National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse


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

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

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
February 2012 - Recent News - News from other times

February - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.

Protecting children from being sexual abuse victims and offenders

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series examining the problem of sexual abuse of kids by kids. Today, Dr. Ramey discusses the problem, and in coming weeks will offer advice to parents on protecting children from being victims and offenders.

We've gone way beyond warning our kids about “stranger danger,” recognizing that 90 percent of sexual abuse victims know the offender. What is less recognized is that 36 percent of the time sexual offenses against kids are committed by other children, according to the December 2009 Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

According to the research, juvenile sexual offenders are overwhelming committed by males (93 percent) who offend against family members (25 percent) or acquaintances (63 percent). Youth offenders are more likely than adult offenders to commit sexual acts against other boys (25 percent), unlike their adult counterparts who target male victims only 13 percent of the time. Fondling (49 percent) and rape (24 percent) are the most common offenses, typically occurring 43 percent of the time in the afternoon hours (noon to 6 p.m.) in a home environment (69 percent). Child sexual offenders are typically teenagers, with 38 percent between 12 and 14 years of age, and 46 percent between the ages of 15 and 17.

Offenders are a diverse group of kids, so we need to be careful about inappropriately labeling them all as pedophiles. Some of these teens sexually act out with other kids in an impulsive manner, taking advantage of a vulnerable or emotionally needy child. In other instances, sexual offenses represent a long-term pattern of aggressive and inappropriate behavior. However, unlike the popular stereotype, the good news is that the vast majority (85-95 percent) of these youths have no reports of further sex crimes.

Not every sexual encounter between children is a criminal offense, and clinicians and law enforcement agencies are challenged at times with distinguishing between normal and deviant behavior. Sexual activity, exploration, and play among children at various stages in their development are neither uncommon nor criminal. Concerns are raised when overt force or subtle manipulation is used to solicit sexual activity, or when there is a significant age difference between the youths.

I've treated a number of adolescent sexual offenders who engaged in what they reported were “consensual” sexual activities with younger kids. However, such sexual behaviors were more the result of manipulation and emotional coercion rather than informed participation by the younger victim. From a psychological and developmental perspective, a young child cannot give voluntary consent to a sexual act with an older person, since the child has no real appreciation of the nature or consequences of the activity.

This issue becomes more problematic when kids (typically teenagers) are involved in sexual activities with someone just a few years younger. While physical force may not be used, the younger children may be manipulated, threatened, or shamed into doing something they didn't want to do. From a psychological perspective, these sexual events can be just as harmful as crimes where overt force is used. Whether illegal or inappropriate (or both) these sexual incidents have long-term detrimental consequences for offender and victim.

Parents are not helpless in these situations. Next week's column will address what you can do to prevent your child from being a victim of sexual abuse. Part three of this series will discuss how to prevent your teen from being a sexual offender.

Dr. Ramey is a child psychologist and vice president of outpatient services at the Children's Medical Center of Dayton.



Sunflower House: A gentle path to the harsh truths of child abuse


Minutes before their father's sentencing, his three adult daughters waited in the corridor of a Wyandotte County courtroom, Division 5.

Their eyes swollen, makeup cried off, the women wrapped their arms around each other. They grieved, but not for their father and his fate.

One held crumpled papers in her hand.

“I'm not sure I'll be strong enough to read this in court,” she said. After days of finding words to describe her pain, she had typed a victim impact statement confronting her father for his sexual abuse against her years ago. But his sickness reached much deeper in their family.

The second paper was handwritten in the broad cursive loops of a 10-year-old — where words screamed in bold letters when emotion turned profane.

It was composed by the second generation of victimhood, the convicted man's granddaughter.

The child who told. The one who stopped the man's decades-long spree of satisfying his urges with children, but not until after she attempted suicide twice and drew pictures of monsters visiting her bed.

Her details of the abuse — revealed at Sunflower House — led to her grandfather confessing everything, including how he'd “loved” her at least 20 times last year.

Every day, a child endures the unwelcome touch of a predator. Nationally, statistics indicate it happens to one in four girls, one in six boys. But abuse experts know many more go unreported.

Reasons for the silence include shame or disbelief or fear. In most cases, the crime is committed by someone the child knows, loves and trusts. A relative. A teacher. A minister. A coach.

Often the pedophile threatens to kill them if they tell. Or threatens that no one would believe them. Or that they'd be sent away. Our secret, he whispers.

But Sunflower House is a place in the metro area where children can tell.

Because telling is a sacred act by those who believe in Santa Claus and tooth fairies and unicorns. Children who know monsters really do lurk in their bedrooms. Not under the bed — but on it.

Telling a grown-up is often the most difficult thing a child can do.

But it is the only way to make monsters go away.

Learning of a child's sexual abuse hurls families into an emotional abyss, especially in the first weeks of the disclosure.

When the grandmother was told of her husband's crimes, she retched. He's “dead to us now,” one daughter said.

As her words echoed in the empty hallway, the elevator door opened and a familiar woman walked out: Bonner Springs Police Detective Vickie Fogarty, 17 years in the sex crimes unit.

She took the initial report from the little girl, listened to her story at Sunflower House, questioned and arrested the grandfather. He confessed everything.

Police officers aren't required to be in court for a sentencing. But Fogarty always is when it's a case she worked. It feels personal. To support the families, the 52-year-old mom and grandmother composes an impact statement: a summary of what the abuser told her juxtaposed with what childhood is supposed to be.

Her passion was born from her own family's encounter with child sexual abuse. She's seen the wreckage it causes.

Fogarty likes judgment day.

“Are you ready? … I think he's gonna get it,” she said, then whispered:

“ Please let it be life … please let it be life .”

Coffee in hand, a dad sat in a busy McDonald's off of Interstate 435, watching little spirals of steam. Nearby, a mom and her two girls ordered Happy Meals. The dad glanced at them.

He likes to see happy moments, he said, often going to watch a buddy's children play T-ball. It reminds him that kids still have fun. Eight years ago, his family did, too.

But everything changed one day when a detective called: We believe your daughter was sexually abused by her stepfather. She's in protective custody…

She visited Sunflower House the next day.

“I was in shock … I berated myself for not seeing the signs …. I didn't protect my little girl.”

She would beg to stay with him when the weekend visitations were over. Just age-appropriate drama, he thought. He knew she didn't like his ex-wife's new husband.

“When I saw her, I told her I was so sorry. I told her I loved her. I hugged her so hard.”

For three years his daughter told adults that her stepfather was bad. Her mother didn't believe her. A teacher did.

“I asked her, ‘Why didn't you tell me what he was doing?'?” Because she was afraid her six-foot-four, 320-pound father would kill him, he said.

His fist clenched.

“She was probably right …. He still owes me 90 days in intensive care.”

Parents often struggle more in the aftermath of child sexual abuse than the little ones do, said child advocacy experts. They hurt for the loss of their children's innocence and trust. They berate themselves as bad parents because they didn't prevent the abuse, or even consider it a possibility.

Often, the parent is the last person to know. It's too difficult for a child to disclose to them. More commonly, a child tells a teacher or a counselor or a best friend, who tells an adult. In both Kansas and Missouri, several professions are legally mandated to report any mention of abuse. Sometimes, a tip is hotlined from an anonymous source.

But once the disclosure is made, a police officer or a social worker will talk to the child to ensure safety. Parents are notified. And very quickly, a referral is made to go to a place where a team of professionals comes together to help the child.

A place, said the dad, “that takes the gloom out of the darkness of it all.” A smile appeared. “It's the one bright spot in this whole thing.”

And yeah, he added, he really, really loves sunflowers.

On 65th Street in Shawnee, a small sign hangs just before a long winding driveway. A minimalist line drawing, it depicts a bright red house protecting a sunflower with its wreath of yellow petals.

Inside the building, skylights spill sunshine. A massive stone fireplace stretches to the ceiling and, depending on the weather, a fire crackles in its hearth. Regardless of season, a Christmas tree is wrapped with sunflowers and vines.

Even a decade ago, a child might be interviewed at the police station or in the back of a police cruiser. Sometimes it would be at her school with the principal and counselors and her parents all listening, horrified and angry.

Children often had to retell their stories again and again to teachers, police, prosecutors, social workers. Many times the adults were untrained in how to pull out the facts, possibly asking leading questions, diluting or exaggerating truth, unaware that they were encouraging the child to say whatever to please them.

“All of those interviews were good, but nobody did an excellent job,” Sheryl Lidtke said diplomatically. As a deputy district attorney for Wyandotte County, Lidtke has prosecuted child sexual abuse cases for 22 years.

“Sometime in the late '90s the ground-breaking concept evolved to bring all the partners together to the child. A one-stop shop, so to speak.”

In 1996, police, social workers and prosecutors in Johnson and Wyandotte counties began trying to make it easier on the children and to improve their evidence. Lidtke recalled one meeting attended by 22 police chiefs, representatives of two sheriff's departments and two top administrators from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

“Oh, there were turf wars, power struggles, but the driving force was that everyone wanted to help the children,” she said. And after months of discussions and agreements and “aha! moments,” the nonprofit Sunflower Children's Center became the first child advocacy center in Kansas.

It opened in the basement of the University of Kansas Medical Center. As referrals increased, it moved to an office building and finally to its current location in Shawnee.

(On the Missouri side is the Child Protection Center, at 31st and Broadway, and the Children's Advocacy Center, part of Synergy Services on Parvin Road.)

All tours at Sunflower House lead to the tiny room with pale yellow walls. There's a couch and a chair, an alphabet poster of cartoon animals. A camera concealed in a corner records every word and stammer and tear.

The parents sign the consent form, agreeing they will never see the interview. They also learn that it does not replace live testimony in court before a jury if the case goes that far.

Some children don't want to tell their stories when they visit, and that's OK, said Cheryl Smith, one of the facility's three forensic interviewers. “Sunflower House doesn't exist to make a child talk.”

Their forensic interviews are not “outcome” based, she said.

Smith has worked with abused children for 19 years. “I think I've heard just about everything, but then a child will tell me something else.”

She's trained to listen deep to every word and nuance and ask open-ended questions, ones that don't lead the little witnesses.

To avoid bias, the interviewers know very little about the children they meet. That helps Smith genuinely learn about the child's likes and dislikes. The interview with the stranger, some children tell parents, was like talking to a friend who didn't judge.

Some want to sit on her lap and cuddle. Not allowed. She will get up and move to the couch, giving the child the chair. One wanted to sit on the floor, so Smith joined him there, and after a while, his story came out.

Victims may cry and shake as they describe a horror, yet she cannot offer soothing words, pat their back or do anything other than offer tissues. She simply waits, hoping the quiet will comfort.

Some of the images Smith hears are jarring.

Like the girl with a new stepfather, a man so kind and handsome — until bedtime. And he locks the door behind him as he explores the little girl's body with his body…

There's the favorite uncle, whose relatives knew he had urges, but not that his “teasing” with the nieces, nephews and even close friends' children involved flashlights, screwdrivers and positions…

Smith will ask children details, like the color of the walls of the room they were in, where they were on the bedspread, whether they wore clothes, whether there were fluids.

She can't use proper anatomy terms unless the child uses that term. She mimics back whatever word is used for genitals, whether it's a you-know-what, private parts, pee-pee or thumb.

Children don't have the verbal skills to talk about sex. Before the interview is over, she'll show the child a drawing of either a naked girl or a naked boy and ask where on the drawing the private part is.

“Most children don't tell the whole story,” said Smith. “There are some details they may never tell.”

Sunflower's forensic interviewers listen to more than just sexual abuse. They interview children who have been physically battered, who have witnessed violence or who have been involved with an Internet predator.

Monitoring the interview from the closed-circuit camera, others watch and listen for corroborating details useful in the next interview — often the one at the police station with the accused.

A red light may blink on the camera, a signal that an observer has a question or wants the interviewer to pull out more information. They consider a child's excuses, or whether the child seems vague.

Contrary to stereotypes, false accusations from children are rare.

Defense attorneys also will watch the recording, looking for places where a child's story — and Smith's interviewing techniques — can be questioned. In trial under cross-examination, the pressure is intense, she admitted. She testified more than a dozen times last year.

“They want to know if I believe the child or not,” she said. “My job is not to judge.”

When the forensic interview is over, the child is brought back to the lobby. A social worker and police officer will inform the parents about what they heard, what will happen next and what therapy resources are available. (Sunflower House doesn't yet offer in-house therapy, a future goal they have.)

Sometimes, a medical exam is needed to make sure the child is free of sexually transmitted diseases. Sunflower House has a special room for this, too, but also coordinates with area hospitals.

Most exams show no physical evidence of sexual abuse. Parents are told that doesn't mean the child is being dishonest.

After all of that, the child has one more stop: the Teddy Bear Room.

The room is loaded with brand-new bears and stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes, as well as games and books. Children can choose whatever toy they want. Sometimes two.

“The teddy bear room is everyone's favorite spot in the whole building,” said Michelle Herman, the president and CEO of Sunflower. “Coming in here makes you smile no matter what kind of day you had.”

Sunflower employees emphasize that the children don't know about the room until after all of the forensic work is completed.

One dad said that his daughter's bear is still the “most precious possession she owns. That bear knows everything…”

Back in Division 5, the prosecutor asked the judge for a life sentence for the grandfather.

The defense attorney asked for 11.4 years, noting his client would be 80 then. The defendant has confessed to spare his family, was filled with remorse, and by then wouldn't be a threat to anyone, he said.

The judge nodded, then asked to hear the impact statements.

Detective Fogarty read her statement, looking over at the small man in black and white jail stripes. “You told me you liked it, and that she did, too,” she read. “She was 10 years old … She was terrified.”

Next, the adult daughter, so afraid before court began, found her courage. She stood up. She told how her father taught them to hate their bodies and not trust men. Her voice grew angry as she read the 10-year-old's words.

“I never want to see your ugly face again,” the little girl wrote. “I am safe now because you are out of my life…”

The mother glared at the man whose DNA she shared. Lowering her papers and speaking from her heart:

“My daughter is my hero. I was too scared of you to tell when I was little and you did this to me…

“There are no words to explain how this has impacted all of us.” Turning to the judge, she warned: “If you let him out, he will hurt somebody. He is good at being nice.”

Her voice broke, and she sat down, crying. Her sisters silently patted her back.

The judge, Michael Grosko, has heard cases for 35 years. Peering over his glasses, he looked hard at the grandfather, who now seemed tiny and fragile. Grosko said he'd read every page, every word in his criminal file.

“What you have done is sick,” he said. “More than that, sir, it is disgusting. Any offense against children offends the consciousness of the community and should not be tolerated …. I find this shocking.”

He took his glasses off, folded his hands into a triangle and paused.

“Some people say that a life sentence given to a man your age is really a death sentence.

“Wel-l-l-l-l-l,” and he looked once more at the man, “so be it.”

Two life sentences. Served one after the other. A crack from his gavel, court was over, and the judge hurried out.

A police officer directed her prisoner to a door. He stared at his daughters. All those years of memories. All those secrets.

The grandfather walked tiny steps, shuffling because of shackled feet. His daughters turned their heads away to an opposite wall. No one wanted to meet his gaze.

When directly across from them, he spoke: “Sorry,” he said, almost in a whisper. He took a few more steps before stopping once more, this time looking at Fogarty. “Sorry,” he said. She smiled.

The room was quiet, except for the swish of his feet, until the door locked behind him with a click.



Positive Coaching Alliance, Kidpower team-up to address child abuse in youth sports

by Bill Wells

Whether it's the scandals at Penn State, Syracuse University or AAU basketball, many people are disgusted by the recent child abuse stories that have been reported in the news.

Positive Coaching Alliance and Kidpower are disgusted about it also, and the national youth organizations are doing something about it.

PCA founder Jim Thompson moderated a webinar for youth coaches, youth sports organizers and parents Thursday, and another webinar will be held Thursday at 9 p.m.

“This obviously is not an easy topic, but coaches must face it,” Thompson said. “Coaches who are annoyed at having to be more educated about abuse because of what's been in the news lately need to get over our annoyance. The reality is that we are all part of a community that has the opportunity to protect kids from abuse.”

Mike Town, a former judge, and Irene van der Zande, founder of Kidpower, answered questions, took feedback and provided information during the first webinar, and will be available again on Thursday.

“Everyone in a youth sports community – leaders, coaches and parents – needs to understand that it is critical to become educated about abuse, because the difference an educated adult can make for a child could be life-saving,” Thompson said.

What are the signs of child abuse, how children can protect themselves from abuse, and how a league can take a stance will all be covered in Thursday webinar.

“The Positive Coaching Alliance mission of providing all youth athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience entails addressing ways to ensure children's safety,” Thompson said. “This concern is heightened by the allegations of child abuse against prominent coaches and youth sports leaders.

“So many parents involve their children in youth sports precisely because it is the best place to build character and learn life lessons, such as teamwork and overcoming adversity. We all, as leaders in the youth sports community, have the opportunity and obligation to make a difference – to do all we can to protect the kids in our programs by intentionally and deliberately creating organizational prevention measures, reporting policies and procedures for dealing with reports of abuse.”

Thompson was referring to the three recent scandals, all of which involved high-profile coaches. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged of molesting multiple boys; former Syracuse men's assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has been accused on having sex with two ball boys; and two former youth basketball players said AAU president Bobby Dodds molested them and provided minors with alcohol in the 1980s.

Thursday's webinar drew 200 people from throughout the country.

To register for the next webinar, go to:

Also, Kidpower came up with a template for child abuse policies and procedures for organizations to use.


Drew Carrillo: Arising like a phoenix from a childhood of sexual abuse

by Sean Sala

Child sexual abuse is sadly the norm on the evening news these days.

Almost nightly, we hear stories of rape, sexual abuse and even the murder of innocent children, specifically girls, but more and more we are hearing about male victims.

There seems to be an underlying belief system that has developed over time, almost like an epidemic, in the male community.

Those beliefs have been reinforced through the extremism of macho gender codes inflicted on our boys.

The misguided notion is that rape only happens to girls.

In addition, rape is also affiliated with a very male-induced shame; a shame that is clearly associated with being weak, or even gay. For years afterward, the boys (victims) are silent and hide in a shallow dark pool of shame and guilt.

The emotional after effects in the long run are nothing less than tragic and heart breaking.

"Exhibit 10: Percentage Distribution of Female and Male Rape Victims by Age at Time of First Rape," from Patricia Tiaden and Nancy Thoennes' 1995-96 U. S. Department of Justice study, we see an example of the powerful and sobering reality of cases regarding the age of boys when they are raped.

I was in utter disbelief when I read, "48% of boys reported their first time of actual rape was before the age of … twelve." TWELVE.

The next age bracket said, "out of 28% of boys age 12-17, 23% report that their molestation was rape."

You may ask why I cited a 1995-96 study. I utilized that data because that is my age group.

There are boys in their twenties and thirty-somethings that we see every day on the streets, at the gym, at a club -- that carry a burden that is incomprehensible. What happened to the Penn State boys is becoming normal and common in the United States.

One of today's most passionate activists when it comes to the horrors, the shame and the preventative steps we can all take when it comes to sexual abuse, is aspiring actor and model, Drew Carrillo.

Many know Carrillo for his role in the movie "Vampires Suck," where he played the part of a cast member of "Jersey Shore." He also has been featured in many popular television advertisements, the most recent being the "NERF or Nothing" toy campaign.

I specifically contacted Carrillo for an interview because he has a very unique story when it comes to his own personal childhood traumas.

Drew is now openly gay, but his backstory is that he was raped at the age of 16-years-old while a dedicated member of a very prominent movement within a multi-national evangelical mega church, called, Teen Mania Ministries.

When he shared with me his initial story, I was shocked to hear about his case.

Coming to terms with one's sexuality can be very dramatic and tough due to gender societal parameters. To make matters worse for Drew and other young followers like him, Teen Mania Ministries spends millions of dollars on educational materials telling members of the church that homosexual men are in fact, often that way because they were raped.

When you hear that it sounds like a ridiculous, vicious, and uneducated lie, right? Well it is. It is also exactly what the evangelical church he subscribed to tried to enforce upon him.

Drew took a few minutes to answer some questions for San Diego Gay & Lesbian News readers.

SALA: What do you think when you see cases like the Penn State abuse and how long and drawn out the abuse was?

DREW CARRILLO: I think about the long term effect it has had on the victim's ability to trust others, as well as the affect it has had on their own self-image.

Also, the long term effect it has had on the perpetrator's ability to possess integrity and transparency in their personal and professional lives.

If any human can hold secrets of this magnitude for as long as the individuals involved in this case, there are dire consequences to pay in the future. It will find its way to the surface, one way or the other. I am a firm believer that ALL things will come to light.

In your own life, can you sum up the pain caused by sexual abuse?

To "sum up" the pain of sexual abuse is almost equivalent of asking to "sum up" the meaning of life. The intricacies of the pain of sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind, and the ripple affect it causes varies from case to case.

In my own personal experience, even with sought-after help, I had no idea of the resentments I harbored for a certain type of person, as well as the trust issues I held even up to my recent past.

The poison left over from having gone through something like sexual abuse is very frightening. It often goes by unnoticed until you are faced with a situation that you have been ill-equipped to deal with, due to the arrested development you were unaware that you had.

How did your family react to the news?

I refrained from disclosing any abuse I encountered until I was in my 20's. My abuse happened when I was 16. Up until I was older, I had NO idea that there were other cases like mine. I was far too embarrassed, guilt-ridden and disgusted to tell ANYONE when it happened.

Being a victim of sexual abuse has shown me something VERY alarming, aside from the obvious. It is one of the only times when the victims can feel like the perpetrator; like they "asked for it". That was the case with me. So I felt that I couldn't tell my family because it was something I did wrong.

It wasn't until I was older that I saw the abuse for what it was, the imprint that it had on my life and the refusal for it to continue, that I [finally] told my family.

They took it surprisingly well. There was of course, anger, guilt and tons of questions on their part and I did my best to answer them. But of all the reactions to expect, I got one that I couldn't have even imagined, which was love and understanding.

Do you feel like the Evangelical Church helped you heal or slowed the process?

The Evangelical "Church" did half of its job in my opinion. It most definitely opened the door for me to finally tell someone what had happened, that I would have possibly never encountered had I not been saved and decided to turn my life to God.

Their desire to save me from that demon eventually took a new focus when I decided to come out of the closet. They now had ammo for blame of this "struggle" and no longer felt the need to help with the clearing of my heart, mind and soul of the abuse, and instead, fought tooth and nail to "save" me from being gay.

It, in turn, confused me and left me feeling even more shameful for being the way I was. Again, it wasn't until later in life that I found refuge in the church but FAR from the one I knew.

As a gay man, specifically in the long run, how did this affect you?

It has shown me a strength I never knew I possessed and a passion I never knew I had. My heart's cry is to reach out to those who feel alone and feel there is seemingly no place to go.

As a gay man who has been gay his whole life and a survivor of sexual abuse, I know the lies that can be told to you and the wide, uncontrollable array of emotions and feelings that can come along it.

I, at one point, attempted to turn to suicide, fell into addictions of many kinds and became a statistic that "hurt people hurt people." I subconsciously sabotaged relationships because of my hurt.

Little did I know, there is a strength right past the threshold of brokenness and despair that leaves you with two options: Allow this to kill you and let it win, or fight with the desperation of a drowning man and allow failure to not even be an option.

I chose to stop merely surviving and began to live for the first time. I've made it my mission to share my experience, strength and hope with anyone and everyone who asks, or that is willing listen.

I say this to readers from the bottom of my heart: If you are a boy or a man and have been a victim of sexual abuse and your silence has cause you to suffer, contact a proper agency, clergyman or trusted family member and share your story and begin the stage of healing and honesty.

To someone who has not been affected by sexual abuse, I would say: If a boy or a girl is sexually assaulted in our society, we all suffer. We can do something to affect change.

One person donating to an organization that fights sexual abuse can make a difference. One person who sees something off or has that gut feeling and knows that something is off in the behavior of a child, can make that difference. Too many times we see people who had the ability to tell if they had the intuition to say something, but didn't.

In closing, if you are gay and lesbian and you have been told by a family or religious institution that sexual molestation caused your orientation, do not buy into the lie and long-term guilt that a belief like that instills.

I am a former evangelical church member, myself, who was also gay and told that perhaps I had "suppressed" sexual molestation in order to "explain away the gay." But of course, nothing of that sort was true.

Today, pick up the power of justice for our children and fight sexual abuse and the lies tagged onto them for something they were never guilty of and let them live free of shame.


Victim of Sexual Abuse speaks out

by Philip Stahl

Lately, sexual abuse cases involving children and adults have been making local as well as national headlines. But the question remains, why do people feel the need to do this, and why do these crimes continue to occur?

Alicia Kozakiewicz was only 13 years old when she was taken from her home in Pittsburgh. Alicia said, "I was raped, beaten and torched." She said it all started in an online chat room. However, the person she thought was a friend turned out to be what she calls a monster.

"He groomed me and on New Year's Day 2002, I walked out my front door just to say hi to this person and he kidnapped me and took me to Virginia where I was held captive in his basement dungeon." Alicia said.

She was held captive for 96 hours.

Now, she is working to put a stop to abuse.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization survey, there was an average of 207,754 victims of sexual abuse between 2006 and 2010.

Those numbers are slightly decreasing each year, but local experts believe the crimes are still steady. However, the question of why sexual abuse occurs still looms.

Nancy Georges is a counselor and said, "I don't think that answer is clear cut and dry. We really don't know, but I think there are two factors that vastly contribute to this. One is the environment and the need to have power and control over one person."

Alicia doesn't know the answer to that question either.

The man who sexually abused Alicia is behind bars, but she said it still took her years before she was able to speak out publicly.

