Child play reveals hurts
The numbers are alarming, but sexual abuse experts in northeastern Louisiana say the figures don't even begin to tell the whole story.
Rhenda Hodnett, a child welfare administrator with the Louisiana Department of Children and Families, said in fiscal year 2011, the department investigated 438 allegations of sexual abuse in the northeastern Louisiana-Monroe region, and there was sufficient evidence to validate 117 of them. There are various criteria and categories the department uses to validate cases of sexual abuse, and in some cases, one victim could have multiple allegations, Hodnett said.
She said retrospective studies have shown about one in four women and one in six men have been sexually abused as a child. About 73 percent of victims don't tell anyone about the abuse for about a year, and 45 percent of victims don't report the abuse for five years. Some victims never disclose the abuse.
Sexual abuse goes underreported. It's hard to report and easy to deny, said Pamela Higgins-Saulsberry, head of the social work department head at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
And that's why it's difficult to pinpoint just how prevalent the problem is.
Local experts who deal with victims of child sexual abuse remind adults that reporting abuse and turning to professional counseling are the best ways to help victims cope with the trauma of sexual abuse.
The most important thing adults can do is believe the minor who reports the abuse and provide them positive reinforcement for reporting it. About a third of adults who are abused or neglected — not specific to sexual abuse — become offenders of abuse themselves, but this figure can be reduced with proper intervention and therapy, experts say.
"Children — they need to hear that it was not their fault, it was a decision that the adult made," Saulsberry said. "With proper interventions, which start with believing the child, children can rebound quite nicely. Treatment begins when they first report."
Close to home
One of the reasons cases are not reported is that perpetrators have coerced their victims to stay silent. They have established a trusting relationship with the child, and in many cases, the child's family, said Lisa Longenbaugh, a licensed play therapist and assistant director of professional services at The Wellspring.
"On some level, they may be satisfying an emotional need for the child as well, so the child is wanting to protect the relationship," Longenbaugh said.
The offender is usually someone known to the victim.
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. The report showed 34.2 percent of attackers were family members, while 58.7 percent were acquaintances.
"People who molest children know children. But they also know adults would rather believe that this did not happen," Saulsberry said.
There's a misconception that offenders will look like "monsters" and will be easily distinguishable in the community, but that's seldom the case, she said: "There's nobody who looks like this."
Most of the time, sexual offenders seem charming and know what to do to gain a family's trust, Saulsberry said. In fact, offenders usually spend a long time investing in their relationship with the parent or child, a process known as "grooming."
"They're helpful to the parent, they can present themselves to be quite sociable," Saulsberry said. Many times, it's a person who the parent cannot imagine could possibly harm his or her child, which is why parents should be mindful right from the start of people who are overly helpful for no apparent reason or spend excessive time with children, having items in their homes to entice children, Saulsberry said.
Parents can also start teaching children the proper names for body parts as early as the child can understand it, Saulsberry said. Longenbaugh agreed that it's never too early to start educating children about preventing sexual abuse. As early as parents start teaching a child about other kinds of safety, they should also start teaching the child about personal safety.
Caroline Cascio, director of professional services at The Wellspring, added that parents should empower their children to set their own physical boundaries and speak up about what makes them uncomfortable. That may be even when a parent, in all innocence, touches the child in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, Cascio said.
But as much as adults can try to prevent sexual abuse from happening, it is still prevalent, and there are signs for which they can be on the lookout.
Physically, the child may develop a sexually transmitted infection, a vaginal infection, a rash, sleep disturbances, nightmares or a bedwetting habit. Parents may notice the child has difficulty walking or sitting, Hodnett said.
Psychologically, parents may notice the child experiencing anxiety, depression, changes in moods, anger or aggressiveness, Hodnett said. Sometimes, a child who has been abused may also bully other children or be aggressive toward them, because those are the behaviors they have experienced.
One of the most common signs is overly sexualized behaviors, according to Longenbaugh. While it's normal for children to be sexually curious, some children who have been sexually abused may be excessively promiscuous in their teen years or display overly sexualized behaviors at a young age.
"Sexually abused children develop an excessive and abnormal interest in sex," according to The Wellspring.
If an adult discovers a child has been abused, Longenbaugh, Hodnett, Cascio and Saulsberry all said the key is to stay calm and not ask for too many details. They encourage adults to leave the investigation up to professionals and not get overly emotional..
"Sometimes, (it's) one of the hardest types of abuse to get up the courage to report," Hodnett explained.
Adults must first stay calm and tell the child they are proud the child reported the abuse. Providing positive reinforcement reassures the child that the abuse was not his or her fault.
Above all, the adult should show that he or she believes the child and report the abuse to professionals.
Finally, adults can help abused children by providing a healthy, nurturing environment at home and by helping the child seek therapy.
For instance, Longenbaugh uses play therapy to help heal children who have been abused and said therapy helps the child release his or her frustrations about the abuse and learn new ways in which to build trust and relationships. Play therapy in particular allows younger children to articulate some feelings they may not understand.
Therapy helps because the child must re-learn appropriate relationship skills and boundaries if he or she is to have healthy relationships in adulthood.
That is the key to not re-offending, to understanding what happened and to recovering, Longenbaugh said.
"They've got to know that they are not damaged goods, that they can have a productive future," Cascio added. "People don't have to chalk their lives up as a loss."
Fighting child abuse with education
Written by Jill Patterson
Want to go?
What: 4th Annual Missouri State University Criminology and Criminal Justice conference
When: 8:15 a.m. Wednesday
Where: Plaster Student Union
In February of 2007, National Child Advocate, Victor Vieth, was invited to Springfield to speak at a conference by then-Prosecutor Darrell Moore. The event was free and open to members of the public. Those of us who worked in the area of child welfare were already fans of Victor's Vieth's journal article, “Unto the Third Generation; a Call to End Child Abuse in 120 Years.”
The conference was designed to broadcast Victor's vision for community action and to challenge our community to get involved in concrete efforts to improve the lives of children. Five years later, Victor Vieth is returning to Springfield to speak at the 4th Annual Missouri State University Criminology and Criminal Justice conference Wednesday on the campus of Missouri State University. The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is one of the sponsors of this conference, which is free and open to the public. This seems like a good time to review the work we have done to bring Victor's vision to life in our community.
In 2009, a certificate program for students interested in learning more about child abuse, mandatory reporting, forensic interviewing and the systems response to child welfare was created at Missouri State University. The program is housed in the psychology department and contains three core courses as well as several electives. Our goal in offering this curriculum is to provide students who will eventually serve as social workers, teachers, police officers, therapists, medical personnel or any other professional working with children the tools they will need to work effectively on behalf of children.
These courses teach about child memory, the experience of children in the child welfare system, the court system and forensic interviewing. Additionally, these courses provide real-world examples of child abuse and neglect.
They are taught by current or former professionals in the field, including Rachel Happel and Kathy Bernet, instructors at MSU, who were both longtime forensic interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield. Several students have already successfully completed the program and received graduate certificates in Forensic Child Psychology. More are currently enrolled in these courses, working toward a better understanding of the system and improving the skills they will bring to the work force.
The first time I heard Victor speak about a strategy for ending child abuse, I was doubtful that we could ever achieve such a lofty goal. It has been my great privilege to become involved in an effort to move us toward this essential goal. Please come and join us at the conference on Wednesday to hear for yourself what we all can be doing to work toward the eradication of child abuse in our community. Thanks to the work of the certificate coordinator, psychology professor Matthew Fanetti, who attended that conference back in February of 2007, we are doing our part at MSU to contribute to a solution.
Jill Patterson is the Greene County Sheriff's Office chief legal counsel and per course instructor at MSU in the Psychology and Criminology Departments.
Recognition Of Child Sexual Abuse Is Just Starting
by Shako Liu
The numerous child sex-abuse scandals on the news has horrified parents, schools and communities. After the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal at Penn State, two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles were arrested for sexual misconduct in February, followed by another abuse by a female teacher in Los Angeles.
Dylan Berkey, 41, a psychotherapist for 11 years, said she is shocked every time she hears about children being systematically and ritually abused.
“I think that we are living in a huge system of violence. But it does continue to horrify me that people abuse tiny children, babies,” she said.
