Child abuse: How to respond
If a child tells you he or she has been abused, the Child Advocacy Center recommends the following:
Always believe the child.
Children rarely lie about such an intense and painful topic. Statistics indicate that children only lie about abuse 2 to 8 percent of the time. Your response to the disclosure of abuse is critical to the child's ability to resolve and heal.Assure the child they did the right thing in telling.
A child who is close to the abuser may feel guilty about revealing the secret. The child may feel frightened if the abuser has threatened to harm the child or other family members as punishment for disclosing the abuse.
Tell the child he or she is not to blame.
In attempting to make sense of the abuse, most children will believe that somehow they caused it or may view it as a form of punishment for imagined or real wrongdoings.
Do not make promises.
Let the child tell his or her story, but leave the questions to the professionals.
In child abuse cases, the child's statement often will be the key evidence used by investigators to determine the facts. Preservation of the statement is critical to ensuring the integrity of the investigation. Therefore, when responding to an outcry, let the child use his or her own words to tell you what has happened, but leave the detailed questioning to the professionals. This is critical to ensuring the integrity of the investigation.
File a report with Child Protective Services within 48 hours.
The statewide intake line is available 24/7 at 800-252-5400. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Protecting your child from sexual abuse
by Dr. Gregory Ramey, Contributing Writer
Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series examining the problem of sexual abuse of kids by kids.
We've taken the problem of child sexual abuse very seriously, as evidenced by a 38 percent decline in the incidence of abuse from 1993 to 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. We do a better job educating kids, investigating allegations and incarcerating offenders. Even so, two statistics frighten any parent when it comes to sexual abuse: Abusers are overwhelmingly (at least 90 percent of the time) known to their victims. Thirty-six percent of the time the sexual offender is another child.
This leaves parents in a serious quandary. It's easy to tell kids to stay away from strangers. How do you warn them about their own siblings, cousins, uncles or friends?
Sexual abuse typically occurs in an environment of secrecy and emotional manipulation. Parents can help protect their children by making sure that they are knowledgeable and emotionally strong to deal with such issues. This means engaging children early and often in uncomfortable conversations.
1. Early. When the sexual offender is 12 years of age or younger, they are most likely (57 percent of the time) to select children under 6 years old. Teen offenders (between 12 and 17) prefer children 11 to 14 years of age 43 percent of the time.
This means that discussions about privacy should begin when your child is a toddler, and it starts with giving them the correct vocabulary to identify their own body parts. I don't understand parents' insistence on making up confusing words (“privates,” etc.) to describe sexual organs. Use naturally occurring events such as bath time, visits to the doctors, etc. to educate your kids about privacy and the importance of speaking with us whenever they encounter an uncomfortable situation.
2. Often. Engaging your kids in a discussion of privacy, sexuality and emotional coercion should be a regular event. Tell your children that sexual offenses are rarely committed by strangers. Get ready to answer lots of tough questions.
3. Uncomfortable conversations. I've treated hundreds of sexual abuse victims in my practice, most of whom knew that the sexual acts were wrong but felt fearful about telling someone. The solution is to create an environment where kids feel safe talking with you about tough issues.
Psychologists call this process “desensitization.” The repeated exposure or discussion of some uncomfortable topic in a safe environment makes that conversation less anxiety provoking. Readers of this column know that I'm a big fan of mealtimes as the venue for discussing real-life issues. Use examples from school, work, family or media events to engage your kids in real conversations.
When kids are courageous enough to talk about matters of substance, make sure they get your understanding rather than a lecture. Don't act as if you have to solve all your kids' problems. Often all they need is your warm presence and support.
This topic was easy compared to what's coming up in next week's column: How do you help your teen from becoming a sexual offender?
Dr. Ramey is a child psychologist and vice president of outpatient services at the Children's Medical Center of Dayton.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Linked to Eating Disorders
A direct connection between childhood sexual abuse and eating disorders is being confirmed by a growing number of experts.
For years many mental health professionals have conjectured that anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, and other potentially deadly eating disorders are rooted in childhood sexual trauma. Now studies are offering evidence of a causal relationship.
According to David M. Dunkley, a psychiatric researcher and clinical psychologist at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) in Montreal who studied patients suffering from binge eating disorders, there is a link between severe binge eating and childhood sexual abuse. The results were published in the "International Journal of Eating Disorders."
"It shouldn't come as a surprise that debilitating psychological problems have roots in childhood sexual abuse," says Peter S. Pelullo, founder of Let Go…Let Peace Come In
, a foundation dedicated to helping adult survivors of sexual abuse. "Victims are turning feelings of rage and pain inward and manifest symptoms consistent with trauma, such as low self-esteem, body image issues, and depression."
A frequent guest expert on the Dr. Drew show, Peter S. Pelullo is the author of the newly released book " Betrayal and the Beast
," which portrays his own struggles as a survivor of sexual abuse and sexual predation. His Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation helps and supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world. The foundation has established a strategic alliance with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is working toward preventing child sexual abuse and improving healthcare treatment for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
In his book Peter S. Pelullo shares his own childhood sexual abuse story. For decades he kept hidden and refused to face his own debilitating issues as a survivor of sexual predation—the shame, rage, depression, and other influences that directly impacted his life. Finally, at the age of fifty-five, Peter S. Pelullo confronted the sexual abuse he endured as a child.
Any type of eating disorder can be very dangerous. Here are what eating disorders can cause:
|* Heart disease
* Intestinal issues
* Bone loss
* Dental issues
* Muscle weakness
* Hair and skin problems
A growing number of celebrities have revealed their struggles with eating disorders and sex abuse, including actress Catherine Oxenberg, singer Fiona Apple, poet Anne Sexton, country singer Wynonna Judd, and Oprah Winfrey.
"As a child sexual abuse survivor myself, I struggled with many issues, and among them were bouts of anorexia," says Peter S. Pelullo. "Eating disorders can be deadly. Adult child sexual abuse victims must seek help. Please remember you are not alone and visit the foundation's website www.letgoletpeacecomein.org
Peter S. Pelullo was the founder and owner of a premiere recording studio in the '70s and 80s, where he worked with the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Evelyn "Champagne" King, and many other international acts. He created Philly World Records where he released the artists Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Cashmere, and chart topper Eugene Wilde. He is now an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups. During his journey in recovery, he created the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation, which supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.
For more information contact Gretchen Paules at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.betrayalandthebeast.com
"Betrayal and the Beast" is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Child abuse: Statistics tell widespread tale but crime preventable, Big Country experts say
By Greg Kendall-Ball
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Nearly a year ago, 2-year-old Hayden Vickers died in a Fort Worth hospital, succumbing to what police called "abusive head trauma."
The man charged with his murder originally told police that the boy fell off the bed. But as the investigation continued, evidence of abuse surfaced.
The boy's father and great-grandmother reported Hayden had been punched in the head so hard his retina detached and the imprint of a fist could be seen on his skull.
Franklin Edward Ramey Jr. — whose trial late last year ended in a hung jury — reportedly admitted to police that he had shaken and slapped Hayden in the head and face before throwing him onto a bed. According to court documents, the boy's mother, Amber Vickers, was living with Ramey, her boyfriend, at the time of the Feb. 18, 2011, incident.
Hayden was one of the five abuse- or neglect-related fatalities in the Big Country last year, according to Child Protective Services data.
He was one of the 745 children who were abused or neglected in Taylor County in 2011.
All told, in the 23 counties of the Big Country, more than 1,800 children were confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect this past year.
Of the 6.6 million children in Texas, there were more than 98,000 confirmed victims in 2011.
Child abuse exists, but it's something a local child advocate says most people prefer to ignore.
"People don't want to deal with it. They don't want to acknowledge it," said Melinda Beard, director of the Abilene/Taylor County Child Advocacy Center.
"But we have to."
considering POVERTY, STRESS
A study released last week — authored by Dr. John M. Leventhal, a child abuse specialist at Yale University — paints a depressing picture of the scope and severity of child abuse in America.
Using data from a 2006 pediatric hospital inpatient study, Leventhal was able to look at the most severe forms of physical abuse. Some disturbing truths surfaced.
In that year, for instance, 4,569 children were hospitalized because of abuse across the country. Of those, 300 died.
Leventhal, a physician and medical school professor with more than 30 years' experience, said the sample size of the study was admittedly small but the results were still valuable.
"The numbers may seem low, but that's because we only looked at children who had been admitted to a hospital — not treated in the emergency room or who died on the way to the hospital," he said.
"We know that 300 children died in a hospital from abuse in 2006, but there are 1,700 children who die each year because of abuse and neglect," he said. "This is looking at only the most severe abuse."
Leventhal said the study showed children 1 year old or younger were the most likely to require hospitalization for abuse.
It also showed a strong link between poverty and abuse.
Children eligible for Medicaid, he said, were the victims of serious physical abuse at a rate six times that of those who were not eligible.
"Too many children, especially the very young, suffer serious injuries from child abuse and are hospitalized for those injuries," he said. "Their treatment is twice as long and twice as expensive as children admitted to the hospital for other reasons."
"Poverty puts a stress on our families, and stress can lead to child abuse. Perhaps some of those Medicaid dollars should focus on prevention."
Beard said she agreed that poverty can cause stress — but that it's stress that can lead to abuse, not necessarily poverty — and that child abuse can be prevented.
"In the vast majority of physical abuse cases, it happens with young people — either parents or caregivers — who are under high stress and who have low coping skills," she said.
According to CPS, the most common perpetrator of abuse or neglect is a female parent between the ages of 26 and 35.
Marleigh Meisner, CPS spokeswoman for the region that covers Abilene, said the data was likely skewed toward female perpetrators because CPS deals only with allegations of abuse or neglect that occur within the home.
Beard said the statistic also was likely skewed by the fact that it included neglect (which tended to occur in single-mother households) and not just physical abuse. In her experience, she said, men tended to be the majority of physical abusers.
"There are so many factors, but often it comes down to a mom who has to go to work and can't afford licensed child care, so she leaves her child with a boyfriend or with a sitter who's not qualified," Beard said.
Oftentimes in cases of abuse, Beard said, the incident is a rash reaction to stress — either from a child crying or not behaving properly. With education and training, she said, parents or caregivers can learn not to react with abuse.
"There are community resources and parenting classes available. A lot of times someone who abuses a child was abused themselves. Those classes and resources can help break the cycle," she said.
DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
Through a joint venture of the Regional Crime Victim's Crisis Center, Child Protective Services, Mission Church and the Presbyterian and Methodist children's homes, parenting classes are offered from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.
Leventhal said classes and training can be beneficial in curbing child abuse.
"I think parents and caregivers can be trained to respond nonviolently," he said. "We can help families learn how to deal with child behaviors in a nonviolent manner."
Leventhal said his study showed it was men who were the most common perpetrators when it came to physical abuse.
"When frustrated, women often to do smarter things," he said.
Beard said that statistic was mirrored in Abilene.
Of the 43 physical abuse cases worked by the Child Advocacy Center in 2011, 37 perpetrators were involved. Males accounted for 22 of those, as opposed to 15 females. In 27 instances, the abuser was either the parent or the boyfriend or girlfriend of a parent.
Beard said there were countless cases in which abuse was not reported.
"I think many people don't report for fear of damaging relationships with adults," she said. "But think about the child. It's better to be safe than sorry. The child deserves it."
"Simply calling APD or CPS does not mean someone is automatically going to get in trouble," she said. "It will start an investigation, and only those cases that warrant it, based on evidence, are pursued. As a community, wouldn't we want all these cases investigated?"
Beard said child abuse can be reported anonymously, through the police department or CPS.
"I believe that for every child who is being abused there is at least one adult who suspects abuse and could report it," Beard said. "Every person in this community has a responsibility to protect children. If a person does not report suspected abuse, they are contributing to the continued cycle of child abuse and should be held legally responsible for their failure to report."
Child abuse reports now funneled through Indy
by MARY KATE MALONE and VIRGINIA BLACK -- South Bend Tribune
February 12, 2012
The Perley fourth-grader was well known to the adults who work there, who had knitted their eyebrows in worry several times over the years with how dirty and smelly the little girl was when she arrived at school.
The girl was overweight and suffered from poor self-esteem. Jill Waggoner, who has been a licensed school social worker for more than two decades, says she once raised concerns with the girl's mother, who responded, “We have clean clothes in the house. She's just not choosing to wear the clean clothes.”
But then late last spring, a teacher found disturbing, sexually explicit drawings the girl had drawn.
Waggoner recalls that feces were discovered several times on the classroom floor near where the girl had been sitting.
The child denied anything was wrong. But Waggoner and others, recognizing what they have learned are alarm bells signaling possible sexual abuse, called the state child abuse hot line.
The person at the other end of the phone — a Department of Child Services specialist in Indianapolis — told Waggoner the agency would not investigate further.
Waggoner and her principal appealed to an administrator with the school system, who said, “I'm really concerned about this child,' ” Waggoner remembers. So they reached a supervisor downstate and were again told, “No, it does not meet our criteria.”
That little girl's story reflects a growing concern that DCS — in its efforts to make screening decisions more consistent and more in line with what other states are doing — is “screening out” too many tips of child abuse and neglect.
All things to all people?
In 2010, DCS centralized its child abuse hot line to a single call center in Indianapolis. Rather than county departments fielding their own calls, as they had for years, all callers are now routed to Indianapolis, where an intake specialist decides whether the allegation merits an investigation.
The centralization, which was gradually rolled out in 2010, making 2011 the first full year of all calls going to Indianapolis, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of calls “screened out” statewide.
DCS Director James Payne says the screen-out rate before centralization was 16 percent; records show that rate was 39 percent from September through November 2011.
Payne says Indiana is now in line with the federal average 38 percent screen-out rate, and in achieving that, DCS has narrowed its responsibilities to what state law requires. "We, as government, should be engaged when a child's physical or mental health is seriously endangered or impaired," he says.
“In the past, the department had become all things to all people,” Payne says.
“So, things that mental health should provide, things that education should handle, things that development should handle, and on and on” were being taken on by DCS, he says. “The department became the place where everybody turned to solve a problem. That's why we were at 16 percent (screen-out rate).”
The call center is staffed 24/7 with 62 intake specialists, who ask callers for details about the child, parents, their home and family life. They also ask about medical, criminal and CPS history, whether other children might be at risk, and pages of other questions to determine whether the child is in serious danger.
Calls that are deemed to merit an investigation are forwarded to the appropriate local office. The rest are “screened out.”
Using the same guidelines
Before the centralized call center, counties varied widely in their screen-out rates, Payne says, to the detriment of children who needed help. One county might have investigated 80 percent of its calls, while another investigated close to zero, he said.
Also, a local call center might have become so familiar with false reports from a particular caller that they dismissed the allegation even when it was legitimate.
A centralized call center, Payne says, eliminates that risk by streamlining the intake process with “independent” intake specialists.
“Hoosier children ought to be treated the same, rather than the wide discrepancy we saw in the past and without the bias that may have occurred in the past,” Payne says. “It ought to be assessed individually.”
But what Payne sees as an improvement, others describe as a concern.
Cathy Graham, executive director of IARCCA, An Association of Children & Family Services, says the higher screen-out rate is a statewide issue.
IARCCA, based in Indianapolis, is a nonprofit organization that represents 115 agencies around Indiana that provide services for children.
“They say that's consistent with other states, and that may be true,” Graham says of the screen-out rate. But she's hearing from agencies all over the state worried that some concerns are being overlooked.
In more than 100,000 calls a year to the hot line — DCS recently reported 146,000 calls in 2011 — she notes that certainly some of those are not appropriate for follow-up.
“But when a concerned citizen or school or doctor's office calls and they get screened out,” Graham says, “that's a concern for IARCCA's member agencies.”
Dad says calls overlooked
In October 2011, a Scott County, Ind., attorney filed a lawsuit against DCS, among others, for failing to act on two calls to the hot line.
According to the lawsuit, Travis Thieneman called the abuse hot line on both Dec. 7 and Dec. 12, 2010, telling the agency that he feared for his newborn son, Gaven Henderson-Thieneman.
According to Thieneman's attorney, Gregory Reger, the two parents were not married, and the baby was living with his mother. Reger says the baby's mother had another child who “had some issues as well.”
Gaven was born on Dec. 4 and died of blunt force trauma to the head 18 days later on Dec. 22, the lawsuit says.
Although the baby's mother was never charged with a crime — and is also a defendant in the lawsuit — Reger maintained in a recent phone interview that the recorded calls to the hot line show that Thieneman's concerns were well documented.
“I'm pretty upset about it, as you might guess,” Reger says of the alleged lack of follow-up to the two calls.
Thieneman declined through his attorney to speak with The Tribune. But the allegations in the Scott Circuit Court documents cite state law: DCS “was under a duty to ‘promptly make a thorough assessment' upon the receipt of an oral or written report of suspected child abuse or neglect.”
The response from DCS attorneys in the court file does not include many details, but it generally denies that the agency acted negligently or contributed to the baby's death.
Some doctors worry
Meanwhile, some emergency room doctors have noticed a slower DCS response in some cases.
“If you really feel there is a need to have Child Services out and investigating it right at the time, a lot of times they give the same response: ‘OK, you can go ahead and send them home and we will get someone in touch,'” says Dr. Doyle Yeager, an emergency physician at Elkhart General Hospital and Goshen Hospital.
Yeager says that response is particularly concerning when it means releasing an injured child to a potentially dangerous home. He says the problem occurs most often in cases where the child's injuries are suspicious but not severe enough that they require hospitalization.
Before the centralized call center, “you kind of knew the people, and you could say, ‘You know, I really think you need to see this situation,' twist arms a little bit, get them to show up,” Yeager says. “And most of the time, they would do that. But when you're talking to someone in Indianapolis, it's hard to convey the urgency.”
Yeager says he and his colleagues have noted the difference only in the last year.
“I think it's kind of an across-the-board thing we've noticed,” Yeager says. “It's not as easy to get Child Protective Services out to investigate.”
Are children overlooked?
The judges who handle juvenile court issues in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties are worried that the number of children being referred to their courtrooms are dramatically fewer because they're being screened out, at a time when economic stresses would not suggest fewer children are being abused or neglected.
Elkhart County magistrate Deborah Domine adds that now, the cases that do arrive in her courtroom are more complicated by the time a child in need is identified.
St. Joseph County Probate Judge Peter Nemeth is more blunt about the overall changes he's seen in DCS, starting with the state taking control over the money for those services, including the call center.
“It would be wonderful if society's ills have been cured,” Nemeth says of issues such as single parenthood and economic stresses, which affect both delinquency and CHINS cases, “but unfortunately, I don't think that's happened.
“The local folks don't have much say, in my opinion,” Nemeth says. “I think a cult has been created of ‘Do the least you can do for the children.' When you don't do the right thing right off the bat, you lose a lot of effectiveness in the treatment and rehabilitation of children. ... It's better to err on the side of caution as far as children are concerned.”
Graham of IARCCA notes that centralization has cut ties among agencies that used to work together more.
“It comes down to relationships sometimes,” Graham says.
That's Waggoner's point, too.
“Here's where I think if the system was (still) local, this is where I think that would have been different,” the longtime school social worker says of the screened-out call about the Perley pupil. She says that in the 12 to 15 calls she's made over the last year, she thinks she's spoken with a different DCS employee each time.
“I don't make reports for no reason at all,” Waggoner says. “When you call Indianapolis, they don't know you from Joe Blow. I might as well have been the next-door neighbor.”
Waggoner notes that people would be uneasy calling police through an Indianapolis call center, for instance.
Before, “with the trust we've built and the relationships we had,” she says, “we'd have gotten at least a visit.”
Courts struggle with spike in cases of child abuse, neglect
As numbers rise in Johnson and Jackson Counties, researchers look for reasons why.
by JOE LAMBE --
The Kansas City Star
In courts on both sides of the state line, judges and social workers are facing a grim puzzle: What's behind a spike in the number of child abuse and neglect cases?
While researchers look for a cause — possibly in the weak economy — more and more dysfunctional families in Johnson and Jackson counties are landing in court. There, judges decide whether children stay with their parents, move to temporary foster care or are adopted by new families.
From 2007 through last year, new cases of child abuse and neglect rose from 365 to 561 in Johnson County and from 859 to 970 in Jackson County.
Johnson County in July had to assign a second judge to the docket that handles those cases. The county has to send children to foster homes in Wichita and farther out, said Judge Kathleen Sloan, who has handled the cases for years.
And on both sides of the state line, foster families and the CASA volunteers who represent the interests of children in court are in short supply.
The spike will be felt far into the future because abused children are more likely than others to become criminals, said Mary Marquez, chief juvenile officer for Jackson County Family Court.
“Are we going to see an increase in violent crime in a few years because of this? I think it is a possibility,” she said.
Nationwide, the frequency of substantiated abuse and neglect has declined almost steadily since the 1990s except for some spikes in neglect cases during past recessions, according to federal data submitted by state child care workers.
Experts can't explain the local spike in the context of the national trend, but there are plenty of ideas about what could cause the increase — some of them contradictory.
Molly Merrigan, who has long presided over child abuse and neglect cases in Jackson County, points to the length of the recession: “It's a cumulative thing — at the beginning of a recession, only a few people have lost jobs, and they have hope.”
As things get worse and unemployment benefits run out, people take out their anger on their children, she said. A family's spiraling bad luck can leave grandparents or other relatives without the resources to take children in.
Katherine Sell, a research associate at PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that a study of hospital emergency room reports did find an increase in shaken baby abuse cases during the most recent recession. Muddling the matter, though, a study she conducted in 2010 found no link between physical abuse and economic downturns, although it left much unclear.
“There is no shortage of complexity in this; it is so much about the community you are in,” Sell said.
Some communities might be dodging the ugly spikes because they have long been accustomed to dealing with poverty.
