National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse


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EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
December 2011 - Recent News - News from other times

December - Week 4
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.


Most abuse comes from familiar people

by Rebecca S. Green

It's the devil you know.

According to national studies, as many as 93 percent of victims of childhood sexual or physical abuse were harmed by someone they knew.

It's not the mythological bogey man in the bushes by the elementary school who poses the greatest risk to our children. It is the coach, the parent, the grandparent, the baby sitter.

“We never believe that someone we know and trust can be the person who perpetrates on our children,” said Huntington County Prosecutor Amy Richison, who has prosecuted dozens of sex offenders and child abusers in her career. “So you protect the children from strangers, not the people they know.”

But sometimes we do know them, and we know what they do or have done in the past.

In her 15 years as a prosecutor, Richison believes no more than 5 percent of child abuse cases, sexual or otherwise, involved someone not known to the victim.

Not only are the perpetrators known to the victims, she said, often their behavior had been suspected or known for years.

And she is angry at the inability or unwillingness of families to look at the danger posed by potential abusers in their midst.

“I get really upset because so often it really doesn't come as a surprise to people,” she said. “Or I should say it shouldn't come as a surprise.

“If it's been talked about in your family, then why in the world … ,” she asked, letting the question hang in the air.

Ed Periera, a Marion-based social worker who counsels victims and perpetrators alike, said the abuse suffered within families can cause distorted thinking that makes further abuse possible.

He hears stories from parents who themselves were abused by their parents who are shocked to find out that the grandparents molested the grandchildren.

The original victim, the parent, often believes that the abuse happened to them because they are different somehow. So they keep it a secret and don't see it as a real possibility to others in the family, Periera said.

“A sexual offender can move within this family with impunity because nobody is telling on him. Also there's this distorted belief that ‘I'm the only one,' ” he said.

The rationalization often centers on gender, Richison said.

The victim believes the family member who abused won't abuse a child of a different gender, failing to account for the fact that often child sexual abuse is not based on gender but on the age of the child, she said.

“They're attracted to children,” she said.

Whom kids know

In December 2005, 33-year-old Simon Rios abducted 10-year-old Alejandra Gutierrez as she walked to her Fort Wayne school. The little girl was a classmate of one of his daughters. He sexually assaulted her, killed her and dumped her body in rural Delaware County. Days later, he killed his entire family – a wife and their three young daughters.

Now, six years later, 39-year-old Michael L. Plumadore is accused of murdering 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon, a neighbor girl for whom he was baby-sitting. Before police even knew she was missing, Plumadore allegedly cut up her body and put her head, hands and feet in the freezer in his mobile home. On Dec. 26, Allen County police arrested Plumadore after they say he confessed to killing the little girl and told them where to find her remains.

Aliahna's mother, grandmother and other family members were adamant in the days leading up to the grisly discovery that they had no reason not to trust him.

Plumadore lived with Aliahna's late grandfather, a registered sex offender, and often baby-sat for Aliahna and her sisters. In the days leading up to Christmas, Plumadore watched the girls while Aliahna' mother recovered from an illness.

Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director of SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect), said that people often pay more attention to who watches over their money than who watches over their children.

“We need to be concentrating on who our children know and that we know them,” she said.

The high percentage of children who know their abusers is often an uncomfortable fact for people to accept, Periera said.

“That 93 percent is a number that people don't want to embrace because then they have to think differently,” Periera said. “They feel they have to be scared, but it's not about scared, it's about being protective.”

Too many, though, are in denial.

“People believe that their circle is different than the circle in which sexual abuse happens,” Richison said. “People don't want to believe, when it comes to them personally, that the people they know and trust would hurt their children.”

Children are conditioned to trust adults. And for some reason adults are conditioned to almost always believe other adults over children, Richison said.

‘Trained liars'

“The sad thing is that children are really more credible than adults because they are not trained liars,” she said. “Do children lie? Yes. But they're not good at it, but they're not skilled at it. Why are we as a society inclined to believe the person that is a skilled liar over the person who is not?”

People are more likely to lie to get out of trouble themselves than to get someone else into trouble, regardless of age, Richison said.

In his practice and experience, Periera finds that rarely do the abusers ever readily admit what they've done, even when caught.

And if you have one or two family members defending the abuser, they are even less likely to back off their initial denials, he said.

They do so, not because of a fear of the legal consequences of their actions, but because they are worried their friends and family will reject and hate them, Periera said.

Parents must believe their children, even if there's no physical evidence anything occurred, Richison said. When people are abused as children, there is a part of these children that is broken, she said.

Often the way they heal is through family support; they are believed and they get therapeutic intervention.

“If they don't have those pieces, then oftentimes they grow up and their children are victims too,” she said.


Iowa child abuse, neglect cases in '11: 8 deaths, but many mysteries

Experts decry the lack of public information about the cases.


The deaths of at least eight young children in Iowa in 2011 allegedly resulted from abuse or neglect.

The state has conducted child abuse investigations in all eight cases, but Iowans know little about those deaths. In five cases, the cause of death hasn't been disclosed or isn't known yet, and authorities won't even release the names of the dead children in three cases.

Neither the number of deaths, tallied through Dec. 1, nor the lack of information released about them was unusual, however.

In fact, child abuse prevention advocates say budget cuts, slower data collection by the state and confidentiality roadblocks mean Iowans know less about child deaths today than they did about similar cases in the last several years.

But two national advocates, who usually oppose one another in their approaches to better child protection, agree that the lack of information available about child maltreatment deaths is a nationwide problem.

Both advocates say that more information should be released in cases of alleged abuse and that data should be standardized, in an effort to reduce abuse deaths.

The secrecy and confidentiality surrounding death reports is particularly disturbing because three recent peer-reviewed studies have found abuse fatalities are underestimated by 50 to 300 percent, according to Michael Petit, a former commissioner of Maine's Department of Human Services.

“Confidentiality laws were designed to protect children. They don't,” said Petit, who founded the national advocacy group called Every Child Matters after previously working with the Child Welfare League of America. “They shield the public from understanding how inadequate the current child protection system is.”

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said no state in the country is open enough about child abuse cases.

He advocates opening most child abuse hearings in court and releasing all records kept by state agencies and law enforcement that shed light on such cases.

“If you are serious about openness, you've got to be able to see the whole picture,” he said.

Authorities block release of names

Iowa law has allowed the results of child abuse investigations to be made public in fatal or near-fatal abuse cases, following a series of high-profile deaths from 2000 to 2005.

But the law also allows county prosecutors to block the release of reports when criminal investigations are ongoing, and authorities have repeatedly done so — including in seven of the eight fatalities in 2011 allegedly caused by abuse or neglect.

The scant details provided by law enforcement suggest two of those children most likely died of asphyxia or suffocation. One died of head trauma while in the care of his father.

Iowa's Department of Human Services declined last month to make public any additional information about any of the deaths but one: Council Bluffs infant Lane Thomas, who died while sleeping in the care of his sitter.

DHS officials declined to release the names of three of the eight children who were known to the state — but not to the public — after county prosecutors blocked the release of child abuse investigations.

The agency also declined to reveal how many of the eight children who died were known already to the child welfare system because of prior abuse.

Every year, at least one or two children already known to the state's child welfare system dies. DHS spokesman Roger Munns said the number was similar this year. From 2005 to 2009, six of 47 children who died had some prior connection with the child welfare system.

Child death prevention experts say the statistics that are collected suggest Iowa's child death figure is low compared with totals in other states.

Iowa child deaths related to abuse or neglect peaked last in 2003, when at least 16 children were killed, the Register found.

Budget cut affects data on child deaths

From 1995 to 2009, Iowa had a child death review team that researched cases annually. But that group lost all of its $40,000 in state funding in 2009.

Since then, a volunteer group has been meeting under the direction of the state medical examiner's office in hopes of reducing child deaths. But without a full-time coordinator to analyze reports and gather information, progress has been slow.

“We're in the final stages of working on a joint report for 2008 and 2009, and should have something to report in the next couple of weeks,” John Kraemer, director of forensics operations for the medical examiner's office, said in December. “In January and February, we will work on 2010.”

Kraemer said 19 volunteers serve on the team, representing a mix of specialties from domestic violence to pediatrics to trauma.

However, no new findings or recommendations related to the prevention of child deaths in Iowa have been issued since 2007.

The research and recommendations of the child review death team previously helped lead to numerous changes in state law, new policies in child protection, and public awareness campaigns aimed at saving more lives.

Among them: a renewed focus on the safety of newborns, who were six times more likely to die than other children, according to the child death team's statistics; and a nationally recognized campaign to thwart shaken baby syndrome, which the team found was a leading cause of homicide in young children.

Steve Scott, who heads Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, said the information is sorely missed. His agency formerly tried to track deaths on its own, but information reported in newspapers was “hit and miss,” he said.

While the volunteer child death review team hopes to issue new research this year, the slow flow of information and lack of interest hinders both state and national attempts to improve prevention efforts, Scott and others said.

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who heads the Iowa Department of Public Health, said her agency is examining how the research was transferred to the quasi-independent medical examiner's office. However, she said, she has neither asked for the research to be returned to the health department nor asked for money in her budget to expedite the research.

Tim Albrecht, Gov. Terry Branstad's spokesman, said no decisions regarding funding for the child death review team have been made for next year.

“Budget hearings for all departments are ongoing,” he said in a statement. “We will review all departments and their programs.”

Pressure building for national effort

States voluntarily report data to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. But nearly half of states report only maltreatment deaths known to child welfare systems. Many children who die from abuse are never known to state systems, according to a Government Accountability Office report that was published in July.

Every Child Matters, Petit's group, has been working with members of Congress to try to modify existing confidentiality laws to “allow policymakers, the press and the public to understand better what protection policies and practices need to be improved in the aftermath of a child's death, while still protecting the rights of children and families.”

While child abuse death rates overall have declined during the last decade, the number is still unacceptable, Petit said. The number of abuse deaths during that time is greater than the number of U.S. military members who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Even to this day, even after the death of 25,000 kids (in 10 years), there is no national press coverage on this issue,” Petit lamented.

A bill pending before a Senate subcommittee on which Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin serves would mandate creation of a comprehensive national strategy for reducing child fatalities that are the result of abuse or neglect.

“The Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families has just had a hearing on relevant issues and we are continuing to explore next steps,” said Kate Cyrul, a Harkin spokeswoman.



Abuse law may increase reports

But child-protection referrals can be due to other factors, expert says

by Paul Srubas

It's impossible to predict whether a new law expanding the definition of individuals who must report incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect will increase the volume of such investigations, a local expert says.

Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in Brown County have climbed an average 6 percent each year over the last five years, according to Kevin Brennan, supervisor for the Child Protection/Foster Care section of the Brown County Human Services Department.

With the annual increase, Brennan said, it's hard to gauge whether new legislation will add to that growth.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a new law in November that adds to the list of people who must report any suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. The list already itemized a variety of professions, including teachers and school administrators and counselors, but expanded to include a variety of other school district employees.

Walker also recently issued an executive order extending the mandatory reporting requirements to employees of the University Wisconsin System.

The changes could result in even more referrals to child protection agencies, but Brennan said it would be impossible to attribute any increase to those changes.

"We have no control over how many times the phone rings," he said. "There's nothing substantial I can point to that has caused more referrals."

One possibility is increased economic stress in the community, he said.

"Rarely do we have a case of child abuse that is not related to other stressors — financial, alcohol, domestic violence, poverty," Brennan said. "Poverty doesn't cause child abuse, but children in poverty are more likely to be abused or neglected."

The referrals don't automatically result in active investigations. Brennan's agency has strict legal guidelines to work with and may not have legal authority to respond to certain complaints.

"If there's a suspicion that a child is not being parented properly, it doesn't necessarily rise to the level of neglect," Brennan said. "It has to be seriously endangering a child's safety. Poor parenting is not a good thing, but it may not be child neglect."

About a third of the referrals to his office result in active investigations each year, he said. However, active investigations have been growing at a slightly faster rate than referrals over the last five years.

In most cases, social workers can resolve problems without requiring courts to intervene and order the removal of the child from a home, Brennan said. In the more serious cases, court officers file a document called a CHIPS petition, which stands for child in need of protective services and launches the process for placing the child in foster care.

The number of CHIPS petitions filed each year has not gone up with the increase in referrals and investigations. In fact, they have dropped slightly in recent years, according to the Brown County Clerk of Courts.



Abuse case sparks action to improve student safety

by Jim Collar

APPLETON — The case against a former Appleton teacher convicted of abusing disabled students has generated efforts locally — and statewide — to improve student safety.

Mary C. Berglund's abuse of children in a special education classroom at Janet Berry Elementary School was cited in support of a recent state law expanding mandatory reporting requirements to all Wisconsin school employees. Previously, state law required only teachers, administrators and counselors to report suspected abuse.

Likewise, the Appleton Area School District changed its reporting policy following the allegations against Berglund. The district now requires all employees to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Paraprofessionals, among others, previously weren't required to report abuse.

The school board also created an ombudsman to assist employees or serve as an alternative source for staff who are uncomfortable reporting suspected abuse to their school's principal.

Last week, state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, introduced a bill that would establish guidelines for the use of seclusion and restraint practices on students who pose a risk of harm in public school classrooms. If passed, the law would allow school employees to seclude or restrain only children who present an immediate risk to themselves or others, and only for as long as necessary.

"We have to make sure everyone's safe," said Olsen, who said the bill is scheduled for a committee hearing this month. "Sometimes things get out of control. It has to be relatively simple, because they have to make split-second decisions."

The measure would prohibit locks on rooms used to seclude children. Employees also would be prohibited from causing chest compression or placing pressure on a child's throat to restrain a child.

Olsen said clear, legal expectations and guidelines on seclusion and restraint practices could prevent incidents like those that happened at Janet Berry Elementary School. He is optimistic the bill will become law despite the fact that a similar measure failed in the last legislative session.

Berglund, 54, was placed on probation for three years on Dec. 21 after she pleaded no contest in Calumet County Court and was found guilty of five misdemeanor battery counts and one count of felony child abuse. The felony conviction will be dismissed if Berglund successfully fulfills the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.

She initially was charged with nine felony child abuse counts and one felony count of strangulation.

An investigation began in January after a paraprofessional in Berglund's classroom brought forth documentation of Berglund's "rough" treatment of students to school officials.

