently, the law in many states is murky about whether abuse must be reported if the abuser is not directly responsible for the child's welfare and to whom it must be reported.
• Increase the penalties for failure to report childhood sexual abuse. How sad that under Pennsylvania law, the penalty for failing to report childhood sexual abuse was merely a $200 fine. How much value does that place on the life and soul of a child?
• End the statute of limitations for prosecution of childhood sexual abuse, as Florida did in 2010. As a victim, I can tell you there is no statute of limitations on how long it takes victims to heal. So why should abusers have the benefit of a statute of limitations to shield them from prosecution?
Let the Penn State tragedy serve as a national teaching moment. Let us change our culture to place an overarching priority on protecting children from sexual abuse. If that is the legacy from Penn State, it will mark a positive turning point, rather than a darkest day.
Lauren Book is author of “It's OK to Tell” and founder of Lauren's Kids, a foundation that works to fight child sexual abuse through education.
Finding Solace After Sex Trafficking
Brooklyn Prosecutors Help Care For Victims After Crimes
by Colleen Long -
JAY STREET — A 13-year-old runaway was promised love and support from a man she met on the Brooklyn streets. Instead, she was beaten and forced into prostitution for months, her services advertised online.
When her pimp was arrested this month in Brooklyn, the girl, like many other victims of sex trafficking, was set free, but was fearful, alone and empty-handed.
That's when a special unit within the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office stepped in. The teen will see a social worker who's part of the sex trafficking unit, and she will be given help finding shelter, schooling and a job, if she needs it. And she was able to go to the unit's “closet,” a room where victims can choose from donated toiletries, clothing, shoes and bags.
“We spend a lot of time establishing what she needs,” said Assistant District Attorney Lauren Hersh, chief of the office's sex trafficking unit. “We ask ‘What can we do for you?'”
The approach, Hersh says, helps girls feel more comfortable talking about their ordeals, and makes it easier for prosecutors to get critical details they need by establishing a relationship with victims, making them more willing to talk and making it easier to put pimps and kidnappers behind bars.
The unit at the district attorney's office was created less than two years ago to combat what Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes called a disturbing, often overlooked crime of sex trafficking in the United States. New York City is thought to play a role in the international trafficking trade, both as an entry point for smugglers from abroad and as a city where victims are put to work.
While other parts of the city have prosecutors who specialize in sex trafficking cases, the Brooklyn unit is unique for its dedicated staff that includes the social worker, and the social services aspect. A boutique hosted a clothing drive, and Avon recently donated bags full of toiletries for victims.
It's difficult to gauge how many victims are out there. Right now, the Brooklyn office is dealing with 31 indicted defendants, and that means multiple victims, including a 12-year-old girl lured into the trade and forced to perform oral sex and dance at seedy strip clubs for nearly a year. Authorities this week announced they had arrested a man they accused of being her pimp.
The U.S. government investigated more than 2,100 instances of suspected sex trafficking from January 2008 to June 2010, according to the federal statistics, which included exploitation of a child as well as adult prostitution. Hundreds of victims were identified.
But the crime is vastly underreported, and prosecution is slow.
Some victims are scared to come forward and may not know their legal rights. Industries into which people are trafficked are generally marginalized, and in the case of sex, illegal.
“Corruption and exploitation can really flourish because no one is looking,” said Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project, which offers legal help, social services, clothing and support for sex workers. “It's hidden, it's under the radar.”
This year in New York City, there have been 35 arrests for sex trafficking, and 30 of those cases are still open, according to statistics from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. It often takes longer than a year for cases to go to trial.
In the meantime, it's important for victims to know they have avenues for help, with or without the criminal justice system, Baskin said.
“We need to be supporting programs that are not law enforcement-focused. Law enforcement, their goal is to prosecute and convict, they may have a secondary goal of helping victims of crime, but it's not their primary goal.” In New York, sex trafficking was included in the penal code in 2008, and last year, then Gov. David Paterson signed a law allowing women to clear their names after prostitution arrests due to trafficking.
There is no one profile of a trafficked sex worker. The victims aren't necessarily all immigrants, or young, or female. Some are U.S. citizens, some are boys, some adults, all preyed upon by manipulative pimps and lured by promises of fancy clothes, or love and support. They share one major trait, Hersh said: They are vulnerable.
The 12-year-old's story was eventually uncovered by authorities who arrested 29-year-old Gary Whitfield and a suspected accomplice; both are being held on charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution. Whitfield's attorney didn't return a call seeking comment.
The 13-year-old had fled a New York group home when she met 21-year-old Kendale Judge. He promised her love and care but instead raped her, beat her and forced her into prostitution, prosecutors said. His Facebook page read: “Pimps don't cry, they slap that bitch and say get out there and grind.”
After two months, she escaped and called 911, which led to arrests announced this week of Judge and an alleged accomplice. They were being held on charges including trafficking, rape and kidnapping. Judge's lawyer didn't return a call seeking comment.
Did Hana's parents 'train' her to death?
The deaths of the three children each allegedly happened at the hands of their parents. Though they lived in different parts of the country, the parents all had several things in common: They adopted children, home-schooled them and beat them with quarter-inch plastic tubes. They also followed the child-rearing teachings of a Tennessee evangelist, Michael Pearl, and his wife, Debi.
by Jeff Hodson
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sean Paddock suffocated when he was wrapped too tightly in blankets.
Lydia Schatz died after being spanked for several hours.
And Hana Grace-Rose Williams, of Sedro-Woolley, was left out in the cold, where she died naked, face down in the mud.
The deaths of the three children occurred in different parts of the country — North Carolina, California and Washington — but each allegedly happened at the hands of their parents, all of whom were charged with murder.
The parents had several things in common: They adopted children, home-schooled them and lashed them with quarter-inch-diameter plastic tubes. They also used the child-rearing teachings of a Tennessee evangelist, Michael Pearl, and his wife, Debi.
The Pearls wrote "To Train Up a Child," first published in 1994, and which teaches parents how to use a "switch" to make their children obey. Michael Pearl says it has sold more than 670,000 copies, been translated into a dozen languages and is popular with some Christians who home-school their children.
The authors say raising a child is as simple as training a dog, and they cite biblical verses supporting use of the "rod." Their website includes comments from many followers who say they have successfully raised happy, obedient children using the Pearls' principles.
The Pearls, however, issue a warning to parents: Never spank in anger. And they say many people have "misconstrued" their words.
Critics claim the couple's advice amounts to a prescription for child abuse.
