Child-on-Child Sex Abuse Poses Complex Challenges
by DAVID CRARY AP National Writer NEW YORK
January 8, 2012
Recent high-profile cases of child sex abuse have roused national revulsion against the adults who perpetrated them. Rarely mentioned is the sobering statistic that more than one-third of the sexual abuse of America's children is committed by other minors.
For many of the therapists and attorneys who deal with them, these juvenile offenders pose a profoundly complicated challenge for the child-protection and criminal justice systems. It's a diverse group that defies stereotypes, encompassing a minority of youths who represent a threat of long-term danger to others and a majority who are responsive to treatment and unlikely to reoffend.
"There's a long continuum, from kids who will never do it again to a kid who probably will be an adult rapist/pedophile," said Steve Bengis, executive director of the New England Adolescent Research Institute in Holyoke, Mass. "It's not a 'one size fits all' yet we end out with public policy that's geared toward the worst 5 percent."
That public policy includes a federal law, the Adam Walsh Act, with a requirement that states include certain juvenile offenders as young as 14 on their sex-offender registries. Many professionals who deal with young offenders object to the requirement, saying it can wreak lifelong harm on adolescents who might otherwise get back on the track toward law-abiding, productive lives.
Some states have balked at complying with the juvenile registration requirement, even at the price of losing some federal criminal-justice funding. Other states have provisions tougher than the federal act, subjecting children younger than 14 to the possibility of 25-year or lifetime listings on publicly accessible registries that include photos of the offenders.
Delaware recently had a 9-year-old child on its registry. Several other states have registered 12- and 13-year-olds.
"We're bringing down a very heavy hammer on the head of kids, with significant life-altering consequences," said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. "It's a knee-jerk reaction that's foolhardy beyond imagination."
Nicole Pittman, a Human Rights Watch researcher, has been analyzing the impact of registration on the children who get listed, and says states should halt the practice. But she knows it's a longshot quest.
"Most legislators do not believe children should be on the registry — yet it's the kiss of death for most politicians to vote against any sex offender law," she said.
Basic data about child-on-child sex abuse is detailed in an authoritative, Justice Department-sponsored analysis of crime data from 29 states. Conducted by three prominent researchers, the 2009 analysis found that juveniles accounted for 35.6 percent of the people identified by police as having committed sex offenses against minors.
Of these young offenders, 93 percent were male, and the peak ages for offending were 12 through 14, the researchers found. Of the victims, 59 percent were younger than 12 and 75 percent were female.
The report referred to a popular misconception that juvenile sex offenders are likely to reoffend, and said numerous studies over the years have shown the opposite — that 85 to 95 percent of offending youth are never again arrested for sex crimes.
University of Oklahoma pediatrics professor Mark Chaffin, a co-author of the 2009 report, says efforts to deal constructively with juvenile sex offenders are complicated by the tendency of some legislators and others to lump them together with adult sexual predators.
"That used to be the message — that we should apply the template from what we know about adult pedophilia," Chaffin said. "Now that the data has shown most of those assumptions were wrong, it's difficult to undo those messages that people in the advocacy and treatment fields were putting out a generation ago."
Experts say the young offenders differ from adult sex offenders not only in their lower recidivism rates, but in the diversity of their motives and abusive behavior.
While some youths commit violent, premeditated acts of sexual assault and rape, others get in trouble for behavior arising from curiosity, naivete, peer pressure, momentary irresponsibility, misinterpretation of what they believed was mutual interest, and a host of other reasons. Some cases involve sibling incest; sometimes the offenders have autism or other developmental disorders that lessen their ability to self-police inappropriate conduct.
"There needs to be a highly discriminative response system," said sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. "It needs to differentiate between the kids we should stigmatize as little as possible, who are probably going to be fine with some kind of education, and others who need a lot of intervention, including maybe incarceration, because they pose a tremendous risk."
"We run a big risk if we get it wrong," he added. "We fail to protect the public on one hand, or we ruin the lives of young people who might otherwise be headed in a healthy direction."
In most cases of child-on-child sex abuse, the public never hears about it. Experts say many incidents are never reported in the first place, due to the shame or embarrassment of victims and their parents, and most of the cases that are reported are handled confidentially through the juvenile justice system.
An exception was the highly publicized case of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old foster child in Florida who hanged himself in 2009. Post-mortem investigations determined that he had been a victim of sex abuse perpetrated by an older boy, had touched some of his classmates in sexually inappropriate ways, and was on several powerful psychotropic medications.
In response to his death, Florida formed a task force which concluded that Gabriel's problems with sex abuse were not addressed effectively by the long chain of adults who dealt with him. The task force recommended upgraded training about child-on-child sex abuse and development of an alert system to better monitor children with sexual behavior issues.
"With Gabriel Myers, the big thing was lack of training," said Robert Edelman, who has worked with many abused children as a mental health counselor in Gainesville, Fla. He said investigators, counselors and case managers involved with child-on-child sex cases should be required to get special certification.
The ripple effects of such abuse were evident in another case that Edelman became engaged in, involving a man now in his 20s who was molested at age 8 by an older boy, and later — at 15 — was charged with molesting his half-sister.
During a counseling session after that arrest, Edelman noticed slashes on the youth's arm — he'd tried to kill himself out of remorse for abusing the sister.
In his early 20s, the man was arrested for a domestic violence incident involving his wife, Edelman said, and at one stage faced the possibility of having his children removed from the home because he'd been labeled a juvenile sex offender.
"Something that happened to him when he was 8 was still being carried around 15 years later," Edelman said.
Veronique Valliere, a psychologist with a counseling practice in Fogelsville, Pa., has worked with numerous youths implicated in sex offenses, ranging from those she deemed highly unlikely to reoffend to others who posed a clear long-term menace. One such case, she said, involved a youth who began molesting younger children when he was 12 or 13 and was showing signs of developing pedophilia.
"By 14, he was so sophisticated that he could sexually assault a child sitting next to him in church — or in the backseat of a car," Valliere said.
Despite extensive attempts to treat the young man, the abuse continued, and Valliere said he is now serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence for child sex abuse he committed as a 22-year-old.
"He was a rare case," she said. "He had every opportunity to get better. We did everything we could do, but he just wasn't willing to manage himself."
Looking nationwide, experts differ as to whether sex abuse by juveniles is proliferating or abating.
The latest juvenile crime data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that arrests of juvenile sex offenders declined by about 25 percent from 2000 through 2009. That would mesh with a decline in child sex abuse committed by adults, as well as a decline in the overall juvenile crime rate.
But data from New York City, Florida and elsewhere indicates that the prevalence of child-on-child sex hasn't dropped noticeably.
In any case, forms of abuse evolve with the times as sexting becomes a common youth activity and easily accessible online pornography affects some children.
"There's a fear of technology — parents don't think they can control it," said Marsha Levick, who has been working with colleagues to dissuade prosecutors from criminalizing commonplace teen sexting activities.
For parents, it's often hard to discern warning signs about potentially dangerous sexual activity or to identify youths who might pose a threat to their own children.
"It would be less scary if we could come up with a stereotype ... so as a parent we could say, 'Stay away from this type of child,'" said Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency. "There is no typical youthful offender. They come from all backgrounds."
Safe Horizon serves adult victims of rape and sex trafficking, but Arnow said the child-on-child sex abuse cases are among the most difficult.
"We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm," she said. She recalled investigations of children as young as 7, and the arrest of an 8-year-old.
In New York City, sex offenders aged 7 through 15 usually end up in family court, where the main goal is rehabilitation, not punishment.
"We're supposed to consider needs of juveniles and the need for public safety, so it's balancing act," said Thea Davis, chief of the family court's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. Cases often end with plea bargaining and probation. The most severe outcome is an 18-month placement in a secure state-run facility for juvenile offenders.
The hardest cases, Davis said, are intra-family cases where a cousin or brother abuses a younger cousin or sibling.
"Immediately you have to separate the perpetrator from the victim and make sure the victim is safe," she said. "But you also have to think that in the long run you're dealing with a family, and you're not going to keep them separated forever."
Virginia White, a family counselor with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, deals with young victims of sex abuse, including those targeted by siblings.
"The parents are in a tough place — they feel guilty a lot," she said. "And the victim is often torn, because the other sibling may be removed from home."
Ideally, parents as well as the offending child should be involved in treatment, according to Jay Deppeler, president of an agency called Edison Court in Doylestown, Pa., that runs a residential treatment program for adolescent male sex offenders.
However, Deppeler said stigma and fear of consequences probably deter some families from telling authorities about cases of intra-family abuse.
"The family may circle the wagons, and the abuse may persist," he said.
Another challenging type of abuse cases involves youths who are autistic.
Lawrence Sutton, a psychologist from Pittsburgh, recently assessed 37 youths in a residential sex-offender unit and found that 60 percent were autistic. He said these youths, many of them past victims of sexual abuse, can be treated successfully if the reasons for their behavior problems are understood.
Many don't know who to form relationships, "how to make friends," Sutton said. "Most of them have done to others what was done to them at some point."
Deppeler recalled one autistic young man who came through Edison Court as an outpatient. He had committed a sex offense as a 14-year-old and later — after turning 18 — committed a property-related offense that sent him to the adult criminal justice system. As a result, the young man became obligated to apprise prospective employers of his full record, including the juvenile sex offense — making him "virtually unemployable."
"Long term, I fear his prospects are quite bleak," Deppeler said. "What do we end up doing with a guy like that?"
Florida task force report on child-on-child sex abuse: http://bit.ly/sqaEvA
Office of Justice Programs report on juvenile sex offenders: http://1.usa.gov/uUjX82
Children in trauma need help
Recent national news has brought the issue of child sexual abuse to the forefront.
by Anna Frissell and Greg Diehl
Recent national news has brought the issue of child sexual abuse to the forefront. If there is a silver lining to this tragedy, it is that it has opened up dialogue in regard to child sexual abuse, child safety, and reporting.
Children are not responsible for their own protection. Adults have a responsibility to learn the signs of abuse and to be vigilant in protecting children. However, it is important to teach all children about safe touches, unsafe touches and whom to go to for help if they are made to feel uncomfortable by a touch or other action.
Many children do not tell anyone about the abuse they have experienced, often due to the child's feeling of shame or fear. The abuser may make the child believe that the abuse is somehow his/her fault or they may use threats to ensure the child does not speak to anyone about the abuse. An example of this is the abuser may tell the child that he/she may be taken away from his/her family if he/she tells anyone.
Adults have the moral and ethical obligation to report suspected child abuse, irrespective of whether they have a legal obligation to do so. If an adult witnesses or suspects child sexual abuse or if a child tells a trusted adult about the abuse, action must be taken. The child should be believed, and the issue should be brought immediately to law enforcement or Social Services.
Those who abuse children are clever about finding opportunities to have access to children. They often groom adults to lower their boundaries in regard to contact with their children in the same way that they groom children for sexual contact. Parents and caregivers should sense a “red flag” if any adult (friend, coach, minister, teacher, family member, or other) seeks to spend significant amounts of time alone with their children. This attention may be appropriate, or it could be grooming for sexual contact.
The Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and the Red River Children's Advocacy Center are local organizations that are here to help children and their nonoffending caregivers from the point of the initial trauma through long-term counseling. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. The difference each of us can have in the life of one child can have long-term effects for generations to come.
Step up; speak up; get involved.
Frissell is executive director of the Red River Children's Advocacy Center; Diehl is executive director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead.
Giving children a chance at happiness
CASA of Southwest Missouri (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a private, nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports community volunteers who assist the court in protecting the best interests of abused and neglected children in southwest Missouri.
Once trained by CASA staff and sworn-in by a juvenile court judge, CASA volunteers begin a process of information gathering with the goal of guiding abused children out of the foster care system, identifying the child's needs and ensuring rehabilitative services. They act as a communications link between the complicated pieces of the child welfare system. Volunteers gather all the pertinent information about their child's case and make recommendations to the judge based on that information.
CASA volunteers range in age from 21 to 85 years. They come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, including teachers, nurses and doctors, bankers, Realtors, professors, stay-at-home moms and retirees. CASA volunteers are asked to make a commitment to stay with each case they assume until the case closes through reunification with the family, adoption or "aging out" of the system: The average length of a case in Greene County is about 24 months.
According to the most recent Missouri Kids Count report, Greene County continues to have one of the state's highest rates of child abuse and neglect -- more than triple the rate of St. Louis County. For this reason, the social services system is under great pressure. CASA volunteers work within the social system and court system, providing other professionals and judges with critical information regarding the children's physical, emotional and educational needs.
As a volunteer-driven organization, CASA is one of the most efficient ways to improve the community in which you live and work. In 2010, 111 trained community volunteer advocates dedicated 5,045 hours of service to 233 abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers don't just advocate on behalf of children to ensure that they don't get lost in the legal or social-services system, or find themselves in unsafe foster homes. They also spend countless hours engaging, listening to and encouraging the young person.
Besides advocating for a child, volunteers are needed to raise CASA awareness in the workplace and community. Other volunteers are needed as well to assist with special events and in-house needs. Just having persons like you share this report with other persons you know will help us provide a CASA for every child who needs one. Just as time can be given in a variety of ways, tax-deductible donations can be made in a variety of ways, whether it's individual giving, workplace contributions, matching corporate support/stocks or a planned gift to the endowment fund.
Overall, CASA strives to complete its vision of providing southwest Missouri's abused and neglected children with a chance for a happy childhood and an opportunity to thrive in adulthood.
Matthew Evans and Pat Reiser are co-executive directors of CASA of Southwest Missouri.
A far cry from 'CSI'
Many forensic pathologists are unprepared for complex child death cases.
by A.C. Thompson
January 8, 2012
California Gov. Jerry Brown is considering granting clemency to Shirley Ree Smith, a grandmother convicted in 1997 of shaking to death her 7-week-old grandson, Etzel Glass. Sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, Smith insists she's innocent.
Prosecutors built their case against Smith almost entirely on the findings of forensic pathologists at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. During an autopsy, doctors discovered a small amount of bleeding on the infant's brain and in his optic nerves. Based on this bleeding, the forensic pathologists concluded that somebody had violently shaken Etzel's body, killing him.
They ruled the death a homicide. Others, however, aren't so sure.
Etzel's body exhibited few of the signs typically associated with fatal head injuries. One doctor testifying on Smith's behalf dismissed the notion that Etzel was murdered as "fantasy." In a 2006 opinion, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals expressed a similar skepticism, saying there was "simply no demonstrable support for shaking as the cause of death."
Whether or not Smith is ultimately pardoned, her story provides a window into the increasingly rancorous scientific debate about shaken baby syndrome, a once-widely accepted theory that violent jostling can cause fatal head injuries in infants. Based on studies dating back to the 1960s, many doctors came to believe that a signature trio of symptoms — bleeding and swelling of the brain, and hemorrhaging of the retinas — provided conclusive proof that someone had shaken a child to death.
But now a growing number of experts have doubts about the diagnosis. Official reviews in Canada and Britain have uncovered cases in which people were wrongly convicted based on the shaken baby theory.
As a journalist for ProPublica, I've spent more than a year scrutinizing the inner workings of the nation's system of coroner and medical examiner offices responsible for probing sudden and suspicious fatalities. In the course of that research, my colleagues and I analyzed roughly two dozen instances in which people were wrongly accused of killing babies or small children.
Questionable autopsy findings played a central role in each of these cases. Some experts, like Dr. Michael Laposata, the chief pathologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, think there are more innocent people still serving time in prison. "I don't think it's a handful," Laposata told me last year. "I think it's far more."
When children die unexpectedly, the authorities often look for unnatural causes, and rightly so; in recent decades our society has become far more vigilant about detecting and prosecuting child abuse, an admirable accomplishment.
But child deaths can pose special problems for forensic pathologists. When babies and small children die, the clues can be quite subtle. Oftentimes, doctors are hunting for microscopic indicators that a child has suffered head trauma or has been asphyxiated. Such cases require a high degree of expertise.
A key concern is that forensic pathologists may confuse the symptoms of a natural ailment for a sign of abuse. That could well be what happened with baby Etzel. There are dozens of afflictions that cause bleeding and bruising and can easily be mistaken for child abuse. One of the leading textbooks on child abuse now includes two chapters on these mimics, which range from certain forms of cancer to sickle cell anemia to trauma suffered during the birthing process.
Unfortunately, many forensic pathologists aren't prepared to deal with the complexity of child death cases. According to a 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences, only a third of the coroner and medical examiner offices in the U.S. had the equipment to do a microscopic tissue analysis. The report painted a dismal portrait of the profession, citing poor funding, a lack of decent facilities and a severe shortage of qualified doctors.
Reality, it turns out, bears very little resemblance to "CSI."
My colleagues and I surveyed the nation's 69 busiest coroner and medical examiner offices. More than 1 in 5 of the physicians working in these morgues — including the chief medical examiner of Washington, D.C. — were not board certified in forensic pathology, the branch of medicine focused on the mechanics of death. Experts say such certification ensures that doctors have at least a basic grasp of the science, and should be a requirement for anyone performing autopsies in a possible homicide case.
Located at the intersection of science and the law, coroners and medical examiners are subject to little regulation in most states and, as the National Academy pointed out, there are no national standards for the field. By contrast, nursing homes, hospitals, dialysis centers, clinical laboratories and many other medical facilities receive oversight at both the state and federal level, and can be fined if they fail to operate properly.
So as Gov. Brown considers Smith's request to commute her sentence, he might consider another question, as well:
Are there any other criminal convictions he should be taking a close look at?
A.C. Thompson is a reporter for ProPublica. His investigation of child deaths can be found at http://www.probublica.com
Harry Potter: Unconditional love and healing from abuse
by Jerome Elam - A Heart Without Compromise; Advocating for Children
DALLAS, January 7, 2012 – J.K. Rowling's beautifully written “Harry Potter” series has transcended age and culture to become a fixture on the best seller list, making its author wealthier than the Queen of England.
Deep within its pages is a magic that enchants readers and introduced a generation to the love of reading. Flashlight manufacturers have rejoiced worldwide as the late nightglow from beneath many a child's blanket spread like wildfire.
The reason these books have drawn so many into such a loyal following reaches far deeper than the miraculous adventures of a lonely, spectacled orphan. The brilliance in the writing of J.K. Rowling is the elegant way she shares her own vulnerabilities and strengths through the evolution of her many characters.
The most marvelous manifestation of this is the “aura of unconditional love” that J.K. Rowling has surrounded Harry Potter with since his first day in the cupboard.
In all honesty, I was never really drawn to the story of the young wizard until the day I became a parent and found true healing in my recovery from childhood sex abuse. What drew me in and made me a fan is the benevolent presence of J.K. Rowling in the character of Harry Potter's mother Lily. She projects unconditional love, shielding Harry from the darkest threats he faces.
As a baby, this love saves Harry from the evil wizard Voldemort and continues to protect him through all his perilous adventures, guiding him to happiness.
At the time the first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone” (the book was released in the U.S. and India as “Sorcerer's Stone) was written, Ms. Rowling was a single mother living on social security, writing in a cafe in Scotland. As a parent, the force of an uncertain future weighs twice as heavy on your conscience and it casts a long shadow. It is in these times of desperation that something deep inside speaks to us. That voice we hear pushing back the echo of hopelessness and fear is unconditional love. It has served to inspire many, and I count myself as one of the lucky souls who has heard that voice. I thank that voice for rescuing me, and making me all that I am today.
That voice is the bond every parent feels for his or her child, and although some may ignore it, for me it is the most powerful force in the world.
The phenomenon of unconditional love is important for many reasons, primarily because it is the tether that binds a child permanently to a sense of self worth. A child's life will rise or fall based on the presence or absence of that love, and many victims of child abuse have fallen without it. In my many years of healing through therapy, therapists often asked “Why are you sitting here right now and not an addict or even worse?” The answer is unconditional love. One of my family members gave me enough ot it to guide my life to where it is now. A child deprived of that love can be lost to the blackness of the abyss and with no tether to humanity.