Wyandotte County Judge Daniel Cahill said the number of cases involving children in need of care there did not increase much from 2007 to 2010. Figures are not in yet for 2011.
“Our community was no stranger to high unemployment and thinly stretched resources even before the economic downturn,” Cahill said.
Whatever the cause, the rise in child abuse and neglect cases in Johnson and Jackson counties has created a need for more CASA volunteers, who play a huge role in children's futures as advocates for them in court.
“It takes a few hours a month,” said Lois Rice, director of CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties, “to have a large impact on the life of a child.”
Are Pennsylvania's child-abuse laws failing children?
February 12, 2012
by SARA GANIM --, The Patriot-News
Pennsylvania has a reputation on child sex abuse laws that no state should envy.
It was the last state to allow children who are victims to testify against their abusers through video conference.
For years, Pennsylvania gave up federal money because it was the only state not in compliance with federal child abuse laws.
It remains the only state that doesn't allow experts to testify at trial about the behavior of child victims, such as why they might wait years before coming forward to police, continue a relationship with the abuser, or why they might not immediately tell police about all of the abuse.
There also is no state training for mandatory reporters in Pennsylvania.
And child abuse is defined in such a way that you could walk up to a 5-year-old on the street, punch that child in the face, get convicted by a jury and still not be listed in the state child abuse registry.
If convicted, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coach accused of sexually abusing 10 boys, probably won't have to register either, simply because child abuse here hinges on a relationship between child and abuser. A family member or a teacher, for example.
If all this seems antiquated, it's because child-abuse laws in Pennsylvania really haven't changed much since the 1970s.
Advocates and experts, along with some lawyers, judges and politicians, have been screaming about it for years.
But the country is now focused on the Keystone State. The horrific acts alleged against Sandusky, and the alleged missed opportunities to stop abuse, have grabbed national attention and motivated several other states to propose changes to their laws — Iowa, Washington, Virginia and Georgia, to name a few.
There are 25 states in which legislation was offered in 2012 on the reporting of suspected child abuse.
But those serving on Pennsylvania's Task Force on Child Protection, which was created in December by the General Assembly to study sex-abuse prevention, say they want to make sure the state isn't making knee-jerk decisions but instead making thoughtful recommendations to legislators by the end of the 2012 session.
“In Pennsylvania, we are way, way overdue for a real scrubbing and real review and deliberate examination of how we protect children,” said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee. “We were really needing that five years ago, so now, in the wake of the Penn State scandal, those of us who are advocates of children are exercising a huge, ‘Take a deep breath, let's be deliberate about this.' In many ways, there have been some very fundamental flaws in Pennsylvania law in general.”
Several lawmakers have introduced proposals for changing the laws on reporting child abuse. It's one of the biggest issues that has come of this scandal: Should a person be required to call 911 if child abuse is suspected? And if he or she doesn't, should the penalty be greater than a summary fine?
Other states reacting to the Penn State scandal are focused mainly on that issue, too. But Palm said it has to be about more than just something that looks good in a news release. So all this week she's been asking for patience.
“Everyone's very focused on reporting. ... That's key, but it is just one of the bullets,” Palm said. “Reporting has very little value if you can't in fact respond to it the right way.
“The task force is less focused on what press releases get issued and more about what we need to do: fundamental reform,” she said.
A ‘Herculean' task
On the surface, statistics appear to show that Pennsylvania has a far lower rate of child abuse than comparable states like Ohio, Virginia and New Jersey.
But part of the reason is because Pennsylvania is limited in what it classifies as child abuse.
Only parents, a paramour of a parent, a caregiver or someone older than 14 and living with the child can be considered a perpetrator.
That does not mean police can't investigate, charge and eventually convict anyone of abusing a child. What it means is that ChildLine, the state hotline and abuse registry used for things such as background checks, would not recognize that person as an abuser.
“From the judiciary down, historically, there's been concerns about how child abuse is investigated,” said Jason Kutulakis, a Chambersburg attorney.
Kutulakis is on the 11-person committee, and has worked with Children and Youth Services for several years.
“The brush will be very wide when we start this process,” he said. “And I still remain — maybe overly — optimistic that we're going to do good things. If it's not going to happen now ... it isn't going to happen for a really long time. We want Pennsylvania to set the bar to be looked at to do really positive things.”
Given where the state ranks now, that task is “Herculean,” he said.
And there's another reason Pennsylvania needs to deal with this first: It's directly linked to mandatory reporting.
“Because even if I'm a mandated reporter calling ChildLine, ChildLine might say, ‘That's not child abuse,' ” Palm said. “There's a whole lot of steps until someone really gets connected to a real investigation, if someone even gets connected to a real investigation.”
On the federal level, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. proposed legislation that would require all states to give up federal money unless they pass a mandatory reporting law for every adult. Casey introduced the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid legislation one week after Penn State fired head football coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier in the wake of the scandal.
“We keep acting like really a child abused in New Jersey is different than a child abused in Delaware or Pennsylvania,” Palm said. “Why are we not talking about some degree of national standards around reporting?”
Why would an abuse victim have dinner with his or her accuser?
When approached by police, why might he or she lie about abuse, or admit to only minimal sexual contact?
Why might his or her story change over time? Or why would he or she wait years, even decades, to tell it?
Those behaviors are common in child sex abuse cases, and they are often used by the defense as strategy.
In Sandusky's case, for example, his attorney has already publicly said that at least one victim told police a story that morphed over time from simply touching to extremely sexual acts.
And 12 jurors unfamiliar with abuse might not understand.
That's why all 49 other states, the District of Columbia, the federal government and the military allow experts to testify at trial about the behaviors of abuse victims.
Pennsylvania does not. And it causes prosecutors to lose cases, said Greg Rowe, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association's legislative liaison.
“We need to be able to respond in kind that there is a reason for this,” Rowe said. “It's not the victim's fault. We can bring an expert to say why this sort of thing happens, why it does not mean that the evidence is less strong as a result.”
The reason for the delay in Pennsylvania is case law that dates to 1988 that such expert testimony shouldn't be allowed in court in this state. Legislation would override that, Rowe said.
“I understand, having just taken off the judicial robes a little bit ago, the philosophical reluctance to turn trials into battles of experts,” said Dave Heckler, the Bucks County district attorney, a former judge, and chairman of the task force. “That being said, I agree ... that states broadly have reached the conclusion that there are certain behaviors [that are] not necessarily intuitive or part of our general experience. That is a proper subject for expert testimony.”
In September, the state House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue, and the response was positive, Rowe said.
Rep. Ron Marsico's office moved the bill out of the House by unanimous vote in June, and it's in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Stewart Greenleaf's office said he supports the idea. But Greenleaf wants to make sure any bill allows for the defense to bring an expert into court, too.
Pennsylvania falls short
Scandal has long been a jumping-off point for advocates.
In 2006, changes were made to expand the state's statute of limitations laws in child sex abuse cases because of the grand jury report that led to abuse charges within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
But comparatively, Pennsylvania still falls short.
There are about 15 states that have eliminated the statute of limitations for criminal cases of sex abuse against children.
In civil cases, Delaware and Maine have done away with it.
Pennsylvania advocates are hoping the case against Sandusky, because it has brought worldwide publicity, will also bring more change.
“I think the Penn State case ... has helped people understand how arbitrary the statute-of-limitations law is,” Palm said. “You can have a child who experiences the same crime at the hands of a perpetrator, but because of the year, their access to justice is different. ... I think this Sandusky case has helped us as a community better understand that.”
There are pending bills — introduced long before Sandusky was a household name — to expand the law further, but so far they've had little traction each legislative session.
A nationwide dialogue
Even if nothing changes because of the Sandusky case, there is no denying that it has opened up a national dialogue on sex abuse that is unmeasured for a crime that still carries a strong stigma.
That could help a national push to change the definition of rape, which right now is more in line with old-fashioned ideas like the one the late Paterno referenced when he said he'd never heard of rape between men.
Well, the law doesn't always call that rape, either.
Many times, it's classified as a form of sexual assault, which skews national numbers, advocates say.
“The public is going to be better informed in what's going on in their community,” said Carol Tracy, with the Women's Law Project. The organization began asking the FBI to take a look at sex crimes reporting more than 10 years ago in response to the way the Philadelphia police department investigated sex assaults.
“The other thing is that funding follows uniform crime data,” she said. “So this data has been deflated for so many years that it's likely adequate funding hasn't been available to deal with sex crimes, and there's significant research that tells us that sex predators are serial predators and are often also involved in other violent crime.”
While the FBI considers the change, women's groups are celebrating another statistic with trepidation.
More women seem to be reporting sex crimes.
It's not dramatic. But there's a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in reporting, which is contributing to an increase in court cases.
“I think people are having the conversation much more frequently than they did a decade ago,” said Kristen Houser, vice president of communications for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Local district attorneys say higher reporting numbers are credited to better investigations and better trained detectives.
But these cultural changes don't translate as much to rape involving two men.
Tracy offered this anecdote: “I got a two-page letter from a mother whose son was raped on a college campus several years ago, and her description on how shoddily he was treated left me speechless.”
Parents learn belatedly of Pacoima teacher's arrest
L.A. Unified officials scramble to explain why parents were not told of the October arrest of a third-grade teacher at Telfair Elementary for alleged sexual abuse.
by Rick Rojas and Howard Blume
February 11, 2012
Los Angeles school officials were scrambling Friday to explain why parents were never notified about the October arrest of a teacher at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima for alleged child sexual abuse.
Paul Chapel, a third-grade teacher who has been suspended without pay, is charged with 15 counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse with three girls and one boy, each younger than 14, between Sept. 13, 2010, and April 15, 2011, according to a Sept. 28 complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
The disclosures about Chapel, 50, come in the wake of an abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary, south of downtown, in which two veteran teachers were arrested on charges of lewd conduct against children. That school's entire staff has been replaced, at least temporarily, as an investigation proceeds.
Parents at Telfair were sent a letter Friday and the Los Angeles Unified School District is planning to schedule a Monday evening meeting as well.
School board member Nury Martinez, who represents the area, said she first learned of the case from media reports.
"I'm not making any excuses about any of this," Martinez said. "I want changes. This is completely unacceptable."
"I'm so outraged and so frustrated that we can't seem to protect children," she added.
Martinez said she met with about 40 outraged parents in the school library Friday morning. They demanded answers that she did not have.
A district statement said that "complaints against the teacher were lodged in the spring of last year," leading to Chapel's removal from class last April.
Los Angeles police requested that no information be released during the investigation, which included interviews with Chapel's former students, school district officials said.
But no such stipulation was made after the arrest four months ago.
"We need to find a way to work with authorities on what we are allowed to share," Martinez said.
Chapel's arrest was first reported Thursday by the Los Angeles Daily News. He is in custody in lieu of $2.2-million bail.
Signs of human trafficking can stay hidden in plain sight
by Margaret Bernstein
Eric Tutstone warned the buyer that the next time he made a sale to her, he'd charge a lot more.
But that day in 2010 he settled for $300, saying it would at least give him some pocket change. What Tutstone sold, inside a Starbucks in Cleveland's Warehouse District, was a 16-year-old girl.
Yes, that's correct. He sold a girl -- to a madam in the commercial sex industry. Tutstone was arrested right after the transaction and convicted recently in U.S. District Court.
Authorities say the girl he treated like a piece of property is now back in school, and trying to put her life back together.
I know. It sounds unfathomable.
But increasingly, pimps are coercing vulnerable teens into the sex trade. They flatter the girls by telling them they're pretty, develop their trust and entice them to leave their families. Then they isolate them in a world where they're raped and held against their will.
"Many people don't believe it's happening here," says director Karen Walsh of Northeast Ohio's Collaborative Initiative To End Human Trafficking . But it is. About 1,000 American-born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year, according to a 2010 report by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission.
Fueling it all is the multimillion-dollar sex industry. There are piles of money to be had, which is why all types of enterprising people who apparently have no souls are cashing in by entering the pimp business .
The number of Cleveland sex service ads on the Internet has increased dramatically over the past year, says Tim Kolonick of the FBI Violent Crime Task Force.
"Every day, the johns are requesting younger and younger girls," he says. "With the Internet, it's easier to hide underage girls. You don't know who they are until they show up at the door."
And that's not the only trafficking going on in Ohio. An estimated 800 immigrants are exploited annually and forced into sweatshop-type jobs at businesses such as hotels, restaurants and nail shops, according to the Trafficking in Persons report.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center's most recent quarterly report shows that its hotline received more calls from Cleveland than from any other city in Ohio.
Kolonick says when it comes to sex trafficking, the key is to eliminate demand. He intends to be more vigilant in going after the johns, most of whom live in the suburbs.
"The industry succeeds because of its secrecy," says Kolonick. "The johns and the pimps do not want the general public to know about this. That's why they hide it on the Internet, in abandoned homes."
Some cities have specialized facilities where trafficked women can live safe from their victimizers and get their lives together. But in Northeast Ohio, we're just beginning to wake up and realize that modern-day slavery exists.
So the question is: Do we care enough to educate ourselves? I was happy to see that in Medina, more than 100 people crammed the room for a recent awareness meeting.
Let's learn the signs of trafficking, which many say is hidden in plain sight. Here's what you can do:
• Contact the Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking: Call 440-356-2254 or go online to http://collaborativeinitiative.org. Familiarize yourself with trafficking. Learn about efforts to strengthen Ohio's anti-trafficking laws. Ask an expert to talk to your group.
• Support the Renee Jones Empowerment Center: Volunteers are needed at this center on Cleveland's West Side, which helps adult trafficking victims. Call 216-651-9601 or go online to www.rjecempower.org.
• Hand out information. Go online to http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/ for materials that you can print and pass out. There are even fliers in Spanish, Russian, Chinese and other languages that you can slip quietly to foreign workers, if you suspect trafficking.
• Keep your eyes open. For instance, be concerned about houses that attract a lot of car traffic daily. Neighbors said it worried them to see cars coming and going at all times last year at a home in Cleveland's Lee-Harvard area, but they didn't report it. Now they know that the woman who lived there, Pearline Richardson, is accused of holding women against their will and forcing them to have sex with johns in her basement. Agents say she took nude photos of a 16-year-old runaway and posted them on a website, offering her and another woman for sex.
The lesson here? Pay attention to red flags near your home, when you dine out, even when you grab coffee at Starbucks. Report suspicious activity to the FBI (216-522-1400) or to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888).
Point of View: Human trafficking our own backyard?
Until recently, I didn't understand just how big nor did I realize how close to home human trafficking is.
How big you might ask? Human trafficking is a $36,000,000,000 business, that's big! Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women. There are two main forms of human trafficking: Sex trafficking and Labor trafficking. In both forms the victim is an unwilling participant due to force, fraud or coercion.
In January I was able to attend a conference where two of the speakers addressed human trafficking. After listening to both speakers and seeing the facts for myself, my heart was absolutely broken. I always knew human trafficking existed and knew it was huge internationally but never really thought about it being here in my own backyard. What I learned was so shocking, so sickening, so disturbing that I can't get it off my mind. Which I believe is a good thing! I am told education is the key and knowledge is power. So, I thought what can a mom from Zebulon do to help put an end to this horrific crime? I can tell others. I can write to my local newspaper, neighborhood homeowner's associations and get the word out!
The victims of human trafficking are from all walks of life. The human traffickers don't discriminate. It doesn't matter what continent, country, state, town or city you live in. Traffickers could care less if you are rich, poor, educated or uneducated. They don't care if you are a 3-, 13- or 60-year-old. Traffickers see their victims as a product to be prepared, packaged and distributed.
Victims of human trafficking are treated worse than animals. They are stripped of their identity, human rights and dignity. They are often promised things like: a good job, an education so they can achieve the American dream, a false marriage proposal. Some are sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends or extended family members. Others are kidnapped by traffickers. The traffickers use threat, force, beatings, rape, and even threats on the victim's family or children, forced drug use to keep their victims quiet and “compliant”. What about labor trafficking? They are often trafficked through for nanny or maid services, construction, factory, farm workers, nail salons, landscaping, migrants and restaurants. They are transported by foot, cargo ship, air craft, legally with temporary visa, someone from their own country.
Right here in our own backyards you and I probably rub shoulders with victims at our nail salons and restaurants. We purchase things every day that have been made with slave labor, but because we are unaware, we don't know what to look for. So, what can we do? Educate yourself and others. Go to notforsalecampaign.org/ or acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/ to learn more about what human trafficking looks like and how you can help in your community.
Talk about this issue in your local church, with youth groups; teach your children and grandchildren about this issue. Get to know your local law enforcement. Find out if they have even been trained in the human trafficking laws. It is my hope that this will give us a much bigger picture of what is going on around us each and every day in our own backyards. If you suspect something is wrong call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1-888-373-7888.
ICE agent cites 'disturbing and subhuman' methods used to trick young women into sex slavery
Trafficking arrests more than doubled in 2011 but still just scratch the surface
by Erica Pearson
G-men and cops are busting twice as many human traffickers, but advocates say a sickening number of immigrants are being forced into prostitution in the city.
Last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement racked up 172 arrests for trafficking in the metropolitan area, up from 75 the previous year.
Most of the cases involved sexual slavery, though some of the victims worked as maids or in nightclubs for little or no pay.
The NYPD is cracking down, too, statistics show.
It busted 50 people last year for violating a state sex trafficking law, up from 19 in 2010 — though those cases also involve U.S. citizens, usually underage girls.
The immigrant trafficking rings prey on victims as young as 10, usually from impoverished areas of Southeast Asia and Latin America, ICE Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr. said.
“It can be pretty heartbreaking,” said Hayes. “The methods can be pretty disturbing and subhuman.”
Mexican family-run rings from Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, have cornered part of the illicit market.
Advocates say pimps from Tenancingo have coerced hundreds, if not thousands, of women to sell sex in the city.
Young Tenancingo men troll rural villages, promising women love and a bright future in America — delivering them into the hands of relatives who run hooker rings here.
The town of 10,000 is the acknowledged center of the country's forced prostitution trade — famous for elaborate, luxury homes paid for by earnings abroad.
Residents call the palaces “calcuilchil” or “Houses of Ass” in their indigenous language.
Lori Cohen, a lawyer with non-profit Sanctuary for Familes who works primarily with victims of Tenancingo traffickers, said her group helped about 100 international survivors last year.
Most of her clients escaped from “delivery” prostitution — women riding around in livery cabs, servicing as many as 35 johns a day, she said.
“The pattern of trafficking among Mexican women is really horrific,” Cohen said. “We don't talk about our clients as sex workers because they don't experience it as work, they experience it as rape.”
A Hofstra University and LifeWay Network study determined that service providers in the New York area interacted with more than 11,200 human trafficking survivors — both immigrants and American-born — from 2000 to 2010.
Hayes said his agency often finds traffickers after NYPD tips, although local cops don't always realize trafficking is behind a domestic violence incident.
Advocates also say police too often raid brothels and round up the women without digging into their back story.
Since last March, the Legal Aid Society has identified more than 60 trafficking victims — immigrants and U.S.-born — after they were arrested and prosecuted for prostitution, lawyer Kate Mogulescu said.
“We're making dents and we're making progress, but there's still a lot of work to do,” Hayes said. “Quite frankly, it's very difficult for us to break through to the average American, the average New Yorker and let them know that people in 2011 and 2012 are actually held against their will.”
From the FBI
Cyber Alerts for Parents & Kids
Tip #2: Beware of ‘Sextortion'
At the beginning of her summer break in June 2005, a 15-year-old Florida girl logged onto her computer and received a startling instant message. The sender, whom the girl didn't know, said he had seen her photo online and that he wanted her to send him pictures—of her in the shower. When the girl didn't comply, the sender showed he knew where she lived and threatened to hurt the girl's sister if she didn't agree to his demands.
Worried and hoping to avoid alarming her parents, the girl sent 10 black-and-white images. When her harasser said they weren't good enough, she sent 10 more, nude and in color. Then he wanted more.
|Have Information on the Case?
|Hacker Patrick Connoly used a variety of screen names and e-mail addresses, which are listed below. If you have information regarding the case—there may be other victims—please contact your nearest FBI office or submit a tip online .
- CT Chris CT
“Once these individuals have pictures, they want more,” said Special Agent Nickolas B. Savage, who interviewed the girl after she and her mother contacted authorities. “They are then able to say, ‘I want you to do x, y, and z. And if you don't, I'm going to take these photographs, and I'm going to send them to people in your school. I'll send them to your family.'”
Savage, who at the time managed the Innocent Images National Initiative Task Force in the FBI's Orlando office, spent the better part of the next four years chasing the phantoms that had hacked the 15-year-old's computer. The winding path eventually led to two assailants—Patrick Connolly and Ivory Dickerson—who jointly terrorized adolescent girls by compromising their computers, demanding sexual photos or videos, and scouring their social networks. The pair also reached out to the girls' friends—who were duped into downloading malicious software because the e-mails and messages appeared to come from trusted sources.
Connolly and Dickerson, both in prison now, victimized more than 3,800 kids through this “sextortion” technique that duly preyed on kids' innocence about the Internet and their fear of being exposed to their friends and family.
“Oftentimes children are embarrassed, especially thinking they have somehow contributed to their victimization,” said Savage, who now helps lead the Strategic Outreach and Initiaitve Section in the Cyber Division. “So fearing they will get in trouble if they report it, they will continue with the victimization and send individuals what they are requesting. What often happens is the victimization never stops.”
In this case, some girls were terrorized over a span of as many as seven years. Some attempted suicide. One dropped out of high school because she was always looking over her shoulder.