Alicia said, "This year was the 10-year anniversary and it was a joyous occasion, look how far we've come. And then I realized 10 years from now he'll be out and how it really never goes away.

"Shame and guilt primarily, it's not something that you want to talk about," Georges said. "And nine times out 10 people weren't believed when they went to tell their story."

Alicia said those four days of her life will be with her forever.

She's just lucky she was rescued by police, who were actually tipped off by her kidnapper's accomplice.

"It's hard, and the PTSD, the nightmare and the flashbacks and everything, it was really a life sentence," Alicia said. "He might have been sentenced to 19 years, but for me and for all other survivors, it's a lifetime."

After 10 years, this survivor started "The Alicia Project." It is designed to spread her story and warn others of the signs of abuse.

Alicia created a Facebook page that has received positive reviews.

But when it comes down to it, her number one goal is to make sure no one has to ever go through what she did a decade ago.

"That's why I speak up, I feel like I was rescued for a reason," Alicia said. "It was a million-to-one shot against my recovery.



Child abuse, neglect a growing epidemic


We've all known it's been a really bad problem for a long, long time. But across the nation, new data are surfacing to illustrate just how bad the problem is - and what must be done to keep the epidemic of child abuse and neglect from worsening.

Just last week, a 23-member legislative committee issued its report on the state's foster-care system, recommending, among other steps, that state leaders "adequately fund" the child-welfare system.

The Foster Care System Improvement Task Force called for increasing reimbursement rates and providing more resources and training for foster parents, adding more trauma training for child-welfare workers and other professionals, and improving compensation for child-welfare workers.

The report comes on the heels of a settlement reached with a child-advocacy group that sued over conditions faced by children taken out of their homes. The settlement will require the Department of Human Services to develop an improvement plan that addresses 15 areas targeted by the suit.

Also expected in coming weeks is another set of recommendations from another legislative task force, impaneled by House Speaker Kris Steele, who has made child-welfare improvements a top priority.

Oklahoma, recent national reports suggest, is not alone when it comes to the daunting challenge of protecting children. Child abuse and neglect is such a huge problem one federal agency now is calling it a major public health problem. The problem has become so serious Congress is now considering adopting federal legislation to look into child-welfare systems and what ails them.

And yet another national study essentially boils the issue down to one simple problem: money.

An epidemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last week showing that child maltreatment "is a serious and prevalent public health problem in the United States." The agency found that in fiscal 2008, state and local child-welfare agencies received more than 3 million reports of child abuse or neglect - about six complaints per minute every day.

CDC estimated 772,000 children were found to have been maltreated, and 1,740 children aged 0 to 17 died from abuse and neglect in 2008.

More than 740,000 children and youths are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of violence each year, CDC found - more than 84 every hour.

"The financial costs for victims and society are substantial," CDC concluded. "The total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion."

CDC also cited findings that show "each death due to child maltreatment had a lifetime cost of about $1.3 million, almost all of it in money that the child would have earned over a lifetime if he or she had lived." And, "the lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is comparable to other costly health conditions such as stroke with a lifetime cost per person estimated at $159,846 or type 2 diabetes, which is estimated between $181,000 and $253,000."

Though the enormity of the problem makes progress difficult, there are ways of addressing it. "A promising array of prevention and response programs have great potential to reduce child maltreatment. Given the substantial economic burden of child maltreatment, the benefits of prevention will likely outweigh the costs for effective programs," CDC concluded.

Sometimes it costs money

In other words, sometimes you do have to throw money at a problem. That's the same conclusion reached by a report just out from the Foundation for Child Development. The foundation used state tax rates and the level of state investments in children and child welfare to calculate how well children were doing state-by-state in relation to those expenditures.

Not surprisingly, the foundation found:

- "Higher state taxes are better for children." States that have higher tax rates generate higher revenues, and have higher measures on child well-being indicators than states with lower tax rates.

- "Public investments in children matter." The level of public investment in children's programs is "strongly related" to the how well a state ranks in measures of child well-being. Higher per-pupil spending on education, higher Medicaid child-eligibility thresholds, and higher levels of food-stamp benefits "show a substantial correlation with child well-being across states."

- "A child's well-being is strongly related to the state where he or she lives." Thankfully, for once, Oklahoma did not rank among the lowest states in this survey. But our 43rd place ranking was nothing to be proud of. States with the lowest measures of child well-being were Nevada, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico.

The foundation concluded: "Although states are currently revenue-starved, this is exactly the wrong time to reduce taxes. The revenues generated by taxes should be used to invest in policies and programs that meet the basic needs for children to flourish and become contributing members of our nation."

The foundation urged states to "consider children when focusing on cuts to entitlements" such as Medicaid and to take steps to ensure all children have access to health care. More focus on early learning programs also was recommended.

"Public disinvestments in children have real consequences for generating future tax revenues and for bearing the costs of supporting unhealthy and poorly educated adults," the foundation said.

They're watching

There's plenty of evidence supporting the notion that investing in children's well-being is the right thing to do. But if that evidence isn't persuasive enough, perhaps the notion of Sen. John Kerry looking over our shoulders will help.

The Massachusetts Democrat is among members of Congress who in December introduced the "Protect Our Kids Act," a measure that would create a "National Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths to study and evaluate federal, state and private child welfare systems and develop a national strategy to prevent and reduce these deaths," according to a press release.

The lawmakers point to issues raised by child-welfare advocates, including the group that targeted Oklahoma's agency: variations in policy and capacity for protecting children from state to state; different ways of defining, counting and reporting child abuse; lack of coordination and defined protocols in civil and criminal proceedings; issues and hindrances created by federal and state confidentiality laws; lack of resources for prevention and early intervention; lack of professional training, which contributes to under-reporting of abuse and neglect.

The concerns of our national leaders are well-founded. But does anyone really want more federal oversight of a complex problem that we ought to be able to better address on our own? Let's get busy fixing it ourselves.



A duty to report child abuse, neglect

What happens to those who ignore abuse?

by Kathryn Wall and Brad Heath

A recent examination by USA TODAY found few states prosecuting adults who are mandated to report evidence of child abuse but fail to do so.

That seems to not be the case in the Ozarks.

In the past five years, three people in the region have been charged with failing to report abuse as a mandated reporter.

Though none resulted in convictions, child advocates in the area agree the message was clear — mandated reporters in the Ozarks are expected to be vigilant and contact authorities or face prosecution.

“We know the reports mandated reporters make can save lives and have saved lives in the past,” Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson said.

Local advocates also point to another repercussion: a spike in calls to the state abuse hotline after the first local prosecution in 2002 and, in ensuing years, a steady volume of relatively high call numbers.

Asked about filing charges against mandated reporters, Patterson said, “Absolutely that's the last resort.”

“The thing we want to keep the focus on is not on the reporters. We want to keep the focus on the offenders.”

A mandated reporter is an adult who, by law, must report reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect in children the reporter contacts through his or her profession. In Missouri, mandated reporters include medical and mental health professionals, teachers and school officials, law enforcement officers and ministers.

In the past decade, three Ozarks cases have made headlines. All were high-profile cases that apparently contributed to increased reporting.

Most recently, a principal at Rountree Elementary was charged with failing to report abuse in 2006. The principal of the school was accused of failing to report allegations parents had made against a gym teacher there. A jury later found her not guilty.

In 2003, a director of a Head Start in Nixa was similarly charged with failing to report an allegation of sexual abuse against a worker there. A Christian County jury ultimately found that woman not guilty.

But the most infamous case, which is still referenced in mandated reporter circles, was the prosecution of a Springfield nurse.

Authorities said the nurse should have recognized the bruises on Dominic James as evidence of child abuse the first time he came to the emergency room in 2002. Days later he would return, fall into a coma and die shortly thereafter. His foster father was convicted in causing the child's death by shaking him.

Charges against the nurse were ultimately dropped.

In most of the states that could provide records to USA TODAY, local police and prosecutors typically charged no more than one or two people each year.

Michigan police made just five arrests over the past decade.

In Hawaii and Minnesota, court officials said they couldn't find a single case.

In the state of Washington, court records show just eight people were charged over the past decade, and only one was convicted — a high school coach who confessed to covering up another coach's sexual relationship with a student. He paid a $723 fine and was sentenced to probation.

In Nevada, police charged a total of four people with failing to report abuse since 2001.

Connecticut brought charges against 15 people. All but two of the cases were dropped.

Police in Tennessee brought 61 reporting violations to court since 2007, according to court records; South Carolina brought 38.

Of the 222 people whose cases USA TODAY was able to review in detail, 102 were convicted. The rest were acquitted or had the charges against them thrown out, according to court records. The review identified only 14 people who were sent to jail.

More often, people who know about abuse and don't report it face probation or a fine.



The Kid's Cop

Chasing down child abusers takes a toll.

Detective Fred Beck sits in the back of the mostly empty courtroom and watches as the man in the striped uniform is brought in.

Beck thinks about the first time he saw the man, about a year before. It was just the two of them in the small police interview room then.

Now there are more listening — the family of the accused, the judge, the attorneys and a reporter.

Beck looks on. The proceedings unfold. He's ready for this one to be over.

He's been doing this job — finding and catching those who hurt kids — for five years.

He's seen some of the horrifying things human beings can do to the helpless ... things polite society would rather not talk about ... things on the evening news that make people gasp but are quickly shrugged off ... things like this father has done to the three little girls — his own daughters — for their entire lives.

Greene County has long held the objectionable distinction of having higher than average reports of child abuse and neglect.

In 2010, 368 children were found to be abused or neglected. The second-highest number in Southwest Missouri was in Laclede County with 126 children found to be victimized. Comparatively, Jackson County — which includes Kansas City — had 758 children abused or neglected. St. Louis county saw 745 child victims.

Beck was a patrol officer with the Springfield Police Department before the opening for a detective was offered. It was in the child victim unit.

As Beck says, rarely does anyone become a police officer with the intent to chase down child abusers.

But, “That's where I was needed at the time.”

His first week on the job was busy. Two separate cases of men accused of molesting young family members or family friends. Both resulted in convictions.

Beck talks casually about those cases.

They were serious, yes. But not like some he has seen.

Not long in to the new assignment, he was asked to assist another investigator on a call for an unresponsive child. Days later, the baby would die.

“That wasn't even my case. It was my first weekend on duty,” Beck remembers.

His tone takes on a subtle hint of frustration when he talks about the baby, Landon Eitel.

The boy's face is burned into his memory.

“He looked like a leopard,” Beck said. “You could just look at a picture of this kid. He's got two black eyes, a broken nose. His face was covered with knuckle marks from getting punched.”

The 8-month-old died after a long pattern of escalating abuse. The child had bite marks — some fresh, some having healed after a few days — which would later be matched to the boyfriend of the child's mother.

Broken ribs, a skull fracture and multiple contusions to his face rounded out the long list of injuries noted by the Medical Examiner.

The baby ultimately died as a result of blunt force trauma to his head. The boyfriend admitted to having thrown the baby to the floor.

Landon Eitel was one of 59 children to be murdered in the state of Missouri in 2007 as determined by the state child fatality review panel. He was one of 30 to be ruled dead as a result of child abuse in that same year.

They are lucky. The three little girls have gotten away.

They're lucky their father crashed their car with the whole family inside. They're lucky he was drunk. They're lucky Mommy was hurt too badly to take care of them.

They're lucky they have been sent to live in foster care.

There, the oldest of them starts to tell, little by little, about years of abuse.

“Did you know daddies have penises?” the girl asks her foster mother one day.

“Well, I watched Daddy put his penis in Mommy and then he put it in me.”

In 2010, 828 children were examined for evidence of sexual abuse at the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield.

Beck gets the same question all the time: How do you cope?

Even the bad guys ask.

Beck tells of a man he was taking off to jail for molesting a niece. As Beck wrapped up his interview, the man asked: “Are you in therapy?”

No, Beck said, adding, “But I probably should be.”

The criminal, who, minutes before had admitted to sexual acts against his own family, surprised Beck with his reply.

“Yeah, this is some f-ed up shit you have to deal with.”

Beck laughs, but recognizes the truth.

“You can't do this job for any length of time without it changing you. You're seeing the worst in human behavior,” he said.

He touts a strong support system — both at home, with his wife and three boys, and with the three other investigators in the Springfield department who work on child victim crimes full-time.

“We talk a lot at work,” he said. “You have to.”

He recognizes his kids, 17, 11 and 9, have a much different upbringing than most.

“It may make it more difficult for them,” he admits.

They don't get as many freedoms — they may have a cell phone, but it's subject to random inspection. When dad comes home from work, he doesn't get to tell the family about his day, at least not details.

But he does take the lessons he's learned to his sons.

“Nobody can ever hold a secret on them that they can't tell me.”

That's how a lot of crimes against children occur, he says. People close to the child or the family — in a position of trust — use that bond as a tool against their victims.

Beck says: “We always tell our children —– watch out for strangers. They need to watch out for everyone.”

Blood relatives — parents, grandparents or other relatives — make up 35 percent of the perpetrators of abuse or neglect, according to statewide numbers from the Children's Division in 2010. Next comes a parent's significant other at 13.8 percent.

The three little girls are hours away, someplace safe where they won't have to hear.

The man admits his crimes to the judge and receives his sentence, never once denying the crude details read aloud. He doesn't say one word in regard to his children.

His family members, in stark contrast, cry out from the back of the courtroom.

The police made it up, they say. He loves his daughters, they say.

But Beck knows better.

A large majority of child victims have confided in at least one person before they ever get to authorities. Often, the abused are ignored or even punished, and the abuse continues.

Those kids learn not to tell.

That happened in the case of the three little girls. The oldest told their mother. The father found out and beat that girl, warning that the punishment would be worse next time if she ever told anyone again.

At some point, someone outside the family noticed something odd.

One of the younger girls was taken to the Child Advocacy Center, where sexual abuse was confirmed. But she was too young to explain who was hurting her.

And her older sister had learned her lesson — she wouldn't say anything about any abuse to investigators.

The three little girls were sent home that time with Mommy and Daddy.

Four hundred victims of suspected abuse or neglect who were seen at the Child Advocacy Center in 2010 were 6 years old or younger. A total of 395 children aged 7 to 12 made up the second-highest percentage.

Beck speaks calmly, professionally, unemotionally when talking about how he deals with perpetrators — the term he uses for the abusers.

“If I show any impartiality or do anything improper, I've just destroyed that case — and destroyed that child's hope.”

He doesn't want anything to endanger the case, he says, and bullying a confession or showing his disgust doesn't help anyone.

But he visibly bristles when talking about the caretakers of abused children who either refuse to acknowledge the abuse or stand in the way of an investigation.

“Some of my biggest frustration is how the family supports that kid — or doesn't support that kid,” he said.

He often hears the excuse that if the bad guy is locked up, the family goes without a breadwinner.

“They're willing to trade off abuse of their child for money. They'd never agree to that if you gave them those terms. But they're essentially agreeing to that,” Beck said.

He's lost count of the number of mothers who chose to stand behind their boyfriends, ostracizing their own flesh and blood.

“The toughest thing to do as a child — besides going through what they're going through — is to tell, and know the people you love are going to be torn apart,” he said.

“It causes a rift in the family, and these kids are re-victimized because of it.”

He's had a handful of incidents when a parent won't cooperate with an investigation against an abuser. Some even go as far as trying to move the child out of state to avoid law enforcement.

“Once I met a lady in the driveway as they were loading the U-Haul,” he says, shaking his head.

A survey of child abusers in Missouri in 2010 showed child abuse can happen in any family, not just those in financial or legeal trouble — a common stereotype. In fact, having an adequate support system was reported as the second-most common characteristic among perpetrators of abuse, at 24.8 percent. Fifteen percent of perpetrators showed no sign of a mental or emotional problem. Twenty percent were willing to get help.

At least one of the three little girls, none of whom are even old enough to go to school, has contracted a sexually transmitted disease from their father. A scarlet letter that, through no fault of her own, could follow them the rest of her life.

Beck doesn't know whether the family members who denied the father's guilt in the courtroom knew the diagnosis.

It's common for family and friends to think the accused isn't capable of hurting a child.

The truth is that there isn't a distinct type of abuser.

“It's one of those crimes that encompasses every facet of our society,” Beck said.

“You can never narrow it down and say: There's where child abuse is.”

In 2009, 77 children were murdered in the state of Missouri as determined by the state child fatality review panel. Thirty-three of those children died as a result of child abuse, the panel determined. That category includes intentional suffocation, strangulation, gunshots, burning, drowning and abusive head trauma.

One case still haunts Beck. The memories swirl behind his eyes when he thinks about that little girl.

“That one's going to be with me for the rest of my career,” he says.

He looks down, goes quiet. Until this point, he has been excitedly talking with his hands and emphasizing important points with a kind of muted intensity. Now, he picks at his nails and avoids eye contact.

“I can't tell you about that one. It's never been prosecuted,” he said. “It was a homicide.”

There's a long pause while Beck thinks about that little girl. She died in 2009.

“I wish…” he says, again getting that look in his eyes as if he's back in that autopsy room.

He can't talk about her injuries. He can't say who he thinks killed her.

He can say only two people were with the child when she died. But the evidence doesn't point definitively enough to file charges against either one.

“Where it's at, it's a failure of justice. I've always done my job to do justice, and we just haven't done that yet.”

He really wants to talk about it. He wants people to understand what he sees every day. He wants people to want justice for the child, like he does.

He still hopes, some day, something will change. He still hopes eventually there will be enough for charges to be filed.

But still, year after year passes while he hopes for that last piece, the tiny sliver of evidence to make the case.

And if it never happens?

“I will consider it the failure of my career.”


One child may be the victim of two Miramonte teachers

She gave her parents photos she said were taken by suspect Mark Berndt, and later said she was touched inappropriately by Martin Bernard Springer.

by Sam Allen, Richard Winton and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

February 4, 2012

In 2008, a second-grader at Miramonte Elementary School went home from school and showed her parents two photos she said were taken by her teacher, Mark Berndt.

One photo shows her with two other girls, standing against a wall. The second shows her biting down on a small cookie. A shiny, light-colored substance is faintly visible on top of the cookie.

The parents said they found the photos strange and went to Miramonte's principal at the time to complain. They say the principal looked at the photos but dismissed their concerns, suggesting that the photos might be part of a class project.

The girl was later transferred to the classroom of Martin Bernard Springer. The father said that shortly thereafter, his daughter said Springer touched her on the leg and thigh.

The parents said they put the incidents behind them until last week, when Berndt was charged with 23 acts of lewd conduct against students in his classroom. Berndt, 61, allegedly spoon-fed his semen to children as part of what he called a "tasting game" in which children were blindfolded and, in some cases, gagged with tape. Authorities said they have hundreds of photos he took in the classroom showing the scenes.

Then on Friday, Springer was arrested after two students said he touched them improperly within the last three years.

Law enforcement sources said Saturday that detectives believe the girl whose parents complained was a victim of both Berndt and Springer.

She is one of the two students whose allegations led to Springer's arrest, and detectives have been investigating her accusations against Berndt as well, the sources said.

The detectives have seen records confirming that she was transferred from Berndt's class to Springer's, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The accusations by the second-grader's parents raise more questions about how much officials knew about Berndt's behavior. Two former students of Berndt, who are now adults, said in interviews with The Times that they thought they saw the teacher masturbating behind his desk in the 1990-91 school year. A counselor at the school told a group of students at the time not to make up stories, one of them said.

In 1994, a girl reported that Berndt had tried to touch her genitals. Detectives investigated but no charges were filed.

Berndt is being held on $23-million bail. His attorney has declined requests for comment. Springer is also in jail and could not be reached for comment.

The Times talked to the parents of the second-grader after being contacted by their attorney, Matthew McNicholas, who said he plans to file a claim against the Los Angeles Unified School District next week. They allowed The Times to look at the two photos, which have time stamps on the back that indicate they were developed in August 2008, a few weeks after the girl started second grade.

In the photo with the cookie, the girl is looking up to her left and smiling. On the opposite side of the image, the hand of another child is feeding her the cookie. The father said he was disturbed by the image, although he said his daughter did not seem alarmed.

"I didn't like it at all. I thought, why would a teacher be taking pictures of my daughter?" the father said. The Times is not naming him to avoid identifying his daughter. "I got very upset right then and there."

The father said that when he confronted the principal, the educator said he was "pretty sure there's nothing wrong." The father said he requested that his daughter be switched to a different teacher. The principal replied that it would be very difficult, he said. During the meeting, the principal also asked if the father would give him the photos, but the father said he refused. The principal has since retired and could not be reached for comment.

Unsatisfied, the father stopped sending his daughter to school for a week.

School records provided by McNicholas, the attorney, show that the girl was moved from Berndt's class to Springer's on Sept. 8, 2008.

The father said that after his daughter told him that the teacher touched her, he made a complaint with local police but never heard back from authorities. The Times could not confirm on Saturday that a report had been filed on Springer at that time. Law enforcement sources said they are also looking for evidence that a report was taken.

The girl's parents are the second family to say that Berndt might have provided students with cookies that had semen on them. Last week, the father of one alleged victim told The Times his son was photographed eating a cookie that he thought had semen on top.

The father of the girl photographed with the cookie said that after his wife learned about the charges against Berndt, he found her at home crying on the floor. She showed him the photos of their daughter from 2008, which she had retrieved earlier in the day.

"To be honest, I really don't want to know more," he said. "As a parent, it's very painful. I don't want to know much more."

Last week, L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy launched an internal investigation to determine why Berndt escaped suspicion for so long and whether any other employees are implicated.

Deasy said district officials were working through the weekend. They have compiled Miramonte staff lists going back decades and have begun calling in current and former employees.

"The full scope of this investigation is ongoing, which involves interviewing any employee who works here at the moment or ever worked at Miramonte," Deasy said Saturday. "We work with the police when we discover anything that is not administrative, anything that could be criminal. And we are preparing a series of steps we'll be taking next week."

Miramonte, in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood, is one of the nation's largest elementary schools, with about 1,500 students.

Its teachers work varying schedules at the year-round campus, but Berndt and Springer knew each other. School newsletters show that they took their classes on field trips together over the last decade: one to Malibu, for example, and another to Griffith Park.

Authorities are looking for other potential victims in both cases as well as past episodes of possible misconduct.,0,6139706,print.story


Real problem, real victims, but exaggerated numbers

by Kevin M. Ryan

Every year, before the Super Bowl, or the Olympics, or the World Cup, advocates for human trafficking victims, as well as police and nonprofit groups, have predicted that tens of thousands of prostituted people will arrive in town to service the fans, who, presumably, will be male, inclined to buy sex and rich enough to do so.

Last year before the Super Bowl, the Dallas police predicted up to 100,000 prostituted people would descend on the metropolitan area for the big game. It made news, but it didn't make sense. The Cowboys stadium seats only 80,000 people. Estimates also claimed 100,000 prostitutes would attend the 2010 World Cup, but only 450,000 international visitors were expected to head to South Africa to watch the soccer championships.

I have no doubt that prostitutes, mostly women, will be brought into Indianapolis for today's Super Bowl and to other cities hosting large sporting events. Many of the young victims Covenant House serves have told stories of being taken on "the circuit," moved from city to city, based on where the conventioneers, sports fans or motorcycle gangs were gathering.

But compared to these incredibly large estimates, apparently few traffickers and their victims showed up for these sports championships. During the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, a survey of 230 sex workers showed no increase in clients, in new sex workers, or in trafficked people.

Reports out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa indicated fewer than 10 trafficking cases, and business in the sex industry actually decreased, with 300 clubs canceling exotic dancer shows.

Frankly, numbers start to feel irrelevant when you see, as we do at Covenant House, that every case of trafficking leaves behind damaged souls and bodies, particularly when the trafficked person is underage and, as is so often the case, a survivor of homelessness, the foster care system, broken families and other circumstances that make it difficult to build a safe new life. To say "only five trafficking cases" seems coarse and dismissive. According to federal law, you are a trafficking victim if you are younger than 18 and selling your body, or if you are an adult who has come to sell sex via "force, fraud, coercion" or any combination of the three.

The fact is, it is nearly impossible to count underage trafficked people. They often work out of hotels and motels, advertised via the Internet. Even if the police are called or conduct a sting, the pimps instruct the young people not to give their real names and ages. In addition, most of the young people we speak to who have been commercially sexually exploited do not sit around thinking of themselves as trafficking victims. Many have escaped situations (like child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, an inadequate foster care system) that, at the time, looked worse than that new "boyfriend" who bought them clothes, took them to movies, and pretended to love them -- before turning them out on the streets.

I know I'm not alone in wishing we understood better the scope of the human trafficking problem.

Slowly, both here and abroad, a consensus is emerging that tens of thousands of prostitutes are not descending upon sporting venues, in part thanks to a November report by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, an Alliance of 106 non-governmental organizations from around the world. At the same time, sex trafficking remains an insidious and growing problem. We lose credibility if we overestimate a phenomenon, even one that is nearly impossible to quantify.

Meanwhile, the prevention efforts around big events certainly appear to have made a difference. The North Texas Trafficking Task Force, including investigators from the attorney general's office and police from local, state and federal agencies, arrested 133 people around the time of the Super Bowl, including one man charged with trafficking in persons. After the Miami Super Bowl in 2010, Florida's Department of Children and Families took custody of 24 minors brought in to be sex workers. The Coalition Against Human Trafficking said it rescued another 14 girls in Miami and 12 the previous year in Tampa Bay, site of the 2009 Super Bowl, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Many of the steps Texas took last year were incredibly useful, necessary if there were 10 trafficking victims in town or 100,000. A task force focused on training police officers about how to treat possible trafficking situations, hiring a special prosecutor for such cases, strengthening anti-trafficking laws and developing ways to help victims.