The charges against Berglund related to specific incidents involving five children that occurred in late 2009 and in January 2011. The paraprofessional went to school officials after an incident in which Berglund lay on top of a child and pushed his head back by the throat.

Jason Abraham, an attorney representing the family of one of the children who was abused by Berglund, is hopeful the Berglund case will raise awareness and bring about change.

"I think any time a teacher is charged with abuse, people look long and hard at the circumstances to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, who represents the families of five children who were abused by Berglund, said a law specifying appropriate and inappropriate uses of seclusion and restraint in the classroom is long overdue.

"We've been trying to get this for a dozen years," said Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney for the advocacy group Disability Rights Wisconsin. "Every case that happens like this builds momentum for why we need legislation."

Abraham and Spitzer-Resnick intend to file a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of six families who had children in Berglund's classroom if progress isn't made toward a settlement with the Appleton Area School District in the next few weeks.

Spitzer-Resnick also is hopeful that more than a decade of advocacy on the issue of seclusion and restraint will finally give way to results.

"I think we have a good chance at getting it passed," he said.



Share the Spirit: Concord agency takes pain out of being a kid

by Rick Hurd

In the worst times, Claudia Gonzalez's bedroom doubled as a cave. Not much bigger than four office cubicles pushed together, the small space in the Concord apartment served as Gonzalez's sanctuary, her living quarters and her escape.

She left Jalisco, Mexico, in 2000, with her boyfriend, "because I wanted a better life," and they settled in Concord. By 2001, she was pregnant with her first daughter. She didn't speak English. She didn't know her neighbors. She barely saw her boyfriend.

So the bedroom became home. For two years, she said, she never left it.

"And without support," she said, "I'd still be in there."

That support came largely from the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, part of Bay Area News Group's annual Share the Spirit campaign.

Today, Gonzalez, 29, is a student at Diablo Valley College, studying childhood development. Her English is not as steady as she'd like it to be, but she is fluent enough to hold a steady conversation with someone not well-versed in Spanish.

Gonzalez is raising three children -- daughters Ariadna, 10, and Amber, 6 months; and son, Jordy, 4 -- with their father, and she says her relationships with all of them are stronger than ever.

She also said that without the Child Abuse Prevention Council, her story would be a far darker tale.

"Mainly, I just have to say thank you because the program has helped change me as a person, as a mother and as a spouse," she

said. "They gave me support and taught me skills, and that's one of the reasons why I'm in school now, so that I can teach those skills to others."

The Concord-based agency provides safety net programs for at-risk families in a bid to reduce neglect and abuse, and executive director Carol Carrillo said more than 700 children and their families were educated last year.

"Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'Today, I'm going to abuse my kid. Today, I'm going to be a bad parent,' " Carrillo said. "But what you have are patterns of behavior that are established and sometimes can last generations, and those are the cycles that need to be broken.

"You show people another way and give them the skills and the support they need."

The Child Abuse Prevention Council provided 6,000 pieces of parenting and resources information to families last year, Carrillo said, from fliers to pamphlets to poster contests at public schools. The agency uses 2,588 teachers, child care providers, social workers and health care providers to work with children and parents, Carrillo said.

The goal, Carrillo said, is to equip families with the skills to see what child abuse is, the courage to speak up about it when they see it and the power to tackle it elsewhere.

"Our program teaches parents alternative ways of dealing with things," said Maggie Velasco, the agency's program director. "The goal is that through educational tools, we strengthen the whole family."

Gonzalez will vouch for it. She said she no longer engages in battles with Ariadna over how to deal with the pressures Ariadna says she feels to excel in school. Nor does Gonzalez feel as overwhelmed about the addition of Amber, whose arrival in June meant more demands and less sleep for mom.

"Happier" is how Ariadna puts the family dynamic, while smiling. "Better."

"The goal is to build mutual respect between parent and child," said Rose Marie Wallace, a family support specialist. "As parents, we often think that because we know what's best, that we also know their feelings. We try to develop empathy between the children and adults. Quite often, we don't treat them as our equals, and that's where the communication barrier occurs."

And when the barrier is removed, she said, the result can be drastic.

"Mainly, " Gonzalez said, "my behavior is different than before. Because my behavior is different, the behavior of my kids is different. This is what the program has taught us. There are other ways than you learned or are used to. Again, all I can say to them is thank you."

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4780 and follow him on Twitter at

Share the Spirit

The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by Bay Area News Group, benefits nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Readers who wish to help can clip the coupon accompanying this story and send it to the address printed on it. The Volunteer Center of the East Bay administers the fund. Readers with questions and corporations interested in making large contributions may contact the Volunteer Center at 925-472-5760.


Arizona Child Safety Task Force recommendations are now on the Governor's desk

by MaryEllen Resendez

PHOENIX - The Arizona Child Safety Task Force has handed over its list of recommendations to overhaul how child abuse cases are handled in Arizona.

The list includes concerns on how abuse reports are handled at not only Child Protective Services, but schools and the court system.

The governor created the task force to look into problems with CPS after several children died from abuse in 2011.

The most shocking came in July when 10-year-old Ame Deal died after being harshly abused and locked in a footlocker.

The abuse was reported to CPS and her death brought about concerns over the system.

"Any death is a death too many," said Matthew Benson, spokesman with The Arizona Governor's Office.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery chaired the task force and sat down with ABC15 in December to discuss how he thought CPS should operate.

Montgomery said there needs to be two distinct groups under CPS. One to investigate the safety and well being of children, and a second that will deliver social services to help children grow.

The nine-page list of recommendations includes a marriage between police agencies and CPS workers. The task force believes this will help both agencies cross train.

"We want to ensure that when there's an allegation that we can determine when a crime has been committed and who the perpetrator is," said Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter.

Carter vice-chaired the Arizona Child Safety Task Force.

Other recommendations included changes to current state laws to better define child abuse, child neglect, emotional abuse and even "near fatality."

"This is not to say that they are vague, but to fine tune them," Carter said.

"Ideally we're at the start of the legislative session, so if there are statutory changes in the law of this state, now is the time to do them," said Benson.

Most immediately will be restructuring CPS' abuse hotline and how cases are coded.

"It is the beginning of the the investigation for allegations of abuse and we need to get it right from the beginning," Carter said.

Other recommendations include training CPS workers to recognize witness tampering in domestic abuse situations and child abuse cases.

This way decisions can be made sooner to address any trauma of severance and quickly screen out false reports, plus allow the best opportunity for prosecution.

In 2011, 16 children died from child abuse, more than one a month.

"To honor the children of the past, the best thing we can do is sharpen what we do," Carter said.



Sex assault victims benefit from legal advocacy

Recently, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing on child sexual abuse charges. The national coverage of this hearing may seem distant from events in the Fox Cities but should inspire reflection on the growing needs in our community for legal advocacy for survivors who go through the process of felony sexual assault cases closer to home.

As in the Sandusky case, defendants often waive the preliminary hearing in the Fox Cities. Victims feel great relief over not having to take the stand and disclose terribly intimate details in front of a large room of strangers.

According to Sally Smarzinski, a therapist and victim advocate at the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, survivors of sexual assault describe this experience as being "victimized all over again."

In 2011, nearly 70 survivors sought out legal advocacy services. Only a fraction of these survivors had cases that went all the way through the court system.

The Sexual Assault Crisis Center seeks to empower all victims, regardless of the outcome of their court cases. We work diligently with the area district attorney's offices to collaborate and coordinate our efforts to ensure the empowerment of victims in the Fox Valley.

With more than 20 volunteer victim advocates who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and staff members who are familiar with the legal process, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center can help support survivors of sexual assault through the court process.

The amount of strength and bravery it takes to go through this process is staggering, and we respect survivors who endure hearings to hold their abusers accountable.

The criminal court system is a complex and difficult structure to navigate, and the Sexual Assault Crisis Center empowers survivors by providing knowledge, resources, and support that facilitates the healing process.

Caroline Lasecki,
Sexual Assault Crisis Center-Fox Cities executive director,


Arizona CPS changes recommended by task force

by Mary K. Reinhart

A specially trained investigative unit, quicker response to calls for help and more comprehensive treatment for victims of child abuse are among the final recommendations issued Friday by a gubernatorial task force on child safety.

The Arizona Child Safety Task Force recommended 10 changes to state law, along with dozens of other reforms intended to improve the child-welfare system and prevent further trauma to abused children.

The death of 6-year-old Jacob Gibson in August, followed by several other high-profile child-abuse cases, led Gov. Jan Brewer to create the task force in October.

Key among the recommendations is a new unit of former law officers to investigate the most serious child-abuse allegations, such as Jacob's case. Child Protective Services had investigated Jacob's family five times over the past four years.

Although Brewer is expected to support some of the recommendations and seek funding for them, many changes will also require the Legislature's support, both for the CPS budget and for changes to the law. Others can be implemented administratively.

“There is liable to be controversy with some of these proposals,” said Matthew Benson, the governor's spokesman. “That's why the governor is going to take some time to study these and weigh which ones she's comfortable with.”

Brewer is expected to seek more funding for the state Department of Economic Security, which includes CPS, when she releases her budget proposal in January, as well as support the creation of the new investigative unit, which would be staffed by retired law-enforcement officers.

DES Director Clarence Carter, vice chairman of the task force, said that in addition to the new investigators, key recommendations include a revamp of the child-abuse hotline and creating additional family-advocacy centers to treat and investigate child abuse.

Carter said he will request more money to hire 20 investigators for the new unit, which also would review cases with multiple abuse or neglect reports, and study a sample of hotline calls to determine whether CPS workers are missing more serious cases.

Carter said officials with the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which oversees law-enforcement training, have assured him there are retired officers who would be willing to work for CPS. But he said the job description and pay scale have yet to be determined.

“They said there are more than enough, and we will be happy to help you find them,” Carter said.

The law-enforcement focus was a key concern of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, task-force chairman, who has said CPS failed too many children. At least 15 children died of abuse during his first year in office, and at least seven Arizona children who died this year had prior involvement with CPS.

State law requires joint investigations between police and CPS for all criminal-conduct allegations of parents or guardians, but the task force heard testimony that some serious cases of child abuse are missed. Fewer than 10percent of the 35,000 reports investigated each year are jointly investigated.

Montgomery first suggested that the investigative unit be separate from CPS and created by legislative statute, but the final recommendations keep it within the agency and don't require changes to state law.

Carter said he needs more funding, not new laws, to improve training, increase salaries, hire more investigators and otherwise improve the agency. But he wouldn't say how much more money he needs to launch reforms in the coming fiscal year.

CPS has been struggling to care for a record number of children in foster care because caseloads are 60percent above state workload standards for staff; worker turnover is nearing 30percent; and budget cuts led to a reduction in services available to families.

The task force trimmed more than 50recommendations from an initial list of about 120, gleaned from three daylong hearings over the past month that included testimony from experts in prevention, investigations, foster care and the Juvenile Court system.

None of the new recommendations addresses how child abuse and neglect can be prevented. They focus instead on what happens after a call comes into the hotline. Among them:

Increase training for hotline workers, new CPS workers and supervisors, review salaries and reinstate stipends to reward education and experience.

Expand courts' ability to terminate parental rights quickly. Currently, judges can more quickly end those rights for parents of children up to 3 years old. The recommendations would expand that to 4- and 5-year-olds; judges could terminate parental rights for those older children within six months.

Involve law enforcement in more CPS investigations and ensure that police notify CPS if they believe a child is in danger.

Consider legislation to increase CPS authority to ensure the safety of a suspected abuse victim if parents refuse to allow access to the child, similar to allowing law-enforcement authority to enter a home to check on someone's welfare when there is cause to be concerned for their well-being.

Create separate phone lines and screening questions for doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals calling the child-abuse hotline, reducing wait times and lost calls.

Place child-abuse victims with specially recruited and trained foster families, and prevent placement with family members who are supportive of alleged abusers.

Create a committee to consider allowing broader access to CPS records, while maintaining confidentiality of victims and families and not compromising criminal investigations.

Expand and fully staff family-advocacy centers across the state.

Arizona has 15 family-advocacy centers, including five in Maricopa County, that include medical, police and social-work professionals who investigate and treat child-abuse victims. These so-called multidisciplinary teams are considered a best practice in child welfare; but, in recent years, CPS has pulled some workers out of these centers due to budget cuts.

Kathy McLaughlin, executive director for the Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network, said she is thrilled that Carter is focusing on family-advocacy centers among his top priorities.

“(CPS) can set the standard,” said McLaughlin, a former lieutenant with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office who testified before the task force. “It has to be part of the culture, … and we stand a much better chance of success than we've ever had before.”

But some say the recommendations fall short by not addressing the root causes of abuse and neglect: gaps in services that prevent parents from getting treatment for substance-abuse and mental-health problems that can lead them to neglect their children, and inadequate training for new caseworkers.

Phoenix attorney Jorge Franco, who has won several civil settlements against CPS, said training of CPS employees is key to preventing low-level abuse and neglect reports from turning into child tragedies.

“The calls I'm talking about are a lot less obvious,” Franco said. “We can't let that first punch even happen.”


2012 Legislative Preview: Social Services | Changes sought in Kentucky's child protection system

Several lawmakers to seek more transparency in handling of abuse cases

Lawmakers are proposing changes to the state's child-protection system during the 2012 legislative session, prompted by recent news stories about child-abuse deaths, including that of Amy Dye, the 9-year-old Western Kentucky girl fatally beaten in February by her adoptive brother.

Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat and chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he is seeking ways to provide more information to the public about how the Cabinet for Health and Family Services protects children.

“I want more transparency,” said Burch, who plans several hearings on the topic. “Kentuckians can accept the truth and live with it.”

Kentucky Youth Advocates plans to hold a “Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths” Jan. 14 to gather more ideas for lawmakers. Terry Brooks, executive director of the organization, said the meeting of legislators, judges, medical experts, law enforcement, state officials and others is designed to come up with specific suggestions.

“We think the child-fatality issue is going to have to be addressed in a comprehensive and immediate way,” Brooks said.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd has ruled the cabinet must disclose records in cases where children die or are seriously injured from abuse or neglect. Records that he recently ordered released involving Amy Dye prompted outrage among some lawmakers after they revealed the cabinet had dismissed multiple reports from Todd County school officials that the girl was suffering abuse.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Joey Pendleton, a Hopkinsville Democrat whose district includes Todd County, expressed concern at a legislative hearing last month that the system had failed the girl.