To uncover the scheme, the FBI cloned one of the victim's computers and carried on a two-year undercover correspondence with the hacker, who turned out to be Connolly — a British citizen who was at times in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where he worked as a military contractor and evidently carried out parts of his extortion scheme. The trail also led to North Carolina, where Dickerson was amassing a huge portfolio of pictures and video and secretly recording the webcams of compromised computers. Dickerson was found to have about 230 gigabytes of material, and Connolly had four times that. Dickerson was sentenced in 2007 to 110 years in prison. Three years later, Connolly was sentenced to 30 years.
Savage says locking up the hackers was one of the most rewarding moments in his career. But he knows there are more victims, some who may not know their tormentors are off the streets.
“The thing was, a lot of these kids are just some folder somewhere,” Savage said, illustrating the cold nature of the crimes and punctuating that once material is posted online it's out there for all. “No name. Just pictures and videos in a folder. I know that there are so many more victims out there that are wondering, ‘What ever happened to those guys?' or, ‘Do I still need to be afraid?'”
This story is the second in an occasional series aimed at providing practical web advice and tips for parents and their kids.
Child abuse, neglect challenge for state
February 10, 2012
by Carey Restino
While news of the recent death of a 3-year-old Barrow child touches the hearts of many, it is just one incident in a much larger picture, one that challenges communities across Alaska and puts the state in the top five states nationwide for number of children neglected and abused per capita.
In 2010, the State of Alaska's Office of Children's Service received more than 4,500 allegations of child abuse impacting 2,871 children across the state that were later substantiated. Last month alone, 1,774 children were in placement in Alaska. It's a problem that will only improve with the attention and dedication of all Alaskans, those working with the problem say.
"Unfortunately, child abuse is happening in Alaska every day in every community, among every ethnicity, and every socioeconomic group" said OCS Director Christy Lawton. "It really does cross all lines, and that isn't something the community always wants to acknowledge because it's painful and people don't want to hear about cases of child abuse and neglect."
Lawton said every time there is a case of animal cruelty, it makes her cringe. Often, the public pays more attention to the animal cases than it does to cases of child neglect and abuse. Even worse, while most cases referred to OCS don't wind up as criminal cases, those that do often result in lighter sentences than those dealt to animal abusers.
So what is the biggest thing that Alaskans can do to prevent child abuse? Any time you have a feeling a child might be neglected or abused, report it, says Lawton. In that regard, the department feels like it might be making some headway. Last year, there were more than 16,000 reports of child neglect and abuse — a 15 percent increase from previous years, Lawton said.
The increase in reporting may be a result of several cases around the state that received media attention of late. Or perhaps a media campaign encouraging people to consider it their job to keep Alaska's children safe is having an impact.
And while the increase numbers of reporting are great, even better would be a lowering of the child abuse figures statewide.
"That number represents 9 percent of the total child population of the state that has had a report of child maltreatment," Lawton pointed out, adding that only 39 percent of all reports are investigated.
Substance abuse is a huge problem in these cases, Lawton said, with some 80 percent of cases connected in some way to substance abuse.
"These are families that under other circumstances, without substance abuse issues, would have been doing a fine job of parenting," she said.
Also an issue for the state is the fact that some 61 percent of the children in care are Native Alaskan — a disproportionately high number. That may be in part because Alaskans may be more willing to report concerns about children in certain ethnic groups versus white, middle class families. In addition, high rates of substance abuse and other struggles faced rural villages work against them.
"I think that some of the well known complex trauma issues that many of our communities are facing in terms of generational kinds of issues and struggles are a factor," Lawton said. "There are a lot of hurting people, so it just continues the cycle."
Lawton said OCS works heavily with tribal partners, and tribal organizations are involved in many cases. Children are often far better served by their tribal organization than they would be by the state, she said. A recent survey of tribal partners indicated that while they felt the tribes were included in decisions about how and where to place children, challenges still presented themselves in areas like providing opportunities for continuity of Native values, foods and traditions.
Lawton said OCS has struggled in rural Alaska in two ways: First, it is difficult to keep staff in the rural communities, and at times, those areas will have as many as half of their positions unfilled. Second, it is difficult to find Native Alaska foster families.
Lawton said she's not sure why the latter is true — perhaps it's leftover feelings from past actions by OCS on families, or perhaps its something else. But whatever the reason, it doesn't serve the children, who would benefit from the consistency of care in a Native family setting.
While it may be difficult to report on a friend or neighbor you suspect may be abusive toward his or her family, people can take solace, Lawton said, in the fact that OCS of today is not the same as OCS of 10 or even five years ago. A more holistic approach to investigating a family, for example, rather than a focus on substantiating or unsubstantiating a specific crime or offense had occurred serves the families better, she said.
"I believe in my heart we are a kinder, gentler system than we were," she said.
The department is trying to think outside the box rather than making the knee-jerk reaction to take the children away fro the parent or parents. If enough support exists for a family, for example, the department might leave children in the home even if a parent isn't sober 100 percent of the time as they work through their treatment plan.
"Things don't all need to be wrapped up in a nice, neat ball," she said.
The goal, of course, is reunification with parents, she said, and the state has a 53 percent child reunification rate. National levels are 75 percent, so there's room for improvement there, however.
Lawton said the biggest thing to remember when considering the issue of child abuse and neglect in Alaska is that the people who are struggling with these situations are more often than not struggling themselves.
"The majority of the parents we are dealing with are struggling with issues of known substance abuse, poverty, and they didn't experience nice childhoods, but they love their kids," she said. "If it were not for the fact that they have these problems, they are fine parents."
Resources are available on the OCS Web site, including a DVD for mandatory reporters focusing on what to look for.
For more information, go to hss.state.ak.us/ocs/
Child abuse and Neglect hotlines
Northern Alaska: 1-800-353-2650
Western Region: 1-800-557-3141
Meeting aims to raise awareness of child sexual abuse
by KEITH UPCHURCH
DURHAM – Preventing sexual abuse of children and raising awareness of the problem were the main focus of a meeting Wednesday of civic leaders in Durham and Chapel Hill.
One goal is to have organizations train their staffs about abuse “and do outreach in the community so we can get as much training done for adults as possible,” according to Nancy Kent with The Durham Center, which helped organize the meeting at the downtown Durham YMCA. The Durham Center manages behavioral health and disability services for the county.
The center has partnered with other groups in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Orange and Chatham counties to raise awareness of the issue.
“We want schools, youth sports organizations, faith groups, child-care and other places where children are served” to have staff trained in spotting and preventing sexual abuse, Kent said. “And also we want parents to be better aware of how to supervise and monitor those who are around their kids.”
The annual long-term cost of child sexual abuse in the United States is $35 billion, she said. For the Durham-Orange-Chatham area, it's estimated at $40 million annually.
Figures show that one in six boys and one in four girls in the United States are sexually abused before age 18, and Kent believes the same is probably true for Durham and other communities. “Much of this goes unreported,” Kent said.
A big part of the problem is denial, she said, “thinking that it only happens by strangers, and not realizing that it usually happens by someone the child knows – the people our kids see on a day-to-day basis. They are a much bigger threat than strangers.”
Some of the best ways to prevent abuse, she said, are to be aware of the issue “and be involved in everything that our kids and the kids in the community are doing – to monitor each other. We should realize that this is an across-the-nation issue; it's not confined to a particular race or neighborhood or income. It can be any of our families.”
Also at the meeting was Amanda Nieman, who works with Redwoods Group Foundation. Redwoods Group is a company that insures YMCAs, Jewish community centers and camps to help them build safer communities and reduce risk to children.
Nieman said the foundation aims to increase sex-abuse education beyond organizations to the “broader community.”
“It's important to know that it can be prevented,” she said. “And we all have a role to play in that.”
Sharon Champ decided to attend the meeting as a private citizen, because she has a special interest in the topic. Champ moved to Durham five years ago from New York City, where she worked for Child Protective Services and a unit for victims of sexual abuse.
“The public needs to be more aware of this,” she said. “It's something that's been going on for a long time, and a lot of people need to be educated about it and possibly re-educated about it.”
Champ said children often aren't taken seriously when they report abuse – “and that's how they are victimized.”
“People often don't pay attention to the things kids say to them, and they just have to be more aware. They have to be in tune, and understand that children are people, and we have to protect them. To do that, you have to be more familiar and accepting of what's happening, and then try to figure out what to do if it happens to someone in your family.”
Paedophiles, child abuse and the internet
by Deborah Vassallo
The internet has a great deal to offer. The opportunity to learn and research any number of subjects, or to communicate worldwide with family and friends, to create and maintain business, or to plan your next holiday, are just a few of the options available to the user. Unfortunately not everyone uses the internet appropriately and legally
One of the most internet-based criminal activity which is of great concern to parents, caregivers and law enforcement agencies alike is the large-scale production, distribution, downloading, possession and viewing of illegal ‘child sexual abuse images'. Prior to the internet, obtaining such images was a costly and difficult practice. The risk of being caught was also very high. As the images concerned were mostly in the form of printed photographs, people producing, possessing and selling such images were vulnerable to exposure by law enforcement agencies. The internet has changed this situation dramatically. This kind of activity is now open to thousands of like-minded individuals who choose to hide behind a computer screen to continue scanning for stimulating pictures and circulating illegal images, or to continually seek future potential victims.
Children are often naive, trusting of others and simultaneously in need of attention and affection. This combination of traits makes them an easy target to be enticed into illicit interactions by paedophiles. Chatrooms and social networking sites have facilitated the disclosure of personal information to strangers. Children are at risk of having their safety compromised when this information is accessible to others interested in both online and offline contact. The anonymity of the internet is of benefit to paedophiles and provides them with an environment conducive to the exchange of child pornography, identification of children to abuse, sexual interactions with youths, and support and validation from other adults who share their same sexual preferences.
The online abuser is skilled at collecting information from children, searching profiles for vulnerable targets, and acquiring information on a particular child. Information available online can be used to engage in an online friendship, which is the start of the grooming process. Trust is established between the abuser and the child through the sharing of information, the use of false identities, sending of gifts and pictures, and eventual exposure and desensitization of the child to pornographic content. Subsequently a meeting between the online predator and the child may be arranged. According to Powell (2007) for paedophiles to succeed during their sexual abuse activity, there has to be some level of secrecy and security involved. This is usually done by keeping the child from disclosing the relationship with the abuser by blackmailing, threats and instilling extreme fear on the child victim. This allows the paedophile to be in control of the situation and control the child through shame and fear.
Through the internet, an adult person whose intentions are to abuse a child, can shorten the trust building period and gain confidence from many potential victims at once. Because the internet is anonymous, perpetrators can pretend to be virtually anyone in order to deceive the victim into thinking that they are understanding and sympathetic. As an internet user, an abuser is faceless. S/he can remain within his/her own ‘cyberworld' if the abuser does not choose to meet the victim. Anyone can converse with anyone around the world using a false identity and can portray himself/herself as a child, adolescent or adult, claim to be male or female and be of any age.
What can parents do to protect their children from online predators?
• Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line danger.
• Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite websites.
• Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for an offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
• Understand, even if your child seemed to be a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that s/he is not at fault and is the victim. Such actions are always the abuser's responsibility nothwithstanding s/he would try to convince the child otherwise.
• Instruct your children:
• to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on-line;
• to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
• to be aware that all that is posted online can never be removed.
• to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
• to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
• to never respond to messages or postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
• that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.
• Report abuse - you can either phone Supportline 179 or visit the website www.besmatonline.org.mt or www.appogg.gov.mt - search for the red button REPORT ABUSE and you will be directed to report illegal content that you encountered online.
Agenzija Appogg runs a hotline to deal with child abuse over the internet.The hotline team within Agenzija Appogg takes care of an online reporting system which recieves reports regarding potentially harmful online activity, and of websites containing Child Indecent Material are received. These are assessed by professionals from the hotline team and these deemed illegal are forwarded to the Cyber Crime Unit within the Malta Police Force. The Maltese hotline is a member of Inhope (www.inhope.org), an international association of internet hotlines, present in many European countries and also in Australia, United States of America, South Africa and Taiwan. The mission of INHOPE is to facilitate and coordinate the work of internet hotlines around the world in responding to illegal use and illegal content on the Internet.
The hotline team also offers support and guidance to children who encounter or have encountered some form of abuse online and delivers awareness sessions for children, teachers and parents on how to use the internet safely and on how to report when faced with illegal content.
Agenzija Appogg is a partner within the Besmartonline! Project. BeSmartOnline! brings together the efforts of national stakeholders working towards the safer use of the internet by children and youths. The project aims at raising awareness and educating minors, carers and educators on the safe use of the internet; establishing, operating and promoting reporting facilities for internet abuse; and supporting respective victims. Other partners in the project are the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), the Commissioner for Children, Directorate for Educational Services, Cyber Crime Unit within Malta Police Force and the Directorate for Educational Services for Catholic Education.
The Besmartonline! Project is co-funded by the European Union through the Safer Internet Programme and is a member of Insafe (www.saferinternet.org), the European network for Safer Internet Centres. The European Commission felt the need to set up the Safer Internet programme and apart from financing national hotlines involved in the effort to curb traffic in child abusive images, also financed initiatives to make the internet safe for children and young people by educative measures and awareness-raising activities.
Each year during February, Insafe organises the Safer Internet Day to promote a safer and a more responsible use of new technologies especially among children and adolescents. This year, Safer Internet day will be held on the 7th February with the theme “Connecting generations and educating each other” and the slogan “Discover the digital world together....safely”. The hotline team, along with other interested stakeholders, is organising a series of events for the day, among them an activity with school children, and participation on different media programmes.
Eight Roosevelt Employees Put on Leave in Child Abuse Investigation
A special education teacher at the elementary school in Redwood City was arrested last week for allegedly abusing students.
Eight other employees were placed on leave after concerns about whether they followed proper procedures after the arrest of Bogdis.
Eight employees at a Redwood City elementary school were placed on administrative leave Thursday following an internal investigation of allegations that a special education teacher abused two young students, according to school district officials.
The Redwood City School District launched the internal investigation after the arrest last week of Alexia Aliki Bogdis, a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School.
Investigators believe Bogdis, a 44-year-old Millbrae resident, slapped a student, twisted a student's wrist and kicked the back of a chair, causing the desk to move forward and strike a student. She is also accused of depriving a child of food and kicking a child in the stomach.
Police said the students in question were two 4-year-old boys and that the alleged crimes occurred over the past few months.
The school district moved on Thursday to place eight other employees on leave due to concerns over whether they followed proper procedures. An independent investigation will be conducted, district officials said.
"Our internal investigation raised questions for which we need answers in order to ensure the safety of our students, which is our top priority at all times," said Superintendent Jan Christensen. "We need more information to determine exactly what happened."
Christensen said the alleged incidents first came to the district's attention on Feb. 1 when an instructional aide contacted Deputy Superintendent John Baker. Baker told the aide to contact child protective services immediately, and that agency in turn told the aide to contact Redwood City police.
The district placed Bogdis on administrative leave the same day officials learned of the allegations. Police obtained an arrest warrant for Bogdis on Feb. 3.
Bogdis surrendered to police last Saturday and has been charged with five counts of child cruelty and four counts of battery on school grounds, according to prosecutors. She has since been released on $15,000 bail and is expected to enter a plea in San Mateo County Superior Court on March 1.
Christensen said that if any allegations of physical abuse are verified, she will recommend to the school board that the employee be terminated.
New York City
Woman who stole baby 24 years ago (and raised it) pleads guilty
Ann Pettway, who stole a baby from a Manhattan hospital more than two decades ago and raised the child as her own, pleaded guilty Friday to federal kidnapping charges and will spend at least 10 years in prison.
The case, which combined elements of lost childhood, misidentity and the resolution of a mystery long gone cold, had captured the country's imagination. It was eventually broken open by the child, Carlina White, now 24.
White questioned why she lacked a birth certificate, then turned to websites specializing in missing children -- and discovered the truth. It was a photo of a stolen baby on the Internet that looked like her own pictures that sent Carlina White off to find her biological parents.
Standing before Judge Kevin Castel in federal court on Friday, Pettway, of North Carolina, acknowledged taking the baby, just 19 days old, from Harlem Hospital in 1987 and whisking her off to Bridgeport, Conn., to be raised as her own, according to media reports of the proceedings.
The baby had been brought to the hospital with a fever and had an intravenous drip attached to her arm. Pettway told authorities she pretended to be a nurse to gain access to the child. She said she took the baby because she didn't believe she could ever be a mother after having several miscarriages.
“I took a child, “ Pettway said in court Friday, adding later, “It was wrong.”
Castel set May 14 for sentencing. Pettway, 51, could have faced life in prison but as part of the plea agreement, she will be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 12.5 years.
Joy White, 41, a Bronx resident and Carlina White's biological mother, attended the proceedings and told reporters she was unhappy with what she saw as a lenient sentence.
“I've been suffering and been through pain for 23 years,” White said, arguing that Pettway should do the same amount of time in prison.
Sandusky charges raise community's awareness of child sex abuse
February 9, 2012
A man in a trench coat, motioning to a child from an alley; a stranger in a black sedan attempting to lure a little girl into the car by offering candy. Those are the common images of sexual predators.
But those images do not really reflect reality. In fact, more than 90 percent of child sexual-abuse victims know the perpetrator, and in the majority of cases the abuse occurs at the hands of a relative, a friend, a teacher or a coach.
Jerry Sandusky's guilt or innocence will be determined by the courts, and he must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but the behavior described in numerous press reports is terrifyingly similar to that identified with sexual offenders. Sandusky is alleged to have "groomed" his victims, offering gifts, attention, trips to ballgames to prepare the youth for eventual sexual assault. Predators work through manipulation, not through violence.
According to press reports, Sandusky's alleged victims were well chosen: youth from families with high levels of dysfunction, young boys looking for a male figure with whom they could form attachments — the most vulnerable of our children.
Valley Youth House counselors have been working with the victims of sexual abuse for many years.
Lorrie Reddy, group home director, notes that victims are often badly damaged by the abuse. "Victims of sexual abuse experience poor academic performance, which often leads to higher drop-out rates," she said. "They are at greater risk for abusing alcohol or drugs, and experience higher levels of depression and self-harmful behaviors, as compared to the general population. Statistics demonstrate that these youth who do not receive treatment for their abuse are at greater risk of becoming sexually reactive and/or aggressive as they get older, continuing a destructive cycle of abuse."
Reddy has led Valley Youth House programs that provide intensive counseling for boys who are the victims of abuse for more than 10 years. In many cases, months of counseling are required to overcome the impairment from abuse. These programs are essential to help the youth have a chance for a healthy and productive adulthood.
Rochelle Freedman, program coordinator for Project Child, a Valley Youth House-led coalition to raise awareness of and prevent child abuse, sees education as a key to preventing abuse of children. "Parents should be aware of the danger of abuse, and be quick to recognize the effects on their child. We offer programs to help parents to develop skills that help them give their children supports that aid them in preventing victimization," she said.
While the sexual abuse of a child is profoundly disturbing and evokes an array of unsettling feelings in all of us, it is important that all citizens remove their blinders and become more aware.
What to do if you suspect abuse is occurring? Freedman says it is important to report it promptly. Abusers typically have numerous victims, and the sooner the cycle of abuse is broken, the better for all our children. In recognition of the seriousness of abuse, the state of Pennsylvania has a 24-hour hotline available, which you may call if you suspect abuse — 1-800-932-0313.
The Sandusky case has affected many people throughout our state, at many levels. Perhaps some good can be salvaged from this sad story if it serves the purpose of raising our community's awareness of the devastating effects of sexual abuse.
Anne Adams is a senior vice president for Prevention & Intervention Services Groups at Valley Youth House, which provides residential, counseling and other services to more than 13,000 eastern Pennsylvania youth and families each year.
Bill requires volunteers to report child abuse
by Andrea J. Cook
Volunteers working with child advocacy groups would be mandated to report suspected child abuse under a bill working its way through the legislature.
Senate Bill 154 will strengthen South Dakota's child abuse statutes, according to its prime sponsor Sen. Todd Schlekeway, R-Sioux Falls. Schlekeway testified before the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday morning.
After the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, every lawmaker immediately examined the state's child abuse statutes, said Schlekeway, who is a member of the Unified Judicial System's court improvement committee.
"Folks need to know we have very solid, for the most part, mandatory statutes," Schlekeway said.
There was a "loophole," however, in that volunteers working with groups such as Court Appointed Special Advocates, Children's Advocacy Center, South Dakota Voices for Children, visitation centers, Parent Aide and BrightStar are not specifically identified as mandatory reporters, Schlekeway said.
The proposed legislation amends SDCL 26-8A-3 to add employees or volunteers of a child advocacy organization or child welfare service provider, to the list of people specified as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse involving any child under 18.
"This bill captures a group of people that do have information that is essential to be reported," testified UJS counsel Greg Sattizahn. Had Schlekeway not proposed the amendment, UJS would have, he said.
Schlekeway assured the committee that the organizations utilizing the volunteers would provide adequate training for their volunteers.
The Senate unanimously approved the bill Thursday, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
South Dakota Legislature Quashes New Childhood-Sexual-Abuse Bill
by Stephanie Woodard
“It was a sad day,” said Mary Jane Wanna, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, of the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee killing a bill to remove the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse. The measure was presented on February 6, by Representative Steve Hickey, Republican from Minnehaha County, and co-sponsored by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Proponents, opponents and spectators packing the committee room heard emotional testimony from victims, who recounted sex trafficking as well as brutal serial sexual assaults. Afterward, abuse survivors wept openly in the hallway.
Hickey's new bill had proposed eliminating the statute of limitations for childhood-sexual-abuse complaints in the state. It was intended to remedy a 2010 measure that added restrictions to such suits, banning victims over age 40 from suing institutions (such as churches and schools). The 2010 law was written as a “constituent bill” by Steve Smith, an attorney representing an institution—Congregation of Priests of the Sacred Heart, which runs St. Joseph's Indian School, in Chamberlain—and defending about a dozen such cases.