To prepare for the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, 11 groups of Catholic nuns are working hard right where trafficking happens, reaching out to the managers of 220 hotels and motels within a 50-mile radius of the city, and educating employees to recognize and report possible incidents of trafficking. Brava!

I believe we need to focus our energy -- and our message, and the way we spend our limited funds -- on such efforts, as well as on street outreach to find potential trafficking victims, and on spreading the word through posters in motels, hotels, restaurants and bars that help is available. We also need to provide housing, counseling, health care and job training to young people who are trying to escape prostitution, as Covenant House is in the process of doing in all of its shelters, with new and expanded initiatives coming soon to New York City and Atlanta.

Rather than accepting inflated figures, we should work to pass more laws like Indiana's fresh-off-the-presses legislation that strengthens penalties in trafficking cases, and New Jersey's Gill-Weinberg legislation, which determines that young victims should receive counseling and crisis intervention, rather than being treated like criminals. We should be pressing states to pass similar "safe harbor" laws like those in Texas, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington.

It is clear that advocates for victims of child sexual exploitation have our work cut out for us, no matter how many victims there are. I shouldn't have to say this: No child should be forced to sell his or her body to strangers, many times a night, for someone else's profit.

You can reach the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at (888) 373-7888. Covenant House's hotline is (800) 999-9999.

Ryan is president of Covenant House.


Abused children, one forced to eat vomit

by La'tasha Givins -- KFOR-TV

February 4, 2012

Verden, Okla.-- Investigators say five children suffered extreme physical and emotional abuse at the hand of 65 year old Carol Schmidt. Court documents reveal unspeakable violence.

Sgt. Kevin Daniels with Grady County Sheriff's Office said, "Two boys living in the house were locked in their bedroom at night. A red five gallon bucket was placed in the bedroom where they had to use the bathroom."

In the affidavit the children detail their abuse.

One child said, "{Schmidt} took her head and hit it against the corner of the door, then chocked her."

Another child said he was told she would "...get a child molester to come play with him."

It continues with accusations of Schmidt flushing their heads in the toilet and beating the children with a kitchen spatula and a screw driver.

But the harsh treatment didn't stop there.

"One kid had a stomach problem and had a hard time chewing and swallowing food,” said Daniels. “He would often regurgitate. She thought the best form of punishment was to make the kid lick and eat his vomit.”

Neighbors are speechless.

"I'm just shocked beyond words," said Melinda Bohnett.

She's lived next to the suspect for about a decade.

"I had the impression she was a nice woman who took in foster kids. I could never imagine that would happen here,” said Bohnett.

Police said Schmidt adopted the children because they were in an abusive situation in the home of their biological parents.

Investigators say the abuse lasted five years until the teenage girls ran away and got help.

That prompted a visit from police and DHS.

Schmidt is charged with one count of child abuse, if found guilty she faces life in prison.,0,7144510.story


Catholic leaders hold global anti-abuse conference

VATICAN CITY - Catholic leaders from around the world meet next week for a conference to combat child abuse which will include a penitential service but which has already drawn fire from victims' groups.

Bishops and their representatives from 100 countries and the leaders of 33 religious orders will take part, as well as the Vatican's anti-paedophilia prosecutor Charles Scicluna and one abuse victim, Ireland's Marie Collins.

"All of us must look at the sin and crime of sex abuse and we must face this with humility, courage, reflection and vigilance," said Francois-Xavier Dumortier of the Vatican's Gregorian University, which hosts the meeting.

The conference will receive a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI and will launch a Centre for Child Protection in Germany to fight abuse, which Vatican officials underlined was a problem for the Church worldwide.

"The decision to come or not was not an easy one," said Collins, who was raped by a priest in a hospital in Dublin when she was a little girl and has become a leading voice in pushing for justice for victims in Ireland.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked in recent years by thousands of paedophilia scandals, some of them dating back decades.

Cases of abusive priests and cover-ups began to go public in Ireland and the United States but have since been reported across Europe and beyond.

"Despite apologies for the actions of the abusers, there have been few apologies for protection given to them by their superiors," she said.

"There seems to be a lack of penalty for any of these men in leadership who deliberately or negligently covered up for abusers," she added.

"If the pope came out and asked for forgiveness for the leadership... that would be the most wonderful thing I think for survivors and for the faithful who have been hurt and lost trust and lost respect," she said.

A leading Italian victim support group, La Caramella Buona, which has helped bring abusive priests to justice despite what it calls "a code of silence" in Italy on the issue, said it had been excluded from the meeting.

"I thought a symposium like this would be more open to civil society. You can have all the symposiums you want but why don't you open a constructive debate," the group's director, Roberto Mirabile, told AFP.

Introspection, action

The four-day symposium starts on Monday and will include a church service on Tuesday in which representatives of seven religious orders which had paedophile clergymen in their midst will publicly ask for forgiveness.

Father Hans Zollner, one of the main organizers of the conference entitled "Towards Healing and Renewal" and the chairman of the new Centre for Child Protection, said the Church still had a long way to go.

"This is another step in the Church's long and painful journey in assuming responsibility for the past and to work towards a better future. Real change take time," said Zollner, a psychotherapist.

"We have to put into practice the very widespread sentiment in many parts of the world that we need to decisively change our attitudes towards the crime of abuse in the Church and society," he added.

Zollner also underlined the need for an international scope to anti-abuse efforts and said that his centre would have project partners in Argentina, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy and Kenya.

The symposium comes after the release of a new book this week that quotes Vatican sources as saying the future pope had been concerned about abuse as far back as the 1980s when he was the Vatican's top enforcer.

Bernard Lecomte's "The Last Secrets of the Vatican" claims that the then Joseph Ratzinger had noted a "general lack of responsibility" in the Vatican hierarchy and had called for stricter punishment for abusers.

The Vatican is now requesting that all national Catholic bishops' conferences must submit guidelines by May on how they propose rooting out abusers and cooperating with law enforcement on prevention.

Archbishop Scicluna warned that some of the bishops' conferences, particularly in Asia, were experiencing difficulties in this task because of "cultural differences" over what exactly constitutes abuse.

But Scicluna -- the Vatican's "promoter of justice" who is charged with investigating all of the thousands of cases of abuse -- stressed that there could be no compromise by the Church on the protection of children.

"We have to look forward but we cannot forget what happened in the past. We have to stop, think about it and learn from it," he said.

"It's not ink on paper. It has to be policy translated into action." — Agence France Presse



Birgeneau sends out email outlining campus policies to report child abuse

by Amruta Trivedi

February 3, 2012

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent out a campuswide email Friday evening outlining the campus' responsibility to report crimes against children to law enforcement.

In the email, Birgeneau said the message was prompted by reports of “serious incidents” against children at other universities.

“As we reflect on the circumstances, each of us might consider what we would do if confronted by similar circumstances,” Birgeneau said in the email.

The campus abides by the UC Statement of Ethical Values, which states that “Institutions of higher education are subject to many of the same laws and regulations as other enterprises, as well as those particular to public entities.”

All UC employees are required by law to report crimes against children to law enforcement, the email states.

“Under California's mandatory reporting law, those reports must be made when we know or have reason to believe that a child is a victim of sexual assault, physical abuse, or neglect,” Birgeneau said in the email.

Read the full text of the email below.

Dear Members of the UC Berkeley Community:

Recent reports concerning serious incidents involving young children and adolescents at several prominent institutions of higher education have given us all pause to reflect on how our campus cares for the most vulnerable among us. I know that I share with you a deep sense of sympathy for victims of abuse.

As we reflect on the circumstances, each of us might consider what we would do if confronted by similar circumstances. As members of the UC Berkeley community, we are committed to the highest ethical standards in furtherance of our mission of teaching, research and public service. The ‘UC Statement of Ethical Values' and ‘Standards of Ethical Conduct' underscore our core beliefs and our responsibility to foster an ethical culture based on open communication without the fear of retaliation. At all times, we are expected to hold ourselves accountable for our ethical conduct as individuals and as members of the University community.

Since these events are in our thoughts, I would like to remind you of available resources and procedures in place for students, faculty, staff, volunteers and others to report concerns.

University employees must understand that many of us are required by law to report crimes against children to law enforcement or social services authorities. Under California's mandatory reporting law, those reports must be made when we know or have reason to believe that a child is a victim of sexual assault, physical abuse, or neglect. Beyond these legal requirements, if you know or reasonably believe that a child or dependent adult has been abused or is in immediate danger of abuse, you should immediately report it to the Police Department (911) or a Child and Family Services Agency. In addition, we encourage you to notify the University, either through your supervisor, through UC's confidential Hotline at (800) 403-4744 or on-line, through the campus Police Department at (510) 642-6760, or via e-mail at

I am grateful to you for taking the time to review this important information and for your commitment in helping maintain a strong, ethical culture of open communication.

Robert J. Birgeneau



School stunned at arrest of second teacher for alleged lewd acts

Martin Bernard Springer, a second-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles, allegedly fondled two girls within the last three years. He has taught at the school since 1986.

by Richard Winton, Howard Blume and Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

February 4, 2012

An elementary school in South Los Angeles was left reeling Friday after authorities arrested a second teacher accused of lewd acts with students.

The arrest of Miramonte Elementary School teacher Martin Bernard Springer, 49, came three days after L.A. prosecutors accused former teacher Mark Berndt of bizarre acts in his classroom that have generated national attention.

Berndt, 61, allegedly spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded children as part of what he called a "tasting game." Police have collected hundreds of disturbing photos; in some, children are shown with a milky substance around their mouths.

The allegations against Springer, a second-grade teacher from Alhambra, come from two students he allegedly touched improperly within the last three years.

The girls "were allegedly fondled in the classroom at Miramonte school by suspect Springer," said Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "They were approximately 7 years old at the time of the incidents... The investigation is continuing."

Springer, like Berndt, has worked his entire teaching career at Miramonte. Berndt, a Torrance resident, began working as a teacher there in 1979, Springer in 1986.

Miramonte, in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood, is one of the nation's largest elementary schools, with about 1,500 students. Its teachers work varying schedules at the year-round campus, but Berndt and Springer knew each other. School newsletters show that they took their classes on field trips together over the last decade: one to Malibu, for example, and another to Griffith Park.

Berndt is being held in lieu of $23-million bail. Springer is being held in lieu of $2-million bail.

The Los Angeles Unified School District pulled Berndt from class in January 2011, after officials saw some of the photos. The Board of Education fired him about a month later, but Berndt retired before his dismissal could be affirmed. It was another year before deputies arrested him.

Springer was ordered out of his classroom Thursday morning. He reported for work Friday to an L.A. Unified office where there are no students, which is district policy for teachers who are suspected of wrongdoing.

Authorities are looking for other potential victims in both cases as well as past episodes of possible misconduct.

Also on Friday, more people came forward to say that they had complained to school officials about Berndt but that their concerns were ignored.

The parents of one student told The Times that their daughter showed them two strange photos Berndt allegedly took of her and other students in 2008. They said they went to the principal of the school at the time and showed him the photos. The principal, who is no longer at Miramonte, took no immediate action, said their attorney, Matthew McNicholas.

Earlier this week, two former students of Berndt who are adults said in interviews with The Times that they thought they saw the teacher masturbating behind his desk in the 1990-91 school year. A counselor at the school told a group of students at the time not to make up stories, they said. In 1994, a girl reported that Berndt had tried to touch her genitals, but an investigation did not result in charges.

Brian E. Claypool, an attorney hired by another family, said students were pulled from after-school programs and other classes to take part in the "tasting games." Claypool said his client was 9 when her photograph was taken by Berndt, although she was not a student in his class.

District officials have pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation.

Supt. John Deasy said he wants to fire Springer as soon as next Tuesday, when the Board of Education will discuss the case in closed session.

At the same meeting, Deasy said, he also will urge the board to fire Hamilton High music teacher Vance Miller, a fixture in that school's highly regarded music academy. Two former students, now adults, have accused Miller of having sexual relationships with them while they attended Hamilton.

Miller declined to be interviewed, as did a public defender representing Berndt. Springer could not be reached.

Deasy also expressed impatience Friday with a system in which he said it takes too long to fire teachers accused of heinous conduct.

Berndt will retain lifetime health benefits from L.A. Unified as well as his state teachers pension of nearly $4,000 a month.

"As an educator and a father, I'm appalled and sickened by the allegations," said Deasy, but "we must never lose sight of the fact that the great majority of the teachers in this district are caring, nurturing and understanding toward their students.",0,798863.story


Killer of Florida girl found in landfill gets life sentence

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) – Minutes after a man pleaded guilty to kidnapping, raping and murdering 7-year-old Somer Thompson, who was dumped in a trash bin and later found in a landfill, the little girl's twin brother addressed his sister's killer.

"You know you did this, and now you're going to jail," 9-year-old Samuel Thompson said to Jarred Harrell from the witness stand.

In a deal sparing Harrell the death penalty, the 26-year-old Harrell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Somer's family was in favor of the deal because Harrell agreed not to appeal any of his convictions.

"Your punishment does absolutely not fit your crime," said Somer's mother, Diena Thompson. "Remember now, there is no safe place for you. You do not have an impenetrable cell. There will be no peace in the afterlife."

Somer was a second-grader living in Orange Park , Fla. — a suburb south of Jacksonville — when she disappeared while walking home from school on Oct. 19, 2009. She was with her sister and some friends, but ran ahead of them after they had a spat.

It was a route she had taken many times before, and she often stopped at a home to pet a white dog. Usually, no one came outside. On the day Somer disappeared, authorities said Harrell lured her into the home where he was living with his mother.

Two days later, she was discovered in a landfill in southern Georgia.

Harrell wasn't arrested until about three months after Somer's death. Initially, authorities interviewed convicted sex offenders within a 5-mile radius of Somer's suburban north Florida home, but didn't come up with any substantial leads.

On a hunch, they tailed nine garbage trucks from Somer's neighborhood to the landfill and picked through the trash as each rig spilled its load. They sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage before they spotted her legs sticking out of the garbage.

Harrell lived with his parents on a neighborhood street Somer took to get home. Police said Somer was lured into the home and later asphyxiated and tossed into a trash bin, though they have not released any more details about her death.

After Somer vanished, Harrell moved to Meridian, Miss., to live with an aunt.

He drew the attention of law enforcement two months before Somer disappeared, but he wasn't arrested. His roommates in Florida said they kicked him out for stealing and they discovered child pornography on his computer, which was turned over to investigators.

The Clay County sheriff's office said Harrell wasn't taken into custody then because detectives had to prove Harrell downloaded the child porn.

He only became a suspect in Somer's disappearance after Somer's friends showed officials where they had last seen Somer — the home with the dog. Also, the parents of one of Harrell's roommates drove by Harrell's parents' home and noticed how close it was to Somer's home. When they saw Harrell's car in his parents' driveway, they told detectives.

According to authorities, Harrell confessed to sexually molesting and killing Somer, then disposing of her body. DNA evidence found on Somer also linked Harrell to the crime.

Harrell pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual battery, possession of child pornography and other sex charges, some stemming from an unrelated molestation case involving a 3-year-old relative. Authorities did not release details of that new case.

The discovery of Somer's body touched off an outpouring of support in northeast Florida and southern Georgia for the Thompson family; days of vigils and fundraisers were held so Somer's mom could financially afford to stay home with her other children. A mountain of stuffed animals, balloons and notes to the family sprung up near a tree across from the little girl's home.

Like most little girls, Somer loved to dance, play dress up, draw and color. Her favorite color was purple.

At her funeral, hundreds of purple balloons were released into the sky; purple flowers adorned her wooden casket and her family wore purple ribbons.

Somer had her brown hair in a ponytail with a red bow when she went missing. She was carrying a lunch box and wearing Hannah Montana backpack. It was purple.

"This will be that last breath that I waste and use on you. It is now time to take out the trash," Somer's mother said. "No punishment given to you will be good enough to soothe our spirit."



Survivors share pain of suicides

Grieving Iowans hope their personal stories will help two recent victims' families cope


The survivors have a message.

They all have different stories with the same tragic theme: Their children took their own lives.

They come from all over Iowa — Cedar Rapids, Urbandale and Sioux City. For some, their loss was a few months ago. For others, it has been years.

A pair of Johnston 15-year-olds died in unrelated suicides last weekend. These earlier survivors want the teens' families, friends and others left behind to know one thing above all else: You are not alone.

“There are others who have had to deal with the same grief, the same heartbreak and tears and pain,” said Paul Wilton, who lost his son, Jonathan, to suicide more than six years ago. “Find them. Don't try to handle this grief and pain by yourself. You will lose. You have to lean on your friends and family and faith and lean hard. It will always hurt, but you will find a way, one day at a time, to keep moving forward.”

Survivors of suicide from across Iowa shared their stories with The Des Moines Register this week, in part to help those carrying the grief of lost loved ones in Johnston, but also to help their community and state understand the complex pain and confusion mixed into the heartache of losing children to their own hands.

Their fervent prayer is that by sharing, they can help ease the suffering and show there is hope in even the darkest moments.

Chandler Gouchee - ‘It would never make sense'

The one-year anniversary of the day Chandler Gouchee took his own life is Feb. 21.

His mother, Jill Hockaday, still does not fully understand why her 16-year-old ended his life. She read the police report. She read the autopsy report. She read and re-read the note he left and watched the video he recorded on his iPod. None of it made sense.

“I was looking for a reason for it — something to pin it on — an excuse,” Hockaday said. “I finally had to come to grips with the fact that I would never know why. It would never make sense.”

Her son played drums and golf. Chandler tinkered with gadgets and loved music and camping. He skipped some school. He drank alcohol. He smoked marijuana. His parents disciplined him. They kept their eye on him. But they didn't suspect severe depression.

“Chandler would say he didn't want to go to school because there was ‘too much drama,' ” Hockaday said. “You think about high school and the kinds of things that go on with friends and social groups. I didn't know that the drama was inside him.”

Hockaday and the rest of Chandler's family in Cedar Rapids visit his grave regularly. When the school year ended, they gathered at the school to release balloons with his classmates.

Anniversaries hit Hockaday hard: birthdays, holidays and now the coming anniversary of the suicide. She attends a suicide survivor support group in the city. The conversations with others who have shared experiences has helped ground her.

“My short-term memory is shot,” she said. “I feel like I'm going crazy. I told the group, and they said, ‘Oh, no. That's a part of it.' It just touches you in so many ways.”

Neil Linquist - ‘He was a loved child. We told him'

Neil Linquist was a 17-year-old junior at Valley High School in West Des Moines when he took his own life Sept. 22, 2005. He was an honor student with a lot of friends.

He showed no signs of clinical depression, said his mother, Janis Linquist of Urbandale. One of the few things Neil ever did out of line was smoke marijuana.

His parents caught him. They punished him. They made him submit to random drug tests. The discipline seemed to be working.

A month before Neil died, Linquist noticed a change in her son. She thought he was smoking pot again. She told him he had 30 days to clean up his act. Then there would be a drug test. If he flunked it, he would lose his car.

Neil gave up pot and instead turned to abusing an over-the-counter cough syrup. His parents believe an overdose put their son in a frame of mind to kill himself without really knowing what he was doing.

“For the longest time, I didn't believe it was a suicide,” Linquist said. “But after a while, I started to understand that drug abuse is a form of killing yourself. He was not depressed. He was a loved child. We told him. We showed him.”

Linquist waited two years to clean out Neil's room. She felt a rage come over her. She tore posters off the wall and stuffed them into the trash. “If they meant so much to you, you should have stayed,” she said.

A friend invited Neil's parents — Janis and her husband, Phillip — to participate in a suicide survivors walk. The first year she tried it, she could barely handle it. The second year, she joined the committee. Now she leads the event from her Urbandale home. She talks regularly to schools, church groups and other groups about her son's death. This is how she keeps his memory alive.

“After every event, I sit in my car, take a deep breath and say, ‘Neil, you helped someone else today,' ” Linquist said.

Jennifer Anspach - ‘Depression is like emotional cancer'

Larry Anspach worried about sending his daughter Jennifer off to Drake University. She had struggled with major depression her entire life.

Larry and his first wife, Marsha, adopted Jennifer from South Korea. Then Marsha developed aggressive cancer and died.

Jennifer's depression started to show when she was in elementary school. She attempted suicide once before. But Larry and his second wife, Sylvia, worked with Jennifer and got her into therapy and on a medicine regimen.

Jennifer seemed to be fitting in at Drake, where she was a sister in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. But her disease overcame the medicine and treatment. She took her own life on April 10, 2008.

“Depression is like emotional cancer,” said Anspach, an engineer in Cedar Rapids. “You do everything you can to beat cancer, and sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes the cancer wins.”

Anspach noticed that people struggled to talk to him. They wanted to say something. They wanted to be comforting.

“Suicide is the thing that people don't talk about — they don't have a vocabulary for it,” he said. “You hear people say something like, ‘Suicide is a selfish act.' I'd get mad.”

Someone who commits suicide is “not even in your right mind,” he said. “How could it be selfish? I had to learn to not judge people for what they said or did, but what I believed was in their heart. That was a challenge.”

Anspach still feels the emptiness. He'll be talking, and he'll think about Jennifer, and it feels as if the world has been put on pause. He feels emptiness in his chest like a dull ache. Then it passes.

“That never leaves,” he said. “It just gets a little less sharp with time.”

Daniel Jasper - ‘Sometimes it's OK to cry'

Kathy Jasper has replayed endlessly her last conversation with her 16-year-old son, Daniel, in August.

Daniel wept on the phone and begged his mother to come get him from Boys Town in Omaha. Kathy and Dave Jasper of Cedar Rapids enrolled Daniel there because of his struggles with mental health. Daniel's depression first emerged when he was in fifth grade.

He was a charming boy who could make anyone laugh, his mother said. He was good at sports and popular. But Daniel tried marijuana. He told his mother he didn't feel normal when he wasn't using it. His parents, devout Catholics, turned to Boys Town, an internationally recognized residential educational and rehabilitation institution.

Things went well for a while, but eventually the depression returned with a vengeance. Desperate, he called his mother. She told him to stay at Boys Town and let people there help him. He ran away and hanged himself. His body was not found until October.

Jasper remembers one of Daniel's classmates whispering at the funeral.

“He said something like, ‘What did Daniel have to be depressed about?' ” Jasper said. “Daniel had good parents who had good jobs. We lived in a nice house. He was a good athlete. People just don't understand depression. They don't understand how it works.”

This is why Jasper talks to people about Daniel's life and his death whenever she's asked. She saw how Daniel suffered with depression.

“I would find him sometimes with his head in his hands, crying,” she said. “He would look at me and say, ‘Why does it have to be like this?' ”

Jasper hasn't found a good answer to that question. But she keeps talking. It's the only way she can keep moving forward.

“There are days when I have a smile on my face, and it's fake,” she said. “You do what you have to do … to get through the day. It is not all sadness all the time, but it hurts. I miss my son. Sometimes it's OK to cry.”

Jonathan Wilton - ‘You need people to walk with you'

Paul Wilton of Sioux City knew about clinical depression. He worked as a pharmaceutical company representative and sold antidepressants to hospitals and doctors. Still, he never recognized any signs in his 30-year-old son, Jonathan Wilton, nearly seven years ago.

Jonathan worked as a chef in Sioux City. He rented a house with a good friend. He had been down recently after he broke up with his girlfriend, but Paul Wilton thought it was the normal grief after a relationship ends. Jonathan had juvenile onset diabetes. He lived with the disorder his entire life.

Maybe Jonathan never recovered from the breakup, or maybe he had tired of the ordeal of living as a diabetic.

“You look back and try to find clues, but you can drive yourself crazy doing that,” Wilton said. “The truth is you can do everything right and be the most sensitive person possible and still end up in this place.”

After Jonathan's suicide, Wilton felt people avoid him. “People are scared to death of suicide,” he said. “They're afraid they're going to catch it like a cold.”

Paul and his wife, Janine, Jonathan's stepmother, sought out the Broken Silence Suicide Support Group hosted at Christy Smith Funeral Home in Sioux City. There they found peers in their tragedy.

“You have to find people who understand what you've been through,” Wilton said. “You need people to walk with you and help you carry the burden. If we hadn't done that, I don't think we would have made it. It was all the help in the world to know we are not alone.”

How to get help

If a student is experiencing difficulty outside of school hours, he or she can contact Iowa Health Student Assistance Program, (515) 263-4004.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK --

When classmates die suddenly, some young people may become depressed or even suicidal.

Here are signs for parents and other adults to watch for:

Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
Withdrawal from friends, family and activities.
Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away.
Drug and alcohol abuse.
Unusual neglect of personal appearance.
Significant personality change.
Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating or a decline in schoolwork.
Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions. Examples include stomachaches, headaches and fatigue.
Loss of interest in fun activities.
Shrugging off praise or rewards.

Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


North Carolina

Mother suspected of child abuse caught on hospital security camera injecting liquid into her sick baby's IV

A mother has allegedly been caught on camera tampering with her five-month-old baby's IV in hospital after doctors suspected child abuse.

Ladonna Parlier, 26, was filmed injecting an 'unknown substance' into her daughter Naomi's intravenous tube in North Carolina, according to police.

Naomi, who weighs less than 8lbs, has a cleft palate and has been hospitalised for months for various health problems.

Detectives and doctors are now taking a close look at the baby's patient history.

The mother-of-four from Conover has been charged with five counts each of felony child abuse and misdemeanor child neglect after police were called to the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Wednesday night.

Police told that doctors had been suspicious of Parlier for some time and had just moved Naomi into a room equipped with a surveillance camera earlier that day.

The baby remains in hospital and is in a stable condition, police told WBTV.

'She had a cleft palate. She had problems - a lot of problems - blood transfusions, stuff like that,' the baby's uncle, Timothy Justice, told

The baby has had to undergo a number of surgeries but continues to struggle.

