Abuse cases spark action
by Andria Simmons
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
For Lawrence Kasmen, an Atlanta father of 3- and 4-year-old boys, the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal was a wake-up call.
Kasmen had never experienced such abuse and didn't know anyone else who had, either. But when news of the charges against Jerry Sandusky broke, Kasmen knew he couldn't take chances with his own kids.
“It's so sick and so awful and it's really moved me,” Kasmen said. “Being the father of two little boys, I never ever want them to have that experience. And I never want anyone I know to have to suffer like that.”
Kasmen, an Atlanta commercial real estate lawyer, recently completed a three-hour “Stewards of Children” child sexual abuse prevention training course conducted by the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. He also has persuaded administrators at the Weinstein School at the Marcus Center, where his children are enrolled, to put all the teachers through a similar course.
Child advocates say the scandal at Penn State and other colleges has sparked new awareness from parents such as Kasmen, as well as teachers, hospital employees and others who work with children, of the once-taboo topic of child molestation.
Advocates for child sexual abuse victims are reporting larger turnouts at community awareness meetings, prevention workshops, prayer breakfasts and support groups for victims.
At a recent meeting about child sexual abuse prevention hosted by the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, 52 people attended. A similar meeting last year drew only six, said the organization's CEO, Nancy Chandler.
“One of the things that was so wonderful was that about half the crowd was men, and that almost never happens,” Chandler said. “A lot of them were parents concerned about how to make sure their kids are safe.”
Attendance also has climbed at VOICE Today's “Time to Heal” workshops. In 2009, the faith-based workshops for child sex abuse victims averaged about 10 people in attendance. In 2010, they averaged about 22, and so far this year, they are averaging about 38.
The topic of child molestation has dominated headlines since Penn State's former defensive coordinator was indicted on more than 50 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 12 years. Two university officials also have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse. The problem gained further attention when former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was accused of sexually assaulting three teenage boys.
About two weeks ago, 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera was reported missing and later found dead at her Canton apartment complex. Authorities say she was sexually assaulted and beaten. An apartment complex maintenance man, Ryan Brunn, has been charged.
“I think this combination of the Penn State scandal and this very horrific local child abuse case really does have people thinking how can we better protect kids and are we doing everything we could do,” said Kirsten Widner, director of the policy and advocacy office at the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University.
People who treat perpetrators and victims of child molestation say slayings such as Rivera's are rare, but the type of abuse alleged at Penn State — and the delayed reporting of it — are heartbreakingly common.
“My first thought is this is not unusual,” said Dr. Gene Abel, a leading researcher on sexual deviance who has treated sex offenders at the Behavioral Medicine Institute of Atlanta since 1969. “People are reluctant to step forward because they aren't certain about what they observed.”
Advocates say anyone who has reason to believe a child is being sexually abused should call 911 and let the police sort out the details.
There were 850 substantiated reports of child molestation last year, according to state Division of Family and Children Services reports compiled by the nonprofit Fostering Court Improvement. The organization supplies information about child welfare outcomes to juvenile courts.
Published research has shown that about 6 percent of men and 4 percent of women have been perpetrators of child sexual abuse, Abel said.
Abel said 20 percent to 30 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys have been victims of sexual abuse by age 18, according to research by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
DeQuanda Sanders, who runs the nonprofit Saving Our Children and Families in Decatur, said most people are in denial about the prevalence of child sexual abuse. Sanders, who's also the group's founder, said she felt alone and never talked openly about the emotional abuse and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a relative until she was in her 20s. Meeting other people who had endured similar abuse gave her the confidence to speak out and start a child advocacy organization.
Providing training on the prevention of child sexual abuse is a key component of Sanders' job.
Thomas Scales, executive director of VOICE Today, a Marietta nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of child sexual abuse, was molested by eight different men and raped by a woman before he was 13 years old. He wrote about the experiences in a book, “Terrible Things Happened to Me,” after he began dealing with the abuse as a married man in his 50s.
Scales, now 68, is devoted to helping victims of child sexual abuse, who often suffer a lifetime of consequences including alcoholism and drug abuse, higher rates of incarceration and difficulty with intimacy.
Most sexual abuse is committed by someone close to or within the family who is known to the child — 70 percent to 90 percent. In Scales' case, one abuser was a priest and another was a Boy Scout troop leader.
He said he hopes that increased awareness around child sexual abuse will encourage survivors to begin opening up about their experiences and seek help.
“Then, the power that predator has and the silence it forces on them starts to ease,” Scales said. “You see it every time. There is nothing more thrilling than watching the person begin the healing process and find themselves.”
|Child molestation reports received in 2010
Alpharetta police: 4
Roswell police: 15
Atlanta police: 178
Cobb County police: 246
DeKalb County police: 247
Gwinnett County police: 224
Source: Information provided by each listed police department.
For information on child sexual abuse prevention, intervention and treatment, contact:
• Georgia Center for Child Advocacy: 678-904-2880 or GeorgiaCenterforChildAdvocacy.org
• Saving Our Children and Families: 678-487-7901 or SavingOurChildrenandFamilies.org
• VOICE Today: 678-578-4888 or VoiceToday.org
Advice for parents
• Parents should thoroughly check out mentorship programs that put a child in a one-on-one situation with an adult.
• Parents should ask schools, day cares and youth programs about their policies on visitor access, employee screening, and who can volunteer to work with children.
• Anyone giving a music lesson or tutoring a child should have an open-door policy.
• Parents should start talking to their kids about their private parts as soon as they are able to bathe themselves. Children should be told that no adult should touch their private parts, and that if it happens they should tell someone right away.
• If you are concerned your child might be a victim of child sexual abuse, ask open-ended questions such as “how was your time with uncle or aunt so-and-so.” Hesitation or awkwardness in their answers may signal a problem.
Eliminate statue of limitations on child abuse lawsuits
by Star-Ledger Editorial Board
When a victim of childhood sexual abuse steps forward in search of justice, the only standard should be truth. Because of the evasive, enduring nature of childhood abuse, the statute of limitations is an artificial hurdle that should be eliminated.
Last week, advocates for abuse victims asked top New Jersey lawmakers to move on a stalled bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse. New Jersey abolished the statute of limitations on criminal sex abuse cases in 1996. The logic for civil cases should be the same — the doors to justice should remain open as long as necessary.
Statutes of limitations are meant to encourage swift justice — to ensure criminal charges or civil suits are filed while evidence and memories are fresh. The current New Jersey limit on child sex abuse is two years after abuse is linked to later problems. That's not enough.
Childhood sex abuse creates a different kind of victim. Child victims need time — to remember the crime, connect it to destructive adult behaviors, build courage to act. A child victim still deserves justice 30 years later.
Moreover, those who commit sex crimes against children don't stop with age. A man who abused children in the 1970s may be abusing others today.
For many childhood sex abuse victims, the civil courts are their only recourse. What most seek is justice, not money. They want their pain acknowledged and their abuser punished — in whatever form that takes.
When victims of childhood sexual abuse step forward to tell their stories, they should find the courthouse doors open to them. In the name of acknowledging past abuse and preventing future assaults, eliminate New Jersey's time limits on such lawsuits.
Opportunities missed to protect children
by Beth Musgrave and Bill Estep Herald-Leader
Madaline Grace Reynolds needed medicine to treat her cystic fibrosis, but her parents seemed more interested in getting their own prescriptions filled, a tipster told a Kentucky child-protection worker in November 2008.
Madaline's parents always picked up their own pills, including pain pills, but sometimes went months without getting medicine needed by the 20-month-old Lincoln County toddler, according to a state report.
After Madaline died July 24, 2009, an autopsy showed that there was no medication in her system and that her airways were blocked, according to a review of her death by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The review noted some other troubling facts. The child-protection worker who had looked into the report eight months before that Madaline might not be getting her medicine did not check with the pharmacy to see whether her prescriptions had been filled. The worker also failed to ask the parents to show her the toddler's medication, according to the review.
The case highlights shortcomings often identified when the state assessed how its child-protection workers performed in 86 cases in which children died or nearly died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2009 and 2010.
The reviews repeatedly noted, for instance, that caseworkers needed to do a better job interviewing key people other than parents or caregivers to assess whether a child was in danger.
They also noted a number of other problems and issues, including the need for a better system to identify cases in which children could be at high risk; difficulties in getting drug tests for poor parents; and the need to improve communication with other agencies, such as police, hospitals, and probation and parole officers.
The cabinet is required to do an internal review any time a child with whom it has had contact dies or nearly dies because of abuse or neglect.
The cabinet turned over heavily redacted versions of 86 reviews last week to comply with a Nov. 3 court order. The Lexington Herald-Leader and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal had sued to get the documents under the Kentucky Open Records Act and now have asked a judge to order the cabinet to release unaltered versions of the reviews.
The documents provide a rare glimpse into the challenges and failures of the state's child-protection system.
For example, the cabinet's review of the near-death of a 2-year-old Northern Kentucky girl uncovered crucial shortcomings in a previous investigation involving the toddler.
When the girl was taken to a Northern Kentucky hospital in April 2010 with a suspicious fracture, the child-protection worker assigned to the case did not interview key hospital personnel — including the doctor — and failed to do a timely investigation, the review found. The cabinet also failed to follow up on information that showed the child's stepfather had previous incidents of child abuse in North Carolina, according to the review.
About a month later, on May 21, 2010, the girl was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital with a blood alcohol level of 0.259, three times the legal driving limit. Her stepfather, Raymond Jackson, encouraged her to drink tea spiked with gin, according to the review.
X-rays taken at the hospital showed other injuries, including a healing rib fracture, possibly new fractures, and bruising and swelling around the girl's face.
The girl — whose name was removed from the report — survived, but Jackson was sentenced to seven years in prison, according to court documents and media reports.
The state's review of the case also concluded that the initial investigation, which hadn't concluded by the time of the second incident, took too long.
"The worker initially assigned failed to make diligent efforts to contact the family, medical professionals and collateral at the onset of that investigation," the internal report found.
The worker did not make face-to-face contact with the family until six days after the report was received. However, the worker did document that she tried to contact the family and make home visits on several occasions.
The cabinet began doing internal reviews in 1988. They are supposed to create opportunities to improve the system of protecting vulnerable children by assessing what could have been done better in a particular case.
However, a Herald-Leader analysis of the reviews shows inconsistencies in how they are done and the recommendations they produce.
In the cases of Madaline Reynolds and the 2-year-old Northern Kentucky girl, cabinet employees seemingly did a thorough investigation of what happened, and the review team looked for ways to ensure that similar incidents never happened again.
In several other cases, however, employees who conducted reviews produced only one-page reports with few details of what happened and no assessment of potential policy changes or training needs that might prevent another child from being killed or badly hurt.
For example, in the case of the death of a 4-month-old boy — whose full name was not provided in the documents — the internal review is a one-page summary that mostly includes information about the incident surrounding his death.
His parents withdrew oxygen without the consent of his doctor and did not provide follow-up medical care after surgery for a bowel problem.
Social workers had received a referral Feb. 19, 2010, about the parents not taking the child to medical appointments and possibly not providing care. The child died seven days later, but there is no description of the Feb. 19 investigation in the internal review. It says only that the investigation was not concluded at the time of the child's death.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, a non-profit that advocates for children, said the state should consider standardizing the types of information included in internal reviews.
"Good decision-making in any enterprise is based on data," Brooks said. "If the reports met standards and common protocols, you could use those reports to learn lessons to make changes. If the reports are a random collection of stories, you may be meeting the letter of the law but you are missing the intent."
Cabinet officials have said the internal reviews released Monday have produced meaningful changes.
For example, allegations of abuse of children younger than 4 are now deemed high-priority, the cabinet has said. Also, experienced staff must have frequent consultations with front-line workers during such investigations.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said there might be inconsistencies in the reports because not every internal review finds a need for change.
"If there are no recommendations made, there will be no recommendations documented on the internal review," Midkiff said.
She said that the cabinet repeatedly has addressed the importance of thorough investigations and interviewing people through "standards of practice, consultation, case review, training and supervisory discussions."
The cabinet also has improved training during the past year for child-protection workers dealing with caregivers who have substance-abuse issues. Most recently, the cabinet conducted drug training seminars in all nine service regions, Midkiff said.
In the internal reviews, caseworkers repeatedly asked for more training on dealing with substance-abuse issues and more direction on cabinet policies about when to test a parent for drugs.
Too much to do
Others familiar with the state's child-protection system said that too often, caseworkers have too much to do, too little support and not enough training.
Jordan Wildermuth, executive director of the Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said front-line child-protection workers in Kentucky have higher caseloads than recommended, are not paid well and are not required to have a degree in social work or to be licensed.
The relatively low pay and stress drive a high turnover rate among caseworkers, he said. That means less experienced caseworkers looking into reports of children being abused or neglected.
Gene Clark, family court judge for Clay, Jackson and Leslie counties, said caseworkers get too little support and are "absolutely, totally overworked."
"I would rob gas stations before I would be a social worker," Clark said.
Federal statistics show that child protection workers in other states face even bigger caseloads.
A 2010 report from a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Kentucky had 32 completed reports per investigative caseworker, one of the lowest numbers in the 41 states that reported.
The numbers in states surrounding Kentucky were much higher: Indiana, 135; Illinois, 85; Missouri, 118; Tennessee, 73; and Virginia, 94, according to the publication, called "Child Maltreatment 2010."
The situations that child-protection workers must assess and investigate can be immensely complex, involving substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence, poverty and other factors, experts said.
Many caseworkers are relatively young and might not have the educational backgrounds to help them sort through such situations, said Robert Walker, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and a researcher at UK's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.
Child-welfare workers also have to juggle the dual mandates of protecting children and reuniting families, said Walker, a licensed clinical social worker. Many mistakes workers make might come from not knowing which side of that fence to come down on, he said.
"These are conflicting goals in many cases," he said.
'Smothered to death'
After the death of Madaline Reynolds, the toddler in Lincoln County who died of complications from cystic fibrosis, her three sisters were placed with a relative. But the state had to remove the children from that home because it was unsanitary and there was another relative staying there who had been charged with having sex with a minor.
Social workers did not visit the relative's home before placing the children there, the internal review of Madaline's case found.
Madaline's parents were never charged in her death, said Bill Demrow, who was the coroner at the time.
The conditions at the Crab Orchard mobile home where the girl lived were some of the worst he had seen in his three decades as coroner, said Demrow, who left the job later that year.
Windows were missing and there were holes in the floor. There were no beds, and the place was hot and dirty. The other children in the house had lice.
Demrow said it angers him that the little girl died because she didn't get her medicine.
"That's all in the world it would have taken" to keep her alive, he said. "Literally, the child sat there and smothered to death."
Discipline tips for parents
Get some space: If you are upset and feel like screaming — or more — leave the room. Say to the child: "I'm so angry, I need a minute to think." Leave the room or send the child to his or her room. Regroup and then regain control. It's a good example for kids.
Be quick: Delayed reactions dilute the effect of punishment. Catch your child in the act.
Use selectively: Use a time-out for talking back, hitting and times when the child's safety is compromised. Don't overuse time-out.
Keep calm: Anger ads fuel to the situation and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger. Children are better behaved when parents and caregivers are happy and relaxed.
Stick with it: If you say a child is going to time-out for something he or she did — do it. Don't back down or be talked out of it. If you use time-out for hitting, use it every time the child hits.
Source: Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the state's toll-free hot line at 1-877-597-2331. Callers may remain anonymous. Also, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky provides information about child abuse and makes referrals for services at 1-800-244-5373 or Pcaky.org.
Protect children: Legislature must get serious about abuse laws
by Patriot-News Editorial Board
Despite all the differences on issues facing the state, there should be agreement on one thing: Pennsylvania is not doing enough to protect children.
There have been frustrations for years by those pushing measures important to children's well-being, and those inadequacies have been painfully clear in light of the Penn State scandal.
Last week, the state House and Senate took a first step toward rectifying those shortcomings by creating a Task Force on Child Protection to examine the state's laws and policies on child abuse and make recommendations for change.
It should have been a moment when officials could come together knowing they were doing the right thing for children.
Instead, it turned bitter during Wednesday's debate, with a late-night shouting match and both parties accusing the other of not caring about kids.
Right before the vote on creating the task force, Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Lower Paxton Twp., told his House colleagues: “I ask members for a yes vote. A no vote is a vote against children.”
What was a mostly civil debate then turned ugly. Members of both parties spoke out. Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne County, responded, “To say that a vote against this silly resolution that will probably accomplish very little is a vote against children is absolute nonsense. But you've convinced me that that is exactly how I will vote.”
Rep. Curtis Thomas, D-Philadelphia, echoed that. “I am ashamed that you stood up and said to me that I am not about child protection. Shame on you! I urge you to withdraw that comment.”
It was a sad display from both parties. Out of all the issues to make partisan, surely protecting children is something we should all be able to agree upon.
Perhaps the best comment of the night came from Rep. James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia, who chastised all his colleagues: “You can say that if we vote against it, we are voting against children, but the real fault in this — the real shame in this — is that we have bottled up legislation designed to protect children month after month. And we should be ashamed of that.”
The reality is the Legislature has had numerous chances to change laws for the betterment of Pennsylvania kids in recent years — long before the Penn State scandal broke. But they didn't — or they waited years to act on issues that should have taken only weeks, if that.
This newspaper has written many times about a needed Megan's Law fix to end a loophole allowing out-of-state and homeless offenders from being prosecuted if they do not register with the state. District attorneys across Pennsylvania say they have been unable to prosecute a number of offenders because of the loophole and begged lawmakers to change the law.
Finally, it has gone to the governor's desk, but it could have been fixed a year ago.
Child advocates have told the Legislature for years that Pennsylvania needs a child-welfare ombudsman. It might or might not have made a difference in the Penn State situation or the cash-for-kids tragedy in Luzerne County, but it has made reporting abuse a lot more straightforward in other states.
This year, child advocates asked for public service announcements to remind people about how to report child abuse and make clear who is mandated by law to report suspected cases. Delaware created a similar campaign last year with good results. These ads could make a big difference. There has been no appetite for the campaign.
For the Task Force on Child Protection to be meaningful, lawmakers have to take these issues seriously. This is about as nonpartisan of a topic as it gets.
It's clear the types of people who need to be on this commission. They aren't campaign donors or political insiders. They are doctors, child advocates and children and youth services workers.
If done right, we will get the outcome that we all should want: a safer Pennsylvania for children.
Child advocates urge people to report suspected abuse
by SHELLY BIRKELO
JANESVILLE — Rock County ranks second behind only Milwaukee County in reports of child sexual assault, but local experts estimate that 90 percent of abuse victims never speak up.
Allison Hokinson, YWCA executive director, called sex abuse "the biggest-kept secret in a community."
National headlines from Penn State University and Syracuse University have topped stories about men coming forward to report being sexually abused as boys by men they trusted. In some of the cases, adults reportedly knew what was happening, but word never made it to the proper authorities.
Hokinson said that people who suspect child abuse should "trust your gut and intuition and report it immediately to law enforcement and child protective services."
In 2010, Rock County had 471 allegations of child sexual abuse reported, according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Only Milwaukee County had more, with 1,417 reports.
The YWCA Rock County CARE House handled 78 cases of child sexual abuse in 2010, according to April Sweeney, family advocate.
Reporting quickly "is helpful to the investigation because details can make a huge difference in the outcome of that case," Sweeney said.
County statistics show neglect is the No. 1 abuse among children followed by physical, sexual then emotional abuse, Hokinson said.
"Sexual abuse cases come to CARE House most often because there is often physical evidence and the team knows the child's statement is so crucial in these cases," she said.
Although Hokinson and Sweeney are reluctant to say sexual abuse is more common here, Sweeney said the number of sexual abuses reports here can be attributed to good reporters, more awareness and more advocacy.
Education professionals, social workers, law enforcement and parents were the top reporters of child sexual abuse statewide the past four years, Hokinson said.
The CARE House—the first facility of its kind in Wisconsin—has been facilitating forensic interviews of child abuse victims in a safe, comfortable and child-friendly atmosphere since 1993.
On average, 105 sexually abused children have been interviewed at the CARE House each year from 2008 to 2011.
State statutes require only some professions--including medical personnel, child care workers, teachers and school staff—to report suspected child abuse. Other states have different requirements.
Regardless of the law, Hokinson said, all adults have an "ethical and moral obligation to step up and keep children safe."
Sweeney advised people who suspect abuse is happening but think it's none of their business to report it anyway.
"Things don't come out unless law enforcement and child protective services move forward," she said.
Hokinson agreed: "There's not a lot of room for second-guessing in reporting something as serious as child abuse."
To report suspected child abuse, contact local law enforcement or Rock County Child Protective Services at (608) 757-5401. After hours call (608) 757-2244.
What to watch for
Signs of child sexual abuse can include:
-- Pain, swelling or itching in the genital area
-- Bruises, bleeding or discharge in genital area
-- Difficulty walking or sitting, frequent urination, pain
-- Stained or bloody underclothing
-- Sexually transmitted disease
-- Refusal to take part in gym or other exercises
-- Poor peer relationships
-- Unusual interest in sex for age
-- Drastic change in school achievement
-- Runaway or delinquent behavior
-- Regressive or childlike behavior
Sexual abuse current bad trend in youth sports
by Bill Wells
The word “trending” has popped up over the last few years, with the word usually refers to something that's popular on the Internet.
In youth sports, and kids in general, something has been trending over the last few months, but it is anything but popular. In fact, it's the bottom of the barrel.
For all the wrong reasons, Sandusky and Fine have become household names among many people who live with an eye on sports.
The news of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky broke in early November. He sexually sought out kids who attended his camp, The Second Mile, which was for kids who didn't have fathers.
The word predator comes to mind in regards to Sandusky. He knew these kids had no father-figure, knew they would look up to him, and knew he could manipulate them based on his stature. He preyed on kids who already had a strike against them. Instead of helping those kids, which it appeared on the surface he was doing, he was using them for sex.
The story of Bernie Fine appeared a few weeks later. Fine was a men's basketball assistant coach at Syracuse, and again, a man admired in his circle. He developed relationships with three ball boys, and earned their trust and their parents' trust to the point where the boys could come over to his house. Fine encouraged the ball boys to have sex with him, and he also touched them sexually. A fourth man said this week he, too, was sexually assaulted by Fine.
Another name came up within the last week. Bobby Dodd, President of the Amateur Athlete Union and a youth basketball coach, has long been loathed in the youth sports community for his money making schemes and lack of scope. Dodd's reputation took a big hit when two former players said they were molested by Dodd in the 1980s.
The two players said they were supplied alcohol under the age of 16 and Dodd masturbated in his hotel bed during trips to tournaments.
On Tuesday, former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy pleaded with the U.S. Senate to address the pedophile situation. Kennedy was abused by his former youth coach, Graham James, who has twice been found guilty of sexually abusing players.