"It's truly an evil book," said Michael Ramsey, the district attorney for Butte County, Calif.
Ramsey successfully prosecuted Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz for hitting their daughter Lydia to death in Paradise, Calif., in 2006 with a plastic plumbing-supply tube — the kind the Pearls mention in an article on their website called "In Defense of Biblical Chastisement."
Lydia, 7, was adopted from Liberia. Her transgression? Mispronouncing the word "pulled" from a children's book. She said "pull-ed," according to Ramsey, and the hitting began.
The Pearls also drew fire after the 2006 murder of 4-year-old Sean Paddock, who suffocated after his mother swaddled him too tightly in a blanket. Lynn Paddock told a Johnston County, N.C., court she wanted to keep her son from getting out of bed.
She was a devoted follower of the Pearls, prosecutors said, and she had come across their writings while surfing the Internet. She's now serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and felony child abuse.
In Washington state, the death of Hana Williams marked the third time the Pearls' names and their book have surfaced after the death of a child — but the first time Washington state child-welfare officials had come across it. The Williamses have pleaded not guilty and their case is in the pretrial phase.
Dead of hypothermia
Hana, 13, was adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 by Larry and Carri Williams, of Sedro-Woolley.
She was regularly spanked and locked in a closet, and was forced to sleep in a barn and take garden-hose showers outside, according to an affidavit from the Skagit County Sheriff's Office. The affidavit was based on information from the couple's six natural children, another adopted child, medical experts and other family and friends. The interviews were conducted by detectives and investigators from the state's Child Protective Services.
In 2009, Hana weighed 108 pounds, but over the past two years of her life, she lost 30 pounds, largely because her parents denied her food as punishment, the affidavit says. She was so thin she couldn't retain enough heat May 12, the night she died. She had been outside with no clothes and died of hypothermia, an autopsy found.
On the backs of her legs were marks consistent with being beaten earlier in the day, the affidavit alleges.
According to the investigators, the Williamses were familiar with the Pearls and had given a copy of their book to an acquaintance.
Larry Williams, 47, a Boeing worker, told sheriff's detectives the children were disciplined with a piece of white plastic more than a foot long. It had a round ball on the end, and he said he had picked it up at a plumbing-supply store.
On Sept. 29, after four months of investigation, the Williamses were charged with homicide by abuse. They were also charged with assault for allegedly torturing Hana's adopted brother, 10, also from Ethiopia.
The couple are free on bail. If convicted, they face life terms in prison.
All but one of the Williams children have been placed with relatives or foster parents, CPS says. The eldest, now 18, is back home.
The Williamses, through their attorneys, declined to comment for this article.
Rachel Forde, who represents Larry Williams, said in an email: "Just because the government makes an accusation doesn't mean it's true. ... Once the jury hears the evidence, unfiltered by the prosecutor's lens, we believe that a much different picture will emerge about the lives of the Williams children and Hana's tragic death."
After Hana died, Michael Pearl issued a statement.
"We share in the sadness over the tragic death of Hana Williams," he said. "What her parents allegedly did is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of No Greater Joy Ministries and what is taught in the book, 'To Train Up a Child.' "
No Greater Joy Ministries is the name of the business the Pearls run in Pleasantville, Tenn.
If the Williamses had a copy of the book, Pearl said, they either didn't read it or "totally ignored its contents."
In a telephone interview, Pearl, 66, said spanking is just one part of a comprehensive program on child-rearing and should be "reserved for rebellion when children are angry or defiant."
"I'm passing on traditional parenting methods, traditional common sense that's been around for 6,000 years," he said.
Much of the book — written mostly by Michael Pearl — features advice on developing better "fellowship" with children and serving as a good role model. It's also got short chapters on home schooling and what to do when your child gets bullied.
But spanking is clearly the heart of the book.
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son," from Proverbs 13:24, is cited often, as are other biblical references to discipline.
Many Christians disagree with the Pearls, but the Tennessee preacher argues the rod is a gift from God.
"A child properly and timely spanked is healed in the soul and restored to wholeness of spirit," he writes. "A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings."
Pearl encourages parents to think of the switch as a "magic wand" and says teaching a child to obey is like training an animal:
"A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can't a child be trained not to touch?"
That's a comparison that irks many child advocates.
"Children aren't dogs," says Karen Moline, a member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, a New York-based advocacy group. "They're thinking, speaking people who have needs and their own identities."
A Christian website called Why Not Train a Child? was created in 2004 to counter the Pearls' arguments.
The site links to an online petition asking Amazon.com to stop selling the Pearls' book. It's been signed by more than 7,000 people.
In their book, the Pearls suggest setting up training sessions by placing something desirable, like a pair of glasses, in front of an infant. When the child reaches for it, the Pearls advise, calmly say "no" and "thump or swat his hand with a light object so as to cause him a little pain, but not necessarily enough to cry."
In an interview, Pearl recommended using a plastic spoon, rubber spatula or small branch. It should be slim, like a pencil, and about 2 feet long. "Any kind of thing that can sting without breaking the skin," he said.
References to the plastic plumbing tubes can't be found in the book, but they exist in his online postings, where he says he got the idea from an Amish woman with eight or 10 children who said she hung the tube around her neck to keep it handy.
In the interview, however, Pearl said: "It's not something I advocate or that people need to do."
An entire chapter of the book is devoted to parental anger, with several warnings not to spank when hotheaded.
"If you can't control your emotions," he said, "it's not for you."
Pearl says his advice is often misquoted by critics. "We wish people would read our work," he said.
Ramsey, the California prosecutor, has — and he says it was crucial to the parents of Lydia Schatz.
"I think it was very important for their philosophy," he said. "They were basically following this recipe for disaster."
The book has a "seductive pull" for parents who want a cheerful, compliant child, but it creates tension between the two, Ramsey says.
In one passage, Pearl says parents should "not allow the child's crying to cause them to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spankings."
In another, he advises parents to sit on a child if necessary and "hold him there until he has surrendered."
There is no mention in the Pearls' book, except for spanking, of the kind of discipline Hana allegedly suffered at the hands of her parents.
The book contains a brief anecdote about a man who toilet-trained his toddler son by washing him with a cold hose, but that is the only reference to cold showers.
He doesn't write about withholding food or suggest that children be forced to stay outside.
As for locking a child in a closet, Pearl said, "I would consider that an act of extreme child abuse."
There's one issue Pearl and his critics agree on — that the Pearls' spanking strategies weren't designed to work on older, adopted children. "I encourage Christian parents not to adopt children from foreign countries," Pearl said, and they shouldn't be older than any of the parents' biological children.