Berkey specializes in sexual trauma, recovery and LGBT issues. Growing up under the influence of a feminist mother, Berkey is passionate about women's issues. She has worked with numerous victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and other types of sexual trauma.
After college, Berkey worked as a dancer and became interested in, and horrified by, the way that women are objectified and oppressed.
“I really enjoy working with women. We get to work together, recovering and repairing any damages that were results of that system and compression,” she said. It is her job, she claimed, to let her clients know that their problems are not located within them, but in a larger social context.
When Berkey was at a community mental health clinic, she worked with adolescent girls who were sexually abused. She said it is difficult for children to seek help when they are sexually assaulted because of a lack of societal acceptance and respect for children.
“We are living in a hierarchical society where children are not allowed to have rights,” Berkey said.
On the website of “Dancing in the Darkness,” many sexual abuse survivors share their stories. A lot of them were abused during their childhoods. Some said they felt used, unloved and alone after the abuse.
MaPetite Chloe, who was sexually assaulted by her brother and two cousins at 7, wrote, “There was no one to tell and I knew that no one would believe me so I have stayed quiet all of these years.”
According to Berkey, usually children who were abused when they were young don't remember the occurrence until much later when it is triggered by outside elements. Some of those who have memories may not even know it is an assault. And those who do talk about it feat adults will not believe them.
Berkey used to work with someone who was abused by one of their parents, and the child told the other parent. But the parent was so invested in the relationship with their partner that they didn't want to believe what their child said. Therefore, Berkey said, denial started.
According to the latest survey of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), the number of registered sex offenders has increased 23.2 percent from 2006 to 2011. The three states with the largest number of offenders are California, Texas and Florida.
Glynis Devance, who lives next to Miramonte Elementary School, said she was extremely angry that the children who were victims of abuse were too scared to come forward sooner.
“Some of them don't even know how to express themselves,” she said. “Some of them don't even know how to go to a teacher to say someone touched me. Then this child does goes and tells somebody and they just sweep it under the rug, and act like this child is either lying or don't know what they are talking about. That bothers me! That bothers me!”
Devance is now urging the district to psychologically test the new teaching staff. She thinks firing the entire teaching staff of Miramonte and building children's access to therapists will help the students.
Arianna Perez, a parent of children who go to Miramonte, doesn't like the idea of constantly changing teachers.
The first time she heard about the sex scandal, she was “disgusted, frustrated and worried” about her kids. Instead of changing teachers, she wants the school to be more open to parents, such as installing cameras in hallways and classrooms, and removing the barred windows.
“This is getting so frustrating so they think they can step all over us,” Perez said. She will transfer her kids from this school if it continues to deny parental access.
Perez said the best way to protect children from sexual abuse is to talk to them and ask questions.
“You know something happens when your children give you the face,” she said as she mimicked her son being scared.
As a therapist, Berkey thinks children and women should learn self-defense, and there should be free self-defense training programs.
“Children should always be encouraged to tell people if the abuse is going on,” Berkey said “If a child is in an abusive situation, hopefully there are people in their life, like teacher, community organization, another family member. Hopefully there is a safe adult to talk to, and hopefully that adult believes the child.”
Diane Cranley, president of Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids (TAALK), has been busy working with the school to provide training to teachers. She believes child sexual abuse is preventable as long as people are educated about the issue.
“One of the key things is child molesters are very predictable. They have roaming techniques, and they do the same thing over and over again,” Cranley said.
According to a document released by the Minnesota Department of Correction in 2009, some of the characteristics of child-molesters include having few adult friends, treating children like adults in order to equalize the relationship, etc.
The damage of sexual abuse to minors cab be more traumatizing than to adult victims. “I think that children are still very much developing a sense of self. So abuse that children sustain can have more formative impact,” Berkey said.
It's also more difficult for a minor to access therapy because of laws and systems working around them. Another reason that children are more vulnerable is having less positive life experiences to support them in trauma, and their recovery process could be longer. Even for adults who have a stable existence, victims often feel extremely disempowered and self-advocacy becomes difficult.
Berkey's approach is to integrate psycho therapy to outdoor exercises. She usually takes her clients hiking. She believes exercises can release the pain and trauma inside the body.
“I love working with people moving physically. I feel like moving physically affects psychological movement in a really powerful way,” she said.
Event though there has been more attention to sexual abuse victims, Berkey said that there is still a social strife of recognizing child abuse, adults' assaults and gay issues.
Let's break mental, emotional chains of human trafficking
by Katherine Fernandez Rundel
Human trafficking crimes occur on the shadowy edges of daily existence. Effectively exposing this problem, allowing knowledge and awareness to shine a bright light on these very dark crimes are important early steps in our efforts to end human trafficking.
International Human Trafficking Awareness Day was memorialized on Jan. 11, 2012. It is a sad reality that we even need to have such a day, but the numbers speak volumes about the dimensions of this problem: Around the world, as many as 2.5 million people are forced into the unpaid labor and sex trades. Florida is often ranked as either the second or third state in the number of victims of human trafficking.
As state attorney, I knew we needed to start a process of identifying problems while proposing solutions. Clearly the first step was to bring together a cross-section of community leaders, police, prosecutors and service providers. By identifying the misconceptions that inhibit our efforts to attack human trafficking crimes, we start the process of helping victims.
To accomplish this, I organized a community forum on human trafficking titled, “The Faces of Human Trafficking: Myths and Realities” on Jan. 9. After all, knowledge is the sharpest tool in the fight against human trafficking.
One of the important myths to be dispelled is a simplistic view of the victims of human trafficking. Many human rights organizations have focused largely on the trafficking of foreign nationals. Often these are people who are abducted or tricked into applying for foreign jobs only to be sold into brothels. Another portrait relates to issues of debt bondage, where men and women illegally smuggled into the United States are told they must work under modern day slavery-like conditions to pay off their debt.
However, the reality of the sex trafficking cases presented to my prosecutors is much more complex. They do not involve exploited foreign nationals, but women and children from our own community. They were discovered in the course of unrelated criminal investigations rather than coming from a human trafficking tip, task force operation, or prostitution cases. Two thirds of them are 18 or older.
These local victims have had unique psychological needs. They often suffer from trauma bonding, also commonly referred to as the Stockholm syndrome or the Patty Hearst syndrome. The victims often do not perceive their pimps as exploiters but as boyfriends and protectors. Of course, this perception complicates their interactions with law enforcement as well as their reintegration back into our community.
Human trafficking is often an under-reported and misidentified crime. To better identify its victims, I have created a Human Trafficking Task Force composed of experienced prosecutors with a wide spectrum of specializations. Our task force members are charged with reviewing a wide range of arrest affidavits for the identification of trafficking victims. We also recently initiated a review of juvenile arrests and pick-up orders. Our task force members are available to work with state and local task forces, our federal partners and our local service providers. Our Jan. 9 community forum on human trafficking was the first of what I hope will be many successful dialogues regarding this important issue of human trafficking in the future.
Most recently, there are legislative initiatives that I have been advocating at the local, state and national levels. These initiatives will make it easier for state prosecutors to arrest and convict the pimps and sex traffickers who prey upon these victims. Here in Florida, Senate Bill 1880, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and House Bill 7049 sponsored by Rep. William Snyder contain the necessary language that I have advocated.
Fighting human trafficking is not just the job of law enforcement and prosecutors. It is also the job of our entire community. The Florida Safe Harbor Act, which we supported, is a step in the right direction for victims who are minors. We need everyone to assist us in developing effective treatment programs and housing for all victims. Without their testimony, evil people will continue to do evil things.
Victims need adequate services to support them as witnesses in our criminal justice system so we can successfully prosecute the predators who manipulate and sell them on our streets. Together, we can break the mental and emotional chains that bind them to some very cruel masters.
As caring and concerned citizens, please make it your job to report, to assist and to testify if needed. With your help and your cooperation we can be successful in putting individuals seeking to line their wallets through sexual exploitation in prison where they belong.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle is state attorney for Miami-Dade County.
Child Abuse Costs Victims $200,000 Over A Lifetime, Report Finds
The evidence is mounting on the devastating affects of childhood abuse and neglect.
In a newly released report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average cost to someone who experiences maltreatment as a child -- defined as physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or neglect -- is $210,012 over the course of a lifetime.