'She'd get better, then go downhill, get better, then go downhill,' Timonthy Parlier, Naomi's father said in the report.

It is to early to say whether the allegations could be attributed to Münchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a parent abuses a child, in order to seek attention or sympathy.

Mr Parlier, told Eyewitness News, that he needs to see the footage before he can believe the allegations, adding that his wife is a devoted mother.

'I'm devastated. I love her to death. I don't believe none of it. I can't get it in my head this really happened,' he said.

Police are still testing the IV line and the bag.


New Jersey

Child sex assault 'monster' gets 30 years

Ex-firefighter pleaded guilty in July

TOMS RIVER — A former paid Jackson firefighter was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison for a series of sexual assaults on four children, including a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl he instructed to participate in sexual behavior in his presence.

Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson imposed the prison term on John Wesley Ackley, 44, of Andover Road, Jackson. The judge ordered that Ackley serve 85 percent of the term — or 25 years, six months and two days — before he can be considered for release on parole, under the state's No Early Release Act.

Ackley had been scheduled to go to trial in July but instead pleaded guilty on July 19 to three counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count each of sexual assault, possession of child pornography and child endangerment. He had been charged in an 18-count indictment with various sexual assaults on four children — a 4-year-old boy, a 5-year-old girl, a 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy — in 2009.

In entering his guilty plea, Ackley acknowledged various acts of sexual abuse, including instructing the 4-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl to engage in sexual behavior in his presence. He also admitted sexually assaulting the 5-year-old and a 9-year-old girl, and molesting the 11-year-old boy.

In addition, Ackley admitted having child pornography on his computer, as well as secretly videotaping a 15-year-old girl changing into her bathing suit in the bathroom of his home. That charge came to light during the investigation into the sexual abuse, authorities said.

Ackley and the victims knew one another, although not through his job as a paid Jackson firefighter. Ackley resigned from that job following his arrest in 2009.

At the sentencing, Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro pointed out that children look up to firefighters, but Ackley instead was a monster to the children he abused.

“He's every bit of a monster,” Pierro said. “He is the thing we, as parents, fear every day might be out there for our children. He is our worst nightmare.”

Pierro read letters to the judge from two of the victims. In addition, the parents of three of the victims both addressed the judge.

Ackley at times looked away from the speakers and broke down in tears.

Meanwhile, the oldest of his female victims sat at the back of the courtroom, turning away from Ackley, not wanting to meet his eyes.

At one point, a man in the crowded courtroom left in tears, muttering something toward Ackley on the way out.

The father of the two male victims and the 9-year-old girl told the judge the children were abused by “someone they loved and respected.” He said the children will be haunted by nightmares forever.

The mother of those three children gave a tearful statement relaying her children's pain and how her youngest boy — the youngest of all the victims — made a revelation to her that led to the discovery of Ackley's abuse of the other children.

“His ‘Guess what I did today?' freed all those children,” the mother said, calling the boy the family's superhero.

The Asbury Park Press is not identifying the parents, in order to protect the victims.

Ackley's 9-year-old victim, in a letter read by Pierro, said Ackley destroyed the possibility of her having any fond childhood memories.

“He totally crushed my dreams,” the girl wrote in the letter read by Pierro. “I will have memories of being taken advantage of and being abused by John.”

Ackley's attorney, S. Karl Mohel, said his client is remorseful.

“Mr. Ackley has these psychological issues that he cannot control,” Mohel said. “This is a man who truly, truly is sorry.”

Hodgson ordered that Ackley serve his term at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center for sexual offenders in the Avenel section of Woodbridge. He will be subject to the provisions of Megan's Law and lifetime parole supervision.

Ackley fled to Minnesota last year while the charges were pending but was picked up by U.S. marshals there in June.

Ackley's wife, Sieglinde A. Ackley, 43, was sentenced to 120 days in jail last month for allowing her husband access to two young girls in violation of a court order.



Committee sends child abuse reporting bill to Virginia House, response to Penn State scandal

by Associated Press -- February 2

RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation that spells out the duties and deadlines of college coaches and other professions to report evidence of child abuse and increases punishment for those who don't received a House committee's unanimous blessing Thursday.

The three bills are Virginia's response to child abuse allegations that rocked Penn State's mighty football program and forced the November firing of its legendary head coach, Joe Paterno.

Together, they place statutory requirements on coaches, recreation specialists, youth volunteers and others to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement and other authorities. The legislation also shortens the deadline from 72 hours to just 24.

One, by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, adds athletic coaches and leaders of private sports teams and organizations to the list of people the law requires to report abuse or neglect of children to the Department of Social Services.

Another, by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, specifically adds coaches at public or private colleges in Virginia to that same list.

And the third, by Del. Ed Scott, R-Madison, boosts the penalty for failing to report from a fine of up to $1,000, to a misdemeanor that carries up to a year's jail time and a fine as high as $2,500. If sexual abuse to a child causes death or injury, failure to report it is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

House floor debate on the three bills is expected early next week.

The bills as originally presented Thursday defined the authorities and chains of command to whom abuse claims should be made, primarily the Department of Social Services and its hotline. Bell, who is running for state attorney general in 2013, offered amendments that would allow a simple call to the police to satisfy the reporting obligations.

“All of us are aware of what happened at Penn State and that's providing the backdrop to this,” Bell said.

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, faces trial on felony charges that he sexually abused 10 boys over a 15-year span, with some of the attacks reported in the school's athletic facilities. But the scandal widened far beyond Sandusky because of the silence that surrounded the alleged abuses for years.

Paterno, who won more games than any coach in major college football history, was fired Nov. 9 amid criticism that he never notified police officers of the attacks when he learned Sandusky had been seen sexually assaulting a boy in the showers. Paterno told his superiors, but Penn State's trustees felt he should have done more. Pennsylvania's state police commissioner said that Paterno satisfied his legal obligation, but not a moral one.

Besides Paterno, who died at age 85 of lung cancer on Jan. 22, Penn State fired its president, placed its athletics director on administrative leave and forced a senior official who oversaw the university police department to step down.

The three bills, expected to win easy House and Senate passage, expand the number of groups or professions required to report child abuse to 18. Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico, questioned why it stops there.

“Is there a group of people in ... Virginia who we do not want to report suspected cases of child abuse?” Morrissey asked. “Would we not be better off saying anybody 18 years old or older ... should be reporting suspected cases of child abuse?”

With the list so narrow, he said, legislators will be forced to return perennially to add new categories.

In an interview after the committee adjourned, Bell said that while decency dictates that everyone report child abuse, “the question is where is the law going to punish those who don't. We have done this group-by-group in the past, but we are reaching the point where it may be essential to bring in everybody else as well.”


HB1237 (Scott, E.T.):

HB3 (Marshall, R.G.):

HB970 (Bell, R.B.):



State Bill Introduced To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Cover-ups

by EGP News Service

Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced AB 1564, bill Tuesday to strip nonprofits of their tax exempt status if they do not report incidents of child sexual abuse.

“AB 1564 deters nonprofit organizations of all types – universities, faith based, or educational – from sweeping abuse under the rug and sends a clear message that failing to report incidents of child sexual abuse is unacceptable,” said Lara, who said he was a victim of child sexual abuse himself.

He added that a third grade teacher at Miramonte Elemetnary School, located within his district, was arrested on 23 counts of lewd acts on children. “My heart goes out to the victims and their families,” he said.

The legislation could have deter the cover-up of sexual abuse crimes at Penn State University and the Boys Scout of America that have recently surfaced, Lara said.

The bill also adds volunteers to the list of mandated reporters requires that employers provide employees and volunteers with training in child abuse reporting. AB 1564 will be heard in policy committee within the next few months.



Accused teacher Mark Berndt was target of investigation in 1994

A female student reported that the Miramonte Elementary teacher had tried to fondle her. Her mother informed school administrators, who notified the Sheriff's Department, but the case was dropped because of insufficient evidence.

by Howard Blume, Richard Winton and Alan Zarembo

February 3, 2012

Mark Berndt, the teacher accused of committing lewd acts against nearly two dozen elementary school children, was the target of a police investigation 18 years ago when a female student reported that he had tried to fondle her, authorities said.

The alleged incident occurred in September 1993, though officials said the girl did not tell her mother about it until four months later, after seeing an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that explained the difference between "good touches" and "bad touches."

The mother informed school administrators, who notified the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. The department turned over the case to the district attorney in February 1994, but prosecutors dropped the matter after determining "that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred," they said in a written statement Thursday.

The revelations raise new questions about whether other people had previously come forward to make allegations against Berndt. Until now, both sheriff's officials and Los Angeles Unified School District leaders have said they knew of no complaints made about Berndt.

Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott said he came across the old investigation Wednesday evening during a records search. He said the girl, who was 10 or 11, told a detective that she was taking a test at her desk when Berndt reached toward her genitals and she pushed his hand away.

Since Berndt was arrested Monday, two women who identified themselves as former students said in interviews with The Times that they saw him appear to touch himself behind his desk during class. One of the women, Marlene Trujillo, said that during the 1990-91 school year, she and two other fourth-grade girls were called before a school counselor after one of the girls complained.

They were told to stop making up stories, said Trujillo, now a 30-year-old paralegal.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has assembled an internal investigative team to examine Berndt's case and determine if the district has any records of past incidents or suspicions about Berndt, who taught at Miramonte Elementary School for three decades. So far, nothing has turned up, Deasy said.

He did confirm, however, that he too had learned of an incident that occurred "sometime in the 1990s" and led to a police investigation.

"I don't have any records in the district of it," he said. "It's in the sheriff's office."

The lack of documentation within the district is not unusual because of when the incidents occurred, the law on reporting potential molestation and standard employee safeguards against potentially false accusations, said David Holmquist, general counsel for the district.

At the same time, "We're looking everywhere we can think of," he said.

An allegation found to be without basis would not become part of a teacher's permanent employment record.

And although anyone working at a school is required to report any suspicion of abuse or molestation to either the police or county social services, there is no requirement that it be reported to a school district supervisor. That provision was designed as a protection for whistle-blowers and to prevent the possibility of a supervisor trying to stop an investigation.

"We want to be told, but it isn't required," Holmquist said.

For years, even when the district was informed of an allegation, the school system didn't require administrators to keep a record of it. A principal or other supervisor could place a report in an employee's file, but the employee could petition to have the "write-up" removed if evidence to support it was lacking.

Ambiguous district policies and inconsistent practices resulted in suspected molesters remaining in schools and, eventually, in costly lawsuits for the school district. In one case, Steve Thomas Rooney, a teacher and administrator, was investigated by police for a sexual relationship with a student. But no charges were ever filed because by the time it came to light, the student was no longer a minor and wouldn't testify. The district failed to follow up with police or conduct its own investigation, and Rooney kept his job. He was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of molesting other students and convicted in 2009.

"The Rooney case is when I got involved in a lot of this," Holmquist said. "Prior to that time, we did not communicate well with law enforcement."

In the aftermath, L.A. Unified keeps central records of molestation reports and has established closer ties with the Los Angeles Police Department. And internal investigations routinely follow police inquiries, whether or not charges are filed.

The charges against Berndt, 61, cover a five-year period.

He is accused of blindfolding children as part of a "tasting game" and spoon-feeding them his semen. In some cases, the children were gagged, sheriff's officials said, and sometimes he placed giant Madagascar cockroaches on their faces.

Authorities were alerted in late 2010 by a CVS photo lab technician in the South Bay who was processing Berndt's film. Detectives say they have seized more than 400 photographs from Berndt, including pictures of children — some of them smiling, others blindfolded with spoons near their mouths.

Berndt remains in jail on $23-million bail. His public defender has declined to comment.

School district officials said he was removed from the classroom in January 2011, immediately after detectives showed them some of the photos. He was fired at a board meeting in February 2011, but he challenged the dismissal and was able to resign while his case was under appeal.

The resignation allowed him to keep his lifetime health benefits from the district. He also receives a nearly $4,000-a-month state pension.,0,6853737,print.story



Teacher sexual abuse: How to catch a predator in school

by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo

Shocking charges that surfaced this week against Mark Berndt raise questions about how long teachers may be able get away with sexually abusing their students before the law catches up with them.

Students are often afraid to report incidents of abuse, victim advocates say, and when they do, too often their stories are dismissed or don't lead to officials stopping the educator from abusing again.

“That message can never stop, that children need to be believed,” says Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation, based in Las Vegas. School staff sometimes ignore warning signs or reports “because they don't want to deal with the … cloud of shame that hangs over a school when these cases come to light,” she says.

Mr. Berndt taught at Miramonte Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District for more than 30 years. He was suspended and resigned in early 2011 when the county sheriff's department began investigating charges that led recently to his arrest on 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children.

Those charges date back to 2005. But the alleged troubling behavior may have started much earlier, authorities say.

In 1994, Berndt was investigated by the sheriff's department, but not prosecuted, for allegedly trying to fondle a 10-year-old girl, the Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon.

Two women also said this week that when they were students of Berndt's in 1990-91, they told a counselor of behavior in the classroom that implied that he was fondling himself, the Los Angeles Times reports. One of the women said the counselor “told us it's not very good to make stories up. She said it was our imagination.”

The school district is launching its own investigation into how Berndt's alleged behavior could have gone on undetected for years. The case came to light when a photo developer called law enforcement officials in late 2010 about incriminating photos, the LA Times reports.

Berndt is accused of blindfolding and gagging students, and making them play a “game” of tasting strange things, including spoonfuls of a substance that police say was his semen.

Berndt was removed from the classroom as soon as the criminal investigation started. But the school district was asked to hold its own investigation only after the criminal probe was complete.

In a Feb. 1 letter, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy wrote: “The District takes each and every reported act of criminal and administrative misconduct seriously, and we will continue to aggressively pursue each case … and initiate the appropriate disciplinary measures.”

While abusers often select and “groom” a young target to trust them until they can get him or her in a private setting, there have been cases of abuse in front of other students. A 2004 report for the US Department of Education mentions a case in which a teacher would call boys up to his desk one at a time to discuss homework, and then would fondle them.

“Every child in the room knew what was happening and students talked about it among themselves. The teacher repeated this behavior for 15 years before one student finally reported to an official who would act,” says the report, prepared by Charol Shakeshaft, now a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond.

In 2010, a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailed cases of abusive educators moving from state to state and committing new offenses – even sometimes after being convicted of sexual abuse. State laws requiring background checks or reporting of sexual misconduct in schools vary widely.

There have been some small signs of progress. A 2011 law in Missouri may be the first to really try to stop the phenomenon. Known as the Amy Hester Student Protection Act, it “requires school districts to report substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct by educators to another school district that seeks a reference for that educator,” according to Courthouse News Service.

On the federal level, no laws regulate the employment of sex offenders in schools, the GAO noted.

But Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R) of Pennsylvania is trying to change that. In December he introduced the Jeremy Bell Act of 2011 (HR 3766). The bill would bring fines or prison time to a school employer who facilitates a former employee getting a job in another state if he or she has engaged in sexual misconduct with someone under age 18.

The bill would also tie federal funding to requirements that states have laws mandating reporting by school employees of suspected abuse, and give other educators in the state access to such reports. And it would require schools to check employee fingerprints against national databases.

In the late 1990s, Jeremy Bell was sexually assaulted by his school principal and at one point was given a chemical to render him defenseless, which turned out to be lethal. Parents and teachers had reported the principal to the school board, and he had moved across state lines multiple times for jobs.

Under California rules, Berndt will qualify for pension benefits even if he is convicted, Superintendent Deasy noted in his Feb. 1 letter. The California State Teachers' Retirement System did not respond to the Monitor's request for comment.


Human Trafficking on the Rise

The Defense Department hopes to counter human trafficking with more awareness and putting training and measures in place to aid soldiers in reporting the growing problem.

In light of recent activity and a heightened awareness on the issue to counter human trafficking, Defense Department officials are warning military members and civilians to keep possible victims of human trafficking on their radar according to an American Forces Press Service report.

Having spent time in South Korea for my spouse's military assignment in 2001, the issue of human trafficking was evident outside the gates of Camp Casey. Many of the nightclub waitresses were lured to Korea with false ads for lucrative work and other promises.

Upon their entry into the country, their passports were taken up and the girls were forced to stack up in a tiny apartment with six or seven other girls working as waitresses in scantilly clad outfits in the clubs outside the U.S. military bases. The females were forced to remain in the country and many had to buy back their passports. Some were often mistreated if they did not bring in enough money or repeat customers on the weekends.

While many of the young ladies were not actually 'prostituting' themselves, there was the promise of companionship and lascivious talk with the servicemembers to keep them buying alcohol. Most married soldiers were on unaccompanied assignments to Korea lasting for one year in duration.

"I had my masters degree in Engineering, but there was no work in my country," said Natalia, a woman from Russia who claimed she knew what she was getting into from the start. "I was looking to pay for my mother's house and I had five siblings at home to support."

The issue of human trafficking is increasing in stature because it is an easy opportunity and is hard to prove in order to bring to full prosecution. It's estimated that 2 million children move through the global sex trade each year, according to the State Department's annual assessment on human trafficking.

Servicemembers stationed or traveling abroad are encouraged to become more aware of the problem and to report it when they recognize suspicious activity.

While human trafficking is mostly thought to occur in other countries, it has reared its ugly head within the United States and is more prevalent in the news recently, including outside of U.S. military installations.

“We don't want our service members to be inadvertent supporters of trafficking,” John Awtrey said. “It's a crime; it's a criminal business enterprise. And the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who say, ‘Well, I just go there to get some drinks,' if it's a place where the women working in there have been trafficked and are being held against their will, then you're supporting that business.”

Awtrey is DOD's director of law enforcement policy and support, part of the department's personnel and readiness office.

In 2004 the involvement in human trafficking came to light after U.S. servicemembers and civilian personnel became involved with girls flowing into the country from both the Phillipines and Russia. As a result, the Defense Department initiated training to help combat the issue.

According to an interview with Awtrey on Jan. 31 with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Services, human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon -- number three behind drugs and weapons related crimes.

While many of the brothels or regions, known as the red light district, in South Korea are off limits to military and civilian personnel, military servicemembers are still a prime target because they have money. According to the Armed Foreces Press Services report, other businesses common to human trafficking are nightclubs and bars, restaurants, spas, nail salons and dry cleaners, as well as domestic work in people's homes.

Suspected human trafficking should be reported up the military chain of command, to local authorities, or to the nonprofit National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.


Human trafficking and the Super Bowl

by Sister Pat Bergen

February 3, 2012

The crowd is starting to swell in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, many looking for amusement until game time. And, the commercial sex industry is ready to oblige. You can be sure they've imported a generous supply of victim-prostitutes to be at the pleasure of countless game-goers in town. Local and federal officials acknowledge that organized prostitution accompanies major sports events like the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl. That's where the big money is.

Adding even more credence to this tragic reality, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels just signed into law tougher penalties on sex traffickers. The new law makes it a felony to recruit, transport or harbor anyone under the age of 16 for prostitution or other sexual conduct, punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison. The magnitude of the punishment speaks to the horror of the crime.

Sex trafficking is tragic because it is imprisonment and oppression that devastates its victims. Mostly young women and children, the victims are subject to gross human rights violations, including rape, torture, forced abortions, starvation, and threats of torture or murder. Many of these victims have been imported from poverty conditions in foreign countries, duped with promises of good jobs in the U.S. Others were purchased like possessions or kidnapped outright. And some are American runaways whose lives have hit bottom.

The numbers of victims involved are staggering. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that it is a $16 billion business in the U.S. In addition, the U.S. State Department reports that 14,500 to 18,000 victims are trafficked into this country annually for prostitution, forced labor or other forms of exploitation. The population of victims in this hidden illegal subculture is huge, but unverifiable. Nevertheless, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports that it responded to more than 19,400 phone calls on its hotline in 2011.

In a letter published in the State Department's "Trafficking in Persons Report 2011," Ambassador Luis CdeBaca clearly states the undeniable conclusion: "The responsibility of governments to prosecute traffickers and provide justice to the trafficking victims cannot be outsourced to (non-governmental organizations). The systemic and structural steps needed to prevent human trafficking must reflect a cultural change that rejects modern slavery, addresses the demand that fuels this crime, and requires personal responsibility. But the foundations of such efforts must be found in government action."

In Indiana, the state's Transportation Safety Administration, its attorney general's office, the Indianapolis Police Department and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among other government agencies, are trained not only for the traffickers coming to Sunday's Super Bowl, but for the daily commercial sex business that invades unsuspecting communities.

In addition, there are international and country-specific organizations making significant inroads, like End Child Prostitution and Trafficking — USA, a network of organizations and individuals working to eliminate exploitation of children.

For the lodging industry, ECPAT developed a code of conduct where hotels commit to:

1) train their employees to recognize signs of trafficking on their premises;

2) provide a process for employees to document and report possible incidences of trafficking; and

3) make anti-trafficking information available to guests.

Some hotels that have signed the code are Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Radisson Hotels & Resorts and Country Inn & Suites.

Nobody — except perhaps, users — wants human trafficking in their community.

And when we see such a tragic wrong, as compassionate human beings, we have to be compelled to right it.

Sister Pat Bergen is a team leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in La Grange Park.,0,6950361,print.story



Human Trafficking Happening in Oklahoma City

by Amanda Taylor

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's something you'd picture in a third world country -- but it's happening right here in the metro -- human trafficking.

Girls and boys used for sex while their pimps make a profit.

The numbers are staggering. More and more metro children sold into the world of modern day slavery and it doesn't always start the way we might think.

Last Fall we introduced you to Samantha, a 38 year old metro woman who was trafficked as a teenager. Her story is frightening for any parents to hear.

"I was taken and sold against what I wanted. It wasn't my choice, I wasn't given a choice. Prostituted out, not a prostitute, but prostituted out and that's a big difference" she says.

Mark Elam with OATH - Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans says the numbers are staggering and something as simple as a lack of support at home can cause our children to be pointed down the wrong path.

"The majority is a relationship danger issue. They trust this person. They've made promises. They go with them to get out of a difficult situation. They don't feel valued. They're looking for attention or care."

It's a growing problem that hits close to home. Samantha says it's happening right in our own backyards.

"It needs to be known it happens in Oklahoma. It happens at 10th & McKinley, it happens at McKinley Park, at the McDonald's off I-40, it happens."

And just knowing the wrong people can be enough.

Last October Bethany police found the dismembered body of 19-year-old Carina Saunders behind a Homeland grocery store. Police later arrested Jimmy Massey and charged him in connection with Saunders' murder. Police say the motive is trafficking.

Elam says it's a warning sign for metro parents.

"If one girl starts acting out, they'll beat her as an example in front of the other girls. It's not often they'll murder her because their intention is to make profit. They want these girls to make them money so killing them isn't a profitable situation."

He says there are simple ways to help protect our children.

"It's about being a part of their life. Not telling them what to do or not to do, warning them about dangers. I think they know about the dangers, but they're in love or think that wouldn't happen to them, so it's really about being a part of their life and caring enough to spend time with them."

OATH hopes the Saunders tragedy gets the attention of parents who might be worried about their kids and cause them to jump in and help.

Samantha's message for victims is simple. "It's not your fault, it's not you."

Samantha adds while it can seem impossible at the time, victims need to speak up and seek help.

That help can be a phone call away.

OATH's hotline is 1-800-955-0128.


Survivors of violence benefit from mentoring

February 1, 2012

Can mentoring relationships help female students who survive childhood abuse or domestic violence? Absolutely, according to new research from Concordia University, published in the Journal of College Student Development.

"Studies have shown that childhood abuse unleashes a chain of negative emotions that can impact an individual's future, producing feelings of shame, isolation, self-loathing and educational underachievement," says first author Rosemary C. Reilly, an associate professor in the Concordia Department of Applied Human Sciences.

Reilly's study builds on evidence compiled by renowned community-based educator and researcher Dr. Jenny Horsman, which suggests that at least 20 per cent of all women are adult survivors of childhood abuse — that is, physical, psychological or sexual maltreatment during childhood. According to Horsman, as many as half the women studying in educational programs in Canada are trying to learn while simultaneously dealing with the consequences of violence.

Four themes of mentorship

As part of their research into impact of violence on women's learning and vocational choices, Reilly and co-author Monica D'Amico, a professor in the Concordia Department of Education, conducted in-depth interviews with 10 women who had experienced intense childhood abuse and were enrolled in an undergraduate program when interviewed.

All but one participant had been mentored at different stages in her life. Reilly and D'Amico found that the timing of women's mentoring was contingent on the impact the abuse had on their sense of identity.

Over the course of the interviews, four themes of mentorship emerged: fantasy mentors, mentors as mirrors, mentors as nurturers and supporters, and mentors as embodiments of a particular profession.

Although the researchers caution that these themes should be viewed as atypical, they enrich the understanding of mentoring for women marginalized by violence and demonstrate the malleable nature of mentorship. Mentoring in its various guises clearly played a significant role in these women's healing processes.

These findings, according to the study authors, should encourage universities to consider establishing a formalized mentoring program for survivors of trauma. Student services departments could support the education of this population by creating multiple opportunities for mentorship from different individuals, at various stages, as survivors' needs evolve.

"For survivors of childhood abuse, relationship and connection are what really matters and what successful mentorship is all about," says Reilly.



Learn ways to stop child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is an epidemic. Statistics indicate one in four girls, and one in seven boys will become victims of child sexual abuse by age 18. We know this is a highly underreported crime.

I personally believe statistics are actually higher, because the majority of adult victims I know who have come forward to share their story never reported the crime. Regardless of whether the victim is a boy or a girl, the long-term impact is life-changing if not addressed: anger, self-harm, addictions, depression, shame, relationship issues, problems with intimacy and trust. It totally changes the way victims view themselves and the world.