“It's going to fail another child if we don't do something,” Pendleton said. “We don't need another Amy Dye anywhere.”

Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she plans to file a bill that would restructure the way the cabinet secretary and top commissioners are hired, requiring a national search for top officials, rather than the current system where the governor appoints them.

Denton said she is still working on her bill, but she wants it passed in the 2012 session.

“We cannot delay in making changes,” she said. “This has got to be a professionally run cabinet. It cannot be a bunch of political appointees.”

Seeking more outside oversight of child deaths, Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said she plans to file a bill to create a panel to investigate child fatalities and try to accurately identify and account for those that result from abuse or neglect. The panel of medical experts, law enforcement officials and others would be overseen by the state attorney general's office and operate independent of the cabinet.

A similar bill died in the House last year after an anti-abortion lawmaker attempted to add language from a failed bill that would require women seeking abortions to be shown ultrasound images of the fetus. Westrom said she hopes to persuade lawmakers to resist efforts to attach such amendments to her proposal this time.

Some child-advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, argue that as many as half of all child-abuse deaths aren't counted — improperly classified as accidents, natural deaths or from other causes.

Several lawmakers on the joint House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee that met last month to review Kentucky's annual report on child-abuse deaths were surprised to learn the cabinet didn't count Amy Dye's because she was killed by a sibling rather than a parent or guardian.

“I thought it was the most ludicrous thing I had ever heard of,” Westrom said.

In ruling to release records of Amy's case, Shepherd found cabinet officials had misinterpreted state law, which they argued limits child-protection officials to investigating abuse only by a parent, guardian or other person exercising custodial control. Cabinet records “show in brutal detail that Amy Dye's death was a direct result of child abuse or neglect,” Shepherd wrote in his Nov. 7 order.

“To be clear, a parent need not administer the fatal blow in order to be held responsible for abuse and neglect,' Shepherd said.

Westrom said that to clear up any confusion on that point, she will file a bill specifying the cabinet is responsible for investigating all cases of suspected child abuse or neglect by any household members — including siblings or other adults in the home, such as the live-in boyfriend of the mother.

Westrom said she also plans to propose a bill to open the state's now-closed family courts to the public, a measure has been supported by Jefferson County's family court judges in the past. Though a similar measure has failed in a previous session, Westrom said she believes it has growing support amid the increased public attention on child abuse and neglect — which are among the confidential cases heard in family court.

“I think we've got the best chance we've ever had to get this passed,” Westrom said.

Also, Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, has filed a measure meant to prevent youths accused of noncriminal offenses from ending up in state juvenile detention centers. The Courier-Journal reported this month that Kentucky has one of the nation's highest rates of jailing youths for status offenses — acts that would not be a violation for an adult, such as truancy or running away.

Children usually wind up in detention for violating a judge's order — such as to stop running away or to attend school. Flood's bill would require officials filing status-offense petitions to provide more details about a child's situation and what attempts have been made to resolve it.

It also would limit the length of court orders, which now can last until a youth turns 18. And it would require a judge seeking to jail a status offender to hold a hearing where the child is represented by a lawyer.

Arizona Parents Arrested Over Alleged Facebook Images of Duct Tape-Bound Children

December 30, 2011 |

Two northern Arizona parents were arrested after photos of their young children allegedly being abused were posted on Facebook.

An anonymous Facebook user reportedly alerted authorities on Wednesday after seeing two children, an infant and a toddler, bound with duct tape around their wrists and ankles in photos posted to the social networking site, Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV reported.

The children's mouths were taped shut, and one of them was hung upside down by some exercise equipment, according to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office in Flagstaff.

"I am shocked and horrified, and I will tell you that in 30 years in law enforcement in Arizona, this is one of the most horrendous things I have ever seen," Commander Rex Gilliland told the station.

The anonymous caller knew the names of the parents and where they lived, Reuters reported. Deputies arrested Frankie Almuina, 20, and Kayla Almuina, 19, at their Williams, Ariz., home on Thursday and charged them with two counts of child abuse.

"They did indicate that they were simply joking, however, it is apparent through the photographs that this was not a joke. The photos depicted the children's faces in sheer terror," Gilliland said. "Clearly, you can't tape another person's hands and mouth shut -- especially small children. It is clearly child abuse, and they were charged appropriately."

The children, a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old infant, are being taken care of by family members while the investigation continues, according to the station.

The arrests follow a similar incident last week in Chicago in which a father, Andre Curry, allegedly posted a photo of his young daughter bound with duct tape on Facebook. Curry was later charged with aggravated domestic battery in the case.



Controversial website responds to child sex trafficking accusations

by Denise Whitaker

December 30, 2011

SEATTLE -- Officials from are firing back at critics who accuse the company of helping pimps sell underage girls in online and newspaper ads.

The company had already addressed the controversy in written statements, but this week representatives went on national TV to answer the growing criticism.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna says he can link the website, which is a clearing house of so-called "adult ads," to 50 cases of child exploitation across the country in the last three years.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Backpage law enforcement adviser Ed McNally defended the company against such criticism.

"Backpage and the Village Voice are unapologetic that they post adult services, as they have for 50 years," McNally said.

He also said the company is an industry leader in helping protect the people in those ads.

"Every adult ad that gets posted has to pass through 22,000 tests of words, code words, misspelled words before they even can get on the site," he said.

Seattle Police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said that's not good enough and wants age verification before ads are published.

"Why wait and hope that one of your employees is going to catch something like this after it's been going on for God knows how long?" he said.

McNally also claims Backpage works with police and has blown the whistle on people pimping underage girls.

"Well they may certainly be helpful, but at the end of the day what we're dealing with is sex exploitation of children," Whitcomb said.

Some industry analysts suggest that Backpage and Village Voice Media, which also owns Seattle Weekly, take in more than $22 million a year from its adult ads.


National abuse scandals uncover truths about assaults at home

by Kathryn Firmin Sellers

The Pennsylvania State University scandal lays bare the grim reality of child sexual abuse. An estimated one in four girls, and one in six boys, will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Ninety percent of victims know their offenders, often quite well. Ninety percent of those victims will remain silent, never disclosing their abuse. The causes for that silence are multiple and complex – the threat of future physical abuse, fear that others will dismiss or judge them, and fear disclosure will cause them to lose the love and affection of other family members may all play a role. Children who do have the courage to tell a trusted adult are too often met with disbelief or an unwillingness to act.

Child sexual abuse is a crime that thrives in a culture of secrecy and shame. Media attention has rightly focused on Penn State's apparent willingness to remain silent as the accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky mounted. Sadly, Penn State's failure mirrors society's collective failure. Despite their personal experiences and overwhelming concern, many Americans are afraid to act, preferring instead to ignore the reality of child sexual abuse. According to one national study, only 6 percent of Americans contacted authorities when confronted with suspected child abuse, and fewer than half of respondents indicated they would be willing to contact authorities if they witnessed an act of abuse. It seems that most of us forget that it is our job as adults to protect the children around us, and that we are mandated by North Carolina state law to report suspected abuse.

We can find hope in the number of victims who have found the courage to come forward since Sandusky was arrested. On Nov. 14, the New York Times reported that 10 additional alleged victims had stepped forward to name Sandusky as their abuser. Two days later, NPR's “Morning Edition” reported that as many as 45 adults from across the country had contacted lawyers, telling stories of abuse that had taken place decades before by adults they had trusted.

We should not underestimate how difficult and how vitally important it is to disclose abuse – even abuse that occurred in the distant past. Without an intervention, the trauma associated with child sexual abuse leaves long-lasting scars. Victims are more likely to develop anxiety, phobias or other major psychiatric disorders; engage in self-harming or risky behaviors, including cutting, anorexia or bulimia, or attempted suicide; and become dependent upon drugs or alcohol.

Child victims are more likely to be misdiagnosed with mental health labels such as ADHD or juvenile bipolar disorder. These children fail to receive appropriate interventions, and thus are far more likely to fail at school and ultimately drop out of the educational system altogether.

Finally, and perhaps most distressingly, without therapeutic intervention, child victims are at a higher risk for entering into a cycle of emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive relationships as adults – perpetuating a cycle of abuse that will continue to repeat itself in subsequent generations.

In disclosing the abuse, victims take the first step toward breaking the cycle. Thankfully, this community stands prepared to support them on that journey. If the victim is still a minor, Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center in Mecklenburg County works in partnership with other community partners to offer a comprehensive, community-based response. The Child Advocacy Center conducts a forensic interview and a medical evaluation with the child in an appropriate, non-threatening setting. The Child Advocacy Center then coordinates the subsequent crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and court support services.

Adult survivors of child sexual abuse can also find support. Agencies like United Family Services offer trauma-focused counseling and advocacy, working alongside survivors as they develop the coping skills necessary to rebuild lives of dignity and strength. Appropriate therapeutic intervention cannot erase an abusive past, but it can help a person understand that the abuse does not define them. That knowledge – whenever gained – empowers survivors to move forward with hope and healing.

Kathryn Firmin Sellers is the Region Director for United Family Services.



Student medical assistants team up with shelters

Most sports fans follow their teams even in the off-season, and though football and the Super Bowl are in the spotlight this time of year, spring training is right around the corner.

So how would you like to win a Corey Hart RockBat? Or tickets to a 2012 Packers, Brewers or Badgers game? Would having a new TV, gas cards or some Salm Brothers meat help get you through the winter?

And if you are making the annual resolution to step back from all those plates of holiday goodies, you still can "Step up to the plate in the fight against domestic violence."

That's the theme of a raffle being held by the Student Medical Assistants' Organization of North Central Technical College to benefit three local shelters: AVAIL in Antigo, Stepping Stones in Medford and HAVEN in Merrill. There are additional prizes, including an overnight stay at Lake of the Torches.

Raffle tickets are on sale now through Jan. 30, when the drawing will be held at 2 p.m. in the NTC Health and Science Building. They cost $1 each or six for $5, and you need not be present to win.

Medical assistants are often the ones who ask patients the question, "Do you feel safe at home?" They see the people who have frequent injuries and "accidents" and also those with less overt physical symptoms caused by domestic abuse. We appreciate their support for the work done by our local domestic violence agencies.

HAVEN's work

In 2010, HAVEN answered 3,955 crisis calls. We served 158 women, 13 men and 88 children.

The agency sheltered 52 people for a total of 898 nights of shelter provided (number of persons multiplied by the days spent in shelter). There were 163 domestic abuse clients, 15 adult sexual assault clients, 32 child abuse clients and 55 people who sought help in more than one of these categories. When data are complete for 2011, we know the totals will be higher. These are not just numbers; these are real people; and there is no way to quantify the human suffering and trauma that are caused by abuse and violence. HAVEN provides safety, confidentiality, emotional support, education and advocacy while connecting survivors with many other resources to help them toward the future.

Many thanks

HAVEN joins the Student Medical Assistants' Organization in thanking all the raffle donors, including Wagner's Shell, Draeger BP, Sears and Arlen's, all of Antigo, Trantow's of Merrill, and Kwik Trip, plus ticket donors CoVantage Credit Union. We also thank The Pinnacle Group and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for providing matching funds.

In Merrill, tickets are available at WJMT Radio, Dave's County Market, First Street Coffee Station, The Checkered Churn and Drew's Piggly-Wiggly. In Tomahawk, they are on sale at Nelson's County Market and the Chamber of Commerce office.

HAVEN would like to recognize the members of the Student Medical Assistants' Organization for "stepping up to the plate" and teaming up with our local shelters.

If you have questions or need help with issues of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse or sexual assault, HAVEN staff members are available 24 hours a day by calling 715-536-1300.

Nancy Baacke is a community educator for HAVEN, Inc.



Ill. woman shares her story of abuse

BREESE, Ill. (WTW) — Tricia McKnight is no stranger to domestic abuse and her mission is to share her story in the hopes it will encourage and help other women get out of violent, abusive situations.

"A lot of them are like me," said McKnight, 48, of Breese. "They were 'trained' to behave in a certain way and accept certain things and not think anything about it. It becomes a pattern of abuse. I spent 32 years afraid to breathe, literally afraid to breathe."

McKnight has written about her lifetime of abuse, from being abused by her stepfather as a child to physical and emotional abuse from husbands. It is all documented in her book "My Justice," which chronicles her heartbreaking and often shocking cycle of abuse.

She started a Facebook support group, Survivor's World, and has helped women from around the world get connected with the help they need to get out of a violent home life. The support group is a private group and accessible by request only.

"I know how hard it is to come forward with your secrets," she said. "A lot of them are sharing their secrets for the very first time and that's a very difficult process."

According to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, domestic violence is a pattern, a reign of force and terror. It is not defined by only physical attacks but includes intimidation, threats, economic deprivation, psychological and sexual abuse. Experts have compared methods used by batterers to those used by terrorists to brainwash hostages.

The last beating McKnight endured left her with a spinal cord injury.

"He woke me up at 4 a.m. choking me, then proceeded to beat me with a chair," she said. "He had been out drinking and was angry that I was in bed sleeping. The cops came and told us that one of us had to leave or both of us were going to jail.

"I was furious. I was 37 years old and all I had ever experienced was violence and degradation and abuse and now I was being told I was going to jail if I didn't leave. I made a decision that night that I was never going to tolerate this again."

She and her children moved out of the abusive household and McKnight started seeing a therapist. The therapist is the one who suggested she start writing.

"I wrote to apologize to my kids for what they had to witness in their lives and how it affected their lives," she said. "I wrote to bring about awareness about how horrible this can be for everyone involved. It's a trained pattern of violence acceptance and my kids were learning that pattern."

In her own children, all now adults, she has seen them experiencing problems with maintaining healthy relationships and difficulties with self-confidence.

"So many things have affected them," she said. "When the abuse would start, my children would hide. My kids and I walked on eggshells for a very, very long time."

McKnight has recently been working with Susan Murphy Milano, a domestic violence survivor, radio host, lecturer, first responder trainer and author of several books addressing domestic violence, including "Defending Our Lives," "Moving Out, Moving On," and "Time's Up." The books help people in abusive situations move away from the abuse and deal with confusing situations surrounding violence prevention, stalking, breakup or divorce.