The high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and the suicide rate among survivors of child sex abuse are a testament to the damages for children without that true, unconditional love. Many survivors are on a repetitive downward spiral because they were deprived as children of any form of unconditional love. Without this valuable influence, the healing process cannot find traction and within the emptiness of shattered dreams and vandalized happiness self worth withers.
My parents divorced when I was three and I was separated from my biological father until twenty-four years had passed. It was easy for me to fantasize about him as an antidote for the years of suffering I endured. Through many years of failed relationships, I held the image of my father as the Holy Grail of my healing process. My biological father had disappeared from my life at age three and I spent many years tracking him down through public records and small bits of information from relatives. In the end, disappointment reigned supreme and I was lost in the shadows of my childhood pain yet again. I drifted through my life for some time and finally found enough footing to move forward. I set off on a journey through many support groups and worked hard in therapy. Each evolution of healing was hard fought, and although meaningful, left me far from the summit of what I desired.
Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse come to the crossroads of their healing journey and make a choice not to continue. Exhausted from the process of daily pain and unrelenting nightmares, I made that choice to walk away. I wanted to find someplace in the sun for even a moment, where I could feel the warmth on my face without a price. I tried to pretend like the abuse I suffered never happened, because living with that pain was just too difficult. In the end, my attempt to hide from my past was futile because the strength of the rift that child abuse had left in my soul prevailed. Memories of child sex abuse are like banana peels that your subconscious places in your mind's path.
One slip and you find your self in the quagmire of pain you fought so hard to avoid. A smell or a song can bring awful memories flooding back with no warning. I was left to decide whether I was traveling further down the road to healing or drifting back down the river of hopelessness.
I was standing at the cross roads of my life and something within me pushed me down the road less traveled into healing. That something was the unconditional love I had experienced as a young child. That force has led me on my journey into happiness and been the guardian of my well-being. It has made me stand up and leave a bar when I teetered at the precipice of drowning myself with alcohol. It has started my car and driven me away from a bad situation and swept away my nightmares of child sex abuse. I would even say it was what made me get up, get dressed and go to the party where I met my wife when all I felt like doing was sleeping.
In the struggle to heal from childhood sexual abuse, I lacked the introspection to find many positives in my life. I wandered in a painful haze as I battled the hemorrhaging happiness in my life, all of my dreams vandalized. I struggled from day to day, hoping the next would bring clarity, fully immersed in the fantasy that someone or something would make it right. Those of us who are lucky spend many years in therapy finally coming to the realization that the Rosetta Stone of our lives stares at us from the mirror each day.
If we all look hard enough, we can all find examples of unconditional love in our lives and, like Harry Potter, we have the purveyor of that love to thank for our happiness. We owe it to that person who gave us that wonderful gift to pass it on to our children and to our families. J.K. Rowling's books are as much about unconditional love and healing as they are about adventure.
Just as Harry heals from the devastation of the untimely death of his parents at the hands of Voldemort, I have healed from child sex abuse with the love of my family. We may not be locked in battle with an evil wizard, but we are all engaged in determining our children's future whether we be muggles or wizards. It is the magic that is in our hearts that can change this world and all we have to do is open ourselves to the possibilities of unconditional love.
Human Trafficking in Northwest: victims reaching record numbers
by Kacey Montoya
It's an epidemic most of us don't talk about, but that doesn't stop it from happening: Sex-trafficking.
The numbers of American teens being sexually exploited is on the rise and it happens more often that you think.
Every 30 seconds another girl becomes victim of human trafficking, entering this underworld as young as 12 years old.
These startling statistics fueled Charles Taylor Gould to document the problem in the Northwest.
"The general public has no idea what these kids go through," said Gould, who has been a Multnomah County Juvenile court counselor for 16 years.
Gould works with teens on probation training them for the workforce and helping them find jobs.
Three years ago he started making the documentary called 'Your American Teen' following three Northwest teenage girls for two years, documenting their lives as victims of sexual exploitation.
"It's not a myth, it's right in front of us," said Michelle Bart, producer and publicist for the documentary 'Your American Teen.'
(see trailer here: youramericanteen-movie.com)
Bart founded Helping Heroes Productions and helped organize this year's Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking Conference(NWCAT) to be held at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel in North Portland.
"We have a problem and instead of ignoring it let's find a solution," Bart said.
That's the goal of the NWCAT conference. Bart said if people don't know the problem, they can't help find the solution.
For conference and film festival information and registration log onto their website http://nwcat.org/
If you or someone you know is involved in human trafficking, it's not too late to get help.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working exclusively on the issue of human trafficking. Their hotline is 888-3737-888.
Sold For Sex, in Our Backyards
by Elizabeth Prann
Today, Keisha Head is a wife and mother of three. But more than decade ago, she was the victim of a notorious human trafficker.
At 16-years old, Head says she was being sold on the streets of Atlanta for sex.
“I did not know that a normal, average man who was a preacher, who was a lawyer, who was a senator - could turn into this monster,” Head said. “That is the scariest moment when you are amongst people who claim to be normal yet they purchase you and they turn into these monsters. They rape you. They beat you. And then act as if they're normal. These are not your normal pedophiles.”
Experts say, across the globe, millions of people are trafficked each year. Hundreds of thousands of the victims are women and girls. But what surprises many -- is the rate it is happening in affluent neighborhoods where minors are being turned into sex slaves.
“The buyers aren't just pedophiles. The buyers are normal community men, normal leaders, people that belong to someone,” said Jennifer Swain, state coordinator for A Future. Not A Past.
A Future. Not A Past ., is a campaign organized by the Juvenile Justice Fund in Georgia. Swain and her peers, such as Keisha Head, work to educate and prevent exploited children.
The organization lobbied Georgia legislators to pass HB 200 last year. A victory for victim advocates, the bill imposes stricter punishments on offenders and improves the treatment of trafficking victims.
“We have to stop the men. This is a very lucrative business,” Swain said.
According to the Georgia Governor's Office, more than 400 girls are sexually exploited every month in the state. On average, the girls begin having sex for money between the age of 12 and 14.
“Atlanta is one of 14 cities in the United States that are the highest in terms of child prostitution and sexual exploitation,” said Brian D Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “It's a major transportation hub -- not just domestically but internationally.”
Businesses Getting on Board
Atlanta is seeing the problem firsthand. Some attribute the issue to a huge interstate system. Others put the blame on Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – the world's busiest airport.
“I think they are absolutely connected. We don't know for sure but we have seen human traffickers utilize the airport to bring in victims,” Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge ICE Atlanta. “We know that the same airports bring in conventioneers and other targets or employers that might be interested in these individuals as well.”
But there are now big corporations getting on board such as Coca Cola, Delta and LexisNexis. Many are taking initiatives to educate employees about red flags whether it is in the supply chains for their products or customers such as airline travelers.
In fact, Delta Airlines is the first major airline to sign the ECPAT, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. It's a global network of businesses that work together to eliminate of child prostitution. Delta is developing policies and procedures to educate employees recognize the problem and address it.
“I know Delta has put a lot of their pilots and their stewards through training to be aware of things to look for - to be aware of the signs and signals,” said Elisabeth Marchant, the founder of Womenetics, a resource for female business professionals who are proactively educating employees about warning signs and red flags.
“There is also a big move in the hospitality industry now with hotel systems -- like the Intercontinental Hotel Group and Hilton -- who have also joined ECPAT who are working on these issues to create alerts and lookout for these problems in hotels,” she said.
With increasing technology and the Internet, human trafficking has become more accessible and more anonymous. That being said, grassroots organizations, victims advocates as well as lawmakers and prosecutors are banding together to combat the problem. They all pledge to do so until it no longer plagues the lives of victims across the globe.
“Who could imagine we would allow any of this to happen?” said Marchant. “It's just incomprehensible to me that this is happening today. Young children in particular are being taken advantage of and being sold. It is just not acceptable.”
College students unite in Georgia to stop human trafficking
by AMBERLY PAGE
42,000 college students gathered in Atlanta this week and helped raise over $3 million to stop human trafficking.
Passion 2012 a christian conference drew young people from around the world to the Georgia Dome January 2nd-5th.
Students were engaged in worship and focused on ministry. This year's main ministry focus in the conference was the problem of human trafficking.
Together the students gave a voice to the 27 million slaves in the world today and helped raise $3,066,670 that will go toward organizations world wide to prevent rescue and restore those enchained in slavery.
The Patriot's Craig Lawson attened the passion conference this week and said it was a life changing experience.
Of the $3 million raised $100,000 will stay here in georgia to help police stop child exploitation and human sex trafficking in the city of Atlanta.
Social media vs child abuse
THEY are dubbed the “digital natives.”
Indeed, for the youth of today, the Internet has become an integral part of their lives.
According to Delia Hernandez, a professor at Ateneo de Manila University, people now communicate through texting, blogging, collaborative authorship, online messaging and content sharing either photos or videos or both.
In her presentation during a recent forum on social media and child abuse, she said the Internet has become an indispensable element in the lives of everyone, including children, given the widespread availability of Internet access in homes, schools and public places.
“The Internet has become a powerful socialization agent.… It is a wonderful resource for children today. It can be used to research school reports, to communicate with other, play interactive games and literally access the world,” she said, citing the findings of an oft-quoted 1989 study by Huston, Watkins and Kunkel.
But she also gave this warning: “Knowingly or unknowingly, there are some dangers to Internet use. Internet can be a source for pornographic materials. The images and words in the Internet can be hateful or violent in nature. It encourages activities that are dangerous or illegal, age-inappropriate or biased.”
Among the dangers that have been identified, she said, are online enticement to engage in sexual activities, bullying and even child prostitution.
Tool for communication
INTERNET use has consistently been growing among Filipinos. According to the latest survey of research firm Synovate Inc., the reach of the Internet has climbed to 46 percent from 32 percent in its previous survey.
Synovate also noted that Internet use has been growing across all socioeconomic classes, even among those belonging to Class E, which rose to 20 percent.
“Internet as a medium has been growing across all regions, from Greater Manila Area to Mindanao and all age groups,” Carole Sarthou, managing director of Synovate in the Philippines, said in September, when the company released the survey.
This growth suggests how dependent people, especially the youth, have become on the Internet, not just as a source of information but also as a tool for communication.
From e-mail to chatting, many people use the Internet to socialize with friends through sites such as Facebook, or even talk with families who are abroad through Skype.
Unfortunately, these convenient communication platforms are also open for use by criminals like sex offenders to find potential victims.
Last month, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), Para sa mga Bata Citizens' Network (PSMB) and National Council for Children's Television held a forum to tackle the importance and relevance of social-media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as an advocacy tool against all forms of child abuse to cyberspace.
It was participated in by around 200 active social-media users to highlight the powerful role of citizens in advocating for and educating the public in protecting and caring for children both online and offline. Social-media users from all walks of life, from mothers and teachers to bloggers and celebrities, interacted with child-rights advocates from the government and the private sector on critical issues on children, and how they can make a difference.
The DSWD, CWC and many child advocates are already using social media to advocate and promote the rights and welfare of children. These networks may be used to exchange views and opinions, as well as a venue to report cases of child abuse, such as cyber bullying and cyber pornography.
“I encourage everyone to remain vigilant in reporting cases of these types of child abuse to the authorities,” Social Welfare Secretary and CWC chairman Corazon Juliano-Soliman told the participants.
CWC Executive Director Brenda Vigo also said the government and the private sector must work together to ensure that no Filipino child is abused—whether in online communities or in their barangays.
“While many syndicates still use the old method of face-to-face recruitment of innocent children for their illegal business, some have tapped the limitless potentials of the Internet to further expand their business,” Vigo said.
“Child abuse is not only happening in real space, but also on the Internet. It has become pervasive on the Internet, especially child pornography. They also recruit their victims for child trafficking through the Internet.… This is precisely why we need to inform the citizens, especially parents, that child abuse is happening on the Internet without being detected,” she said.
THE dangers need not be that extreme.
The Internet also plays an important part in “shaping the behavior of young people, especially on how they respond to their environment and how they socialize and relate to other people.”
Given the amount of content available on the Internet, it is not difficult for children to stumble upon, for instance, videos that portray violent behavior, or pornographic materials and sexually explicit content. Many believe that children exposed to such inappropriate content may develop in them “tendencies toward accepting and engaging” in similar activities.
The CWC, which is celebrating its 37th anniversary this month, shared a set of “10 Internet Rules 4 Kids”—practical and plain advice from the United Nations Children's Fund. It is also handing out a dossier on “General Internet Safety Tips for Families” published by Childnet International, Commonsense Media, ConnectSafely and TrendMicro.
For its part, PSMB President Ranch Macalalad encouraged parents to be very vigilant and active in joining child-advocacy groups like the PSMB.
“As parents, they are the first ones who will make sure that their children are well protected and safe against all forms of abuse on the Internet,” he said.
Some warning signs to look out for, according to Hernandez, the Ateneo professor, include children spending long hours online, phone calls from people they don't know, withdrawal from family life and a reluctance to discuss their online activities.
Basic rules for children
HERNANDEZ advised parents to inculcate the following to their children:
• Never trade personal photographs in the mail or scanned photographs over the Internet.
• Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location. Use only a screen name.
• Never agree to meet anyone from the chat room in person.
• Never respond to a threatening e-mail or message.
• Always tell your parents about any communication or conversation that was scary.
• If your child has a new “friend,” insist on being “introduced” online to that friend.
Parents are also urged to take responsibility for their child's Internet use.
“Spend time with our children when they are online,” she said. “Explore the wide range of information that is available and discuss with our children which topics we consider off limits. Keep lines of communication open so we can talk to our children about Internet use.”
It is also important to monitor how much time children spend online as excessive use may indicate a problem.
“Do not use the Internet as an electronic babysitter,” she said. “Make computer use a family activity.”
US redefines rape to count more people as victims
by PETE YOST
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says it is expanding the FBI's more than eight-decade-old definition of rape to reflect a better understanding of the crime and to broaden protections.
The new definition counts men as victims for the first time and drops the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
Vice President Joe Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate, said the new definition announced Friday is a victory for women and men "whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years." Calling rape a "devastating crime," the vice president said, "We can't solve it unless we know the full extent of it."
The change will increase the number of people counted as rape victims in FBI statistics but will not will not change federal or state laws or alter charges or prosecutions. It's an important shift because lawmakers and policymakers use crime statistics to allocate money and other resources for prevention and victim assistance.
The White House said the expanded definition has been long awaited as many states and research groups made similar changes in their definitions of rape over recent decades.
Since 1929, the FBI has defined rape as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will. The revised definition covers any gender of victim or attacker and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. Physical resistance is not required. The Justice Department said the new definition mirrors the majority of state rape statutes now on the books.
Congress approved $592 million this year to address violence against women, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, under the Violence Against Women Act and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. Of that amount, $23 million goes to a sexual assault services program and $39 million to a rape prevention and education program administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Obama administration had sought $777 million to combat violence against women.
The change likely will result in big increases in the number of reported rapes, but it was not immediately clear how big. To take just one example of how the FBI totals will change, Chicago didn't report any rapes to the FBI for 2010 because its broad definition of the crime didn't match the FBI's narrow definition.
The change has been sought by women's groups for more than a decade.
The Women's Law Project, on behalf of more than 80 sexual assault coalitions and national organizations concerned about violence against women, wrote FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2001 that the narrow definition reflected gender-based stereotypes and requested it be changed.
Using the old definition, a total of 84,767 rapes were reported nationwide in 2010, according to the FBI's uniform crime report based on data from 18,000 law enforcement agencies.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives, according to a 2010 survey by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which used a broader definition.
The revised FBI definition says that rape is "the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object," without the consent of the victim. Also constituting rape under the new definition is "oral penetration by a sex organ of another person" without consent.
For victims of sexual assault, small steps toward justice
by Carly Rothman & Tony Kurdzuk -- The Star-Ledger
An Assembly panel has approved a bill to remove the state's two-year statute of limitations on lawsuits for child sexual abuse.
For victims of sexual assault, perhaps this week could be considered a small turning point in the road to justice.
First, a New Jersey Assembly panel approved a bill that would remove the two-year statute of limitations on lawsuits for child sexual abuse , making it possible for more adults who were abused as children to come forward. The bill is expected to be posted for a vote in both houses next week.
"Child victims need time — to remember the crime, connect it to destructive adult behaviors, build courage to act. A child victim still deserves justice 30 years later. Moreover, those who commit sex crimes against children don't stop with age. A man who abused children in the 1970s may be abusing others today," wrote The Star-Ledger editorial board in support of the measure.
Then today, the federal Department of Justice announced it is revising its definition of rape — updating the one now in use, which had been the same since since 1927.
The old definition was "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," applied only to penile penetration of the vagina, and required that the woman physically resist the rape to count. Such a definition excluded many victims, including men, people attacked with objects, and people unable to resist physically due to mental or physical incapacity, or the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Those omissions are corrected in the new definition, the DOJ announced today.
"The statistics that were reported nationally were both inaccurate and undercounted," the DOJ said in a statement . "Because the new definition is more inclusive, reported crimes of rape are likely to increase."
And that's critical, since funding for programs to prevent sex assault and help victims is frequently allocated based on these statistics.
The new definition won't change federal laws, but it could change perceptions. And that's where real change begins.
$250K to help curb child sex abuse
Donation launches Silent Tears program
January 7, 2012
A Greenville couple recently donated $250,000 to help with an initiative to examine child sexual abuse.
Bob and Lisa Castellani donated the money to be used as part of a strategic plan to take a comprehensive look at child sexual abuse victims and those committing the crimes.
Silent Tears: Giving a Voice to Child Sexual Abuse is a program that officially was launched Thursday at the Greenville County Council chambers.
The announcement was attended by representatives from health care, law enforcement, faith-based groups and the business community.
“First, we will meet with child protection stakeholders from throughout the state to obtain their input for effectively administering the project,” Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University in Minnesota, said in a statement.
He said the second part of the process will involve selecting five counties in the state to conduct interviews with child protection professionals to look at the strengths and weaknesses in responding to the cases.
After conducting the interviews, Vieth said the group will work with the Center for Child Advocacy Studies program at the University of South Carolina Upstate to create a survey to gain more information from child protection professionals, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, social workers, and mental and medical health care providers.
Once all of the work is completed, the group will present a summary of the findings and recommendations. The work will be used to improve the state's ability to respond to child sexual abuse cases.
“They invested considerable money studying the issue,” said U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, the former 7th Circuit solicitor. “You need to have a firm understanding of the challenges in dealing with child sexual abuse.”
Gowdy said coaches and teachers need to be trained to notice the problem, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors. He said the goal is to have fewer child sexual abuse victims.
“If you can deal with causes, then you can treat the victims and deal with the perpetrators,” Gowdy said. “The idea is to begin looking at how do you begin to break that cycle. Bob is not under any illusion that there will be a quick fix,” he said.
Expert explains what could be reasons behind sexual child abuse
by Kalisha Whitman
Sexually abusing a child is an act most people can't begin to understand. However, for 14 years Clinical Therapist Deegan Malone has gained a professional understanding in order to help rehabilitate sexual offenders - a business she says many people won't get involved with.
“Most of the individuals that I work with have had a history of some type of sexual abuse or molestation in their past, and they kind of recreate that with their victims throughout their lives,” Malone said.
Many wonder if the abuser was sexually abused, why would they sexually abuse another person?
Malone says there can be a number of reasons.
“They may have enjoyed it when they were younger, it gives them attention ad gratification or maybe they were socially stunted and could not get that sexual connection or intimacy with an adult,” she said.
No matter the reasoning, Licensed Counselor Rhonna Phillips says the victim suffers.
Phillips said that can lead to a number of things, the victim becoming the abuser, trust issues or the victim could become more susceptible to getting involved in an abusive situations.