He added that spanking is "almost counterproductive" for children once they turn 6.
Hana was 13; Lydia was 7. Both were from foreign countries.
In the end, the Pearls' book may not be of much significance in the prosecution of Larry and Carri Williams.
"It doesn't make any difference," Skagit County Prosector Rich Weyrich said. "If the child's abused, the child's abused. There's no excuse for a death."
Village Voice Media defends its backpage.com ad policy
Religious groups and others fear ads may facilitate child sex trafficking, but Village Voice papers have run articles saying the concerns are overstated.
by James Rainey
November 28, 2011
Since their renaissance in the 1960s counterculture, alternative papers have thrived on free-spirited journalism and a libertarian advertising philosophy. Strip clubs, escorts and, lately, medical marijuana emporiums, filled countless pages with their ads.
The ads might have provoked occasional scorn but probably never the kind of sustained backlash currently aimed at the nation's largest alternative news publisher by some religious leaders and law enforcement officials.
The subject of their wrath has been Village Voice Media's backpage.com, an online classified advertising service that critics say is a too-easy platform for predators intent on offering underage victims for prostitution. Since August, protests have included a letter by 51 attorneys general, a full-page ad in the New York Times by religious leaders, and picketing of the Village Voice offices in New York — all demanding the shuttering of the company's "adult" online listings.
Village Voice, the Phoenix-based publisher of the L.A. Weekly and a dozen other publications, has launched an exuberant counterattack. The owners — who say they assiduously monitor online ads to prevent abuses that go unchecked on other sites — have hired a lawyer and a public relations firm. But their most striking rebuttal has been issued by their own journalists, who have produced two cover stories and multiple blog posts that attempt to knock down what the papers call a "sex-trafficking panic" trumped up by "sex prohibitionists."
The chain's coverage has been so aggressive that two experts cited in its articles — who agree that the scope of child prostitution has been mischaracterized and, in some cases, overblown — said in interviews that Village Voice appears to be making the opposite mistake: understating the problem, as it appears to be bolstering its commercial interests.
The controversy pits legal rights against moral suasion. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 encourages communications between third-parties, by assuring publishers won't be held legally liable for the missives. But religious leaders and other activists say they have an obligation, beyond the law, to fight against any forum that potentially exposes children to danger.
"A lot of people in this country think that children are trafficked in other places in the world and they aren't aware that children are in danger in this country, right in their backyard," said the Rev. Katharine R. Henderson, the president of Auburn Theological Seminary.
A similar furor enveloped Craigslist last year. The leading online classified outlet took steps to limit the chance underage prostitution would be offered on its site. But it eventually succumbed to activists. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark decided in 2010 the listings were "not good for business in the end, so he shut it down," Henderson said. But Craigslist did not pull the adult ads — posting a "CENSORED" headline where the ads had been posted.
Village Voice argues that attempts to shut down adult-oriented ads on the Internet can't succeed. People will always try to make connections for sex and personal contact and it's better to have a site run by a reputable media outlet that strives to keep out "scammers" and "criminals" who would, for instance, advertise the services of prostitutes who are younger than 18, said Village Voice chief counsel Steve Suskin.
"Eliminating adult categories on backpage.com, as Craig's List announced it was doing, will not solve the problem," said Jim Larkin, chief executive of Village Voice Media. "What needs to be done is what we are doing: Hosts need to monitor and remove offending posts on a real-time basis, and cooperate rapidly when illegal posts are brought to their attention."
Carl Ferrer, the executive who oversees backpage.com, said that technological and human screeners (125 of them, operating in the U.S. and India) knock out more than half of the 800,000 items submitted to the site each week. The vast majority of the posts are killed because they are spam or inappropriate, not because they are selling sex, Ferrer said. The site said it reports about 200 "suspicious" cases a month to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Groundswell, the interfaith group protesting the backpage.com listings, seeks to publicize accounts when screening did not work. The group sent reporters across the country an article from a Tennessee newspaper that described how two adults were arrested for prostituting two girls, ages 15 and 16, for customers found on backpage. Last week, the district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., indicted a 21-year-old man for forcing a 13-year-old runaway girl into prostitution, advertising her services on backpage, and an Ohio man received a 4½ -year prison sentence for a similar offense.
It's not hard to find news accounts of additional allegations of underage prostitutes whose services are sold on other websites. Craigslist is among those cited in the stories — the listings apparently appearing under headings other than the "adult services" category shuttered 14 months ago. Craigslist declined to comment.
A Village Voice executive, who asked not to be named for revealing confidential information, said that backpage.com, where online escort ads and the like go for about $10 each, produces at least one-seventh of the company's revenue.
It has spared little editorial muscle in trying to debunk the suggestion of a crisis in child sex trafficking. It has run two lengthy stories, publishing them in all 13 of its publications, which most often choose to cover topics locally.
The stories suggested that nonprofit operators gain financial support by inflating the magnitude of the child sex trade. One pointed out, correctly, that activist actor Ashton Kutcher had erred last spring when he said there were "between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today."
A study had found, instead, that 100,000 to 300,000 children are "at risk" of falling into prostitution because they are runaways or part of other vulnerable groups. The Village Voice article taunted Kutcher for getting the fact wrong and for inflating "the supposed appetite for underage prostitutes."
The second cover story cited social science researchers to debunk the idea that the principal threat comes from predators, who force teens into the sex trade. One of those quoted was Ric Curtis, chair of the Anthropology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, who found after hundreds of interviews that the majority of youths selling sex made the transactions themselves, without a pimp or other intermediary.
Curtis criticizes "moral entrepreneurs" who he believes mischaracterize underage prostitution, in some cases to prop up nonprofit organizations and praised Village Voice for publicizing the political machinations and charged rhetoric surrounding the issue.
But Curtis and another researcher quoted by Village Voice publications — Mary Ann Finn, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University — said they thought the stories had added their own confusion to the issue. The two academics said the problem was how the alternative papers harped on arrest statistics — just 827 for child prostitution nationally over the most recent decade. "It significantly undercounts the problem when you just talk about the arrests," Finn said, something she thought Village Voice did not make clear. Finn added that, as owner of backpage.com, Village Voice has "a vested interest in minimizing the problem."
Suskin, Village Voice's lawyer, said the company should not be punished because of a handful of bad actors. "Criminals send drugs through Federal Express," he said, "but we don't eliminate Fed-Ex just because a few criminals do that."
