Scranton Pennsylvania - Your guide to area meetings and events of support groups
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA):
|ASCA support group
Mondays, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Wholistic Counseling Services Inc.,
409 Prospect Ave.
Child advocacy center plans town hall on preventing child abuse in youth sports
by Charles McChesney
Syracuse, NY -- Not long ago, people didn't want to talk about the abuse of children, said Julie Cecile, executive director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
The center would offer to send speakers to schools or other places but get few takers. That's changed, she said.
The sex-abuse scandal at Penn State and allegations that Syracuse University's former assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine sexually abused boys has raised awareness of the problem, she said. The center has reserved Onondaga Community College's Storer Auditorium for 6:30 p.m. Thursday to ensure there is enough space for a town hall meeting on preventing child abuse in youth athletics.
The room will hold 350 people, Cecile said, “and we're hoping we can fill it.”
Thursday's program is for adults, Cecile said, and will include a video with graphic descriptions by victims and perpetrators that would not be appropriate for children.
A panel discussion will be moderated by Becky Palmer of radio station B104.7. The panel will include experts from law enforcement as well as a survivor of sex abuse.
The focus is on youth athletics because such groups attract predators, Cecile said. “We know that sexual offenders are attracted to those sorts of organizations.”
Spotting signs of abuse — physical, emotional or sexual as well as neglect — will be part of the program, Cecile said. Those at the meeting will hear how to discuss the issue with children and how to report abuse.
Abuse of children is an enormous problem locally and nationally, Cecile said. In the five months since the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center opened its new facility on East Genesee Street, more than 200 children have come in for interviews, she said.
While the focus of the meeting is sports, Cecile said the information could be of use to those involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or other youth-oriented organizations.
For more information call 701-2985.
Child advocates call for greater transparency in abuse death, injury cases
Summit calls for state to reveal more about child abuse cases
About 250 Kentucky judges, lawmakers, child advocates and social workers say improved transparency and accountability from state child protection officials is the No. 1 priority when it comes to preventing child abuse deaths and serious injuries.
“These children are dead or they are almost dead,'' said Jefferson Family Court Judge Paula Sherlock, who led a panel of family court judges who spoke at Saturday's Kentucky Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths in Louisville. “I think it's time to take a look at every aspect of our system.”
Boyle Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie agreed.
“Any time you have a near-death or fatality, you need to have public scrutiny,'' he said at the one-day event sponsored by Kentucky Youth Advocates. “I think those things need to be open totally.”
Eliminating secrecy at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was the top vote-getter at the end of the session when participants got a chance to rank suggested improvements to child welfare — coming ahead of other suggestions also viewed as critical, including increased funds for services for troubled families and hiring more state social workers to ease staff shortages.
The recommendations will be sent to lawmakers and Gov. Steve Beshear in hopes of spurring action in the current legislative session.
Beshear — scheduled to release his proposed two-year budget Tuesday — has warned of additional cuts to state agencies. But some experts who spoke at the summit said the state social services system can't withstand more cuts if officials hope to protect children from abuse and neglect.
“If we cut any more, it's going to get worse,” said Anita Barbee, a professor at the University of Louisville's Kent School of Social Work. “There are going to be more dead babies.”
Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat and chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, told the group that lawmakers need to get serious about funding social services.
“Do they really mean it when they say children are our most important assets, or do they just say it to make people vote for them?” he said.
The child welfare system has attracted increased scrutiny from lawmakers and others after several high-profile child abuse deaths, including that of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Western Kentucky girl fatally beaten by an adoptive brother. Records ordered disclosed by a judge showed cabinet officials had ignored or dismissed as unfounded prior reports of Amy's suspected abuse, prompting outrage among lawmakers and advocates.
Participants in Saturday's session came from throughout Kentucky, motivated by what they said was a desire to end such deaths and help improve the system.
“Somebody's got to look out for Kentucky's innocent victims of abuse and neglect,” said William Smithwick, president of Sunrise Children's Services, a private, nonprofit children's agency based in Mount Washington. “We need to fix it — whatever it takes.”
Jefferson Family Court Judge Joan Byer said she was surprised by the capacity crowd that filled a meeting room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. And she said she hoped lawmakers and Beshear understand the group's belief that the child welfare system has serious problems that need more than just money.
“We don't need to just refinance a system that's broken,'' she said.
Last February's death of Amy Dye was mentioned repeatedly at the summit as an example of the need for more public disclosure and more aggressive investigation of such cases.
Lawyer Jon Fleischaker, who represents The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Press Association, said it was details of Amy's case — that the cabinet first denied it had, then fought to keep secret — that helped galvanize public outrage over shortcomings of the child welfare system.
“There is a culture of secrecy that deprives the public of all information,” Fleischaker said. “If the public doesn't know about it, good luck on getting more funding.”
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd has found cabinet files on child abuse deaths and serious injuries must be disclosed under the state open records law, ruling in a lawsuit filed by The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader. But legal wrangling has continued over the cabinet's insistence that it has the right to withhold significant details, such as the names of victims, family members and counties where deaths and injuries occurred.
Janie Miller, cabinet secretary, gave a brief luncheon speech at the summit, saying her agency welcomed the work of the summit.
“The cabinet is open and willing to look at any recommendations that come out of this body,” she said.
Afterward, in an interview, Miller declined to comment on the litigation over access to child abuse records between the cabinet and the state's two largest newspapers.
“I'm not going to get into a discussion about it,” she said.
Miller noted the social services budget has been cut by about $80 million in the last four years, placing an increased burden on workers. She said the cabinet is seeking about $20 million in additional funds in the two-year budget proposal to be announced Tuesday. The added money would be used to hire as many as 300 more workers.
“Would we like to have more workers?” Miller asked. “Absolutely.”
A Jefferson County social worker last week sounded an alarm to Miller and lawmakers in an email, reporting that social service employees are breaking down on the job, suffering health problems and some are quitting because of the stress and high caseloads.
“We are in an emergency situation,” said the email from Patricia Pregliasco, a 13-year state social service employee.
Barbee, the social work professor, said she has tracked staffing and said it appears that the number of state workers involved in child protection has dropped by about one-fifth — from about 2,000 10 years ago to the current 1,600. That has meant crippling caseloads for social service workers, she said.
Teresa James, acting commissioner of social services, also spoke at the summit and said the average caseload per worker is 18 to 20 — just above the 17 cases per worker recommended by national accreditation standards.
But several people who attended the summit, including Pregliasco, said the caseload per worker is far higher — reaching as many as 50 or 60 per workers.
Christian Family Court Judge Jason Fleming said that includes his Western Kentucky region, probably because of staffing shortages.
“I would say it's closer to 60 or 90,” Fleming said.
James acknowledged that some workers may have higher caseloads because of workers out on medical leave, maternity leave or for other reasons.
State Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican who is chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she plans to hear from social workers at Wednesday's meeting about working conditions and allegations some have suffered retaliation for speaking out.
Meanwhile, the summit's recommendations are on the way to Beshear and the General Assembly.
James said she agrees with them.
“I can work with all four of these,” said James, who was appointed to replace Patricia Wilson, who resigned abruptly last month. “I think it was a very productive day.”
Karate School Raising Awareness for Child Abuse
by Renie Workman
January 14, 2012
After police charged a karate teacher in the Poconos with raping a young student the owner of the karate school in Monroe County and those who attend it are coming together to raise awareness for child sex abuse.
Students at Pocono Crimson Dragon Karate School near Mount Pocono were there for a lesson, not in karate but in coping.
The children and their parents are coming together to talk about child sex abuse after an instructor at the school was charged with raping a young student.
"Unfortunately something bad had to happen, but it really sparked a fire under me and my school and my parents to really prevent it in the future. So I think we`re really making something good out of something bad," said Pocono Crimson Dragon owner Anthony Gilbert.
Stephen Rementer, 27, of Tobyhanna is now heading to trial on charges he raped a 12-year-old girl he taught.
While the abuse did not happen at the karate school, Gilbert wants to make sure his students have a way to deal with the situation, and learn from it.
"Awareness, that`s what we`re promoting here, awareness so it doesn`t happen in our school or community again is really our ultimate goal," Gilbert added.
Tish Rothenbach is a speaker for the rape abuse and incest national network and has two kids who attend Pocono Crimson Dragon.
"Personally it affected me greatly because of the fact that he did teach my kids karate, he was very involved in their lives. It also affects me personally because I`m a survivor of sexual abuse and that`s why I`m so passionate about RAINN and events like this where we can come together and truly educate the public and truly educate our children that we have the authority to say no to people," said Rothenbach.
"I think that in every place that we send our children that they need to learn that they need to be able to look out for people who potentially could abuse them. They need to know that sadly, no place is safe. There is no really safe place, but we can encourage them by them learning safe techniques. We can encourage them by actually being honest with our children and not covering up sexual abuse, which is what we're doing here. We are not going to cover it up, we are going to speak out about it," Rothenbach added.
Parents said they hope the session teaches their children valuable lessons.
"Just being aware of good feelings and bad feelings, just being aware of people around them," said parent Carmine Corridore of Tobyhanna.
"If they ever suspect that someone might even be thinking about something like that with them, that they would come to me or to somebody that they respect in the community to get the help that they need," added parent Michelle DeMarsh of Tobyhanna.
People with the karate school said dealing with the abuse allegations has brought them and the community closer together.
One local business also donated 600 blue ribbons for child abuse awareness and prevention.
As for Stephen Rementer, he is locked up in the Monroe County jail. No trial date has been set.
Domestic violence can lead to child abuse
"When a woman is being abused, there's a greater likelihood of child abuse. Some of our girls have been sexually abused as well."
Research shows a strong link between domestic violence and child abuse.
Various studies show that in 30 to 60 percent of families where there is woman battering or child maltreatment it is likely that both forms of abuse exist.
That's according to Jeffrey Edleson, a University of Minnesota professor and authority on children exposed to domestic violence.
Jackie Johnson, the children's services supervisor for Harmony House, said she's seen this in some of the children she cares for.
"When a woman is being abused, there's a greater likelihood of child abuse," Johnson said. "Some of our girls have been sexually abused as well."
Researchers have found that the children are also more likely to be abused in larger families. Abused mothers might, in turn, abuse their children.
Florida psychologist Lenore Walker, who has studied battered women extensively, found that battered women were eight times more likely to use harsh discipline on their children while living with the abuser.
"They're much more likely to use abusive techniques than when they're not in abusive relationships," Walker said. "I think there's just a sense of desperation to get the kids quiet or do whatever the batterer wants them to do."
Johnson said mothers sometimes come to her for advice in how to discipline their children. She showed one mom how she encouraged the children when it was time to pick up toys by singing a song.
Kendall Seal, an attorney for Legal Services of Southern Missouri, said if the Springfield community wants to get serious about chid abuse, it needs to confront domestic violence.
Seal said, "If we're not dealing with the family unit where we know there's violence, are we really that surprised when children end up dead or battered or used as pawns?"
Woman escapes domestic violence to help build a better life for her son
Woman tells her story of abuse, recovery and hope.
by Sarah Okeson
Beth is working third shift and secretly hoarding her paychecks. She has a plan to leave, to escape. She thinks of all the things she would later tell a judge: how the man tried to kill himself in front of her and her son, how he threatened her with a knife, how he has slapped her.
Living far from the Ozarks, she has left three times before.
This time she has a pamphlet from a coalition working to combat domestic violence.
It says boys who grow up in abusive situations are at risk of becoming abusers themselves. She's worried she already has stayed too long.
She thinks of her son. When she looks at him, she thinks he looks broken.
About half the residents in domestic violence shelters are children. More than half the school-age children in shelters for battered women show clinical levels of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Beth and her son take a Greyhound bus back to Missouri. As the bus crosses a bridge, the sun is coming up. Her young son is happy and excited, and Beth is hopeful.
They stay at a shelter for battered women. The man puts out a missing person's report. A letter from a detective looking for her arrives.
But she has found refuge. The shelter becomes home for three months. When Beth is able to leave, she goes on welfare. She receives $234 a month and lives in low-income housing.
She suffers from stress, similar to what soldiers experience leaving combat. In the back of her mind are words she recalls from months before: Leave and I'll have you put in a mental hospital.
She's trying to keep her whereabouts secret, but the man reaches out through a letter sent to her church. He tells her he knows where she is living.
Through it all, Beth holds on to the thought that she can someday help other women like herself.
A 2011 national survey found that 11 percent of American children had been exposed to some form of family violence in the past year.
Beth grew up in southeastern Missouri in what is called the Old Lead Belt. She was the oldest of four. Her father and most of her other male relatives worked as lead miners. Her mother was a certified nursing assistant.
The landscape in her hometown of Bonne Terre, population 6,800, is dominated by an enormous pile of waste left from decades of mining lead, part of a Superfund site that covers about 110 square miles of St. Francois County and three other counties.
Her parents divorced the year she graduated from high school. During her junior year, Beth took care of her three younger brothers, ages 3, 9 and 10.
She later lived temporarily with a family from church that she came to know as "my actual family." At age 19, she moved to Springfield, hoping for a better life.
"I didn't look back," she said.
In Springfield, Harmony House, once known as the Family Violence Center, provided housing for 364 women and 223 children from November 2010 through October 2011. Another 326 women and 337 children were turned away because the shelter was at capacity.
For Beth, the road to Harmony House wasn't short, or easy. She worked at a grocery store and then microfilming medical records. She started working at Harmony House as a volunteer. She applied for a job and was hired for a third-shift position, working 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. She helped the residents with their medications, kept track of how many people were at the shelter, cleaned the rooms and did the laundry. She cooked meals, winning renown for her chicken enchiladas. She helped admit women to the shelter.
She was painfully shy.
But, after years of struggle, after finding support from others like her, after the hurt began to heal, she followed through with her plan from so long ago: to help women in distress.
Beth is now a case manager at Harmony House.
"She's come so far," said Jane Knabb, the shelter director. "She's done things that I never in a million years thought she could do."
"No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible." -- sign at Harmony House
One of Beth's assignments is teaching -- specifically classes designed to raise the self-esteem of battered women.
Women such as Vera Edwards, a soft-spoken 30-year-old who came to Harmony House after a relationship with a man prone to drug use and violence. He was arrested in March 2009 when he shot at people from an SUV after a drug deal gone bad.
Vera, who was pregnant at the time, had handed him the weapon.
He got 15 years in prison; she got a suspended sentence and probation.
Released from Greene County Jail, Vera was given another chance. She went to Harmony House.
There, she met Beth.
"I love going to her class," Vera said. "She tells us to look in the mirror and say something nice about yourself. I look in the mirror and say I'm a good mom. I am a good mom because of all the things I've learned from her."
Vera's mother died in a car accident when she was 8, and her father wasn't part of her life. She was raised by her grandmother.
Vera said, "When I was growing up, I didn't know what love is."
At Harmony House, Vera had lots to learn and a good reason to try. Her daughter was born in July 2009.
"I was never a social person," Vera said. "I want to show her (my daughter) what a happy childhood is so she can actually remember what it is."
Researchers in 2001 examined ways of assessing child victimization. They found that methods failed at measuring the level of harm to children exposed to domestic violence. Minnesota researchers have developed a scale to look at this exposure, taking into account factors like the level of violence in the home and exposure to violence in the community.
Children from birth to age 17 can live at Harmony House with their mothers. They can attend public school or are home-schooled if the staff thinks they're in severe danger.
Jackie Johnson, children's services supervisor, teaches parenting classes.
Children's areas at Harmony House contain toys and books. A librarian comes once a month. The shelter also has music therapy and pet therapy for the children. A child psychologist comes by periodically.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekdays, a nursery is open so mothers can go to court hearings or attend group therapy.
Johnson often sees young children who don't speak well. She said their mothers are so consumed in dealing with abuse that they don't spend enough time
"We've had a lot of 3-, 31/2- and even 4-year-olds who don't speak that much," Johnson said. "A lot of what they do say you really can't understand."
The shelter encourages mothers to bond with their children by holding a family night once a month. In December, they made tambourines and sang Christmas carols.
"A lot of our moms have been so busy trying to prevent abuse that they haven't learned a lot of parenting skills," Johnson said.
Some children in shelters for battered women show great resilience. They become shielded by what researchers have termed "ordinary magic" -- attachment to caregivers, faith, hope and a sense of meaning in life.
Beth's son is now grown. She is a grandmother. She says he has trouble sleeping. But he seems OK.
He doesn't, however, like to talk about the past.
She takes comfort in knowing that her escape gave him the opportunity for a better life -- not broken, but strong.
And she knows she's helped others.
On a wall of Beth's office are thank-you notes from some of the women who have lived at Harmony House.
"Because of you all being here with open arms and bright smiles you made it easier to cope with the reality of our situation and help me work toward a better life for me and my daughter," one woman wrote.
On occasion, Beth has the women dress up in prom dresses. Some have never been to a prom. The women get facials and put on makeup.
Beth's co-workers started calling her the "princess lady."
Proudly displayed on Beth's wall is a child's version of a princess. It was drawn by a girl who used to tease Beth about Beth being a princess. The little girl and her brother lived at Harmony House with their mother.
"She was able to be a kid while being here," Beth said. "She had friends here."
Law school to hold child sexual abuse panel
Penn State's Dickinson School of Law will host a panel discussion, “Responding to Child Sexual Abuse: Legal, Medical and Ethical Perspectives” from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 24 in the auditorium of Lewis Katz Building at University Park.
The discussion will be simulcast to the auditorium of Lewis Katz Hall in Carlisle. Panelists include Lucy Johnston-Walsh, clinical professor and director of the Children's Advocacy Clinic at Penn State Law; Andrea Taroli, a pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center who specializes in child abuse; and Jonathan Marks, an associate professor of bioethics, humanities and law at Penn State and director of the bioethics and medical humanities program.
The event will cover the issues related to the legal definition of child abuse in Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting law; the dynamics of child sexual abuse; and the ethical conflicts of interest that arise in reporting abuse.
The event is open to all.
York author publishes memoir
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 lifelong struggle to come to grips with her mother's mental illness and her own lost childhood is at once emotionally devastating and ultimately uplifting."
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
Paterno on Sandusky sexual abuse case: 'I didn't know how to handle it'
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, in his first extensive interview since he was fired over his role in the sexual abuse case that enveloped his program and the university, said that he doesn't know how former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged child molestation evaded detection—or how to explain the way he handled the situation.
“I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told The Washington Post. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way.”
Largely silent since being fired as Penn State's football coach in November, Paterno gave a wide-ranging two-day interview with the Post about his relationship with Sandusky; what he knew—if anything, and when—of Sandusky's alleged child molesting; and his response to Mike McQueary's 2002 account that he saw something happening between Sandusky and a boy in the showers of the Penn State football locker room.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but his lack of further action—he waited a day to relate McQueary's report to university officials—spurred the calls for his firing.
Weakened by lung cancer treatments and wearing a wig because of chemotherapy, Paterno painted himself as a naive man confused by McQueary's account and hesitant to follow up with the situation because he didn't want to seem like he was exerting any influence for or against his former defensive coordinator.
“I didn't know which way to go,” he told the Post. “And rather than get in there and make a mistake ...”
Paterno was dismissed over the phone on Nov. 9. Though the scandal continues, Penn State hired Bill O'Brien as Paterno's successor earlier this month.
Paterno's voice has been weakened by his cancer treatments, but he was adamant that his interview continue so he could get his story out. He conducted Friday morning's interview from his bedside. He was hospitalized later in the day in what the Paterno family hoped would be a brief stay.
Paterno reiterated that McQueary was unclear with him about what he saw, adding that even if McQueary provided more details, he's not sure he would have comprehended them.
“You know, he didn't want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”
As far as Paterno's relationship with Sandusky, the coach's defensive coordinator from 1977-1999, Paterno deemed their tie “professional, not social. He was a lot younger than me.” The coach can't remember the last time he spoke with Sandusky, a man 18 years his junior.
With allegations of Sandusky's child abuse first surfacing in 1998—something that Paterno denies knowing anything about at the time—the defensive coordinator's retirement a year later at age 55 seems curious in retrospect. Paterno says he believes Sandusky took early retirement because he told Sandusky that he wouldn't have the chance to become the head coach, and Paterno believed he should take it because the offer was generous.
Paterno was frustrated that Sandusky spent considerable time working with his Second Mile foundation that he wasn't helping in duties such as recruiting. Authorities believe Sandusky used Second Mile to meet his victims.
“He came to see me and we talked a little about his career,” Paterno said. “I said, you know, Jerry, you want to be head coach, you can't do as much as you're doing with the other operation. I said this job takes so much detail, and for you to think you can go off and get involved in fundraising and a lot of things like that. . . . I said you can't do both, that's basically what I told him.”
Paterno's attorney, Wick Sollers and a communications adviser monitored the conversations, in part to ensure Paterno was rational, considering the former coach experienced fogginess from chemotherapy treatments. One of those treatments came on Wednesday, the day before his first interview.
Paterno declined to pass judgment on Sandusky, or any of his other Penn State colleagues who face legal action, including athletic director Tim Curley and vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz. The latter two men have pled not guilty to perjury charges.
“I think we got to wait and see what happens,” he said. “The courts are taking care of it, the legal system is taking care of it.”
Sollers told The Post that Paterno has no legal exposure in the Sandusky case and has cooperated fully with the investigation, and Paterno said that even though he lost his job, he's not the victim.
“You know, I'm not as concerned about me,” he said. “What's happened to me has been great. I got five great kids. Seventeen great grandchildren. I've had a wonderful experience here at Penn State. I don't want to walk away from this thing bitter. I want to be helpful.”
Sexual assault survivors need help to heal
by Avery Flory
Nothing reminds us more about the dark side of humankind than when the media reports that our children have been physically and/or sexually abused. We cringe every time we hear another AMBER Alert, knowing that a child has been snatched while sleeping, walking to school or playing in the family's backyard.
Today, the reminders are Jerry Sandusky, former assistant coach at Penn State, and Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine at Syracuse University, who are accused of molesting boys. After an investigation, it was discovered that Sandusky had been abusing boys for years. And, although people knew, the abuse continued.
People who sexually abuse children are called pedophiles. Pedophiles are sexually attracted to children. They come from every socio-economic and religious background. Typically, they are no strangers to the children. In 93 percent of cases, the child knows the abuser. The offender could be your next-door neighbor, your father or grandfather or an older brother.
It's not uncommon to hear that a priest or elementary school teacher, either male or female, is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with a church member or student. But, we rarely hear about the father that regularly sexually abuses his teenage daughter or the brother or uncle that forces his sister or niece to engage in sexual behavior. And, we hear even less about the effects of sexual abuse on the victim.
One exception is Elizabeth Smart. Remember the teenager from Utah who was taken from her bed by the family's yard man? Miraculously, nine months later Elizabeth was rescued after being raped daily.
If you viewed Katie Couric's interview with Elizabeth shortly after her rescue, you saw a well-composed girl who appeared to suffer minimal negative consequences as a result of sexual abuse. This was amazing!
Elizabeth had incredible support from her family and has since used the experience to help people avoid and recover from violent events. But, very few victims' experiences are similar to Elizabeth's.
Rather, the effects of sexual abuse are devastating and long-term. Childhood sexual abuse can lead to promiscuity, addiction to drugs, alcohol and sex, and even suicide. And, it's more prevalent than we think. One in three girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, as will one in six boys. And, these are the only ones we know about. It is estimated that 88 percent of cases are never reported to the authorities.
Sexual abuse is a daily occurrence for some women; for others, it happened once. However, one time is one time too many.