Phillips says 8 times out of 10 the child knows their offender and doesn't tell anyone about it, because the child wants to protect the person who was supposed to protect them.
“These are people that they don't want to see them get in trouble. They don't want to see they want to see them hurt,” Phillips said. “They just want the abuse to stop and they don't necessarily want to report it because they don't want to see that person get in trouble.”
Both Malone and Phillips say when parents and guardians play an active role in a child's life it can help prevent them from being a sexual abused. They said most child abusers prey on the child who seem to be the most vulnerable and who are looking to be loved, and needed.
Clergy abuse victims meet on Boston anniversary
by Jay Lindsay
BOSTON— Dozens of clergy sex abuse victims are gathering in Boston this weekend to mark a decade since the abuse crisis broke and devastated Catholics and their church nationwide.
The conference coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2002, publication of a Boston Globe article that prompted a stream of revelations about abusive priests and church leaders who failed to stop them, instead moving them between parishes.
About two-thirds of the 120 people signed up to attend the conference are clergy sex abuse victims, said Eva Montibello of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children, an abuse prevention group that helped plan the event.
The conference aims to prevent child sex abuse and increase its exposure, with steps such as encouraging victims to go public with their stories -- including the painful details. The last 10 years has shown that can lead to revelations from other victims, Montibello said.
Clergy sex abuse victim Robert Costello, also a conference organizer, said they also want to celebrate progress helping victims heal and forcing the church to confront abuse.
"It's important to mark the change that has occurred," Costello said. "In the history of the church, which moves millennium per millennium, 10 years is lightning speed. And survivors did that. Supporters did that."
The conference, called the "10th anniversary Celebration & Conference: Confronting the Crimes & Cover-up of Sexual Abuse by the Boston Clergy," runs from Friday night through Sunday at a Boston hotel. Events include media and legal panels, talks on making the church more accountable and a play, "For Pete's Sake," written by and starring the victim of a pedophile priest.
On Sunday, participants will demonstrate at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the mother church of the Boston Archdiocese, continuing the regular protests there since the scandal broke.
Prominent clergy sex abuse victims' attorney Mitchell Garabedian, a speaker on the conference's legal panel, said the meeting will keep pressure on the Boston Archdiocese to do more.
The church has enacted various reforms in the last decade, but Garabedian said they largely amount to hollow gestures.
Clergy sex abuse advocates say too few church leaders and abusers have been held criminally accountable, and they're pushing for changes in statute of limitations laws. Such laws can prevent prosecutions if the alleged abuse was too far in the past.
Advocates also say a list of 159 accused priests, released this year by the Boston Archdiocese, left off dozens of clerics.
In five pages of reflections on the crisis, released this week, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley said the crisis will never really end and the church must continually seek forgiveness.
But he also pointed to progress, including settling 800 claims of abuse, training 300,000 children and 175,000 adults to spot and prevent abuse and $7 million spent to provide counseling and medication for victims.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue said Thursday that the church has a better record than any other institution fighting child sex abuse, but some victims won't ever be satisfied.
In a release headlined "Boston Victims Bask in Misery," Donahue said, "It's time for some straight talk: these people don't want to move on, and that's because they have too much invested in maintaining their victim status."
Costello, 50, said he was raped for years as a child by Rev. John Cotter, who he said would digitally penetrate him in the shallow end of a swimming pool under the guise of teaching him to swim. That left him in such pain, he couldn't sit on bus rides home from the pool, he said.
Abuse victims don't want to bask in the past -- they wish it never happened, and it's often led to personal, financial and drug problems, he said. But the conference can recognize that many people have been able to come forward and start dealing with their pain in the last decade, while also bringing change to the church.
"We forced them to take a look at it. And it went global," Costello said. "We need to celebrate that."
APD, local nonprofit get financial boost to fight trafficking
by Shelia M. Poole
The city of Atlanta and a Georgia nonprofit that helps women who have been forced into the sex industry will receive more than $240,000 to fight human trafficking.
The funds come from more than $3.2 million that was raised during the recent four-day Passion 2012 conference, which drew more than 42,000 young Christians, ranging in age from 18 to 25. The focus of the gathering, put on by Alpharetta-based Passion Conferences, was global human trafficking, which includes forced labor, child labor and sex trafficking.
Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement that the money will be used to make "Atlanta a safer to place to live. Unfortunately, our young people are oftentimes our most vulnerable, but with these funds we will be better poised to protect them. This significant contribution is absolutely critical and will go directly to the Atlanta Police Department's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Squad.”
Wellspring Living, based in Tyrone, will receive $141,000. The 11-year-old nonprofit, which relies on private funding and provides education and therapy, will use the money to renovate apartments that house up to 25 women, said President Mary Frances Bowley.
"These [Passion Conference] students rose up and said no way," she said.
Bowley said domestic sex trafficking remains a major problem in the state. "The issue is really so prevalent that we don't recognize it in our city," she said. "Just to know what they [the girls] have been through, it will just make you want to go out and hurt somebody. You just weep for what they've been through."
Each month, about 374 girls are commercially sexually exploited in Georgia, according to information on the Governor's Office for Children and Families website. The average age of entry into prostitution or the commercial sex market is between 12 and 14 years old.
Donations at the Passion 2012 conference ranged from a few dollars to a $500,000 check from an anonymous couple, said organizers.
Among the donors was Lexie Ware, a 21-year-old student at Kennesaw State University, who learned that it doesn't take a lot to join the global fight.
"I have to actively be part of ending it here," said Ware, who gave $50. "That's just really part of the Gospel, to give back to those who need to be set free."
The Passion 2012 donation comes at a time when additional attention is being focused on the issue of human trafficking.
President Barack Obama recently declared January "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month" and on Feb. 1, several advocacy groups will meet at the Georgia Capitol to press legislators to do more to end trafficking.
Additionally, Google said it will donate $11.5 million to several nonprofits and coalitions on the forefront of the issue.
During the Atlanta conference, organizers erected a 103-foot sculpture of an outstretched hand that was that was draped with items typically made by "human slaves," including clothing, soccer balls, stuffed animals and even Christmas ornaments, said spokeswoman Brittany Thoms. There were also designated "freedom stations" where people lined up to make donations.
Bryson Vogeltanz, chief steward of Do Something Now which was part of Passion Conference, said the crowd comprised mostly of college students learned "what it means to walk out your faith and how it's closely aligned with action. Faith is something that moves us. It's about worship and justice."
The $3.2 million total exceeded Do Something Now's original goal of $1 million.
Protecting children from sexual abuse
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Child advocates have stepped up their efforts to understand how to protect children from sex abuse.
It is a subject that's difficult for most people to discuss, but it's a serious and unfortunately, a known problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which consists of the country's children's doctors, has now issued a set of tips for parents on preventing and identifying child sexual abuse.
Dr. Margaret McHugh, a pediatrician at Bellvue and NYU School of Medicine, has been dealing the issue with for decades.
At the Frances Loeb Child Protection Center, children's toys and skilled experts help treat and intervene for children who have experienced sex abuse.
Working in this field for decades, Dr. Mchugh is a firm believer in prevention.
"Once people realize that you have to talk about it, we're gonna prevent it," she said.
What parents need to know, says Dr. McHugh and the academy, is that most offenders are not strangers to the child or to the family. That is foremost to understand.
So by age 2 and half or 3, when parents begin to teach the child about safety, they must also teach protection.
"Teaching a child safety should be the same whether it's crossing the street or being safe. Your body is yours. People do not touch it and if they do, come tell me. If someone touches you, come tell me," McHugh explained.
Parents must do it calmly, says Dr. McHugh.
But if a child begins to show signs of inappropriate behaviors, inappropriate gestures or touching, or if he or she says something has happened, you must not ignore it.
"Call you physician. Call your provider, whoever that is. If it's not a pediatrician, maybe your own doctor or maybe a school nurse. Somebody that you feel comfortable going to saying I'm really scared something has happened to my child," McHugh said.
As they say, it takes village to protect children.
Winona's House recently opened in downtown Newark to provide support and family therapy to children who've suffered sexual or physical abuse.
While children can heal from abuse, it's as important to know they can be kept safe from it.
Dr. McHugh says she wishes she could reassure parents 100 percent that their children will never be sexually abused, but the sad reality is she can't.
Many schools and parents use a program called "no, go, tell" - say no, go from the scene, tell somebody. It's a simple program that can help children protect themselves, whether from abuse or even bullying.
FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS:
Tips that can minimize your child's risk of molestation:
1. In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while private, are not so private that you can't talk about them.
2. Parents can teach young children about the privacy of body parts, and that no one has the right to touch their bodies if they don't want that to happen. Children should also learn to respect the right to privacy of other people.
3. Teach children early and often that there are no secrets between children and their parents, and that they should feel comfortable talking with their parent about anything -- good or bad, fun or sad, easy or difficult.
4. Be aware of adults who offer children special gifts or toys, or adults who want to take your child on a "special outing" or to special events.
5. Enroll your child in daycare and other programs that have a parent "open door" policy. Monitor and participate in activities whenever possible.
6. As children age, create an environment at home in which sexual topics can be discussed comfortably. Use news items and publicized reports of child sexual abuse to start discussions of safety, and reiterate that children should always tell a parent about anyone who is taking advantage of them sexually.
7. If your child discloses any history of sexual abuse, listen carefully, and take his or her disclosure seriously. Too often, children are not believed, particularly if they implicate a family member as the perpetrator. Contact your pediatrician, the local child protection service agency, or the police. If you don't intervene, the abuse might continue, and the child may come to believe that home is not safe and that you are not available to help.
8. Support your child and let him or her know that he or she is not responsible for the abuse.
9. Bring your child to a physician for a medical examination, to ensure that the child's physical health has not been affected by the abuse.
10. Most children and their families will also need professional counseling to help them through this ordeal, and your pediatrician can refer you to community resources for psychological help.
11. If you have concerns that your child may be a victim of sexual abuse, you should talk with your pediatrician. Your physician can discuss your concerns, examine your child, and make necessary referrals and reports.
Education is key to protecting youth from abuse
A statistic from last month's article indicated that 29 percent of offenders or abusers are relatives of the victim, and 60 percent of the offenders are acquaintances of the victim. And 89 percent of child abuse offenders are known to the victims and/or their families.
A statistic from last month's article indicated that 29 percent of offenders or abusers are relatives of the victim, and 60 percent of the offenders are acquaintances of the victim. And 89 percent of child abuse offenders are known to the victims and/or their families.
What can we do to change the statistics? We can educate our children and loved ones. Teach your children to tell a trusted adult if they were in a situation that made them feel uncomfortable. We can teach our children to trust their instincts even at a very young age.
As the adults, we need to listen and take into account what our young people are telling us.
Another important tip is to be aware of who lives nearby. There are about 75 registered sex offenders living in the city of Superior. Information about the offenders can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections web page, www.widocoffenders.org, or at the Family Watch Dog web page at www.familywatchdog.net.
The Superior Police Department holds community notification meetings when certain sex offenders are released into our community. The Police Department and Department of Corrections are not required to conduct community notifications. The police department chooses to make sex offender release notifications as a part of our commitment to serve and protect our community.
The Superior Police Department conducts checks of all registered sex offenders living in the city of Superior. Police officers have face-to-face contact with each registered offender twice a year. Beginning in 2012, Level III offenders will have face-to-face contact with officers three times a year.
Part one of this article was printed in the Superior Telegram on Dec. 2. The article was also posted on the Superior Police Department's Facebook page.
Victims of abuse can find help from the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse at (715) 392-3136 or (800) 649-2921. We hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year.
Community Policing Officer Bonnie Johnson shares information with the community. You can leave a voicemail for her at (715) 395-7401. Her column will appear on the first Friday of each month in the Telegram.
State Supreme Court to rule on time limits in molestation cases
During oral arguments at the California Supreme Court, several justices appear skeptical about allowing flexible deadlines for lawsuits against those who knew about abuse and didn't stop it.
by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
January 6, 2012
Reporting from San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court appeared reluctant Thursday to give adult victims of child molestation the right to sue decades later those who knew of the abuse and failed to stop it.
During oral argument, several members of the state high court expressed skepticism toward a lower court's finding that gave adult victims flexible legal deadlines for bringing such third-party suits.
The court is considering a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church by six brothers who were in their 40s when they said they discovered that they were suffering the effects of abuse by a priest decades earlier. They argued that the law gives victims three years to sue after realizing the abuse caused their psychological troubles.
But Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she was concerned that the victims were relying on "vague language" in a state law to get around legal deadlines.
"We don't read vague language to revive lapsed claims," Cantil-Sakauye said.
Margaret M. Grignon, an attorney for the church, argued that alleged victims may not bring such suits after the age of 26. Two lower courts have limited such suits, but a third ruled in the case of the brothers that the clock begins ticking toward the legal deadline only after the victim realizes the abuse triggered his or her problems.
Irwin M. Zalkin, an attorney for the brothers, said they did not understand until 2006 that molestations that occurred during the early 1970s were responsible for their mental health troubles.
The men said they were molested by the priest when he worked at a parish in Hayward, part of the Diocese of Oakland. The priest was never charged, but the diocese settled several lawsuits involving him. Attorneys for the brothers said the priest admitted in depositions that he molested them.
"These are people whose lives suffered," Zalkin said. "They have struggled in ways you can't imagine."
The court appeared divided in another child molestation case, a lawsuit against the William S. Hart Union High School District for hiring a high school counselor with a history of child molestation.
That suit charged that the district knew or should have known that Roselyn Hubbell, the counselor, had sexually molested minors when it hired her to work at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita.
The suit contends that Hubbell molested a 15-year-old boy repeatedly in 2007, driving him home from school and spending many hours with him on and off campus. Hubbell eventually was arrested at a motel with another boy and charged with a misdemeanor.
Justice Carol A. Corrigan said schools must "make sure students are properly educated and that they are safe."
A district's responsibility is "to make sure the teachers are not molesting the kids," she said.
Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar questioned how the court could limit the ruling to the situation in the case so it wouldn't be applied to all "intimate, care-taking relationships." Cantil-Sakauye said the lawyers for the boy were asking the court to take "a huge step" in imposing liability on school administrators.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard, however, observed that the boy would still face several hurdles if the court permitted his suit to proceed. "You still have to prove actual negligence by supervising administrators," Kennard told a lawyer for the student.
Rulings in both cases are expected in 90 days.
Pennsylvania priest indicted for child pornography
by Alexis Kunsak
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Catholic priest already charged in state court with possessing thousands of pornographic images of young boys is due in a Pittsburgh courtroom on Friday on new federal charges, authorities said.
A federal grand jury, in an indictment unsealed late on Wednesday, charged the Reverend Bartley Sorensen, 62, former pastor of St. John Fisher Church in Churchill near Pittsburgh, with one count each of receiving and possessing pictures of minors engaged in sex acts.
If convicted of the federal charges, Sorensen faces up to 20 years in prison for receiving child pornography on a computer and up to 10 years behind bars for possession of child pornography.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton said an investigation will continue jointly between the FBI and Allegheny County Police after Sorensen appears before a federal magistrate on Friday.
A parish employee who had undergone training to identify sexual predators allegedly saw Sorensen viewing child pornography on his computer and called the church child abuse hotline.
An arrest affidavit said the female employee saw the image of a boy, who appeared to be 5 to 10 years old and naked from the waist down, under the caption "Hottie Boys" on the priest's computer in his residence.
Sorensen had been transferred to St. John Fisher Church in Churchill three weeks earlier.
Allegheny County police arrested Sorensen on December 10 and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh removed him from active ministry and placed him on administrative leave.
County police conducted two searches of Sorensen's church office, where they reported finding 5,000 images on three CDs as well as additional images and videos.
IMAGES OF BOYS
The images included young boys either posing naked or engaged in sexual activity with other prepubescent males or adult males, according to affidavits filed in state court.
After his arrest, Sorensen waived his right to a preliminary hearing in state court and was released on a $100,000 bond. Police said he admitted using his personal computer at the Churchill parish to look at least 100 images of child pornography.
The federal indictment seeks forfeiture of a desktop computer, a digital camera, more than 100 CDs, DVDs, books and photo albums seized by county detectives in prior searches.
Asked about the federal indictment, Sorensen's attorney Patrick Thomassey said: "It seems like the federal government should have bigger and better things to do."
He said Sorensen was under house arrest and "his life has been destroyed already."
A spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) expressed relief over the federal indictment.
"Law enforcement are the proper officials to be investigating sex crimes against kids, not church officials," said Judy Jones, the Midwest associate director of SNAP.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh confirmed that Sorensen was ordained in 1976, and subsequently served in three parishes and a hospital in western Pennsylvania, before coming to St. John Fisher in November 2011.
Responding to the federal indictment, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said: "As has been seen all too often, this is a tragedy that exists in every level of society and requires constant vigilance... My prayers are for all that have been victims of this pernicious exploitation."
Ten Years Later -- Reflections on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston
The life of the Church in the Archdiocese of Boston (and throughout the world) was forever changed by the revelations of clergy sexual abuse that dominated the news in January of 2002. Since that time much has happened in the Church and in society concerning recognition of the sexual abuse of minors, confronting these crimes and instituting protections to prevent these tragic violations of innocence from ever happening again. At this time, with a spirit of contrition and humility, with a commitment to vigilance and with gratitude for all who have given their time and effort to ensure that such abuse never again occur in the Church, we offer our reflections on the journey of the past decade.
The survivors of clergy sexual abuse, with their families and loved ones, must always be the central focus of all dimensions of our ongoing response to the crisis. Their courage in coming forward and sharing the accounts of their abuse has been of immeasurable help to so many who tragically shared that terrible experience. The survivors' strength in proclaiming the truth allowed others to acknowledge their own pain and take steps to begin healing.
It is indisputable that the survivors of clergy sexual abuse have suffered greatly. As an archdiocese, as a Church, we can never cease to make clear the depth of our sorrow and to beg forgiveness from those who were so grievously harmed.
We also must acknowledge and express our gratitude for all that survivors and their loved ones have done, and continue to do, to help make the Church, and all of society, safer for children. We are humbled as many survivors have offered forgiveness to the Church and encouraged others to re-establish their relationship with the God who offers all of us the gifts of love and healing.
It is our hope that survivors and their families will be able to consider the words of Pope Benedict XVI concerning their participation in the life of the Church. "It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ's own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love -- even in the darkest and most hopeless situations -- to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning." 1
II. Our Priority
Since the time I was named Archbishop of Boston in July of 2003 our highest priority has been to provide outreach and care for all the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to do everything possible to make sure this abuse never happens again. This priority will be central to all of our efforts going forward; all initiatives, plans, and programs will be structured with reference to outreach and care for survivors and the protection of children.
With the assistance of those who oversee the Archdiocese's Office for Pastoral Support and Outreach, it has been my privilege and a source of great humility to meet with hundreds of survivors and their families. Their voices, stories, faces, and tears have helped me to understand how deeply those who were abused and their families and loved ones were harmed. Some of the most deeply moving moments have been meetings with families who have lost loved ones who were abused, to suicide or drug overdose. Our having prayed for peace and for the repose of the souls of the departed will be always held in my heart and my memory. I have also been deeply moved by meetings with survivors and family members when men and women who have suffered the most egregious abuse shared that they are striving each day to forgive the man who perpetrated the abuse. This is an extraordinary and humbling sign of God's goodness beyond all measure, and a message of courage, hope and love.
Survivors have made clear that the Church must do everything possible to make sure that what happened to them never happens again. On behalf of the entire Church, I pledge our vigilance as we continue to help those who have been harmed. One of our most important efforts has been to provide outreach and care to survivors and their families.
Through the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach (OPSO), the Archdiocese of Boston continues to reach out to all who have been hurt by clergy sexual abuse. OPSO has met with over 1,000 survivors and family members.