Protecting Our Children: It all starts with a report
More than 100,000 calls are made to ChildLine, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's hotline, every year.
Of those calls, more than 20,000 are reports of child abuse.
A small percentage of those calls turn out to be cases that can actually be prosecuted.
When it comes to reporting child abuse in Pennsylvania, calls should be made to one of three organizations - the county's Children and Youth Services agency, local law enforcement or ChildLine. Case workers then send the reports to Children and Youth or police.
ChildLine received about 122,000 calls in 2010, and 24,615 of those calls were reports of suspected child abuse. The rest of the calls dealt with questions about Department of Welfare programs as well as calls regarding follow-ups or complaints on specific cases that it is monitoring.
Plenty of officials and community members have come out within the last few weeks to emphasize the importance of reporting child abuse after news broke of Jerry Sandusky's alleged abuse of children amid controversy over whether the abuse was reported to the correct offices by officials at Penn State.
Reporting suspected abuse is a hot topic as people discuss whether those involved at Penn State did enough.
Only 15 percent of all child abuse reports, however, ended up labeled as "substantiated reports" in 2010. Substantiated reports include two categories of reports.
Some reports are considered "founded," which is when a court rules that child abuse has occurred.
Other reports are "indicated," which is when child abuse is considered likely to have happened based on medical evidence, an investigation by police or Children and Youth Service or an admission by the perpetrator.
Even together, "founded" and "indicated" reports still make up a small percentage of the reports that come in - most falling into the "unfounded" category.
That low percentage of substantiated reports is a little worrisome to Wendy Hoverter, the administrator at Cumberland County Children and Youth Services.
"We have anywhere from 15 to 20 percent substantiated reports, and there are questions as to why that is so low," she said. "One reason is that Pennsylvania's child abuse laws are very conservative.
"Very often with physical abuse cases, it isn't often seen," she continued, "and the injuries don't always reach the level (of ‘serious' injury). Abuse as a crime is something that happens often without witnesses. Only the child may be a witness, so it is challenging to really pull all of the pieces together."
Child abuse laws vary from state to state. The Child Protective Services Law in Pennsylvania focuses on "serious" injuries.
For a report to be considered substantiated, the abuse needs to fall into certain categories - serious physical injury, serious mental injury, sexual injury, serious neglect injury or imminent risk of serious injury.
Doctors and those who work at the Children's Resource Center in Harrisburg, which helps interview and evaluate children of suspected abuse, can help verify whether injuries are non-accidental.
If the injury is not deemed "serious," the report is labeled "unfounded," which means evidence is lacking to support child abuse.
In Cumberland County, there were 306 reports of suspected child abuse in 2010, only 49 of which (16 percent) were substantiated.
In the Central Pennsylvania region, the percentage of substantiated reports ranged between 10 percent and 25 percent per county, with the highest percentages coming from Franklin County (24.2 percent) and Adams County (22.4 percent).
Though a large percentage of child abuse reports fall into the unfounded category, that doesn't mean that no one helps the child involved.
"Something good that we do are our general protective services for families, even if the injury isn't severe," Hoverter said. "We can still talk to the family about accepting services, even if the report isn't substantiated.
"Our first goal with any family - in general protective services or child protection services - is to assure that the child's safe," she added. "If that can be done in the home by developing a plan, then we'll do that. It's safety and then preserving the family. If necessary, the child can go into placement, but we do that only as a last resort."
If a report is considered serious, the investigation may fall to either the workers at the county Children and Youth Services or local law enforcement.
"If a person is a parent, paramour of a parent, a household member or a person responsible for the child's well-being, then the local child and youth agency will determine if the report is substantiated," said Cathy Utz, director of the Bureau of Policy, Programming and Operations at the state Department of Public Welfare. "If the alleged person is not related to the child, it is considered a crime against the child, and it is referred to law enforcement."
"In certain cases, we also report it to police, and the police will do a separate but collaborative effort," Hoverter said. "Basically, listed in the law, those cases will include any case of homicide, any case of sexual abuse, any case of serious physical injury and any type of abuse if perpetrated by a non-family member. That's the generality, though the law does make exceptions. The largest percentage of (the cases) do go to police."
Whether or not the report goes to police, all reports stay in a statewide registry for at least 485 days.
When ChildLine receives a call regarding suspected child abuse, that information is collected and compared to previous reports that ChildLine has received in the Statewide Central Register. The registry is important given that there are a number of cases of re-abuse of the same victim or by the same perpetrator.
"If there is a case of suspected child abuse, it goes to a statewide registry," Utz said. "If that report is determined to be unfounded, within one year and 120 days of the first date we received that initial call, that would be expunged by law.
"(Substantiated reports) are maintained for a period of time," she explained. "Once the child victim reaches the age of 23, all identifying information about the victim is removed from the registry. If we have the name of the perpetrator and his date of birth or Social Security number, it remains in the registry. The only other time that their name is expunged is if the perpetrator would appeal the decision (in court) and win the appeal."
The number of reports that have gone to the registry have decreased in the past few years.
In 2010, ChildLine received 727 fewer reports of suspected child abuse than in 2009, and there's been a general downward trend in the last decade. Of the state's 67 counties, less than half received more reports in 2010 than in 2009, though that list includes Perry, Franklin and Adams counties.
The only uptick in calls and reports came immediately after news broke of Jerry Sandusky's alleged abuse of children.
"There has been a slight decline over the years, but we have seen more calls recently," Utz said. "On an average week, we get about 2,300 calls. Since that time (with Sandusky's case), we've seen an increase. The week after that, we had a spike of 4,832 calls. It's beginning to go down again."
Even though the Sandusky case has put a spotlight on child abuse, the importance of reporting suspected abuse never fades away.
To make a report, call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 or Cumberland County Children and Youth Services at 240-6120 or 1-888-697-0371, ext. 6120.
Helping children recover involves hurdles
Reporting child abuse is just the first step to helping children escape that abuse and continue living their lives.
Helping them recover from that kind of trauma, however, can be difficult because of both the age of the victim and the state of child abuse therapy.
Howard Rosen, a licensed psychologist from Carlisle, is the president of Hempfield Behavioral Health in Harrisburg, an organization that provides treatment services for youth for a variety of reasons, including child abuse. Rosen noted that finding therapy treatment for child victims of abuse, specifically sexual abuse, can be difficult because not everyone in the field uses a therapy model that is proven to help children.