To fulfill a school assignment, I participated in a street ministry to prostitutes in Vancouver, Canada. As the team of women walked the streets, we met Lauralee and asked her why she continued the lifestyle. Her response: "I left home at age 15, because I was being sexually abused." She covered the painful memories with heroin and walked the streets each night, selling sex to support her habit and to mask the pain.
Avoiding the pain is paramount to sexual-abuse survivors. Some survivors say they fear the pain may engulf them if they allow themselves to feel. Others are afraid to deal with the past because they fear feeling the rage. They fear the intensity of the rage and the harm they might do to another person.
Sexual abuse leaves survivors viewing themselves as dirty, disgusting and worthless. They also believe that if you knew, you would feel the same way about them as they do about themselves.
Survivors are shame-filled. This comes partly from thinking that somehow the abuse was their fault. Survivors believe they must have done something to cause the abusers to abuse. Of course, this is untrue.
They are also guilt-filled. Survivors tend to blame themselves because they did nothing to stop the abuse.
Furthermore, our bodies are designed to respond to sexual stimulation, so if victims feel any pleasure while being abused, they are repulsed by those feelings. When this happens, victims believe they participated and so they think, "How sick is that?" But, it's not uncommon for a person's body to respond to sexual abuse.
Many times the victim is abused again. When a child finds the courage to tell a parent or trusted adult and the person does nothing, abuse happens again. I've heard women tell how their mothers told them, "Your Daddy wouldn't do that" or "You must have done something" or the child simply is ignored and the parent pretends not to hear.
When an abused girl reaches adulthood, she may feel angry toward the parent who did nothing to protect her. On the other hand, some women may be depressed. To deal with the anger/depression, women may have affairs and/or act seductively toward men. Female survivors tend to see themselves as women who have nothing to offer but their bodies.
Or, a survivor may unconsciously overeat. Obesity is a great way for a woman to protect herself. Sexual abuse negatively colors a person's entire world. Survivors see life through a filter that says, "I'm dirty and disgusting, the world is unfair and dangerous and men are not to be trusted."
Sometimes abuse happens between two adults. For instance, remember President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky? Some mental health professionals view Clinton as both an abuser and addict. Whenever there is an extreme power differential as there was between the president of the United States and an intern, it is sexual abuse.
If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, take the necessary steps to protect the child. Depending on the circumstances, you might confront the abuser or tell the child's parent and make sure the parent keeps the child safe. Sometimes child protective services must get involved. Don't make the mistake that was made at Penn State. Make sure the abuser is exposed and that both the victim and abuser receive professional help.
Sexual abuse wounds the heart and soul and to recover a person needs to process the shame, guilt and sense of worthlessness that results from abuse.
Avery Flory lives in Moneta. She is a licensed professional counselor who has been counseling for more than 10 years. Her column appears monthly in Laker Weekly. Email questions, comments or topic suggestions to email@example.com or call 483-9082 in Rocky Mount or 587-5852 in Bedford.
Maryland May Add Penalty to Strengthen Child Abuse Reporting Laws
Maryland lawmakers hope to criminalize the failure to report suspected child abuse.
by Kelsey Miller, Capital News Service
Following the child abuse scandal at Penn State, the Maryland General Assembly is moving to "add teeth" to an existing law requiring individuals to report child abuse.
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, is sponsoring a bill to criminalize the failure to report suspected child abuse, making it a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The bill aims to add a penalty to the law which requires educators, police, health practitioners and all others to notify not only their superiors, but also the appropriate authorities if they suspect abuse. Maryland is only one of three states without such penalty.
The bill is set to be introduced to the legislature with bipartisan support and is gaining momentum after a recent endorsement by the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association.
Jacobs met with various organizations dealing with child abuse and neglect when drafting the bill.
"We decided to go with a simple approach," she said. "The Maryland law is very good but the problem is there's no penalty."
Maryland law requires all citizens to report instances of suspected abuse to a superior, as well as to local social services and law enforcement. Most states, including Maryland, allow for anonymous reporting.
The issue arose after former Penn State University football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing at least eight underage boys.
Former Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary testified to a grand jury about seeing Sandusky in the shower with a young boy. He reported the incident to former head coach Joe Paterno, who spoke to higher officials in the University system, with the allegation reaching as high as University President Graham Spanier, according to the grand jury report.
Sandusky was indicted on numerous child sex offenses dating between 1994 and 2009. The scandal led to the firing of Paterno and the forced resignation of Spanier as both were heavily criticized for their handling of the situation.
Hearing the accounts out of Pennsylvania caused Jacobs to examine the current Maryland statute and seek expert advice about how to hold individuals accountable for reporting suspected abuse.
Adam Rosenberg, the executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, said an added penalty can be a way to push people to report suspicions.
"We're looking to enforce something that isn't being enforced," Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg hopes to clear up misconceptions about the mandatory reporting law, as many do not realize their legal obligation to report suspicions. He hopes this bill will not only give authorities a way to enforce the law, but will provide more clarity for all.
In Virginia, failure to report a suspected incident within 72 hours of the first suspicion leads to a fine of $500 and additional fines for subsequent failures.
Thirty-nine states cite the failure to report as a misdemeanor. In Arizona, Minnesota and Florida, not reporting serious instances is a felony.
Pennsylvania did not have a mandatory reporting law until five years ago, Rosenberg said.
Missouri, Delaware and Kentucky are also reexamining their laws.
Delaware's Bradley bills: Effective in raising voices to stop child sexual abuse?
by Christine Facciolo
The spotlight on recent child sex abuse allegations at Penn State and Syracuse Universities and involving a prominent Philadelphia sports columnist may hit too close to home to some in Delaware. Very recently, in December 2009, Delawareans were coming to grips with the arrest of former pediatrician Earl Bradley for sexually molesting scores of young patients at his Lewes office. Delaware's response was quick. Legislators prepared a package of bills—known collectively as the “Bradley bills”— designed to strengthen patient protection and improve oversight of the medical profession, passed those bills unanimously, and Governor Jack Markell signed them into law in June of that same year. But in the year and a half since, how much of a difference have the new laws made?
Two reviews were ordered following Bradley's arrest—one by the Attorney General's office and another by Linda L. Ammons, dean of Widener Law School. Both revealed systemic failures that allowed Bradley to continue practicing despite numerous red flags of misconduct raised by colleagues and family members.
The “Bradley bills” were designed to tighten regulations on doctors and clarify the legal obligations of the medical and law enforcement communities to report and share information about suspected physician misconduct and child sexual abuse.
“These are sensitive cases and you need to approach them in a way that offers opportunities for victims to come forward and to feel they're not going to run the risk of being re-victimized,” said Mike Barlow, chief legal counsel in the Office of the Governor.
The new laws contain the following major provisions:
- A requirement that there be another adult present when the physician examines a disrobed patient aged 15 years or younger;
- A requirement that doctors, police and prosecutors receive additional training in recognizing and reporting child abuse;
- A requirement that physicians undergo the same background checks as teachers and other professionals who work with youth;
- A more robust reporting process enhanced by strengthening the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline's ability to police unprofessional conduct and clarifying and simplifying its administrative procedures to improve efficiency and its ability to work with law enforcement.
Last year, the threat of license revocation for misconduct or failure to report child sexual abuse was extended to include mental health and chemical dependency professionals, nurses, dentists, social workers, psychologists, dentists and dental hygienists, and physician's assistants. “One of the main impacts of this package of legislation is to make sure that the community, the state, caregivers, providers, doctors and citizens know that they have a mandatory duty to report child abuse and neglect when they see it to the state,” said Attorney General Beau Biden.
Dean Ammons, who made 68 recommendations in her Bradley case review, most of which were included in the legislation, agrees. “You can't legislate morals,” she said. “But what the state can do is remove or attempt to remove barriers that make it complicated or difficult for people to do the right thing.”
Indeed, experts commend Delaware for its ability to act swiftly and decisively where other states have failed. “Pennsylvania is a good example,” said Stephen J. Neuberger, attorney and partner in The Neuberger Firm in Wilmington. “They had the grand jury report (on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) which just boggles the mind and that didn't get the legislature to do anything.”
But are penalties ever enough to counter the reluctance among medical professionals to speak ill of a colleague? Certainly depriving a licensed professional of the ability to earn a living is a powerful enough incentive to come forward. “They have more to lose if they lose their license,” said Thaddeus Pope, formerly associate professor of law at Widener University School of Law and now director of the Health Law Institute at the Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. “If they lose their license, that's it. They have hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake.”
The Division of Professional Regulation has seen a marked increase in complaint reporting since regulatory reforms took effect in 2010. The number of disciplinary actions taken by the board jumped from just seven in 2009 to 25 in 2010. In addition, over 200 complaints have been made by those with a duty to report them from June 2010 to the present.
“Before (the legislation), reporting was pretty much nil and now we're seeing what we think is a good amount of reporting that has resulted in some major cases in the last year or two,” said James Collins, director of the Division of Professional Regulation. “We're definitely hearing from medical facilities now; we're definitely hearing from healthcare professionals now and that wasn't happening before.”
But while the legislation is a major step forward in raising awareness of the unacceptability of child sexual abuse and promoting the notion that stopping child sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility, laws can only accomplish so much. “I think we closed a lot of the loopholes in the law and put penalties in place that were not there before,” said Sen. Karen E. Peterson, D-Stanton. “But people break the law all the time. Eighty-five percent of the child sexual abuse cases involve family members or family acquaintances and families are unwilling to break up the family unit and I think that has contributed to the silence.”
Moreover, the criminal justice system addresses the issue only after the abuse has occurred and as such does not do a good job of formulating solutions to reduce child sexual abuse or to help heal its negative consequences. “It (legislation) makes us feel like we're doing something to help when we're really not,” said Chrysanti Leon, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Delaware. “If we're going to pass new laws, if we're going to require things of one another, let's take it back several steps and not do it after the fact.”
Better educating the public about child sexual abuse will help break the silence and taboo that surrounds child sexual abuse and bolster the efforts made in the legislative arena. In September, Biden announced a coordinated initiative to educate adults about recognizing the signs of child abuse and their legal obligation to report suspected crimes. The partnership, which includes Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, the YMCA of Delaware as well as the Attorney General's office, aims to train 35,000 Delawareans or about 5 percent of the population, in the “Steward of Children” sexual abuse program.
“[Nationally], one out of four girls is sexually assaulted before they're 18,” said Biden. “One out of six boys is sexually assaulted before they're 18. Only one out of ten of these victims is ever able to muster the courage to report because nine out of ten of the perpetrators know or say they love or had the child entrusted to them. So it should come as no surprise that children who don't have voices have a tough time raising their voice to report someone who has raped or abused them. It's not a child's responsibility. It's our responsibility.”
Child Sexual Abuse Conference Offers Hope for Victims and Effective Tools to Prevent Abuse
Friday, January 13, 2012
The objective of The Protect the Children Conference, sponsored by SingleSource Services Corporation, is to illuminate the issues surrounding the sexual abuse of children and youth outside of the home by those entrusted with their care such as coaches, teachers, clergy, mentors and volunteers.
On February 3, 2012, the University of North Florida's University Center in Jacksonville, Florida will be the location for a one day educational conference dedicated to promoting greater public awareness and education about the impact child sexual abuse outside the home has on our families, communities, businesses and organizations. Donald J. Dymer, chief executive officer of SingleSource Services Corporation, a leading background screening company for sixteen years and headquartered in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, is the conference sponsor and organizer. Dymer is encouraging all those who are involved with the care, education and mentoring of children and youth to attend this important conference.
Jacksonville was named the 1st Pinwheel City in the USA by Prevent Child Abuse America in 2010. The Pinwheel designation was designed to further advance policies and procedures to help prevent child abuse.
Headlining the conference will be Dr. Gene Abel, Director of Research at Abel Screening in Atlanta. Dr. Abel has won numerous honors and awards for his work and research projects that have uncovered new information to help prevent child sexual abuse. Dr. Abel's awards include: The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abuser's Significant Achievement Award and The National Adolescent Perpetrator Network's Award for Outstanding Research. Dr. Abel is also co-author of the book: "The Stop Child Molestation Book: What Ordinary People Can Do In Their Everyday Lives to Save Three Million Children."
Joining Dr. Abel will be Leslie Nichols, Vice President Club Safety and Design at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The conference agenda includes other noted professionals from the nation's leading organizations who will provide invaluable insight on what people can do to identify and prevent child sexual abusers from becoming the volunteers or employees who will have youth entrusted to their care.
"Until the sensationalism of child sexual abuse was uncovered at Penn State and later at Syracuse, victims and advocates faced years of challenges to get the public's attention focused on this insidious, on-going threat to children and youth." explains Dymer. "No one discussed 'boundary issues', let alone understood them." After attending the Protect the Children Conference these terms will have meaning and attendees will be armed with the tools for change. The information shared at the conference is so substantive, the attendees will be eligible to receive continuing education credits from the American Psychological Association, the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Society of Human Resource Managers.
Critical issues that will be discussed include: the effects of long term abuse, the early age at which sexual abuse often occurs, the child's reporting of the offense, parental reaction, and a review of institutional responses to such cases. Attendees will receive training in how to identify abuse and the tools that are available to enable them to make better decisions when hiring or selecting volunteers for their business or organizations.
Traditional background screening methods aren't going to provide enough of a deterrent explains Dymer. In a study of 3,700,000 criminal background checks reported by ChoicePoint, only one-tenth of one percent of the entire screened pool was identified as having a criminal history related to sexual offenses. Most organizations rely on criminal background checks as their strongest safety measure toward keeping children safe,however the reality is that criminal background checks provide very little protection from child sexual abuse.
Conference sponsor and organizer, Don Dymer, CEO of SingleSource Services summarizes, "The problem has been swept under the rug for years. As horrid as the situation was at Penn State and Syracuse - and the new reports of similar child sexual abuse are, we must hold onto to this moment in time while we have everyone's attention to STOP the sexual abuse of children. Children are helpless to stop sexual abuse, only adults can stop child molestation."
To find out more about the conference, please contact Donald J. Dymer at SingleSource Services Corporation at the telephone number below. To register for the event, visit www.singlesourceservices.com/protectthechildren or call 1.800.713.3412.
Serial child molester is sentenced to life in prison for abusing 8 boys in Arizona
by Associated Press
PHOENIX — A man authorities described as one of Arizona's most egregious serial child molesters was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison Friday for sexually abusing eight boys.
Arthur Leon Vitasek, 47, was found guilty in November of 26 counts that included sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation and public sexual indecency.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein sentenced Vitasek to 11 life sentences on 11 of the charges, and since the terms will be served consecutively, Vitasek will never be eligible for parole. Vitasek was sentenced to an additional 200 years in prison on the other counts.
The charges stem from the molestation of eight boys from 7 to 15 years old in Phoenix and the suburbs of Mesa and Paradise Valley over a 15-year period beginning in 1990. Police suspect there are more victims.
Vitasek often targeted financially struggling single mothers, helping them with material items and showering their sons with gifts and attention, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Vitasek would meet new victims through current victims and would abuse them in front of each other to make them think it was OK. He lived in the home of one boy and his family for a period of years.
Vitasek testified in court that three of the victims, all brothers, targeted him because they wanted to keep items that they had stolen from him, including a Corvette and a personal watercraft.
Vitasek also said he caught several of the other victims having sex with each other and they only accused him of molesting them because he threatened to report them, said Bob Dossey, Vitasek's Chandler-based attorney.
Dossey said Reinstein did not allow Vitasek to present that version of events in court.
“Arthur maintains that he is innocent,” Dossey said, adding that he will appeal Vitasek's conviction.
Seven of the boys in the case gave emotional testimony during the two-month trial, describing the same type of so-called grooming behaviors by Vitasek and the same type of sex acts — testimony prosecutor Brad Astrowsky said was compelling to jurors.
“It creates an overwhelming picture of the type of person this defendant was,” he said. “And that was a serial sexual predator of boys.”
Astrowsky said that after receiving his sentence, Vitasek yelled at the victims in court, saying, “I'll be back!”
The other prosecutor in the case, Angela Andrews, said that in all her years of prosecuting sexual predators, Vitasek's case was “the most egregious.”
Detective Steve Berry with Mesa police, the lead investigative agency in the case, called Vitasek “a true classic predator.”
“You do want to get a maximum sentence on someone like that,” he said. “You don't want him to get another opportunity to hurt a child.”
Vitasek was arrested in Texas in September 2006 after being on the lam for more than a year and a half. “America's Most Wanted” featured him on the program numerous times before his arrest.
Police in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie arrested Vitasek after a 16-year-old boy reported that Vitasek sexually assaulted him after they met on the Internet.
Grand Prairie police said Vitasek was using a different name, Rich Loper, and that Vitasek only admitted his real name after a detective recognized him and repeatedly questioned him about his identity.
Vitasek told police that he was tired of being a hunted man and that he was glad his life on the run was over, adding, “I'm the nicest man in the world,” according to “America's Most Wanted.”
The Texas teen testified in Vitasek's Arizona trial, but Texas prosecutors haven't yet decided whether they will pursue charges against them there, considering the life sentence he received, Andrews said.
Vitasek's case also gained attention because he was mentored by former Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers, who had hired him for a couple of jobs and allowed him to live in his home for a time. Weiers is still a state representative.
A 2006 Mesa police report said that one of Vitasek's teenage victims told investigators that Weiers tried to discourage him from cooperating with police in the case. But the teen later signed a notarized handwritten statement, issued by Weiers' office, saying that the Republican lawmaker “never told me not to talk to police.”
In the statement, the victim also said any comments he'd made “that point a finger at Jim Weiers were a result of my being angry about what happened to me. I was blaming Jim for not having stopped Arthur.
“The truth is I don't even know that Jim knew what was going on,” the statement said.
Weiers said at the time that the victim must have misunderstood him when he warned him about being exploited by the media.
Berry said Vitasek's life sentence likely will provide some closure to the victims in the case.
“One of the biggest things with molestation and rape and these types of cases is oftentimes victims feel like they're the only ones and no one's going to believe them and they're reluctant to come forward,” he said. “So I think it is fantastic when victims can see that people do believe them and take them seriously, and know that this guy's not going to harm anyone else.”
(Video on site)
Houston Fears Boy's Kidnapping Means Child Predator on the Prowl
by ALYSSA NEWCOMB
Jan. 13, 2012
The car thief who drove off with a toddler inside the vehicle was actually trying to kidnap the infant's 7-year-old female cousin, who was able to escape his attempt to grab her, police said today.
The toddler was found safe today, 15 hours after his abduction, still in the car. The car had been hidden under brush that was only visible from about 20 feet away.
Evan Miller, 18 months, and his 7-year-old cousin were left in a Jeep Cherokee with the motor running while his mom went inside of a Houston Walmart to use the ATM around 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
"The suspect approached [the girl] in the vehicle and started asking her about her mother," David Gott, a captain with the Houston Police Department, said at a news conference today.
According to Gott, the suspect asked the girl, "Where's your mother? Did she leave you alone in the car?"
"He attempted to grab her, so we don't know if maybe she was the target of the offense," Gott said. "This guy may be a predator. He may have bee targeting that 7-year-old girl. He wasn't successful this time, so he may be out there looking for someone else."
The girl, who has not been identified, attempted to grab her cousin before she jumped out of the car, but was unsuccessful. She ran into the Walmart where she found her aunt, who notified police.
An Amber Alert was immediately issued for the boy, but was cancelled after he was found this morning by Terron Henry, owner of a restaurant near where the SUV was parked and hidden from view.
"I was just rolling into work. You heard it was a green Jeep missing, but then it started coming to me. Sometimes you hear the news and you're not really looking, but then it's all happening and you put it together. I just started running and calling 911 because I was just hoping that baby was still alive," Henry told ABC News affiliate KTRK. "I'm happy the baby is OK. That's all that matters right now."
Miller has been released after undergoing an evaluation at Texas Children's Hospital.
He was still strapped into his car seat when Henry found him this morning.
"He was incredibly cold as you can imagine, but he is okay," Gott said.
John Cannon, spokesperson for the Houston Police Department told ABCNews.com, said despite being only three blocks from the Walmart, the Jeep was difficult for even police helicopters to locate.
"The vehicle was well hidden and wedged between the building and some high foliage that even concealed it from the air," Cannon said. "The suspect hid it well."
Cannon said it was unclear how long the suspect had the vehicle or whether he realized Miller was in the car when he stole it.
Police said there is potential the mother may face a misdemeanor for leaving her son in the car with the engine running.
"No matter what...you should never leave your car running for one thing," Gott said. "But certainly never leave your car running when you're not around with a child in the car. In this event it looks like he knew a child was in the car when he took it."
Texas mom gets 45-year sentence for killing son
A Texas mother was sentenced to 45 years in prison on Friday for suffocating her 6-year-old son in a New Hampshire motel room and leaving his body along a dirt road in Maine.
Julianne McCrery, 42, told prosecutors she had planned to kill herself by eating castor beans and that she killed her son, Camden Hughes, because there was no one else to care for him.
But prosecutors told the Associated Press they have evidence McCrery, who lived in the Dallas suburb of Irving, wanted to get rid of her son because she considered him an impediment.
“He was a happy child full of life until May 14, 2011, until mother dosed him with NyQuil and took him from his bed in the middle of the night. This is the one person that Camden should have trusted,” Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Susan Morrell told the Manchester Union Leader .
Morrell told reporters outside the courtroom Friday that evidence suggested McCrery may have intended to return to her life in Texas once her son was dead, according to the Union Leader.
“This case raises more questions then there are answers for,” she said.
Camden, according to his family, was a gifted boy who read beyond his grade level and loved going to the library, the Union Leader reported.
McCrery spoke tearfully at her sentencing hearing Friday, calling her son beautiful and brilliant, according to the Associated Press.
"I am sorry to have caused the intense pain and suffering to my precious son Camden," McCrery said before being sentenced 45 years to life in state prison in Rockingham County Superior Court. "He did nothing whatsoever to deserve that by my hand, and he was not an inconvenience to me."
She said her grief was "excruciating."
McCrery pleaded guilty in November to smothering her son by kneeling on him as he lay face-down on their motel room floor, covering his mouth with her hand.
After Camden's body was discovered in May, authorities launched a nationwide search, but they were initially thwarted because McCrery called the boy's elementary school daily to report him absent.
Four days after the body was discovered, McCrery was arrested at a Massachusetts truck stop after a driver in the area where Camden's body was found was able to describe McCrery's pickup truck.
When questioned at the truck stop, McCrery confessed to police that she had killed her son and left his body under a green blanket by the side of the road.
German priest admits 280 counts of child abuse
The Associated Press
Jan. 13, 2012
BERLIN -- A Roman Catholic priest in Germany has admitted to 280 counts of sexually abusing three boys over a several-year period.
The 46-year-old priest, who has been suspended, went on trial Thursday at the state court in Braunschweig. The dapd news agency reported that he showed no remorse.
The man who was not identified was arrested last July after one victim told his mother what had happened. He was charged with abusing three boys aged between 9 and 15.
Hildesheim diocese spokesman Michael Lukas says the defendant's actions were "a catastrophe for the victims and for the Catholic church." The trial continues through Feb. 2.
The priest also faces church disciplinary proceedings.
Germany, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland, was shaken in 2010 by revelations of abuse by clergy going back decades.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Child sexual-abuse exams address concerns of child as well as guardians
by Michelle Ditton for The News-Seninel
As the chief nursing officer at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center, I wish to comment on a statement made by guest columnist Richard Wexler, the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform that “the medical exam required in cases of sexual abuse is even more traumatic [than strip searches for bruises and other investigations done by child protection workers].” (“Nothing heroic about abandoning common sense in child-abuse reporting,” Dec. 16).
A review of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform's website shows that this group focuses its attention on child neglect cases with only minimal information offered on physical abuse cases and no helpful information on the topic of child sexual abuse.
The Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center has performed more than 3,700 medical forensic examinations since it opened in 1996. We began performing medical forensic exams in cases of suspected child sexual abuse in June 2000 and have examined more than 1,500 children. It is important for our community to understand how we perform these exams and when we perform these exams.
I personally have performed more than 900 medical forensic examinations, and in my experience the vast majority of children leave the exam feeling less traumatized and more empowered. This is because we only perform the exam after a child discloses actual sexual contact or has a medical symptom such as bleeding, discharge or a sexually transmitted infection.
Even more importantly, we never force a child to submit to the examination.
Our examination of children (pre-pubescent) is different from our examination of adolescents and adults (post-pubescent). We don't use a speculum on children or do anything that might inflict physical pain or discomfort. Our examinations address the worries and concerns of the child as well as those of their parents or legal guardians.
We are the recognized and credentialed providers of the medical forensic exam for Allen County and most of the surrounding counties. Professionals without the proper training and experience who impose their misconceptions and misjudgments on children are the ones inflicting the trauma.
If you suspect that a child has been or is being sexually abused, contact your local Department of Child Services and/or law enforcement. If you have questions about medical forensic examinations, you may contact the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center at 423-2222.
Michelle Ditton, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P is chief nursing officer of the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center.
Abuse Survivor Starts Summit Support Group
Sharon R. Wells, a sex abuse survive begins weekly discussion group tonight at Summit Oaks Hospital.
by Camilo H. Smith
For Sharon Wells helping people deal with a painful past has become part of her life's work. A victim and survivor of child sexual abuse, Wells has become an advocate over the past decade for adults who want to open up about sex abuse in their lives.
With the recent child sex abuse scandal that rocked the Penn State football program, the issue has been at the media forefront. In New Jersey, legislation has been introduced that would give child sex abuse victims more time to confront their abusers in court. Just last week the state Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill that removes the two-year statute of limitations on lawsuits for child sex abuse claims.
“I am seeing that more and more people are truly in pain from being sexually abused,” Wells said. “We have to get society to realize how devastating the pain is, and victims need to know that there's help available for them.”
According to the Administration for Children and Families, “Child Maltreatment” report, there were 980 cases of child sexual abuse reported in N.J. in 2010. Nationwide, 63,527 incidents of child sex abuse were reported.
“Victims suffer in silence and I am the voice for the voiceless,” said Wells who self-published a book “Without Permission: A Spiritual Journey of Healing,” after seeking help at Summit Oaks Hospital and Fountain Baptist Church in Summit.
“It just takes someone to open and share their story to give victims the hope they need to break their silence,” said Wells.
Through her Angel Wings Bridge Foundation, which she started over the summer, Wells will begin a sexual abuse support group for women at Summit Oaks Hospital starting on Tuesday.
Wells said the group will be structured as an open discussion about topics related to sexual abuse and invites sexual abuse survivors or family members who have been affected by abuse to join.
“I wanted to be the one to offer the help. Having been a victim I understand the pain and the suffering.”
The women's sexual abuse support group meets every Tuesday from 7:30pm to 9pm at Summit Oaks Hospital cafeteria, 19 Prospect Street in Summit.
House committee hears testimony on Kentucky child abuse deaths
by Deborah Yetter
FRANKFORT, KY. — Jefferson Family Court Judge Paula Sherlock said she sees no need to debate disclosure of records after a child dies from abuse or neglect.
“Once the obituary is written, the gloves come off,” said Sherlock, co-chair of a circuit judges' committee on child abuse fatalities. “We need to take a clean look at what happened.”
Sherlock was among four family court judges who testified Thursday before the House Health and Welfare Committee about ways to make the child welfare system more transparent and whether confidential proceedings in family court should be opened to the public.
Sherlock said her committee of judges is working to find ways to get more public attention to child abuse deaths and help find solutions to the problem highlighted by several such deaths, including that of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Western Kentucky girl fatally bludgeoned by her adoptive brother.
“From Pulaski to Pikeville, judges are concerned about this situation,” Sherlock said. “We want to keep this issue in the public focus.”
Jefferson Family Court Judge Patricia Walker FitzGerald spoke in support of opening family courts to the public in now-confidential cases of child abuse and neglect and termination of parents' rights. Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, on Wednesday filed a House Bill 239 proposing a pilot project to open family courts.
FitzGerald said Jefferson County's family court judges support the idea.
“Transparency cannot hurt if we have nothing to hide,” she said.
FitzGerald also urged lawmakers to support access to records of child abuse deaths following a Franklin Circuit Court ruling that such material is subject to open records law and must be disclosed. Despite that ruling, the Cabinet for Health and Families Services is arguing it should be allowed to redact significant details from such records before releasing them.
“Who are we protecting?” FitzGerald asked. “If the child is dead, the secrecy certainly doesn't protect the child.”
The judges overall painted a grim picture of the child welfare system they deal with on a daily basis, citing overworked social workers and an acute lack of services to keep troubled families together.
Bullitt Family Court Judge Elise Givhan Spainhour said social service offices are severely understaffed and a recent report that Jefferson County workers say they are near the breaking point from stress is not an exaggeration.
“That's not just Louisville being a whiny baby,” Spainhour said. “I had a social worker break down in tears in the courtroom.”
Spainhour said the worker was exhausted from spending most of the previous night on a case. “She just started crying and had to leave the courtroom in sheer exhaustion,” Spainhour said.
Henderson Family Court Judge Sheila Nunley Farris also commented on a shortage of social workers, citing the loss of three experienced workers from her district and their supervisor — all of whom recently quit their jobs.
Spainhour said the state simply must provide more social workers and give them training to do the job as well as a decent salary. State social workers start at about $32,000 a year.
“We've got to pay them a living wage,” she said.
Spainhour and Farris both expressed concern about the cabinet's reliance on “central intake,” a system where people must report suspected child abuse or neglect by calling toll free numbers at nine, regional locations. Before the state moved to that “hotline” system, people could report suspected abuse or neglect to the local child welfare office in their county.
Spainhour said she refuses to use the system after she personally had a call rejected for investigation by a hotline operator. She now calls the local office when she suspects abuse or neglect.
“I told them under no circumstances would I use central intake,” Spainhour said. “It just does not work.”
Cabinet officials have said they moved to the central intake system to standardize and streamline reporting of abuse and neglect. Teresa James, acting state social services commissioner, told the committee her agency is doing the very best it can under severe budget constraints that have included eight cuts in the past four years.
“I want to tell you I am passionate about children, it's what my mission in life has been,” James said, pledging to work with the court and other officials “to make children as safe as we possibly can.”
The cabinet also heard from lawyers who represent the state's two largest newspapers in an ongoing fight over access to records of child abuse deaths and serious injuries — which Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd has ruled are public records and must be disclosed. Legal wrangling continues over the cabinet's insistence it has the right to redact, or omit, significant details from any records it releases.
“We have a court ruling that says all of this information is to be made public — all of it,” said Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer for The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Press Association.
Kif Skidmore, a lawyer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, said the matter is unresolved despite two years of costly litigation and a clear ruling from Shepherd.
“We are here because it has been the policy of the cabinet to never release records of child fatalities,” she said. “That policy is against the law.”
Christina Heavrin, the cabinet's general counsel, was scheduled to speak but the committee ran out of time. Chairman Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat, said he will continue the discussion at next week's hearing.
Sandusky Accusers Get Foundation's Help
(Plymouth Meeting, PA)—Victims of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky
alleged sexual abuse
scandal have been offered subsidized therapy assistance from the "Let Go…Let Peace Come In" Foundation. The foundation is supporting both young men from the grand jury indictment, as well as others who have come forward, with its pioneering efforts to help adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Let Go…Let Peace Come In helps and supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world. The foundation is committed to supporting the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and its research toward preventing child sexual abuse and improving treatment for survivors of abuse.
The organization was founded by Peter S. Pelullo, a former executive in the music industry and author of the new book "Betrayal and the Beast," which focuses on Mr. Pelullo's journey as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and sexual predation.
A frequent guest expert on the Dr. Drew show, Mr. Pelullo says when he first heard about the Penn State sex abuse scandal he was reminded of his own nightmarish experiences and felt more compelled than ever to make a difference through his philanthropic efforts. He believes trauma therapy is an important step in the healing process.
On the subject of victims of sexual abuse, Mr. Pelullo says: "Following my painful journey of recovery from sexual abuse, I decided to create the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation. Everyone needs to know sexual abuse is a worldwide pandemic, and I want to reach out and bring to many other men and women the recovery process I experienced."
In his book Mr. Pelullo shares his own childhood sexual abuse story. While he was an executive in the music industry working with the Rolling Stones, Foreigner, Stevie Wonder, and other major artists, he kept hidden and refused to face his own debilitating issues as a survivor of sexual predation—the shame, rage, multiple addictions, depression, and other influences that directly impacted his life. Finally, at the age of fifty-five, Mr. Pelullo confronted the sexual abuse he endured as a child.
With one in three girls and one in four boys being sexually violated before the age of eighteen, it's estimated there are tens of millions of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States today and hundreds of millions more worldwide. Many experts believe these numbers can be higher since not every case is reported. Many victims stay silent and hide their own sexual abuse because they are afraid or ashamed.
"The astounding statistics show childhood sexual abuse is a bigger problem than many people realize," says Mr. Pelullo. "The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal sheds light on a pandemic that has been in existence for centuries. Too many people and institutions don't take allegations of sexual abuse seriously enough. It's not only a criminal act but also extremely devastating to entire family systems. It is important that survivors and their families receive the help they so desperately deserve. As a society we need to remove the stigma surrounding adult survivors' talking about childhood sexual abuse and receiving the mental health care they need to recover."
Childhood sexual abuse can result in major, long-term psychological harm and can affect a person's whole life. Here are some of the common effects:
* Personality disorders
* Eating disorders
* Problems with interpersonal relationships
* Inability to trust
* Drug or alcohol addiction
* Sexual compulsive disorder
"We don't talk about sexual crime as openly as we should, and it's time we do," says Mr. Pelullo. "I hope the Let Go… Let Peace Come In Foundation, in light of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal, will bring more awareness to the public and will help to save many children's lives in the future by helping adults today."
Peter S. Pelullo was the founder of Philly World Records and owner of a premiere recording studio in the '70s, where he worked with the Rolling Stones, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Cashmere, and Eugene Wild. He is now an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups. Following his journey in recovery, he created the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation, which supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.
For more information contact Gretchen Paules at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.betrayalandthebeast.com
New charity to tackle child sexual abuse goes live
by Jonathan Bell
Bermuda's first charity aimed specifically at child sexual abuse is celebrating its official approval by going live on the Internet and courting supporters at this week's Bermuda Marathon Weekend road races.
“We are here, we are watching, and we're going to get the word out,” warned SCARS president and founder Debi-Ray Rivers, who said that sex offenders in Bermuda will be left with “few places to hide” as more residents are trained in how to spot the signs of child sexual abuse as well as the common traits of perpetrators.
The charity's name is an acronym for Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and organisers say its mission is to raise awareness and push for tougher legislation.
But the group is not on a “witch hunt”, added executive vice president Jon Brunson.
“What makes us different is our focus on this very specific issue, and our emphasis on prevention, to minimise the act itself from occurring.”
With its new website and first lectures at local schools, SCARS also caught the attention of running fan Ewelina Kudla, who is gathering sponsors for the charity at the Bermuda Half-Marathon this Sunday.
Ms Kudla, an insurance worker, said she was taken with the organisers' passion for their cause.
“I've been getting sponsorship from friends in Poland, where I'm from, and Belgium, the UK and Germany,” Ms Kudla said. “For me, there is something about helping vulnerable children I have always chosen children's charities in the past.”
Ms Ray-Rivers said Bermuda badly needs to start talking.
“It's difficult when everybody knows everybody,” she said. “Victims are less likely in Bermuda to come forward. Their abuser could be someone well-respected in the community, or someone everyone knows. Families don't want to report what's going on because of the shame. But how they respond determines how that child will heal. At the end, children need to see accountability.”
Added Mr Brunson: “It's a taboo subject. What we're trying to do is get the conversation going.”
The two will head to South Carolina next month for a workshop, the Stewards of Children programme, offered by the child advocacy non-profit group Darkness to Light.
Ms Ray-Rivers explained: “We will use our training back here in Bermuda to encourage people who work in organisations connected with children sports groups, Sunday schools, teaching organisations to learn what to look for.”
The goal is for Government to toughen requirements for any organisation that deals with children to equip members with a basic certification for spotting the signs of abuse.
SCARS wants to gain Government's approval to operate within both the private and public sector. In the meantime, its officers are intent on getting the word out, and linking up with existing organisations, such as police, Child and Family Services and the Family Centre. They are also introducing themselves to the public and listening to the often disturbing stories told by victims.
“We've spoken at Clearwater Middle School and West Pembroke Primary, we've talked on the radio talk shows, and we're working on other engagements,” Mr Brunson said.
“Just speaking on the radio, we heard from an older man who was a survivor of sexual abuse from when he was between the ages of seven and 12. But to hear his story and how he told it, it was like these things had happened to him yesterday. That's how fresh his wound was.”
So far, there has been no criticism of the group and its goals.
An initial application by SCARS for approval by the Charity Board was turned down last summer over concerns that their organisation would be “doubling up” doing the work of an already-existing charity. The group had to take its appeal to Community Development Minister Michael Weeks.
“And rightly so,” Ms Ray-Rivers added. “There are so many charities in Bermuda that do similar things. We had to prove why we are different, and we did. We're about prevention. There are many organisations that work with children, but for the most part their focus in on what happens after sexual abuse.”
Following a review, approval was granted in October.
Although SCARS intends to reach out, in time, to the Department of Corrections and others who deal with sex offenders, the group also wants to send a message to would-be offenders that “a watchdog is out there”, she added.
“To be physically attracted to a child is an illness, and to act on it is a crime. And someone who knows that this act is being committed on innocent children becomes an accessory to that crime if they don't report it.”
As for adults learning how to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, Mr Brunson said: “Reacting responsibly is very important. One thing we also say to anyone who deals with the care of children is that, if you ask a child a question about being touched inappropriately, you have to be prepared for the answer you may receive.”
He continued: “Our work is about arming parents, teachers and professionals with information on what to look for, what the signs are. One thing child molesters do very early is groom their victims. It is not an impulsive act. Ninety percent of the time, the child abuser is someone known to you. They're manipulative people who look for weaknesses that they can exploit, and part of our goal is to unmask them.”
However, identifying proven sex offenders is “one thing we have to be very careful about”, he said.
For Ms Ray-Rivers, a key issue of how society treats child sexual abuse will be adjusting the boundaries of the law.
“Prosecution should be taken out of the hands of families,” she said. “If police have evidence, they should prosecute. What family wants to prosecute one of its own trusted members?”
Mr Brunson added that SCARS has joined others in the community in calling for legislative change but the group knows efforts will take time.
“We are all for the electronic monitoring ankle bracelets for sex offenders, so that the authorities can keep track of where they are,” he said. “That's useful, and the sex offenders list is useful. How they will be used is yet to be determined.”
Still in its early stages, SCARS uses Mr Brunson's office in the Vallis Building as a physical base, and lately has put the brunt of its efforts on getting its website up and running.
This Sunday, their first fund-raiser, Ms Kudla, will run 13 miles to show her support and raise some capital.
“I couldn't believe that someone I didn't even know would do this for us,” Ms Ray-Rivers said. “It means a lot.”
Useful websites: www.scarsbermuda.com
Stopping Child Abuse in W.Va.
January 13, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
Come on. Do West Virginians really need to be told sexual abuse of children is wrong and that, if they become aware of it, they ought to tell the police?
Of course not. That's why a suggestion the state should spend $1 million on educating people about such abuse should be shelved by state legislators.
But the second half of the recommendation, by an organization called Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, merits action by lawmakers.
Many Mountain State residents, like other Americans, were shocked by accusations a former Penn State University coach sexually abused boys for years before being arrested. On several occasions, his misbehavior was reported to university authorities - but no one ever reacted decisively.
The organization suggests the state's mandatory reporting laws should be strengthened. They now require public employees such as teachers to report any abuse of children, if they become aware of it. Here in our area, several abusers have been arrested during recent years because teachers alerted police.
Toughening penalties for those who fail to report abuse and possibly expanding the list of those required to do so should be considered by Mountain State legislators.
Could something like the Penn State scandal happen here? We hope not - but hoping isn't good enough.
Child deaths down in Florida, up in Palm Beach County in 2010
by Ana M. Valdes
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH — Child abuse deaths declined across Florida in 2010, but more children died in Palm Beach County because of abuse or neglect compared with the previous two years, according to child welfare officials.
Deaths from abuse or neglect in Palm Beach County rose from 10 in 2009 to 14 in 2010, a 40 percent increase, according to data from a State Child Abuse Death Review Committee report released this week. In 2008, nine children died from child abuse or neglect in Palm Beach County.
But numbers released Thursday by the regional office of the Department of Children and Families show there were 15 child abuse deaths in the county. DCF officials said the review committee did not include a February 2010 death due to head trauma because DCF had not closed the case until after the new year. That case will be counted in next year's report.
Statewide child abuse deaths have decreased by more than 30 percent, according to the committee, which reviewed 136 cases of child deaths in 2010 due to abuse or neglect. The number is down from 200 in 2009 and 203 in 2008.
Neglect continues to be the main cause of child deaths across the state, according to the study. Of the 136 child abuse death cases in 2010, 85 were classified as neglect. Drowning and unsafe sleeping habits topped the list of known causes.
In the report, officials credited Healthy Families Florida and other prevention programs that help improve the safety of Florida's children, and recommended that the legislature maintain funding for such programs during the current session.
The increase in Palm Beach County could be attributed to cases in which multiple children died as a result of physical abuse. An example is the 2010 slaying of Natasha Whyte-Dell's four children by stepfather Patrick Alexander Dell, said officials at the state Department of Children and Families, which investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect throughout Florida.
"Looking at the numbers in Palm Beach County, you want to see zero, but I don't know that just looking at these raw numbers indicates there is anything aberrational in Palm Beach County that there isn't in any other county or across the nation," DCF spokesman Joe Follick said.
According to DCF, six of the 15 child deaths in 2010 were from gunshots. Five were drownings.
At the Center for Family Services in West Palm Beach, clinical supervisor Andres Torrens said many children are neglected every day because unemployed parents are struggling to make ends meet.
"What we are seeing is families being so taxed that they are leaving children at home for extended periods of time, leaving the house maybe at 7 a.m. and the parents don't even see their kids until 7 or 8 p.m.," Torrens said.
Funding cuts for counseling and rehabilitation programs also are preventing needy parents from getting help to keep their children safe, Torrens said.
Child porn plea set for ex-DHS worker
Child-welfare supervisor resigned post
by Alan Gustafson
A former Oregon Department of Human Services child-welfare supervisor in Salem faces charges of encouraging child-sexual abuse.
Guy Edmonds, 65, is scheduled to enter pleas to the Marion County charges on Feb. 1.
The felony charges stem from Edmonds' alleged possession of child pornography, court records show.
The crimes allegedly occurred in July.
Edmonds resigned from the state Department of Human Services on Sept. 30, state records show. He had worked for the agency since 1990, rising through the ranks to become a child-welfare supervisor.
Gene Evans, a DHS spokesman, said the alleged wrongdoing by Edmonds was unrelated to his state job.
"Edmonds resigned when he was notified of the criminal investigation, and there was no connection with state clients or use of state equipment," Evans said Thursday in an email to the Statesman Journal.
In December, a Marion County grand jury indicted Edmonds on one count of first-degree encouraging child sex abuse and one count of second-degree encouraging child abuse.
In connection with the first-degree abuse charge, Edmonds stands accused of unlawfully displaying "a visual recording of sexually explicit conduct involving a child," knowing that creation of the recording involved child abuse, according to the indictment.
The second-degree abuse charge alleges that Edmonds possessed a visual recording of sexually explicit conduct involving a child "for the purpose of arousing and satisfying the sexual desires of defendant or another person."
Attempts to reach Edmonds and his attorney for comment were not successful Thursday.
Sex-trade victims are urged to escape
Columbus seminar contends they're not criminals
by ERICA BLAKE
COLUMBUS -- Jeannette Bradley knows what it's like to be "trapped in shame."
A former drug addict and alcoholic, Ms. Bradley recounted how she spent several years being sold for sex by a man she trusted and thought she loved. It's a life the 58-year-old Columbus resident said she was able to escape.
Others, she noted tearfully, aren't so lucky.
Ms. Bradley was one of several speakers at the Third Annual Human Trafficking Day held in the Ohio Statehouse. Sponsored by state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), the event brought together advocates, social service professionals, and those involved in the legal system in an attempt to keep the discussion going about human trafficking and its victims.
"I've been where these girls are, and so I can tell them, 'You're going to make it,' " said Ms. Bradley, who was transported everywhere from Toledo to Texas to be sold for sex but she said she found a way out through her devotion to God. "My hope is I want to have a home for these girls. … My passion in life is to pay it forward, to help others."
Nearly a year after a law went into effect in Ohio creating a second-degree felony of trafficking in persons, advocates are now looking to the next step -- helping those, especially minors, who have been victimized.
A bill introduced in June, 2011, would require those under age 18 who are picked up in prostitution stings be treated as victims, not criminals.
Known as the Safe Harbor Act, the proposed legislation also would require the dissemination of information about human trafficking resources in an attempt to help those trapped in the sex trade.
Ms. Fedor said the bill is being studied and reviewed.
She noted the goal is to address the issue using a "victim-centered approach."
Comparing it to the evolution of laws against domestic violence, Ms. Fedor said state legislators must not only address the criminality of the perpetrators but the needs of the victims.
"The experts are out there. We just need the elected officials to first recognize that there is a problem and then not be scared of it but be responsible enough to address it," she said.
During the day-long event, several Toledo-area advocates discussed what was being done in northwest Ohio.
Toledo became a focus of the human trafficking microscope in 2005 when a federal sting in Harrisburg, Pa., broke up a sex-trafficking operation involving 177 females.
Seventy-seven of the victims were from the Toledo area, including a 10-year-old girl.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Moroney told program participants of a December trial in U.S. District Court in Toledo in which Anthony Willoughby, Jr., was found guilty of juvenile sex trafficking by fraud, force, and coercion.
After days of testimony from nearly 20 witnesses, including the then-16-year-old victim and two men who paid for sex with her, the jury deliberated only 27 minutes before returning a guilty verdict, he said.
Willoughby faces 15 years to life in prison when sentenced by Judge Jack Zouhary.
"Her testimony was powerful, but [days] before the trial, she freaked and said she wouldn't testify," Mr. Moroney said, adding that members of the Toledo-area task force helped her come to terms with testifying.
"It shows you at any moment that you can lose a victim and the victims are the most important things in this process."
Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Connie Zemmelman and Toledo police Detective Pete Swartz were among those who participated in a legal panel while a social work panel was made up of Mike Brennan from Lucas County Juvenile Court, Mary Schmidbauer from Second Chance Toledo, and Melinda Sykes on behalf of University of Toledo's Celia Williamson.
Ms. Fedor remarked there was "no political hat" involved with the issue and that work still must be done to reach out to those trapped in the sex trade and to help them once they are found.
"We can't address this without being educated about it," the state representative said, noting that she chose to sponsor the state awareness day near the Jan. 11 national awareness day.
"We need awareness because there are people who still think that prostitution is the oldest profession when, in fact, it's the oldest oppression."
Voice of Survivors: Human Trafficking Prevention Month
by Rani Hong
UN.GIFT Special Advisor
Every day, in every nation on the planet, children are sold and bonded into slavery. Thousands of children. I know, I was one of them.