"We are working on some of the legislation for documenting abuse to get these abusers convicted on these evidentiary abuse documents," McKnight said. "You want to have proof that the violence is happening. Take pictures of the bruises and keep them on a flash drive. You have to reach out to one friend that you trust and let them know what's going on because it is a life or death situation — it really is. I don't know how I am sitting here alive today because I've been choked, almost drowned and had loaded weapons pointed at my face."

McKnight applauded the efforts of St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly to improve the way his office has encouraged metro-east police departments to document domestic violence calls with video evidence to increase the ability of his office to successfully prosecute domestic violence cases, even when the victim isn't a willing party to the prosecution.

"I like the strength they are putting behind the laws," she said. "It's no longer just a slap on the wrist. They've taken it out of the hands of the victims and you know if you call the cops they are coming and they will take him and you'll have time to get help and get support.

"It's going in the right direction, but, nationwide, domestic violence is still not getting the attention it needs. The laws are good and strong. It's the community perception of domestic violence that needs to change. People have to remember we didn't commit these crimes, they were committed against us. It's nothing that we did."

McKnight said she hopes her support group and her speaking out about her own abuse and journey out of an abusive life will give others the courage to get out.

"I'm not the only survivor out there. There are millions of us and a lot of them still keep their secrets," McKnight said. "Most of them keep those secrets even from their families because they are afraid of being shunned and blamed for it."


New York

APOV: End silence, secrecy surrounding child sexual abuse

By Colleen Marvel

Once again, child sexual-abuse allegations have people everywhere shaking their heads in disbelief. Anger and frustration fill the airwaves, news columns, and blogs with questions like “How did this happen?” and “How did it go unreported for so long?”

“Stranger danger” has long been overemphasized by those who would keep children safe from predators. While studies have shown that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18, the sad truth is that 90 percent of victims know the offenders well. They are relatives, friends, neighbors, and, as alleged in the Penn State and SU cases, coaches.

Understanding what keeps child victims of sexual abuse silent is easy. They fear that revealing the abuse will bring harm to them or those they love, loss of affection, and punishment. Child sexual abuse is a crime that thrives in a climate of silence, secrecy, and shame. Fear is what offenders count on as they groom their victims.

What is not so easily explained is the silence of adult witnesses to such crimes. But if the problem is a lack of information about how to report such abuse and what will happen as a result, we must make sure that information is more widely known and understood.

When a report of child sexual abuse is made to a local police agency or NYS Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-342-3720), there is a partnership in place to help ensure the abuse ends, that the child has a safe place to talk about what happened, and that the child and his or her family get all the services they need to start healing. The Justice for Children Advocacy Center is part of that partnership. The JFCAC provides free services to families from Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming counties.

Do not allow yourself to sit back and say “child sexual abuse isn't a problem here ...” The numbers speak for themselves; the JFCAC has provided services to 175 children so far this year and almost 1,500 children since we opened our doors in 1999. We know there are offenders in our community. We know they do not always look scary. In fact, you may unknowingly be acquainted with someone who is getting close to a child and family right now for this purpose, someone who seems nice, interested in the child and concerned. We can make our community a safer place to be a child. Law enforcement, child protection and other professionals cannot do it alone. We need you ... all of you ... to watch, ask questions, talk with others, and take actions to increase the safety of our children.

Child Abuse thrives in secrecy and continues when adults see it as someone else's job or responsibility to report. I challenge every concerned citizen to become more conscious, more committed and more courageous, to be the person who helps free a child from abuse. It is easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the headlines. It is harder to turn our anger and frustration into positive action for victimized children.

Here is one positive action we can all agree on. Raise your right hand and repeat after me: “If I see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, I will not keep silent. I will have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy, and shame that should never define a child's life.”

Colleen Marvel is coordinator of the Justice for Children Advocacy Center, one of many child advocacy centers in New York. For more information about child sexual abuse and the Justice for Children Advocacy Center, call (585) 344-8576.


North Carolina

North Carolina – like most of the U.S. – is failing the grade against human trafficking, according to a study.

by Herbert L. White

The state scored 61 – a D – on a survey commissioned by the advocacy group Shared Hope International, which found the state lacks basic victim protections, especially for children forced or coerced into the sex trade. It also found North Carolina doesn't effectively punish adults who seek their services or promote law enforcement assets, such as mandating training on domestic minor sex trafficking.

More than half the states examined earned D or F on the survey.

“I was absolutely shocked when we started sending people into states (posing) as sex tourists, and they would go in, and they would come into the city maybe from another country, maybe another state, and they could buy kids so easily,” Linda Smith, SHI's founder and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, told National Public Radio earlier this month.

The Protected Innocence Initiative study found that North Carolina makes the trafficking of a minor a distinct crime but children indentified as a victim of sex-for-hire don't get the same level of protection. Forty percent of trafficking victims identified in North Carolina in 2010 were under 18 years of age.

North Carolina has several commercial sexual exploitation laws, including the promotion of prostitution of a minor, participating in prostitution of a minor, first- and second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and employing a minor in an obscene act.

“They didn't have trafficking laws, or if they had a trafficking law, it didn't deal with commercial sex …or didn't distinguish between children and adults,” Smith said.

The study also found differing penalties for traffickers in North Carolina courts and the federal standard of 10 years to life. In North Carolina, a conviction for facilitating trafficking or commercial sex trade of a minor carries a sentence of 58-73 months.

The National Association of Attorneys General, made up of 51 top state law enforcement officials from across the U.S., has made stemming the flow of human trafficking a top priority.

“In our understanding of human trafficking, we are today about where we were with the problem of domestic violence about 40 years ago – low levels of awareness, low levels of law enforcement response, almost no services for victims,” NAAG President and Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna told NPR.

Human trafficking is often a misunderstood crime among law enforcement and the general public, and experts aren't sure how many people are victimized annually. McKenna told NPR estimates start at around 100,000 in the U.S. Human trafficking is second only to narcotics as one of the most lucrative and fastest-growing crimes across the globe, according to United Nations and U.S. data.



Karen Herbert: Fighting Exploitation with Awareness

Business owner seeks to inform Connecticut about human trafficking and how to fight it.

by Gregory Hebert

Karen Herbert recalls a moment in her life years ago when a customer came into her store on LaSalle Road in West Hartford complaining about the horrors of the Bosnian War, and Herbert found herself entirely ignorant of what the customer was talking about. In the present day, however, that customer would have been hard-pressed to surprise Herbert with news of human misery, especially since Herbert now dedicates herself to stamping it out.

Herbert is a co-director of the Not for Sale Campaign in Connecticut, an organization committed to eliminating human trafficking and the sex trade worldwide. With the help of other charitable organizations and hundreds of volunteers, including her own family, Herbert works to raise awareness and report grotesque human rights violations often thought to have been eliminated a century ago.

"Every day we touch slavery, in the clothes we wear, the food we eat ... and the sex industry is a whole other side of it," Herbert said.

Sex trafficking is only the most sensational aspect of the human rights violations fought against by Not for Sale. The others include such crimes as inedentured servitude and child labor.

Herbert was introduced to Not for Sale through her daughter Jamee, who did volunteer work with the organization during a semester abroad in Peru. Jamee was affected enough by her work with children rescued from trafficking rings and orphans that she attended the Not for Sale Academy in San Francisco upon her return to the United States, becoming certified to investigate and document human trafficking violations for the organization. She later became Connecticut's first Not for Sale director, establishing the organization in the state.

Herbert's decision to assume her daughter's role in Connecticut might have been inevitable, however. "Growing up, my mom was always involved with various different causes and helping people in various different ways, whether through an organization or through the youth group she works with," Jamee said. "It was part of my foundation, but then I was the one who connected with Not for Sale and brought it to the rest of my family."

Herbert took over for her daughter in Connecticut in August 2010 when Jamee moved to Half Moon Bay in California, where she holds the title of campaign manager and runs the Not for Sale Store. The store sells products constructed by individuals rescued from human trafficking and at-risk communities that might not have other legitimate sources of income. Jamee herself oversees product development, website management, and shipping logistics, as well as running events like the store's "Turn Black Friday Orange" sale.

Herbert's everyday tasks with Not for Sale involve passing information along to the 400 people on her email list and making sure the the organization's Connecticut Facebook page is up to date. Beyond that, Herbert speaks at schools, churches, and secular venues to raise awareness about modern-day slavery, as well as managing long-term projects and events with her fellow director Steve Ferraro. She has also enlisted and educated the youth she works with at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Unionville.

The most recent such event was Free2Create on Nov. 20, a gathering of artists, musicians, and poets at the Provenance Center in New London. Herbert said that the event worked from the assumption that different people hear about causes in unique ways, and that informing people through the arts was a fairly non-threatening means of educating them about Not for Sale's goals. The event concluded with New London's mayor declaring the city to be a "zero-tolerance community" for human trafficking and slavery. Herbert is now planning for Free2Create to travel to colleges around Connecticut to reach students from all walks of life and in all majors, with specific schools targeted being Connecticut College, Mitchell College, Yale, the University of Hartford, St. Joseph College, and the University of Connecticut.

Herbert has also involved her business, BK & Co., which she has owned with Barbara Karsky for over 25 years. BK & Co. donates a portion of its profits to Not for Sale in addition to being a sponser of "28 to Emancipate," whereby individuals donate $28 per month to Not for Sale to help fund their emancipation efforts worldwide. During the annual Spring Stroll in West Hartford, Herbert also sets up a booth to inform people of the volunteer work available through Not for Sale."

Herbert notes that as the organization is only four years old and established in only a few states, Not for Sale collaborates with numerous organizations to help reach their goals. In Connecticut, Not for Sale works with the Harriett Beecher Stowe Center, Connecticut College's Operation 21st Century, the Women for Change at the University of Hartford, and has the support of the Provenance Center and the Holy Family Passionist Retreat. It has also been affiliated with the International Justice Mission, which shares similar goals to Not for Sale.

"You're working with other groups that are doing great works to forward the movement," Herbert said. "Even if it's not their main focus, it becomes part of their focus."

Herbert rarely works directly with victims of human trafficking, but what she has seen has affected her deeply. One such individual Herbert is personally familiar with was a girl from New Hampshire who had been trafficked on the Berlin Turnpike. Herbert said that it's incredibly difficult to escape that life due to the way it's designed to trap a person into it.

"It's hard, because you're in that life and it's hard to break out of the reason you're in it. You're a runaway, addicted to drugs, get addicted to drugs, get addicted to this guy who you think you love ... It's just a whole ramification of events that happen." Herbert said that this girl still struggles from day to day to hold down a job and problems she has with addictions, having once said to Herbert that it's impossible to get out of a life like hers except by dying or getting saved.

In regards to human trafficking problems facing Connecticut, Herbert said that indentured servitude is on the rise. Sex trafficking has been a continuous problem for several years, Herbert said, because human beings are more lucrative for pimps because they can be turned over more times and are safer than drugs.

What's most precious to Herbert in her work are the differences she makes just by spreading awareness. At Miss Porter's School in Farmington, for instance, student Anna Preston started a human rights club this school year with Not for Sale serving as its inspiration and largest component. It's large for a new club at five members, with Preston saying between 10 and 15 more students have expressed an interest in joining.

At Hall High School in West Hartford, meanwhile, students organized a fair trade chocolate bake sale without any input whatsoever from Herbert following her first visit. When she came to speak at the school again, the students gave her the proceeds with a check made out for Not for Sale.

"All these little triumphs are huge to me," Herbert said. "People inspired and involved to take the initiative, to empower them to do something. It doesn't have to be about me or even Not for Sale, but it empowers them to do something."

National hotline for reporting suspected human trafficking: 888-373-7888


New York

$68 Million Settlement Proposed for 10 Children Fraudulently Adopted and Abused


Lawyers for 10 disabled children who were fraudulently adopted by a Queens woman more than 15 years ago and subjected to years of abuse have proposed a $68 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit filed on their clients' behalf, according to a confidential court filing.

The proposal comes as a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn appears to be trying to mediate a settlement to the suit, filed in 2009, which seeks damages from New York City and three contract adoption agencies that placed the children with the woman, Judith Leekin.

The case has been seen as one of the most disturbing child welfare fraud cases in the city in recent years. Ms. Leekin used four aliases to adopt the children, who had physical or developmental disabilities, including autism and retardation, and later moved them to Florida. The children were caged, restrained with plastic ties and handcuffs, beaten with sticks and hangers, and kept out of school, according to court papers. An 11th child disappeared while in Ms. Leekin's care and is presumed dead.

The suit asks that the 10 plaintiffs, now mostly in their 20s, be compensated for their years of suffering as well as for the services and treatment they will need for the rest of their lives.

The settlement proposal was cited in a letter from a defense lawyer in the case to the magistrate judge, Marilyn D. Go of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where the lawsuit was brought.

The letter was filed publicly in October, but was quickly sealed after the lawyer wrote that it “referred to confidential discussions between the parties.” The New York Times obtained the letter while it was publicly available.

Ms. Leekin, 66, was imprisoned after she was convicted of fraud in federal court in Manhattan and of abuse in a state court in Florida. Federal prosecutors have said that as part of her scheme, she collected $1.68 million in subsidies from the city that went to support a lavish lifestyle.

When the 10 children were removed from her care in 2007, none had completed elementary school; only three could read and only at a third-grade level; and about half were declared either “totally incapacitated” or “vulnerable adults,” according to a report by a former Columbia University social work professor retained by the plaintiffs to examine the cases.

The 10 have since lived in Florida in state programs or on their own, and at least one is homeless, according to court filings.

New York City and the three private agencies have denied liability in the case, claiming that Ms. Leekin was a sophisticated serial criminal whose scheme fooled various professionals and, given the capabilities and practices of the time, would not have been foreseen or detected.

The agencies are HeartShare Human Services of New York, SCO Family of Services and the now-closed St. Joseph Services for Children and Families.

The agencies' lawyer, Robert S. Delmond, did not respond to messages seeking a comment on Thursday. Lawyers for the city and the plaintiffs declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

In the now-sealed letter to Judge Go, Mr. Delmond described the $68 million demand as “a significant sum, which requires much consideration, thought, planning and involvement of corporate officers before they can reach a decision.” The agencies' insurance carrier was reviewing the matter, he noted, and was “not prepared to make a settlement offer at this time.”

He requested more time to allow for further consultations with the insurer and meetings to discuss “possible settlement offers.”

It is unclear how the city and the private agencies might apportion any payout if a settlement is reached.

Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer whose firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, has handled suits against the city and private agencies in cases involving abused and neglected children, said “there does appear to be a uniform indemnification provision” in the contracts the city has with such agencies.

“But the city has the ultimate legal responsibility for the child,” said Mr. Abady, whose firm is not involved in the Leekin suit.

In August, Theodore Babbitt, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, asked Judge Go to move the case forward because of the “fragile, unstable and precarious” condition of the plaintiffs. “They are desperate for care that cannot be provided through the Florida state system,” he wrote.

He cited three of the male plaintiffs, who ranged in age from 19 to 24: one had been on a round-the-clock suicide watch after multiple attempts to take his own life. Another had fathered children out of wedlock and was homeless. A third had been arrested for domestic violence against his older brother. “He is angry and depressed and bottles it up inside until he violently explodes,” Mr. Babbitt wrote.

The court's docket sheet shows that Judge Go has regularly held confidential phone and court conferences related to settlement issues, sometimes talking with just one side or the other.

Her efforts appear to date from July, when she said in open court that she was usually “programmed to be hopelessly optimistic about settlement.”

“For some reason,” she added, “I have not pushed the parties much in this case to discuss settlement, but let's do so now.”


2011's Lessons on How We Can Better Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

by Marci Hamilton

2011 was a momentous year for the protection of children. This was the year when the public learned that the anatomy of child sex abuse cover-ups is the same regardless of the institution involved.

In November, a grand jury report was released alleging that former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused 8 children. Even more important for our understanding of cycles of child sex abuse were the allegations that leaders in the Penn State administration knew about the abuse yet did nothing to stop Sandusky.

Those leaders included President Graham Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno, both of whom were fired. In addition, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz are now facing a criminal trial for perjury, which is predicated on the theory that they knew about the abuse as well.

Not long after the Penn State scandal broke, Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine was named as another alleged child sex abuser by two men. It emerged that famed head basketball coach Jim Boeheim had heard of the allegations several years earlier. At first, Boeheim jumped to defend Fine. But he soon had to retract his rash statements when other survivors came forward, and when a taped conversation was released in which Fine's wife essentially admitted that Fine had abused children in their home, and that she had had sex with one of his victims.

Then we learned about The Citadel, and its camps, where graduates had abused children. One alleged abuser, who was not reported to the authorities by Citadel officials with the information, allegedly went on to abuse more children in a nearby community.

Based on these incidents, here are the Top 10 lessons about child sex abuse that I believe we've learned (or re-learned) in 2011:

10. Organizations cover up child sex abuse. Period. University or church, day care center or family, kids are at risk. Right now.

9. The pattern of the cover-up of child sex abuse is the same, regardless of the institution. We see the same patterns, for instance, at Penn State and in the Catholic Church.

8. It takes all of us to cover up child sex abuse. One adult after another let down Sandusky's victims—from the head of the University, to the head football coach, to an assistant coach, to the janitors.

7. The information about ongoing child sex abuse is all around us and needs to be put to constructive ends by adults taking action when they suspect abuse, rather than protecting fellow adults who are accused of abuse.

6. Abuse is a lot more prevalent than anyone wants to believe—1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys. So when you get a whiff of it, pay attention and take action.

5. Those who come forward to allege that they were the victims of child sex abuse rarely make up their claims. To the contrary, they tend to skimp on the details. Often the abuse is much worse, but they cannot bear to describe its full extent.

4. States must enact better laws if our children are going to truly be safe from sexual abuse.

3. We need better mandatory reporting laws, with strict penalties for failure to report.

2. We need to eliminate the statutes of limitations (SOLs) for child sex abuse, to reflect the reality that it takes most survivors many years to come forward. And we desperately need windows that will let victims whose SOLs expired to get to court and name millions of operating child abusers.

1. Politicians are behind the learning curve on these issues, and they need to be prodded to make children, and child sex abuse, a priority.

Although this year served to open the nation's eyes to some of the realities of child sex abuse, and how to combat it, many in power have failed to learn the true lessons of these scandals. For instance, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett has dramatically slowed down the pace of reform in the wake of the Penn State scandal by endorsing the creation of a commission to study the issues—one of the tried and true means of avoiding actual accountability.

Meanwhile, New York's Gov. Cuomo has backed adding university employees to New York's mandatory reporters, which would be a genuine step forward—but he says he worries about faulty memories if SOLs are eliminated. Is Cuomo personally on the fence, or is he being influenced by the Catholic bishops, who are surely still irate about his support for gay marriage?

Whatever Corbett's or Cuomo's political motives may be, the right answer, from the standpoint of justice, is clear: In the end, this is all about children. If the relationships of these powerful men are allowed to get in the way of the right legal reform, then we will see yet another instance of the powerful covering up for abusers, and turning a blind eye as children suffer. And haven't we seen enough of that already this year?

Marci Hamilton, a Justia columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her latest book is Fundamentalism, Politics, and the Law (Palgrave Macmillan 2011) (co-edited with Mark J. Rozell). Her email is



Bringing abuse to light

Virginia must expand its mandatory reporting laws

December 28, 2011

In the wake of the sexual abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — as of Friday, 12 victims have come forward claiming Sandusky molested them as children — several states are considering stricter reporting requirements and harsher penalties for failing to report.

Virginia should be among them.

Currently, Virginia's mandatory reporting law enumerates those who must report suspected child abuse or neglect to child protective services or police; included are social workers, child care workers, public and private school teachers, and medical professionals. Failure to report within 72 hours is punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000.

As a response to the Penn State cases, Del. Bob Marshall is proposing legislation that would add coaches or athletic directors of private sports teams and higher education institutions to report child sexual abuse to local authorities.

While expanding the list of mandatory reporters is laudable, these bills don't go far enough.

Some states have expanded the people who must report to include commercial film or photograph processors, substance abuse counselors, court-appointed special advocates, domestic violence

workers and probation or parole officers. About half now require reporting by members of the clergy, who had often been exempt for confidentiality reasons.

About a third of state reporting laws contain catch-all provisions requiring anyone, regardless of profession, to report suspected abuse.

In addition, 39 states classify failure to report as a misdemeanor. A handful of states upgrade the charges to felonies in more serious cases or cases of repeated violations.

It is time for the commonwealth to expand those legally required to report child abuse — we suggest adding a general requirement for any adult suspecting abuse to report it — and to make failure to report at least a misdemeanor offense.

But, of course, stricter laws on the books won't alone guarantee that crimes against children will be reported.

According to advocacy organization Darkness to Light, 73 percent of child victims do not tell anyone about abuse for at least a year; 45 percent don't tell for at least five years.

To protect children more effectively, adults must do a better job looking for warning signs and reporting suspicions, regardless of legal requirements.

There are a host of reasons why adults don't report child abuse when they see it or suspect it: Perhaps they are shocked and emotionally paralyzed. Perhaps they talk themselves out of their observations to avoid the discomfort of conflict and confrontation.

People need help and encouragement to fight through those automatic responses so they will speak up when they suspect abuse.

In addition, when there are multiple layers of authority in an organization, better protocols are needed to make sure reports don't get lost in a bureaucratic shuffle. This means creating a culture where reporting is encouraged and policies are clearly communicated — from the top down.

Ultimately, while stronger legislation is necessary to help prevent and punish abuse, we still need more public dialogue about how to identify the warning signs and how to improve institutional and social obstacles to reporting. We must speak out when our children can't.


Sexual Abuse of Children: 10 Years of Hard-Earned Knowledge

by Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Today I am giving my blog space to my colleague, Bernard Nojadera, who directs the U.S. bishops' critical office that works with clergy sexual abuse of children.

With 2012, the Catholic Church looks back on a decade of learning about a problem which may be decades or centuries old: the sexual abuse of minors by those who would mentor them.

The crisis in the Church in the United States reached a head in 2002, when newspaper coverage nationwide highlighted the existence of this horrific crime and moral travesty. We now know that others, including some sports organizations and other groups where adults mentor youth, have yet to confront this crisis within their own ranks.

In the United States, the Catholic Church adopted a plan to address the issue, called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has spent billions of dollars on settlements, safe environment education, and background checks to do all it can to prevent the abuse of children in its care. We have come to some understanding of how to address the problem, gaining knowledge that can benefit more than the Catholic Church.

Some of what we've learned:

  • The guiding principle when confronting child sexual abuse is to remember that it is most of all about the person who was abused. It is not about the offender, the institution or anyone's reputation. It is about helping a child.

  • People can learn. In the 10 years since establishment of the Charter we have moved from disbelief to action. We have learned that what once seemed unbelievable is, unfortunately, credible and must be faced. Training, reference checks and background evaluations now are a normal part of parish life to keep children safe. We recommend these steps for all who deal with youth.

  • Sexual abuse of a minor is a sickness that can be contained through vigilance but will not disappear. Incidents of sexual abuse are still occurring in the one place that ought to be the safest place. We cannot let our guard down. The work is not finished.

  • Critical situations impel people and institutions to change. We have seen the culture of our parishes and schools evolve. People now accept that child sexual abuse exists and are willing to help stop it from occurring. They no longer assume someone else will take care of it.

  • Child sexual abuse is a reality society must confront. No institution is immune from it. Learning to respond to the victim of abuse is the first job of any institution, community or family.

  • The court of public opinion holds institutional leaders to a high standard. Leaders who forgo an immediate and appropriate response to abuse of a child do so at their own peril. There is hardly any other issue which evokes such intolerance as not acting in the face of child sexual abuse.

  • Parents are willing to step up and make sure parishes and schools are following policies and procedures to protect children. With this critical issue, few people reply, "I just don't have time to get involved."

  • The task of protecting children can be shared. Clergy, employees, volunteers, parents and teachers realize that bystanders can be their allies in protecting children.

  • Child sexual abuse is a hard topic to discuss, but training adults to protect children has given the topic a forum where the uncomfortable reality can be discussed.

  • Victims of child sexual abuse can heal and live productive lives. Steps that help bring them toward healing include seriously listening to their stories and expressing profound sorrow for what they have endured. As awful as the experience has been for a person, there is hope, a gift of grace from a loving God.

Bernard Nojadera is a deacon and head of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People



Frequently asked questions about child sexual abuse
Answered by the Pike County Children and Youth Advisory Board

The unfolding events in the media have focused the nation's attention on the issue of child sexual abuse. Pike County Children and Youth Advisory Board members have been asked many questions regarding abuse, the reporting of it and other related issues. While they will not examine or analyze the details of anyparticular case, they will answer those questions most frequently asked:

• What are the legal responsibilities of reporting child sexual abuse?

According to the Pennsylvania code, if, in the course of their profession, a person comes into contact with children through supervision, guidance, or training, they must make a report to the person in charge of the agency or institution. People who are staff members of a medical or other private or public institution or a school facility or agency are called mandated reporters and must follow these requirements.

In Pike County, Childline (1-800-932-0313) or Pike County Children and Youth Services (570-296-3446) are the agencies to report incidents of child abuse or child sexual abuse in the county.

• What are the moral responsibilities of reporting child sexual abuse?

What can I do if I strongly suspect abuse?

As a Pike County resident, if you have questions regarding suspected child abuse, you can call Pike County Children and Youth Services for a consultation to discuss the situation. Safe Haven of Pike County (570-296-HELP) also offers consultation on matters of abuse. Parents must trust their instincts regarding what a child tells them.

• What do you do if you are the victim?

If the abuse happened when a person is under the age of 18, it should be reported to the county Children and Youth Services agency. PCCYS has caring, concerned case workers who listen to the individual and will help. Childline accepts reports up to the age of 19 when the abuse occurred while the child is under the age of 18. There is a two year statute of limitation for children and youth services on physical child abuse. After age 19 it is a law enforcement referral until the age of 50.

There are many avenues of support for victims through the three local school districts: Delaware Valley, East Stroudsburg and Wallenpaupack. In addition, Safe Haven of Pike County periodically offers support groups, educates and supports all victims, and provides Empowerment Advocacy (significant others, family members, etc.) and Medical and Legal Advocacy.

• What are the signs of child sexual abuse?

The signs of child sexual abuse can also be indications of other things happening in a child's life. We recommend checking the website for thorough details.

Prevention is also very important and Safe Haven provides prevention education groups in the Delaware Valley School District for all ages.

• There have been so many stories of child sexual abuse recently. How can a parent, guardian or other adult speak to a child about the coverage?

Beware that a strong verbal reaction by an adult to stories in the news may impact children in a negative way, making him or her reluctant to report an incident if it occurs. Likewise, too much exposure to television coverage of the case may also have a detrimental impact. Teach children to be safe by keeping an open line of communication, allowing them to speak freely. Again, parents should trust their instincts regarding what the child says.



Conference to focus on human trafficking

RIVERSIDE — How to stop human trafficking will be the subject of a Jan. 19 conference at the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside.

The Riverside County Commission for Women's first forum of 2012 will spotlight the growth in laborer trafficking and the smuggling of women and children for sexual exploitation.

Speakers will include sheriff's Lt. Ernie Baker, Deputy District Attorney Gerald Fineman and Jennifer O'Farrell of Operation Safehouse, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for troubled youths, runaways or those estranged from their families.

According to the U.S. State Department, as many as 600,000 to 800,000 people are victims of trafficking every year.

Most of them are women and children, who are transported across international borders for the purpose of commercial sex, pornography and other forms of exploitation.

However, some men are also trafficked, forced into debt bondage or servitude after obtaining assistance from smugglers to gain illegal entry to the United States and other western countries, according to federal officials.

More information is available at



Patrick Dati: Gacy survivor shares his story

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Chicago resident Patrick Dati has been to hell and back. He nearly committed suicide twice. However, he lived to share his story, and now he's helping others heal from the pain of bullying and sexual abuse.

Dati told Windy City Times that he came from a strict, conservative Italian family. He said the family is extremely racist and homophobic: "It always confused and hurt me that they were like this."

"I was bullied by my brother" he added. "It began when I had bronchitis at 2. I was taken to the hospital, and I needed to get shots every week. My brother resented the attention I got and began to beat me daily."

"If Jeff's a faggot, then you must be too," Dati was told by his brother, in reference to a close childhood friend. "If Mike teases you, you kick his ass or I'll kick your ass."

However, the worst was yet to come. One day, while still a child, Dati found himself trapped in a locked public restroom with a man who put a knife to his throat and raped him. He was warned that if he ever spoke of the assault, he would be killed.

Later that day, his brother found him at home, hiding in the closet, crying. Young Dati endured yet another beating.