"There really aren't a lot of evidence-based services for kids who have experienced sexual abuse," he said. "There aren't a lot of public services out there for kids who have been sexually abused, and an even smaller number of services that have scientific integrity for that kind of problem."
Rosen compares therapy to clinical trials for drugs. While there is research that shows what types of drugs work and what effects they have on the body, models of therapy don't often undergo the same type of research.
HBH specifically provides evidence-based treatment, and for child sexual abuse cases, the psychologists at the organization use a model developed by Dr. Esther Deblinger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
"She's the leading researcher on evidence-based therapy for kids who have been sexually abused," Rosen said. "We use her model for intervention with kids."
Deblinger's model is "trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy" and is generally accepted as something that has worked for children who have been sexually abused.
The model involves a lot of discussion between the psychologist and child victim, laying out what's OK and not OK, what age-appropriate relationships are healthy and reassuring them that none of what transpired was their fault.
Rosen noted that it's also important to discuss what the child is feeling and helping them put a name to it.
"Vocabularizing what they're feeling is a big part of treatment," he said. "Kids don't know what to call some of their feelings. They shouldn't ignore those feelings - they're important signals. They have to listen to what their body is telling them. Many people who have been sexually abused will have depression as an adult. So we need to work with kids to make sure they're equipped with the skills (to deal with that)."
Helping children now is clearly the better option, considering what can happen to children as they grow up and carry the burden and secret of abuse.
"Sexual abuse really changes the type of person you are," Rosen said. "Sexually abused children who keep their secret for years are going to do much worse than other kids who have an adult they can trust and can talk to about what happened.
"It's complicated, but if you were sexually abused as a child (and didn't get help), there's a greater chance that you will be a victim again," he said. "They are more likely to be raped or be in a physically abusive relationship when they're an adult. There's not really a reason why that is, but it probably has to do with the ability to trust people and how they form relationships."
While a great deal of treatment is rightly given to child victims of sexual abuse, they often aren't the only children involved in these cases.
Plenty of media reports have talked about former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky or cited the abuse committed by some members of the Catholic church, but when it comes to sexual abuse of children, the perpetrators are sometimes children themselves.
"Juveniles commit a considerable percentage of child sexual abuse," Rosen said. "About one-third (of perpetrators) are juveniles. Young adults under the age of 30 are also over-proportionately represented."
Just as victims can get help from HBH and other psychologists, juvenile perpetrators can also get treatment as well.
The staff at HBH uses the Multisystemic Therapy for Youth with Problem Sexual Behavior (MST-PSB) model, which is designed to treat youth and their families for problematic sexual behavior.
The model allows psychologists to treat juvenile perpetrators while they live in their own homes, go to the same schools and live in the same town. The catch is that the staff enforces careful planning and monitoring to make sure everyone in the community is safe.
Like the other models HBH uses, MST-PSB has undergone randomized clinical trials to prove that it can help juvenile sexual offenders.
"Statistically, children have had fewer problems with sexual aggression going forward," Rosen said. "Most people's inclination is to lock them up, but that's not really treatment. Incarceration without therapy doesn't work. People try to lock them up in prisons and get treated with adult sexual offenders, but to me, that doesn't work. These aren't places where there is safety planning or monitoring."
Though helping both child victims and child perpetrators involves hurdles of its own, Rosen emphasized that there is a need to, above all, simply report what people see and allow children to get the help they need sooner rather than later.
"You don't have to investigate yourself," he said. "All you have to do is suspect something is not right. If you know the kid's name and where they live, then call. It's much better to report and find nothing wrong than to do nothing and have something serious going on. It's a horrible thing to think of."
An end to silence: Child sex abuse victims speaking out
WASHINGTON , November 26, 2011—The world of college sports had been thrown off balance by recent allegations of sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University. Sandusky is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with young boys he met through the “Second Mile” charity he founded in 1977, and using the athletic facilities at Penn State as a haven for his abusive actions.
Since the release of the grand jury report on November 4 of this year, a growing list of victims have come forward to speak of their abuse by Sandusky. The most recent accusations have come from one of his own grandchildren.
Allegations of sexual abuse first rocked the Catholic Church beginning in 2002 and the reverberations from this scandal placed a crack in the wall of silence that has imprisoned victims for many years. Accusations have recently surfaced against Bernie Fine an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University and a Citadel summer camp counselor.
The Penn State scandal has begun the demolition of the wall of silence surrounding pedophilia, and like the liberation of East Germany, those victims of childhood sexual abuse now have a fighting chance to find justice for stolen childhoods and vandalized dreams.
As victims of childhood molestation boys face significant and unique barriers in reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior. Approximately 1,460 children died in 2005 due to child abuse or neglect. Seventy-nine percent of these children were under the age of 4 years old.
Statistically one in eight males are a victim of abuse and a child has to tell seven adults of suspected abuse before he or she is taken seriously. The male ego is conditioned by society with an aversion to weakness, and the crime of molestation incites a lifelong hemorrhage of self esteem that can become fatal if not treated. Rates of suicide among male victims of childhood sexual abuse are 14 times higher than the norm and they are 38 times more likely to die from a drug overdose.
Male victims are also prone to more aggressive behavior than female victims. A male victim is 53% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile compared to others and 38% more likely to be arrested for violent crime as an adult. Victims face a lifetime battle with depression, anger, addiction and possibly suicide and the cost to society is the loss of a productive individual who could have changed the world if it were not for their victimization. Society also bears the cost of providing Mental Health Services and incarceration for those who resort to crime.
I have a unique perspective on this issue because as a boy of three years old I became a victim of sexual abuse that lasted nine years. I was victimized by a family member who was not a blood relative as happens in many cases of abuse. Born to a teenage mother who lacked the maturity to adequately care for a child I became unwanted baggage that attracted anger at the burden I imposed. Married at seventeen and divorced at twenty my mother banned my biological father from contact after his physical abuse of her.
Forced to move with Grandparents who cultivated a culture of dysfuctionality while my mother often disappeared for days at a time. I was left at the mercy of my Grandfather whose angry outbursts left me scarred from beatings that drew blood at every instance. My mother spent her life in a dysfuctional haze stumbling through a succession of failed relationships and marriages that invited the abuse I suffered into my life.
I have battled the wounds inflicted by my mothers irresponsibility my entire life and struggled with depression. More well known male survivors of childhood sexual abuse include James Dean, Carlos Santana, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Connolly, John Peel and Massachusetts senator Scott Brown.