When I was seven years old, a woman approached my family promising to give me a good education and a better life. My mother agreed because, she was told, she could visit me on a regular basis close to our home. But instead of giving me a better life, this well-respected woman in our community turned around and sold me to a man in a bordering state.
I was taken from my family in India to a place I didn't know. A place with strange people and a strange language. My trafficker, Paul, was in the business of children. He bought and sold us, exploiting our vulnerability and innocence, forcing us to work as maids, servants, and in brick and cement factories. He ran an "orphanage" that was registered with the government as a humanitarian charity, but which instead served as a barracks for children he trafficked, including me.
I remember crying for my mother. Paul told me that I never would see her again. "She is dead," he said.
My home, my identity, and, most importantly, my dreams and aspirations were lost. The world around me was shattered into pieces. My small body endured beatings and torture. Day in and day out, in that poverty stricken village in Southern India, I cried for someone to rescue me. Despite all of my tears, no one answered my cry.
By the time I was eight, my physical condition and emotional state were dire. I was near death. No longer of any value to Paul, he sold me into illegal adoption. I was adopted by an American woman who thought she was getting a legitimately orphaned girl. She brought me to live with her in Washington, where I had all the privileges of American life. Through her love, I began to find stability, healing, and a sense of personal freedom.
Today, at least 27 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the globe --m ore than at any time in history. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking manifest themselves in many forms, from forced labor to sex trafficking, but each is alike in that it strips a person of their fundamental and inalienable right to human freedom. Sometimes hidden in the dark corners of our globalized world and at other times occurring in plain sight, modern-day slavery and human trafficking are legal nowhere but present in every country across the globe.
Twenty-one years after being trafficked, I traveled back to India. There, I saw my birth mother in a hotel for the first time since we were forced apart. I listened to her tell the story of losing a child. I heard her pain and devastation. And I resolved to dedicate my life to stopping the modern-day slave trade.
President Barack Obama has proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month . It provides all of us with an opportunity to look within and beyond our own lives. But the issue of human trafficking is massive in scope and often overwhelming to consider. How can one person possibly impact such an immense, seemingly intractable global problem? You can start by becoming educated about the issue -- including in your own community. Next, be willing to say something. Ask Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Fight for anti-trafficking legislation in your state. And simply be willing to stand up and use your voice to say that slavery is wrong. If thousands of voices rise up the same way, they will surely be loud enough to end this tragedy in our time.
Human trafficking becomes concern for Indianapolis
Super Bowl prompts legislative action
by Mark Keierleber
Several weeks remain before the Super Bowl's kick-off, and as game-day approaches, the City of Indianapolis is preparing for the influx of football fans.
But state lawmakers are preparing for the arrival of a different crowd: human traffickers.
“We believe the Super Bowl to be the biggest human trafficking event in the country, if not the world,” Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said.
Senate Bill 4, which Head first proposed Jan. 4, is intended to tighten Indiana's laws against human trafficking, specifically combating human traffickers expected to transport teenage prostitutes to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Human trafficking includes the recruiting, harboring or selling of a person, especially a child, for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or involuntary servitude.
“There are enormous economic benefits of hosting large sporting events such as the Super Bowl,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.
“But the disturbing reality is that such gatherings in other states have drawn criminal rings that traffic young women and children into the commercial sex trade.”
According to the bill, the changes would increase the penalty for people arranging for sex with a minor to a Class A felony. This would apply even if the minor consents to the acts and no money is involved.
Currently, Indiana law only prohibits forced marriage and prostitution.
Adults arranging prostitution using a minor that is not their child could currently be prosecuted for a Class B felony, “promotion of human trafficking.” However, this legislation changes these acts into a Class A felony, “sexual trafficking of a minor.”
A Class B felony garners a prison sentence of six to 20 years. A Class A felony, however, carries a 20-to-50-year sentence.
On Tuesday, the bill passed through the senate unanimously on its third reading and passed into the House. Head's goal is for the bill to reach the governor's desk and be enacted into law prior to the week of Super Bowl XLVI. This objective, Head said, should be attainable.
“I think people are understanding the size of the problem,” Head said. “It's not just the Super Bowl. It's going on nationally in a scope that I don't think anyone was really aware of. This is something that we didn't count on when we picked up the Super Bowl.”
Head said the bill was a recommendation by Zoeller after communicating with lawmakers in Florida and Texas.
Head said both states encountered increased human trafficking cases when they hosted the Super Bowl in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Accurate estimates of the number of prostitutes present during the last two Super Bowls do not exist, Head said. However, a task force led by the Texas Attorney General's office reported 133 prostitution-related arrests during last year's Super Bowl.
Lawmakers are also unable to estimate how many prostitutes and human traffickers will arrive in Indianapolis in a few weeks, Head said.
According to the U.S. State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, approximately 12.3 million adults and children are trafficked across international borders into forced labor and sexual exploitation worldwide.
Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Muncie, said he also hopes the legislation passes before sports fans and athletes occupy Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We need this law in place to prosecute human trafficking offenders promptly and send a message that such activity won't be tolerated in our state,” Eckerty said.
Human trafficking on the rise in border region
by Elizabeth Aguilera
Human trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico is on the rise as more young women are kidnapped or lured to the border area with promises of a better life but who find themselves locked away in an underground world of sexual slavery and prostitution, according to experts gathered Thursday in Chula Vista.
The second annual Bi-national Forum to Address Human Trafficking held at Chula Vista City Hall brought together legal and government officials from both sides of the border to discuss cross-border developments, new laws to compact such trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
San Diego play a significant role in the trafficking of women and children, said Cynthia Cipriani, first assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern California District.
“What we have in San Diego is a perfect storm,” she said.
The population, which accounts for 60 percent of the people who live along the Southwest Border, the 80 million people who enter through San Diego's ports annually and the complex system of highways that dart out to the furthest reaches of the country all make San Diego one of the top ten cities in the U.S. for child prostitution, Cipriani said.
According to the California Against Slavery campaign, which is collecting signatures for a proposed ballot measure to increase criminal penalties for those involved in human trafficking, at least 100,000 American minors are sold for sex each year, more than 17,000 foreign born slaves are moved to the U.S. annually and three of the top 10 child sex trafficking areas in the country are in California.
Cirpriani said cooperation between agencies and cross-border efforts to take down trafficking operations as well as rescue victims have increased in the recent years and continue to be built.
“In addition to protecting our American youth from the ravages of trafficking it's also our goal to protect the youth in Mexico through stings to watch for Americans who go there looking for young women,” she said.
In the last several years organized crime groups have increased trafficking activities that include immigrants, guns, money and, more recently, an increased number of children and women, said Abel Galvan Gallardo, of the Baja California state attorney general's office.
Bi-national effort are crucial, said Mexican Congresswoman Rosi Orozco.
Orozco shared the story of a young mother of two who was given to a pimp by her husband to be trafficked to the U.S.. The woman managed to escape but not before her friend, a 16 year old, was murdered when the two tried to run just before crossing into the U.S., she said. She was battered and beaten, scarred with cigarette burns across her body and now lives in a shelter for such victims, Orozco said.
“How can we change this situation,” she asked. “We need to punish both parts of the crime.”
The first being the gang and pimp organizations that force women and children into sexual slavery but also the “Johns,” the popular term for men who pay for sex that she called inappropriate and not reflective of their true crime.
“They are the worst criminals to buy these services, they must be punished,” she said. “They are not welcome in Mexico to come and abuse our girls and boys.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been working with other groups to combat trafficking and it targets criminal organizations as well as focuses on victims, said Jose Garcia, deputy special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.
“The needs of the victim has equal value as the apprehension and the traffickers, victims need to be safe and secure, both in terms of their state of mine and living situation,” he said.
Last year Garcia's office hired a full-time victim witness coordinator to assist in training law enforcement officers about the crimes and to work directly with victims.
“This is something that is an unknown crime, it is unreported, it happens in front of all of us,” Garcia said.
The truth about human trafficking, pimps, and johns
WASHINGTON, January 12, 2012 ?Most pimps and johns are not escaped mental patients living in remote forest cabins who have a sex slave caged in their back yard. They are rather average Americans who trivialize sexual violence against women.
Recently, DePaul College of Law conducted a research study on former pimps. The study was based on the interview of 25 former pimps in Chicago area, where child prostitution and domestic sex trafficking are rampant.
According to the research, most pimps are “average Joes” who were victims of sexual exploitation themselves. The study also found that johns, people who purchase sex, and others who exploit sex trafficking victims are also average Americans, who happen to view women as commodities.
According to the study, 64% of the former pimps were African Americans and 20% of them were Caucasians. 72% of them were male and 28% of them were female. 64% of the interviewees said that they have not finished high school.
The majority of interviewees were victims of violence during their childhood. 88% of them said that they were physically abused in their childhood, and 76% of them said that they were victims of sexual abuse. 88% of them indicated that they grew up with domestic violence. 84% of them stated that they witnessed substance abuse in their home environment during their childhood.
With very little education, pimping provided the study subjects a financial benefit that they would not have accomplished by taking any other occupations. Although the majority of interviewees lacked a high school diploma, they earned average salaries of $150,000 to $500,000 by pimping women.
The 25 pimps in the study indicated that the total number of victims they exploited in prostitution exceeded 4000.
Many pimps claimed they were helping victims by prostituting them. Some of them said that they were teaching the victims “not to give away their bodies for free.” While moving the victims from “gutter to feeding, housing, and clothing them,” pimps said that they felt as though they were restoring the power of down and out victims during prostitution.
One former female pimp mistakenly believe that sexual violation against women is fact of life and can be used to benefit the women.
"I felt I was a good businesswoman to get paid and help my girls get paid for the same sh-- that gets taken from you. It is a part of our society and what people want."
Interviewees said that johns generally were well-respected men with regular jobs rather than those with sex addiction or other serious mental illness. One pimp said that most johns were wealthy Caucasians or Asians. Clients include stock-brokers, musicians, politicians, writers, policemen, lawyers, hotel bellmen, bartenders and cab drivers.
Pimps said that while they had various tactics to recruit johns to their prostitutes, there was generally was no shortage of customers. One former pimp said that it seemed as if “johns were falling off the trees.
The report also suggests widespread police corruption in the human trafficking business. When asked how pimps continued to operate their highly public and illegal business, 60% of pimps said that they bribed police.
Many anti-human trafficking efforts in the past have focused on raising the awareness of human trafficking and criminalizing them at the state levels. But, DePaul study shows that much more needs to be done to defeat the crime. Though criminalizing pimps and rescuing victims are important, authorities should also tackle johns and facilitators.
They not only need to educate johns and facilitators about victims' wounds after prostitution but also impose dire consequences of their wrong deeds.
Homeland Security Investigations and law enforcement partners in Vermont protect children
BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners including the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont --had numerous prosecutions throughout Vermont in 2011.
Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators. These young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical, and emotional scars. ICE HSI targets and investigates child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally. Seeking to end this criminal activity and protect children worldwide, ICE HSI developed Operation Predator, an initiative to identify, investigate and arrest child predators and sexual offenders. Operation Predator draws on ICE's unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children. Coordinated nationally and internationally, Operation Predator brings together an array of ICE HSI disciplines and resources to target these child sex abusers.
"As we enter a new year, these prosecutions should serve as a public reminder that child exploitation and the despicable behavior of child predators will not be tolerated in Vermont and elsewhere," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New England. "The reminder is also an assurance that we are continuing to strengthen our partnerships with U.S. attorneys and all of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to aggressively identify, arrest, prosecute and punish those who continue to prey on our children."
"Child exploitation cases involve some of our society's most vulnerable victims," said U.S. Attorney Tristram J. Coffin, District of Vermont. "We intend to continue pursuing these cases aggressively with the help of our partners at HSI and the state and local level."
The ICE HSI office in Boston, which oversees investigations throughout New England, investigated and prosecuted – or is in the process of prosecuting – the following significant cases in Vermont throughout 2011:
- Eric Achenbach of Vernon, Vt., was sentenced Dec. 28, 2011. He was sentenced to 79 months in federal prison for possession and receipt of child pornography, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Achenbach was a former Brattleboro High School teacher. Pursuant to his plea agreement, he was required to pay $33,000 to the victims of his crimes.
- Shawn Simard of St. Johnsbury, Vt., pleaded guilty Dec. 21, 2011 to possession of child pornography. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9, 2012.
- Richard Fletcher of Sheffield, Vt., was indicted Nov. 17, 2011, for various charges including possession and receipt of child pornography. Additionally, he has been charged with enticement and coercion of a minor.
- David Runnion of Brattleboro, Vt., was sentenced Nov. 1, 2011. He was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for possession of child pornography. Runnion was a conductor for the Vermont Windham Orchestra, and had worked part time at Brattleboro (Vt.) High School.
- Robert Dykes of Brattleboro, Vt., pleaded guilty Nov. 1, 2011, to receipt of child pornography. Dykes, a school safety officer and athletic director at Brattleboro Middle School, was having sexual relations with a 13-year-old female student. The girl took graphic photos of herself and sent those to Dykes. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 24, 2012.
- Joshua Tuure of Jericho, Vt., was sentenced Oct. 24, 2011. He was sentenced to three months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for possession of child pornography.
- Timothy Durrum of Poultney, Vt., was sentenced Oct. 13, 2011. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for possession of child pornography.
- Stephen Comstock of Springfield, Vt., was indicted June 3, 2011, for possession and transportation of child pornography. A search of electronic media revealed more than 20,000 videos and images of child pornography. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2012.
The majority of these individuals will be required to register as sex offenders anywhere that they live, work or go to school. Criminal indictments are only charges and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
All of these investigation involved numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Vermont, including:
- The Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (comprised of nearly 20 law enforcement agencies);
- Vermont State Police;
- State of Vermont Probation and Parole;
- Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations;
- Burlington Police Department;
- South Burlington Police Department;
- Brattleboro Police Department;
- Keene (N.H.) Police Department;
- St. Johnsbury Police Department ;
- State of Vermont Probation and Parole;
- Vernon Police Department; and
- Springfield Police Department.
Without the participation of these law enforcement agencies, the ability to successfully investigate, arrest and prosecute child predators would be limited.
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
Twitter lagging behind in protecting users against child abuse
Former detective says offending users still active despite being reported
by Carrie-Ann Skinner
Twitter is lagging behind other social networks when it comes to removing users that post child abuse images.
According to the BBC, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has urged the micro-blogging site to investigate whether paedophiles use the site to discuss abuse and link to pornographic images.
The reported cited former detective and now a child-protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas, who claims despite being reported as being in breach of Twitter's child protection policy, some users some users remain active on the micro-blogging site for as long as weeks after the report has been filed.
"There is always going to be a problem with social networking sites, because where there is an opportunity offenders will seek that out," he said.
"Clearly what Twitter needs to do is to take responsibility for its users. And when they identify there is somebody promoting child abuse material, swapping it or even discussing it the site must come down straight away."
Twitter said it deals with report over inappropriate material "immediately".
"When we receive a report and identify it as valid, we take action immediately," said Del Harvey, Twitter's Director of Trust and Safety.
"Accounts being reported may be the subject of law enforcement investigations. In those instances, while the profiles are certainly disturbing, removing them immediately can actually harm the cases that law enforcement may be attempting to build."
While rival social networks such as Bebo and Facebook have installed so-called 'Panic Buttons' that allow users to flag up inappropriate content and get access to advice on how to stay safe online, Twitter currently requires users to scour the site for an email address where they can report concerns over users and the material they have posted.
"They [Twitter] are a little bit behind some other sites that have been around a little bit longer," said Peter Davies, the chief executive of CEOP.
Scream room: child abuse or good idea?
by Jamie Muro
Middletown, Conn. (WTNH) - Instead of going to the principal's office, unruly students are being sent to what parents are calling a screaming room.
The learning process never stops as some parents at Middletown's Farm Hill Elementary are discovering.
"I didn't know it existed. I think it's terrible," said Jean Connely. "I think the parents need to ban together and something that should be gotten rid of."
Connely is referring to what fellow parents are calling the scream room, but school officials call it the time out room, a place for students with behavioral problems to calm down. However some parents aren't calm about the technique, just angry. Connely's second-grade son Nicholas saw the policy practiced.
"I just saw the kid looking through the window, and kicking the door, and a girl in front of it," she said.
"If we did this in our own homes, DCF would be knocking on our door and taking our children - but the schools are doing it? That's not right," said Connely.
Superintendent of schools Dr. Michael Frechette says he has come up with an action plan on how to handle behavioral issues at Farm Hill Elementary.
Some of the plan includes:
- Making the part-time psychologist full-time.
- Bringing in a behavioral technician to work directly with children to address behavioral needs
- Widening the support of the Family Resource Center for students and families through fifth grade.
Parents applaud new ideas, as long as the old one goes.
"It doesn't seem like a good idea to me," said parent Jackie Souza. "I don't know if the kids are being looked after."
Officials say a child's safety is paramount, but Connely remains worried.
"I heard through the grapevine they had to clean blood and urine after the fact that one particular child was in there for quite some time," she said.
Local Pastor Fights for Sexual Abuse Prevention
Darkness to Light is getting increased response for workshops on preventing childhood sexual abuse since the Penn State scandal. A local pastor has spoken out about his experience.
by Adrianne Murchison
Darwin Hobbs, who is training to become a Darkness to Light facilitator, said he was sexually abused by his stepfather from 10- to 12-years-old.
“For many years I kept it secret and I did not tell a soul until I was about to marry my wife Tracy, in 1993,” said Hobbs, 43, a worship pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, in Norcross.
Hobbs said he told his mother just before his 40th birthday, after his stepfather died. He now talks about it openly, as part of his healing process. "There is tons of shame behind that kind of thing happening. You're flooded with guilt, all kinds of depression…It's like I literally died. Like all, sense of normalcy for me was no longer possible,” Hobbs said.
The harm is even deeper if an adult witnesses the abuse and doesn't stop it. “Because you go though life with a sense of fear and not feeling protected,” he said. Referring to the Penn State scandal, Hobbs said, “I can only imagine if someone said, ‘What the hell are you doing?' and you are rescued.”
One in four girls, and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light.
Yet conversations on sexual abuse can often bring an uncomfortable silence.
It's something that Sandy Springs resident Kim Cunninghis is used to. Since 2006, she has been talking about sexual abuse prevention as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children's protection agency that Hobbs is training with.
“I would get push back from people saying, 'I have boys,' or ‘My kids are older. I would know by now,' “ said Cunninghis, a mother of two. “I flat out had people say, ‘It's not in our neighborhood; not in our community.' “
Since news broke on the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, people are a little more willing to talk openly about sexual abuse and prevention, Cunninghis said.
Calls have increased and more men have expressed interest in Darkness to Light workshops. The sessions raise awareness for parents and people who work with children. “Then you can start having a dialogue with your kids. Or your child is going to a sleepover and you want to be aware of who is going to be in the house,” Cunninghis said.
She added, “It teaches you kind of what to look for in a perpetrator. The grooming process; how long it takes. It's not just the child that gets groomed, it's the entire family. And in [Jerry] Sandusky's case [at Penn State] that was an entire state.”
These can be scary concepts for a parent, said Daren Roberts, a children's instructor at Alliance Martial Arts, in Sandy Springs, who took the Darkness to Light workshop.
Unlike, say, bullying, sexual abuse is not something people talk openly about, he said. “It's very scary for a parent to try to conceptualize that there are [harmful] relationships in your child's day to day life that you are not aware of,” he said. “And you have to protect other kids too.”
The training helps adults talk about their own experiences. Cunninghis said, “People have come forward and given good feedback [following the workshops]. They've said, “Yes it was somebody my family knew…”
Kidnap Survivor Shares Story of Triumph in 'Scarred: A Memoir'
HOUSTON, TX, Jan 11, 2012
(MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Author George Molho documents his experience as a 7-year-old kidnap victim and how it shaped the man he would become in his new book, "Scarred: A Memoir," (www.georgemolho.com).
In 1978, Molho was taken to Greece from his home in Houston by his father, a man with a brutal temper, an obsessive need for control and a sadistic desire to inflict pain. No one, not even his mother, believed him when he anticipated his father's plan to spirit him away and tried to warn them, Molho writes.
"My mother thought I was being paranoid when I shared my worries with her. She took me to a psychologist, who said I was making up the story because I was upset that my parents weren't living together anymore," he says.
Molho recounts the horrors he experienced held prisoner on an isolated mountain alone with his father, who repeatedly told him the pain he inflicted -- leaving him to hang from a basement ceiling for hours, denying food, beating him -- was "love." Molho survived by holding onto memories of the very different love he'd known from his mother and the lessons instilled by his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor.
He escaped a year later, but the effects of his experience would haunt him as a man. Molho's narrative intertwines childhood memories with his adult experiences, including divorce, and how he finally set free the ghosts of his past.
"With my story, I hope to raise awareness about the epidemic of kidnapping and abuse -- there are 145,000 children kidnapped every year," Molho says. "I also hope to empower, educate and energize the 40 million-plus people who have been affected by childhood trauma."
Free Press Houston reviewer Andrea Afra wrote of "Scarred": "This will be known as the book that set the literary genre of memoir free. Scarred reads like fiction while shattering the facade of make-believe... Molho becomes the victor of his past and his triumph is contagious."
About George Molho
George Molho worked as a health-care consultant for 15 years before becoming a writer and public speaker, addressing domestic abuse, child abduction, and recovering from trauma. He lives in Houston, where he has volunteered as a board member for several Texas charities and agencies that assist children and the elderly.
Survivor Tells Her Story of Rape in a Haitian Tent Camp
by Larisa Epatko
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | The lack of security and lighting in Haiti's tent camps, and the flimsy structures themselves, make them ripe for violence, including rape.
It's hard to tell how widespread violence against women has been, because often victims are ashamed and feel they have no legal recourse, leading the crimes to be under-reported.
One woman, through a translator, chose to tell us her story about what happened to her in a tent camp and how she sought help from a grassroots organization called KOFAVIV that was founded by survivors of domestic violence.
A 23-year-old mother of a toddler son said she was raped three weeks before our conversation (her name was withheld to protect her identity):
(After the earthquake) I was living in a tent camp (Mais Gate) near the airport. We (her mother and then-6-month-old son) lost everything in the earthquake, and we had to walk a lot to find this camp.
We built our own shelter with sheets, because no one gave us anything. We eventually got a tent. Every Monday, we received toilet supplies and vouchers for food.
My mom had another (adult) son, not in the camp, who would give us money for food and products we could sell.
Life would just go on for days like that.
One day (last month), my grandmother died, so I had to go out of town for her funeral. I went to a church far from the camp. When I returned about 9 or 10 p.m., I saw my mom was lying in the dark. So I went to another camp across the street for candles.
A car came toward me with five or six men inside. They called to me, but I didn't answer because I didn't know them. They stopped, and I tried to run but they grabbed me and started to attack me and said if I talked, they would kill me.
Then they slapped me and beat me up and ripped off my clothes. Someone knocked me down. I collapsed, and when I woke up, I found I was bleeding a lot.
The car was still nearby and people were around the car, but I didn't see the people who did this to me. I don't know if other people called for help, but when I woke up, people were around me, too. I was bleeding and had a stomach ache.
I couldn't sleep and cried all night.
A friend then told me she knew somebody who helped with such cases and gave me a number to call. So I did, and the woman asked if I felt differently in my body and that she would send an ambulance to me.
The ambulance came with a doctor and nurse to take me to the general hospital. They gave me pills and a pregnancy test. The test was positive.
I went back and did more medical tests. They wanted to know what to do with the baby.