James, a coach in Canada's prestigious junior league, which serves as a pipeline to the NHL, is a former winner of the sport's International Hockey Man of the Year.
In all four cases, the abusers used three things to feed their perverted needs: stature, power, and the trust of the youths. Each of the men carried tremendous clout in their circles, and they had the ability to use that clout to get what they wanted. They wanted kids for sex, and in some cases, they got it.
And, also in all four cases, they found a way to isolate a kid and go on the sexual attack. That's a key in all of this. They managed to get a kid in a private one-on-one situation, where a kid is most susceptible to the powers of an adult.
Two things have come out of these four cases. Right off the bat, this raised an alarm with most parents throughout the country, and many parents will be a little more hesitant to send their child off with a coach.
Secondly, and sadly, there's been a backlash. So many coaches do the right thing, but the actions of these four perverts have given all youth sports coaches a black eye. Good people have taken a hit. People who have doing the right thing day after day and year after year are now under a microscope.
Hopefully there aren't any more victims, but history shows otherwise. Let's hope all of the victims get their deserved justice.
North Alabama woman's fight highlights human trafficking
by Neal Vickers
For three years, a Huntsville woman has been sounding the alarm about the slave trade being alive and well in the U.S. The FBI told her Friday she is being honored for her efforts.
The Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Maley announced Patricia McCay is to receive the 2011 FBI Director's Community Leadership Award. She is to travel to Washington, D.C. in March to receive the award from FBI Director Robert Mueller.
McCay is credited as being instrumental in getting the Coordinated Community Response Taskforce Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to include human trafficking as a focus of the group. In 2010, she helped create a group to identify services in north Alabama to help human trafficking victims that are identified or rescued.
She's worked with various community groups to educate the community on the issue.
Maley said of McCay, "From almost the moment she heard about human trafficking, she began telling others about the problem. She personifies the true meaning of this award by seeing a need and making it her personal mission to address that need."
The FBI recognizes human trafficking as the " use of force, fraud or coercion to induce a person to provide labor, services or acts of prostitution."
Evidence of human trafficking in Alabama are becoming more prevalent in recent years.
One North Alabama woman says she was turned over to human traffickers at the age of six weeks old. Her captors made her live in a bathroom and physically and mentally abused her until she escape the captive life.
In 2010, a Florence man was convicted of human trafficking involving an underage Mexican girl for sex.
Earlier this year, Georgia authorities claim they broke up a human trafficking ring holding child victims from Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina being held for "sexual servitude."
Human trafficking often involves immigrants and minors, including runaways and the neglected teenagers.
In 2010 Alabama became the 44th state to pass anti-human trafficking laws creating tougher penalties for those convicted and more protection for the victims.
Like other illegal activities, it is impossible to know hard numbers. Ten A decade ago, federal authorities estimated as many as 50,000 people or more are being held as human slaves in the United States. Some believe those numbers have grown to ten times that today.
The Polaris Project reports in 2010, they received 11,874 calls regarding human trafficking reports. Of those, 64 involved cases in Alabama.
From January 2008 to June 2010, federal task forces reported opening 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking. The Department of Justice confirms " sex trafficking victims were more likely to be white (26%) or black (40%), compared to labor trafficking victims, who were more likely to be Hispanic (63%) or Asian (17%). "
One surprising fact reported by investigators is four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens, while most confirmed labor trafficking victims were identified as undocumented aliens (67%). Traditionally, many have believed the trafficking within the U.S. involves victims from outside the U.S. being brought into the U.S.
The United Nations reports an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking. They come from 127 countries and are trafficked to 137 others, affecting every continent and every type of economy.
More information on human trafficking can be found on the FBI's website.
Study: Much child abuse is unreported
Dec. 16, 2011
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Laws that could punish adults who keep silent when they suspect a child has been abused go largely unenforced in the United States, research shows.
A USA Today investigation into police and court records from across the country found that irregular enforcement and small penalties mean adults face little repercussions for concealing abuse.
The investigation determined that in cases of adults who knowingly concealed child abuse that ended in convictions the penalty was usually less than $1,000.
"If you're not going to make the moral choice, at least you have to have a law with some teeth that makes somebody do it for the legal reason that you're afraid you're going to be charged," said Sean McCormack, the chief child abuse prosecutor in Harrisburg, Pa.
Child welfare agencies estimate that at least 695,000 children were abused or neglected in the past year -- but there is much abuse that is not reported.
Of the 222 cases USA Today reviewed, only 102 people were convicted and only 14 served jail time. Most often, people who knew of abuse and didn't report it were given probation or a fine if they weren't acquitted.
A 2008 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that many doctors chose not to report physical injuries they suspected were "likely" or "very likely" caused by abuse.
"That really surprised us," said Emalee Flaherty, a pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, one of the study's authors. "The doctors told us that they didn't report because they weren't certain. The laws are written so that they don't have to be certain to report it. But they don't want to be wrong."
Veil is lifted on abusive coaches
by Mark Emmons and Elliott Almond -- Mercury News
Society's unequivocal trust of the priesthood has been severely tested over the past decade in the wake of wide-ranging child molestation scandals. Is the coaching profession headed down a similar path?
Experts hope the shocking allegations at Penn State and Syracuse will embolden more victims to break the veil of silence and shame about coaching predators -- and, perhaps, encourage new regulations and vigilance that could protect future victims.
"It's not just a question of whether it will spark a new wave," said David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's just a question of how big that wave is."
Abuse cases involving coaches surface periodically in the Bay Area. In 2010, San Jose swim coach Andrew King was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting four Bay Area girls over a three-decade period. This month, a San Jose cheerleading coach was arrested on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old boy over a three-month period.
But cases such as these haven't had the national impact of the sex abuse allegations that rocked two of the country's biggest college sports programs.
That's why lawmakers around the country now are scrambling to close legal loopholes after the shocking charges from Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces more than 50 counts related to the sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 12-year period.
In California, three state lawmakers have announced plans to introduce bills that would require coaches, athletic directors and sports administrators to report any hint of child abuse to police. Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson also wants organizations that employ coaches and athletic directors to provide training on proper contact with minors.
"Sometimes it takes a very high-profile case that shocks our conscience to get us to act," Dickinson told reporters last week.
Guidelines overseeing the conduct of coaches can vary widely among state athletic organizations, school districts and private youth sports clubs.
Jim Thompson, founder of the Mountain View-based Positive Coaching Alliance, cautions against demonizing coaches because most have a child's best interest at heart. But he welcomes the increased attention that the college scandals have created.
"My hope is that all of us in the youth sports world learn how to deal with this so we can better protect the kids who are at-risk right now," Thompson said. "Where do predators go? Where the kids are. And where are the kids? They're in sports now."
There is no evidence that coaches are more likely to be sexual predators than others, said David Finkelhor, director of Crimes against Children Research Center in Durham, N.H. But, he said, among school-related staff, the rates of abuse is believed to be somewhat higher for coaches and music teachers. That's simply because they have more opportunities to be alone with kids.
Overall, the scope of the problem remains unclear because most child sexual abuse cases go unreported.
Impact is long-lasting
But last week, a survey of 16,507 adults on rape and domestic violence released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in 71 men have been raped, many when they were younger than 11. The same survey said one in five women have been sexually assaulted, half before the age of 18.
"What we can say fairly definitively is that child sexual abuse happens more than people think," said Stephen L. Braveman, a Monterey-based therapist who is nationally recognized for his treatment of male sexual victimization. "And it has a negative impact than can linger for many, many years."
Generally, specialists say, abuse most often is perpetrated by males. The victims are more likely to be girls, who also are more willing to report molestation -- probably because the stigma can be more pronounced among boys.
Finkelhor refers to coaches as "something of a secular priesthood" because like clergy members, they hold a special place in American society. They are granted trust, respect and authority almost reflexively by young athletes and their parents.
But, he cautions, they can be granted too much freedom to get close to youngsters. And because coaches who win titles and develop scholarship athletes can hold immense standing, it can be even more difficult for kids to come forward.
"They don't think anybody will believe them," said Steve Fein, Santa Clara County's special assistant district attorney who oversees the sexual assault team. "They think of their coach as an icon and they don't want the coach to get in trouble. They don't know how it will affect their career if they come out against the coach."
It's one of the main reasons, Fein said, why athletes were reluctant to come forward against the San Jose swim coach although abuse cases dated back decades.
The molestation case against Anthony Loza, 23, a cheerleading coach at San Jose's Andrew Hill High and Energy Athletics, is different. The mother of the boy involved alerted authorities after discovering explicit cellphone text messages between the two, court documents show.
Riccardo Ippolito, Loza's attorney, said that his office had been flooded with letters of support for the coach and that "he is not a predator." Fein said the boy has been attacked on the Internet by those defending the coach.
The latter fits a familiar pattern in accusations against hierarchy figures, according to Clohessy, who runs the priest victims support group.
"It's as if public achievement somehow rules out the possibility of twisted, private compulsions," he said. "People say, 'Oh, c'mon, it can't be him.' "
Penn State aftermath
The lingering question is whether these cases, in which the victims largely have been treated sympathetically, will prompt others to speak out.
It did in the Syracuse case. Two former ball boys, spurred by the Sandusky allegations, came forward publicly to accuse Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them -- charges the school investigated in 2005. Fine, who has denied the accusations, was fired.
On Dec. 9, the Amateur Athletic Union announced that longtime president and CEO Bobby Dodd, 63, had left the organization as separate allegations surfaced by two former basketball players who also were encouraged by the Penn State case. They claimed they were abused by him in the 1980s, allegations Dodd's lawyer has denied.
Clohessy hopes the attention continues to build.
"Every brave victim who steps forward is one step closer to making us deal with the issue," he said. "And when they do step forward and speak out, they're helping themselves as well."
Catholic Church involved in abuse of Dutch children, report says
Tens of thousands of Dutch children were sexually abused by priests and other Roman Catholic figures, but church officials failed to take adequate action or report problems to police, a panel finds.
by Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times
December 17, 2011
Reporting from London
Tens of thousands of Dutch children were sexually abused by priests and other Roman Catholic religious figures in the last 65 years, but church officials failed to take adequate action or report problems to police, an independent commission said Friday.
Many of the victims spent part of their childhood in Catholic institutions such as schools and orphanages, where the risk of abuse was twice as high as in the general population, the commission said. But complaints were often ignored or covered up by authorities who were more intent on protecting the church's reputation than providing care for abuse victims.
An independent commission set up by the Dutch Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious Orders, another Catholic organization, examined such misconduct from 1945 to 2010 and how the church chose to deal — or not to deal — with it.
Friday's long-awaited report adds more fuel to the abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, from America to Australia. The Vatican's credibility and standing has been significantly eroded by a stream of allegations that priests molested and assaulted members of their flock, and that bishops and other senior church officials tried to hush up the accusations.
The Dutch commission stopped short of accusing the Catholic Church in the Netherlands as a whole of fostering an institutional "culture of silence." The report said that authority within the Dutch church was fragmented, with each diocese given latitude to deal with problems on its own. There was no centrally organized policy or procedure for dealing with sexual abuse.
Wim Eijk, the archbishop of Utrecht, apologized for what happened in years past and told journalists that the report "fills us with shame and sorrow." The conference of religious orders called the abuse "a dark chapter in the history of religious life" and vowed not to repeat mistakes.
The investigation was launched in August 2010 after allegations of abuse at a Catholic institution in eastern Holland. Those allegations triggered others from around the country of sexual misconduct by Catholic authority figures.
The commission found that tens of thousands of children in the Netherlands were subjected over the years to abuse ranging from unwanted sexual advances to rape. Of these victims, 10,000 to 20,000 lived for some part of their youth in Catholic-run institutions such as reform schools and seminaries during the period from 1945 to '81, after which Catholic homes for children were phased out.
Abusers included priests, members of religious orders and lay workers.
When victims tried to complain, they encountered a hierarchy that often dismissed their allegations and even, in some cases, blamed the youngsters for provoking the abuse, the report said. Punishment for offenders, when it was actually meted out, consisted of quiet transfers, orders to do penance, or medical or psychological treatment.
Defrocking an offending priest was rare; so was expulsion, if only because officials wanted to avoid a decrease in the number of members of a religious order, the commission said.
Reporting abusers and their alleged crimes to police was anathema to church officials eager to prevent any whiff of scandal.
"That was left to victims and their parents, who were certainly not encouraged to do so," the commission said in a statement accompanying the release of its report. "The commission is critical of the hesitation, and sometimes the unwillingness, of bishops and superiors to notify the public prosecution service."
The commission said that financial compensation for abuse victims, who were mostly given no care or counseling by the church, is "an essential element of the reparation that must be made."
The Dutch church has already set up a process for those who suffered abuse to claim compensation.
Two Penn State officials can stand trial in sexual abuse case
Two Penn State officials can be tried on charges of lying to a grand jury in the university's child sexual-abuse scandal, a judge ruled Friday.
Prosecutors have enough evidence to move forward with the cases against Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, District Judge William C. Wenner concluded after hearing testimony in a Pennsylvania courtroom.
The two men's lawyers maintain they are innocent, and contest assistant football coach Mike McQueary's grand jury testimony that he told Curley and Schultz that he saw Sandusky molest a boy in a locker room shower in 2002, the Morning Call reported.
Curley and Schultz are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report what McQueary told them.
On Friday, McQueary spoke up for the first time about what he saw.
McQueary testified that he saw Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the shower room, but did not alert police. Instead, he said, he called his father to discuss what to do. His father told him to contact then-football coach Joe Paterno.
Among the questions now: Will his graphic testimony make a difference in the court of public opinion for McQueary? McQueary has been blasted by critics who said he had not done enough. Friday he said in court that he did everything he could.
McQueary is shaping up to be a crucial witness in the child sexual-abuse case against Sandusky and other Penn State officials.
Sandusky has been accused of more than 50 counts of sexual assaults over 12 years involving 10 boys in his home, on Penn State property and elsewhere. He has said he is innocent. Paterno was fired in the wake of the scandal.
McQueary is not accused of any wrongdoing. But he nonetheless faced death threats in the wake of his grand jury testimony.
When McQueary had his first opportunity to explain his actions in a courtroom, he said he did everything his could to alert authorities to the disturbing scene he said he witnessed.
He testified that he was in the locker room in March 2002 to pick up some recruiting tapes when he heard someone in the shower.
That's when he saw a naked Sandusky, standing behind the boy with his arms wrapped around the boy's waist, according to media dispatches from the Pennsylvania courtroom. McQueary said he assumed that anal intercourse was taking place, although he added that "I did not see insertion nor was there any protest, screaming or yelling,” according to Reuters.
Still in shock, McQueary said he called his father to discuss what to do. His father told him to contact then-football coach Paterno. He said he did not give Paterno explicit details, but told him what he'd witnessed. Paterno told him he'd "done the right thing" by coming to him, and that he would take care of it, McQueary said.
About nine or 10 days later, McQueary said he met with Curley and Schultz and told them what he'd seen. "I told them that I saw Jerry in the showers with a young boy and that what I had seen was extremely sexual and over the lines and it was wrong," McQueary testified, according to the Associated Press. "I would have described that it was extremely sexual and I thought that some kind of intercourse was going on."
McQueary said he believed he was alerting "the authorities" to what he'd seen. Asked specifically why he did not call police, McQueary noted that Shultz was a university vice president at the time, and had jurisdiction over campus police.
"I thought I was talking to the head of the police, to be frank with you," he said, according to the Associated Press. "It was someone who police reported to and would know what to do with it."
McQueary has been placed on administrative leave, although authorities have not said publicly why that action was taken.
Graphic testimony from Penn State's McQueary: ‘I didn't want to see'
Penn State Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, testifying in court for the first time, said he walked into a Penn State locker room in March 2002 and was shocked to find Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy.
McQueary's graphic testimony Friday was given during a hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to support charges against two school administrators who supposedly knew of the abuse but did little to stop it.
McQueary said he went to the locker room to pick up some recruiting tapes when he heard sounds coming from the shower, according to dispatches from the Morning Call
, which is staffing the proceedings in the Pennsylvania courtroom.
McQueary said he was embarrassed because he instinctively knew something sexual was taking place. When he glanced into a nearby mirror, he saw Sandusky in the shower, standing behind the boy with his arms wrapped around the boy's waist. McQueary said he quickly looked away.
“I stepped back. I didn't want to see anymore, to be frank with you,” he testified.
But he also realized he needed to look again to make sure he wasn't mistaken about something so serious. He saw that it was indeed Sandusky and a young boy, and McQueary said he assumed that anal intercourse was taking place.
Pressed for detail, McQueary said: “I did not see insertion nor was there any protest, screaming or yelling,” according to Reuters. "But that's truly what I believe. Jerry was behind him in a very close position with hands wrapped around his midsection."
Stunned, he walked back to his locker. A few moments later he saw Sandusky and the boy, and made eye contact with them. "I know they saw me. Both of them looked directly in my eye," said McQueary. "Neither said a thing."
McQueary said he was “shocked, horrified, not thinking straight. I was distraught.” He called his father, who told him to contact Paterno. He did so the following day. Asked if he used the phrase “anal intercourse” when he described what he saw to Paterno, McQueary testified he did not: “No, out of respect, I would not have done it.”
McQueary said Paterno appeared “shocked and saddened” and “slumped back in his chair,” McQueary said. He added that Paterno told him, “I'm sorry you had to see that” and that he had “done the absolute right thing,” McQueary said.
Testimony continues in the courtroom.
On Tuesday, former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky abruptly waived his right to his own preliminary hearing, setting the stage for his trial on 50 counts of child sexual abuse stemming from claims by 10 boys.
PA Deputy Attorney General Cites PSU 'Inaction'
by MARK SCOLFORO and MARYCLAIRE DALE
December 16, 2011
HARRISBURG, PA -- A graduate student waited a day after allegedly seeing a child being sexually assaulted on Penn State's campus before telling his supervisor, football coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno waited another day before calling the university's athletic director, who looped in a school vice president.
"It was a Saturday morning and I didn't want to interfere with their weekends," Paterno told a grand jury this year, recalling the unusual visit from graduate assistant Mike McQueary.
McQueary said he had seen former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky doing something "extremely sexual" with a young boy in a locker room shower.
On Friday, McQueary testified at a preliminary hearing for two Penn State officials — athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz — accused of covering up the story. He offered the most detailed public account yet of the child sex abuse allegations that have upended the university's football program and the entire central Pennsylvania campus.
Curley and Schultz are headed to trial on perjury charges after Friday's preliminary hearing, accused of lying to a grand jury about what McQueary told them.
Curly and Schultz waited another 10 days before meeting with McQueary to get more facts. Instead of calling police, they talked to two people: Sandusky and the executive director of his children's charity.
"I think it's a sad, sad, sad day, when you think about all of these victims, and you saw the inaction by a number of supposedly important, responsible adults. And there's a lot of inaction in this case," Marc Costanzo, a senior deputy attorney general, said after the preliminary hearing.
Besides the perjury charges, and the dozens of sex assault charges pending against Sandusky, Paterno and university president Graham Spanier have lost their jobs over the scandal.
Defense lawyers argued that McQueary "minimized" the alleged sexual assault when he talked to Paterno, ultimately leading their clients to believe that Sandusky's behavior was "inappropriate," but not criminal.
They say McQueary never relayed the seriousness of what he saw, leading them to think Sandusky was merely "horsing around."
"I didn't see any reason because I didn't think at the time it was a crime," Curley told the grand jury, according to testimony read into the record on Friday.
Curley, Schultz and Paterno have been criticized for not telling law enforcement about the 2002 charges. Prosecutors say Sandusky continued to abuse boys for six more years.
In about two hours on the witness stand, McQueary said again and again that what he saw was a sexual act, although he stopped short of saying he was sure that Sandusky, now 67, had raped the boy.
"I believe Jerry was sexually molesting him and having some type of sexual intercourse with him," McQueary said on Friday. He said later he "can't say 100 percent" that Sandusky and the boy were having intercourse because he was seeing Sandusky from behind.
He said after talking to his father, he went over to Paterno's home the next morning and said that what he had seen "was way over the lines, it was extremely sexual in nature." He said he would not have used words like sodomy or intercourse with Paterno, out of respect for the coach.
Paterno told the grand jury that McQueary said he saw Sandusky doing something of a "sexual nature" with the youngster but that he didn't press for details.
"I didn't push Mike ... because he was very upset," Paterno said. "I knew Mike was upset, and I knew some kind of inappropriate action was being taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster."
Paterno told McQueary he would talk to others about what he'd reported.
McQueary said he met about 10 days later with Curley and Schultz and told them he'd seen Sandusky and a boy, both naked, in the shower after hearing skin-on-skin slapping sounds.
"I would have described that it was extremely sexual and I thought that some kind of intercourse was going on," said McQueary.
McQueary said he was left with the impression both men took his report seriously. When asked why he didn't go to police, he referenced Schultz's position as a vice president at the university who had overseen the campus police
"I thought I was talking to the head of the police, to be frank with you," he said. "In my mind it was like speaking to a (district attorney). It was someone who police reported to and would know what to do with it."
The square-jawed, red-haired assistant coach spoke in a steady voice in his first public account of the alleged abuse, sometimes turning his seat and leaning in toward defense lawyers to answer questions. His voice rose a few times and he blushed once when describing the sexual encounter in the shower.
Defense lawyers for Curley and Schultz argued that a perjury charge in Pennsylvania cannot be based solely on one person's oath versus another's. The defense said uncorroborated testimony from McQueary is not enough, and sought to pick apart the ways he described the shower scene differently to different people.
The defense noted that McQueary admitted changing his description of the shower encounter when speaking with Paterno.
McQueary said he had stopped by a campus football locker room to drop off a pair of sneakers the Friday night before spring break, a quiet night on campus, when he saw Sandusky with a boy who looked to be 10 or 12 years old.
McQueary, 37, said he has never described what he saw as anal rape or anal intercourse and couldn't see Sandusky's genitals, but that "it was very clear that it looked like there was intercourse going on."
In its report last month, the grand jury summarized McQueary's testimony as saying he "saw a naked boy ... with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."
McQueary said he peeked into the shower three times — the first via a mirror, the other two times directly. The last time he looked in, Sandusky and the boy had separated, he said. He said he didn't say anything, but "I know they saw me. They looked directly in my eye, both of them."
McQueary said the entire encounter — from when he first entered the locker room to when he retreated to his office — lasted about 45 seconds.
Curley told the grand jury that he couldn't recall his specific conversation with McQueary, but said McQueary never reported seeing anal intercourse or other sexual conduct. He said he spoke to Sandusky about it, who first denied having been in the shower with a boy, but later changed his story.
Schultz said he remembered McQueary and Paterno describing what the younger coach saw only in a very general way.