During Smith's 2010 testimony to the legislature, the transcript shows he told the group that the perpetrators in such cases were typically “long dead” and “can't defend themselves,” but neglected to say that his cases in fact included living alleged perpetrators, including Brother Matthew Miles (who had already told a South Dakota court he had pled guilty to sodomizing young boys in another jurisdiction), John Donadio, Father Thomas Lind and Father William Pitcavage. About 10 other living persons have been accused in current South Dakota-related childhood-sexual-abuse cases.
Smith's 2010 bill has been called a way to sweep his cases, and others, from the system, particularly since a South Dakota judge has been applying the statute retroactively, projecting it back in time to dismiss already-filed lawsuits. Smith's bill was written and enacted after about 100 Native Americans filed childhood-sexual abuse complaints against Smith's clients and other Catholic entities that had run the notorious boarding schools American Indians were compelled to attend until the 1970s. As a result, said a witness who testified by telephone, law professor Marci Hamilton of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, the Justice Department is eyeing the 2010 statute as a possible civil-rights violation.
Though the legislature's discussion focused on cases with Native plaintiffs in both 2010 and 2012, one of South Dakota's most notorious perpetrators is Father Bruce MacArthur. A Catholic priest who abused children in several white parishes, he was eventually transferred out of the state, whereupon he embarked on a multi-state trail of sexual assaults of children and hospital and nursing-home patients, for which he was convicted in 1978 and again in 2008.
Professor Hamilton also noted in her testimony that the trend in the country is to make it easier to expose pedophiles, not harder, as South Dakota has done: In court, she said, “anyone abused can name the perpetrators, and South Dakota would know where the trouble spots are.”
Robert Brancato—head of South Dakota's chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) and an abuse survivor who testified during the meeting—vowed to press forward. “I'll be lobbying for a measure in next year's session, and I'll be working to unseat those who voted against this one,” he said.
Despite the thumbs-down vote, Representative Kevin Killer, Oglala Lakota, was hopeful. Killer, a Democrat from Shannon and other counties encompassing the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, said the silver lining was the bill's bipartisan support. During the past year, the state legislature's polarized stance has softened, Killer said, pointing to Republican support for proposals to enhance Indian child welfare and to provide additional funding for education on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.
During the Judiciary Committee meeting, members and witnesses offered varied reasons for support or opposition to Hickey's bill. An insurance-industry trade group's representative warned insurance premiums might increase. Smith defended his 2010 statute. Representative Gene Abdallah, Republican of Lincoln and Minnehaha counties, said that as a Catholic, he was offended by the bill and claimed any abuse was mitigated by the good done in Native communities by the Catholic Church.
More criticism of Hickey's proposal came from a lobbyist for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which was sued in 2007 by multiple victims from multiple South Dakota congregations. The lobbyist said making sexual-abuse lawsuits easier to bring was unfair to current-day church members, who would be “negatively affected.”
Killer said he was disappointed some Judiciary Committee members didn't separate the protections the new bill would have offered victims from the happenstance that some lawsuits might involve religious institutions. He pointed to the Penn State scandal as comparable, though not involving a church. “We are a judiciary committee after all. We should be able to make the distinction,” he said.
“It came down to money,” said Hickey. “What's at issue here are civil lawsuits, and that means financial liability. The opponents of my bill wanted to tamp down scandal and avoid paying money. They were not thinking about the victims.”
Hickey reiterated law professor Hamilton's point that the state is potentially liable for civil rights violations: “A U.S. Department of Justice official confirmed to me that the agency was watching the outcome [of the Judiciary Committee meeting].”
“I do hope people fight on,” said Killer. “I'm disappointed this bill died in committee. It had enough sponsors and supporters to warrant a hearing before the full House.”
Hickey noted the victims were able to tell their stories: “That was an important goal. Now we'll figure out what we want to do long-term.”
No matter what the legislature does, there are other options, said Wanna, who is a survivor of abuse at Tekakwitha Orphanage, run by the Catholic Church on her reservation. “A spectator at the committee meeting said her reservation wants to do what we at Sisseton Wahpeton have already done, and that is pass our own civil statute, so we can sue in tribal court. I told her, ‘Call me. We'll do anything we can to help you pass such a law for your people.'”
All the Judiciary Committee did was encourage tribal members to pass their own civil childhood-sexual-abuse laws, said Ken Bear Chief, a paralegal with Tamaki Law Firm, in Washington state. “In fact, anyone who suffered abuse on a reservation—white or Indian—has this option. White children did go to schools run ostensibly for Indians. Perhaps their parents worked on the reservation. If they were harmed, they, like tribal members, have a civil claim and can bring it in tribal court.”
WA House: adults must report severe child abuse
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state House
has passed a bill requiring all adults to report suspected cases of severe child abuse and neglect to the state Department of Social and Health Services
Most Democrats supported the bill, HB 2331, while most Republicans opposed it. It passed Thursday night by a vote of 59-38.
The bill would make failure to notify DSHS a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Supporters say the bill sends a message that everyone has a stake in the welfare of the state's children. Opponents say it is overly broad and likely unenforceable.
Currently, police officers, corrections officers and certain other professionals are required to report suspected cases of severe child abuse.
The bill goes next to the Senate.
Josh Powell computer depicted parent-child sex
SEATTLE -- A computer in Josh Powell's former home in Utah had animated images that depicted "incestuous" sex between parent and child, Pierce County authorities said, and a state official said the material prompted a judge to order Powell to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation just days before he killed his children and himself.
Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the images collected by investigators in Utah two years ago were realistic computer-generated depictions of "incestuous" parent-child relations.
The documents and images were recovered by police in West Valley, Utah, and sent to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department under a restrictive court order on Feb. 1, NBC station KING 5 reported. According to Washington's Department of Social and Health Services Public Affairs Senior Director Thomas Shapley, the material prompted the court to stop a process that likely would have returned Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, to their father's custody.
Shapley said the material found on the computer was so disturbing that it prompted the state psychologist consulting in the custody case to change his opinion and recommend that the court prevent the return of the children.
An attorney for Powell's in-laws wasn't invited to see the materials before a custody hearing last week, the AP said. Lawyer Steve Downing told the AP that he might have asked the court to change the terms of Powell's supervised visitation with the boys -- if he had seen the images.
Meanwhile, the state social worker who brought Powell's two boys to his house said she heard the father tell one son he had a "surprise” for him, according to ABC News.
Elizabeth Griffin-Hall said in an interview to air on ABC's "20/20" on Friday that Powell slammed the door on her after he had the children inside the house on Sunday. Hall said she knocked on the door to try to get inside and heard Powell tell 7-year-old Charlie: "I've got a big surprise for you."
She also heard 5-year-old Braden cry out, but she said she thought the child had hurt his foot.
“The door slammed in my face,” Griffin-Hall said.
“I saw Josh for just one second, his eyes caught mine. He had a look in his eyes. If I were to describe it, it was friendly enough. It was just kind of sheepish. He shrugged his shoulders up."
Authorities said Powell used a hatchet on his children, then set a house fire that killed them all.
Powell's wife, Susan, vanished in Utah two years ago. Josh Powell had been a person of interest in the case but maintained that he had taken his boys — then 2 and 4 — on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures when she disappeared from their home.
Anti-gay church to protest at slain Powell boys' funeral
Griffin-Hall said Charlie and Braden loved being with their father.
She described Powell as a devoted dad, who always had surprises for his boys.
"One of them said what he wanted to do was go home and live with his daddy," she told ABC, adding that the boys would "light up" during visits with Josh Powell.
'I did everything'
After he got the boys inside and locked the door, Griffin-Hall said she kept banging on the door and asked Josh Powell if she could help him or the boys. She said she realized she didn't have her phone and walked back to her car, which was 10 steps away.
She then called 911 and her supervisor to tell them what was going on. The 911 dispatcher's handling of that call has been criticized, and an investigation has been launched into the emergency response.
The social worker said she told her boss "something terrible is happening here, and I was on the phone with ... when the house exploded."
"I wanted to get to the kids," she said. "I wanted to get to the kids. I would have broken in if I could."
But Griffin-Hall told ABC she doesn't think she could have saved them.
"How this happened is that Josh Powell was really, really evil. I couldn't have stopped him," she said. "I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right and the boys are still dead."
Love146 promotes awareness of child sex trafficking
by Shana Friedman
Tufts' chapter of Love146 , an international non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation, last night hosted a Valentine's Day event in order to promote awareness of the Love146 organization on campus and spread its message about the eradication of child sex trafficking.
The event, titled "Broken Hearts: Something Worth Celebrating," was held in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room.
"We're celebrating our broken hearts because out of our broken hearts comes compassion," Jane Jihae Yoon, the founder of the Tufts' chapter of Love146 , said.
The evening opened with screenings of two short promotional videos for Love146 that emphasized the organization's mission and message. Members of the Tufts chapter then explained how they became involved with the issue, and the event concluded with an informal dialogue inspired by discussion questions placed throughout the venue.
Yoon, a senior, started the Tufts Love146 chapter after being sexually assaulted on campus during the fall of her junior year by a student from a different university. She spoke calmly about her experience and then described the circumstances that surround child sex slavery.
"They're forced to have abortions in the brothels so that they can be continued to be sold over and over again," Yoon said. "Some girls are sold up to ten times a night. When the girls are taken out of the brothels, they want to commit suicide, even in safe homes."
Vanessa Lin, who helped coordinate the event, explained that her involvement in Love146 at Tufts started when she watched the film "Taken," which chronicles two American girls' abductions into the sex slave trade overseas. The story the film told, though fictional, captured her attention.
"My heart was just gripped. It was more than a cinematic emotional experience, and it wasn't just Hollywood," Lin, a sophomore, said. "I couldn't comprehend the fact that I could have been that girl," she said.
The Tufts Love146 chapter's status as a campus organization is pending official recognition, according to Yoon, making it currently ineligible for Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate funding. Student organizers covered the costs associated with last night's event.
"Everything is coming out of our own pockets, but we don't mind at all because this is something we really believe in," Yoon told the Daily.
The event's fundraising efforts constituted postcard and t-shirt sales, and the first $350 in proceeds will be diverted to reimburse the student organizers for the costs of organizing the event. The remainder will be donated to the cause of ending child sex trafficking.
Students in attendance emphasized their belief that this organization represents a critical opportunity to address a pertinent issue.
"My mom was a domestic violence lawyer so we talked about these issues a lot, but I never felt like I did anything about it," Jordan Anderson, a freshman, told the Daily. "This organization gave me the opportunity to change that."
The event served not only to raise awareness of child sex trafficking but also to further establish the Tufts chapter of the organization as a fixture on campus.
"I think as a group we're just starting up at Tufts, so I see this as a first contact for people to learn about the issues, the group and Love146 apart from Tufts," Elaine Kim, a junior in charge of design and marketing for the group and an organizer of last night's event, told the Daily.
Yoon further explained the group's mission and its attitude toward raising awareness and generating activism.
"We don't just want people to come and donate a twenty-dollar bill and walk out and not have experienced something for themselves," she told the Daily. "Love146 is about creating an experience for people that come to our events. We want them to feel like they're a part of it and that they're getting something out of giving."
"Our hope is that everyone who comes to our event will have their heart break for these children and that any giving that they do or raising awareness that they do after will be out of compassion," she added.
City police to lead investigation into human trafficking
by Elizabeth Dinan
PORTSMOUTH — An investigation into a multi-state human trafficking operation, which included crimes in Portsmouth, was launched Tuesday when a victim told her story to another New Hampshire police agency, according to Deputy Police Chief Stephen DuBois.
The alleged victim told police she was part of a "human trafficking prostitution ring" that operated in Portsmouth in October 2011, DuBois said. The deputy police chief said the alleged victim is an adult, and he defined the human trafficking allegation as someone being forced to surrender personal property and/or "more or less held against their will."
According to federal authorities, human trafficking most often involves the victimization of women and children for sex crimes, but it also can include forced labor. DuBois said city police have taken over the case for the police agency that initially received the report, and will be working with law enforcement officials from other states. He said because the crimes are alleged to have crossed state lines, federal agencies will also be involved.
"It's fresh information and an active investigation," he said.
According to DuBois, the alleged crimes occurred at a hotel near the traffic circle.
Portsmouth police conducted a prostitution sting at a traffic circle hotel in April 2011, when three men were arrested on charges alleging soliciting sex from an informant working with police. One of them, a former Amesbury, Mass., police officer, is scheduled for trial Feb. 21. Mark A. Valli, 52, of 3 Birch St., Newburyport, Mass., faces a misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution. He is pleading not guilty and is expected to dispute the charge during a trial.
Phoenix becoming magnet city for child prostitution and human trafficking
by Susan Casper
PEORIA, AZ - Phoenix is becoming a magnet city for child prostitution and human trafficking.
The average age of entry into child prostitution in Phoenix and the United States is 13 years old. Up to 300,000 children are at risk in the United States for sexual exploitation according to the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children.
In an effort to eradicate child sex slavery some Valley students are bringing the growing problem center stage.
Dancers from Centennial, Cactus, Ironwood, Liberty, Peoria, Raymond S. Kellis and Sunrise Mountain High schools are coming together for a special performance for those without a voice.
The Second Annual Benefit Dance Concert takes place Thursday, February 9 at 7 p.m. at Centennial High School, 14388 N. 79th Avenue.
The evening of dance is inspired by the desire to illuminate the problem of human trafficking in the Phoenix area.
Tickets are $5 each and all proceeds will be donated to Streetlight Ministries. Tickets went on sale beginning 6 p.m. the evening of the event.
LA Abuse Charges Prompt Awkward Talks for Parents
by MICHAEL R. BLOOD
Sinister allegations of abuse by at least two teachers in a Los Angeles school have forced awkward discussions as parents warn youngsters that people they trust — pastors, teachers, even relatives — might do things that could hurt them.
It was a grim reminder of risks faced by kids, even within the safety of school walls.
Sergio Vasquez, 30, said he talked with his daughter for 45 minutes after she watched a news report about the disturbing cases that prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District to replace every employee at Miramonte Elementary School, located in a poor neighborhood about 8 miles from downtown.
With his 8-year-old daughter Hayley at his side, he said he told her to speak up if she sees anything suspicious, or if any teacher tries to manipulate her by giving her candy, or touching her hair or shoulders.
"We told her her body is private and nobody has the right to touch her," said Vasquez, as he stood outside an elementary school near downtown. "No teacher should put his hands on you and tell you 'Oh how beautiful you are.'"
Kari Morales, who lives in the city's Echo Park neighborhood, teaches her 5- and 6-year-old children about keeping up a guard.
"It's necessary, especially now, with priests, with anybody. You can't trust anybody. I talk to my kids all the time," she said. "I just tell my kids, 'If you feel something is not right, you need to say something.'"
On Wednesday, investigators revealed they seized 200 additional inappropriate photographs of children allegedly taken by teacher Mark Berndt, who is accused of blindfolding and gagging students and having some eat cookies iced with his semen. A second teacher, Martin Springer, faces three lewdness charges for allegedly fondling a second-grader.
Both teachers have been fired.
The line between what is appropriate and what's not can sometimes be difficult for younger children to discern — Berndt is accused of feeding semen to children during bizarre "tasting games" in his classroom over a five-year period.
"A big challenge is parents will often emphasize 'stranger danger' when talking with children, but we know the biggest risk to kids is from people they trust," said Thomas Lyon, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Southern California, who has researched child witnesses and abuse and worked as an attorney on child-abuse cases.
Young children don't need a scientific anatomy lesson, he said. They need to know "if they feel weird, if they touch them in a certain place, how important it is for them to tell a parent."
He added: "You have to emphasize to your child that you will not get angry with them for anything they've done. Otherwise, the child will say, 'Why should I tell?'"
It's a persistent problem. According to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 365 cases involving allegations of adult sexual offenses in schools were opened in the five years ending last June.
Initially, the Los Angeles school district fielded a steady stream of calls from alarmed parents at Miramonte, after details of the bizarre case trickled out. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott said the department has received dozens of tips following the arrests of Berndt and Springer.
"At this point, all I can tell you is there's a lot," Scott said.
But officials in several neighboring counties said the Los Angeles arrests have not caused a surge in fearful calls from parents or new reports of suspected abuse.
Berndt, 61, taught for 32 years at the South Los Angeles neighborhood school, where the 120-member staff, from janitors to principal, was replaced following outrage among parents. Springer, 49, pleaded not guilty Tuesday after he was charged with committing three lewd acts upon one girl in 2009.
Molly Gomez, 31, said she told her son to tell her if anyone touches him inappropriately. Her 10-year-old boy, who has autism, has struggled with bullying at school and doesn't understand why he can't walk to school by himself like other kids his age.
"I don't know if he understood me," she said, adding that she planned to talk with him again.
Picking up the pieces of human trafficking
by Elizabeth Prann
February 08, 2012 | FoxNews.com
Every day, women and girls across the country are working to integrate back into society after experiencing the trauma of human trafficking. In fact, according to one nonprofit group, one in four girls is sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood.
Wellspring Living has created two safe homes for victims in Georgia. One home is strictly for girls and teenagers, where the victims sometimes come in as young as 12. The second home is a safe place for adult women -- they range in age from 18 to 35. But they all have something in common: they are survivors.
"It is a challenge from the day they walk in. Getting them through the phases and getting them through the process of recovery, and healing from all the things they've experienced," said Lisa Byrd, the clinical director for the Wellspring Living women's home.
The mission of the organization is to confront the issue of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation.
It is an uphill battle. Many of the women are just concerned about staying alive and far away from predators. Both home locations are not known to the public and the therapists and employees work hard to keep victims safe.
Jennifer Swain works on a campaign called A Future. Not a Past. -- a movement to stop child prostitution across the state. The group works to build a barrier between girls and predators. She sees victims every day and says the journey for these girls is frightening. Many exploited women and girls live in fear and -- incredibly -- become accustomed to the painful lifestyle.
"Most victims of child sex trafficking don't self-identify as victims, so receiving the help and therapeutic services is quite naturally hard," Swain said. "Most of them may experience a form of 'trauma bonding' or the 'Stockholm syndrome' with their exploiters. They feel bad for leaving them or the other girls they have bonded with behind. For the girls, it may feel like they are leaving the only family they have known. There are also many forms of emotions they go through on the journey, ranging from fear, anger, hurt and shame."
Byrd says the girls and women arrive at both homes, defenseless.
"[They arrive] incredibly vulnerable," Byrd said. "Some of them we get directly off the street. They're coming from their pimps and 'johns,' and they're looking for a safe place. Some people come to us still under the influence of substance. So, yes -- they're in a very dangerous situation when they come."
There is also no 'one size fits all' therapy program. All the women and girls are different, as are their pasts. Some victims want to focus on going back to school, some want to stop using drugs. Others want to rekindle relationships with family members who are estranged.
"The women's program is about a year long and it is individualized. Every woman's program will look a little different. But the end goal is they will be healthy, and be able to function well in society," Byrd said. "They will know who they are and not have to take any abuse. They will have healthy coping skills, and they have been healed from a lot of the major trauma."
The girls also present a different set of challenges. Tracy Busse is the clinical director for the girl's home. She says initially the daily goals can be as simple as waking up and completing a hygiene regime.
"They have had more horrific experiences than most people can imagine, and they will tell you about them without blinking," Busse said. "These girls are the text book definition of survivors."
The program at the girl's home focuses on individual strengths. Busse says the best teachers have actually been other victims. She found out quickly the young girls respond to a loving environment. But also an environment that is honest, and open to hearing about their experiences.
As a result she incorporates adult survivors.
"When you look at the things that have happened to them and how each girl found their own creative way to cope with those experiences you notice how strong they are," Busse said.
Wellspring Living's two homes are normally working at full capacity. There is demand for this type of therapy. That explains why another safe home has opened recently called Living Water for Girls. Therapy at that home is for girls between ages 12 and 17.
Different agencies across the state collaborate to help victims find these safe houses. Law enforcement, the feds and schools throughout Georgia are gaining awareness and looking for red flags. They search for exploited girls through a statewide initiative called Georgia Care Connection. The support comes from nonprofit agencies, businesses and the Governor's Office for Children and Families.
There is also more immediate help available than ever before. Atlanta fire stations are trained to help a victim in need of urgent help. The Georgia Juvenile Justice Fund created a prevention program called the Voices Project to work with girls coming through the juvenile system. The employees are getting as close to the heart of the problem as ever. They are seeing these girls fresh out of vulnerable situations and trained to look for vulnerabilities.
"Prevention and disabling demand is key right now for Georgia if we truly want to stop the prostitution of children in our state and we are doing that," Swain said.
Want to help in your state?
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Administration for Children & Families has a list of state and national programs across that offers counseling. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/about/coalition_list.html
There's also the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, open 24-hours a day -- (888) 373-7888 or http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org
National child abuse scandals spur change in Cedar Grove
High-profile child abuse scandals still ongoing at Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University and abroad have had a trickle-down effect in Cedar Grove.
At next Monday's staff meeting, the Cedar Grove Township Council will introduce an ordinance that will mandate background checks for all town volunteers who could potentially come in contact with children, as well as all new town employees. The implementation of background checks has been a topic of discussion at recent council meetings with Councilman Joseph Chiusolo spearheading those talks late last year in the wake of allegations made against former Pennsylvania State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky and former Syracuse Associate Head Basketball Coach Bernie Fine.
"I felt enough is enough," Chiusolo said in an interview with the Times. "I think that the country has gone through a lot with the dialogue of the allegations. Some of these cases went on many years. I think that we have to be responsive to the times and protect the children."
Instituting background checks is not a new concept in Cedar Grove. According to Chiusolo, the town looked into a similar measure several years ago, but was unable to successfully implement it.