Years later, while watching news reports, he realized that his restroom attacker was the notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

"I nearly committed suicide over the guilt I felt about my silence, since he had killed 33 others," Dati now says. "I thought maybe I could have saved them if I had spoken up."

Dati expressed his disgust with the book about Gacy, Defending a Monster, which is now being optioned for a film: "It's awful. The book was written by Gacy's attorney. He's trying to benefit from defending a criminal who raped and killed. All he cares about is money."

Following his childhood, Dati had two failed marriages, one of which produced a daughter, now 15 years old. "She's the love of my life," he proclaims. When he finally came out as a gay man at age 41, his brother threatened to kill him, and he finally ended the relationships with his siblings. Of his marriages, he says. "I did what I thought I needed to do to be normal, to please my family. But I felt phony, depressed."

It was a long, hard road towards recovery. He's undergone years of therapy, which continues today. He's very close to his daughter, who has a friendly relationship with his siblings, which he accepts. He and his daughter do not speak of his past. His siblings consider him an embarrassment to the family.

Dati, now 48 years old, is happy at last. He lives as an out, proud gay man, and works diligently towards educating people about abuse and sexual violence. He's become an in-demand public speaker on these topics, and has appeared on network news shows to share his story and speak out against bullying. He holds down a full-time job in the marketing industry, where he's respected. "They've seen my television interviews, and they support me," he said of his employers and co-workers. "My life is incredible now. People write to me. I was able to help a woman who contacted me get help."

One of his proudest achievements is to have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a spokesperson for its 2012 National Trauma Campaign. He's also associated with the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and Rainn—The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. He also said that a book is forthcoming, though the exact title of it has not yet been chosen.

"I'm doing exactly what I've dreamed of my whole life," Dati said. "I'm grateful to be helping other people."

For more information, visit



Measure aims to require reporting of sexual abuse


JEFFERSON CITY • Responding to the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, a St. Louis County lawmaker has drafted legislation that would require anyone who witnesses sexual abuse to report it to authorities.

Current state law requires members of professions that deal directly with children — such as teachers, physicians and clergy — to report suspected abuse. State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, plans to push for passage of a bill that would expand the so-called "mandated reporter" law to include any person — regardless of profession — who observes a child being subjected to sexual abuse.

The key to the change, Schmitt said, is that it focuses only on those who witness sexual abuse firsthand.

"This is a very measured approach," Schmitt said. "This doesn't deal with suspected abuse. It is tailored only to actual sexual abuse that is witnessed, just like the situation at Penn State."

The idea to expand the mandated reporter law was first floated this month by Attorney General Chris Koster. He said the incidents at Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with molesting young boys over a number of years, highlight the disparities across the country in how state laws handle reporting sexual abuse of children. A Penn State assistant football coach testified that in 2002, he witnessed Sandusky molesting a young boy in the shower and that it was reported to school officials.

The incident was never reported to law enforcement.

"This is a very reasonable proposal that was sparked by what happened at Penn State," Koster said. "That incident began a national conversation about mandated reporter laws."

Koster praised Schmitt for taking the initiative to sponsor the bill. The two have not yet discussed the proposed legislation, but a meeting has been scheduled, Schmitt said.

But some critics say the idea amounts to a knee-jerk reaction to the Penn State scandal that may not be needed. Clark Peters, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri's School of Social Work, said Koster and Schmitt's idea to change the mandated reporter law focuses on a situation that is incredibly rare.

"You're basically putting together a law that mandates people to do the right thing," he said. "But if you look at the Penn State situation, even if a law like this existed in Pennsylvania, it would not have compelled the actors to do anything differently."

Anyone can already report abuse of a child by using the state's child abuse and neglect hotline, Peters said.

"And those who would see a child being sexually abused and decide not to report it won't be compelled to do so just because of a new state law," he said.

Additionally, expanding the law could lead to confusion about what people are mandated to report, Peters said, creating a situation where individuals believe they are legally compelled to report any suspicion of abuse of a child. Those reports would lead to an incredibly invasive investigation, even if the suspicion of abuse proves to be untrue. Those unwarranted investigations could lead to legitimate reports of abuse getting overlooked.

"Solutions to rare problems often cause unintended harms, no matter how well-intended," he said.

This is just a matter of elected officials wanting to act in the face of a tragedy, Peters said. "I can appreciate that."

David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — or SNAP — said he believes changing the law wouldn't have much impact.

"It's rare that someone actually witnesses a predator assaulting a child, so we're not confident this proposal would make much difference," said Clohessy, who lives in St. Louis. "Also, sadly, it's very rare that people are actually charged with failing to report suspected abuse. And when they are, the penalties are usually paltry."

A much better reform, Clohessy said, would be for lawmakers to toughen the state's "predator-friendly statute of limitations, which prevents most child sex victims from ever being able to expose predators in court."

Koster said a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 18 states require all individuals to report the suspected abuse or neglect of children.

"If a citizen walks in on the sexual abuse of a child, his duty as a citizen should be clear. We are all mandatory reporters," he said. "When it comes to protecting children, passing the buck should not be an option in our state."

Schmitt said anyone convicted of violating the new law would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

"I think that because this is such a narrowly focused bill, we will be able to get this done pretty quickly during the session," Schmitt said.

Dear Editor,

Unfortunately it takes stories like the Penn State sex abuse scandal for most of us to focus on the details of the epidemic that is child sexual abuse. It is a crime of secrecy. Children are often fearful of their abuser and convinced that if they tell what has happened they will somehow be to blame.

It takes an incredible amount of courage for a victim of child abuse or child sexual abuse to come forward.

This is because approximately 90 percent of those who abuse children are in places of authority, or they are people the victims know and love.

Every adult holds the moral, ethical and oftentimes legal obligation to report suspected child abuse. Every adult should learn the signs of abuse and report suspected abuse so that another child doesn't have to live in fear and torment of child sexual abuse.

Alabama's Mandatory Reporter law outlines those who have the legal obligation to report abuse as well as how to report abuse. However, anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect to Law Enforcement or to DHR.

Far too often in our society people are afraid to get involved in family matters.

However, the abuse and exploitation of our children should be the exception. Children are often unable to protect themselves in these situations. It is everyone's responsibility to protect our children, to give them a voice. Children should have a list of adults they can talk to if someone makes them feel uncomfortable; they should know it's OK to say no and to tell someone; they should know what to do if unsafe touching has occurred, or if they have been solicited online.

For those who have been abused, there is hope. In Alabama, Children's Advocacy Centers are available to coordinate all aspects of child abuse investigations and provide mental and medical health services in a manner to correct these social injustices.

There are 28 member Children's Advocacy Centers. In Shelby County we operate as Owens House. Advocacy Centers are the voice for children, for brave children ­— for heroes and survivors.

For more information on signs of abuse or to find a way to help, contact us at or find a center near you at

Cindy C. Greer
Executive Director, Owens House


Penn State students write song for young sex-abuse victims


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -Through the power of music, two Pennsylvania State University students hope to help victims of child sexual abuse heal. Joe Buyer and Ronnie Byron co-wrote and produced" Childhood Dreams, " a 5 1/2-minute song whose lyrics speak to the struggle the abused face and their quest to find strength to overcome it. The song was written shortly after the Jerry Sandusky criminal case became public, and the creators said it's dedicated to Sandusky's alleged victims as well as the local community that's healing and all victims of such abuse.

"The goal of this was to bring healing to the victims and provide hope at the same time," said Buyer, a fifth-year senior in architectural engineering. Child sexual abuse, he said, "is very tragic, and it is very disgusting. It does not define who they are as a person."

A music video for the song, with vocals from Buyer, pronounced BOO-yer, using the pseudonym Joe Conrad, was posted to YouTube on Christmas Day. Buyer said the song will be available to download from the Internet music store iTunes on Jan. 2.

The song can be found on by searching for " Childhood Dreams Penn State. "

Buyer, of Blacksburg, Va., had the chorus written when he approached his friend Byron, a sophomore music and Spanish major who grew up in Boalsburg, Pa., for help finishing the lyrics.

Byron said they worked on the demo for weeks in a campus music building and ended up with the track that had Buyer doing vocals and playing guitar with Byron on the piano.

Blair Drake, a friend of Buyer's who runs a production company in State College and graduated from Penn State in 2007, offered the use of his studio for a professional-grade recording of their demo.

"He finished listening to our track and had tears in his eyes," Buyer said. "It was a pretty moving experience for all of us at that point."

Buyer said the aftermath of the scandal, such as allegations against Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine, showed his group that child sex abuse was a broader issue that's not confined to Penn State. That's why, he said, they plan to donate some of the proceeds from the iTunes purchases to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a national anti-sexual assault organization. Those details are still being worked out, he said.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said she was moved by the song when she heard it, and she imagines it'll have a similar effect on all Penn State students and alumni.

"I hope it speaks to those outside of our community as well, and allows them to see that we do care deeply about what has transpired and we do have a desire to make it right," she said. "It definitely shows the resilience of our community and the concern for victims everywhere."

ON THE WEB: -" Childhood Dreams " music video:



Program encourages children to report possible abuse


As recent revelations on a national level have demonstrated, adults must get involved if the sexual abuse of children is to be prevented. But, in most cases, kids first have to tell an adult about the abuse.

That's a goal of the personal safety program — A Good Rule to Know — that the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center offers to all county schools.

“We teach it like a safety rule, very direct, using the same type of method,” said Christine Lindsey, assistant director of the advocacy center, who has been presenting the program for 20 years. “Learning safety rules isn't a big deal to kids. They're taught them all the time. Except this one pertains to personal safety.”

The rule, which is taught to children in kindergarten through sixth grade, is simple: “No one should touch the private parts of your body unless it is to help you stay clean or healthy.”

The program is offered at most schools in the outlying areas and in Springfield public schools if the principal decides to do so, Lindsey said.

The program and varies in length, starting with a half-hour for kindergarten and first grade up to an hour for sixth-graders.

There are three different levels of the program, and some schools skip every other year so the children don't hear the same program twice, she said.

Courage, confidence

At the kindergarten and first-grade level, the children hear the rule, watch a video and are given a coloring book they can take home, Lindsey said. They also talk about who to tell if someone breaks the rule.

The prevention educator also establishes that private parts are parts of the body that would be covered by a swimming suit.

“The term sexual abuse is never mentioned,” Lindsey said. “It is just established that the need to tell a grownup is how kids get safe.”

The format for the program developed from one used to educate women against becoming rape victims.

“Except kids don't have the power,” she said. “Yelling, fighting or getting away doesn't necessarily work for kids.”

For second- and third-graders, the educator discusses things like why it's hard for kids to tell, secrets, and telling about things that happened in the past.

“By the fourth through sixth grades, it's more direct,” Lindsey said. “They hear what sexual abuse is.”

Lindsey said teachers appreciate the program

“I love to have them every year,” said Carly Thomas, school social worker and student support leader at Butler Elementary School, 1701 S. MacArthur Blvd. “It's presented in a child-friendly way and makes the students feel comfortable.”

Thomas has used the program each of the four years she's been at Butler.

“It gives them the courage and confidence to report and tells them how to do it,” Thomas said.

Difficult to track

Lindsey said it isn't a rarity to have a student disclose abuse after — or even during — a presentation.

Lindsey taught the program for years, but since taking on more administrative duties, now fills in when prevention educator Annette Kramer is double-booked. Lindsey said it's hard to determine if the program is successful unless a child discloses abuse immediately following the presentation.

“There's really no way of tracking,” said Joseph Goulet, executive director of the advocacy center. “You have to assume there's a kid in there who needs to hear. Ultimately, we can't prevent it unless we get kids to tell. It will continue unless we do something.”

Assistant state's attorney Sheryl Essenburg, who prosecutes child sex abuse cases for the Sangamon County state's attorney's office, said the prevention education program makes children realize that abuse is something they need to report.

“It's very common for a child not to understand this is a problem,” she said. “And some can't figure out who to tell. Sometimes they can't tell Mom because they know she loves the person who is doing this.

“Often those programs are the reason these cases get reported at all,” she said.

Limited funding

“What's really taboo is talking about it,” Goulet said. “When we as adults quit hearing that conversation, we become part of the problem.” The recent public scandals involving the athletic departments of Penn State University and Syracuse University show that “it's everywhere, not just among the lower socio-economic classes,” he said.

So far this school year, A Good Rule to Know has been presented to 2,143 children in 99 classrooms. In the 2010-11 school year, 301 classrooms with 6,444 children were visited.

Goulet said none of the center's county or grant-generated money goes toward prevention. That means programs such as A Good Rule to Know are solely dependent upon funding from the Friends of SCCAC, which accepts donations for center programs.

“We're funded with $10,000 now, but we could do more with additional money,” he said. “We'd like to work with administrators to get it to be a requirement in all schools, but we can't afford to do that now, even if it was required.”

Goulet said the center also has information for parents' groups about what adults can do to prevent abuse.

“It's the responsibility of adults to prevent this with policies and practices,” he said.

Teachers get a resource guide with the Good Rule to Know program, and kids are encouraged to take a handout home to share with adults. Goulet said some parents call for information.

Chris Dettro can be reached at 788-1510.

Want to know more?

More information on the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center's prevention education programs can be found on the advocacy center's website,




Child abuse

Surely ...

by Henry J. Waters III

We ran a story yesterday from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the spate of child sex-abuse revelations in that state. The highest-profile scandal involved officials at Penn State University, but since then a number of unrelated victims have told stories about their own sad experiences.

Widespread sexual abuse by priests led to the formation of SNAP — Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests. Executive Director David Clohessy said, “The real enemy in the child safety struggle is ‘surely.' Surely, after all those lawsuits, surely after all those priests were ousted,” no day care center or athletic program, school or church or scouting group would continue to ignore or hide abuse.

More reports of abuse surely are not enough to fully report the situation. Child sex abuse is by nature a secretive business, fomented by the abusers and kept quiet by youthful victims at a loss what to do. The very idea of telling parents or other mentors is frightening and degrading. Youngsters want to please abusing adults, who usually occupy positions of trust and regard.

In recent cases, knowledgeable adults refused to help combat the situation. If new revelations lead such adults to take action, it will help, but people are reluctant to report bad behavior by friends or family members. They will want to ignore such incidents in hopes they really did not see what they think. They will want close associates to correct bad behavior without holding them up to ridicule and punishment.