A day ago, I came to KOFAVIV (a support facility with a safe house for survivors of domestic abuse). I like the way they welcomed me and I can feel safe. The only problem is my mom is not here to help with my (now-2-and-a-half-year-old) son. (Her mom now lives with her own adult son outside of the camp.)
People who have been there (KOFAVIV) told me I could take my son to school, and after three months can rent a place of my own.
And what about her future?
Since I was missing one year of high school, I would like to finish that and then I want to go to a university and get a job to support my children.
KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), founded in 2004, seeks to address violence against women in Haiti. It provides support groups and life skills training for women who have experienced violence.
KOFAVIV's strategy is to have community agents go to the camps, talk to women who have been raped and tell them how they can get help, said Jocie Philistin, KOFAVIV project coordinator.
Often the community agents have been victimized themselves and can tell the women what they have been through. One such agent, Georgette Etienne, 50, was robbed and now counsels women in the Champs de Mars camp.
"Whenever I find a rape victim, I explain to her that she shouldn't give up," she says.
KOFAVIV also works to prevent violence by handing out flashlights and whistles that women can use if they fear an attack. The group also encourages men and women to work together so they get to know each other, said Philistin.
"My biggest motivation is I was a victim myself and I know firsthand the post-trauma women experience," Philistin said through a translator. "It's really important to try to do something about it."
KOFAVIV's education and safe house programs are supported by various organizations, including MADRE and the U.N. refugees agency.
Lecture addresses human trafficking
by Kaleb Warnock
Despite the onset of the evening snow, several Iowa State students braved the cold to make it to the Memorial Union on Wednesday night, and they were there for more than the fair trade handbags.
Chelsie Town, ISU alumna, led a lecture titled "Human Trafficking: Is the Modern Day Slavery," in the Oak Room of the Memorial Union to mark National Human Trafficking Day to address the issue of the burgeoning human slave trade market.
Town feels that human trafficking is fundamentally wrong and has taken the initiative to raise awareness about the issue.
"As the atrocities rise in the world, I'm a firm believer that we have to make a choice," she stated as she began the lecture. "Human trafficking is an issue that has rapidly become my burden."
Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as "[a] crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means for the purpose of exploiting them."
Human trafficking is a globally complex crime that takes on many forms including, but not limited to, forced labor, sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, bonded labor, forced child labor, and child soldiers.
Town's presentation opened with a short film exploring the concept of child slavery and the origins of human trafficking. The film was a documentary that showed how many parents are duped into selling their children into slavery by individuals who claim to be taking them to better job opportunities or an education.
In fact, according to Town, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal market, at $32 billion annually, with an estimated 27 million slaves on the market today — more than all of the slaves sent from Africa to Western markets during the legal slave trade combined. However, even these estimates are only the tip of the iceberg, according to Town, who claims that as few as 1 percent are rescued.
She wanted to shift perspectives on statistics. People are not just a number. They are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers when she described her first experience after learning about human trafficking after learning that the sibling of a close friend had been victimized.
"I knew her name, I knew her story, I knew her face," she said. "I want you to see these not as numbers but as normal people."
She also sought to clear up the misconceptions that slavery occurred only in in developing countries and that victims in the Unite States are from other countries. Human trafficking is prevalent in the United States as well. Places like massage parlors, residential brothels, truck stops and the streets are still harbors for prostitution.
It occurs even within our own state. Iowa itself has had more than 200 cases of sex trafficking, only four of which led to convictions.
"It think in Iowa alone it's been amazing," Town said. "Really, when I first started a year ago, it was on no one's radar."
Town claims that she has brought much more attention to the issue through her presentations and dialogues she has initiated. However, just being aware is not enough. She claims that even the smallest action is enough to make a difference.
"Inspiration is fleeting and unfaithful and unfocused," Town said. "Once you are truly awakened, you can't help but respond. People come up with really great ideas, but they're stopped once they reach opposition."
Town claimed that everyone can make a difference if even just to start a dialogue and be a voice. Slavery is not a thing of the past, and she said that it is important the people demand accountability and fair trade goods after realizing her own consumption.
"It really caused me to come to terms with my own selfishness, and yeah, I can be a human trafficker as well. It's up to the people to make a demand for it," she said.
Ashleigh Smith, graduate educational leadership and policy studies, plans to bring what she learned from the seminar into her own classroom in the future.
"There are thousands of people who don't know about it," Smith said. "It helps bring light to the situation. One of the best things you can do is education others about it."
Kristin Marshall, double major in political science and speech pathology, was drawn to the event after seeing a film in the fall exploring sex in the film industry.
"I've immersed myself in information, but I still feel disgusted by the atrocities man commits against his fellow man," she said. "Some of the stats still make me sick to my stomach."
Marshall is looking forward to making a difference and even is bringing the film back to campus. She liked the idea that she still can help simply by using her own talents.
Town has been touring Iowa and attending conferences across the United States in her presentations, and was originally inspired to take action after someone visited her sorority here at Iowa State. Although she is a newcomer to the scene, she feels she has had a definite impact.
Town is an ambassador director for Malia Designs, a free trade company that employs women who are recovering from human trafficking to produce handbags made from materials like silk, cotton and even recycled rice bags.
Covington meeting discusses human trafficking, the second leading crime in the world
by Tyson Thorp
COVINGTON, Ky. - Human Trafficking is the second leading crime worldwide. Victims of Human Trafficking are threatened, manipulated, or blackmailed into commercial sex acts or exploited for labor purposes.
The Women's Crisis Center and Partnership Against the Trafficking of Humans (P.A.T.H.) hosted a lecture Wednesday night in Covington tonight to learn more about the dangers of Human Trafficking, especially how close it hits to home.
Theresa Flores, who is herself a survivor of Human Trafficking, has gone on to become an author, lecturer, and advocate for other victims. She led the lecture and had this warning for parents, "You know, when the kids go to the malls and they're without the parents, these guys are targeting any kid, just to see which one they can get. So, it could happen that way, it could happen through international immigrants coming here for a job, and being vulnerable and getting tricked into it. There's so many ways that somebody can become victimized by this."
The talk outlined red flags that could indicate a person is a victim of Human Trafficking. Some include: teens dating much older, abusive, or controlling men, recurring STIs, STDs, or need for pregnancy tests, or false IDs and lying about age.
The campaign plans to combat the demand for sex trafficking around large sporting events worldwide by placing bars of soap with hotline information on them in hotels and motels around the events.
Theresa Flores said, "Awareness is the first step, because when you become aware of it, and if, say, you know the red flags, and know the signs, now you're gonna see it more often, like, 'Oh my gosh, that might be you know, a situation like that.' Checking into a hotel and seeing young girls in there with lots of guys coming in and out of there, you know, say it's during the Super Bowl, or some big event coming to town, just keeping your eyes open, and you're gonna see it a lot more just by being aware of it."
Ohio is the fifth leading state for Human Trafficking, with Toledo being the number 1 hub. It is estimated that one-hundred-thousand kids are being trafficked right now in the U.S.
New Effort To Stop Sex Trafficking In Missouri
by Teresa Woodard
It is a problem no one wants to admit exists across America. But from seedy motels to luxury resorts it does: prostitution, and human sex trafficking. Some call it modern-day slavery. And an effort born in St. Louis will help shed light on the industry's dirty little secret.
"I worked 20 years in the hotel industry and I had no idea this was happening," said Kimberly Ritter, a meeting planner with Nix Conference and Meeting Managers, based in St. Louis.
What happened Wednesday night in Soulard mean the secret is out.
"It means that people are paying attention," said Katie Rhoades, who was a victim of the sex trade industry when she was a teenage girl. "Back when I got out ten years ago, we were nothing more than prostitutes. The word exploitation wasn`t used. There wasn't this idea that we were victims of human trafficking."
Rhoades ran away from home and at the age of 18, she became a stripper. Eventually, a pimp turned her into a prostitute. She escaped from that life by calling an adult friend and asking for help getting off drugs. She hid her past as a prostitute for a while. 'There was a since of shame,' she said. She spent years trying to heal herself, eventually going back to school. In December she graduated with a master`s degree in social work. She now works as an advocate.
Rhoades watched with pride as Nix did something no other meeting planners in the United States have ever done. They signed a Meeting Planners` Code of Conduct, which they helped draw up with ECPAT-USA, a non-governmental agency that works to end child sex trafficking. ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking.
"As meeting planners, we represent not just one person sleeping in a hotel one night, we represent 21 thousand room nights in a year, so when we walk in a hotel, we have a voice," explained Ritter. "We want to talk to general managers and we want have to recognize that there is an issue. And we want them to help us put a stop to it."
Nix pledges to quiz every hotel they do business with about their human trafficking policy, encouraging them to train employees on how to spot victims and more importantly to save them.
"The hotels involved were anything from roadside motels to five star luxury hotels," said Rhoades.
Michelle Guelbart of ECPAT-USA said hotel staff members are on the front lines of the fight against the human sex trade.
"They might see it and feel uncomfortable, but they don`t know what to do," she said. After training, "They can see that this is a victim, she`s being exploited, then identify her and to call the proper authorities to rescue her."
In July, Nix was instrumental in getting the St. Louis Millennium hotel to sign ECPAT's Code of Conduct for hotels. The reason is the Sisters of St. Joseph. The nuns were planning a conference for the summer, and using Nix as their meeting managers. They were determined to find a hotel with a strict policy against human sex trafficking. Ritter approached the Millennium, which agreed to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct. Employers received ECPAT training on what to look for, and have since reported questionable activity to police.
The Code of Conduct was not applicable to meeting planners, so Nix went to work with ECPAT to draw one up. They hope other meeting planners agree to sign on soon.
Human trafficking a 'terrible nightmare' for Yakima Valley families
by Michael Spears
January 11, 2012
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Young girls sold into prostitution here in the Yakima Valley; falling prey to gangs where they're sometimes traded for drugs and guns.
It's a form of human trafficking authorities say happens more often than you think.
KIMA got a chance to sit down with two mothers whose young daughters got sucked into a life of crime and prostitution.
Maria Mojica's hasn't seen her daughter in a year.
She frequently ran away from home, but a year ago she didn't come back.
Maria recalls once picking her daughter up from the police station.
"She had a lot of makeup on, her hair, she had miniskirts," said Mojica. "Stuff that she wouldn't wear in my apartment. I would never let my daughter look like that."
She soon discovered her daughter was living a double life.
Her daughter was sucked into a life of crime, drugs and prostitution against her will.
It's a form of human trafficking; underage girls and even boys, exploited for drugs and money.
Sunnyside's Promise received a $200,000 grant to explore the issue here in the valley, educate the public and help victims.
Staff tell me they encountered young girls traded for drugs and weapons who were forced to have sex with older men.
"Every time somebody knocks on my apartment, I'm just afraid that the police would knock on my apartment and tell me that she's dead," said Mojica.
Sunnyside's Promise says defining and understanding the danger is a challenge.
Young victims are often manipulated into believing they have no other options and don't get help out of fear of retaliation.
KIMA spoke with another mother who didn't want to be identified by her real name.
"Rosie," as we'll call her, says two of her daughters were forced into prostitution.
She noticed something was wrong when her daughter began acting strangely.
"At first we thought they were being rebellious, we were thinking it was their age. But, then we found out they were suffering depression," said Rosie.
When Rosie attempted to step in, she began receiving calls from men who threatened her family.
"It's like a terrible nightmare," she added.
One of her daughters is now getting help in Seattle through Sunnyside's Promise and an FBI program.
The other is in a juvenile detention center in Yakima.
Counselors say it's a problem when young victims are treated like criminals when they really need help.
Both mothers we spoke with say dealing with human trafficking has put a lot of pressure on their families.
Local organizations are working to provide more services to victims that will hopefully get them out of this life their often forced into.
Florida Aims Anti-Racketeering Bill at Human Traffickers, Sex Trade
by Kenric Ward
January 12, 2012
Florida, a key cog in an expanding global human-trafficking network, is looking to crack down on the $32 billion industry, starting with a vote on anti-racketeering legislation Thursday.
A rally in Tallahassee on Wednesday marked a "Day of Awareness" in the fight against domestic human trafficking, whose criminal enterprises range from sexual slavery to organ harvesting.
"What is transpiring behind our backs is nothing less than a systemic corruption of our youth and our society," said Nathan Wilson, head of the anti-trafficking group, Project Meridian. "This problem goes beyond isolated incidents of sexual exploitation.
"Sex trafficking of minors has proliferated within our borders, and most Americans are oblivious to the gravity of the situation," Wilson said at the Capitol.
On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill to strengthen and broaden state statutes against human trafficking in Florida.
Chairman Will Snyder, R-Stuart, said that, as a Martin County sheriff's deputy, he has witnessed "immigrants forced into sex slavery in migrant camps."
But he said local and state law-enforcement agencies are hampered by weak laws and low penalties.
"My bill brings the sentencing structure up to federal level and, recognizing the multi-jurisdictional nature of these crimes, it empowers the statewide prosecutor, the attorney general and statewide grand jury," Snyder said.
Snyder's proposed committee bill also authorizes wiretapping and forfeiture, mirroring federal RICO statutes.
"We believe [human trafficking] is an organized racketeering enterprise," Snyder said. "Smugglers don't necessarily use force, but they use coercion, take passports and threaten families back home."
State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, introduced a similar anti-trafficking measure, Senate Bill 1880, on Monday.
“Sex trafficking has become a major issue that requires our immediate attention. It is imperative that we do everything we can to help the victims who have suffered from this horrible trade," said Flores, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office wants "to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking."
“Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry that exploits and abuses men, women and children. We are looking forward to working with both legislators to ensure the bills pass this session," Bondi said.
In an interview with Sunshine State News, Wilson, whose organization is based in Washington, said the tentacles of human trafficking are far-flung and insidious.
"Modeling agencies are a point of access to young people. The media need to stop talking about 'runaways.' It's manipulation and it's abduction," Wilson said.
The U.S. State Department estimates that some 700,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across national borders annually, with Florida serving as a prime port for U.S traffic.
"Florida is commonly cited along with New York and California as being one of the top three destinations for trafficking victims in the United States," according to a report by Florida NOW.
"Victims of sex trafficking typically wind up in large cities, vacation and tourist spots, and near military bases, where the demand for sex trafficking is incredibly high. Florida's economic climate, largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, renders it an ideal destination for human trafficking victims," NOW said.
In Washington, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has sponsored the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to update and upgrade current federal law.
"I hope the Senate will take up this anti-trafficking legislation this year in order to improve it and pass it. The first step in combating this crime is awareness, and I urge my fellow Floridians to learn more about human trafficking and what can be done to stop it," Rubio said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Advocates push for stronger child abuse prevention laws
by Jared Hunt
Children's advocates want West Virginia lawmakers to toughen laws and invest $1 million in an effort to make sure scandals like the one that recently rocked Penn State University don't happen here.
Representatives with Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia held a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting with about 80 legislators and government officials to encourage the state to take a more active role in preventing child abuse.
The arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach and children's charity founder Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of sexual abuse and assault against children last year shocked the nation.
Also shocking were further revelations that witnesses had told some university officials about the criminal acts they saw committed on school grounds. Those revelations led to the arrest of two other Penn State officials, as well as the downfall of longtime football coach Joe Paterno.
The scandal has refocused attention on laws that require certain people to report suspected child abuse to the proper authorities.
"The Penn State scandal is not surprising to those of us in the field," said Jetta Bernier, a child abuse expert who spoke at Tuesday's meeting. "We have known for many years now that there are large institutions and small institutions that sometimes make decisions to protect their reputations and pocketbooks rather than do the right thing for kids."
Bernier helped found Massachusetts Citizens for Children in 2002 following the sex abuse scandals in the local Catholic Church. The program grew into the national Enough Abuse Campaign, a nationwide network that helps states prevent child abuse.
"We know what works," said Jim McKay, state coordinator with Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia. "There are proven strategies such as what's being done in Massachusetts and elsewhere so that we can help prevent child abuse, but we need to invest in those programs."
McKay's organization is lobbying for support of a bill that would toughen the state's mandatory reporting laws as well as invest in community programs designed to stop child abuse.
The bill would raise the fine for failing to immediately report suspected abuse from $100 to $1,000. The misdemeanor crime also carries a 10-day prison sentence; the proposal does not change that.
It would also expand the list of people who must report to include people like youth sports coaches or those involved in Boy Scouts.
Members named to state task force to prevent child abuse
A state task force created to prevent child abuse has now been filled with members. Governor Corbett, along with Senate and House leaders, made appointments to the Task Force on Child Protection.
"This task force has a tremendously important job," Corbett said. "It will provide input to help us strengthen state laws and ensure every Pennsylvania child receives the protection from harm they deserve."
The four members appointed by the governor are Hon. David W. Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney; William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation; Dr. Cindy W. Christian, M.D., director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"There is a real need to review how we approach, define, investigate and respond to the issue of child abuse overall," Speaker of the House, Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County).
Members appointed by the House include Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle; Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County; and Hon. Arthur Grim, Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County.
The Senate's members are Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, The Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills; and Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia.
Interactive display focusing on child abuse coming to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center
by Jim Steinberg
COLTON - On Thursday, an interactive display here will take participants on a journey through the lives of children plagued by abuse.
The Lisa Project will open 3 p.m. on the campus of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, 400 North Pepper Ave.
The multi-room exhibit is being brought to San Bernardino County by a collaboration between the Children's Network of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services, the Children's Fund and First 5 San Bernardino.
The traveling exhibit will be open Thursdays through Sundays until concluding its time in Colton at 5 p.m. Jan. 29.
From there it will move to a location at The Mall of Victor Valley in Victorville for the month of February and Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga in March.
The exhibit takes participants through several rooms where they will hear the stories of different children who were victims of differing forms of abuse.
People who go through the exhibit, generally find it a powerful and moving experience, said Gene Hardin, director of the Lisa Project.
"We want to get people talking and let them realize it is OK to make a phone call if they believe something is amiss," he said.
That phone call to the authorities, he said, might just save a life.
The 1,400-square-foot exhibit started as a display at a fixed location in Stockton. But visitors to the exhibit said they wanted to host it in their community, he said.
"It was a natural fit for us," said Jorge Valencia, director, business development and marketing at ARMC.
"We do a lot in child abuse prevention," he said. The hospital has a social worker in pediatrics and in the burn unit, where abuse cases are uncovered.
A number children in the burn unit were put there because of child abuse, he said.
The hospital is also donating space for The Lisa Project to train about 90 volunteers, he said.
Dr. Hope's New eBook Release Helps Fight Child Abuse
Las Vegas, NV (PRWEB) January 10, 2012
Laughing Day/El Dia para Reir is an award-winning children's storybook written in both English and Spanish. The book not only teaches children the joy in helping others but now gives them the access they might need to call for help should they or a friend suffer from child abuse.
At a Childhelp meeting this question was asked: “What else can be done to help children that are being abused?” The answer was simple: “Somehow get our 1-800-4-A-CHILD hotline phone number down to the child's level, so they can have access to it themselves.” Dr. Hope has done just that.
Childhelp is one of the largest and oldest national, non-profit organizations dedicated to the treatment, prevention and research of child abuse and neglect. Founders, Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson have tirelessly worked for over 50 years to eradicate child abuse/neglect and have been nominated four years in a row (including this year) for the Nobel Peace prize.
Childhelp has many programs in place to help abused children. One of them is an anonymous national toll free hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD, that can be called if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected. Trained operators will send help and/or tell you what you should do to get immediate assistance. ( http://www.childhelp.org)
Dr. Hope has dedicated a page in ten's of thousands of children's print storybooks designed to give children access to the help that they may need in the event that they or someone they know are suffering from child abuse. Now with the release of Laughing Day/El Dia para Reir in eBook format he has done so again. The eBook is now available at Smashwords.com in all eBook formats. Later this month it will be available directly from Barnes and Noble for the Nook and at the Apple store for the iPad and on Amazon.com for the Kindle.
In an entertaining way Dr. Hope, through his "Life Lessons" series of children's books, inspires children to believe in themselves, teaches them the joy in helping others, the love of laughter, to always try their best and the benefits of living in the present moment. Not only will children be entertained with his storybooks but they also will have access to a phone number in case they need help or they need to help another child.
“Even if this helps only one child from an abusive or neglectful situation, it will be well worth it.” said Dr Hope.
About Tim “Dr. Hope” Anders: Dr. Hope is an award-winning children's book author who also writes books for grownups. He also is a recipient of the FOR THE LOVE OF A CHILD AWARD from Childhelp. For more information about him go to http://www.DrHope.com.
For further information
Marti Avila, Alpine Publishing, Inc.
Phone:760 728 3161 Fax: 760 728 3394
Cell Phone: 760 525 3392
Someone you know needs MOCSA
by JULIE DONELON
We are in constant awe of technological, societal and personal changes that occur in our lives from one year or from one decade to the next. We wish some things would change, yet they remain. For me, it's our need to have an organization such as MOCSA, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. Rape and sexual abuse are not going away.
As I begin as president and CEO of MOCSA this week, I can't help but look at what has changed over the 27 years since my predecessor, Palle Rilinger, began her tenure as the agency's leader.
Incidents of sexual assault are on the rise — MOCSA hospital advocates were called to Kansas City area hospitals to assist rape victims 678 times in 2011, 151 more runs or 28.4 percent more than the total 527 calls in 2010. And that's up 300 percent over the last three years. MOCSA therapists provided services to more than 200 children who were sexually abused last year.
We try to look for a positive within those numbers — perhaps a silence has been broken, and more people are coming forward to report rape and sexual abuse than in the 1980s when Ms. Rilinger began her tenure as MOCSA's leader. Part of the reason could be education and prevention awareness. Over the last two decades, MOCSA has exponentially grown its education and prevention programs. Currently, MOCSA takes its programs to more than 40,000 children in 30 Kansas City area school districts, sharing information to prevent sexual assault and abuse, and spreading awareness about the help available to victims of sexual violence.
MOCSA can help only if we know who needs us. Please help us bring victims forward. When MOCSA sends speakers into the community — at schools, civic groups, workplaces — we hear that the presentation prompted someone to seek help, tell someone about what happened or tell someone about a questionable situation.
A person who has been raped or a child who has been sexually abused often feels ashamed, isolated and is afraid to tell anyone. Help is available. MOCSA's tagline is: Someone you know needs MOCSA. Listen to family members and friends who have concerns, and children who come forward and disclose abuse. They need your support and MOCSA's services.
Recent news stories about sexual abuse allegations have enraged many of us. We have heard about adults who turned a blind eye to concerning behaviors of others in positions of authority over children. We have also heard from adult survivors of child sexual abuse who reported their abuse but were not believed. We must take an active role in the prevention and intervention of sexual abuse. Children are powerless to protect themselves.
You can help by becoming informed and proactive. Learn about rape prevention and where to get services. Be aware of the signs of child sexual abuse, such as depression, behavior changes or or unusual sexual knowledge. Be aware of people who spend unusual amounts of time with children or single out children and give them gifts or special attention. Invite MOCSA to your school, organization, civic group or workplace for a presentation so more people can learn about rape and sexual abuse prevention and the services available for victims. Become a MOCSA volunteer.
As I begin my role at MOCSA, I know that I can't change the need for MOCSA's existence, and demand for services remains. However, I know the dedication of MOCSA's staff and volunteers to provide victims the comfort, support and tools needed to start the recovery process remains unchanged. The 24-hour crisis line and hospital advocacy programs continue to operate 365 days a year.
What remains solid, unchanged, is our collective mission to lessen the ill effects of sexual assault through prevention, education, intervention, treatment and advocacy.
Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Advocate Rates Sandusky Media Coverage a “C”
by Mel Fabrikant
A new report today praised early media coverage of the Penn State University child sexual abuse crisis for its broader perspective and precise language but criticized its failure to address solutions for prevention. The report, released by the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Berkeley Media Studies Group, recognized the media for its ability to tell an institutional story about university officials' failure to report and end abuse after they learned of it. However, the coverage fell short in examining what preliminary measures should have been taken to prevent the abuse from occurring and what steps are being taken now to prevent future abuse.
Broader perspective, more precise language, but missed opportunity to focus on prevention. A new report today praised early media coverage of the Penn State University child sexual abuse crisis for its broader perspective and precise language but criticized its failure to address solutions for prevention.
The report, released by the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Berkeley Media Studies Group, recognized the media for its ability to tell an institutional story about university officials' failure to report and end abuse after they learned of it. However, the coverage fell short in examining what preliminary measures should have been taken to prevent the abuse from occurring and what steps are being taken now to prevent future abuse.
“The domino effect of the allegations triggered by the initial coverage of Penn State underscores the prevalence of child sexual abuse in our culture and demands discussion of solutions,” said Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO Anika Rahman. “The Penn State coverage deserves only a ‘C' for its inadequacy in painting a fuller picture that includes addressing the cultural conditions that perpetuate abuse.
“Media coverage increases the visibility of societal problems and fuels our nation's collective response. Coverage that is absent of solutions denies us an opportunity to prevent child sexual abuse for the one in four girls and one in six boys who are sexually abused each year,” said Rahman.
The report, “Breaking News on Child Sexual Abuse: Early Coverage of Penn State,” found that less than one-third of the general news coverage of the Jerry Sandusky case included a mention of a potential solution or policy measure to reduce or prevent future abuse. Among sports coverage of the Sandusky case, merely 5 percent highlighted prevention efforts. The exclusion of solutions in this case is consistent with the findings of an earlier BMSG study on news coverage of child sexual abuse.
Among the articles mentioning solutions, the most frequently cited ones focused on actions after the abuse had been committed, such as reporting abuse, rather than measures intended to prevent abuse from occurring.
“The report highlights that prevention continues to get short shrift in news coverage of child sexual abuse,” BMSG Director Lori Dorfman said. “Journalists and advocates can work together on stories like this to help the public and policymakers understand the need for prevention policies.”
On a positive note, the report's authors saw significant progress in the language used to describe acts of abuse. It was more precise and descriptive compared to a previous study that BMSG released last June. Very few articles used terms that were vague or minimized the alleged actions, such as “horseplay.”
“We found that the coverage of Penn State included more precise descriptions of Sandusky's alleged actions than is usual, possibly because reporters had access to the highly specific language in the grand jury testimony,” said study co-author Pamela Mejia. “This increased precision in language is an important step in improving the coverage of child sexual abuse, but there is still room for improvement if reporters are to sensitively but accurately convey to readers the true scope of what the survivors experienced."
Among the other findings was the fact that less than one-fifth of the news coverage included in the study detailed the impact of the abuse on the survivors. In contrast, news coverage extensively explored the consequences faced by university and team officials and students.
“Responsible journalism dictates that reporters present perspectives from survivors, child sexual abuse prevention advocates and other authorities,” Rahman said. “The true nature of the abuse is obscured without the voices of those who are most impacted.”
The study examined 155 pieces from nine days of news coverage and commentary beginning on the day of Sandusky's arrest. It includes recommendations for journalists on ways to improve coverage of child sexual abuse as well as recommendations for advocates to help push for policies that will institute prevention.
Copies of the full report are available at http://ms.foundation.org/ and http://www.bmsg.org/.
More Local Interest in Sexual Abuse Prevention Since Penn State Scandal
Kim Cunninghis, a Sandy Springs mom and facilitator for Darkness to Light, is getting increased response for workshops on preventing childhood sexual abuse.
by Adrianne Murchison
Conversations on sexual abuse can often bring an uncomfortable silence.
It's something that Sandy Springs resident Kim Cunninghis is used to. Since 2006, she has been talking about sexual abuse prevention as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children's protection agency.
“I would get push back from people saying, 'I have boys,' or ‘My kids are older. I would know by now,' “ said Cunninghis, a mother of two. “I flat out had people say, ‘It's not in our neighborhood; not in our community.' “
Since news broke on the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, people are a little more willing to talk openly about sexual abuse and prevention, Cunninghis said.
Calls have increased and more men have expressed interest in Darkness to Light workshops. The sessions raise awareness for parents and people who work with children. “Then you can start having a dialogue with your kids. Or your child is going to a sleepover and you want to be aware of who is going to be in the house,” Cunninghis said.
She added, “It teaches you kind of what to look for in a perpetrator. The grooming process; how long it takes. It's not just the child that gets groomed, it's the entire family. And in [Jerry] Sandusky's case [at Penn State] that was an entire state.”
These can be scary concepts for a parent, said Daren Roberts, a children's instructor at Alliance Martial Arts, in Sandy Springs, who took the Darkness to Light workshop.
Unlike, say, bullying, sexual abuse is not something people talk openly about, he said. “It's very scary for a parent to try to conceptualize that there are [harmful] relationships in your child's day to day life that you are not aware of,” he said. “And you have to protect other kids too.”
The training helps adults talk about their own experiences. Cunninghis said, “People have come forward and given good feedback [following the workshops]. They've said, “Yes it was somebody my family knew…”
One in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys are abused by their 18th birthday, according to Charleston-based Darkness to Light.
A case of sexual abuse
Darwin Hobbs, who is training to become a Darkness to Light facilitator said he was sexually abused by his stepfather from 10 to 12-years-old.
“For many years I kept it secret and I did not tell a soul until I was about to marry my wife Tracy, in 1993,” said Hobbs, 43, a worship pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, in Norcross.
Hobbs said he told his mother just before his 40th birthday, after his stepfather died. He now talks about it openly, as part of his healing process. "There is tons of shame behind that kind of thing happening. You're flooded with guilt, all kinds of depression…It's like I literally died. Like all sense of normalcy for me was no longer possible,” Hobbs said.
The harm is even deeper if an adult witnesses the abuse and doesn't stop it. “Because you go though life with a sense of fear and not feeling protected,” he said. Referring to the Penn State scandal, he said, “I can only imagine if someone said, ‘What the hell are you doing,' and you are rescued.”
Moms becoming proactive
Daren Roberts has noticed Sandy Springs moms becoming more proactive with their children's surroundings. “The more awareness that's out there, the more it gets talked about,” the martial arts instructor said. “I know a lot of moms who are regularly checking the sex offender websites when someone moves into the neighborhood. The more transparency, honesty and accountability [the better]. You cant go wrong in terms of the child's safety.”
Town Officials Receive Sexual Abuse Prevention Training
The training session focused on preventing children from becoming victims of abuse, and what to do if a child is being abused.
by Krista Perry
Town officials last night were trained to become more concious of childhood sexual abuse in the community and work to keep it from happening.
Town Nurse Sue Rosa and Tricia Dzuris, assistant to the town manager and a Town Meeting Rep, presented Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children program. The program aims to raise awareness and puts the responsibility for protecting kids onto parents and other adults in the community, she said.
The program is being offered monthly Dzuris and Rosa hope to extend it and preent it to educators, parent-coaches, library staff, local volunteers and anyone else who thinks the training might be useful.
Discussions included the surprising statistics of sexual abuse - 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have reportedly been sexually abused by their 18th birthday, and about 20 percent of victims of sexual abuse are under the age of 8.
The program emphasized that many sexual abuse situations happen during one-on-one alone time between an adult and a child, and encouraged community organizations to look at their policies to try to minimize those situations.
The program also included a local community resource sheet with numbers of organizations for reporting sexual abuse suspicious. Participants discussed possible beliefs and fears about reporting incidents.
One of those local resources is Project INTERFACE, a helpline that does intake services and connects residents to proper mental health professionals within two weeks.
"(The town got it) July 1, and we've had 23 residents use it since then. Of those 23 calls, 17 have been for children, and 16 of those 17 have calls were from October to December," Rosa said.
Rosa said the program is about getting people to stop turning their heads when they are suspicious of sexual abuse.
"Sometimes you have to make a choice to do a hard thing," Rosa said of choosing to take action instead of denying it.
Dzuris suggested the town's organizations should make its sexual abuse policies more public to residents.
"So we have steps in place for anyone thinking about being an abuser ... this isn't the place for them," she said.
Rosa will now focus on training the school department nurses, and Dzuris will bring the training to the Paul Center staff, Chelmsford Community Education, the library and other departments.
"There are so many avenues to take advantage of," Dzuris said.
The next training will be in the Police Station on Wednesday, Feb. 1. For more information or to sign up, contact Dzuris at email@example.com.
Reporting suspected child abuse mandatory
by April Scott
January 11, 2012
Once again, recent news stories about child sexual abuse have people everywhere talking in disbelief. But the fact is, child abuse is not a new problem. It did not just start happening.
For 11 years the Carousel Center has been working with sexually and physically abused children throughout Southeastern North Carolina.
Studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18, and sadly enough 90 percent of the victims know the person that rapes them. So maybe there should be more emphasis on teaching our children its OK to say “no” when they feel uncomfortable, instead of simply saying “beware of stranger danger”.
N.C. General Statue 7B-301 (Child Abuse Reporting) reads: “Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected or dependent, as defined by 7B-101, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall (this means must) report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found.”
Note: Suspected abuse of disabled adults, or the elderly, also mandate a report being made.
Interpretation: If you have a thought, or question in your mind as to whether something constitutes abuse and should be reported, you have to report it. The only time not to report an incident is when the thought has never entered your mind whatsoever. You are offered legal protection from criminal or civil prosecution for making a good faith reporting even if nothing comes of it.
The Carousel Center provides service to more than 250 children every year, ranging in ages from newborn to 17 years old. Let's be a community that stands up for our children and not be silent about the atrocity of child rape. Take a stand and vow that if you see, hear, suspect or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, you will not keep silent.
Have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy and shame that should never define a child's life.
Please take time to educate yourself, family and friends on the law as it relates to child abuse. The complete law can be found online at http://bit.ly/s4Yg2H.
Please feel free to contact the Carousel Center for Abused Children at 254-9898 should you have any questions.
April Scott is executive director of The Carousel Center for Abused Children.
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Trail of Tears: Twins make documentary detailing horrors of Indian schools
January 10, 2012
by Constance York
Beginning in the late 19th century, thousands of children were taken from their parents and put into boarding schools for their entire childhoods.
It was not because of parental neglect or abuse. This scenario happened to thousands of families simply due to their Native American heritage.
Now grown and just beginning to speak out, some of the children say this is what happened when the U.S. government tried to control, eliminate and silence a culture — and it went on for 100 years.
But there were some who couldn't be silenced and their numbers are growing.
Twins Fay Givens and Kay McGowan of Grosse Ile have made it their mission to tell the stories for those who can't, and bring awareness about atrocities that happened to their people.
The sisters are of Cherokee/Choctaw heritage, and the American Indian culture always has been very important to them.
Givens is executive director of American Indian Services Inc. in Lincoln Park. The office acts as a cultural and resource center. McGowan has a doctorate in cultural anthropology and teaches at Eastern Michigan University.
The sisters have spent the last few years making and promoting their documentary, “Indian School: A Survivor's Story.” It premiered locally this year at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.
Givens said “Anglos” are shocked by what they learn from the film.
“The average person, and the media, know very little about what happened to us,” she said. “It's a disgrace; that's all I can say.”
She added that the film is an opportunity to educate people.
One function the American Indian Services office serves is the “Talking Circle.” It's a weekly informal group therapy session for survivors of the Indian schools. In talking about their experiences, sometimes for the first time, or simply listening to others, the healing has finally begun.
“It's affected all of us,” Givens said.
The sisters' grandparents were in the boarding schools. Givens and McGowan were spared.
Givens said that she and her sister had to travel down South, taking an elderly aunt with them, to apply for a birth certificate.
Indians had not wanted the government to know when they had children. Her family had taken steps to keep them out of the Indian schools. Some people, she said, remember being told as children to hide when a stranger came to the door.
The sisters want the healing to be nationwide. When Givens speaks about the Indian schools, she is sad and angry. But the anger rises in her voice as she speaks about the injustice of being cast aside and told to “just get over it.”
“These things happened in my lifetime,” Givens said. “We would like an apology.”
First, she said, the injustice has to be admitted.
“We want to be able to forgive them for what they've done,” she said. “We want recognition that you have wronged us so that we can forgive you.”
And while she waits for that apology, she'll continue to make sure the United States, as a people, isn't ignorant about its history.
An apology was issued in 2000 by Kevin Gover, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but served as an apology for that office, not the government as a whole.
“I do not speak for the United States,” Gover said in the speech. “That is the province of the nation's elected leaders, and I would not presume to speak on their behalf.
“I am empowered, however, to speak on behalf of this agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and I am quite certain that the words that follow reflect the hearts of its 10,000 employees.
“Let us begin by expressing our profound sorrow for what the agency has done in the past. Just like you, when we think of these misdeeds and their tragic consequences, our hearts break and our grief is as pure and complete as yours. We desperately wish that we could change this history, but, of course, we cannot. On behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I extend this formal apology to Indian people for the historical conduct of this agency.”
Givens said that Gover, being an Indian himself, was apologizing to himself.
“He isn't the government,” she said.
She said that Canada's prime minister, Steven Harper, gave an acknowledgement on August 12, 2008, to all of his country's Indians in a formal event, and she wants something like that from the U.S. government.
The Indian schools began in 1879 when the government decided that the Indians were a savage race and culture that needed to be crushed, according to the sisters.
Believing adult Indians were too set in their ways to change, they began forcibly removing Indian children from their homes at a very young age and sending them to boarding schools across the United States and Canada.
Once there, the children were stripped of their heritage and culture. They were taught English and trained to do subservient work.
“They weren't training people to be doctors and lawyers,” Givens said.
Once returned to their parents — if that day ever came — they were strangers in their own homes, disconnected from their culture and unable to communicate with their parents and grandparents.
They no longer knew how to live on a reservation — another government-enforced program.
“There was no one to teach them at the boarding school how to hunt, fish and farm,” Givens said.
Frustrated, unable to find work, void of a culture or an established parent-child relationship, and haunted by memories of a traumatic childhood, many turned to alcohol and drugs, or gave in and moved to the city — becoming another stranger in a strange land, trained and educated to do nothing but serve. The destiny crafted for them was that of “a permanent underclass,” she said.
And the cities brought their own demon — discrimination.
When asked if the boarding schools had anything to do with the high rate of alcoholism on reservations, Givens said, “It has everything to do with it.”
She said Indians' biological makeup causes them to be much more susceptible to alcohol in the first place. She said it's much easier for them to become addicted, and their bodies can't handle it.
“We have not had this in our culture for thousands of years like Europeans have had,” Givens said.
Combine that with a lifetime of trauma and post-traumatic stress, she said, and it's no wonder the Indians are so seldom heard from — and so seldom heard.
Their wounds have been buried deep, Givens said. It's affected not only the survivors' lives, but their children and grandchildren.
“It's intergenerational trauma,” she said.
The film was partly funded by the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency due to the success the “Talking Circle” has had in helping survivors begin to heal.
Had the program simply removed the children from their homes, it would have been tragic enough, Givens said. Had the children simply not been educated properly, that would have been shameful enough.
But the schools were harsh places without love or comfort, she said, and the children often were abused, physically and sexually.
There was no one to turn to, Givens said. There was no escape from a nightmare that continued their entire childhood. Many died while in the care of the schools.
Many girls became pregnant. Givens said the schools attracted pedophiles because they knew they could get away with it there.
This “education” went on until 1978. Givens said a lot of parents sent their children even after it wasn't forced because they were so poor on the reservations with such limited resources, that they thought the schools would at least provide for their children.
They didn't know what was happening there, because it wasn't talked about by the survivors. She said survivors are just now beginning to deal with their trauma.
“This government has never even acknowledged that this happened,” Givens said. “In order to seek some kind of justice, we're considering taking this to the United Nations.”
The sisters already work with the United Nations on other issues for indigenous people. Givens said they respond to the U.S. State Department's actions, or lack of action.
“We're now looking into forming a Truth and Reconciliation Committee,” she said. “We want these things uncovered.”
Givens said that still today, if a rape occurs on a reservation by a non-Indian, the perpetrator won't be prosecuted. Although they have their own courts and police, she said, they don't have the legal authority to prosecute non-Indians.
The courts won't prosecute either because it happened on a reservation, she said, adding that rapists and pedophiles know this and it attracts them.
One in three Indian women will be raped, according to Givens. Four years ago, 852 crimes were committed on reservations and only four were prosecuted.
“It's like a magnet for pedophiles,” she said.
Nedra Darling, director of public affairs for the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, said that since the Indian School program stopped, the government has instituted the Tribal Grant School Policy that allows tribes to run their own schools.
She said the government appropriates $25 million to the 183 schools for language and culture, and that they are involving the tribes in their own culture at this point.
As far as the lack of control tribes have over punishing crimes on their own land and other Indian issues, Darling said “a lot of things have been addressed” with the implementation of the Tribal Law and Order Act that was signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama.
The act aims to strengthen tribal law enforcement and the ability to prosecute and fight crime more effectively.
Among other changes, the measure enacts tougher laws for rapists. Now, a non-Indian convicted of rape can serve three years, rather than the one year received before.
The Indian Health Care Improvement Act requires a set standard of practices for victims of sexual assault in health facilities, which the government says will help more women get the care they need to heal and help in prosecuting the criminals.
Meanwhile, Givens' hope is that “Indian School: A Survivor's Story” will be shown all over the world, so that healing and understanding can begin.
“Healing by the thousands of survivors out there suffering in pain and silence, and understanding, by a country that committed crimes against humanity and has yet to make it right,” she said.
“We haven't even started to touch the beginning of what needs to be revealed.”
Givens also hopes for a national registry for survivors.
“Right now, we don't have the resources to do those things yet,” she said.
She also said that a lot of people are still afraid to be put on a list. “We have no trust, nor should we have any trust,” she said.
That's why their documentary is so powerful, Givens and McGowan said, and so needed for a culture that was almost extinct, and has most surely been damaged.
“Why would you trust the people who took your children away?” Givens said.
To order a copy of the documentary, go to theindianschoolmovie.com. To learn about the “Talking Circle,” or other programs at American Indian Services, call 1-313-388-4100.
Sex Trafficking Victims, Advocates, Lobby Hawaii Legislators for Stronger Laws
by MALIA ZIMMERMAN
A 16-year-old Hawaii girl and her mother met with lawmakers at the Hawaii state Capitol yesterday in a special hearing on human trafficking to offer details about the girl's experiences as a sex trafficking victim in Hawaii.
Asking for the media to keep their names and images out of the news, the mother and daughter shared their horrifying story that started just 9 months ago when the girl's cousin introduced her to a “Big John” that kidnapped her and held her against her will, beat and raped her repeatedly into submission, got her hooked on drugs and alcohol and then forced her into prostitution.
The terrifying experience lasted four months before she escaped. The girl did not run away because her captors told her they knew where she lived and would go after her family in retaliation.
The mother and stepfather, who are military personnel stationed here, believed their daughter was a runaway. They were able to bring her home after their daughter's second arrest on prostitution charges. Before that, the girl, who had been broken physically, mentally and spiritually by her captors, was terrified to leave her abusers.
“This is the one moment as a mom that I can try to make a positive difference for everyone else's little girls and boys. I need you to know it is so real. When you walk through Waikiki, it is beautiful, a paradise, but that is where my little girl walked the streets as a slave,” the mother told lawmakers.
The girl continues to experience both physical and mental trauma, and has seen little improvement after several weeks of treatment for substance abuse and emotional trauma. Fighting tears, the high school student told graphic stories about her abuse, torture and forced labor. She said about 30 percent of the girls she met on the street were from Hawaii, averaging between 15 and 16 years old. The others are primarily the same age, brought here from mainland states and foreign countries. The children recruited here were recruited from local shopping malls and school campuses. Many young boys are also recruited, she said.
During their testimony before a packed room, lawmakers, law enforcement, trafficking experts and other victims sat quietly to listen to the story. Other victims and experts who work with victims also stepped forward to share similar experiences.
Kathryn Xian from the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery opened the briefing by introducing a package of bills to lawmakers, seven total, that she says will help thwart human trafficking in Hawaii. She also focused the discussion on child labor, sex slavery, forced labor, barriers to combating human trafficking and solutions and policy changes to better address human trafficking.
The Proposed Measures for 2012 include:
- "Safe Harbor Bill that allows for a mandatory referral of child victims to a licensed and trained child service provider.
- "Vacating Convictions bill would enable sex-trafficking victims to file a motion to vacate all prostitution charges from their criminal records while they were held in captivity, illegally.
- "Education and awareness would provide greater education to the public and youth of Hawaii on human trafficking and prevention.
- "Victim Services State plan for human trafficking victims service would be created to address the needs of rehabilitating human trafficking victims.
- "And a Steering Committee on Human Trafficking Measure would be formed to review and recommend public policy and a state plan for human trafficking victim services."
- There also would be a mandatory reporting bill for medical professionals who encounter a trafficking victim.
Xian's non-profit organization successfully lobbied for the first anti-human trafficking laws in Hawaii, including HB141 re: labor-trafficking and HB240 re: promoting prostitution law reform, which became Act 145 and Act 146 in 2011. Xian maintains what many experts say: Hawaii is driven by a tourist-based economy which attracts sex-traffickers looking to establish territory to capitalize on the market of male travelers and transient military personnel."
Xian said human trafficking is the “2nd highest lucrative criminal activity in the world, surpassing illegal arms dealing and second only to international drug trafficking.”
“ Even though passing laws to address Human-Trafficking have been realized in the state of Hawaii, the battle has just begun. Further collaboration and education is needed to successfully combat trafficking. It takes a community to win the battle against human-traffickers and PASS is very hopeful for the future. United we can STOP Human-Trafficking in Hawaii and we are convinced that, through commitment and working together, Hawaii's island communities can end trafficking in the state within 10 years,” she said.
Before lawmakers closed the extensive briefing, Kalei, a young mother of a 3-year-old daughter who was raised in a “good Christian family” also shared her story of becoming a sex trafficking victim. She said met a man at a club who kidnapped her, raped and beat her until she nearly died and forced her into prostitution by telling her he would take her child if she did not comply. She said she is making it her personal mission to shine the light on what is really happening on the streets of Hawaii, she said.
Hawaii also has an extensive illegal farm labor problem, which the Pacific Alliance Against Slavery and other advocates continue to investigate. Several labor trafficking victims from Laos have been interviewed by Hawaii Reporter and their stories are detailed in three stories here:
The 60 working day legislative session begins on January 18. The legislation discussed yesterday will be officially introduced and considered then.
L.A. County Declares War on Sex Trafficking
Supervisor Don Knabe commemorated National Human Trafficking Awareness Month at Tuesday's meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“While we often think of child sex trafficking as a problem in other countries, it's happening right here in our backyard to girls as young as 11 and 12,” Knabe said.
Data from the County's Probation Department shows that 84% of the children arrested for prostitution in Los Angeles County in 2010 lived in the Fourth District, mostly in Long Beach and the South Bay area. The children arrested for prostitution are often released, as it is a misdemeanor charge. “We think these numbers are representative of a much larger number of girls forced into prostitution who have not yet been arrested, or are not being determined to be sexual victims in screenings when placed in either foster care of the juvenile justice system,” said Knabe. “It's the biggest problem we have on this issue – we don't know what we don't know.”
Knabe recognized employees from the Probation Department, Michelle Guymon and Hania Cardenas, for their initiative and leadership in raising awareness of this issue. “Michelle and Hania have gone above and beyond their regular duties, spending countless hours of their personal time, to shine a light on this travesty and advocate for rehabilitation and healing that is specific for victims of this crime,” said Knabe.