"I had the impression it was inappropriate," Schultz told the grand jury. "I had the feeling it was some king of wrestling activity and maybe Jerry might have grabbed a young boy's genitals."
Under cross-examination, McQueary said he considered what he saw a crime but didn't call police because "it was delicate in nature."
"I tried to use my best judgment," he said. "I was sure the act was over." He said he never tried to find the boy.
Paterno, Schultz and Curley didn't testify, but their entire grand jury testimony from January was read at the Dauphin County hearing.
Curley's attorney, Caroline Roberto, said prosecutors "will never be able to reach their burden of proof at a trial," in part because McQueary "minimized" the alleged assault to Paterno.
Schultz's attorney, Tom Farrell, predicted his client would be acquitted.
He also took a shot at Paterno, saying, "I'm an Italian from Brooklyn, and he may not have called the police but he may have done what I would have done, which is get the boys in the car with a few baseball bats and crowbars and take it to the fellow."
Sandusky says he is innocent of 52 criminal charges stemming from what authorities say were sexual assaults over 12 years on 10 boys in his home, on Penn State property and elsewhere.
Curley, 57, was placed on leave by the university after his arrest. Schultz, 62, returned to retirement after spending about four decades at the school, most recently as senior vice president for business and finance, and treasurer.
Domestic Violence Survivor Shares Her Story
by Jerry Askin
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says more than 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by their partner every year.
Tennessee ranks 5th in all domestic violence murders.
"In that journey it's so hard, and I felt so alone, and like I was running for my life the entire time," says Deana.
For 13 years of Deana's life, her ex husband physically abused her. We agreed not to use her last name because she's still afraid. She's since remarried and filed for an order of protection from her ex. But, she says the emotional pain may never go away.
"A lot of times I was choked until I passed out. I was hit in different areas of my body like my stomach, back,legs, arms, pushed,shoved,called names frequently," says Deana.
She says the abuse made life difficult not only for herself, but also for her children.
"It was very difficult to travel with 5 children from place to place - just to try and find somewhere and hide," says Deana.
"Children many times are the unseen victims. They're the ones who are unidentified, but our belief is if you witness domestic violence, you are a victim of domestic violence," says Regina McDevitt.
Regina McDevitt from the Partnership for Family, Children, and Adults says they've seen a 20 percent increase in their services this year. They have a 24 hour hotline for victims in need.
"A lot of times, people may say I don't need to come into the shelters, but I'm a victim or I'm a survivor and I need something to help me and support groups are a wonderful way to be with other people who have experienced something similar," says McDevitt.
Now for nearly a year, Deana has volunteered her time at the Partnership. She sees helping others as part of her recovery.
"I never saw myself as a survivor, I always saw myself as a victim and I saw myself as less than a statistic. I felt like nothing", says Deana.
There are several other crisis services offered through the Partnership. If you're in need or know someone who is in need, call the Partnership at 423-755-2822 or call the 24-hour hotline at 423-755-2700
Bulgaria among 26 countries in Europol operation against internet child abuse images
Law enforcement agencies from 26 European countries – including Bulgaria – supported and co-ordinated by Europol, have carried out a major crackdown against online child sex abuse file-sharing networks.
So far "Operation Icarus" has helped to identify 269 suspects and arrest 112 suspects, spread across 22 involved countries, Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, said on December 16 2011.
The participating countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Croatia, Norway and Switzerland.
The operation targeted those sharing the most extreme forms of video material, which included babies and toddlers being sexually abused and raped, Europol said.
A lot of the material seized during the house searches is awaiting forensic examination in order to support follow-up investigations and possible prosecution of offenders. However, this operation has already uncovered previously unknown networks of child sex offenders operating on different internet channels, the statement said.
‘This is the latest major success in over 10 years of Europol supporting law enforcement agencies in Europe in their fight against child sex abuse online," Europol director Rob Wainwright said.
"This operation shows how the internet is helping offenders to develop better techniques for sharing images on a global basis and for protecting their identity," he said.
"The problems involved are becoming harder to police and call for sustained efforts by policy-makers and law enforcement agencies to ensure that society's response remains strong and agile in this area. Europol is committed to playing a leading part in this work through its unique capabiliites to develop intelligence and digital forensic skills across Europe and through the co-ordination of major international operations," Wainwright said.
Investigations are ongoing and more arrests are expected. Special focus will be on identifying the producers of the material, the suspects and their victims. Among those arrested for downloading illegal material was one who is suspected of grooming a young child, and was arrested before being able meet ths child face to face.
Operation Icarus is the first operation concluded under the auspices of the new action plan of the COSPOL Internet Related Child Abuse Material Project (CIRCAMP), an initiative by EU police chiefs led by Belgium and funded by the European Commission.
Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, welcomed the joint action saying "These children are victims of multiple crimes. First, when the actual abuse takes place. Then, when it is filmed. And, thereafter, every time the images are posted, circulated or viewed. The joint action carried out under Europol co-ordination shows our commitment to backing the fight against this appalling crime.
"It highlights the importance of co-operation between law enforcement authorities at European and international level to tackle criminal activities that know no borders. We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal, including the recently adopted EU directive on the fight against pedo-pornography, sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, to support efforts to combat these horrendous crimes and to help protect our children," Malmström said.
Operation Icarus was initiated during a CIRCAMP meeting at the start of 2011, Europol said.
It was agreed that the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Danish Police (DK NITEC) should be the lead country and carry out the investigations because of its expertise in illegal material exchange through file sharing systems, known as peer-to-peer.
After the collection of intelligence by the Danish National Police, an operational meeting was organised at Europol in September 2011, to disseminate intelligence packages to the involved EU Member States and countries with a Europol operational agreement.
Intelligence and additional information was disseminated by Europol through its secure information system in order to guarantee the integrity of data and to ensure a fast reaction in the concerned countries. Europol's cooperation network will also facilitate further investigations by involving partners such as Eurojust and Interpol when needed.
"Law enforcement agencies have to work together to combat the growing threat of cybercrimes against children, and we have to use the most advanced technology available. The complexity is huge and challenging - for example one of the Danish suspects had 29 terabytes of data that we seized. This is an incredible amount of data for our investigators to handle. To put it into perspective, that could hold about 9000 hours of high-quality video," Jens Henrik Hoejbjerg, Danish National Commissioner of Police, said.
DHS looks at changing how Iowa investigates child abuse
Probing only the more serious cases would cut state registry numbers.
Iowa's Department of Human Services is exploring ways to scale back the number of formal child-abuse investigations social workers perform every year.
The move, based on recommendations released Friday by a panel of state officials and child-welfare professionals, would constitute the biggest change in how child abuse reports are handled by the state in more than a decade, some officials believe.
Differentiating less serious child abuse reports from more serious allegations would ultimately help the state agency reduce the number of Iowans who wind up on the state's Child Abuse Registry every year, said Wendy Rickman, who heads the agency's Division of Adult, Children and Family Services.
“It would be a huge change” in the way the DHS handles abuse cases, Rickman acknowledged. “But many states have done this to some degree. We are trying to pick a core number of states to see how they have done it.”
Rickman was among 22 officials on a panel charged by the Legislature with proposing changes to better manage the state's controversial child abuse registry, a confidential blacklist of sorts that employers use to screen workers who deal with kids. About 45 states have such registries for tracking purposes, but not all are used to screen workers.
It takes no conviction in court to end up on Iowa's registry — only a finding by a DHS staff member after an investigation that abuse or neglect by a caregiver or parent was “more likely than not” to have happened. There were nearly 9,000 cases of founded abuse in Iowa last year.
Legislators and parents have complained for years that people whose names are placed on the 10-year registry — which currently includes 50,000 to 60,000 names — have few due-process rights. Appeals to administrative judges to try to get names removed have been known to take more than a year.
Trying to differentiate between the most serious and least serious cases when abuse calls first come into the agency “would mean a lot of people would not go through the process of being formally investigated,” Rickman said.
While physical and sexual abuse would still be investigated, people accused of certain kinds of neglect could be referred for services aimed at preventing abuse instead of time-consuming investigations by state workers, she said. What criteria is used would be based on Iowa values, not those of other states, she said.
But identifying any criteria to scale back abuse investigations also is likely to be controversial.
Parents and professionals disagree fiercely over whether certain kinds of neglect — pot smoking, a child wandering away from home, leaving a sleeping child unattended in a car or on a bed — should be investigated.
The last time the state's child-welfare system underwent a major redesign, in 2005 and 2006, lawyers, counselors and others expressed concern when the DHS decided to prioritize caseloads by the age of a child involved, the perceived risk going forward and what investigators perceived actually happened.
And those determinations were made after investigations had been completed and risk-assessments of a child's home situation were made.
“I see this as a potentially much bigger change,” said Stephen Scott, who heads the statewide advocacy group Prevent Child Abuse Iowa and served on the registry panel. “It is potentially something that could be OK, but how it is done and what the essential standard is will be so critical. I am concerned about uninformed decisions being made.”
But changing criteria for investigating abuse is also something that will likely have to go before the Legislature, Scott said.
In the short term, state officials are taking steps to expedite appeals of founded abuse investigations, which result in people being placed on the registry. Iowans have lost their jobs or been denied them during that often lengthy process.
“The time frames and delays in getting hearings and decisions completed was a priority for me,” said Citizens Aide Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider, who served on the panel. Cooperrider's office has handled 25 complaints regarding abuse findings and registry appeals since 2009.
“We have had cases that have languished for more than a year, and there are legal issues involved.”
Rickman said the DHS hopes in 2012 to examine ways to use set criteria to require that only those responsible for certain kinds of abuse be placed on the registry, and perhaps varying the length of time individuals remain on the list based on the severity of abuse involved.
The panel also recommended giving the DHS more authority to remove people from the registry and seal abuse findings based on other as-yet-unidentified criteria.
“Giving people the opportunity to show they don't deserve to be on the registry any more is an advancement,” Scott said. “It gives parents and others a chance to try to make their lives better.”
Among other near-term improvements suggested by the panel: better training child-protection workers regarding evidence needed for confirmed and founded abuse; shifting more financial resources to lawyers in the attorney general's office who handle child abuse appeals; and expediting the human service department director's review of administrative law judge decisions.
Stricter Sex Trafficking Laws Floated Before Super Bowl
Loopholes Make Current Laws Ineffective, Lawmakers Say
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana leaders are looking to close loopholes in state law that make it difficult to prosecute those who traffic children for sex ahead of the Super Bowl.
Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, lawmakers and officials with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office and Indianapolis police showed a united front during a news conference at the Statehouse on Friday.
A surge of underage prostitution has been reported in other cities that have hosted the Super Bowl as criminal groups try to sell sex to out-of-town visitors.
"The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells us they estimate that in Miami, when the Super Bowl was held there in 2010, that 10,000 prostitutes were brought into the city for the event.
Beyond that, the center also estimates that 100,000 to 300,000 juveniles are enticed into prostitution every year," said State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, who is sponsoring legislation to shore up Indiana laws.
Shared Hope International, a leading sexual-trafficking awareness group, gave Indiana a D when it comes to combating human trafficking. Leaders said the laws must be tightened before the Super Bowl in February.
"We must be realistic and candid about the fact that organized criminals who exploit young women and children through human trafficking have gravitated to such gatherings in other cities," Zoeller said.
"Recognizing that Indiana's existing statute is inadequate to this new threat and should be updated to close loopholes, we make this extraordinary request to the General Assembly to pass Senator Head's bill within the short window before the Super Bowl."
Senate Bill 4 would make it illegal for anyone to force another person to perform a sex act, whether or not they are compensated.
A second provision would close the loophole that would allow a minor to commit a sex act whether or not they agree to it and the third provision would prohibit a parent or a guardian from allowing their child or children to participate in prostitution.
Experts report that up to 4 million women, children and men are illegally trafficked each year.
New book exposes world of sex crimes against children
by NATASHA KORECKI
Sex crimes involving children have dominated headlines in recent months. From the abuse scandal that rocked Penn State to a Schaumburg teacher accused of masturbating in front of his students to a Chicago pimp convicted of luring and forcing young girls into prostitution.
While examples abound, there's still a learning curve for the public, law enforcement and even judges on how to handle such crimes, according to a new book, “Child Exploitation and Trafficking; Examining the Global Challenges and U.S. Responses.”
Written by Virginia Kendall, a federal judge in Chicago, and T. Markus Funk, a former prosecutor here, the book asserts that, “The sexual exploitation of children, both in the United States and abroad, has reached a tragic crisis point.”
According to the authors, 2 million children worldwide are victims of commercial sexual exploitation yearly, and the numbers of children sexually abused for non-commercial purposes are even higher.
The Internet has aided in the explosion of child exploitation offenses, bringing offenders “from the dark corners of the basement,” and giving them an opportunity to connect with one another, share images and feed each other's desires, said Kendall, who worked as the Child Exploitation Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago before she became a judge.
The book aims to present a one-stop source on the subject — from child pornography to international human trafficking and the organized crime that is often behind it.
“It is really meant to educate a wider group of individuals, those who are interested, those who are professionals,' Kendall said.
Both Kendall and Funk, now a defense lawyer, prosecuted child exploitation cases in the Chicago office together. Kendall has traveled to African nations, India and Cyprus to help train judges and others about child sex offenses as well as human trafficking. Funk also has traveled internationally to train law enforcement on the matter.
“Markus and I were really frustrated working in this area and realizing the majority of the public and even the judges and those involved in the criminal justice system did not have an understanding of these crimes,” Kendall said.
Civilians, judges and prosecutors typically had two distinct responses: “It would shift from being extremely emotional … and reactive, or to the other side, academic, dry and analytical.”
Reporting sexual crimes has always been a problem, as third parties are often reluctant to do it, the two say. “When you speak about sexual issues, people have this archaic way of viewing the world and they clam up,” Kendall said.
Victims also have difficulty talking, often because they've been brainwashed for so long they don't see themselves as victims, the authors say. Victims also suffer from shame, or in trafficking cases, become conditioned to protect the person who is trafficking them, according to the authors.
A recent trial in federal court against Chicago pimp Datqunn Sawyer saw girls as young as 12 coerced into prostituting themselves.
In an unusual turn, six of them testified at Sawyer's trial. They spoke of how he conditioned them to stay with him, how each of them fell in love with him, and how they were later fearful of retaliation if they left.
Part of their mission is educating people to the fact that offenders are not the stereotypical “Chester the molester” who jumps from behind the bushes to attack a child. Increasingly, they are technologically savvy, and use sophisticated psychological manipulation to lure their victims, Kendall and Funk said.
Kendall said she first realized how far law enforcement lagged on understanding these perpetrators while prosecuting the case of Richard Romero in 1996. Romero was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old Mount Prospect boy after luring him online. Kendall said Romero's history showed he had developed relationships with 10 to 12 kids by constantly changing his persona, including pretending to be a young boy online. He reached out through email, online chat-rooms, postal mail and phone calls.
“That was really a wake-up call to me that we are so far behind what these guys are doing,” she said. “These offenders are really, really savvy.”
Funk said publishers had dangled deals to write tear-jerking narratives centered on victims' experiences. But the two wanted to provide a resource regarding not only victims, but various sex crimes, the court system, defense strategies and computer techniques perpetrators use to hide information, as well as how law enforcement can find it.
“We found there was really nothing out there that talked about the full spectrum of issues with these cases,” Funk said.
The two prosecuted the case of Dr. Howard Marc Watzman, a pediatrician who eventually pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. In February 2003, an international undercover operation revealed that a company called “Regpay,” located in Minsk, Belarus, had been producing child pornography and it had a client list.
Investigators targeted those on the list who worked around children, and found Watzman had paid $10,000 to the site to order personalized child pornography. But when Watzman was arrested, the authors said they were viewed as coming out of left field when they asked that he be detained as a danger to the community — since there weren't molestation charges.
And that was even after introducing evidence that Watzman had a secret compartment in his car where he stashed the date rape drug, the two said. Funk said the fact that Watzman custom-ordered videos depicting violent sex acts upon young children should have been enough to show he was a danger.
“He's paying someone to rape a child and film it,” Funk said. “These are the basic concepts that were really not concepts that people we were dealing with understood. He also had software that to this day we couldn't decrypt. No one was able to break the code.”
“In my experience, there are very few people who live in the world of fantasy purely, with children, who never act out on it,” Funk said. “You see this evolution, you can really trace it.”
The book, with a Jan. 16 release date, is available on Amazon.com and similar sites.
Google Gives $11 Million to Fight Human Trafficking
Google donated over $11 million to fight modern-day slavery, continuing its “don't be evil” mantra by helping people in need.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said its gift will “free more than 12,000 people from modern-day slavery” and prevent “millions more from being victimized.”
Google's anti-slavery grants are set to aid the International Justice Mission, BBC World Service Trust, ActionAid India and eight other organizations dedicated to eradicating slave labor.
“It's hard for most Americans to believe that slavery and human trafficking are still massive problems in our world,” said Gary A. Haugen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission. “But it's not hard to believe for the more than 27 million men, women and children held in slavery today.”
For example, some Mexican immigrants in the U.S., Indians who take up jobs in Saudi Arabia, and African girls kidnapped for the sex trade all suffer abuse at the hands of employers and ringmasters that Google hopes to stop.
Google.org, the company's philanthropic branch, planned the anti-slavery donation as part of its goal to spend $100 million on charitable causes in 2011. Other gifts this year include grants for worldwide science and math education, especially for girls in the developing world.
The search giant has also been instrumental in donating to health-related causes like the fight against malaria and dengue fever, following in Bill and Melinda Gates' footsteps.
But Google isn't the only Silicon Valley company to use its millions for the common good. Apple now matches its employees' charitable contributions by up to $10,000 annually, a change instigated by CEO Tim Cook this September.
“We are all really inspired by the generosity of our co-workers who give back to the community and this program is going to help that individual giving go even farther,” Cook explained.
Apple earlier helped Japan quake victims by turning its stores into shelters after the disaster and offering free repairs to damaged devices.
Facebook recently unveiled a suicide prevention tool that emails resource information to people whose friends believe they are in danger of harming themselves.
As tech companies continue to gain marketplace traction and earn millions, they will likely increase their donations to stop disease and violence around the world.
International Crisis Aid Working to Implement the First US Safe Home for Sex Trafficking in St. Louis, MO
International Crisis Aid, (http://www.crisisaid.org), has been rescuing young victims of sex trafficking by operating multiple Safe Homes around the world providing holistic care to young victims. ICA has rescued more than 145 girls, ages 4 to 25 years old, through the Safe Homes since December 2006. In 2010, ICA opened a Vocational Training Center for victims which has provided counseling and vocational training to an additional 100 girls to help them get out of the red light district where they are currently forced to sell their bodies daily. ICA will now be implementing their first U.S. Safe Home in St. Louis, Missouri soon.
After meeting with federal law enforcement and learning more than 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked into sex slavery (US Dept. of Justice), ICA decided to open homes in the U.S. for young American girls rescued from the horrors of sex trafficking. ICA has worked the past few years to build relationships with local and national law enforcement, other state departments, and service providers to develop the best plan of action for the U.S. Safe Campaign. Most of the program elements are in place and now ICA is raising the remaining balance for the operational budget before the home can open. The Safe Campaign is just one program of International Crisis Aid.
ICA President and Founder, Pat Bradley said, “I've been through war zones & refugee camps. Seen orphans, widows, sickness & disease. But nothing grasps my heart like the face of a young girl that has been held captive by sex trafficking. And it happens right here, in our own backyard. Partnering with the NALA and their local business partners brings awareness of these horrors and provides opportunities for people to respond. We are grateful to be featured by the NALA.”
The NALA (http://www.theNALA.com), a small business association, is partnering with this non-profit entity, International Crisis Aid and their members (https://www.crisisaid.org/nala.html). The NALA's businesses to help bring awareness to ICA's ongoing efforts to rescue young victims of sex trafficking here in the United States.
About THE NALA™
The NALA (National Association of Local Advertisers), a small business association, provides assistance for local businesses by bridging old line advertising to marketing, using the online world of banner ads, email campaigns, video and mobile text advertising while offering member benefits, health discounts, and a charity program. The NALA has created a strong emphasis on partnering with charities, by giving their members the ability to participate in non-profit drives all year.
International Crisis Aid is a St. Louis, MO based international relief and development organization implementing long-term community development models in addition to providing emergency relief and support. ICA core programs include: nutritional feeding programs, medical care, orphan care, water wells and safe homes for victims of sex trafficking in Ethiopia. ICA is also working on opening Safe Homes in the U.S. for American victims.
NALA Contact: Tiffani Tendell
the NALA Charity Program
Fighting human trafficking
The same factors that make Texas a corridor for international trade — proximity to Mexico, ports and transportation hubs that link the Lone Star State with the rest of the nation — also make it a corridor for international crime. Chief among those crimes is human trafficking.
A study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that 25 percent of the nation's human trafficking victims are in Texas. Another report from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott found that 20 percent of the 800,000 trafficking victims in the United States pass through Texas.
Between January 2008 and June 2010, the U.S. Justice Department reported more than 2,000 incidents of sex trafficking — the trafficking of people involving the use of force, fraud or coercion to participate in the sex trade. About 1,200 of those incidents involved adults, while 1,000 involved minors.
Those numbers alone should be shocking. But experts believe reported incidents of this modern form of slavery constitute only a small percentage of the actual cases of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a big criminal enterprise, with Texas playing an outsized role. But Texas leaders — including Abbott and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio — have raised awareness and strengthened state laws against human trafficking.
That's a major reason why Texas earned a B — the highest grade given — for its efforts to combat human trafficking by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of sex trafficking and slavery. Texas was one of only four states to earn the high mark.
Tough laws can only have an impact, however, if resources are dedicated to enforce them. The Express-News reported that the Bexar County Sheriff's Office handles about 50 human trafficking cases annually. But on Sept. 1, a $1 million federal grant that funded a human trafficking task force came to an end.
Van de Putte and Abbott fought to obtain a $200,000 state grant that will extend the human trafficking task force for another year. Given San Antonio's location at the nexus of the I-10 and I-35 corridors — two major routes for human trafficking — the loss of federal funding is troubling.
Human trafficking is an international assault on human dignity, with San Antonio and Bexar County on the front lines. If Washington takes the scourge of human trafficking seriously, then it should help fund the efforts of Texas law enforcement to end it.
Vermont fraternity chapter closed over rape survey
by the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- The University of Vermont's chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has been closed after a survey surfaced online asking fraternity brothers whom they would rape.
The national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization said it is "indefinitely closing the chapter."
"Without suggesting that every member had knowledge of this questionnaire, the questions asked in the document are deplorable and absolutely inconsistent with our values," Brian Warren, the fraternity's executive director, said in a statement.
University of Vermont officials said they "respect and support" the decision.