Chiusolo added that, after next Monday's introduction, the ordinance will be brought for a second reading later this month after which it will be instituted as a law by the end of March.
Though the process is moving along, many questions still remain.
Background checks vary in scale. According to Cedar Grove Township Manager Tom Tucci, checks can range from $20 for a basic screening, to $65 for a full background check, to even more detailed options. At present, the town council was still debating which screening they would mandate, according to Tucci. The town is also deciphering which volunteer positions would require screenings, a number of which was still being compiled at the time of this article.
Neighboring Verona has mandated background checks for three years now, according to Verona Director of Community Services Jim Cunningham.
Cunningham said that the town employs the services of a Millburn company that does the majority of the leg work. Prospective volunteers, such as recreation coaches, are able to access applications and qualifying guidelines from the town's website. After receiving a copy of the applicant's driver's license and Social Security number, the town hands the application over to the outside company for assessment.
Within 24 hours, Cunningham receives an email for each individual volunteer giving him either the green or red light to accept their application. Cunningham said that in three years, he has yet to receive a red light, but indicated that, in the interest of privacy, the town would not investigate rejected applications unless the applicant decided to challenge the decision.
Since the policy's inception, Cunningham estimates that the town has processed hundreds of applications for coaching volunteers alone, the $19 per screening being shouldered by the town. Cunningham said that the language of Verona's ordinance is such that the town does not check repeat volunteers every season, but rather periodically every few years.
Cunningham believes that having such policy helps screen volunteers before a background check is ever conducted.
"Our volunteers are near and dear to us," said Cunningham. "This is the best way to let the community know that 'Hey, we're doing this. Don't even bother.'"
Like Cedar Grove, Cunningham said that background checks for town volunteers was something that Verona had looked into years before it was actually implemented. Upon accepting his current position three years ago, Cunningham said that resuming those discussions and implementing a policy was among his top priorities. Though met with resistance early on due to perceived privacy concerns, Cunningham says that the town's policy has been widely accepted and successful.
"Being in the (community) business, all you have to do is look through the newspaper and see where the pedophiles get hit. It's roller skating rinks, recreation programs and coaching. That's where they know they can get their hands on kids. The thing to do as a community is, if this is where they're going, to make sure they can't get here."
Arizona bill touts new unit for child-abuse inquiries
by Mary K. Reinhart
A House committee on Thursday will consider legislation that would create a separate unit to investigate criminal child abuse and neglect allegations.
House Bill 2721, written by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's staff, is the centerpiece of his efforts to tackle problems at state Child Protective Services, which he claims has failed to adequately investigate the most serious child-abuse cases.
Montgomery said the intent is to hire specially trained investigators to aid law officers in identifying and investigating criminal conduct while leaving the less-severe cases to rank-and-file CPS caseworkers.
The idea is not to bring more children into foster care, he said.
“I just think we've been asking them to do way too much and, at times, contradictory tasks,” Montgomery said of CPS workers. “This sort of division of labor makes sense.”
Current law requires criminal allegations of child maltreatment to be investigated jointly by CPS and police. About 6 percent of CPS reports were jointly investigated in fiscal 2011.
Montgomery, who chaired Gov. Jan Brewer's Child Safety Task Force, said the governor and legislative leaders support the bill.
Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter, who oversees CPS, has said he didn't believe legislation was necessary. But he said Wednesday a state law is needed to ensure the new unit is lasting.
HB 2721 would require DES to hire an unspecified number of investigators with specialized training developed in cooperation with the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. Training would include forensic interviewing and law-enforcement procedures, as well as separate social-services training.
Brewer has included funding in her budget for 28 specially trained investigators. About 970 CPS workers investigate and manage roughly 35,000 abuse and neglect reports each year.
Carter said he wants the new investigators to have law-enforcement backgrounds, but “we want to ensure that we are not creating a CPS police force.”
It's unclear exactly what the investigators would do. Brewer's budget says they would travel with CPS investigators and train CPS and police, but the bill says they also would be authorized to receive reports, respond, remove children and submit investigative reports.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, and is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.
Child abuse epidemic in Kern County
Every month, Child Protective Services receives about 2,000 calls from people in Kern County who suspect child abuse. But, every year the number of children killed or severely injured goes up which begs the question - Are we doing enough as a community to curb this epidemic?
92 children were murdered or severely injured over the last three years in Kern County as a result of abuse.
"When we say severe injury, we're talking about broken ribs, broken limbs, and we're talking about nine kids that died last year due to blunt force trauma under the age of five. That's a crisis," said Tom Corson, Executive Director, Kern County Network for Children.
It is an epidemic not unique to Kern. It is a trend nationwide. "Unfortunately, children are being abused and neglected by their biological parent more often than a boyfriend or girlfriend, 60% more often," said Pat Cheadle, Director, Department of Human Services.
In 2009, four children in Kern County were severely injured as a result of child abuse. None was injured by their parents. That number spiked to 20 last year, with 17 at the hands of a parent.
"There are families in place out there that are aware something is terribly wrong out there, and for some reason they are not reporting it," said Mike Maggard, 3rd District Supervisor.
Supervisor Maggard is pushing the Board of Supervisors to set aside money for intervention programs, to curb the spike in child abuse cases. One of those programs was a campaign called "Give the Secret a Voice."
The campaign was a success in the late 90's. Child Protective Services saw a huge spike in people calling in, but there wasn't enough staff to respond to the high volume of calls.
"By law, there's only certain cases they can go out on. Years ago, what would happen, no one would knock on these doors," explained Colson.
Another county program helps make sure those families don't fall through the cracks. It is called "Differential Response."
"A provider goes out and knocks on that door and asks what kind of services do they need, if any at all," continued Colson.
The program assists families at the first sign of trouble. Since it began seven years ago, the number of kids entering foster care has decreased by 25%.
But, the program could be on chopping block because of a lack of state funding. "Unless the county wants to commit to it, it could be taken away. That basically leaves no safety net. So if a CPS referral comes in and it doesn't mean CPS, that means nobody is knocking on that door and our children are in danger," said Colson.
Maggard said if the county doesn't set aside money for intervention programs, the tragic pattern of child abuse will continue.
You can report child abuse suspicions 24 hours a day. CPS says if you aren't sure, just call because the moment you talk yourself out of it, you may have just let an opportunity slip by to protect a child. The number is 631-6011. You can remain anonymous when you call.
Love letter allegedly from teacher's aide: Boy gave her 'chills'
Reporting practices at L.A.'s Miramonte Elementary School
are under more scrutiny after a mother of a former student said she complained that her son was receiving love letters
from a teacher's aide.
In June 2009, the mother of a then-fourth-grader found a drawing, signed "Sad Girl," that had fallen from its perch in her son's room. Also dislodged was a cellphone number for a "Mrs. Luisjuan" from a corner of the frame. When she confronted her son, he showed her two letters.
One of the letters was a short-term farewell note that included a passage the mother found especially disturbing: "Oh! I didn't tell you that I like when you put your arm around my shoulder," wrote the teacher's aide, who has been identified as Areceli Luisjuan. "And if I told you not to do that it's because I don't want to put you in trouble, but I like it. ... "
The episode has become the subject of a law enforcement inquiry and an internal review by the Los Angeles Unified School District. According to the mother, however, sheriff's deputies and the school system failed to take her seriously the first time she brought the matter to their attention.
The second look is part of a wide-ranging review of everything and everyone associated with Miramonte, a school that burst into public attention with last week's arrest of veteran teacher Mark Berndt.
Berndt, 61, faces 23 counts of lewd conduct charges for, among other things, allegedly taking pictures of students who were being spoon-fed his semen as part of what he called a "tasting game."
After Berndt's arrest, allegations emerged against a second teacher, Martin Bernard Springer, 49, who was charged Tuesday with fondling a 7-year-old girl in his class.
The Berndt case in particular has raised questions about whether the school properly handled misconduct issues in the past.
In the letter found by the fourth-grader's mother, the writer said, "When you get close to me, even if you give me the chills I like that. Don't tell nobody about this!" (The word "chills" is underlined.)
At the bottom of the letter, which is written in English, the author penned the student's name four times, signed it "Sad Girl" and then added: "Read the letter and throw it away. I don't want your mom or brother to find it."
The mother, whose name is not being released to protect the identity of her son, a minor, said she believes there were about three letters, although she only had one to show to a reporter.
The crying picture, she later learned, was prompted by Luisjuan's pending relocation to a nearby middle school. The transfer apparently was planned before the mother complained, she said.
Efforts to reach Luisjuan were unsuccessful.
The mother, who said the aide appeared to be in her 50s, immediately went to see her son's teacher. But the teacher told the mother that she could get into trouble for making up stories.
Meanwhile, in an incident with Berndt, children who reported that he appeared to be masturbating behind his desk reportedly were told the same thing, a former Miramonte student said.
The mother in the latest case said she was struck by the similarities.
"When the mother abuses her kid and they find out at school they throw all the authorities at you," she said Tuesday. "But what happens when it's the other way around? I couldn't do anything."
She said she next went to the Sheriff's Department, which directed her to return to the school to handle the matter.
At a second meeting, those present included the mother, her son, the teacher, Luisjuan and an assistant principal.
According to the mother, Luisjuan admitted writing letters and drawing the picture. Luisjuan compared her affection to that of a grandmother for a grandson, the mother said. The mother was sent home, but not before she insisted on a written record of the meeting, which she kept.
"Why would they pay attention to me?" the mother said. "I'm a single mother and Mexican."
The aide delivered the final letter, the one quoted above, on the same day as the meeting, June 23, 2009. She also allegedly gave the boy a gift: a crystal, heart-shaped bowl full of candy.
An L.A. Unified spokeswoman, when asked in 2009 about the incident, said that Luisjuan no longer worked for the school system.
Human trafficking spotlight focused on South County
This is 21st century human trafficking. And Florida is in the thick of it.
by MELODY JAMESON
In a Pinellas County beach community, young women were held captive in a large waterfront house without clothes, money or identification, forced to work in local commercial sex trade joints strictly for the pleasure and profit of others.
In Boca Raton, more than 30 Philippine Island natives were confined in a small house, threatened with deportation, their passports and transportation tickets confiscated, forced to work at low-paying jobs theoretically to discharge debts involved in bringing them to the U.S. for a better life. Accumulating charges for their board ensured they never were free of the debt.
In South Hillsborough County last weekend, sheriff's deputies and U.S. Border Patrol agents intercepted two women transporting five Mexican nationals illegally in this country and enroute to farms in Immokalee, ostensibly for jobs and wages, quite possibly for another outcome.
In the first instance, charges under Florida's human trafficking statute have been lodged against three pimps. In the second, a husband and wife team operating so-called employment agencies was charged with a number of offenses from trafficking to fraud, and convicted. In the new South Hillsborough case, a drug charge has been filed and a human trafficking filing is pending as one of the women carrying $6,000 in cash resides for the moment in a Hillsborough jail. Border patrol agents took custody of the currency and the vehicle.
This is 21st century human trafficking. And Florida is in the thick of it, one of three primary U.S. human trafficking destinations. Its climate, beaches and landscape make attractive lures used to entice victims then isolated and made increasingly vulnerable by their captors, enslaved by physical, verbal and other abuses.
It targets populations least able to defend themselves – children, runaways, attractive women in need, foreign adults desperate for a chance in the U.S. It is linked to pornography and to organized crime. It is largely a cash business, and lots of it.
It's a brutal, ugly, inhumane business with a long history. Prehistoric artifacts indicate that enslavement of and trade in human beings goes back to the hunter societies. Americans began taking an interest in “white slavery” — trafficking in women and girls – a hundred years ago, passing the country's first laws prohibiting the practice. Today, task forces exist to inform the general public, advocate for tougher laws and provide for rescued victims.
It still happens, though, and the efforts of one of them focused on South Hillsborough in late January, human trafficking awareness month. Using a workbook developed by the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute at St. Petersburg College, members of the Clearwater Area Taskforce on Human Trafficking conducted a four-hour seminar for interested South County citizens. The taskforce covers Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.
Dewey Williams, a retired deputy police chief, and Sandra Lyth, chief executive of the Intercultural Advocacy Institute in Pinellas, took turns explaining “the many faces of human trafficking,” how it functions in Florida, the profits realized by its perpetrators and the toll taken in human lives. They were joined by Hilary Sessions, mother of Tiffany Sessions, the 20 -year-old University of Florida student who disappeared without a trace 23 years ago this month in Gainesville. The economics major's abduction case remains open and the search for her continues as authorities consider she could have become a human trafficking victim.
For profit-making organized crime, human trafficking is second only to the drug trade, Williams and Lyth emphasized, producing an annual return to all perpetrators estimated at $32 billion. It is becoming the preferred business activity for crime syndicates around the world, they added. And on a worldwide basis, some 12 million people are in forced labor and forced prostitution, they said.
Victims often are “invisible,” perhaps in the U.S. illegally, kept physically isolated and guarded, the speakers said. They may be unable to use English, may not know where they are located and may face many cultural barriers, unaware that they have rights under American law.
They are controlled by their captors with a wide range of abuses, including beatings, burnings, rape, starvation, drug and alcohol dependency as well as threats aimed at their families, debt bondage and loss of documents proving their identities, origins and other vital information.
Victims can be found working not only in prostitution,. exotic dancing and adult clubs, but also as maids in hotels, in restaurant kitchens, in domestic service, in factories, on landscape crews and in agricultural packing plants or fields, plus as day laborers, on carnival midways and begging on public streets.
They once may have been among the millions of homeless youngsters roaming America's cities or among the many girls and women who disappear from their home ground every year for no apparent reason or from an impoverished country where the only chance for improvement in circumstances is escape. What they have in common are needs, dreams, ambitions that can be exploited, Williams and Lyth noted.
However, victims sometimes can be spotted, they also said. Human trafficking victims may lack personal items and possessions, may be without financial records and personal documents, may not have transportation or knowledge of the community. They may appear malnourished, have injuries from beatings or weapons and show signs of branding or torture. They also may be overseen by a third party who insists on interpreting or holding legal and travel documents.
As the three-county taskforce now focuses on South Hillsborough, plans are taking shape for a number of awareness programs and fund-raising projects with a range of objectives, according to June Wallace, a Kings Point resident and taskforce member.
In the near term, legislation tightening Florida's human trafficking law – contained in SB 1880 – is making its way through the process in Tallahassee at this time, three billboards showing a man and the message “he wants to rent your daughter” are planned along interstate roadways during the August GOP convention and a WRAP – White Ribbons against Porn – campaign is set for the first week in November.
The local committee being chaired by Wallace also is putting together a speakers' bureau to provide programs for local organizations as the men's group at the United Methodist Church in Sun City Center is initiating a mentoring program for its boy scouts. In addition, an eight-hour training course for local law enforcement officers is being coordinated with sheriff's office schedules.
From a longer perspective, Wallace said the groundwork for an ARTreach program as an after-school activity for middle and high school girls now is underway. The objective is to conduct classes after school hours and probably under the aegis of one of the local churches in graphic and dramatic arts designed to educate girls in avoiding human trafficking pitfalls. Supplies are being collected.
And one of the longest range goals is development of a safe retreat for rescued trafficking victims in Central Florida, she added. Such a sheltered environment exists in Georgia, using equine therapy in a ranch-like setting to promote the emotional and psychological healing required for the trafficking victim's successful journey back to constructive, independent living. This goal has been undertaken by a St. Petersburg-based organization called “Bridging freedom” dedicated to “restoring stolen childhoods” by finding “Solutions for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims.”
Wallace's South County committee will be helping with fund raising for the retreat development, beginning with an event dubbed “Chair-aTea” foreseen on a Sunday in early 2013, she said. The event is to feature an especially blended tea, along with assorted delicacies, served to tables of eight, she added. The event also will include a silent auction of donated novel and unique handbags “filled with goodies” in a feature called “Purses for a Purpose.”
Yet another highlight of the event is to be a live auction of one-of-a-kind chairs created and donated by local artists. Wallace said she anticipates the chairs will materialize in the months before the slated tea so they can be displayed and viewed in prominent South County locations prior to the bidding opportunity.
Survivor of sex trafficking tells her story
by Jennifer White and Mercedes Mejia
Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House
, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.
Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.
Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.
“I was basically just your normal teenager who was starved for attention and there was somebody who was there to say exacted what I wanted to hear,” Flores recalls.
During high school, Flores says she was targeted by some older boys at school. One day one of those boys offered to drive her home.
“He didn't take me home. He took me to his house…he offered me a pop, and it was laced with something. He proceeded to rape me, and then his cousins were there taking pictures. And it wasn't revealed to me until several days later that they had a plan…I was to earn them back.”
Flores was blackmailed into having forced sex with strangers. Two years later the Flores family moved to another city far away from Birmingham. That's how she escaped.
But many survivors of domestic sex trade don't escape, she says. “Most will die in it."
Flores wrote a book about her experience called The Sacred Bath: An American Teen's Story of Modern Day Slavery .
She now helps other survivors. Her new program called S.O.A.P, or Save Our Adolescence from Prostitution calls attention to human trafficking.
Volunteers place bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in motel rooms. They also offer training to hotel staff members on the signs of missing children and run away kids that are caught up with a pimp or trafficker.
Jacksonville Group Rescues Human Trafficking Victims
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On the streets of Jacksonville lurks a dangerous network of human trafficking.
Many are runaway teens, some under the age of 14. Others have been shipped to the U.S. All are being sold for sex.
"There's ways for them to contact us, and if they are ready to run we will send a team after them," said Dan Benedict, the founder of what is called the Defender Foundation.
Benedict has a history himself. "I had an internet pornography addiction a while back myself, and it destroyed my life and my family." His past now has him on a mission: to give hope.
The Defender Foundation is a volunteer group in Jacksonville which hunts for victims of human trafficking across the world.
"Some major groups are behind this. Various bike gangs, russian organized crime," said Benedict.
The group has been up and running for one year. It's now working with local Russian churches to track down victims.
"We have trafficking victims coming in from various ports in cargo containers drugged for that journey and then sold up the east coast," said Benedict.
He also notes his group has traveled from Jacksonville to Pennsylvania, the Dominican Republic and so far has helped rescue 15 girls in 10 different operations.
"I'm one of the first people that connects with them, make conversation and make them feel safe," said Erin Pruett.
Pruett is part of an all woman team in the Defender Foundation who has gone through combat training. Her job is to make contact and help the girls escape.
"You can't do everything for everyone. You can't rescue everyone, but you can do for one what you wish you could do for everyone, and that's how I take it," said Pruett.
Those with the Defender Foundation said the recovery process can be dangerous, but they are prepared for it.
"There's a security team. Their goal is to be there within five seconds if there are any problems," said Benedict.
While the Defenders don't work in conjunction with police, they do pass along information to authorities.
"We are not out there being cowboys and kicking down doors," said Benedict. He says his group has been met with some resistance by authorities.
Benedict said the Defender Foundation follows the law at all times. And if a rescued victim suddenly decides they don't want to leave, "We are not kidnappers, we're going to have to let them off," said Benedict.
There's no way to tell how many are trapped inside the dangerous web of human trafficking. It's so rampant, authorities can't even keep track.
That's why the Defender Foundation is focused on its mission to deliver hope to those in need of rescue.
"We could rescue every girl in the planet tonight. Tomorrow the demand is so huge that hundreds of thousands would be taken," said Benedict.
Wash. Senate passes bill pressuring sex ad sellers
by JONATHAN KAMINSKY
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday going after classified advertising companies that don't demand ID before allowing sex-related ads to be posted online.
Speaking on the Senate floor, proponents said the bill would pressure companies selling sex ads online to attempt to verify the ages of those depicted.
"This is for our kids," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who added she hopes other states follow Washington's lead.
The bill, SB 6251, now goes to the House.
The bill's primary target is Backpage.com, which operates a robust online clearinghouse for sex escorts.
Critics estimate parent company Village Voice Media makes more than $22 million per year from sex-related ads, a figure the Phoenix-based company has not disputed. It owns 13 weekly newspapers, including Seattle Weekly.
Shared Hope International, an anti-sex-trafficking group headed by former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith of Washington state, has compiled a list of dozens of cases in 15 states in which girls were allegedly sold for sex on Backpage.com, most within the past year. The Seattle Police Department says it has linked 22 cases of child prostitution since 2010 to girls who were advertised as escorts on the website.
Backpage.com has been the nation's leading source of online sex escort ads since Craigslist.org shuttered its adult services section in September 2010.
Lawmakers have struggled to craft legislation going after Backpage.com that doesn't run afoul of the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act, which grants broad protections to websites for speech made by third parties.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, who took an active role in tweaking the bill, said he expects it will generate court challenges but thinks they will fail.
"I believe this bill will survive the inevitable scrutiny the courts will give it," Kline said.
Steve Suskin, a lawyer for Village Voice Media, said the amended bill is no better than the original, which he earlier derided as plainly in conflict with federal law.
"It would make publishers liable for content posted by third parties, and that's exactly what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prohibits," Suskin said.
Suskin said Backpage.com works with various law enforcement agencies to weed out suspected cases of child sex trafficking.
Bruce Johnson, a Seattle attorney who is a leading scholar on the First Amendment and advertising, said earlier versions of the bill seemed to run counter to the federal decency law. However, he said, the statute contains an exception for state laws to be consistent with federal law against child sexual trafficking.
"That is where they're headed," Johnson said. "This would be an interesting legal case for a court to consider."
The bill was one of seven sex trafficking measures passed Wednesday by the Senate, all unanimously.
Other bills would crack down on selling those with mental disabilities for sex, go after those profiting from a minor engaging in a sexual performance, and make it easier in civil court to seize the assets of those with ties to sex trafficking.
Child abuse prevention workshop set for Monday
A child abuse prevention workshop will be held Monday at Castle Heights Elementary Library to educate teachers, child-care workers, ministers and anyone who works around children.