If fear of child sex abuse leads parents to withhold children from youth programs overseen by middle-aged men, suspicion will be unfairly misplaced for many to avoid dangers that might be perpetrated by the few.

Child sex abuse has been going on forever. Probably it is no worse now than before. More publicity is bound to help, almost always requiring individual confession long held secret. Otherwise, out of sight and out of mind for most people.


It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, we should take seriously.



Child center reaches out to abused

Stats: 90% know assailants

by Robert Stoneback

DANVILLE -- The Jerry Sandusky-Second Mile scandal has placed child abuse and its victims in the spotlight.

One of the most shocking figures, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, is that more than 90 percent of sexual abuse victims know their assailants. Other statistics show that one of six women and one in 33 men are victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives.

Commonly, the culprit is a nonbiologically-related adult living with the family, said Dr. Pat Bruno, medical director of Geisinger's Child Advocacy Center of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

The abusers might give the victims gifts or other signs of affection as a way of keeping them quiet, he said. The perpetrators will usually not try to physically harm the children because they are receiving sexual gratification from them.

Abusers can try to intimidate a child to keep quiet. A common threat is that if the child tells anyone, the family will split up.

"No matter how bad things are at home, it's their home," Bruno said. People "have to remember how difficult it is" for the kids, he said.

One of the most important things adults can do for young victims is to believe them when they say they have been hurt.

"It may be the one and only time the child discloses it," Bruno said.

"That initial disclosure and how it is received can impact greatly" the recovery of a child, said Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist with Geisinger.

Short-term effects can include difficulty sleeping, increased sadness or anxiety, trouble in school and withdrawing from friends. Long-term effects can be depression, eating disorders, poor self-esteem and changes in behavior.

"Sexual abuse is traumatizing, but it can also be confusion," Quinlan said.

Some warning sings of abuse are "more obvious than others," she said. Some of these include a child coming home with unexplained pain or injuries to the genitals or elsewhere on the body; stains or blood on a child's underwear; a child having difficulty sleeping or an increase in nightmares; changes in moods or outbursts of anger; changes in appetite; displaying knowledge of sexual language or behavior inappropriate for the child's age; and increased anxiety, such as not wanting to be away from the house or around other people.

If a child is reluctant to be left alone with a certain person, it may not necessarily be about sexual abuse but it should be considered, Quinlan said.

The most important things for a child to keep in mind about sexual abuse is that "it's not their fault and that they can heal," said Melissa DeBaro, coordinator at Geisinger's Child Advocacy Center.

"It's not often that kids report immediately," she said. It can be weeks, months or even years later that a child opens up about an incident.

As damaging as a sexual assault can be, DeBaro said, "It's possible to heal and lead a normal life."



Child Stars Speak Out Against Abuse

Child sexual abuse is rampant in Hollywood, say several child stars in the know. What's being done about it? Not a whole lot.

Corey Feldman revealed that he and Corey Haim were sexually abused throughout their teens by adults in Hollywood -- and now other former childhood stars are speaking out and backing up his claims.

"When I watched that interview, a whole series of names and faces from my history went zooming through my head," Paul Petersen, 66, star of the popular 1950's and '60's sitcom The Donna Reed Show and president of A Minor Consideration, told "Some of these people, who I know very well, are still in the game."

Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Olson on Little House on the Prairie , agreed. "This has been going on for a very long time," she said. "It was the gossip back in the '80s. People said, 'Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone's had them.' People talked about it like it was not a big deal."

"I literally heard that they were 'passed around,'" Arngrim said. "The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful -- these were kids, they weren't 18 yet. There were all sorts of stories about everyone from their, quote, 'set guardians' on down that these two had been sexually abused and were totally being corrupted in every possible way."

Both Haim and Feldman struggled with substance abuse issues. Feldman eventually kicked his habit but Haim died in March 2010 after years of using.

Arngrim, who is now the national spokesperson for -- a group that works to protect kids from all kinds of abuse -- agreed with Feldman's assessment that "a circle of older men" prey on industry kids.

"There's more than one person to blame," she said. "I'm sure that it was not just one person who sexually abused Corey Haim, and I'm sure it wasn't only him and Corey Feldman that knew about it. I'm sure that dozens of people were aware of the situation and chose to not report it."

Why would anyone look the other way when such a heinous crime is being committed? "If a child actor is being sexually abused by someone on the show, are the family, agents or managers -- the people who are getting money out of this -- going to say, 'OK, let's press charges'? No, because it's going to bring the whole show to a grinding halt, and stop all the checks. So, the pressure is there is not to say anything."

"It's almost a willing sacrifice that many parents are oblivious to -- what kind of environment do they think that they're pushing their kid into?" Petersen agreed. "The casting couch is a real thing, and sometimes just getting an appointment makes people do desperate things."

Feldman still has not named his and Haim's abusers. "People don't want to talk about this because they're afraid for their careers," said Petersen. "From my perspective, what Corey did was pretty brave. It would be really wonderful if his allegations reached through all of the protective layers and identified the real people who are a part of a worldwide child pornography ring, because it's huge and it respects no borders, just as it does not respect the age of the children involved."

There have been three arrests in December alone in Hollywood sex abuse cases: Child actor manager martin Weiss, Sesame Street composer Fernando Rivas and casting agent Jason James Murphy. Sadly, it sounds like this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you suspect a child is being abused, contact your local police department.



Police step up efforts as violence against children rises

New child advocacy centre to open in new year

by Sherri Zickefoose

CALGARY — A dramatic rise in crimes against children is prompting Calgary police to bump up its child abuse unit.

The addition of seven investigators, nearly doubling the unit, is designed to help police deal with an increasing workload of disturbing cases of violence against youngsters.

“It's not just Calgary that's seen this dramatic increase. It's right across Canada and the U.S. It's a dramatic, notable increase in offences against children,” said Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson.

In Calgary last year, there were 873 cases of children being beaten, sexually abused or killed.

That's up from 713 in 2006.

Staff Sgt. Kelly Campbell heads the child abuse unit of 10 investigators, which is expanding to 17 to keep up.

“It is a concern that these cases are becoming more serious to children, they're getting more and more aggressive with the injuries. That is in a sense troubling, we're seeing more violence,” said Campbell.

“Our plan is to try and make Calgary aware that there is child abuse out there, it is our responsibility to take care of the children.”

The troubling numbers have spurred the creation of a new child advocacy centre geared toward merging agencies under one roof to serve victims and their families. It's expected to open in the new year.

It will co-ordinate Crown prosecutors, welfare workers and police to better handle child abuse cases.


Missing Ind. Girl Found Dead, Babysitter Charged

by TOM LOBIANCO Associated Press

FORT WAYNE - December 27, 2011

The neighbor who was babysitting a 9-year-old Indiana girl when she went missing last week will be formally charged with murder Tuesday, a heartbreaking turn for the girl's relatives who considered him a family friend.

Authorities said Monday night that Aliahna Lemmon had been found dead and Mike Plumadore, who was watching Aliahna and her two sisters when she went missing Friday, was being held on a murder charge. He and Aliahna's family lived in the same mobile home park in Fort Wayne.

"He was a trusted family friend," Aliahna's step-grandfather, David Story, told The Associated Press late Monday, saying he was surprised by the arrest.

Plumadore, 39, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.

He was arrested after being interviewed by police, Allen County sheriff's spokesman Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel said. Investigators said Aliahna's body was found in the northeastern Indiana county, but no details were released.

On Monday, FBI agents descended on the rundown mobile home park where Aliahna lived and was last seen. It's a known haven for registered sex offenders, though Plumadore is not on Indiana's registered sex offenders list. He has a criminal record in Florida and North Carolina that includes convictions for trespassing and assault.

No active search was done Sunday for Aliahna, though more than 100 emergency workers searched for her Saturday around the mobile home park. Tinkel said the same size search could not be sustained because of the Christmas holiday.

Aliahna's mother, Tarah Souders, told The Journal Gazette earlier Monday that her daughter had vision, hearing and emotional problems and suffered from attention deficit disorder. Aliahna and her sisters were staying with Plumadore because their mother had been sick with the flu and Aliahna's stepfather works at night and sleeps during the day.

Plumadore told the newspaper Sunday that he left the three girls in his mobile home about 6 a.m. Friday and went to a gas station about a mile away to buy a cigar. Authorities have said the store's surveillance video shows him there about that time.

"I had dead-bolted the door," he said. "When I got back, all the girls was here."

He said he smoked his cigar and went back to sleep, then woke up about 10 a.m. when Aliahna's mother called. After that call, he realized the door to the home was unlocked and that Aliahna was gone. He said Aliahna's 6-year-old sisters told him Aliahna had left with her mother.

Plumadore said it wasn't until he talked with Aliahna's mother about 8:30 p.m. that they realized she was missing and police were notified. Souders said the miscommunication caused the delay in determining that Aliahna had vanished.

"She's never wandered off," she said earlier Monday.

Elizabeth Watkins, who lives nearby, said residents are cautious and keep to themselves in part because of the number of sex offenders living in the mobile home park. According to a state website, 15 registered sex offenders live in the park that numbers about two dozen homes. Watkins and she didn't know Plumadore and was shocked when told of the girl's death.

"I'm numb, I'm totally numb. I don't know what to think," she said.



Groups battle sex trafficking in Atlanta

by Gracie Bonds Staples

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

December 26, 2011

For the past 12 years, Stephanie Davis has worked to stop human trafficking and, more urgently, child prostitution in Atlanta.

Through all those years and all the desperate stories, Davis said she has been undeterred. Why? The victims are generally poor, have been sexually abused and feel trapped and alone. And they have little recourse.

Some are smuggled from South America, Mexico or Bosnia and trafficked across state lines to work the streets of Atlanta. Others are from southeast Asia and work in the metro area's massage parlors or strip clubs.

Regardless of their back stories, Davis said, “They are putting themselves in danger every single night.”

On average, 100 adolescent girls are sexually exploited for money in Georgia on a typical night, according to a report by the Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based research, marketing and communications firm. The data reveal that 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia each month and the largest concentration of men — 42 percent — seeking to pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia is in the north metro area, outside the Perimeter. Twenty-six percent come from inside the Perimeter and 23 percent from the south metro area outside the Perimeter. Nine percent are from the immediate vicinity of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

So when more than 500 people from around the world gathered in Atlanta in September for the daylong Womenetics 2011 Global Women's Initiative, Davis was there, along with activist Naomi Tutu and former U.S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt, because human trafficking isn't just a shameful blight on Atlanta; it's one affecting the world.

“These issues require concerted solutions to help women become fully engaged in society and thus advance economically,” said Elisabeth Marchant, founder of Womenetics, a resource for female business professionals and the companies that employ them.

“At the 2011 Global Women's Initiative, we learned that the U.S. spends more in a day combating drug trafficking than it spends on an entire year fighting human trafficking,” Marchant said. “If we can raise awareness of the harsh reality of this crime, together we can work to increase funding and public and private policies that will dramatically diminish human trafficking and exploitation.”

The numbers are stunning: Globally, more than 600,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 percent of them women and girls. Up to 50 percent are minors. And in the U.S., an estimated 18,000 human beings are trafficked annually.

Tajuan McCarty, 40, was once among them. She was 12 years old when she ran away from home and straight into the arms of a pimp who promised to take care of her.

“You're led to believe it's the only way to survive and technically it is because you have no other skills,” McCarty said during a recent telephone interview.

Once her pimp introduced her to cocaine at age 15, she said that was it.

“It became a vicious cycle,” McCarty said. “At age 20, I stopped counting how many times I'd been raped. Technically, I should be dead. My throat was cut once by another girl and twice I had a gun pulled at my head but neither one of them fired. Life was crazy.”

When she finally broke away more than 10 years later in 1997, McCarty was arrested for stealing.

“It was then that I made the decision I wasn't going back to the streets,” she said.

Instead of prison time, McCarty, by then a mother of two, was sentenced to a drug treatment facility. For the next 10 years, she appeared to have turned her life around. But in 2008, McCarty relapsed and was sent to prison for a year.

“The day I got out, I did drugs,” she said. “A few months later, I met a lady and was introduced to Jesus.”

That, McCarty said, has made the difference in her life. Today, she works with women 18 and older, who are still in the drug life but are trying to find their way out.

Not many do, said Davis, executive director of Georgia Women for a Change, a public policy nonprofit that works to advance progressive change for women and girls in the state.

“There are a small minority of women and girls who survive and thrive,” she said. “It's important to tell stories of success but those stories are very rare.”

Davis is working with Covenant House in southwest Atlanta to open a drop-in center that will provide girls with a safe and viable alternative to street life and the pimps trying to lure them.

But in the meantime, she said more needs to be done to stem the demand for child and adult prostitution.

“That will mean moving the needle on a culture than tolerates men buying sex,” Davis said.

According to Allison Ashe, executive director of Covenant House, there are as many as 24 youth seeking refuge at the agency's Crisis Center on Lakewood Avenue. A third of those, she said, are fleeing their pimps. The center, the only one of its kind in Georgia, operates 24 hours a day and is open to any kid seeking a place of refuge. (For help, call 404-589-0163 or 1-800-999-9999.)

Marchant said that it's important for corporations and governments to acknowledge human trafficking and address the issue on a global scale.

“Trafficking and exploitation have real economic implications for companies and countries and it's not just sexual exploitation,” Marchant said. “For every one person oppressed in sexual trafficking, nine people are exploited for labor purposes.”

Atlanta, she said, is at the epicenter for human trafficking in the country.

“It's our hope that events such as the Womenetics Global Women's Initiative will advance our community's understanding of the magnitude of the problem and what we all can do to eradicate human trafficking and exploitation in Atlanta,” said Marchant.

“When we as a community begin to actively monitor and police the situation around us, victims of trafficking and exploitation are more likely to find justice and their abusers are more likely to be prosecuted.”


Actress Julia Ormond Speaks Out Against Human Slavery

by Mickey Goodman

Author and Journalist

On an unseasonably blustery day in Atlanta, actress Julia Ormond's dark hair is pulled back in a jagged ponytail and she's clutching a loose sweater around her slender frame. She leans forward in her chair at Porsche headquarters and talks about her speech the night before to a group of women associated with Women etics. Though her appearance is completely un-Hollywood, there's something decidedly magnetic about the beautiful actress who dazzled audiences in Legends of the Fall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and many more.