"From the beginning of this unfortunate situation, the national representatives of Sigma Phi Epsilon have been thorough, respectful and very serious in investigating this matter," UVM Interim President John Bramley and Provost Jane E. Knodell said in a statement.
The university said its investigation into the matter will continue and will likely take several weeks to conclude.
"We will gather all relevant information and examine it to determine whether policies or laws have been violated, and by whom," the UVM statement said.
"We hope that this will present an opportunity for productive interaction, respectful dialogue, and learning about sexual violence and rape culture and the causes underlying them."
The national fraternity said it will collaborate with the university "to consider the potential return to UVM at the appropriate time, which would occur only by mutual agreement."
It added that "any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the fraternity."
"SigEp will strengthen its efforts to provide college men with education focused on respect for women and the development of healthy inter-personal relationships," Warren said.
Preventing Deadly Child Abuse
There's an outpouring of concern. Kids are being killed right here in our community, and 11 News is asking what's being done to stop it. Six times this year, a caregiver has been arrested for the death of a child two-years-old or younger in Colorado Springs.
The arrest of a father Wednesday is just the latest case. Experts say preventing it is all about reporting abuse, putting children's needs first. The little girl who died this week was just eight-months-old.
People in Colorado Springs hope deadly abuse can be prevented.
"Education needs to be first and foremost, communication,” Kathy Miller, who is concerned about the deaths, said. “Parents need to know they have options before it gets to that point."
"We have six kids so we know the frustrations that come with raising kids and learning how to deal with them and teach them and have patience,” nurse Kristen Gutierrez said. “Really education has so much to do with it."
It's also important to be aware. A children's advocate and a prosecutor says it's important to tell police immediately if you think a child is being abused.
"The key is that we as a community notice those parents and those caregivers and make sure they're doing ok, making sure those kids are ok,” Donna Billeck, who works in the district attorney's office and is a board member at Safe Passage, said. “If we see something that doesn't sit well with us, we need take that step; stand up. Report it."
She says persistence is key.
"If you think nothing is happening, keep reporting it,” Billeck said. “It's kind of like standing on a mountain top and screaming until someone listens to you because you may be that lifeline for that child."
Few penalties for keeping child abuse secret
by Brad Heath
Laws that could punish doctors, teachers and other adults for keeping silent when they suspect a child has been abused have gone largely unenforced over the past decade.
Those state laws require people who work closely with children to alert police or child-welfare investigators anytime they so much as suspect a child has been abused.
Yet a USA TODAY examination of police and court records from across the USA found that a combination of infrequent enforcement and small penalties means adults often have little to fear from concealing abuse.
In most of the states that could provide records, local police and prosecutors typically charged no more than one or two people each year. Michigan police made just five arrests over the past decade. In Hawaii and Minnesota, court officials said they couldn't find a single case.
Fewer than half of the cases USA TODAY reviewed in detail ended in convictions, and the penalty was usually a fine of less than $1,000.
"If you're not going to make the moral choice, at least you have to have a law with some teeth that makes somebody do it for the legal reason that you're afraid you're going to be charged," said Sean McCormack, the chief child abuse prosecutor in Harrisburg, Pa.
States' mandatory abuse-reporting laws are getting new scrutiny in the aftermath of a sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, where longtime assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of having molested 10 boys over 15 years. He has pleaded not guilty. Two Penn State officials are charged with failing to report the abuse to police.
Those two officials, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, are scheduled to appear in a Harrisburg courtroom Friday for a preliminary hearing. It will be their lawyers' first opportunity to confront Mike McQueary, who testified to a grand jury that he told both officials in 2002, while working as a graduate assistant, that he had seen Sandusky having sex with a young boy in a Penn State locker room.
The scandal has prompted new attempts by lawmakers in at least six states and in Congress to expand the reach of mandatory reporting laws. It also has raised questions about whether those laws are effectively enforced.
In the years before the Penn State scandal erupted, for example, court records show three other cases were filed over failures to report abuse. None has so far led to more than a $375 fine.
"It was basically a traffic ticket," York, Pa., Detective Dana Ward said.
In the state of Washington, court records show just eight people were charged over the past decade, and only one was convicted — a high school coach who confessed to covering up another coach's sexual relationship with a student. He paid a $723 fine and was sentenced to probation.
States adopted those laws in the 1960s. In the following decades, hundreds of thousands of reports were made to child abuse hotlines, training for teachers and others became widespread, and police have investigated scores of cases of abuse and neglect they might never have discovered.
Scott Berkowitz, the head of RAINN, an advocacy group for abuse victims that runs a support hotline , said the laws have been "very effective in making people alert to signs of abuse and motivating people in positions of responsibility to do the right thing." But, he said, "if we want to solve the rest of the problem and deal with the segment of the population that doesn't take these laws seriously, then they're going to have to have beefed-up enforcement."
Because violations of mandatory abuse-reporting laws are almost always considered minor crimes, few states track how often people are charged with them. To find out, USA TODAY reviewed police arrest data and court records from 25 states and Washington, D.C. In other states, police and court officials said they were unable to determine how often charges of failing to report abuse had been filed.
Abuse frequently unreported
Child welfare agencies estimate that 695,000 children were abused or neglected last year, but studies have repeatedly found that even more abuse goes unreported.
In a 1990 RAND Corp. survey, for example, 40% of professionals admitted they had not reported at least one instance of suspected abuse, even though the law required them to do so. In a 2008 study published in the journal Pediatrics, medical researchers found that doctors chose not to report more than a quarter of physical injuries they thought were "likely" or "very likely" caused by abuse. The studies found that workers weren't certain what they saw was abuse, and they worried that reporting their suspicions could do more harm than good.
"That really surprised us," said Emalee Flaherty, a pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, one of the study's authors. "The doctors told us that they didn't report because they weren't certain. The laws are written so that they don't have to be certain to report it. But they don't want to be wrong."
Beyond that, civil lawsuits by abuse victims regularly allege that workers failed to report abuse, but were never investigated or charged for breaking the law. "That happens all the time," said Jeffrey Herman, a Miami lawyer who specializes in abuse cases. "People should know abuse when they see it. But even if they don't, the laws are supposed to be broad enough that if you suspect it, then you report it and you let the experts make that decision."
Those reports, he said, could save kids from further abuse.
If the officials in the Penn State case had spoken up, other children might have been spared, said Slade McLaughlin, the attorney for another boy who was allegedly abused by Sandusky beginning in 2005 or 2006 — at least three years after the officials were told about Sandusky — according to the grand jury.
"Even apart from the laws, if you're a human being with some compassion, some sense of right and wrong, how do you not do something about this?" McLaughlin said. He said that if the earlier incident had been reported to the police, "there's no doubt in my mind he would have been stopped in his tracks."
Why so few charges
Although prosecutors have brought a few high-profile charges in recent years — including the cases tied to Penn State and one against a Catholic bishop in Kansas City, Mo. — records show they are uncommon.
Among the 25 states USA TODAY reviewed, 16 averaged fewer than two cases per year. In Nevada, for example, police charged a total of four people with failing to report abuse since 2001. Connecticut brought charges against 15 people, and all but two of the cases were dropped. Even in states where authorities have been more aggressive in enforcing the reporting laws, charges are infrequent: Police in Tennessee brought 61 reporting violations to court since 2007, according to court records; South Carolina brought 38.
Among reasons those cases are rare:
• Time limits: In 34 states, statutes of limitations require that prosecutors bring charges for failing to report abuse within two years of when someone became aware of potential abuse. Those limits make it nearly impossible for authorities to bring charges when abuse comes to light later.
In Florida, investigators reviewing accusations of a former priest drugging and raping a series of young boys ultimately turned their attention to the church's leaders. Their probe left prosecutors convinced that church officials had been aware of allegations against the priest years earlier, but did not report them to the police, according to a 2003 memo by Dennis Siegel , the head of the Broward County State Attorney's child abuse unit. Siegel concluded "it is probable" that the officials "could be considered criminally culpable for failing to report the abuse."
By then it was too late. Florida has a one-year limit on pursuing failure-to-report charges. As a result, "no action can be taken by this Office," Siegel wrote.
• Important witnesses: Prosecutors often need people who knew about abuse to testify against the abusers - even if they didn't report it immediately, and don't want to risk scaring them with criminal charges. "Failure to report definitely is very significant, and if you can prosecute someone for that without affecting the actual sex crimes case, you do, but the sex crime case is more important," Siegel said in an interview. "You have to choose."
• Murky standards: Almost every state requires workers to alert the authorities if they even suspect abuse, not just if they know about it firsthand — but the line separating what has to be reported from what can be ignored is often unclear. As a result, prosecutors say, it's difficult to prove that someone's suspicions were strong enough that they should have made a report.
"If you actually see it and interrupt a sexual assault by an adult on a small child, you're on notice, everyone can agree that you have to report it," King County, Wash., Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said. "But if you just hear about it or you hear rumors or you hear something that causes you concern … it's very hard to say that somebody actually had the duty."
Even when authorities bring criminal charges for not reporting abuse, court records show most of the cases are thrown out; those that aren't, seldom lead to jail time or significant fines.
Only three states have laws that make failing to report abuse a felony, and those laws generally apply only when the abuse is particularly severe or the person has been convicted before. Most of the rest make failure to report a misdemeanor or a civil infraction — the rough equivalent of a speeding ticket.
Of the 222 people whose cases USA TODAY was able to review in detail, 102 were convicted. The rest were acquitted or had the charges against them thrown out, according to court records. The review identified only 14 people who were sent to jail. More often, people who know about abuse and don't report it face probation or a fine.
That's what happened three years ago when prosecutors accused the volleyball coach at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, Wash., of trying to cover up a sexual relationship his assistant coach had with a 16-year-old student. According to court records, the coach, Bryan Harley, delivered a letter of apology to the girl from the assistant coach, but said she couldn't keep it for "legal reasons." Later, he sent the assistant coach an e-mail telling him that if the girl did come forward, "she will get no support or sympathy from me or anyone else."
Harley pleaded guilty. The judge ordered him to pay $723 and spend two years on probation.
The punishment was even smaller when police in York, Pa., accused the city school district of not reporting allegations that a middle-school gym teacher had inappropriately touched several of his students. The district spent several weeks conducting its own investigation instead of reporting the situation, as the law requires, York police Detective Ward said. He said investigators "never believed they were trying to sweep something under the rug," but by the time one of the alleged victims reported the abuse to police weeks later, "it was old."
The teacher, Edward Fullum, was found not guilty of abusing the girls. He was later charged with abusing a different girl and pleaded guilty to obstruction and hindering charges. A lawyer for the school district, Jeffrey Gettle, said he could not discuss the case but that the district did not admit to any wrongdoing. The school district pleaded no contest in 2005 to one charge of failing to report abuse — at the time, the violation wasn't even a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.
It paid a $300 fine.
ALBANY—New legislation that will require additional persons, including coaches at high schools and colleges, to immediately report to law enforcement possible acts of child sexual abuse on their campuses will be introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Under current law, there are no requirements for any college employees to report acts of sex abuse to law enforcement. At high schools, many educational and health care professionals are subject to mandatory reporting requirements, but coaches are not. The Governor's proposal will address these gaps in order to better protect children who are present on high school and college campuses.
“Parents need to be sure that their children are safe in programs and activities that are organized by and at colleges,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This legislation will ensure that those who harm our children are reported as quickly as possible to law enforcement.”
Cuomo's announcement of the new legislation comes after the recently publicized reports of alleged sexual abuse in the athletic programs at Syracuse University and Penn State.
The bill continues Governor Cuomo's extensive efforts to protect children across New York State from sexual abuse. In August, the Governor signed a law to better ensure individuals convicted of sexual offenses are disqualified from becoming school bus drivers. As Attorney General, Cuomo authored the successful Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) law that requires convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and other online identifiers with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services' New York State Sex Offender Registry. The e-STOP law is credited with forcing the removal of thousands of accounts associated with sex offenders from major social networking web sites.
In October, the Division of Criminal Justice Services launched a new feature that allows Facebook users to access information about medium and high-risk sex offenders living in their neighborhoods, near their workplaces and schools with just a few clicks and without leaving the popular networking site.
New law proposed to protect Michigan children from sexual abuse
Sens. Rebekah Warren and John Proos announced today they will be introducing legislation in the Michigan Senate to help prevent the sexual abuse of children.
The bill would be called "Erin's Law" and is named after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois, whose advocacy led to the passage of a similar law in her home state.
The measure would allow school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and would create a new Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, made up of legislators, state officials and experts.
The role of the one-time task force would be to make recommendations on possible changes to Michigan laws.
Under the proposal, schools could adopt age-appropriate curriculum, train school personnel on child sexual abuse, and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Children are currently taught to beware of "stranger danger" but not to identify abuse, especially on the part of a familiar person, according to sponsors of the legislation.
"Recent events around the country have highlighted the importance of increased awareness of child sexual abuse," Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said in a statement. "This legislation will not only educate and encourage our children to speak up, but also ensures parents and school personnel have the training they need to spot warning signs and report incidents."
After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.
"As a child, I was educated in school on tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills, stranger danger and drugs, but when I was sexually abused, I listened to the only message I was being given — and that came from my abusers to stay silent," Merryn said in a statement.
"Educating kids on sexual abuse prevention in schools is the best way to empower kids to tell so abuse won't go on for years the way it did for me," she said.
If passed, Michigan would join Illinois and Missouri in enacting Erin's Law. Similar legislation has been introduced in at least seven other states.
"As a father, I want to thank Erin Merryn for her bravery and her tireless leadership in support of abuse survivors,” Proos, R-St. Joseph, said in a statement.
"I look forward to working with her to help Michigan children get the education and support they need to identify abuse and get help," he said.
Proos cited statistics that one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused by age 18, and in more than 90 percent of these cases, their abuser is someone they know.
School abuse fears not reported
Aide transferred despite suspicion
Boston school officials said yesterday that the principal of the King K-8 School in Dorchester never alerted state authorities that a teacher's aide may have had inappropriate contact with a student last spring.
Massachusetts law requires school employees to report suspicions of child abuse to the state Department of Children and Families, but that law may provide some leeway. According to an informational pamphlet produced by the agency, professionals should immediately report cases when they “have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering from abuse and/or neglect.''
Whether this case rises to that “reasonable cause'' standard is the point of a review ordered by School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. She has asked her staff to determine whether the King principal followed proper protocols in investigating the concern and in deciding not to file a report to the state.
“The principal investigated, and met with parents and staff members and concluded there was not sufficient information for action to be taken,'' said Johnson, who expects to have the review completed today.
The teacher's aid, LaShawn Hill, subsequently transferred to Harbor Pilot Middle School, where he now stands accused of inappropriate conduct with a second student, who is autistic and unable to speak.
Johnson cautioned against hasty judgment against the King school principal. “I know the school leader cares about children and their well-being,'' she said. “We want to make sure when we speak about this we are accurate.''
In the allegations that surfaced Monday at the Harbor School, Johnson emphasized that the School Department took swift action, filing reports with both the police and the state. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families confirmed that it received a report about the Harbor incident and is investigating.
Hill's involvement with children extends beyond his job in the Boston schools, where he makes roughly $23,000 a year. A state-licensed family day-care center, Because the lil' Ones Count Too, operates out of his Dorchester home, according to the state Department of Early Education and Care.
In response to the allegations against Hill, the department, which licenses day-care programs, said it was opening an investigation into the center.
Hill, 33, who has been placed on administrative leave from the Harbor School and is facing termination, is expected to appear in court today after police issued a summons on a charge of lewd and lascivious conduct. Yesterday, he pleaded not guilty to five counts of larceny, accused of stealing laptop computers from the Harbor School.
The allegations of inappropriate conduct have sent “bone-chilling fear'' throughout the tightknit community of parents of special-education students, said Rich Robison, executive director of the Federation for Children with Special Needs, based in Boston.
“This one strikes at the heart,'' said Robison, adding that students with disabilities are more vulnerable to such abuse. “It's one of the most dreaded fears of parents.''
Hill has worked for the School Department for seven years, at about the same salary. He also worked at the Joseph Lee Elementary School and Lee Academy, which share a building in Dorchester.
The School Department, which is pursuing its own investigation into the two cases, sent letters home to families yesterday encouraging them to notify school officials of any other alleged improprieties. The mayor also has set up a hot line, 617-635-3050.
Details of the two cases remain vague. Hill's transfer to the Harbor School came after his position at the King was eliminated amid a districtwide restructuring of special education programs.
Johnson stressed that school employees take all allegations of child abuse, negligence, and endangerment seriously. Since fall 2009, employees have reported more than 500 suspected cases of child abuse to the state Department of Youth and Families, she said. The reports encompass incidents in or out of school, including suspected cases in a child's home.
After Hill's not-guilty plea yesterday, a Dorchester District Court judge set his bail at $3,500 and ordered him to stay away from the Harbor School.
According to court documents, the school received 14 laptops Monday as part of a subsidy program called Technology Goes Home, in which low-income students who complete a computer literacy training workshop receive a laptop for $50. Hill was one of the administrators of the program.
On Tuesday, school officials reported that five of the laptops were missing. Police discovered that paperwork from parents signing out these computers had been forged. Officers found Hill at his mother's house, where he allegedly told police he had taken the computers from the school.
State Police investigating a car accident on Morrissey Boulevard on Wednesday evening said they found the missing laptops inside one of the vehicles. The driver of the car, Nathaniel Thomas, declined to talk to police about the computers, but Hill's sister-in-law, Nikki Ware, arrived at the scene and asked to retrieve the computers.
Police arrested Ware for driving with a suspended license. She then told police that she, Hill, Hill's wife, and Thomas were all involved in a scheme to steal computers from the school program, according to court documents. Ware was released without bail yesterday.
Stephanie Soriano, who represented Hill and Ware in court, said that blame for the computer thefts should also lie with Hill's wife, Lovella Young, and with Thomas.
In 2009, Hill was charged with assault and battery after he allegedly pushed his pregnant wife when she declined to help him carry groceries into the house. The case was dismissed.
A woman who answered the door last night at Hill's home, a brick two-family home on Oldfields Street in Dorchester, declined to speak to the Globe.
Taped on the front windows and doorways were yellow signs reading: “We shall not be moved,'' and in the same entranceway another sign reads: “Boston Public School Teacher Lives Here.''
Attorney: AAU's Bobby Dodd innocent
by Tom Farrey -
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Six days after the Amateur Athletic Union severed ties with longtime president and CEO Bobby Dodd due to allegations of child sexual abuse, and Memphis police opened an investigation, an attorney for Dodd responded to the claims made by former players by saying they are false.
Attorney Steve Farese, hired Wednesday by Dodd, spoke Thursday with ESPN.
"It didn't happen," said Farese, a criminal defense lawyer from Ashland, Miss. "All of this is fancy."
Farese told The Associated Press that Dodd is "absolutely" innocent, but is being put in the difficult position of proving a negative.
Farese declined to respond to questions on specific allegations made by two players in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report last Friday. In that report, former player Ralph West and a second player whose identity was not disclosed alleged that they were molested in the 1980s, and that Dodd acted in a sexually inappropriate manner, including masturbating in one player's room during travel tournaments.
The denials by Farese come one day after the AAU held a news conference at its Lake Buena Vista, Fla., headquarters, where AAU leaders promised to rebuild trust in the 113-year-old organization, whose programs and tournaments serve more than 500,000 children.
Two task forces convened by the AAU are to make a series of recommendations on enhancing protections against sexual predators, with potential measures including protocols that prevent coaches from being alone with players on travel tournaments and the adoption of mandatory background checks of coaches and administrators.
Louis Stout, the former first vice president who replaced Dodd, said his 30-year friendship with Dodd had to be put aside when the decision was made Nov. 14 to place Dodd on indefinite leave due to allegations that had been emailed and phoned into AAU offices.
Stout said the AAU later decided not to allow Dodd to return to his positions, and that the organization has ended its relationship with Dodd.
Farese disputed the notion Dodd is no longer in contact with the AAU. "That's not correct," he said.
Asked about that contention, AAU crisis-management consultant Ron Sachs said only treasurer Ron Crawford has been authorized by Stout to communicate with Dodd and his instructions are to limit the conversations to matters related to his severance.
The lawyer also chastised AAU officials for firing Dodd, who had been AAU president since 1992.
"When you throw a firecracker into a pack of dogs, they all run away," he said of the abuse allegations. "Bobby Dodd built that organization and if they don't stand behind him, they should be ashamed."
He said Dodd will "mount an offensive" designed to counter the allegations that may include media interviews and the solicitation of affidavits by people who can help support his case. Farese said some supporters may be reluctant to come forward, however, "because they don't want to be infected by these salacious allegations."
Dodd is suffering from colon cancer, according to the AAU, which denied his request last month to retire officially for health reasons.
Until Thursday, the only response Dodd had registered to the allegations was to AAU officials in their private meeting with Stout and three other AAU officials on Nov. 14. That was when, according to Sachs, he vehemently denied the claims.
Dodd has not responded to multiple phone, email and other requests for comments from "Outside the Lines," before and after the airing of its investigative report.
"He's been tried in the media and on TV, and it's totally unfair," Farese said. Asked why it took until now for Dodd to respond publicly to the charges, he said, "I can't answer that. I don't know."
Along with the Memphis police, the AAU and YMCA have launched internal investigations. West alleges that Dodd's sexual abuse started when he tried to touch him in a shower at an East Memphis YMCA in the early 1980s, when Dodd managed the facility.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal on Wednesday quoted Dodd's former boss as saying Dodd was fired from the YMCA in 1992 for falsifying expense reports.
"When I made that change it was for reason, it was for cause," said Jim Havlick, who was local director of the YMCA at the time. "We had all the records to show he had been stealing. It wasn't big dollars, but it was the principle of the thing."
Dodd was elected AAU president shortly after that, and grew the organization into one of the largest in youth sports. His severance package with the AAU is still being worked out, but with unpaid vacation and sick pay, he should receive no more than $15,000, according to AAU officials. His salary last year was $270,000.
Nearly 1 in 5 women raped in their lifetime, new U.S. study shows
ATLANTA -- Sexual violence is a widespread problem in the U.S. that strikes the majority of its victims early in life, according to a major government study released Wednesday.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report being raped in their lifetime, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.
The study is the first to examine the prevalence of rape, sexual violence other than rape, stalking and intimate partner violence, and to report the damaging health consequences that last a lifetime. It calls for prevention efforts "that should start early."
Among female victims, 30% reported being first raped when they were between 11 and 17 years old; 12% were 10 or younger. Among males, 28% of victims were first raped when they were 10 or younger.
Coming in the wake of the child sex abuse charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, the study "shows what a staggering problem there is," said Lisa James, director of health for Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit. "It is quite alarming, and shows we need to start helping people earlier and earlier."
More than one-third of women (about 42.4 million) have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. One in 10 has been raped by an intimate partner.
Among the male victims, 52.4% reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger. Both male and female victims reported their attackers were predominantly male.
"The numbers surprise us," said Linda Degutis, the leading author of the report and the CDC's director for National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "All of this underscores that sexual violence is widespread and an important health problem in this country."
The CDC said 9,086 women and 7,421 men participated in the phone survey. The 2010 survey is the first year of the study and will be used to track trends.
Vermont fraternity suspended over rape survey
by Marina Landis
(CNN) -- The University of Vermont's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity is under investigation after a survey surfaced online asking fraternity brothers who they would rape.
The national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization said in a statement that "the fraternity has instructed the chapter to cease all operations, pending further investigation." Adding that "any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the fraternity."
Leadership from the fraternity's national office was in Burlington Wednesday working with UVM administrators to look into the survey, which was discovered earlier this week, CNN affiliate WCAX reported.
"We want to make sure that any individuals that were responsible for that document or any other faults are held accountable," Tyler Boggess of Sigma Phi Epsilon told the affiliate.
"It is technically free speech and yet it is deplorable and just absolutely inappropriate and offensive," Annie Stevens, associate vice president for student and campus life, told the affiliate. "It may be in this instance where there's a dynamic of only a few knew about this, we don't know that yet, or did the whole chapter know... those are the kinds of questions that we have."
Combatting child sex abuse
A former Canadian hockey player addressed U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with a message they would do well to heed.
In fact, Sheldon Kennedy's message should be taken to heart by legislators everywhere.
Kennedy, the former NHL player who was one of the sexual abuse victims of former hockey coach Graham James, told the U.S. Senate subcommittee on children and families it's important to "empower the bystanders" - those who have suspicions that children are being sexually abused.
"Senators, you need to give all adults working with youth and all parents the tools to recognize and respond to abuse when it first arises," Kennedy said at Tuesday's hearing, which was intended to examine child abuse laws in the U.S.
The reason those tools are needed is that, just as it is difficult for victims to report abuse, it can also be difficult for people who suspect abuse to act on their suspicions. Kennedy explained pedophiles are counting on the fact that it's hard to believe trusted adults could be involved in abusing children. The more glowing the alleged abuser's reputation, the more difficult it is to accept the notion of abuse.
"In my case, my abuser was International Hockey Man of the Year," Kennedy told the U.S. senators. "In Canada, that gave him almost God-like status. Sound familiar? The kids - and often their parents, too - looked up to him as a hero. This was someone who could make their dreams come true and he used that trust to hurt them."
On the same day Kennedy spoke to the Senate subcommittee, the accused in the child molestation case that has rocked Penn State University made a court appearance, where he waived a preliminary hearing. Jerry Sandusky was a respected assistant coach with one of America's most celebrated college football programs. The scandal has so far cost the jobs of legendary coach Joe Paterno as well as the school's president, and led to charges against two administrators who are accused of lying to a grand jury and failing to report the suspected abuse.
Meanwhile, Syracuse University's basketball program is dealing with a similar scandal after two former ball boys accused a former assistant basketball coach of molesting them.
"In every case of child abuse - certainly in my own - there are people who had a 'gut feeling' that something was wrong but didn't do anything about it," Kennedy went on to say. "Their attitude was: 'I don't want to get involved,' 'it's not my problem,' 'he couldn't possibly be doing that' or 'the authorities will take care of it.' And that's what pedophiles and predators are counting on. They are counting on the public's ignorance or - worse yet - their indifference."
If progress is to be made in tackling the problem of child sex abuse, the obstacles of fear and indifference must be removed. The abuse of children is a community issue and must be dealt with as a community. People who suspect abuse, as well as victims of abuse, must feel they will have support if they come forward with allegations.
"These issues carry fear," Kennedy told the U.S. senators. "So if we can eliminate that fear and give people confidence to act on their gut feelings, you're going to get a lot more of these parents and these coaches and these leaders and these teachers reporting and listening to our kids."
That's the way to combat this problem. Sheldon Kennedy knows what he's talking about. Hopefully, U.S. legislators - as well as those in Canada - will listen to him.
Scandals renew NY push to protect sex victims
by MICHAEL VIRTANEN
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — With child sex-abuse scandals rocking college sports programs, state lawmakers plan to revisit lifting time limits on victim lawsuits, an issue pitting the Catholic Church and other institutions against advocates for children.
Fearing $1 billion in payouts like dioceses collectively faced after California lifted its statute of limitations, the church along with schools, municipalities, synagogues and others with potential liability helped to block similar measures in New York. The Assembly three times passed legislation that died in the Senate.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat, is chief sponsor of the current bill, which includes a one-year window for victims to file previously time-barred claims. She says abuse is an issue across society, and the scandals at Penn State, Syracuse University and other schools undercut the claim her bill is anti-Catholic.
"It is something we have to deal with as a society and protect our children," Markey said. She said research shows that 20 percent of children are affected, the trauma is lifelong and for many victims that one-year window is the only way to get justice. She has sought support for her measure from the Cuomo administration.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will introduce legislation to require college and high school coaches to report possible child sex abuse to police. "Parents need to be sure that their children are safe in programs and activities that are organized by and at colleges," he said.
According to the governor's office, college employees aren't required to report suspected child sex abuse now to authorities, and while public school teachers are mandatory reporters, that doesn't apply to coaches. Cuomo said his proposal will close that gap.
The governor later said he will also consider addressing the statute of limitations, but that is "a balance" that has to consider that memories fade and evidence grows old.
Assemblymen James Tedisco and George Amedore made a similar reporting proposal in November.
In the recent scandals, a former Penn State football coach was charged with sexually abusing boys on campus, while a former Syracuse basketball coach is under federal investigation after three men accused him of molesting them as boys.
The current statute of limitations in New York for bringing civil claims for child sex abuse is five years after the incident has been reported to police or five years after the victim turns 18. That was also the old standard for felony prosecutions, until state lawmakers in 2008 lifted it altogether for first-degree rape, aggravated sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct against a child.
Markey's bill would extend the time bar prospectively for civil suits and some additional felony prosecutions to five years after the victim turns 23.
Sen. Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican who is chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, said the committee is working on an alternative package of bills he hopes to introduce in the next few weeks. They will probably address required reporting of abuse and expanding the statute of limitations on the criminal side, but the details aren't firm yet, he said.
"The much larger issue, the one I've been attempting to grapple with ... is how do you deal with persons who have authority or positions of trust," Saland said. "In dealing with the broader issues that emanate from the misdeeds if not heinous acts that have occurred by authority figures, we're not merely talking about the clergy or coaches, we're talking about a universe that is really rather large."
Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against retroactively changing criminal statutes of limitations, and it's no more fair to do that with civil claims. "We think it's a bad policy having a window that can go back a half century," he said.
When California did it in 2003, lawsuits were brought against priests long dead and the volume of cases forced dioceses into settlements, paying out close to $1 billion, Poust said. "It becomes impossible for the institution to defend itself."
The conference, representing New York's Roman Catholic bishops, supports changing the statutes of limitations prospectively to age 28, Poust said. Legislative proposals that would make private institutions retroactively liable while exempting schools and other public institutions would be unfair, he said. "There's a zero tolerance policy now in the church. We have taken vigorous steps to solve the problem," he said.
Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Bronx Democrat and sponsor of another bill to lift the civil time bar for one year, said the goal is to hold institutions responsible for any suppression or coercion in keeping incidents quiet. "For instance, there have been incidences in schools where teachers have been accused and rather than have them fired or brought up on charges, what they would do is transfer them to another school or another division," she said.
At Safe Horizon in New York City, chief program officer Liz Roberts said employees work every year with thousands of children who have been sexually abused as well as thousands of adult survivors. "Approximately one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse in the course of their childhood," she said, most often by someone in or known to the family.
The group strongly favors extending the statute of limitations. Victims want to hold institutions responsible, prevent the abuse from happening to others and have the opportunity to stand up to their abusers and be believed as part of their own healing, Roberts said. "Clients have shown us over and over again that it takes time to come to terms with abuse and it is often not until well into adulthood that a survivor is safe enough and can muster the fortitude to come forward and name their abuser."
Brooklyn D.A. Refuses To Name Child Sex Abusers
85 Arrested, But Charles Hynes Won't Say Who They Are
by Paul Berger
Law enforcement officials, legal experts, advocates and politicians have questioned why Brooklyn's District Attorney arrested 85 Orthodox adults on child sex abuse charges but refuses to release their names.
In just three years, District Attorney Charles Hynes has arrested 83 Orthodox men and two women on charges including sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping and sodomy.
But when asked to reveal names — even of the 14 abusers who were convicted of sex crimes — Hynes refuses.
“Under the Civil Rights Law of New York State, we cannot release the names of any victim of sexual assault or any information that would tend to identify them,” said a spokesman for Hynes's office. Yet, on December 14, Hynes issued a press release announcing the sentencing of Gerald Hatcher, 47, to 72 years in prison for raping his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter. Hatcher “was living with his girlfriend and her daughter in their Bedford-Stuyvesant home,” the D.A.'s statement said. The neighborhood is largely non-Jewish.
Sex abuse specialists say prosecutors often withhold names because crimes involve family members, and naming the abuser may inadvertently reveal the identity of victims.
But Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who specializes in sex abuse cases, said the D.A. has arrested too many people for that to be the sole reason to maintain the Orthodox abusers' anonymity.
“Something else is going on here that I don't understand and I can't quite explain,” said Anderson, who has worked on numerous clergy abuse cases and who recently filed a civil lawsuit in the Penn State University sex abuse case.
The Forward has pressed Hynes for weeks to confirm the stunning number of arrests of members of Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox communities, first reported in the Forward on November 11. But the D.A.'s spokesman has not returned phone calls or e-mails requesting comment.
Instead, Rhonnie Jaus, the head of the sex crimes division in the District Attorney's office, confirmed a figure of 85 arrests to the New York Post on December 11.
The arrests are a sharp contrast to a decade ago, when it was noteworthy if Hynes prosecuted any Orthodox sex abuse cases. In October 2009, Hynes made headlines after announcing the arrest of 26 Orthodox abusers over two years.
Hynes attributed the recent dramatic increase in arrests to Kol Tzedek, a hotline for Orthodox survivors to anonymously report abuse that he launched in January 2009.
Observers within and outside Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox communities agree that the religious culture of its residents confronts law enforcement authorities with special challenges in bringing sex abuse cases to justice. Leading rabbis may invoke Judaic religious laws such as mesirah — a prohibition against informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities — and the prohibition against lashon harah , evil gossip, as justification for not reporting abuse to law enforcement officials. Community members often feel religiously obligated to heed their rabbis, or face communal ostracism if they don't.
Ocean County prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford, whose jurisdiction includes the heavily Orthodox enclave of Lakewood, N.J., said she was impressed that Hynes had persuaded so many victims to come forward. “I think it's a very positive thing,” she said.
But she added that it was unusual to withhold the names of accused molesters. Once a person is arrested, Ford said her office treats each case as a public matter.
“While we would not release names of people merely being investigated for any criminal charge,” Ford said, “once somebody has been charged it's certainly something that is a matter of public interest.”
“I don't know that we've ever kept the name of a defendant in a case [secret],” she added, unless it is to protect the name of the victim.
Legal expert Marci Hamilton said Hynes's refusal to release the names of the accused abusers is “shocking.”
Critics have long accused Hynes of being at the mercy of Brooklyn's powerful rabbinic leaders and their bloc-voting Orthodox voters.
“Obviously, it has something to do with politics and being an elected official,” said Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University, “but it's just wrong.”
She added: “Arrests are public information. At least, if the names of arrested individuals were public, parents would have a better shot of protecting kids than they do now, even if there weren't a conviction.”
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said the spike in arrests is a sign that progress is being made in combating abuse in a community that has been in denial for so long.
But Hikind added that he would like Hynes to release more information. “It isn't like this is secret stuff,” Hikind said. “Why this is not public, I personally don't understand.”
The Forward sent Hynes a list of questions on December 12, asking for details of the arrests and convictions and for clarification of his stance toward the Orthodox community's reluctance to report abuse cases. Hynes answered only about half of the questions.
He supplied a list of 14 cases that ended in convictions, listing charges and sentences — ranging from one month to 20 years in jail — but not the names of those jailed.
Because 10 of the 14 pleaded guilty, it's possible many cases were adjudicated away from the media spotlight.
In addition, 24 people were released on probation after pleading to reduced charges, or after their cases were dismissed. Again, it is likely these cases were not reported in the media.
Last month, the Forward combed through news reports and interviewed people who specialize in sex abuse cases, trying to piece together how many arrests there had been in recent years.
During the past two years, the Forward was able to find only nine reported arrests and three convictions of Orthodox men.
Of the 85 cases the D.A. has pursued, 47 remain open.
Again, the D.A. has withheld the names of the accused.
Hynes said that seven of the 85 accused had to register as sex offenders and that a further six will have to register upon release from jail. Again, he did not release the names of those offenders.
A search of the New York State sex offender registry revealed the names of at least six Orthodox men living in or near Orthodox communities in Brooklyn. But at least four of those six men were convicted of abuse before Kol Tzedek was launched.
Hynes declined to tell the Forward how many of the sex abuse cases closed so far involved plea deals to less serious charges.
He also declined to comment on the policy of Agudath Israel, the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization that insists that anyone who suspects but has not actually witnessed sexual abuse of a child must consult a rabbi before reporting to the secular authorities.
Under such guidelines, a parent whose child tells them they have been abused must consult a rabbi before contacting police.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel, said in an e-mail: “I have little doubt that if the recounting is credible and the child is not prone to lying or fantasizing, a consulted rabbi (with experience in such matters, which is specified as an important factor) would not hesitate to tell the parents that their child's account should be acted upon.”
Community pressure is often seen as a major factor in families backing out of going to trial.
In a recent case in Lakewood, a family that brought charges against a camp counselor, Yosef Kolko, was subjected to a campaign of intimidation. A proclamation signed by nine Lakewood rabbis claimed the family had violated Jewish law by circumventing the rabbis and appealing directly to the secular authorities. As reported in the New York Jewish Week, a leading Brooklyn rabbi, Yisroel Belsky, published an open letter urging Lakewood residents to persuade the family to “retract their terrible deeds.”
Last year, Ford charged a Lakewood man, Shaul Luban, with witness tampering after he sent a text message to members of the community urging them to pressure the victim's father not to co-operate with police. Luban ultimately paid a fine and had to perform community service.
The Forward asked Hynes whether he had done anything to combat witness intimidation. While admitting intimidation was a factor in some cases not going to trial, he said that “shame, embarrassment, fear of testifying at trial and the desire [of victims] to put the abuse behind them” are also factors.
“In addition, many parents do not want to put their children through the ordeal of testifying in a public trial,” Hynes said.
Survivor advocate Ben Hirsch said many of the families he speaks with are determined to take their cases to trial. But the D.A. often tries to persuade them to let perpetrators plead to lesser crimes.
“They do terrible, terrible plea deals,” said Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice. As evidence, Hirsch pointed to Yehuda Kolko a teacher accused of molesting boys at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, in Brooklyn.
Kolko, the uncle of Lakewood's Yosef Kolko, was charged with sexual molestation of his students. But in April 2008, Hynes allowed Kolko to plead guilty to a lesser charge of child endangerment. Kolko ducked a jail sentence and avoided having to register as a sex offender. Some of Kolko's victims are now pressing ahead with a civil case against the school, whose administrators, they allege, dismissed them when they sought to tell school authorities about being abused by him.
“We understand the difficulty the D.A. sometimes faces because it is true that many families are intimidated by rabbis and others,” Hirsch said. “What the community needs from the D.A. is a commitment to vigorously pursue those who would seek to intimidate victims and their families.”
In response to the Forward's question about intimidation, Hynes said that any evidence his office received regarding any form of witness intimidation “is immediately pursued and investigated vigorously.”
The Forward knows of no cases in which the D.A. has prosecuted members of the Orthodox community for intimidating witnesses.
Child abuse report rule to expand
Bill adds high school coaches, college staffers to mandated reporters
by CASEY SEILER
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will introduce legislation adding high school coaches and higher education personnel to the state's list of "mandated reporters," professionals required to report possible acts of child abuse they learn about in their professional capacity.
"Parents need to be sure that their children are safe in programs and activities that are organized by and at colleges," Cuomo said in a statement. "This legislation will ensure that those who harm our children are reported as quickly as possible to law enforcement."
The governor's intention, announced Wednesday, comes after lawmakers such as Capital Region Assemblymen Jim Tedisco and George Amedore pushed for a similar expansion in the wake of burgeoning child sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University.
"It seems like we're all on the same page in terms of adding another set of eyes and ears on the college level to protect kids from sexual abuse," Tedisco told the Times Union. He added that it was "the highest form of flattery" to see the governor pick up the initiative.
The state's mandated reporter list currently includes a broad range of health care professionals, counselors, law enforcement officers, foster care workers and more. School personnel are included on the state list, although coaches are not specifically cited.
Viewpoint: Why a Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Law Could Backfire
by Maia Szalavitz
Should all adults be legally required to report child abuse if they see or suspect it? Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has introduced a bill to require just that, in the wake of the apparent cover-up following an eyewitness account of the rape of a 10-year-old by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. On Tuesday, a Senate hearing was held on the issue.
Introducing witnesses at the hearing, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) noted that abused children are “doubly victimized” both by the abuse and by the “conspiracy of silence” that often follows. “My view is that every adult has the responsibility for a child. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to protect one,” she said.
In the aftermath of horrific crimes like those of which Sandusky is accused, it is natural to want to take decisive action to prevent them from happening again. However, criminalizing the failure to report abuse may cause more problems than it prevents.
Eighteen states already legally require anyone who witnesses or suspects child abuse to report it, but those states do not appear to be safer for children than states without such requirements. Further, they may increase the chance of false accounts of child abuse: Examinations to check for sexual abuse are intrusive, and even a seemingly mild tactic, such as repeated questioning, can sometimes produce false allegations from young children who haven't been abused. The ensuing investigation can then traumatize children, or worse, place them needlessly in foster care.
MORE: How Child Maltreatment May Scar the Brain
The Casey bill would require all adults to report child abuse by parents and caregivers and also “any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
This language concerns many leading child advocates, including Dr. Bruce Perry, who has worked with severely abused and neglected children for decades. In 2007, Perry led the institutional response to accounts of sexual abuse of students at Oprah Winfrey's school for girls in South Africa. (Full disclosure: Perry and I have co-authored two books.)
“I think that people in any position of responsibility or authority with children should be mandatory reporters, including coaches affiliated with educational settings, teachers, medical professionals, etc.,” Perry says, but extending that requirement to all adults poses problems.
To start, there's the tricky issue of defining “serious emotional harm”: as Perry notes, some people consider yelling to be emotional abuse. Further, this type of mandate would be very “vulnerable to vendetta,” he says. Anyone who wanted to stir up trouble could report abuse, which would then have to be investigated. That would tax the already limited time and resources of child welfare authorities, which are facing cuts and are so overburdened that they can't thoroughly investigate many of the most clear-cut cases of abuse already before them.
MORE: Why Are So Many Foster Care Children Taking Antipsychotics?
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, notes on his website that even trained mandatory reporters often call in “patently absurd” cases for fear of being punished for failing to report.
He cites a Florida case in which an assistant principal called in social workers in December to investigate a “possible sex crime” — a playground incident in which a 12-year-old girl kissed a 12-year-old boy she had a crush on.
To prevent such problematic lapses in judgment, many states require mandated reporters to be trained in properly identifying child abuse. Obviously, however, such a requirement is unlikely to be imposed on all adults.
Enforcement of a mandated reporting law would also be likely to target the poor and minority groups unfairly. Poor parents are already more likely to be scrutinized by authorities: for example, they are often drug-tested without their permission when they give birth. A positive test for marijuana can spur a child abuse investigation.
I share the public's fury over the events that allegedly occurred at Penn State. I've seen the profound damage that can be done by sexual abuse. I don't want any child to experience it — let alone have their cries go unheard or their claims covered up.
But laws passed when people are panicked or furious typically do more harm than good (check out the history of our drug laws for hundreds of examples of this). Getting people to do the right thing requires consideration, transparency and a deep understanding of the issue — not just passing laws to “do something.”
Tulsa counselors helping kids deal with abuse
by MIKE AVERILL
Katelynn seems like a typical 13-year-old. The seventh-grader loves bracelets so much she has 45 of them that cover both her wrists. "I got one bracelet and thought, 'Let's go crazy,'" she said.
But she also has a traumatic past.
Katelynn was abused by a family member as a child. Her last name is not being used in this story to protect her identity.
"She was 7 when it became public. That's all we know," said her grandmother Carolyn, who also is only being identified by her first name. "We don't know when it started or how long it continued, but the police became involved when she was 7."
To help her heal from the trauma, her grandmother took her to Family and Children's Services, where she's been getting therapy for the last six years.
"It's made me feel better about myself," Katelynn said.
She goes only twice a month now. When she started, the sessions were more frequent.
During the sessions she works with her therapist, sometimes playing games, painting pictures or doing worksheets.
"We talk a lot about being safe, expressing feelings in appropriate ways and getting her impulsiveness under control," said Cindy DeRoussel, therapist with the child abuse and trauma services program.
DeRoussel has seen a lot of changes in Katelynn since she first walked through the door as a quiet and shy child who was afraid to talk.
"I think she was pretty confused and didn't know who to trust or what to say. She had been told not to tell people things," she said.
This is the 30th anniversary of the family sexual abuse treatment program, now known as the child abuse and trauma services program.
The program is designed to treat children who are victims of sexual abuse and other traumatic events. The treatment is individualized based on each child's needs and circumstances, and a wide range of individual, group and family therapy services are available.
Last year about 5,700 children and their families were treated by Family and Children's Services therapists for trauma.
"Our goal is to meet with the children and their families and provide coping skills," said Roy Van Tassall, clinical supervisor. "More often than not, it's the whole family that's impacted and everyone needs to heal. Sometimes recovery is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain."
Once the skills are in place, the victims will open up and tell their stories.
"That helps them regain their mastery so it doesn't keep them up at night," he said.
Carolyn said that because of the program Katelynn is a confident, well-rounded girl.
"I think she would have been very angry and rebellious and somewhat out of control. She would not have the skills to draw herself back and wouldn't have leadership skills," she said. "Because she's a teenager, there are all those issues on top of the issues from the situation she found herself in. We now have a language we can speak and resources we can draw on."
She also has learned to control her emotions.
"I've got brothers, and one I would yell at all the time because he likes to get into my stuff," Katelynn said. "Cindy (DeRoussel) has taught me to let it go. That's just what little brothers do."
Carolyn said her granddaughter has become self-confident with the ability to take over a room and carry on conversations with adults.