The workshop will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Seating for the workshop is limited to 60, so RSVPs are mandatory. Free child care is available.
“It's not a topic that we want to think about or discuss, but it is real,” said Beth Petty, director of the Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center.
Petty has attended the training three times, once when it was provided to special school district staff, once through Wilson County Parents as Teachers and last year, when the FRC presented the workshop to parents and community leaders.
“The first time I attended the training, I knew that child sexual abuse was real. I knew that I needed to report suspected abuse. I knew I would want to protect any child in this situation, but what really impacted me were the faces and stories of adult survivors of child sexual abuse,'' Petty said.
Abuse survivor will speak
Deb Daugherty, executive director of the 15th Judicial Child Advocacy Center, which serves children in Wilson, Trousdale, Smith, Macon and Jackson counties who have been physically and or/sexually abused, will lead the workshop. Their mission is to reduce the trauma of child abuse and facilitate the healing process.
“We first opened this workshop to the public in February 2011. At that first workshop, over 60 people attended. Typically, we target parents for our workshops, and that is still the case. However, we know that this one is a topic that all teachers, child-care workers, youth ministers and anyone working with children needs to attend,'' Daugherty said.
This year, an additional speaker has been added to the evening's agenda. Lebanon Special School District Special Education Teacher Gregrhi Love, a survivor of child sexual abuse and a published author, will be the guest speaker. Love will have a limited time to speak because the presentation Daugherty brings is two hours long. However, Love will briefly touch on the following topics: abuse, survival, addiction, foster care, juvenile justice and education as a tool of resilience.
To RSVP contact Beth Petty at 615-453-2693, text to 615-804-2460 or email email@example.com
— Submitted by the Lebanon Special School District
Universities must support students who have experienced violence: study
Concordia researchers suggest mentoring is a strong way for students to overcome ‘learning blocks'
by Sarah Deshaies
MONTREAL (CUP) — Rosemary Reilly and Miranda D'Amico always noticed a few women in their small education classes who stood apart from their peers: they were overly argumentative, or totally silent in class, sitting at the back of the class. Some would zone out, or would admit to their teachers that they had trouble with grasping the theory part of their courses.
“With some of our students, there was this real block to learning. They were intelligent, bright people, but there was just something blocking them,” said Reilly, a professor in applied human sciences at Concordia University in Montreal.
“So we did a little bit of talking with them to find out what it was, and a theme that they seemed to have was that they were survivors of either physical or sexual abuse when they were younger.”
After interviewing 10 of these women, who were different ages and came from varying racial and economic backgrounds, Reilly and D'Amico drew a conclusion: mentoring relationships can help these students overcome the “blocks” they have on their path to education.
Their study, “The Impact of Childhood Abuse on University Women's Career Choice,” was published in a 2011 issue of Journal of College Student Development, and it's the third in a series of studies done by D'Amico — a professor in education — and Reilly, on trauma and education.
In an earlier study published in 2008, the Concordia professors determined that abuse can help student “self-select” into certain vocations, especially so-called feminine, helpful careers like nursing, teaching and social work, where pay is often lower, leading to a ghettoization of those areas of work.
They noticed during that study that their subjects sought out the support of people in order to help themselves.
“Women were talking about relationships that they had with mentors that helped them want to be able to see themselves as capable of learning, capable of succeeding, and being able to move forward in their educational studies [and healing],” said Reilly.
Reilly suggested that all members of the academic community, including professors, counsellors, advisors and student leaders, should be trained to provide mentorship and recognize signs of childhood trauma in students. A mentor is someone who is available, both physically and emotionally, to listen to an individual and provide support.
“We need to see this as a learning disability,” she said, where certain people need “support in order to be able to learn.”
One out of five American women are adult survivors of some form of sexual child abuse, according to Learning and Violence studies done in the 1990s.
“We have to, as educators, that we have to pay attention to effect of violence on learning and mitigate through the way we design programming and engage with students in every way,” said Jenny Horsman, an adjunct professor at University of Toronto who researches how violence can impact learning, and compiles her work at the website Learning and Violence. Mentoring and relationships are one way for people to overcome issues linked to trauma, she suggested.
“They hang in when they would be tempted to give up on themselves and quit because somebody really engaged with them, noticed them,” explained Horsman, whose work was cited in D'Amico and Reilly's article.
“Universities in particular could be doing a lot more to promote mentorship for young people, because university is this sweet spot moment where people start to emerge and explore what their adult identity means and how to get there,” said Ross Laird, a social services consultant and professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. “And mentorship is one of the only ways to get there.”
Students are coming to school less and less prepared and are dealing with a variety of stresses that may hinder their education, resulting in a change in academic culture.
“What we're seeing happen now is a kind of shift toward the instructor or professor as a facilitator and mentor as much they are a content expert,” said Laird, who suggested that there is absence of dialogue on this issue at the national level.
Instead, change is happening at the grassroots, like at Kwantlen, which has established its own mentorship programs.
“It's more like individual universities and colleges are finding their own way through this because they've had challenges,” Laird suggested. “They've had crises or they've had a consistent run of students being under-prepared or emotionally vulnerable or unready for university.”
But Reilly admitted that her and D'Amico's work is not yet complete: they would like to survey men in similar situations and conduct much broader surveys with hundreds of more subjects before they will consider making further policy recommendations to post-secondary institutions and government agencies.
The stakes for helping students who are victims of abuse are high, she suggested, as there's a significant portion of the population that has this untapped capacity.
“They are not going to be able to be everything they want to be and contribute to society in whichever way they want to contribute fully because they have these blocks,” said Reilly.
Babies at Highest Risk for Child Abuse, New Study Says
by Unwirklich Vin Zant
As a mother I was shocked to read a new study in the Pediatrics journal that found infants under the age of 1 are abused more than children in any other age range. The study, which analyzed close to 46,000 cases of child abuse found in hospitals in the U.S in 2006 returned some disturbing figures -- and these were only based on kids that made it to the hospital. Many cases of abuse go untreated.
The study found that six out of every 100,000 children in the U.S. are likely to be seriously abused. In infants under the age of 1, that rate jumps to 58. The data also turned up that parents on Medicare are statistically six times more likely to abuse their children, though the obvious correlation could be that parents with Medicare that abuse their children are more likely to seek medical attention because they don't pay for it. Of the 4,569 admissions in 2006, 300 children died. This was also surprisingly the first study ever done in the U.S. to publicly release data on child abuse-based hospitalizations.
Another study, done back in Sept. 2011 by the Pediatrics journal, made an attempt to explain why our news headlines are being flooded with children abused or murdered by their parents, and why child abuse rates are on the rise. The study found that is areas of the U.S. where the economy was worse, child abuse rates were higher, suggesting economical stress was to blame. This, however, does not explain why infant abuse rates are eight times higher than the average for child abuse in general.
Any parent -- who hasn't hit the teen stage at least -- can take a guess. Babies are not all sweet smiles and breast-milk breath. They are a stressful, time-consuming, and emotionally trying experience. If the economy stresses parents out enough for them to hurt their children, just imagine what the stress of a new baby does to new parents or parents with too much on their plate already. I personally have many a time thought of throwing my children right out the window, or possibly selling them for a tidy retirement, however, there is a big difference between thinking about and actually doing. That difference is love. While I can through experience relate to why babies are abused more often, I can't emphatically understand how any level of stress could lead a parent to hurt their own child at any age, let alone a defenseless little baby.
Jerry Sandusky cleared of two allegations and as trial approaches, no indication more charges to be filed
February 08, 2012
by SARA GANIM
Two allegations of child abuse brought against Jerry Sandusky by family members after his November arrest have been labeled unfounded, the attorney for the former Penn State football defensive coordinator said.
The 68-year-old Sandusky received a letter in the mail from Children and Youth Services last month telling him that two cases opened shortly after his Nov. 5 arrest on dozens of separate child sex abuse charges would not lead to more charges.
Attorney Joe Amendola also said prosecutors have given no indication that Sandusky will face additional charges in the ongoing grand jury investigation that have led to more than 50 charges against Sandusky in cases involving 10 alleged victims.
Instead, attorneys on both sides are preparing for trial with a frenzy of court filings for Senior Judge John M. Cleland, who will oversee the trial. Amendola said Cleland wants the case to go before a jury by the end of the year, if not sooner.
Amendola, who is sifting through hundreds of pages of evidence, pointed out in court papers that prosecutors had three years to build their case.
He's scrambling to build his defense in just months.
“We're really being pushed to kind of decipher this stuff,” Amendola said about the mounds of evidence. “We'll be prepared to try the case whenever the judge says, but we're playing a lot of catch-up right now.”
Sandusky will be in court Friday for the first time since waiving his December preliminary hearing, and Cleland is expected to start sorting out details of the trial, a process that is expected to take two to four weeks.
First, prosecutors want to bring in an out-of-county jury, saying recent events show a deep “psychological and economic investment” between Penn State University and the Centre County community.
“It is simply a fact that other, even adjacent, counties have a less intimate connection with Penn State,” the state attorney general's office has said in court paperwork.
Amendola said he'll oppose that request. Instead, he's asking for a modification to Sandusky's bail that will allow his client to visit with his grandchildren and travel with a private investigator.
In response, prosecutors wrote that Sandusky was “fortunate” to be out of jail and in his home, where “he can eat food of his own preference and sleep in his own bed at night.
“House arrest is not meant to be a house party,” Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach said.
Several neighbors have complained that Sandusky is allowed to sit on his back porch — his yard borders Lemont Elementary School property, Eshbach said.
State College School District officials said they have been working closely with police for security, and Police Chief Tom King said he checked with the county probation department to make sure Sandusky could sit on his porch after a school employee made a concerned call.
Eshbach indicated in court filings that she plans to tell the judge on Friday that she wants to bar Sandusky from going outside.
Also on Friday, Amendola is expected to argue that he wants an early look at the transcripts of grand jury testimony of possibly more than 100 witnesses who testified during the three-year secret investigation.
Typically, under Pennsylvania law, that testimony isn't given to the defense until just before cross-examination at trial.
Releasing it early would give Amendola a head start on his defense, since he said in court documents that statements by witnesses and accusers “have not been consistent or truthful.”
Amendola also wants Cleland to force prosecutors to hand over dozens of pages of evidence that he says were redacted from discovery — evidence prosecutors and police have uncovered and must turn over to the defense in preparation for its case.
Among the items that Amendola is requesting:
A psychologist report regarding Victim One, and doctor's records regarding Victim Six; plus, at least one other psychologist's report for an unidentified person.
A full copy of the police interview with late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
Details of an interview with former Center County Assistant District Attorney Karen Arnold, in which Amendola said she had “extensive disagreements” with her boss, missing former District Attorney Ray Gricar. Gricar made the decision not to prosecute Sandusky when two boys alleged he touched them during a shower incident at Penn State in 1998.
Documents and police reports regarding incident investigations involving Sandusky's sixth adopted son, Matt Sandusky. His biological mother has raised several concerns about her son's relationship with Sandusky.
Eight boxes of photographs seized by subpoena from The Second Mile, the children's charity that Sandusky founded and where prosecutors say Sandusky met most of his alleged victims.
Travel records from Penn State that detail arrangements for the football team during the 1999 Outback Bowl in Florida.
Prosecutors' “victim ideology” report and the identity of all accusers who came forward but “did not fit the commonwealth's profile and/or the report was deemed to be false.”
Sandusky had already asked for the names and ages of his accusers, along with the exact locations and dates where they claim they were molested.
Amendola, in court papers, said those were necessary for several reasons: He wants to see if the statute of limitations might have run out on any of the crimes, and wants to see if Sandusky has an alibi for any of the incidents. And he wants to compare phone records of the accusers.
“The defendant believes the accusers may have collaborated with each other in making these false allegations,” Amendola wrote.
Sandusky treating house arrest like 'a house party'
by the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- Prosecutors blasted Jerry Sandusky's recent request to see his grandchildren, saying the former Penn State assistant football coach should not be allowed to treat his house arrest like "a house party."
Sandusky, who was charged in November with sexually abusing several young boys over a 14-year period, asked a judge two weeks ago to modify the terms of his bail so he can see his grandchildren or contact them via phone.
His lawyer filed a motion urging a judge to allow him to visit with his grandchildren because his "11 minor grandchildren ... have expressed their sadness to their parents about not being able to visit or talk" with him, the court documents said.
Prosecutors filed a motion this week urging a judge not to allow the visits and said Sandusky's home is not safe for children, according to court documents.
Prosecutors are also asking that Sandusky prove that his grandchildren or their parents want these visits.
"Jill Thomas, ex-wife of Sandusky's son, Matthew Sandusky, strenuously objects to her three minor children having any contact whatsoever with Sandusky," prosecutors said.
His neighbors have complained about Sandusky being in the yard of his home that borders a playground, prosecutors said.
Along with being allowed to contact his grandchildren, Sandusky also asked the judge to allow him to have his friends visit his home, and that he be allowed to travel to meet with his attorney and private investigators working on his case.
That request also drew a strong response from prosecutors.
"(Sandusky) was fortunate to be granted house arrest when he is alleged to have committed at least 52 sexual offenses against innocent children," prosecutors said in court motions. "He has been granted the privilege of being confined in his home, which is spacious and private and where he can eat food of his own preference and sleep in his bed at night."House arrest is not meant to be a house party."
A hearing on this issue is set for Friday at a Pennsylvania courthouse, authorities said.
California LA School Scandal: 2nd Teacher Charged, Fired by Board
by KEVIN DOLAK and COLLEEN CURRY
Feb. 8, 2012
Prosecutors in Los Angeles have filed lewd-acts charges against a second teacher for allegedly fondling at least one student at the beleaguered Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles.
Martin Springer was charged Tuesday with committing three counts of committing lewd acts on one girl, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that a law enforcement officer said that a second girl recanted her accusation against the teacher.
Bail for Springer was reportedly set at $300,000, while the judge said that the 49-year-old will be forced to wear an ankle monitoring device if released.
Tom Waldman, spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District told The Associated Press that the board voted unanimously to terminate Springer. He has 30 days to appeal the decision.
LAUSDA Superintendent John Deasy took a controversial step after Springer was arrested along with fellow teacher Mark Berndt when earlier this week he had the school's 128-person staff temporarily transferred out of the school for the remainder of the winter track.
Berndt was arrested after a year-long investigation after he allegedly committed lewd acts with 23 children aged 6-10 between 2005 and 2010, which allegedly included feeding the students cookies with his semen on them and taking pictures of students blindfolded with cockroaches in their faces.
Attorney Keith Davidson, who is representing one of the young clients in the case against Berndt, said that the student kept photos given to him by his teacher.
"They were souvenirs of this lesson on the sense of taste," Davidson said. "I've seen pictures of my clients, boys, bound, with their hands behind their back."
The district has now contacted former teachers and staff members who had been laid off during budget cuts to come back and temporarily teach at the school.
The school district is checking fingerprints, backgrounds and personnel files of those individuals who are interested in coming back to temporarily teach at Miramonte to ensure that they have no record of inappropriate behavior with children, Ramos said.
The school is expected to reopen to students on Thursday.
The current Miramonte staff will go to a non-operational school facility and undergo interviews with administrators and investigators.
Lawyer Brian Claypool told ABC News that he has identified a female teacher who would allegedly bring little girls to Berndt to be victimized.
"I reported to the L.A. County Sheriff's Special Victims Unit a new teacher who I believe patently aided and abetted the abuse Berndt was carrying out," Claypool told ABCNews.com.
Claypool said his accusation has come from conversations with at least three students or former students who said the other female teacher had a role in the alleged crimes.
"She was a teacher who would escort little girls into Berndt's classroom when he was all alone. Berndt would come over in the middle of day, whisper in her ear, and they would giggle, and then teacher would pick out two girls, escort them through a common door, so that they were stuck with a pedophile in this classroom. And that's where he was blindfolding them and spoon feeding them semen," he said.
The troubled elementary school in Los Angeles' Huntington Park neighborhood has already seen allegations of child sexual assault in the past decade.
Teacher's aide Ricardo Guevara is currently serving out a 15-year sentence after he was found guilty of fondling three kindergarten girls in 2003 while working at the school, according to ABC News affiliate KABC.
Los Angeles Unified School District was ordered in 2008 to pay Guevara's victims a $1.6 million settlement.
Attorney Keith Davidson, who is representing one of the alleged victims of Berndt, also worked on the case against Guevara.
"You would think that after this prior allegation Miramonte would be the safest school in the country," Davidson told KABC.
Jacksonville march focuses on child sex abuse, bringing molesters to justice
23 women file charges; police say they will investigate.
by Dan Scanlan
They marched in silence Tuesday down East Bay Street behind a drummer, a two block long line of people demanding a stop to sexual abuse against children.
Then an estimated 200 supporters of ReClaim Global, some there to testify against men who abused them as children, climbed the Police Memorial Building steps to cry out.
“No more silent crimes, silent children,” they yelled with “Stop Sexual Abuse” signs held high.
ReClaim Global is a Jacksonville-based organization started by sexual abuse counselor Kaye Smith. She told supporters it was time to “push evil back where it belongs outside our city” and make it tougher against sexual abusers.
“Why can't Jacksonville become the model for other cities and other states on how to deal with sexual abuse?” she said on the Sheriff's Office steps. “Why can't we show them that we huffed and we puffed and we blew the work of these evil molesters down?”
Supporter Renee Matt, 46, was one of 23 women who filed prosecution requests against men she said sexually abused her from age 9 to 21.
“It is a necessary step, and not daring at all,” Matt said. “I went through ReClaim and received my healing and there is no shame on me at all. I put all the shame and guilt on my perpetrators.”
Ann Dugger, head of the Justice Coalition, which supports the families of crime victims in Northeast Florida, was also there. She said the battle to make sure victims and families report sexual abuse instead of being embarrassed by it is “vital,” especially after Jarred Harrell was sentenced to six life sentences after luring 7-year-old Somer Thompson of Orange Park to her death and molesting a young niece.
“Had we caught a man who not only sexually molested and raped a young child, then murdered her, maybe he could be behind bars without a murder,” Dugger said. “… It is very important when a child says that something is happening that's not right, that someone listens to them and does something about it, and prosecution is done.”
Smith has been counseling sex abuse victims since 1995.
Twenty-three women she has counseled decided to press charges against their abusers Tuesday, their prosecution requests bundled in a purple ribbon with an “I Told” tag on it.
Assistant Chief Chris Butler in the sheriff's Crimes Against Persons Division, said in an email that each request will be taken seriously and assigned to detectives.
“At the conclusion of each individual investigation, we will meet with the State Attorney's Office and the victims to determine the best course of action,” he said.
Ashton Kutcher's plea to end child sex trafficking
Feb 7 2012
by Tim Kenneally
LOS ANGELES, Feb 7 (TheWrap.com) - Ashton Kutcher turned 34 on Tuesday, and he's asking for fans' help to make his birthday wish come true -- to end child sex trafficking and exploitation.
The "Two and a Half Men" star -- who's currently going through a divorce from his wife of six years, Demi Moore -- has set up a page on Causes.com to raise $10,000 for the DNA Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting child exploitation.
Kutcher is vowing to match donations to the organization dollar for dollar, up to $350,000.
In an accompanying video, Kutcher says that the donations will be put "toward technology tools for fighting child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children."
"I'm determined this year to do everything in my power to make the world a better place," Kutcher says, adding, "any help that you could give towards that would be amazing - an amazing present for me..."
The subject has been close to Kutcher's heart for some time now; in July, the actor feuded with Village Voice Media, urging advertisers to pull their support. Kutcher accused the Village Voice of allowing ads for underage prostitutes in its pages, a claim that the Voice denied. (The Voice also accused Kutcher of using misleading statistics.)
314 ‘Johns' arrested in sting targeting sex traffickers
In hotels and brothels, and via the Internet over a 10-day period ending Monday night, 314 “johns” were arrested and charged in a multi-state effort targeting sex traffickers.
It's the result of the second “National Day of Johns Arrests,” following the momentum of last year's Columbus Day weekend pilot sweep of “johns,” according to the Cook County's Sheriff's Office.
The FBI Chicago Division, Aurora police, Elgin police and the Kane County Sheriff's Office were some of the local law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation.
“Large sporting events such as the Super Bowl bring out competitiveness in all of us — including, unfortunately, pimps and sex traffickers,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in the release. “In the days leading up to and including Super Bowl Sunday, my office coordinated with 19 other law enforcement agencies from around the country to send a strong message that our communities refuse to tolerate the sale of human beings for sex.”
Dart and the sheriff's office took the lead in coordinating the nationwide sweep as part of an ongoing effort to highlight the role of sex buyers as perpetrators while also providing support for prostitutes through its Human Trafficking Response Team, a sheriff's office release said.
In total, 556 people were arrested during the sting, including 314 men for soliciting sex; 227 misdemeanor arrests including prostitution; two human trafficking arrests and five pimping arrests; three pandering arrests; four theft arrests; 10 possession/delivery of drugs arrests; 12 weapons charges.
There were 667 total charges filed, 114 vehicles towed and up to $474,300 may be collected in fines, the release said.
Anti-Human Trafficking Ballot Initiative Campaign Kicks Off in San Diego
WHO: Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher, Assistant Assembly Minority Leader; Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Second District, County of San Diego; Nikki Junker, Human Trafficking Survivor; Brian Marvel, President of the San Diego Police Officers Association; Chris Kelly, Founder of the Safer California Foundation and former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer; Daphne Phung, Founder of California Against Slavery; Laura McLean, STARS Coordinator, San Diego Youth Services; and Rev. Wayne Riggs, Pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church.
WHAT: Community leaders, law enforcement, human trafficking survivors, and advocates will gather at the San Diego campaign kick-off to gather signatures for the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act). Slated for the November 2012 ballot once qualified, the CASE Act will update California's laws to confront the growing and underreported problem of human trafficking within the state.