Pedophiles are masters of disguise and span social class and ethnicity. They are pillars of the community and use that position as a shield from public scrutiny. On the average those convicted of sexually abusing a child serve less than a year of jail time and 32% to 46% serve no jail time at all.
The world of dysfunction is their hunting grounds and they manipulate their victims with kindness and caring forming an bond absent in the child's life. Emotional blackmail is the most effective tool in the Pedophile's arsenal. They target and isolate a child of dysfunction and shower them with the affection that their lives have been severely lacking. Once their victim has been sufficiently conditioned the Pedophile begins a series of inappropriate touching or other behavior that escalates. A fragile sense of self worth is exploited to coerce the child into participation and silence.
Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have used the charity he founded in 1977, “The Second Mile Foundation,” as a dysfucntional shopping mart for victims. Allegations were leveled against him in 1998 by an 11 year old boy who said Sandusky had inappropriate contact with him in the shower of Penn State's athletic facility. An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and University Police evaporated with Sandusky promising not to do it again.
The hard fact is unless there are credible adult witnesses who are willing to testify or video evidence the prosecution of a pedophile is like ice skating uphill. The brave few who speak out find themselves further victimized by the persona of the pedophile, cultivated to disguise their true nature. Supporters flock to their defense vouching for their unimpeachable character.
A thief prefers stealth over discovery and the act of stealing someone's innocence is done with skill unrivaled by any criminal. Victims and their supporters are subjected to immense pressure to retreat to a world of invisible suffering and that has to become unacceptable in a society based on each voice being heard. Sheer numbers can sometimes overcome the obstacles to reports of abuse being taken seriously as in the case of those abused by Priests.
However, the process of giving testimony reopens deep wounds and throws victims into a tailspin when they are forced to relive such a traumatic event. In playing the “Devil's Advocate” I am sure there are accusations that can be unfounded but that is why we need a credible and unbiased investigation of abuse claims by an organization with no ties to the alleged perpetrator that has credibility with survivor networks, Mental Health Professionals and Law Enforcement.
Another important issue is that of the abused becoming the abuser. It is the typical defense strategy of any pedophile who faces imminent prosecution. Jerry Sandusky's lawyers probably already have this story in place for use at trial. The bottom line is that you cannot justify the monstrosity of abuse by repeating it.
Jewish victims of the Holocaust did not round Nazi's up and subject them to the horrors they experienced. They transformed their horror into something constructive and allowed their persecutors to be tried by a War Crimes Tribunal. The majority of sexual abuse survivors find the notion of victimizing a child so offensive they would rather die than repeat the same violence done to them.
So trying to win sympathy after you have stolen someone's childhood away and doomed them to endure a personal hell their entire life by saying you were abused is like putting a fire out with gasoline.
I am no longer embarrassed by the fact that I was molested as a child, though for a long time I was. I was ashamed that I allowed it to happen to me because in my own mind I didn't process how vulnerable I was as a child, until I had my own children. Having them has been the single most healing experience of my life and with the help of a gifted therapist I have learned to accept happiness into my life.
However, there are many languishing in the adverse effects of victimization by predators exploiting their dysfunctional circumstances. Alone and suffering due a lack of health care coverage or trapped in an over medicated haze by a system that prays at the altar of the drug companies many choose suicide as an end to their pain.
To effect change the voice of the abused is only effective when buttressed by those who support and care for them and it is only through their voice that things will change. There has been a groundswell of support since the revelations of abuse in the Catholic Church and organizations such as Male Survivor and RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network are bringing those who have been sexually abused together.
Victims of childhood molestation now have a model for change in the way society sees them. Starting with the revelations of abuse by priests in the Catholic Church and progressing to the allegations against Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky victims have the chance to incite their own “Arab spring.”
The tide is now rising in States like California where Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego has introduced new legislation. It would require coaches at higher learning institutions both public and private to have the same legal responsibilities as doctors and therapists in reporting instances of abuse. It would also increase penalties fir those who “willfully fail” to report abuse.
The states of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have seen a significant increase in reports of child abuse since the allegations against Sandusky became public.
It is only by the courage of sheer numbers that the system can be changed permanently and what we are seeing now is a gathering crowd in the Tahrir Square of humanity's conscience and a rising voice for change.
Physicians don't always report child abuse, study shows
Health professionals did not report 21% of physical injuries that abuse experts say indicate maltreatment.
by CHRISTINE S. MOYER
Stratford, N.J., pediatrician Martin Finkel, DO, and his colleagues have seen an increase in child abuse among patients during the past year. He attributes the uptick, in large part, to the nation's economic troubles.
"When there is a recession, people are out of work, and they're under much more stress. Who are they going to take their stress out on? The most vulnerable people they can have control over," said Dr. Finkel, founder and medical director of the Child Abuse Research Education and Service Institute at UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford.
Physicians need to know how to identify child abuse and take the proper steps when they suspect it, experts say. But some health professionals do not always report cases of abuse to the proper state agency, says a study of 110 primary health care professionals in the November-December issue of Academic Pediatrics .
Most of those in the study were physicians, and they were participants in the Child Abuse Recognition and Evaluation Study.
Researchers surveyed each health professional on one physical injury case he or she recently saw. Participants were asked to rate on a scale of one to five the likelihood that a patient's injury was caused by abuse. Researchers compared how health professionals answered with responses of child abuse experts.
About 80% of child abuse-related deaths occur in children younger than age 4.
In 81% of the cases, health professionals and experts agreed on the likelihood that a child's injury was due to maltreatment. But health professionals failed to report to child protective services 21% of cases in which the patient's injury was indicative of abuse. In fact, the study showed that some did not report injuries they considered to be "very likely" caused by maltreatment.
"Doctors are not so bad at recognizing child abuse," said Robert Sege, MD, PhD, lead study author and professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. "But once they recognize it, it's a difficult decision to report."
The challenges in reporting suspicions of child abuse include physicians' concerns that they are wrong and that reporting will cause unnecessary problems for the family, Dr. Sege said. Some doctors worry that reporting their suspicions will prevent families from bringing their child in the next time he or she needs care.
Laws on reporting child abuse vary by state, but they all require physicians to notify child protective services if there is reasonable suspicion that a youth was abused or neglected, the study authors said.
In 2009, about 3.3 million child abuse reports and allegations were made in the U.S. involving an estimated 6 million children, according to the latest data from Childhelp, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit that helps victims of child abuse and neglect. About five children die every day as a result of abuse, Childhelp says. About 80% of those deaths occur in children younger than 4.