"They can't make you heal, but they provide strategies to work through those pains and hurts that have been visited upon you," she said.
Consequences of trauma/child abuse on children
Source: Family and Children's Services
- Affects development of the brain (more than 30 percent have language or cognitive impairment).
- Interferes with basic educational skills (50 percent have trouble in school).
- Three times more likely to develop mental health or substance abuse problems.
- Five times more likely to be involved in delinquency and gang activity.
- Introduction to a lifetime of insecurities about safety and protection.
Doctor accused of child sex abuse received glowing reviews, records show
by Andrea Ball
Dec. 14, 2011
Despite multiple allegations of child sexual abuse throughout his career, former Austin State Hospital child psychiatrist Charles Fischer routinely received glowing performance reviews praising his work ethic, communication skills and commitment to quality patient care.
Fischer has been accused of sexually abusing at least nine patients while working at psychiatric facilities for people with profound mental illness. But 21 years of personnel records examined by the Austin American-Statesman show that none of the allegations were mentioned in Fischer's performance reviews until May, when the Department of Family and Protective Services launched an investigation into accusations against him.
Before that, personnel records show, the hospital took no action against Fischer, placed no restrictions on his practice and officially suggested nothing to avoid future complaints.
In fact, records show, during his two decades with the facility's child and adolescent unit, Fischer continued to receive promotions and eventually became a senior psychiatrist with supervisory duties. At the time he left, he was earning $185,000 a year.
State officials say they know they missed the pattern of allegations against Fischer and are working to ensure it doesn't happen again.
"Going back in time, there were no red flags and no confirmed abuse," said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, which oversees the state psychiatric hospitals. "Still, should someone have picked up on a pattern of allegation? That's what we're addressing now."
Fischer, 59, was fired from Austin State Hospital on Nov. 14 after Protective Services confirmed that he had sexually abused two patients at the facility.
The agency terms an incident "confirmed" if its investigation shows the allegation is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. It does not mean criminal charges will be filed.
Fischer has not been charged with anything. Agencies including the Austin Police Department and the Texas Rangers are investigating.
Fischer's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
He has previously said his client denies the accusations against him.
The Texas Medical Board suspended the doctor's license Nov. 22 based on those allegations.
And a transcript of that suspension hearing released this week has provided new insight into when some of Fischer's accusers lodged complaints against him.
According to that transcript, eight patients reported Fisher for abuse between 1992 and 2011; seven from Austin State Hospital and one from the Waco Center for Youth.
The medical board records show a ninth patient accused Fischer of abuse while he was working at the Southwest Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Antonio.
Medical board records publicly released so far do not indicate when that complaint was made, but Fischer worked at the center from 1982 to 1984 as a child psychiatry resident.
Of the nine patients who have accused Fischer of abusing them, at least four of them complained around the time they say the incidents occurred, the medical board transcript states.
One case was reported in 1992, one in 2003 and two in 2004.
At least two of those cases were investigated by police, according to the records. None of them led to criminal charges or a state confirmation of abuse. The medical board transcript does not say which police departments investigated the allegations.
The hospital knew about the four allegations at the time they were reported, Williams said.
In November 1992, the year that Fischer was accused of abusing a teen at the Waco Center, his immediate supervisor praised his work.
"Dr. Fischer has continued to provide excellent service and teaching," his boss in Austin wrote. "In fact, to hold the positions here and at Waco Center for Youth requires a good deal of energy and dedication."
Words like "excellent" and "distinguished" routinely appear in his evaluations.
Fischer, his employers wrote, served on multiple service committees, worked well with his peers, communicated frequently with the families of his patients and willingly took on extra responsibilities.
"Dr. Fischer continues to perform his duties as senior physician in an exemplary manner," a supervisor wrote in 2004, the year two boys accused Fischer of abusing them.
In March 2007, the doctor won Austin State Hospital's Superintendent Star Spirit Award. He got a one-time bonus of $300 plus a paid day off.
In its review of the personnel records, the Statesman could find only two sentences that suggest possible problems with Fischer's performance.
In November 2007, Fischer's supervisor wrote that the psychiatrist had an "upcoming hearing with the Texas Medical Board and continues to have the full support of the hospital administration."
Several months later, that same supervisor wrote that the "complaint against Dr. Fischer to the medical board was dismissed, so this is no longer an issue for him."
The records do not provide details about the nature of that complaint or who might have filed it.
Whether other agencies could have detected a pattern of allegations against Fischer remains unclear.
Publicly released documents do not give a comprehensive overview of the sequence of events surrounding the case because many of the involved parties won't release that information.
The Texas Medical Board will not say whether it investigated other complaints against Fischer before it suspended his license last month.
The Department of Family and Protective Services has declined to say how many complaints it received, when it received them and the results of those investigations.
The Austin Police Department won't provide details about its investigations into Fischer.
Since Fischer was fired in November, the Department of State Health Services has taken steps to more quickly recognize patterns of complaints against employees, Williams said.
The agency has identified employees with two or more allegations of abuse and is currently reviewing those cases.
"We all need to pick up on patterns as they're emerging and make sure there are checks and balances in place at every level to protect patients," Williams said.
Citadel target of sex-abuse lawsuit
by Glenn Smith
A lawsuit filed against The Citadel on Wednesday seeks a court mandate that would require the military college to report all child sexual abuse complaints or face contempt charges.
Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Gregg Meyers filed suit against The Citadel on behalf of the mother of a young man who allegedly was sexually abused by Louis "Skip" ReVille after the school failed to report a complaint about the former cadet.
The lawsuit alleges that The Citadel was grossly negligent in not reporting a former summer camper's claim that ReVille showed young boys porn and masturbated with them at The Citadel in 2002.
The school received the complaint in 2007 but did not inform police.
The lawsuit contends that the school's inaction allowed ReVille to go forward and sexually assault her son. The victim in the case allegedly was molested by ReVille on numerous occasions in 2007 and 2008, according to the suit.
The school's attorney, Dawes Cook, said it would be improper for The Citadel to comment, given the ongoing State Law Enforcement Division investigation of the camp incident and a pending attorney general probe of the school's handling of the episode.
"The Citadel is anxious to file a legal response (to the lawsuit) as soon as possible," he said.
Anderson called the episode an example of "institutional failure" on The Citadel's part. The school, he said, placed its reputation and image over its duty to protect children.
"They had a real responsibility to immediately report this to law enforcement and a real responsibility to take immediate action to protect other kids," he said. "They failed the kids in that responsibility."
Citadel President John Rosa has publicly apologized for the school's handling of the 2007 complaint and urged cadets to cooperate with a Charleston police investigation of ReVille, who was senior counselor at the camp.
ReVille went on to work with hundreds of children in the area as a teacher, coach and church group leader.
"We should have done more," Rosa has said. "We know that."
Meyers said ReVille has confessed to molesting the boy named in the suit. The suit indicates the boy was under age 16 when the incidents occurred, and that he came in contact with ReVille through athletic activity.
Meyers would not say more about the activity in question or discuss his client in detail, saying he wants to protect the young man's identity.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a court order forcing The Citadel to report all future sexual abuse allegations concerning children. The order would "eliminate the confusion and ambiguity" the school seemed to have in this case and force it "to do the right thing," he said.
"Some people think this lawsuit is designed to take The Citadel down," Anderson said. "It's not. Frankly, it's designed to help them clean it up."
Anderson, based in Minnesota, oversees a firm that specializes in child sexual abuse cases, and he recently filed the first civil lawsuit in the Penn State University sex abuse scandal.
Meyers, a local attorney, previously represented victims of predator Eddie Fischer, who molested more than 40 students during his teaching career in the Lowcountry.
In South Korea, a landmark sex-slave rally at Japan Embassy
The old South Korean women, with hundreds of protesters shouting support outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, mark the 1,000th successive weekly protest against Tokyo for a 7-decade-old war crime.
by John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
December 15, 2011
Reporting from Seoul
The old women, this time with hundreds of demonstrators shouting their support outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, on Wednesday marked the 1,000th successive weekly protest against Tokyo for a 7-decade-old war crime.
The women's demands remained unchanged: Punish surviving members of the Imperial Japanese Army responsible for taking an estimated 200,000 young Korean women as sex slaves during World War II and pay governmental reparations.
Those who fell victim to the Japanese military as young women, who during the war were called "comfort women," are still seeking closure.
"You took away our soldiers but that wasn't enough," 85-year-old Kim Bok-dong shouted at the embassy under drizzly gray skies. "And then you took us young girls to become your slaves."
The crowd roared its approval, with a band decked out in traditional Korean costumes banging drums and clanging cymbals. About 1,500 people jammed into a narrow downtown street and shouted anti-Japanese slogans. Some workers in the embassy peeked out windows.
The elderly activists, often referred to individually as halmoni or grandmother, began their protests in 1992. President George H.W. Bush was in the White House. South Korea had only recently become a democracy.
That year, 234 Korean women broke decades of humiliating silence, emerging to acknowledge that they once had been sexual victims of the foreign soldiers. Each week, a few of the most able ones staged noontime banner-waving sessions within view of Tokyo's red-bricked embassy. Five participated in Wednesday's rally.
For these women, the eldest a sprightly 91, the passing years have brought frustration. Often, Seoul residents hurrying about their days ignored the women's Wednesday protests. But the women would not give up: They sweated through Seoul's steamy summers and bundled up against snow squalls during the cruel winter months.
"No matter how bad the situation got, or how bad the weather, I never wanted to quit," said Kang Il-chul, 84.
Over the months, 100 protests passed, then 500. Some women traveled to Washington to testify before the U.S. Congress. Still, they contend, their demands for justice went unanswered.
In 1995, Japan's prime minister offered to establish a $1-billion victims fund. The women rejected the overture because the money came from private donations and not the government.
The women know time is running out. This week, another former comfort woman died of declining health, bringing the year's death toll to 16. Today, they number just 64, with some living at a House of Sharing established by philanthropists.
Kang vowed to fight on. "I have seen many of my fellow victims of sexual slavery die over the years of struggle," she said. "I cannot stop this. I will fight until the day I die."
On this day, the women unveiled a life-size bronze rendering of a young girl about the age they would have been when they were taken as slaves. They left it across the street from the embassy, so Japanese officials would think of them each time they looked out.
The women said they placed the statue with the South Korean government's support. But the Japanese were irked by the move.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura called the statue "extremely regrettable," according to news reports. The topic would be unavoidable at a summit scheduled this weekend in Japan between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Fujimura said.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it relayed a complaint by Japan about the statue to the protesters.
Taxi driver Choi Hyung-soo said he did not expect the women's protests to make much difference.
"I respect what these women are doing," he said. "But the Japanese are just turning their heads. They're waiting for these women to die off."
Local expert presses single U.S. child-abuse reporting law
by Andrew Conte
The federal government should set standard national requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and increase funding for investigating claims, a local expert told federal lawmakers Tuesday.
State laws vary on when doctors, teachers and others must report suspected abuse, Anthony Mannarino, director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital, said in written testimony for a Senate subcommittee.
"What's a mandated report in West Virginia may not be a mandated report in Pennsylvania and vice versa," Mannarino told the Tribune-Review. "So I think standardization of the laws will just result in a clearer understanding nationally about what we're supposed to do."
Mannarino, the past president of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, submitted his testimony for a Washington hearing by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, which looked at ways to prevent abuse and help child victims.
Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, helped organize the hearing after child sex abuse charges were filed against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Casey has proposed federal legislation that would require every American adult to report suspicions of abuse to police or child protective authorities, as is the law in 18 states. Pennsylvania -- which is not one of those states -- requires doctors, nurses, other licensed professionals and staff members of public or private institutions who come in contact with children to report suspected abuse.
"In states like Pennsylvania, most people impose a moral duty," Casey said, "while in those 18 states, it's an actual legal duty."
Congress weighs in on child sexual abuse, promises tougher laws
by ERIKA BOLSTAD --
He never thought anyone would believe him, said Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and child sexual abuse victim.
The hockey star - he played for the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames - told a Senate panel Tuesday that the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his coach as a junior player took 10 years for him to report.
"Why didn't I say anything?" Kennedy said. "This is the question that I asked myself again, and again, and again. It's the question I know everyone else was asking. And it's the question that plagues the millions of sexual abuse victims around the world."
There often are adults who have gut feelings that something is wrong, Kennedy said, but they do nothing because they're worried about getting involved or because they assume the authorities will take care of it.
In his case, his abuser was someone who in Canada had nearly God-like status, Kennedy said. It is not much different than the status of Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, who is accused of multiple counts of abuse.
"And that's what pedophiles and predators are counting on," said Kennedy, who called on Congress to find a way to empower adults to do more. "They are counting on the public's ignorance or - worse yet - their indifference. That's what keeps abusers in business. And that, senators, is what you have to address."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who asked for the hearing, called sexual abuse the "ultimate betrayal" of a child's trust. It happens when adults fail, Casey told the committee, and he has proposed legislation that holds adults more accountable for reporting sex crimes against children.
Although prompted by the Penn State scandal, Tuesday's hearing focused instead on ways to protect, intervene and deter abuse, said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., a former child neglect social worker in Baltimore and the chairwoman of the Children and Families subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Mikulski said there were too many examples where children had been double victims - first at the time of the abuse, and then when abuse is overlooked, ignored or covered up, particularly in cases where there's an effort to protect institutions considered beyond reproach or "too big to fail."
"We want to break that code of silence," she said. "No institution should ever be too big to report, or too famous to report, and no adult should ever feel they are protected because of the brand they represent.
"Every adult has a responsibility to a child," she said. "If you see something, and you know something, then report it. Do something."
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., urged wider use of criminal background checks, but he warned that offenders who are unknown are the greatest threat. "It is adults with whom the greatest responsibility of breaking the silence rests," he said.
The committee met the same day as Sandusky appeared in court and waived a preliminary hearing. Sandusky, who in 1977 founded The Second Mile charity for at-risk youth, faces 52 charges that he sexually abused 10 boys between 1994 and 2009.
So many people asked to testify at the Senate hearing that the committee had to turn down some high-profile advocates, including Lauren Book, a Florida woman and victim of sexual abuse whose prevention curriculum is being implemented in all Florida kindergarten classes in January.
Book, who submitted a written statement to the committee, called for legislation that would use federal funding to universities as a hammer to compel child abuse reporting. She also suggested administrative, civil and criminal penalties for failing to report, or for preventing another person from reporting. Also, since campus sexual assaults in general may not get proper investigation and prosecution because of overly close relationships between universities and campus police departments, she called for the ability of federal prosecutors to investigate such crimes.
"The Penn State and Syracuse tragedies are either a national wakeup call and teaching moment or a lost opportunity," Book said. "How we respond as a society, as a government and as individuals will demonstrate whether we truly value children or are willing to let them continue to be a commodity to be exploited."
Apathy -- The Assistant Coach of Child Sexual Abuse
by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said, “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.” Children that have been sexually abused know what he means. That sense of excellence and worth many consider to be a birthright of childhood is tragically altered the moment a child is abused.
When criminal acts occur in the sports arena, a place parents trust their children will be safe, this breech of innocence requires game-changing reform.
In recent weeks, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has had child rape charges filed against him and Syracuse University has fired basketball coach Bernie Fine for similar allegations of molestation.
In both instances the abuse appears to have occurred over years. Unfortunately, these cases are familiar; however, a new element is emerging in our national discussion of child abuse: the role of the passive bystander as accomplice.
Coach Paterno's disregard of abuse allegations and patterns of problematic behavior calls into question the roles of community leaders. Athletic departments that turn the other way, lawmakers not legislating for stricter penalties against predators or neighbors who suspect abuse but share suspicions only after a child has been killed or abused are all culpable.
In Fine's case prominent news organizations reportedly sat on the allegations for years. As they sit on the sidelines, they clear the playing-field for abuse.
With the spotlight on sports-related crime against children, we need to take this opportunity to make significant progress in the fight against child abuse.
It starts by recognizing that everyone has a responsibility to protect our children. Childhelp asks readers to get off the bench and report, educate and fight the epidemic of child abuse that exists in all of our communities. Many people see signs of abuse but refuse to come forward fearing they might be wrong. We say “risk making a mistake for the love of a child.”
According to a survey by Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, child sexual abuse is rarely identified. An estimated 3% of child sexual abuse cases are actually reported. When in doubt, act for the child and contact proper authorities. Dial 911, contact CPS or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD/1-800-422-4453).
We make sure children wear proper knee pads and headgear to protect them during games but education is their best safety equipment for playing offense against child sexual abuse.
Learn what sexual abuse looks like. Physical indicators include: difficulty walking/sitting, torn/bloody undergarments, and genital pain/discharge/swelling. Behavioral indicators are: age-inappropriate sexual knowledge, delinquent activity, sleep disorders, withdrawal and self-abuse.
Even without signs, listen to children closely. Often boys and girls share subtle hints that someone in their social sphere is dangerous.
Teach children about the actions of perpetrators to ensure they are not being "groomed" for abuse. While most who work with kids are good-hearted, predators also flock to child-focal activities. Ninety percent of sexually abused children are victims of someone they know. The Childhelp “Speak Up, Be Safe!” prevention curriculum asserts that children must trust that “funny feeling” in their stomachs when something is wrong.
Educating yourself and your child about the signs of abuse will help to keep kids safe.
What has happened to the kids at Penn State and Syracuse is unimaginable and unforgivable, but we need to use the lessons of these tragedies to ensure that it won't happen again.
Make legislating for children's rights a key voting issue. We need passionate constituencies that support systems moving towards solutions. We need tough laws against predators, prosecutors pushing for convictions and judges applying harsh penalties, but most importantly we need the public to get off the sidelines and report, educate and fight abuse or our children will always remain vulnerable.
Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson are the founders of Childhelp a nationwide non-profit dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse.
NEW BRUNSWICK – Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey and the NJ Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse formally announced the selection of three local coalitions to replicate the “Enough Abuse” campaign throughout the state on Thursday, Dec. 8, on the steps of the State House in Trenton:
- Project Self-Sufficiency (Warren and Sussex Counties)
- PEI Kids (Mercer County)
- Wynona's House (Newark)
“We're here today to shift the conversation, to ask the question: what can be done to prevent a single child from ever being abused in the first place?” said Rush Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey. “And we're proud to announce that New Jersey is now leading the way in the effort to prevent child sexual abuse before it ever happens.”
Representatives from each site discussed their roles in taking on the task of educating all adults in their local communities – leaders, faith-based organizations, public officials, parents, educators, etc. – about how important prevention is, and how exactly it can and will be done through local training and outreach.
Reverend Darrell Armstrong, recently voted to the board of directors for Prevent Child Abuse America, led a prayer for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Dr. Allison Blake, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, spoke of the Department's support for the initiative, which will provide all parents with “the valuable skills needed to prevent abuse overall”. Dr. Martin Finkel and Dr. Esther Deblinger of the CARES Institute spoke of the ease with which parents speak to their children about seatbelt and water safety, but have a difficult time discussing our rights to personal space, a discussion that needs to change. Keith Smith, a survivor of childhood sexual violence, spoke of his support for the initiative, which he described as “a revolutionary transformation in the way we protect our children from sexual abuse.”
Also showing their support for the new initiative were state legislators representing the three sites' communities and members of the NJ Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
The Enough Abuse Campaign is a grassroots movement that provides adults and communities with the knowledge and skills they need to put an end to the silence surrounding child sexual abuse. The Enough Abuse Campaign was pioneered by the Massachusetts Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership and has been endorsed by the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Center for Disease Control as a “groundbreaking effort”, and one that “breaks the mold” in prevention efforts and strategies.
Predators can control victims for years: experts
Psychological manipulation used to 'make victim feel like the guilty ones'
by MAX HARROLD
The mind grip sexual aggressors can have on their victims may last for decades and force the victims to suffer in silence - or even to suppress the memories - as well as poison the victims' romantic relationships, experts who deal with victims say.
Breaking the silence can reboot a person's existence and enable them, perhaps for the first time, to relate in a balanced, healthy way, sexual assault survivor Alain Jobidon said.
Yet that breakthrough may never occur or come only after a long, painful process - one that female victims are more familiar with and one that male victims are just now catching up with.
Jobidon, 49, founded the Resource and Intervention Center for Men Sexually Abused in their Childhood (known by its French acronym, CRIPHASE) after he first started talking - at age 40 - about the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a boyfriend of his mother's when he was 7, 8 and 9.
Jobidon said it's not surprising high-profile sexual assaults in the news lately are making people question why some victims stay silent so long, even while the aggressor may continue to victimize others. But there are strong, deep-rooted reasons for the silence, he said.
"My uncle asked me just last year why I didn't say anything when I was younger," Jobidon said. "The truth is aggressors have the ability to make victims feel like the guilty ones."
The aggressor might say "it's your fault. You excited me, you sat on my lap.' So the child might think 'maybe it was my fault.' "
Adding to the conflict in the child's mind is that some aspects of the abuse may seem enjoyable at the time, he said. "Not all aggressors are violent," Jobidon said. "Some are gentle. Occasionally a boy may have ejaculated and he may wonder if perhaps it's because he liked it.
"It is all part of a powerful psychological manipulation that makes the victim feel ashamed of having participated in something like that. It can stay with him right into adulthood."
Jobidon said his aggressor sexually assaulted him and his older brother a few times a week for three years. As an adult Jobidon's relationships with women never succeeded, he added.
"How many times did I have girlfriends who said 'why can't we just sit on the sofa and watch TV and be affectionate? It always has to go right to sex.' " The victim learns as a child that affection equals sex so he sexualizes everything, Jobidon said.
"Only in recent years do I understand more about friendship and social intimacy. If a woman hugs me and pats my butt I no longer immediately think she wants to have sex with me."
Jobidon at first did not believe it was important to confront his aggressor. Four or five years ago, he reconsidered, mainly to be certain the man wasn't still assaulting people, he said. But a few weeks later he learned the man had died.
Some victims who were very young - under 5 - when they were assaulted may push whatever memories they had of the assault into their subconscious, another expert said.
François Viau, a sexologist who works with CRIPHASE, said the experience of being sexually assaulted may be "such a shock for the child that he can't process what is going on.
"I have people who say they have very little recollection of their assaults yet their throats are scarred or deformed by them."
A child's silence may be sealed by the perpetrator's position in the family. "Are they going to denounce the father who provides for them, or the uncle beloved by the whole family?"
The memory can be submerged to the point where only an upheaval in adulthood will make it surface, like drug abuse, losing a job or the separation of a spousal relationship, Viau said.
Witnesses of sexual assault may not report it because of certain myths, he explained. "If I see my buddy who is a coach sexually assaulting a teenager, the myths are that if a teenager is not OK with that he will defend himself or that in some way he wants it. Why would he go back or why doesn't he quit the team?
"They are justifications, but there are never any good ones."
Deborah Trent, director of the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre, said female victims have a lot of the same damage that male victims do, and it can take years to heal.