As one measure of our commitment, during the past seven years, the archdiocese has spent more than $7 million to provide counseling, medicines, and other services for survivors and their families. At any given time, we are providing assistance for approximately 300 people.
III. The Church's Response
In order to address the importance of the spiritual dimension of our need for forgiveness and healing, we have held prayer services and Masses in parishes that experienced an especially painful history of sexual abuse of children. The parish visits include those made during the Pilgrimage of Repentance and Hope as part of the Novena to the Holy Spirit in May 2006. Many of the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the archdiocese joined me at the very moving services of the Novena as we turned to the Lord seeking healing and forgiveness. When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States in the spring of 2008 we were able to provide five survivors of clergy sexual abuse the opportunity to meet with him personally. At that time the pope heard the survivors' stories, shared with each of them his expression of sorrow on behalf of the Universal Church, and prayed with them for their healing.
In conjunction with our ongoing efforts to respond to the needs of the survivors and their loved ones, we continue to make it a priority to resolve claims of clergy sexual abuse pending against the Archdiocese of Boston. Since 2003, the Archdiocese of Boston has settled approximately 800 claims of clergy sexual abuse.2
In order to provide children with protection now and in the future we have established safe-environment education and prevention programs in all of the Archdiocese of Boston's parishes and schools.
We want to help parents and all those involved in pastoral work to recognize the signs of abuse and to take appropriate measures. Approximately 300,000 children have received safe environment training through their parish schools or religious education programs and approximately 175,000 adults -- including diocesan and religious order priests, deacons, candidates for ordination at archdiocesan seminaries and in diaconate formation, educators, employees, parents and volunteers -- have been trained to identify and report suspected abuse.
Children are using the skills learned to come forward and report abusive situations and receive the help they need. Since the safety programs began, 575 reports of child abuse or neglect (51A reports) have been filed with the Department of Children and Families (formerly Dept. of Social Services) by our parishes and schools. The majority of the reports were made as a result of a child self-disclosing the abuse to someone in the parish or school. In almost all of the cases, the abuse involved someone in the child's family, a neighbor, other children, or an adult known to the child.
Our policies and practices include working with law enforcement agencies and community professionals to report and investigate instances of sexual abuse. Further, the Archdiocese of Boston conducts more than 60,000 CORI checks annually for archdiocesan and religious priests, deacons, educators, volunteers and other personnel working with children.
We have also strengthened our priestly formation and assignment standards and protocols. The candidate screening process in our Vocation Office and seminaries is the strongest possible, with particular attention to any issues related to child safety. We have implemented fully the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People 3 as agreed to by the United States Bishops Conference in June 2002. Annually the Archdiocese of Boston is also audited by an independent firm to ensure our compliance with the Charter.4
Although we have made much progress over the past ten years, we do not mark this anniversary as a time to congratulate ourselves on our achievements. Rather, we are must mark this moment by renewing our full commitment to continuous vigilance for the safety of children.
IV. The Priests of the Archdiocese
Reviewing the experiences of the past ten years, it must also be acknowledged that the good and faithful priests of the archdiocese have suffered greatly because of the sins and crimes of those who abused children. One effect of the abuse scandal is that many people view a priest's Roman collar and clerical appearance with suspicion. It has been painful for our dedicated, faithful priests to see seminary classmates and other colleagues accused of terrible violations of trust and, as well, to live with the fear that a false allegation could remove them from ministry and destroy their reputation. We are greatly indebted to the priests that have cared for the Catholic community, ensuring that all our people are safe and feel safe, by leading the implementation of the safe environment trainings in the parishes and ministries.
V. The Parishes of the Archdiocese
We must also acknowledge and give thanks for the assistance of so many volunteers at the parishes and agencies. The widespread educational and prevention programs launched throughout the Archdiocese of Boston required leaders at the parish level to step forward and be trained so that they could then train others. Many volunteered to serve on boards to assist with implementation, monitoring and prevention activities. And more than 150,000 catechists and volunteers participated in this training and incorporated the recommended approaches and materials, despite the sensitivity of the issue. Through their dedication, our parishes and schools are safe places for children to grow in their faith and love of God.
At this time it is important that we recognize that all Catholics, those who continue to be present at their parishes for the celebration of the Eucharist and those who have felt the need to step away during recent years, have carried the burden of the anger, shame and confusion of this scandal. It is also important to recognize that our Catholic community is an essential part of our ongoing response. Through prayer, support of our faithful priests, contributions that sustain our parishes and central ministries and understanding of the changes needed to ensure a safe environment for all people, our brothers and sisters in Christ allow us to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ, bringing hope and healing to a troubled world. As we move forward, efforts to reach out to all those who are absent from the Church community and the sacraments will be critical to reuniting our Catholic family at Sunday Mass.
VI. The Media
There has been much commentary on the role of the media in bringing the clergy sexual abuse crisis to the attention of the Catholic community and society at large. The media helped make our Church safer for children by raising up the issue of clergy sexual abuse and forcing us to deal with it. All of us who hold the protection of children as the highest priority are indebted to the media's advocacy on this issue.
Going forward, we would be greatly assisted by the media, universities, and all those who study the issue of sexual abuse of minors contextualizing the problem in the manner that will be most helpful for the Church and society. The John Jay Reports, issued in 2006 and 2011, make clear that most of the abuse of minors by priests took place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. If the impression is created that the abuse is current or recent, Catholics and the general public are led to view priests with suspicion and presume that Church environments are not as safe as the facts indicate they are.
Recent news stories about the sexual abuse of minors at university athletic programs and summer camps, among others, clearly show that the crime of sexual abuse of minors occurs in many trusted environments where children are present. The more the media and universities can present the problem of the sexual abuse of minors accurately, transparently and with appropriate context, the safer children will be in all environments as a result of increased attention and strengthened policies.
VII. The Archdiocese's Commitment to Vigilance
While much progress has been made in responding to the sexual abuse of minors in the Church, the task is never complete. We pledge our ongoing commitment to provide care to survivors and their families and pledge our vigilance to ensure the safety of children in the Church and elsewhere. We will continue to work toward promoting effective policies that protect children in the universal Church. At the last international meeting of cardinals, I advocated that many of the policies we have adopted in the United States be implemented by bishops' conferences throughout the world. Last year, at a gathering for over 70 Capuchin bishops, I continued this advocacy. As we know all too well, the scourge of sexual abuse of minors is a worldwide issue. The Church has learned much over these many years.
We believe that other institutions and organizations can benefit from our learning and we stand ready to work with these institutions for the protection of children.
Our Church will never forget the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The traumatic and painful days we experienced ten years ago rightfully forced us to address the issue honestly and implement many necessary changes. We will always focus on the protection of children with the utmost seriousness and gravity.
We are a Church called to mission. While always caring for survivors and making the Church the safest environment for everyone, we look to the future with the hope that God will bring good out of this situation and offer hope and healing to all those affected by the crisis.
God made us to know, love and serve him and wants us to love and care for each other. As Catholics we do this best when we are united around the altar for Mass each Sunday. It is our prayer that by seeing the response of the Church, and by viewing the issue in its proper context, all those who have been away will return to join with us, to make the Church stronger and always a safe place for all people. This past decade has been difficult for the Church. Yet, we are transformed by the experience and the mission endures. Please pray for continued healing for all those impacted and join with us as we strive to bring the light of Christ's healing, love and hope to the world.
1. Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland. 19 March 2010.
2. As part of our commitment to financial transparency, the Archdiocese of Boston also publishes annually on our website (BostonCatholic.org) a clear explanation of the financial costs incurred in settling sexual abuse claims and how they have been paid to date.
4. 2011 version of the letter: http://www.bostoncatholic.org/Utility/News-And-Press/Content.aspx?id=20242 .
N.J. Assembly panel approves bill to broaden how DYFS investigators define child abuse
by Susan K. Livio - Statehouse Bureau
TRENTON — After the deaths last year of two girls whose parents were not deemed a threat by the Division of Youth and Family Services, an Assembly panel approved a bill Thursday that would broaden how investigators define child abuse in New Jersey.
The measure (A-4109/S1570), which was unanimously approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee, must be approved by the full Assembly no later than Tuesday morning, when the two-year legislative session draws to a close. The Senate has already approved it.
Under the proposed bill, agency investigators could choose among three findings when determining whether there is a valid abuse complaint instead of the current two, which some say limits the ability to protect children.
The proposed measure would allow investigators to "substantiate" a claim if there was sufficient evidence, consider it "unfounded" if no safety risk was detected, or select a new third option — "not substantiated." That would apply if there was not enough evidence to support a complaint, but investigators suspected the child was still "placed at substantial risk of harm."
Some child advocates say the change is necessary in the wake of the death of Christiana Glenn, 8, of Irvington, who last May died from an untreated broken leg and malnutrition, and Tierra Morgan-Glover, 2, of Lakehurst, who drowned last November after her father strapped her to a car seat weighted with a car jack and hurled her into a stream.
The families of both children had been investigated for abuse and neglect, but a number of times DYFS workers considered the concerns "unfounded."
Since 2004, the term "unfounded" has held two meanings — no evidence of abuse, or some evidence but not enough to make a solid case. The state dropped the "unsubstantiated with concerns" category out of concern that investigators were not gathering enough facts to make a valid decision.
"Hopefully this legislation will help investigators capture a sizeable portion of abuse cases that might otherwise fall through the cracks," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the committee chairwoman who was a sponsor of the bill.
Jesse Moskowitz, a retired assistant director of DYFS, said passage of the measure by the panel "represents an acknowledgement that a well-intended but flawed change six years ago required correction and clarification in order to accurately classify child abuse or neglect findings."
Support for the bill is not unanimous.
"They should be focusing on clarifying policy and improving quality of investigations so that they make good determinations, not feel comfortable with an inconclusive category," Judith Meltzer, a court-appointed monitor who is overseeing an overhaul of the state's child welfare system, said afterward.
A representative from the Communications Workers of America Local 1038, representing 3,000 DYFS employees, testified in support the bill, but at the same time asked the committee to look into an increasing number of caseloads investigators are handling but the agency is hiding.
The representative, Cataherine Donatos, said the agency was trying to conceal the number of cases out of concern that the judge who ordered the overhaul would find the state out of compliance and order sanctions.
She said that in one DYFS office, 27 workers who investigate child abuse exceeded the court-imposed limit of 12 cases a month, with some juggling 15 to 21 cases.
She added that some cases were transferred to other professionals on paper, but that that staffers were still doing the work and that those who did not find a way to lower casesloads were disciplined.
Donatos said that after the union filed a grievance, the agency transferred six workers and hired a supervisor.
A spokeswoman for DYFS, Leida Arce, said transferring cases to other staff when the workload increased was "a common practice" because everyone is trained in investigations.
Colorado appeals court allows abused siblings to sue social workers
by Felisa Cardona
Three siblings severely abused in the home of their biological mother and later in foster care can pursue their lawsuit against Adams County social workers who allegedly failed to protect them and deceived their adoptive parents about the extent of their problems, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
In the summer of 2002, the siblings — then ages 9, 6 and 3 — were adopted by a couple who only learned about the history of abuse on the eve of the adoption. The children were engaging in incestuous acts with each other, and one of them had to be removed from their home because she was suicidal.
The fallout of the abuse was so egregious that the adoptive parents installed alarms in the children's rooms to prevent them from abusing each other. The couple ended up divorcing, blaming the failure of the marriage on the stress caused by the children's emotional problems.
The names of the parents and siblings are being withheld by The Denver Post because the children are victims of sexual abuse and naming their adoptive parents would identify them.
The adoptive parents sued the Adams County Department of Social Services, asserting that social workers had a duty to fully disclose the background of the children. But the parents lost their case when a jury decided that the social workers were not "willful and wanton" in failing to inform them of the history of abuse.
Thursday's ruling allows lawyers for the children to proceed to trial with different claims — that the siblings' rights to be free from harm were violated by the workers entrusted to protect them.
"Evidence was presented at the first trial about the extraordinary challenges these children would face as a result of the defendants' conduct, and unfortunately it all seems to be coming to pass," said attorney Jordan Factor, who argued the case at the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Adams County argued that the social workers, Joan Forsmark, Cathy O'Donnell and Angela Lytle, were protected from the lawsuit by the state's governmental immunity law.
The court disagreed and concluded that Lytle, who as a division director of child welfare supervised O'Donnell and Forsmark, acted "recklessly."
"Lytle increased the children's vulnerability to the danger by not preparing the (adoptive parents) to deal with their extraordinary emotional needs, and by continuing to support the children's adoption as a sibling group, despite the revelations of incest, which distinguished them from the type of children the (adoptive parents) had indicated they were ready to adopt," the court's opinion reads. "This conduct put the children at substantial risk of serious, immediate, and proximate harm that was known to or suspected by Lytle at the time of the adoption. Such allegations show that Lytle acted recklessly in conscious disregard of that risk. And such conduct, when viewed in total, is conscience shocking."
Adams County Attorney Hal Warren declined to comment on the merits of the claims because the case is heading to trial.
Warren is reviewing the court's ruling to decide whether an appeal to the state Supreme Court is possible.
O'Donnell is still employed by the county. Forsmark has since retired. Lytle works for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services.
The decision Thursday comes a month after a federal judge ruled that social workers in Denver were not immune from a lawsuit in the case of 7-year-old Chandler Grafner, who was starved to death by his foster parents.
In that case, the judge noted the neglect of Chandler by social services was also "conscious-shocking" and that a complaint of child abuse made by a teacher's aide a month before his death was not thoroughly investigated by Denver Human Services.
Factor, one of the siblings' lawyers in the Adams County case, said he hopes the rulings will have an impact on the quality of care for children.
"Each circumstance is a little different, and this adds to the mix of circumstances in which the courts consistently say that children in the custody of the state of Colorado have a right to be kept safe from harm," he said. "It is a case that has an opportunity to do real justice."
Sex trafficking warning film to be shown in RB
by Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A short film warning parents and their teenage daughters about the dangers of the girls becoming sex trafficking victims will be shown for free on Wednesday, Jan. 11 in Rancho Bernardo.
“Indoctrinated: The Grooming of our Children into Prostitution” is a locally made 33-minute documentary sponsored by the San Diego County Office of Education.
“It's great,” said Judy Horning, who saw a preview of the film last month. “It is geared toward parents and teens, and shows how easily (teens) can get swept into (prostitution) without knowing what they are getting into.
“All parents and teenage girls should see it,” Horning said.
In conjunction with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Rancho Bernardo and Poway chapters of Soroptimist International will host a free showing of the film and panel discussion.
It will be in The Church at Rancho Bernardo sanctuary, 11740 Bernardo Plaza Court, on Wednesday, Jan. 11. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the film shown at 6:30 p.m. Immediately after, there will be a panel discussion with Marisa Ugarte, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition's executive director, and Kathi Hardy, Freedom from Exploitation's founder. The free event will be over by 8 p.m.
Horning, a Rancho Bernardo Soroptimist and BSCC member, said so that enough brochures are available, attendees are asked to register in advance at http://stat.eventbrite.com or www.indoctrinated.org. However, walk-ins will be welcome.
According to Horning, authorities have identified the San Diego region as a “high intensity child prostitution area.” She said vulnerable teens are often recruited at shopping malls, schools, parks, concerts and beaches, and on the Internet.
“A runaway girl, 80 percent of the time, will be picked up within 48 hours (of leaving home) and end up involved in prostitution without (initially realizing it),” Horning said, adding teenage boys can also become victims.
She said parents should be interested in attending since there is little public awareness about the human trafficking and sex exploitation issue.
According to the documentary's website, the film shows tactics used by pimps and gangs to recruit, groom, psychologically coerce and indoctrinate victims into a life of sexual exploitation and violence. It also teaches parents and teens how to avoid this situation.
Due to the subject matter, Horning said the event might not be appropriate for those under 13 years.
Horning said Soroptimist International made human trafficking one of its focuses several years ago and locally, eight clubs formed a coalition called Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking.
For event details, call Horning at 858-748-0069 or go to www.indoctrinated.org .
Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Revisions to the Uniform Crime Report's Definition of Rape
Data Reported on Rape Will Better Reflect State Criminal Codes, Victim Experiences
Attorney General Eric Holder today announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report's (UCR) definition of rape, which will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide. The new definition is more inclusive, better reflects state criminal codes and focuses on the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape. The new definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The definition is used by the FBI to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about reported rapes.
“Rape is a devastating crime and we can't solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” said Vice President Biden, a leader in the effort to end violence against women for over 20 years and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”
“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice's commitment to standing with rape victims,” Attorney General Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”
“The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board recently recommended the adoption of a revised definition of rape within the Summary Reporting System of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program,” said David Cuthbertson, FBI Assistant Director, CJIS Division. “This definitional change was recently approved by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. This change will give law enforcement the ability to report more complete rape offense data, as the new definition reflects the vast majority of state rape statutes. As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics.”
The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent. The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level.
“The revised definition of rape sends an important message to the broad range of rape victims that they are supported and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable,” said Justice Department Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Susan B. Carbon. “We are grateful for the dedicated work of all those involved in making and implementing the changes that reflect more accurately the devastating crime of rape.”
T he longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, first established in 1927, is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It thus included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and, non-forcible rape.
Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR. The UCR data are reported nationally and used to measure and understand crime trends. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood.
The revised definition of rape is within FBI's UCR Summary Reporting System Program. The new definition is supported by leading law enforcement agencies and advocates and reflects the work of the FBI's CJIS Advisory Policy Board.
Click here to read a blog post from Director Carbon on the importance of the new definition of rape to our nation's law enforcement, and for survivors of rape and their advocates. Click here to listen to the FBI's podcast .
3 Air Force Academy cadets charged with sexual assault
by the CNN Wire Staff
The Air Force Academy is charging three cadets with sexual assault just a week after a Department of Defense report found a sharp increase in such attacks at the nation's military academies.
Three cadets were charged in three unrelated cases that occurred at different times over a period of 15 months at the academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to a statement released Thursday by the academy.
The announcement follows news that the report found the number of sexual assaults at the academies rose by nearly 60 percent during the 2010-2011 academic year. A total of 65 sexual assault reports were made involving cadets and midshipman compared to 41 during 2009-2010, the report found.
Cadet Stephan H. Claxton is charged with the November 2011 attempted rape of a fellow cadet while she was intoxicated, according to charging documents released by the academy. Claxton is a member of the graduating class of 2013, according to the academy.
Cadet Kyle A. Cressy faces charges in connection with the May 2011 rape of a woman while she was intoxicated, the documents said. Cressy is a member of the class of 2012, the academy said.
Cadet Robert M. Evenson Jr. was charged with wrongfully engaging in a relationship with another cadet and the assault and rape of another cadet from March to May 2010, the documents said. Evenson is a member of the class of 2011, the academy said.
The three men, whose ages and hometowns were not released, are presumed innocent pending the outcome of court proceedings.
"The fact that the charges in all three cases are being preferred at this time is due to the near simultaneous completion of each individual investigation," said Col. Tamra Rank, the academy's vice superintendent.
The announcement comes at a delicate time for the nation's military academies.
The Defense Department report released last week was unable to cite definitive causes for the increase, it did say efforts by the academies to encourage victims to report incidents of sexual assault could have played a role in the swell of cases.
As part of the review, site visits were conducted at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Policies, training and procedures at the academies also were reviewed, and focus groups were held with cadets and midshipmen.
Despite the increase in reports, Defense Department officials found that most of the academy programs satisfied, and in some cases exceeded, the requirements of existing policies.
The Defense Department also announced two new policies in an effort it said to support sexual assault victims: Victims who have filed an unrestricted report can now request an expedited transfer from their unit, and sexual assault records will now be kept for 50 years in unrestricted cases and five years in restricted cases.
HOPEWELL - The James House is offering a free support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Meetings will be held on Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m., beginning on Jan. 17, and running through March 20. Registration is required.