Reporting child abuse
Philadelphia pediatrician Cindy Christian, MD, recommends that physicians who suspect abuse report it to state authorities. She encourages doctors to be open with the family and say, "I see this, and I'm concerned that somebody might be harming your child. Are you concerned?"
Asking parents about their concerns is a way to avoid blaming them for the injury, said Dr. Christian, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.
If doctors decide to report an injury, she recommends that they be honest with the family. She often tells parents, "I'm concerned about what I'm looking at. I think we need to have this investigated further. I have to call child welfare. I want to see you back in a week to see how the injury is healing and how you're doing."
Dr. Christian urges primary care physicians to understand that child abuse and neglect are common public health problems that can have devastating effects on children.
"In primary care practices, whether doctors recognize it or not, there are children in their practice who are victims of abuse," she said. "The first step to helping protect children is to be aware of this."
Legislators reintroduce bill for child sexual abuse victims
by Adrianna Viswanatha
Weeks after sexual abuse allegations embroiled the Penn State campus, Wisconsin legislators are seeking to reintroduce legislation providing broader opportunities for childhood victims to prosecute their perpetrators in court.
At a press conference held Tuesday, Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, proposed reintroducing the Child Victims Act, which has previously been proposed twice.
Lassa said the recent incidents at Penn State University demonstrated the need to act now more than ever.
“The Child Victims Act gives us a tool to help reveal more of these criminals and keep offenders from preying on other innocent children,” Lassa said.
Current legislation dictates a victim cannot file for sexual abuse after the age of 35. Lassa said the Child Victims Act would eliminate the age limit and hence allow more victims to have their day in court.
John Pilmaier, director of the Wisconsin branch of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was also present at the press conference.
Pilmaier said childhood sexual abuse is an epidemic in Wisconsin, just as it is elsewhere in the country. He said the Penn State scandal provided insight on the national scope of the crime.
“Statistics show that before their 18th birthday, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of sexual assault,” he said.
Pilmaier said it is clear that existing childhood sexual assault prevention laws are not doing enough to help keep children safe.
The Child Victims Act legislation failed both times it was previously introduced.
Pilmaier said the Catholic Church lobbied against the bill's approval in the past. He said their main argument is the legislation would threaten smaller religious organizations, including local parishes.
“They acknowledge that they were guilty, but the expense of bringing restitution to the victims would be too much for them,” Pilmaier said.
Pasch also characterized childhood sexual abuse in Wisconsin as an epidemic, saying the bill would be important for preventing future sexual abuse cases.
“This bill would remove arbitrary barriers that prevent victims of these unconscionable acts from receiving the justice they deserve, while helping prevent more children from being subjected to sexual abuse in the future,” Pasch said.
Jay Heck, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin, said having an age limit on victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits is unfair.
He said Republican opposition to trial lawyers instead of church resistance to the legislation may have caused the bill to fail in the past.
“I would think any religious organization would be sympathetic to a victim, no matter how old the victim was,” Heck said.
Heck also said it is an important issue for universities, especially in light of the Penn State allegations.
Heck said in a situation such as the one at Penn State, it would be unfair for victims who are only coming forward now to be prevented from bringing their case to court because of their age.
“Especially with the Penn State scandal, there ought to be a more favorable view and understanding of victims of sexual abuse and other forms of abuse,” Heck said.
Keep juvenile dependency courts closed
Automatically opening juvenile dependency courts to the public would do more harm than good, says someone who has been there.
by Marcy Valenzuela
November 28, 2011
Juvenile dependency courts exist to protect children and youths who have been neglected and abused, so it's shocking that the presiding judge who oversees the Los Angeles County Superior Court's juvenile division is pushing a plan that puts foster children and youths at risk of further harm.
If Judge Michael Nash's order stands, vulnerable children, youths and their families, who are already dealing with painful consequences of neglect and abuse, would face the additional burden of proving why the most intimate details of their lives should be kept private.
Currently, dependency courtrooms are automatically closed to the public unless a judge decides otherwise, under a law put in place to protect foster children's privacy. Many judges already use the discretion given to them to open proceedings on a case-by-case basis to people — such as family members, teachers and pastors — who have an interest in supporting the child through a difficult process and time in their lives. Media can also be granted access, which has happened throughout the state.
But the judge wants to go further. He plans to institute a "blanket order" declaring that dependency courts in L.A. County be open to the public and any media, unless the affected youth can convince a judge otherwise. Not only does the order violate current law, it also exposes children and youths to being humiliated or even traumatized all over again, harming the very people the courts are supposed to protect.
When I reentered the foster-care system at the age of 14, court was intimidating.
In court, you are asked to describe the neglect and abuse you've experienced. A judge may ask questions about your home life, family relationships, behavioral problems and medications, even sexual experiences. I was often scared or embarrassed.
Now, at 23, I am active in working to improve the foster-care system. I frequently work with young people who have suffered unspeakable neglect or abuse by the very people who are supposed to take care of them.
It's hard enough to talk to a judge or a social worker about these painful experiences. Imagine having those stories heard by complete strangers, or even perpetrators looking for their next victims.
I cringe at the thought that young people would have to risk having the most horrifying details of their lives exposed to anyone who walks into a courtroom, because I was in their shoes not long ago.
To put the burden on youths to prove that having school classmates or others learn about their neglect or abuse makes young people feel criminalized on top of everything else that's happened to them.
It's only after years of hard work that I've been able to begin talking about my experience as a foster youth, and only then because I've been able to do so on my own terms.
Media organizations will argue they want to be watchdogs and show the public what happens in courts. But how will it be determined what are legitimate media and what are not? What guarantee is there that all media, which can now include bloggers and entertainment television, will obey the court's rules?
In these days when damaging stories spread in a flash on Facebook and blogs in a flash, it's easy to see how quickly embarrassing details could spread like wildfire and be used to bully children and youths.
If young people can't be forthcoming in court because they're worried about their personal information going public, the entire process is compromised.
Having failed to persuade legislators to change the law, Nash now plans to impose his agenda to automatically open courts. What kind of message does it send to children and youths when a judge decides that if he can't change the rules, it's OK to just break them?
I understand that Nash may think he's doing what's best, but he shouldn't do that without listening to the youths who have made it clear that this is not the answer to better lives and futures for us. We put forward a reasonable alternative that still protects our privacy: Let us decide whether to opt-in to an open court pilot program. But we've been told no.
Deciding if and when to make the details of our lives public is one of the most important decisions of our lives. It's one choice we should be able to make.