"This could lead to a woman covering up so she doesn't have to deal with things," Trent said. "She may want to drink, take drugs, eat, be promiscuous. She wants to cover up those feelings."
The importance of witnesses of sexual assault speaking out cannot be understated, Trent said. What is at stake is a young person's ability to be comfortable and trust others, she said. "To be able to form positive adult relationships you have to have good childhood relationships."
More victims of abuse are coming forward
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With recent, high profile child sex abuse cases making headlines more and more victims are coming forward to tell their stories.
Since November, when the Penn State case broke and the others that followed, sexual abuse centers in the Midlands have seen a 17 percent spike in people needing their services.
Statewide it's up about 30 to 40 percent and experts say they're happy victims are getting the help they need.
SCCADVASA's executive director Pamela Jacobs says the recent headlines are shining a light on what has always been a reality.
"One in six boys will actually be a victim of sexual abuse and one in three girls," said Jacobs. "So the numbers are very high. Many people will have experienced this as a child and hopefully will now have the courage and know that people are available to help if they choose to reach out.
Jacobs says the last time SCCADVASA saw an increase like this was back in 2010, when Tyler Perry talked about being sexually abused on the Oprah Winfrey show.
"We saw a huge increase in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse especially men coming forward and saying now that I see someone who I look up to come out and speak about this I now feel safe to do the same," said Jacobs.
If you or someone you know needs to report any type of sexual abuse you can contact the sexual trauma services of the Midlands. The Richland and Lexington County number is 803-771-7273 and the Newberry and Sumter number is 1-800-491-7373.
Surviving Hanukkah: Jewish Survivors of Child Abuse
Hanukkah is for many a time filled with wonderful memories of rushing around to purchase gifts and cards for loved ones; of families and friends getting together, lighting the Menorah, eating potato pancakes, and singing the traditional songs.
However, for survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), this festive time can be a time where painful memories reemerge.
It is not unusual for survivors to need to make decisions about how to best keep themselves safe during the holidays: some may need to spend time with friends who understand their conflicted emotions toward the holiday, some may need to limit their time with their families, while others may not feel safe spending he holiday with family at all.
Even for those who make alternative plans, there is often a sense of loss of the loving, healthy family they never had or the memories they wish they had.
Hanukah--like other times where families traditionally get together--can be a difficult time for those who no longer have contact with family members due to the degree of dysfunction that was (and often still is) in their family.
Child Abuse: New US Data Shows Continuing Drop
NEW YORK -- Fears that persisting economic woes would increase child abuse in the U.S. have proved unfounded, according to the latest federal data.
A comprehensive new report, to be formally unveiled Wednesday, shows overall abuse and neglect figures declining slightly between 2008 and 2010, and child fatalities dropping by 8.5 percent during that span.
"The recession hasn't had the draconian effect that some feared," said Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice and an expert on child welfare. "The doom and gloom predictions haven't come true."
The annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services said the estimated number of victimized children dropped from 716,000 in the 2008 fiscal year, when the recession began, to 695,000 in 2010. That's down from 825,000 in 2006.
The rate of abuse – factoring in cases where some children were abused more than once during the year – was 10 per 1,000 children, down from 10.3 in 2008, to reach the lowest level since the current tracking system began in 1990.
The number of fatalities from abuse and neglect has dropped markedly, from an estimated 1,720 in 2008 and 1,750 in 2009 to 1,560 last year. About 80 percent of those killed were 3 or younger.
Overall, 78 percent of victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.2 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 63,527 children who were sexually abused in 2010 – a drop from 65,964 in 2009 and down more than 55 percent from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. According to its data, about 80 percent of abuse perpetrators are parents, and 6 percent are other relatives of the victims.
Federal officials welcomed the new data, but added words of caution.
"We are heartened to see maltreatment on the decline, but even one child being a victim of abuse and neglect is too many," said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. "The report reminds us of the continuing need for investment in prevention efforts and the importance of coordination between federal, state and local agencies."
Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, said some of the new data might reflect methodological changes as well as lower levels of abuse. For example, the number of abuse-related child fatalities in California dropped in part because the state changed the parameters for how it tallied them.
Finkelhor also noted that a recent study led by Dr. Rachel Berger of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh documented an increase in head-trauma injuries to infants during the recession.
Overall, however, Finkelhor said the federal report was evidence of a sustained decrease in the prevalence of serious child abuse.
"It shows that whatever processes are involved in the decline are fairly deeply rooted, so they aren't being reversed by the considerable adversity that families are experiencing," he said.
Among the likely factors, he suggested, are greater public awareness about child abuse, wider use of psychiatric medications by adults who might have abusive tendencies, and more knowledge among parents of good child-rearing practices.
"No one should take this as a sign of victory, but it is encouraging and suggests that the things we've been doing are helping, and we should be doing more of them," Finkelhor said.
Gelles, the University of Pennsylvania professor, noted that a range of social problems did not worsen during the recent recession, despite some fears to the contrary – the overall crime rate was down, for example, and welfare caseloads did not surge.
"Economic disadvantage in the U.S. may not be so bad that it has a one-to-one relationship with the abuse of children," Gelles said. "The life preservers still function."
Child sex abuse has been in the national spotlight because of the Penn State scandal, in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with abusing 10 boys over more than a decade. Reacting to the scandal, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the nation's child abuse laws. Among the proposals to be discussed is one by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., seeking to ensure that states require all adults to report suspected child abuse, not just certain professionals such as doctors, teachers and social workers.
Such professionals accounted for 60 percent of abuse reports documented in the new federal survey.
Some child-welfare experts say it would be counterproductive to require all adults – most without any training – to report suspected child abuse because it could overload child protection agencies with dubious cases. Already, about four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of abuse, according to the federal report.
Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, which seeks to reduce the number of children unnecessarily placed in foster care, said the new report suggests that child welfare agencies have become more sophisticated in distinguishing between children endangered by neglect and those who are simply disadvantaged by poverty.
"Notwithstanding the hype about what the recession would do, there has been no increase in physical abuse," Wexler wrote in a commentary. "And notwithstanding the post-Penn State paranoia suggesting there is a child molester under every bed, there was no increase in sexual abuse either."
Penn State scandal: Senators demand stronger child abuse laws
As Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing in a Pennsylvania courtroom, Washington lawmakers Tuesday called for stronger child-abuse reporting laws. They made their demands at the first Capitol Hill hearing growing out of the Penn State scandal.
"This senator takes the position that no institution should ever be too big to report or too famous to report" child abuse "and no adult should ever feel that they're protected because of the brand that they represent," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Senate health, education, labor and pensions subcommittee on children and families.
The hearing was called in response to a bevy of bills introduced in the wake of the Penn State scandal to require that anyone witnessing child abuse report it to law enforcement or a child protection agency.
"If you see something, you should say something," said Mikulski, a onetime child neglect social worker.
Thirty-two states do not require all adults to report suspected child abuse or neglect; instead, many states have in place a requirement that people with regular contact with children, such as healthcare providers and teachers, must report abuse.
There was scant mention of the scandals at Penn State and Syracuse , but the accusations of child sexual abuse against former assistant coaches at the colleges have put child abuse on Congress' agenda.
Frank P. Cervone, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Support Center for Child Advocates, told the committee that he has had dozens of conversations in recent weeks about which of the Penn State officials were required to report allegations of abuse.
"This ought to be clear to everyone," he said.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former professional hockey player who was abused during his teenage years by his coach, told the committee that his abuser was International Hockey Man of the Year.
"In Canada, that gave him almost godlike status. Sound familiar?" he told the committee.
Kennedy, who co-founded Respect Group Inc. to work to prevent child abuse, said that in child abuse cases, including his own, "there are people who had a gut feeling that something was wrong but didn't do anything about it. Their attitude was, "I don't want to get involved," "It's not my problem," "He couldn't possibly be doing that" or "the authorities will take care of it."
"That's what keeps child abusers in business," he told the committee. "And that, senators, is what you have to address."
Proposals to deny federal funds to states that fail to enact stronger child-abuse reporting laws drew criticism. "The safety of children should never be used as a leverage to require state action," Erin Sullivan Sutton , assistant commissioner for children and family services for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said in written testimony.
The hearing produced calls for better training for recognizing child abuse. "Since the vast majority of abuse is occurring so close to home, it is critical that we train and empower adults to know the signs of abuse and to know what to do when they see it or suspect it," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the panel's top Republican.
Even with child abuse in the spotlight, it remains uncertain whether Congress will pass legislation, especially since efforts to ramp up funding for child abuse educational programs could face resistance at a time of high budget deficits.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has introduced legislation to strenghthen requirements for reporting child abuse, cited the 1997 case of Sherrice Iverson, a 7-year-old from Los Angeles who was molested and killed in a Nevada casino bathroom. The attacker's friend witnessed the beginning of the assault but never reported it to police or tried to intervene.
She introduced legislation in 1998 to require states to enact laws that would make it a crime for a witness to fail to report the sexual abuse of a child. But "nothing happened,'' she said Tuesday, noting that the bill died.
"It is time to act to protect children nationwide,'' she said. "Just as we came together in 1994 to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act, we should now work together to pass a Violence Against Children Act.''
Sandusky, Penn State's former defensive coordinator, faces more than 50 charges stemming from accusations that he molested at least 10 boys. The scandal led to the firing of the university's president and head football Coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky has denied wrongdoing.
Jerry Sandusky defense plays strategy card in waiving hearing
The confrontation between Jerry Sandusky and those who accuse the former Penn State assistant football coach of child abuse has been put off for a while, with the defendant on Tuesday suddenly waiving his right
to a preliminary hearing.
The move was a surprise only because the defense had unexpectedly insisted on the rare proceeding in the first place, and the rationale behind Tuesday's action seemed to be more in the realm of public relations than legal tactics.
In televised news conferences Tuesday, Sandusky's lawyer, Joseph Amendola, vowed to fight on. "There will be no plea negotiations," Amendola told reporters. "This is a fight to the death."
In interviews with NBC News and the New York Times, Sandusky has denied any wrongdoing although he has admitted showering with boys. As he left the Bellefonte, Pa., courthouse Tuesday, he told reporters that he would "stay the course, to fight for four quarters" and "wait for the opportunity to present our side."
The former coach is accused of more than 50 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over approximately 12 years. Some of the boys are connected to a charity Sandusky founded, and some of the acts took place at Penn State, according to a grand jury report.
The case has roiled the Penn State campus and dealt a major blow to the football program. Legendary head coach Joe Paterno was forced out, as was college President Graham Spanier. Two university officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz, have been charged with perjury.
But the focus has remained on Sandusky and his criminal case. When someone is charged in a grand jury finding, the usual procedure is to go straight to arraignment and eventual trial on the charges, unless the parties come to a plea deal. But the defendant does have the option of a preliminary hearing, designed to force the prosecution to show a judge that there is indeed enough evidence to support the need for a criminal trial.
A preliminary hearing, also known as a probable-cause hearing, can serve as a check on an overzealous prosecutor who misuses a compliant grand jury to bring unsubstantiated charges. As Sol Wachtler, a noted New York jurist famously noted, a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he wanted.
But defense attorneys usually waive a preliminary hearing because the prosecution has a low standard of proof at such proceedings. It does not have to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt -– that's the standard for a trial jury. The prosecution needs to only present enough evidence to establish a probable cause that makes a trial worthwhile –- a much lower standard.
There are reasons to insist on a preliminary hearing in high-profile cases, however. It does offer the defense a chance to see some of the prosecution's witnesses before they testify at trial. Although the defense gets the transcripts of the testimony before the grand jury and other statements to authorities, a look at a real person can help a lawyer plan a cross-examination strategy.
But a preliminary hearing also has potential drawbacks for the defense.
Depending on how the prosecution handled the witnesses, Sandusky could have had to listen to a parade of accusers without getting a good chance to rebut their testimony. In an already highly charged case, that could have been a major public relations problem.
Amendola told reporters that Sandusky waived the hearing to head off a repeat of the child- sexual-abuse allegations, which "really would have left us with the worst of all worlds."
At his news conference, senior deputy Atty. Gen. E. Marc Costanzo said the defense move was unexpected but not unusual.
"This development, we believe, provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case," Costanzo said. "It avoids their having to testify for a second time. They will, of course, testify at a trial in the case."
Drugs, alcohol fuel child abuse and neglect in Kentucky
by Bill Estep, Beth Musgrave and Valarie Honeycutt Spears
When a little boy reportedly fell off the deck of a house in Lincoln County in July 2009 and hit his head, his mother and her boyfriend were drunk, according to a report by a state child-protection worker.
There was no food in the filthy house, but there were pill bottles, beer cans and needles lying around, and blood on the child's bed.
The mother, who allegedly had tested positive for painkillers and cocaine in late 2004 and March 2005, went missing for three days while the boy lay gravely injured with a fractured skull.
When caseworkers found her, she was drunk and apparently lied about where she was when her son was hurt, the report said.
The boy died July 31, 2009. An autopsy showed he had bruises and bite marks that happened before his fatal injury.
"It was apparent that the child had been abused over a long period of time," the report concluded.
The case points to a troubling reality: When children are abused or neglected in Kentucky, substance abuse often plays a role.
A Lexington Herald-Leader review of files released this week on children killed or nearly killed because of abuse or neglect over a two-year period found that more than half mentioned suspected or confirmed substance abuse by parents or caregivers.
The newspaper analyzed internal reviews that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is required by law to complete.
There were 85 such cases in 2009 and 2010. The cabinet released the files Monday under order from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd after the Herald-Leader and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal sued to get access to them. However, the state redacted the names of many children and their caregivers before releasing the documents.
About 59 percent of the cabinet's internal reviews mention substance abuse by parents or caregivers.
The substance abuse allegedly happened before the incident under review in some cases, but in at least 19 of the 85 deaths and near-deaths, drug or alcohol use was mentioned in connection with the incident.
The number was even higher in the 35 death cases. Of those, 29 included information about drug or alcohol use by parents or caregivers.
Examples of the link between abuse of drugs and alcohol and abuse or neglect of children in 2009 and 2010 included a mother who admitted taking an anti-anxiety drug before she rolled over on her little girl while asleep, asphyxiating her.
In another case, a man with financial problems drank all day before shooting a 3-year-old boy to death in February 2009 and then killing himself, according to the case review.
The state's review of a February 2010 beating death of a 23-month-old Powell County girl noted that after the mother's boyfriend moved in, their drug abuse "skyrocketed."
An autopsy showed the girl had a broken clavicle, a broken rib, a detached aorta, a laceration of the liver, hemorrhaging in her eye and multiple bruises. The mother, whom authorities said beat the child, tested positive for drugs, the report said.
The reports also note several cases in which adults gave children drugs or alcohol, or failed to prevent children from getting access to those substances.
In one case in May 2010, a boy nearly died after he apparently ate some of his mother's methadone, one case file said. The mother's explanation — that the 3-year-old apparently got her purse from atop the clothes dryer and opened the child-proof bottle of pills — "is unfeasible," a state caseworker concluded.
In another May 2010 case, a Northern Kentucky man acknowledged encouraging his 2-year-old stepdaughter to take sips of iced tea spiked with gin. When she was taken to the hospital, unresponsive, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.259, the report said. That is more than three times the legal driving limit in Kentucky.
The link between substance abuse and child abuse or neglect is an issue nationwide, experts told the newspaper.
People who work in the child-welfare field have said that 75 percent or more of abuse and neglect cases across the country involve substance abuse, said Linda Carpenter, who is program director at the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare and works with practitioners nationwide.
"It plays a significant role," Carpenter said.
Research has shown the most significant factors in chronic neglect of children are mental-health issues, substance abuse and poverty on the part of caregivers, she said.
Substance abuse is a particular problem because studies have shown that maltreated children of parents who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to have physical, emotional and intellectual problems, according to studies cited by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information.
Substance abuse leads to more instances of child neglect than physical or sexual abuse, according to studies and experts. The reason is simple. Adults who are impaired, or preoccupied with chasing their next high, are less likely to attend to the needs of their children, and they spend often-limited resources on drugs or alcohol.
That is a particular problem among people using methamphetamine, said Dan Smoot, deputy director of Operation UNITE, which investigates drug trafficking and provides treatment and education in southern and Eastern Kentucky.
"Every house you go in, the toilets are clogged, there's no food, the house is tossed upside down," Smoot said. "The only thing the parents care about is fueling that addiction. The kids, as always, are the biggest losers."
Robert Walker, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and researcher at UK's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, said there is a link between poverty and substance abuse.
Many parents using drugs don't have a good understanding to begin with about what is harmful to a child in terms of nutrition and other issues, Walker said.
"A lot of these parents come themselves from pretty limited backgrounds," he said.
One federal agency estimated that in 2007-08, Kentucky tied for the second-highest percentage of people 12 and older who had taken part in non-medical use of pain relievers.
The 2009 Kentucky Treatment Outcomes Study found that misuse of one type of painkiller, called opiates, had gone up 60 percent over five years, according to Operation UNITE.
Congress became so concerned a few years ago about the link between substance abuse and child welfare that it approved funding for states to address the issue, said Carpenter.
Kentucky got two of the grants, one for a program in Frankfort and the other for a program in the Hazard area aimed at helping people with their substance-abuse and child-welfare problems, Carpenter said. However, the money available to deal with families facing those dual issues falls far short of the need, she said.
"There's very little money that's been allocated to deal with these families," Carpenter said. "Kentucky doesn't begin to have the substance-abuse treatment services that are needed to support these families."
Kentucky cabinet officials told legislators in December that providing treatment and services for drug-addicted parents was its most pressing funding need, but three years of declining state revenue have meant no new money to expand substance abuse programs.
Legislators are set to tackle the state's two-year budget in January. Although state tax revenue has improved during the past year, there still is little or no money for new programs, legislative leaders have warned.
Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, who serves on a key health budget subcommittee, said Tuesday he would like to see the state examine its substance-abuse programs and determine what works. Lee said his legislative staff had found that the state receives a combined $145 million in federal and state money to address substance abuse, but the programs are operated by a variety of agencies.
"Right now we have no idea how effective our substance-abuse treatment programs are" he said. "We need to know how we're spending the money we already have."
On the Lookout for the Subtle Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
by Christine Ziegler
As we watch the story of the sexual abuse scandals unfold at Penn State and now Syracuse, the first response for many was shock and concern for the boys who lives were so profoundly affected.
In speaking with many parents, the next response was “could this happen to my kid, and would I know if it did?”
It is a mistake to assume they would tell us, if something like this happened to our kids. Most children who suffer this kind of abuse never tell their parents. If the child is very young they may stay silent simply because they just don't understand what has happened to them. It is also common that the victim may assume that if something this awful happened to them, they somehow must have deserved it. Of course no child ever “deserves” this treatment.
Probably the most important thing we can do as parents is to keep the lines of communication open. Kids who feel they can freely communicate with their parents are more likely to tell their parents if abuse occurs. For the most part, though, kids are unlikely to tell us about abuse.
With that in mind, then, here are some behavioral and physical indicators to alert parents that abuse might have occurred.
General behavioral indicators can include sudden changes in mood, problems with peer relationships, or poor performance in school. You may also see a sudden reluctance to communicate.
Of course these changes don't always mean sexual abuse has occurred, but they can signal the need to pay closer attention to what's happening in your child's life.
Watch for any signs of regressive behavior, such as bedwetting or thumb sucking. If your child suddenly demonstrates a fear of being left alone, fear of a specific person, or says they no longer want to visit a friend or family member they have never had a problem with in the past, you should talk with your child to find out what is behind these new fears.
Depression and self-imposed social isolation can also signal problems that need to be addressed. More obvious and disturbing behavioral indicators include public masturbation (past 5 years old, it is uncommon to see this in public unless the kid has been abused) inappropriate knowledge of adult sexual behaviors, or the attempt to perform these acts on other children, adults, pets or dolls. Other behaviors can include nightmares, setting fires, cruelty to animals or attempts at self-mutilation. These more severe behaviors typically emerge over time, often as the abuse continues undetected. These are the kind of problems that are often reported by others outside the family and can escalate into criminal behavior with time and lack of attention.
Physical indicators can be distressing to consider but some are actually easier to identify, especially in younger children who tend to still feel comfortable bathing or showering with parental supervision. If the level of comfort with this type of parental supervision changes, that in and of itself, should send up a red flag. Beyond that if you notice any reddening, swelling, or infection in the genital or anal area you should seek immediate medical attention for the child. While you have your child at the doctors office ask him or her for advise and a referral for a child abuse mental health professional.
Older kids and teenagers are more difficult to check for physical indicators. Look for changes in or pain when sitting down or walking. Bloody, stained, ripped underwear, or a sudden reduction in how much underwear your child has are all things that should raise your suspicions. Ask about bruises, black and blue marks, or anything that looks like a bite mark. Unfortunately abusers tend to target the torso, buttocks, or breasts making it less likely that the abuse will be discovered. Should any of these indicators appear seek medical and psychological help for your child right away.
The best way to protect our kids is to keep them talking. Open, honest communication established in the early years will help them realize they can and should talk to their parents about everything.
As kids enter adolescence less open discussion is a natural part of becoming a teenager. Don't let that stop you. Establish the ground rules and continue to monitor your teen without being intrusive. Insisting that you know where your teen is, who they are with, and that they honor their curfew is not intrusive. These sorts of maturity demands send a message to your teen that you continue to care about them even though they are becoming more independent.
Our children count on us for guidance and protection. Knowing some of the indicators of sexual abuse may help us with both of these goals.
Jerry Sandusky case prompts more conversations at schools about child abuse
by IVEY DEJESUS
The timing was purely coincidental.
The same week that the stunning child sex abuse scandal rocked Penn State University , Livia Riley, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Harrisburg, had scheduled a meeting of all athletic coaches to review conduct and the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse .
The training represented another effort on the part of the Diocese to drill home its zero-tolerance policy against child abuse. In the years after a clergy child sexual abuse scandal embroiled the Roman Catholic Church, the Diocese had ratcheted up procedures to protect children.
“We talked about timely issues on ethical conduct, communication skills and diocesan policy,” Riley said. “Even the bishop spoke.”
At the Carlisle Area School District, superintendent John W. Friend seized the opportunity amid the national media attention brought by the charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky to review with senior administrative staff the policy that mandates all school employees to report suspected child abuse.
“This is a pretty big deal,” Friend said of Penn State fallout. “It's got a lot of attention. We used it as learning experience for us and reviewed it then pushed it down to the schools.”
Joseph V. Kristobak, superintendent of the Cornwall-Lebanon School District, said his staff was clear on the expectations, but he still gathered them recently for another primer.
“Look at what happens when you ignore it,” he said. “You never want that to happen at your school.”
