Child sexual abuse no laughing matter
Child sexual abuse is no laughing matter. Some people try to make humor out of such a horrific crime. Linda Beaudoin a survivor of incest and child abuse knows all too well the pain and trauma. How can it be that anyone would poke fun at such a despicable crime.? This is about a cartoon bear named Pedo Bear. Reported Pedo Bear in hopes they would take down the website. It is still up and running. How has society accepted the portrayal of violating children as being humorous? Something must be done.
Linda Beaudoin does a lot of internet research
Discovering PedoBear it was disturbing images one would wonder how could people promote such images and to make money on it as well .
Who are the creators of Pedo Bear? Products that offend or may cause distress need be held accountable Found were pictures of Pedo bear behind an infant with a caption that is offensive.
One caption says "Too young to talk Too young to testify"
The sites are www.PedoBear.org and www.PedoBearStore.com they sell t-shirts with reference such as "I swear I did not know she was 3."
Some images I found on other websites that promote pedobear and make money as well 1) Shouldn't there be consequences for portraying crimes against children as such 2) Child sexual abuse is not funny 3) When people create such articles
Example -- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pedobear-Co/170322386362346
There is YouTube videos "Here is with PedoBear" http://www.youtube.com/watch and it has over 1.5 million hits !?
The Pedo Bear sites have private registration It is registered with GoDaddy.com Registered in 2008 1-14 and 2008-11-12 A young man who is playing music in a video endorses the product by telling people where to buy the t-shirt . After viewing the video on the you tube channel which was created in 2008 I wondered if this person might be the owner of the website Why would anyone want to promote such offensive product?
We must do more to stop child abuse If only to complain at those who seek to make money on portrayal of such horrific crimes Making money on portrayal of such crime while joking about child sexual abuse should be a crime.
Here is info from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedobear
It must be taking seriously.
How can we fail to stop the abuse of children then laugh about it ?
These sex crimes against children are nothing to laugh at and
I am saddened by this wickedness.
Children deserve a much better world, a world that will respect love and safety.
Please be a voice for children. Take action. Get involved.
Log on to www.SurvivorsSpeakOut.com
We can make a difference in the life of a child
Elizabeth Smart has turned her story of abduction, rape into a crusade to help others
by Cassandra Spratling
Even if you don't remember her name, you remember her story.
At 14, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her Utah home in 2002 while her younger sister watched in terror. Smart was held captive for nine months and repeatedly raped by a man who claimed that he was a prophet and that she was his second wife.
The kidnappers, Brian David Mitchell and a woman he claimed was his first wife, Wanda Barzee, were caught after a passerby recognized him from photos of a sketch based on Mary Katherine Smart's memory. Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison.
Now, Elizabeth Smart wants you to know that her story doesn't end in defeat.
She has turned her personal tragedy into a mission to help other children avoid becoming or remaining victims.
Smart, 24, is a senior at Brigham Young University, where she's working toward a degree in harp performance. But, she says, she has come to realize that her real work needs to be helping in the battle against child abuse. She's coming to metro Detroit this week to discuss her life of hope born from horror.
She'll be the main speaker at a fund-raising event Thursday for CARE House of Oakland County, a nonprofit based in Pontiac that helps abused and neglected children.
QUESTION: What do you plan to do with a degree in harp performance?
ANSWER: It's actually kind of funny; nothing. I love the harp. I love it a lot and I feel it's always going to be a part of my life. But over the last year or so, I've become so involved in child advocacy work, and that is where I want to continue my work. So much was given to me and so many sacrifices were made for me, I just feel like I can make a difference.
Q: How did you come to that decision?
A: I recently returned from serving in a volunteer mission in Paris. I was there from November of 2009 to April of 2011. I began to think, "What is the biggest way I (can) make a difference? What can I do when I come back to the States?" And it was kind of a no-brainer. I've been so blessed. So many people have done so much for me and my family, I thought, "How do I give back?" It was just like HELLO! "You'd never want another child to experience what you experienced. You'd never want another family to have what happened to your family happen to them." So my dad and I created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.
Q: What are the goals of the foundation?
A: One is RADkids. It stands for Resist Aggression Defensively. It's a self-empowerment program, which is a preventive measure. It's not a reactive measure once something happens. If children go through the program, it won't always 100% prevent something from happening , but certainly when children are given the tools beforehand, and it can help them avoid a terrible situation from happening, then that's what should be done. It gives children choices and options.
For instance, in my case, the morning I was kidnapped, when the man was holding a knife to my neck, I thought I had only two options -- either survive and get up and go with him or be killed. I thought those were my only two options. RADkids teaches children that there are more options.
Q: So what are the other options?
A: It teaches physical skills but also changes their mindset on how they look at situations. I can't go back and change what happened to me, but I would like to think that if someone tried to kidnap me now, I would know enough to know I can fight back. I can yell. Not too long ago, there was a young girl in a trailer park with her family. A man climbed into her window, got in bed, started stroking her hair and told her, "Shush; don't worry. I'm your daddy." She knew it wasn't her daddy. So she started saying she had to go to the bathroom. She was so persistent. She said, "If you don't let me go, I'm going to go in bed." So he got her to promise she'd come right back and as soon as she got out of the room, she screamed and her real dad came running. Because she realized that she could do something. She realized she wasn't just a victim. That's what made all the difference. She made a plan.
Q: What are the key lessons you learned from your ordeal?
A: That you can never take anything for granted. Anything can happen. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live or who your family is. I was asleep in what I thought was the safest place in the world, next to my younger sister, and I was kidnapped. It also taught me that, yes, there are many bad people out there, but there are so many, many more good people. And it taught me that miracles happen and just because something bad happens or we have a tragic event happen, it doesn't mean our life is over. A part of your life may be ruined, but that doesn't mean the rest of your life is ruined. It doesn't mean you can't move on. If anything, because of my experience, it's pushed me to where I am today.
Q: Explain what you mean?
A: It was an incredibly difficult experience. It was the hardest experience of my life, but because of that, it opened the door for me to so much more. It opened the door for me to create the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. It helped me help other people. I never would have realized that child abuse, kidnapping, child pornography -- I would never have known these issues are as prevalent as they are today if I had not experienced it. And beyond that, I don't think anybody would have listened to me. It would be like, "Who is this little blond girl from Utah? How could she possibly have any clue?" In that respect, it gives me validity.
Q: How did you get the courage to begin speaking about what happened to you to help others?
A: I don't even remember the first time I spoke, but I think my dad came and said, "Elizabeth, do you want to speak a little about what happened? Your experience might help these people. But you don't have to do it. It's your choice." And I thought, "You mean I can give a speech and it'll make a difference to somebody?" I thought, "Why not?" I think everyone is pretty nervous the first time they do anything. But I grew up performing harp pretty much like my whole life, so I have some performance background, and that helped me. Once I got up there, I realized that people weren't expecting me to be perfect. They were there to listen to what I had to say, and I didn't need to think of some grandiose speech.
Q: Has it been difficult to be a college student and get on with your life when what happened to you is basically known worldwide?
A: For the most part, people are very respectful and have left me alone. The biggest challenge I have is prioritizing and finding the time to do everything I need to do, which I think is pretty much everyone's challenge. Everyone's always been kind and treated me like everyone one else.
Q: What would you like people to know about the real Elizabeth Smart?
A: I want people to know I am happy. I love my life. I'm so grateful for every prayer for me and every donation to my foundation and for everyone who helped to bring me home. I want people to know I am in this battle to make a difference and to help prevent what happened to me from happening to other children.
Q: I read or heard that your mom said something that helped you tremendously right away in moving on with your life.
A: The morning after I got home, I was walking from her bedroom and she stopped me and said, "Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is awful. There are no words to describe how evil and wicked he is. He has taken nine months of your life that you will never get back. Don't let him take another minute. The best punishment you can give him is to be happy, to go on and live your life and follow your dreams and achieve your goals. If you sit back and feel sorry for yourself and don't move on and just think about what happened to you, then he didn't take just nine months, he took your whole life." When I heard that, it just made sense, like, duh. I'm not going to let him win.
Q: Have you had counseling or therapy to help you get through this?
A: As crazy as it sounds, no. If I ever need someone to talk to, my parents are there. They've opened as many doors as I want for psychologists and psychiatrists -- it's always available. But I talk to my parents, and my grandfather, who has since passed. But when I was feeling really down, he'd call me, and we'd go horseback riding and talking.
Q: What's the main message that you want to leave with people regarding abuse?
A: First of all, I want them to have hope. To realize these things do happen, but it doesn't have to change who they are. No child should have to experience abuse. But there is hope and there are good people out there and you can walk away from the experience and not be broken forever. You can have a bright future if you choose to take that road. Miracles do happen.
And if something is happening, they need to tell someone. If they don't say something, no one will know. To stop the abuse, you have to speak up.
And if you suspect child abuse or if you know someone is soliciting child pornography, if you suspect anything, tell somebody. I've met so many adults who tell me, "When I was a child, I was abused, but I was so scared that I never told anyone." If you're an adult, if something happened to you, you still need to talk about it.
Q: So how do people contribute to and learn more about the Elizabeth Smart Foundation?
A: They just go to ElizabethSmartFoundation.org .
Major youth groups make headway against sex abuse
NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts have labored for decades to curtail sexual abuse of scouts by adult volunteers. But when their name was evoked in a lawsuit linked to the Penn State abuse scandal, the reference was not to problems — it was acknowledgment that the Scouts' current prevention policies are considered state of the art.
While the local youth charity in the Penn State case has been accused of lax policies, experts in abuse prevention say most of the national organizations serving young people — such as the Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America — have performed commendably in drafting and enforcing tough anti-abuse policies even as they're sometimes faced with wily and manipulative molesters.
"I'd give them all an A-plus," said Portland State University psychologist Keith Kaufman, who has studied and treated child sex abuse victims.
If there's a systemic problem, Kaufman and other experts say, it's lack of data — from the organizations themselves and from law enforcement agencies — that could illustrate progress by youth groups. The Scouts, for example, said, "We simply do not track or have data that would help quantify trends."
Nonetheless, several independent child-protection experts told The Associated Press that the Scouts — though buffeted in the past by many abuse-related lawsuits — are now considered a leader in combatting sexual abuse.
"The Boy Scouts have the most advanced policies and training," said Victor Vieth, a former prosecutor who heads the National Child Protection Training Center in Minnesota. "With even slight violations, there's no debate. Someone who transgresses one of these rules is moved out — you don't need to give them a second chance."
In the Penn State case, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, including many engaged in a youth-oriented charity he founded called The Second Mile. Sandusky, who maintains his innocence, has acknowledged showering with boys — an interaction banned by the Boy Scouts and other major groups.
Attorneys for one of Sandusky's alleged victims, in a lawsuit filed in November, said they intend to charge The Second Mile with failing to follow preventive policies used by the Scouts and other organizations, such as the "Two-Deep" rule that requires at least two adults to be present at all activities.
One of the lawyers handling that suit, Jeffrey Fritz of Philadelphia, is the father of a scout and was impressed that the handbook his son brought home included detailed child-protection information that parents are required to read and discuss with their children.
"It's not just adopting the policies, it's educating members, volunteers, parents about them," Fritz said, "I applaud the Boy Scouts' efforts in going so far as that."
Dating back to the 1920s, the Scouts have been keeping secret files about potential molesters — files it refuses to disclose on the grounds that they contain some unverified allegations and that informants expect confidentiality.
Prevention efforts have intensified in the past 30 years, with the Scouts prohibiting one-on-one adult-youth activities, mandating criminal background checks for all staff who work with youth, and including an insert for parents about child protection in the handbook issued to new scouts.
Nonetheless, the Scouts' public image took a blow in April 2010 when an Oregon jury ordered the organization to pay $19.9 million in damages to Kerry Lewis, who had been abused in the 1980s by an assistant scoutmaster in Portland. The jury decided that the Boy Scouts were negligent for allowing the abuser to associate with Lewis and other boys after admitting to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.
Within a few months of that judgment, the Scouts announced that all adult volunteers — now numbering 1.2 million — would be required to take child-protection training when they join the Scouts and repeat the training every two years. The Scouts also created the full-time position of youth protection director, and filled it with Michael Johnson, a former police detective from Plano, Texas, who is an authority on child abuse detection and prevention.
Last year, in one of his first major directives, Johnson stipulated that all adult Scout staff are mandated to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement authorities and Scout leaders, even if this would not be required by state law.
"That's one of the things we're most proud of," Johnson said in an interview. "I don't want our people wondering if they're mandated reporters."
Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis-based therapist and expert on sexual misconduct, testified at the Oregon trial that the Scouts could have been more proactive in the '80s in using their secret files to warn about pedophiles.
Now, Schoener said, the Scouts' prevention program is "considered somewhat the gold standard" — though he suggested that the training material could more clearly show how the Scouts learned from past problems.
"They need to shout loud and clear, this has happened in the Boy Scouts — here are examples," Schoener said.
Johnson indicated he agreed, saying, "There are some Scout-specific situations that should be addressed in the training going forward."
Since the trial, Paul Mones, one of Lewis' attorneys, believes there has been a fundamental shift in the way the Boy Scouts view abuse. "They had programs in place before, but in terms of taking control from the top, there's been a change of vision," he said. "They could become the model for what the rest of the youth-serving organizations could do."
Indeed, the Scouts are planning to host a first-of-its-kind symposium for youth organizations this fall to share the latest strategies on abuse prevention.
Lewis himself said at the end of the trial: "Other children in the future will have more protection than I did." He declined to comment on the Scouts' recent policy initiatives.
Though each major youth-serving organization has its own policies for abuse prevention, they tend to follow a common, three-pronged approach — stressing screening of would-be staff and volunteers, training and education, and explicit rules on such matters as adult/youth interaction and reporting of suspected abuse.
The basic standards are summarized in a document issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007, based on recommendations of child-protection experts for numerous youth organizations. It's available online, and more than 18,000 printed copies have been distributed.
CDC research psychologist Janet Saul, the lead author, said the document has been useful in convincing some organizations that criminal background checks weren't sufficient — that training and firmly enforced prevention policies also were essential. But she said flexibility also is needed.
"We acknowledged that one size doesn't fit all," Saul said. "The mission of these organizations is to nurture young people, and you don't want to go so far in protection that you're no longer fulfilling that mission."
Among the major organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has a distinctive challenge. Its mission is to provide one-on-one mentoring to children facing adversity, so it cannot utilize the "two deep" policy.
To maximize the safety of the roughly 210,000 children it serves, Big Brothers Big Sisters advises its nearly 370 local affiliates to screen would-be mentors carefully — even checking their Facebook pages. Then it requires the mentor, mentee and parent or guardian to meet at least once a month with a professional staff member.
Julie Novak, the organization's national director of child safety, said it's essential to educate staff and parents about possible warning signs and to be aware that potential abusers often are clever people with no criminal record.
"We have to be willing to talk about it," Novak said. "Silence perpetuates child sex abuse."
Like other national organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters says incidents of abuse are rare but does not have publicly available statistics. Recent abuse cases that ended with criminal convictions illustrate the challenge of screening volunteers with seemingly admirable resumes.
In California, a retired Air Force officer, Jon David Woody, was sentenced in July to 226 years in prison for molesting girls he met through his role as a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer. In 2010, a former middle school science teacher in Tulsa, Okla., John Gisler, was sentenced to life in prison for molesting a teenage boy he was mentoring.
"Pedophiles are slick," said Judy Spangler, chief program officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern Pennsylvania. "They groom everyone — the agency, the parents, the child ... If someone seems too good to be true, that's a red flag."
Spangler, who has been with Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1999, says she's dealt firsthand with only one sex abuse case in that span — involving a boy whose mother, against the organization's rules, allowed him to stay overnight with his mentor.
"Child safety is something we think about every day," Spangler said. "It keeps me awake at night."
Like Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA of the USA relies on its locally run affiliates to implement and enforce child-protection policies, although the national office provides support and guidance.
"Our Y's have to be diligent on this issue every second of every day," said Kent Johnson, the national Y's chief operating officer.
Johnson said about 40 YMCA affiliates are expanding their efforts by working with the Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit Darkness to Light on programs aimed at raising awareness about sex abuse among adults with no direct connection to the Y. In Delaware, the program has gone statewide, with a goal of training 35,000 people.
"If we're going to protect kids, we have to engage everyone in their community," said Cindy McElhinney, director of programs at Darkness to Light.
While heartened by the efforts of the YMCA and other large organizations, McElhinney said many smaller local organizations — notably church-affiliated groups — are behind the curve, with inadequate or unenforced youth-protection programs. Cost is sometimes a problem; so is reticence about raising the subject.
Ernie Allen, president of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said youth groups must overcome the temptation to avoid publicity about abuse-related problems.
"When something happens, what you can't do is what many groups used to do — 'If you'll resign quietly and leave under cover of darkness, we won't bring charges,'" Allen said. "What happens then, these guys just move group to group."
He praised the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for progress in this regard.
"They want it to be known — if you harm a child in one of their facilities, they're going to throw the book at you," he said. "The only way it's going to work is if everybody does this."
Les Nichols, the Boys & Girls Clubs' vice president of club safety, noted that the large majority of convicted child molesters had no previous criminal record, and thus would not have been detected by background checks. This makes training and strict enforcement of rules all the more vital, he said, especially in an organization that serves about 4 million children with a constantly changing staff.
"You have a lot of new people coming into the system who don't necessarily have knowledge of child protection," Nichols said. "Training staff is a constant challenge."
Like officials from other major youth groups, Nichols said the screening and training is rarely a deterrent to those applying for positions.
"It shows that the goal is to create a safe place for kids," Nichols said. "The good people like that."
Tico Perez, an Orlando, Fla., attorney and former scout who serves as the Boy Scouts' national commissioner, works with Scout volunteers and parents nationwide and says most welcome the precautions.
"The only regret I hear is regret our country has got to a place where we have to do this," he said.
Could deaths of Indiana children have been prevented?
Investigation raises questions about whether Department of Child Services could have done more to protect kids
by Tim Evans
Taylor Creech, 5 months old.
Nygell Easter, 6 months old.
Julian Hurley, 4 years old.
Devin Parsons, 12 years old.
Tramelle Sturgis, 10 years old.
Irdessa Vazquez, 6 months old.
Six Hoosier children -- white, black and Hispanic, from small towns and big cities. All dead.
Their short, disparate lives are connected by one common thread: the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Before each of these children died last year, concerns about their care and treatment were reported -- repeatedly, in some cases -- to the state agency responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect.
In some cases, DCS determined the allegations did not merit an investigation. In others, the agency opened investigations but was unable to make contact with the family or found no problems -- case closed. And in two of the deaths, DCS had open cases at the time the children were killed.
But in each case -- and despite evidence of mounting trouble -- DCS ultimately left the children with their parents.
The 2011 fatalities uncovered by The Indianapolis Star raise questions about the quality of the agency's investigations and safety assessments, as well as with the services provided to struggling families.
It is not child deaths alone, however, that suggest lingering problems. There are other troubling indicators that the system is still failing too many Hoosier children:
The rate at which children suffer repeat abuse or neglect within six months of a DCS intervention -- a telling and nationally recognized measure -- remains basically unchanged from 2004 at about 8 percent. The federal government has a target standard of 5.4 percent, which 27 states met in 2010. Twelve states had a higher re-abuse rate than Indiana.
Despite a significant increase in the number of reports made to DCS, the agency is investigating a smaller percentage of the reports it receives -- and it is substantiating a smaller percentage of the cases that are investigated.
Altogether, the issues raise serious questions about the ambitious and costly reform project initiated in 2005 by Gov. Mitch Daniels to fix Indiana's long-troubled child welfare system and protect vulnerable children.
Despite hiring nearly 800 new field workers, setting caseload limits and expanding training, it is not clear that children involved with DCS are any safer now than they were before the overhaul.
"Clearly," said state Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, "the system is still broken."
In a written response to questions submitted by The Star, DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth disagreed.
"We are providing better outcomes for kids," she said.
Houseworth cited the added caseworkers, a centralized call center that provides uniformity in response to reports of abuse and neglect, a reduction in the number of children placed outside of their homes, and a decrease in the number of children who languish in the system for years with no permanent homes.
The agency's work was honored last week by Casey Family Programs for excellence in leadership, in part because of its efforts to decrease the number of children in institutional and foster care.
The approach DCS calls "Safely Home-Families First" is a concept that is gaining acceptance in child welfare circles across the country. It is based on research that shows the trauma of being torn from family can be as devastating to a child as some forms of neglect and abuse.