Unfortunately, in our society, when a boy is victimized by a woman, especially if she is attractive, people often look at the abuse as a “rite of passage” and feel that boys who are sexually abused by a woman should feel “lucky.” The fact is, according to studies looking at boys who were victimized by females, sexual abuse is sexual abuse, regardless of who is doing it. Studies also find that the long-term impact of child sexual abuse was similar for both men and women, and damage to victims can be made worse by unenlightened societal views.

You Have the Power has been raising awareness about crime for almost 19 years in Nashville. We believe knowledge is power. The right information might prevent victimization, and certainly the right information can help a victim put the pieces of their life back together. Lately, it seems like every week there’s a new report about a teacher or a coach who has sexually acted out on a student. Whether the offender is a man or woman, please understand: This is child sexual abuse! It’s not an inappropriate relationship; it is a crime, and the impact for the young victim will be very damaging.

You have the power to prevent these types of crimes. Certainly, you have the power to learn about these crimes, to learn signs of victimization, to learn red-flag-offender behavior, to learn about how to be an appropriate bystander, to learn how you can help a victim.

You Have the Power has recently produced a documentary video about educator sexual misconduct. Two courageous survivors share their personal stories on the video to give the audience power to prevent this kind of child sexual abuse. Tonight at 7, Channel 5 Plus will air our documentary video on Openline. You Have the Power and the Tennessee chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers will be on the program to discuss what we can do to address this horrible epidemic that is happening to students in our community.

For information about how to bring this kind of education to your school, congregation, or community group, please call the You Have the Power office at 292-7027. You have the power … know how to use it!

Verna Wyatt is executive director of You Have the Power;


CDC report notes hefty financial toll of child abuse

The total lifetime financial costs associated with one year's worth of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is estimated at approximately $124 billion, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The study — published in Child Abuse and Neglect, The International Journal — looked at confirmed child maltreatment cases, 1,740 fatal and 579,000 nonfatal, during a 12-month period. The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is in the same range as other costly health conditions such as stroke and type 2 diabetes. The costs of each death because of child maltreatment are even higher.

"No child should ever be the victim of abuse or neglect — nor do they have to be," Linda C. Degutis, MSN, DrPH, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. "The human and financial costs can be prevented through prevention of child maltreatment."

Child maltreatment has been shown to have many negative effects on survivors, including poorer health, social and emotional difficulties and decreased economic productivity. The CDC study found these negative effects over a survivor's lifetime generate costs that affect the nation's healthcare, education, criminal justice and welfare systems.

Among key findings, the estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment includes $32,648 in childhood healthcare costs, $10,530 in adult medical costs, $144,630 in productivity losses, $7,728 in child welfare costs, $6,747 in criminal justice costs and $7,999 in special education costs.

The estimated average lifetime cost per death includes $14,100 in medical costs and $1.258 million in productivity losses.

Child maltreatment can also be linked to many emotional, behavioral,and physical health problems, according to the study. Associated emotional and behavioral problems include aggression, conduct disorder, delinquency, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, teenage pregnancy, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Past research suggests that child maltreatment is a complicated problem. The behavior of parents and caregivers is influenced by a range of interrelated factors such as how they were raised, their parenting skills, the level of stress in their lives and the living conditions in their communities. Investing in effective strategies that touch on all sectors of society is critical because of this complexity, according to the CDC.

"Federal, state and local public health agencies as well as policymakers must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high-profile public health problems — in order to save lives, protect the public's health and save money," Degutis said.

Several programs have demonstrated reductions in child maltreatment and have great potential to reduce the human and economic toll on society, according to CDC.

One example is the Nurse-Family Partnership, an evidence-based community health program that partners an RN with a first-time mother during pregnancy and continues through the child's second birthday (

The article, "The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention," is available at



Agencies join forces to launch poster campaign on child abuse


ST. CATHARINES — The troubled face on the posters is intended to remind people of the terrible legacy of sexual child abuse.

For the first time in Niagara, a poster campaign is showcasing this issue and the regional agencies that can help survivors.

The poster project was rolled out at a media event Wednesday at the Russell Avenue Community Centre in St. Catharines.

Sharon Pazzaglia, Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre project development co-ordinator, said the campaign was developed for free by a contact of hers, James Clunie of the BBDO ad agency in New York City.

The campaign features a fictional character, Susanne Etienne, 28, who was sexually abused as a child but never got help.

It cites a host of problems she’s now likely to confront — depression, alcoholism, substance abuse — with each poster listing a Niagara agency that deals with these issues and a contact for those who need help.

“This focus is about creating safe communities and an awareness of the issue of sexual child abuse,” said Pazzaglia, adding that 86% of the agency’s clients are victims.

Sexual child abuse of girls and boys plays out in various ways and is a subject many people avoid, she said.

For some time, Pazzaglia’s centre has wanted to develop a campaign linking area agencies that deal with this trauma.

“This is a taboo subject. People don’t like to talk about it because most of the time it happens from someone we know, love and trust— between somebody the child loves and trusts.”

The posters featuring Susanne’s face are aimed at assisting people who may be suffering from trouble like depression, but haven’t linked it to their issues of childhood abuse.

The posters will be displayed at the 12 participating agencies and throughout the community, with others possibly joining in the campaign as it develops.

David Barry, Niagara Health System manager of addiction services, said up to 70% of his clients experienced sexual abuse as a child.

“We’re focusing on our patients and we want people to know help is available, and we have experience dealing with these issues,” said Barry, who also attended the launch and is taking part in the campaign.

Meanwhile, BBDO is doing a video documentary on the poster project, with the hope similar multi-agency campaigns can be rolled out in other areas.

For more information about the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre and its services, visit or call 905-682-7258



Child abuse up, Kid Count says

by Tim Keith

Staff Writer

Allegan County children were nearly three times as likely to have been victims of abuse in 2010 as they were in 2000, according to the most recent information released by Kids Count Michigan, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to track child welfare across the United States. 2010 is the year with the most recent available data.

Of the county’s 29,224 children, 516, or 17.8 percent, are confirmed victims of abuse. The rate in 2000 was 6.7 percent with only 203 children being confirmed as victims.

Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center director Lori Antkoviak noted that the increased numbers likely were a result of increased awareness of abuse.

“It has been in the news a bit and people are beginning to understand it happens here, too,” Antkoviak said. “A lot of (raising awareness) has to do with getting people to know there are children around that need to be helped and need to be protected.”

The increased awareness may be evidenced in the large jump in children living in investigated families. In 2000, 783 or 25.7 percent of county children lived in families that had been investigated for abuse; in 2010, 1,738 or 60 percent of county children did.

Both the number of children in investigated families and the number of confirmed victims in the county grew between 2009 and 2010 according to the data. 2009 had been the first year with an increase in the number of victims since 2005.

The increase in 2009 corresponded with a spike in unemployment, something that the Michigan Department of Human Services said at the time can have an impact on abuse. Unemployment decreased in 2010.

Antkoviak said it is unclear if unemployment plays a direct role in the number of child abuse cases. She noted that increased stress due to financial concerns could increase the likelihood of abuse.

In spite of the increased number of abused children, she said there was hope going forward.

“Yes, the numbers are very staggering and the number of hurt children is sad and frustrating, but we can really help out by knowing the signs and keeping our eyes open,” she said.

Allegan County ranked 14th out of 82 Michigan counties (one county did not provide data) in the number of children living in investigated families. Statewide, 70.1 percent of children live in families investigated for child abuse.

The county ranked 47th in the number of confirmed victims of child abuse. Statewide, 13.8 percent of children have been confirmed as victims of child abuse.

Children in Poverty

The Kids Count Michigan data on child poverty and public assistance do not point to any conclusive trends.

Between 2009 and 2010, the number of children receiving free and reduced lunches at school has increased 1.1 percent to 7,406 children from 2009 to 2010. The number of children receiving food assistance increased by more than 500 to 24.1 percent of county children and the percentage of children receiving social security income also increased slightly to 332 countywide.

Other numbers showed decreased usage of state aid.

The number of children younger than five receiving WIC decreased by nearly 200; the number of pre-teenage children receiving subsidized care also decreased, by nearly 1 percent. A smaller percentage of children were receiving financial assistance from the state, that number dropped to 30.2 percent, only .1 percent off of 2009.

The number of children living below the poverty limit in 2010 is not yet available In 2009, the year with the most recent data, 4,601 or 16.2 percent of county children were living in poverty.

Other Data

Kids Count Michigan keeps track of multiple other measures of child well-being across the state. Most of the data is for 2010.

Other data provided by the organization this year include:

95.4 percent of county children are insured, compared to 94.9 percent statewide. Approximately 39 percent, or 11,155, of those children are insured through Medicaid. Another 400 are insured through MIChild Healthy Kids, a state-subsidized insurance plan.

Between 2007 and 2009 26.9 percent of children received less than adequate prenatal care, compared to 29.5 percent state wide. The county ranked 22nd of 81 (two counties did not report) others with only 6.6 percent of children born with a low-birth weight; statewide, 8.5 percent of children were born with a low birth weight.

7 percent of county students dropped out in 2010, a decrease of 5.4 percent from 2000; 82.5 percent of county students graduated within four years of entering high school.

Only 4.2 percent of fourth-grade students and 16.7 percent of eighth-grade students received a non-proficient grade on the MEAP math test in 2010. Both numbers are significantly improved over 2003; the first year data was available.

Standards for the MEAP are being raised yearly until 2014, when the test will be replaced.

For more information visit



Child abuse preve
ntion more than reporting suspicions
Care givers, educators learn how to make families stronger

by Callie Jones

STERLING -- During an Early Childhood Conference held Saturday at Northeastern Junior College, area daycare providers and early childhood educators learned about a variety of topics including preventing child abuse.

During one of the many breakout sessions, Kendrea Dunn, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Colorado, spoke about the Strengthening Families Initiative Protective Factors.

"When we talk about preventing child abuse, often people assume what we mean is, do you know how to recognize and report child abuse," Dunn said. "Which is important, but what I'm talking about is really how do you work with families and with children so that nothing bad happens to begin with."

The Strengthening Families Initiative was developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, in Washington D.C. As part of the initiative they developed the Protective Factors Framework.

"A protective factor is something that you can do, you can build as a family, or in a community, that will actually have the effect of making healthy child development stronger, of making families stronger," Dunn said. "It therefore can almost act as a immunization, if you will, against child abuse and neglect."

There are five protective factors, social connections; parental resilience; knowledge of parenting and child development; concrete supports in times of need; and social and emotional competence of children.

Social Connections

Dunn encouraged early childhood professionals to think in terms of helping build social connections among parents and others.

"If I offer to do something at the center, am I encouraging parents to bring the other important adults in their child's life with them to participate in the activity too?" Dunn said. "If I offer a training for staff, can I also open it up to parents or grandparents who might be interested in coming?"

She talked about doing things like having an annual potluck dinner so parents can get to know each other and making sure the center has somewhere where parents can socialize with each other.

Additionally, she encouraged providers to plan different outside activities for moms and dads, and to create parent groups.

Parental Resilience

Parents need to know how to deal with life's ups and downs, have a way to deal with stress and a way to have hope that things will get better.

Dunn recommended occasionally offering stress management workshops for staff and parents and maybe creating a list of churches or faith communities in the area, where parents can go for support.

Additionally, she encouraged childhood professionals to act quickly when they see a problem with a child, like their behavior or development not being right on par. This will help parents be more resilient because the sooner a problem is addressed the easier it is to solve.

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

Parents need to know what to expect in terms of how their child will grow, and what's typical and what's not. Plus, they need to know some parenting skills.

"Loving your child is inherent; it's nature -- your child is born, you love them. But that doesn't necessarily mean you have the parenting skills," Dunn said. "Those you develop, those you learn."

"We need to make sure there are opportunities for parents to learn about parenting."

She recommended having a daily time where there's interaction between staff and parents about what's going on with their child.

"When a particular issue comes up does your staff take a moment to coach the parent on things like how to handle biting, or what's going on if they're having a hard time sharing," Dunn said.

Staff should act as a resource or a partner with the parents, share what they're doing at school to address and issue, ask what parents are doing at home and provide tips for handling the issue.

Concrete Support in Times of Need

"There are times when problems are so severe and so specific, they really need professional help," Dunn said. "That would be things like substance abuse treatment, counseling... some job training, but there's actually times we need to connect families with professionals and programs to help meet their needs, because they're bigger then they can meet on their own."

That's why early childhood professionals need to be able to recognize a family in crisis."Make sure that your staff and you recognize what a child under stress looks like and what a parent under stress looks like," Dunn said. "That's the point that we want you guys to start a positive conversation with the family about 'hey, how can I help?'"

She encouraged the providers to have a list of resources at their disposal, phones numbers for the local shelter or a substance abuse treatment program, for example.

To help with support there is statewide support line for families, in both English, 1-800-CHILDREN or 1-800-224-5373, and Spanish, 1-800-LAS-FAMILIAS or 1-866-527-3264.

The support line is confidential and anonymous and operated by a private nonprofit organization. It is staffed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Parents can call and talk about anything from being stressed out because they had fight with their significant other, to having trouble getting their child to sleep, to having difficulty paying rent, and they will get information and resources to help them.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

"It helps children thrive," Dunn said about why social and emotional competence is a protective factor. "We want children to thrive, so we want to teach them skills that will help them get through childhood and adulthood."

Plus, children who have healthy and emotional growth are less likely to act out or have anger problems, making them easier to parent.

To ensure social and emotional competence she suggested using programs such as Touch Points or Incredible Years.

While implementing a curriculum is great, it's also important to do some informal instruction too.

"You're watching two kids play. Are you supporting them and helping them learn how to be friends and how to share and how to take turns or how to apologize, how to give them compliments?" Dunn said. "Those kinds of things can be taught just every day in play."

To learn more about the five protective factors, visit

The Early Childhood Conference was sponsored by NJC; Early Childhood Council of Logan, Philips, Sedgwick; and the northeast district group of Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children.


School And Parents' Responsibilities In Light Of Reports Of Abuse

Prevention of abuse depends on a solid partnership between the school and the home. Parents play a role in prevention as do schools. As the facts surrounding the Mark Berndt case are making their way into broad day light, there is growing anger about the lack of IMMEDIATE response by the Miramonte School officials upon knowing of the potential prolific abuse. The case was brought to the school’s attention in 2011 and it was not until 2012 that most of the student body became aware of it.

Every day, parents send children to school with the expectation that their child will be safe, will learn, and are in the “good hands” of teachers. When we walk our children in, drop them off and wave goodbye, we are essentially “blessing” the school by giving our children that message that we trust this place or we would not send them here.


The main purpose of school is to educate. Many parents surrounding the Berndt case, feel Miramonte failed them by not educating or even informing the parents and student body of the massive abuse that occurred at their child’s school. Parents are outraged that the first time they heard of the abuse was through media reports and not through the school itself.

If there is a reported suspected child abuse, particularly reports of sexual abuse, school officials MUST do something. There is no excuse for inaction. Taking action means:

Inform the parents by at least providing enough facts that will alert parents that there has been an accusation of abuse (there is no need to fully disclose all facts nor should facts be disclosed that would jeopardize an investigation)

Provide safe, open means for disclosure including safe people who are equipped to handle reports.

Encourage reporting to law enforcement and school officials and discourage any investigation done by the parents themselves.

Provide crisis counseling, therapy for both parents and student

With growing concerns about child sexual assault, people often question what kinds of background checks—if any--are made before hiring a teacher, staff member, or school administrator.

Like many of the issues we have seen, even the term, “background checks,” is subject to many meanings. When used in the school setting, a “background check” is the process by which the teacher must get fingerprinted by the school’s local law enforcement agency. The fingerprinting process reveals any criminal histories that a school or school district can evaluate.

The criminal background check is a start, but should by no means be the end of the investigations schools should make before hiring faculty or staff. Criminal history checks are not fool-proof, nor do they give a complete picture of a person.


Parents seem to instinctively know that they must pay a lot of attention in hiring nannies and babysitters, but they seem to forget to do a background check of their children’s schools. Yes, parents spend a great deal of energy in choosing their kids’ schools, but they focus on academic offerings, sports focus, and the extra-curricular activities.

Somehow, the really important questions are forgotten and never asked. And while the parents should not have the burden of managing the school, parents have a right to ask questions about their teachers and a right to demand transparency.

Questions that parents need to be asking include:

What is the student-teacher ratio?

Where does your pool of substitute teachers come from?

What is your hiring process?

Do you conduct background checks?

Are substitute teachers put through the same vetting process as full-time teachers and faculty?

What types of things would disqualify a candidate from working here?

What is your policy about teachers/administrators with substance abuse histories?

Are there policies addressing weapons, sexual abuse, child on child abuse, substance abuse, violence, etc.?

How do you screen the people who work with the students who are not teachers (i.e. specialists, volunteers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc)?

Can I visit the school at any time?

Educators are in a unique position to provide valuable support to abused children, their families, and those involved in a community where abuse has occurred. If anybody has the expertise needed to assess the needs and design programs to fit those needs it is the school. While schools are a resource, parents cannot simply toss up their hands and hope that schools do the right thing. The only way to insure the school does their job is to insist that schools do theirs.



Questions swirl around teacher as more allegations arise
L.A. Unified tries to determine why Mark Berndt escaped suspicion for years as former students recount previous complaints. Detectives say inquiry moved slowly due to sensitive subject.

by Alan Zarembo, Richard Winton and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

February 2, 2012

The Los Angeles Unified School District launched an internal investigation to determine how a teacher accused of bizarre acts of lewd conduct against the students in his classroom escaped suspicion for so long.

The investigation comes as detectives said Wednesday that several new potential victims have come forward and parents at Miramonte Elementary School demanded to know why the alleged crimes went undetected for five years.

"How do I make sense out of the fact that this took place over a number of years and no one seemed to know about that?" L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy said in an interview Wednesday. "I'm definitely trying to understand how someone could not have known."

Deasy and other school officials said they have no records of anyone complaining about former teacher Mark Berndt, 61, who is accused of gagging students with tape, blindfolding them and spoon-feeding his semen to them as part of a "tasting game."

But one woman who identified herself as a former student came forward Wednesday to say that school staff had looked into a complaint made against Berndt in the 1990-91 school year.

In an interview, Marlene Trujillo said she was a fourth-grader in his class at the time, and that she wasn't sure what to make of her teacher's odd behavior.

She said Berndt often moved his hands under his desk, near his lap, at the front of the classroom. She and other students had seen a jar of Vaseline in one of his desk compartments.

Trujillo, a 30-year-old paralegal, said she was called before a school counselor with two other girls after one of them complained about Mr. Berndt's alleged behavior.

"I didn't say much during the meeting," Trujillo said. Finally, the counselor "just told us it's not very good to make stories up. She said it was our imagination. It was never talked about again."

Trujillo said she felt relieved. "I was glad that I didn't get in trouble, that they didn't tell my mom I was part of making up stories."

Berndt had always been kind to her, buying her Hostess pastries, and sending her tapes of the Beach Boys and Christmas cards for several years after she left his class, she said. Despite behavior that she now considers inappropriate, she remembered Berndt as a good teacher who made lessons about the Dewey decimal system, the weather and evolution interesting.

One of her classmates at the time, Nadine Martinez Rodriguez, said she also noticed Berndt's behavior behind his desk.

Martinez, now 30 and a doctoral student at UC Santa Barbara, said she told her mother about it at the time but that her mother didn't take it seriously enough to report to school officials.

When told of the allegations by a reporter Wednesday, Deasy said he would immediately report them to sheriff's investigators.

Berndt was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children. He has not entered a plea. He is in jail on $23-million bail. His public defender has declined to comment.

He allegedly took hundreds of photos of the children, many with a milky substance around their mouths, authorities said. The charges date to 2005, prosecutors said.

Police became aware of the case in late 2010 after Berndt allegedly took photos to be developed at a CVS pharmacy in the South Bay. The photo technician saw the disturbing images and called police.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detectives showed school officials the photos in January 2011, and the district immediately suspended Berndt and later fired him.

It took a year before charges were filed.

During this period, the Sheriff's Department had Berndt under surveillance, law enforcement sources said.

Last January, they found a white substance on a spoon in his classroom. By July, tests had revealed the substance was semen. Detectives followed Berndt to get a sample of his DNA for comparison. Deputies saw Berndt spit on the sidewalk one day and used that saliva to match the semen to him, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

Sheriff's officials said it also took months to identify the children in the photos.

"It was horrendously difficult to identify these kids. These events occurred over a space of time and some of their facial features were obstructed by blindfolds and other items," said Sheriff's Chief of Detectives William McSweeney.

Simply placing a notice at school was not an option because it was crucial to get untainted recollections from the child witnesses.

"You must not have any victim cross-contaminate another statement by talk among their families," added Sgt. Dan Scott, who worked on the case.

Detectives said such investigation use techniques developed in the aftermath of the infamous McMartin case, in which children accused operators of a South Bay preschool of outrageous acts of abuse. The charges made national headlines, but over time many came to believe the children were not telling the truth. A jury in 1990 acquitted the defendants.

Scott said the detectives took great pains to avoid having rumors about the case spread around campus before they could interview the students.

They began with a few preliminary interviews with students in January 2011, chatting generally about the classroom and trying to learn how it worked. "What is a day like in the classroom?" was one question they asked, Scott said.

Then, they started focusing on students who detectives believed were potential victims or knew potential victims.

"You start with narrowest ring those in his class, then third-graders and other years," Scott said.

Finally, detectives began interviewing some students in private, eliciting accounts used in the case against Berndt.

Berndt's career straddles portions of five decades — a period during which the handling of molestation allegations has evolved substantially.

In 1990, L.A. Unified agreed to the largest settlement in its history to end a case in which more than dozen girls were molested by former 68th Street Elementary teacher Terry E. Bartholome. He had been transferred rather than fully investigated when allegations against him first arose.

Even after that, the rules of the system focused heavily on the rights of employees as opposed to those of students and individual cases became mired in middle-management process. One of those case occurred on the Miramonte campus: Ricardo Guevara, a teacher's aide, was convicted in 2005 of lewd acts with a child, but only after two earlier reports, including one at another site, were discounted.

On Wednesday, some parents at Miramonte Elementary School remained angry and frustrated. At a meeting, several parents demanded more information about what the school knew and questioned how no one could have known about what allegedly occurred in his classroom.

"It's just getting everybody more upset," said Guille Catanon, whose 8-year-old daughter attends Miramonte. "Parents want to know who the kids are. It's scary because he's been here for such a long time.",0,6460520,print.story


New York


Fallout from sex-abuse scandals can be positive, too

The child sex-abuse scandals at Penn State, Syracuse University, in the Catholic Church and elsewhere suggest the sexual exploitation of children is a sign of these troubled times. But the appalling violation of childhood innocence has a long history — though finally it is being discussed openly.

The allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky go back 15 years. The accusers of Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine allege incidents dating back a quarter-century. Some cases against Catholic priests extend to the 1940s and '50s.

Statistics suggest one in four girls and one in six boys face abuse by the time they reach 18. Onondaga County saw more than 5,000 hotline calls in 2010, representing more than 9,000 potential child abuse cases. (To report possible abuse, call 800-342-3720. You cannot get in trouble for making the call, authorities say; but if you don't call, abuse could continue.)

Both Sandusky and Fine deny the accusations, which cost them their jobs. The Sandusky case also precipitated the departure of Penn State's legendary coach, Joe Paterno, whose death Jan. 22 marked a sad end to a brilliant career.

Shocked parents may be inclined to see danger everywhere. But the fallout doesn't have to be all negative. “More people feel comfortable talking about the issue,” notes Julie Cecile of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse. “It is an opportunity for adult survivors to get support and closure. Also, a community with informed adults can prevent others from being abused.”

With an eye toward those outcomes, the McMahon/Ryan center sponsored a town hall meeting on child sex abuse last month at Onondaga Community College. An adult told of his victimization as a boy by a football coach. A video explored “the familiar stranger” who could be an abuser, and how to spot warning signs. Experts led a discussion of how to minimize the risk of abuse in the first place.

Common-sense steps to protect children are available at the McMahon/Ryan website. Prevention guidelines also are summarized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the leaders in adopting protections is the Boy Scouts of America, which was rocked by sex-abuse scandals. Today most national organizations like the Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as the Catholic Church, have strong policies in place.

The meeting in Syracuse focused on youth athletic programs, but its messages apply to every volunteer-led group serving youth, including churches:

Screen staff and volunteers, including criminal background checks.

Train and educate volunteers, and make sure parents know how to talk about abuse with their children and recognize risks and symptoms.

Set clear group rules, including the “two-deep” rule that at least two adults be present for all youth activities. This would have stopped Sandusky's admitted practice of showering alone with young boys.

Sensible policies protect healthy interactions between children and adults. By ensuring that activities occur safely, everyone can relax and concentrate on what really counts: helping children learn and grow, and having fun in the process.



It's never too late to get help for child abuse

by Cleone Brock

Can abuse in childhood just be forgotten? The answer is no. Abuse, no matter if it is sexual, physical or emotional, often makes the child see their world through fear and anger.

Healthy adults see the world as mostly positive and definitely doable. Healthy people know they can control their environment. Abuse victims without therapy often feel and behave like a perpetual victim, having no power over their environment.

Adult survivors of child abuse suffer from low self-esteem. No wonder; a person in their past, someone that was probably in a position to protect them, violated their body, their spirit and their mind. Survivors spend their 20s trying to forget the trauma and get on with life. Survivors in their 30s often crash and burn, and finally come to therapy to find out why their lives just aren't working.

It is never too late to get help for past abuse. There is healing for those who seek it. The Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama has a free support group for adult survivors of child sexual abuse called Collage. It is completely anonymous. It meets at the CAC on Tuesday nights starting at 6.