For further information and to register, please call Liesl Lipford at 804-458-2704.
Address child abuse as a human rights issue
by Matthew G. Masiello
All too often adults, at multiple levels of societal and academic responsibility, fail to appropriately identify, react and respond to extreme allegations of child abuse.
Defending children is an issue that should transcend all political and legal aspects of society. All adults have a moral and social responsibility to take action against child-related violence. The United States prides itself on championing fundamental liberties, yet there is clearly a void in terms of protecting the rights of children in this country.
Developed in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international set of standards and obligations that sets forth the full spectrum of social, political and economic rights to be afforded to children. The U.S. has yet to ratify the Convention. The only other U.N. member state to decline to ratify this international document is Somalia.
As a result of the serious lack of academic and political attention paid to child human rights in the U.S., children frequently lack the protections they require and deserve. American society needs to experience a greater level of awareness and insight to the many violence-related issues affecting this vulnerable population.
So, how can we accomplish this? Or better still, how can a U.S. center of higher education, as Penn State and Syracuse University are attempting, take on the task of addressing the sexual, physical and mental abuse of children in America and identify themselves as leaders in such a cause?
Most U.S. colleges and universities lack comprehensive research and study programs directed to the rights of children. To a significant degree, such academic activity can be found at many international academic and research centers.
Though Penn State should be commended for developing the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children, the current description of activities and participants is lacking in identifying international experts in the area of child abuse and/or child human rights. The challenge for American academic institutions would be to create progressive and new interdisciplinary initiatives focused on the human rights of children — an Institute for the Study of Human Rights of Children. The social sciences, medicine, law and education are just a few of the areas that can serve as the foundation to this U.S.-based field of study.
Child human rights encompass more than just child abuse or child protection. An increased and deeper knowledge of the special issues children face and how to create a safer society for them ultimately would be the best response to the child sex scandals facing our universities and our country. A simpler approach would be to investigate the accusations of abuse, change institutional policy, donate money to child protection agencies, lobby for a new law for better reporting processes or develop a limited academic or research initiative.
While each of these alternatives has its own merits, realistically, little more will be contributed to society in general. They will only serve as political or academic Band-Aids to a much larger societal wound. A holistic, educational approach based on the advanced study of the human rights of children may allow the U.S. to move ahead and be identified as a leader in terms of how we can most optimally care for and protect our children.
It would ensure a better and safer life for children. A new, progressive, academic approach would increase the national sense of moral and social responsibility, filling the existing void in how we should respect and, yes, honor our children by finally providing them with the safeguards they deserve.
Matthew G. Masiello is director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Windber Research Institute in Windber. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAVIS extends programs for men
The Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Service of Halton (SAVIS) is pleased to announce its extended services to male survivors of sexual abuse.
Funding for this two-year pilot project is provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General and in partnership with Family Services of Peel, Central Region's Support Services.
In 2003, a report by Juristat Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics noted that while over 80 per cent of victims in sexual offences reported to police departments were female, males made up 29 per cent of child victims, 8 per cent of adult and 12 per cent of youth victims. It is estimated that 1 in 6 men experience sexual abuse in their life time. Certainly there is a need for support services to male survivors of sexual violence; therefore SAVIS is pleased to extend its present services to male survivors with additional short-term face-to-face and group counselling.
SAVIS is a non-profit charitable organization established in 1985 and is provincially funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General. SAVIS works toward ending sexual violence, inequality and oppression in the Halton Region. The mandate of SAVIS is to provide free, confidential and non-judgmental 24-hour support to all survivors of sexual violence.
To learn more about SAVIS Halton and the programs available, visit www.savisofhalton.org, call 905-825-3622 or contact the 24-hour crisis line at 905-875-1555.
The 5 Browns sisters say they've 'done something to make the world safer'
by Emiley Morgan
SALT LAKE CITY — It took time for the women of The 5 Browns to come to grips with the sexual abuse they experienced as children.
It took growing up, leaving home and heading to The Juilliard School, coming into their own and learning more about who they are.
Only then did the wrongness of what had happened really hit them.
"For the average person who has survived things like this, it's an average of 14 years before they can come to terms with what happened and be able to talk about it and can be able to start moving past the things that have happened before," Deondra Brown said Wednesday. "You have to be able to have the luxury of that time to be able to heal. You can't be on a strict time schedule." There's tremendous pressure in the home to keep things quiet and so I think a victim needs that distance of time and sometimes physical distance to be able to come to terms with what happened.
She described that time away from home as a "big awakening" that allowed her and her sisters to "dig through that back closet" to the abuse from years ago. Desirae Brown added that most of the time, 80 percent to be exact, children who are abused are abused by parents and stepparents.
"There's tremendous pressure in the home to keep things quiet and so I think a victim needs that distance of time and sometimes physical distance to be able to come to terms with what happened," she said.
Per legislation that passed in 2008, Utah law allowed Deondra, Desirae and their sister Melody to bring charges against their father for abuse spanning 1990 to 1998, at times when the sisters were under the age of 13.
In March 5, 2010, Lone Peak police began investigating Keith Brown, father to the musically prodigious siblings, including brothers Ryan and Gregory. At the conclusion of their investigation, Lone Peak police recommended 600 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child against Brown for abuse suffered by one of his daughters. The recommended number of counts for the other daughters on all other charges, including object rape and forcible sexual abuse, is unknown.
Brown, 55, struck a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, for which he received a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He also was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison for each of two counts of sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony. He was ordered to serve the sentences concurrently.
There is no statute of limitations in Utah on when child sexual abuse cases can be filed, a law which allowed for the Browns' case to move forward.
Moving forward, helping others
Now, Deondra and Desirae say they are on the "ground floor" of the issue, working with senators and other lawmakers to see that similar laws are passed on a federal level to protect children in every state. That way, Deondra Brown said, the time it can take to understand and face the abuse would not mean a perpetrator goes free.
"A lot of times, you're still as a child in that home environment, and so it's difficult to do what needs to be done in order to put these criminals away," she said. "We're kind of fighting for rights of children and rights of adults to be able to heal in their own timeframe and not having people tell them how long or short they should have."
The foundation they've started, the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse, has already helped them connect with others who have had similar experiences and have concerns and interests about the laws. But while the Browns have been lauded for taking a stance and being willing to tell their story in such public forums, they say the abuse can divide families.
"I think that's something that survivors should expect rather than be surprised by," Desirae Brown said of the divide. "It's not going to make it any less hurtful and so I think people feel like there's a sense of: 'We need to hear both sides of the story.'
"There are not two sides to this story. There's only one and that's the survivor."
Deondra said she feels an urgency to see these laws passed to protect others, especially as she is a mother. It begs the question of where Lisa Brown, the Browns' mother, is in all of this, but the sisters have declined to take questions about her.
They said that they have found an incredible amount of strength in each other, in their faith and in the support of those family members and friends who have stood by them, including their husbands. Desirae came close to tears when speaking of her two brothers, Gregory and Ryan.
"What has been beautiful in all this are the people who do support you, like my brothers who have been amazingly supportive and have made this process so much better," she said. "To see their support and to see them standing up for what they know is right, it's really meant the world to us."
Back on stage
Getting back on the stage with their brothers and sisters was an important part of the healing process, Deondra said. She said it is there where she again felt comfortable. But Desirae said she initially worried about how people would react to their story and experience.
"We didn't know if people would still want to hear us playing music," she said. "We didn't know if we'd still have a career. But in order to not let all that overwhelm us, we boiled it down to what was the right thing to do.
"And when it comes down to what was the right things to do — let this person go free or protect other people — it didn't matter what any other consequences would be." We definitely bring our experiences to our music. If anything, being more honest with who we are, with our past, with facing the future, I feel like our music is more authentic and we're playing more honestly in a way that we maybe didn't before.
The music played by The 5 Browns has always been stunning — five separate pianos, backed by five separate siblings playing intricate pieces in perfect time and harmony. But now, Desirae said there might be something more stirring to it.
"We definitely bring our experiences to our music," she said. "If anything, being more honest with who we are, with our past, with facing the future, I feel like our music is more authentic and we're playing more honestly in a way that we maybe didn't before. We're able to fully express certain emotions and feelings that we didn't before."
Neither Desirae nor Deondra refer to themselves as victims. Not once in an entire interview did they use any word other than "survivor."
"One of the things that is most taken away from you as a victim is your sense of self and the control and empowerment that you have in your own life, so, for us, victim has that connotation," Deondra Brown said. "A survivor is someone who's overcome, who has battled, who has moved past and who is moving forward in their lives."
The sisters have watched other survivors of abuse — Elizabeth Smart in particular — come forward with confidence to see their abusers prosecuted and imprisoned. Deondra said she was "amazed" by Smart.
"It was amazing for us to see how she went through that most grueling process and come out ahead," she said, adding that she and her sister hope to make a positive change in the world by speaking about their experience. "We don't feel like the abuse defines who we are. We don't feel like it determines the choices that we make anymore."
The sisters themselves are incredibly strong, composed and confident. They say they still experience good days and bad days. It helped to see their father be brought to justice and helps to tell their story, confront it, share it — and some day get it behind them.
"The truth is powerful and that's a step," Desirae said.
"Even though it's grueling, it's powerful. And then, having my father put in prison. I've done something to make the world safer. I've done something to protect somebody else. I did the right thing."
Bill calls for panel to review child deaths, but work would be secret
by Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — All deaths and near-deaths of children who have been abused would be reviewed by an 11-member panel, and information about children who died as a result of abuse or neglect would be public, under a proposal before the legislature.
House Bill 200, filed Wednesday, would create an external panel that would include the attorney general, doctors, prosecutors and judges.
After the review, the panel would develop recommendations to address systemic issues and child-welfare practices. Any problems the panel identified in the actions of state and local agencies would be referred to authorities for review.
However, the panel's review would be kept secret, as would the records it analyzed.
But the bill further clarifies the state statute to say that state records involving children who have been killed or nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect can be released to the public by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees child protection.
The Herald-Leader and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal have sued the state twice during the past two years to get access to case files of children who have died as a result of abuse and neglect. A Franklin Circuit Court judge has ruled twice that child-protection records are public in the case of a death or near-death.
Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, one of the bill's sponsors, said many legislators are frustrated with the cabinet and think an external review panel would add a level of accountability to a cabinet that is mostly shrouded in secrecy.
"In government, you have to have checks and balances," Westrom said. "If we don't have these checks and balances, how do we know if we are protecting our children?"
A similar bill was filed last year. It was approved by a House committee but did not make it to the House floor for a vote because of several amendments that were added to the bill at the last minute.
The media have complained that the bill went too far by keeping most of the meetings of the external panel secret and its records exempt from the state's Open Records Act.
But Westrom said the panel could not do a thorough investigation into what went wrong unless there was some promise of privacy.
"It's just one step in the direction of transparency," Wes trom said.
The bill also says that the cabinet does not have to release the names of people who report abuse and neglect or the names of those who have nearly died as a result of abuse.
Cabinet officials said late Tuesday that they support the measure and are working with the sponsors to further clarify language in the bill.
"The cabinet supports the concepts included in the bill, which reflect language that the cabinet developed in collaboration with Rep. (Tom) Burch during the last legislative session," said Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet. "In fact, the cabinet is working with Rep. Burch and Rep. Westrom to update HB 200 to reflect the cabinet's new policy on providing information related to child fatalities."
Burch is a Louisville Democrat.
Westrom, who is a social worker, also plans to file a bill this session that would create pilot programs to open juvenile courts, which are now closed. Similar bills have been filed in the past but have not been passed.
Westrom said she also would file a bill — possibly as soon as this week — that would clarify child abuse statutes to make it clear that sibling-on-sibling abuse is considered child abuse. That was an issue in the case of Amy Dye, 9, of Todd County who was beaten to death by her adopted brother in February. According to Dye's case file, which was released by a judge, the cabinet had received reports of abuse, but social workers did not consider it abuse because the abuse was inflicted by a sibling.
Westrom said Dye's case and other news stories about child-abuse deaths and near-deaths have galvanized support for more transparency at the cabinet.
"I think we're going to get a great deal of support," she said.
Give child sex-abuse victims a stronger voice
The Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled today to consider a bill that would eliminate the two-year statute of limitations on lawsuits brought by victims of child sexual abuse.
A state Senate committee backed the bill Iate 2010, and the Assembly panel should follow suit. In fact, this is one of those proposals that seems so obvious that we can only wonder why it took so long for legislators to get around to acting on it.
But as so often happens, this is a case of lawmakers reacting to high-profile events rather than anticipating them. We can, however, at least appreciate the wisdom of the reaction.
Sexual abuse of a child is an extraordinarily traumatic and sensitive crime. Because of its nature, and because the crime is typically committed by an adult in a position of authority and trust, the child victims often cannot even begin to comprehend what happened to them in the immediate aftermath. Many are plagued by feelings of guilt and confusion, sometimes to such an extreme that the events are either altered in their minds or completely suppressed.
The truth often doesn't surface for many years , until a victim can reflect on the incident from the distance of adulthood, or after prolonged therapy. It may not happen until another event triggers the memories.
There are, in other words, myriad potential journeys for a victim to travel from awareness to accusation. Requiring all of that to happen within two years or the molester escapes justice simply doesn't make sense, and does not represent a fair application of the concept behind a statute of limitations.
Such statutes exist in large part because the credibility of a case can weaken over time. Memories fade, evidence is corrupted, records are destroyed. While any victim of a crime should be able to seek justice, the accused also deserves to be treated fairly. And to be charged with a crime supposedly committed many years earlier jeopardizes chances for a proper defense.
The game changes, however, under certain circumstances; murders, for example, aren't typically subject to any statute of limitations. Why should victims of child sexual abuse be subject to a two-year limit on civil lawsuits when many don't even recall the incidents until much later?
All of these issues have been thrust into the spotlight because of several recent child-abuse scandals. The alleged ongoing abuse of youths by a former assistant coach at Penn State led to the firing of iconic head coach Joe Paterno and a housecleaning of top university officials. Locally, Patrick Lott, assistant principal at Bernardsville Middle School, has been accused of using a video camera to record boys showering at Immaculata High School, where he served as an assistant basketball coach and athletic volunteer.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, deserves credit for leading the legislative fight on this issue. He is not only the primary sponsor of the statute bill, but also was a leading advocate of legislation signed into law in 2006 that stripped religious and charitable organizations of their immunity from child abuse lawsuits.
Concerns have been raised that some organizations might find end up fighting lawsuits against accused molesters who are already dead. But the organizations themselves often share some of the responsibility, in how they respond internally to allegations of abuse, or in fostering an environment that protects molesters. They deserve to pay a price as well.
We urge legislators to support Vitale's bill.
Center for Ethical Youth Coaching Develops New Instruction Video on Child Abuse Intervention for Coaches
CEYC committed to taking action to prevent more tragedies in sports.
Chicago, IL (PRWEB) January 05, 2012
The Center for Ethical Youth Coaching unveiled today an instructional video that gives adults who coach sports step-by-step instruction on how to handle situations of child abuse that they may become aware of. The video gives coaches steps in the situations when an adult suspects child abuse, situations when the adult has evidence of s child being abused and finally in circumstances when the adult may witness a child being abused. The videos appear on the Center's web site: http://www.ethicalyouthcoaching.com and also have been posted on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/lIGPBMwVbQk .
“We (Staff at the Center for Ethical Youth Coaching) couldn't keep shaking our heads at news report after news report of inappropriate coaches harming young people. In keeping with our mission we took action to prevent and intervene into these situations. Posting an instructional video was the most immediate and effective action we could take to help.” Said Dr. John Mayer, Vice-President of the C.E.Y.C. and a national expert on violence and youth.
The video details each situation that the adult coach may find himself or herself confronting about a child in danger and then gives direct, practical steps to take in each situation. This type of instruction is also found in the training manual, The Principles of Ethical Youth Coaching, that is included when a coach becomes certified through the Ethical Youth Coach certification.
“Like our program for certification of coaches, which no other organization provides such a thorough and beneficial training and qualification, we are standing out to make a difference in this huge area of vulnerability for young people from toddlers through college age athletes.” Stated Andrew Teunis, Director of Development at C.E.Y.C.
The Center for Ethical Youth Coaching has developed the most comprehensive training and certification program available for coaches at all levels of youth sports from the earliest ages through college coaches. This certification is called, the Ethical Youth Coach Certification or EYC. To be certified as an EYC coach, a prospective coach must read a training manual and then take an exam both of which cover the areas of ethics, safety, first aid, good communication, sportsmanship, healthy lifestyle, discipline, developmental issues in young people and handling special issues in youth coaching such as dealing with parents, motivating players, child abuse, and substance abuse. The coach then passes a background check from the leading security screening service and pledges to uphold the ethical standards of the CEYC. The cost of the three-year certification is $75.00 and that covers the manual, test fees and background check. All procedures can be done online at the Center's website. http://www.ethicalyouthcoaching.com.
The mission of the not-for-profit Center for Ethical Youth Coaching is to raise the ethical standards of coaches who work with young athletes, through research, publication, credentialing and public presentations. As a result of raising these ethical standards, young athletes will be in the best possible position to learn and grow through sports. Sports are a tremendous way to learn about life and develop life skills; it is therefore important that coaches are prepared to guide young athletes in the most ethical manner possible.
Not guilty plea for man accused in Indiana girl's death
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – A northern Indiana magistrate entered a not guilty plea Wednesday for a man accused of bludgeoning and dismembering a 9-year-old girl whose sick mother had entrusted her to his care.
Michael Plumadore, 39, was led into the Allen County courtroom in shackles and wearing an orange- and tan- striped jumpsuit and his hair disheveled, for his initial hearing in the Dec. 22 killing of Aliahna Maroney-Lemmon.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Plumadore told police that he repeatedly hit Aliahna in the head with a brick, then chopped up her body with a hack saw, eventually stashing her head, hands and feet in the trailer where he lived and dumping her other remains nearby. He was charged Friday with murder, abuse of a corpse and removing a dead body from the scene.
Allen Superior Court Magistrate Samuel Keirns asked Plumadore whether he understood the charges and proceedings. Plumadore answered each question with "yes, sir."
Keirns said he would assign a public defender for Plumadore and scheduled his next court hearing for Jan. 18.
The standard prison sentence for a murder conviction in Indiana is 45 years to 65 years. The other charges each carry maximum sentences of three years in prison.
About 60 people attended the brief hearing in Fort Wayne. Afterward, deputies blocked the sidewalk outside the courthouse as Plumadore was led into a police van to return him to the county jail.
Relatives say they had considered Plumadore a trusted family friend. He had been caring for Aliahna and her 6-year-old sisters because their mother had the flu and Aliahna's stepfather works at night and sleeps during the day.
The girl had been dead for more than 24 hours before she was reported missing two days before Christmas.
Authorities have said they are continuing to investigate the murder and the results of the autopsy are still pending. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday for Aliahna at a Fort Wayne church.
Legacy launches clinic for child abuse victims
Assessment team leader calls demand for its services shocking
by Marissa Harshman
January 3, 2012
When people learn about the type of work Dr. Kim Copeland does, they always have the same question: How do you do it?
They ask because Copeland's job requires her to examine children who have been the victims of unimaginable acts of sexual and physical abuse.
They ask because the job also requires her to talk to children about arguably the most horrific experiences of their lives and delve into the details of the abuse.
Copeland leads Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center's new Child Abuse Assessment Team.
“I don't have the hard part, the kids do,” she said.
Copeland didn't set out to be in her line of work, but after 18 months of training in child abuse treatment, she realized she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
“It really spoke to me. It was something I wanted to do,” she said. “I still ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?' Every single day I do it, I can't get over how it was just the right thing to do.”
Legacy first started doing sexual assault exams of young victims in 2008 when a local physician who had performed most of those exams moved out of the state.
The hospital set up contracts with local nurses and a physician who performed the interviews and exams on their off days. Usually, they offered clinic hours two to four times a month and saw a few patients each day.