The key to success in the "family preservation" approach, according to experts, is making sure that there is a thorough and accurate assessment of a family's challenges and strengths -- and that adequate services are available to ensure that the problems of parents are addressed so their children can safely remain at home.
Houseworth acknowledged "DCS is concerned" about its inability to reduce the re-abuse rate but said the agency has no control over the behavior of parents once a case is closed.
Others have an idea why the rate hasn't budged.
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, is an outspoken proponent of keeping families together while working through their problems. He said the state's inability to reduce re-abuse indicates DCS is not providing adequate or appropriate services to families.
"The question is: What is DCS doing before a case is closed?" he said. "It sounds to me like DCS lacked the competence to build the programs that are needed."
Intensive services that are proven to keep children safe don't come cheap, Wexler said.
That said, DCS officials have given back $320 million since 2009 to the state treasury -- including $103 million in 2011.
That was money lawmakers earmarked to help abused and neglected children but instead was used, at the governor's urging, to help bolster the state's balance sheet during the economic downturn. And it happened as reports of abuse and neglect increased in the state.
"The money DCS 'threw away' may well have helped children and families," Wexler said, "if it had been spent for the right kinds of programs."
Houseworth said returning the money has not caused children to suffer.
"Our goal is not just to spend money on services," she said. "We're charged with providing appropriate services children need and at the same time use our dollars wisely."
How that money is spent to help families is determined by a team -- which includes DCS staff, family members and local service providers -- that works to identify the kinds of help a troubled family needs.
The bulk of the money that was returned by DCS was not the result of skimping on those types of services, Houseworth said. Rather, it was not needed because of the significant savings provided by slashing the number of children placed in residential facilities. The cost for such services can run as high as $100,000 a year per child.
But state Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, said common sense makes him think some of the cases in which children died -- and many others across the state where children suffered repeat abuse and neglect -- might have turned out differently if DCS had used more of the money to better monitor and help those families.
"Their mantra is that they are doing more with less," he said, "but that doesn't appear to be working for the children."
Crawford has filed legislation to create a Commission on Improving the Status of Children, which would monitor and review state services and programs -- including those of DCS -- and produce an annual report detailing the state's successes and shortcomings.
"You have to wonder," said Crawford, "if (DCS) didn't put vulnerable children in jeopardy just so the governor could say 'look at what the state has in the bank' when he leaves office."
Breaux also questioned whether the agency's budget decisions have been in the best interest of children and families.
"It just breaks my heart when I hear those stories about children dying," she said. "It seems to me that DCS would want to keep as many dollars as it could to protect and help children."
How were concerns handled?
Each of the six deaths investigated by The Star highlights one or more continuing concerns about the agency's work.
There are likely many other victims. The Star's investigation has found at least 17 other deaths over the past five years -- DCS says that's not something the agency tracks -- including many that revealed the same problems that showed up in the 2011 cases.
Clearly, DCS is not solely responsible for the deaths; it was the abuse and neglect that killed the children. But there had been desperate cries for help calling these very children and adults to the attention of DCS.
The death of Devin Parsons, a Greensburg boy who had just completed the fourth grade, raises questions about the agency's increasing push to leave children with troubled parents and the quality of services DCS provides to those families.
Devin's mother had been investigated for allegations of abuse or neglect at least 18 times since Devin was born in 1999, including nine reports in the last year of his life. The agency repeatedly ordered Tasha Parsons to participate in counseling and other services but never removed Devin or his siblings -- even after the Greensburg boy told a caseworker in April that he was afraid to go back home.
A little more than one month later, police say, Devin was savagely beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend.
The death of Nygell Easter in Indianapolis raises questions about the sufficiency of DCS investigations at a time when the agency is citing parents in a smaller percentage of the reports it investigates.
Nygell was 3 months old when he ended up at an Indianapolis hospital in December 2010. Medical personnel suspected abuse and called DCS. The agency opened an investigation. But it was closed with an "unsubstantiated" finding in January 2011 after the family blamed Nygell's older brother for the injury.
Less than two months later, Nygell was dead. Once again, his family tried to blame Nygell's fatal head injury on his 1-year-old brother. An investigation by police and the coroner, however, determined the injury could not have happened the way the family described, and his father -- who was convicted one year earlier for sexual misconduct with a minor -- faces murder charges.
The death of Taylor Creech in Columbia City raises questions about the urgency and tenacity with which DCS investigates reports, and also the agency's collaboration with law enforcement.
Before Taylor was born, family members said DCS had removed two of Janele Creech's other children because of her drug use. In November 2010, Janele's sisters turned to Janele's probation officer and DCS, reporting Taylor was in danger because their sister was making and using methamphetamine around her new baby.
They said the report prompted DCS to send a caseworker to Creech's home. But when no one answered the door, the worker left a card with a note asking Creech to call the agency. She didn't. Instead, Creech basically went into hiding, avoiding contact with her family.
Creech subsequently failed a mandatory probation department drug test on Dec. 23, 2010, but a warrant for her arrest was not issued for an additional week -- and probation officials apparently did not notify DCS.
Three days after a judge issued the warrant for Creech's arrest, she still had not been picked up for the probation violation or contacted by DCS -- and Taylor was dead.
The coroner told her aunts the baby died after a case of bronchitis. Creech had allowed it to go untreated while trying to avoid authorities, and it developed into sepsis. That condition pushed poisons into Taylor's bloodstream, contributing to her suffocation as she slept on a sofa with Creech's boyfriend.
"You hear all the time that if you suspect abuse or neglect, you need to report it," said Taylor's aunt, Michele Freewalt, who went to the Whitley County DCS office to report her fears for the baby.
"But it didn't do us any good. That's what makes me the most angry: We did exactly what we were supposed to do, and they dropped the ball."
The death of Tramelle Sturgis in South Bend also raises questions about the quality of DCS assessments.
A caseworker investigated a report in May that Tramelle's father and grandmother were beating children in the home with a wooden club -- a very specific allegation. But the DCS investigator reported on June 20 that there was no evidence of abuse.
Five months later, Tramelle, 10, was dead. A police investigation revealed the boy "suffered from numerous injuries, both old and new," according to court documents.
The final, fatal beating, investigators allege, was administered by his father. Tramelle was beaten to death with a wooden club.
Panel debates release of child abuse records in Kentucky after lengthy legal battle
The Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A state health official argued for privacy in child abuse records and media representatives called for more transparency in the first open exchange in a two-year legal battle to disclose child abuse files under Kentucky's open records law.
The panel discussion on Friday — part of the Kentucky Press Association's winter convention — came a day after a Kentucky judge fined the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for illegally withholding records on child deaths and child abuse sought by three newspapers.
Teresa James, acting commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services, said case files contain intimate and painful details about victims and can follow families for generations, the Courier-Journal reported (http://cjky.it/yUvcLt).
"Just as passionate as you are about First Amendment rights, I am equally, as a social worker, passionate about people's confidentiality and right to privacy," she told newspaper publishers, editors and journalists at the meeting in Lexington.
Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier-Journal and a panelist, said the concept of privacy has been expanded over the past two decades to include information that people want to hide, regardless of whether it fits the traditional definition.
"We let it go too easily to say we need total confidentiality to help the kids," he said. "I really disagree with that. I think transparency protects the kids."
The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Todd County Standard sought access to the records in their reporting on the state's child welfare system.
Teresa James, acting commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services, said case files contain intimate and painful details about victims and can follow families for generations.
Deborah Yetter, a Courier-Journal reporter who wrote about the case of 9-year-old Amy Dye, who was fatally beaten by her adoptive brother in western Kentucky, said details in the girl's file played an important role in attracting public attention to the issue of child abuse.
"The average Kentuckian . does not have any kind of grasp of the depth and complexity and poverty and misery of these lives and how this cycle has gone on and on," she said. "That's why I think it is so important to get the whole file and the complete picture and force readers to see what is going on."
James said the state's social workers look into 15,000 substantiated reports of child abuse each year in Kentucky. She also said she wasn't willing to "second-guess" decisions in how Amy Dye's case was handled.
Records that a judge ordered released after her death showed child welfare officials ignored or dismissed as unfounded several allegations that Amy was being abused.
Fleischaker countered that the purpose of open records is to give the public the opportunity to second-guess how government agencies perform in those situations.
James said that publicity surrounding the death of Amy Dye has improved awareness of child abuse issues.
If Amy Dye's case "makes our child welfare system in this state stronger, and we can keep children safer, and we can keep them out of situations where they could be left at risk, I don't regret one minute of what we have gone through," she said.
Letter to the Editor
Police failed to investigate sexual abuse
January 22, 2012
Child sexual abuse has been thrust into the spotlight following scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University. Looking back on these events makes one wonder why all of the people who had knowledge of these crimes allowed the victims to suffer silently. Has our society decayed so much that we would rather sacrifice a child than advocate for justice?
While many in this community may believe that we are isolated from these heinous crimes, the reality is that similar incidents happen right here in St. Lawrence County. I was ignorant of the magnitude of the problem until I reported an incident of child sexual abuse this summer. The victim informed me of the details of the situation, including the names of over a dozen individuals who witnessed the alleged crime. Initially, I was horrified, but optimistic that justice would be done. I imagined that law enforcement and Child Protective Services would be driven to protect the child. This couldn't have been farther from the truth. The investigation was prematurely discharged without interviewing most of the witnesses on the false grounds that the child was too young to testify.
When another law enforcement agency was contacted to challenge the initial findings, I was again disgusted by the desire of the agency to dismiss the charges without taking the expected steps to corroborate the allegations. It seems that there is a prevailing culture in this county to discredit a report of child abuse unless undeniable evidence is presented to authorities upon the initial report, making it impossible not to prosecute. It is an uncomfortable topic that nobody likes to talk about, much less investigate.
Given the grim reality that faces our youth, bold action is necessary to ensure that children are granted their right to a safe environment. Effective laws, determined prosecutors and stiff penalties are essential to stop this epidemic, but ultimately the greatest responsibility lies with citizens to report abuse when it is witnessed.
The public must also band together to demand that local agencies and elected officials make this a priority, especially now as another election approaches. By raising awareness, advocating for improved legislation and holding individuals and agencies accountable for failing to meet the needs of our children, we can make a positive change.
If you would like to join me in the effort to wipe out child abuse, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Human trafficking a growing crime in the U.S.
by Tresa Baldas
DETROIT — A University of Michigan janitor. A Ukrainian nightclub owner. A Detroit man nicknamed "Gruesome."
The three men, authorities say, are all tied to a growing crime: human trafficking.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry — just behind drug trafficking — with children accounting for roughly half of all victims. Of the 2,515 cases under investigation in the U.S. in 2010, more than 1,000 involved children.
And those are only the ones we know of. Too often, authorities say, victims stay silent out of fear, so no one knows they exist.
That's why President Obama declared January National Human Trafficking Awareness month.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates it's a $32 billion industry, with half coming from industrialized countries.
Over the last decade, numerous human trafficking cases have been prosecuted in Michigan. The court dockets detail the horror stories: Children being sold for sex at truck stops, servants held in captivity and forced to clean for free, and women forced into the sex industry, forfeiting their earnings.
Several human trafficking cases are now making their way through state and U.S. District Court.
Jean Claude Toviave, a former University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis instructor, is federally charged with trying to pass off four African immigrants as his own children, giving them fake names and birth dates to sneak them over in 2006. Documents accuse him of abusing them for years in his Ypsilanti home, which he got through Habitat for Humanity, and forcing them to do housework.
His so-called children told authorities they were deprived of food and beaten with broom handles, a plunger, electrical cords and an ice scraper when they didn't finish chores or homework. They detailed the years of abuse in journals, which police confiscated, and said Toviave threatened them if they tried to leave.
The "children" weren't a big secret. Prosecutors say he enrolled the three youngest — 21, 20 and 15 — in a public middle school.
The students reported the abuse to counselors, triggering an investigation.
Toviave, 42, was arrested in May and is behind bars on human trafficking and forced labor charges.
In state court, six defendants are facing human trafficking charges in two separate cases brought by Michigan's new human trafficking unit, formed in 2011 by state Attorney General Bill Schuette.
One case involves Detroit resident Seddrick Mitchell, aka "Gruesome," 32, who goes on trial in March. He is charged with enslaving two teenage girls in a home on the city's east side, forcing them to work as prostitutes and keeping all their money. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
In the other case, five metro Detroiters were charged in December with running a human trafficking operation through a prostitution ring called "Detroit Pink." Authorities say it involved at least one minor and forced drug running across the country.
In federal court, Ukrainian nightclub owner Veniamin Gonikman, who was once on the FBI's Most Wanted List, will be sentenced in March for his role in a smuggling operation that forced eastern European women to work with no pay in Detroit strip clubs. He faces 45 to 51 months in prison.
"Here we are in 2012 —1/8 and there are women and children and men held against their will here in America. I think that's a sobering thought," said Special Agent Brian Moskowitz of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, which handles international human trafficking cases.
Especially troubling, he added, is the victims' fear that they can't escape.
A housekeeper's story
Nade is one of the victims, but she overcame her fears and escaped in 2009.
She agreed to share her story to help other victims, but still worries for her safety and that of her family. Some details are being withheld to protect her identity, and her real name isn't being used.
The 31-year-old housekeeper from Africa was held captive in Detroit by a Middle Eastern family she says made her work for free, verbally abused her, refused to get her medical help and once threatened to kill her mother.
Nade said she was 26 when a friend told her about a cleaning job in the Middle East. Poor and desperate for work, she applied through an agency and got the job with monthly wages of $150. Against the wishes of her parents and husband, she accepted the position.
"I don't have any job in my country. My family — we don't have any salary to stay in my country," Nade said. "I have to help them."
In late 2007, Nade packed her suitcase — with clothes, some food and a photograph of her parents and husband — and headed for a country in the Middle East.
For 22 months, she lived in a constant state of fear and isolation in a building with many families. She slept in a bathroom and was never allowed to leave the home.
She said her life consisted of cleaning walls, carpets, cooking, washing dishes and caring for children. She rarely slept or ate.
One source of comfort came from talking to other African servants who conversed from the balconies or hung their heads out windows for brief chats. She was allowed to call her parents once a month.
She said she was verbally abused. The woman of the house told her she wasn't smart and didn't have a mind of her own.
Medical help refused
One day, the family told her they were going to Florida for a month-long vacation.
But they ended up in Detroit, which Nade eventually learned was for good. She said they stopped paying her before they left the Middle East, and her workload doubled here when she became the housekeeper for a second family, relatives of her current bosses.
Her captors warned her to never leave the house, she said, telling her Americans were mean and would hurt her.
Within weeks of arriving in the U.S., Nade became very ill. She couldn't sleep. She could barely walk. Her captors refused to get her medical help.
"It was too much," she said. "They don't want to take me to hospital. My body was shaking, and I didn't have any power."
Escaping, she realized, was her only option.
One day in July 2009, while the family was out, Nade found her passport, grabbed a cellphone, and went for the door.
"I prayed to God that I would have the strength to finish this," Nade said.
After escaping the house, she ran for 20 minutes until she arrived at a major retail store. There, she called some people whom she had learned could help her.
A car pulled up, she got inside and called her mother.
"I told her everything was OK," she said. "I'm with nice people now."
Nade ended up in the care of the University of Michigan Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic, the only clinic of its kind in the U.S. devoted solely to helping human trafficking victims.
The 2-year-old clinic, which currently has 30 open cases, got a tip about Nade from a national human trafficking hotline. The clinic staff helped her find a safe place to live in the area and continues to counsel her. Her captors have fled the country.
"Sadly, prosecutions nationwide of domestic servitude cases are rare," said Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic. "I am not sure why at the end of the day these traffickers were not arrested before they left the United States."
ICE, which handles international trafficking cases, was unaware of Nade's case.
Nade is now a part-time house cleaner and hopes to one day go to college and become a nurse. She is learning English and enjoys watching Lifetime movies.
The clinic is in the process of bringing her husband, who is a teacher in Africa, to the U.S. to live with her. Returning home is not a safe option for Nade, Carr said.
"You're one of the bravest, strongest people I know," Carr recently told Nade.
The soft-spoken woman responded: "I am very lucky. God made me strong."
Authorities say most human trafficking victims are afraid to speak out and stay in hiding.
"The victims usually have nowhere to turn to, so it's a largely underreported crime," said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who believes awareness is the key to tackling the crime.
So does Amy Allen, a victim witness specialist who works with ICE agents investigating human trafficking.
"I don't think that people realize that slavery is alive and well in the U.S.," Allen said. "And that's what this is. You can nuance it in different terms, but it's slavery."
Conference tries to boost awareness of human trafficking in Metro Detroit
by Candice Williams
— Several months ago, Connie LeLacheur's daughter, Madison, then 18, was approached by three men outside of a local restaurant. One of them grabbed her arm.
They let her go when she resisted, but LeLacheur feared her daughter could have been abducted and forced into prostitution.
The incident led LeLacheur to co-found a campaign against human trafficking, an issue that has the attention of law enforcement in Metro Detroit.
"It made me passionate," said LeLacheur, a senior pastor at Zion Christian Church in Troy. "I don't want a mother to hear about her daughter missing."
On Saturday, the church hosted a conference on human trafficking with representatives from the FBI and Women At Risk International, a nonprofit that works to establish "circles of protection" around vulnerable women.
The event was part of the church's The Heart Campaign. President Barack Obama recently declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The Metro Detroit-Toledo corridor is one of the busiest for human trafficking in the country, FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold said.
A recent alleged prostitution and drug-running ring that came to light, "Detroit Pink," led to charges against a man, his estranged wife, and three others who allegedly ran the operation out of Detroit and Southfield. The ring involved a least one minor, a 15-year-old girl, officials said.
Suburban communities such as Southfield, Birmingham, Troy and Canton Township can be home to these prostitution rings, FBI Victim Specialist Nicole McGee said.
"The majority of our victims are not from Detroit," she said.
Young girls can be involved without parents knowing, she said. Some leaders of these rings allow girls to go home every night with a threat not to tell anyone.
"Unfortunately a lot of human traffic situation happened right under our nose," McGee said. "It does not have to be a child that something has happened to them. It could be a child that has suffered from low self-esteem."
The youngest girl the FBI has rescued from the Detroit area was 12, Berchtold said. She was posted on Backpage, a website that got attention after three of four women found dead in Detroit last month were found to have posted adult escort ads on the site.
The girls are often flattered by older men at malls and on social networking sites, McGee said. They lure them into prostitution rings with the promise of attention and money.
Sex trafficking happens all over the world throughout different cultures, said Julie Redmer, a board member of Women At Risk International, which provides outreach programs for victims including in Michigan.
"It's scary, it's ugly, it's unbelievable that it could be happening around us, but it's not hopeless," she said.
The Heart Campaign plans to have a training session in June for people interested in becoming rescuers, LeLacheur said.
For information, call (248) 524-2400.
Preventing human trafficking
Parents should teach their young daughters to not accept flattering compliments from strange older men, says Julie Redmer of Women At Risk International. Men involved in prostitution prey on girls who eagerly accept compliments.
Monitor children's social networking activity and cellphone usage, FBI Victim Specialist Nicole McGee says. Phones with Internet access have made it easier for children to connect with strangers online without parents' knowledge.
If you see a man approach a girl in a public place to engage her in conversation, report it to security, says Connie LeLacheur, a volunteer advocate against human trafficking.
Cab drivers enlisted to combat sex-trafficking at the Super Bowl
by Maureen Hayden -
INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of Indianapolis cab drivers being trained in how to show Hoosier hospitality for soon-to-arrive Super Bowl fans are also learning how to recognize sex workers brought in for the event.
The cab drivers are part of a larger group of hotel, restaurant and other service workers in Indianapolis being asked to help identify potential victims of the commercial sex-trafficking industry.
Driving the effort is the National Football League championship game that will be played in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, and all the alcohol- and sex-infused parties and events that transform the game into a week-long spectacle.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said the Super Bowl is the largest sex-trafficking event in the nation.
In recent weeks, more than 700 cab drivers have taken part in the “Super Service” hospitality training offered by staff and volunteers with the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. It includes a session on sex-trafficking and the fast-tracked legislation aimed at cracking down on the crime.
“Whenever there's a large event like the Super Bowl, we know there's an increase in sex trafficking,” said Valerie Schmitt, coordinator of a human-trafficking outreach effort in Indianapolis.
“There's an increased demand for sex and that leads to an increased risk that someone will be victimized.”
On Friday, as a House committee heard testimony on a bill that would ramp up criminal penalties for sex-traffickers in Indiana, Schmitt was meeting with about 100 cab drivers to ask for their help.
She described some of the classic victims of sex-traffickers, including illegal immigrants forced to work off their debts by working as prostitutes or teenagers sexually exploited by adults. She predicted Indianapolis would see an influx of prostitutes, including many who were underage.
“You're our eyes and our ears, ...” she told them. “You meet a lot of people and overhear a lot of conversations that might be helpful in recognizing someone involved in trafficking.”
She asked them to put the human-trafficking hotline phone number of 888-373-7888 into their cell phones and use it if they suspect anything. Some of the cab drivers looked skeptical; while others pulled out their cell phones to program in the number.
Tim Neville, operations manager for Indianapolis Yellow Cab, the city's largest cab service, said more than 150 of his drivers had been through “Super Service” training that includes the session on sex-trafficking. “I think it's great,” Neville said. “This is our community; we live here and want to protect it. Our drivers know how to balance a passenger's expectation of some anonymity with what could be criminal activity.”
Local prosecutors are counting on having a new law to combat the crime. During a House committee hearing Friday, Marion County deputy prosecutor Mary Hutchison spoke in favor of legislation, authored by Republican Sen. Randy Head of Logansport, that would enact harsher penalties for sex traffickers.
The committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full House for a vote, but that action came after the hearing had been delayed two hours.
The delay was caused by House Democrats who boycotted the session's morning quorum call to prevent a vote on the Republican-backed “right to work” legislation that would outlaw mandatory union dues for private-sector workers.
The House has been out of session seven days over the last three weeks because of the boycott. House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said Friday that he expects House Democrats will return to the House floor on Monday.
Texas ranks No.1 in efforts to fight domestic sex trafficking
by Bianca Due
Texas' 2011 legislative session saw major progress in the fight against human trafficking, elevating the state to the forefront of efforts to tackle this issue.
Human trafficking bills received bipartisan support during the 82nd legislative session. That led to six new bills addressing the problem, enabling Texas to rank No. 1 nationally in efforts to fight domestic minor sex trafficking.
The ranking was issued in a report by Shared Hope International
, in partnership with the American Center for Law & Justice.
States received a score for addressing six categories—criminalization of domestic minor sex trafficking; criminal provisions addressing demand; criminal provisions for traffickers; criminal provisions for facilitators; protective provisions for child victims; and tools for investigation and prosecution.
Experts agree four primary policy issues must continue to be addressed in Texas to combat domestic minor sex trafficking—eliminating demand; prosecuting traffickers; identifying victims; and providing victim access to services and shelter.
Rep. Randy Weber of Pearland introduced a bill to decrease demand of prostitutes in Texas. HB 1994 permits local communities to create "john schools." These schools hold a mandatory, daylong session for first-time "johns"—offenders who seek a prostitute—that emphasize their role in creating the demand for human trafficking victims, among other topics. Waco has operated a "john school" since 2002 and has seen only three repeat offenders in the last eight years.
A major blueprint for positive change in Texas is the result of work of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force
convened by Attorney General Gregg Abbott.
Texas' prosecution laws recently were strengthened through implementing key recommendations from SB 24, including an extension of the criminal statute of limitations for a human trafficking crime.
With the passage of this bill, Texas now lists human trafficking as a specific crime in the penal code, government code, family code, code of criminal procedure and civil practice remedies code, strengthening prosecutors' cases.
Although progress has been made, there still is room for growth in identifying victims and providing protection, access to services, and shelter for victims, observers note.
Discrepancies between state and federal laws have allowed underage victims of sex trafficking to be arrested for prostitution.
While the state of Texas and the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act both define a minor as younger than 18, Texas state law maintains the age of consent for sex is 14. Children between ages 14 and 18 still can be picked up under prostitution charges, due to the low age of consent.
Because of a lack of safe houses across the state, children are picked up on prostitution charges in an effort to take them off the streets and away from their harmful traffickers.
Children are placed in juvenile centers and many times treated as criminals, leaving them to believe that is what they are.
Legislation spearheaded by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio seeks to raise the age of consent at least two years, with no child under 18 legally participating in commercial sexual activity or child pornography, in hopes that Texas will recognize these children as true victims and provide protective services.
The 82nd legislative session proved successful in incrementing penalties for traffickers as evidenced by the high national rank Texas received.
Representatives and sena-tors, along with nongovernmental agencies like the Christian Life Commission
, are looking forward to the 83rd legislative session to continue implementing policy in areas in which Texas currently lacks. They hope to see Texas remain a leader in the fight against human trafficking.
From the FBI
Human Trafficking Prevention
Help Us Identify Potential Victims
For the young Ukrainians, it was a dream come true—the promise of well-paying jobs and free room and board in the United States. Once they arrived, however, it quickly turned into a nightmare. They were forced to endure 16-plus hour workdays, usually with no pay. Their living conditions were wretched, with up to 10 workers in often-unfurnished apartments or row houses. And they faced intimidation, threats of physical harm, or actual violence to keep them in line.
Members of the organized criminal enterprise responsible for these workers' misery were ultimately identified and charged in a conspiracy to operate a human trafficking scheme. But, as we observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we're reminded that there are still thousands of victims in the U.S.—and millions worldwide—being forced into both legal and illegal activities.
Human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit each year, making it one of the world's fastest growing criminal activities. The FBI investigates it as a priority under our civil rights program, but we see human trafficking activities in other investigative areas as well, including organized crime, crimes against children, and gangs.
To address the threat, we work cases with our local, state, federal, and international partners and participate in approximately 70 multi-agency human trafficking task forces. We also offer our counterparts—as well as non-governmental organizations, including non-profits—human trafficking awareness training. And to help get a better handle on human trafficking within the U.S., the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program plans to start collecting human trafficking data from law enforcement in 2013.
Many of our human trafficking cases are based on information from our partners and from criminal sources, but we also can and do receive tips from the public.
That's where you come in. Please keep your eyes out for the following indicators that suggest the possibility of human trafficking:
- Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
- Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
- Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
- Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
- Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
Bear in mind: human trafficking victims can be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry.
And here's one more thing to consider: while the majority of human trafficking victims in our investigations are from other countries and may speak little or no English, approximately 33 percent of victims are Americans. They come from a variety of groups that are vulnerable to coercive tactics—like minors, certain immigrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers, the mentally challenged and/or minimally educated, and those who come from cultures that historically distrust law enforcement or who have little or no experience with the legal system.
If you suspect human trafficking activities, do us and the victims a big favor: call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or contact the FBI through our Tips webpage.
Resource: - More on the FBI's human trafficking efforts
Preventing sexual abuse: The questions parents should ask
DENVER - Feather Berkower has trained more than 100,000 parents and children, empowering them with information that can help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse.
As co-author of the book "Off Limits: a Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse," Berkower says parents should not feel shy about talking with an adult before they leave their children with that person.
"Come from a perspective of inviting that caregiver on your prevention team. This is not an interrogation. It's a way to match expectations," Berkower said.
Berkower adds these tips for speaking with youth organization workers before leaving children in their care: "For a youth org you'd want to know what policies they have in place to prevent sexual abuse; like toilet policies, time spent alone with an adult, a child one-on-one with an adult... gift-giving, secret-keeping, appropriate touch of children in your care. These are some of the questions you can ask of a youth organization."
She advises parents to speak openly about the fact that their children are being educated about issues such as appropriate versus inappropriate touching.
"Share your body safety rules that you teach in your home with babysitters, play-date parents, with youth organization heads, whoever the child-care person is, share those body safety rules," she said.
Missing Colorado girl escapes apparent kidnapper, calls 911 herself from convenience store
by Associated Press
January 21, 2012
DENVER — A missing 9-year-old girl escaped from an apparent kidnapper and called 911 herself from a convenience store in Colorado Springs on Friday.
The Pueblo girl was reported missing Thursday night after she didn't return home from school.
The suspect, Jose Garcia, 29, is also a suspect in an alleged molestation involving a different girl, Pueblo police Capt. Eric Bravo said.
The car of the man accused of kidnapping the girl broke down Friday morning in Colorado Springs, and a passerby gave them a ride to a Circle K, police said.
The girl ran into the convenience store and asked to use the phone to call her uncle but instead called 911, which prompted the man to take off, authorities said.
“Once she realized she had that window of opportunity, she became a hero and rescued herself by calling 911,” Colorado Springs police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said in a statement.
Efren Vialpando told The Gazette he saw the girl come in the Circle K with two black eyes and a bruise on her lip and face. She had refused to leave the store with the man, saying, “I ain't going nowhere. I'm waiting for my momma.” He said the suspect fled after that.
A Circle K employee declined to comment, citing store policy.
Police immediately began a search for Garcia when they arrived at the store and notified transportation hubs. An employee at a bus terminal recognized Garcia and notified police, who quickly arrested the man without incident.
The girl was taken to a hospital Friday morning. Miller said details of the girl's condition won't be released because of her age.
Garcia was in custody Friday. Pueblo police haven't said how they connected him to the kidnapping and where Garcia was with the girl for more than 15 hours overnight. Pueblo police Sgt. Darren Velarde said Garcia is being held on suspicion of kidnapping and could face a charge of sexual assault on a child.
The FBI helped with the investigation.
Pueblo County court records said Garcia was wanted for suspicion of kidnapping and sex assault on a child, and Bravo said allegations in that case involved Garcia's 9-year-old former stepdaughter. Both the former stepdaughter and the girl who escaped Friday attended Columbian Elementary School in Pueblo.
In the case involving the ex-stepdaughter, Bravo said Garcia was listed as an emergency contact at the school and told officials there he was picking the girl up for a dentist's appointment. Bravo said Garcia is suspected of kidnapping and sexually assaulting the girl in about a half hour before he took the girl back to school.
“We don't know if there's a connection to that girl and (the girl who escaped Friday),” Bravo said.
A family member told The Associated Press by phone that Garcia worked construction in Colorado Springs and he had known his ex-stepdaughter since she was about 3 years old.
Docs more likely to suspect abuse in poor kids
by Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When a toddler has a broken bone, pediatricians may be more likely to suspect abuse if the family is lower-income, a new study finds.
Researchers found that pediatricians who read a fictional case report of a toddler with a leg fracture were more likely to suspect abuse if the child was described as coming from a lower-income family.
The hypothetical child's race, on the other hand, did not appear to influence doctors' opinions.
The second finding is somewhat surprising, according to the researchers. Studies looking at real-world cases have found that minority children are more likely to be evaluated for abuse than white children are.
And it's well known that the child welfare system in the U.S. has a disproportionate number of minority kids.
"There's very strong evidence of a racial difference in how patients are handled," said lead researcher Dr. Antoinette L. Laskey, a pediatrician at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
But, she told Reuters Health, the reasons for that have not been clear -- including whether doctors may act based on unconscious racial stereotypes.
The current results suggest "there's more than race involved," Laskey said.
She was also quick to say, however, that the study doesn't mean pediatricians are consciously "classist" or otherwise biased when evaluating children's injuries.
The study, reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, included 2,100 U.S. pediatricians who responded to a survey that described one of four hypothetical cases.
All cases included an 18-month-old with an "ambiguous" leg fracture -- a type that can be caused by abuse or an accident.
But the cases varied by the child's race (black or white) and the family's economic situation; parents were described as having either professional jobs (accountant and bank manager) or working-class jobs (grocery clerk and factory worker).
Race had little effect on the doctors' responses. The study found that when the child was black, 45 percent of doctors believed there had "possibly" or "almost certainly" been abuse; another 32 percent were "unsure." If the child was white, 46 percent of pediatricians suspected abuse, with 28 percent saying they were unsure.
In contrast, there was evidence that parents' job descriptions swayed doctors' opinions.
When the child's family was lower-income, 48 percent of pediatricians thought there'd been abuse, versus 43 percent when the family was higher-income.
It's hard to know whether doctors' responses to a fictional case would be the same in real life.
And it's not clear, according to Laskey, whether attitudes about socioeconomic status might explain some of the racial differences in child abuse reporting seen in earlier studies.
She also stressed that she does not think pediatricians are consciously basing their diagnoses on parents' job titles. But in general, unconscious stereotypes can influence anyone's thinking.
"People tend to think that child abuse, or domestic violence, doesn't happen in upper-middle-class families, but of course it does," Laskey said.
It's important, she said, for doctors to be aware that unconscious generalizations could get in the way of diagnosing child abuse -- either missing it in kids from affluent families, or over-diagnosing it in children from poorer or minority families.
"My big take-home message for doctors is that we need to rely on the objective data," Laskey said.
It is true that studies have found children in poorer families to be at greater risk of abuse. But the poverty, itself, is not a "causative factor," Laskey said.
"Race and socioeconomic status shouldn't be things used in a diagnosis of abuse," she said.
Foothills Child Advocacy Center State Funding Under Fire
Foothills Child Advocacy Center is a service that helps young victims heal, and their prosecutors bring justice to offenders, but it could be facing big financial issues soon.
The Charlottesville based group helping abused children win their cases in court, may be stripped of its state funding. The group is one of 17 across the commonwealth that the governor is looking to slash the state budget for.
The news comes at a time when the group is handling more cases of child abuse than ever before. Foothills Child Advocacy Center operates out of a pretty modest space, but it was enough to help more than 200 clients last year.
Foothills Child Advocacy Center Program Coordinator Jennifer Kline said, "Children have every reason in the world not to tell. So you really need somebody who knows how to do these interviews."
Those interviews are used as evidence in abuse cases. The victims are children, which Kline says is the most important part.
Foothills wants to make sure that this experience is as child-friendly as possible, so they bring the victim in to a room to do the interview with a camera watching from up on the ceiling. That way the entire interview is on camera and can be seen from the other room. That is where everyone else can sit and watch. And that way, the child only has to go through what sometimes is a painful interview process just once.
"If you don't have all of these agencies communicating and coordinating services, then you end up doing duplicative work," explained Kline.
Which also saves money. According to Foothills' math, about $1,300 a case. But Governor McDonnell pitched cutting funding for centers across the commonwealth. A decision that could prove to be detrimental in court.
Assistant commonwealth's attorney Elizabeth Killeen said, "It's important to have a place where the child is in a suitable environment working with a trained professional to get at that evidence."
With $33,000 on the line, Kline hopes politics don't get in the way of getting justice for these kids. "Child abuse is a bipartisan issue," she said.
Foothills has seen the number of cases double since its start five years ago. They are actually trying to expand staff and space right now. The center does have other sources of funding, but taking away the state cash would be a very hard hit.
Grant Funding Available To Prevent Child Abuse And Neglect
Richland County Youth and Family Council is requesting applicants for the Ohio Children's Trust Fund to be utilized for Fiscal Year 2013.
The purpose of the grant funding is to prevent child abuse and neglect through investing in strong communities, healthy families and safe children.
The program is required to be an evidence based program as designated and approved by the Ohio Children's Trust Fund.
Each program that is funded must address at least one of five protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and children's social and emotional development.
Each program must specify how it will prevent or reduce child abuse or neglect.
Programs are not permitted to use funds for families with open or substantiated cases of abuse or neglect.
Programs are required to administer a survey to families served through these funds.
Programs are also required to collect, maintain and report outcome and evaluation data as well as demographic data as part of their program delivery.
Additional information and applications can be requested through the council office at 419-522-8213 or email executive director Teresa Alt at email@example.com
The application is due by Monday, March 5 at 4 p.m.
'Sexual predator' gets 21 life sentences
Taylor is 'a danger to any community,' deputy DA says at sentencing; Judge Barnack tells him 'you will rot in prison'
by Sanne Specht
A Medford man with previous convictions in Oregon and California for sexually abusing children has been sentenced to 21 life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Richard Lee Taylor is "nothing short of a sexual predator," said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Adam Peterson. "He is a danger to any community."
Peterson asked for the life sentences under an Oregon sentencing guideline that allows prosecutors to seek a life sentence if a person is convicted of a third felony sex crime.
Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack agreed, and handed down the life-without-parole sentences Friday against Taylor, 59, of the 700 block of Nobility Drive, Medford.
"You are a bad person," Barnack said. "You will rot in prison."
In October 2011, Taylor was found guilty of five counts each of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct, first-degree sexual abuse and second-degree sodomy; and three counts each of first- and second-degree encouraging child sexual abuse. He was sentenced to life on each of the 21 counts.
Taylor previously served a short prison term after pleading guilty to lesser charges in the same case, but Barnack said significant new evidence made it possible to reopen the case. Taylor also has a past conviction for sexual abuse in California, prosecutors said in asking for a life sentence.
Taylor's public defender, Andy Vandergaw, objected to the life sentences, saying the particulars of his client's California conviction were not fully known to the court. Vandergaw requested a lesser sentence for Taylor.
Before sentencing, Peterson read a letter from one of the victim's parents. Her son, the woman wrote, is no longer a "sweet, loving child."
Instead, he is filled with hard-hearted anger over the loss of his childhood, Peterson read.
"... never let this individual be able to do that to another child again. Make a statement to all thieves of children's innocence," the letter continued.
Barnack excoriated Taylor during Friday's sentencing, telling him he didn't belong outside a prison cell, and community members would wonder why he wasn't hanging from a tree.
Taylor will spend the rest of his life in a cell where he can think about the harm he has done the victims, Barnack said, while repeatedly asking Taylor if he wanted to save his soul.
Taylor showed no remorse, stating he had "nothing to say."
"I don't think you have a soul," said Barnack. "We are going to make sure you never get out."
The case began in October 2009 when word reached a local school official that Taylor had sexually abused two 12-year-old boys. Medford sex crimes detectives found that Taylor was a family friend of one victim's parents.
The boys were not fully cooperative with police in the initial investigation, so Taylor pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse and escaped a long prison sentence. He was sentenced to one year in jail and released in October 2010. Upon his release, he contacted his former brother-in-law, who had cleaned out Taylor's apartment and stored his belongings, to reclaim his possessions.
The brother-in-law found about 30 mini-DVDs used in video cameras among Taylor's belongings. When he viewed one, he found child pornography recorded on the discs and went to police. The recordings showed Taylor sexually abusing the victims in the previous case, who this time fully cooperated with investigators.
Barnack said jurors had thanked him for stopping some of the video shown during the trial, and asked him afterward if there was counseling available for jurors.
Barnack said he had to tell them there wasn't.
Medford police Detective Stephanie Smith said the case was one of the most difficult she had ever investigated, in large part because of thousands upon thousands of disturbing child pornography images.
"It is important to note the two boys — how brave they were to come forward," Smith said. At least one of the boys was present in the courtroom.
Barnack praised the efforts of Peterson and Smith for their work in the case, but he, too, saved his highest praise for the victims.
"I see courage. I see power," he said after reading their statements. "You actually are heroes because you took a predator off the street."
CASA volunteers give abused children a voice in court
by DONNA-MARIE SONNICHSEN
They're not social workers, therapists or a substitute family. Child advocates are just that — people defending the rights of abused and neglected children so they don't get lost in the court system.
They act as the eyes and ears of the court, following the lives of children to make sure that their needs are met and spending time with them to reinforce feelings of self-worth and value in the children.
Court-Appointed Special Advocates Executive Director Marilyn Barr said CASA is always in need of more volunteers.
"The need is urgent," said Barr. "What can be more of a priority than children who are abused, neglected and abandoned by those who are supposed to protect and care for them?"
Between July 2010 and June 2011, Tulare County had about 175 volunteer, court-appointed special advocates who spent almost 10,000 hours helping 876 children under 18. This year, there are about 177 volunteers, but child referrals have increased to the point that there are now more than 200 children waiting for help, Barr said.
But they also are not forgotten.
Barr said that when there are not enough volunteers to go around, the cases are prioritized so that the most urgent ones are assigned first.
CASA volunteers can have a child's case as long as 18 months.
"CASA's information helps [judges] make better decisions. We can say if they are in a good place, if we don't see any bonding going on or a relationship happening. We report what's in the best interest of these children," Barr said.
And the court agrees.
"We don't live with or have day-to-day contact with these children. [Advocates] are absolutely vital to the court's understanding of the child," said Tulare County Superior Court Judge Juliet Bocconi. "It really does fill a gap to get the child's perspective and, without it, they can be kind of lost in the shuffle."
CASA volunteers can also provide a view of a child that a public social welfare agency lacks.
"In our work in child welfare services, we try to pull all of the pieces of the puzzle together regarding the families we serve, and CASA offers a different perspective and they help us round out the big picture," says Juliet Webb, deputy director of Tulare County child welfare services.
"Children who are out of home care can often lack an adult role model, which is so vital to their sense of security and well-being. I appreciate that we have so many dedicated volunteers through CASA who step in to be a shining light in that child's life," she said.
"These volunteers truly serve the children and youth as the one significant adult who can help carry them through," Webb added.
CASA Program Manager Beth Wilshire started as a volunteer 17 years ago and said it opened her eyes.
"I had no idea this [abuse] happened to children in Tulare County. It really galvanized me and made me feel I could make a difference," she said.
- The Lisa Project, a traveling, multi-sensory experience of the reality of child abuse, is returning to Visalia for the month of April. Location and times to be announced later.
Central New York community members attend town hall meeting on child abuse
by Sarah Moses
Syracuse, NY -- Dan Leonard wants everyone to start a dialogue about child sexual abuse. “I know it can be difficult to talk about,” Leonard said. “But we need to have the talk and we need to acknowledge that it exists and we must report it.”
Leonard, 54, of Manlius, spoke to dozens of community members at a town hall meeting on Preventing Child Abuse in Youth Athletics Thursday night at Onondaga Community College.
“I'm speaking tonight as a victim, an athlete, a coach and a father,” he said. “I was asked to speak to put a name and a face to a sexual abuse victim.”
From 11 to 13 years old, Leonard was sexually abused by a football coach. He lived in Pennsylvania at the time. Over the past few years, Leonard has become an advocate and an activist for child sexual assault issues.
Six other child abuse experts addressed the audience at the town hall meeting. The first 20-minutes of the video, “Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger,” was shown at the beginning of the meeting. Panelist presented information and answered questions about the signs and symptoms of child abuse and how to prevent it.
The topic of sexual child abuse is already on the minds of many parents due to national headlines about the Bernie Fine investigation at Syracuse University and the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal at Penn State.
“Some people say they are surprised by the accounts of child abuse in the news, but I'm not surprised,” Leonard said.
One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service Administration for Children and Families. In Onondaga County, there were more than 5,000 hotline calls in 2010, which represented more than 9,000 children suspected of being abused, according to the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
Leonard encouraged parents to play an active role in their child's life and to never ignore the possibility of abuse.
“This is not a witch hunt,” he said. “But when we ignore the signs, we only enable more abuse.”
The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center hosted the event in hopes of beginning a dialogue about child abuse. The organizers said they hope people leave with increased awareness about child abuse and learn what they can do to prevent abuse.
Sgt. Jack Schmidt, of the Onondaga County Sheriff Office, spoke to the audience about reporting child abuse. “You cannot get in trouble for making the call if there is no child abuse, but if you don't call, you run the risk of allowing the abuse to continue,” Schmidt said.
To report a possible case of child abuse, call (800) 342-3720 or 422-9701. Or for more information, call the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site at 701-2985 or visit www.mcmahonryan.org.
McMahon/Ryan creates dialogue about child sexual abuse
by Katie Gibas
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. That's just one of many shocking statistics when it comes to abuse. Thursday the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center hosted a Town Hall Meeting on preventing child abuse in youth athletics. They started planning the event after allegations of sexual abuse came out against a Penn State Football coach. As our Katie Gibas reports, organizers hope Thursday's discussion will open a dialogue about sexual assault in the community and get survivors the help they need.
As our Katie Gibas reports, organizers hope Thursday's discussion will open a dialogue about sexual assault in the community and get survivors the help they need.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Dan Leonard was sexually abused by his football coach from when he was 11-years-old until he was 13.
"I didn't tell a soul for 25 years, from the ages of 13 to 38, I never told a soul and I never thought I would. I thought I would go to my grave with that secret," said Leonard.
But he did break his silence after receiving counseling and now he's an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, sharing his story to help people know they don't have to go through things alone.
"I was terribly afraid of what people would think of me. I thought people would disown me. I thought my own family would disown me. I thought I had done something wrong. When in fact I hadn't done anything. It was done to me," said Leonard.
Leonard was a panelist at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center's Town Hall Meeting Thursday. The goal was to start a dialogue about child sexual abuse to get survivors the help they need and prevent further abuse.
Leonard said, "Education can be an answer to a lot of social ills. We have to educate people. We have to have people talking about this. We have to have people when they see something amiss, they have to speak up."
Experts remind parents to talk with their families about appropriate child-adult contact and to observe their kids relationships with adults.
"If someone suspects the child has been abuse or a child has disclosed, the most important thing is to support that child and believe that child, and hopefully by doing that, the child will get the help they need, whether it be mental help or the support from that team," said Julie Cecile, the Executive Director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
Experts remind parents that help is just a phone call away.
To Report Suspected Child Abuse:
If a child is in immediate danger, Call 911
Onondaga County Hotline: 315-422-9701
New York State Hotline: 800-342-3720
Fairfax County: No. of Child Sex Abuse Reports Doubles From December 2010 to December 2011
County to host online discussion Wednesday
by Mary Ann Barton
Fairfax County saw the number of child sex abuse cases reported more than double last month compared to December 2010, the county reported Friday. In December 2011, the Fairfax County Police Department Child Abuse Squad saw 39 reports of child sex abuse versus 19 in December 2010.
In all last year, the squad handled 329 cases covering child rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties with a juvenile, the county reported.
Since the Penn State child sex abuse scandal broke in November 2011, Fairfax has felt the impact, the county said. The Office for Women's Domestic and Sexual violence hotline also reports that they've received an increased number of calls asking for advice and counsel since the scandal broke.
The county hosted an online chat on this important and sensitive subject Wednesday for parents, students and volunteers who come in contact with children. Here's the transcript.
The number could be even higher. Although child sexual abuse is reported almost 90,000 times a year nationally, the numbers of unreported abuse is far greater because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
According to Childhelp, a national organization dedicated to helping victims, more than 90 percent of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
It's a serious topic that's difficult for many to discuss. Fairfax County hosted an online discussion for families, teachers and anyone else whose job or volunteer work puts them in close contact with children, on Wednesday,
Two detectives from the FCPD and an expert from the Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services will be on hand to answer concerns and offer resources on where to get help.
Fla. child abuse deaths decrease
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nearly 150 children were fatally abused in Florida in 2010, a decrease from around 200 in 2009.
The Department of Health recently confirmed 136 child abuse deaths in 2010 and 11 deaths from the previous year in a preliminary report.
That's roughly a 20 percent decrease from 2009. It's also a drop from 2008 when there were also about 200 verified child abuse deaths.
The latest figures are a marked increase from 163 child deaths in 2007. Officials said domestic violence and substance abuse play a role each year.
But researchers say the figures have spiked and dropped in the past decade with no consistent trends.
According to the new report, drowning was the highest cause of death, claiming 42 lives. Twenty-one died from unsafe sleeping environments.
Holocaust survivor offers message of forgiveness at Ivy Tech
by Lindsey Ziliak
January 20, 2012
LOGANSPORT — Eva Moses Kor raised her left arm Thursday and looked at the black tattoo that read “A-7063” — her constant reminder of the Nazi doctors who tortured her and almost killed her in 1944.
Sixty-seven years later, she shared a message of forgiveness with 106 people at Ivy Tech's Logansport campus.
“I forgave the Nazis,” she said. “Could you forgive people who murdered your family and were out to kill you?”
Kor spoke at the college as part of a weeklong celebration related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Alisha Bowen said she wouldn't have missed the lecture for anything.
“I would have walked here in a whiteout if I had to,” she said.
Bowen listened carefully as Kor spoke of the power of forgiveness.
“Forgive your worst enemy,” Kor told the crowd. “It will heal your soul and set you free.”
That's easier said than done, Bowen said, noting that she's an adult survivor of childhood abuse. In 2004, she said, she finally forgave her father for what he had done to her, but the anger sneaks up on her sometimes.
“Kor gives me hope,” she said. “Maybe I'll achieve what she has some day, where I don't wake up angry.”
Bowen said she should be able to find a way to fully forgive her abuser if Kor found a way to do the same for the Nazis — who meted out a much worse form of torture.
Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. She was 10 years old.
In her childish curiosity, she looked around at the concentration camp, trying to figure out where she was. When she looked back, she said, her father and two older sisters had disappeared. She never saw them again.
She was later separated from her mother, too. That left just her and her identical twin sister, Miriam.
“We were all alone,” she said. “We no longer had any family.”
The sisters were sent to live in barracks reserved for twins, and for nearly a year, they endured the experiments of a man whose penchant for unnecessary surgery earned him the title, “Angel of Death.”
Three days a week, they would stand naked for six to eight hours while a doctor measured every part of their bodies.
“These experiments were not dangerous, but they were unbelievably demeaning,” Kor said. “They made me feel like I was nothing more than a living piece of meat.”
On other days, the doctor would tie the girls' arms up and give them a series of injections, Kor said. One injection left Kor deathly ill. Her body swelled up. She developed red patches on her skin, and she had a high fever.
She was sent to the camp's hospital. The rumor was that anyone who went to the hospital never came back, Kor said.
“It was filled with people who were more dead than alive,” she said.
“We weren't given food, water or medications.”
She remembers waking up one night on the hospital floor. She started crawling toward the other side of the room. She said she remembered seeing a water faucet there.
“I would fade in and out of consciousness,” she said. “And in my semi-conscious state, I remember telling myself, ‘I will survive.'”
And she did, even though the doctor gave her only two weeks to live.
“I spoiled their experiments,” she told the crowd.
Kor said doctors at Auschwitz conducted experiments on about
1,500 sets of twins, but only 200 made it out of the camp alive. She and Miriam were among them.
“You survive at all costs,” she told those gathered.
Bob and Karin Record took their teen daughters out of school to attend the lecture. Their 13-year-old was determined to hear Kor speak.
“It will probably be their last opportunity to talk to a living Holocaust survivor,” Karin Record said.
The family marveled at all Kor had been through.
“It makes you really appreciate your life,” Bob Record said.
Waging war on human trafficking
State and local officials are making good on their promise to curb sex trafficking
by Nicole Brodeur
It's a long way from The Body Shop to the places where bodies are actually shopped. One is a shiny, sweet-smelling store in Seattle's Pacific Place; the other could be any hotel room in the region, from a fancy downtown hotel to some rundown motel by the airport.
But it was here, outside a store built around beauty, where company officials and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna gathered the other day to talk about an ugly problem: human trafficking. The coercion, abuse and sale of young people and children for sex. It's the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, according to the United Nations, bringing in an estimated $32 billion a year.
The sex trade also has — sorry to say — put the Northwest on the map.
In 2010, the FBI conducted its annual national operation to recover juvenile prostitutes and arrest their pimps. One-third of the 69 children rescued in 40 cities were in the Seattle-Everett-Tacoma area. One-third.
Thankfully, shame is a powerful motivator.
Within months of the FBI's rescue operation, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation to strengthen the criminal definition of trafficking and improve services for trafficking victims and their families. The state already was the first to criminalize sex trafficking, which it did in 2003.
But the action continues, and in a big way: In the Legislature this session, there are no fewer than a dozen bills being introduced seeking to curb sex trafficking.
One bill would require classified-advertising companies to attempt to verify the age of escorts listed in sex-related postings. Another would increase the penalty for soliciting prostitution from $150 to $3,000; and pimps who promote prostitution would be fined $1,500 instead of $300.
And there are events like the one the other day in front of The Body Shop, where McKenna accepted a petition with 720,000 signatures that the chain had collected nationwide, calling for the protection of sex-trafficking victims.
McKenna was the right guy to accept it; as president of the National Association of Attorneys General, he demanded last summer that backpage.com — the online classified-advertising site owned by Village Voice Media Holdings — back up its claims that it enforced policies to prevent child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The backpage.com controversy and the FBI sting was a surprising wake-up call for most of us. For the first time, we saw what could really be going on not just on well-worn Aurora Avenue, but at such everyday places as Westlake Center. There, in 2010, the Seattle Police Department dressed two undercover cops as teen girls, complete with backpacks and phones for texting. Two pimps approached them within 45 minutes.
Even more surprising — and remarkable — is how quickly lawmakers have zeroed in on the problem. There's little political gain in protecting these lost girls, but lawmakers are all over the issue, and without any of the usual Northwest-style passive-aggressive, all-talk-and-no-action. They're moving on this thing. They want change. They want to save these girls, these families and make sure that the men who victimize them pay, and pay big.
"I don't think we appreciated the extent of it," said Shelley Simmons, The Body Shop's brand communications and values director. "The fact that anyone can be enslaved in this day and age is abhorrent." McKenna, who has made human trafficking his presidential initiative, said we are at "a tipping point," and outlined a four-point program that he and his fellow attorneys general will push in their respective states.
First, they want to "make the case," and collect hard data to identify victims, traffickers and buyers. They will prosecute traffickers and buyers. They will gather information about victims, and mobilize communities to help them get out of "modern-day slavery," as McKenna called it, and pursue a better life.
And they will raise awareness, advertising at the Super Bowl.
Usually it's my job to poke politicians into acting on their words and keeping their behind-the-podium promises.
This time, and on this issue, they're keeping their word in the name of the victims. Nice work.
Rally against human trafficking is Saturday
by CHELCEY ADAMI
CALEXICO — A “Stop Human Trafficking Awareness Rally” on Saturday hopes to raise awareness, provoke action and provide assistance for those affected by human trafficking in the area.
“Too few people know that slavery still exists in the 21st century,” Soroptimist International of Calexico President Marty Guillen stated in a press release. “A first step in ending slavery is to create awareness. By raising awareness, the number of people engaged in the fight to end slavery will increase.”
The rally is hosted by Soroptimist International of Calexico in partnership with Soroptimist International of El Center. The Calexico High School Marching Band will perform and the event is also supported by the San Diego State Sigma Society. Soroptimist International launched the awareness campaign in 2007, and the local chapters held their first rally last year. Keynote speaker Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert Otero will discuss the issue specific to the area Saturday.
“Our location on California's international border with Mexico affords Soroptimist International of Calexico the opportunity to raise awareness about human sex trafficking within the greater Imperial and Mexicali Valleys,” Guillen explained. “By raising awareness and distributing information to educate the public, our program will call people to act and become involved if they recognize a problem with trafficking in their midst.”
Between 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves are estimated to be in the U.S. since 2001, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report from 2005.
|If you go
||Stop Human Trafficking Awareness Rally
||Corner of Third Street and Imperial Avenue in Calexico
||2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Human trafficking conference attracts about 70 South Texas residents
by Michelle Villarreal
CORPUS CHRISTI —Young girls being forced into sex and labor is depicted in movies as an international problem, but it can be found in your backyard, officials said at a conference on human trafficking Thursday.
About 70 South Texas residents, members of nonprofit organizations and law enforcement officers gathered at Del Mar College to discuss the statewide problem.
With minimum research and resources to find a solution, community involvement and awareness can make the difference, officials said.
"It's wonderful that so many community members are coming together to be educated on the issue," said Kim Seger, volunteer attorney and board member for Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi should have a shelter where young girls being trafficked can find safety and put their lives back on track, she said.
State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, said with the help of resident and agencies he plans to change Texas law on human trafficking.
The new law will require the state to have safe houses for victims, increase offender prosecutions, and develop reports and data on runaway children, youth pregnancy and family abuse. Because those children are more likely to become involved with human trafficking, officials said.
"The goal will be to stop the trafficker," Hunter said.
He also said law enforcement will contribute to writing the policy because they most often encounter victims and their traffickers.
Victoria County Sheriff's Office Capt. Abel Arriazola said he and other deputies attended the conference because other trafficking such as drugs, people and weapons are common along U.S. Highways 59 and 77.
"In order to stop it, you need to learn about it," he said.
Steven Goff, an assistant director with the Texas child advocacy nonprofit Children at Risk, said advancements in technology has made it easier for young girls to be trafficked.
Goff said young girls are sold online for $250 to $500.
"They are nothing but a product," he said.
The organization is changing the way the public looks at trafficking, Goff said, but the value of a life hasn't changed.
|BY THE NUMBERS
||People trafficked across international borders
||Human trafficking victims reported in Texas since 2007
||Sex trafficking child victims rescued in 2010 in Texas
12 to 14
||Average entrance age into prostitution
Manalapan, N.J., Woman Charged with Allegedly Sexually Abusing Minor Girl and Streaming Assault Live Over the Internet
From the Department of Justice
WASHINGTON – A Manalapan, N.J., woman was charged today for allegedly sexually abusing a five-year-old girl on more than one occasion and streaming footage of a sexual assault over the Internet, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
A complaint filed today in the District of New Jersey charges Jennifer Mahoney, 32, with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child. She is currently in state custody on related charges and will appear in Trenton, N.J., federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bongiovanni on Jan. 30, 2012.
“Ms. Mahoney is charged with committing heinous acts of sexual violence against a young child and then streaming her crimes over the Internet,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “These allegations are shocking in their depravity. When individuals exploit children for any purpose, we must act swiftly and decisively to hold them accountable.”
“According to the complaint, Jennifer Mahoney sexually assaulted a child, cavalierly recording and sharing the girl's humiliation over video chat,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “We cannot forget that for every image or video of what we call ‘child pornography,' a child will carry the lifelong scars of rape and abuse recorded for others' gratification. Whether making, distributing or viewing child pornography, the depraved appetites of offenders create a market for the destruction of a child's innocence.”
“The sexual exploitation of children continues to be a primary law enforcement concern, and this case is among the most egregious in that it involves manufacture and dissemination elements, which is the engine that drives the problem,” said Michael B. Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Newark Field Office. “Conduct like this can forever shatter the innocence of a 5-year-old child, allegedly for the pleasure of Jennifer Mahoney and an Internet partner. The impact on the victim, family and others is immeasurable.”
According to the complaint filed today in Trenton federal court, special agents of the FBI and other law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Mahoney's home in Manalapan on Dec. 13, 2011. Law enforcement had previously seized a computer during a search of a man's Texas home. Subsequent to both searches, law enforcement recovered from the Texas man's computer three videos of Mahoney having sexual contact with a child.
According to court documents, two of the videos are from a video chat session with the Texas man in which Mahoney allegedly live-streamed an assault of the child. The video shows Mahoney molesting the child while laughing and talking to someone, apparently the party on the other end of the chat session. The complaint alleges that the third video depicts Mahoney sexually abusing the child in a bathtub while filming it with her phone.
Each charge of child sexual exploitation carries a mandatory minimum penalty of
15 years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by FBI Cyber Crimes Task Force in New Jersey under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark and agents of the FBI's San Antonio Division. The Monmouth County, N.J., Prosecutor's Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Peter E. Warshaw Jr., also assisted in the investigation.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Clabby of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Trenton and CEOS Trial Attorney Keith A. Becker of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
ICE Works to Combat Trafficking and Protect Victims
by Director John Morton, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
This blog post is part of a series of posts related to National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Human trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight. That was the case in northern Virginia in 2009 when Jose Ciro Juarez-Santamaria, an El Salvadoran national and MS-13 gang member, forced a 12-year-old girl – a runaway – into a life of prostitution. This past October, thanks in large part to the work of our Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, Juarez-Santamaria was sentenced to life in prison for child sex trafficking.
Sadly, scenarios like this one play out across the country every day. Through the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) HSI agents, DHS works hard to prevent and combat human trafficking. Last fiscal year, ICE initiated more than human trafficking investigations, which resulted in more than 900 arrests, 400 indictments and 270 convictions.
You can help us combat human trafficking and continue to put traffickers like Juarez-Santamaria behind bars. I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open to report suspicious activity
and help us crack down on these horrific crimes.
At ICE, we not only investigate cases of human trafficking, but we also provide services and support to trafficking victims. ICE has full-time victim assistance coordinators at nearly 70 percent of its HSI field offices. We also have 350 collateral-duty coordinators who provide counseling and crisis intervention services when necessary.
President Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Please join ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the fight against this heinous crime. If you suspect human trafficking, I encourage you to call 866-DHS-2-ICE or complete our online tip form
. We can't combat human trafficking without your assistance.
Pentagon works on new plan to curb sex assaults
by PAULINE JELINEK
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is preparing a series of new initiatives to try to curb sexual assaults in the military, the defense chief said Wednesday, calling the problem a stain on the honor of the armed forces.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there were 3,191 sexual assaults reported in the military last year, which would be a slight increase from the 3,158 reported in 2010. But he said that because so few victims report the crime, the real number is closer to 19,000 assaults.
"It is an affront to the basic American values we defend and it is a stain on the good honor of the great majority of our troops and our families," Panetta told a Pentagon press conference.
"Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to try to keep America safe." He said. "We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor."
He announced several changes that he said would be the first in a broad package of proposals put forward in the coming months, some that would need congressional approval.
Though they were incremental and modest in relation to the vastness of the problem, aides later said Panetta has taken a personal interest in the problem and personally announced the changes in part because he wanted to focus on the issue a measure of attention he feels has been somewhat lacking in the department.
Immediate reaction from Congress was limited, but Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said that while Panetta should be applauded for his effort it was insufficient.
"What Secretary Panetta is doing helps, but it is tinkering rather than overhauling a system that does not adequately protect the honor of the men and women in uniform," she said. "The core of the flawed system remains in place — unit commanders will continue to have complete and total discretion over incidents of assault in their unit."
—Victim services will be extended not only to people in uniform but also military spouses as well as Pentagon civilians and contractors working abroad.
—Employees who work as victim advocates will have to get credentialed to put their skills in line with national standards.
—More money will be spent training investigators and lawyers to go after and prosecute perpetrators.
—Panetta ordered an assessment be done in 120 days on how commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders are trained on sexual assault prevention and response, and what can be done to strengthen that training.
"Our leaders in uniform ... are on the front lines of this effort," he said. "It's important that everyone in uniform be alert to this problem and have the leadership training to help prevent these crimes from occurring."
Saying he wanted to speak directly to the victims of sexual assault in the Defense Department, Panetta said somberly: "I deeply regret that such crimes occur in the U.S. military... I'm committed to providing you the support and resources you need and to taking whatever steps are necessary to keep what happened to you from happening to others."
His remarks Wednesday followed an announcement last month of two other new policies to support victims. Those were:
—The department is standardizing across military service branches the length of time sexual assault records are kept. Certain documents will be retained for 50 years in unrestricted cases and for five years in restricted cases to give victims longer access to the documents. A restricted case is one filed confidentially, meaning the victim gets care but doesn't want the assault reported to law enforcement. An unrestricted assault triggers an investigation.)
—Victims who file unrestricted cases now have the option to request an expedited transfer from their unit or installation — i.e. they must get a response from their unit commander within 72 hours. A service member also will be able to request a review of any denied request and receive that response within 72 hours.
Announcement of those two changes accompanied the Pentagon's annual report last month showing assault cases rose at the nation's three major military academies in the latest academic year from one year earlier.
The Defense Department's "Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies" for academic year 2010-2011 found there were 65 reports of sexual assaults involving cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy. That was up from 41 reported assaults in the prior academic year. Officials said they could not conclusively identify the reasons for the increase but that it could be because the department has worked to encourage more victims to report them.
Beyond the academy report every December, the Pentagon also releases an annual report each March on sexual assaults throughout the services. Last year's said there were 3,158 reports of assaults in the 2010 budget year, ranging from rape to unwanted touching.
Portland Human Trafficking Story: From runaway to redemption
Her Story: Before her 10th birthday, Shelly's happy family was ripped apart by her father's affair.
The shockwaves of the resulting divorce left her mother so paralyzed, that Shelly became caretaker – cooking and cleaning for four younger siblings. While her mother withdrew into her own emotionally tortured world, Shelly was left with what most every kid thinks they want …no rules or boundaries. By age 12, she began spending her time hanging out with friends, often drinking till late into the night; hoping to wash away her unwelcome responsibilities at home.
At age 13, Shelly ran away for the first time. After returning home, her mother attempted to enforce more stringent rules, but Shelly's rebellion was already out of her control. When she was 14, she met a man, many years her senior, who began to pay her a great deal of attention – telling her how pretty she was and buying her new clothes. One day she left home and met him around the corner… the beginning of a nearly two-year descent into the world of human trafficking. She says he taught her “everything.” One afternoon, while he lounged in Montavilla Park, he sent her out to 82nd Ave. to perform her first act as a prostitute. After this first “john” pulled out a knife, assaulted her and cut off her shorts, she stumbled down the street. Seeing a man in a neighborhood washing his car, she asked for help…. He just turned away.
Eventually she made her way back to Montavilla Park where the pimp was waiting. For the next year or more, Shelly was transported up and down the I-5 corridor from Tacoma to LA several times. During this time of chaos, she resisted the sex trade system by not producing enough money and coming back from the streets with excuses.
Finally freed from her pimp, Shelly wound up traveling with a group of male musicians who treated her just as badly. One day in California, she returned to her room to find everything cleared out. With nothing left but the clothes she was wearing, she went looking for a familiar face – a guy she'd met at a party some time before. A short search led her to the apartment where they had met. Knocking on the door, she was greeted by a stranger who led her into a room of men with a large stockpile of drugs, which surprisingly she'd never used before. Once the door was locked behind her, the men demanded she snort a line of cocaine. Her resistance was met by a forceful blow to the back of her head with a gun. At that point, the girl complied with their request and spent the next week or two in a fog, being gang-raped and becoming dependent on drugs, as was the traffickers' plan. When she was let out of the back room into the apartment and daylight, Shelly's strong will served her well and she escaped her captors once again.
Another search led her finally to the guy she'd gone looking for, and she stayed with him in his trailer. Newly addicted, her daily routine was doing drugs. On one occasion, she overdosed and her throat began to close so she couldn't breathe. As consciousness waned, she prayed to God for help. Her throat immediately opened up. She recognized God had not left her– but still He seemed far off.
Sometimes Shelly tried to think about her life a few years before, but often couldn't remember who she really was. She'd been brainwashed, with a new name and identity imposed upon her by traffickers and pimps. Finally one day, in a moment of clarity, something told her she had to go home. While pondering her options, she was suddenly able to recall her dad's 800 number and PIN (something she'd never memorized)… so she called and asked to come back. With a train ticket sent from her dad, she returned. Coming home ended her trafficking story, but then began years of struggle to overcome its effects.
Over the next number of years Shelly was in and out of bad relationships, had life- threatening dealings with gang members, was married, had a child, and divorced. Then she was raped, put that child up for adoption, and had a third child. Providentially though, during this time, she also began going back to church and, step by step, is allowing God to heal her hidden wounds. Shelly says that her background has made intimacy in relationships illusive, but she is learning. She continues to receive counseling and is now engaged to be married.
Compassion Connect: Most girls trafficked do not escape on their own. Shelly's freedom is actually a story of God's amazing grace and miracles. She beat the odds with her life, but it will take time for the Lord to heal the emotional scars left behind.
A few important facts about trafficking and its victims:
|• Human trafficking reigns as the world's second largest, fastest growing criminal industry.
• Researchers estimate the average pimp in the U.S. can make potentially as much as $200,000 a year off the sexual trafficking of a single girl.
• The I-5 corridor is known as the “West Coast track,” trafficking victims from Washington down to Mexico.
• Portland is one of the significant areas for trafficking activity.
• SARC has identified 200 trafficked victims in Portland, and fear there are likely far more unknown.
• Pimps will prey on vulnerable children where they are likely to be found: living on the streets as runaways, hanging out in public places, living in juvenile group homes, sitting alone during school breaks, or cruising internet chat lines.
• A runaway child is usually picked up by a trafficker within 48 hours.
• The average age of entry into trafficking is approximately 14 years old.
• Often trafficking victims are forcefully given drugs to cause addiction and subsequent dependence on pimps.
Something to think about:
As I worked with Shelly's story, I couldn't help but wonder, “What about the neighborhood man washing his car who refused to get involved and help a desperate 14 yr. old girl? What if he had been Jesus with skin on, and taken Shelly back to her family or a place of refuge where she could get real help and healing…. Could she have been saved the devastation of the next several years?” Will I risk brushing up against someone's dark plight to get involved and save a life…? Will you?
There are many ways we can make a difference. Two organizations doing just that are Adorned in Grace and Door to Grace. Adorned in Grace sells donated new and used wedding gowns, formal wear and accessories, with all proceeds going to bring awareness, prevention, and safe shelter to the problem of sex trafficking. They also have a design studio, used as an outreach to at-risk girls in low-income neighborhoods. Door to Grace provides restorative care services and safe shelter for children who are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
Here are links to these ministries. Look for more about them in the February 15th blog.
The rest of the story….
“In 1981, Starla Brown met a four-year-old Shelly at Community Bible Fellowship. Nearly thirty years later they reconnected in a most unusual way. Starla, a volunteer at Adorned in Grace, received a phone call to set an appointment to see wedding dresses there. Shelly was the caller, and after all those years, she recognized Starla's voice and the time they'd spent together at Community Bible Fellowship. When meeting at the shop later in the week, Shelly was excited to learn the mission of Adorned in Grace, explaining that she was herself a victim of human trafficking. As she and her sisters pored over the dresses, they finally found two damaged choices that could be put together to make one perfect just for her. Shelly looked radiant and said she liked the idea of making a completely new dress out of two that were used and damaged because it reflected her story. “
Isn't that just what God likes to do with all of us?
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…. to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1,3)
Former congresswoman presents harrowing story of human trafficking
by BARBARA LLOYD MCMICHAEL
January is a good time to review our civic involvement and consider what causes we will champion in 2012. Some people will work to improve education, others to reduce pollution or improve health care.
Linda Smith will keep working on the crusade she has been on since visiting India in 1998 as a congresswoman from Washington's 3rd Congressional District. That's when she saw firsthand victims of the sex trade industry and created a nonprofit organization, Shared Hope International, that combats the repugnant exploitation of humans - especially children - as sexual commodities.
Initially, Shared Hope worked to create homes to shelter and rehabilitate the young victims in places like Mumbai and Katmandu. It wasn't until later that Smith grew to understand that the problem wasn't just overseas, but was happening right here at home, too.
Indeed, the U.S. State Department notes that our country is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and other forms of illegal servitude. And, according to a task force report sponsored by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy in this state, Washington is a major international gateway for the trafficking of children throughout the nation.
Smith has written a book, "Renting Lacy," to raise awareness about the issue. The book is short, and brutally graphic. Smith begs pardon for the vulgarity, but maintains that "only the harshness of the truth can wake the world to this horror."
She says the stories she presents are drawn from actual events and actual victims, with names and details altered to protect those who have survived and escaped their bondage.
And so begins an excruciating tour into the underbelly of our society.
"Lacy," though still a minor, is the prostitute in charge of her pimp's stable of girls, and her job includes prepping the neophytes who are brought in at 11 or 12 years of age.
We learn the stories of some of the other "product," too, with insight into the psychological manipulation and physical threats that keep the "working girls" plying the trade.
Smith also weaves in the stories of pimps and johns and cops.
If truth be told, the sex trade is hiding in plain sight at truck stops and along highway strips, in every major city and in too many small towns. While many of the victims have been imported into America from elsewhere, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 domestically born minors are pawns in an industry that is as lucrative as it is morally reprehensible.
Interspersed throughout the lurid chapters, Smith steps in to provide commentary and background - on the typical process pimps employ to groom new recruits, on the customers who create the demand, on the effects of pornography on the trade, and on law enforcement and the judicial system.
"Renting Lacy" is a harrowing book to read, but its urgent message cannot be ignored.
More law-enforcement firepower to combat sex trafficking
A dozen smart bipartisan proposals in the Washington state Senate hammer sexual exploiters and human traffickers hard. MORE authority for law enforcement to combat sex trafficking is promised in a bipartisan package of anti-trafficking bills in the Washington state Senate.
A bipartisan team of influential senators, who are backing a dozen bills, lend legislative firepower and a united political front on a critical issue.
One of the key pieces of legislation, introduced by Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, would create a new offense, making it illegal to knowingly sell an escort ad that involves a minor. Classified-advertising companies would be required to try to verify ages of escorts in sex-related postings.
Prohibiting such ads would violate constitutionally protected free-speech rights. Senate Bill 6251 would not dictate the content of the ads, but it would appeal to the self-interest of online advertisers. It would provide a defense to online advertisers in child-exploitation cases linked to their sites if they could prove they tried to verify a victim's age.
It has a chance of withstanding legal scrutiny. Kohl-Welles sought advice from Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Village Voice Media, which owns backpage.com, opposes the bill. Of course. The media conglomerate has ignored the entreaties of more than 40 state attorneys general and other law-enforcement officials to shut down the escorts section on its subsidiary, backpage.com.
Backpage.com and Village Voice ought to agree to age verifications. No one can argue there is not a need for doing so. Seattle police have so far linked 22 cases of child prostitution to girls advertised as escorts on backpage.com.
Other anti-trafficking bills would toughen commercial sex-abuse and prostitution laws, beef up seizure and property forfeiture rules in such cases and permit the state to inspect foot-massage parlors suspected as fronts for prostitution. A bill would add protections for people with mental disabilities forced into prostitution.
Washington state was the first in the nation to pass anti-trafficking legislation. Steady pressure has quelled some of the trafficking activity. The Senate bills offer the latest pressure. Tough laws can have an impact.
Child sex abuse: When concern for institutional risk trumps the truth
January 15, 2012
by Thomas P. Murt
Grand jury investigations into the recent child sex abuse scandals that have rocked Penn State and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have placed the issue of child sex abuse onto the front burner here in Pennsylvania — where it belongs.
I serve on the Child and Youth Committee and have listened to and read many hours of excruciatingly painful testimony from victims and their families describing the most heinous sexual abuse imaginable. The institutional cover-ups and subsequent ill-treatment of victims have made these terrible situations even worse. It's a sad day, indeed, when concern for institutional risk management trumps uncovering the truth.
I recently listened to testimony concerning two perpetrators who were Franciscan Friars and who taught at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia when I was on the faculty there. As a life-long Catholic, a former parochial school teacher, and a religious education instructor, I am filled with anguish over these incidents.
I am also a proud Penn State alumnus and I still teach at the PSU Abington campus. I believe that Penn State is a jewel in the crown of our great commonwealth. Thus, everything I've learned about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the devastation it has wrought pains me to the core.
Rather than allow myself to become protective of the alleged and convicted criminals in these institutions that I hold most dear, I am compelled by my conscience and by my office to act on behalf of the victims until the perpetrators have been punished and justice has been served.
It's not going to be easy. But, it is up to me and to all elected state officials, regardless of their affiliations, to act with integrity, strength, and righteousness — right now.
It's time to open the window.
First, we in state government must encourage — not suppress — the public conversation about the sexual abuse of children.
Recent studies have shown that one in four girls and one in six boys has been sexually abused, and more than 90 percent are molested by someone they know. And these statistics are known to be low due to a gross underreporting of child sex crimes.
I have heard protests that the media and the politically correct crowd are making too much of this issue — blowing it out of proportion. For far too long, not enough was made of the sexual abuse of children and that's why we're in such a predicament today. It must be reported and discussed. The victims must be validated and the criminals punished.
We need to open the window and allow the light of truth to shine into this dark place.
Second, state legislators must act to expand the current statute of limitations for child sex abuse.
Originally designed to set the maximum time that legal proceedings may be initiated after an abuse event, the rationale is that over time memories can fade, making it difficult to litigate. In reality, it protects abusers from both criminal prosecution and civil liability and discourages victims from ever opening their mouths. It also prevents the accused who are innocent from going to trial and clearing their good names.
Often victims are unable to come forward until after years of therapy and support, and the recovery phase is frequently preceded by decades of emotional turmoil, substance abuse, etc. A colleague here in Harrisburg revealed publicly for the first time that she was raped as a young girl at the age of 12. She is now a senior citizen. It took 66 years for this educated, dignified woman to find the strength to share her story and to encourage other victims to come forward.
She is not alone. People who are subjected to sexual abuse as children are a unique class of victim that requires an extended statute of limitations to allow them to come forward with their claims. Only by opening this window can we recognize their abuse and give them the respect they deserve as human beings and as U.S. citizens, allowing justice to take its course.
Henry Louis Mencken said, “If you want peace, then work for justice.” The elected officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania need to work together right now to give victims of child sex abuse an avenue to pursue their justice and finally have peace.
The pain and the shame — both for the victims and for these institutions — will not go away as long as the window remains closed tight, preventing the truth from coming to light and maintaining the current restrictive statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims
It's time to open the window. Anything less is justice denied.
Rep. Thomas P. Murt serves the 152nd Legislative District. He is the secretary of the Child and Youth Committee and chairs the Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Mental Health. The 152nd Legislative District includes Lower Moreland, Upper Moreland, Hatboro and Bryn Athyn, as well as portions of Upper Dublin and Northeast Philadelphia.
Catskills support groups
RISE Sexual Assault Adult Survivors support group
| 1:30 -- 3 p.m. Thursdays
14 Prince St.
Drop-ins welcome. Group is adult women in an open, unstructured discussion format.
Call Ann-Marie Franklin, 791-9595.
Lakeshore health calendar
Help with Healing, support group for adult female survivors of sexual assault and abuse, the first and third Mondays each month
|300 Reed Ave.
Women's domestic violence support group, every Tuesday night. Childcare, transportation available. (920) 684-5770
Children's support group, every Tuesday night. For ages 4 and up. (920) 684-5770
Child Sexual Abuse: The Devil We Know vs. the Devil We Don't
by William D. Burrell
It has been just over two months since the news of the arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky broke. The torrent of electronic and print media coverage was overwhelming, but the facts alone are stunning: a career college football coach and pillar of the community charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of a dozen young men over some twenty years.
The after-effects are equally shocking. The Penn State president and two high level university administrators were fired, followed shortly by the departure of Joe Paterno, the university's iconic head football coach. The legal process—criminal and civil—will take years to conclude, and that time and perhaps more will be needed for the Penn State community to heal.
While Sandusky is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the public record of the allegations against him contained in the grand jury reports paint a portrait of a classic serial child sex abuser with numerous victims over many years.
This portrait is consistent with the evidence we have about the behavior and offending patterns of this group of offenders.
However this case ultimately ends, it provides a cautionary tale about preventing child sexual abuse and an educational opportunity for all of us. This is a particularly important opportunity, given another recent high-profile, equally horrific, example of child sexual abuse.
The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard captured the attention of the nation and the media in 2009 when she was rescued from an eighteen year long captivity at the hands of her kidnapper.
She had been abducted off the street in South Lake Tahoe, CA by a paroled sex offender in 1991 when she was just 11 years old. During her captivity, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and gave birth to two children. Ultimately freed, she told heart-wrenching stories of her captivity that send chills down the spine of anyone who reads her testimony.
The Dugard case is an extreme example of the scenario parents everywhere fear. A child is abducted by a stranger from a public place that is presumed to be safe, and is sexually assaulted or worse. The case has echoes of the 1994 New Jersey case of Megan Kanka, who was abducted, raped and murdered by a paroled sex offender who lived across the street.
The Megan Kanka case triggered swift action in New Jersey. The package of laws known as “Megan's Law” was written, considered, voted on and passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in four months time, which may be a record. Megan's Law includes requirements for sex offender registration and community notification of the residence of the more serious offenders.
The philosophy behind this law is that registration of known sex offenders will enable law enforcement to keep track of them and let the public know where the highest-risk offenders them are living.
Subsequent laws adopted in other states and at the federal level have broadened the scope of Megan's Law. Some states now prohibit registered sex offenders from establishing residence close to locations where children congregate (schools, playground, parks and day care centers). To the parent who fears a child abduction scenario, the provisions of Megan's Law seem like a good idea. We know who the bad guys are, we know where they live, and we've made it illegal for them to live near our kids.
But whatever level of comfort the Megan's Law provisions may provide, the Sandusky case raises a whole new set of issues that represent a larger threat to the safety of our children.
The evidence and experience demonstrates that our children are at much greater risk of sexual assault at the hands not of a registered sex offender who is a stranger, but of someone that they know and trust. That person is often also known and trusted by the child's parents. And the offense is likely to occur not in a dark alley or a seedy van with blacked out windows, but at home or in a place that should be safe, such as a school, a church or a sports locker room.
A large number of child-victim sex offenders are not known to the criminal justice system.
They have not been caught and registered; so we don't know who they are. Many of them occupy positions, either paid or volunteer, that involve regular contact with children. The offenders are often respected individuals whose motives are not suspect and whose reputations are often exemplary. They often take months and years to build relationships with children, gaining their trust and often establishing a situation where the child is emotionally or even financially dependent on the perpetrator. This contributes to the reluctance of the child to expose the abuse, and increases the guilt they feel if and when they do.
The allegations in the Sandusky case portray just this type of behavior, played out over many years with numerous victims.
The shock, surprise, disbelief and dismay that surrounded Sandusky's arrest are also very common with these types of cases. In a recent case that broke in New Jersey just after Christmas, an elementary school vice principal and volunteer coach was charged with videotaping high school athletes in the locker room shower. A person who knew and trusted the alleged perpetrator said, “I have kids of my own and now I'll never be able to trust anyone with my kids – no teacher, no coach, no one. Because if Pat Lott is dirty, there is no one I can trust.”
If the greater risk to our children is from people we know and trust in places where they should be safe, what should we do? As a Star-Ledger (NJ) editorial critical of residency restrictions for sex offenders noted, “To protect our kids, we have to watch them, educate them and communicate with them”.
This is certainly a much more difficult challenge, but one that we must face up to. Kids need to know the appropriate boundaries for physical contact – what's OK and what is not. They need to know that it is their right to say “no.”
They need to feel safe in discussing questionable situations and conduct with their parents. Parents too need to be aware of the danger signs, ask questions and take action when justified. Child-victim sex offenders rely on people—parents and victims— not saying anything, not questioning their actions when inappropriate because they are such “good guys.” We need to look behind bedroom doors and locker room doors, not just behind the bushes at the bus stop or playground.
There is an obvious need for leadership at the state and federal level to help citizens and communities address this situation.
We need help in developing and implementing the programs and educational efforts to help parents and their children, teachers and schools, communities and organizations across the country figure out how to meet the challenge of better protecting our kids.
It is unfortunate that the federal government is currently pursuing a strategy that embraces the “register and restrict” approach to sex offenders and attempts to take it to a new level. The Adam Walsh Act calls for the states to contribute information to a national sex offender registry. Significant expenditures are required at the state level. The state of Texas estimated that it would cost some $39 million for it to comply with the mandates of the Act. Some states, including Texas, have determined that the penalty they would suffer (the loss of 10% of federal justice assistance grants) isn't worth the cost.
While some states may be rejecting the Adam Walsh Act for primarily financial reasons, we should use the opportunity to shift the focus to a strategy that addresses the reality on the ground.
As the Star-Ledger editorial concluded, “Tightening the noose around sex offenders gives is the illusion of safety. But in reality, it would leave our children less safe.”
I was a probation administrator in New Jersey when Megan's Law was enacted and worked to develop and implement the registration policies for sex offenders on probation. I recall feeling that the effort, while well-intentioned and perhaps effective, would ultimately create a false sense of security for parents.
The true danger to kids was then—and continues to be—not the sex offenders we know, but rather those that we don't.
William D. Burrell is a regular blogger for The Crime Report. An independent corrections management consultant specializing in community corrections and evidence-based practices, he was a member (2003-2007) of the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia. Prior to joining the Temple faculty, Bill served for 19 years as chief of adult probation services for the New Jersey state court system. Bill is chairman of the Editorial Committee for Perspectives, the journal of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and serves on APPA's Board of Directors. He has consulted, developed and delivered training for probation and parole agencies at the federal, state and county levels. He welcomes reader comments.
Focus Penn State case anger into a commitment to help abused children
by Carol Lavery & Meghan Dade
Where do we focus our anger? Do we rage against an alleged sexual predator who reportedly used his powerful position to gain access to vulnerable children? Or do we rage against the men who allegedly had the knowledge, ability and power to intervene on behalf of those children and chose instead to do otherwise?
If we are smart, we will focus our collective anger, distress and disbelief over the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and two Penn State officials into a sustained commitment to intervene when children are being abused, to provide assistance to victims and their families and to prevent other children from becoming victims.
Unfortunately, the number of children who are victimized in the United States is shocking.
According to the National Center for Victims of Abuse, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, assistance is available.
The Hero Project, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, connects victims to local services and helps us to determine how we can best intervene on behalf of children. Assistance also is available for anyone who needs help sorting through the emotions triggered by the Sandusky case.
You can contact the HERO Hotline at 877-874-HERO or www.heroproject.org
. In addition, we all must take responsibility to report suspicions of child sexual abuse to law enforcement or to ChildLine at 800-932-0313. Educational resources also are available for parents and others on how to keep our children and loved ones safe.
For information about the different methods that child molesters use to get physically close to children, review “The 11 Methods and Styles Used by Child Molesters” and watch “The Unusual Suspects” video, which explains how child molesters “groom” children to sexually abuse them, on the website of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board at www.megansslaw.state.pa.us.
Adults might be hesitant to believe that someone they know and trust or who is considered a respected member of the community could commit these types of crimes. In 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases, however, the victims know their abuser; and almost half of the abusers are family members. In addition, it is important to understand that children rarely make up stories of abuse.
For these reasons, we must pay attention to the behaviors of the adults in our children's lives. And more importantly, we must listen to our children. It is time that we stand up for the children of Pennsylvania and end the silence created by predators to sustain their power. Turn that anger into action.
Carol Lavery is a victim advocate for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Meghan Dade is executive director with the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Guidelines for reporting of child abuse, sexual assault
January 17, 2012
Talking about any type of abuse is difficult, according to experts, and even more difficult is acknowledging that sexual abuse of children occurs all too frequently. The fight against child abuse cannot be the job of one individual or one agency; it has to be a collaborative effort. It is important for every member of our University community to clearly understand the imperative and expectations, legal and moral, to report incidents or suspicions of child abuse and sexual assault as soon as possible, whether they are directly observed or reported to them by others. Below are guidelines to help faculty, staff and students in reporting abuse.
For incidents of child abuse:
Pennsylvania law mandates child abuse reporting requirements for all employees at a public university such as Penn State. Though the law requires incidents to be reported to the person "in charge of the situation," all employees are expected to report incidents of child abuse or suspicions of abuse as soon as possible to all of the following:
|-- University Police (911, or 111 from a campus phone at University Park) or local police (911);
-- The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Child Line at 800-932-0313 (this hotline is staffed at all times); and
-- Their supervisor.
There are four categories of child abuse covered under the law:
|-- A non-accidental, serious physical injury to a child younger than 18 years;
-- Mental injury, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child younger than 18 years;
-- An act that creates imminent risk of serious physical injury to, or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of, a child younger than 18 years;
-- Neglect that endangers a child's life or development.
For incidents of rape and sexual assault against college-age students or other adults:
Employees should take the following steps if a victim of rape or sexual assault contacts them:
-- Assist the victim with getting to a safe place as soon as possible (on the University Park campus, health care for victims can be provided through Mount Nittany Medical Center and/or University Health Services).
-- Encourage the victim to preserve all physical evidence. Offer to contact the police on the victim's behalf. The victim should not bathe, shower, douche (for female victims), use the toilet, or change clothing until a medical exam has been conducted.
-- Encourage and help the victim to contact the police or offer to contact the police on the victim's behalf. The emergency telephone number 911 is used in the local community. For University Police dial 3-1111 from an on campus phone at University Park. Also, any blue light emergency telephone will connect a caller directly with University Police. Rape and sexual assault are crimes and it is important to report them. However, reporting a crime is not the same as prosecuting. The decision to prosecute can be made by a victim at a later time. Reporting the incident to University Police also will permit a timely warning to be issued to the campus or local community.
-- Employees should notify their supervisor about the incident. Because victims often share with someone they trust, any staff member, regardless of training or comfort level, can be the first person with whom a victim talks. It is important for employees to let their supervisor know that they have received information about a sexual assault or rape, so the employee can receive support, so the victim can be provided with whatever resources the victim might need, and so Penn State can ensure that campus safety matters have been addressed. Employees do not need to divulge the victim's identity when reporting to a supervisor.
-- Offer to assist the victim to get medical attention as soon as possible. An exam will determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy (for female victims); it is important for the victim's well-being. The exam, if done within 72 hours following the rape or sexual assault, can obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution. If a female victim is worried about pregnancy, emergency contraception pills (available through University Health Services) can be administered within 72 hours of the sexual assault to help prevent pregnancy.
-- Contact a close friend of the victim who can be with the victim for support. The friend can accompany the victim to the medical exam and/or police department.
-- Encourage the victim to meet with a counselor. The victim may be feeling a variety of strong emotions, including fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial and anger. The victim also may have some physical problems, such as sleep disturbances and nausea. Therefore, seeing a counselor may be important in helping the victim to understand personal feelings and begin the process of recovery.
-- For more detailed information, refer to the “Student Affairs Protocol to Assist Victims of Relationship, Domestic and Sexual Violence, at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/pdf/protocol.pdf.
Pennsylvania law categorizes crimes of rape and sexual assault in the following ways:
Rape is defined as sexual intercourse obtained:
|-- through "forcible compulsion or threat of forcible compulsion;"
-- when a person is unconscious or unaware that intercourse is occurring even though conscious;
-- when a mental disability renders a person incapable of consent;
-- when a person is less than 13 years of age even though consent is given; or
-- when the offender gets a victim drunk or high for the purpose of preventing resistance without the knowledge of the victim.
Sexual assault consists of nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, anal or oral sex. There must be some penetration, however slight, but ejaculation is not necessary.
Aggravated indecent assault consists of penetration of the genitals or anus by a part of the offender's body without consent.
Indecent assault is defined as unwanted touching of intimate parts of the body.
Event Thursday to address signs and symptoms of child abuse
To the Editor:
Since the Penn State sex abuse scandal and allegations of sexual abuse of minors by longtime Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine emerged, I and my staff have heard numerous stories from adults disclosing that they are survivors of child abuse. People are now talking about this around the water cooler!
Although the topic of child sexual abuse is disturbing, perhaps the silver lining in these painful news stories is that more people feel comfortable talking about the issue and it is an opportunity for adult survivors to get support and closure. Also, a community with informed adults can prevent others from being abused. In order to facilitate a community conversation and to expand the community's understanding of child abuse, McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Preventing Child Abuse in Youth Athletics 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Onondaga Community College's Storer Auditorium. I heartily encourage anyone who is involved in youth sports or parents of children in youth sports or any youth group to attend.
Our goal is for the town hall meeting to serve as a call to action for youth groups and for attendees to leave with increased awareness about child abuse. Although this session focuses on youth sports, the information we plan to share is relevant to any volunteer-led organization serving youth. Other topics panelists will address include:
|Why youth groups are at risk for attracting sexual offenders.
Signs and symptoms of child abuse.
How to react to a disclosure.
How to report suspected abuse.
How to prevent abuse in your organization.
Red flags of a potential sex offender.
Tim Donovan, director of the SUNY Youth Sports Institute, will share what his organization is doing to help youth sports programs correct organizational deficiencies and how organizations can create a sustainable, positive sports environment. Also, Dan Leonard, a male sex abuse survivor, will share his insight as a victim of abuse he endured as a teen at the hands of his high school football coach. The meeting will be moderated by Becky Palmer of B104.7 radio, who has become an advocate for our mission over the past few months. In addition to me, other panelists will include:
|Allison Young, Family Transitions, Elmcrest Children's Center.
Ellen Ford, clinical director, Vera House.
A representative from the Abused Person's Unit, Onondaga County Sheriff's Office.
Sgt. Bryan Lendy, Abused Person's Unit, Syracuse Police Department.
Christine Garvey, chief assistant district attorney, Onondaga County District Attorney's Office.
The town hall meeting will begin with a viewing of “Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger,” a video that was developed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services as a tool to instruct parents on how to protect their children from sexual predators. We have also planned ample time for what we hope will be a dynamic question-and-answer session.
For those unable to attend, the event will be streamed live on the digital channels of television stations 3, 5, 9 and YNN and on wsyrtv.com. Attendees should plan on parking in lots 2 or 3 and proceed to the Ferrante Building, where Storer Auditorium is located. Volunteers will be on hand to guide people to the auditorium.
I look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday and throughout the coming months as we continue the dialogue on preventing child abuse. Please visit www.mcmahonryan.org
or call 701-2985 for more information.
Julie Cecile is executive director of McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
Why is child abuse tied to witchcraft on the rise?
Social care special: Evidence is emerging that a growing number of children are being subjected to violence tied to witchcraft and exorcism rituals. So why are such cases on the rise, asks Louise Hunt.
Social workers are used to coping with the unexpected – it comes with the territory. But child-protection specialists are increasingly coming across a kind of case that few textbooks have prepared them for: abuse of children related to belief in witchcraft.
Child abuse linked to ideas of spirit possession and witchcraft branding is a growing phenomenon, according to evidence given to the Commons education select committee's current inquiry into child protection. It is predominantly an issue in African communities, often fuelled by extreme religious conviction, and experts believe that its growth is a reaction to personal or family misfortune brought about by the economic downturn.
Such is the level of concern about the small but rising trend that the Department for Education intends to publish an action plan on religion, witchcraft and child safeguarding, both to raise awareness of the problem and to develop expertise to counter it.
Philip Ishola of the London Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), who has led the development of guidance for social care professionals on faith-based abuse, says: "There is a lot more work to be done on developing a co-ordinated system to respond. A consistent model across the UK does not yet exist. It is still very difficult for children's social care teams to unpick what has caused the abuse."
Belief in possession
The link between belief in spirit possession and child abuse came to public attention following the death in 2000 in Haringey, north London, of Victoria Climbié, who was from the Ivory Coast. Research found that her guardians, Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning, had tortured the eight-year-old partly through belief that she was possessed by an evil spirit – a belief supported by their church leaders.
Victoria Climbié's guardians tortured her through belief that she was possessed by an evil spirit. Her death in 2000 brought faith-based abuse to public attention
In 2005, three adults in east London were convicted of child cruelty to another eight-year-old, from Angola. She had been starved, beaten, cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes in the belief that she was possessed.
Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), a children's rights charity working with African communities in the UK, told the Commons committee that faith-based abuse is on the rise. Afruca chair Prospera Tedam said: "Over the last year, we have seen and worked with 12 cases in the London area of what we perceive as severe abuse and neglect arising from these beliefs of witchcraft."
Justin Bahunga, Afruca policy lead on faith-based abuse, says the cases coming to the charity's attention include children being semi-strangled, burned with an iron, severely beaten and starved in the belief that "it will get the devil out of them".
The belief that there are forces that can control people and events is widespread in Africa and among African communities in the UK, Bahunga explains. While the same notion exists in many religions, its role in African culture may manifest in a UK context as a response to issues such as immigration difficulties or unemployment.
"Desperate people will often seek advice from church leaders and some rogue pastors will blame children. They are seen as the easiest target," Bahunga says, giving the example of a current case Afruca is advising on involving a child branded as a witch and accused of causing their stepmother's infertility.
"The pastor will say: 'No matter what your problems, I can solve them by protecting you against the evil forces of witchcraft'. Because of their status, the word of the pastor is interpreted as God's will. They may be paid for their advice, or to carry out exorcisms. They exploit the vulnerability of the families."
Children with disabilities, orphans and those seen as having challenging behaviour are particularly vulnerable to being branded as witches, he says. Also at risk are those who may have left their parents to live with relatives or other guardians.
Afruca is campaigning for a change in law to make it illegal to brand someone as a witch. But meanwhile there is a concern that the number of incidents will rise because of the economic downturn. Bahunga says: "We fear that there is potential for real increase due to the harsh social economic situation that can trigger accusations of possession – and this is likely to be worse within newly arrived communities."
Evidence is emerging that witchcraft belief is an increasingly common tool in controlling children who have been trafficked. Research by Ecpat UK, which campaigns against the exploitation and trafficking of children, has found that traffickers may force children to go through witchcraft rituals in their countries of origin to prevent them from seeking help.
Ecpat UK director Christine Beddoe says: "No matter how far away they are from the trafficker, these children are still living in fear of what will happen to them if they speak out. As our understanding of this issue has grown, we are seeing more cases where the ?children's behaviour suggests they are living with this fear and control in their lives."
In July last year, Anthony Harrison of Stratford, east London, became the first person in the UK to be convicted of using witchcraft rituals to control victims of trafficking. He was jailed for 20 years for imprisoning two Nigerian girls, aged 14 and 16, whom he was attempting to take out of the UK to force into prostitution.
While Beddoe praises the work of the Metropolitan police special investigations unit in the Harrison case, she is concerned that agencies are not sharing case-based information from child protection services that could indicate abuse. This may be through ignorance of witchcraft practices, but she also believes there is a reticence among child protection workers in tackling what may be perceived as a cultural issue.
"One of the biggest challenges is where professionals have turned a blind eye to perceived cultural practices, even when they are considered harmful to children," Beddoe says. "They have got to start challenging concerns around cultural sensitivity where there is child abuse. This needs to be documented and agencies need to find a way of synthesising the data."
The last major official study of child abuse linked to accusations of witchcraft was carried out in 2006. It identified 74 cases of abuse in the UK since 2000 where a clear link could be established. Three quarters of known cases were in London and the children were mostly of African ethnicity, with some cases from south-east Asia and one from a white English background. Around half involved children born in the UK.
Supplementary guidance on safeguarding children was issued in 2007. But child protection organisations working in communities with beliefs in possession are concerned that such abuse often remains under the radar until a child dies.
Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), which trains churches in safeguarding issues, urges practitioners to use his service as a resource. "Social work practitioners need to understand the communities by working with organisations like ourselves," he says.
Ishola, who chairs the LSCB's child-trafficking group and is a service manager in children's services at Harrow council, north London, thinks social workers are becoming more aware of the problem. "Three to four years ago, these issues may not have registered as a real concern because of a western interpretation of witchcraft," he says. "But we have learned about belief in spirit possession from people coming into the UK. These cases come from a different perspective and now awareness is better."
The education department's forthcoming action plan stems from a roundtable meeting last year involving children's minister Tim Loughton and child protection organisations including Afruca and CCPAS. A department spokesman says: "It was agreed that stronger co-ordination of activity was needed, both nationally and locally, to raise awareness of this issue, develop the skills of practitioners and to support communities to resist abuse."
Bass says the action plan will bring together best practice. "I hope it will enable practitioners to know where to go for help in understanding the issues so they are more readily able to respond. I believe it will go a long way to addressing this abuse."
Court to Rule on Repressed Memory in Sexual Abuse Cases
by John McKiggan
Sexual abuse victims often struggle for years with memories of the traumatic abuse they suffered as children. In some cases, the experiences are so traumatic that they block out (or repress) the memories.
This week the Minnesota Supreme Court is hearing a motion to determine whether a survivor of sexual abuse can present evidence of repressed memory syndrome.
In the United States, courts will not consider expert scientific evidence unless the party seeking to submit the evidence can establish that the evidence is scientifically reliable. The motion is called a Daubert motion .
In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Mohan decided the test to be applied when considering expert evidence. Mohan sets out four specific criteria for the admissibility of expert evidence. They are:
- Necessity in assisting the trier of fact;
- Absence of any exclusionary rules; and
- A properly qualified expert.
The Supreme Court recently weighed in on this issue again in R. v. Trochym where the majority of the Supreme Court Justices reiterated that reliablity is at an essential component when determining the admissibility of expert evidence.
Is Evidence of Repressed Memory Syndrome Reliable?
Determining the accuracy of a plaintiff's memory in cases of childhood sexual abuse is critical to the success of a plaintiff's claim.
When considering expert evidence relating to repressed memory syndrome the court needs to understand how human beings store memories.
Experts agree that there are three components to our memory:
- Sensory memory;
- Short term memory; and
- Long term memory.
The scientific literature generally agrees that although our ability to store and retrieve memories is usually accurate, memories naturally tend to fade over time.
Factors Resulting in Better Memory
Psychologists have found that there are five factors that tend to result in clearer or better memory retrieval over time:
- Meaningful memories (you are more likely to remember the details of your marriage twenty years ago than what you had for breakfast a week ago);
- Emotional events are more likely to be remember than neutral events. (So you are more likely to remember the drive to work where someone almost crashed into your car than the hundreds of other routine commutes you made every other day of the year);
- Paying attention. Obviously if someone is focused on paying attention to events around them they are more likely to remember the act than if they are not paying attention; and
- Reviewed after the event. If you are in a car accident and write down what happened or give a statement to the police or an insurance adjuster you are more likely to remember the event because you have reviewed or repeated the event over again in your mind.
Dates are Difficult
Experts have found that specific dates are very difficult to remember unless they can be tied to a specific event or milestone. In other words, you are more likely to remember an event that happened in the past because you remember that it happened after your birthday party than you are to remember an event that happened on a random uneventful day.
Does Trauma Effect Memory?
Sexual abuse lawyers, and experts who treat survivors of childhood abuse, have to consider what effect trauma has on memory. The weight of scientific evidence appears to indicate that the content of traumatic memories are usually accurate and can be retained over very long periods of time.
Traumatic memories appear to be different than ordinary memories. They tend to be very vivid despite the passage of time and often are re-experienced as flashbacks (one of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder).
One of the most common differences between traumatic memories and ordinary memories is that gaps in recall or fragmented memories are very common. Memories tend to be disjointed or lack detail.
Psychologists believe in situations of extreme emotion, a victim's attention may be narrowed, causing fragmentation of their memories.
Victims may dissociate during and after traumatic events.
Finally, victims may repress the memories all together. Psychologists believe that repression of traumatic memories may be a means of coping. The fact that child abuse often takes place secretly means that the events are not likely to be reviewed at a later date (one of the factors which helps increase recall).
What about False Memories?
Defendants in sexual abuse cases often claim the victim is experiencing false memories. See for example:
Can False Memories be Created?
It does appear that false memories can be implanted. The ability to create and implant false memories tends to depend on the importance of the event and the likelihood or plausibility of the memory.
For example, false memories are more likely if the suggested event is believable, plausible or has some basis in reality.
For example, I normally stop at a local drive through for a coffee on my way to work in the morning. Experts suggest that it would be possible to implant a false memory that in addition to my coffee I bought a donut on my way to work. On the other hand, it would be unlikely that I would go to the drive through and buy a watermelon.
Experts have determined that false memories for positive events (like a birthday party) and neutral events (wearing a blue baseball cap) are more likely to be produced than false memories for negative events (like sexual abuse).
It is well documented that traumatic events can be forgotten. Studies of war veterans has determined that combat trauma can result in amnesia.
There are well documented studies proving amnesia for victims of childhood physical abuse, rape victims, car accident victims and survivors of natural disasters.
Childhood Sexual Abuse
Studies of victims of documented childhood sexual abuse have shown that between 20% to 60% of abuse survivors are reported having times in their lives when they had no memory of their childhood abuse.
Studies also appear to confirm that recovered memory is as reliable and accurate as continuous memory in studies that compared abuse that was documented in hospital records.
What does it all mean?
Victims of childhood sexual abuse can have periods where the abuse is forgotten and then remembered at a later date.
Traumatic memories may be fragmented or disjointed but generally tend to be accurate.
False memories can be implanted but it is unusual and very unlikely if a memory is of an improbable or unusual event.
Finally, memories can be recovered and corroborated by objective third party evidence.
Child Athletes: Targets for Sexual Predators
Though the issue of adult power figures in athletics and the abuse of children has suddenly become a hot issue, the Jerry Sandusky case is hardly a unique occurrence. Some of the best methods to prevent a child from being a victim involve parents.
NAPERVILLE, IL, The recent national coverage regarding retired Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the sexual abuse charges involving as many as eight boys has drawn national attention to sexual predators involved in sports. Allegations levied against Sandusky state that he used his involvement with sports as a former college football coach to gain access to children through a charity he set up for at-risk kids called Second Mile. The abuse is suspected to have taken place over many years, despite several alleged incidents where Sandusky was highly inappropriate with children. Those who were aware of the abuse could be considered complicit in the misconduct by looking the other way while innocent children continued to be sexually abused.
Though the issue of adult power figures in athletics and the abuse of children has suddenly become a hot issue, the Sandusky case is hardly a unique occurrence. Over the past few years, coaches from football, basketball, softball and cheerleading have been charged with sexual molestation of underage children in many states across the country. The idea of sexual predators being around children in the sports environment is anything but a new trend.
The participation of children in athletics and the ability for an adult predator to gain access to them through the context of sports is a known issue. As a result, there are in many instances steps taken to safeguard kids from possible contact with an individual who is intent on engaging in sexual misconduct. Many youth sport organizations use screening and background checks to identify sexual predators, but they are often not mandatory. In addition to screening potential coaches and volunteers, ensuring that known predators face a permanent ban from contact with young athletes does deter predators. Though regulations are important and helpful they are not foolproof nor can they even be the best way to avoid a problem.
Some of the best methods to prevent a child from being a victim of a sexual predator involve parents and the children themselves. Parents should encourage their children to report any behavior from a coach or other adult that that makes them uncomfortable. Unfortunately, many times the fears of stigma, ostracism or blame will cause a victim to remain silent and not speak about an issue. Parents need to be involved with their children and encourage a dialogue about the goings on of their daily life.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.missingkids.com/) has information and resources on its website that can aid parents if they think their child might be the victim of sexual abuse. The suggestions include listening to you children, attending their activities and paying attention to any adults who show special attention to your child or who offer expensive gifts.
Parents and all adults need to be hyper-vigilant in the monitoring and protection of children when it comes potential sexual abuse. It would be ridiculous to suggest that every coach or adult involved in youth sports is a risk to children, but the sad truth is that parents have to be always weary of the potential risk to their child. In a sad twist to the incidents in Pennsylvania with Jerry Sandusky, many adults reportedly knew -- or perhaps should have known -- that Sandusky was acting inappropriately with young boys, yet the abuse continued. Only second to the hideous acts themselves was the silence of others who prevented the crimes from coming to light and bringing Sandusky to justice sooner. The acts of a single person can scar a child for his entire life. As parents and adults, it is our duty to prevent any such atrocity from occurring to a child and it takes the relentless effort of everyone to observe the warning signs and stop abuse before it can take place.
Advocacy group sheds light on child sexual abuse
by John W. Goodwin Jr.
A North Side woman opened her niece's cellphone earlier this month only to discover one of every parent's worst fears.
The 12-year-old child said she had been molested by an uncle and was relating the story to a friend via text message.
The uncle reportedly assaulted the preteen in the middle of the night during a sleepover just days before the text message was discovered, but the girl did not come to her parents or aunt with the information. She chose instead to confide in a friend, who could offer no real advice.
The young victim's response is not uncommon.
According to Darkness to Light, an advocacy group for abused children, 40 percent of victims who disclose abuse tell a close friend rather than an adult or authority figure.
These “friend-to-friend” disclosures do not always result in reports to the authorities, leaving the vast majority of child-sexual-abuse incidents unreported.
Cases such as this are the reason Delphine Baldwin-Casey says children at an early age must know what inappropriate touching is and whom to talk to should inappropriate behavior take place.
Baldwin-Casey, a retired Youngstown police officer who has been involved in educating youths about sexual abuse and incest, was speaking with a group of children when she realized the importance of educating the children and how prevalent these situations are in the lives of some of them.
“I was speaking on the conduct of abuse being physical, verbal and nonverbal, teaching words like sexual battery, incest and rape,” she said. “Those definitions started bringing things out of kids that were happening outside of school.”
She also said the importance of making kids understand incest became clear when one boy confided that he had been inappropriately touched by his father, a girl said she was pregnant by her stepfather, and another girl said her father had been touching her during unsupervised visits to his home.
“You realize kids need to be educated at a much earlier time about sexual abuse. Some kids don't even realize this is abuse that is going on,” she said. “When you have kids who are in school facing these types of situations, it is very hard for them to study and stay focused. Many times, no one has any idea what is going on.”
Darkness to Light advocates communication between children and multiple trusted adults to minimize chances of sexual abuse.
Good communication may decrease a child's vulnerability to sexual abuse and increase the likelihood that the child will tell if abuse has occurred, the organization says.
Cindi McElhinney, director of programs at Darkness to Light, says it is good to teach children about their bodies, about what abuse is, and, when age-appropriate, about sex.
“Start very early, as early as when you start teaching about body parts. Teaching eyes, ears and nose should include a discussion of private parts,” she said.
McElhinney said it is important to teach the difference between good secrets and bad secrets, and that it is OK to say no to inappropriate behavior.
Baldwin-Casey said parents must have repeated discussions starting at an early age — as early as 3 — when the child can understand what his or her body parts are.
That must be done, she said, to foster a relationship in which children come to them or a trusted person instead of a friend or no one at all if something takes place.
Baldwin-Casey said the discussion should include an explanation of what body parts are off limits to others. She said it also must be made clear to the child that no one should be able to scare them into not telling a parent or another trusted adult when suspected inappropriate behavior occurs.
When a child does come to an adult with an implication or what could be disturbing news, McElhinney said it is important that the listening adult stay calm and not bring anxiety to the child.
She said the adult should make sure the child understands that he or she is being taken seriously and should also be thanked for coming forward with the information.
“We are trying to create an environment where they know it's OK to tell and that it is not their fault,” she said.
“When people come to you for help, you have to empower them,” she said. “A lot of times there are things kids tell you that there is absolutely no way they could make it up.”
Statistically, about 4 percent of abuse claims prove to be false. That number is increased with older children and couples involved in custody disputes.
Police are investigating the sexual assault of the 12-year-old North Side girl, but Baldwin-Casey said the goal is to hear about these abuses directly from the child instead of the chance finding of a text message.
Foster carers sought for abused children
A CHARITY has issued a desperate plea for people who would consider fostering sexually-exploited children.
Barnardo's North East is appealing for people in Hartlepool and east Durham to offer a safe, caring and secure home to young people who have been groomed or sexually-exploited.
Applicants could be asked to look after children as young as 12 or 13 as part of the pilot scheme, run by the Department For Education's Safer Accommodation project.
Bosses at the charity say child abuse is a growing problem, which was hidden for a number of years.
But they say more knowledge of exploitation is now available.
Shirley Storey, who is co-ordinating foster care placements for Barnardo's North East fostering and adoption team, based in County Durham, said: “It was hidden for a number of years and the signs of sexual exploitation were often not really recognised when referrals were made of young people needing foster care placements.
“Now, everyone is much more aware of the signs and the issue as a whole.
“It is recognised now that very young girls for example, who are coming into the care system, are not having consensual sex with their boyfriends – they are being groomed and exploited.
“A 13-year-old girl having sex with her 19-year-old ‘boyfriend' is not doing it out of choice, she is doing it to please him and often because she craves love and affection.
“A 13-year-old child cannot consent to sexual intercourse.”
Ms Storey added: “These young people coming into care need to be helped and given chances and opportunities to turn their lives around – preferably before they've gone down the road into drug abuse.
“We need foster placements throughout Hartlepool and east Durham for them which take them out of that environment and often, out of their home area completely, to give them the care, security, therapy and stability they need.”
She said the challenging but rewarding role will require a need to help build up the young peoples' confidence and to recognise they are not just “wayward” children at times, but victims.
Barnardo's is looking for carers who are good team players, willing to have a lot of professionals in their lives, as the young people will need specialist intervention and therapy.
Extensive training and support will be given.
To find out more about fostering sexually-exploited children, call the fostering and adoption team on (0191) 4929000.
Abuse of Children and Spouses Link Directly with Financial Woes Complications and Resolutions of These Abuses Discussed on the Dr. Carol Francis Show
Financial woes breed greater family stress. These stressors can lead to increased likelihood of child and spousal abuse. This current, serious phenomenon and solutions are discussed on The Dr. Carol Francis Show.
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) January 17, 2012
Financial complications increase the likelihood of spousal and child abuse as is discussed on The Dr. Carol Francis Show radio program, available at Dr. Carol Francis Show. The strain is very real and so is the risk to children and spouses when money becomes scarce. (U.S. News and World Report, 2011; Evolving Women's Consciousness, 2011; RelationshipSuccessNow.com; National Coalition for Chid Protection Reform, 2011)
How to stop these abusive reactions to stress is centrally discussed in this radio program, providing immediate and helpful tools by Psychologist and Marriage, Family & Child Therapist, Dr. Carol Francis.
This is in an era of financial stressors of all sorts including joblessness, on-the-edge family financial concerns, pessimistic outlooks, loss of investments, foreclosures, homelessness, and ever increasing cost of living demands. Any one of these can cause harmful stress in marriages and can cause parents to be impatient and neglectful. US News and World Report examined Financial Woes and Child Abuse Increase.
"Such stress increases the likelihood that family members will resort to quick-tempered reactions. Such poor behaviors include shouting, put-downs, antagonistic attitudes, fear, insecurity, irrational outbursts, and irrational accusations," warns Dr. Francis. "Spouses without jobs can be overly sensitivity to normal statements. Ordinary spending leads to arguments about unreasonable spending. Being fired because a business needs to shrink can cause false accusations about a spouse's poor performance at work," explains Dr. Carol Francis.
Parents will often take out their frustrations, their fears and their blame too. Children will sense fear and stress and become whinier using irritating high-pitches voices that can aggravate a parent's intolerance. Physical and verbal abuse are two reactions that increase when stress results. Listen to The Dr. Carol Francis on www.blogtalkradio.com//dr-carol-francis/2011/10/04/abuse-of-children-and-spouses-and-financial-wows. Find the nature of these problems and their remedies.
Links to current research and studies provided at RelationshipSuccessNow.com
PA Task Force on Child Protection must set clear abuse reporting guidelines
The Task Force on Child Protection has one of the most critical jobs in Pennsylvania: ensuring child abuse — like the kind alleged at Penn State and in certain Catholic churches — is reported, stopped quickly and never happens again.
Last week, the governor, Senate and House leaders announced their choices for who would serve on this important committee. There are doctors, district attorneys, a leader in rape crisis, an educator, social worker, attorney and a judge among the members.
As first impressions go, the list of participants seems like a good balance of people with diverse interests in the issue of child abuse. While there is a former state senator on the panel who is now a DA, what the task force rightly does not include is a current legislator.
This is a positive sign and hopefully will keep the group's focus on how to keep kids safe rather than turning it into another political campaign tool. The job before these professionals is too critical to allow inane differences between Democrats and Republicans to get in the way.
As Gov. Tom Corbett said when he announced the group: “The task force has a tremendously important job. It will provide input to help us strengthen state laws and ensure every Pennsylvania child receives the protection from harm they deserve.”
Now comes the challenging part: The group was given a broad scope and only 11 months to accomplish its work. It must decide what key issues to tackle in that time. Some topics that must be addressed are obvious in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that prompted the task force's creation. The group must determine how to compel institutions to report child abuse. Sadly, it appears there are times when institutions put their reputations ahead of what is best for children.
The task force should address the fundamental question of who should be obligated to report child abuse. Should our state continue reporting via a chain of command, as happened at Penn State, or should every individual who works with children and sees abuse be responsible to report it? If so, how do you educate people about that?
Another issue that needs to be addressed is how are people suppose to move forward with a report of abuse? Certainly that is the crux of the discussion about Mike McQueary, who says he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the shower on Penn State's campus in 2002 and instead of calling police, he went to Joe Paterno. How Paterno handled his part of the incident also has been a big point of discussion and was the reason the board of trustees fired him.
Mandatory reporters right now are not clear on what to do. Some tell their supervisors, others call county officials or police. Still others send letters in the mail to the state public welfare department. This clearly needs to be standardized.
If Pennsylvania expands its mandatory reporting law, it will follow 18 other states that have said it is not just teachers, coaches and health care professionals who must report abuse if they see it but all adults hold that responsibility.
The group also should take a hard look at what really constitutes child abuse in our state and whether the statute of limitations to report and prosecute abuse should be longer.
As Joan Benso of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children said recently “public awareness of child sex abuse has clearly increased in recent months, but is the public as knowledgeable as they should be on what child abuse is and how to report it?”
There is wide agreement in the state to do better for children. The task force has its works cut out to recommend real changes — and ensure its report does not just end up on a shelf.
Sex Trafficking Rampant in Indian Country; Pimps on Prowl for Native Girls
by Terri Hansen
Is sexual trafficking happening in your city? What about on your remote reservation? The short answer is, “Yes, right under your nose.”
Klamath tribal member and Portland, Oregon resident Jeri Sundvall-Williams's horrific sexual slavery ended 22 years ago, and it took an attack from a male customer, who stabbed her multiple times, to give her the courage to break free. “The light went on that I didn't want to die,” Sundvall-Williams says. “Prostituted women have low self-esteem. They don't feel their worth. My worth was in my two children. I couldn't leave them without a mother.”
Prostitution becomes a trafficking crime when the victim is a minor, or at any age if controlled by force, fraud or coercion. Sundvall-Williams says she had to walk up and down Portland's 82nd Avenue, a thoroughfare running through several residential neighborhoods, each night to bring home $300 or face a beating by her pimp.
The life of a trafficking victim typically involves starvation, confinement, beatings, gang rape and forced drug use. They must also contend with addiction, broken bones, concussions, burns, vaginal and anal tears, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sterility, miscarriages, forced abortions and even contagious diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria and pneumonia. Psychological damage includes mind-body separation, disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, hatred of men, self-hatred, suicide and suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical hyperalertness and self-loathing. Some victims suffer from traumatic bonding, a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live.
Intertwined with sexual trafficking are sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty. In a law review, Sarah Deer, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen and professor at the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota wrote that many women and girls are coerced into sex work—on and off reservations—by drug dealers to pay for their drugs.
This type of sexual violence targets Native women and girls due to the culture of silence in every community, the widespread poverty, and the legacy of appalling sexual violence committed by white men against Native women, says Deer. The U.S. government acknowledges that the rates of sexual abuse and rape committed against Native women and girls are higher than those for the general population.
One of the few opportunities a trafficked woman has for escape is when her pimp allows her to enter a medical facility for treatment of injuries, pregnancy or STDs. Hospitals and clinics can intervene—as they do for victims of domestic violence—though many lack the proper training to do so.
At the “Native Women: Protecting, Shielding, and Safeguarding Our Sisters, Mothers and Daughters” Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing this past July, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) declared that women are finally starting to talk about the traffickers who prey on them in urban and reservation communities. Deer testified that the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 authored by then–U.S. Senator Bryan Dorgan, “failed to specifically address prostitution or sex trafficking as forms of violence against women.” Dorgan, who chaired the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, stated the bill was a response to the “crisis” in law enforcement on many Indian reservations, where the rates for most violent crimes far exceed the national average.
Portland—which has the ninth-largest Native American population in the country and is close to numerous reservations—has been repeatedly called one of the country's most livable cities. But that city's prestige took a hit when journalist Dan Rather renamed it “Pornland” in a report last year on his HDNet news program Dan Rather Reports . “Eighty-year-old men paying a premium to violate teenage girls, sometimes supplied by former drug gangs now into child sex trafficking big time? You've got to be kidding. Nope,” Rather said. “That's happening and a lot more along the same lines.”
The long stretch of Interstate-5 that runs from below Los Angeles and up to British Columbia is a hotbed of sexual trafficking, especially during big events, such as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Pimps also send prostituted girls and women to the truck stops that dot the freeways, where the girls are known as “lot lizards.” They also work the comfort rest stations along I-5 during the early-morning hours, when pimps and johns know the state police are less likely to be on patrol.
Portland is fertile ground for pilot projects that help law enforcement break free of a pattern of arresting underage prostituted women and prosecuting them as criminals in order to go after the pimp. Much of the impetus for that change came from the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force (OHTTF) established in 2005 with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Portland is finally starting to treat victims like victims instead of the bad guys, but the system has to evolve further and faster to catch up to these kids, says Keith Bickford, OHTTF director and Multnomah County deputy sheriff. “The juvenile system was so far behind. Portland needed a lot of help, but it isn't the only city to need that. The police still need arrest powers to get some of these girls and boys off the streets,” Bickford says. “If all the signs lead to sexual trafficking, [those arrested] go directly into dependency and are given help.”
A huge problem in Portland, and nationally, says Bickford, has been a lack of safe housing to shelter victims from their pimp while they wend through the legal and personal-recovery process. “When I took over the director's position in 2007, we didn't have any beds,” he says. According to the Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans website “realistically, however, only 30 adequately equipped beds exist in the entire nation to meet the rehabilitation needs of children who've been caught in the web of sex trafficking.” Until November 2011, not one of those beds was in Oregon. Bickford says Janus Youth Programs, a Portland youth homeless program, set up seven beds to rescue trafficked minors in November.
The National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) claims that one out of every three teens who are either kicked out of their homes or run away are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of being on the street. NRS says pimps prowl the streets looking for kids lugging an extra-heavy backpack, and recruit children as young as 11 or 12 into prostitution. “Survival sex” is traded for a place to stay. Most prostitutes begin before they're 18, and Bickford notes that coming of legal age, “doesn't mean you suddenly have good reasoning skills.”
Pimps sometimes seek out American Indians because they can masquerade them as an exotic ethnicity—such as Polynesian, Asian or Native. A pimp will train his victims to tell people he's her boyfriend. “You have to understand—especially with how young the girls are—that this is the first love of their life,” Sundvall-Williams explains. “He tells them they are beautiful. He tells them he loves them. She thinks, Oh I love him, I can't turn him in.” A convicted pimp told The New York Times in 2009, “With the young girls, you promise them heaven, they'll follow you to hell.”
Portland Mayor Sam Adams says his city is getting better at exposing and fighting sexual trafficking, but he reports that it's a hard battle to quantify. When he'd go biking down 82nd Avenue, Adams once saw a thriving sex trade, with girls walking the city streets and escort businesses marketing them. A blitz of the area by police pushed much of that activity underground and online. Willamette University College of Law's 2010 reports Modern Slavery in Our Midst: A Human Rights Report on Ending Human Trafficking in Oregon, states that Oregon's lax trafficking laws, permissive state constitution's free-speech protections for commercial sex enterprises, high percentages of youth in foster care and homeless and runaway kids, migrant workers, and hard-to-monitor rural farming and forestry operations makes it a magnet for human trafficking. In some ways, it is the invisible crime.
The invisibility of victims is another problem, says Tawna Sanchez, family services director at Portland's Native American Youth and Family Center. “Native American families don't like to admit their daughter is in the sex trade, and there are so many reasons girls and women don't come forward.” When Sundvall-Williams gives public talks, she says that Native women “thank me for being brave enough to talk about it because most women suffer in silence due to their fear of judgment from others. It's a really big problem in the community here.”
Sanchez insists it's worth the hard effort required to combat sexual trafficking in Native communities, and rescue these women, these girls. As proof she points to her own life and how it has turned around. In 1994 she became an organizer for low-income workers and workers of color to address on-the-job toxic environmental exposures and workers rights. Her work has also included participation in the creation of the 1998 Lead Comprehensive Plan for the city of Portland and the Portland Brownfield Showcase community advisory committee.
In 2000 Governor John Kitzhaber appointed her to the Portland/Vancouver Bi-state Transportation and Trade I-5 Corridor Task Force to address healthier solutions in regional transportation. She co-founded the Urban Workers Union in 2000 and with its organizing committee got a winning contract for parking-lot attendants. She oversaw community enhancement fund grants. She serves on the Columbia River Crossing Task Force.
In 2006 she became a neighborhood program co-coordinator for the city of Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and project manager for more than $300,000 in funding for Diversity Leadership Programs that fund community-based organizations of color and immigrant and refugee communities to teach and encourage civic engagement from their constituencies.
And in November she plans to run for a seat on Portland's city council. “My father was the first general manager of the Klamath Tribes after we got re-recognized after the termination era,” she says. “My mother was a great leader in her own right.” Her parents, she says, taught their children they were supposed to serve.
“I love the city of Portland, and I love Portlanders. Portland is a white city, but it's an incredibly diverse city. I have a heart to serve. I have developed the skills. If you didn't care, you'd keep your job, make the good pay and the benefits, and go home at the end of the day. But it's my role to step up to leadership and move forward.”
If elected, Sundvall-Williams promises to raise the banner against sexual trafficking even higher.
Bill would make sex trafficking of minors a first-degree felony
by Brian C. Rittmeyer
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
January 17, 2012
When people don't like to think about something, it can be hard to know that it's a problem, and that makes doing something about it even more difficult.
But children are being sold for sex in Pennsylvania, said Diane Moyer, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and proposed legislation sponsored by Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Lyndora, is a "good first start" to dealing with the problem.
"You don't think of Pennsylvania as a hub for trafficking," Moyer said. "Actually, we find it in the rural areas in Pennsylvania, with immigrant victims, with runaway youths. It really can be a huge problem."
The Polaris Project, a U.S. organization combating all forms of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, established a human trafficking hot line in December 2007, said spokeswoman Megan Fowler.
Since then, the hot line has taken 45,000 calls from around the country; of those, 500 came from Pennsylvania, Fowler said.
Further confounding the issue is that the youths involved often don't "look" like victims. Moyer said they appear as transients, homeless and runaways, possibly covered in tattoos and addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Because of that, all too often they are seen as the criminal instead of whoever is controlling them, often under a threat of death to themselves or their family, Moyer said.
"They don't look like the typical teen," she said. "They may have all kinds of issues associated with being sexually exploited. They're the victims, although they may not look that way to a judge or law enforcement.
"These kids deserve to be rescued."
Ellis' legislation, House Bill 2016, would make the sex trafficking of minors in Pennsylvania a first-degree felony. It's now only a third-degree felony to exploit a child to sex trafficking in the state.
It also states that a parent who subjects a minor to commercial sex purposes wold be charged with a first-degree felony.
The legislation was unanimously passed in the House Judiciary Committee, of which Ellis is a member, and has been sent to the House for full consideration. Ellis said he is hopeful it will come up for a vote this month.
"We think it's a very comprehensive approach," Ellis said. "We're hoping we'll be able to get this done in an expeditious manner and get some help to these people trapped in a horrible situation."
Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania State Police, said the agency now doesn't keep any statistics on incidents of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
"However, if the bill gets passed there should be a tracking mechanism," she said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 children each year are caught up in the commercial sex industry.
According to University of Pennsylvania research, nearly 300,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Ellis said a woman in his district brought the issue to his attention a couple of years ago.
"I was really unaware of it at that time," he said. "I didn't even realize it was hitting back home. You think of this as a problem in the urban areas. It's also a major problem in the rural areas."
The bill allows for civil remedies against those who exploit minors for commercial sex.
"There's some really good stuff in that," Moyer said. "It's very well thought out."
Ellis said he hopes the legislation "would deter predators in the Commonwealth from putting innocent children in harm's way."
"No child deserves to be exposed to heinous acts, such as sex trafficking," he said. "The children being exposed to this behavior can't protect themselves, and that's why we must provide laws that better protect them."
Adult Manifestations of Childhood Sexual Abuse
from American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Childhood sexual abuse can be defined as any exposure to sexual acts imposed on children who inherently lack the emotional, maturational, and cognitive development to understand or to consent to such acts. These acts do not always involve sexual intercourse or physical force; rather, they involve manipulation and trickery. Authority and power enable the perpetrator to coerce the child into compliance. Characteristics and motivations of perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse vary: some may act out sexually to exert dominance over another individual; others may initiate the abuse for their own sexual gratification (5, 6).
Although specific legal definitions may vary among states, there is widespread agreement that abusive sexual contact can include breast and genital fondling, oral and anal sex, and vaginal intercourse. Definitions have been expanded to include noncontact events such as coercion to watch sexual acts or posing in child pornography (7).
The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in the United States is unknown. Because of the shame and stigma associated with abuse, many victims never disclose such experiences. Incest was once thought to be so rare that its occurrence was inconsequential. However, in the past 25 years there has been increased recognition that incest and other forms of childhood sexual abuse occur with alarming frequency (8). Researchers have found that victims come from all cultural, racial, and economic groups (9).
Current estimates of incest and other childhood sexual abuse range from 12% to 40% depending on settings and population. Most studies have found that among women, approximately 20% - or 1 in 5 - have experienced childhood sexual abuse (9). Consistent with this range, studies have revealed that:
Among girls who had sex before they were 13 years old, 22% reported that first sex was nonvoluntary (10).
Twelve percent of girls in grades 9 through 12 reported they had been sexually abused; 7% of girls in grades 5 through 8 also reported sexual abuse. Of all the girls who experienced sexual abuse, 65% reported the abuse occurred more than once, 57% reported the abuser was a family member, and 53% reported the abuse occurred at home (11).
Approximately 40% of the women surveyed in a primary care setting had experienced some form of childhood sexual contact; of those, 1 in 6 had been raped as a child (12).
A national telephone survey on violence against women conducted by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 18% of 8,000 women surveyed had experienced a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives. Of this number, 22% were younger than 12 years and 32% were between 12 and 17 years old when they were first raped (9).
Common Symptoms in Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse:
- Physical Presentations
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms/distress
- Musculoskeletal complaints
- Obesity, eating disorders
- Insomnia, sleep disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Asthma, respiratory ailments
- Chronic headache
- Chronic back pain
- Psychologic and Behavioral Presentations
- Depression and anxiety
- Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms
- Dissociative states
- Repeated self-injury
- Suicide attempts
- Lying, stealing, truancy, running away
- Poor contraceptive practices
- Compulsive sexual behaviors
- Sexual dysfunction
- Somatizing disorders
- Eating disorders
- Poor adherence to medical recommendations
- Intolerance of or constant search for intimacy
- Expectation of early death
Although there is no single syndrome that is universally present in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, there is an extensive body of research that documents adverse short and long-term effects of such abuse. To appropriately treat and manage survivors of CSA, it is useful to understand that survivors' symptoms or behavioral sequelae often represent coping strategies employed in response to abnormal, traumatic events. These coping mechanisms are used for protection during the abuse or later to guard against feelings of overwhelming helplessness and terror. Although some of these coping strategies may eventually lead to health problems, if symptoms are evaluated outside their original context, survivors may be misdiagnosed or mislabeled (5).
In addition to the psychologic distress that may potentiate survivors' symptoms, there is evidence that abuse may result in biophysical changes. For example, one study found that, after controlling for history of psychiatric disturbance, adult survivors had lowered thresholds for pain (13). It also has been suggested that chronic or traumatic stimulation (especially in the pelvic or abdominal region) heightens sensitivity, resulting in persistent pain such as abdominal and pelvic pain or other bowel symptoms (14, 15).
Although responses to sexual abuse vary, there is remarkable consistency in mental health symptoms, especially depression and anxiety. These mental health symptoms may be found alone or more often in tandem with physical and behavioral symptoms. More extreme symptoms are associated with abuse onset at an early age, extended or frequent abuse, incest by a parent, or use of force (4). Responses may be mitigated by such factors as inherent resiliency or supportive responses from individuals who are important to the victim (4). Even without therapeutic intervention, some survivors maintain the outward appearance of being unaffected by their abuse. Most, however, experience pervasive and deleterious consequences (4).
The primary aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse have been divided into seven distinct, but overlapping categories (16):
- Emotional reactions
- Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Physical and biomedical effects
- Sexual effects
- Interpersonal effects
- Social functioning
Responses can be greatly variable and idiosyncratic within the seven categories. Also, survivors may fluctuate between being highly symptomatic and relatively symptom free. Health care providers should be aware that such variability is normal.
McCauley J, Kern DE, Kolodner K, Schroeder AF, DeChant HK, Ryden J, et al. Clinical characteristics of women with a history of childhood abuse: unhealed wounds. JAMA 1997;277:1362-1368
Koss MP, Koss PG, Woodruff WJ. Deleterious effects of criminal victimization on women's health and medical utilization. Arch Intern Med 1991;151:342-347
Drossman DA, Leserman J, Nachman G, Li ZM, Gluck H, Toomey TC, et al. Sexual and physical abuse in women with functional or organic gastrointestinal disorders. Ann Intern Med 1990;113:828-833
American Medical Association. Diagnostic and treatment guidelines on mental health effects of family violence. Chicago: AMA, 1995
Hendricks-Matthews M. Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse. In: Rosenfeld J, Alley N, Acheson LS, Admire JB, eds. Women's health in primary care. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1997:267-276
Britton H, Hansen K. Sexual abuse. Clin Obstet Gynecol 1997;40:226-240
Maltz W. Adult survivors of incest: how to help them overcome the trauma. Med Aspects Hum Sex 1990;24:42-47
Hendricks-Matthews MK. Caring for victims of childhood sexual abuse. J Fam Pract 1992;35:501-502
Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, November 1998, NCJ 172837
Moore KA, Driscoll A. Partners, predators, peers, protectors: males and teen pregnancy. New data analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. In: Not just for girls: the roles of boys and men in teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 1997: 7-12
Schoen C, Davis K, Collins KS, Greenberg L, Des Roches C, Abrams M. The Commonwealth Fund survey of the health of adolescent girls. New York: The Commonwealth Fund, 1997
Walker EA, Torkelson N, Katon WJ, Koss MP. The prevalence rate of sexual trauma in a primary care clinic. J Am Board Fam Pract 1993;6:465-471
Scarinci IC, McDonald-Haile J, Bradley LA, Richter JE. Altered pain perception and psychosocial features among women with gastrointestinal disorders and history of abuse: a preliminary model. Am J Med 1994:97:108-118
Cervero F, Janig W. Visceral nociceptors: a new world order? Trends Neurosci 1992;15:374-378
Drossman DA. Physical and sexual abuse and gastrointestinal illness: what is the link? Am J Med 1994;97:105-107
Courtois CA. Adult survivors of sexual abuse. Prim Care 1993;20:433-446
Child abuse, neglect deaths in Lee County on the rise
The trend runs contrary to figures in Southwest Florida and throughout the state.
After mopping the floors one morning just over a year ago, a Hendry County mother of five left the bucket of water in the garage, out of reach of her 1-year-old daughter. When the older children came home from school, she asked her 8-year-old to watch the baby as she cleaned.
Maybe 10 minutes later, she checked in. The toddler was gone and the garage door was open.
She peered in the garage and saw her daughter's feet sticking out of the bucket.
Paloma Palacios-Herrera drowned Dec. 11, 2010.
The account from state records was one of 10 child death cases caused by abuse or neglect in Southwest Florida in 2010. The deaths were analyzed as part of an annual Child Abuse Death Review sent to lawmakers last week. The report runs a year behind because of the time it takes the state to investigate the deaths.
Across the state, the number of child abuse deaths dropped 23 percent from 200 children in 2009 to 155 children in 2010, the report found. The number of such deaths in Lee County jumped from two to eight children in that time period while the number throughout five Southwest Florida counties decreased from 12 to 10 children.
But Connie Shingledecker, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office major who chaired the death review committee, said that doesn't mean fewer child abuse deaths occurred in 2010.
“We did not receive nearly as many of the unsafe-sleeping related cases,” Shingledecker said. “It may be more investigative-driven if we're not recognizing and investigating them as such.”
Shingledecker said unsafe sleeping deaths, such as when a baby suffocates while sleeping with a caregiver or in a crib with bulky bedding, can be mislabeled as sudden infant death syndrome if officers don't thoroughly investigate using doll reenactments as recommended by the federal government.
“In some areas, they recognize the importance of that, but it's just not completely embraced by all law enforcement agencies,” Shingledecker said.
The report also noted a decline in all child deaths in Florida and a drop in the state's child population as potential factors.
Of the eight cases reviewed in Lee in 2010, most children died because of abuse instead of neglect: A 1-year-old was shot by his father, three babies died from blunt force trauma and a 6-week-old died after his throat was slit, records show.
Economic stress could be playing a role in the upward swing of more violent abuse cases, a trend that continues, said Jill Turner, CEO of Children's Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, a crisis center for abused children. Infants and toddlers are vulnerable targets.
“The injuries are often more severe with really young children because people don't know how easy it is to break a bone or to lacerate a liver,” she said. “Then, they get scared and are much less likely to take the child in for care.”
There were no outward signs of abuse when Shy'ana Blackmore, a Lee County 2-month-old, died in January 2010, but an autopsy revealed skull fractures and a lacerated liver, state records show. Her father, Miklos Blackmore, then around 24, was arrested seven months later and is facing a murder charge; a trial is set for later this month.
In 2011, there were five child abuse and neglect deaths in Southwest Florida, although there are several being investigated, according to state Department of Children and Families data. The deaths were not included in the review.
But Mike Carroll, who leads the DCF region that includes Southwest Florida, pointed to commonalities in the 15 cases in the five area counties in the last two years: young children and young parents. None of the children who died were older than 2. Several could have been prevented, he said.
None of the families had open DCF investigations and most did not have any prior ones, said Carroll, noting the need for community involvement.
“With this young population of parents, it's hard to reach them especially if we don't know them,” he said. “The child ends up paying for the parent's mistake with their life.”
Hobart Church of the Nazarene to Host Community Forum on Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is an epidemic in the United States and NW Indiana is not exempt. The Hobart Church of the Nazarene is hosting a community forum on how we can protect our most vulnerable citizens on January 25 at Hobart Middle School.
Hobart Church of the Nazarene will host a community discussion on human trafficking, sexual slavery and how the local community can make a difference in the lives of individuals who have been sold into slavery. The event will be held on Wednesday, January 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hobart Middle School Auditorium, 38 East Eight Street in Hobart.
“Human trafficking is a scourge on our society that many in our local community do not realize is happening right in our neighborhoods,” said Rev. Roy Richardson, Pastor of the church. “People are sold every day in our country for sex and forms of indentured servitude and it is happening in our area. These people prey on the vulnerable, and we, as a community, can unite to protect those who are most at risk of falling victim to human traffickers.”
According to statistics from the US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security:
- An estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 17,500 of them into the United States. (Statistics extracted from Department of State's 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.)
- Federally funded task forces opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010. (US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics April 2011 Special Report)
- About 8 in 10 of the suspected incidents of human trafficking were classified as sex trafficking, and about 1 in 10 incidents were classified as labor trafficking
- At any given time, there may be as many as 12.3 million people held in forced labor, including forced sex, situations. (International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates from Department of State's 2008 TIP Report.)
- Traffickers prey on poverty and economic hardship.
The special speakers are Erin Knowles, LCSW, Program Manager with The Salvation Army's STOP-IT Program and Sgt.Traci Walker with the Chicago Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit, who will discuss human trafficking in NW Indiana and the Greater Chicago area. The STOP-IT Program provides case management, safety planning, shelter, sustenance, medical, dental and trauma-informed mental health treatment for sex and labor trafficking victims. It also provides criminal justice-based advocacy and specialized educational, literacy and job training services to help victims break free of the psychological barriers that keep them trapped by their traffickers.
“I am excited that we can be part of this process to help the local community understand the scope of the issue, as well as ways they can get involved to help the victims of human trafficking,” said David Evans, Hobart Chief of Police. “Human trafficking isn't just something that happens in Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Republics. It happens right here in NW Indiana, with the victims coming from our communities. We hope that this presentation will be the beginning of a community conversation that will help us keep traffickers away from our most vulnerable citizens.”
The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25 at the Hobart Middle School. There is no charge for the event and the public is encouraged to attend.
For additional information, visit http://www.hobartnaz.com or call 219.942.3551
Nuns set to blitz sex traffickers who exploit the Super Bowl
by Nancy Conway
The buzz anticipating Super Bowl XLVI is already astir, and the commercial sex industry is already poised to import a generous supply of victim-prostitutes to be at the pleasure of countless game-goers in town. Local and federal officials acknowledge that organized prostitution always accompanies major sports events such as the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl. That's where the big money is.
However, 11 congregations of Catholic nuns are stirring things up as well. We all are members of the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM), who invest in certain businesses, including the lodging industry, to be in a position to affect social change where we see human suffering that needs to be stopped. So, we are contacting key managers of more than 220 places of lodging within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis to secure their cooperation in blocking prostitution out of their lodging before, during and ever after Super Bowl XLVI.
The objective for every contact is to learn 1) if the hotels' employees have been trained to recognize signs of trafficking on their premises; 2) whether the hotel has a process in place for employees to document and report possible incidences of trafficking; 3) whether hotel employees and managers are aware of local groups that are working to end trafficking; and 4) whether the hotel management is willing to make anti-trafficking information available to guests. The callers are prepared to offer employee training to those establishments that haven't trained their employees, to provide documentation and reporting format, and to share a contact list of local anti-trafficking resources.
Ultimately, we will work with lodging managers and encourage them to sign on to the Code of Conduct developed by an organization called Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) to deter sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT-USA is a network of organizations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children around the world. Lodging industry hotels that have already signed the code are Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Millennium Hotel in St. Louis and the Carlson Companies, including chains such as Radisson Hotels and Country Inn and Suites.
We all unequivocally affirm the dignity of every human being -- including the victim-prostitutes who rarely evoke much sympathy. The fact is that human sex trafficking is actual imprisonment and oppression that devastates its victims. Mostly young women and children, the victims are subject to gross human-rights violations including rape, torture, forced abortions, starvation and threats of torture or murder. Many have been imported from poverty conditions in foreign countries, duped with promises of good jobs in the United States. Others were kidnapped or purchased outright. And some are runaways from American families, and their lives have spiraled to the bottom.
The U.S. State Department reports that between 14,500 and 18,000 victims are trafficked into this country annually for purposes of forced prostitution, labor and other forms of exploitation. Added to previous years' numbers, the population of victims in this hidden subculture is huge but unverifiable. Nevertheless, the fact that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported receiving more than 11,800 calls on its hotline in 2010 lends credence to the scope of the slavery. In addition, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that human trafficking is an annual $15.5 billion business in the United States alone.
Wednesday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. And President Barack Obama has again proclaimed the month of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, urging all Americans to become educated about human trafficking so that we can put an end to this modern-day slavery.
If you have credible reason to suspect that someone is a trafficking victim, report it to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
Nobody, except perhaps users, wants human sex trafficking in his or her community. As human beings, when we see such a tragic injustice, we must be compelled to right it.