Marcy Valenzuela, a former foster youth from East Los Angeles, attends community college in Southern California.
Advocates seeing more cases of child sex abuse
by Derek Vital
The issue of child sexual abuse has been on most people's minds in light of recent allegations at Penn State University. While the alleged incidents happened hundreds of miles away, Fall River residents may only need to look around their neighborhoods to find examples of this heinous criminal behavior.
The nonprofit Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County counsels these young victims, and Executive Director Michelle Loranger wants people to be aware that reported incidents of abuse are on the rise regionally. In three of the five months in the current fiscal year, the CAC has doubled its number of cases from the same month in the previous year. It is fast approaching 1,400 cases since opening its doors in July 2007, with roughly two-thirds of those coming from Fall River and New Bedford.
“Even though Penn State and Joe Paterno have brought it to the forefront, this is very much a Bristol County issue,” said Loranger. “This issue is alive and well in your back yard. It's not unique to prestigious universities.”
Loranger said the CAC does an outstanding job reacting to these incidents, providing children with therapy to help deal with the trauma, but a proactive approach is required to ensure these crimes don't happen in the first place.
“We have to educate parents about being hypervigilant,” said Loranger. “It's uncomfortable to think we have to educate parents about who they leave their children with, especially if it's a family member, but those are the realities that we know. Sixty percent of all perpetrators are family members and 90 percent of the victims know their offender.”
Loranger encourages all parents to take an active role in their children's activities. Get to know their coaches and instructors and, whenever possible, be present.
“Parents should get involved themselves as a method of monitoring,” said Loranger. “Don't drop your kid off and show up eight hours later. Be in the stands, get involved.”
Loranger said it is up to adults to ensure that children are not placed in a situation where sexual abuse may occur.
“Child abuse prevention is an adult issue, it's not a child issue,” said Loranger. “Children need to be children. They shouldn't be put in a position where they have to say no to criminal behavior.”
Should abuse occur, Loranger said it is imperative that adults report it to the appropriate authorities. Professionals who have regular contact with children like teachers, social workers and doctors are considered mandated reporters. They are required by law to disclose any abuse.
Anyone who witnesses any inappropriate activity by an adult toward a child is encouraged to call the Department of Children and Families. Loranger said CAC staffers can also assist a person with how to report an incident.
Loranger praises public relations campaigns for issues like drunk driving.
Because people have continually been made aware of the consequences, the public outcry has forced people to rethink their previous behavior. She hopes the same will occur with regard to child sexual abuse.
“When you engage in these behaviors you harm or kill someone else,” said Loranger. “People have said, ‘I'm not going to have any more of this'. As a society, we need to say when perpetrators engage in this behavior it has the potential to have lifelong consequences. We are not going to put up with this anymore.”
Syracuse Coach Fired Following Third Child Abuse Accusation
The Penn State abuse scandal has caused a spike in reports of child abuse, including charges against another high-profile college sports coach. About two weeks ago, two men accused Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them when they were children in the '80s and '90s. Today a third man came forward with similar charges, and within hours the university announced that Fine has been fired.
Previously, 39-year-old Bobby Davis said Fine molested him "hundreds of times" from when he was a ball boy in 1984 to when he was 27. His stepbrother, 45-year-old Mike Lang, says Fine started molesting him too when he was in fifth or sixth grade. Today a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli, told the Associated Press that he's met with police and signed an affidavit accusing Fine of molesting him about a decade ago when they were staying in a Pittsburgh hotel room during a Syracuse away game. Tomaselli says Fine put porn on the hotel room TV the, "put his hand down my shorts" multiple times during the night.
As if that wasn't enough, many other other sordid details came out today. First, Tomaselli is currently facing sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy. Plus, his own father is calling him a liar. Fred Tomaselli says his son never stayed in a hotel room with fine and has never been to Pittsburgh. He says the charges against Fine are "100% false" and his son is a "master manipulator." However, Tomaselli insists he's telling the truth and isn't trying to have his own child abuse charges dismissed in exchange for testimony. He says:
"It was the Sandusky stuff that came out that really made me think about it. A lot of people were slamming ESPN and Bobby for saying anything. I wanted to come out. ... It made me sick to see all that support for Fine at that point. I was positive he was guilty."
There's also been a new development regarded Davis, the man who initially accused Fine. Today ESPN played an audiotape of what he says is a conversation between himself and Bernie Fine's wife, Laurie Fine. While earlier today we discussed how someone could be married to a pedophile and not know it, if the tape is authentic, Laurie Fine knew all about her husband's crimes, and carried on her own sexual relationship with Davis after he turned 18. From the AP:
During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.
"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked.
"No ... I think there might have been others but it was geared to ... there was something about you," the woman on the tape said.
On the tape, she also says she knew "everything that went on."
"Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues. ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted ... "
On Friday federal authorities conducted a nine-hour search of Fine's home and seized several filing cabinets and a computer. When the investigation was opened earlier this month, Syracuse University put Fine on administrative leave, but today it announced, "Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately."
So far, it seems there's a huge difference in how Syracuse and Penn State officials responded to the abuse charges. When Davis went to police in 2003, they told him they couldn't act because the statute of limitations had passed. Two years later, when Davis told Syracuse officials that he was molested, they investigated the charges anyway, but failed to find any witnesses or other victims. When news of the allegations broke two weeks ago, Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor sent an eloquent email to the campus community and tonight she followed it up with this statement:
Dear Students, Faculty, & Staff:
Tonight, in the wake of troubling new allegations that emerged in the media today, I am writing to let you know that Bernie Fine's employment at the University has been terminated effective immediately.
Frankly, the events of the past week have shaken us all. The taped phone call that ESPN revealed today was not provided to the university by Mr. Davis during the 2005 investigation by our legal counsel. Like the media review of the case a few years earlier, no other witnesses came forward during the university investigation, and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded.
Since I last wrote to you, we have been cooperating fully with the authorities. On Friday, November 18th, as the District Attorney has noted, we turned over to his office the results of our 2005 months-long investigation. Also on November 18, our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations when they first came to the University's attention. I fully supported that decision and it is vital that we examine our protocols and actions in dealing with such serious allegations. We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson.
All of us have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that Syracuse University remains a safe place for every campus community member and everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis on campus or in the community as part of our learning, scholarship, or work. We do not tolerate abuse. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it will be that this basic principle is reinforced.
She's right. The Sandusky case, and now the investigation of charges against Fine, seem to have struck a nerve like never before, but it's depressing that people need a reminder that abuse shouldn't be tolerated.