California is a major center for domestic sex trafficking crimes against American women and girls and includes three of the thirteen areas that the FBI has identified as high-intensity child sex trafficking regions in the nation - San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. But California's current laws do not provide law enforcement with tools needed to confront the problem. In a recent national report, the state received an "F" grade on laws to protect children against sex trafficking.
WHERE: San Diego Youth Services Boardroom, 3255 Wing Street, San Diego, CA 92110
Since 1970, San Diego Youth Services has helped stabilize the lives of more than a half-million young people and their families. They work to fight the tragedies of homeless youth and youth in crisis and administer programs from fourteen locations throughout San Diego County.
WHEN: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
MORE DETAILS: The CASE Act, a partnership of California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation, aims to strengthen laws against human traffickers and improve Megan's Law against online predators. The CASE Act would:
- Increase prison terms for human traffickers to provide a deterrent and match the severity of the crime
- Increase fines for human traffickers, up to $1.5M to fund victim services
- Remove the need to prove physical force to prosecute sex trafficking of a minor
- Mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement
- Make sex traffickers register as sex offenders
- Require that all sex offenders disclose internet accounts
- Prohibit use of sexual history to impeach or prove criminal liability of trafficked victims
For comprehensive information on the CASE Act, visit www.CASEAct.org
Human Traffickers Still Use the So-Called 'Minnesota Pipeline'
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A report being delivered to Minnesota lawmakers this week is expected to open their eyes to an issue often in the shadows - human trafficking. Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC), says some estimates put the number of women and girls involved in prostitution in the state at 10,000.
"The fact is that Minnesota has a human trafficking problem out of proportion to our population; more than you would expect. And so, the first thing we need to do, I think, is just shake us up a little and say, 'This is happening in our backyard and we have to address a growing problem.'"
Rusche says the perpetrators often target those children who are vulnerable; the typical age of a child forced into trafficking is between 11 and 14.
"If you're a young person and you're homeless, and somebody is going to get you out of the cold and give you a warm place to live, that has a certain amount of attraction – and just may be enough to keep you in a really unhealthy relationship."
Some people question why the victims don't just run when the false kindness they were shown turns into forced sex or labor. Rusche explains it is often because they have nowhere to turn, and have been robbed of their human dignity and free will.
"There's a certain level of coercion, psychological control and fear involved, so that people feel like they are locked in, they're trapped and they can't get out. It's a modern form of slavery."
Two ways to address the issue, says Rusche, are to enact tougher penalties for perpetrators and ensure that state law treats victims like victims. He adds the factors that increase vulnerability to human trafficking also need to be addressed – such issues as poverty, homelessness and child neglect.
Rusche says the state actually earned the label "the Minnesota pipeline" because of its reputation as a place where young girls could easily be lured, whether it was in the cities, the suburbs or small towns. In 2008, the FBI declared Minneapolis the eighth worst city in the United States for trafficking of juveniles.
The report is online at jrlc.org
Vatican investigated 4,000 cases of child sex abuse in the last 10 years, U.S. cardinal reveals
by Nick Pisa
A senior Vatican cardinal has revealed how more than 4,000 cases of sex abuse by priests on children have been investigated during the last ten years.
The shock figure was announced by American cardinal Joseph William Levada as he opened a conference on the wide scale phenomenon which has rocked the Roman Catholic church with cases reported all over the world.
Cardinal Levada, who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described the figure as a 'dramatic increase' and came in the face of global indignation at the scale of the problem and which has forced Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for previous cases during papal visits as he meets victims.
Addressing the conference in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University he also stressed that the Catholic Church had an obligation to report paedophile priests to the police and civil authorities - in the past there have been cases in Ireland and elsewhere that bishops 'dragged their heels' in naming offending clergy.
The event called 'Towards Healing and Renewal' is being attended by more than 100 senior bishops and clergy from all over the world - with Ireland's leading Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady among the delegates and it comes after Benedict ordered an Apostolic Visitation into the Irish Catholic Church following two damning reports on the extent of abuse there.
Cardinal Levada stressed the Pope had urged for a 'profound renewal' in the Church and that helping victims of abuse by priests should be its top priority and in a statement the Vatican added: 'He (the Pope) asks the Lord that, through your deliberations, many bishops and religious superiors throughout the world may be helped to respond in a truly Christ-like manner to the tragedy of child abuse.
'As His Holiness has often observed, healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community, and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level.'
However victim groups have hit and complained that it is nothing more than a 'public relations exercise' as the have not been invited and have again called on the Vatican to release its secret archive of documents which details thousands of cases and which it has so far refused to do.
Joelle Casteix, of support group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), said: 'How many meetings will it take for Rome to learn that child sex abuse is a crime, predators must be made public and jailed and church officials who cover up molesters must be held accountable ?
'Even after years of promises, meetings and empty apologies, the Vatican cannot do the simplest, cheapest, and the most child-friendly action possible: make public decades of secret files on clergy sex offenders and enablers.'
She also attacked Cardinal Levada and added: 'Conference leaders say the purpose of the event is to create guidelines on how to handle reports of childhood sexual abuse.
'Who will be leading the discussion? The very same experts and church officials who bear responsibility for the continued global cover up of clergy child sex crimes including Cardinal William Levada, who covered up criminal reports of child rape and sexual assault when he was archbishop of San Francisco and Portland.
'True change and child protection comes through accountability from secular authorities. Until we have that, we must see Rome's meeting for exactly what it is: cheap window dressing.'
The scandal erupted more than 18 months ago as hundreds of cases emerged in Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Germany with even Benedict being dragged into the scandal after he was accused of 'dragging his heels' when dealing with a paedophile priest when he was Archbishop of Munich.
Initially the Vatican took what was seen as a 'defensive' step but in recent months Benedict has been increasingly more open about the problem and has described how the Church is 'truly sorry' for the 'grave errors' it has committed in the past and he has met with victims in Britain and Malta, crying and praying with them.
The conference, which is being held behind closed doors, is due to finish on Thursday and will also hear from Irish victim Marie Collins, 64, who was raped and abused by priests when she was a teenager.
Earlier she had told Vatican Radio that it was important for abuser priests to ask forgiveness, somethings she has already granted but to hear church leaders own up to their roles in prolonging suffering by putting the reputation of the Church above the needs of children in their care.
Child abuse, poverty up in the past 10 years
Teen birth rates decline in Webster County
February 7, 2012
by BRANDON L. SUMMERS
Child abuse and child poverty have both increased in Webster County since 2000.
In January, Iowa Kids Count released its data book, titled "Trends in the Well-Being of Iowa Children." The book, published by the Child and Family Policy Center, provides data on 20 different indicators of child and family well-being for all 99 counties in Iowa.
According to the CFPC, abuse and neglect of children ages 0-17 is up 48.2 percent in Webster County.
From a count of 8,419 children in 2010, 237 children, a total of 28.2 percent, were confirmed to have been abused or neglected during the year. The number is up from 2000, when out of 9,847 children, 187 or 19 percent were abused or neglected.
Webster County has the eighth highest rate of Iowa's 99 counties. The rate for Iowa is 17.3 percent, to 33.8 percent.
Roger Munns, Iowa Department of Human Services spokesman, said that while statistics are likely comparable statewide, "it's very difficult to pinpoint a specific reason in a specific area" for the increase.
"One reason for an increased rate is continuing trouble with unlawful drugs, particularly methamphetamine," he said. "That's been an epidemic in Iowa for a long time. When people are under the influence of drugs they simply aren't capable of making good decisions for their kids."
Munns said abuse rates can also be affected by reports of high-profile cases.
"Whenever there's an unusually tragic event involving child abuse, that almost always results in more reports, people calling the child abuse hotline," he said. "When that happens, there are more investigations and more founded abuses. It gets back to the question, is there really an increase or are we more aware of them than we used to be? The jury's out on that."
Not entirely unrelated, child poverty in Webster County has increased by 55.5 percent since 2000. According to the CFPC, in 2000, of 9,352 children, 1,197 or 12.8 percent lived below the poverty line. In 2009, out of 8,392 children, 1,670 or 19.9 percent were impoverished.
Webster County rated 18th out of 99 counties. The state's rate increased 15.6 percent, to 44.5 percent.
A family's income does not explicitly lead to abuse, Munns said.
"Most wonderful families come from all over the income spectrum. Just because you're poor, you're not a bad parent," he said. "But the most reliable predictor of abuse is income. It's not because you don't have money or income, it's the stress of poverty. It can lead to family stress."
According to Munns, if statistics for abuse and neglect is Iowa were separated into groups by income, there would be more in the lower incomes.
"Webster County is not unusual. Iowa is poorer than it was 10 years ago," he said. "You can see that in the benefits we hand out in food stamps. That has grown remarkably in 10 years. And most of it is economy driven. You'll find lots of evidence to show that people are poorer."
The number of children receiving services through the Women, Infants and Children program increased by 12.5 percent, according to the CFPC report. In 2010, out of 2,248 children ages 0-4, 938 or 41.7 percent received WIC services. In 2003, of 2,361 children, 876 or 37.1 percent benefited from WIC.
Webster County has the 10th highest percentage of children on WIC. The state percent is 28.2 percent in 2010, down 0.1 percent from 2003.
One positive, teen births in Webster County are down by 35.3 percent for ages 15-19. In 2010, of 1,303 females only 36 or 2.8 percent gave birth. In 2000, of 1,452 teens, 62 or 4.3 percent gave birth.
Kari Prescott, Webster County Health Department director, said the teen birth rate has lowered with the involvement of multiple organizations when the rate was high.
"It really brought an awareness to the county," she said. "The Health Department, Planned Parenthood, Linking Families, lots of organizations had a joint effort to make sure there was education in the school and with parents about the importance of talking with their kids about sexuality issues."
Parents Blame Child Sex Abuse Victims More if Perpetrator is Another Youth
2/7/2012 -- University of New Hampshire
DURHAM, N.H. – Parents are much more likely to blame and doubt their children when their child has been sexually abused by another adolescent instead of an adult, according to new research from the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
“Parents may have higher levels of blame toward their child when sexually abused by adolescents because parents have difficulty with the concept of adolescent sex offenders. Some parents may still expect the offender to be an older stranger rather than someone who their child knows, trusts, and is close in age to their child,” said lead researcher Wendy Walsh, research associate professor of sociology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.
“Parents may feel their child could have done something to prevent any association with a troubled adolescent. Some parents might consider sexual acts between those close in age to be consensual and discount the possibility of abuse,” Walsh said.
The research was conducted by Walsh; Lisa Jones, research associate professor of psychology at the Crimes against Children Research Center; and Theodore Cross, research professor at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.
The research is presented in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in the article “Do Parents Blame or Doubt Their Child More When Sexually Abused by Adolescents Versus Adults?”
The researchers analyzed 161 cases of child sexual abuse in which the suspect was 12 or older and the child victim was 5 or older. The cases were part of data collected by Children's Advocacy Centers in 10 communities in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.
The researchers also found parents had significantly higher levels of blame and doubt as the victim's age increased and when children were black.
“It is concerning that mothers of black children had significantly higher levels of blame and doubt. It may be that there are particular ethnic and cultural factors that contribute to expressions of more blame and doubt by parents when a child has been reported as a possible sexual abuse victim. It also is possible that unmeasured factors, such as socioeconomic status, could contribute to the identified differences. More research is needed to help explore how blame and doubt is associated with race/ethnicity,” Walsh said.
Previous studies by the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center of sex offenses against minors show that 36 percent of the offenses were committed by juveniles. Other research estimates up to 50 percent of known cases of child abuse involve an adolescent male perpetrator – estimates the researchers consider conservative given the reluctance to report adolescent sex offenders, many of whom who are related to the victim.
“The results of this study suggest that parents view this particular type of sexual abuse differently from that committed by an adult who is 20 years older than the victim. Given these findings and the high rates for illegal sexual behavior committed by adolescents, more needs to be done to educate parents and professionals about the rates of adolescent sexual abuse and why adolescents might be engaging in this type of behavior,” Walsh said.
The UNH Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) works to combat crimes against children by providing high-quality research and statistics to the public, policy makers, law enforcement personnel, and other child welfare practitioners. CCRC is concerned with research about the nature of crimes including child abduction, homicide, rape, assault, and physical and sexual abuse as well as their impact.
Visit the center online at http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/index.html
New Mexico Senate proposal gives childhood sexual abuse victims more time to file damage lawsuits
SANTA FE, N.M. — Victims of childhood sexual abuse in New Mexico may have more time to bring a civil lawsuit under legislation approved by the Senate.
The measure extends the statute of limitations for a damage lawsuit against an alleged abuser until the victim is age 35.
Victims currently must file a lawsuit by age 24 or within three years of becoming aware of the sexual abuse and its effects on them.
The proposal is in response to a child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University.
The Senate on Monday unanimously approved the bill, which goes to the House for consideration.
Supporters of the legislation say some people in their early 20s may still be under the influence of their alleged abuser or not understand the psychological effects of the abuse.
Program Trains Adults To Stop Sexual Abuse Of Children
by Paul Tuthill
A statewide campaign in Massachusetts is looking to educate and train adults to prevent and stop sexual abuse of children. Advocates believe child sex abuse can be prevented through a grassroots approach. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Sexual abuse of children is disturbingly prevalent according to experts. Dr Stephen Boos, medical director of the Family Advocacy Center at Baystate Childrens Hospital in Springfield says surveys have found 1 in 4 women and 1 in six men were sexually abused as children, but 80 percent never reported it.
Getting more adults trained to recognize the consequences of child sex abuse from a public health perspective, how to identifty abusers, and keep children out of potentially risky situations is the goal of the "Enough Abuse" campaign. The initiative involves training community leaders, particularly people who work for or volunteer with youth service organizations. These trainers are then expected to work at the grassroots with parents and other adults who have regular contact with children.
Dr. Boos says child sexual abuse can be prevented, but it takes diligence.
Dr Boos says children , generally, do not lie when adults question them about sexual abuse.
Massachusetts Citizens for Children, the nation's oldest statewide child advocacy organization, is leading the statewide initiative to train more adults to prevent, recognize and stop child sexual abuse. The effort is supported by a 1.2 million dollar grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prvention, and is backed by dozens of community organizations, according to Eva Montibello, communications director for the Enough Abuse Campaign.
Greater Springfield is the fourth area of the state to be introduced to the campaign. The pre-school program, Square One, is one of the campaign's supporters. The organization's vice president of family services, Joni Beck Brewer, is hopeful for its success.
Other organizations supporting the child sexual abuse prevention campaign include Head Start, the Ms Foundation, and the Springfield Housing Authority.
App that tracks sex offenders a public service
Child sexual abuse is one of the few crimes in which the penalty outlives the sentence.
Historically, completion of a prison sentence pays the offender's debt to society. No so with child sexual abuse. Serving time is only part of a sentence. The offender usually is marked for life, and subject to tracking. A person convicted of molesting a child must register with authorities and is banned from schools and most venues where there are children.
Now, North Carolina is making available an application that lets the public know via smartphone where child sex offenders live.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper demonstrated the application on Monday.
“Knowing where sex offenders live can help you plan for your and your children's safety,” Cooper said. “Families are on the go and we need to make this critical safety information available to them where they are.”
The new app allows users to search for registered North Carolina sex offenders by GPS location or street address from wherever they are.
Offenders' home addresses are pinpointed on the app's on-screen map with red markers. Users can search for all offenders within a 1-, 3- or 5-mile radius and can zoom in on the map.
Offenders' names and addresses are listed below the interactive map. Clicking on an offender's name allows users to view detailed information, including photos and a physical description. An additional click on the offenses button pulls up a list of the offender's crimes requiring registration, including the age of the victims.
Users can also sign up to receive email alerts whenever a registered offender moves near their home, local school, day care center or any other address they choose, or to receive alerts about a particular sex offender.
The app was developed by the Department of Justice's information technology staff using information submitted by sheriffs to the NC Sex Offender Registry maintained by the State Bureau of Investigation.
The app gives people the ability to see who's moving into their neighborhoods. And if a family is considering a move to another neighborhood or city, a tap on the app is all that's needed to ascertain if a predator lives nearby.
Tracking sex offenders is a harsh punishment, but there are few crimes that compare with molesting a child. Some users of the application simply want to know who is on the list. But it will be used by many people who want to protect children.
The app is free. Currently, it's available only for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. The DOJ is working to make it available for other platforms. You can get it from iTunes or at www.ncdoj.gov.
We think it's a service a lot of people will appreciate.
ABOUT THE LAW
In North Carolina, convicted sex offenders must register in person with the sheriff's office where they live, and they must verify their address every six months. State law requires that most convicted sex offenders register for a minimum of 30 years, but are eligible to petition the court to be removed if they meet certain criteria after 10 years. If the offenders are not removed by the court, they remain on the registry for life.
Recidivists, aggravated offenders and predators must remain on the registry for life. Failure to register as required is a felony, as is assisting someone in avoiding their duty to register.
Anyone with information about a convicted sex offender who is not properly registered should notify their sheriff.
If you don't have a device that supports the new app, North Carolinians can get a telephone alert when a convicted sex offender moves into their zip code, or get telephone alerts about a specific offender through the NC SAVAN system. Call 877-627-2826. Details are at www.ncdog.gov
Staff of Miramonte replaced pending sex abuse inquiry
L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy seeks to assure angry parents, who demonstrated at campus over allegations against two teachers. Officials say no other instructors are under suspicion.
by Howard Blume, Sam Allen and Angel Jennings, Los Angeles Times
February 7, 2012
In a dramatic move to quell parents' fears, Los Angeles school officials said they will temporarily replace the entire staff of an elementary school south of downtown Los Angeles, where two teachers have been accused of lewd acts against students.
Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy announced the action at a tense public meeting Monday evening in which Miramonte Elementary School parents chanted "cover-up!" and accused the school system of failing to protect their children.
Some parents said they were alarmed by reports that students had complained about one of the accused teachers several times in the last two decades.
"My trust level is at zero," Cassini Quarles, the mother of a third-grader, said outside the meeting, which was held at a nearby high school.
The staffing shake-up marks an attempt to rebuild community confidence as detectives and school officials continue their investigations.
More than a quarter of the students enrolled at Miramonte didn't show up Monday as parents kept them home. On Monday night, some parents applauded the removal of the school's staff as a good first step.
Officials emphasized that no other educators at the school are under suspicion but that a bold act was needed to help remove the cloud over Miramonte.
"I cannot have another student tell me he is afraid," Deasy told parents at the meeting.
"The primary responsibility, bar none, is safety and support.... Clearly, several individuals have violated the most sacred trust we have," Deasy said.
The school has 150 teachers and administrators and about 1,500 students, making it one of the largest elementary schools in Los Angeles.
The move could be temporary. Many, maybe all, of the current Miramonte staff will be returned to the school eventually, officials said. In the interim, their places will be filled by teachers and other workers on a rehiring list.
The Miramonte staff will continue to be paid and for the time being will move to a nearby campus that is under construction.
Miramonte will be closed for the next two days during the transition. Officials plan to have the new teachers and administrators in place by Thursday. Once students return, each will be interviewed by the district, and a psychiatric social worker will be present in every classroom, Deasy said.
For the students who showed up for school Monday morning, it was a day like no other.
As students walked into the school, they passed a row of police officers, television cameras and a demonstration by angry parents. The protesters shouted into megaphones and hoisted a large banner that read: "We the Parents Demand Our Children Be Protected From Lewd Teachers at LAUSD."
Attorneys have also descended upon the campus, some holding an impromptu press conference on behalf of parents and alleged victims of the teachers.
Parents described days of talking to their children about the allegations and trying to determine if they were victims.
"Instead of asking, 'Did you learn something today?' I asked, 'Did someone touch you?'" said Nancy Linares, 41, whose granddaughter attends the school.
Every day since the scandal broke, Lisa and Eddie Carmona have been asking their son about his former third-grade teacher, Mark Berndt, who faces 23 felony counts for allegedly blindfolding, gagging and spoon-feeding semen to students; the evidence includes photographs he took of the students.
Each time, their son has said that nothing happened, that he was never touched or photographed. In fact, until recently, Berndt was one of his favorite teachers.
Still, Lisa Carmona can't help but ask again and again.
"I said to [my son], 'You don't have to lie to me. If he said he would threaten you or hurt you, you don't have to worry. He's locked up in jail now. He can't hurt you,'" Carmona said.
The investigation at Miramonte began in 2010 after the teacher took film to be developed at a drugstore. A clerk noticed disturbing images of children and called authorities. Detectives, who eventually seized hundreds of photographs that they say Berndt took in his classroom, set out to identify the children in the pictures, interview them and their parents and quietly piece together the case.
After Berndt's arrest, two families reported that a second-grade teacher, 49-year-old Martin Bernard Springer, had fondled their children in separate incidents within the last three years. He was removed from his classroom Thursday and arrested the next day.
Both teachers had spent their entire careers at Miramonte, Berndt starting in 1979 and Springer in 1986. Former students said the two men were friends, but the cases are not considered to be related.
When Berndt, 61, was arrested, school district officials said they had no record of any previous misconduct or complaints against him. But evidence of past warning signs has since emerged.
One former student said in an interview with The Times that during the 1990-91 school year a counselor told her and two other girls to stop inventing stories after a complaint that Berndt appeared to be masturbating behind his desk. In 1994, detectives investigated a complaint that Berndt had tried to touch a girl's genitals, though prosecutors deemed the evidence too weak to file charges. And one father said that he complained in 2008 to the Miramonte principal after his daughter brought home photographs that Berndt had taken of her. In one image, she was eating a cookie coated with what investigators now suspect is Berndt's semen.
The unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood surrounding Miramonte is one of the poorest in Los Angeles County. Miramonte has struggled academically and is one of the last campuses in the school district to operate year-round because of overcrowding.
According to the school's website, 98% of the students are Latino and 2% are black. About 56% of Miramonte students are learning English, and virtually everyone receives free or reduced-price meals, a poverty indicator.
Many parents protesting Monday had been students there, including some taught by the teachers who have been arrested.
Karina Aguillon, 21, a parent of a kindergartner, remembered Berndt.
"I was shocked because I had that teacher," she said. "He was nice.... You don't know who to trust anymore. You can't even trust the teachers."
Deasy said it could take some time for the district to fully investigate what happened at Miramonte. He announced Monday that an independent commission would review the incidents, led by retired California Supreme Court Associate Justice Carlos Moreno.
"I have to understand how this could happen" Deasy said.
Talking To Children About Physical Or Sexual Abuse
(Video on site)
STUDIO CITY (CBS) — Child abuse is unfortunately not a rare occurrence. Public health authorities estimate that about 81,000 children are victims of sexual abuse and 160,000 are victims of physical abuse every year.
Pattie Fitzgerald stopped by KCAL9 Sunday to talk about child safety and how to talk to your kids about possible abuse.
- I'm the Boss of my Body! This lets kids know they have the right to say NO to any kind of touch that feels weird or gives them an “Uh-Oh” feeling. The BOSS can say STOP to anyone… even a grown up or a bigger kid!
- No secrets! Let your child know that they should never keep a secret from Mom and Dad, especially if it's about their body or if it makes them feel yucky, scared or sad. And…if someone wants to give them a “secret treat or present”, they should always tell their parents. Asking kids to keep a secret is often a grooming technique used by a child predator. Be sure to tell the child you won't be mad and they won't get in trouble for telling you.
PS – Even if grandma wants to give them extra candy and says “Shhhh, it's a secret”, your child can say “Grandma, we don't do secrets.”, and tell you. Then let your child have that extra candy – they did the right thing by telling you!
- No “private parts” games allowed – not with other kids or grownups! Teach children the anatomically correct words for their body parts and let them know that no one should try to play a game with their private parts. If anyone tries, it's OK to tell Mom or Dad and they won't get in trouble for telling. Using the anatomically correct words also makes it very clear and simple if a child needs to tell you about an uncomfortable or unsafe touch.
- Check First! Before going anywhere or taking something, kids should always check first with the adult in charge (usually that's mom or dad) if they haven't already gotten permission.
· Before going into their neighbor's home to play with a new puppy, check first.
· Before getting into someone's car (even someone they know), check first.
· Before taking a treat from someone at the park, check first!
This gives parents the ability to assess the situation and determine if it's “thumbs up or thumbs down!” If you can't check first, then the answer is “No.”
- Safe Grownups Don't Ask Kids For Help …when you're by yourself or just with another kid! Safe adults should ask other adults for assistance not children. While 90% of childhood sexual abuse happens to kids by someone they know, it's important to teach them what to do if they're out in public and someone approaches them asking for help. If someone on the street or at the park asks them for help finding a lost pet, needing directions or other assistance, it's important to say NO to that person and get away quickly. Kids can assist others if they're with their parents or other caretakers.
For more information about Pattie Fitzgerald and her program “Safely Ever After,” click here.
A lifetime of healing
Victims of child abuse live with lingering effects.
by Kathryn Wall
Long after the scars have healed, broken bones have mended and the situation has been remedied, the long term effects of child abuse remain.
“It really is a healing process over a lifetime,” says Lisa Ellsworth, who counsels adults at The Victim Center in Springfield. “It's not like breaking a leg where you wear a cast for six weeks and you're healed.”
A lifetime of healing
Ellsworth explains that child abuse or neglect shapes a child's outlook for life. Many times, the victim feels he or she deserves the abuse or the blame.
A person's coping mechanisms and general outlook on the world are altered, as well.
“That becomes normalized to them, because that's their environment,” Ellsworth said.
That adult has learned as a child what love is, what a relationship is, what ‘normal' is, Ellsworth said. Often the adults she works with have to learn a new normal that doesn't include violence or other destructive behavior.
“They don't always make sense to outside people,” she said.
Ellsworth describes her role like a mirror. She talks with someone about his or her past and view of the world, and then starts a discussion for the two of them to reflect on what that means.
She tries to help the victim recognize what was wrong in a past situation and guides him or her to a more productive course. She describes it as helping “walk with them through the darkness and into the light.”
She says the goal is to help victims of abuse move beyond solely surviving — coping with things the best they can and just trying to make it — to become thriving members of the community. “It definitely has to be generated within them,” she said.
“That's their job, to find the answers.”
The physical impact of violence
Even beyond the emotional aspects, there are physical changes, too.
A child's brain is growing rapidly, especially early in life. If a child is a victim of abuse, that development can be altered.
“There's a whole tree of hormones and it's a cascading type of effect,” said Sandra D'Angelo, a pediatric psychologist with Burrell Behavioral
D'Angelo said children growing up in abuse situations are hyper-vigilant. It might not be readily apparent, but those children are constantly on alert for any type of threat.
“The brain is being bathed in these stress hormones in a way,” she said.
Numerous studies have shown that adults who have reported abuse as children process information differently, respond to stress differently and view the world differently.
D'Angelo told the story of a man she was treating who had been abused as a child. At their first meeting, the man sat in the waiting room with a pack of cigarettes in his lap. When she called his name, the man was startled.
“The pack of cigarettes just went flying across the room,” D'Angelo said.
According to D'Angelo, national studies have shown that 80 percent of adults who report abuse in their history have at least one psychological diagnosis — like anxiety, a history of suicide attempts, depression or eating disorders — by age 21.
“It's not just the abuse,” she said. “It's the cascade of things that come after it.”
Cycle of abuse
Some of those long-term effects of abuse can explain, at least in part, why past victims of violence become abusers themselves.
D'Angelo said a conservative estimate is that one-third of all victims of child abuse grow up to become abusers themselves. She thinks that number might be higher in reality.
“If you haven't learned sensitive parenting in your own childhood, then you can't bring that to your own parenting,” D'Angelo explains.
But that doesn't mean past victims of abuse are doomed to be violent people.
Ellsworth recommends any victim of past trauma — domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse — to seek help whether he or she plans to have children or not.
“There are people to help them,” Ellsworth said. “They're not alone. It's OK to ask for help.”
Jacksonville Conference Provides Insight Into the Minds of Child Sexual Abusers and Looks at Emotional & Financial Impact on Society
Jacksonville, Florida (PRWEB) February 06, 2012
On the same day that media focused attention on a man in a Clay County, Florida courthouse pleading guilty to the abduction, sexual abuse and murder of a 7-year old Florida girl, in another area of Jacksonville, professionals, advocates and child sexual abuse survivors joined together for the "Protect the Children Conference", dedicated to stopping the insidious crime of sexual abuse against children.
Nora Harlow, founder of the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute in Atlanta asked attendees of the Protect The Children Conference, "If there are 43 million victims of child sexual abuse out there, how many abusers are out there? You are not going to like it," she explained. "The truth is that we just don't know. We do know that only 2 million of these abusers are in the Criminal Justice System. Yet our research points to millions more out there abusing children." Who are they?
"Child sexual abuse is a bad thing. We want the people who do it to look like bad people, but they don't," explained Nora Harlow. "These people show up as coaches, teachers, after school volunteers, friends, family and mentors. Not at all who you would expect them to be. Not until we put our anger aside and put the children first are we going to be able to stop this abuse."
Who do the children tell? According to the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute
60% will tell no one. 40% will tell an adult - but only 6% of those adults told of the sexual abuse will report it to the police. The vast majority of victims go untreated and the abusers move on to groom their next prey. Harlow asked the attendees, "If all of those same children walked into a classroom on crutches, would we ignore them? Would we as adults be so traumatized that we fail to help? Yet, in the case of child sexual abuse, that is exactly what we do, nothing."
Why don't more children tell? Studies done by the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute reveals that the majority of the children don't tell because they don't want to upset their mother. Others suffer from shame, humiliation and guilt because their abusers groom them to feel that they somehow bear responsibility for their own victimization.
The cost of child sexual abuse extends beyond the emotional destruction of its victims and is linked to immune system failure, increased illnesses, frequent hospitalization and death. According to speaker Dr. Robin Jenkins of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety's Juvenile Justice System the financial impact is also great. He shared a report, (Fang, Brown, Florence, Mercy: Child Abuse and Neglect: 2012), stating it to be $1,272,000 in lifetime victim costs, and $585 billion combined fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment costs in 2008 dollars.
Even with the media attention given to Penn State, Syracuse and others, people still don't want to talk about it. People want to believe that it happens to other people and in other cities. Harlow provided startling facts to drive home her point. "In an average 8th grade class of 32 students, four girls have been sexually abused, two boys have been sexually abused and one boy will have sexually abused a younger child."
Who is the Child Sexual Abuser? According to Nora Harlow's extensive research: 70% are male, 90% are heterosexual, 93% are religious, 77% are married or formerly married, 69% are Caucasian and 46% are college educated. Any of these characteristics sound familiar? They should, they mirror what the United States Census bureau characterizes as reflective of the nation's demographic. The child sexual abuser's attraction to youth runs on a separate track from their adult sexual behavior.
How can we prevent it? By using every tool available to us so that these people don't gain access to our children in places where they should expect to feel safe. Criminal background checks alone won't help identify perpetrators. After years of research and study, Nora Harlow and Dr. Gene Abel, (Director of Research at Abel Screening and considered by many to be the leading psycho-physiology research in child sexual abuse in the United States), developed an assessment tool that effectively identifies a person's inability to comprehend what proper boundaries should exist between adults and children. Called the Diana Screen®, it is a scientifically-validated screening test that identifies people who should not be placed in positions of trust with children or teenagers.
The Protect the Children Conference was sponsored by Donald J. Dymer, president and chief operating officer of SingleSource Services Corporation. The company based in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, has specialized in background screening for sixteen years and serves more than 2,500 companies, organizations and not-for-profits across the nation.
For more information on what you can do to stop child sexual abuse, contact SingleSource Services Corporation at 1.800.713.3412 or visit www.singlesourceservices.com/protectthechildren.
Child abuse experts calls for U.S. campaign
by Frederik Joelving
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly 4,600 U.S. children were hospitalized with broken bones, traumatic brain injury and other serious damage caused by physical abuse in 2006, according to a new report.
Babies younger than one were the most common victims, with 58 cases per 100,000 infants. That makes serious abuse a bigger threat to infant safety than SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, researchers say in the report.
"There is a national campaign to prevent SIDS," said Dr. John Leventhal of Yale University, who led the new study. "We need a national campaign related to child abuse where every parent is reminded that kids can get injured."
The new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first broad U.S. estimate of serious injuries due to child abuse.
Based on data from the 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database, the last such numbers available, Leventhal's team found that six out of every 100,000 children under 18 were hospitalized with injuries ranging from burns to wounds to brain injuries and bone fractures.
The children spent an average of one week in the hospital; 300 of them died.
The rate of abuse was highest among children under one, particularly if they were covered by Medicaid, the government's health insurance for the poor. One out of every 752 of those infants landed in the hospital due to maltreatment.
"Medicaid is just a marker of poverty, and poverty leads to stress," said Leventhal, who is the medical director of the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital Child Abuse Program.
Last year, a study from four U.S. states showed a clear spike in abusive brain injuries following the financial crash in late 2007, a finding researchers chalked up to the added pressure on parents.
In that study, too, toddlers appeared to be at higher risk. That led researchers to suggest the maltreatment might have been triggered by crying.
If a caretaker shakes a baby violently to make him or her stop crying, they can cause "shaken baby syndrome," in which the brain bumps up against the skull and starts bleeding.
Leventhal said babies may also be more vulnerable that older kids.
"The most serious injuries tend to be in the younger kids," he told Reuters Health.
The researchers estimate that the hospitalizations cost about $73.8 million in 2006, although that's only a fraction of the overall cost of abuse to society.
"This is a serious problem that affects young children," said Leventhal, whose team is now examining more recent data to refine the findings. "We need to figure out a way to help parents do better."
Working hard toward child abuse prevention
Curriculum targets future parents to better prepare them for parenthood.
by Kathryn Wall
It began as a very simple idea: Why don't we prepare future parents for what we know they'll face?
Tantrums will come. Frustration with a baby's constant crying is inevitable. Junior is not always going to be fun or cute.
Through her experiences as a foster parent in the St. Louis area, Rene Howitt began to recognize that future parents were being taught very little about the normal, not-so glamorous parts of parenting — potty training, toddler tantrums or babies crying.
And so Changing Our Parenting Experience was born.
The basic idea of Howitt's COPE24 curriculum is to get teenagers thinking about how they would parent. The videos present 10 scenarios that a parent will more than likely face.
“Why aren't we taking some of the predictable situations to the students who are going to be parents?' Howitt said.
One of the first videos is of a baby who won't stop crying. It plays for a few minutes, the tension building as a father grows more and more exhausted with the baby's fussing.
And then he shakes the baby.
Howitt admits the videos are raw. Some are difficult to watch.
The video is paused at the point of the shaking, and the instructor then asks the class to discuss what was wrong and how they would handle the scenario.
“We're not giving them the answer,” Howitt explained. “We're just showing them reality.”
Howitt came out of her own experiences as a foster parent in Missouri wanting to reinvent the child welfare system.
She met with teachers, legislators, caseworkers, judges — anyone who would listen.
But she quickly became jaded with her contemporaries and instead started looking toward the future.
As chronicled in her book, “Whose Best Interest? A Fight to Save Two American Kids,” Howitt battled for four years in an effort to protect two foster children.
What began as Howitt's desire to share her story — and frustration — has led to a program local educators and child welfare advocates hope will strengthen abuse prevention efforts and reach the next generation.
“I can't get my generation to listen, so let's plant the seeds with the next generation,” she said.
About 80 school districts have already purchased the program, which was launched in March 2011, and the buzz about this new approach has spread quickly.
Nixa Public Schools will begin implementing the curriculum in high school family and consumer sciences classes next year.
“The videos in the COPE24 program are very realistic and of good quality. So many times, school videos are goofy or cheesy, but these videos are extremely high quality and the students pay attention,” said family and consumer sciences department head Ashley Newberry.
“We are very excited to use this curriculum, and we are confident that the students will take this info and apply it to their adult lives.”
There's no “right answer,” Howitt said. The goal is to get teenagers thinking, not to promote any one idea on parenting.
Child welfare advocates are hopeful the videos will help stop the cycle of abuse.
Studies have shown that children who are abused or neglected are far more likely to become abusers themselves.
“What do you do? You do what you know,” Howitt said. And for children who were abused as kids, they “know” that abuse is what their parents did.
So while a past victim may have sworn to never be abusive, that stressed-out parent falls back on past behavior to cope.
Her goal is to change what those teens know, so when the time comes, they've already had some introduction to the parenting skills they'll need.
“If we can reach our kids before they find themselves in those situations, they can start thinking about that now rather than in the moment,” she said.
Helping children and families understand
by Kathryn Wall
As part of her role at The Victim Center, Melinda Vacey sees the problem of child abuse in southwest Missouri from several angles.
She teaches abuse prevention programs in schools, churches — anywhere she's asked to come speak.
So while her work is about preventing a child from ever becoming a victim, it's not uncommon for a kid to come up to her after the program.
Sometimes it's about a personal situation. Other times, a child is concerned for a friend.
Vacey shudders when she recalls some of the things children have disclosed to her.
“We've had kids describe some really graphic things,” she said.
The talks with students about inappropriate touching and their rights to boundaries — that's become second nature now. But a pit always forms in her stomach when she makes that mandated hotline call after a child discloses abuse.
“That's the really scary part of my job. You don't know how it's going to turn out,” she said, explaining that sometimes there's just not enough evidence for authorities to pursue any kind of action. She worries that things might get worse for that child.
“That's what keeps you up at night,” she said.
But that doesn't stop her from reporting each and every time she hears about abuse of a child. At the very least, there's now a documented history on that kid, she said. Sometimes it takes multiple reports before authorities can find enough evidence.
She encourages people in the community to do the same, even if they can't prove abuse. Making a hotline call doesn't convict anyone; it just gives authorities a chance to check things out.
“Please, do the right thing,” she pleads.
Vacey has a similar message for the children she talks to about abuse: Even if something seems a little odd, you need to tell someone.
But sometimes helping kids understand where the boundaries are becomes difficult.
Many times, children are victimized by someone close to them, either in their own family or through strong social ties.
“The really insidious tool is trust and love,” Vacey said.
So while adults can recognize that sexual touching is wrong, a child might only see that touch as affection from someone they care about.
“If it doesn't hurt, especially, that child is not going to know it's wrong,” Vacey said.
If obvious pain is involved, offenders can use threats of increased violence to keep victims quiet.
“We've had kids say the perpetrator hurt their pet in front of them and said, ‘If you tell anyone, I'll do this to you,'” Vacey said.
But often love, more than fear, keeps a child from telling.
“‘If I tell you this, will you promise me Dad won't go to jail?' I've had kids ask me that,” she said.
Vacey tailors her programs depending on her audience. In Springfield Public Schools, she presents “Better Safe Than Sorry” to kindergarten, third-grade and fifth-grade classes.
She goes into classrooms and has relaxed, funny discussions with kids.
“We don't want to be overzealous and turn these kids into little neurotics,” Vacey said.
The main focus of her talks on abuse prevention is emphasizing to the children that abuse isn't a secret they should keep.
She leads children to discuss who they would tell if something bad happened.
“Every once in a while you'll have a kid say, “I'd tell the president of the United States!'” she said. She laughs along and gently directs the child to a more realistic answer.
Although it's a rough topic, Vacey said she's never gotten a complaint about the program.
“I think parents are glad someone's talking to their kids about it. That's the feedback I've gotten,” she said.
Prevention at home
Vacey's program teaches children to create their own boundaries and to listen to their conscience.
But ultimately, the education program is only the first step. True prevention depends on forces outside of Vacey's control.
Her discussion with kids, Vacey said, “is only a small part of the whole picture. It really needs to be backed up at home.”
The biggest piece is just having an open dialogue with the kids, Vacey said. She recognizes talking about sexual or physical abuse can be awkward for an adult, so she sends home a list of eight safety rules.
As part of the child's homework, that child is told to discuss those rules with his or her parent or caretaker.
Vacey has heard from dozens of parents who think they know their child enough to “just know” if he or she was being abused.
“Sexual abuse doesn't leave marks,” Vacey said. “Parents who say they would know — they're fooling themselves.”
Part of what parents have to keep in mind is that children are taught to obey adults. The idea of “tattling” on or saying no to an adult can be foreign to a child. “We teach kids to be polite to adults, to obey adults,” Vacey said.
Parents also seem to be under the impression that there's a certain stereotypical offender.
“They're not usually the big scary derelict in the Dumpster,” Vacey explains. “It's someone who has access to our kids. Let's face it — who has access to our kids? Not Jack the Ripper.”
Eight rules for safety
Melinda Vacey, who teaches child abuse prevention programs for The Victim Center in Springfield, recommends caretakers and kids discuss these safety rules as a way to start a conversation about child abuse.
|1. Before I go anywhere, I always check first with my parents or the person in charge. I tell them where I am going, how I will get there, who will be going with me and when I'll be back.
2. I check first for permission from my parents before getting into a car or leaving with anyone — even someone I know. I check first before changing plans or accepting money, gifts or drugs without my parents' knowledge.
3. It is safer for me to be with other people when going places or playing outside. I always use the “buddy system.”
4. I say NO if someone tries to touch me in ways that make me feel frightened, uncomfortable or confused. Then I go and tell a grown-up I trust what happened.
5. I know it is not my fault if someone touches me in a way that is not OK. I don't have to keep secrets about those touches.
6. I trust my feelings and talk to grown-ups about problems that are too big for me to handle on my own. A lot of people care about me and will listen and believe me. I am not alone.
7. It is never too late to ask for help. I can keep asking until I get the help I need.
8. I am a special person, and I deserve to feel safe. My rules are:
Use the “buddy system”
Say no, then go and tell
Listen to my feelings and talk with grown-ups I trust
LA schools head to meet with parents, classes canceled as 2 teachers face sex allegations
LOS ANGELES — The superintendent of schools is meeting with worried parents and classes are canceled for two days at a Southern California elementary school where two teachers are suspected of lewd acts with young students, officials said.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy will hold the meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at a high school near Miramonte Elementary, the school that has brought national attention to the country's second-largest school district, with allegations of teachers engaging in sexual misconduct with students as young as six.
School officials have canceled classes at the school on Tuesday and Wednesday, district spokeswoman Monica Carazo said. The closure is related to the investigation and aftermath of the arrested teachers, but Carazo was not certain what would be happening on campus, or whether faculty and staff would be there.
Last week teacher Mark Berndt, 61, who worked at the school for 32 years, was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010.
The acts cited include blindfolding children and feeding them his own semen in his classroom in what children were allegedly told was a “tasting game.”
Berndt remains jailed on $23 million bail and could face life in prison if convicted.
Four days later another teacher, Martin Springer, 49, was arrested on suspicion of fondling two girls in his classroom. He was being held on $2 million bail.
Investigators said they know of no connection between the cases, Berndt and Springer knew each other and took their classes on at least two joint field trips in the last decade, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Classes were scheduled to be in session Monday, but some parents told television stations they planned to keep their children home. Several parents pulled their children out of school on Friday when Springer's arrest was announced.
Some parents were also planning to protest outside the school Monday.
Parent Saul Ortiz told KTTV-TV he would out picketing the school.
“I want that guy dealt with,” Ortiz said of Berndt. “The thought sickens you, it just sickens you inside.”
The timing of the protest and the number of parents who planned to appear was not clear.