Knabe also called for the Probation Department to track and gather more statistics to better understand the breadth of the issue. Based on this increased knowledge, he called for more aggressive prevention tactics to combat the problem and more focus on developing aftercare programs. Knabe asked for the Department to look at the possibility of establishing a special unit in Probation, dedicated to sexually exploited minors and the development of specialized services for the victims of this horrendous crime.
“These young girls have often suffered in their own homes and then move to a life on the streets where they are further victimized by local pimps and gangs,” said Knabe. “As a grandfather it is horrifying to think of the lives these young girls face. We must do everything we can to get these girls off the streets and on a path to a better life ahead.”
N.J. Legislature expands ability of state child abuse investigators to look into mistreatment cases
January 09, 2012
by Susan K. Livio
TRENTON — Child abuse investigators would have more ways to assess whether a child has been mistreated under a bill that won final legislative passage today.
The bill was prompted by the deaths of several children whose cases had been investigated by the state Division of Youth and Family Services. Before their deaths, the agency deemed the claims against their families unfounded.
Under current state law, "unfounded" could mean two things: That there was no evidence of wrongdoing, or that there was some evidence but not enough to prove the parent or caregiver mistreated a child.
The legislation not only changes the definition of "unfounded" to mean there is no evidence the child is at risk, it also adds another category of "not substantiated" -- meaning there is some indication the child is at risk but not enough to prove abuse.
The bill has divided some child welfare advocates and experts. Opponents say any problem could be solved by improving investigative procedures and training for DYFS staff, but supporters say the third category should be added because the dual meaning of unfounded is confusing.
The bill ( A4109 / S1570 ) was approved by the Assembly today 75-0. It unanimously passed the Senate in June.
Sexually Violated Males Infected with HIV/AIDS Debut Art Show in New York City
"Tristan's Moon" opens to the public, showcasing real stories expressed by young males ensnared in the international commercial sex industries and living with the devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS
NEW YORK , Jan. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Throughout the United States , one in every six males under the age of 16 is a victim of sexual abuse. More frightening, many are immersed in sex trafficking and at extremely high risk for contracting and dying from HIV/AIDS or related illnesses, substance abuse and suicide. From the beginning of abuse through death, these young people typically suffer in silence with no hope of appropriate or consistent medical care, justice or safety. The sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS and ongoing human rights violations are the motivation behind a disturbing yet powerful 2012 art show at Real Stories Gallery Foundation in Tribeca, New York .
The "Tristan's Moon" art installation is the collaborative effort of young artists and their mentors. Thanks to Tim Barrus and Les Garcons de Cinematheque Films, founder and residents of an international safe-house and innovative arts program, these artists have been given a voice through artistic expression. Real Stories initiatives are showcased at http://www.real-stories-gallery.org with a foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu . Tristan's Moon is also the first human rights brick-and-mortar gallery of its kind, revealing personal stories through video, poetry, music, tattooing, photo collages and fine art prints.
"Tristan's Moon spotlights a tragedy experienced by thousands of young males worldwide, including the United States ," says Dr. Rachel Chapple , Real Stories founder, anthropologist and mother of four children (three boys). "One startling story is the vast majority of abusers are married men with children. This and other realities make it a difficult story to share and to witness. But we must, if we are to end the trauma happening on our watch. Tristan's Moon reveals the creativity and guts of young males forced to survive in an abusive adult environment, and their extraordinary empathy and compassion. We have much to learn from these remarkable young survivors. Tristan's Moon will be a life-changing experience for anyone who witnesses it."
Tristan's Moon is a conversation raised by Real Stories in collaboration with Cinematheque Films and Art for Humanity, which have gifted their international fine art and poetry human rights portfolios. Other notable contributors include composer Philip Glass and Dunvagen Music Publishers ( Satyagraha: "confrontation and rescue"); tattoo artist Anthony "Civ" Civorelli, lead singer for the punk band Gorilla Biscuits; and Sumana Witherspoon-Ghosh , assistant to Vanity Fair's art director.
Tristan's Moon is located at 36 Laight Street, Tribeca, NY 10013. Please ring the bell to enter (Monday through Friday). For private viewings, ask Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org; 646-331-0117.
Real Stories Gallery Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, facilitates contemporary storytelling and collective witness through the arts for the purpose of raising awareness and evoking social change. Through storytelling, Real Stories works to prevent human rights violations related to HIV/AIDS worldwide.
Book Plans Hike Across Florida in Honor of Penn State Victims
By focusing on the recent abuse scandal at Penn State University
, abuse survivor advocate Lauren Book announced Monday she will walk from Key West to the Capitol to promote efforts to change state and federal laws.
“This is a national teaching moment,” Book, the daughter of Miami lobbyist Ron Book, stated in a release. “The Penn State and Syracuse scandals focused public attention on this neglected issue and gave us an opportunity to change laws, awareness and institutional practices in ways that can end the scourge of childhood sexual abuse.”
Book announced the journey during a media event at the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee and issued the following release:
"TALLAHASSEE, Fl. – Lauren Book, who endured childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her family's nanny, will embark on a 1,500-mile journey across Florida in January and February to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and promote changes in state and federal laws to better protect children in the wake of recent, high-profile abuse scandals. ...
"Her walk will begin on Jan. 14 in Key West and end 39 days later at the steps of the Florida Capitol, where she will advocate for changes in state law, including strengthening Florida's child sexual abuse reporting requirement. Currently, the Florida Abuse Hotline is only obligated to accept reports if the alleged abuser is a primary caregiver. That means the hotline would not have accepted a report like the Penn State allegations, since Jerry Sandusky was not the victims' primary caregiver.
"The 3rd annual “Walk in My Shoes” will bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse and encourage victims to speak out about their experiences. In past years, many victims of childhood sexual abuse joined Lauren on the Walk and revealed their abuse for the first time. According to national statistics, one in three girls and one of five boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
"Floridians are invited to join the Walk and the dialogue on any of part the 39-day journey, which will cover nearly 1,500 miles – three times as many miles as the inaugural 2010 walk. This year, the Walk features a 39-Mile Challenge, recognizing that there are an estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse. To participate in the challenge, supporters can register at laurenskids.org and pledge to donate $39 dollars and walk 39 miles during the 39 days of Lauren's Walk. The Walk will end in Tallahassee on Feb. 22, with a welcoming rally at the state Capitol. Along the way, Lauren will visit with local rape crisis centers, schools, college campuses and sexual assault program centers across Florida.
“The recent Penn State and Syracuse tragedies underscore what I have known for some time,” said Book. “Our society has a very high tolerance for childhood sexual abuse and this crime is vastly underreported.”
Also this month, Lauren's foundation's new “Safer, Smarter Kids” abuse prevention curriculum will be delivered to every kindergarten class and every elementary school guidance counselor in Florida, in fulfillment of a 2011 legislative directive and appropriation. The curriculum does not deal with sexual abuse explicitly, but empowers children to tell a trusted adult about any situation that makes them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or confused. The goal of the curriculum is to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse and increase disclosure by teaching children that their bodies are their own and by arming them with smart prevention strategies.
“It is essential that we educate children about how to avoid the traps predators set for them,” said Book. “We hope this curriculum will give every kindergarten student in our state the radar to recognize unsafe situations and language and tactics to deal with them.”
The walk was a dream of Lauren's to symbolically show people what it takes to become a survivor of abuse – the ability to face the abuse, get the help of others and work toward a goal of healing. Lauren is the daughter of Miami lobbyist Ron Book. Together, they have worked to change many laws to better protect victims of sexual abuse and assault.
This year, the Books are urging the passage of HB 1355 and SB 1816, which is being sponsored by Rep. Dorworth and Sen. Benacquisto. Included in this bill are provisions to:
|• Make it clear that all persons who are aware of child sexual abuse have an obligation to report it and that the Florida Abuse Hotline should accept those reports, even if the alleged abuser is not a direct caregiver.
• Enhance penalties for failure to report child sexual abuse.
• Increase criminal penalties for human trafficking.
• Provide penalties for educational institutions that fail to report or cover up child sexual abuse.
• Provide victim relocation assistance.
To join Lauren during her “Walk in My Shoes,” visit laurenskids.org/events_walk
and register or send a donation. Visitors also can write to Lauren and follow her progress on her social media sites, including Twitter at @LaurensKids, Facebook at Lauren's Kids and YouTube at Lauren's Kids.
How could horrifying child abuse have gone on so long?
Two children were systematically raped, starved and beaten for years by wicked paedophiles. They say they were failed by the system, by those they turned to for help. Now, with their abusers finally behind bars, they feel they're being let down all over again.
by Adam Wakelin
A teenage brother and sister who suffered almost four years of horrific sexual abuse want a full and open inquiry into their case.
The Leicestershire children say lessons must be learned so other youngsters can be better protected from evil paedophiles.
They have accused Leicestershire County Council of using an ongoing internal review – which will not be made public – to cynically cover-up a catalogue of alleged failures that left them in the clutches of their abusive step-father Mark Thomas and his brother, Paul Thomas.
"I'll always remember thinking 'Please get us away. Please get us out'. But they never did," said the girl, now 16, who like her 15-year-old brother, cannot be named for legal reasons.
They decided to speak out after a senior council official stated the aim of its review was "not to point the finger", but to "highlight the excellent practices of our staff".
That comment left the youngsters feeling they were being let down all over again.
Detective Constable Andy Spence conducted the investigation that finally put their abusers behind bars.
"I worked this case for four years and I know pretty much everything that's in the files," he said. "A lot of concerns were raised by different agencies, but those kids weren't removed.
"It came out in the trial that these children weren't exaggerating. Everything they spoke about was proven to be true.
"The children have lots of concerns and it is down to someone to address those concerns."
Jan Slater, the council's head of service for children in care, said the review would look at what social services could do better and what had been done well.
She defended the decision not to make the findings public.
"It is not about naming and shaming," she said. "It is about learning lessons in hindsight."
The girl first told a nursery nurse that her daddy had hurt her on the bed in 1999. The nurse informed social services.
Neighbours, a head teacher, a housing officer and health professionals also raised concerns about the children's safety to the authorities.
Yet Leicestershire Social Services did not get the children out of their squalid Ibstock home until November 2002 – three years and 10 months after the first allegation of abuse was made.
The girl and her brother were systematically raped, starved and beaten by Mark and Paul Thomas.
Both were jailed for 18 years last month after being convicted of a string of sex crimes against the youngsters.
Their birth mother, Alyson Mepham, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years after admitting cruelty by neglect.
The court heard that the "fear and cruelty" started in 1999 and continued until 2002 – despite the fact that social services had been informed of the childrens' desperate plight.
The youngsters were made to see Mepham and Mark Thomas at a child-parent contact centre, even after they went to live with their foster parents. Mepham and Thomas used those visits to try to force the children to keep secret what had been done to them.
The youngsters told social services what was happening, but the visits were allowed to continue.
The children believe they were failed again and again by social services after they were taken into care.
Yet the authority's review, limited in its scope, will not investigate any of those concerns.
The youngsters claim that Jennifer Johnson, the council's allegations manager who is conducting the review, told them that the authority owed them "a huge apology" and that social services "had a lot to answer for".
Yet Walter McCulloch, the assistant director of the council's children's and young people's service, has publicly stated: "Our social workers have done a really good job in this case."
"This is just not right," said the 15-year-old boy.
The council said it could not comment on what Ms Johnson allegedly said to the children at this stage, adding: "This will be addressed within her report."
The Thomas brothers roamed free for nine years after the children were taken into care.
Police have not ruled out the possibility that they went on to prey on other youngsters.
That would have not been allowed to happen if the allegations against them had been properly dealt with by social services, said the children – another reason why a full inquiry is so necessary.
They want independent inspectors from Ofsted to scrutinise the findings. Ofsted told the Mercury it can only do so if a Serious Case Review into what happened to the youngsters is launched by the Leicestershire and Rutland Local Safeguarding Children Board.
A spokesperson for the board – made up of health, police and social services representatives – said it could only carry out such a review when abuse and neglect was thought to have been a factor in a child's death.
Ms Slater said the authority's internal review would be impartial.
It was "unfortunate" if the comments made by a council spokesman suggested otherwise, she said. And the review, was "certainly not intended to be tokenism or anything of that nature."
The authority would take the findings seriously, she promised, and act on them.
Ben still sleeps with his bedroom door open. That's where they did it to him, you see, in his old bedroom. Where his step-father and his Uncle 'Taffy' raped Ben when he was four years old.
It was different with his sister. They usually took Amanda downstairs and abused her on the sofa. That's probably why she always goes to bed with the door locked.
They think so, anyway.
Ben, 15 now, shakes his head and stares into the distance. So much of what happened to him and Amanda, 16, at the hands of Mark Thomas and his brother Paul – Uncle Taffy – defies comprehension.
The hardest thing for them to understand is not how or why it happened, but how it was allowed to go on happening. For years. Again and again. As their weight fell and their bruises spread.
As they went to school covered in filth and head-lice, stinking of stale urine, stealing food from their classmates because they were starving.
As the concerned calls from a head teacher, neighbours, a housing officer and others to Leicestershire social services mounted up.
No normal rules applied inside that house of horrors in Ibstock. None.
Ben and Amanda were assaulted, starved, beaten and forced to urinate in their bedrooms.
Their mother, Alyson Mepham, turned a blind eye.
Her other three children, the sons she had with Mark Thomas, played downstairs, while Amanda and Ben, kept caged behind a specially made iron gate, were used and abused by the brothers for their sick sexual gratification.
All this went on while the authorities apparently shuffled their feet.
Ben and Amanda want a full inquiry, with its findings made public, to answer the question of how that could have happened – and be reassured it can't happen again.
Leicestershire County Council owes them that, they believe.
Lots of other people – their foster parents, their barrister and the police officer who investigated the abuse – agree.
The council thinks otherwise.
Its review will not investigate many of the alleged mistakes made by social services and its findings will not be open to public scrutiny.
"It is not standard practice ... because social workers are faced with criticism and exposure all the time," says Jan Slater, the council's head of service for children in care.
"We need to look really carefully about what we put in the public domain. If issues emerge of a serious nature they will be fully dealt with."
Amanda was four years old when her nursery nurse raised concerns with social services.
The little girl had a sore vagina. She told the nursery nurse that her daddy had hurt her bottom on the bed.
At first, Mepham and Mark Thomas blamed Amanda's birth father. When it was established he hadn't seen the little girl for 18 months, the couple told another threadbare lie.
It must have happened when Thomas was bouncing her up and down on the bed, they said.
That was in February 1999.
The children were not taken into care until November 2002, three years and 10 months later.
"I would sit there every time the social worker came, hoping they might take me out of there. That went on for years" says Amanda.
It gets worse.
The official blindness to their plight – much of it beyond the scope of the council's ongoing review that is concerned only with events before November 2002 – went on and on.
Even when they were in care, the children couldn't escape the evil clutches of Mepham and Thomas.
They were made to see them at a child contact centre.
Amanda and Ben didn't want to go. They begged and pleaded.
Mepham and Thomas used the visits to try to terrorise the children into not talking about the abuse they had inflicted upon them.
The children told social services. Social services told them to make a signal to the contact supervisor when it happened. Nothing more was done.
The council won't allow that obvious, terrible failure to even be investigated.
It won't investigate why a social worker always insisted to talking to Ben in his bedroom – an upsetting place for him to be with any adult in the circumstances.
This wasn't a case of a clever, manipulative, seemingly normal mum and dad pulling the wool over social workers' eyes. They were aggressive and abusive. Their council house was so filthy that contractors downed tools when they were brought in to clean it up.
The children were left with the belief that nothing would happen if they told someone official about the abuse.
That the children had the courage to put their abusers behind bars is truly remarkable.
Paul and Mark Thomas were each jailed for 18 years last month. Mepham was given a two-and-a-half year sentence after admitting cruelty by neglect.
Ben and Amanda aren't their victims' real names. They can't be published for legal reasons.
The two teenagers have already waived some of their rights to complete anonymity, so that their abusers can be identified.
They did it because they want everyone to see what those squalid, pathetic excuses for human beings look like.
That's important, and not just to them.
"Other children can know who they are and come forward if they've ever done anything to them," says Amanda.
"They can report them or at least know they will never be hurt again."
That horrific possibility hasn't been ruled out by Leicestershire police.
The Thomas brothers went free for nine years after Ben and Amanda were taken into care. They had a string of addresses up and down the country; ample opportunities to prey on more children.
Detective Constable Andy Spence built the case that put them behind bars.
Without Ben and Amanda there wouldn't have been a case. Their decision to give up some of their anonymity is typical of their courage.
"I've never met braver kids," says Det Con Spence "This investigation ran for four years which is a really long time.
"They spoke about some of most horrific personal things someone can go through.
"They gave evidence in court for two days each. That's a long time to be sat in a witness box being asked really tough questions."
Fun. That's the word Ben uses to describe what it was like to see his abusers sent to prison for 18 years.
"It was fun, fun to watch their faces," he says, smiling. "They were unbelievable, like they had just eaten the worst toxic waste possible."
"You wouldn't treat a dog like they treated us," says Amanda.
"Except they did, didn't they?" adds her brother. "They did have a dog, and it died."
Amanda inches a little closer to her foster dad.
"If we hadn't got out we wouldn't be alive today," she says. "I really do believe that."
We're sitting in the lounge of Ben and Amanda's foster parents' house. We'll call them Angie and Don, for legal reasons already explained.
The contrast between this life and their past one couldn't be more stark.
This is a happy family home. Don and Angie, described as "saints" by the judge in the court case, have love for these kids coming out of their ears.
They dote on Amanda and Ben, who swap little embarrassed looks as Mum and Dad go on about how well they're doing in school and every other aspect of their lives.
"We don't class them as our foster kids," says Don. "They're our family and that's the end of it.
"We're so proud of them. We couldn't be more proud."
Amanda and Ben came to live with Don and Angie in January 2003.
The children were on their fourth foster family in six weeks. No-one could cope with those two desperately troubled children.
Six-year-old Ben was still in pull-up nappies.
He and his sister, so used to being starved, would gorge on food until they made themselves sick.
Angie's eyes swim with tears. "They didn't know anything of life," she says. "They didn't know what birthdays or Christmas were. Birthdays and Christmas petrified them. They'd never had anything, you see."
The children were taken into care on the grounds of neglect.
Don and Angie, who had fostered abused youngsters before, saw signs that made them fear the worst.
Ben went into hysterics when Don tried to get him to drink some apple juice one day. He thought it was alcohol.
Only later did they discover that Uncle Taffy would ply the little boy with booze before he abused him. Perhaps he thought it would make him forget.
Ben never forgot. He didn't tell because Uncle Taffy had scared him too much, but he never forgot.
There were other things too that unsettled Don and Angie.
The kids would play up whenever the couple had guests. Why? Because a houseful of grown-ups laughing and being noisy used to be followed by something else, the hateful footsteps of daddy or Uncle Taffy on the stairs. Getting closer. Coming for them.
It took a long time for the children, in hour upon hour of videotaped interviews with Det Con Spence, to join up all those disparate dots.
Finding the words to say what had happened to them was hard, especially for Ben. Eventually, thanks to the policeman's care and endless patience, he summoned the courage to open up.
The truth, so slow to fully emerge, began with a blurt.
It was May or June 2003, remembers Angie. The couple had some builders in, working on their home.
They were typical builders; lots of loud noise covered in dirt. Ben, as young lads are prone do, was always getting under their feet.
Amanda was different – "a bag of nerves".
She wouldn't go near the men in the muddy overalls. Angie tried to get her to give them a plate of bacon sandwiches. That's when she started crying.
It came out in coughing sobs, what her step-father and Uncle Taffy had done to her.
Angie just sat there, numb.
Ben heard it all.
"What are you crying for?" he asked. "They did the same to me, but I'm not crying. I'm building."
Other police officers were involved in the investigation before Det Con Spence.
Angie can't fault them, but the case seemed to be going nowhere before Andy came along. He was like a dog with a bone, digging and digging, determined not to let it go.
Det Con Spence first interviewed the children in 2007.
Then he started on a paper trail.
He pulled every document all the different agencies had ever filed on the dangerously dysfunctional family from Ibstock and laboriously worked his way through them.
There was more than evidence of neglect. Det Con Spence found all sorts of allegations and concerns that had been reported by neighbours, a head teacher and health and welfare professionals over the years.
He then set about tracing and interviewing them all. It was an arduous task. Many had moved or retired.
Det Con Spence's paedophile inquiry mutated into several missing persons' cases. Promising leads disappeared down dispiriting cul-de-sacs. But he kept going.
"Myself and a colleague went to France for five days to track down one witness," he remembers. "We ended up interviewing about 70 witnesses."
Mark Thomas had long since split from Aylson Mepham. Their other children had been adopted.
The brothers had lived rootless, almost itinerant lives since then.
Both have common names, so trying to work out where they were – and, just as crucially, where they had been – wasn't easy.
Paul Thomas was back close to home, in Mowmacre Hill, when the police caught up with him. Mark Thomas was in Scarborough. Mepham lived in Coalville.
The brothers weren't clever, but they were cunning.
"They tried to make themselves look stupider than they really were," says Det Con Spence.
"Paul came across as thick, but he admitted to playing sudoku. It takes some intelligence to do that."
They lied through their teeth, first to the police and then the court.
Evidence assembled by the police allowed prosecution barrister Mary Prior to drive a coach and horses through their cover stories and false alibis.
So much, however, still depended on Amanda and Ben.
A week before the trial, a social worker is alleged to have told Amanda that she and her brother would have to leave their foster home when they turned 18.
It was a devastating thing to say to a girl on the eve of such an ordeal. The judge would later criticise social services on the manner in which they "assisted" the children to prepare for the trial.
Amanda and Ben each gave evidence for two days from behind a curtain in the court. They didn't have to see their abusers, but they knew they were there.
Ben remembers a cough. He recognised it even after all those years, Uncle Taffy's cough. It took him back, clear as day, to the horrors of his childhood. But he didn't falter. He told the jury how it was.
Amanda did the same.
"A lot of people were crying," says Det Con Spence. "I certainly became upset hearing them relive the graphic details of what they went through."
The brothers did what cornered animals always do. They turned on one another, not denying the abuse any more, but blaming one another.
It was one of the toughest cases Det Con Spence has ever worked on. Half the court were in tears when the guilty verdicts were announced.
The verdicts meant Amanda and Ben didn't have to look over their shoulders anymore.
It was always there before, the gnawing fear that one day they might turn a corner on a street and see Uncle Taffy or his brother standing there.
Not now. No-one's going to be seeing them for a long time.
And besides, their abusers don't seem so scary any more. Not after they were shown up for what they are. Not after Ben saw those looks on their faces.
"They got what they deserved," he says. "That feels good."
In court Paul Thomas admitted introducing Alyson to his brother Mark. It was he who knew the mother first, he who introduced her to his brother.
Mepham pleaded guilty to cruelty by neglect. Her children will never forgive her.
"It was good seeing her go to prison," says Amanda. "She's disgusting. No normal mother would have let us go through that. We were her firstborns. She should have looked after us and she didn't."
The same allegation can be leveled at Leicestershire's social services.
Walter McCulloch, assistant director of the children and young people's service, gave a comment about the ongoing internal council review that was published in this newspaper two weeks ago.
He said: "Our social workers did a really good job in this case."
Det Con Spence read that.
"I had to have a little chuckle," he says.
The policeman knows this case better than anyone. He's spent four years with it and he's interviewed everyone connected with it.