If you would like to join us or know someone who would, please call 334-705-0770. The text used is the Survivor to Thriver manual and workbook for those who want to move on with life. The text can be found and downloaded for free from The Morris Center should be praised for making this excellent resource available to the public.

Please don't suffer in silence. The abuse is not your shame; it is your abuser's. It is time for you to stop letting the abuser and the abuse ruin your life. Join us and become a thriver.

Cleone Brock is executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama.


United Kingdom

Consider the impact of rape on a child: paedophiles must spend longer in jail

by Lydia Smith

January 31, 2012

The partner of an abuse survivor convicted of killing a suspected paedophile calls for longer sentences for sexual offences against children

A child who has been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted can grow up to feel unsafe in the world, to feel that everyone is going to hurt it, to have little self-confidence, be fearful, isolated and angry. This child can feel powerless, fear losing control, and lack respect for and trust in authority.

All this is compounded and intensified if the child has no support, is met with disbelief or simply cannot tell anyone. A child is isolated by abuse.

The abuse breaks the normal bonds that hold society together, it transgresses boundaries. If there is family breakdown, no home stability and a lack of solid nurturing roots, such children are known to do less well at school because they are either not there or when they are there they can't concentrate.

Missing out on a consistent education and qualifications, their job prospects may be poor — they're more likely to be unemployed or on a low income, with no conventional means of earning a decent living.

The abused and isolated child may feel no link to the rest of humanity and there is a danger that the child will learn by imitation, surviving by aggression to bolster confidence, feeling unloved will not give love, feeling disrespected respects nobody, feeling powerless seeks control, lacking respect for elders and authority will not respect the law.

When the worst has already happened, what is there left to lose?

Of course, not all abused children have problems with the law. The effects of child abuse on adult male offending is under-researched but Janet Currie in ‘Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?' finds that it is a significant factor in offending behaviour: it approximately doubles the probability of engaging in crime —more so for boys — and the probability increases with incidence and severity.

Abuse survivors in prison

It is difficult to find UK statistics relating to abuse survivors in prison but research by the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) records a 28 to 37 per cent Yes response to the question "Were you a victim of childhood abuse?" (It is not clear how the respondents defined abuse). The survivors' group AMSOSA (Adult Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse) which counsels survivors in prison, puts the figure at 80 per cent. Surveys in the United States suggest 66 per cent of the prison population are survivors of abuse, with an even higher rate for women.

In traumatic situations it is common for victims to dissociate. A child being ‘abused' (which is a very woolly term that does not fully express the horror of rape and sexual abuse) often learns to ‘zone out' as a coping strategy — if he or she can't physically escape from what is happening, the child will detach from the situation; the mind splits into two.

This response may persist into adulthood to the extent that the survivor can slip from one facet of themselves to another so easily and frequently that they feel they are not functioning as a single person.

Survivors commonly report intrusive memories, vivid flashbacks so real it's like it's happening again, terrifying nightmares. Anything might trigger these off, including smells or sounds. These ‘tuned out' states to try to blank-out the flashbacks can be achieved through drugs and alcohol, depression, and self-harm. In extreme cases this dissociation can develop into a dissociative personality disorder.

My partner David has been in prison for 16 years for killing a suspected paedophile, and he has attacked convicted abusers in jail. He was horrifically abused himself as a child. Neither his first abuser, nor any of the subsequent paedophiles in the children's homes he was sent to, were convicted. How can anyone grow up with a sense of self-worth and respect for a society that allows such people to walk free? David had no support, and developed a personality disorder in his twenties, prior to his offence. David does not think any of this is an excuse or justification.

We all have responsibility for our actions, we all have personal choice. Easy words. David is ill.

In the detached state of a personality disorder episode, when someone has 'switched', then reason, logic, reality, and consequences do not mean anything.

All that child's rage had to go somewhere. It is simple cause and effect. You cannot treat a child in this way and expect nothing to happen.

David 'switches' to the child he was and feels it is the child itself who is demonic, not what was done to that child. He is not himself and has no control over what is triggered off, and he has no proper memory of it afterwards. To try to overcome these violent feelings he engages in furious 'automatic writing' he equally has no control over. He will starve himself in an attempt to weaken the rage.

David was not born this way. His abusers may not have stabbed the man he killed but they certainly sharpened the blade.

At his trial he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (emotionally unstable) and Conduct Disorder, which is found only in children, but this was not taken into account — it was decided he was 'bad not mad'. Instead of being referred to hospital and given treatment he was sent directly to jail, whose purpose is containment not help: having to be on guard 24 hours a day on busy wings full of bullies, at risk of violence and rape, frequent strip searches by male officers — and confronted daily by jailed paedophiles and other sex offenders.

David will not get out of prison until he can prove that he is not a danger to the very people who were so dangerous to him when he was a child.

It's a cruel irony of David's situation that he would be of less risk to paedophiles if he were free. It's on the inside, in prison, that he comes into regular contact with known identifiable paedophiles.

To prove that he is no longer a risk to paedophiles he has to sit peaceably in group therapy with them and listen to their point of view. There is surely no other therapeutic situation in existence where a vulnerable person would be put in such close contact with those responsible, and have to listen politely to their self-justifications.

Paedophiles in prison

Having been transferred to many prisons over the past fifteen years, always on wings where paedophiles are held, David has become familiar with their patterns of behaviour.

Photographs of their victims are given to them when they get the paperwork for their cases. They can be observed gathering round, sharing these crime-scene pictures, swapping stories, as enthusiasts do, bragging, enjoying glorying in their crimes.

They use pornography and get ideas from books by survivors, discuss strategies of how to continue offending without getting caught.

These men aren't sorry. They don't take responsibility for their actions. All is self-pity, excuse and justification. Released sex offender Andy Deaves has complained to the European Court of Human Rights that being on the Sex Offenders' Register “is in serious breach of not just mine but my family's human rights, fundamental freedoms, freedom of movement and Right to respect for private and family life. It also prevents us from returning to any kind of normal life after doing my sentence and paying my penance.” No mention in Deaves's letter — published in prisoners' newspaper InsideTime — of his victim's chances of returning to a normal life.

Paedophiles and the law

Fifty-four year old Barry McCloud drug-raped a poverty-stricken ten year old girl in India after befriending her family. He was initially given a life-sentence with a tariff of eighteen years —reduced to fourteen years on a guilty plea (he shouldn't get credit for this; he couldn't very well deny it since he'd filmed himself doing it).

McCloud appealed this lenient sentence and at the High Court Justice Treacy, reducing it to a less draconian ‘IPP' (Imprisonment for Public Protection) agreed that “life sentences should be reserved for even more serious criminals”, claiming that "the offences were not so egregious as to require a term of life imprisonment"

Jo Sidhu, for McCloud, said in mitigation that "he restricted the abuse to one child". That's all right then. He had in fact downloaded child pornography images which is not a victimless crime and surely shows intent.

Perhaps the prevalence of child sex abuse has reduced its power to shock the courts.

The familiar bleat that most child abusers were themselves abused as children should be met with scepticism as another cynical attempt to get leniency in courts. The overwhelming majority of survivors would never pass the abuse on in this way. In any case it would be no excuse.

David Finkelhor, director of the New Hampshire-based Crimes Against Children Research Centre, identified a pattern of abuse: the abuser wants to abuse; overcomes his inhibitions to abuse; creates opportunities to abuse; and chooses to act. It is not a random, spontaneous lack of control; it is about control. They abuse children because they can. They are not ill. They know it is wrong and they choose to do it anyway.

In prison, when the balance of power is against them, they call on the law to help them out.

Attacks against paedophiles in prison are not uncommon. Prison hierarchy ranks sex offenders right at the bottom and delivers its own justice. Surprisingly, those known to have a burning hatred of paedophiles frequently find themselves opportunely placed on the same wings, like some interesting Roman sport.

Then the law steps in.

Ian Huntley, who killed two ten-year-old girls in 2002, wanted to sue the prison service for £100,000 damages for not protecting him against his attacker Damien Fowkes.

Fowkes went on to kill child sex killer Colin Hatch who had killed seven year old Sean Williams eleven weeks after getting out on parole, having served just two years of a three year sentence for a similar assault on another boy.

Fowkes got twenty years minimum. Huntley got twenty years for each girl.

Lee Foye, who is in prison for killing his young girlfriend, for which he got a sixteen-year tariff, went on to kill paedophile Robert Coello. Foye had said on numerous occasions in prison group therapy that he wanted to kill paedophiles but was told to "keep talking about it". So was Coello encouraged to keep talking about his offences — he loved bragging and was very vocal in the group about the four rapes and twelve other offences against a schoolgirl for which he'd received a tariff of seven years.

Foye has such a severe personality disorder that last year he cut off both of his own ears in the CSC in Woodhill prison. Four doctors recommend hospital; even the prosecution said he needs help.

But instead of receiving manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and a hospital order, he got another life sentence — this time with a tariff of thirty-five years.

Some might argue that the life of a man who rapes a schoolchild has as much value as the life of a 19 year old mother — but twice as valuable?

A quarter of child sex offenders are let off with a caution, according to records for 2008. Hundreds more get community penalties or suspended sentences, despite the seriousness of their crimes. In 2008, of 5123 offences against children, including rape, just 2559 were sent to jail. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) were given cautions, including thirty-six child rapists (918 community penalties, 302 suspended sentences). Half of all paedophiles escape prison terms.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council, whose guidelines are binding in crown courts in England & Wales, told judges in May 2007 in relation to child victims under thirteen that "it may be material in relation to sentence if the child agreed to sex"— which totally disregards the principle of the age of consent, to protect children because they're too young to make such decisions and are vulnerable to coercion.

The Chairman of the Parole Board, Sir David Latham, speaking on the Today programme in January 2011, admitted fears that more offences are committed by released dangerous offenders than official figures suggest.

The figures for recidivism for child abusers vary from 15 to 43 per cent, but these figures are meaningless anyway —reconviction is not the same as reoffending. A person who has been in prison, in any subgroup, may learn how not to get caught. Paedophiles learn better how to ensure their victims stay silent, often for decades.

Home Office estimates in 1993 state there were 110,000 men over 20 years with convictions for offences against children. 15 per cent of that figure is 16,500 men. That's a lot of men and a lot of victims. Every single crime can have devastating effect.

More than half of those child offenders supervised by the probation service and two thirds of those discharged from prison have not been through a sex offender treatment programme designed to counter distorted beliefs, help control deviant behaviour, take responsibility for their actions, and increase awareness of the impact on the victim. Many do not sign on the Sex Offenders Register for fear of reprisals and simply disappear. The Home Secretary Theresa May has recently bowed to a Supreme Court ruling that up to 1200 convicted sex offenders a year will be allowed to seek removal from the register.

Paedophiles' victims don't get a second chance. Why shouldn't paedophiles be kept in prison longer, punished for the damage they have caused, not released until they are demonstrably no longer a threat to children?

A child who cannot speak of its experience, is disbelieved or is otherwise not supported may express itself in other, antisocial ways. It is not uncommon for an abused child to end up in 'care', to be further abused, runs away, and as a homeless child/teenager again falls prey to predators. Is it any surprise that eventually something changes within that child?

David's mental health meetings in the Close Supervision Centre were often cancelled at short notice and there is such a high concentration of inmates with mental health problems that the psychiatrist simply does not have time to give them all the necessary attention. David was rejected by Broadmoor Hospital last year; they said his needs could best be met in prison but the fact is that nobody's needs are met in prison: that is not what prison is for.

An abuse survivor, like anybody else with mental health difficulties, needs consistent reliable one-to-one care with a psychologist or therapist in a sympathetic environment, not having to sit in with a group of paedophiles describing their crimes in graphic detail.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood sends counsellors into prisons and has been getting support from the Ministry of Justice. They have found that if survivors get help in addressing the roots of their difficulties it helps break the cycle of offending. They will soon be delivering a pilot twelve-week course of group therapy at HMP Manchester. The survivors' group AMSOSA also counsels survivors in prison.

If a survivor can go through this painful process and stop offending, then so can paedophiles humbly accept punishment for their offending behaviour and the devastation they cause.

“Lydia Smith” and “David” are pseudonyms



Bills would require more people to report suspected child abuse

The state Legislature is considering proposals that would require more people to report suspected child abuse.

by Stephanie Kim

OLYMPIA — Reacting to recent alleged child-abuse cases, including the Penn State scandal, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would expand the pool of people required to report suspected abuse to authorities.

A bill in the Senate would require academic, athletic and administrative staff members at universities and colleges to report evidence of child abuse or neglect to either the Department of Social and Health Services or to law enforcement.

Other school employees, such as janitors, would have to report such incidences to an administrator or supervisor.

A separate bill in the House, supported by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, would require all adults to report any signs of severe child abuse or neglect.

"Most people don't need a law to tell them to do the right thing, but some do," Satterberg said.

Under both bills, failure to report alleged child abuse would be a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Several Penn State officials, including the college president, have been fired or placed on leave amid allegations that they failed to adequately pursue reports that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children, including in the football locker room.

Sandusky is charged with more than 50 counts of sexual abuse. He denies the charges.

In Washington, current state law requires certain people such as physicians, school employees, nurses, pharmacists and supervisors in nonprofit and for-profit organizations, to report abuse.

Members of the clergy, attorneys, counselors and others may not be required to report under a privileged-communications exception.

College employees aren't among those currently required to contact authorities about possible abuse.

"Since there are an increasing number of children on college campuses, it should be mandatory that they report," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of the Senate bill, SB 5991.

Kohl-Welles said she thinks including all adults in a mandatory-report law is an unrealistic approach. But Mary Meinig, director of the Washington State Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman, said it could be a step toward stopping continuing abuse.

"We should all be responsible for vulnerable children," Meinig said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states require anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to report it to authorities.

"Far too many adults just turn their heads and walk away when they're aware of very serious abuse," said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, sponsor of the House bill, HB 2331.

In addition to the Penn State scandal, Dickerson said, her bill was prompted by the case of Timothy Dampier, a former Seattle minister and musician who was charged last May with four counts of child molestation and one count of child rape.

During testimony on the bill last week, Dickerson said an alleged victim told a pastor that he'd been abused as a child by Dampier, but the pastor didn't contact authorities.

Court documents say the pastor held a meeting with Dampier and the alleged victim to discuss what happened. Dampier reportedly acknowledged "playful" touching but denied any molestation, the documents say.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said it is unclear whether the pastor was exercising privileged communication in failing to report what the alleged victim said.

Court records say the alleged victim told another Seattle minister about Dampier, and that minister contacted police.

Dampier has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the King County Jail on $500,000 bond.

The House Committee on Early Learning and Human Services passed the House bill Thursday and sent it to the Rules Committee.

The Senate bill got a hearing in the Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections Jan. 13, but it has not yet been voted on.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, chairman of the Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections, said the bill has a good chance of getting voted on before the Friday deadline to move bills out of committee.



Former Baptist minister paroled for sex crimes

by Bob Allen

BENTON, Ark. (ABP) – A former music minister at an Arkansas Baptist church convicted of sexually abusing children has been granted parole, according to media sources.

David Pierce, 59, won release from prison after serving two years and four months of a 10-year sentence for four counts of sexual indecency with a child. The cases involved three now-adult boys who claimed abuse by Pierce, whom they regarded a spiritual mentor at First Baptist Church in Benton, Ark.

Pierce was originally charged with 54 counts of sexual indecency with multiple boys active in youth choirs during his 29 years as music minister at the 2,500-member congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but he accepted a plea bargain rather than stand trial. The Saline County prosecutor said he accepted the deal to spare victims the trauma of testifying in court.

One of those victims, who blogs anonymously at Descent from Darkness, wrote Jan. 31 that he expected the news and thought he was prepared to handle it, but he was wrong.

“I'm disgusted. I'm heartbroken. I'm terrified knowing he will do it again when he gets out,” he posted after hearing news of Pierce's parole from the Arkansas Parole Board. “This is hard to stomach not just as a victim, but as a father. I can't imagine a monster like David being free in our community again.”

According to Little Rock television station KTHV-11, stipulations of Pierce's parole require that he seek residency outside the state. If he ever chooses to return to Arkansas, he may not live within 50 miles of Saline County or have contact with the victims or their families.

The crimes to which Pierce confessed are non-discretionary, meaning the parole board could not deny parole without recommending a particular course of action.

While in prison Pierce completed mental evaluation and was diagnosed as a Level 3 sex offender. That is the next-to-highest designation and is used for offenders with a history of repeat offending and/or “strong anti-social, violent or predatory personality characteristics.”

Arkansas is one of a number of states since the 1990s to move to mandatory instead of discretionary paroles, ensuring that sentences for the same crime carry the same length of incarceration. Arkansas allows discretionary parole only in serious crimes including homicide, kidnapping, rape, aggravated robbery and sexual assault in the first and second degree.

“We're very worried that this convicted child predator is being released so quickly and will soon again be around unsuspecting families,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Clohessy said that Pierce's church kept him on the job for three months after he admitted to sexual abuse. “That tells us he's a charismatic guy, precisely the most dangerous kind of child predator,” he said.

Amy Smith, a Baptist who serves as a SNAP representative in Houston, said Pierce's release from prison makes it “critical” that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered sex crimes by Pierce come forward. “The light of truth and knowledge is our most important tool in protecting kids,” she said.

While Pierce was awaiting sentencing in August 2009, an inch-thick stack of letters flooded into the Saline County prosecutor's office urging leniency for the beloved and trusted church staff member. A former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention wrote a letter asking that Pierce not go to prison, fearing that because of health problems and the nature of his offense he would never make it out alive.

As parole hearings began less than two years into Pierce's sentence, however, church members told media they felt betrayed and weren't ready for his release. "Being a member of the church, and going through that with them, I don't think it's time yet," Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington, a member of First Baptist who arrested Pierce personally in April 2009, told Little Rock's Fox affiliate a year ago. “As the Bible says, we're supposed to forgive. And I'm hoping everyone can forgive. But do you forget that easily? I don't think so."



Los Angeles teacher charged with lewd acts

Allegations against a veteran Miramonte Elementary instructor leave many parents shocked and angry. The probe that led to 23 counts involving kids 7 to 10 began after disturbing photos were reported.

by Scott Gold, Richard Winton and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

February 1, 2012

In the fall of 2010, a drugstore photo technician was running a batch of 35-millimeter film when a disturbing image tumbled out of the machine — a child, blindfolded with a white cloth and gagged with clear packing tape. From that first photograph, detectives spent the next year following a trail that led them to a South Los Angeles elementary school.

They say they found acts of staggering depravity.

There were more photos, it turned out — 400 more, traced to an apartment in nearby Torrance, then to a bustling schoolhouse in South Los Angeles. There, officials alleged Tuesday, a veteran third-grade teacher sought sexual gratification by spoon-feeding his semen to his students.

Mark Berndt, 61, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in the community of Florence-Firestone, was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children.

Additional charges are likely, authorities said: Berndt had taught at Miramonte since 1979, and though test scores indicate that he was an average teacher, he was such a fixture that parents kept in touch with him after their children grew up, frequently inviting him to birthday parties and quinceañeras .

Berndt, who was being held in lieu of $2.3-million bail, regularly told his students that they were going to play a "tasting game," in which children were blindfolded and, in some cases, gagged with tape, authorities say. The semen appears to have been ingested by the children on a blue plastic spoon and, according to one alleged victim's father, on cookies.

The alleged victims were boys and girls ages 7 to 10.

"This occurred in his regular classroom with his students," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott. "It wasn't done in secrecy. The only secret was what the 'game' was really about."

Berndt is also accused of placing a 3-inch-long Madagascar cockroach on his students' faces and mouths.

Much remains unclear about the case. The acts that Berndt is charged with committing took place between 2005 and 2010, though detectives said they were still trying to determine how far back the alleged abuse occurred.

They are also trying to understand why no one — students, parents or fellow teachers — ever reported anything suspicious about Berndt's class. School officials insist that they received no complaints about Berndt, something they say is alarming given the charges against him.

"I wonder how long he was doing this — and to how many kids," said Arianna Perez, the mother of two Miramonte students.

Parents were stunned by the revelations. They harbored deep feelings that someone could have done more, earlier, though school officials said they removed Berndt from the classroom immediately upon learning of the criminal investigation, even as detectives remained unconvinced that they could win a conviction in court.

Kimberly Kirklin — a 32-year-old mother of six children, including three now enrolled at the school — was seething with rage. "These are our babies."

The neighborhood surrounding Miramonte Elementary is one of the poorest in Los Angeles County, peppered with used tire shops, tiny carnicerías decorated with images of Jesus and billboards advertising dentists who will yank a sore tooth for $49. The names of some nearby streets are known best because they have been appropriated by gangs — Avalon Boulevard, Compton Avenue.

Miramonte has struggled academically and is one of the last campuses in the school district to operate year-round because of overcrowding. But it was seen by many in the neighborhood as a refuge — even with gang graffiti covering the walls of an alley next to the tetherball courts.

The school's yellow and turquoise walls stood out, and students entered each morning through an arched doorway, beneath huge portraits of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. Parents volunteered at the school — and were surprised, on occasion, to learn that their kids were itching to return from school vacations.

"Our beautiful school — this was our community," Kirklin said. "It's devastating."

Kirklin put her arm around one of her daughters, 10-year-old Gia, who refused to go to school Tuesday. Kirklin said that she couldn't blame her and that she would try to enroll her in another school.

"I'm not going to force her. I can't bring her back," Kirklin said.

The case began when the CVS pharmacy photo technician — who was not named by authorities, but was praised for alertness — called the Redondo Beach Police Department about the initial batch of photographs.

According to a school official who reviewed the images, most of the children were photographed one at a time. All were fully clothed. In some cases, the children were smiling, and some of those who were photographed with tape over their mouths are believed to have applied the tape themselves. Some photographs showed a spoon containing a milky liquid; in some images, the liquid could be seen in and around the children's mouths.

In January 2011, a detective from the sheriff's Special Victims Unit secretly visited Berndt's classroom and found a spoon in a trash can that matched the one seen in the photos. That spoon and a small container, also recovered from the trash, tested positive for traces of semen, officials said. Investigators then gathered a DNA sample from Berndt, which matched the DNA contained in the semen, they said.

Days later, detectives served a search warrant on his apartment in Torrance, where they recovered a DVD of adults portraying scenes of bondage, as well as scores of additional photographs.

Berndt and his sister owned the small apartment complex where he lived, property records show. There, a neighbor described him as nervous and skittish. He was known to take camping trips alone and generally kept to himself, often listening to classical music inside his apartment, another neighbor said.

By early 2011, the school district was aware of the investigation — but the vast majority of parents were not. The district appears to have been in a bind. Law enforcement officials insisted that the school keep the investigation quiet, because they wanted to avoid what one investigator called "cross-contamination" of witness accounts.

It took months for detectives to identify the 23 known victims from the photographs and to interview them and their relatives.

Berndt was arrested Monday at his apartment, and most parents only learned of the case Tuesday, either in a recorded message left on their phones by Principal Martin Sandoval or in a letter sent home with students. Many parents insisted that they should have been alerted earlier.

"I don't understand why it took them a year," said Jorge Ramirez, whose two children and nieces attended the school.

"At the very least they should have reached out to ask us for forgiveness," said the father of one alleged victim. The Times is withholding the name of the father to protect the identity of his 11-year-old son.

School officials said they moved on the case swiftly and decisively. Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy said Berndt was removed from his classroom as soon as school officials learned of the investigation and was fired a short time later.

Berndt challenged the firing. But in June, he resigned from the district, which allowed him to keep lifetime health benefits provided by L.A. Unified. He also retains his state teachers pension.

In past instances, teachers accused of misconduct against students were suspended, not fired — and if there were no criminal charges or a conviction, they often returned to work.

In the Berndt case, even if the school's hands were tied, the duration of the investigation and the suspicion that more victims might be found cast a chill over the neighborhood.

A dark parlor game spread through the streets, as parents huddled under frontyard orange trees and talked through wrought-iron fences, trying to determine if their children had been in Berndt's class or had any exposure to him. Berndt, they said, was known to lock the door of his classroom while teaching.

Kirklin said she quizzed her three youngest children — the ones who still attend Miramonte — about whether they had ever witnessed any unusual behavior. None had, she said. But Kirklin hadn't yet gotten around to asking her older children, one of whom said: "I had him."

"What?" Kirklin erupted. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"He never did anything," the 15-year-old girl said.

"Are you sure?" Kirklin asked.

Other parents said they were left trying to figure out how to explain the case to their children.

"I'm going to have to talk with them," said Maria Salazar, the mother of two Miramonte students. "But I don't have any idea what I'm going to say yet."

It was unclear Tuesday whether the court had appointed Berndt a defense lawyer. United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, said it would not be involved in the case and described the charges as "so abhorrent as to be incomprehensible."

"On this assignment you see a lot of terrible things over the years," said Scott, the sheriff's sergeant. "But this is something none of us had seen before.",0,5063298.story



San Jose Law Firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard Helps Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Molestation

Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard seeks civil justice for victims of childhood molestation and their families. Lawmakers being asked to support and adopt tougher mandatory childhood molestation reporting laws.

January 31, 2012

The San Jose, California personal injury law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard is announcing steps that it is taking to provide justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse and molestation. The law firm is currently litigating claims against child molesters and their suspected enablers on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and molestation. At the same time, attorney Robert Allard is working with elected officials to close loopholes in the law that serve to protect child molesters.

"Our legal team believes in using the law to hold wrongdoers accountable, to fairly compensate the injured and their families, and as a result make our community safer," said Allard. "With jurors acting as the watchdogs of our community, they have the power to put an immediate stop to the malicious and egregious behavior that allows childhood abuse and molestation to flourish in communities," added Allard.