Once dubbed "the new Vivian Leigh," she portrays the famous actress in her current film, My Week with Marilyn . It is based on Colin Clark's memoirs, The Prince, The Showgirl and Me about Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier and his real-life wife, Vivien Leigh.

But instead of dishing Hollywood gossip or talking about the new film, her topic was deadly serious -- human trafficking -- and the organization she founded, the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET) which is on a mission to find solutions. Thanks to Porsche's partnership with Women etics, Ormond was brought to Atlanta to talk to women executives at the top rung of their corporate ladders, all associated with the organization founded by Elisabeth Marchant to empower women and their companies.

"Do you want to know where human slavery is the worst?" Ormond asks. "It's in my own kitchen. The tomatoes on my counter were likely picked by people living in slave camps in Florida where 90 percent of the tomatoes are harvested. They end up in restaurant chains, grocery stores and our own tables."

According to Ormond, nearly all of the fresh foods we eat, the clothes we wear and the athletic gear we use are likely produced by slaves somewhere along the supply chain. "Without our knowledge, it's a problem that has received little, if any, scrutiny," she says. "If we don't deal with it now, the problem will only get bigger."

The statistics are appalling. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 12 million victims of forced labor worldwide of which 2.5 are trafficking victims. Half of those are underage. "But for every person forced into the sex trade, nine are forced to work in agriculture and manufacturing," Ormond says. It's common to use children in mines and fields, a number estimated at 200 million worldwide by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Corporations benefit by being able to offer lower prices. Reform has been far too slow, and consumers are largely left in the dark.

Until now.

Thanks to the efforts of ASSET and other nonprofits, there's been a breakthrough. On January 1, 2012, California will become the first state to enact a bill requiring companies with revenues of more than $100 million to publicly report on their websites voluntary efforts to monitor their direct supply chains to eliminate exploitation.

Named the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657), it affects 3,200 different brands doing business in the state. By visiting company websites, consumers can use their buying power to convince corporations that human slavery is bad for business.

But why would a Hollywood actress who continues to land plum roles get involved?

"While working in Eastern Europe, the issue of human trafficking kept popping up," says Ormond, a long-time activist. She couldn't get the problem out of her mind and decided to talk with survivors. "Hearing their stories was like walking through a tunnel of horror. I also talked with experts who were struggling to find systemic solutions -- not just something reactive like setting up shelters and refugee centers."

Out of those conversations came ASSET and an effort to bring all the stakeholders together -- government, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, corporations and consumers. Since those associated with Women etics are in positions to think about best practices in their own companies and strive to eliminate the use of forced workers, they are the perfect audience to effect change.

Although stopping slavery, whether sexual, agricultural, manufacturing or mining is definitely part of their DNA and one of the main reasons Porsche signed on as a major sponsor of Women etics , their main focus is empowering women. "Companies that have women at the top get better results," says Marchant, whose decision to become a virtual organization was to focus on women around the globe.

The reasons can be counted in dollars and cents. In 2009, women became the majority gender in the workforce, topping 51 percent. Many are the sole breadwinner. They make 90 percent of the buying decisions in the household, control $12 trillion of the $18.4 trillion total global spending, generate $1.3 trillion in revenue, own 8.1 million businesses that employ 7.7 million people, and control 51.3 percent of private wealth (

Because Atlanta is home to Porsche's North American headquarters and the geographic center for human trafficking in the United States, the company wanted to reach out to women like those associated with Women etics who could take action. By bringing Julia Ormond to the city, they hope to raise awareness of this issue on a local and national level.



'I spent 32 years afraid to breathe': Breese woman hopes her story of abuse will give courage to other victims


Tricia McKnight is no stranger to domestic abuse and her mission is to share her story in the hopes it will encourage and help other women get out of violent, abusive situations.

"A lot of them are like me," said McKnight, 48, of Breese. "They were 'trained' to behave in a certain way and accept certain things and not think anything about it. It becomes a pattern of abuse. I spent 32 years afraid to breathe, literally afraid to breathe."

McKnight has written about her lifetime of abuse, from being abused by her stepfather as a child to physical and emotional abuse from husbands. It is all documented in her book "My Justice," which chronicles her heartbreaking and often shocking cycle of abuse.

She started a Facebook support group, Survivor's World, and has helped women from around the world get connected with the help they need to get out of a violent home life. The support group is a private group and accessible by request only.

"I know how hard it is to come forward with your secrets," she said. "A lot of them are sharing their secrets for the very first time and that's a very difficult process."

According to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, domestic violence is a pattern, a reign of force and terror. It is not defined by only physical attacks but includes intimidation, threats, economic depravation, psychological and sexual abuse. Experts have compared methods used by batterers to those used by terrorists to brainwash hostages.

The last beating McKnight endured left her with a spinal cord injury.

"He woke me up at 4 a.m. choking me, then proceeded to beat me with a chair," she said. "He had been out drinking and was angry that I was in bed sleeping. The cops came and told us that one of us had to leave or both of us were going to jail.

"I was furious. I was 37 years old and all I had ever experienced was violence and degradation and abuse and now I was being told I was going to jail if I didn't leave. I made a decision that night that I was never going to tolerate this again."

She and her children moved out of the abusive household and McKnight started seeing a therapist. The therapist is the one who suggested she start writing.

"I wrote to apologize to my kids for what they had to witness in their lives and how it affected their lives," she said. "I wrote to bring about awareness about how horrible this can be for everyone involved. It's a trained pattern of violence acceptance and my kids were learning that pattern."

In her own children, all now adults, she has seen them experiencing problems with maintaining healthy relationships and difficulties with self-confidence.

"So many things have affected them," she said. "When the abuse would start, my children would hide. My kids and I walked on eggshells for a very, very long time."

McKnight has recently been working with Susan Murphy Milano, a domestic violence survivor, radio host, lecturer, first responder trainer and author of several books addressing domestic violence, including "Defending Our Lives," "Moving Out, Moving On," and "Time's Up." The books help people in abusive situations move away from the abuse and deal with confusing situations surrounding violence prevention, stalking, break-up or divorce.

"We are working on some of the legislation for documenting abuse to get these abusers convicted on these evidentiary abuse documents," McKnight said. "You want to have proof that the violence is happening. Take pictures of the bruises and keep them on a flash drive. You have to reach out to one friend that you trust and let them know what's going on because it is a life or death situation -- it really is. I don't know how I am sitting here alive today because I've been choked, almost drowned and had loaded weapons pointed at my face."

McKnight applauded the efforts of St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly to improve the way his office has encouraged metro-east police departments to document domestic violence calls with video evidence to increase the ability of his office to successfully prosecute domestic violence cases, even when the victim isn't a willing party to the prosecution.

"I like the strength they are putting behind the laws," she said. "It's no longer just a slap on the wrist. They've taken it out of the hands of the victims and you know if you call the cops they are coming and they will take him and you'll have time to get help and get support.

"It's going in the right direction, but, nationwide, domestic violence is still not getting the attention it needs. The laws are good and strong. It's the community perception of domestic violence that needs to change. People have to remember we didn't commit these crimes, they were committed against us. It's nothing that we did."

McKnight said she hopes her support group and her speaking out about her own abuse and journey out of an abusive life will give others the courage to get out.

"I'm not the only survivor out there. There are millions of us and a lot of them still keep their secrets," McKnight said. "Most of them keep those secrets even from their families because they are afraid of being shunned and blamed for it."



Child sex abuse linked to suicide

Dec 26, 2011

Calls have been made for a national study to examine the link between childhood sex abuse and suicide.

Suicide prevention helpline 1Life said more than a quarter of crisis calls this year were from adults who suffered attacks as a youngster.

And a group for survivors of abuse also revealed two people on its waiting list died by suicide over the last 18 months.

Ciaran Austin, director of services with Console which runs 1Life, raised concerns over the hike in calls following the publication of sickening clerical abuse reports, including the recent Cloyne Report.

“I want to see an audit between suicide and child abuse because we feel, anecdotally, there is a huge link between that and people who are in crisis or self harming,” he said.

“But there has been no study to pinpoint it.

“When people present high risk it could be a reaction to two to three key life events or losses in their life. There is something underlying.”

Official figures show 486 people died by suicide in 2010 - including 104 in the first three months of the year. The figure dropped to 85 in the first three months of 2011.

However 1Life receives about 3,000 crisis calls a month from people on the verge of suicide and in desperate need of urgent support.

Approximately four out of ten callers have alcohol or drug addictions, either in the present or past, with 40 per cent suffering from a mental health problem, such as depression.

Some 21 per cent suffered childhood sexual abuse or violence and 15 per cent are unemployed and face financial stress.

Mr Austin said several of those issues also overlap for many callers to its freephone 24 hour helpline on 1800 247 100 (or who text the word HELP to 51444).

Survivors of childhood abuse can also call Connect on freephone 1800 477 477 or the Samaritans on 1850 60 90 90.

Mr Austin, whose brother killed himself at the age of 22, expects a 20 per cent rise in crisis calls in the New Year due to the financial fall-out from Christmas, the closure of many mental health services during the holidays, longer darker nights, and a hike in alcohol consumption.

Elsewhere One in Four said despite 931 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse attending its services in 2010, two people died by suicide while waiting for help.

Maeve Lewis, executive director, said: “It would certainly be a good idea if the various services identified when sexual abuse is part of the problem underlying suicide or suicide attempts.

“I have no doubt that sexual abuse is a factor in some suicides. In the past 18 months two people who were on our waiting list died by suicide.

“The National Strategy on Suicide 2007 also identified sexual abuse as a potential risk factor for suicide.”



Hershey's Center for the Protection of Children aims to treat child abuse, fix Penn State's reputation


During a career focused on child abuse, Dr. Andi Taroli has struggled to attract the attention and money the problem deserves.

The Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal changed that.

Taroli came to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center last summer. Now she finds herself director of the new Center for the Protection of Children, which has two towering missions.

One is to treat and prevent all forms of child abuse, from neglect to beatings to sexual assault.

Another is to restore Penn State's reputation, which was shattered by allegations that Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator for Penn State's football team, is a serial pedophile and the university took no action following a sexual assault on campus.

New Penn State President Rodney Erickson has said the university will, for starters, devote this year's bowl revenues of at least $500,000 to the center.

He further suggested Penn State will place the kind of emphasis on child abuse that has long been associated with its football program .

“We want this to be a broad-based effort that will make a difference in the nation and the world,” Erickson said.

Taroli, 53, is one of about 200 U.S. pediatricians who is board certified in child abuse. Over the years, she found child abuse to be a subject that makes people avert their eyes and ears.

Yet because of Sandusky, the eyes and ears of the nation are suddenly focused not only on child abuse, but on Penn State.

“This is an opportunity to grow and move forward,” Taroli said.

The center, while involving experts and programs from across Penn State, will be based at Penn State-Hershey.

As a result, it should provide a major resource, and have an almost immediate impact, in the Harrisburg region.

One impact will likely stem from a higher profile for Taroli and several pediatric colleagues with similar devotion to child abuse.

They're expected to provide a resource for local doctors, child protection workers, law enforcement officers and others who come in contact with victims of child abuse.

Taroli is an expert in recognizing injuries caused by child abuse, and collaborating with the legal system on child abuse cases.

“Many, many kinds of child abuse are a medical diagnosis,” said Taroli, who further stresses the importance of being able to recognize when suspected abuse is the result of something different.

Beyond that, Taroli and some of her colleagues are experts on the many factors, such as stress or substance abuse within a home, that put children at high risk of abuse.

Another aspect of the new center that will impact the Harrisburg area residents will be a pediatric clinic devoted to foster children, who have unique medical needs.

Foster children are especially vulnerable to abuse.

They're further vulnerable to other medical problems, including those stemming from the fact that upheaval in their lives can deny them long-term relationships with doctors who are fully aware of their medical histories.

Another huge void the clinic plans to address involves a shortage of mental health care and counseling available to foster children, who often have a great need.

Taroli noted that many foster children are covered by Medicaid, which has minimal benefits towards counseling.

There are other leaders at Penn State-Hershey who also will play key roles with the Center for the Protection of Children.

They include Dr. Daniel Notterman, Penn State's associate vice president for research, and Dr. Craig Hillemeier, the medical director of the Children's Hospital.

Notterman stressed there is research being carried out across Penn State, in many different departments and fields, that can impact child abuse. A major role of the center will be to foster new connections and collaborations, he said.

The Carlisle-based Penn State Dickinson School of Law, which already collaborates with the children's hospital, can impact many of the legal aspects of child abuse.

Penn State, because it trains so many different types of professionals — doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers — is in a unique position to pass the newest and best knowledge to people who have close contact with children, note people familiar with child abuse.

The center will strive to collaborate, and build on the work of, child abuse experts and organizations from across Pennsylvania and the nation.

Hillemeier said the university's new commitment to child abuse, and the resources expected to flow from it, is “energizing and exciting for us.”

Notterman said he's confident the new resources devoted to the center won't come at the expense of other children's hospital programs.

Outside the medical center, Harrisburg area experts on child abuse also view the center as an opportunity to vastly increase the level of knowledge and expertise deployed toward combating child abuse.

“I think it's an opportunity to create some good, some lasting change, as well as some resources for the central part of the state,” said Kristen Houser, the vice president of communications for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

For Houser, one of the many tantalizing possibilities involves greater understanding of potentially lifelong medical impacts of child abuse, and developing ways to offset them.

Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, said the center can provide a hub for sharing the newest and best practices related to child abuse.

She further sees opportunities in areas such as using technology to connect Penn State doctors specializing in child abuse to doctors in remote areas, and devising legal streamlines and technological advances to make it easier for doctors to testify in child abuse cases.

At the same time, the outside experts point to potential pitfalls that Penn State must avoid.

These include failing to recognize and involve the many people and organizations across Pennsylvania that are already impacting the issue, and attempting to “reinvent the wheel.”

“The responses, and the strategies, have to be bigger than one institution,” Palm said.

In discussing the Center for the Protection of Children, experts including Palm avoided dwelling on the alleged crimes of Sandusky and possibly others at Penn State.

But it's not lost on them that, because of the situation, a uniquely capable giant has been given perhaps the strongest possible motivation to tackle one of society's hardest problems.

“Now, the question is what new story will they write, not only for themselves, but for the children of Pennsylvania,” Palm said. “I think they have nothing but opportunity in front of them.”

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