Never an issue far removed from school agendas, the topic of child sexual abuse has been a priority conversation in schools as educators this month sign off on one of the latest amendments to the law that requires anyone whose occupation brings them into contact with children to report any suspected child abuse to authorities.
The scandal that has thrust Penn State front and center of the nation's attention has prompted educators to revisit the nuances of mandatory reporting , focusing attention on what constitutes abuse and when should a teacher blow the whistle.
“I think Pennsylvania has pretty good requirements,” said Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the largest teachers union. “I think everyone is on the same page. We don't want anyone in schools who would be a danger to students, staff or anyone in the community. We want qualified, excellent educators in front of every classroom.”
Schools play a critical role in the protection of children.
According to the state Department of Public Welfare, last year, mandated reporters — teachers, principals, nurses, doctors, priests, etc. — reported 77 percent of all suspected abuse reports, referring 18,972 reports of suspected abuse.
Sexual abuse was involved in 54 percent of all substantiated reports of child abuse.
Schools have consistently reported the highest number of total reports from mandated reporters. Last year, schools reported 6,921 cases of suspected child abuse. Of those, 389 cases were substantiated, leading to the removal of 965 children from abusive situations.
“I've never seen or heard of an educator that backed away from that responsibility,” said Crossey, who spent 34 years as an educator in Allegheny County.
School employees this month sign off on background disclosures that must report any prior arrests or convictions pertaining to child abuse. Whether school staff can be fired for something that happened 30 years ago remains to be seen, Crossey said.
Crossey said the union was not pushing new legislation, although proposed legislation has warranted the attention of educators.
The Pennsylvania Legislature last year enacted three laws pertaining to the safety of children. The laws impact adoption cases, sibling placement and visitation and foster care situations.
Advocates have long rallied to shore up what they see as other shortcomings in state law governing child protection, pushing bills that would broaden the requirements for reporting suspected abuse to eradicating statutes of limitations.
House Bill 832 , introduced by State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, D-Philadelphia, would make it a criminal offense for any adult who has knowledge of suspected sex offenses against children to fail to report it to law enforcement.
House Bill 878 , introduced by Rep. Michael McGeehan, D-Philadelphia, would open a temporary two-year window for all past victims of sexual abuse to bring lawsuits against their assailants. Current law states that a civil claim can be brought up to 12 years after a child victim becomes an adult.
Last month, Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, introduced a bill that would require any staff member of an institution who witnesses suspected child abuse report it to appropriate authorities.
“Anything we can do to tighten up any perceived weaknesses in the law we should do,” Crossey said.
Statutes of limitation, he said, should generally be expanded to allow victims more time to report.
Crossey, however, cautioned that legislation that would make it a crime for someone not to report child abuse could prove thorny in the schools setting.
“It's a matter of interpretation,” said Crossey, who taught for 34 years in Allegheny County. “If a kid comes in and is ticked off at mom and dad he may say something and you go ‘Uhm.' But is it really abuse or is he just ticked off? I certainly don't want anyone getting away with child sexual abuse, but at the same time, I don't want people jumping the gun and reporting every little thing that comes out of a child's mouth. I think there's gotta be some qualifier.”
State targets sexual abuse of children
by Lee Morrison
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has launched a Crimes Against Children Initiative to protect children from sexual predators, and Tuscarawas County law-enforcement leaders welcome the news of additional resources.
“When I was a county prosecutor, the biggest shock to me was the cases of child sexual assaults and abuse,” DeWine said. “It was horrendous and shocking that anyone would do this.”
He said his staff began putting together a plan “a few weeks before the Penn State story broke.” Allegations of child sexual abuse by coaches at Penn State and Syracuse universities recently were highly publicized, although the incidents occurred years ago.
Detective Capt. Orvis Campbell of the Tuscarawas County Sheriff's Office said he hasn't seen an increase in reported cases in the aftermath of the university cases.
“It is bringing mandatory incident reporting issues to the forefront regarding colleges,” he said. “Without personally knowing all of the specific details, it's still very obvious that someone dropped the ball and should be ashamed of failing to investigate. If true, they're such heinous incidents that there's no type of excuse or defense for it.”
Tuscarawas County Prosecutor Ryan Styer said, “Child sexual abuse cases are undoubtedly some of the most difficult cases we work on. We always welcome any additional resources.”
DeWine said, “Pedophiles are out trolling on the Internet all the time. These sharks are trying to arrange a meeting place with kids. Our goal will be to arrest them and remove them from society.”
“At least 40 percent of those arrested for possession of child pornography have also sexually victimized children,” DeWine said, adding that one of the targets will be Internet file sharing of child pornography. “Every time it's shown, the children in it are victimized again.”
DeWine's initiative includes a new Crimes Against Children Unit of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification, with 15 experts to investigate child predator cases. They will pose as boys or girls while monitoring the Internet, looking for predators. They will help law enforcement agencies by analyzing computers, cellphones and other electronic devices for evidence.
The AG's Special Prosecutions Unit will have two attorneys dedicating their time to crimes against children.
“Our experts will be a valuable resource to local prosecutors for assistance to put more predators in prison,” DeWine said.
The AG's office is creating an internal Rapid Response Team for sex crimes committed against children, and providing specialized law enforcement training through BCI and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. Along with training, computers and software will be provided to help officers on the local level conduct proper investigations.
The AG's office also will publicize pictures of sex offenders against children and who have arrest warrants.
“Leading the news lately, we've seen horrible sexual crimes allegedly involving Ohio children and children in other states,” DeWine said. “And unfortunately, even more child sexual abuse happens that never makes news. ... (Our) goal is for each and every instance of abuse to stop. We think this initiative will go a long way in protecting children.”
Capt. Campbell said that “crime against children has always been one of Sheriff Walt Wilson's highest priorities.”
After the formation of a federal crimes against children task force, Wilson assigned Detective Cathy Bickford as his department's representative.
“She continues to work closely with that task force and efforts by Ohio and collaborating with other states to combat Internet crimes against children,” Campbell said. “She also specializes in helping investigate local child abuse cases from physical to sexual assault.”
Styer, joined first by Wilson among several county agencies, was instrumental in forming the county Child Advocacy Center in New Philadelphia.
“We continue to work closely in developing the center to build the strongest case possible against those who abuse local children,” Campbell said.
Styer said that the center is intended “to increase the collaboration among all the professionals who work on these cases so that we can provide the most appropriate response to investigating these cases.”
Campbell said accurate statistics are difficult to compile because of unreported incidents and other factors. He doesn't remember any surge in reports after past sexual abuse incidents in Tuscarawas County.
“When the community learns about abuse, especially when it involved teachers or authority figures, it does heighten awareness,” he said. “No profession is exempt from this type of predators. We all must keep our eyes open and report incidents.
“What we often hear in these cases is that people who knew the abuser are upset that they didn't recognize any signs and that they should've known sooner that something was wrong,” he said. “They may dismiss strange behavior by a child victim as ‘just being in a mood.' How long it takes for someone or the victim to report abuse varies with every victim. Often, it's someone entrusted to care for the victim, and until they reached a certain age, they grew up not knowing what happened was wrong. We've had parents sexually abuse their child throughout childhood.”
YMCAs seek help against child sex abuse
by McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – Long before the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal prompted youth organizations nationwide to re-examine how their staffs interact with children, 19 YMCAs in the Northeast were already working on the problem.
In 2010, they decided that to really reduce the incidence of child sex-abuse, it wasn't enough to better police their own workforces and workplaces. They had to train local adults outside their organizations to recognize and respond to child abuse wherever it occurred in the community. The more trained eyes and ears, the safer the neighborhood.
“This is not a YMCA problem. It's a community problem. So we cannot abuse-proof a ‘Y' until you abuse-proof a community,” said Kevin Trapani, president and chief executive of the Redwoods Group, which insures 500 YMCAs across the country.
Working with Darkness to Light, a national organization that trains adults to spot and prevent child sex abuse, Trapani helped launch the Shine the Light program last year, in which the 19 YMCAs encourage and recruit area adults to get the training.
Nearly a year later, about 40 YMCAs nationwide now have staff who teach the Darkness to Light curriculum. And interest in “Shine the Light” has been growing steadily since the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach charged with assaulting underprivileged boys he met through his charity.
“We have Ys calling every day that want to participate at some level,” said Cindy McElhinney, director of programs at Darkness to Light's Charleston, S.C., headquarters. “We're prepared and ready to help any Y that wants to take this on in their community.”
Redwoods' charitable foundation put up $100,000 to fund the initial effort and a federal matching grant added another $200,000. The program goal is for 5 percent of adults in YMCA service areas to take the three-hour training.
“At 5 percent, that's when you start to see behavior change, and that's when you start to see a cultural shift,” by improving the child-protective behaviors in adults, said Tony Calcia, vice president of child protection and social responsibility at the Hockomock Area YMCA in North Attleboro, Mass.
Over the next decade, Darkness to Light wants 12 million adults to take its Stewards of Children training. Nearly 400,000 people in 49 states already have. The training alerts adults to behaviors and improper interactions with children that could indicate child sex abuse. Participants also learn how to respond properly to those signs and how to report suspected abuse.
After reaching out to schools, churches and recreation programs, Calcia said his Y has helped more than 300 people take the training, which includes a video presentation, an interactive workbook session and a group discussion.
Like the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church and other organizations that serve young people, YMCAs across the country have faced many instances of child sex abuse involving adult staff and volunteers.
But Trapani said tougher screening, supervision and rules for YMCA employees have made it harder for staffers to “groom,” or gain the trust, of the estimated 9 million youths who take part in YMCA activities nationwide.
Classic grooming behavior, such as gift-giving, special personal attention and driving youngsters to and from YMCA activities raise red flags with “Y” administrators and result in dismissals for the first violation, Trapani said.
“So, teachers, policemen, grocery store clerks and all kinds of people in the community are now the ones that are going to see those red flags that the youth sports supervisor or the YMCA day camp director doesn't see anymore,” Trapani said. “If we teach the community what those red flags are so they know how to recognize and react to them, we abuse-proof the whole community.”
The Stewards of Children training is open to all adults, but parents are specifically targeted along with staff and volunteers of places that serve youngsters, such as schools, churches, sports organizations – and charities.
“In the State College community, if they had known that Jerry Sandusky was (allegedly) traveling with children, bringing them to hotel rooms, taking showers with them, giving them gifts and having special relationships – all classic signs of predators – they would have walled him off from those kids a long time ago. But the community didn't understand,” Trapani said.
Sex abuse allegations raise call for protection of child actors
Animals performing in movies have better safeguards, says advocate
by Kurt Orzeck
First, it was the Catholic Church. Then Penn State. Now, a new child-abuse scandal in Hollywood is raising questions over the safety of minors in the entertainment business and sparking calls for new child-labour regulations.
Martin Weiss, a longtime man-ager of young talent, was recently arrested on suspicion of child molestation after an 18-year-old former client told police he had been abused by Weiss 30 to 40 times from 2005 to 2008.
Weiss's arrest came just weeks after it was discovered that a convicted child molester and registered sex of-fender under the name Jason James Murphy was working in Hollywood and helping cast children for movie roles.
TheWrap contacted a wide array of professionals and found a mix of surprise, and those who say this type of abuse is an ongoing concern, pointing to abuse allegations over the years by actors such as the late Corey Haim and Todd Bridges.
"This problem is more pervasive than people want to believe," said Paula Dorn, co-founder of the Biz-Parentz Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the families of children working in the entertainment industry. "We have children trying to interact in an adult world."
Paul Petersen, a former child ac-tor on The Donna Reed Show and founder of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit that supports former child stars, said the situation is "worse today than it was in the '30s, and there was a lot of dirty stuff going on then."
Petersen said his group is pushing for new regulations, including background checks and fingerprinting for talent agents, and a stronger enforcement of the California Talent Agencies Act, which is intended to protect artists from contract exploitation.
"When a movie says, 'No animals were harmed during the making of this film,' how can we not have that for kids?
"We want to have the same protections internationally ... that are enjoyed by animals in the entertainment industry," said Petersen.
Child-abuse scandals aren't new to Hollywood. In recent years, several actors have alleged that they were molested or raped as child actors. Corey Feldman, a pal of the late Haim, has also alleged sexual abuse as a child actor.
"There was a circle of older men that surrounded themselves around this group of kids, and they all had their own power or connections to great power in the entertainment industry," Feldman told ABC's Night-line in August.
Feldman blamed the sexual malfeasance perpetrated by a Hollywood mogul, whom he did not identify, as the cause behind his friend Haim's death.
"The No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia," he added.
There have been other notable in-stances of sexual abuse of children in Hollywood.
Filmmaker Victor Salva served a 15-month prison term after he admitted to having oral sex with a 12-year-old while he directed the child in his 1989 movie, Clown-house.
More recently, in October, Jon & Kate Plus 8 film editor William Blankinship was charged with 10 counts of possessing child pornography.
In the wake of the Penn State scandal, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has seen a 54-per-cent increase in repor ts of sexual assaults through its Internet hotline, ac-cording to spokeswoman Katherine Hull.
And amid this increase in allegations, the entertainment industry is being identified as particularly susceptible to child abuse.
Agents, managers and child-abuse experts tell TheWrap that the parents of young talent often incorrectly assume the industry is a safe environment.
Parents often leave their children unattended during auditions or shoots. Some let their children travel with their manager or agent.
Petersen said some managers who are based outside Hollywood will arrive "with five or six kids in tow," unattended by their parents, during pilot season. The managers will rent hotel rooms or apartments and stay there with their underage clients.
Moreover, there are added pressures on children - functioning in adult-oriented environments - to succeed, regardless of the physical or emotional toll.
Like religion and athletics, Hollywood has an institutional structure that helps facilitate nefarious behaviour such as child abuse by shielding authority figures, experts say.
"People seek out being involved in Hollywood in order to get access to kids," Dorn said.
Protect detainees too
Immigrants in detention deserve the same safeguards against sexual assault as prison inmates.
December 12, 2011
When Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act, it did so in the hope of curbing sexual assaults in facilities across the country. But today, with new rules to protect prisoners being finalized, the Department of Homeland Security is demanding that immigrants held in detention centers be exempted.
That's outrageous. Of course Congress expected the law, and any regulations drafted as a result of it, to cover immigrants detained while they fight deportation cases. The plain language of the bill says so. The co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.), have said so. A federal commission created by the law convened a hearing in Los Angeles in 2006 to focus specifically on sexual abuse in immigrant detention facilities because it considered it part of its mandate.
Yet the Department of Homeland Security is now squabbling over whether it or the Department of Justice has the authority to write rules that protect immigrants.
Isn't it obvious that protecting detainees is more important than who is the boss of whom? Detained immigrants are just as vulnerable to assault as any other prisoners, yet they're especially reluctant to report it. Unlike criminal defendants, detainees have no right to a court-appointed lawyer; that means they're often left with no advocate they can turn to. They are held in remote facilities, often far from legal clinics and family. And language creates an additional barrier to reporting abuse.
None of this is news to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In fact, she has repeatedly vowed to improve conditions at detention facilities and says the agency has a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abuse. Nevertheless, between 2007 and 2011, immigrants reported nearly 200 incidents of alleged sexual abuse, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. More than a dozen of those alleged assaults took place in facilities in Southern California.
The Obama administration needs to put an end to the bureaucratic infighting. Whether the Justice Department rules are applied or Homeland Security adopts its own regulations, new protections must be established for immigrant detainees. For instance, same-sex guards should be assigned to conduct pat-downs, and there should be background checks on all guards. Detainees should be provided with up to 20 days to report an attack as part of an internal grievance system that preserves a victim's right to file a civil rights claim.
Rape is a crime. To apply the new regulations to some and not others would create a two-tier system of justice. That's not acceptable. Immigrants who are detained while they fight deportation (and who, by the way, have not generally been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime) deserve the same protections provided to criminals sentenced to maximum-security prisons.
Orthodox Child Sex Abuse Details Revealed: Report
Brooklyn Prosecutors Confirm Forward's Reports of Arrests
Brooklyn prosecutors say authorities have arrested 85 people in the Orthodox Jewish community on child sex abuse charges in the past three years, the New York Post reported Sunday, confirming earlier reports in the Forward.
Prosecutors in the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes told the Post that 38 of the sex cases had been closed so far, with 14 convictions. The suspects got jail time ranging from a month to up to 20 years for crimes that included sex abuse, attempted kidnapping, and sodomy, the paper said.
Twenty-four suspects were freed after the cases against them fell apart, the report said.
The rest of the cases are still pending under a controversial program called Kol Tzedek, or Voice of Justice, which aims to coax victims in the insular community to come forward about abuse.
The paper cited Assistant D.A. Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the sex crimes bureau. The Forward requested an interview with Jaus several weeks ago. That request was declined.
Hynes's office did not immediately respond for a request for comment Sunday.
Among those accused is Andrew Goodman, 27, who worked for Ohel and other Jewish social-service agencies. The Post says he is charged with sexually abusing two Orthodox boys for years in Flatbush, and filming sex acts dating back to 2006, according to the 144-count indictment, which alleges numerous violations since 2006.
Goodman has pleaded not guilty.
The Forward first broke the news weeks ago that nearly 90 Orthodox men had been arrested on child abuse charges. At that time, prosecutors refused to furnish any additional information about the cases, but suggested they would do so by the end of November.
Among the cases reported by the Forward was that of Boro Park Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, who was sentenced last year to up to 32 years in prison after being convicted of sex abuse.
Victims' rights advocates hailed it as a turning point in the battle against sexual abuse in the insular Orthodox community. But Lebovits is now free on bail and his conviction is now unraveling amid allegations of perjury, conspiracy and extortion.
Just last week, Hynes' spokesman Jerry Schmetterer refused to return calls from the Forward asking for more information about the cases.
Maine gets an F for child sex trafficking laws
by Mal Leary, Capitol News Service
December 11, 2011
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine has been given an F by a national advocacy group for its laws dealing with sex trafficking of minors. One lawmaker says he will try to address some of the concerns of the group in legislation that will be considered in January.
“Each state's laws show omissions in protective provisions for child victims and lack strong laws to prosecute the men who rent the bodies of other men's children,” said Linda Smith, Founder and President of Shared Hope International. “Early in our research it was clear that responses to child sex trafficking must originate at the state level.”
The group released a report earlier this month that included a 39-page summary and analysis of Maine laws dealing with sex trafficking. The “Protected Innocence Initiative” criticizes the state for not having specific crimes on the books dealing with trafficking in children for sex. It also suggests the penalties that are on the law books should be strengthened.
The report found that Maine is only one of four states that does not have a specific human trafficking law and one of 10 states that does not have a specific sex trafficking law.
“Until I reviewed this I had forgot that we did not have a specific law on sex trafficking,” said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, in an interview. He is the sponsor of an omnibus bill this session to deal with sex offenses. “I think it is time for this to be dealt with by the committee and the full legislature.”
A past co-chairman of the legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, Diamond has successfully sponsored several bills dealing with child sex crimes including increased penalties for possession of child pornography.
“I think we can include a number of their concerns in my bill, including sex trafficking,” he said. “We have to get serious; we are talking about children being used by adults as prostitutes. We have to do more — all that we can — to fight this.”
Attorney General William Schneider said he had not seen the analysis of Maine's sex trafficking laws, but said the state should consider whether Maine should make trafficking in child sex a separate crime with tough penalties.
“Something with the distinctive character like sex trafficking probably deserves to have its own statute under criminal law to make the specifics of that activity a crime,” he said.
Schneider said there have been sex trafficking cases in Maine and some have been prosecuted under federal law by the U.S. Attorney's Office, including a recent case based in Lisbon Falls.
“It is a terrible problem and one that has the attention of state attorneys general across the country,” he said.
Rep. Gary Plummer, R-Windham, is the co-chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee. He said the committee has dealt with many changes in sex crimes over the last several years. He said he will want comments from the District Attorney's on their use of other statues as a substitute for a specific sex trafficking law.
“I don't like to pass new laws unless we really need to have them,” he said. “I can't say now whether it is needed or not and we will need to talk with prosecutors about whether they need another law.”
Plummer said increasing penalties may be warranted, but the committee will want to carefully weigh penalties in this area with other criminal penalties already in law. He said there is a cost to lengthy jail sentences, and tougher penalties will mean increased corrections cost.
“Right now Maine has several examples where they are much too lenient,” Diamond said. “I am actually an advocate for increasing our penalties to come in line with those at the federal level.”
Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, is the lead democrat on the panel and a former co-chair. She said the study deserves a close look by the panel and she believes lawmakers should consider establishing a specific crime of sex trafficking.
“We took kidnapping off the sex offender registry list,” she said. “If prosecutors are using that because we do not have a sex trafficking statute, we are missing some people who should be on the sex offenders list.”
Both Plummer and Haskell said they expect the issues raised by the study will be considered by lawmakers because of Diamond's bill and those measures carried over from the first session of the legislature.
Lagging on Sex Trafficking Laws, Legislators Hope to do Something About it
New laws would increase penalties
by Stacy Brown | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — The sex trafficking of minors in Pennsylvania could become a first-degree felony under new legislation that targets traffickers and protects their victims.
"The issue of human trafficking certainly is one that not a lot of people are aware of, but it is happening right here in Pennsylvania," said state Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler.
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation or harboring of people for commercial sexual exploitation through deception, threat of or use of force, and other forms of coercion. Specific statistics on sex trafficking of minors in Pennsylvania is not available.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved Butler's proposal, House Bill 2016, that would make sex trafficking youths younger than 18 a first-degree felony.
Currently, it is a third-degree felony, according to the Pennsylvania Crime Code.
HB 2016 also would allow for second-degree felony charges to be filed against parents who sell or transfer custody of a minor, or simply make a child available for sex trafficking. Pennsylvania law only allows for third degree felony charges in such cases.
The bill now moves to the state House for consideration later this month.
First-degree felonies carry 20-year maximum sentences, while second-degree felonies have 10-year maximum sentences, according to the Pennsylvania Crime Code.
Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Pennsylvania has been plagued by sex trafficking in recent years.
Children as young as 12 were among 150 victims of a sex trafficking ring in Harrisburg, in which 24 people including two Pennsylvania state troopers were arrested. The two-year investigation beginning in 2005 was known as Operation Precious Cargo.
"Human trafficking has been in the shadows for too long and we definitely have a problem in Pennsylvania and it's time we did something about it," said state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny.
"Human trafficking is a euphemism for slavery. It's hard for the average citizen to understand that we have a problem."
Organizations that assist victims have been lobbying for changes in law for some time, they said.
"When we hear the words human trafficking, we think of countries such as Thailand or (in countries in) South America , but it's here in our backyard," said Debbie Colton , founder of Oasis of Hope Ministries in north central Pennsylvania, a faith-based organization, which helps child victims of crimes.
"Sex trafficking is viewed as a victimless crime for both boys and girls whose ages range from 12 to 15," Colton said.