Allard is currently representing three young children, two of whom have filed separate lawsuits claiming (Santa Clara County, California Superior Court Cases #111CV214040, #111CV212614), that they were allegedly sexually molested by Trace CDC daycare worker Keith Woodhouse. The lawsuits allege that Woodhouse molested and sexually assaulted at least 5-10 young female students under the age of 14.

"Childhood abuse and molestation is a serious problem that must be addressed through both the court system and in the legislature. A few weeks ago O.B. Whaley Elementary School teacher Craig Chandler was arrested and charged (Santa Clara County Superior Court case #C1223754) with lewd acts on a child and accused of having multiple victims. Hopefully, the victims in that matter will come forward and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that this does not happen again not only at this but other schools so that children are protected," said Allard.

During the last two years, Allard has litigated more than half a dozen cases on behalf of numerous alleged molestation victims of USA Swimming coaching sexual abuse resulting in the United States Olympic Committee centralizing and standardizing background checks across all Olympic sports, thereby affecting approximately one million athletes.

"When organizations fail to protect young children from pedophiles, we as a society need to step in," said Allard. "Our law firm has created a website,, which seeks to generate public support for tougher mandatory childhood molestation reporting laws," stated Allard.

Allard is currently working on another civil lawsuit, (Santa Clara County, California Superior Court Case #111CV20178) which is awaiting trial against Maxim Integrated Products' Director of Global Distribution Scott McKibbin for alleged sexual abuse resulting from allegedly luring a 16 year old minor to fly from Canada to San Francisco. The lawsuit claims that McKibbin allegedly took the teenager to a hotel room where he purportedly sexually abused, molested, and imprisoned the youngster.

"Much like in the OJ Simpson case where the Goldman family resorted to civil justice, we represent survivors of childhood abuse and molestation who seek civil justice and accountability from their perpetrators and enablers," added Allard.



Vallejo trucking school encourages drivers to join U.S. fight against human trafficking

by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

January 31, 2012

A child or young woman wandering around a truck stop could be a sign of human trafficking. So might graphic sexual offers made over the CB radio, or a car lurking in the background.

It's these kinds of activities that a new trucking industry effort hopes truckers will learn about and help eliminate.

The California Trucking Association has partnered with a national organization, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), to combat human trafficking. It's a practice that association spokesman Michael Shaw calls "an evil" plaguing the country.

A t least one local trucking driving school's management expressed interest in the program, which seeks to train the nation's truckers in what to watch for and how to report it.

Between 15,000 and 17,000 children are being sold into sexual slavery annually in the U.S., Shaw said. Some are imported from overseas for that purpose while others are snatched off the streets of America, he said.

"My mother has been involved in fighting human trafficking in Southeast Asia for years, and when I got involved with the CTA, we started talking about how truckers can help stop this evil practice that ruins lives," he said. "I want to help save lives and address the stereotype that all truckers participate in this practice."

Like the federal Transportation Security Administration's "First Observer" program launched several years ago to train America's truckers to spot possible terrorist threats, the hope is that a training DVD the agencies created on human trafficking will be adopted by as many trucking firms as possible, Shaw said.

"Truckers are the eyes and ears of our nation's highways and can make a substantial difference in this fight," said Kendis Paris, Truckers Against Trafficking national director, "We're very excited to see the largest state trucking association support this work and believe the California trucking industry will do much to put a dent in domestic sex trafficking."

It's something Vallejo's Falcon Trucking School officials might include in their training, a spokeswoman said. In 2009, Falcon became among the first such schools regionally to be trained in the First Observer program.

"We would be open to it," Falcon co-owner Suzanne Seymour said. "Truckers cover lots of miles. They're out all over the country. I'm sure there' s some places where they could see that kind of activity. It sounds like a worthwhile thing. We'll consider adding it to our curriculum."

Besides the training DVDs, wallet cards containing phone numbers to call to report suspected human trafficking also will be distributed, Shaw said. The number will connect the caller with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which coordinates with the FBI. The FBI keeps statistics to help law enforcement know where to stage sting operations, he said.

"The idea is to raise awareness among truckers that this evil exists and arm them with the knowledge and tools to help," Shaw said. "As they're out on the road, from time to time, they may hear about or see children being offered for sex, and they can make a phone call and save that child's life and maybe others. We want to show our members and truckers out there that there's a problem and they can be part of the solution."

Truckers can and should "step up" and help law enforcement tackle this problem, said Shaw, a father of three.

"There are stories of children lured into this type of nightmare," he said. "The idea of one of my children getting caught up in something like this makes me sick to my stomach."

For anti human-trafficking information:

phone: (720) 202-1037



Parents charged after naked, emaciated 9-year-old found on street

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman likened boy, 9, found in street to a concentration camp survivor

by Carol Marbin Miller and David Ovalle - The Miami Herald

January 30, 2012

Joseph Lee studied a color snapshot of his 9-year-old nephew Monday as a Miami child-welfare judge glanced at Lee.

The judge was looking for signs that Lee was as disturbed by the photo as she was. But Lee simply stared at the picture.

"I'm looking for words," Lee said. "I was not aware of any of this."

The photo, which was not released publicly, depicted a little boy who had become so emaciated that his bones protruded from his skin and his eyes bulged from their sockets, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said. She likened him to a concentration camp survivor.

The boy, who is not being named, was discovered by police wandering his North Miami Beach neighborhood Saturday — beaten, naked and starving. His parents, Marsee Strong, 34, and Edward Bailey, 40, remain at the Miami-Dade County Jail on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect on $65,000 bail.

The boy and four of his siblings were placed in the custody of Lee, a maternal uncle who was ordered by the judge not to allow the boy's parents any contact with him. Lee also agreed to adopt the children if their parents are unable to regain custody. The boy has an 18-year-old sister who is pregnant.

"He looks like he just came out of Auschwitz," Lederman said. "This is like a neon sign for child abuse. It would have been obvious to anyone who came in contact with this family the last few years."

Among those who came in contact: a child-abuse investigator from the state Department of Children & Families, a mental health counselor from Jackson Memorial Hospital and educators from the 9-year-old's school — who called the state's child abuse hotline recently seeking help for the boy.

Lederman set a hearing for next month to hear from all those people. "It appears to me that there has been gross negligence here," she said.

The boy was found wandering the neighborhood near his house, on the 1400 block of Northeast 152nd St., about 8 p.m. Saturday. North Miami Beach police say he had jumped out the window of his parents' home "to escape his abusers."

Paramedics rushed the boy to the hospital, where he begged for food and told caregivers he had not eaten in three days. His body showed "permanent marks of abuse all over," according to an arrest report.

The boy's mother denied hitting the child but "admitted to failing to protect her child from others and not properly supervising him and getting him medical treatment in a timely manner," the police report said. The boy's father also denied hitting the boy but admitted he allowed "others" to hit him, police said.,0,1083871,print.story



Abused son, 9, weighed only 35 pounds, North Miami Beach police say

by DAVID OVALLE - The Miami Herald

A North Miami Beach couple severely beat their 9-year-old son, who was found so starved that he weighed just 35 pounds, police said.

Marsee Strong, 34, and Edward Bailey, 40, were arrested Saturday night on charges of aggravated child abuse. On Monday afternoon, they were still jailed and had yet to post $65,000 bail.

According to North Miami Beach police, neighbors found the naked boy wandering the streets.

Paramedics rushed the boy to the hospital, where he begged for food and told employees he had not eaten in three days. His body showed “permanent marks of abuse all over,” according to an arrest report.

His tiny body weighed as much as a 2-year-old's. His hands and feet were “swollen from the lack of food,” the police report said.

Strong denied hitting the child but “admitted to failing to protect her child from others and not properly supervising him and getting him medical treatment in a timely manner.” Bailey also denied hitting the boy but admitted he allowed “others” to hit him, police said.

Both suspects are unemployed.

The family had a history with the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to an agency spokeswoman, although details were not immediately released. Relatives are now caring for the boy's siblings.


New Mexico

Tougher child abuse penalties being pushed

January 31, 2012

Last week, Governor Susana Martinez announced a major legislative proposal that will change New Mexico's Criminal Code to help better protect New Mexico children from child abuse and predators. Her bi-partisan bill beefs up prison time for child abusers, increases penalties for drunk drivers who kill children, and defines new crimes where certain behavior toward children is predatory, according to the governor's office.

Governor Martinez wants to increase penalties for first-time and repeat child abusers, allowing for additional prison time in child abuse cases that do not result in great bodily harm or the death of the child.

The governor's proposed legislation will increase jail time for first-time child abusers from three years to nine years. Repeat offenders would face up to 18 years in jail, instead of only nine years.

Her legislation will also extend the Baby Brianna law by providing life in prison sentences for someone who kills any child up to 18 years old. Current law only applies to children up to 12 years old.

The proposed legislation also enhances penalties for somebody who drives drunk, resulting in death or injury to a child. Finally, the bill defines new crimes in cases where predators are “grooming”children, or exposing themselves in a private setting.

The bill has been introduced by Representative Al Park (D-Albuquerque) and will be carried by Senator Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs) in the Senate.

“Children should not have to live in fear of their own parents and caregivers,” said Martinez, a former prosecutor. “People need to know that if you hurt a child, you will serve serious jail time. We will not tolerate anyone who intentionally hurts the most vulnerable among us.”

The governor's proposal also defines new crimes in the cases where a child is “groomed” by a predator, and when somebody exposes themsself to a child in a private setting. Currently, neither are crimes.

“Grooming” refers to actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, in preparation for sexual contact or exploitation. The proposed law will make this contact with a minor a fourth degree felony.

Currently, this is not a crime, but Governor Martinez wants to give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to charge child predators who are clearly preparing to sexually exploit a child.



Baltimore gets child sexual abuse prevention training grant

by Nicole Fuller

Maryland First Lady Catherine Curran O'Malley announced Monday that Baltimore City, Talbot and Worcester counties have been selected for a new statewide initiative to prevent child sexual abuse by training adults.

The Family Tree, a Baltimore non-profit, was granted $25,000 in private funding to replicate the Enough Abuse Campaign, which originated in Massachusetts. The Family Tree will provide free training to child advocacy organizations in the three communities. The program emphasizes educating adults to recognize abused children, to communicate with children about appropriate interactions with adults, and to advocate for victims.

O'Malley, a district court judge in Baltimore, said in remarks at a press conference to announce the initiative, that during her 13 years as a Baltimore County prosecutor, she "sadly, sadly, sadly saw too many stories of child sexual abuse."

O'Malley, the spokeswoman for the Maryland Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, a program of the Family Tree, added, "One of society's most sacred responsibilities is to protect children from harm."

Pat Cronin, executive director of the Family Tree, said each community is expected to train 1,000 people.,0,2366383,print.story



Calvary Baptist Church to hold presentation on child sex abuse

Calvary Baptist Church in State College and the newly formed Beyond the Silence will host a presentation “Beyond the Betrayal: Healing from Sexual Abuse,” from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at the church at 1250 University Drive, State College.

The presentation will feature Victoria Kepler Didato, director/founder of the Child Sexual Abuse Institute of Ohio. A State College native, Didato is recipient of Penn State's Alumni Recognition Award for her book “One in Four” and for her work in the field of child sexual abuse.

The session is open to the public. It will include topics such as how sexual abuse affects the brain, body and spirit, reading the signs of sexual abuse, and the impact on victims, families, community and the culture at large.

There will be morning and afternoon sessions. Lunch is not provided, but a box lunch is available for a cost of $8.

Calvary also will host a session from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 10 titled “Healing from Sexual Abuse: What Would Jesus Say to the Wounded?”

The session will focus on topics specifically for those in the ministry, charitable organizations, education or lay counseling.

The registration fee, which covers both sessions, is $20 for adults, $10 for students. Register online at healingseminar. For more information, contact Melanie at or 238- 0822, ext. 17. Beyond the Silence is a group forming in February that aims to share the stories of the sexually abused and help abuse survivors through free counseling or outside agencies.




School professionals need to police each other

by Nancy Easterling

I was a victim of sexual abuse by a teacher. Now I am older and realize just how many years the abuse took away from my life and delayed my ability to function as a healthy person.

Only by the grace of God was I blessed with a therapist who allowed me to understand sexual abuse and the turmoil that followed. This was many years later, after I had carried the baggage for many years.

As a result of professional help I shared my deepest secrets in order to examine guilt, shame, blame and fear that had plagued me for years. We send our children to school and expect it to be a safe haven for learning. I never shared my secret with anyone.

Many victims do not share their abuse because of fear something worse might happen. I feared that my parents would be hurt, angry and might harm my molester. I also feared what my molester would do to me.

I remained in a state of denial. It is ironic that in my later years I chose to go through a local police academy. Six of my years in law enforcement I was assigned to investigate sexual crimes against women and children. My first case was a child that had been victimized by a teacher. I observed hurt and shame on the faces of the victim and her family. At that time, never once did I compare or recognize that I too was a victim in a similar situation. Maybe my subconscious was reaching out to others under my denial.

My own sexual abuse occurred many decades ago. The victimization never completely leaves.

I have always thought how wonderful it would be to take a huge eraser to all the memories that exist from those years. Through my own experience and working with victims, I observed trauma handled in different ways. Many sexually abused children express their anger by acting out. Others choose to withdraw inside.

Like the Penn State case, many choose to remain silent until others reveal their abuse. Often children and survivors of abuse exhibit depression, anxiety, insomnia, illness, fear or alcohol-drug abuse.

By law a child is a person under the age of 18. This law protects children by allowing them time to mature. Laws concerning sexual abuse against children are designed to make adult responsible for the act.

During my tenure as a police investigator I taught other professionals characteristics of abused children. As I started those presentations I would start out that I was never a victim of abuse. My denial was very strong. My own abuse went on for four years. I suspect that I was not the only victim.

One day I spoke with a friend that had investigated cases with me for years. I was sharing my own story with her. I stopped and asked her if she had ever been a victim. She dropped her head and proceeded to tell me of sexual abuse she had never shared with anyone. Like many other victim's she feared what would happen if she told.

I think it is time for school professionals to unite as a team and actually police each other. The majority of the time the perpetrator shows extra attention and spends inappropriate time with their victims. Pedophiles search for jobs where children are easily accessible.

Many people are not aware that boys are more likely to be molested than girls. Boys also are less likely to tell. Pedophiles gain the trust of their victims. They usually molest numerous victims before they are caught.

The majority of our educational professionals are honest, sincere individuals that are only concerned about the education of youth. They would never harm a child in any way. Unfortunately, there are a few sick, dishonest individuals that think they are beyond criminal laws.

For me I have worked very hard to overcome the abuse. God has blessed me with people that knew how to help me. I chose to share my story with hopes of helping a few victims realize that they are not alone and with God's help they can heal.


Second Exam Important in Child Sex-Abuse Cases

by Amy Norton

(Reuters Health) - When a child is thought to have been sexually abused, a second medical exam may be key to picking up injuries and sexually transmitted infections, a study published Monday finds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends that kids being examined for sexual assault have a follow-up exam in the weeks afterward.

But until now, no studies had looked at the benefits of doing that.

For the new report, researchers reviewed the records of 727 children and teenagers who were evaluated for sexual abuse or assault over a five-year period.

They found that almost one-quarter of the time, the patients' second exam changed the findings of the first.

In 18 percent of cases, there was a shift in the diagnosis of traumatic injuries.

Most often, the original examiner had said it was unclear whether the child had an injury suggestive of sexual assault (like tears or bruising), but the second examiner concluded that the findings were "normal."

However, that "does not in any way" mean the child wasn't sexually abused, said Dr. Nancy D. Kellogg, one of the researchers on the study and a child abuse expert at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

It's well known that sex-abuse victims often do not have telltale traumatic injuries, Kellogg told Reuters Health.

So it's what the child says that's most important.

Kellogg's team also found that the second medical exam helped pick up sexually transmitted diseases that weren't caught initially. That was true in nearly seven percent of cases.

Most often, Kellogg said, the follow-up exam caught genital warts -- which would not yet have been apparent during the first exam.

The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics, are based on 727 children and teens who were first examined at one San Antonio ER or the regional child advocacy center. A doctor or nurse trained in child abuse cases performed the exams.

The second exam was done about a month later at the child advocacy center, by an experienced child-abuse doctor or nurse.

During the initial exam, Kellogg explained, kids are "anxious or in pain -- they're traumatized. And that can affect the examiner's ability to detect things."

But the researchers also found that the first examiner's experience mattered. If he or she had done fewer than 100 such exams, the second examiner was more likely to reach different conclusions on whether the child had a traumatic injury.

That, Kellogg said, points to the importance of having an experienced doctor or nurse do the second exam.

Some hospitals, she noted, have special "child abuse teams" who can evaluate kids for sexual assault. There may also be a nearby child advocacy center with doctors or nurses who can do the exam.

As for areas where those services aren't available, Kellogg said she hopes the current findings give less-experienced pediatricians some guidance in evaluating kids for sexual abuse.

"We were a bit surprised by the findings," she noted. "We didn't expect the follow-up exam to make such a big difference in so many kids."



Virginia moves to clamp down on human trafficking

January 31, 2012

by Hank Silverberg

RICHMOND, Va. - It is an underside of life that most people will never see, yet your child may be at risk. Human trafficking, or slave labor that often involves the sex trade, is now in the spotlight in the Virginia General Assembly.

There's no estimate how many people, both adults and children, become victims each year.

"We've had in Northern Virginia, the proliferation of trafficking victims via MS-13, one of the most notorious gangs in the Commonwealth and in the country," says State Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Arlington.

He is one of the sponsors of a series of bills that would upgrade the penalties for forcing someone into the sex trade and educate police and the public on how to spot it.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the risk to those enslaving someone needs to be increased, particularly when street gangs are involved.

"They have done the cost benefit analysis and found that sex trafficking of minors is at lower risk for higher money for them than pushing drugs," said Cuccinelli, noting that the crime is only a misdemeanor.

One of the bills would raise the crime to a felony, while another would require that posters be put up at sex oriented businesses, such as strip clubs advertising the Human Trafficking Hotline.

The hotline for reporting suspected human trafficking is 1-888-373-7888.

A third bill would provide for training for the Department of Social Services and school systems. The training would teach how to spot human trafficking and potential victims.

The package of bills has broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.



Mo. hotels asked to help stop sex trafficking

A suburban St. Louis event planner wants to enlist hotels in the fight against human trafficking of minors, particularly for sex.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( reports that Nix Conference & Meeting Management has begun pressuring the 500 or so hotels it does business with to sign a code of conduct to protect children from trafficking.

Federal authorities say the Kansas City, Mo., area prosecutes more human trafficking cases than anywhere in the U.S., and scrutiny is growing in St. Louis. Traffickers like the fact that St. Louis is located at the intersection of several interstates, making it a convenient stopover when sporting events or conventions are in or near the city.

Nix event planner Kimberly Ritter, 42, first learned about the serious problem of trafficking of minors when a client, the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, told her they would only book a hotel with a human trafficking code of ethics.

Through research, Ritter learned that organized sex trafficking is both a domestic and international problem. She learned the age of teenage prostitutes is dropping _ the preferred age now is 14. And she learned that pimps are now targeting vulnerable suburban and rural kids, not just urban runaways and homeless youths.

"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."

A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice Report identified St. Louis as one of the nation's intensive hubs for human trafficking. Collins said the bulk of trafficking in St. Louis involves minors and younger adults being pimped for sex.

Ritter and her co-workers plan not only to push their code of conduct with the hotels they do business with, but also encourage other meeting planners to do the same. They want to educate hotels and their staffs about human trafficking, help them identify it and come up with a plan to reach out to exploited minors.

A version of the code initially was established by the human rights organization ECPAT USA, which stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking.

Michelle Guelbart, a project coordinator with ECPAT in New York, said planners have the leverage to press hotel chains into agreement.

"They can take it as far as to refuse to work with companies," Guelbart said. "They have the ability to put us in the door with every single meeting they have."

In July, the Millennium Hotel was the first in St. Louis to sign the code at the request of Ritter and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

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.

But some chains are reluctant to sign the code because it requires literature about trafficking in guest rooms, and hotels must report to ECPAT annual statistics on trafficking found on their properties. McInerney said some chains worry that patrons will get a false idea that a hotel is a hot spot for illegal activity.

At the Millennium, Ritter said, managers were shocked when they began their training. But housekeepers and room service staff were not. Many of them live in lower-income areas, where children are more likely to be on the streets.

"When we began our talks, so many of them quietly nodded their heads," she said. "They knew."



Authorities Discuss Ways To Shut Down Human Trafficking

CLEVELAND - Law enforcement, educators and non-profit workers all came together in northeast Ohio to talk about the growing problem of human trafficking.

One of the FBI agents said to the crowd that going after the 'johns' may be a key way to ending human trafficking, reported ONN's Cristin Severance.

"There are people being held in what amounts to modern day slavery," said Steve Dettlebach, U.S. Attorney North District.

One Cleveland woman recently told Severance that she was a trafficking victim who was flown all over the country and forced to have sex with men.

The woman, who has her master's degree, was taken to sex parties in the suburbs where she was forced to have sex with men there as well.

"It shakes you to your core knowing a human being can be sold for like a one time use type of thing," she said.

Officials want to raise awareness about trafficking and said they just prosecuted a man for trying to sell a teenager at a Cleveland Starbucks for $300.

They also busted Pearline Richardson, who forced a 15-year-old runaway to have sex with men in her home.

Officials said the use of the Internet to prostitute victims has doubled in the last year.

"These pimps are out here, they are in our streets, they are actively recruiting girls," said Tim Kolonick, FBI.

FBI special agents said the men, who they call 'johns', buy prostitutes and sometimes request younger victims.

"We've surveilled these individuals, we've written down license plates and we know who they are," said Kolonick.

And they have a new way of dealing with the demand side of human trafficking.

"From this time forward, we are going to go to their homes, we are going to sit down with them at their house, in front of their wives and children and they can explain to us, in front of their families, why they are doing what they are doing," said Kolonick.

The FBI child crimes task force, covering the Toledo and Cleveland area, has saved 100 victims of human trafficking over the last two years.

Monday's event was put on by the "The Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking." Seven different service agencies were in attendance to help spread awareness about human trafficking in Northeast Ohio.



Local groups start fight against trafficking

Nuns, others connect with efforts to educate


If hotel workers in Indianapolis know how to spot sex trafficking this weekend, it may be because of Catholic nuns and a college student in South Bend.

Just in time for the Super Bowl.

They are among the local people who've started to seek a role in the fight against human trafficking.

Eleven orders of Catholic nuns in Indiana and Michigan, including the local Sisters of the Holy Cross and Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, contacted the managers at 220 hotels within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis. They knew that this weekend's Super Bowl could be ripe ground for the use of sex slaves in prostitution.

“There's a lot of evidence that human trafficking increases around major sporting events,” said Sister Ann Oestreich, who works for the Holy Cross sisters and oversaw the project.

So, the sisters linked up with an Indianapolis task force that includes law enforcement and that has focused on human trafficking since 2006. And student Cailin Crowe of Saint Mary's College, where the Holy Cross sisters are based, developed a list of hotel managers and then helped the sisters to call those managers, gauging their awareness of the issue and asking if they'd want materials to educate their staffs.

A total of 200 managers answered questions, and 99 asked for materials, Oestreich said.

Forty-five hotels already had done or planned to train their staffs about human trafficking, but another seven requested training prior to the Super Bowl, she said.

“I think they are taking this seriously,” Oestrich said.

Sisters close to Indianapolis delivered the brochures and information about who to contact if trafficking is suspected.

Crowe, a junior from Evanston, Ill., also secured a $500 grant through the college to raise awareness of sex trafficking. She aims to start a coalition group with a speaker or training session.

The 11 orders of sisters all invest in businesses as a way to influence in social issues. They're known as the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan.

Aware in Michiana

Stephanie Polito and John R. Goodson are just beginning to raise awareness in Michiana about human trafficking.

It was a couple of months ago that they met at an Occupy South Bend meeting and talked about starting the group.

They have yet to decide what direction to take. But they've taken a name, The Michiana Alliance to End Slavery, and formed a page on Facebook.

Polito points out that trafficking isn't just about the sex trade. It also happens, she said, to immigrants who turn to “coyotes,” people who they pay to smuggle them across the Mexican-American border for work, only to be exploited.

“It's really so hidden that people don't realize it's going on,” she said.

She's glad for the new law, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Monday, that adds penalties for perpetrators of child sex slavery. So often, she said, it's easy for the victims to feel guilt for what they've done, adding, “This puts the wrongdoing on the perpetrators.”

Polito and Goodson don't know personally of victims here but believe it's possible.

They said they're going to conferences on the issue, like a recent one in Grand Rapids where groups are actively involved. Goodson said he'll be at the Super Bowl in Indi-anapolis to hand out fliers about the issue.

Staff writer Joseph Dits:

To connect locally

Find The Michiana Alliance to End Slavery on Facebook. The group will show the documentary “Sex and Money” at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 and then discuss it. The film is about sex trafficking and modern efforts to stop it across the United States. To make a reservation or to learn more about the group, contact Stephanie Polito at 312-852-8089 or Or contact John R. Goodson at 574-520-2061.,0,729620,print.story



L.A. judge plans to open child dependency courts to press, public

The presiding judge of Los Angeles County's juvenile court said Monday he would issue an order in the coming days that would increase access for the press and public in a branch of the legal system that handles child abuse and foster care cases.

Judge Michael Nash's annoucement capped a hearing on his proposed order that drew an overflow crowd to hear a debate that had sharply divided many involved in the child welfare system.

Much of the debate since his proposal was floated in November centered on the perceived benefits or weaknesses of more openness, but Nash opened his hearing by saying he wanted to focus solely on existing law and stay clear of broader policy discussions.

“My purpose is to implement the statute that applies and the case law that applies,” Nash said.

Under his proposed order, the news media would be presumed to have a legitimate interest that would allow them to attend hearings. Other members of the public would have to demonstrate a legitimate interest or be present with the consent of the child or the child's attorney.

The news media and other members of the public could be barred from the courtroom but only after an objection is raised by one of the parties to the case. The objection would have to demonstrate that “there is a reasonable likelihood that access will be harmful to the child's or children's best interest.”

Kelli Sager, an attorney for the Los Angeles Times, said Nash's proposed order finally provides a road map for judges who are attempting to implement a law that allows them to “admit such persons as he deems to have a direct and legitimate interest.”

“For 20 years,” she said, “there has been no process set up … and the process has been inconsistent or ad hoc at best.”

Leslie Starr Heimov, executive director of the Children's Law Center of California, which represents the vast majority of children in the dependency system, said her firm continues to consider an appeal if the order is implemented. However, she said recent revisions “largely cured” her objections by raising the bar for non-news-media members of the public to remain in the courtroom.

Heimov said in an interview that her biggest remaining concern involves the hearings that would take place if an objection to public or news media attendance is raised. Such hearings should be closed to the public, she said, while lawyers argue about the potential harm to the child's interests.

“Otherwise, we're exposing the child to harm before the finding of the harm,” she said.

If that issue is resolved, she said her office may not appeal the order.


From the Department of Justice

Ohio Man Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison for His Participation in an Online Child Pornography Bulletin Board

WASHINGTON – An Ohio man was sentenced today in Riverside, Calif., to 35 years in prison and lifetime supervised release for his participation in an online child pornography bulletin board, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California and Assistant Director in Charge Steve Martinez of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.

Billy Wade Carroll of Dayton, Ohio, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips. In October 2011, Carroll, 51, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to advertise, solicit, transport, distribute, receive and possess child pornography and one count of committing a child pornography offense while being required to register as a sex offender in Ohio.

Today's sentencing is the result of an international investigation into the “Lost Boy” online bulletin board. The Lost Boy bulletin board, according to court documents and proceedings, was dedicated to men who have a sexual interest in young boys and was established to provide a forum to trade child pornography.

Evidence presented at trial established that from at least September 2007 until January 2009, Carroll was an active member of the bulletin board and made more than 100 posts. He supplied images of child pornography for other members to download and also made requests on the board seeking out particular images to help supplement his child pornography collection.

Federal authorities, working in conjunction with a coalition of international law enforcement agencies, shut down the Lost Boy bulletin board approximately three years ago. As a result of the investigation, 16 named defendants were charged in the United States and arrested for their roles in the bulletin board. To date, 15 defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial, and one defendant died in custody. Approximately six more men have been charged with child molestation as a result of the investigation. The investigation also led to the identification of 27 domestic victims of child abuse, some of whom were portrayed in images posted to the Lost Boy bulletin board.

According to court documents and proceedings, law enforcement authorities discovered the Lost Boy bulletin board after receiving information from Eurojust, the judicial cooperation arm of the European Union. Eurojust provided U.S. law enforcement with leads obtained from Norwegian and Italian authorities indicating that a North Hollywood, Calif., man was communicating with an Italian national about child pornography and how to engage in child sex tourism in Romania. Acting on the information from Europe, the FBI executed search warrants that led to the discovery of the Lost Boy network. Further investigation revealed that Lost Boy had 35 members, 16 of whom were U.S. nationals. Other members of the network were located in countries around the world, including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

According to court documents, Lost Boy had a thorough vetting process for new members, who were required to post child pornography to join the organization. Once accepted, members were required to continue posting child pornography to remain in good standing and to avoid removal from the board. According to court documents, Lost Boy members advised one another on techniques to evade detection by law enforcement, which included using screen names to mask identities and encrypting computer data.

International law enforcement efforts involving European law enforcement, the Brazilian Federal Police and other agencies have identified child molestation suspects in South America, Europe and New Zealand. Three suspects in Romania, one in France and another in Brazil have been charged, and offenders have been convicted in Norway and the United Kingdom. Law enforcement have also identified dozens of child victims located in Norway, Romania, Brazil and other nations.

The investigation into the Lost Boy bulletin board was led by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in conjunction with the Los Angeles-based Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team. The High Technology Investigative Unit of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, along with Eurojust, have provided invaluable assistance during the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joey L. Blanch and Yvonne Garcia of the Central District of California and CEOS Trial Attorney Andrew McCormack.


From ICE

ICE arrests 20 in operation targeting sexual offenders in Carolinas, Georgia

ATLANTA – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) administratively arrested 20 aliens convicted of sexual offenses in the Carolinas and Georgia Monday through Wednesday as part of Operation SOAR (Sex Offender Alien Removal), which targets criminal aliens who are removable due to convictions for sexual offenses.

"ICE uses its unique immigration authorities to identify and arrest those who present a threat to our community," said Felicia Skinner, field office director of ICE ERO in the Carolinas and Georgia. "By taking these criminals off the streets we truly have made our communities safer, particularly for our children, who are most often the victims of these offenders."

In North Carolina, a total of 12 arrests were made, primarily in the Charlotte and Raleigh areas. Of the remaining eight arrests, two were made in South Carolina and six in Georgia.

Some of the most egregious offenders arrested include:

  • A 48-year-old Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident convicted in Harris County, Texas, district court of indecency with a child and sentenced to four years in prison. He is being held in local custody pending transfer to ICE for removal proceedings.

  • A 34-year-old Mexican citizen convicted in the district court at Monroe, N.C. for the offense of misdemeanor assault on a female and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He was also convicted in the superior court of Union County, N.C., for two counts of felony indecent liberties with a child and sentenced to 20 months in prison. He will be held in ICE custody pending his removal to Mexico.

  • A 35-year-old Mexican citizen unlawfully present in the United States convicted in the superior court of Santa Cruz, Calif., for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14 years old and sentenced to three years in prison. He is being held in ICE custody pending his removal proceedings.

  • A 47-year-old Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident convicted in the state court of Fla., Desoto County, for a sex act with a child in familial authority and sentenced to seven years in prison. He is being held in ICE custody pending his removal proceedings.

This enforcement initiative was a part of ongoing operations being conducted in North Carolina in an effort to locate criminal aliens living within the community and who pose a threat to public safety. In addition to the at-large sexual offenders apprehended during this operation, ERO officers assigned to the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) identified another 79 removable aliens currently in state and local law enforcement custody with sexual offense convictions.

ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, fugitives, recent illegal border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States. ICE's enforcement approach is enhancing public safety in communities around the country. In fiscal year 2011, ICE removed a total of 5,849 sexual offenders from the United States.

ICE encourages the public to report suspicious criminal activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE and its online tip form. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.




Open all child abuse cases to the public

by Richard Wexler

Much has been written about the iron curtain of secrecy that allows the state to cover up mistakes when caseworkers investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect.

But instead of seeking true transparency, most advocates are seeking far too little. They want to replace the iron curtain with a funhouse mirror.

Demands that records be released only in cases where a child dies or nearly dies distort the system's failings, leaving the impression that the only mistake workers make is leaving children in dangerous homes.

In fact, child-welfare systems are arbitrary, capricious and cruel. They routinely err in all directions, leaving some children in danger even as many more are taken from homes that are safe or could be made safe if families got the right kinds of help.

A rare chance to see the full story came in 2007 when the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Inspector General released a scathing report on the Department for of Community Based Services office in Hardin County. The report exposed needless removal of children and contempt for families. Among the findings:

"Statements reflecting personal bias against clients were used in documenting incidents and situations in the files. ... DCBS staff complained that other staff made comments reflecting racial stereotypes. ... Social service workers have laughed at parents as they advised them they were removing their children and during the removal process. Social service workers have called clients indecent names."

This report came a year after the Herald-Leader exposed the scandal of "quick-trigger adoptions" — children torn from everyone they know and love and rushed to termination of parental rights so the state could collect what amounts to bounties from the federal government.

In 2010, Kentucky took away children at a rate more than 30 percent above the national average and double the rate of states widely regarded as, relatively speaking, models for keeping children safe — even when rates of child poverty are factored in.

The problem of children left in abusive homes and the problem of children torn needlessly from everyone they know and love are not opposites that need to be "balanced." Rather, they are directly related.

We've all read the stories about caseworkers overloaded with 50 or 60 cases each.

A lot of what is overloading those workers are cases of children needlessly removed from their homes. But it's hard to see that when looking at the system through a funhouse mirror.

Kentucky needs real transparency. That means:

¦ A strong rebuttable presumption that all court hearings in child-welfare cases are open to the media and public. More than a dozen states already do this. Not one state to open these hearings has closed them again.

That's because all the fears of opponents proved groundless. All over the country, onetime opponents of open courts became converts after they saw how well it worked.

¦ A strong rebuttable presumption that most documents are public not only in death and near-death cases, but in all cases. Where a particular document's disclosure might harm a child, a lawyer for that child or the parents should be able to ask a judge to seal it, with the judge making the final decision.

¦ Give the Department for Community-Based Services the right to comment on specific cases. Agencies like it have this right in a few states. This won't stop the agency from stonewalling, but at least agency officials wouldn't be able to hide behind a law that supposedly prevents them from discussing a case.

That might make reporters more willing to publish the stories they hear over and over from families whose children have been taken needlessly.

Judge Paula Sherlock declared: "Once the obituary is written, the gloves come off. We need to take a clean look at what happened."

But if the goal is fewer obituaries, the gloves need to come off a lot sooner.



Sunday Morning Radio Show Gives Tips to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Don Dymer, president and chief executive officer of SingleSource Services, background screening company in Jacksonville Beach, Florida shared eye opening facts about child sexual abuse on Sunday's Inside Jacksonville radio show. He was interviewed by host by Jim Byard, production manager for Renda Broadcasting Corporation.

Jacksonville, Florida (PRWEB) January 30, 2012

"Criminal background checks aren't enough to keep child molesters away from children," explained Don Dymer of SingleSource during his Sunday morning interview on "Inside Jacksonville." The radio show is hosted by Jim Byard and aired on four stations, Lite, 96.1; Country Legends, 100.7; Sunny, 94.1 and Gator Country 99.9.

"What has been frustrating to me over sixteen years in the background screening industry and a full career before that in law enforcement at Scotland Yard, is that our criminal record system doesn't provide enough insight about those who would victimize children and youth," Dymer continued. "That frustration lead me on a journey over a year ago to find out if there was anything out there that could supplement finger-printing and background checks and fill that critical void."

Now Dymer is ready to share his findings with everyone at an all day education conference planned on February 3. He organized the Protect the Children Conference being held at the University of North Florida's University Center. He has brought together professionals from mental health fields, juvenile justice systems and organizations dedicated to helping prevent child abuse, and, provide support for victims together for one day to let the world know about a powerful adjunct to traditional background screening practices.

"I have discovered an amazing assessment tool, that, combined with thorough background screening, finger printing and reference checks can identify with an incredibly high degree of accuracy if a person lacks an understanding of what boundaries should exist between adults and children."

Byard asked Dymer, "How could there still be so much threat out there? We warn our kids so all the time about the danger of strangers?" To which Dymer explained that according to research by many organizations, including Abel Screening, 90% of the victims are abused by people they know, love or trust.

Child abusers groom not just their victims, but the victims' families as well. Parents have been lulled into a false sense of security and often tell themselves that they have done their part by warning their children to stay away from strangers. Dymer urges not just parents, but those actively involved as volunteers or workers in schools, youth organizations and day care centers to understand the warning signs.

"Be aware of the coach or volunteer devoting too much time and attention to one particular student or athlete. Not just the star of the team, but look out for a little too much attention to one student over another. Invitations to watch sports events at their homes without parental supervision or often, without other classmates, overnight trips, one-on-one situations where the child or youth is isolated from parents and friends to spend alone time with an adult outside of the family unit should be noticed and not ignored." 81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances (Snyder, 2000).

The Protect the Children Conference is a must for parents, guidance counselors, daycare and preschools, churches, children's homes, foster agencies, advocacy agencies, hospitals and rehabilitation centers as well as those in the justice system.

Child sexual abuse persists in places where our children should be safe, explained Don Dymer. The Protect the Children Conference offers seven continuing education credits for The National Board of Certified Counselors, the American Psychological Association and five credits from the Society of Human Resource Managers. There is still time to sign up by going to



Human trafficking bill heads to Indiana Governor

Decision could come in time for arrival of the Super Bowl.

by Michael Puente

January 30, 2012

A bill to toughen Indiana's penalties for sex trafficking could be law within days and just in time for the Super Bowl, which officials fear could become a magnet for prostitution.

The bill gives greater latitude to prosecute those who force girls, some as young as 12, into the paid sex trade. As many as 150,000 people are expected to descend upon Indianapolis for this Sunday's Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

Officials anticipate a substantial increase in prostitution, with out-of-town girls brought in to meet the demand.

“We need to be protecting our children,” says Abby Kuzma, head of the Consumer Protection Division for the Indiana Attorney General's office.

Kumza spearheaded the office's push in the Indiana legislature for passage of the bill. She says victims are often abused. Volunteers, including cab drivers, have been trained what to look for in those visiting the city.

“We will be working on the ground and through the Internet. We will have volunteers working very hard to try to identify victims and rescue them,” Kuzman told WBEZ in an interview earlier this month. The law strengthens current state regulations in several ways:

  • For Individuals who are arrested for human trafficking those under 16 years of age, prosecutors will no longer have to prove force or threat of force against the victim

  • The law amends who can be prosecuted. Indiana's current statute limits prosecution to parents or guardians who sell their children. The law is expanded to include any individual who sells children.

  • Sexual conduct such as fondling, arousing or other activity that is otherwise not technically prostitution, will be subject to prosecution.

  • The bill makes recruiting, transporting or harboring anyone younger than 16 for prostitution a Class A felony punishable by a prison lasting between 20 and 50 years.

The Indiana House voted 93-0 in favor of the bill late last week. It cleared the state senate in a 48-0 vote, just days after the new legislative session began in early January.

Final action in the House was held up by several weeks while Democrats boycotted the House. They were protesting contentious right-to-work legislation proposed by House Republicans.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' office has not said when the official signing of the bill will take place. Daniel's press secretary, Jane Jankowski, told WBEZ the signing is expected to take place this week.


Hundreds Rally Against Human Trafficking in Pomona

Often thought of as a foreign problem, human trafficking is prevelant in Southern California

by Samantha Tata

A car slows down for two female police officers posing as prostitutes on Holt Boulevard, known to sex workers throughout southern California as "the track", during a major prostitution sting operation in Pomona.

More than a hundred people protested human trafficking during an awareness event in Pomona Sunday.

About 15,000 to 17,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the U.S. every year and nearly 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being swept into commercial sexual exploitation, according to estimates by the CIA and the U.S. Department of Justice respectively.

This figure stands in stark contrast to the perception that human trafficking is a foreign problem, one that does not enter U.S. borders.

"People in our society come across victims each and every day, they just don't know it," said Kay Buck, executive director the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles.

California is among the most vulnerable states for human trafficking, and Los Angeles is one of the top three points of entry for trafficking victims, according to CAST statistics.

Pomona "is sitting right in the middle, sandwiched between major areas of trafficking," said Pam Neighbour, director of the SHE Community of Pomona, citing the city's position between San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, areas that the FBI has deemed hubs of prostitution.

Street prostitution has become a significant problem in Pomona, where many of the prostitutes are young girls, Buck said. Pomona police have established a two-person team to investigate and help eradicate the growing issue.

"I think they're on the right track," said Buck, whose organization works with law enforcement on trafficking cases. "They're reaching out, gaining the trust of these victims and trying to provide access to (alternative ways to make a living)."

Public awareness was a major part of the day's event. Neighbour encouraged people to educate themselves on the issue and learn the national human trafficking hotline number – 888-373-7888.

The impetus for bringing an awareness campaign to Southern California came after Neighbour visited Thailand and Cambodia, where human trafficking is a big problem. She said meeting the victims of human trafficking gave her a renewed sense of reality.

"I thought, 'Wow, this really happens,' and it could be my neighbor down the street or the young at-risk kids at the local school," she said.

When Neighbour returned from her trip to Thailand and Cambodia, she discovered several organizations in Pomona were dedicated to stopping human trafficking and sexual exploitation but there was lack of public awareness.

Human trafficking is defined as performing labor or commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion, according to the Department of Justice. If the victim is under 18, those actions are considered human trafficking even if force, fraud or coercion are not present.

People tend to think of modern-day slavery in terms of sex slavery, Buck said. But forced labor slavery is a significant issue in the Inland Empire and Southern California.

The majority of human trafficking - about 80 percent - is classified as sex trafficking, according to the Department of Justice. About 10 percent is classified as labor trafficking.

Sunday's event featured a screening of the film "FLESH: Bought and Sold in the US," a piece on the issue of human trafficking in the United States. Producers of the film were joined by representatives from the Pomona Police Department, California Against Slavery and Traffic Free Pomona for a panel interview.

This was the first time Mosaic Pomona hosted such an event in the area, but Neighbour said previous events in Chino and Chino Hills turned out hundreds of demonstrators.

Awareness campaigns and events dotted the Southland this weekend, with an anti-human trafficking awareness walk in San Bernardino County Saturday.

Emails were pouring in Sunday morning with interested parties curious about the event, Neighbour said, which was free and did not require an RSVP.

"It seems like once the word gets out and the public hears about it, the initial response is that 'I want to do something,'" she said.


For men and boys, a silver lining amid sex abuse scandals

by Jessica Ravitz , CNN

(CNN) -- Advocates and therapists for survivors of male sex abuse say the recent scandals at Penn State and elsewhere may help men who were abused as children, and boys being abused today, step out of the shadows and get the support they deserve.

They also hope society can become better educated about the issue.

"The allegations have kick-started a public dialogue about sexual violence and the community's responsibility," says Jennifer Marsh, who directs hotlines at RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. "It's a conversation we have to have and can't shy away from."

If increased Web traffic and calls to hotlines are any indication, the tide for men and boys may, in fact, be turning.

National organizations like RAINN, MaleSurvivor and 1in6 -- a reference to research estimates that one in six men have been sexually abused as children -- all report increased attention since the story about former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky first broke in early November, setting off what seemed like a domino effect of allegations at Syracuse, The Citadel, the Amateur Athletic Union and elsewhere.

RAINN saw a 54% increase in traffic to its online hotline in the week after the Penn State story made headlines. Though RAINN does not ask the gender of hotline visitors, Marsh says the organization has anecdotally seen "a significant increase of male visitors."

The experience of two organizations that specifically exist for the benefit of men and boys may be even more telling.

Words matter in Penn State perjury case

MaleSurvivor, which provides resources, information, discussion boards and recovery retreats, received nearly 135,000 online visits in November, a dramatic jump from its monthly average of 100,000.

Likewise, website traffic at 1in6 has boomed from an average 475 visits a week to as many as 1,200, according to a founding board member.

Calls to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) also have gone up, both locally and nationally, by 20% to 30% since the recent wave of stories broke, says David Clohessy, the organization's executive director.

Both hope and desperation could be driving the increase, he says.

Survivors of clergy sex abuse who didn't come forward before -- or did but didn't feel heard -- may see the overwhelming attention and outrage and believe this is their time to talk. And they may be motivated by the realization that society has not progressed as much as they had hoped.

"There's an assumption that surely, after all these [Catholic Church] lawsuits and payouts and scandals, surely no institution ignores child sex abuse these days," Clohessy says. "So when they see the stories out of Syracuse, Penn State and The Citadel, they might think, 'My gosh, I better come forward.' "

Another motivation to speak up now, Clohessy says, is thanks to the wonders of the Internet.

The stories in the news have prompted men, who may have put aside thoughts of their former abusers for years, to search online for their abusers' names. Clohessy says these men are finding out that maybe the teacher who officials vowed would never teach again is now offering private music lessons in his home, or the coach who was ousted has a wife running an in-home day care center. Betrayed by false promises and outraged, some of these men are compelled to act.

They're not alone

Coming forward for any survivor of sexual abuse is complicated, and it's only more so for men and boys, experts say.

Men may have a harder time seeing themselves as "survivors" or "victims." Even identifying what they experienced as "abuse" can be a stretch for some, says Jim Hopper, a clinical psychologist who's worked in the field for 20 years. And strolling into, or calling a hotline affiliated with, a "rape" or "sexual assault" crisis center? That may be years off, if that day ever comes.

It's for this reason that 1in6, which Hopper helped found, avoids using labels. With pages like "Sorting It Out for Yourself," 1in6's website offers a safe entree for men to explore whether something that might have happened to them as children is affecting them today -- whether it's fear of intimacy, drug dependency, pornography or sex addiction, Hopper explains.

The 1in6 stated mission is "to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives."

Jim Struve, a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City, has worked with male sex abuse survivors for 35 years. He helped organize the first conference exclusively for male survivors, which brought 450 people from 14 countries to Atlanta in 1989. He served on a committee that would establish the National Organization Against Sexual Victimization of Males, which later merged with and became known as MaleSurvivor. He's facilitated 35 weekend recovery retreats for the organization since 2003.

Like Hopper, he says language matters.

"How males are asked about abuse influences their answers," he says. "If you ask most males, 'Were you sexually abused?,' they will answer, 'No.' But if you ask them behavioral/descriptive questions like, 'What age was your first sexual experience?' 'How old was your partner?' or 'Was this sexual experience consensual?' ... men will often describe situations that are abusive, while not defining them as abuse."

One in eight rape victims is male. One in six men were sexually abused as children. These are facts that experts like Struve say need to be heard, repeated and accepted.

Male survivors "have been in the shadows," says Struve, who runs therapy groups for male survivors both at his private practice and through Salt Lake City's Rape Recovery Center. His groups are filled to capacity with waiting lists.

"Most men think 'I'm the only one.' But that's dramatically shifted," he says, as more men face their past and realize they're not alone.

The surge of recent stories also has given hope to those not working exclusively with men.

"We feel very optimistic about the fact that we're at a time in our history when so many male survivors will come forward," says Megan O'Bryan, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. "Ten years ago, we wouldn't have been in that place."

Why now?

It was nearly 10 years ago that the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston blew wide open, spawning an abundance of similar allegations across the globe.

While that story certainly grabbed headlines, the publicity may not have spoken to men in the same way the allegations at big university sports programs have.

These recent stories reach a wider audience, including the sorts of men who flip first to the sports page, tune into ESPN or worship at the altar of football or basketball.

And that may help account for the increase in accusations and calls to organizations, SNAP's Clohessy says.

"In my experience, many people, including many survivors, seek out the entertainment news and sports news and deliberately turn away from the horror that is often in the 'news news' section," he says. "Anytime child sex crimes make it into entertainment programs or sports programs, it does, in fact, bring more survivors of abuse forward and forces them to think about what they've experienced."

Another way in which men appear to be coming forward is through the legal system.

Take, for instance, the influx of calls to the attorney referral line offered by the National Center for Victims of Crime, a Washington-based resource and advocacy organization that helps crime victims rebuild their lives.

Requests for referrals in the area of child sex abuse have tripled since the Penn State story broke, says Mai Fernandez, the organization's executive director. And while some callers have acknowledged that the statute of limitations in their states will probably prevent them from suing, she says men are adamant that they must do something.

They'll say things like, "If I can't sue the guy, I want to expose him in some way so he can't hurt others," she says.

Kelly Clark, a Portland, Oregon, attorney specializing in child sex abuse cases, says he's seen several significant developments specifically triggered by the news.

He says he's gotten about 40 calls from people who want to explore their legal options. Of those, he says about a dozen live in states where they're still within their statute of limitations. He's also received a flood of calls from former and existing clients in need of emotional support. News reports showing people initially more concerned about the Penn State sports program and its legendary coaches than about the victims left them reeling, Clark says. And then they saw Sandusky's denials.

"When child abuse survivors see denials of credible allegations, it tends to send them into orbit because the thing they've fought their whole lives to overcome is the fear that people won't believe them."

Looking ahead

The spotlight has, indeed, stirred a wider conversation. Male survivors may be looking inside themselves and reaching out, just as advocates look and plan ahead.

Like so many other organizations, Childhelp, which helps abused and neglected children, has felt the fallout. Calls to its hotline have gone up, but so has the group's determination to do something in response to what's in the news, says Daphne Young, the group's public relations director.

While initial conversations had already started with the Foundation for Global Sports Development -- a nonprofit previously known as Justice for Athletes -- Childhelp has ramped up the partnership to launch a campaign called "Blow the Whistle on Child Abuse," a crisis intervention and prevention plan for young athletes, their parents, coaches and educators.

The goal is to roll out the campaign in April, Young says. She also says the organization is taking on legislative initiatives, including one that would make it against the law to witness child abuse in action and not intervene and report it.

Other groups are also putting forth proactive measures. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website now has on its homepage links specifically tied to the Penn State scandal, including a collection of resources and articles on child sex abuse, including literature about prevention and risk reduction, answers to common questions and a piece about bystander training.

That men are calling hotlines and visiting websites in greater numbers also signifies an increased need for services tailored to them, such as additional male support groups, says Karen Baker, the center's director.

"They're examining things that happened in their own lives. ... There's a lot of soul searching," she says. "Men are calling in. They're reading about it in the news, and it's triggering them."

She and others say the swift and serious response from authorities, and from those who've come out in support of survivors, is emboldening men and suggesting that times are changing.

"When this kind of story broke with the Catholic Church, it was perceived as still being swept under the rug. This time, there's outrage and heads are rolling," she says. "In that regard, maybe this is going to be a blessing for some people. Maybe it'll be the tipping point."

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