According to the report, the figure represents the combined costs of child welfare, special education, criminal justice expenses, medical care and lost productivity as an adult.
A person who was abused or neglected when they were young is likely to grow up to earn an average of $5,890 less than their peers every year, the CDC found -- a significant amount at a time when the median salary in the U.S. is only $26,364, and more find themselves struggling just to afford food.
The CDC report echoes a number of other studies showing that people from disadvantaged backgrounds find it hard to get ahead later in life.
Children who grow up in an environment where food is scarce -- as 17 million children currently do -- can end up earning as much as $260,000 less than their peers over the course of a lifetime, according to a 2011 report from the Center for American Progress.
And research suggests that if a child experiences poverty between the ages of one and five, it can actually affect the brain at a neurobiological level -- possibly because of the stress hormones being in overdrive during those formative years.
Children who come from such circumstances are likely to remain poor their whole lives.
Experts are split on the question of whether a weak economy contributes to an increase in child abuse. Some of the evidence seems to point that way: in 2010, researchers found that a regional rise in unemployment is often followed by a jump in child maltreatment cases.
On the other hand, a report released in December from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that despite the economy stumbling badly in 2008, incidences of child abuse declined slightly over the next two years.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but for Hibiscus, the mission is never-ending
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month — a time of year to reflect and reaffirm our commitment to help prevent and to serve the thousands of abused, neglected and abandoned children who have faced adversities and traumas that most people will never know.
Overcoming these obstacles and challenges are not easy — but the generous spirit and love for children is evident in the Treasure Coast community we all live in.
So, as we have heavy hearts when we learn of the tragedies the children have endured, we also are very grateful and blessed by this community that has stepped up and partnered with Hibiscus Children's Center more than 25 years ago to make a difference and stand strong in the fight against child abuse.
In 1985, LaVaughn Tilton and a dedicated group of volunteers founded Hibiscus Children's Center. With a mission to provide safety for abused, abandoned and neglected children through prevention, residential, shelter and recovery programs, the agency has been sheltering children, strengthening families and nurturing futures for more than 25 years.
If you have not visited the shelter in Jensen Beach, the village in Vero Beach or the outreach offices in St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, you cannot grasp the challenges faced by a child who has been abused, neglected or abandoned by parent or family.
As CEO, I can share a perspective you may not know exists in our society.
Child abuse touches all socioeconomic aspects of our community and nation. In the majority of cases, children are abused at a very young age. The case histories we see are egregious, shocking, and can lead to a lifetime of trauma for the child. When a police officer, protective investigator or case manager brings a child to our facility from an abusive home or situation for their safety, the child knows not what may be ahead in their long struggle.
Fear of abuse is removed, but fear of uncertainty begins.
Pause for a moment and think about being abused by a parent, removed from your home and losing the innocence of your childhood. In many ways we are much like the emergency room of a hospital. We provide immediate care, reassurance and hope for recovery.
Each day, I watch a very talented workforce of dedicated employees, wonderful volunteers, donors and board members strategically and systematically rebuild the shattered lives of children.
Every effort is made to change a horrific past into a brighter future. Hibiscus Children's Center has expanded services for children to include improving literacy skills, career orientation, recreational programs, music and craft programs, and ongoing articulation with the local schools.
These structured day activities, coupled with on-site individual and group mental health therapy help youths improve self concept, gain skills not learned in younger years, and begin to set goals for future independence. All of these initiatives seek to break the cycle of generational abuse.
You may not see child abuse, neglect or abandonment firsthand, but it is real. Hibiscus Children's Center offers a complete complement of programs from prevention to recovery.
Visit our website at www.hibiscuschildrenscenter.org or call 772-978-9313 ext. 315 for more information. Thank you again for being a caring community that impacts the lives of children and families on the Treasure Coast — during Child Abuse Prevention Month and every day of the year.
Thomas B. Maher is CEO of Hibiscus Children's Center, which serves the Treasure Coast.
Judge declines to dismiss abuse suit against the Boy Scouts
However, the plaintiff must explain better why it took him almost 45 years to realize the source of his injury
by Karen McCowan
A long-ago local Boy Scout can press a $5.35 million lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America only if he can better explain why he did not realize until 2010 that alleged molestation by his 1960s Eugene scoutmaster was the source of his “severe physical, mental and emotional injury.”
In a Thursday afternoon ruling, however, Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen denied four of five motions by national, state and local Scout organizations to dismiss the suit.
Rasmussen ruled that the anonymous 58-year-old plaintiff — identified as F.D. — properly stated claims of institutional negligence and institutional fraud against the local Oregon Trail Council of the Boy Scouts, as well as against its parent state and national groups.
But Rasmussen granted a Scouting group's motion that he order F.D. to buttress his allegation that he did not discover until 2010 the “causal connection” between his alleged abuse and the damage he suffered.
Rasmussen gave him 15 days to back up that claim sufficiently.
The former scoutmaster named in the suit, Ed Dyer, was shot to death in 1986 by a Sisters teenager whom Dyer recently had been convicted of molesting.
The shooting occurred days after Dyer received a 10-day jail term for sexually abusing that boy and another. According to an Oregon State Police investigative report in the case, Dyer confessed to molesting 10 to 15 boys over a 28-year-period that included 1964-66, when he was F.D.'s scoutmaster in a troop sponsored by parents at Eugene's Adams Elementary School.
A spokesman for the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America said the group respects Rasmussen's decisions on the preliminary motions and will “continue our efforts in court.”
“Abuse is — and has always been — unacceptable, and the Boy Scouts of America extends its sympathies to any victims,” spokesman Deron Smith said. “In the nearly 50 years since the events described in this case, the BSA has evolved its multi-layered youth protection efforts, which include youth protection training and education for everyone in our organization and policies that prevent one-on-one contact between youth and adults.”
F.D.'s Portland lawyer, Kelly Clark, called Rasmussen's ruling “an almost across-the-board win” and said he was confident he and case colleagues could satisfy the judge's request for documentation linking the alleged abuse to his client's alleged injury.
“It's the same basic equation we've been having to prove in our cases since 1991,” said Clark, whose law firm has won verdicts and settlements for dozens of adults sexually abused as children by church leaders and other trusted adults.
Those wins include a nearly $20 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in 2010 for a man abused at 11 by a Portland area Scout leader.
“We have to prove that a reasonable person in the position of this child abuse survivor would not have made a connection between their abuse and their injury prior to now,” he said.
That typically involves telling the court about “the mental health reality” of child abuse survivors repressing or compartmentalizing the betrayal by a trusted adult, he said.
Clark predicted that a trial could go forward in F.D.'s case even though his alleged abuser is dead.
Oregon law allows juries to decide such cases “based on all the evidence, including that fact that the alleged perpetrator is not around anymore,” he said.
The Boy Scout groups moved to dismiss F.D.'s suit in part because his complaint contains no allegation that the groups knew or should have known anything about Dyer between 1964 and 1966 that would have alerted them to protect F.D. from his alleged abuse.
The lawsuit suit says the Scouting groups were liable because Dyer harmed F.D. while acting as their agent and because they knew by 1964 of “an institutionwide or systemic child abuse problem” due to predatory child molesters using Scout leader posts to victimize children.
The suit says the Boy Scout groups acted with “reckless and outrageous indifference” by failing to warn parents about molestation risks despite knowing “to a moral certainty that such failures would reasonably lead to at least some number of other boys being sexually abused.”
Instead, the suit claims, the groups fraudulently represented that they were selecting “morally upright men” as leaders.
Colorado considers easing rules on child-abuse investigations
by Jordan Steffen
Barely two weeks after state officials announced a plan to reduce the number of children who die after entering Colorado's child welfare program, the same agency began work Friday to relax rules dictating when caseworkers must investigate reports of abuse and neglect.
The Colorado Department of Human Services is proposing a change that would remove a rule requiring that county social workers automatically open an investigation if they receive three reports of child abuse or neglect within two years — and the first two referrals were not investigated. Instead, social workers would examine prior contacts with the child — such as any actions taken and services provided — to determine whether an investigation is warranted.
Julie Krow, head of the department's Office of Children, Youth and Families, and Judy Rodriguez, assistant director of the Division of Child Welfare, presented the proposal at Friday's meeting of the State Board of Human Services.