It strikes him as a little strange that the council seems to be patting itself on the back before its review – that will never come under public scrutiny – is even finished.
Cynics will suspect a can of whitewash has already been opened.
"It was obvious to us, the people investigating, and obvious to the court (that abuse was going on). So why was it not obvious back then?" asks Det Con Spence. "That's one of the things the children really struggle with.
"I think presumed conclusions can be worrying."
The council's head of service for children in care, Jan Slater, insists that the review will be thorough and impartial.
"It's about providing a balanced response. Some of the things we did right and properly," she says. "There are question marks about the time it took (to get the children into care). It is not about naming and shaming, it's about social services learning lessons in hindsight. It's about what we could do better, but also about things that were done well."
If the children raise specific concerns that are outside the current scope of the review, they may be looked at separately, says Ms Slater.
Foster mum Angie remains unconvinced: "I think the council is trying to sweep this under the carpet," she says.
Amanda and Ben just want answers – honest, impartial answers.
"We want to know why we were left in that house for so long," says Amanda. "We want a full independent inquiry."
Because of the sensitive and disturbing nature of this article we took the unusual step of showing it to the children and their foster parents before it was published.
Fla. advocates host human trafficking events
The Associated Press Government and law enforcement agencies around the state are holding meetings this month to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Welfare officials say Florida is the third most popular trafficking destination in the country. Half of all trafficking victims are children.
The Florida Department of Children and Families developed a task force and is working on several initiatives to abolish human trafficking.
Victims from human trafficking are forced into labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation.
On Monday, task force members in South Florida will meet with local and federal law enforcement for a panel discussion.
An advocacy group at the University of Florida are hosting event Friday and Saturday to raise awareness about sex trafficking.
Program Wednesday opposes adolescents in prostitution
COVINGTON (FOX19) - The Women's Crisis Center and Partnership Against the Trafficking of Humans (P.A.T.H.) are hosting their First Annual Human Trafficking Day Event January 11th 2012 from 6pm to 8pm at St. Joseph Heights, 1601 Dixie Highway in Covington. Special guest and Survivor of trafficking, Theresa Flores will be speaking about her experience as a victim/now survivor of human trafficking and looking at how our community can face and fight this horrific crime.
January 11th 2012 marks a day across the nation where people will be remembering those lost and those still hidden in the dark crime of human trafficking. Often thought of as a third world issue, the US Government is putting more attention and emphasis on human trafficking in the USA. Both foreign nationals and US Citizens have fallen victim to this crime both in and out of the United States. Local groups are joining together in partnership to recognize this issue and victims close to home.
Flores will be speaking about her SOAP Campaign or “Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution” which she created to help outreach to individuals being trafficked through local hotels. SOAP was created through Flores' experience as a sex trafficking victim as a child. After nights of brutal rape for the profit of others Flores states she would always reach for a bar of soap to wash away the filth of the night.
Large sporting events have been notorious for increasing the demand sex trafficking around the world. Crowds bring more demand into surrounding locations of big events. Men and women who are buying or utilizing the services of individuals in prostitution, stripping, and pornography during this weekend, could in fact be buying someone who is forced to be there, who is trafficked. “Just because she's smiling doesn't mean she wants to be there.” Women's Crisis Center Advocate expressed. “We have worked with women in prostitution and stripping who were threatened that if they did not bring in a certain cash amount, their families, friends, or own lives would be threatened or ended.”
Flores knows that if she can get the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which will be on the back of each bar of soap distributed to local hotels near the Super Bowl, we as a community can help reach and rescue the victims. Through donations Women's Crisis Center hopes to purchase boxes of these soaps that local volunteers will paste this hotline to the back.
“Each bar of soap purchased has the potential to save someone's life and we need the community to help make this happen.” Mary R of Women's Crisis Center & PATH stated. “This is a community issue that needs a community response and January 11th is a simple way everyone can get involved.”
The January 11th Event is open to the public, and anyone interested in helping is encouraged to attend. To volunteer, go to www.pathnky.org for more information.
Former Boy Scouts leader sentenced to 95 years in prison on child pornography charges
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A former Gerber Boy Scout Camp director was sentenced to 95 years in federal prison for filming young boys dressing in a YMCA locker room and for a having a massive collection of child pornography. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Scott Allan Herrick, 40, of Twin Lakes, Mich., surreptitiously videotaped boys as they were dressing in the boys' locker room in the YMCA in Muskegon, Mich., where Herrick was a swim instructor. He also kept a massive collection of 100,000 images of child pornography with him at the Gerber Boy Scouts Camp in Twin Lakes. He was convicted at trial of three counts of attempting to produce child pornography. On the first day of trial, Herrick pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.
Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney, who presided over the trial and sentencing, explained that the sexual exploitation of children by using institutions like the Boy Scouts and the YMCA, "tears at the social fabric of our country." Judge Maloney warned others who would use their positions of trust with children for sexual exploitation, "you will be punished severely."
In addition to being the camp director, Herrick also worked as a pool safety instructor for third-grade children at the YMCA in Muskegon. Herrick was trading child pornography online and was discovered during a series of undercover FBI operations. In July 2010, ICE HSI and FBI special agents executed a search warrant on the Gerber Boy Scout Camp and discovered evidence of child pornography. He was arrested and has been held in custody since that time.
"Herrick used and abused his position of trust in organizations dedicated to the health and welfare of children to satisfy his own perverse sexual interest in young boys," said U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis, Western District of Michigan. "My office sought and secured firm punishment for this appalling violation of community trust and childhood innocence. My office places a high priority on child exploitation cases, which will mean very long and well deserved time in prison for offenders like Herrick."
"All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of being sexually exploited," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Detroit. "And children should never have to fear those who are supposed to protect them. HSI and our partners will relentlessly pursue anyone who sexually exploits our kids in any way."
"The FBI is committed to protecting our most precious assets, our children," said Andrew G. Arena , special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit Division. "Along with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will bring to justice those individuals who prey on the innocent."
This investigation is part of Operation Predator, 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.
Female survivors of childhood sexual abuse group meetings
Bryan-College Station, Texas
SIA -- Female survivors of childhood sexual abuse
A&M United Methodist Church, Room 131
College Station, TX
Why abused children don't always tell
by Cleone Brock
A common misconception about children who have been sexually abused is that they will tell someone as soon as it happens.
There are many reasons that children do just the opposite and keep it a secret for as long as they can. Most child sexual abuse cases are discovered on accident: a parent walks in on the act; a child tells their best friend and the friend tells her mother; a parent sees a text on their child's phone; or a parent overhears a conversation not meant for them.
So why don't children tell?
One reason is that 90 to 95 percent of the perpetrators are related or well known to the child.
If a stranger had assaulted them, they would tell right away. It is the relationship that often keeps the child quiet about the abuse. Perpetrators take advantage of the most wonderful qualities of children — their innocence and loyalty. Often the child is so young, they do not know that the act is wrong, much less illegal. They may not want to get anyone in trouble, and they really believe that the offender might hurt one of their parents, or the family will break apart and it will be their fault.
Adults make the mistake of thinking, “If that happened to me, I would tell.”
That is what most adults would do, but that is not what children do. When they are sexually abused, they don't have a clue what to do. Parents tell children “if anyone ever touches you, tell me.” What parents don't tell them is that it may be someone they know or a relative. Parents don't know to warn the child that the person who touches them will probably try trick or scare them into silence. Only grownups can stop the touching.
Cleone Brock is the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama.
Child abuse gets attention from state task force
State task force begins meeting to come up with remedies for problem
by Josh Nelson
Concerns about child sexual abuse were suddenly forced to the forefront of the public consciousness as news of the Penn State scandal surfaced.
Despite the horrific details of the case, it's good timing for members of the Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. The 16-member group held its first meeting Friday. Lawmakers created the task force during the previous legislative session to investigate causes and cures for abuse.
Drawing attention to child sexual abuse in past years has been difficult at best because of its ghastly nature. The arrest of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky in November has allowed more public dialogue on the issue.
"People, because of Penn State, seem willing to listen," said Joy Oesterly, executive director of Missouri Kids First.
The statute creating the task force dictated that a wide array of stakeholders, from school officials and police to children's advocates and sexual assault counselors, be included on the membership roster.
The mission of the task force up to this point is still unfocused. Portions of Friday's meeting were spent discussing what issues should be tackled and what types of remedies should be considered. An additional worry among members was that, with the state continuing to struggle with budget deficits, any recommendations the task force produces requiring funding may not be picked up by lawmakers.
"It's hard to do anything without money, but it's hard to get any money in this budgetary climate," said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri Kids First.
A model of how to tackle a complicated subject like child abuse and present meaningful results may be the Attorney General's Task Force on Domestic Violence, which presented a report in February 2011. That panel found specific policy recommendations that could help to curb domestic violence in Missouri that didn't require a lot of additional funding by "piggy-backing" off existing resources.
The Penn State incident has already spurred some proposed legislation. Attorney General Chris Koster has proposed expanding mandatory reporting requirements from certain occupations, like police officers or teachers, to all adults. Anyone who has knowledge of an incident of child sex abuse could face a penalty.
Task force members were split on the idea.
"Sometimes legislation isn't necessary to make a big change," Oesterly said.
In 2010, around 80 percent of the child sexual abuse reports in Missouri came from mandated reporters. The largest category of reporters was law enforcement and social workers, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.
The task force has caught the attention of Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, who pushed for the group to hold a hearing in Springfield. Greene County continues to be a leader in child abuse hotline calls. Dixon said, while he understands fiscal concerns may affect the task force's recommendations, he'd like to see more resources directed toward tackling abuse.
"We have to just focus on what we can do," Dixon said.
Hospitals Adopt Memorial's Child Abuse Prevention Program
Crying Baby Program Spreads To Other Hospitals
by LINDSAY WATTS
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Memorial Hospital's child abuse prevention program has spread across the state and country.
Every new parent at Memorial is required to complete The Crying Baby program which educates the family about what to do when they become frustrated with their child and the potential consequences of being physical with a baby.
"Parkview Hospital has been working to integrate this into their system, as has Evans Hospital on Fort Carson," said Sally Duncan, Memorial's Trauma Outreach and Injury Prevention Specialist.
Duncan said she's gotten calls about the program from hospitals around the nation since Memorial started it in 2009.
After a birth, new parents and family members are required to spend about 15 minutes with a nurse and watch a short video
The message is simple. "If you're frustrated, the baby's crying and you're under a lot of stress, it's OK to set the baby down and walk away, you don't have to solve the problem right away," said Duncan.
She said frustration with a crying baby leads to a lot of child abuse deaths, especially among infants. A baby's brain has delicate blood vessels that can easily break and cause brain bleeding if a child is shaken or thrown.
Every person who completes the program has to sign a form pledging not to abuse their child. Parents keep a copy which includes the phone number for KPC Kids Place
, a center in Colorado Springs that provides free care for children if parents feel overwhelmed.
Valerie Blancas learned about the Crying Baby program when her niece was born at Memorial.
"I was very surprised they were putting out awareness about child abuse and shaken baby syndrome," said Blancas.
It was information she and her then husband didn't get when they had their child in Denver in 2009. Eight weeks later, Blancas' ex killed their little boy.
He said he was frustrated by the baby's crying. "He had shaken him and taken him upstairs and threw him in the bed," said Blancas.
She said she believes Memorial's program could have made a difference for her son, Matthew.
"I think that if I would have had the opportunity when I brought my baby home, my spouse and I would have communicated about it and I think we would have prepared ourselves much better for different scenarios."
Blancas ex, Stephen Dailey, was sentenced to 34 years in prison.
Reports of child abuse, neglect up 50 percent in New Hanover County
by F.T. Norton
The depressed economy is affecting even the littlest residents in the area – child abuse and neglect reports in November increased by 50 percent over the same time last year, according to the New Hanover County Department of Social Services.
In November 2010, the DSS' Child and Family Services division received 218 reports of child abuse or neglect, said Wanda Marino, assistant director for the county agency. In November 2011, the department received 328 reports.
The statistic was presented to the DSS Board during its December meeting. Internal statistics indicate that each month between July and November, the number of reports increased, while December saw a decrease of three. "It could be a number of things such as the distressed economy, and in North Carolina we have a very high unemployment rate and very little daycare dollars," Marino said.
Marino said abuse and neglect allegations can span everything from reports of children being physically or sexually abused, to children being left home alone.
DSS determines if a child is too young to be left alone by looking at county fire code, which states that a child has to be at least 8 years old, she said. In investigating an allegation of neglect such at that, Marino said social workers take into consideration the amount of time a child under 8 years old was left alone.
She also attributed the increase in numbers to an ongoing education campaign that explains what constitutes abuse and neglect.
"We are constantly doing community awareness about what to look for and when to report. In our community, we are constantly providing education awareness - how would you report and what would you report," she said.
Child Protective Services Program Manager Kari Sanders said with the increase in the number or reports, workers are also seeing an increase in those that are substantiated.
She said 60 percent of the allegations were substantiated. And while reports such as physical abuse, sexual abuse and injuries due to neglect are consistent with past years, a "marked" increase is being seen in neglect reports such as allegations of lack of supervision, medical neglect, lack of proper care, improper discipline and dangerous environment.
"A majority of our reports include allegations of substance abuse, domestic violence and/or mental health issues of parents or caretakers," Sanders said. "More often than not, families have a combination of these issues, not just one, that are affecting the care of children."
In 2010, DSS received 1,491 reports of child abuse or neglect for the year, averaging 248.5 reports a month.
Sanders said 2011 saw 1,751 reports with an average of 291.8 reports a month. "The current economics of families as well as a decrease in the availability of services in our community seems to have increased the number of reports we are receiving," she said.
DSS Board Chairman John Craig said each month the board looks at the numbers and tries to find a common pattern as a way to create programs that could combat the trend.
"But there's no pattern to it, at least no pattern we could see," he said.
And while some of the increase in reports could be attributed to educating the public, Craig said board members are brainstorming to find ways to do more in that arena.
"If we get involved on the prevention side a little bit more, maybe we can cut it down," he said.
Child sexual abuse cases in Hollywood attract attention
At least a dozen child molestation and child pornography prosecutions since 2000 have involved actors, managers, production assistants and others in the entertainment industry
by Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times
January 8, 2012
In his private journal, Jason Michael Handy once described himself as a "pedophile, full blown."
Handy snapped more than 1,000 photos of girls at the elementary school across the street from his house, using a camera with a telephoto lens, according to court documents. He volunteered at a Malibu church, where he worked with 6-year-olds. And his job as a production assistant at one of the nation's most prominent producers of children's television programs, Nickelodeon, gave him access to child actors on and off the set, and allowed him to exchange email addresses and phone numbers with them.
He used the hopes of at least two girls who dreamed of careers in TV to sexually exploit them.
Handy was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading no contest in 2004 to two felony counts, one of lewd acts on a child and one of distributing sexually explicit material by email, and to a misdemeanor charge related to child sexual exploitation. His arrest and prosecution received scant media attention at the time but are attracting renewed interest now, after the recent arrest of a talent manager on molestation charges and reports by The Times that a registered sex offender was working with children as a casting associate.
The Handy case, which in part prompted Nickelodeon to toughen its background checks for all employees, is among at least a dozen child molestation and child pornography prosecutions since 2000 involving actors, managers, production assistants and others in the industry, according to court documents and published accounts.
Advocates and professionals who work with victims of child sexual abuse say predators exploit the glittery lure of Hollywood to prey on aspiring actors or models. They assert that the problem is more widespread than the industry is willing to acknowledge and have called for tougher laws and better screening of those who represent or work with children.
"Unlike other settings, such as Little League, Scouts, day care and school volunteers, where adults who have unsupervised access to children are required to comply with fingerprinting requirements, there are no such standards in the entertainment industry," said Paula Dorn, co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit group for families of child actors.
The most recent case involves Martin Weiss, a longtime talent manager who specialized in representing young actors. He was arrested Nov. 29 and charged with eight felonies stemming from his alleged abuse of a boy who came to him for help in pursuing a music career. He is being held on $800,000 bail.
Weiss' arrest came within weeks of a report that a man who was convicted of child molestation and abduction 15 years ago had been helping to cast young actors in major Hollywood films, using a different name than the one listed in the sex offender registry . Jason James Murphy, 35, faces felony charges of failing to file name and address changes with authorities.
The recent arrests prompted a bill, expected to be filed this month with the California Assembly, that would require licensing and criminal background checks for those who work with actors under age 16. It would prohibit registered sex offenders from serving as child managers, photographers, career counselors or publicists.
"Under the existing law, talent agents are regulated; however, casting directors, managers and photographers are not. This loophole makes it very easy for a predator to gain access to children working within the entertainment industry," said the bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose).
Experts say addressing the problem is overdue.
"This is just like the Catholic Church pretending that priests never molested people in the past," said Dr. Daniel D. Broughton, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic and expert on child sexual abuse. "What's surprising to me is why it hasn't come out even stronger and sooner."
Some instances of child sexual exploitation have received considerable attention, such as the one involving Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl but fled to Europe before sentencing.
A number of other cases involve lesser-known assailants employed at all levels of the industry — from the set tutor in Vancouver, Canada, who worked on nearly 50 films and was convicted of child sexual assault to the acting coach from Georgia who contacted an 11-year-old girl over the Internet and enticed the aspiring actress and her sibling to meet him in Los Angeles, where he molested the girl.
Some of the cases illustrate how a more rigorous screening process could have detected adults who posed a danger to young actors.
The Los Angeles Police Department had been monitoring child manager Bob Villard even before 1987, when he was among nine people indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey on charges of transporting child pornography, according to published accounts. He was convicted but, upon appeal, the charges against him fell apart because prosecutors had been unable to produce the sexually explicit images at trial.
Villard was again accused of child pornography in 2001, after searches of his home uncovered thousands of photographs of boys in skimpy bathing suits posed in sexually suggestive positions, police said. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Throughout this period, Villard touted his work with aspiring young actors, some of whom would later become major Hollywood stars — among them Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Danny Nucci. Villard boasted on a company website that as a manager he had "guided the careers of dozens of successful film and television actors."
In 2005, Villard was back in court and pleaded no contest to the felony charge of committing a lewd act on a child. The victim was a 13-year-old boy who sought him out as an acting coach. Villard is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
"People like this are predators who prey on little kids who want to be the next Justin Bieber — and they're told, 'That's what's done, this is all normal in the industry,' " said Katie Albracht, the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the 2005 Villard case.
Another case involved Ezel Ethan Channel, a registered sex offender on probation from a 2003 conviction when he got a job as a temporary production assistant at Nickelodeon Animation Studio. He had been working for nearly seven months when he was arrested in December 2005 on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old boy, according to court documents.
The boy testified that Channel had befriended him, bought him gifts and took him to Six Flags Magic Mountain. But the biggest thrill of all, the boy told the court, were the numerous visits with Channel at the studio.
Although the boy described Channel as "a weird character," he said visiting the studio was "very cool."
One Sunday in November 2005, Channel picked the boy up at his home and brought him to the studio under the guise of helping him with a school project. Once there, Channel asked the boy to watch a pornographic movie, according to testimony. The boy refused and asked to go home. While in the parked car on the Nickelodeon lot, Channel molested him, the boy told the court.
"He told me not to tell — not to ever say anything to anybody (or) he would be arrested and ... get in a lot of trouble," the boy said in testimony during a preliminary hearing.
A jury found Channel guilty in 2009 of misdemeanor battery and a felony count of attempting to show harmful material to the boy. He was sentenced to serve six months in Los Angeles County jail for battery and 16 months in state prison for the pornography count. The felony conviction was thrown out on appeal, for lack of evidence that the movie Channel offered to show the boy was pornographic.
Jason Handy had no criminal record when the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit opened an investigation in 2003, after being contacted by police in Michigan.
The Nickelodeon production assistant had allegedly lured a 14-year-old girl via the Internet with the promise of a television career, and had flown to Michigan to meet her, according to court documents and a person familiar with the case. He reportedly met the victim at her middle school, engaged in "inappropriate" acts and invited her to his hotel room, court documents said.
The LAPD said its investigation revealed that Handy was also attempting to prey on children at his church, in his neighborhood, over the Internet and in the workplace. A search of his Sherman Oaks home turned up thousands of images of child pornography and erotica, as well as other evidence.
Handy was arrested in April 2003 and ultimately charged with five felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child, child sexual exploitation, sending harmful material via the Internet and possessing child pornography.
Court testimony revealed that during the taping of the TV series "Cousin Skeeter," Handy befriended a 9-year-old girl and began visiting her at her home. On one occasion, while playing video games in her bedroom, he repeatedly kissed her, she told the court. He also emailed naked photos of himself to an 11-year-old child he met on the set of another program, "The Amanda Show," according to her testimony.
Handy pleaded no contest to multiple charges, and was ordered to serve a six-year prison sentence.
The Handy and Channel cases helped prompt Nickelodeon to toughen its employment screening policies.
"Once those very unfortunate incidents took place, we made it even more stringent to include every employee who works for us — a full background check on anybody that works for Nickelodeon," spokesman Dan Martinsen said. Even the parents of young actors must submit to a screening, he said.
The problem of child predators is hardly unique to the entertainment business. However, Hollywood provides predators potent bait to attract young victims, according to experts.
"Wanting fame is huge and it is a huge inducement," said Broughton, the pediatrician. "The people that are in Hollywood who want to do this to kids are armed with one of the very best instruments to get kids in."
A case of awareness: Sandusky scandal could help abuse victims
by Patriot-News Editorial Board
Much of the impact of the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky have been clear.
Young men telling gut-wrenching accounts of alleged abuse they endured as boys.
A university president resigning, Penn State's respected football coach fired, two university employees, one now retired and the other on leave, facing perjury charges and a charity on the brink of closing, scrambling to find other programs for the needy children it serves.
In all, a terrible toll. But another impact of the Sandusky scandal might have a far greater reach and in some ways could be considered a positive outcome.
Nationwide, more victims of child sexual abuse are finding the strength to step forward and tell their stories. Counselors, lawyers, help lines and law enforcement are seeing an uptick in people revealing their childhood abuse.
In some cases, it is the first time they have ever told anyone, but they are emboldened by the public accounts from the alleged victims of the former assistant football coach.
Sandusky faces multiple charges of child sexual abuse. Some of the incidents are alleged to have occurred at Penn State football facilities or a bowl game.
He waived his preliminary hearing last month. In the wake of the charges, Graham Spanier stepped down as university president, Joe Paterno lost his job as football coach and Tim Curley, the athletic director who is on leave, and Gary Schultz, a retired top administrator, face perjury charges.
The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky created, is having difficulty operating at this point.
Further away from State College, the impact has been no less public, including allegations of abuse against fired Syracuse University assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine and newly retired Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin.
Conlin's niece, one of his accusers, says she was galvanized to go public after reading about the alleged victims of Sandusky. She said the painful memories of her own abuse returned to her, and she wanted to speak out.
The National Crime Victim Bar Association, which assists crime victims with civil suits, says it has received triple its ordinary number of calls on child sexual abuse since early November when the Sandusky charges were made public.
But as with the accusations against Conlin, in many cases, people will not be able to press charges because the statute of limitations, which varies state to state, has run out for victims. If the Sandusky scandal creates a dialogue on child sexual abuse, that is good. Too many people have lived in painful silence about their own abuse, believing it was somehow their fault or they were afraid no one would believe them.
Now, as more step forward, it is up to others to make sure victims get the assistance they need. Lawmakers need to look at statute of limitations laws and professional organizations that represent physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors need to make sure there are adequate hot lines and places where people who want help can get it.
While it is difficult to see a silver lining in something so awful, the attention on the Jerry Sandusky case has at least given some victims of sexual abuse the courage to come forward.