But as time passed, hospital staff realized the community had a bigger need than the infrequent clinic could meet.
“It became clear there was not only a need for sexual assault exams, unfortunately, there was a big need for physical exams as well,” Copeland said.
Copeland, who has spent much of her career working in and directing pediatric emergency departments, received grants to attend child abuse conferences and other training sessions.
In October of this year, the medical center deployed its new Child Abuse Assessment Team headed by Copeland. The clinic sees children — from infants to 18-year-olds — who are, or are suspected to be, victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
Most of the kids are referred to the clinic through hospital emergency departments, the foster care system or the Arthur D. Curtis Children's Justice Center.
Copeland also has a contract with the state to provide medical consultations for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). She reviews medical reports, photos and summaries of Child Protective Services' suspected abuse cases and issues opinions as to whether abuse occurred.
The demand for Copeland's services has been shocking, she said.
From the end of October to early December, Copeland saw 25 patients at the hospital and provided 11 consultations for state child abuse cases.
From September 2010 to September 2011, hospital physicians examined 45 young patients who were the victims of abuse.
“I look at these kids, and what they've been through is unimaginable,” Copeland said.
Many come into the office timid, scared and hesitant to talk about the abuse. She gets to know them, asks them about school, what they like to do for fun. Even though they have to talk about the abuse, by the end of the visit most kids open up and return to being happy, playful children, she said.
“They are so resilient,” Copeland said. “It's inspiring.”
Despite the difficulty of her job, Copeland said seeing kids rebound reassures her that she's in the right place.
“I didn't expect to be this passionate, and I didn't expect to feel this spoken to by each kid,” she said. “Each case is different, but the core isn't different. At the core, they're still kids.”
Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program
Recent events in the news have directed the nation's attention to the subject of child sexual abuse. It is difficult for us to imagine the mentality of someone who could hurt a child in this way. We feel angry yet at the same time we sometimes feel powerless to make a difference. During the holidays we want to think about happy children anticipating what Santa will bring not anxious children dreading what a trusted adult might do to them. While you may feel powerless now, there is a way you can be a powerful voice for an abused or neglected child in 2012: Become a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (GAL). GALs are specially trained members of the community who are court appointed to serve children who enter the Department of Social Services' (DSS) protection.
In December 2010, one South Carolina GAL celebrated the adoption of a young man who had been sexually abused by a family member. The teenager had experienced a long, heart-breaking struggle. Throughout the process that eventually made him available for adoption, it was his GAL who was the one constant in his life. Caseworkers and foster homes changed but not the Guardian ad Litem. This holiday season that one-time struggle is in the young man's rear view mirror as he focuses on getting his driver's license and celebrating the first year anniversary with his new family. His former GAL has moved on to helping other children to have safe and permanent homes. As you consider your gift list this year, consider giving the gift of time and advocacy to a child. It will not cost you much, but the benefits will last a lifetime.
You can help Greenwood & Abbeville County children find safe, permanent homes by becoming a volunteer Guardian ad Litem. The next free, 30 hour training starts January 24, 2012. Call Crystal Noble at 223-4681 for more information on how you can be the voice of an abused or neglected child.
The Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program is a member of National CASA. www.nationalcasa.org
New Memoir Offers a Message of Hope for Victims of Childhood Trauma
by Maine Authors Publishing
Maine author Katherine Mayfield announces the publication of her memoir, The Box of Daughter (Maine Authors Publishing Jan 12, 2012) , which details her journey of healing after enduring decades of emotional abuse in her family.
The Box of Daughter exposes the dark truths hidden behind a family's façade of pious perfection. The author's parents were fine, upstanding citizens in a large suburban community, devout church members who volunteered and gave generously of their time, treasure, and talents. But behind closed doors they took their frustrations out on their children by bullying and belittling them, just as their own parents had done to them.
Aletha Solter, Ph.D. calls The Box of Daughter "insightful, honest, and riveting," saying, "It demonstrates how harsh words and lack of compassion can traumatize a child just as deeply as physical or sexual abuse." Darcy Scott, author of Hunter Huntress , applauds the book as "a brave, unflinching, and exquisitely rendered memoir of a family caught in the tragic and relentless cycles of emotional incest that rob so many of their innocence. Katherine's life-long struggle to come to grips with her mother's mental illness and her own lost childhood is at once emotionally devastating and ultimately uplifting." Kirkus Reviews says, "Mayfield's memoir is a testament to the merit of psychological healing through the understanding and expression of feelings and allowing the past trauma of the psyche to come to the forefront to be acknowledged. Full of stark realities of abuse but also the hopefulness of healing, Mayfield's memoir provides helpful insight to those facing similar struggles."
As a young child, the author found love and affection through her relationships with cats, neighbors, and extended family. In her twenties and thirties, she pursued a professional acting career in an attempt to gain the respect and attention she lacked in childhood, appearing Off-Broadway, in independent films, and on the daytime drama Guiding Light . Entering therapy in her thirties in response to a divorce, she began to unravel the threads of dysfunction in her family of origin. More than a decade later she sought to understand the challenges her parents faced and to recover from the trauma while simultaneously acting as the family caregiver for the parents who abused her. Freed from the abuse by the deaths of her parents in 2005 and 2008, the author began an inspiring journey to wholeness – developing self-esteem, uncovering her true self, and finally creating a life that is truly her own.
Katherine Mayfield is the author of two books on the acting business: Smart Actors, Foolish Choices and Acting A to Z , both published by Back Stage Books. Her short story, The Last Visit , which is based on the last time she visited her father in hospice care, won the Honorable Mention award in the 2011 Warren Adler Short Story Contest. She has also written for the newsletter of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA), and is donating a percentage of the book's profits to ASCA and Childhelp. She lives in Cape Neddick and teaches writing in Maine, and is available for interviews. More information can be found at www.TheBoxofDaughter.com.
Politicians clueless about child abuse
by RICHARD WEXLER
The fact that it is so predictable makes it no less depressing. In the wake of the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, New York politicians are falling all over themselves demanding that still more categories of professionals be added to the 43 already required to report any suspicion of child abuse to authorities. ("N.Y. can do more to stop sex abuse," Commentary page, Dec. 9.)
It makes for a great press release. But it guarantees only that more children will be hurt.
Most of these cases are far more ambiguous than a man allegedly caught in the act of raping a child in the shower. In fact, most don't involve "abuse" at all. Rather, they involve "neglect" — lack of adequate food, clothing, shelter or supervision. Often what's called "neglect" is simply poverty.
In New York, all it takes to label someone a child abuser is for a caseworker to decide there is "some credible evidence" of maltreatment. The worker is supposed to label the case "indicated" even when there is more evidence of innocence. In spite of that incredibly low standard, more than two-thirds of all reports are "unfounded."
That means overloaded caseworkers are spending two-thirds of their time spinning their wheels, and adding trauma to the lives of innocent families.
Expanding mandatory reporting means child abuse hot lines will be deluged with even more false reports, further overloading workers who then will have less time to find children in real danger.
At the same time, thousands more children who were never abused will be traumatized by the investigation itself, which often includes a strip-search looking for bruises. The medical exam required in cases of sexual abuse is even more traumatic.
To see the result of taking away all discretion and common sense, consider a recent case from Florida. An assistant principal, who is, of course, a mandated reporter, called in a report — and sheriff's deputies launched an investigation — when a schoolyard crush led a 12-year-old girl to kiss a 12-year-old boy.
The mandated reporter said it was "a possible sex crime."
Worse, the current hype and hysteria risks setting off a foster-care panic — a sharp sudden surge in children removed from their homes by caseworkers who are running scared just like "mandatory reporters." While the vast majority of foster parents try to do the best they can for the children in their care, and some are true heroes, study after study has found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes.
The record of group homes and institutions is worse. The accused in the Penn State cases, Jerry Sandusky, was a foster parent. His charity began as a group home.
Eighteen states already require everyone to report. There is no evidence children are safer in those states.
As is so often the case with our efforts to fight child abuse, this "solution" has nothing to do with helping children and everything to do with adult self-indulgence. It makes the adults feel better about a heinous crime, while actually increasing the danger to children.
Richard Wexler, formerly a Times Union reporter, is the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, (www.nccpr.org).
Child advocates like some proposed CPS changes
by Barbara Grijalva
TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Child abuse and neglect made 2011 a deadly year for Arizona children.
An advisory committee is making recommendations
(pdf) to the governor to improve Child Protective Services.
Child advocates say the proposals are just some of the changes needed to protect children.
In Arizona, programs and systems that help prevent child abuse and neglect are among the hardest hit by state budget cuts.
People who work at Casa de los Ninos
, the crisis nursery for children, know the new recommendations to change CPS could help, but they also know some of them would cost money. Casa de los Ninos Executive Director Susie Huhn says of the recommendations, "I think there are some good ideas in there."
She says the recommendations to improve CPS are well thought out. "Improving responsivity of the hotline to calls. I think there are some great recommendations about joint investigations when there's criminal activity--with the police and CPS. Also, some maybe different training for CPS investigators to improve the quality of what happens there," Huhn says.
Some of the recommendations to better protect our children would cost money, but Huhn says some merely involve better use of resources and training changes.
"So, no, it's not all money, but, yes, we also can't expect a system to be as responsive as it was four years ago when they had layer upon layer of budget cuts," Huhn says.
The cuts have been deep and across the board in services and programs that support families with children, and that prevent abuse and neglect.
It all came to a terrible and dangerous head in 2011.
"We saw over one-thousand more children coming into care and out of home care and into Child Protective Services at the same time when we saw a decrease in the number of foster care homes," Huhn says.
Even the non-profit Casa de los Ninos ran out of room and had to turn away children.
Huhn says Arizonans have to decide to make a fundamental change, have a strategic long-range plan to protect and support children.
She points out that prevention costs money, but not as much as it costs when a child enters the system.
For instance, there's one successful prevention program that would cost three-to-five-thousand dollars a year per family. "So that their children never enter the system, and yet we house a child in foster care to the tune of $28,000 a year. So do the math," Huhn says. The recommendation to change CPS are just that. Recommendations.
Besides funding, some also require changes in law, among other things.
The recommendations are now on the governor's desk.
States Weigh Time Frame For Child Sex Abuse Suits
by Joel Rose
Stories of child sexual abuse dominated the headlines in 2011, but because the alleged crimes happened so long ago, few of the victims in those cases were able to sue their abusers.
Now, lawmakers around the country are pushing to extend or waive their states' statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse charges, but the initiative has its opponents — including the Catholic Church — who argue it could unleash a torrent of lawsuits.
Giving A Voice To The Abused
It took almost 30 years, but in December 2011, Richard Fitter finally went public with the allegation that former New Jersey priest John Capparelli had repeatedly groped him in the early 1980s.
Fitter says he first reported Capparelli to another priest in 1992. Capparelli, who denies the allegations, was removed from the ministry. Fitter thought Capparelli was no longer working with children, but he continued to teach in Newark, N.J., public schools until reports detailing a long list of allegations against him appeared last year in the Newark Star-Ledger . When Fitter read those stories, he decided it was time to come forward — again.
"I was satisfied with the fact [that] he wouldn't be around kids anymore, he wouldn't be a danger," Fitter says, "and then to find out 20 years later that that was not true and he has been a danger all this time — it just doesn't sit right with me."
This time, Fitter filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages against Capparelli. But Fitter and his lawyer, Greg Gianforcaro, know his lawsuit doesn't have much chance of success. That's because New Jersey's window to file a civil lawsuit in a child sexual abuse case is short — just two years from the time the would-be plaintiff turns 18. At that age, Gianforcaro says, few victims are ready to talk about the alleged abuse, let alone file a lawsuit. So in the wake of the high-profile stories of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin, Gianforcaro is urging New Jersey lawmakers to reconsider its statute of limitations.
"If we're ever going to find out who these abusers are ... it's through giving men and women who were abused in the past a voice," Gianforcaro says. "And the only way they'll get that voice is if there's change in the legislation."
Legislation In The Works
Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would completely eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, but that bill has some powerful opponents.
Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, testified against the bill at a hearing in Trenton in late 2010.
"The reality is that this proposal simply fosters lawsuits," he said at the time. "How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old? Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade."
The New Jersey bill's opponents point to what happened in California in 2003, when the state approved a temporary, one-year window in which the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits did not apply. During that year, more than 800 claims of clergy abuse were filed against the Catholic Church. Delaware followed California's approach, resulting in about 100 lawsuits.
Lawmakers in New York and Pennsylvania are pushing similar bills, which have stalled in the past. Pennsylvania state Rep. Michael McGeehan is sponsoring a bill that would temporarily waive the statute of limitations for sex abuse charges.
"I don't think you can put a timeline on it," McGeehan says. "People come to the realization; people come to a comfort level. And whether it's a year from now or whether it's 30 years from now, I think those people need to be heard."
McGeehan says opponents of his bill have been a lot quieter since the Penn State scandal broke, but his bill — as well as its counterpart in New Jersey — remain very much stuck in committee.
Child predator watch: Homeland Security Investigations in tri-state area protects children in US and around the world
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made a total of 52 criminal arrests, resulting in 35 indictments and 38 convictions of child predators in the tri-state area in 2011.
ICE HSI investigations protect children from sexual predators, including Internet child pornographers, child sex traffickers and those who travel overseas for sex with minors. The ICE HSI office in Philadelphia, which oversees investigations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, investigated and concluded the following significant cases this year.
- Paul Edward Pavulak, 67, from Delaware and a registered sex offender, was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years on child pornography charges in October. The ICE HSI investigation revealed that he developed an online relationship with a woman in the Philippines. After meeting the woman and her daughter, he and a Philippine national attempted to produce child pornography of the two-year-old girl via a web camera. Pavulak described the movie as the girl's "training video." ICE HSI agents seized his computers and discovered thousands of images of child pornography from infants to mid-teens engaging in sexual acts with adult males.
- Mark Anthony Permenter, 32, of Hampton Township, Pa., was sentenced to 30 years in prison in September. He pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2011. According to court documents, Permenter had contact with an undercover postal inspector and sent him a sample of his child pornography via the Internet. The investigation revealed that Permenter had taken photographs of multiple girls under the age of seven whom he had contact with or watched.
- Stacey Wright-Farmer of Squire, W.Va., was sentenced in February to the maximum statutory term of 20 years in prison for involving a minor in her care in child pornography. Farmer previously pleaded guilty in June 2010, admitting that from February through May 2009, she produced images of a minor in her care engaged in sexually explicit conduct at her home in McDowell County. Farmer was also sentenced to life on supervised released and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $982.53 to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
- Kenneth Schneider, 47, of Philadelphia, was sentenced in December to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing a minor boy when they resided and traveled together. Schneider, an international attorney, shared his residence in Moscow with the 12-year-old boy, a former Russian ballet dancer.
- Mark Allen Heil, 42, of Bel Air, Md., was sentenced in July to 14 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for attempted enticement of a minor and possession of child pornography. He actively chatted online with an undercover Delaware state trooper for the purpose of traveling to Delaware and engaging in sex acts with the alleged child of the undercover officer. An ICE HSI computer forensics examination of Heil's computer revealed more than 9000 images of child pornography and 500 transcripts of chats between him and other child sex offenders in the three months preceding his arrest. Some of his chat partners purported to be adults with custody of children whom they were molesting.
- Christopher J. Stephani, 41, of Columbia Crossroads, Pa., was sentenced in August to more than 12 years in prison for receiving and distributing child pornography. Stephani used a computer to download and distribute more than 800 images and 35 movies of child pornography between 2008 and March 4, 2010.
- Thomas Gordon, Jr., 46, of Philadelphia, was sentenced in November to 11 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release on child pornography charges. Gordon, a former Transportation Security Administration screener posted multiple files depicting graphic child exploitation to his Facebook and Photobucket accounts.
- Steven Tadlock, 45, of Pennsylvania, was sentenced to six years in prison on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Tadlock distributed images over the Internet to other users and engaged in chats about how to groom children for sexual activity. He also destroyed a computer external hard drive to obstruct the investigation.
- Jamie Hall, 37, a former U.S. Air Force technical sergeant stationed at Dover Air Force Base, was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of supervised release in January. He engaged in online conversations with a New Hampshire detective who posed as an 18-year-old boy interested in trading child pornography. Hall sent numerous images of child pornography and posted additional images to a publically available website and expressed interest in identifying a young teenage boy with whom he could engage in a sexual relationship.
- Roger Wesley Farris II, 41, of Waynesboro, Va., was sentenced to 44 months in prison and 15 years of supervised release on his conviction related to attempting to arrange for sex with a minor child. The investigation began as an undercover operation in which Farris contacted an agent posing as the uncle of a 10-year-old child in an effort to arrange sex with the child. Farris told the agent that he would pay $700, plus $50 for gas money, if the uncle would bring the child from West Virginia to a hotel in Pittsburgh. Farris was arrested on March 5, 2008, at a hotel in Pittsburgh.
- Richard Boerckel, 68, of Pennsylvania, was sentenced in November to 30 months in prison and five years of supervised release. He was charged in August after ICE HSI conducted an undercover investigation into the operators and subscribers of websites containing child pornography.
"Sexual predators are exploiting and abusing our children for their own personal gratification," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia. "HSI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate this behavior and will use every tool at our disposal to stop them in their tracks."
Operation Predator is a nationwide ICE HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. ICE HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
For more information about ICE HSI's predator investigations, visit ICE.gov.
From the FBI
New Jersey Doctor Pleads Guilty to Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography
U.S. Attorney's Office
January 3, 2012
NEWARK, NJ—Rocco Martino, 43, of South Orange, N.J., admitted today to making available images and videos of pre-pubescent children being sexually abused—sometimes violently—to others over the Internet, U.S. Attorney Fishman announced.
Martino, a doctor who recently practiced internal and sports medicine in Berkeley Heights, N.J., entered his guilty plea to an information charging him with one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography before U.S. District Judge Williams H. Walls in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made during Martino's guilty plea proceeding:
Martino admitted that between November and December 2010, he downloaded and posted videos and images of child pornography via peer-to-peer file-sharing software—through which others had access to the material on a shared drive. Martino admitted that his offerings included images of numerous children younger than 12 and depictions of sadistic and violent conduct. The images downloaded by federal investigators and found on Martino's computer included pictures of very young children being restrained and sexually abused—including a bound and gagged toddler.
As part of his guilty plea, Martino agreed to forfeit the computer and computer accessories which he used to commit the offense. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
The receipt and distribution of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, and a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for April 10, 2012.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI Newark Division's Cyber Crime Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; detectives of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Cyber Crimes Unit, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray; and the South Orange Police Department, under the direction of Chief James M. Chelel, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose´ R. Almonte of the U.S. Attorney's Office General Crimes Unit in Newark.
Letter to the Editor
I am writing to speak on behalf of the victims of childhood sexual abuse. Having been sexually abused as a young boy at Boy Scout camp, I know the shame, distrust, aloneness and powerlessness that I have felt because of this.
The disturbing abuse at Penn State made me realize that the shame that kept it so hidden and bound in myself, that kept me from speaking, is what enables abusers to go undetected. Abuse thrives in secrecy. The healing of abuse begins with the speaking of the truth of it. I feel it is important for those of us who have been wounded by this to speak out, in order to heal ourselves, to encourage and support other victims to speak out and for the benefit of future generations of children. Let us put the shame back where it belongs and is needed on the abuser and the institutions which have enabled this abuse to occur and to continue undetected.
Sexual abuse of children is a common reality in our society and it is time we put an end to it. Organizations such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and Penn State have chosen the welfare of the organization over the welfare of the children. They have chosen to protect themselves rather than to protect the children they are there to serve.
This is not just hypocritical, but corrupting to the organizations themselves and further traumatizing to the victims. Regarding the Boy Scouts I would urge them to appoint an independent investigator with the power, money and scope to do a thorough investigation of child sexual abuse in the organization, to open its records of sexual abuse to the public and to issue a public apology to the victims of abuse that it has enabled to occur through silence, denial, cover-up and secrecy.
If we truly want to put an end to this scourge, it begins with truth and accountability not damage control, and it ultimately comes from the heart and soul, not good lawyers and public relations people. It would do the Boy Scout leadership well to re-read its own oath and laws and to find in themselves the same moral courage, honesty and trustworthiness it asks of its own scouts.
Silence is not golden in child sex abuse cases - help the victims
by Kathryn Firmin-Sellers, United Family Services Region Director
The Penn State 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 times quite well. Ninety percent of 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 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. 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 law to report suspected abuse.
Is there any measure of hope to be found in the news of the past weeks?
Perhaps we can find hope in the number of victims who have found the courage to come forward, emboldened by the public conversation or angered by Sandusky's defense of his own behavior.
We should not underestimate how difficult and how important it is to disclose abuse - even if it occurred in the distant past. Absent 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. These children fail to receive appropriate interventions, and thus are far more likely to fail at school and ultimately drop out 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 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. If the victim is still a minor, Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center in Mecklenburg County works with other community partners to offer a comprehensive, community based response. The Child Advocacy Center conducts a forensic interview with the child, and a medical evaluation in an appropriate, non-threatening setting. The 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. 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.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth: Reform CPS, but respect right
by Mary K. Reinhart
State Rep. Eddie Farnsworth isn't afraid to speak his mind.
Farnsworth, a Gilbert Republican, was often the lone voice of opposition during recent deliberations of the Arizona Child Safety Task Force. He had opposed giving Child Protective Services too much authority or moving too quickly to legally separate parents from their children.
Farnsworth agrees with a task-force recommendation to sharpen law-enforcement focus on the most serious child-abuse cases. But he also believes the state should do its best to reunite families once it removes children, even if that means spending more on services for parents. From a "small-government guy," that's saying something.
"My belief is that, as long as it's reasonable, we ought to reunify (families)," Farnsworth said. "Because it's the parent's right to raise that child."
Farnsworth, 50, is the father of seven and an attorney who operates four East Valley charter schools. He was involved in the last two CPS reform efforts during his first four terms in the House, including sweeping changes in 2003 that required joint investigations between police and CPS for cases involving suspected criminal conduct.
He said the problems and systemic challenges remain much the same, but that he senses a greater willingness from Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter, who oversees CPS, to make fundamental reforms.
Farnsworth's views are representative of many conservative Republicans, whose votes are required to pass legislation and approve potential budget increases. He talked with The Arizona Republic recently about Arizona's child-welfare system and where he thinks the recommendations might lead.
Q. There was some disagreement among task-force members about how quickly the state should move to legally separate children from their parents (called "severance" in juvenile court).
A. That's the balance. I don't think anybody has the perfect answer ... Expedited severance is something I've expressed concerns about. We don't want to sever without time to consider in a reasonable, rational way.
I look at these things and say, who has the natural right to parent? For us to limit that right or sever that right, we have to decide that a parent has given up that right. The children also have the right not to be abused ... and the state has an obligation to protect them. But there's still a right to parent, so we also have an obligation as a state for reunification ...
I want to make clear that no child should be abused. But the argument that the state is perfect in its protection of children is a fallacy. We have deaths in foster care.
Q. The task force heard from experts in early-childhood development and from Maricopa County's presiding juvenile-court judge (EddwardBallinger) about the long-term damage to children who lack consistent caregivers as well as the trauma of being removed from their homes.
A. I think kids are very resilient. Sometimes we are so quick to sever parental rights and family relationships simply because a study says they will do better. Obviously there are homes that children should not be in. My concern is that we do not go too far the other way.
Q. What's your overall view of the task force recommendations? (More than 100 proposals were compiled from testimony, task-force member requests and public comments. The task force eliminated about 50 of them before forwarding its recommendations to Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday.)
A. Some I agree with, some I have concerns about ... I am committed to having trained law enforcement involved when you have a criminal (abuse) case. Opening up the process more to the light of day. We treat CPS different than we treat almost any other area in the penal system ... My constituents are terrified of CPS because they have almost unfettered power. Opening up the system will help.
Q. There's likely to be a request for more CPS funding (particularly to hire new specially trained investigators). What do you think the Legislature will do with that?
A. If that can be justified, I think most (lawmakers) think we should support CPS. This is what's refreshing about director Carter; he didn't put the cart before the horse (and ask for more money before being able to defend it) ... I think you'll probably see a Legislature that will be favorable to that.
Q. But isn't that growing government?
A. It is growing government. But it's a proper role of government. We're talking about the protection of children ... There is no foolproof system, because there are no foolproof people. That's why this isn't going to be the last iteration of policy. This is an ongoing process of revising policy when it comes to the protection of children ...
I'm a small-government guy. I do think, though, that when we take somebody's children, we do take on an additional burden ... If we have parents who want rehabilitation ... we have to help in some way because we have taken their child. We have inserted ourselves in that relationship.
Q. The recommendations don't include much in the way of child-abuse prevention. Is that the role of state government?
A. That's where I think we have to be careful. Is it government's role to prevent bank robbery? Is it government's role to prevent assault? ... I'm willing to go further with Child Protective Services than other areas of government -- it's a proper role. But children are still going to be abused. Children are still going to die. You're going to have employees who botch cases. You're never going to stop those things 100 percent.
Forced abuse-reporting bill could overwhelm cops
by Richard Wexler
SOME LOCAL police chiefs say they have no problem with legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey of Scranton that would force everyone to report any suspicion of child abuse to child protective services agencies or to police (“Abuse bill OK with police,” Dec. 23).
But if it ever actually happens, those police chiefs will learn the true meaning of “be careful what you wish for … .”
Most cases of child abuse are far more ambiguous than a man allegedly caught in the act of raping a child in the shower. Nationwide, even now, more than three-quarters of all reports alleging child abuse are false. Further expanding forced reporting means child abuse hotlines will be deluged with even more false reports, further overloading workers who then will have less time to find children in real danger.
Right now, police investigate only a fraction of the cases; most go to county Children and Youth Services agencies. But under Casey's bill, people would choose whether to call CYS, the police or both. That would drown the police in false reports, and they'd have far less time for each case, leaving them in the same position as CYS – lacking time to thoroughly investigate any case, and increasing the risk that real abuse will be overlooked.
To see the result of taking away all discretion and common sense, consider the recent case from Florida in which a mandated reporter called in a report – and sheriff's deputies launched an investigation – when a schoolyard crush led a 12-year-old girl to kiss a 12-year-old boy. Is that really the highest, best use of law enforcement's time?
But there's another huge problem with Casey's scheme: Thousands of children who were never abused will be traumatized by the investigation itself – which often includes a stripsearch as an examiner looks for bruises. The medical exam required in cases of sexual abuse is even more traumatic. One police chief calls this “err(ing) on the side of caution.” But for children forced to endure it based on a vague guess by a newly minted “mandated reporter” afraid of being prosecuted for failure to report, it is state-sanctioned child abuse.
So it's no wonder a recent hearing on this bill turned into an embarrassment for the senator. These are not hearings at which anyone can testify. Senators hand-pick their witnesses. But not one witness supported Sen. Casey's scheme. Indeed, there is remarkable consensus among child welfare experts who disagree on almost everything else that Sen. Casey's idea is awful. They understand that the only thing it would accomplish is to harm more children.
Eighteen states already require everyone to report, and there is no evidence children are any safer in those states.
While this would be a terrible idea anywhere in the country, surely people should be thinking twice about giving police, child welfare agencies and judges even more unbridled power in the home of the “kids-for-cash” scandal.
As is so often the case with our efforts to fight child abuse, this solution has nothing to do with actually helping children and everything to do with adult self-indulgence. It makes adults feel better about a heinous crime even as it puts children in more danger.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the U.S.
January is set as a permanent month of awareness for those who are denied their basic fundamental human rights by human trafficking in the US and around the world.
The statistics are bleak, and in a country like the US 90% of human trafficking is sex trafficking, and an estimated 80% of human trafficking victims are females and 50% are children.
There are approximately 100,000 to 300,000 children forced into prostitution yearly in the United States alone. Global figures are in the millions.
Hotels and resorts have been receiving more attention over accountability issues regarding human and sex trafficking. One group, meeting planners, has taken the initiative to sign the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct.
The Code of Conduct is an industry driven responsible tourism initiative in collaboration with End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) International, funded by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and supported by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Companies who sign onto the Code are now working to encourage their industry peers and competitors to address human and sex trafficking at every hotel where they do business.
Kimberly Ritter, Senior Account Manager and Coordinator of conference and meeting planning company Nix, claims that “Child sex trafficking is widespread, occurring right now even at luxury hotels in the United States. Most hotel executives have no idea this exploitation of children exists at their properties. Once they become aware, however, they can establish policies and train staff to identify and take action against child sex trafficking.”
As part of their commitment to end child sex trafficking, Nix recently added a clause to their standard Request for Proposal inquiring about hotel policies on human trafficking.
As a company, Nix seeks to discuss child sex trafficking and exploitation in one-on-one meetings with hotel general managers, provide written materials, and by encouraging them to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct for hotels.
Meeting planners who adopt the Meeting Planner's Code of Conduct agree to establish an internal social responsibility policy, implement an action plan with objectives and timeframes, and report annually.
Trafficking networks operate both domestically and internationally, and although abuses disproportionally affect women and girls , the victims of this ongoing global tragedy are men, women, and children of all ages.
Wednesday, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
|How to report child abuse
IMMEDIATELY CALL THE HOTLINE AT 1-800-392-3738.
The staffers of the state of Missouri's Children's Division man this hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They will take information from you and respond to and investigate child abuse and neglect. If you live outside Missouri and want to report abuse or neglect of a Missouri child, call (573) 751-3448.
“The most important reason to report child abuse is to protect the child from further abuse,” experts say. They also note that kids who are being hurt need someone to intervene.
Reporting a problem can also help parents get help, or resources to solve problems.
If you have questions or are unsure please contact the State of Missouri's Children's Division at 1-800-392-3738.
-- source: Greene County prosecuting attorney's office
Consider helping the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield. Learn more by clicking the link or by calling 831-2327.
Help us highlight problems for kids
If you have a suggestion for other ways the News-Leader can shine a light on problems with child safety, email Assistant Managing Editor David Iseman at email@example.com or call 836-1167.
The Springfield News-Leader's Every Child public-service journalism project hopes to focus public attention on critical challenges facing children, foster discussion and build on existing programs.
Offering guidance is the News-Leader Every Child community advisory committee — with representatives from the business, government, education, nonprofit, law enforcement, health and faith sectors.
For previous stories and more background, visit our Every Child project.
||Every Child: Damage done to children every day
by Dave Iseman
Dirty secrets: Child abuse and neglect across the Ozarks must be brought to light. As explained in the essay at the bottom of the page, each day throughout January, the News-Leader is presenting the words of investigators and how they say abusers hurt our kids.
"(The mother's boyfriend) stated that about 7 times he picked (the child) up by the abdomen, squeezed him, and then threw him into the chair from a distance. Several of the throws were from at least 5 feet"
"During his second interview, (the father) admitted to touching all three of his daughters. He stated that he was just teaching them about sex and love. He then added, 'Who better than one of their parents to teach them?'"
Why we are publishing these?
Words about children are not supposed to frighten. They are not supposed to shock. They are not supposed to disgust.
A warning: These will.
Usually tucked away in court files, these are the dirty secrets of child abuse and neglect in Greene County, where reported abuse rates are the second highest in Missouri.
As part of the News-Leader's Every Child project, we've pulled these words from recent abuse investigations.
And, to highlight the extent of the problem, we're taking the unusual tack of publishing excerpts every day in January.
On your front page.
The special attention is one part in a series of stories focusing on children's safety issues in our community. Over the next three months, these stories will profile people trying to keep kids safe or help them once they run into trouble. The stories also will highlight strategies that have reduced threats or helped kids heal.
This focus on Page One will seem different to you. It is, we realize, aggressive.
But it is necessary to bring more attention to crimes against children. As Barbara Brown-Johnson, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield, recently wrote: “Secrecy is the hallmark of sexual abuse and those who harm children count on us being uncomfortable with the subject … it helps their cause.”
These words are no secret to some.
They are the words of detectives, child advocates and deputies, who must recount, with detached precision, how kids are hurt. They are the words of the child-victims themselves. They are also the excuses, dodges and rationalizations — even defiant admissions — of those who do the hurting.
Read these words carefully. They are not fiction. They are real.
They document how kids suffer, how kids are left to fend for themselves, how kids are mistreated — and worse.
We repeat a warning.
These words are harsh. But read them, please. Our children need for you not to turn away.
-- Dave Iseman is assistant managing editor of the News-Leader
Wichita woman speaks out as a survivor of bullying at school
by RON SYLVESTER - The Wichita Eagle
Yola Robert's first memory of being taunted by other children came at age 3, when boys and girls in her preschool began making fun of her hair.
As the American daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Robert had curly, thick hair. It wasn't like other girls' silky, straight, flowing hair.
She said those differences in her background and the way she looked subjected her to a childhood marred by bullying.
Kansas isn't an easy place to grow up if you look different, Robert said, and there aren't many protections for children who suffer daily trauma from bullies in the halls of schools, or electronically through text messages and online social networks, where the abuse can continue around the clock.
Although state legislators passed an anti-bullying law in 2007, it's among the weakest in the nation, according to an analysis published last month by the U.S. Department of Education.
For years, Robert suffered quietly. A lifelong Catholic and the niece of a cardinal, she didn't talk about the many times she had contemplated taking her own life.
But when she heard about how bullying might have led a 14-year-old girl at Northeast Magnet High School to commit suicide last September, Robert decided to speak out. She began visiting Wichita schools to talk to children. She said she wanted them to know that they could survive and beat the bullies.
“I made it. I'm alive,” said Robert, 18.
“I am the voice for those who did not make it. I am the voice of the victims who killed themselves who could not see past other people's ugliness. I know how it felt. I know the pain. I knew how great it would have felt to kill myself, but I didn't.
“So I'm speaking on their behalf. I want people to know they can make it.”
• • •
“There is a huge difference between kids tattling on each other and those who tell on another.”
— Ruth A. Peters, child psychologist
• • •
Robert vividly recalled a group of children attacking her on the playground at Magdalen Catholic School. She was 6 years old.
As she remembers it, nearly a dozen kids surrounded her on the playground. They threw rocks at her; they dragged her by her hair to a spot out of view of the teachers. One boy stomped on her chest, she said.
“And do you know what happened?” Robert said. “They told them, ‘Don't do it again.' That was it.”
As far as Robert knew, no one even lost a recess over the incident. In first grade, she said, she stopped trusting the adults who were supposed to keep her safe.
“That's when I started to realize no one cares about me,” Robert said. “So why should I tell the teacher?”
Educators and violence-prevention experts say children should be taught the difference between tattling and telling. “Tattling” is motivated by getting people in trouble, usually by trivial events. “Telling” is reporting significant behavior problems that might hurt others, experts say.
“It's not just for bullying, but we say if you don't feel safe at school, tell an adult,” said Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for Wichita public schools.
The playground incident, and the feeling that no one took action, caused Robert to withdraw. She became quiet. The other children didn't.
Robert said she contemplated suicide for the first time in third grade. She took out a knife and ran it along her skin, thinking about how the blade piercing her arm might relieve her pain.
“For someone who is suicidal, or depressed, to actually feel that cold metal pressing against your skin, you just know if you go a little bit deeper, everything will be fine,” she said. “It covers up the pain you have to deal with every day, all day.”
Yehia and Marie Robert had their oldest daughter a month after they moved from Egypt to Wichita. They had been trying to adapt to a new home and, as adults, faced prejudice.
The concept of bullying was foreign to them.
“We had both gone to strict Catholic schools in Egypt,” Marie Robert said. “I had gone to a school for girls. Yehia had gone to a school for boys. Bullying, or treating people like this, simply did not exist for our generation.”
• • •
“Now we are starting to understand the biological implications of such psychological abuse.”
— Moshe Szyf, professor of pharmacology, McGill University
• • •
By fifth grade, Yola Robert began showing more severe mental health problems.
Research shows that early-childhood trauma, such as bullying and other forms of abuse, can affect how the brain grows.
Studies from Harvard University and Canada's McGill University have shown that childhood trauma actually changes the DNA of the brain. This can lead to increased risks of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
A psychiatrist would later explain these changes to Robert, who now takes medication to help alleviate the effects of what happened to her as a child. But it would take years for her to seek that kind of help.
The Middle Eastern culture that caused her so many problems with her peers also made her parents hesitant to get her help, she said.
“There you have war, famine and poverty – and you say you're depressed?” Robert said. “Mental health care isn't really a part of that culture.”
By fifth grade, others called her ugly and made fun of her name.
“I was surrounded by the Sarahs, the Brittanys, the Bethanys, the Jessicas, the Taylors. I mean, what's Yola? It's foreign.”
Yola comes from the Greek and Spanish name Yolanda.” It means “violet flower.”
• • •
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
— the Hail Mary
• • •
When Robert entered Kapaun Mount Carmel High School, other students began referring to her as “a terrorist,” she said. The comments followed her home from school and haunted her from the computer on Facebook.
“I became terrorized by Facebook,” Robert said. “Facebook became Hellbook.
”She stopped eating, developing anorexia. She stopped talking, withdrawing further into depression.
She held on tightly to her Catholic faith, however.
“Every time someone would try to hurt me, I would say a Hail Mary to myself,” she said. “I would pray for my enemies.”
She remembered one day at lunch, a group of boys surrounded her in the cafeteria, their heads wrapped in sweaters mocking Middle Eastern Muslim men. They screamed at her as others laughed.
“I want you to either kill yourself or to leave Kapaun,” one of the boys yelled.
To Robert, that provided the chance to show the bullies they couldn't hurt her. She stayed in school. She stayed alive.
“I wasn't going to give them what they wanted,” she said.
• • •
“Devil on my shoulder, the Lord is my witness / So on my Libra scale, I'm weighing sins and forgiveness/ What goes around comes around like a hula hoop.”
— Lil Wayne
• • •
Lil Wayne's “She Will” spoke to Robert about overcoming those who would wish her ill and about what goes around comes around.
“They have no emotional empathy,” Robert said of her tormentors.
While she suffered abuse in the halls of Kapaun, she also found help there.
“I had four angels in my life,” Robert said.
Kelly Dandurand, an assistant principal, helped Robert understand that teachers had mistaken her depression for rudeness and disrespect. Renee LeFever, a social sciences teacher, taught Robert about successful people who had been bullied in high school.
“If there's one tip I would have for administrators, it would be to treat each child as an individual,” Dandurand said. “They are all human, and they all need compassion and help seeing through their difficulties.”
Marie Robert helped her daughter get help outside of school. They found Jeannie Erikson, a therapist and life coach, who helped Yola Robert work through her experiences. She found her fourth “angel” in Fatima Ahrens, a psychiatrist, who prescribed and managed medications for the biological damage wrought by abuse.
Robert said her mother convinced her not to let the bullies ruin her future.
“We told her to focus on her studies and make good grades, because that would be what helps her succeed in the future, and not what others said or thought about her,” Marie Robert said.
Yola Robert's grades improved, helping her get scholarships and financial aid for college.“
The education I got at Kapaun was just amazing,” Robert said.
The “terrorist” name-calling became less frequent after November 2010, when she returned from a trip to the Vatican to watch her uncle, Antonios Naguib, be elevated to a cardinal in the church.
Still, Robert heard her name from inside a classroom as she walked down the school's hallway. She stuck her head in and asked whether they were talking about her.
“We were just talking about how we used to torture you at Magdalen,” she heard one girl say.
• • •
"While most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to ensure adults are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe."
— Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education
• • •
The U.S. Department of Education analyzed anti-bullying laws in 46 states, including Kansas. The report, released in December, ranked state laws by how effective they were in identifying bullying and how the laws guided districts in implementing those policies. Kansas rated in the bottom four, according to the report.
Kansas requires school districts to implement anti-bullying policies. But unlike other states, Kansas didn't give districts deadlines for implementing such polices. Wichita public schools and Kapaun Mount Carmel have developed policies. Kansas' law also limits school authority to bullying and cyberbullying occurring on “school property, in a school vehicle or at a school-sponsored activity or event.”
Thirteen states, however, have passed laws giving schools authority to address off-campus behavior that creates a hostile learning environment. Under a New Jersey law, schools can report students suspected of bullying to police. New Jersey schools also undergo annual evaluations over how they handle bullying complaints.
Weaknesses in Kansas' laws didn't surprise Robert.
“I'd like to help get a stronger law,” she said. “If the kids don't feel safe, they're going to leave schools. Parents should feel peace of mind that their kids aren't being bullied.
”Robert thought she had left the bullies behind when she graduated from high school.
But last September, while attending Wichita State University, she received a text message from a friend, telling her she was on a gossip website. It's a place where people post pictures of others accompanied by derogatory comments. The pictures of her were from her freshman year in high school, when she was 14. The comments seethed with sexual and cultural innuendo.
That same month, Robert learned that another Wichita girl, Rhianna Morawitz, a14-year-old from Northeast, had committed suicide. Her father said she was bullied.
“That just blew my mind,” Robert said. “I said, ‘No, I cannot take this, I cannot see this happen.' I need to help these children before they take this step of killing themselves.”
Robert has spoken to classes in Wichita public schools, including Gordon Parks Elementary, where she said students hugged her afterward.
She would like to speak to more schools to share her story. She began writing down what happened to her, hoping to someday publish a book that might help others.
“I want them to know they can survive this,” she said. “I tell them to help me be the voice. I tell them to spread the word that they are not alone.”
US must deal with child sex-abuse epidemic
January 1, 2012
With the frenzied media coverage surrounding the Penn State and Syracuse University child sex-abuse scandals, one would be hard-pressed to find a soul who doesn't have an opinion on these cases.
Questions such as "Should JoePa have been fired?" and "Why did the victims take so long to come forward?" seem to have replaced the traditional "How about this crazy weather?" as conversation starters. In the past weeks I've heard these questions hotly debated in grocery store checkout lines, department stores and restaurants.
Such lively banter and public opinion are to be expected as a result of any alleged heinous crime involving an adult, insidious sexual abuse of children and the ensuing concealment of it by adults in positions of power, right? Surprisingly, notably absent from those impromptu exchanges was discussion involving the root of the real problem: child sex abuse as the nation's worst public health epidemic and how to stop it.
Until now, where have the public outrage and media coverage been on this issue? And where have most of our state legislators been?
How severe do statistics have to become before people start talking and thinking about child sex abuse in real terms? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines tell us it is a public health epidemic, with one in four girls and one in six boys being victimized before age 18. Pennsylvania alone has more than 3.1 million victims. Nationally, it is more than 49 million. A child today has a greater chance of being sexually abused than of being in an automobile accident or breaking a bone.
As parents, we're willing to pay hundreds of dollars and give up countless hours to shuffle our kids to driver-training classes in the hopes of preventing auto accidents. From a young age, we teach our kids about safety and first aid in an effort to prevent broken bones and boo-boos. Both are good preventive measures. However, when it comes to something much more prevalent, yet no less grave — the prevention of child rape — our society has staunchly refused to push aside its discomfort with the issue long enough to open a public dialogue about the mess we're now facing because of it.
Pretending it doesn't exist is not the answer. Avoidance is a predator's best friend. It's what gets kids abused, steals away their innocence and changes who they are and who they would have grown up to be. Silence breeds child sex abuse, and the abuse is like cancer. It silently grows, replicates and manifests itself in too many ways to list.
Metaphors aside, on a biological level, scientific research suggests the trauma of child sex abuse often changes neuronal development in a child's brain, which often leads to learning disabilities, endocrine problems, autoimmune diseases and other long-term health complications and diseases.
Additionally, scores of victims struggle with substance abuse, depression and trust and relationship issues — any and all of which tend to infiltrate the workplace — affecting their ability to be financially self-sufficient. Monumental expenses also are incurred by overcrowded correctional institutions, where an overwhelming number of inmates are child sex-abuse victims.
As a taxpayer, I'm angry as hell that I'm stuck with a $35 billion per year tab, compliments of the pedophiles of America.
As a survivor, I'm angry as hell that someone I loved with all of my being greedily and flippantly stole the innocence of my mind and body, with complete disregard as to how it would forever change my life and the lives of those who love me.
I'm angry too, that I feel re-victimized by my state. Pennsylvania has some of the worst child protective laws in the nation, with antiquated statutes of limitations, mandatory reporting, sovereign immunity laws, and barring expert witnesses in sexual abuse cases.
One positive that has resulted from the Penn State case, in which former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused of 52 counts of child sexual abuse, is that the nation and world are watching and waiting.
If we are wise, we will use this moment to be an impetus for positive change. I'm hopeful that in the year ahead a new public understanding of child sex abuse, its impact (social and economic) and the need for everyone to act will help pass newly introduced legislation in Harrisburg, such as House Bills 878 and 832.
As John Salveson, my mentor and founder of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, has said, "Outrage is easy. Outrage is comfortable. Outrage makes us feel good about ourselves and our moral superiority. But unless it is transformed into real action, outrage is useless."
I hope you choose to act. Our children — our future — depend on it.
Tammy Lerner of New Tripoli is vice president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse Inc.
NY should extend statute of limitations on child sexual abuse
by The Post-Standard Editorial Board
The sexual abuse charges against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the allegations of abuse by former assistant Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine have drawn attention to a reality children's advocates have long known: Victims of child sexual abuse often wait years before talking about the incidents.
In New York, that means many victims wait too long to be able to seek justice in the courts. Under current state law, the statute of limitations for most sexual felonies involving child victims is five years after the victim turns 18. Bobby Davis, the first person to accuse Fine of sexually abusing him as a child, was 30 when he first reported the alleged abuse in 2002. Mike Lang, who accused Fine in November, is also too old to seek criminal or civil charges in New York.
It's not unusual for people to go decades without telling anybody about troubling sexual abuse, experts say. Complicated feelings of shame, guilt and fear make it difficult for some to talk about it at all. That means some perpetrators may go free, possibly to abuse others.
New attention to the issue should propel the state Legislature next session to extend the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse and allow more victims to seek justice in the courts.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Queens, has since 2005 been pushing the Child Victims Act. Her bill would extend the statute of limitations by five years for criminal cases and by 10 years for civil cases. She also supports a one-year window for victims to file claims in cases that were previously time-barred.
The Assembly three times passed versions of this bill, but the legislation died in the Senate.
Critics — including officials of the Catholic Church, which is coping with its own child sex abuse scandals — say over time, memories fade, witnesses die and evidence becomes more difficult to secure. Others say an extension or window would encourage lawsuits. Neither complaint is reason to limit victims' rights.
“This bill will provide a remedy for those whose lives have been unalterably changed by the horror of childhood sexual abuse,” says a memo to the Markey bill. “Victims of these horrific crimes will get their day in court and be able to seek the justice they have been denied.”
A one-time, limited window is worth considering to show victims the state's court system is serious about prosecuting abusers. And going forward, childhood victims should have longer to report abuse they endured.
First ever meeting planner to sign the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – Nix Conference & Meeting Management is leading the charge among meeting planners worldwide to help end child sex trafficking. Nix is initiating a first-ever Meeting Planners Code of Conduct in January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and encouraging industry peers and competitors, via The Code Quarterly International Newsletter, to join them in addressing the issue at every hotel where they do business.
“Child sex trafficking is widespread, occurring right now even at luxury hotels in the United States,” said Kimberly Ritter, Senior Account Manager and Coordinator of Nix's initiative to fight child sex trafficking, “Most hotel executives have no idea this exploitation of children exists at their properties. Once they become aware, however, they can establish policies and train staff to identify and take action against child sex trafficking.”
Nix is the first meeting planning company in the US to sign a Meeting Planner's Code of Conduct, which they developed in cooperation with ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking). They will sign the new code on Wednesday, January 11, 2012, during a Human Trafficking Awareness Day event at the Soulard Preservation Hall, 1921 South Ninth Street, from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Wednesday, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“As meeting and conference planners, we are using our close ties with hotel general managers and other professional resources to raise awareness and help end child sex trafficking,” said Molly Hackett, Principal at Nix. “This is a wonderful and groundbreaking way to address the issue of child protection in tourism,” said Michelle Guelbart, MSW, Private Sector Project Coordinator of ECPATUSA, “Working with Nix in the conference and meeting management sector is going to open doors that we did not have the resources or connections to access in the past.”
Nix has an extensive reach in the hotel industry, researching more than 700 hotels and visiting more than 50 hotels both within the US and internationally on behalf of their clients each year. As part of their commitment to end child sex trafficking, Nix recently added a clause to their standard Request for Proposal inquiring about hotel policies on human trafficking.
“One hotel responded to our question on human trafficking policies by saying they have pedestrian crosswalks in front of their entrance,” said Jane Quinn, Principal at Nix, “Traffickers, unfortunately, depend on that kind of naivety to carry out their operations.” Nix discusses child sex trafficking and exploitation in one-on-one meetings with hotel general managers, provides written materials, and encourages them to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct for hotels.
Nix Conference & Meeting Management first learned about the issue of child sex trafficking in hotels 3 years ago when a client, the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, asked them to inquire about hotel policies on human trafficking while researching sites for a conference. “This was a request and an issue we had not heard about before,” said Jane Quinn, “As we researched it, we realized we could have a real impact on this crisis.” In collaboration with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Nix successfully encouraged the Millennium Hotel St. Louis to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct for hotels in July 2011. That experience inspired Nix to develop a similar code of conduct for their own niche in the industry - meeting and conference planners.
“The bubble of people in our industry who are aware of child sex trafficking is growing every day,” said Molly Hackett, “Our goal is increase that awareness. We hope that one day soon, we'll be able to provide our clients with a choice of hotels that are proactive on this issue.”
Meeting planners who adopt the Meeting Planner's Code of Conduct agree to establish an internal social responsibility policy, implement an action plan with objectives and timeframes, and report annually.
For more information on The Code from Nix, contact Kimberly Ritter at (314) 645-1455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebuilding From the Ruins: Cardinal O'Malley on the 2002 Boston Sex-Abuse Scandal and Aftermath
In a two-part interview, the Boston archbishop looks back on his two-decade effort to tackle a global crisis.
by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND
A decade ago, the Boston clergy sexual abuse crisis engulfed the archdiocese, ultimately drawing global attention to a once-hidden scourge that has destroyed the innocence of minors, shattered families, severely damaged the credibility of Church leaders everywhere and led to an estimated $1 billion in settlements to American survivors.
Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley was named archbishop of Boston in 2003. He replaced Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned after the 2002 publication of archdiocesan personnel files revealed that clergy with credible allegations of child sexual abuse were reassigned to new parishes, rather than removed from ministry, and that parishioners were not warned about their history.
In a two-part interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Cardinal O'Malley discusses a range of topics, from the path to healing and spiritual reconciliation for survivors, to rebuilding the moral credibility of the Church, and penalties for bishops that neglect to protect the innocent.
When he arrived in Boston nine years ago, then-Archbishop O'Malley had already addressed clergy sexual abuse scandals in two other dioceses. In 1992, he was appointed to the nearby Diocese of Fall River, Mass., where then-Father James Porter would subsequently receive an 18- to 20-year prison sentence for sexually abusing 28 children.
Cardinal O'Malley also briefly served as the Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., from 2002-2003, after the resignation of Bishop Anthony O'Connell, who acknowledged that he had sexually abused a teenage seminary student two decades earlier.
In 2010, when the Church in Ireland was engulfed in a clergy sexual-abuse scandal, Cardinal O'Malley was asked to assist with the apostolic visitation of a number of seminaries and dioceses there, and was named the visitor to the Archdiocese of Dublin.
In 2003, you were installed as the new archbishop of Boston, following the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law. How do you rebuild the Church from the ruins?
It was daunting at the beginning — so much hurt and anger, and such disastrous economic consequences. There was a drop-off in vocations. Everywhere we turned there was crisis and pain.
Yet there remains our firm conviction that Christ does not abandon his Church — though he did not promise it would be easy.
We saw this as a call to conversion. In my own life, it has made me focus on what is really essential — our relationship with God. Everything else in the past — all the pain and suffering — was put in a new perspective.
We spoke about “rebuilding trust,” trying to help the victims to trust us again. That meant we were taking this seriously and we weren't going to let this happen again.
Transparency has been an important part of that. We published everything about finances. We published more than any other diocese in the world.
We wanted to do that because the [issue of] money being used for sex-abuse cases was a very hot topic. I wanted to demonstrate that we were not using parish funds, parishes were not being closed to pay for the sex-abuse crisis. Instead, that money came from the sale of the bishop's residence.
Rebuilding trust provided a framework for pastoral policies, but not everyone has agreed on the substance of those policies.
I was eager for people to understand what had happened, the policies we were putting in place, and how we would be faithful to carrying out those policies to ensure that our parishes and schools were as safe as possible for youngsters.
Pastors came to me saying, “We can't take time out from CCD for safe-environment training when that is already happening in public schools.”
I said, “Wonderful, but let's check and make sure it's happening.” When they looked into it they discovered that nothing was happening in most public schools.
A lot of people resisted [the training] at first. Particularly, some people objected to asking volunteers to go through background checks. They said that was invasive, it was hard enough to get volunteers and you insulted people by asking them to do these things.
Some said it was too much like sex education. I tried to listen to everybody's objections and tailor it to the appropriate age.
[After we implemented the training], a large number of children reported they had been abused by relatives, not priests. That opened people's eyes. They realized we really do need to do something.
So many people did come forward to help. Just to carry out the ambitious policies took thousands of volunteers to help in the schools and CCD programs.
After your arrival, you met continuously with survivors on a regular basis. How else have you tried to reach out directly to Catholics harmed by priests?
On Ascension Thursday 2006, we began a ‘Pilgrimage of Repentance and Hope: The Novena to the Holy Spirit' held in nine communities that experienced a history of sexual abuse. The hope was to publicly show the sorrow and contrition on the part of the community for the suffering of victims and their families, and also to invite people to come back and be part of the Church after they were alienated by the scandal.
During the course of the novena, thousands of people participated. We had prayers, Psalms, readings. I spoke, and so did some of the victims and their families. We invited [archdiocesan] priests, and large numbers came. They prayed prostrate on the floor, praying litanies, asking for forgiveness.
Afterward, many people told me that was their reason for coming back. These were parishes that had suffered so much. It was an opportunity for them to express their feelings. It was very important for the priests to be a part of it.
I encouraged them to do this in Dublin [where he led an investigation of child sexual abuse in the Church in Ireland], because I saw that it was a vehicle for healing, and while I was there, we had a service of remembrance and repentance that was very well attended and received.
During this time, what has been the experience of the vast majority of priests who are innocent of any abuse?
Typically, Catholics who were involved in the parish were supportive of their priests. But the Catholics who only came to church occasionally were much more suspicious of priests. Those who were already at one
arm's length were now at two arms' length.
The faithful Catholics knew how much the priests were hurting and tried to be supportive. At my installation, when I thanked the priests, there was sustained, thunderous applause. The priests themselves were surprised.
What has given you hope?
I have tried to call people to a deeper commitment to being an evangelizing Church. We cannot remain a Church of maintenance. We appointed a team to work on vocations and also to work with young adults.
When I came here, the priests were telling me to close the seminary. Now we have 25 men studying to be priests for the archdiocese, and the seminary is filled. We don't have enough room. We have expanded the diaconate program: Instead of one class every four years, we now have a class every year.
A lot people have come forward to help the Church. Our new pastoral center is a gift from a benefactor. People have raised money for Catholic schools and churches. They say to me, “Our grandparents fleeing the famine built churches. Now what are we going to do?”
We have more chaplains in the armed services than any other diocese.
We now have a national policy of zero tolerance for priests with credible allegations of abuse, but few penalties have been imposed against negligent bishops. Going forward, should the Church establish a clear disciplinary framework for bishops who fail to protect children?
My hope is that with the very clear polices put in place, if a bishop is reckless in neglecting this, I think that's something that demands attention on the part of the Holy See. Obviously, here in Boston, Cardinal Law did resign. The Holy See accepted his resignation.
[W]e need to deal with this issue going forward, since it has been made clear as to what the mistakes were in the past — not to repeat them.
Part of the problem in the past was that the bishops and people in general did not even suspect how much harm was being done to these children.
Why didn't they suspect it?
Well, let's just say they didn't. The focus was on the perpetrator. When I went to Fall River, I went through the files of James Porter, a predator, a very sick man who abused hundreds of children.
When I went through the files, the pattern was the same. The bishop would remove him, send him to a psychiatric institution, often non-Catholic ones. The psychologist would report back and say, “He is all right now and he can be reassigned.”
They were taking the advice of these professionals who were obviously unaware that there isn't a cure, and unaware too [that these predators] were a menace. It's unfortunate that it didn't dawn on the bishop sooner. Eventually, Porter was laicized.
From a review of the records in the Boston scandal, it's clear that some people — including an auxiliary bishop and laypeople — tried but failed to get the local ordinary to permanently remove the predators. Has the scandal altered the job description for bishops?
If you can't do difficult things, you shouldn't t be a bishop. There are always very hard choices. That's what I've told the priests ever since I came to Boston. Here every choice has been a dilemma. … You are damned if you do, or damned if you don't.
Such as balancing the need for protecting children with the rights of priests — when an allegation is made without hard evidence?
In those cases, I have the resource of the review board, which I have always used in every diocese where I have been. I have tried to have victims and victims' families on the review board, as well as judges, priests, and others.
That allows an independent reading. It's also a big help when an allegation is unsubstantiated, and you want to return someone to ministry. It's not, “the bishop says.” You can say this group of men and women, who are volunteers, and some who may not even be Catholic, concur that this person should be restored to ministry.
Regarding the issue of episcopal responsibility, a slightly different pattern has developed in Ireland, where some bishops have resigned. How would you explain that?
I can't speak specifically, but in some cases there was an awareness of responsibility. … In the case of one bishop who resigned, there was a lot of push back. The people said, “He shouldn't have resigned.” But he himself felt he had not done enough. Each case was different.
Some Catholics suggest that while media attention has stressed bishops' failures to stop criminal behavior, there are other mounting problems that need effective leadership —such as the need for better catechesis — but those issues don't get the same attention.
[There was a time when] some bishops were very seldom even seen, and had very little contact with clergy. One of my predecessors used to go to the Bahamas at Christmas and he didn't t come back until Easter.
The bishop has to be present to his people. He has to be proactive.
At the same time, the crisis in many ways has made it more difficult to mobilize the priests here to [present Church] teaching on issues like same-sex “marriage.” Many of them were so beaten up, and they said, “You want me to talk about what ?”
That whole prophetic role of the Church has been damaged by the scandal. So often when the Church does speak out on any of these topics that are difficult, people say, “Well you allowed these children to be raped, how can you say anything about this?”
I was talking to the priests' council about assisted suicide, and I told them, “We have to reassert our prophetic role around this. It doesn't mean you present this in a way that's insensitive to people's feelings when you preach on abortion — knowing there are people who have had an abortion, or on same-sex “marriage” when you have homosexual parishioners.”
In Part 2, Cardinal O'Malley addresses the John Jay Report's controversial conclusions about the role of same-sex attraction in the clergy abuse scandal, financial settlements and speeding up the appeals process for priests who contend that they have been falsely accused.