The rule change could help conserve limited resources and allow social workers to focus on cases that may be more severe, Rodriguez said.
"Supervisors look at each case and approve or disapprove a referral," Rodriguez said. "They are the ones who know their communities."
Opponents of the rule change said the proposal is based on anecdotes instead of data.
"In a time when we've had 43 child deaths, one would think that we would be trying to figure out how to address our own accountability," said Stephanie Villafuerte, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center. "We don't need to be worrying about giving discretion to the caseworkers, but we should figure out what went wrong in the discretion that was already given."
An investigation by The Denver Post in January showed that in the past five years, 43 children died after entering the state's child welfare system. In every one of the deaths — which occurred in 18 counties — social workers repeatedly failed to complete basic functions, according to a review of state investigative reports.
In 17 of those cases, county social workers failed to start an investigation after a report of abuse or neglect warranted one.
Friday's discussion occurred less than a month after the department opened its second child fatality review this year — an Adams County boy allegedly killed by his grandmother.
Such an investigation is opened whenever a child's death is a result of abuse or neglect and there was contact with the child welfare system during the two previous years.
Board members are selected by Gov. John Hickenlooper and operate outside of the department. The board holds public hearings on the first Friday of every month to discuss proposed changes to the rules that regulate county child welfare departments.
Friday, board members expressed mixed responses to the proposed rule changes. Some said they worried that changing the rule could result in children falling through the cracks, while others advocated for more county control.
"We're trusting people to make the first judgment, we're trusting them to make the second, but for some reason we're not trusting them to make the third," said Stephen Johnson, board member and county commissioner for Larimer County.
REAL Colorado, an initiative of Colorado Counties Inc., suggested the rule change to the state department last fall.
The board approved the proposal to go forward to a final adoption hearing, scheduled for April 6. Before then, the board requested data about who is making the referrals and how many each county receives.
Miami airport employees being trained to intercept sex trafficking
South Florida is one of the 13 major trafficking hubs in the country, according to the FBI
by Monique O. Madan
March 01, 2012
Employees at Miami International Airport were trained Thursday to identify and respond to children who are being sexually exploited.
Fifty workers attended a sex-trafficking training session given by Miami-Dade police and personnel from PortMiami and MIA. The workshop is aimed at keeping watch on the tens of thousands of daily passengers who walk through the airport.
South Florida is one of the 13 major trafficking hubs in the country, according to the FBI.
Most recently, on Feb. 17, two men -- former Miami Beach Police officer Lavont Flanders Jr., 41, of Miami Gardens, and Emerson Callum, 45, of Miami -- were sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking after they lured unsuspecting women to South Florida, slipped them drugs, taped them performing sex acts and sold the images to pornographers.
Last spring, advocates with Kristi House -- a nonprofit that helps sexually abused victims -- said they wanted to prevent child victims from being trafficked through unprepared South Florida airports.
MIA is one of the first U.S. airports to launch this type of training, according to Kristi House.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, led the sex-trafficking crackdown after he said he realized victims are taken across state lines or international borders through places like Miami International Airport and PortMiami.
About 293,000 young people in the United States are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, according to Diaz's legislation.
Experts describe these children as runaways who leave abusive and neglectful homes, becoming involved in prostitution for financial support or by force.
Ohio man accused of raping 3 adopted sons, pimped one, police say
by Molly Hennessy-Fiske
March 2, 2012.
Reporting from Houston —
Authorities have charged an Ohio father with raping three boys he adopted in Texas, even as they continue their probe into an alleged sexual exploitation operation the man ran out of his suburban home.
Officials in Troy, Ohio, a city of 25,000 about 80 miles west of Columbus, told The Times on Friday that the father had been caught pimping one of his adoptive sons, a 10-year-old.
The father was arrested last week by an undercover detective, who spotted a Craigslist ad for "taboo sex" and posed as a potential customer, soliciting sex with the boy online, Troy police Capt. Chuck Adams told The Times.
The adoptive father, who worked from home as an insurance claims adjuster, had planned to meet the undercover detective at a local McDonald's on Monday, but police served a warrant on his home two days earlier, Adams said.
The father confessed, Adams said, and police searched the home, seizing four laptop computers from the home, clothing, a video camera and two wooden paddles.
The man and two alleged accomplices have been jailed on rape charges. The three adopted boys and another child were removed from the home and placed in foster care, Adams said. It is Times policy not to reveal the names of victims of sexual assault and has withheld the father's name to protect his alleged victims.
The 10-year-old was initially afraid to answer questions from police about being prostituted, Adams said, concerned that if he cooperated he might lose his new home and adopted siblings.
“He's been moved quite a bit through the foster system,” Adams said, but “he was really buying into these kids being his brothers and sisters.”
After the sting, state and federal prosecutors joined police from three Ohio cities this week to coordinate a continued investigation. The father had been involved in local youth baseball and basketball programs, but Adams said investigators have not found any signs that he abused other children or had a criminal record.
The man had adopted three of the children, and was in the process of adopting the fourth, through private adoptions in Texas. The father had recently withdrawn the children from school, Adams said.
Texas officials told The Times they have been reviewing their records in the wake of the man's arrest, but it appears he passed the standard background checks and training for prospective adoptive parents.
"All of the appropriate procedures were followed," Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Austin, told The Times. "We're looking at the process to see if we missed anything."
Crimmins said his office was working with Ohio children's services officials to investigate the adoptions, which Crimmins said were handled through Action Inc., an Ohio-based, state-certified private adoption agency. Officials at the agency did not return calls Friday.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesman Ben Johnson in Columbus told The Times that the adoptive father was first certified as a foster parent in Ohio's Miami County in 2005.
The man was being held on $800,000 bond Friday.
Judge dismisses sexual assault case for lack of evidence
by Mark Stodghill
A judge said Friday that the state built a “thin” sexual assault case against a Duluth man on the words and shoulders of a 6-year-old boy and that wasn't enough to convict him.
After 1½ days of testimony, Judge Mark Munger took the fate of Robert Douglas King out of jurors' hands and put it in his own by ruling that the prosecution didn't prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Munger granted a defense motion that King receive a court-directed verdict of acquittal on both first-degree criminal sexual conduct counts he was charged with.
Defense attorney David Keegan had moved the court for the acquittal after the state rested its case at lunch Friday. Such motions are routinely made and routinely denied, but not this time.
Before announcing his decision in State District Court in Duluth, Munger told the parties that there was no forensic evidence or corroboration that King had sexually abused the boy, who was a month shy of 4 years old when he told his mother of the alleged abuse in January 2010.
The boy testified Thursday and repeatedly said he didn't know if it were true that he had been sexually abused. He said he didn't remember it happening.
Munger told King and the attorneys that during the noon hour Friday he went over the transcript of the boy's testimony and found seven instances in which the boy said he didn't know if he was sexually abused.
“Everything in this case, everything, flows from the shoulders of that 6-year-old child,” Munger said.
The judge said there wasn't even enough evidence presented at trial to meet the burden of proof in a civil trial, where cases are decided on the basis of whether the issue at hand is more likely than not to be true. He said the state didn't come close to meeting its “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” burden required in a criminal case. He said he had never seen a case like this one.
“It might be because the state has never prosecuted a case this thin before,” Munger told those assembled in the courtroom.
King, 24, faced a guideline prison sentence of as long as 18 years if convicted of the crimes.
Munger said that he was concerned by the potential “huge collateral consequences” King faced if wrongly convicted on such weak evidence, including having to register as a predatory offender and possibly receiving a lifetime civil commitment at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at Moose Lake.
“There is no evidence to support this case in my courtroom,” Munger said before leaving the bench as King and his family cried and hugged each other and thanked Keegan. The defense attorney and defendant declined comment outside the courtroom.
King's mother, Laurie, said she was speaking for her son. “It absolutely, positively never happened,” she said. “He was innocent. He's just glad this is over and the truth came out without even having to go as far as it did. He's been treated very poorly by a lot of people, including the paper.”
St. Louis County prosecutor Leslie Beiers expressed her disappointment outside the courtroom.
“You know, as a longtime prosecutor, I take my job as a minister of justice very seriously,” she said. “And with that goes, you know, making whatever efforts we can to protect young children in our community. I'm very disappointed in the court's decision.”
King was accused of sexually penetrating the boy with toys, other objects and a multi-purpose knife. The boy's mother told investigators that her son told her that King had put a number of items in his butt.
Saprina Matheny, a psychotherapist at the Human Development Center who met several times with the alleged victim, testified Friday that she believed the boy was sexually abused. She said that children the boy's age are not likely to talk about sexual penetration unless they experience it. When they do talk about it, it “tends to be incredibly indicative of sexual abuse,” she said.
Thirty-nine year Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom was asked how rare a directed verdict of acquittal is.
“It is extremely rare,” Holmsrom said. “I've had it happen two times before. Both times they were child criminal sexual conduct charges. In both cases, if my memory serves me correctly, the child was on the witness stand, but they would not either affirm or say anything about the allegations that were made and both cases were thrown out by a directed verdict, most recently 10 to 15 years ago.”
Bad Sex -- Rebel Magazine Looks at Culpability of Men in Sex Trade
March/April Issue of New Magazine Continues to Encourage Men to Re-think their Priorities
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The latest issue of groundbreaking men's magazine Rebel , in its most pointed cover story yet, makes the case that men need to carefully examine all of the ways in which they may unwittingly support sex trafficking.
Bad Sex, Men's Role in Buying and Selling Women , starts out with the painful story of a 15-year-old girl forced into prostitution. The article raises important issues regarding the commoditization and dehumanization of women. Beyond a focus on men who are willing to pay for sex, it examines the link between pornography and sex trafficking, arguing that a wider cross-section of men must be considered “enablers” of the sex trafficking trade. In a poignant passage in the article, filmmaker Philip Abraham, while shooting a documentary (Volviendo, being released nationwide in October) about the Latin American sex trade awakens to the reality that in watching pornography, he too is engaging in the global sex trade.
The article also points out (via research done by Mary Anne Layden, director of the sexual trauma and psychopathology program at the University of Pennsylvania) that men who cultivate prostitutes and pornography become less satisfied with their regular female partner's attractiveness, sexual performance and level of affection. Those who watch pornography are more likely to accept the idea of sex outside marriage and are less inclined to have children. Even when the pornography is not illegal or pathological, its messages may be very damaging to relationships, sexuality and women.
Bad Sex author Craig Morgan, a freelance writer and Phoenix-based correspondent for CBSsports.com and FoxsportsArizona.com, suggests that it is “simplistic and naïve” to end the market for sex trafficking simply by asking men to refuse to participate in it. He quotes Dr. Robert Weiss, founding director of The Sexual Recovery Institute in L.A., as saying that “a large percentage of his [male] patients have a history of abuse, neglect or narcissistic parenting that surfaces during analysis.” But by confronting sexual addiction through counselors, clergymen or friends, behavior can be modified. Author Morgan concludes that, ultimately, men need to carefully consider their priorities and take responsibility for perpetuating sex trafficking in all its forms.
Rebel's cover story proves yet again its success in offering content found in no other men's magazine. Rebel shines a light on business and political activists, sports, film and other celebrities, and ordinary men who pledge themselves to bringing about positive change, personally, professionally and socially.
Intoxication Increases Sexual Aggression in Men With History of Sexual Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is believed to be cyclical. Men and women who have survived CSA tend to repeat the cycle of abuse by either experiencing the negative symptoms of abuse or by becoming perpetrators themselves. Men in particular, are at an increased risk for committing acts of sexual abuse or sexual aggression as a result of being abused in childhood. The majority of studies examining this dynamic focus on CSA
and childhood physical abuse
as precursors for aggressive behavior, but few have looked at how alcohol abuse, a common issue that CSA survivors struggle with, influences these behaviors. In college and high school students, sexual abuse and aggression are often coupled with alcohol intoxication. Many of these assaults are committed without condom use, which increases the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Understanding how alcohol misuse and CSA affect a man's sexual intentions could help clinicians and social outreach programs design prevention efforts aimed at decreasing sexually aggressive behaviors in these survivors.
Kelly Cue Davis of the School of Social Work at the University of Washington conducted an experiment involving 220 male college students who were provided a high- or low-dose alcohol condition or a placebo. After they consumed the alcohol, the men read a sexual storyline in which a female (Kim) refused to engage in sex without a condom. Davis discovered that although there was no direct link between CSA and aggression, the men who had survived CSA (18.4%) did believe they were entitled to have sex with Kim, regardless of her protests. These same men also had distorted perceptions of her arousal and willingness after they consumed alcohol. In fact, as the men's perceptions of Kim's arousal increased, their level of sexual aggression and intention to have unprotected sex with her, despite her protests, also increased. Overall, this study highlights the need for transforming cognitive and behavioral patterns in men who have survived CSA. In addition, addressing alcohol consumption in these men as well as the distorted thinking could help reduce their sexually aggressive behaviors. Davis added, “Improving our understanding of the pathways through which a history of CSA, as well as alcohol intoxication, may contribute to men's engagement in nonconsensual, unprotected sexual behavior could greatly enhance sexual health education and intervention efforts for both men and women.”
Legislators may take up bill establishing single parenthood as factor in child abuse
by Kylie Peterson
Wisconsin legislators may take up a controversial bill that would establish single parenthood as a factor contributing to child abuse and neglect.
The Senate Committee on Public Health, Human Services and Revenue scheduled a vote Friday on a bill authored by Assistant State Majority Leader Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, requiring the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board of Wisconsin to emphasize non-marital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
CANPB, also known as the Children's Trust Fund, is a governor-appointed board focused on reducing child maltreatment through public education and recommendations to the state government, Children's Trust Fund Associate Director Jennifer Jones said.
If passed, the bill would require CANPB to emphasize non-marital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect during statewide educational and public awareness campaigns as well as when distributing information about the problems and methods of preventing child abuse and when providing informational materials to organizations that receive grants from CANPB.
Children living with two married, biological parents have the lowest rate of abuse and neglect, according to the United States Department of Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
Conversely, children living with a parent and unmarried partner have more than eight times the incidence of maltreatment than those living with two married biological parents, the report said.
While single parenthood is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect, other issues put children at risk for maltreatment, Jones said. These include parental substance abuse, mental health concerns, domestic violence, teen parenthood, low maternal education, parental history of child maltreatment, poverty and unemployment, according to research complied by the Children's Trust Fund.
“It's important to understand all of these risk factors for child maltreatment in order to create sound policy solutions that prevent child abuse and neglect,” Jones said.
Lisa Subeck, program manager, family advocate and Hope House coordinator at Dane County Parent Council Head Start, said she feels the bill was written to dictate personal choices rather than to help prevent child abuse. She said the wording of the bill is “non-marital parenthood,” which does not just encompass single parents.
It also pertains to two parent families living together and same-sex couples that are not granted marital status, Subeck said.
“Sen. Grothman is inserting government into what should be a very personal decision,” said Subeck, who is also the District 1 alder.
With respect to child abuse and neglect, family type has far less impact than the family process within each household, Human Development and Family Studies Professor Dave Riley said in an email to The Badger Herald.
In maltreating families, there tends to be frequent adult-to-adult violence regardless of if it's a one- or two-parent household, he said.
“Research has found that leaving a conflictual marriage actually improves parent-child relationships, particularly if the co-parents get along better after separating,” Riley said. “Regardless of what kind of family you live in, the important thing is the quality of the relationships within that family.”
Kentucky House panel passes bill ratcheting up scrutiny on child abuse deaths
by Deborah Yetter - The Courier-Journal
A House committee approved legislation Thursday to provide more outside scrutiny of child abuse and neglect deaths and to tighten the definition of what constitutes abuse.
But the bill does not define what information officials must release under the state open-records law about child abuse deaths and serious injuries, as the sponsor, Rep. Susan Westrom, initially had intended.
Instead, Westrom said she will refer the issue to a proposed task force that would take a broad look at state laws affecting juveniles before the next legislative session.
Westrom, a Lexington Democrat, said she decided against including the open-records matter — the subject of a lengthy court fight between the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the state's two largest newspapers — so there could be a more thorough review.
“I think it really deserves a fair discussion,” Westrom said in an interview after House Bill 200 won unanimous approval from the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat and sponsor of a measure to create such a task force, said he would be willing to take on the topic if the legislature authorizes the panel, which he expects it will.
“It's a difficult topic,” he said. “It's easy to say we're for transparency and we're for privacy, but how do you reach that language?”
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd has found that current law requires the cabinet to release all records in cases in which children die or are seriously injured from abuse, ruling in lawsuits brought by The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald Leader. He has allowed only limited deletions from such records, a decision that the cabinet has appealed.
Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer for The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Press Association who testified at Thursday's hearing, said afterward that the newspapers are satisfied with the current law, which requires full disclosure of records in child-abuse deaths and serious injuries. But he said there's room for discussion.
“We're willing to talk to people and see if there's a middle ground everyone can agree to,” he said.
Meanwhile, Westrom said she believes HB 200 clarifies what constitutes abuse and could help officials uncover cases of death from abuse or neglect that may have been overlooked — considered accidental or from natural causes.
That issue gained widespread attention after last year's death of Amy Dye, 9, a Todd County girl who was fatally beaten in her adoptive home.
Westrom noted that state child welfare officials didn't classify Amy's death as having been caused by abuse because she was killed by a brother, not a parent or guardian.
Several lawmakers expressed outrage that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was using too narrow a definition in excluding Amy's death and several others from its annual report on child deaths from abuse or neglect.
“We've closed that gaping hole,” Westrom said.
HB 200 requires the cabinet to classify abuse if the perpetrator is a parent, guardian, a relative over 17 or a partner of the child's parent or guardian. Amy was killed by her adoptive brother, Garrett Dye, then 17, who was convicted last year of her murder.
Top cabinet officials appeared at Thursday's hearing in support of HB 200.
“We are very much in support of this piece of legislation,” said Teresa James, acting commissioner of social services.
Eric Friedlander, on his first day on the job as interim cabinet secretary, also pledged his support.
“This is a tremendously important bill,” he said. “This bill will help children across the commonwealth.”
HB 200 would expand to every county panels of local officials who review child deaths. Such panels exist in 81 of Kentucky's 120 counties, Westrom said.
It also would create a statewide independent panel to examine all child fatalities or serious injuries from abuse or neglect that come to its attention from the local panels, health care officials or other interested parties.
The attorney general would serve as the initial head of the 13-member panel, and members would include the state medical examiner, pediatric physicians, a coroner, a prosecutor, a judge and others involved in child welfare.
Many states have such panels, according to a report to lawmakers last month from the National Conference of State Legislators. A bill to create such a panel in Kentucky died in the House last year after a lawmaker attempted to attach as an amendment a bill aimed at restricting abortions.
Westrom said she believes the measure has a better chance this year because of the increased attention after several child abuse deaths, including that of Amy Dye.
“I think the time has come,” she said. “The time probably came 10 years ago. We need to address this issue.”
Flesichaker spoke briefly about the statewide child fatality review panel, saying he was troubled by provisions that would allow it to deliberate individual cases in secret and keep records confidential.
The panel would issue public annual reports but not reveal names or identifying information of individual cases.
“We don't want to put another layer of secrecy on top of the layer of secrecy we've already experienced from the cabinet,” he said. ”
Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat who is the committee's chairman, said he believes Fleischaker's concerns can be resolved.
“We've got a wonderful opportunity to open the door,” he said. “When you shed a little light into a dark room, sometimes things happen.”
Additional Facts CONTINUING COVERAGE
The Courier-Journal has investigated the deaths from child abuse and and neglect. See the continuing coverage of “Children in Crisis” at www.courier-journal/childabuse
Legislature passes 'Jerry Sandusky bill' requiring college employees to report child abuse
Only some would be 'mandatory reporters'
-- The state Legislature passed and sent the governor Thursday the 'Jerry Sandusky bill' requiring some higher education employees to report suspected child abuse or neglect to authorities.
The legislation became known as the "Jerry Sandusky bill" after the former assistant coach at Penn State University who has been accused of molesting minors.
“In following the horrific media coverage of the Penn State University abuse scandal last fall, I knew right away we had to add higher education employees as mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect,” said the bill's sponsor, state Sen.Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.
“There are an increasing number of children on our college campuses for sports, academic camps and child care programs. It is imperative we do all we can to ensure their protection. This bill does just that and will strengthen our ability to avoid a Penn State situation here in Washington,” she said.
Kohl-Welles said the bill would make academic and athletic employees who are most likely to have contact with minors “mandatory reporters.” But not all employees would fall under the mandatory reporting requirements.
“Not every school employee is a mandatory reporter (someone who must report an incident to either law enforcement or child protective services) nor would be all higher ed employees under the bill's provisions. It is not assumed that every custodian, cafeteria worker and clerk has the practical knowledge to be a mandatory reporter,” she said.
“Rather,” she said, “academic and athletic employees who are most likely to have contact with minors will become mandatory reporters. Others will be responsible to report to designated supervisors within 48 hours."
New details emerge in sex-abuse case against ex-Penn State coach Sandusky
March 2, 2012
by Mark Scolforo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors claim Jerry Sandusky sexually abused boys ranging in age from 8 to 17, eight of whom were molested on the Penn State campus, according to a document with new details about the case filed Thursday.
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office said in the document that crimes involving one of the 10 alleged victims took place in Florida and Texas, while another boy was abused at his own school.
Prosecutors were more specific in the document about the ages of the boys than in earlier reports, but much of the information is similar to details revealed in grand jury presentments issued last year that formed the basis for charges against the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Sandusky, 68, is confined to his home while he awaits trial on 52 criminal counts. He denies the allegations, and his lawyer said he did not think anything in the latest filing would change his defense strategy.
"We are continuing with the preparation of Jerry's defense with the goal of obtaining an acquittal on all the charges filed against him," attorney Joseph Amendola said in an email message Thursday.
The latest court filing states that two of the boys, identified as Victim 2 and Victim 8, remain unidentified to authorities.
The allegations involving Victim 2 are perhaps the most well known in the case. He was described by a grand jury report as a boy, about 10 years old, seen by a graduate assistant inside a football team shower with Sandusky in 2002. Prosecutors say the assistant, Mike McQueary, reported the incident to coach Joe Paterno and two university administrators, but police were never notified.
The apparent failure of Penn State officials to contact police contributed to the ouster of Paterno, school president Graham Spanier and charges against two school officials.
The document said that so-called Victim 4 endured offenses that took place in Florida in December 1998 and January 1999, when Penn State was playing in the Outback Bowl; and in Texas in December 1999, when Sandusky's final game occurred in the Alamo Bowl. The filing does not specify the offenses.
The reference to other states comes less than a week after Penn State disclosed it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg, indicating a federal investigation is under way.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office declined comment.
In most of the allegations in the latest document, which was produced at the request of Sandusky's lawyer, prosecutors said they could not provide specific dates, noting some crimes occurred over many years, and the alleged victims were children at the time.
Prosecutors said offenses happened from 1996 to 2009 and occurred at Sandusky's home, in State College hotels, at Penn State athletic facilities and inside a car.
On Wednesday, Judge John Cleland turned down Sandusky's request for a two-month delay that would have given them more time to prepare for trial. Cleland has tentatively scheduled trial to begin with jury selection on May 14.
Sandusky was arrested in early November, along with Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Curley, now on leave, and Schultz, who has retired, were accused of failing to properly report suspected child abuse and lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.
Curley and Schultz have denied the allegations, and are waiting for a judge to rule on their requests to have charges dismissed.
Neither Spanier nor Paterno were charged with any crime.
Paterno died in January of lung cancer. Spanier remains a tenured faculty member.
Bill seeks fairer standard for child-abuse investigations
by Jack Minch
LEOMINSTER -- Massachusetts has the 14th-largest population in the country and among its most educated citizens, but has the highest number of families under investigation for child abuse, said child advocate Mary Jean.
"It doesn't make any sense at all," she said Thursday. "When you look at the numbers, they don't collate and that's because we have this low threshold."
That "low threshold" means cases in which children may be taken from their parents because investigators have "reasonable cause to believe" abuse occurred. Under a bill filed by state Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, that threshold will change to "no reasonable doubt" of abuse.
"Reasonable cause" can be based on rumor, hearsay or outright lies, but "reasonable doubt" must be based on evidence such as an X-ray showing a child's arm has been broken, Jean and Rosa said.
Rosa's bill was released by the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday. Rosa said he will start lobbying today to get the bill its first reading in the House.
Forty-seven states use the "no reasonable doubt" standard established by the federal government, Rosa said.
"We're not reinventing anything. We're not taking protections from families and children," he said. "We're just making it more fair."
The DCF has 15 days to investigate after a child-abuse allegation is filed and then must decide whether to support the claim or reject it.
"When you look at the models of the other states, and you have 47 to look at, nowhere near the cost we have and they still protect children and families adequately," he said.
Rosa's bill doesn't change the requirement for an investigation, but the results could be different.
It can take as long as five years for parents to get hearings to rebut allegations and up to two more years for a ruling, Rosa and Jean said.
A change in the law would free up resources at DCF so case workers can better protect children, Rosa said.
Children in foster care in Massachusetts are four times more likely to suffer abuse than children in other states, he said.
Advocates for the bill lobbied representatives on Beacon Hill in a prearranged date Wednesday, but the bill was released Tuesday.
Rosa and Jean said they believe their planned lobbying effort may have spurred the committee into releasing the bill.
It is an important bill for Rosa. He started working on it within three weeks of his election in 2009.
The bill was submitted to the Legislature in January 2011, and a hearing was held in October.
This is the first bill filed by Rosa that made it out of committee.
He praised the committee chairman of the House delegation, Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton, for her work getting the October hearing scheduled and the decision to release it to the House.
A second bill to hire an ombudsman for the DCF did not make it out of committee.
Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, D-Holden, who represents Westminster and serves on the committee, was not immediately available for comment.
A spokesman for DCF was not immediately ready to offer reaction to the bill.
TELSTRA blocked 84,000 attempts to access websites believed to contain child abuse material
TELSTRA blocked 84,000 attempts to access websites believed to contain child abuse material in less than four months last year, the government's classification review has revealed.
The carrier blocked the attempts using an internet filter that exclusively weeds out a list of child abuse sites maintained by Interpol.
The Australian Law Reform Commission's 400-page review of the national classification scheme also revealed that at least five Australian internet providers run the filters in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP). To date only Telstra, Optus and Primus Telecom have publicly confirmed that they use the Interpol blocklist.
"There is no requirement for the ISPs to report their statistics, but for the period July 1 to October 15, 2011, Telstra reported that there had been in excess of 84,000 redirections via its network," the ALRC wrote in its report.
Telstra has roughly 50 per cent share of the internet market. The filter contained 409 internet domain names by October last year.
The ALRC report referred to the so-called voluntary internet filtering scheme -- the result of sub rosa negotiations between carriers and the federal government as it pushed its controversial plan to impose mandatory internet content filtering laws on internet providers.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has championed the mandatory filtering scheme which is viewed as a response to years of failed industry self-regulation.
Senator Conroy and the AFP have persistently described the filters put in place by Optus and Telstra as voluntary.
However, the report gave some credence to concerns held privately by some ISPs that the scheme, which has been introduced without public consultation, is mandatory.
In its report the ALRC described it as an example of "quasi-regulation". The ALRC said that ISPs start the process of joining the scheme "expressing an interest" in participating with the AFP. The AFP then "issues a ‘request' (sic) to that ISP" using powers under Australian telecommunication law obliging them to do their best to stop their services being used for crime.
ISPs have expressed fears that the scope of the voluntary filter may widen and supplant the mandatory filter.
Under the mandatory filter plan that Labor originally proposed in 2007, ISPs were to be required to use the Office of Film and Literature Classification's "Refused Classification" (RC) setting as a benchmark to blacklist content such as child-abuse material, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and material that advocated a terrorist act.
However, critics argued that the setting would lead to the filter casting too wide a net in the digital environment due to inconsistencies in rules regulating online and offline media content.
Senator Conroy directed the ALRC to review the classification scheme in July 2010 placing a particular focus on solving classification problems to smooth passage of the mandatory filter.
The ALRC has recommended that the RC category be scrapped and replaced with a new category, "Prohibited".
It recommended that the Prohibited category should contain a narrow subset of material currently defined as RC pending a review of the classification.
California Teen Moves in With Teacher
18-Year-Old Moves in With Teacher
Amid a storm of controversy and police investigation, a California teacher who left his family and job to be with a teenage former student said he followed his heart and that the couple waited until he resigned before they "took it to the next level."
"I know my family is probably disappointed in me," James Hooker, 41, said. "They're probably confused in what we're doing. I'm not sure how to explain it to them. ... I am just following my heart and this is the direction I'm going in."
At issue, however, is when the relationship between Hooker and 18-year-old girlfriend Jordan Powers truly began, and whether Hooker broke any laws.
The former teacher at Modesto's James Enochs High School maintains that he did nothing illegal, and that people questioning the couple's relationship, including Powers' mother, who wants Hooker arrested, are ignoring the details of their relationship's timeline.
"They don't care about the rest of the story. They don't care about the rest of the detail," Hooker said. "Once I ... resigned and ended my assignment ... that's when we took it to the next level."
Powers, who has stopped attending classes at her high school but is still planning to graduate on time by doing independent study, said she's in love with her former teacher, who she met over three years ago.
"Yes, I do love him," Powers said."He's my best friend. I mean, he's more than just a lover."
As soon as the couple went public with their love on "Good Morning America" Thursday, criticism of their romance went viral, and raised eyebrows across the country.
Hooker and Powers met when she was a freshman and he was her business class teacher. They say their relationship evolved over time, and only became physical after Powers turned 18 in September.
"We don't expect people to understand," Powers said.
Hooker seems to agree, saying that a relationship like theirs will generally be misunderstood.
"It's just difficult to hear things that aren't true, and to be perceived as wrong no matter what our case is," Hooker said.
Tammie Powers, Jordan Powers' mother, is not convinced by Hooker's claims, and has taken her outrage to Facebook, along with her contention that she found phone records showing long, late-night phone calls and more than 8,000 text messages between the couple.
"He shouldn't be with kids. I'd like to see him arrested. I'd like to get information from when she was a minor and have him arrested," Tammie Powers said.
In California, where it is illegal for anyone younger than 18 to have sex with an adult, police are now investigating.
"The fact that there were these 8,000 messages, there was an ongoing relationship that was extracurricular, that doesn't pass the smell test," criminal attorney David Cohen said.
As for his relationship with his family, Hooker said he plans to file for divorce, but he hopes he can salvage a relationship with his three children, including a 17-year-old daughter who attends the same high school where he taught and his girlfriend plans to graduate from this spring.
From the FBI
Taking International Aim at Child Predators
On Wednesday, Europol released the results of its first joint operation with the FBI against international child predators, announcing the identification of eight child victims and the arrest of 17 individuals for child sexual molestation and production of pornography.
Operation Atlantic has led to the identification of 37 child sex offenders in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The investigation, which began in December 2010, continues as individuals overseas are still being sought.
“Online child predators and child exploitation are not just an American problem,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. “The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners around the world, such as Europol, to combat these horrendous crimes. We share actionable intelligence and resources to keep children safe and bring those who do them harm to justice.”
Sharing intelligence was our primary role in Operation Atlantic, and it was facilitated by our Innocent Images Operations Unit (IIOU) at FBI Headquarters. Agents working covertly set up an electronic dragnet on a peer-to-peer network targeting pedophiles located in European Union (EU) countries and forwarded investigative results to our partners at Europol.
Previously, IIOU staff worked with our legal attachés overseas to formalize a cooperative agreement with Europol regarding several criminal investigative programs, including online child sexual exploitation. “The results of Operation Atlantic validate this new relationship and offer an example of outstanding achievement through international law enforcement cooperation,” said Audrey McNeill, IIOU chief.
Europol works with law enforcement agencies in the 27 EU countries, along with non-EU members such as the U.S. and Australia. Europol personnel do not have direct powers of arrest, but instead support law enforcement in member countries through coordination and intelligence gathering and sharing.
"Collaboration and cooperation between Europol and our international law enforcement partners such as the FBI is essential if we are to bring members of these child sex abuse networks to justice and prevent the distribution of child exploitation material across the Internet,” said Rob Wainwright, Europol's director. Noting that Operation Atlantic is the first joint operation conducted by the FBI and Europol in the area of child sexual exploitation, Wainwright added, “Europol is ready and willing to support ongoing and future operations to infiltrate these networks.”
The leads and intelligence gathered by the FBI that formed the basis of Operation Atlantic helped link suspects in five countries to pedophile groups, including the notorious “Boylover” network, the focus of a previous Europol action called Operation Rescue. Subjects arrested in Operation Atlantic include a web of offenders that were producing and distributing images depicting the severe abuse of children—in some cases toddlers and infants.
“These individuals were not just possessors of child pornography,” McNeill said. “Some were previously convicted child sex offenders and were actively engaged in child sexual abuse.” In addition to providing leads to Europol, the IIOU detailed an agent to Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands last summer to help facilitate the investigation.
“Europol is a key and valued strategic partner for the IIOU, and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with them,” McNeill said. “I hope that Operation Atlantic is the first of many future successes. We are working hard to increase our international footprint and to stop child predators wherever they are in the world.”
Telling the story of child abuse means giving children tools to speak out, says author
by Michelle Griffin
HOW do you teach a little child about sexual abuse?
The big mistake, says author, primary school teacher and mother Jayneen Sanders, is to focus on stranger danger. That's why she has self-published a picture book, Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept , to help parents and caregivers introduce the idea that nobody, including friends or relatives, has the right to touch a child's private parts.
The current debate about naming and shaming convicted paedophiles after parole, as recommended by the Cummins Report into child welfare, only perpetuates dangerous myths, she said.
''Why does the media go on about the nasty man in the shadows or the nasty man behind the computer screen?'' Ms Sanders said. ''Guess what - the nasty man isn't always in the computer. He's right there. People will not talk about the fact that children will know their perpetrator. It could well be their father or their uncle.''
She wrote the book, with pictures by prominent illustrator Craig Smith, after the primary school where she was teaching refused to introduce ''protective behaviours education'' in class.
''I kept bringing it up at school council and they wouldn't consider it,'' she said. None of the local publishers would deal with it either, although she'd had children's books published by Penguin and other local houses.
Some Secrets ' contents have been vetted and approved by Child Wise, a national child protection charity that runs sexual abuse education classes for Victoria's teachers. Although the classes are fully funded by the Education Department, enrolments are patchy, according to Child Wise's national program manager Debbie Boyse.
''There's a reluctance,'' Ms Boyse said. ''It's difficult to get numbers.''
Children can be taught to report any inappropriate tickling or touching from as young as three, Ms Boyse said. Think of five adults they can talk to, she tells them, one for each finger on their hand. And one of them should be a teacher or childcare worker rather than a relative.
''A child has got to tell three people before they're believed, generally,'' said Ms Boyse, who previously worked in child protection. She supports the Cummins Report's recommendation that the Education Department create a sexual abuse campaign ''for parents and caregivers of all school-aged children'' but added that children should also be taught the topic in primary schools.
''We've got pool safety and road safety but what about understanding personal safety,'' she said.
The current name-and-shame campaign is harmful, as ''it makes everyone concentrate on convicted criminals, but only 3 per cent of people [who sexually abuse children] are convicted''.
There were about 5280 reports of child sex abuse lodged with Child Protection in 2009-2010, according to the Cummins Report, which also stressed that most perpetrators knew the children they abused, and warned against ''child sexual abuse myths, such as the prevalence of 'stranger danger' ''.
Workshop in Regina raises awareness of child sexual abuse
by Jonathan hamelin
REGINA — In the wake of the Graham James scandal, a Regina woman says the case will lead to more discussion and raise awareness about child sexual abuse.
James, a former junior hockey coach in Canada, has been convicted of sexually abusing a number of young hockey players, including former NHL star Theoren Fleury and junior player Todd Holt.
Jo-Ann Godenir, a volunteer facilitator with Little Warriors, leads workshops focusing on preventing child sexual abuse. On Tuesday, a three-hour workshop was scheduled for the North Central Family Centre (NCFC), with two more scheduled in the coming months.
“Unfortunately, there's a lot of shame involved and it takes a lot of courage to talk about sexual abuse, but this gets people talking,” Godenir says.
“It normalizes the subject and just makes it not such a shameful thing for people.”
Godenir, who has been involved with Little Warriors for a year, feels the program has the ability to reach more than just those in attendance about a very serious issue.
One in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, with 95 per cent of them knowing their perpetrator.
“For every person that attends a Little Warriors program, they have the potential to affect 10 children's lives,” Godenir explains.
The program consists of three sections: prevalency and frequency, risky situations children can face and child disclosures. Each section starts with a 20-minute DVD presentation, followed by workbook questions and discussion.
Godenir says the workshop usually averages 10-15 people, ranging from parents, hockey coaches, teachers and those in other youth-serving organizations.
The biggest thing Godenir has learned, she says, is to take action as a parent to prevent sexual abuse.
“I signed my son up for climbing camp and I asked the people there, ‘Do you do background checks on the people running the camp? Are they ever alone with the children one-on-one? Is someone always around?'” she says.
“If they don't take those kind of procedures seriously and don't have those policies in place, I won't sign my child up for that camp.”
Further workshops at the NCFC are scheduled for April 3 and May 15, both running from noon to 3 p.m. It costs $30 per person or $25 per person for groups of two or more. To register, visit www.littlewarriors.ca or call 1.888.440.1343. The website also contains information about getting Little Warriors to come out to businesses to educate a group of at least 10 people.
Signs and symptoms of a child who has been sexually abused are:
* Sleeping problems;
* Masturbating excessively;
* Sore or swollen genital or anus area, bleeding from genital area or anus or vaginal discharge;
* Genital infections or pain when urinating or having a bowel movement;
* Exhibiting sexual behaviours that are not age appropriate;
* Fear of being with a certain person or in a certain place;
* Eating problems, including loss of appetite;
* Aggressive behaviour, mood changes, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour;
* Showing signs that it is painful to walk or sit;
* Losing interest in the activities that they have always enjoyed;
* Sudden negative change in academic performance;
* Displaying anxiety when being undressed or changed;
* Suddenly regressing to more infantile behaviours, such as bedwetting.
Penn State case spurs adult victims of childhood sex abuse to come forward
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's arraignment last year on 52 charges in the alleged molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period brought back haunting memories for victims of child sex abuse who have kept silent for decades.
"When Sandusky was on the news all the time, it was very difficult to not think about," said Paul, a pseudonym for a 45-year-old victim of childhood sex abuse who wants to remain anonymous. "There are certain things that bring it back really forcefully, and this is one of those things that did it for me."
Paul recently reported to Raleigh police the abuse that, he says, he suffered for five years, beginning at age 12, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The man he says abused him was a local swim team coach who was also a family friend. He also believes there are more victims.
He initially reported it to police in 1994 when he was 28, but because there wasn't enough evidence, the district attorney's office chose not to prosecute it.
"It was very disappointing," Paul said. "It was almost devastating, because I felt like I had a really good case."
After Sandusky's story grabbed national headlines in November, he asked police to reopen the case.
"When there's a human face on someone that this has happened to, people are roused to action," he said.
When Randy Rayburn heard about the Sandusky case, he was also jarred into action – action, he says, he was too frightened to take as a child.
He kept silent for more than 20 years.
"He's a cop, and I'm just a 12-year-old kid," Rayburn said. "I don't think (police) would have believed me anyway."
Rayburn, who now lives in Tennessee, says he was molested as an adolescent by a North Carolina State University police officer – a man who befriended his family after his parents divorced.
"I think that it was that mom was fairly comfortable having a cop at the house when she was at work," Rayburn said.
On the heels of the Sandusky case, investigators and prosecutors in Wake County say they have also seen an increase in the number of people reporting older cases to them.
Psychologist Dr. Michael Teague, who has counseled many victims of child sex abuse, says it's not unusual for high-profile cases, like Sandusky's, to give other victims courage.
"When you see an adult survivor out there that realizes someone else is speaking out, then it gives them more credence and more confidence to deal with this," he said. "They finally see a hero, in their eyes, coming forth and naming somebody. It really gives them a lot of courage and support."
The statistics are staggering. National studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys are molested as children. Only a fraction of those cases, however, is ever reported.
"I think that the first act that the molester does is they molest the mind and the spirit of the victim," