Adults must protect children, not turn a blind eye
by Maria E. Morey
It was during last Sunday's Patriots-Ravens playoff game that I learned of the passing of Penn State's former football coach, Joe Paterno. It was a quiet announcement stating that metastatic lung cancer had claimed Paterno's life.
However, for the alleged sexual assault victims of Jerry Sandusky, that cancer had claimed much more than Paterno's life; it had robbed each of them of the opportunity to hear the famous coach explain, in a court of law and in his own voice, how and why he failed to protect them.
To be clear, Paterno did not break Pennsylvania law.
In 2002, when a graduate assistant reported to Paterno that he had seen Sandusky molesting a 10-year-old boy in the shower, Paterno notified his administration -- one time, as was required by Pennsylvania law.
He never delved further, never asked the child's name, never checked on his well-being, never made sure something like this could never happen again.
As a man known to value integrity and morality -- and demand such traits in his players -- why didn't Coach Paterno follow up?
Why didn't he pursue the allegations with the campus police, with the State College police?
Why didn't he insist the administration act appropriately?
In doing the minimum, Paterno in effect protected himself and Sandusky but failed on a grand scale to protect this child -- and how many more?
The university was aware that Sandusky had been investigated by child protective services in 1998 and we know that 20 of the 40 crimes Sandusky is accused of took place while he worked for the Penn State coach.
To date, eight victims of alleged child sexual assault by Sandusky have come forward.
As a result of Paterno and the university system doing the minimum, those young boys-- children in need of positive male role models, have been subjected to a lifetime of pain and self-doubt.
Like countless other survivors my colleagues and I at the Women's Center in Danbury see in our male support group, "Voices of Courage," and our female support group, "Breaking the Silence," the young victims of sexual assault are robbed of the carefree innocence of their childhoods.
These are not short-term consequences. Because their trust was violated, they often lack the ability to trust in others and themselves. And, because of their inability to trust, they often lack the skills needed to build and pursue safe, healthy relationships as adults.
From this point forward, adults in our communities cannot do the same.
Sandusky excuses his actions as horseplay rather than the violation that is sexual abuse.
Paterno said he never heard of male rape, perhaps his reason for not investigating further.
According to a Jan. 24 article by Roni Caryn Rabin published in the science section of The New York Times, "While most experts agree women are raped far more often than men, 1.4 percent of men in a recent national survey said they had been raped at some point.
"A recent study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that, one in 71 men said they had been raped or had been the target of attempted rape, usually by a man they knew." (The study did not include men in prison.)
The majority of this sexual abuse occurs before the age of 18.
Paterno's football and philanthropic legacies cannot be viewed in a vacuum. They will be tarnished by what he, the administration, and Board of Trustees did NOT do -- protect the children entrusted to their care. The childhood of these victims were taken away in a blink of an eye -- a blind eye.
If you suspect child abuse, intervene and then report to the police and the Department of Children and Families -- even when not a mandated reporter. And, do not stop until that child is safe and the child molester held accountable.
These are not easy actions. The Women's Center sexual assault 24/7 hotline can assist you in the process: dial 203-731-5204. Adults must protect the children. We cannot turn a blind eye.
Maria E. Morey is group co-facilitator and volunteer with the Voices of Courage and Breaking the Silence groups at the Women's Center of Greater Danbury.
Family Support Line Launches New Website
Family Support Line, which focuses on tools and safety measures to prevent child sexual abuse, launched a new website.
Family Support Line, of Media, launched a new website, www.familysupportline.org
. In addition to providing information about the organization and making it easier to access its services, the new site offers comprehensive resources about child sexual abuse for survivors, parents, educators and social services providers.
Family Support Line's focus is on child sexual abuse. The organization equips adults with tools to keep children safe, provides professional care for those who have experienced child sexual abuse trauma, and teaches therapists and other professionals how to care for their sexually abused clients.
Family Support Line's new website makes it easy for visitors to learn more about the organization and how to access its services. Visitors can learn about upcoming events and trainings, volunteer opportunities and how to donate to the non-profit organization.
The site also includes a wide range of information about the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, including fact sheets, educational materials and more. The site makes it easy for visitors to access these resources based on how they may identify themselves – child sexual abuse survivor, parent, educator or professional. The site also includes information about how to order the organization's DVD series, "Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Child Sexual Abuse for Mandated Reporters."
The new site was developed by Allied Pixel, of Media, through a generous grant by the Philadelphia Foundation.
For more information about Family Support Line, visit www.familysupportline.org or call 610-891-5275.
New state task force aims to improve child abuse hot line
by John Finnerty
Jan 29, 2012
HARRISBURG - Advocates hope the new Task Force for Child Protection, formed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal, will help determine how to reform Pennsylvania's child protection system to better recognize and respond to reports.
The 11-member panel met initally last week, is expected to hold hearings and issue a final report by Nov. 30.
State and federal data suggest Pennsylvania is missing numerous child abuse cases.
An initial recommendation of new civilian review panels was to use technology to better connect the ChildLine hot line with child welfare agencies. Advocates say that 9 percent of the calls to ChildLine in 2010 were missed. That amounts to 11,792 calls that went unanswered. Even when the call was answered, just 25,000 of the more than 120,000 reports to ChildLine led to an investigation.
Dr. Pat Bruno, based at Geisinger's Child Advocacy Center near Northumberland and an expert in the recognition of child abuse, said that when a report is made to the ChildLine, the staff in Harrisburg will sometimes determine that the allegation does not describe an act of abuse. The staff may make a referral for another type of assistance, like parenting classes.
Northumberland County topped the statewide averages in child abuse rates, both in reported and substantiated cases, but the situation is much more muddy than that because both county and state numbers fall well below national averages.
Last year, Pennsylvania investigated suspected child abuse at a rate of 8.0 per 1,000 children as compared with the national rate of 40.0 per 1,000 children, according to a statewide coalition of child abuse advocates called Protect Our Children. The Pennsylvania rate was followed by Hawaii at 16.5 and Minnesota at 18.1. New Jersey's rate was 37.0, Ohio 33.8, and Virginia 35.1.
Pennsylvania's rate of victimization (substantiated child abuse cases) was 1.3 per 1,000 children and the national rate was 9.2 per 1,000 children.
What's the difference?
To achieve its rate of 2.4 substantiated cases of child abuse per 1,000 children, Northumberland County identified 42 cases of child abuse. If the county were to meet the national rate of substantiated child abuse, it would need to identify about 120 more cases.
In Snyder County, where there were 18 substantiated cases, child protective services would need to document 56 more cases to meet the national average. In Union County, there were 11 substantiated cases of child abuse in 2010, while the county would need to identify another 57 cases to achieve the national benchmark.
In all, among the three counties, if the national rate of child abuse holds true, there were 233 children in the region who suffered child abuse that went undocumented.
Bruno said that he hopes the new task force will help identify what is causing Pennsylvania to lag so alarmingly.
Factors worth examining include the definition Pennsylvania uses to call a child's injuries "substantiated" child abuse, as well as what happens when a call is made to the ChildLine hot line.
Pennsylvania's definition of child abuse is the narrowest in use in America. To be considered abuse, an act must cause serious bodily injury or permanent or temporary disability. Bruno said the definition is too subjective.
Susan Mathias, director of the YWCA of Northcentral Pennsylvania in Williamsport, joined Bruno and about two dozen other advocates in signing a letter from Protect Our Children making recommendations to the new task force.
She said that while she believes that Pennsylvania is being unfairly maligned nationally because of the scandal at Penn State, there certainly is room for improvement. Part of the challenge is that people who are in a position to report child abuse are often people who have had prior encounters with child protection agencies and have lost faith that reporting a problem will lead to any satisfactory conclusion.
Bruno said that advocates see this as an opportunity to achieve something worthwhile, but that other opportunities have been squandered in Pennsylvania. He pointed to the Kids for Cash scandal in Luzerne County which prompted a raft of reform legislation, none of which ever became law.
State protecting those who report child abuse
by Steve Beshear
Gov. Steve Beshear delivers his fourth State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke) ED REINKE — AP
You teach in a small community and suspect a student is being abused. You want to report it, but you fear retaliation. Can you come forward without the newspaper naming you as the accuser?
Or maybe you're afraid of the man your daughter is living with. But you love your grandchildren, and you think they're being neglected. Will you be able to report your suspicion without alerting your daughter's volatile and unstable boyfriend and jeopardizing your own safety?
The answer to both scenarios, unfortunately, is "no."
That's one of the real-life consequences of a new judicial ruling related to state records on investigations of child abuse and neglect.
The ruling, issued Jan. 19 in Franklin Circuit Court, stems from litigation involving Kentucky newspapers' attempts to access records involving cases that resulted in a child's death or serious injury. An attorney for the newspapers has argued that no information whatsoever should be kept confidential, and that the public should have unfettered access to these records.
The judge disagreed. He said the Cabinet for Health and Family Services can black out certain information, such as names of children seriously injured in cases of abuse; Social Security numbers and other financial information; the names of other children in the family who weren't involved; and the names of private citizens who report abuse.
But the names of relatives, police officers and school officials who report abuse will be made public.
We don't think the judge's ruling was protective enough, so the cabinet recently filed notice that it would appeal.
Newspapers will criticize this decision. The cabinet has been accused of "operating under a veil of secrecy" in a supposed attempt to protect inept workers and a poorly designed system.
But this is not about shielding the system from scrutiny. We understand the need to be more transparent — in fact, I ordered such a paradigm shift in the cabinet's treatment of child abuse records as early as last fall.
But increased openness has to be implemented in a consistent and thoughtful way that holds the best interests of the child as its paramount priority. That is our top and only concern.
There are other very real consequences — sometimes unintended — to eliminating confidentiality. For example:
Police and prosecutors routinely share information with the cabinet to help it determine whether children need to be removed from a home for their safety.
That information might include witness interviews, forensic evidence, autopsy results and statements by an accused immediately following a tragic event.
The court's ruling does not exempt that information from disclosure — even if the case is ongoing. Consequently, prosecutors will likely begin withholding information rather than risk jeopardizing their ability to pursue criminal charges.
As a result, the cabinet will lack crucial information it needs to decide whether to intervene to protect children.
The ruling also doesn't shield from disclosure information related to voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights, and to a subsequent adoption.
As a result, a parent who previously lost custody of a child will be able to track down the child and the family who adopted that child.
The result could potentially be tragic. And it certainly will stymie the cabinet's ability to find people to adopt abused or neglected children.
The court ruling does not exempt from disclosure the names of parents, guardians or custodial parties found by the cabinet to have abused or neglected a child but later exonerated once a hearing on the charges was held.
Publicizing their names before their cases are fully heard is a violation of due process required by federal law, and it directly harms them and their families. The cabinet must make decisions in a short timeframe, and often errs on the side of caution. Parents or others accused should have the right to defend themselves before they're punished.
In the aftermath of my directive requiring more transparency, I have asked the General Assembly to give these issues a public airing.
The legislature should amend state law in a way that ensures our child welfare system is effective and eliminates the ambiguities that led to recent court rulings.
The General Assembly should set the policy on this issue, not the courts.
In the meantime, the cabinet, its attorneys and I will continue to battle in court in the best interests of our children — regardless of what criticism comes our way.
Comprehensive reform, resources needed to truly protect our children Commentary Dr. Pat Bruno and Mary Ann LaPorta
Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting statute is perceived as relatively straightforward, yet many people find it technical and confusing.
IN THE wake of the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, there are many questions about how and why our institutional, state and national child protection policies have fallen short. Among the shortcomings:
• Inadequate commitment to and investment in proven prevention services.
• Placing the burden on children to keep themselves safe from child abuse and victimization.
• Inconsistent and confusing laws about reporting child abuse.
• A reduced capacity to respond to the complex needs of vulnerable children.
The Protect Our Children Committee – Pennsylvania's statewide coalition dedicated to preventing child abuse and securing targeted child welfare reforms – is working toward understanding the reasons for and implications of Pennsylvania's statistical “outlier status,” both in initiating child abuse investigations (eight per 1,000 children versus 40 per 1,000 children nationally) and in determining a child to be a victim of child abuse (1.3 per 1,000 children compared to 9.2 per 1,000 nationally).
Last April, the committee called for a state-level task force to examine important front-end child protection issues (e.g., how abuse is defined, reported and investigated, and the pathway to services for children).
In December, our call was answered when the General Assembly created an 11-member Task Force on Child Protection, which will include Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, a district attorney, physicians specializing in child abuse, the leader of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and other child abuse experts.
The task force and the federal Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Child Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, help highlight and transfer to adults the fundamental responsibility to protect children, including requiring and improving training for mandated reporters – persons who come into contact with children in their work.
Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting statute is perceived as relatively straightforward, yet many people find it technical and confusing. We find a remarkably large number of mandated reporters have never even been trained about how and when to report.
Last year, the Protect Our Children Committee conducted a survey of mandated reporters in Pennsylvania; 1,200 professionals responded revealing that nearly 40 percent of those responding had never, or had not recently, been trained. The Speak Up legislation and the state task force can help to ensure that within Pennsylvania, and in other states as well, caregivers and professionals will know their duty. We should work toward standardizing who reports, what must be reported (e.g., suspected or known), how such reports are to be made (e.g., to child welfare or law enforcement or both) and penalties for failure to report.
The committee, however, would offer a strong caution about focusing solely on the reporting of child abuse.
Increasing the number of reports of suspected abuse, without ensuring adequate resources or the system's capacity and effectiveness to respond, would be noble, but might be dangerous to the children who really need the system's attention.
The majority of reports about suspected child abuse and child victimization are directed to the state's child abuse hotline – ChildLine. In 2010, ChildLine answered more than 121,000 calls, but staffing and technology issues contributed to a nearly 9 percent rate of missed calls. If the calls to report abuse go unanswered, investigations are not conducted, and service delivery and therapy are delayed or unavailable; we will have won the battle but lost the war.
Then there is the need for skillful multidisciplinary investigation and forensic interviewing that, when done effectively, decreases invasive and traumatic experiences for child victims. Children's Advocacy Centers provide such an approach. A multidisciplinary team, including law enforcement, child welfare workers, victim services and medical and mental health professionals, work together in a dedicated, child-friendly environment to participate in a coordinated investigation. Through this coordinated investigation, an interview is conducted by a trained forensic interviewer to gather the child's statements without subjecting him or her to repeat questioning. Through the advocacy-center model, expert and sensitive physicians and nurses conduct the medical exam, going to great lengths to help the child feel safe, which is critical to the healing journey.
Too many abused and vulnerable children are never connected to effective cross-disciplinary investigations and comprehensive interventions; this is a compelling issue in need of attention and action in state and federal halls of power.
We know that protecting our children is not simply a matter of dollars and cents, but we also know that words alone will not keep children safe. Protecting Pennsylvania's children requires that our words and legitimate outrage are matched by prevention-focused laws and a decision to direct scarce public and private resources into services that work and have demonstrated they are effective at promoting the safety, well-being and permanency of children and youth.
Dr. Pat Bruno is the medical director for the Central Susquehanna Valley Children's Advocacy Center and Mary Ann LaPorta is the executive director for the Scranton-based Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Ottawa to give $1.6M to help N.B. crime victims
The federal government is providing $1.6 million in funding to help victims of crime in New Brunswick.
The funding, announced Friday, will help develop programs that help under-served victims of crime in the province.
New Brunswick's Justice Minister and Attorney General said the federal funding will allow the province to set up programs that help those most affected by crime.
Marie-Claude Blais said that means getting to the heart of the problem.
"We don't talk a lot about the fact that a lot of people that are in front of the courts have been victims themselves, so to help them, to help parents whose children have been victims, [it's] to help adults that are in prison right now who themselves have been victimized," Blais said.
The federal funding will be used to set up a program for aboriginal victims, develop support groups for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and establish support groups for parents of sexually abused children.
Some of those services will include:
- Establishing culturally-appropriate services for aboriginal victims in four different regions.
- Developing English and French support groups for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have come to the attention of the criminal justice system as adults.
- Establishing support groups for non-offending parents of children who have been sexually abused, to help parents cope and help their children heal.
It's part of the on-going commitment we've had to integrate victims of crime, give them a voice in society, it's not only about the accused obviously they're the people who bear the life sentence for what's been done to them," said Robert Goguen, MP for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe.
Some of the funding will be used to upgrade technology and improve public information for victims of crime.
The money will be paid out over the next four years.
Psychological trauma can scar health for years
by Mary Shedden
For years, Carolyn Hennecy blamed her heart attack on genetics.
Family history also had to be responsible for a subsequent heart surgery and a mini-stroke suffered last year, she thought. What else could trigger such profound cardiac disease in a woman who just turned 60?
The Lakeland native never connected her heart health to a significant, painful trauma that started when she was 7. But new research shows the sexual molestation she experienced — and other similar childhood abuse — may be directly linked to the leading killer of American women today.
"I'm now convinced it played a part," Hennecy said.
The idea that adverse childhood experiences affect an adult's physical health is not new; researchers have looked at the connection for more than a decade. But new analysis of heart attack and stroke data implies that childhood trauma could increase a woman's risks of cardiovascular disease between 45 percent and 62 percent.
The findings create a challenge for crisis counselors who know survivors often overlook the importance of visiting the doctor or maintaining good health. And physicians don't normally dig that deep into a patient's history.
"When clients are stuck in survival mode, they can't worry about their physical or mental health," said Leslie Kille, director of trauma recovery services for The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Heart disease is responsible for killing nearly 316,000 American women a year, more than 1 in every 4 deaths, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show. Physicians traditionally look for known heart disease risk factors in women, such as obesity, smoking, hypertension and diabetes.
But the new study linked those factors to only 40 percent of cardiovascular events experienced by survivors of childhood abuse, said Janet Rich-Edwards of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She was the lead author of the study that analyzed the health history of more than 67,000 women.
* * * * *
Hennecy was 7 when a member of her extended family sexually abused her for the first time; the molestations continued until she was 15. By the time she graduated from Lakeland High in 1969, she felt "damaged" and fell into an abusive 16-year marriage, she said.
"It's a relentless stress when you have to walk on eggshells 24 hours a day," said Hennecy, a domestic violence advocate and author. "I knew the stress had some bearing on me."
She left the marriage in 1985, but the physical toll of the abuse didn't reveal itself until a decade later. Hennecy was 45 when she suffered a heart attack in 1996; another heart surgery followed in 2005. This past April, she spent several days in the hospital before being diagnosed with a mini-stroke.
The repercussions of earlier abuse were far greater than she ever realized.
"The relentless effect that domestic violence and sexual abuse has on a victim or survivor will creep on them for the rest of their life," she said.
Hennecy, who often serves as a public speaker about domestic violence, first mentioned her abuse history to her cardiologist two years ago. In hindsight, she wishes all victims shared this important information with their doctors sooner.
"I would like to see doctors ask this specific question," she said. "It has become a question that must be asked of women by cardiologists. This cannot be ignored."
Stephen Mester, a cardiologist at Brandon Regional Hospital, said "it would be extraordinarily uncommon" for a cardiologist to ask specific questions about childhood abuse. Doctors do look for clues often tied to victims of abuse, such as depression or anxiety. But ultimately it's the patient's choice whether to share, he said.
"Most physicians try to be open-ended with questions about issues at home," said Mester, who added that doctors report possible abuse only to appropriate authorities. "We ask about a number of broad issues that could open the conversation up."
He says education is critical to reaching women at increased risk for heart disease. Treatment centers are a good resource, but that won't reach women living in abusive situations.
"They need to realize it's not their fault," Mester said.
* * * * *
Victims need to know that a doctor's office is a safe place to speak, said Kille, from the Crisis Center. It's common that adult victims also were abused as children, meaning many women now in abusive relationships could be at increased health risk, she said.
It's critical that survivors are proactive with their health. A heart attack or sudden news of heart disease could be emotionally devastating to those who experienced domestic violence, Kille said.
"You feel like you lose control all over again," she said.
It's been about a decade since counselors at the Crisis Center started integrating physical health into their treatment programs. They encourage exercise, stress-busting breathing techniques and other activities as a way "to find a little balance," Kille said.
The approach stems in part from the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, known as ACE, launched in the late 1990s by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego. More than 50 scientific articles, based on the health history of 17,000 people, have linked poor adult physical health to childhood abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.
Kille said it's important that the public understands the correlation between childhood abuse and health, and the need to treat body, mind and spirit. Otherwise, victims won't heal.
"The whole goal of treatment is to get people to stop identifying themselves by the victimization," she said. "We want them to start to dream."
Hennecy agrees. She wants to warn women to be proactive and address their heart health before it's too late.
"It's important we open up that line of communication," she said. "We need to tell them, 'This is what you are up against.' "
Jerry Sandusky asks court for visits with his grandchildren
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach facing more than 50 counts of child sexual abuse, is asking a Pennsylvania court for permission to have visits with his grandchildren.
In a motion filed at the court of common pleas in Centre County, Sandusky attorney Joseph L. Amendola asks that the conditions of his bail be modified to allow Sandusky, 67, to see his grandchildren at his home if they are accompanied by at least one of their parents.
The motion also asks that he be allowed to contact the children by mail or electronically, such as by phone or email. Each child would have to have the permission of at least one parent to communicate with their grandfather.
The motion was filed Friday, a day after an emotionally charged memorial service held at College Station, Pa., for former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who died Jan. 22 at age 85.
Although Paterno spoke to superiors about Sandusky's alleged conduct after a graduate assistant told him he saw a nude Sandusky sexually molest a boy in the showers at Penn State in 2002, Paterno was widely criticized for failing to follow up or do more about the incident. Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football, was fired Nov. 9, five days after the scandal broke.
Some commentators and college football fans have said Paterno's failure to act aggressively forever tarred his legacy. Others, especially since his death, have said Paterno should be remembered not for one bad decision but for a legacy of leading winning football teams and molding young student athletes into fine men.
Sandusky was arrested Dec. 7 and released on $250,000 bail the next day. He was ordered not to have contact with anyone younger than 18.
Sandusky has 11 grandchildren under 18, with another to be born in the near future. “The defendant's minor grandchildren have expressed their sadness to their parents about not being able to visit or talk with the defendant,” the motion says.
The sexual abuse charges stem from incidents involving 10 boys. Sandusky has maintained he is innocent of the charges.
Stopping sex trafficking: Study estimates more than 100 cases in Madison County in two years
by Jordan Buie
In December, a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Haywood County led to the arrest of a Texas man on sex crimes involving a 16-year-old boy.
The boy was a passenger in the man's SUV, and Trooper Brad Simpson was suspicious after they appeared nervous and gave different stories about their travels. It turned out that the boy was a runaway from Dallas who may be have been sexually assaulted in Memphis earlier that day.
According to a TBI study released last year, the case is likely evidence of a sex-trafficking problem that is growing across the country and in West Tennessee.
The study, based on surveys of police and social service agencies, estimated that there were between 1,500 and 4,000 cases of sex trafficking in Tennessee during 2009 and 2010. It estimated that there were likely more than 100 cases of adult sex trafficking in Madison County during that time and up to 50 cases of child sex trafficking.
The cases often are not reflected in police statistics because the crimes go unreported or are categorized differently by law enforcement, according to those who study sex trafficking.
The Jackson Police Department had no reported cases of sex trafficking in 2009 and 2010, and Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork said he believed his department had only one case in the past two years. The estimates came from social workers, who may work with victims of sex trafficking who are reluctant to report what happened to police.
"I know sex trafficking is a growing problem," Woolfork said. "Those numbers seem high, but I can see where some people might be willing to go to social workers if they were a victim, rather than turning to law enforcement."
Marchers protest sexual exploitation of girls
More than 200 people marched through San Bernardino's Hospitality Lane district on Saturday morning, carrying signs and chanting slogans to protest the commercial sexual exploitation of young girls.
The turnout — twice that of last year's march — led San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos to believe that progress is being made in his campaign to see that underage girls involved in prostitution are treated as victims, not criminals.
The 3-year-old effort has included formation of the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, a partnership of prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, social service agencies and educators. In 2011, the CASE team helped 28 young survivors of sexual exploitation, said Anne-Michelle Ellis, CASE coordinator.
“I'm happy to share with you that 26 of those young women are no longer on the streets being exploited, but are on a path to restoration,” Ellis told walkers gathered in front of the Children's Network offices.
Amy Andrews, 37, of Yucaipa, spoke about her experiences as a young victim of sexual abuse and exploitation. Her mother's boyfriend began abusing her when she was 9, she said. She finally ran away and was in and out of San Bernardino area group homes until she hooked up with some men who took her to Los Angeles and forced her into prostitution, Andrews said.
She escaped, only to be taken to Las Vegas by another man who also proved to be a pimp, she said. When she sought help, she was arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, she said.
“When you're in that lifestyle, you start to cultivate an attitude of defeat. Your self-esteem is shot,” Andrews said. “You feel like the only thing you're good for is pleasure. And let me tell you, that's a hard thing to get over.”
After 20 years of silence, she finally realized that she had been victimized, found help and began to recover. Now she hands out a business card that describes her as Amy Andrews, Survivor/Abolitionist/Public Speaker.
She encouraged those in the audience to keep working to help women like her.
“Now that I am on the other side, I know that it was your voice that helped me to get my freedom,” Andrews said.
The district attorney's office last year ramped up prosecution of pimps, “these horrible monsters” who force young girls to sell their bodies, Ramos said. The next step is to go after the people who pay the girls for sex — not only prosecuting them but fining them to help pay for services the girls need, he said.
It used to be that the names of men arrested for soliciting were published in newspapers, he said.
“Maybe we should go back to that,” Ramos said. “Maybe that would be a deterrent.”
His ultimate goal is to create a safe house where sexually exploited girls can receive the services and counseling they need to transition back into society, Ramos said.
Olga Phillips, who carried a sign during the walk that read “Prostitution is not a choice,” said she, too, is a recovering victim of sexual exploitation.
“I was sold into prostitution. I didn't realize that, though, until quite some time later,” Phillips said. “It's hard to understand when you're 12 years old.”
Now the 55-year-old Moreno Valley resident is working on a master's degree in social work, she said, “so I can give back. I feel like I have come full circle, and I want to give back.”
St. Louis area hotels enlisted to fight sex trade
Event planners join effort to educate hotel staff on warning signs of child exploitation.
by NANCY CAMBRIA
ST. LOUIS -- Over the past eight years, Kimberly Ritter has scoped out some of the poshest hotels around the country for potential meetings and conferences.
But the Maplewood-based event planner this year has been on the lookout for something grim under all that polish.
Now, after check-in, she pulls out her laptop and a copy of the local alternative newspaper. She turns to the advertisements for private massages and personal escorts. She finds ones that include website addresses and picks out about 10. Then she finds their pictures on the Internet.
Ritter's not looking at the girls and guys covertly advertising sex for cash, but the tiny details in the background of the photos.
Many times she sees something familiar in the curtain patterns and bedspreads in the photos. Sometimes she looks up from her computer screen and sees identical furniture in her own hotel room.
What's she's found, Ritter says, isn't just evidence of prostitution but evidence that children as young as 12 are being sex-trafficked by pimps in the same hotels she's been booking for her clients.
In St. Louis, she's identified a dozen hotels where such photos have been taken.
"We live in this beautiful bubble here in St. Louis, and people think it doesn't happen here, but it does," Ritter said.
Federal law enforcement agrees. A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice Report identified St. Louis as one of the nation's intensive hubs for human trafficking. Although some of those cases involve forced domestic labor of illegal immigrants, a federal prosecutor said the bulk of them involve minors and younger adults being pimped for sex.
"People ask, 'Wow, there's human trafficking here?' Absolutely," said Noelle Collins, assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri. "It's just such a hidden crime."
Ritter thinks she has a way to put it to a stop.
She and her co-workers at Nix Conference and Event Planning have begun pressuring the hotels they do business with to sign a code of conduct to protect children from trafficking.
The organization plans to push the issue with the 500 or so hotels it negotiates with each year and encourage other meeting planners to do the same. The goal is to educate hotels and their staffs about human trafficking, help them identify it on their properties and come up with a plan to reach out to exploited minors.
When she gets resistance from hotel managers or more typically a shocked insistence that such a thing couldn't possibly be happening in a luxury hotel, Ritter says, she's armed with her laptop.
"Sometimes I will pull up the pictures on the Internet and show them, 'I can buy a girl in one of your rooms.'"
A version of the code initially was established by the human rights organization ECPAT USA, which stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking. Under it, those in the national and international tourism and hospitality industry — typically chambers of commerce and travel trade groups — pledge to establish policies against sex trafficking, hold training sessions for staff, and provide information about their policies to customers and affiliates.
Michelle Guelbart, a project coordinator with ECPAT in New York, said her organization has long pressed hotel chain corporate offices to sign it, but her organization lacks leverage — something conference and convention planners have in spades.
"They have the ability to bring this up every time they work with a hotel or a conference center. It could go as far as a convention center," Guelbart said. "They can take it as far as to refuse to work with companies. They have the ability to put us in the door with every single meeting they have."
Ritter has something else, too: an order of nuns promoting the issue.
The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph is a longtime client of Nix. About three years ago, the Catholic order told Ritter it would only book a hotel with an anti-human trafficking policy for its national conferences.
"One of the things that has increasingly been part of our consciousness is human trafficking," said Patty Johnson, the order's St. Louis-based executive director.
Ritter, 42, has worked in the hotel industry since she was a teen. When the nuns told Ritter they would only book a hotel with a human trafficking code of ethics, it was the first time she had heard of it. And the thought of it deeply shook her.
Over the years she had checked in thousands of guests at front desks in her work. Many of them were minors standing beside adults she assumed were their parents. Rarely did she give more than an occasional glance at these teens. If she had, she might have recognized a child who shouldn't have been with that adult. And if she had asked for some sort of ID, or chatted with the youth and asked her name, she might have been able to spot someone in deep trouble.
So began a learning curve for Ritter that has arced to an obsession.
A DOMESTIC PROBLEM
Ritter learned that organized sex trafficking is not just an international problem, but a domestic one. She learned that johns increasingly prefer younger teens; the preferred age is now 14.
She learned that pimps are targeting not only urban runaways and homeless youths, but vulnerable suburban and rural kids.
"The reality is it cuts across class lines and it cuts across geographic lines in terms of suburban, urban and rural, said Collins, with the U.S. attorney's office.
In the past two years, Collins said, she's prosecuted five adults in four separate cases involving three minors, and she expects a busy docket this year from current investigations.
Collins said that the Kansas City area prosecutes more human trafficking cases than anywhere in the country, and that scrutiny among law enforcement at all levels is growing in St. Louis.
Last summer, federal authorities successfully prosecuted a husband and wife who transported a homeless minor from Minneapolis to St. Louis and other cities and advertised her for hire on the Internet. That operation was being run out of hotels, Collins said.
"That case really in a lot of ways typifies the common ways in which the trafficking happens here," Collins said.
St. Louis is popular among traffickers because its location at the intersection of several interstates makes it a convenient stopover when sporting events or large conventions are held here or nearby.
Accurate national statistics on domestic human trafficking are difficult to come by, because many incidents involving minors are labeled prostitution, when those youths are being pimped or "trafficked" by an adult. Under prosecution terms, Collins said any minor who is coerced into or brokered for sexual contact should be considered trafficked, regardless if they are moved across international or state lines or if they are transported across town.
GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICE
In July, the Millennium Hotel St. Louis was the first to sign the code at the request of Ritter and the Sisters of St. Joseph. Johnson said it was viewed as good business practice by the hotel's general manager, Dominic Smart.
"Most hotels who have signed the code of conduct have really done it in response to a scandal followed by huge public pressure," Johnson said. "Smart was able to push this through at the Millennium in a proactive way. He felt it was the right thing to do to make sure the hotel was crime-free."
In a position statement, the American Hotel & Lodging Association endorses anti-trafficking policies in all hotels but does not specifically mention the ECPAT code.
"It's the right thing to do," said CEO Joe McInerney, who noted meeting planners like Nix are increasingly putting anti-trafficking language in their request for proposals.
McInerney said some chains are reluctant to sign the code because it requires hotels to put literature about trafficking in guest rooms and also report to ECPAT annual statistics on trafficking found on their properties. Both may give patrons a false idea that the hotel is a hot spot for illegal activity when it is not, he said. Even one or two known instances can unfairly mark a hotel among customers, when the vast majority of customers are law-abiding, McInerney said.
"People don't realize you have 3.6 million people staying in hotels nightly," he said.
When Ritter and the sisters conducted training among the hotel's managers and staff, they tapped Katie Rhoades. A recent graduate of Washington University's Brown School of Social Work, Rhoades also is a survivor of sexual trafficking from age 18 to 21 that occurred in luxury San Francisco hotels.
Rhoades, now 31, is starting a nonprofit group named Healing Action Network to provide outreach to victims of commercial sexual exploitation. She said hotels need to recognize the red flags and then know how to connect the victims with resources, which may not always be the police. The red flags include unattended minors in sexually provocative attire in hotel lobbies; cash paid for room transactions; youths without luggage who avoid the check-in; and youths who head right to the elevators without eye contact.
At the Millennium, Ritter said, managers were shocked when they began their training.
But that was not the case with the housekeeping and room service staff. Not only do many of them live in lower-income neighborhoods where children are more likely to be on the streets, Ritter said, they have an intimate view of everyday life in the hotel.
"When we began our talks, so many of them quietly nodded their heads," she said. "They knew."
Florida Abolitionists Fight Human Trafficking In Orlando
Group Challenges Locals: 'Break These Chains'
by Matt Lupoli
ORLANDO, Fla. -- “How many believe in freedom?”
That's the question Florida Abolitionist President Tomas Lares asked a crowd of locals at Lake Eola on Saturday for “Break These Chains,” the 4th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
“Four years ago, on the other side of this lake, I asked for people to join me to walk in the fight against modern day slavery,” Lares said. Lares said he was happy then to have about 100 people join him.
Now, with a few hundred more behind the campaign, the Florida Abolition is helping to educate the Central Florida area about a global problem that's also close to home.
The State Department estimates 600,000 to 800,000 children and adults are trafficked across international borders and as many as two million children are forced to work in the global commercial sex trade. Florida is the third largest hub for human trafficking in the United States, according to the Polaris Project's national hotline statistics.
Just this week, two people were arrested in Titusville under child sex trafficking charges. Police officers said a woman forced her child to have sex with a man in exchange for money.
At Saturday's event, city and law enforcement officials spoke in between live music and performances from local dance groups.
And a survivor, Octavus, told her story.
“I started to run the streets at the age of 13,” Octavus said. “I gained street knowledge by pimps, older men and women. Being around my mother influenced me as well.“
Octavus said she wasn't just a victim of sex trafficking. She said she played a part in recruiting other young girls as well.
“As they would work, I would make my money by stealing, trafficking and collecting the other girls' funds,” she said.
In a video message played during the event, Sen. Marco Rubio urged Floridians to talk with their elected leaders about the need for special human trafficking laws.
"We need tough law enforcement and prosecution for these crimes. Currently in Florida, the crime of delivery of cocaine is punished more severely than that of human trafficking,” Assistant State Attorney Ryan Vescio said to the crowd. "That should outrage you. It outrages us on the frontlines every day."
Founded by Lares, the Florida Abolitionist is a nonprofit grassroots organization that works with the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the Orlando Rescue and Restore Coalition. Those groups, along with the city leaders, helped to bring the 4th annual event to Orlando.
Groups like the rescue and restore coalition, along with the Department of Children and Families, help turn victims into survivors.
Octavus is now working on a bachelor's degree while raising her son. She said she wants to give him the life she couldn't have.
“I look back at my life on the streets and see how I was hurting others by taking from them what was taken from me,” she said.
Conference at UM aims to empower all to prevent child sexual abuse
Everybody wants to prevent child sex abuse. Not everybody knows how.
Numbers back up those sweeping statements, participants in a daylong conference on child abuse prevention were told Friday. In a survey of about 600 people, some 91 percent asked about a hypothetical child abuse incident said they'd report it, but only 72 percent of people who said they knew of actual situations reported them. And 22 percent in the latter group did nothing at all, said Yvonne Cournoyer, keynote speaker at the conference on the University of Montana campus.
"I don't think any of us think of ourselves as the person who would do nothing in that situation," Cournoyer told the audience of social workers, attorneys, law enforcement personnel and others in the University Center Theater. "But we don't know what to do."
Friday's Stop It Now! workshop - which took its name from a national group that works with adults to prevent child abuse - aimed to change that.
It was hosted jointly by the Child Protection Unit of the Montana Attorney General's Office, the Missoula County Attorney's Office, the Missoula County Multi-Disciplinary Team and the Flathead County Children's Advocacy Center.
For too long, too many prevention programs put the burden on children, Cournoyer said, the national program director for Stop It Now!
They learned that the scary guy in the raincoat prowling the outskirts of the playground wasn't the only danger; that "bad touch" was more likely to come from people they knew. And kids also were taught to tell a trusted adult.
But no one told that trusted adult how to respond, especially when the incident might have fallen short of actual abuse, she said.
The recent sex abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky provided a sadly perfect example, she said, with a witness in effect telling famed coach Joe Paterno - who died Sunday - "I'm not even sure I'm seeing what I'm seeing."
The topic makes people so uncomfortable that they turn away rather than deal with it, she said. But with training, she said, people can learn "how to have uncomfortable conversations about boundary violations."
Likewise, she said, there's little help for people who might have inappropriate urges toward children but haven't acted on those urges - yet.
"We have some poignant stories of people almost disclosing to their faith leaders ... but the faith leaders are so uncomfortable" that the conversations went nowhere, she said.
Stop It Now! started a billboard campaign "for people worried about their own behaviors or for people who know and love people who need help," she said. That campaign refers people to a help line or a website. (Calls to the help line increased 130 percent after the child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky were revealed, she said.)
As to questions about whether treatment can actually change such a person, she said the situation is much like alcoholism. "We would never say that someone is cured, (but that) someone is managing their behavior."
Cournoyer repeatedly stressed prevention. "We have to believe there are things we can see and do before a child is harmed," she said.
Participants in the workshop spent much of Friday brainstorming ways to increase awareness and prevention.
Brett Kelso, director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Flathead County, said his group suggested getting local businesses to sponsor Stop It Now! billboards. Another suggestion involved training bystanders, in much the same way bystanders at bars are trained to alert people that a person has had too much to drink.
Deputy Missoula County Attorney Matt Lowy spoke of tools for "mandatory reporters" - those people who come in contact with children, such as physicians or teachers, who are required to report child abuse that they know of or reasonably suspect.
"As long as it's done in good faith, you are insulated from liability," he said. "And, it protects children."
Those people could carry cards in their wallets identifying them as mandatory reporters, and listing the requirements for such reporting - and maybe, too, the penalties for failing to report.
The most important thing, Cournoyer said, is to change the culture around the reluctance to report.
"I don't care if a hundred thousand million people are aware of child sexual abuse," she said, "nothing is going to change unless we do things differently."
Rise in abuse, neglect shadows growing poverty
by Kate Hessling
HURON COUNTY —
A 38 percent increase in poverty probably is responsible for more abuse and neglect in Huron County.
“This report shows a staggering increase of confirmed child abuse and neglect victims, from 26 in 2009 to 62 in 2010,” stated Becky Gettel, Huron County Great Start Collaborative executive director, about a new Kids Count report.
Huron County Prosecutor Timothy J. Rutkowski said the figures, which were released by the Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS), coincide with what his office has been seeing in recent years.
“We have just a wide variety of cases up there right now,” Rutkowski said in reference to the Family Division of the Huron County Probate Court, which is located on the third floor of the County Building.
Rutkowski said a number of the cases are related to domestic problems, which are higher when the economy is bad.
“It's just another stresser for people,” he said.
In 2010, the prosecutor's office filed 12 petitions seeking court intervention for abuse/neglect issues regarding families, many of which had multiple children. The other confirmed victims of child abuse/neglect reported in the Kids Count report more than likely were children in families that the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) is working with, Rutkowski said. He noted many times, DHS provides supportive services to families, which prevents having to file petitions seeking court intervention.
“With the most severe or most challenging cases, that's where you would see the court intervention,” Rutkowski said.
The prosecutor noted there were more petitions (16) filed in 2011 than 2010. So far this year, there have been two petitions filed seeking court intervention.
If that pattern continues, the number of petitions filed this year will exceed the number filed last year.
The Kids Count report shows that in 2010, there were 21 children in out-of-home care because of child abuse and neglect.
It also found that childhood poverty in Huron County jumped 38 percent between 2005 and 2009.
“The increase shows the need for programs for children who are living in poverty, and the increased need to maintain funding for them,” said Huron/Tuscola Health Officer Gretchen Tenbusch.
Local officials say the report shows a troubling reality that many Huron County children are at-risk.
“Like the state average, in Huron County, one in five children lives in poverty,” Gettel said. “However, specific to our county, 18 percent of children who are owed child support never received it and of those who did receive support, 46 percent received less than 70 percent of what was owed. Twenty-one children were born to teen moms and over one-third (37 percent) of children were born to unwed mothers.”
She said while the above statistics seem like a mouthful, the whole point of this information is to show there is a lack of resources, financial and otherwise. And this lack of resources can place a child's health and development at risk.
“When parents have to focus their full attention on just meeting their family's basic needs, stress is added to the lives of all involved,” she said. “These tough times put great pressure on children and speaks to the need to reach out and ensure a community that supports the needs of children and families.”
From the perspective of the Childhood Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Council, the Kids Count data shows there are areas that deal with child abuse and neglect, as well as with children living in poverty, that need to be addressed, said CAN Board member Greg Foy, who also is a member of the Great Start Collaborative.
“Our focus is on the well-being of the child. And so that (the data) concerns us and those are the things we need to look at,” he said. “... We're not going to be happy until those numbers obviously are zero.”
The Kids Count report ranked counties on 16 indicators of child well-being (with No. 1 being the best).
Huron County's best ranking was 9th among all counties for babies born to mothers receiving less than adequate prenatal care.
About 22 percent of Huron County babies were born to such mothers, compared with nearly 30 percent statewide.
Huron County's worst ranking was 35th out of 81, and that was for the number of low-birthweight babies (born weighing less than 5.5 pounds). In Huron County, 7 percent of the county's infants were born too small, compared to 8.5 percent statewide.
Regarding the county's best ranking, Gettel said while there may have been 22 percent of babies born to mothers receiving less than adequate prenatal care, more than 30 percent of Huron County babies were born to women who reported smoking while pregnant, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. She said this also is a concern.
From a school readiness standpoint, research shows that 90 percent of a child's language, social behavior, problem solving ability and emotional health will be mostly created or not by the time he or she enters kindergarten, Gettel said.
“A lack of quality early year experiences will negatively impact a child's future learning, which affects that child, the other children he/she shares a classroom with, the school in which that child attends and the larger society,” she said.
“As a community, we can't control all influences of a child's life and we cannot guarantee a job for mom and dad, but we can ensure disadvantaged children get the same things other children get such as prenatal care, access to parent education and family support resources and high quality preschool and child care while their parents work or look for work,” Gettel added. “Supports like those don't cost a lot and help children do better in school, and if they do better in school they're less likely to live in poverty as adults. That benefits everyone.”
Foy agreed the data released this week can help show where resources should be directed.
He said it also helps show the community the need of local assistance that exists.
“From our perspective, sometimes it's enlightening, as a community, to see that there are kids that need help out there and the numbers and data show it, and we, as a CAN Council, try to raise (funds) to help these kids and we need the support of the community to do that,” he said.
“... We can't do it on our own, we need help from others,” Foy added.
Lauren Book brings hope for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Lauren Book, founder of Lauren's Kids, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her nanny. Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education, Lauren sought to turn her experience into a vehicle to prevent childhood sexual abuse and heal survivors.
Lauren's organization educates adults and children about sexual abuse topics through an in school curriculum, a 24-hour Crisis Hotline and speaking engagements around the country. The organization also provides more than 4.5 million educational and awareness materials statewide through direct mail every year. The ultimate goal is to prevent sexual abuse through awareness and education, and to help survivors heal with guidance and support.
"I survived, I'm ok... because it's always ok to tell."
-- Lauren Book
A new ally joins fight to end teen sex trade
Women's Foundation of Minnesota has launched a $4 million campaign to halt trafficking of teen girls.
by JEAN HOPFENSPERGER
Terry Williams stood in front of guests at a swank Wayzata home on a recent evening, carrying a message that wasn't exactly cocktail party fare. Surrounded by lovely furniture and a glowing fireplace, she showed them a gritty film titled "Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale."
For the next 45 minutes, a dozen guests sipping wine learned about a new $4 million, five-year campaign to halt sex trafficking of teenage girls.
"Most people are quite shocked that this is happening," said Williams, of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, the campaign's sponsor.
Such unlikely house parties are taking off across the metro area, as the foundation launches the first philanthropic campaign in Minnesota -- and one of a handful in the nation -- focused on teen sex trafficking.
For the first time, a state foundation has opened its vaults to create a dedicated funding stream for programs against sex trafficking. For the first time, a foundation has spearheaded a public education campaign on trafficking, handed out grants to law enforcement and prosecutors, and collaborated with state players to build a safety net for the victims.
Last week the foundation announced its first grants in Minnesota, which is becoming a national model for combating the teen sex trade.
"We first heard about the problem from some of our youth [program] grantees who were seeing an uptick in this," said Lee Roper-Batker, foundation CEO. "Then one day Susan Segal [Minneapolis city attorney] called me into her office and said, 'You're a woman's foundation. What are you going to do about this?'"
The foundation looked at some numbers. It found only 11 foundation grants nationally dedicated to "sexually exploited youth" from 2003 to 2011. Three were in Minnesota. Teens in the sex trade were no doubt helped by grants addressing runaways, prostitution and domestic violence, the foundation knew. But there was little targeted directly at vulnerable minor girls.
"I feel like we're in the same place with trafficking as we were with domestic violence 30 years ago in terms of building awareness, services and the right policies," said Roper-Batker. "What's missing is resources."
Parties and pimps
The Wayzata house party was held at the home of Katharine Priedeman, a Twin Cities banking executive who is among an unlikely array of wealthy donors, businesspeople, advocates and nonprofit leaders working on the initiative. Her guests had many questions for Williams, a foundation director.
Aren't these girls from other countries? asked one guest.
Most aren't, replied Williams. They are Minnesota girls servicing men in the port of Duluth. Rural girls lured into "just dancing" at strip clubs during hunting season, and then denied a ride home until they have sex with a few men. Desperate urban runaways. Girls from across the state sold by pimps at the click of the mouse on the Internet.
How many girls are trafficked? asked another guest.
It's impossible to quantify because it happens underground, said Williams. But police, courts and nonprofits serving teens see it regularly.
The annual Minnesota Student Survey would be an ideal tool for learning the extent of the problem, said Williams. The foundation plans to ask that a trafficking question be included in the survey. It also wants to get trafficking information into high school curriculums.
What's the biggest need? another woman asked.
Specialized housing for the traumatized girls, Williams said. Minnesota has just two beds dedicated for them. Both are sponsored by Breaking Free, a St. Paul nonprofit serving sex trafficking victims.
Julie, a client at Breaking Free, is among the teens at the heart of the campaign.
The petite young woman wound up in the sex trade after leaving home at age 17, and meeting a dubious "boyfriend." She traveled the country with her pimp and other girls, servicing men -- all under the mind-control game played by pimps. She didn't want her real name used.
Her advice for the campaign? "The cops need to be going after the pimps," she said. "If it weren't for buyers, there wouldn't be prostitution."
Grants in action
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi wants to do that. His office received a $60,000 grant from the foundation last week that will free up a senior county prosecutor to audit about 400 past cases of runaways and prostitution -- where trafficked girls often turn up -- to learn what investigators could do to strengthen their cases against pimps. The goal is to create a state model for prosecutors, he said.
Breaking Free, meanwhile, will use part of its roughly $59,000 grant from the foundation to educate police, court officials, youth workers and others about the dynamics of the teen sex trade. The American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth received $65,000 to build a housing-based model, which can be replicated statewide, to support American Indian teens fleeing the trade.
The Minnesota Family Partnership received funds to educate legislators about the need for funds for housing and other services. It also will work to expand the Safe Harbors Law, passed last year, which requires law enforcement to treat sexually exploited youths under 16 as victims in need of protection, not criminals. The goal is to raise the age covered under the law to 18.
Dave Ellis, who oversees the new Minnesota Alliance Against Violence for the Greater Twin Cities United Way, has been involved in the foundation's efforts. Like the Women's Foundation, Ellis said trafficking victims are showing up in United Way programs serving youths, runaways and more.
"Someone needs to call it out," said Ellis. "But it's one cog in the whole discussion of family violence, part of a machine that is moving in a direction that no one wants."
For the staff of the Women's Foundation, entering the seedy world of the sex trade has been an eye-opener. They've created files on "Pimps" and "Strip Clubs." They get e-mail notices when pimps who are trafficking teens are busted.
And they've become adept at checking out prostituted girls on backpage.com, the controversial Village Voice Media website that is a major source of trafficking. The media company operates 13 newspapers nationwide, including City Pages.
With a few clicks of the mouse, Roper-Batker pulls up ads with seductive photos and phone numbers for girls who can land at a man's door "faster than a pizza."
"How can this be legal?" she asked. "Our time to change is now."
Critics slam Backpage.com at legislative hearing
Washington state lawmakers on Friday heard impassioned pleas to pass a bill clamping down on classified-advertising companies that don't demand ID before allowing sex-related ads to be posted online.
by JONATHAN KAMINSKY
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers on Friday heard impassioned pleas to pass a bill clamping down on classified-advertising companies that don't demand ID before allowing sex-related ads to be posted online.
Speaking at a Senate hearing, clergy members, law enforcement, and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn condemned Backpage.com, an online clearinghouse with a robust adult escort section, for not adequately attempting to verify the age of those listed in the ads on its site.
Critics estimate parent company Village Voice Media makes more than $22 million per year from sex ads, a figure the company has not disputed. It owns 13 weekly newspapers, including Seattle Weekly.
"They ran a front-page cover story attempting to minimize the nature of the problem, saying it was exaggerated," said McGinn, referring to a piece published in all but one of the company's papers last June. "They were also trying to obscure the fact that online advertising is an accelerant" of child sex-trafficking.
In response to the story, McGinn met with Village Voice Media executives, asking them to require ID before publishing sex-related ads.
Backpage.com declined to do so, noting it works with various law enforcement agencies in weeding out suspected cases of child sex trafficking. In response, the city pulled all advertising from Seattle Weekly.
In August, a letter signed by more than 40 state attorneys general and sent to Backpage.com called the site a "hub" for human trafficking.
Village Voice Media attorney Steve Suskin did not immediately return a call for comment. He recently told The Associated Press that the bill would violate the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act, adding the company would fight the measure should it become law.
"This type of legislation is ham-handed in that it wouldn't just affect Backpage.com," Suskin said. "It would have a broad effect across the Internet."
Criticism of Backpage.com at the hearing came from several directions.
"I am dismayed to see a newspaper, in this case the (Seattle) Weekly, behave in such a way that The Stranger can rightfully criticize its behavior," said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, referring to a rival publication. "That's pretty low."
Unlike Backpage.com, Seattle Weekly does require an in-person ID check for sex-related ads in its print edition.
Flying across the country to attend the hearing, the Rev. John Vaughn of the Auburn Theological Seminary in New York implored Village Voice Media and others he said facilitate underage sex-trafficking to change their ways.
"This is not about censorship," he said. "This is about the trafficking of kids."
Shared Hope International, an anti sex-trafficking group headed by former Congresswoman Linda Smith, has compiled a list of dozens of cases in 15 states in which girls were allegedly sold for sex on Backpage.com, most within the past year. In Seattle, the Police Department says it has linked 22 cases of child prostitution to girls who were advertised as escorts on the website.
Last October, Damenique Lajuan Beasley pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and one count of attempted promoting prostitution in Seattle after prosecutors charged he advertised a 17-year-old girl as a sex escort on Backpage.com. He was sentenced to three and half years in prison.
Backpage.com has been the nation's leading source of online sex escort ads since Craigslist.org shuttered its adult services section in September 2010.
Currently, Backpage.com asks those posting escort service ads on its website to vouch for the age of those whose services are offered.
Bruce Johnson, an attorney who is a leading scholar on the First Amendment and advertising, said the bill appears to run afoul of the 1996 federal communications decency law, which grants broad protections for website owners regarding speech made by third parties.
The bill may also be at odds with the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause and the First Amendment, Johnson said.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she is encouraged by the support her colleagues have shown for the bill, though it may need some tweaking.
"We'll see if we need to make a few changes," she said. "We're trying to put it in the best language we can" to undermine the court challenges it would likely generate.
Child abuse registry bill moves forward in House
It would allow people to challenge their inclusion on the state list after as few as five years.
A bill reforming due-process rights for people placed on Iowa's child abuse registry advanced out of a House subcommittee on Thursday.
But changes are still on the table for the legislation, which has taken shape through an unusually cooperative process on what had been a sharply contentious issue.
“I think we're pretty close to crafting some legislation that at least is a good start to protecting people that care for our most dependent children but which also goes a long way to protect the children,” said Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines.
As currently written, House Study Bill 510 gives people who have been found to have committed an act of child abuse an opportunity to have their names removed from the state's child abuse registry after as few as five years.
It also tweaks the appeals process to make it easier for people to become aware of their right to challenge placement on the list and directs the state Department of Human Resources to study further reforms.
Present law places people on the confidential list for 10 years after a finding of abuse, and makes no distinctions among sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect or other gradations of misconduct.
Employers in occupations that interact with children check job applicants' names against the list, and can deny employment based on a person's presence on it.
Critics have said the existing system does not provide due process for people to contest their inclusion on the list and argue that different instances of misconduct should be treated differently.
The changes under discussion reflect recommendations generated last year by a diverse group of state officials and interest groups.
Those various sides at one time were “at each other's throats,” Hunter said, but they have come together to draft a workable solution.
The chairman of the subcommittee considering the bill, Osceola Republican Joel Fry, said the bill and an amendment relating to appeals of placement on the registry would be advanced to the full House Human Resources Committee and could be considered in committee as early as next week.
State appeals decision to release child abuse records
Kentucky Cabinet wants to remove more information on child abuse than judge will allow
FRANKFORT, KY. — Hours before state officials were supposed to release hundreds of pages of records on child abuse deaths and serious injuries in Kentucky on Thursday, they appealed a judge's order directing them to make the documents public without significant deletions.
The move comes less than two months after Gov. Steve Beshear called a news conference to announce that the state would drop its lengthy legal battle with Kentucky's two largest newspapers to keep the records confidential and would comply with Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd's orders to release them.
“Transparency will be the new rule,” Beshear said at the Nov. 30 news conference.
But on Thursday he appeared to reverse course, submitting an op-ed piece to Kentucky newspapers, announcing that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has decided to take the dispute to the state Court of Appeals.
“We don't think the judge's order was protective enough,” Beshear wrote, adding that the cabinet wants to withhold more information than the judge had allowed. “But this is not about shielding the system from scrutiny. We understand the need to be more transparent than in years past.”
Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer who has represented The Courier-Journal in a long-running fight to get access to such records, said the state's decision to appeal the case contradicts Beshear.
“This claim of transparency is just false,” Fleischaker said.
Despite the appeal, the cabinet plans today to release the first batch of records Shepherd had ordered — but with the redactions, or deletions, it deems necessary “to protect the best interests of the state's child welfare system,” according to the “emergency motion” it filed with the appeals court.
In its motion, the cabinet asked the court to block Shepherd's Jan. 19 order to release records, starting today, with limited redactions.
Beshear argues in his op-ed piece that the state wants to withhold more information, such as the names of people who report suspected abuse. Shepherd ruled that the names of some individuals who report abuse may be withheld but not the names of relatives, teachers, law enforcement or medical officials.
“You teach in a small community and suspect a student is being abused,” Beshear said in his op-ed piece. “Can you come forward without the newspaper naming you as the accuser?”
Fleischaker called such comments “fear-mongering,” noting that Shepherd's order to release records applies only in cases in which children were killed or nearly killed from abuse or neglect.
“It is unnecessary and inappropriate fear-mongering,” he said.
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said the governor had no further comment beyond the op-ed piece.
The appeal is the latest development in a long-running legal battle between the cabinet and The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader. The newspapers had filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court seeking access to records in cases of deaths or serious injuries from abuse and neglect.
Shepherd has ruled that such records must be released. In a separate case brought by the Todd County Standard, he ordered the release of records related to the February 2011 death of Amy Dye, a Western Kentucky girl fatally beaten in her adoptive home.
On Jan. 19 Shepherd issued his order rejecting the cabinet's efforts to delete significant details from the records and directed officials to begin releasing at least 1,000 pages of documents per week with only limited deletions, starting today.
He also ordered the cabinet to pay $16,550 in fines to the three newspapers for illegally withholding records and their legal costs of $56,663.
In a sharply critical decision, Shepherd said the cabinet, by seeking to heavily delete details, was continuing efforts “to blanket the operation of the child welfare system under a veil of secrecy.”
“Past experience has demonstrated that the cabinet will apply any privacy exception in the broadest possible manner, giving rise to an inevitable protracted court battle for anyone who seeks to discover the facts surrounding a child fatality or near fatality,” Shepherd said in the order.
The cabinet had released one batch of records — about 90 internal reviews of child deaths and serious injuries. But it heavily redacted information, and the release of further records had stalled amid legal wrangling over what officials wanted to withhold.
The newspapers had sought the reviews, as well as all records of child deaths and serious injuries from abuse or neglect for 2009 and 2010.
Shepherd, in the Jan. 19 order, released the 90 internal reviews with far fewer deletions.
Meanwhile, Beshear said his administration will support a bill in the current legislative session defining what information it must release.
“The General Assembly should set the policy on this issue, not the courts,” he said in the op-ed piece.
Under Kentucky law, conforming to federal law, records of child abuse deaths and serious injuries may be disclosed if the family had prior involvement with child welfare officials. The law doesn't limit what may be disclosed.
Shepherd has ruled that, under state open records law, all such records must be disclosed.
Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat who is chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, has been holding hearings on the topic and said he expects such a bill to be filed in the next few weeks.
He said he supports more access to records but believes lawmakers may want to impose some limits on what must be disclosed.
“It has to be clarified,” Burch said.
Gov. proposes cuts for child abuse centers
by Angela Pellerano
The governor said he wants to eliminate statewide funding of nearly one million dollars. Stop Child Abuse Now, a local organization, helps children from all around Virginia who are victims of abuse and neglect.
Yet the people who work for the Child Advocacy Centers (CACs), run by SCAN, said that Governor McDonnell's budget cuts will cripple their ability to continue providing help.
“We have a lot of work to do to really get our arms around this problem,” said Ian Danielson, who runs the Richmond center. “It's still epidemic in nature.”
Danielson said that the state's centers served more than 3,700 victims last year. He said that CACs improve the investigation, treatment and prosecution of severe physical and sexual child abuse.
And now the governor said he wants to eliminate statewide funding to the tune of nearly one million dollars.
“While it's a service that is good, it's really just a question of having to try to set priorities and make the very best decisions in a tough budget time,” said the governor.
“I hear and respect the governor's point,” said Danielson, but he said that a lack of state funding will have a trickledown effect, because they not only provide counseling and therapy, but help conduct investigations into alleged abuse.
He said his agency often interviews the children who have been victimized, while police, social services and prosecutors watch from another room.
“We result in more accurate statements which support prosecution of offenders so we streamline the process, which is less traumatizing to the family and child.”
The governor said this kind of work can be done by other agencies, like victim witness offices.
Danielson said he's not losing hope. The agency has bipartisan support of the three budget amendments' at the General Assembly.
But even if those pass, it still has to be signed by the governor.
Richmond SCAN who runs the regions only CAC served 273 children last year. There are 17 CACs in Virginia and in total they served 3,733 children last year.
'In a Town This Size': Documentary reveals similarities of alleged child abuse cases
by Stephanie Koons
The Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal has raised many questions that local residents are still struggling to answer. In an effort to address those issues and raise awareness of local resources for victims of sexual abuse, the Centre County Women's Resource Center and the State Theatre invite the community at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 to a screening and discussion of a documentary in which individuals share stories of being victimized by an accused serial molester in a tight-knit Oklahoma community.
Directed by Patrick Viersen Brown, “In a Town This Size” tells the story of alleged child sexual abuse by Dr. William H. Dougherty, a pediatrician in Bartlesville, Okla. The panel discussion will be moderated by Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. In addition to Brown, panelists will include Matt Bodenschatz, a Penn State student who claims to have been sexually abused as a child; Julie Price, a certified child life specialist; Pamela McCloskey, a licensed psychologist; and Marolyn Morford, a clinical and developmental psychologist. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the resource center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower survivors of sexual or domestic violence.
“In planning this event, we identified documentaries that focused on childhood sexual abuse,” said Mary Faulkner, director of counseling and advocacy services at the resource center. “We saw important parallels with the events featured in ‘In A Town This Size' and Jerry Sandusky's indictment here in Centre County.”
The funds that are generated from the event, Faulkner said, will be used to develop support groups for survivors of sexual abuse and their significant others.
“In a Town This Size” is Brown's personal narrative. He alleges to have been abused by Dougherty as a child, and stories are told through interviews with seven other alleged victims, their families and mental health professionals. In 2011, the film won the award for best documentary at the Bare Bones International Independent Film Festival and was nominated for best documentary by Trail Dance Film Festival.
Brown, a fine arts photographer who divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City, said he began shooting the documentary in 2004 partly out of frustration with legal roadblocks that helped Dougherty evade criminal prosecution. According to www.sol-reform.com, Oklahoma's statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse states that victims have two years after the last incident of abuse to file their claims.
“There was no legal remedy, so I decided to take the artistic remedy and make a film about it,” Brown said.
“In a Town This Size,” Brown's debut film, was mostly self-funded. Since completing the film in 2010, he has been screening it across the country, with all proceeds benefiting nonprofit child advocacy organizations.
Brown claims that between 1966 and 1971, he was fondled by Dougherty during routine examinations. After the second or third incident, Brown said, he told his family about the abuse.
“Their response was that I had misinterpreted something,” he said.
Brown said he believes that the conservative culture of the Oklahoma heartland and the lack of awareness of child sexual abuse 40 years ago enabled Dougherty to continue his crimes. In addition, Brown said, Dougherty was an expert at ingratiating himself with community members — particularly single mothers — who enabled him access to their children.
“There's a private and a public reality,” Houser said. “Absolutely, people will use their power, position and community trust as a shield to cover bad actions.”
While some people called the police to report Dougherty's alleged actions, Brown said, many of them quickly changed their minds about pressing charges.
“I think that people get really confused about how to respond to suspicions and rumors,” Houser said. “People (think they) need incontrovertible proof before they can make a report.”
Brown said he thinks that too much of the dialogue on the Sandusky scandal has been centered on its repercussions on Penn State and its football program. He said he hopes that the screening and discussion of “In a Town This Size,” shifts the focus to where it belongs —on the alleged victims.
“The bravery of those young men who spoke to the grand jury about their experience is something that really needs to be commended because it took courage,” he said.
While Brown never had the chance to share his story with a grand jury, he said making the film was an “incredibly empowering experience.” His work has inspired at least one other individual to come forward. After a screening in Bartlesville in October, he said, one of the alleged victims in the film, who was interviewed in darkness, took the microphone and told the audience, “I will not be in the shadows anymore.”
Meth addiction claims child victims
Dallas, January 12, 2012 - In the world of Methamphetamine addiction, murder, mayhem and misery reign supreme. The recent case of the twenty-three year old Fresno woman who went on a murderous rampage while under the effects of the drug highlights the its devastation. The woman videotaped herself using Methamphetamine just hours before she shot and killed her two children and a cousin and critically wounded her husband before turning the gun on herself. The drug responsible for the fastest rising addiction in the United States ended and shattered more lives. Arriving at the scene in Fresno, law enforcement had little doubt as to the cause of the crime. The increasing wave of Methamphetamine use sweeps even the most fragile of lives under the grip of its spell.
As the child of an alcoholic, I understand the trauma of growing up competing with an addiction for the love of a parent. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I understand the desperate circumstances of a child whose welfare is a slave to someone else's vice. Adult addiction can lead them to neglect or harm their children. Adults are sacrificing their children at the altar of escapism, and their blood is on the hands of society if we don't fight these addictions with every fiber of our being. We can turn our backs on a problem for so long and then it gains such momentum that we are all swept up in the morass of tragedy and heartache addiction brings.
Methamphetamine has secretly eroded the fragile fibers of humanity for over a hundred years, and we now find ourselves grasping the dragon's tail unable to stop the thrashing.
The first known appearance of Methamphetamine, or “Meth,” was in 1887. World War Two pilots took the drug to help keep them awake on long flights. The first documented epidemic occurred in post WW2 Japan, after which Meth found its way to the West Coast of the United States. Methamphetamine is the “Demon Drug” that has possessed so many and left a trail of pain and suffering in its wake. Also called “Speed”,“Chalk”,”Ice”,“Tina” or “Glass,” the DEA says Meth is the most expansive drug in terms of abuse and the most covertly produced. Meth is easy to make and has a huge profit margin, encouraging the viral growth of Meth labs in the United States.
In a 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over ten million people in the U.S. twelve or older had abused Meth. Typically snorted,smoked,swallowed or injected, Meth can make users feel invincible. It can increase users sex drive and keep them awake for days at a time.
The “high” comes at a price. The human heart and nervous system run at a pace set by nature and when we artificially manipulate that rhythm we risk serious damage. Heart attack and stroke are just a few of the consequences from the prolonged use of Meth. In 2011, researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto documented increased risk of schizophrenia among Meth users. In the December 2011 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers found intravenous Meth users had an 80% higher chance of committing suicide than other drug users. Studies by the Department of Health have shown a substantial increase in the frequency of birth defects due to use of the drug by pregnant women, and increasing numbers of children born addicted to Meth.
In 1999, authorities found the body of a four your old boy buried in a shallow grave just outside Fresno, California. The boy's father was addicted to Meth and was serving parole after spending three years in prison for abusing his older son. The father later admitted he had been awake for eight days, high on Meth. As is often the case with Meth users, the descent from the high resulted in violent behavior. The father beat his four-year-old to death and convinced the mother to cover the crime up by telling everyone the four year old was visiting relatives. After authorities discovered the grave, they convicted the father of second degree murder and sentenced him to a term of forty-four years to life. The mother testified against the father and plead guilty to child endangerment. Another life sacrificed at the altar of addiction, an innocent child in the path of a Meth addict.
The production of Meth is relatively simple, allowing labs to spring up in many homes, basements and houseboats across the country. Creating Meth is often called “cooking” and the process involves a series of dangers the least of which is an explosive reaction that has claimed numerous lives. Burn Units are flooded with victims trying to make Meth with little or no knowledge of the risks involved, their minds clouded by greed or addiction. In December of 2011, a woman was arrested in a Tulsa Wal-Mart for attempting to make Meth inside the store. While she wandered for six hours inside the store, she gathered all the ingredients she needed and began the process of “cooking” on a store shelf. Police arrested her as she mixed two containers of sulfuric acid. The officers suffered minor burns to their hands as they attempted to survey the crime scene.
Children exposed to the process of cooking Meth are at risk from both the ingredients and from inhalation and absorption through the skin. Malnutrition and psychological trauma from physical and sexual abuse are common side effects of the world that Meth creates. Left with little or no escape from their environments, children of Meth users can find themselves devoid of hope in lives which sometimes end prematurely. Parents who are addicts choose the drug over buying milk or diapers, and do not hear the cries of their children in their detached.
In January of this year, a Tennessee Emergency Room admitted a seven year old with respiratory problems. Doctors became suspicious and discovered she had been exposed to Meth. Sheriffs opened and investigation and discovered that the camper where the young girl lived was a functioning lab. The mother admitted she had been snorting Meth as the child slept on a couch and the young girl spoke of the smell of fumes as her mother produced the drug. Authorities prosecuted the mother for drug charges and child endangerment, Social Services retained custody of the child.
The stories of Meth addiction resound with the echoes of regret and of the high they thought would never end. Children struggle to understand the vandalized dreams they were forced to embrace at the hands of Meth. The drug took their parents and wrecked their lives and then moved on to the next unsuspecting victim. As Law Enforcement fights to stem the rise of Meth, those searching for the “ultimate high” are finding new avenues of ruination for their own lives and others. Mixing meth with other drugs like cocaine is called “speed-balling” and puts you on the bullet train to a heart attack.
As the child of an alcoholic mother, I understand the transformation that an addiction can cause in the behavior of someone you love and the impact it can have on a child's life. Hope finds a desperate partner in the eyes of the youngest victims of an addict's endeavors and a small mind struggles to make sense of the inconsistency that swirls around a hijacked life. The most selfish endeavor we can undertake is to turn our backs on our children, and Meth overpowers the parental instinct in some with disastrous results. We can only hope to change the future through education and activism. If someone is standing at the edge of the abyss, reach out and change a life if only for our children.
Bath salts linked to child abuse
Midland Daily News | January 26, 2012
by Kelly Dame
The latest Kids Count in Michigan report shows a strong link between the number of child abuse and neglect cases and poverty, and a local judge points to another local factor not uncovered in the study -- the designer drug called bath salts.
Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen said new abuse and neglect cases filed in the court last year involved 83 children from 51 families, an increase of 63 percent from the year before. In 2010, there were 52 children from 30 families, and in 2009, there were 65 children also from 30 families.
"That's a lot of kids," Allen said, adding there is a correlation between poverty and abuse and neglect, especially chronic abuse and neglect. "I don't think I've seen a problem like this since I've been on the bench."
The study, released Tuesday by the Kids Count in Michigan project, reports the rate of child abuse and neglect in Midland County went up 7 percent over the past decade while Midland County was one of the few counties to see a decrease in child poverty between 2005 and 2009: There was a 2 percent decrease for children ages 0-17 and 3 percent decrease for children ages 5-17.
More than 30 percent of Midland K-12 children now qualify for free and reduced price lunches. Children qualify for school-based meals if their family income is 185 percent of poverty or less. Studies confirm that families need income of about 200 percent of poverty -- at least $44,226 for a family of four -- to cover basic needs without assistance.
"One of the things that people in Midland have a hard time believing is that there is poverty," the judge said, explaining she recently spoke to a group that was wondering how kids wind up the way they do. "These people really are the working poor" who enter into the legal system, Allen said of her answer to the group.
Another local problem is bath salts, a designer drug that has nothing to do with bathing products. The drug is synthesized in overseas super labs and then sold through the Internet.
"We're getting a lot of substance abuse babies, we call them," Allen said, adding for now, the substance of choice in 2011 was bath salts. Right now, the court is working with cases of four infants who were born prematurely due to their mothers' use of bath salts while pregnant. "They're very hard cases," she said.
To deal with the program, Allen is instituting the Baby Court program, the goal of which is to teach children how to be children and parents the skills they need to be effective.
"Thank God for Baby Court, and I mean that," Allen said, adding there is a waiting list for the program.
Every family is different, so different support systems are used through the program, she said. "We do have a lot of infrastructure in Midland," and the community is very good about stepping in with resources to help -- needs including things like housing, transportation, gas and food on the table.
By contrast, Allen pointed out the court's delinquency case numbers went down again, by 30 percent in 2011. The decrease is the result of programming that "has made a dramatic difference."
Dick Dolinski, founder of The Legacy Center for Community Success, said his interest has been in the developmental assets of the community's youth, then using that data to help with immunizing kids against risk taking behaviors.
"If you have positive peers, you don't get those risk taking behaviors," he said, laying out the basic premise that youth activities like art, theater, drama, organized sports, Boy Scouts or 4-H, and religious activities like youth groups doing service projects, all have several things in common: They increase the probability of kids hanging around other good kids, they take up time and energy, all have an imposed structure and rules, and there is an adult role model who can then give advice that kids are more likely to follow.
The information has been used by groups including the probate court and Midland County Juvenile Care Center, the Midland Area Partnership for Drug Free Youth, the Midland Community Center and The Rock in putting together evidence based programs.
Dolinski said the Legacy Center is now working with a consortium of health care providers to target health issues such as teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and has been aiming at preschool education. That endeavor uses "preschool tool totes" containing learning supplies like crayons and pencils, paper, letters and numbers and more, which are given out to children multiple times a year. Baby and Toddler tool totes are next, he said.
The Kids County in Michigan report ranks counties on 16 indicators of child well-being, with number 1 being the best.
Midland County's best ranking was third among the counties for the high school Michigan Merit Exam scores with only 35 percent of high school students considered not proficient in math compared with 49.6 statewide.
The county's worst ranking was No. 35 of 81 counties for low birthweight babies, defined as infants born weighing less than 5.5 pounds, with 7 percent of Midland babies being born too small compared with 8.5 percent statewide.
Midland was ranked No. 32 for teen deaths with a rate of almost 73 deaths per 100,000 teens compared with the statewide rate of 56 per 1,000.
For see the report, go to www.milhs.org
Man found guilty of sexual abuse; child gave birth to his baby
An Attalla man was found guilty Thursday of child sexual abuse, according to a news release from District Attorney Jimmie Harp.
James Alvin Hawkins, 40, was found guilty by an Etowah County jury on four counts of child sexual abuse that involved the rape and sodomy of a young girl that continued until she was 13 and gave birth to Hawkins' child, according to a press release.
The abuse started when the girl was 11.
When it was determined that Hawkins was the father of the child, he fled to Florida, with assistance from the victim's mother, who later was charged with hindering prosecution.
Harp said Attalla Police detective Ryan Condy investigated the case and worked in conjunction with Florida police, Etowah County Sheriff's Department officers and federal marshals to locate Hawkins.
Hawkins was arrested while trying to run from an apartment of another person who also was charged with hindering prosecution.
Deputy District Attorney Carol Griffith, who prosecuted the case with Chief Deputy District Attorney Marcus Reid, said it took a great deal of courage on the part of this girl to come to court and testify against the man who had taken away her childhood, according to the news release.
“She has come so far and was so brave throughout this ordeal,” Griffith said. “I am extremely proud of her for being strong enough to testify in the case and proud for her to see that justice was done.”
Griffith said the case could not have been prosecuted successfully without the hard work of Condy, the James M. Barrie Center for Children and the Department of Human Resources.
Harp said it was a difficult case for jurors to hear, and they worked hard to reach a verdict.
“It is heartbreaking to hear the story of a child who has been abused over and over again at the hands of someone who should have loved her,” Harp said. “This jury did an outstanding job. They were instrumental in removing another child predator from the streets in our county.”
Hawkins faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole because of prior felony convictions.
Circuit Court Judge Bill Rhea set sentencing for March 8.
AMW Helps Nab Accused Child Sexual Predator
Con Man Posed as Pastor
Charismatic and cunning, Las Vegas Pastor Otis Holland is on the run after members of his church between the ages of 13 and 16 accused him of sexual abuse. The revelation of Holland's relationship with his young parishioners has opened a Pandora's box that has left Holland's entire congregation stunned and shamed. Police say this is not a case of a man of the cloth falling from grace.
"He was a con man, and he used the church front for his schemes," said Kevin Abernathy of the Henderson Police Department, the lead investigator on the case. "In the 19 years that I've been on the job, I would rank this as probably the worst case I've dealt with as far as a predator identifying and abusing victims." said Abernathy.
Trusted Minster becomes Alleged Predator
Otis Holland's journey from trusted minister to alleged predator started in the late 1990s, when he founded United Faith Church. Holland broke off from a ministry headed by his mother. That's also where he found his first members. Karla Grajeda was among a group of teenagers who looked to Holland for guidance.
"Otis was a mentor to all of us," said Karla. "He really encouraged us to go to school, seeking out our dreams, our goals. He pretty much just motivated us to do the best we could with our lives."
Holland wore a humble uniform of baggy blue jeans and wrinkled shirts, and encouraged his young followers to lead a chaste and pure life. But when Karla turned 18, Holland's message changed. He told her that he wanted to pursue her romantically.
Karla started dating Holland, but cops say she wasn't the only young woman that he had eyes for in the congregation. Authorities say Holland's parishioners now know that their pastor had secret relationships with at least three other women in the church. AMW spoke with two of Holland's alleged lovers who asked to remain anonymous. They both describe Holland as a master manipulator who used the word of the lord to isolate them from the rest of the world.
"He would always criticize the women harshly -- we could easily be had," said one of his anonymous lovers. "He had this control that if I left him I would turn out to be a slut or a whore."
That's how one of Holland's young victims who we'll call "Ava" says Holland convinced her to have sex with him.
Sex As "Counseling"
"It was never my intention to have a sexual relationship with him," said Ava. "He kept telling me that I was going to be a 'hoe,' and that I was easy and that I'm a stupid female. I didn't want to be like that, but he never told me what to do about it. So I came to him for counseling."
Police say counseling was the ploy that Holland used to lure in all of his underage victims, and he identified them through prayer cards written by their parents.
"The parents would pray for their children who were having difficulty with a divorce or separation, and he would use that as his road to counsel the victims," said Abernathy.
According to police, Holland told his teen victims that they were feeling a pressure, which was his code word for lust. Holland allegedly prescribed that he, as their pastor, release that pressure and preserve the girls' chastity. Police say Holland held some of these counseling sessions in the back of his private limousine, and even soundproofed one of the rooms in his five bedroom gated-community home where he videotaped his victims.
Members of United Faith Church also say that Holland used the church's money to buy that home while it could no longer afford to lease a location. Holland was holding Sunday services at the tax preparation offices of some of his parishioners at the time of his arrest.
Police first charged Holland with sexual abuse of a minor in December, 2010, after one of his alleged teenage victims went to police. Cops say by July 2011, four victims in all came forward, and Holland skipped town.
On Jan. 25, 2012, authorities received the tip they needed from an alert AMW viewer, and Otis Holland was arrested in Tijuana, Mexico.
Human trafficking: Hunting the predator
by Elizabeth Prann
Human trafficking is a global problem. But it's quickly gaining local media attention as people learn how prevalent the problem is in cities such as Atlanta, Phoenix and New York, among others.
Local law enforcement agencies say it is more challenging than ever to crack down on the ‘johns.'
“The issue with prosecuting buyers -- or ‘johns' as some people call them -- typically they're not known to the victim,” said Cobb County Police Detective Carol Largent. “They may not know a first name, a last name; know what they drive, where they live. They may not be able to give us any information about them.”
People and especially adolescent girls are not being sold in one concentrated area. Recent data about Georgia 's commercial sexual exploitation of children, gathered by A Future. Not a Past., debunks the myth that human trafficking, specifically child exploitation, is exclusive to urban city limits. The study says men who respond to advertisements for sex with young girls come from all over metro Atlanta.
While many of the men who exploit these children are not seeking adolescent females exclusively, the study shows about 50 percent are willing to pay for sex with a young female -- even if they know for sure she is younger than the age of consent in Georgia, which is 16.
“If you can't identify them because you don't have enough information to identify them -- then it makes it very difficult to prosecute them,” Largent said.
And after the ‘johns' are under arrest, law enforcement want to make sure they're convicted. Therein lies a second challenge.
“We can make an arrest for the charge, but in the event it goes to trial -- one of the things you have to be able to show is that elements of that crime have been met beyond a reasonable doubt,” Largent said. “So, if the code section itself can be a little confusing -- that can be confusing to a jury. Child molestation is much, much less confusing for a jury pool to see elements of that crime have been met.”
Largent says that's why her agency has arrested, charged and sentenced only one predator for child molestation over the past year. However, there's no short of cases.
“We're averaging two or three cases a month; most of the cases we're seeing -- the buyers are not known to them, we can't identify them if we don't have somewhere to start,” she said.
Tougher laws have made life easier for law enforcement. Just last year Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 200: Freedom from Human Trafficking Act. The bill expands the definition of “coercion,” it provides defense for prostitution victims, and it increases the penalties for perpetrators -- among other things.
However, according to Shared Hope International, a non-profit group based in Washington --more needs to be done. Not only in the state of Georgia, but across the nation.
Shared Hope International partnered with the American Center for Law and Justice to conduct a comprehensive study of each state's existing laws. It also looks at what the state is doing to assist victims.
“This is based on over a year of research. Based on research compiled in something we've been working on for quite some time. We've seen a great response,” said Eliza Reock, the director of programs at Shared Hope International. “Organizations are raising awareness from the report as a tool.”
At the end of the study, each state was given a grade, depending on the the level of protection in each state. The results show that as a nation, a lot of work needs to be done.
In the report, more than 50 percent of the nation's states do not have laws providing adequate protection to child victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. In fact, West Virginia, Maine, Wyoming and Virginia do not have clear human trafficking laws, period. Some use abduction laws and others use kidnapping laws to prosecute pimps and ‘johns.'
Reock said more work needs to be done at the state level. Only four states received a ‘B' on the grading scale and six states received a ‘C.' About 26 states failed. She says there are strong federal guidelines that states should look at.
“What we really say is we want to create a safer environment for children,” she said.
With increasing awareness, there's been a push from corporations with money, power and influence to make a change.
ManpowerGroup is one of the largest job placement and consulting firms in the world. The company has a presence in more than 95 countries. Over the past few years, ManpowerGroup's executives and employees have taken the human trafficking epidemic head-on. It's leading a global example.
“The sense of responsibility on human trafficking doesn't come from our presence; it comes from our company values,” said David Arkless, the president of corporate and government affairs.
Arkless remembers when he was approached and first learned just how deep human trafficking had infiltrated corporations across the globe. The knowledge left him speechless.
“I was led into the absolutely scary and dreadful statistics of more than 30, 000 people a day being trafficked. Thirty to 40 million people are trafficked on an annual basis around the world -- many of them women and children,” he said. “So we think it is important to communicate this.
"Not just our employees, but also to the external business community. I still go to chairmen and CEOs of very large companies and say: ‘What are you doing about human trafficking? How are you checking your supply chains? What are you doing to make sure that nowhere in the world are you using human beings as a commodity?'”
He went on to say companies are not always aware there is a problem in their supply chain; they could be abusing people and running normal human beings into bonded labor or even modern-day slavery.
So how can the trend shift?
Penalties for offenders.
“The other thing we think corporations can do is to have policies inside of the company. Human resources policies, accounting policies that say 'sorry, when you're on company business it's really against the values of our company to hire a prostitute,'” he said.
“Here are the consequences of doing that. That's where that woman came from, that's what she is getting herself into. That's how the gangs run her, that's what's going to happen to her in five years when she's not quite as pretty as she is now. So I think there are a number of ways corporations can get involved because somewhere in your supply chain you're going to find the scary fact.”
The time is now for corporations to adopt awareness policies. During this recession, the number of trafficked people has risen considerably, Arkless said. This problem isn't getting better.
Metro Approves Knabe Sex Trafficking Campaign
Metro will create a public awareness campaign related to human sex trafficking and post the information on buses, trains, and its website.
by Melanie C. Johnson
The Metro Board today unanimously approved a public awareness campaign related to human sex trafficking spearheaded by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, according to a news release.
Metro plans to post information about sexually trafficked youth on Metro buses, rail cars, and trains, as well as at stations and on its website.
county has seen a significant hike in the number of sexually trafficked youth in the past few years. Minors, some as young as 12, are being coerced by force and manipulated by adults, enslaved, and sexually exploited for commercial gain, according to the news release.
“Every day in Los Angeles County, children are transported on Metro buses and trains and we have an opportunity to make the public aware that some kids may be there against their will and a victim of human sex trafficking,” Knabe said in a statement.
Metro will develop and implement the campaign and report back in February and March with updates on how it is progressing.
“Posting information on Metro buses, trains, at stations, and on Metro's website, will shine a light on this travesty in the places it can be most likely to occur,” Knabe said. “We must do our part to help bring those individuals responsible for the abuse and exploitation of children to justice.”
Mariska Hargitay - Actress
In September 2011, less than two months before the dismaying news started emerging from State College, Pennsylvania, NBC aired an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
that tackled the rarely discussed topic of sexual abuse of boys and men. "Personal Fouls" told the story of a long-time, respected coach sexually abusing the boys on his teams over many years. Then came Penn State. Then came Syracuse. Then Poly Prep in Brooklyn. The stories of predators and prey, of complicity and cover-ups, of shame and fear and pain and isolation, are harrowing. Unfortunately, they won't be the last. We cannot change what happened, but we can change how willing we are to talk about it. And before our attention turns elsewhere, we can seize this moment to shed some light into the darkness that surrounds this issue.
An estimated one in six men, or nearly 19 million adult males in the United States, have had an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood. The median age for reported sexual abuse, male and female, is 9 years old. Male survivors are even more likely than women to bear the burden of their trauma alone, as they are less likely to disclose their abuse. And perhaps most startlingly, men are far less likely to know they have been abused. In a study of men and women with documented histories of sexual abuse -- abuse so serious it warranted the intervention of a social service agency -- 64 percent of the women considered themselves to have been sexually abused. Only 16 percent of the men did.
The FBI recently took a significant step to break through the secrecy that surrounds male survivors of sexual abuse and violence by changing how the Uniform Crime Report defines rape. For the first time in its 80-year existence, the definition of rape will include male victims, allowing our national statistics on sexual violence to reflect more accurately what is happening in our communities.
We as a society must build on this achievement and take further steps to acknowledge that sexual violence affects men and boys. We must commit ourselves to engaging men in the movement to address, prevent and, one day, end all sexual violence. Two organizations are already leading the way in this effort: 1in6 is a national organization that helps men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives; and A CALL TO MEN is galvanizing a national movement of men committed to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. Each in their own way, these organizations use information, support and compassion to dispel the isolation that male survivors experience. They promote healthy relationships, and they boldly redefine "manhood."
At Joyful Heart, the foundation I started in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal and reclaim their lives, we are proud to share in the vision of one day ending violence against all people. We hope to send this message to all survivors: We hear you. We believe you. We feel for you. You are not alone. And your healing is our priority.
I invite you to watch the re-airing of "Personal Fouls" tonight on NBC, guest starring the NBA's Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. I hope it will inspire you to think and talk about the issue of sexual abuse of boys and men. And I hope it will inspire you to take action -- on behalf of your child, your spouse, your friend, your co-worker, yourself -- and join me in the effort to engage men in the movement to end sexual abuse and violence. To learn more about this important issue, please visit men.joyfulheartfoundation.org.
Mariska Hargitay is the Emmy Award-winning star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC and the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Joyful Heart's mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
After Penn State, states reconsider sex abuse laws
by PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University has prompted state lawmakers across the nation to take another look at laws designed to protect children and punish child predators.
Thirty-eight legislatures are back in session this month, most for the first time since retired assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged in November with child sex abuse and two school officials were charged with failing to properly report abuse allegations. At least 12 states are considering mandatory reporting legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and more are expected to craft bills as their sessions get into full swing.
In addition to measures to improve the reporting of suspected child sex abuse, bills have been drafted across the country that would increase or even eliminate the statutes of limitations for bringing criminal or civil cases against alleged abusers.
"The alleged incidents at Penn State I think awakened something in our national consciousness about protecting our kids," said Mike Feuer, a California assemblyman and chairman of that legislature's Judiciary Committee.
Feuer, a Los Angeles Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would have employees at universities added to the list of mandated reporters in his state, which already includes teachers, doctors and others.
"If we were to fail to pass a bill like the one I have introduced in California only to have subsequent abuse occur, we will look back on this moment as a wasted opportunity to protect a child who will never get that moment back," he said.
Forty-eight states currently require at least some professionals to immediately report knowledge or suspicion of child sexual abuse to some authority, according to the NCSL. Eighteen of those states require every adult to be a mandated reporter.
New Jersey is another state looking to expand its mandated reporter law, and is also considering legislation that would remove a two-year time limit for bringing civil lawsuits against alleged abusers.
Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III, D-Middlesex, the chairman of his chamber's Judiciary Committee, said he and others have been trying to get the legislation passed for years. He said now seems to be the perfect time.
"I think Penn State will be the watershed moment," he said. "Many states are going to be prompted to strengthen not only their criminal laws, but their civil laws as well, which is what we're doing."
States, including Pennsylvania, are setting up task forces or holding informational public hearings in an attempt to draft comprehensive legislative packages that might address several concerns.
Connecticut lawmakers held a hearing this week as mourners gathered at Penn State for a series of public memorial events honoring former football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday of lung cancer. Penn State's board of trustees fired Paterno after he was criticized over his handling of the child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.
As the Connecticut legislature considers how to move forward, it will consider mandated reporting, setting standards for youth camps and programs at the state's public college, said state Rep. Diana Urban, co-chairwoman of the Select Committee on Children.
She said the key is making sure the proper authorities have all the information they need.
"We don't want information to go awry and to have children exposed to situations that will impact them for the rest of their lives."
Sandusky, 67, is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He and the two school officials maintain their innocence.
Advocates for abuse victims are pushing hard for legislation to be passed this year, recognizing that the Penn State scandal presents an opportunity to cut through the government's red tape.
"It is a mobilization time. But just as important, it is a public information time," said Jim Hmurovich, chief executive of Prevent Child Abuse America. "We need to get the message out that sex offender registries and treatment services for victims and mandatory reporting requirements are important, but they're not the whole picture. Let's think about way up the river so the child never gets hurt in the first place."
Jetta Bernier agrees. A national child-abuse expert who runs Massachusetts Citizens for Children, she said the lessons learned from the recent scandal involving the Catholic church is that it doesn't help to have stiff penalties, if the warning signs of abuse are ignored or go unnoticed. She supports legislation like a bill being considered in West Virginia that would spend $1.1 million in public funds to increase child-abuse education and prevention efforts.
"It's good to begin strengthening reporting requirements, but if people don't know what to look for, the reporting just isn't going to cut it," she said. "People need to know how to identify and how to prevent. That's a piece that I have found missing in a lot of these attempts to push legislation forward."
Scandal Highlights Child Sex Abuse
Fairfax County police say reports, concerns rose in wake of scandal.
by Victoria Ross - The Connection
The fallout from the Penn State child sex abuse scandal - arrests, firings and the disgrace of a sports icon - has also promoted a heightened awareness of child sexual abuse.
Since the scandal broke in November, national child abuse and neglect hotlines have reported steep spikes in calls from parents, educators and victims asking questions and seeking help.
Fairfax County has also felt the impact.
According to statistics kept by Fairfax County Police Department's (FCPD) Child Abuse Unit, reports to the department’s seven-member Child Abuse Squad have doubled since December 2010 – from 19 to 39 reported cases.
During 2011, officers investigated 329 cases covering child rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties with a juvenile.
Fairfax County’s Office for Women’s Domestic and Sexual Violence also reports an increased number of calls asking for advice and counsel since the scandal broke.
"Child sexual abuse is more common than many people think, but there is also a lot of shame and a hesitancy to come forward and talk about it," said Lucy Caldwell, an FCPD officer who spearheaded an online forum to the topic on Wednesday, Jan. 18. She said national attention surrounding the Penn State allegations coupled with the rise in local reports and concerns provided the impetus for the online discussion.
"We felt it was important to reach out to tell people that they are not alone. There are resources available," Caldwell said. "In some cases, victims can take police action against their offenders… We do suspect, however, that many cases go unreported for many, many reasons."
According to the National Children’s Advocacy Center, sexual abuse is the nation’s most under-reported crime. Various studies show 40 to 60 million Americans have been sexually abused, and national experts estimate that nearly one out of every three girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18.
The online discussion was originally scheduled for one hour, but there were so many questions from posters – all of whom chose to remain anonymous – that the discussion continued for more than 90 minutes.
Kathleen Kelmelis, program manager for the county’s Office for Women’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Services and 2nd Lt. Josh Laitinen, supervisor of the FCPD child abuse squad, answered a wide range of questions from those who identified themselves as victims, as well as parents and educators seeking information about how to help children and when to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse.
One poster asked: "Why do you think children don't tell their parents or the police when bad things happen to them? How should they handle these situations? What should we be doing as parents to ensure their safety?"
"In 93 percent of cases of child sex abuse, the abuser is someone the child knows. Nearly half the time these abusers are family members," Kelmelis responded, adding that abusers are masters of manipulation.
"They manipulate in many ways, through threats such as, ‘If you tell, I will kill your family or your pet.’ Or through promises – ‘If you do this for me, I will take you out to the arcade,’" Kelmelis said. She also gave tips on guiding a child through the conversation.
"Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to someone with whom trust has been established. When talking with a child, try to guard against displaying emotions that would influence a child. Reassure the child that they have not done anything wrong and they are not to blame for what happened to them," she said.
Another poster wanted to know who, in addition to doctors and teachers were "mandated reporters."
Laitinen responded that anyone employed in a public or private school, child care employees, mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, hospital professionals, emergency medical personnel are required to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect to child protective services.
He noted that there are several pieces of legislation before the Virginia General Assembly that would require coaches and others involved in youth organizations to be added to the list. He also advised parents not to rely solely on organizations to prevent child sexual abuse.
"Parents need to be involved, know what adults their children are with. For example, consider becoming a leader or volunteer; take the time to stay at the music lesson or sporting event/practices. No amount of concern is too great for the welfare of your child," he said.
Another person asked what efforts are currently underway between Fairfax County police and other agencies to address the recent rise in cases?
Laitinen said the police department and Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services are working together to address this increase.
The level of shame, discomfort and fear surrounding the issue was apparent in many of the questions. Several questions were from adults who said they were abused as children, asking how they could cope as adults with the residual effects of abuse, such as depression, self-loathing, guilt and shame.
Kelmelis said the Office for Women’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Services provides no-cost counseling and support for people whenever the abuse occurred.
"Often people find that the effects of the sexual abuse can impact them at different times during their life. Triggers such as reading a news report or knowing someone who has been sexually assaulted will sometimes cause feelings of anxiety and depression or will cause flashbacks to be triggered," she said.
One question was from someone who identified herself as an illegal immigrant:
"I am illegally here, but I'm being sexually abused. What will happen to me if I report it? Will me or my family be deported?"
Laitinen urged the poster to report the abuse, and said an undocumented immigrant does not lose his or her rights as a victim. "The Fairfax County Police Department does not consider immigration status when any crime is reported to us. There are laws that protect undocumented immigrants in the U.S.," he responded during the discussion.
Another question came from an elementary school counselor, who said that making a claim with CPS that is later determined to be unfounded often damages the relationship between the school and the family. "Sometimes, the child's story doesn't really make sense, or there is not a visible injury… Any advice for handling these types of situations? "
Laitinen acknowledged the "difficult situation," but said that a "mandated reporter" could face serious consequences for failing to report suspected abuse. "The child's welfare is paramount," he responded.
Both Laitinen and Kelmelis repeatedly urged victims to call the CPS hotline or 911 when posters said they or their children were currently being sexually abused.
"We urge you to report this to police at 703-691-2131 first. (If there is an immediate matter of safety, contact 911!) The police will work hand-in-hand with Child Protective Services in conducting an investigation. If you would like to contact CPS as an anonymous caller, call their hotline at 703-324-7400 anytime day or night. Whomever you decide to call first, your situation will be addressed and you will get the help you need. Please call," Laitinen said.
Caldwell said the team was very pleased with the response, and more outreach efforts are planned.
"It’s a sensitive subject, but one that parents, educators and all those who come into contact with children need to know more about," Caldwell said.
To review the transcript from the online discussion, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/askfairfax/Archive/ArchiveDiscussion.aspx?roomid=28.
A Victim of Child Sexual Abuse Uses the Web to Speak Out and Fight BackBy
by Roger Shuler
This moment in history, it seems, is when mankind will be forced to grapple with a child sexual abuse problem that is far worse than many of us imagined.
Since former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested in early November and charged with molesting at least eight boys over a 15-year period, we have seen a constant stream of stories about sexual horrors perpetrated on children.
Many of the stories have centered on boys and athletics--in Syracuse University basketball, Canadian hockey, AAU basketball, and even sports journalism. But the problem hardly is limited to those who prey on boys through sports. Here in Alabama, former teacher and church leader Daniel M. Acker Jr. has admitted to molesting 21 girls since the early 1990s
Just last week, we learned of two new cases. One, involving an elite hockey coach in Ukraine, was connected to sports. The other, involving two men in Johnson City, Tennessee, was not.
What has all of this taught us? For one, it's not just an American problem; it is international in scope. For another, the problem is hard to grasp because many victims are unwilling or unable to speak out. Some victims fear they will not be believed. Others fear they will bring shame to themselves or their families. For some, the psychological trauma is so severe that they struggle to function, haunted by depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, and thoughts of suicide. For others, memories of the abuse are repressed, causing statutes of limitations to pass before law-enforcement officials can even try to take action.
One victim with ties to Alabama has found his voice--and he is using the Web to share his story. Jason Lee, a 36-year-old former Birmingham-area resident, was molested repeatedly over a five-year period. Charles Donald Corley (photo above), a respected leader in Boy Scouts and at Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, was convicted in 1995 of molesting Lee and two other boys.
"The bottom line is, I was just a kid and he used me as a sex toy," Lee told The Birmingham News .
Corley, who was 45 at the time of his conviction, received a 30-year sentence. But he comes up for parole on January 31. Lee and other victims have established a Web site, 30is30.com, to tell their stories and push for Corley to serve his full sentence.
Visitors to 30is30.com can click on "One Victim's Testimony" and learn about Lee's experience. It is compelling reading, to be sure:
I think there are two kinds of child molesters. One is the trench-coat-wearing, playground-stalking, child-stealing kind of person. He's quick and violent. The other kind is the serial molester--he embeds himself in the community, wins the trust of families and children, and abuses that position of power to commit the molestation. Don Corley is the second type.
After my parents split up when I was 12, he saw my pre-teen vulnerability, befriended my family and presented himself as someone who could be a father figure to me. I was invited to hang out at his house, go on vacations with him, babysit his children. I won't get into the details, but the molestation started under the pretense of trying to "educate me" on sexual issues. I was young enough and naive enough to believe him.
Lee says the abuse continued until his senior year at Homewood High School. Upon graduation, he went to a university two states away and tried to put the past behind him. But the Homewood Police Department contacted him one day, and Lee decided to open up:
After I left town, Don Corley finally made a move on a boy who had sense enough to say no, and to tell his parents. The parents did the right thing and contacted the police. The police investigated, and every stone they unturned seemed to lead to more and more information. If I remember correctly, the police informed me that they had identified 42 victims over a 25 year period, in a trail leading from California to Alabama.
They believed there were more victims out there, but had to take the investigation to the next level. Some victims didn't want to go public with their story. Some victims were not open to talking to the police at all. Some victims wanted to press charges, but the statute of limitations had run out and they were unable to. In the end, three boys pressed charges, and I was one of them.
Jason Lee is not just hoping that his abuser serves a full prison sentence. He is taking steps to help make it happen. From 30is30.com:
I don't want your money--I want your time. Please take 15 minutes to write a letter and tell the Parole Board of Alabama that you would like for Don Corley to serve his time--to stay in jail for his full sentence and not be granted parole. Better yet, print out one of our petitions and get as many people as you can to sign it and mail it to the Parole Board. Of course, the best I can hope for is that you do both.
That 15 minutes you can give towards this cause would really make a difference. Help us keep Don Corley in jail. Share your thoughts on the subject with the Alabama Parole Board and help keep an admitted child molester off our streets. . . .
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
How can you help? You can take the first step by clicking here.
You can view several segments of an interview with Don Corley by clicking "From the Molester's Mouth" at 30is30.com.
How Pimps Use the Web to Sell Girls
by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
In November, a terrified 13-year-old girl pounded on an apartment door in Brooklyn. When a surprised woman answered, the girl pleaded for a phone. She called her mother, and then dialed 911.
The girl, whom I’ll call Baby Face because of her looks, frantically told police that a violent pimp was selling her for sex. He had taken her to the building and ordered her to go to an apartment where a customer was waiting, she said, and now he was waiting downstairs to make sure she did not escape. She had followed the pimp’s directions and gone upstairs, but then had pounded randomly on this door in hopes of getting help.
Baby Face said she hurt too much to endure yet another rape by a john. She told prosecutors later that she was bleeding vaginally and that her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.
That 911 call set in motion the arrest of Kendale Judge, then 21. Judge has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, kidnapping, rape and compelling prostitution. He is in jail, and we haven’t heard his side of the events yet.
The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on Backpage.com, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.
Lauren Hersh, the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there, says that of the 32 people she and her team have prosecuted in the last year and a half — typically involving victims aged 12 to 25 — a vast majority of the cases included girls marketed through Backpage ads.
“Pimps are turning to the Internet,” said Hersh. “They’re not putting the girls on the street so much. Backpage is a great vehicle for pimps trying to sell girls.”
Craigslist backed out of this sector after public protests. Pimps then moved to Backpage.com, which is owned by Village Voice Media, owners of The Village Voice weekly newspaper.
Attorneys general from 48 states wrote a joint letter to Backpage, warning that it had become “a hub” for sex trafficking and calling on it to stop running adult services ads. The attorneys general said that they had identified cases in 22 different states in which pimps peddled underage girls through Backpage.
The attorneys general cited a 15-year-old girl who was being forced to have sex with men last year in Dorchester, Mass. The pimp marketed the girl through Backpage.
But Backpage isn’t budging. Indeed, it has fought back with personal attacks on those, such as Ashton Kutcher, who have linked it to human trafficking.
Steve Suskin, legal counsel to Village Voice Media, gave me a lengthy statement in which he argued that the company is already cooperating closely with law-enforcement authorities. He cited a 16-year-old girl in Seattle who was rescued as a result of a tip the company had made.
“Censorship will not rid the world of exploitation,” Suskin asserted.
It’s true that there’s some risk that pimps will migrate to new Web sites, possibly based overseas, that are less cooperative. But, on balance, that’s a risk worth taking. The present system is failing. Pimps aren’t the shrewdest marketers, and eliminating a hub for trafficking should at least chip away at the problem.
Backpage suggests that it is battling censors and prudes. In fact, what drives it seems to be greed. In their letter, the attorneys general said that Backpage earns more than $22 million annually from prostitution advertising.
On Backpage, the pimps claim adult ages for the girls they market, but Hersh scoffs. “I see 19,” she said, “and I immediately think 13.”
“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”
While there are no reliable figures for human trafficking, the more we look, the more we find. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, says that in the year before he set up a sex-trafficking unit in June 2010, his office prosecuted no trafficking cases. Since then, the office has become a national model, indicting 32 people, with 10 convictions and no acquittals so far.
Among those rescued was Baby Face, who had run away from home in September. Judge allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add.
When Baby Face ran away from her pimp and desperately knocked on that apartment door in Brooklyn, she was also in effect pounding on the door of the executive suites of Backpage and Village Voice Media. Those executives should listen to her pleas.
Beaufort County solicitor lends support to human trafficking bill
by PATRICK DONOHUE
Beaufort County's top prosecutor has joined the state attorney general in urging passage of a human-trafficking bill that has been stuck in committee since last year.
The bill criminalizes sex trafficking, gives prosecutors the power to seize the assets and property of convicted traffickers, and provides much-needed support to victims, who often suffer in silence, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said.
Stone and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson were among the speakers Tuesday at a press conference in Columbia to lobby for House Bill 3757, introduced in February by state Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach. The bill was referred last year to the House Judiciary Committee, where it remains.
"Human trafficking is a clandestine crime, meaning it often goes underreported or sometimes totally unreported in many cases," Stone said. "The people running these organizations do so the same way (former Mafia boss John) Gotti did -- through fear and intimidation."
The proposal also would give human-trafficking victims the right to bring lawsuits against their oppressors.
South Carolina was identified by the nonprofit Polaris Project of Washington, D.C., as one of nine states whose laws failed to adequately address human trafficking.
"Law enforcement in this state is ready and willing to arrest and prosecute human-trafficking offenders, but there currently is no law on the books for them to use," Wilson said. "We must do better in South Carolina, and that means immediately passing a law to allow authorities to crack down on this growing crime problem."
According to the bill, human trafficking has been reported in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, but advocates say the crime is not limited to those areas.
Stone cited the arrest of an illegal immigrant living in Beaufort, Zilen Wang, who pled guilty in federal court to aiding and abetting the transporting of illegal immigrants to work at Jade Garden restaurants as proof that human trafficking occurs locally.
Authorities said the restaurant owners -- Wang and five other Chinese nationals in Beaufort County -- negotiated to hire waitresses and dishwashers smuggled into the U.S. from China and Latin America. The workers were housed in a trailer in Burton and paid little.
Jan Dyer, president of the Lowcountry Coalition Against Human Trafficking, said local residents can't assume human trafficking only exists in and around large cities.
"This is going on in every country, in every major city, so there is no reason to think it's not happening in some of the smaller areas," Dyer said Jan Dyer.
Film, panel discussion on human trafficking planned Sunday in Pomona
POMONA - Human trafficking - what it is and how some people end up victims of such a crime - will be the subject of a program at the Pomona Fox Theater Sunday.
The three-hour program will include the screening of the documentary film "Flesh: Bought and Sold in the U.S." focusing on the problem of human trafficking around the country including Los Angeles.
The program, which is free and open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. at the theater, 301 S. Garey Ave., and is being organized by the faith-based Mosaic Pomona and its She Community group.
Organizers have scheduled a question-and-answer session with Kristin Ross Lauterbach and Christina Lee Storm, writers and producers of the documentary, as well as a panel discussion on the topic that will include members of law enforcement and organizations familiar with the problem, said Pam Neighbour, site director of She Community.
Although the problem is one that has existed for many years, "I believe we have become much more aware of it because of the media and the Internet," Neighbour said.
Human trafficking is a problem that occurs in many countries and can involve women and men, children and adults, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, according to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools website.
In the United States people have been trafficked for both sexual and labor exploitation.
Neighbour said began learning about human trafficking several years ago when she read. "Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It" by David Batstone.
In the book published in 2007, the author writes about human trafficking and the millions around the world who find themselves in forced labor and sexual exploitation situations in the 21st century.
From there, Neighbour began learning more about the issue by attending conferences, the reading of newspaper accounts, and a trip that took her to places such as Thailand and Cambodia.
"It forever changed me," she said.
The trip gave her a greater understand of the situations people face that could turn them into victims of human traffickers, Neighbour said.
She saw "the depth of poverty that could cause a woman to sell her child."
A woman with several children and no way of providing for them could be convinced by someone to take a small amount of money and give up her daughter or son, she said.
Giving up her child may seems like the right choice when the trafficker make promises that the child will live a better life in another country, Neighbour said.
Criminals often prey on the most vulnerable people, said Tamiko Chacon, social justice minister at Pomona First Baptist Church and member of Traffick Free Pomona.
Criminals look for their victims in environments where poverty is severe, there is a lack of education among residents and where children of female gender aren't valued, she said.
"They take the most vulnerable people and then exploit their vulnerabilities," Chacon said.
In the United States, homeless youth - girls and boys - often become target of criminals involved in human trafficking within hours of running away from home, she said.
Raising awareness about human trafficking is vital because a place like Pomona is on the edge of Los Angeles County and just west of San Bernardino County - two place where cases have surfaced, Neighbour said.
The subject "is very relevant to where we live," she said.
Chacon will participate in the program as a representative of Traffic Free Pomona, which is based at Pomona First Baptist Church.
Traffic Free Pomona works to raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking, preventing it and providing services and are to those have lived through such experiences, Chacon said.
Something that could help combat human trafficking would be more severe penalties, she said.
California Against Slavery is working to put a measure on the November ballot that would establish tougher penalties for those found engaging in human trafficking, said Kristine Kil, program manager with California Against Slavery.
The organization is seeking to make changes such as having those convicted of trafficking register as sex offenders and having their online names and aliases registered, she said.
Chacon said part of what will take place at the Fox will be educating the audience about the problem, how to tell if someone is the victim of human trafficking and how to go about reporting it.
"A lot of the cases were hear about are because someone reported something," she said.
Signs someone could be the victim of human trafficking include people who work in businesses such as restaurants and nail salons, for example, who appear to be abused by their boss.
In some cases employees are unable to move about freely because identification and other documents such as passports have been taken away from them, Chacon said.
If someone sees clear signs of abuses committed against a person and they suspect she or he is a victim of human trafficking, the matter can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline - 888-373-7888 - which is open 24 hours a day, seven days, she said.
Callers can remain anonymous, Chacon said.
For additional information on Sunday's program email email@example.com or call 909-519-4309.
‘People are not aware of it, but it’s really going on’
Sisters of St. Joseph looks to deter human trafficking
by Lloyd Nelson
La Grange, IL — Sister Joellen Sbrissa of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph has spent most of her life working for systemic change on social issues, starting decades ago in the Cook County Jail as a women’s advocate.
From there, she did missionary work in Bolivia for three years, also working with women and families.
That’s why it made sense for the 71-year-old member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic women’s group, to head the organization’s Peace and Justice team and fight against human trafficking.
“People are not aware of it, but it’s really going on,” said Sbrissa, a La Grange Park resident. “It’s such a closed crime, people don’t know of it going on around them.”
That’s why a group of 11 orders of Catholic women’s religious groups, including Sbrissa at Sisters of St. Joseph in La Grange Park, are urging hotel chains in Indianapolis to curb human trafficking during events leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
The U.S. Department of State estimates between 14,500 and 18,000 people — many of them women and children — are trafficked into the country each year. Trafficking is defined by The Federal Trafficking Victim Protection Act as recruiting, harboring, moving or obtaining a person by force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of involuntary servitude, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported more than 11,800 calls were made to its hotline regarding sex trafficking in 2010, including calls from Illinois and Indiana.
In Illinois, there were 1,381 calls in 2010 to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. According to a report by the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues, it’s easy for a Cook County resident to become a victim of trafficking without ever leaving the area, with more than 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls involved in the sex trade each year in metropolitan Chicago. A third of them become involved in prostitution by age 15.
Chicago is one of 13 locations designated with “high-intensity child prostitution” by the FBI.
“A lot of people think it’s young women from foreign countries,” said Sister Rosie Coughlin, with the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Tipton, Ind. “Absolutely not.”
Large events, such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the World Cup, are hotbeds of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
“No one wants human trafficking in their town,” said Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Ann Oestreich, who’s coordinating the Super Bowl 2012 Anti-Trafficking Initiative for the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM). “These activities happen in the dark. What we are attempting to do is to shine a light on sex trafficking and reduce opportunities for it to happen.”
For Sbrissa, that’s meant contacting some of the managers of 220 hotels within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis to ask four questions:
|Have employees received training to recognize potential occurrences of human trafficking in their hotels?
Is there a protocol in place for hotel employees to document and report possible incidences of trafficking?
Are hotel employees/managers aware of the local groups working to end trafficking?
Is the hotel willing to make anti-trafficking information available to guests?
“We want to create awareness for the employees,” Sbrissa said. “We’re asking that the hotel train the staff and to be observant, reinforcing that this is not acceptable at this hotel.”
Ultimately, CCRIM hopes area hotels sign on to the Code of Conduct developed by the federal Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking Act to prevent child sexual exploitation.
One major hotel, the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis, signed the code of conduct in July, meaning managers there would train employees on how to spot signs of potential child sex trafficking.
Millennium general manager Dominic Smart signed after the sisters shared information on human trafficking.
“He said, ‘I have a daughter; there’s no way I cannot sign this,’” Coughlin said.
Other hotels that she’s contacted in preparation for the Super Bowl, Coughlin said, have not signed the code of conduct. However, they have been cooperative in allowing brochures to be placed in their lobbies.
Sbrissa, who wrote 19 letters to various hotels in the Indianapolis area earlier this year, said her time working at the Cook County Jail started her desire for social justice. The former South Side Chicago resident and retired Nazareth Academy math teacher said social issues, which were always important to her, became much more real when she spent time with the victims of injustice.
“When I saw at the jail how women were treated, treated as they were worthless, I knew I had to do something about it,” she said.
That’s led her to advocate for a variety of social issues, she said, but human trafficking is one she believes needs a higher profile because it’s an issue she said many people are wholly unaware of, despite its widespread reach.
“It’s important to address this on the Super Bowl,” Sbrissa added.
Coughlin took it one step further.
“If we can save one young woman from being trafficked, it’ll all be worth it,” she said.
The Human Face Of Modern Slavery
Reality check: There are more slaves in the world today than were taken from Africa in the four centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade--over 27 million. Of those, two million are children exploited in the commercial sex trade.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with annual profits exceeding that of ExxonMobil ($32 billion from sex trafficking alone). The average girl forced into prostitution is 13. Many are younger than that.
As a father, I am haunted by this thought. Even as I type, kids are being sold for sex in cities across the East--Tel Aviv, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangkok, Tokyo and Phnom Penh. In 12 hours, the same will be true in the West--Amsterdam, Rio, Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas and Portland. In the underworld, a girl is a money tree. Unlike a kilo of cocaine or a cache of AK-47s, a girl can be sold a dozen times a night for years. Siddharth Kara at Harvard estimates that a stable of four girls in a Western European apartment brothel can net a pimp an annual income of $300,000.
We in the West have a hard time believing that this is really happening, that the forcible exploitation of humans for profit is not only alive and well in the 21st century but worse than ever before. We are taught in history class that slavery ended after the Civil War. This is partially true: our ancestors defeated one incarnation of the monster. But the instinct of people to buy and sell other people for economic gain did not die with the 13th Amendment. It went underground and metastasized, waiting for conditions to ripen again. Then in the 1990s, slavery exploded into new life, fueled by globalization, the post-Cold-War economic vacuum, the Internet, and rising demand for cheap commercial sex and labor.
Four years ago, I was an attorney working in commercial litigation. If you had asked me how well I understood human trafficking, I would have told you about Svay Pak, Cambodia and the Western sex tourists who traveled there to abuse children. I would have told you about the heroic team of investigators, lawyers and social workers from the International Justice Mission working in the red light areas of India to rescue children from pimps and traffickers. But if you had asked me how well I understood the trade in the United States, I would have had little to say. Sensitive as I was to justice issues, I knew almost nothing about slavery in my own country.
The first stage of my awakening occurred in the spring of 2008. Interestingly, it was art that made trafficking personal, a film that brought it home in my heart. I started talking about it with my wife, scratching the surface of the world I thought I knew, and learning how profoundly I was in the dark. My wife's response to trafficking was even more visceral than my own. The truth about forced prostitution (bluntly put, the serial rape of women and children for profit) touched her deeply. Not long afterward, that touch triggered an epiphany. The concept for A Walk Across the Sun was hers before it was mine.
In the beginning, I struggled with the idea. I had a mountain of student debt and a law practice to grow. I knew that to write a novel on global human trafficking I would need the help of people in places of influence and danger; I would need time to research and write; and I would need resources to travel. In the end, however, I could neither ignore the idea's attractiveness nor deny its moral imperative. I was not in a position to rescue girls from brothels, but I could tell a story that would bring trafficking alive for readers just as a film brought it alive for me. I could lend my voice to the rising chorus of abolitionists saying: "Not in my generation."
When I said "yes" I dived deep, immersing myself in the literature on trafficking, learning the stories of slaves, traffickers, and customers, studying the international legal landscape, interviewing activists and officials in the U.S. and Europe, and traveling to India to see the reality of trafficking on the ground. In Mumbai, I met investigators working the streets of the red light areas to collect tips about captive children. I met attorneys laboring within the justice system to prosecute pimps and brothel owners. I met social workers with the most difficult job of all--putting rescued girls on a path toward healing and reintegration.
I knew, however, that I could not take my readers inside the sex trade unless I had gone there myself. Thus, one humid night a few days before I returned to the West, I met a man outside Mumbai Central Station, only a few blocks from Kamathipura, the city's largest red light area. The man was a friend of a friend and had offered to take me on an undercover "brothel tour." We took a taxi to M.R. Road where we met a malik--a brothel owner--known to my guide. After some negotiation, the man led us up two flights of steps to a room outfitted with couches and a mirror. The malik locked the door, closed the blinds and brought out about eight girls. All of them were young, and all of them were scared. I did not need a psychologist to tell me that they were not free to leave.
It has been almost three years since that night, but I can still picture the faces of those girls, still remember the revulsion I felt shaking the brothel owner's hand after I declined to make a purchase. I am haunted by the truth of slavery because I have seen it with my own eyes. I wrote A Walk Across the Sun to bring that truth alive for people like me, people who might prefer to believe that slavery is dead, or at least confined to dark alleys in the developing world. Human trafficking spans the globe, and so does my story--sweeping the reader from Mumbai to Paris to New York and Atlanta and revealing the many dimensions of the trade. The story is honest; it is hard-hitting, and based on the best research available. But--and this is critical--it is neither overwhelming nor grim. A Walk Across the Sun is a story of hope.
Hope, you say? How can you be hopeful after all you have seen? The answer is written in the pages of our history. However powerful and pervasive it may be, slavery is no more inevitable now than it was in the 1850s. But we cannot expect to counter a $32-billion-a-year industry without a massive society-wide effort. To vanquish this incarnation of the monster, we must pool our talents and resources, petition our elected officials to turn the millions in our war chest into billions, and commit ourselves to the cause of freedom for as long as it takes to win. It may take a generation, but it can be done. The only question is whether we have the courage to say "yes."
German priest jailed for 6 years for child abuse
BERLIN (AP) — A German court has convicted a Roman Catholic priest of some 250 counts of sexually abusing children over a several-year period and sentenced him to six years in prison.
German news agency dapd reported that the state court in Braunschweig on Thursday convicted the priest, who was found guilty of abusing three boys aged 9 to 15 between 2004 and 2011.
The 46-year-old priest, who wasn't identified, was arrested in July after one victim told his mother what had happened. He admitted the abuse when he went on trial Jan. 13.
He also faces church disciplinary proceedings.
Germany, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland, was shaken in 2010 by revelations of abuse by clergy going back decades.
Secrets only hurt the person keeping the secret
by Amy Gesenhues
SOUTHERN INDIANA — The football fan in me wants to be respectful of Joe Paterno's coaching career. I want to bow my head and say a quick Hail Mary for his achievements and for all the young men he led to numerous gridiron victories.
But the 5-year-old girl in me — the one who was sexually molested when she was too young and too frightened to understand what was happening to her — doesn't care about the Penn State football program. She's confused. She can't imagine why any adult wouldn't do everything they could to stop the victimization of innocent children.
Hindsight is always a luxury when you have it.
Looking back on the events that led to the sexual abuse charges against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, it's impossible to imagine what circumstances kept so many so silent. Joe Paterno, assistant coach Mike McQueary, Penn State's athletic director and the University's senior vice president of business and finance all were in positions to do something. Anything.
But they failed.
Instead, they slapped Sandusky's wrist and went about their days without a word to authorities. And now, one of the greatest college football coaches in NCAA history will be remembered under the shadow of a shameful and horrific sexual abuse scandal.
Many would say, “It's over. Paterno is gone and there is nothing he can do now.”
But it's not over; children will continue to be abused. Predators are everywhere. One thing I learned when I started talking publicly about my abuse was that there are a lot more survivors out there than I could have imagined. Time and time again, friends, colleagues, columnists and complete strangers came out of the blue to tell me, “… me too.”
After giving the keynote speech at the 2010 annual fundraiser for The Family and Children's Place, several women approached me to tell their stories. One, a prominent female professional in Louisville, caught me off-guard.
“I was molested when I was a child,” she said, “I've never told anyone, not until right now. I've never admitted to being a survivor.”
I understand — on the most primal level — why victims remain silent.
But, for the life of me, I have no comprehension what would keep any adult, especially one in an authoritative position, from doing everything they could to stop someone from sexually abusing children.
What if Joe Paterno would have spoken up? What if he would have said, “This stops now,” and not shut up until Jerry Sandusky's criminal behavior was investigated? Would anyone have criticized him for standing in opposition of an alleged child molester?
Yes, Penn State's reputation may have suffered a black eye, but the amount of damage to the school and the coach's reputation would not have compared to the dramatic outcome of their silence.
Here's another thing I have learned about the abuse I suffered: It wasn't the secret surrounding my abuse that caused the majority of my emotional distress and pain throughout the years, it was the keeping of the secret that did the most damage.
Things have a way of getting found out. The bigger the secret, the more likely it will manifest as something more harrowing than it already is. Just because you don't discuss something, doesn't mean it's not there.
If Paterno and all the other officials looming over Penn State's appalling secret had busted it wide open, would the reverberations from the secret have been as devastating? Would the University's reputation have taken as big of a hit? Would the football program have suffered as much as it has? Would alumni and financial backers second-guess future donations?
Would Paterno have been able to keep his stellar and unblemished record, not only as a top-notch coach, but an admirable and noble man?
We'll never know. The Penn State sexual abuse scandal will mark the university for years to come. Jobs will be lost over it. Fundraising will be affected. Recruiting will be harder.
None of these consequences will compare to the struggles of the young victims who were molested while grown men looked the other way. They are the real heroes of this story now. They are the ones who broke the silence and said, “This happened to me.” They are the ones who finally stopped Sandusky from abusing any more young boys.
My hope is that their voices will stop others from keeping more secrets.
— Amy Gesenhues is a freelance writer and syndicated columnist for CNHI. You can read her daily commentaries at www.AmyWroteIt.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor to unveil child abuse legislation
by Milan Simonich
SANTA FE - Gov. Susana Martinez is extending her legislative agenda with a series of bills to increase punishment for child abusers.
Martinez, a former Do a Ana County prosecutor who specialized in cases involving children, plans to unveil the package as soon as today.
Her initiative calls for life prison sentences for those convicted of child abuse resulting in death. Current law, sponsored by Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Do a Ana, and passed after the death of Baby Brianna Lopez of Las Cruces in 2002, provides for life terms only if the victim is 12 or younger.
The governor also is targeting drunken drivers who cause the death of a child in a vehicle. Martinez's idea is to increase punishment for that crime from six to 15 years.
Another component of Martinez's initiative would lengthen prison sentences for those convicted of child abuse that does not cause a death.
Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, will be a primary sponsor of the Republican governor's child-abuse initiative.
Park helped Martinez last year obtain an expansion of Katie's Law. It requires that anyone arrested in a felony provide a DNA sample.
Garcia has also filed four bills.
She wants the state to spend $350,000 for a public awareness campaign. Garcia said this money would expand the #SAFE system of reporting child abuse by phone.
She also wants to create a prevention task force to help educate kids, parents and school staffs on elements of abuse.
Another bill by Garcia would make murder of a child under 13 an aggravating factor in the crime. This means a killer would be subjected to the harshest sentence in New Mexico - life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Her last bill would expand the definition of aggravated sexual penetration to cover children under 5 years old. It would allow prosecutors to charge those cases as first-degree felonies.
UConn outlines new abuse policy for lawmakers
by Pat Eaton-Robb
HARTFORD, Conn.— University of Connecticut officials on Tuesday outlined for state lawmakers the school's new policies for responding to reports of sexual and child abuse on campus.
The two new policies, which are expected to be adopted by the school's Board of Trustees on Wednesday, would require UConn staff, including coaches, to report suspected sexual abuse or child abuse to one of three campus offices -- the school's Title IX coordinator, the Office of Community Standards, or the Office of Diversity and Equity.
"The only employees exempted (from reporting suspected abuse) are those that hold confidential privilege under statute, such as doctors at the health center or mental health counselors," said Elizabeth Conklin, the school's Title IX coordinator.
Those failing to report would face penalties up to termination, depending on the severity of the offense, she said. Reports in which a student is an alleged perpetrator will typically be handled by the Office of Community Standards, while reports involving staff are handled by the office of Diversity and Equity, Conklin said. Eventually, any report will filter up to her office, she said.
The school currently requires deans, directors, department heads and supervisors receiving complaints of possible sexual assault to refer them to the Office of Diversity and Equity. Some employees involved in public safety, residential life, student activities, Greek life, athletics, student services and the student union also are required to inform the police of any reported sexual assault.
The child abuse and neglect policy also informs employees that many of them are considered mandated reporters under state law, and must inform the Department of Children and Families or police of any reports of such abuse.
The school also will require those contracted to run youth camps and other events for children on campus to verify that its employees are trained in their reporting requirements under state law, officials said.
Conklin was among those testifying before the legislature's Judiciary Committee and Select Committee on Children, which are considering several changes to state law in the wake the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with molesting 10 boys, some on campus, and two school officials have been charged with failing to properly report allegations of child sex abuse. All three say they did nothing wrong.
Lawmakers questioned whether UConn's new policies would have prevented such abuse if it had occurred at that school. They are looking at proposals that would expand the list of professionals required to report allegations of abuse to state authorities.
"We're concerned that the information get to the right area, whether it's the police or the Department of Children and Families, said Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, co-chairwoman of the legislature's Select Committee on Children. "We don't want information to go awry and to have children exposed to situations that will impact them for the rest of their lives."
Teachers, day care workers, clergy, doctors, social workers and coaches at elementary, middle and high schools, are all currently required to report. But college coaches and coaches on recreational team are not currently on that list.
Joette Katz, the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, suggested updating the list to include all "those responsible for the health, welfare, or care of a child or youth for the purpose of providing education, child care, counseling, spiritual guidance, coaching training, instruction, tutoring or mentoring of a youth or child."
Katz said she would not favor making all adults in the state mandatory reporters, and said her department already receives about 95,000 calls to its abuse hotline each year.
Conklin said UConn has taken no official position on expanding the reporting requirements, but has written its new child abuse policy to incorporate any such changes.
Others testified in favor of legislation that would require criminal background checks for all camp counselors, increase training for mandated reporters, or increase funding for child-abuse prevention programs.
Some lawmakers expressed concern about the potential chilling effect of such proposals on camps or recreational athletic programs and the cost of educating hundreds of youth coaches on their duties as mandated reporters.
"We're opening a Pandora's box here," said Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield.
Others questioned whether passing legislation was the right way to deal with the problem.
"I wouldn't need a law to tell me to do the right thing if I saw a child being abused," said Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol.
The state's legislative session opens on Feb. 8.
Group approves tougher child abuse laws
Bill would expand categories of those required to report incidents, increase penalties for not doing so
by Jared Hunt
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation to toughen the state's child abuse reporting laws Tuesday, moving the bill to the full Senate for passage.
Passed by a voice vote of committee members, the bill expands the categories of people who are required by law to report any suspected child abuse or neglect and increases the penalties for those who fail to do so.
The bill came about as lawmakers re-examined the state's child abuse reporting laws following the recent sexual abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University.
"We want to make sure that the law is clear that if someone is aware of sexual abuse of a kid, they have to report it," said Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.
The October arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach and children's charity founder Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of sexual abuse and assault against children shocked the nation.
Also shocking were further revelations that witnesses had told some university officials about some of those criminal acts they saw committed on school grounds, but did not tell police.
The controversy brought down the career of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday at the age of 85.
Paterno, who was fired along with university president Graham Spanier, had passed on reports of abuse by Sandusky to athletic department officials. Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, were charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to police.
The controversy caused states to reexamine their laws requiring people to report child abuse.
In this state, school, law enforcement, and health care professionals are required to immediately report such cases to police. Faculty at public or private institutions — including universities — are legally bound to report such abuse to the institution's president, who is then responsible for calling police.
Abuse-related Child Deaths on the Rise in Sacramento County
A new report from the Sacramento County Child Death Review Team shows an overall decrease in the death rate in the last 20 years, but it also shows some alarming trends.
January 25, 2012
Cases of child abuse and neglect resulting in death were up on average from 2004 to 2009 after four years of decline. Also up: sleep related deaths on average from 2006 to 2009.
Marian Kubiak with Sacramento County Child Protective Services also told the Sacramento Board of Supervisors more abuse and neglect cases are occurring in different neighborhoods.
KUBIAK: "Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, and Orangevale are more prominent from 2000 to 2009, relative to the previous decade. And it shows that North Highlands, North Sac and Del Paso Heights have become less prominent."
Nearly two-thirds of the children who died of abuse or neglect had a family history of abuse, addiction, violent crime or mental illness.
Including car crashes and natural causes, the overall child death rate in 2009 dropped to its lowest level since 1990.
You can view the report here (.pdf)
Call made to expand those who must report suspected child abuse in Connecticut
January 24, 2012
by Jordan Fenster
HARTFORD — Athletic coaches of all kinds should be required to report suspected child abuse or neglect, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz told legislators Tuesday.
The legislature's Select Committee on Children and Judiciary Committee held a joint informational session Tuesday, possibly resulting in legislation that could greatly expand who the state considers a mandated reporter. The session was the legislature's response to the Penn State child abuse scandal, in which school officials allegedly did not act after an ex-coach, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of of sexual misconduct. Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, and maintains his innocence.
Connecticut is not the only state looking at mandated reporters' roles in the wake of the Penn State scandal. Lawmakers in Missouri, Georgia, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin and other states have proposed similar expansions.
“It's obvious that youth sports coaches at all levels have great interaction with children,” Katz told committee members, adding “I don't think that we should make all citizens mandated reporters.”
Under current state law, a variety of professionals — from police officers and school employees to podiatrists and dental hygienists — are mandated to report any suspected child abuse or neglect to DCF. Failure to do so can result in a fine no less than $500 and no greater than $1,500, though Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane, who also spoke before committee members Tuesday, suggested increasing penalties for failure to report.
According to a November report by the state's Office of Legislative Research, 18 states require anyone who suspects child abuse to report, 16 of which specify professionals “but also require everyone else to report, regardless of profession.”
“Of the 18, nearly half appear to mandate reports only in situations where the abuse is perpetrated by a parent or other person responsible for the child's care or custody,” the report says.
A 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families said 47 states impose some sort of penalties on mandated reporters if they fail to report abuse. Of those, 39 classify failure to report as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine.
Though Connecticut statutes list which professionals are mandated reporters, anyone can make a report to DCF, something Katz said citizens have a “moral imperative” to do, when there is suspected abuse or neglect.
At present, DCF gets about 95,000 reports of abuse annually, Katz told committee members, 30 percent of which do not come from mandated reporters.
Jeanne Milstein, Connecticut's child advocate, told the joint committees she would support the addition of athletic coaches to the list of mandated reporters, but said the problem was not who reports.
“What we really need to focus on is implementation and enforcement of current laws,” she said.
Though most committee members seemed open to the idea of adding coaches to the list of mandatory reporters, questions arose about the ability to train every athletic coach in every town in the state.
“You would actually have to go in to hundreds of rec leagues,” state Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, told Katz, though the commissioner replied training would be DCF's responsibility.
“We're opening a ‘Pandora's box' here,” Fawcett said, though she clarified that she was in support of the addition.
“You certainly are,” Katz said. “I would encourage you to be cautious, to tread lightly.”
Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown and City Council Join In Proclaiming February As Protect The Children Month
The Mayor of the City of Jacksonville together with the City Council through a proclamation and resolution, support the goal of the upcoming Protect the Children Conference being sponsored by SingleSource Services Corporation on Feb. 3.
January 25, 2012
Donald J. Dymer, president and chief executive officer of SingleSource Services Corporation, a background screening company based in Jacksonville Beach Florida announced today that a proclamation was issued by Mayor Alvin Brown that stated, "The City of Jacksonville joins SingleSource in recognizing the importance about speaking out against sexual abuse and in educating the community about ways to identify sexual offenders and protect children from harm." In addition, The City Council of Jacksonville issued a resolution also honoring the month and expressing support for the Protect the Children Conference.
The Mayoral proclamation noted the goal of the February 3rd, Protect the Children Conference at the University of Florida is to illuminate the issues associated with childhood sexual abuse. It goes on further to say that if we are to stop sexual abuse against children, we must stop the silence by educating the community about the signs of abuse and encouraging victims to speak out about their experiences.
Don Dymer, president and chief executive officer of SingleSource Services Corporation and sponsor of the conference thanked Mayor Brown at the Jacksonville Oceanside Rotary Club breakfast on January 24. "Having the Mayor?s support means a great deal to us. Mayor Brown is a man of conviction and action, and we hope to take that energy and carry it from our conference on February 3rd throughout the entire month as we launch an aggressive educational campaign." The objective of The Protect the Children Conference, sponsored by SingleSource Services Corporation, is to illuminate the issues surrounding the sexual abuse of children and youth outside of the home by those entrusted with their care such as coaches, teachers, clergy, mentors and volunteers.
Mr. Dymer is encouraging all those who are involved with the care, education and mentoring of children and youth to attend this important conference. Headlining the conference will be Dr. Gene Abel, Director of Research at Abel Screening in Atlanta. Dr. Abel has won numerous honors and awards for his work and research projects that have uncovered new information to help prevent child sexual abuse. The conference agenda includes other noted professionals from the nation?s leading organizations who will provide invaluable insight on what people can do to identify and prevent child sexual abusers from becoming the volunteers or employees who will have youth entrusted to their care.
"Every day thousands of children will be sexually abused by people they trust," notes Dymer. "The children cannot stop this epidemic but adults can."
To find out more about the conference, please contact Donald J. Dymer at SingleSource Services Corporation at the telephone listed number below. To read the complete brochure and register for the event please visit: www.singlesourceservices.com/protectthechildren or call 1.800.713.3412.
Human Trafficking Forum Report
by Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County State Attorney
International human trafficking awareness day was designated to be memorialized on January 11, 2012. It is a sad reality that we even need to have such a day but the numbers speak volumes:
- Around the world, as many as 2.5 million people are forced into the unpaid labor and sex trades at any given time.
- Shockingly, in the United States, the state of Florida is often ranked as either second or third state in terms of the number of victims of human trafficking.
Experts recognize that human trafficking crimes occur on the shadowy edges of daily existence. Effectively exposing this problem, allowing knowledge and awareness to shine a bright light on these very dark crimes is an important early step in our efforts to end human trafficking. As state attorney, I felt that we needed to bring together a cross section of the community along with community leaders, police, prosecutors and service providers to identify problems while proposing solutions and to tackle misconceptions which may inhibit our efforts to curb these crimes affecting so many young and promising lives. To accomplish this, I organized our January 9, 2012 community forum on human trafficking titled, “the faces of human trafficking: myths and realities.” After all, knowledge is the sharpest tool in the fight against human trafficking.
One of the important myths to be dispelled is a simplistic view of the victims of human trafficking. Many human rights organizations have focused largely on the trafficking of foreign nationals. Often these are women who are abducted or tricked into applying for foreign jobs only to be sold into brothels. Another portrait relates to issues of debt bondage, where men and women who are illegally smuggled into the United States are told they must work under modern day slave like conditions to pay off their debt.
However, the reality of the sex trafficking cases presented to my prosecutors is much more complex. They did not involve exploited foreign nationals but women and children from our own community. The cases were discovered in the course of unrelated criminal investigations rather than coming from a human trafficking tip or prostitution task force operation.
These local victims have had unique psychological needs. They often suffered from trauma bonding, also commonly referred to as the Stockholm syndrome or the Patty Hearst syndrome. The victims, especially the underage minors, often did not perceive their pimps as exploiters but as boyfriends and protectors.
Human trafficking is often an under reported and misidentified crime. To better identify its victims, I have created a human trafficking task force composed of experienced prosecutors and service providers with a wide spectrum of specializations. Our task force members are charged with reviewing arrest affidavits for potential misidentification of trafficking victims. For example, we have recently initiated a review of juvenile trespass arrests and juvenile pick up orders in our victim review process. Our task force members are available to work with state and local task forces, our federal partners and our local program service providers. Our January 9, 2012 community forum on human trafficking was the first of what I hope will be many successful dialogues on this important human trafficking in the future.
California Trucking Association decides in La Quinta to combat human trafficking
LA QUINTA — Members of the California Trucking Association will join a nationwide effort to put the brakes on human trafficking, the group's president announced today during the annual CTA conference in La Quinta.
“At the California Trucking Association, we say that ‘safety is our priority,' and that priority drives our members to combat the evils of human trafficking,” said CTA Chief Executive Officer Michael Campbell.
“Truckers are the heart and soul of our nation, so the choice to join forces with Truckers Against Trafficking was a natural one for our members.”
Kendis Paris, national director of Truckers Against Trafficking, said having the state's largest trucking association involved in the anti-trafficking campaign will “make a substantial difference.”
“Truckers are the eyes and ears of our nation's highways,” Paris said. “We're very excited ... and believe the California trucking industry will do much to put a dent in domestic sex trafficking.”
CTA will distribute informational DVDs for its member companies to use during training, orientation and safety seminars, according to the organization. Wallet-size cards will also be provided to members with information about how to recognize trafficking and what to do when it's suspected.
The Riverside County Commission for Women recently held a conference on human trafficking and the crimes associated with it in the United States and abroad.
According to the U.S. State Department, as many as 600,000 to 800,000 people are victims of trafficking every year. Most of them are women and children, who are transported across international borders for the purpose of commercial sex, pornography and other forms of exploitation.
However, some men are also trafficked, forced into debt bondage or servitude after obtaining assistance from smugglers to gain illegal entry to the United States and other western countries, according to federal officials.
More information is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking
B.C. man charged in woman's alleged sex assault of baby
A Battle Creek man, Jordan P. Russell, 24, was arraigned Tuesday on three charges after Michigan State Police and the Calhoun County Prosecutor's Office said he was involved in the sexual assault of a 10-month-old child.
Jordan P. Russell is being held on $100,000 bond in the Calhoun County jail.
Prosecutors said he was arraigned on charges of child sexually abusive activity, using a computer to commit a crime and possession of child sexually abusive material.
The first two charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison and the third, four years. Michigan State Police said Russell was arrested Monday after an examination of his phone showed pictures of his girlfriend, Ashley Jessup, sexually abusing her 10-month-old son.
Troopers first began investigating the case Aug. 31 after Russell's former girlfriend found the pictures.
Police have alleged that Russell suggested some of the sexual abuse and Jessup, living in Columbus, Ohio, performed the acts and sent him pictures.
She was arrested in Columbus and is awaiting trial on charges there and she is being held in the Columbus jail.
The child was turned over to family members in Ohio. A preliminary examination is scheduled Jan. 30.
Girls' soccer coach found with 2,000 child porn images, police allege
An Orange County girls' soccer coach, charged Tuesday with coercing a 13-year-old girl into sending him sexually explicit videos of herself, was in possession of roughly 2,000 child pornography images and videos, authorities said.
Officials said they are looking for more potential victims in the case.
“Given the defendant's alleged activities on the Internet and his involvement with girls' recreational soccer, there's a possibility there are other young victims we don't know about,” said Joseph Macias, assistant special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Orange County, which is part of the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force that investigated the case.
“While our investigation is ongoing, we want to remind parents to warn their children not to interact with strangers over the Internet," he added.
Robert Vincent Peace, 45, of Lake Forest, has coached for the Irvine-based Blades. He was arrested after a relative turned over his portable hard drive to authorities.
Prosecutors allege Peace met a 13-year-old girl from New York in 2009 on an Internet video-chat room. He is accused of exchanging messages with the girl and instructing her to send him sexually explicit videos of herself over a two-year period, according to prosecutors.
After receiving the videos, Peace is accused of threatening the girl by telling her he would post the explicit images on the Internet if she did not continue to send him new ones.
Peace allegedly posted some of the videos of the girl online. In addition, he is accused of possessing over 1,500 images and more than 300 videos of graphic, sexually explicit child pornography on his computer featuring young teenage girls. The videos include webcam footage.
One of Peace's family members discovered some of the child pornography in February and turned over the portable hard drive to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which had it examined by the county crime lab.
Detectives seek possible child abuse victims of former local soccer coach
Detectives are asking for the public's help in finding possible molestation victims of a man who coached youth soccer in the Lompoc area in the mid- to late 1980s.
The suspect, 52-year-old Terence Paul Stevens, is already facing multiple charges of child molestation, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
Stevens will appear in Superior Court in Santa Maria for his preliminary hearing, according to the county District Attorney's Office.
During his coaching years, Stevens reportedly befriended several of his juvenile players, whom he ultimately molested, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Two of those victims, who are now adults, have told investigators in recent months about their alleged victimization at the hands of Stevens when they were minors living in the Lompoc area.
By the mid 1990s, Stevens had moved to the San Diego area, where he continued coaching youth soccer. In 2008, Stevens was visiting Yuma, Ariz., when authorities there arrested him for sexual conduct with a minor. He was convicted of that crime and is serving a prison sentence in Arizona.
In August 2011, Stevens was extradited to Santa Barbara County to answer the local charges from the 1980s. Stevens is now facing 17 felony counts of lewd acts with a child, oral copulation of a minor and sodomy with a minor; all of which are related to the crimes committed against the two Lompoc-area victims.
Stevens can be prosecuted under Penal Code Section 803(f), according to the District Attorney's Office.
That statute notes that a molestation crime, depending on the age of the victim and the type of molestation, can be prosecuted up to one year from the time it's reported or discovered as opposed to the time it was committed.
Detectives are asking that anyone with information regarding additional victims call the Detective Bureau at 805-934-6170 or the sheriff's Anonymous Tip Line at 805-681-4171.
Finding the children hidden behind unreported sexual abuse
by J. Michael Sharman - Editorial Columnist
In Virginia's House of Delegates, Del. Ed Scott has introduced HB 1237 to increase the effectiveness of the statutes on mandatory reporting of child abuse. In the Senate, Sen. Chap Petersen has introduced an identical companion bill, SB 622.
Del. Scott is a Republican from the rural 30 th District. Sen. Petersen is a Democrat from suburban Fairfax. This is an issue and a concern that transcends party lines and geographic borders.
For many years, Virginia has had a law stating who is required to report child abuse, but that law has been rarely enforced. For the five-year reporting period of 2007 to 2011, in all of Virginia there have been only ten people convicted for a failure to report. The report from the courts does not list the sentences for those convictions, but the maximum punishment that anyone could get under the current Virginia law is a $1,000 fine, and that is for a second offense.
Whether the lack of penalty was the cause or the effect, for whatever reason, averaging only two convictions per year shows that the child abuse mandatory reporting law has been basically ignored. The bills introduced by Del. Scott and Sen. Petersen are certain to change that abysmal record.
The current law lists the specific groups of people who are the mandatory reporters. If a person does not come within one of those listed groups they have no legal requirement to report suspected child abuse.
The current law has some huge gaps in it.
Currently, a person in a privately owned organization, which cares for children, is a mandatory reporter, but a person in a publicly owned one is not. A person who works for a “school” must report suspected child abuse, but not one who works for a college or a university. A person who provides childcare for “pay on a regularly planned basis” is a mandated reporter, but anyone providing free childcare or unscheduled paid childcare is not legally required to report child abuse.
The bills sponsored by Del. Scott and Sen. Petersen will eliminate those gaps. They also will criminalize the failure of a person to file a mandatory report by making it a Class 1 misdemeanor, but if the case involves sexual abuse, serious bodily injury, or death of a child, then a failure to report would be a Class 6 felony.
In the most recent five-year period, the Virginia State Police statistics say the annual average has been 3,192 incidents of forcible sex crimes against children reported to law enforcement in Virginia.
Studies consistently show that Childhood Sexual Abuse cases are significantly under-reported to law enforcement.
In 2005, “The Victimization of Children and Youth: A Comprehensive, National Survey” was published. It estimated that in each and every year, 8.2% of all children are sexually abused.
The 2010 census says there are about 1,840,000 children in Virginia. Using the national survey figure as an indicator of how many children are sexually abused in Virginia each year, the number would be 150,880.
Compare the Virginia State Police annual average of 3,192 reported incidents of forcible sex crimes against children in Virginia to the estimate of 150,880 children being sexually abused each year in Virginia.
The legislation sponsored by Del. Ed Scott and Sen. Chap Petersen will be a huge help in finding the children (and their molesters) who fall into the enormous gap of 147,688 unreported cases of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Don't ignore abuse victims on national day
Community leaders should spare a moment on Australia Day to think about helping child abuse survivors get a new start, an advocacy group says.
Two million Australian adults who have experienced child abuse need more support to live healthy lives, Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) says.
"As the country comes together to honour and reflect on its annual achievements, ASCA is calling on governments and policy makers to prioritise support for the more than two million adult Australians who have experienced child abuse in all its forms," the group said.
"Just like our new citizens, many of these Australians are working towards living healthy and happy lives. The good news is, a better life is possible," Dr Cathy Kezelman of ASCA said.
"But change needs to be led by the leaders of our community.
She said health services needed the right tools to provide proper care for adults who often suffered in silence from the trauma of childhood abuse.
With the right support, they could regain control of their lives and make an important contribution to society, the doctor said.
She said more than two million Australian adults had experienced some form of child abuse, and the annual cost to the country of child abuse and neglect had been estimated at $4 billion.
Professor Donna Cross, Western Australia's nominee for Australian of the Year, has said problems children face in early life such as abuse and bullying can lead to alcohol and drug abuse and violence in adulthood.
Kidnapped girl, 9, hailed as hero for rescuing herself
A 9-year-old girl kidnapped last week while walking home from school escaped by seizing a window of opportunity in a Colorado Springs, Colo., convenience store.
When her captor took her into the store, the girl began screaming, "I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm waiting for my mom!" She also marched up to the convenience store clerk, asked to use the phone and then called 911. Witnesses, shocked, turned to look at the man who had brought the girl into the store.
"I looked at the guy, he looked at me, into my eyes, spun around and just high-tailed it out of there," witness Efrin Villapando told ABC News.
"The best news is that despite the traumatic ordeal ... she became a hero and rescued herself by calling 911 once she realized she had that window of opportunity," according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.
ABC News interviewed the girl as she sat alongside her parents. Asked where she got the courage to outwit her captor, the girl said, "I got my fight from Daddy," and that he had taught her to "stand up for myself."
The story has a happy ending, but it doesn't erase the trauma suffered by the girl, as evidenced by two black eyes and other bruises on her body.
The girl was abducted Thursday while walking home from school in Pueblo, Colo. Her frantic parents contacted authorities, who issued an Amber Alert, but it would be more than 18 hours before they heard from the child, when she called 911.
Authorities believe that the suspect, Jose Garcia, 29, used his truck to kidnap the girl and keep her for several hours. The truck broke down Friday morning and a passerby picked up Garcia and the girl and gave them a ride to the store. Police say the passerby had no idea what was going on.
Garcia was later found at a bus stop about 10 miles from the store. 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 Associated Press reported.
Although the ABC News interview with the girl and her parents make it difficult to now protect the girl's identity, it's the policy of the L.A. Times to withhold names of sexual assault victims. Similarly, many news outlets that had identified the girl stopped doing so as the possibility of a sexual assault charge was raised.
Pueblo County court records indicate that Garcia is wanted for suspicion of kidnapping and sex assault on a child, allegations that involved Garcia's 9-year-old former stepdaughter, according to the AP.
Authorities are investigating whether there is a connection between the two 9-year-old girls, who attend the same elementary school.
Rape center needs support
While the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center has recently experienced a 25-percent budget cut, rates of sexual assault and child abuse are still going strong.
The Center for Disease Control's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that approximately one in five women and one in 71 men have reported being raped. Almost half of women experienced their first rape under the age of 18, and 30 percent of men experienced theirs under the age of 10. These early abuses lead to higher rates of mental illness, poor physical health, suicide and re-victimization later in life.
Every year, school children in Lompoc, Santa Maria and the Santa Ynez Valley benefit from the North County Rape Crisis Center's ChildSAFE program, where they learn personal safety skills.
Adults benefit from presentations that offer ways to recognize the tell-tale behaviors of someone who may intend to harm them or someone they love, and how to prevent that harm.
The center also offers individual and group counseling for survivors, and a 24-hour hotline peopled by state-certified Sexual Assault Victim Advocates, which provides survivors with emotional support and guidance through the criminal justice and legal system.
The center provides all these services free of charge.
The marked decrease in deaths in Santa Barbara County caused by drunk driving offers hope that prevention work can pay off. If those numbers can go down, so can rates of sexual abuse and assault— however, they won't go down without a fight.
Please visit the center's website at www.sbcountyrapecrisis.org where you can discover the projects and presentations currently offered, contact the Center, or make a donation.
Community education coordinator
Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center
Lincoln Abuse Survivor, Author, Keith Smith Talks to GoLocal
by Anthony Faccenda,
Although sexual assault is a difficult subject matter to discuss, it is a topic that is of vital importance. Author and survivor Keith Smith, is not only a talented writer, but also a preeminent advocate for victims of assault. A Rhode Island native, Smith was abducted and raped at the age 14 in Lincoln. Since then, Smith has lobbied government on behalf of sexual assault victims, served as a member of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), discussed matters of sexual abuse on television with Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper, and also authored a book titled Men in My Town
(2009: BookSurge Publishing).
Fans of Men in My Town will soon be able to witness Smith's story on the big screen, because the author's gripping tale of survival has recently been transformed into a screenplay by filmmaker Ron Truppa. GoLocal caught up with Keith to discuss his book, advocacy and the upcoming film version of his life's story.
For those who are unfamiliar with Men in My Town , can you give us a brief synopsis of the book?
Men in My Town is based on actual events. It's my personal story. In 1974, at the age of 14, I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. He wasn't a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. He was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island.
Although he was arrested and indicted for what he did to me, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in the streets of Providence before his court date. 36 years after his murder, no one has ever been charged with the crime.
Men in My Town focuses on my relationship with a few men in my town, men who were close to me and my family, men who watched over me, men who protected me in the time between my assault and my assailant's death. They're good men with the capacity to do bad things. It's a story that causes the reader to revisit their position on the question, “does the end ever justify the means” and vividly juxtaposes the good and evil that can exist simultaneously in every man.
Why did you write the book?
Men in My Town is my first novel and I needed to write it for a number of reasons.
First, it's a good story worth telling. It's a gripping suspense novel with a storyline that includes characters based on real people, real places and real events. It's a glimpse into the street hustle hiding in the peaceful suburbs of Providence in the 1970's, complete with gamblers, bookies, car thieves, petty criminals, organized crime, dozens of hard-working men, a twice convicted sex offender and a murderer or two.
Secondly, Men in My Town is my personal story. I am the 14-year-old boy in the story and only a few people, very few people, know what really happened to me on that cold winter night in 1974. I wrote Men in My Town to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family.
And finally, I wrote the story to raise awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they're not alone and to help all victims of sex crimes understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.
What was your writing process like?
I wrote this story inside out. I didn't start by writing page one, chapter one. Instead, I listed the events I wanted to write about, the places I wanted readers to visit, the characters I wanted readers to meet and the emotion I wanted readers to feel. I wrote sections one at a time capturing the events, places, characters and emotion, then pieced them together in a sequence that made the story whole.
What do you hope that readers take away from your book?
First of all, I hope people read Men in My Town and enjoy the story. I hope my book helps people understand that violent crimes committed against children can occur anytime, anywhere, even in bucolic, beautiful, sleepy little suburban towns like Lincoln, Rhode Island. I hope every adult who reads Men in My Town takes a little more seriously their obligation to keep kids safe. I hope victims of sex crimes who read the book feel a little vicarious justice and everyone realizes that sometimes it's the perp, not the abducted child, who ends up dead.
What was your initial reaction when you heard that filmmaker Ron Truppa was writing a screenplay based on your novel?
I was very excited about getting an unsolicited call from a Hollywood guy. In our first phone conversation Ron said, "I've always wanted to film a movie in Rhode Island and I think I found the Rhode Island project I've been looking for." After a few phone calls and hours of conversation, I felt an immediate connection with Ron.
In December '09, Ron flew in from L. A., I came up from Trenton and we got together in Lincoln. We retraced the events of the night I was attacked, from the barber shop on Front Street where I left my hockey team meeting, to the spot where I was abducted in Lonsdale, to where I attempted to jump out of the car in Fairlawn, to where I was assaulted in Lime Rock,” We went to places described in Men in My Town - Kiernan's Lounge (now Brooksie's), the basketball courts on Reservoir Avenue, Lincoln Downs Thoroughbred Race Track (now Twin Rivers Casino), the Lincoln police station, Frank's Restaurant, Lincoln Lanes Bowling Alley, the streets in Fairlawn and to the house on Washington Street in Central Falls where my assailant lived at the time he was beaten to death. We captured the entire journey, our conversation and my description of the events of the night on video.
Over the past two years I've come to know Ron as a talented, creative, successful writer, producer and director. I'm glad he took an interest in developing Men in My Town as a movie. I'm really pleased we're working together and I'm fortunate to call him a friend. I look forward to shooting this ‘Rhode Island story' back home in Rhode Island.
What's your involvement with the film version of Men in My Town ?
I'm working closely with Ron and Lori Truppa in the development of the Men in My Town screenplay. They've done really wonderful work bringing the book to life, developing the characters, transforming the pages of the book to the visual scenes and audible sounds you need for a movie. It's been a great partnership and is a friendship that will continue long after Men in My Town is on the screen.
What, to your thinking, will determine if the film version of Men in My Town is a success?
If one child who is currently being abused, or one victim of past abuse, boy or girl, man or woman, age 7 or 70, sees this film and comes to realize that they are not alone, that they are not responsible for what happened to them and that they can make the transition from sexual assault victim to sexual assault survivor, then Men in My Town will be a success as a movie. An Oscar or two would be good, too.
Lastly, what are you currently working on?
I'm working on two things right now, focused on protecting children and strengthening the legal rights of child victims of sex crimes.
First, it saddens me to say that I believe sex crimes committed against children will never stop. The life altering physical, emotional, behavioral and social side effects of sexual abuse, suffered by children into adulthood, last a lifetime. With the personal and societal cost of childhood sexual abuse so high, it's necessary for parents, grandparents, guardians and anyone with responsibility for the health and safety of a child to be aware of what they can do to keep kids safe. I speak publicly, to the press and on TV about "5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe." Know the Facts; Know the Signs; Know What to Do; Know Where to Go; Know What to Say. To learn more about my "5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe" visit www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com
The second is getting state legislatures to pass legislation eliminating the statue of limitations for civil action in sex crimes committed against children. In many states, victims of sex crimes have as few as 2 years to bring civil charges against their perpetrators. I believe that since the psychological, emotional and physical effects of sexual abuse last a lifetime, the ability for victims of sex crimes to file a civil law suit should last just as long.
For more information about Keith and his mission of advocacy visit www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com. Also, stay tuned for more news on the upcoming film version of Keith's story. Click here if you wish to purchase Men in My Town.
Child abuse cases on rise
Victims nearly double during previous decade
by HOLLY SETTER
A report released today shows there are nearly twice as many confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in St. Clair County as there were a decade ago.
The number jumped 97% between 2000 and 2010, from 377 confirmed cases to 673 per year. At the same time, the total population of children aged 0 to 17 fell 12%, according to the 2011 Kids Count report, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Michigan League for Human Services and Michigan's Children.
Kay Andrzejak, director of the St. Clair County Department of Human Services office, said that the economy is partially to blame.
"The fact is the economic situation just bottomed out," Andrzejak said. "People are not treating their kids the way they need to because of it."
It is a reaction that experts said is predictable.
"The research is very clear -- as child poverty increases, so does child abuse and neglect," said Jack Kresnak, president of Michigan's Children. "While abuse rates cut across economic strata, neglect is clearly tied to the economy."
Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director for Kids Count in Michigan, noted that statewide, roughly 83% of confirmed victims are victims of neglect, not abuse. Neglect covers things such as leaving children at home without supervision or failing to provide children with adequate food or shelter.
"The increase (statewide) has been almost entirely in category three, where the risk of repeat abuse is deemed remote," Zehnder-Merrell said. "Basically, they are considered open-and-shut cases. But it is still an issue that abuse and neglect was confirmed, that damage has occurred."
Not all of St. Clair County's neighbors saw the same spike in confirmed cases. Sanilac County had a 36% increase, and Macomb County jumped 27% during the same time period. In contrast, Lapeer County spiked 163% -- an increase officials attributed to the relatively small number of cases. Lapeer County had 94 confirmed victims in 2000 and 215 in 2010.
Andrzejak said the rise in confirmed victims in St. Clair County might not be due solely to more abuse or neglect occurring. In the past year and a half, the St. Clair County DHS has also seen a bump in staffing, which she said is allowing the department to investigate more reports and allegations, as well as do a more thorough job.
"We have found that there has been more public awareness in recent years as well," she said. "People are more inclined to call when they suspect abuse, and we're able to better investigate."
The rising number of victims is something Andrzejak said might be coming to a halt, as the year-to-year numbers kept by her office are beginning to scale back.
"I'm hopeful that we've bottomed out, and the number of cases will start to shrink," Andrzejak said. "I doubt they'll ever go as low as they once were because we do have the additional staff and people are better educated, but I feel like we're back on the road in the right direction."
Reporting abuse of a child
One Wesleyan professor headed south Thursday to tell state senators why he believes all adults — and not just ones who work in certain career fields — should be legally obligated to report child abuse and neglect.
Dr. Robert Rupp, professor of history, was the lead-off witness in the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senate Bill 161, which seeks to increase the number of people required to report child abuse and would strengthen the punishment for failure to report.
Rupp was scheduled to speak in favor of the bill at 3 p.m. Thursday in the State Capitol Complex. The catalyst for Rupp was the child sex abuse scandal that ravaged Penn State University in early November. When details trickled out about who knew what regarding child sex abuse allegations against former assistant Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky and what they did — or didn't do — with that knowledge, Rupp couldn't stay silent.
“What triggered me on this was when (former Penn State head football coach) Joe (Paterno) said, ‘I did everything legally required of me,'” Rupp said Wednesday afternoon as he readied himself for his trip to Charleston. “There's a big gap between what is legally required and what should be morally desirable.”
Rupp contacted Sen. Dan Foster (D-Kanawha) and found out there were already rumblings about writing legislation that would expand the scope of who is legally required to report abuse.
That bill, which was introduced on Jan. 12, now has 13 co-sponsors including Senate president Jeffrey Kessler (D-Marshall). Specifically, it would require anyone who has “reasonable cause” to suspect a child is being abused or neglected to file a report with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources within 48 hours of becoming suspicious.
Child abuse reporters who think sexual abuse, sexual assault or serious physical abuse is happening would also be mandated to “immediately report, or cause a report to be made” to the state police or another law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the area, according to the bill.
As the law stands, only people who hold certain occupations — such as teachers, social service workers, doctors, clergy members and mental health professionals — must report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
Senate Bill 161 would also up the ante when it comes to penalizing adults who “knowingly” fail to file reports. Right now, not reporting or preventing someone else from doing so is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 10 days in jail, a fine of not more than $100 or both if the accused person is found guilty.
If ultimately adopted, the new bill would increase the penalty for a conviction to a jail term of not more than six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
In preparation for his pitch, Rupp called on a cadre of senior political science majors he sees as thorough and dependable researchers to help him with prep work. Drew Cumings, McKenzie Clark, Camron Tenney and Richard Hampton helped Rupp tweak his speech, scoured other states' laws regarding child abuse reporting practices and brainstormed questions Rupp might be asked during his three to five minute testimony.
Gathered around a table outside Rupp's office Wednesday afternoon, the students racked their brains for built-in rebuttals that would counter claims the bill's opponents are likely to make — i.e. that its passage would place an undue burden on Child Protective Service workers and open the door to an increase in fraudulent claims.
The group's collaborative answer to those arguments?
“Better an increased work load than to be in the position of having to explain to a victim's family why an abuser was not stopped, and why their child was not protected,” Tenney, one of Rupp's student-researchers, read aloud.
Rupp says he's also up against a thickening strand of libertarianism evident in the enthusiasm surrounding Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's bid to lead the nation.
“Hopefully, concern for children will trump this libertarian impulse that ‘I don't want the government telling me what to do,'” Rupp said. “There are three reasons this legislation should pass, and they are kids, kids, kids.”
The Mountain State is far from alone in writing legislation that's reactive to what unfolded at Penn State. Eighteen states abide by what Rupp called “the Delaware model,” under which “every citizen reports every suspicion of child abuse,” he said.
And more are moving that way. According to the students' findings, 14 additional states, including West Virginia, are considering revising their current laws to make more people responsible for reporting.
“Out of bad can come good,” Rupp remarked. “Child abuse is the silent problem in America.”
What we can all learn from PSU, added Cumings, another one of Rupp's student-researchers, is that “not everyone is going to do the moral thing, but this bill would push more people to do the right thing.”
Reporting Child Sex Abuse Can Be Complicated
Victims may not report abuse for many reasons.
by Deana Khoshaba, Psy.D., Developmental Education, Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital
While child sexual abuse is reported up to 80,000 times a year, it is estimated that an even higher number of incidents—approximately 500,000 cases—go unreported each year. Given the public outcry in response to recent sexual abuse scandals, it is important to understand why victims, and adults who are aware of the abuse, do not speak up.
Victims may not report abuse for a number of reasons. They often fear that disclosure will result in retaliation against themselves or against someone whom they love or depend upon for basic survival. Victims may also fear removal from the home or traumatic separation from family members. An additional reason, and even perhaps the main reason why victims do not report abuse, is fear of not being believed.
Research and anecdotal evidence show that supportive responses to disclosures of child sexual abuse are associated with a reduction in trauma-related psychiatric symptoms, faster recovery immediately following the disclosure, and better mental health outcomes down the road. Supportive responders take clear and immediate actions that validate the child's experience and protect the child from further abuse.
It is not uncommon for victims to want to protect or assuage the abuser, or to remain silent in the hope of gaining a reward; those who perpetrate sexual crimes against children frequently mix together threats alongside promises. Children's developmental circumstances make them uniquely vulnerable to this type of manipulation. Later, many survivors feel tremendous guilt over the misperception that they struck a Faustian bargain with their abuser, directly or indirectly, in exchange for some reward. Children who know and feel affection for their abusers are in a double-bind situation. They may feel affection and/or loyalty toward their abuser, but are aware that the sexual activities are atypical and wrong.
In therapy, working through related guilt is a crucial part of coming to view oneself as a survivor and undoing the false belief that the abuse was somehow the child's fault.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are not the only ones who have difficulty reporting. Adults with and without histories of childhood sexual abuses also fail to report , as exemplified recently in the Penn State scandal. As unthinkable as it may seem to most of us, there are individuals who fail to report abuse in order to maintain a pathological system, psychological or interpersonal, that rewards the individual for silence.
To a large extent, the defense mechanism of denial mediates whether someone reports abuse, especially in cases involving knowledge of ongoing or repeated abuse. In this case, the delay in reporting may also involve an element of complicity, which would be very difficult to concede to oneself, let alone to others.
Some individuals—more commonly men—have difficulty identifying and describing feelings in interpersonal relationships, which can dull empathy over time and normalize its suppression. Clinically referred to as Normative Male Alexithymia, this trait is thought to be borne out of societal norms that restrict and reinforce emotional expression in boys. The result is men who feel too vulnerable for comfort when they allow themselves to be in touch with and express feelings, especially in highly competitive environments such as college football or the military, where vulnerability of this kind is strongly discouraged and may even be adaptive.
In summary, there are many reasons why people may fail to report sexual abuse. None of these detracts from the importance of reporting sexual abuse. If you are aware of childhood sexual abuse or suspect that it is occurring, please contact the Department of Child Protective Services at 1-800-25-ABUSE. Your name will remain anonymous.
Author Deana Khoshaba, Psy.D., works in Developmental Education at Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital.
Child Sexual Abuse Books from Cleanan Press Now Available on iTunes
Cleanan Press has made three important books about child sexual abuse by psychologist Dr. Lynn Daugherty available on iTunes.
Roswell, NM, January 22, 2012
Three important books from psychologist Dr. Lynn Daugherty, including her award-winning bestseller, "Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse (Even if they are adults now)," are now published as ebooks by Cleanan Press, Inc. on iTunes. This self-help book, and her other two ebooks, "Child Molesters, Child Rapists, and Child Sexual Abuse" and "Child Molestation Stories: Voices of Survivors," have been available for Kindle (readable on Mac, PC, Android, Blackberry, etc) for over a year, where they remain consistently near the top of several bestseller lists. All are also available on NOOK and Kobo.
Dr. Daugherty wrote "Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse (Even if they are adults now)" to bring hope and help to abuse survivors. This book helps former victims understand what happened to them in simple, everyday language and provides step-by-step guidance to begin healing and recovery.
In "Child Molesters, Child Rapists, and Child Sexual Abuse," Dr. Daugherty addresses the questions, “Why would anyone sexually abuse a child?” and “How does it happen?” She describes studies and models explaining how child sexual abuse takes place and illustrates the information with first-person stories from abusers and abuse victims. Her goal is to help the general public make sense of allegations such as those currently in the news.
Male and female victims share their experiences of abuse so that other victims will know that many children have had similar experiences in Dr. Daugherty's concise ebook, "Child Molestation Stories: Voices of Survivors." This brief ebook emphasizes a key message all survivors need to hear, “You are not alone.”
Child sexual abuse is a difficult issue many would rather not address. Perennial concerns about abuse in the Catholic Church and recent allegations against prominent coach Jerry Sandusky at Penn State force it into the public eye, however.
“At least one in four girls and one in six boys becomes a victim of child sexual abuse in our country,” explains Dr. Daugherty. “This means that more than twenty-five million adults in the United States today were sexually abused as children.”
“While allegations of child sexual abuse like those frequently in the news are heartbreaking,” Dr. Daugherty commented, “they raise vital public awareness of this common but often-neglected problem in our society. We can hope that they will motivate more people to take steps to stop this abuse of children.”
Clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Lynn Daugherty has been bringing hope and healing to child sexual abuse victims and their families for more than twenty-five years. A former National Science Foundation Fellow, adjunct university professor, and internationally respected expert on child sexual abuse, Dr. Daugherty has published research in a variety of professional journals in addition to writing for the general public.
"Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse (Even if they are adults now)" is available in paperback from online booksellers and through local bookstores. It is now available from iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo as an ebook, as are "Child Molesters, Child Rapists, and Child Sexual Abuse" and "Child Molestation Stories: Voices of Survivors." Extensive excerpts and additional information about child sexual abuse appear at www.cleananpress.com
Fighting sexual abuse, step by step
Teacher is walking from Key West to Tallahassee to raise awareness for victims of sexual abuse.
Lauren Book is on her way back to Tallahassee, where she will make her way to the steps of the Old Capitol on Feb. 22 after a trip that began in Key West.
Considering she's on foot, she's going to need every second of the month between now and her February arrival date.
Book kicked off her “Walk in My Shoes” journey Jan. 14 to raise awareness for victims of sexual abuse and push her message of “It's OK to tell.”
Over the past three years, “Walk in My Shoes” has tripled in size from 500 miles to 1,500 miles in 39 days.
“The first year we did this, we realized it was possible,” she said. “The second year, we added the Keys and the Panhandle. This year, we decided to add the west coast of Florida.”
Stops are planned in Naples on Wednesday and Fort Myers on Thursday.
“This walk will mean many things to different people,'' said Christine Kobie, Teen Community Educator with Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. in Fort Myers. “It may be a painful reminder, an exhausting struggle or a powerful victory, whatever it is we will support and celebrate together because no one has to walk alone in their journey.”
Book, a South Florida teacher, connected with the Tallahassee Democrat via phone interview during her journey last week. The conversation was lighthearted and Book was pounding the pavement during the call.
“It truly is an amazing experience,” she said. “You can't understand until you're on it. We've had several survivors walking with us. The first day we had (Senate President) Mike Haridopolos walking with us.”
Book's organization, Lauren's Kids, aims to educate children about sexual abuse before they become victims. Thanks to a $1.5 million appropriation from the Florida Legislature, the organization has put together a curriculum that will reach more than 1,100 kindergarten classes, Book said.
When asked about her journey and aptitude for reaching others, Book said, “It's just amazing to me what a survivor, a little blonde girl from Aventura can do.”
Traveling on foot has gained Book her fair share of supporters. She said at one point she stopped at Publix and saw every employee wearing Lauren's Kids T-shirts. Five people had already come up to her to share their stories of abuse, she added.
“We know the numbers,” Book said. “One in three girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. One in five boys. This kind of work is just important.”
Book's ability to relate to victims of sexual abuse comes from personal experience. As a child, she was abused by her nanny for six years. Now an adult, Book said her message is about breaking the silence surrounding the abuse.
Lobbyist Ron Book, Book's father, said although many people appreciate the physical toll the walk takes on her, it's the mental aspect — and the possibility of flashbacks to her own abuse — that worry him most.
“There's pride because there's a tragedy that's she's used to make life better for other people,” he said. “As a parent, it's hard to describe because during the walk her knees are buckling and her legs are blistered from the heat, you see she's in pain. But there's pride because there's something she's doing to make this place better to live.”
If you go
Project Help in Collier County will join with Lauren's Kids on a leg of the walk through Naples on Wednesday.
The 5-mile walk starts at Project Help at 3123 Terrace Ave. at 9 a.m. and is expected to finish at 3 p.m. at Publix at 21301 S. Tamiami Trail.
On Thursday, Abuse Counseling & Treatment and the Children's Advocacy Center are teaming up with Lauren's Kids on the walk through Fort Myers.
The walk takes place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. It will begin at the Second ACT Thrift Store, 12519 S. Cleveland Ave. and will end at the Old Lee County Courthouse, 2120 Main St., downtown Fort Myers.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah and Sheriff Mike Scott will be in attendance.
The walks are part of a 1,500-mile journey throughout Florida to bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse and encourage victims of all ages to speak out. The free event, sponsored by Publix, features free T-shirts for participants.
For more information on the Lee portion, contact Marcie Kaveney-ACT Volunteer Coordinator, at 939-2553 or email email@example.com. For Collier walk information, contact Project Help at 649-1404.
Student Teachers Learn The Warning Signs of Child Abuse
The Archdiocese of Newark offers free training to Seton Hall students on the dangers and warning signs of child abuse.
by Scott Egelberg
Over 130 students in Seton Hall University's College of Education and Human Services filed into the University Center on Friday to participate in a program designed to help them be aware of children sexual abuse.
The program, titled Protecting God's Children, was led by James Goodness, the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark. Mainly attended by sophomores and juniors, many of whom will be interning at Essex County public schools, the program made use of videos and conversation to present the topic of child abuse. A workbook was handed out prior to the videos for students to answer questions regarding the topics they learn.
This is the first time in the program's 12 year history that it was offered to public school interns. The Archdiocese has been offering the program to students in Seton Hall's EPICS (Educational Partners in Catholic Schools), and seminarians at both Immaculate Conception Seminary and St. Andrew's.
“It's great that (the students) were exposed to the videos they watched, so that when they are in the field, they have a little more knowledge as to what they are looking for in case they see a potential problem,” said Professor Deborah Sanchez, Ed.S., Director of Field Placement and Supervision for the university.
The videos featured interviews with actual perpetrators and victims of child abuse. Students were led through examples of abuse and shown what specifically to look for in each case presented to them and how to handle it.
“I think the most important messages that really come out of this program is that it's important for people who deal with youth and children to realize that there is a very serious problem in the United States,” Goodness told Patch in an interview. “(Signs of abuse) will come before (the students) at some time in their careers, so when they have information at hand in terms of identifying what the potential behaviors are and knowing what to do when they do see behaviors that don't fit what's acceptable, they can take the action and have the power to know what they can do in the system and help the children.”
Since the Archdiocese began offering Protecting God's Children training in 2000, close to 20,000 adults in schools and parishes have received the training. Students can also continue to train via monthly on-line courses offered for free by experts in the field of child abuse awareness and protection.
A companion program, Teaching Touching Safety, has provided similar age-appropriate training to more than 30,000 children annually in the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese for close to a decade. The Archdiocese also offers a similar course to parents.
“I think this information that we presented to the students today is really universal information,” said Goodness. "Parents need to be aware of warning signs. They need to know that they can speak up. They need to know that they are empowered to be out there and help address the problem in the wider society.”
More information on the programs can be found at Virtus.org.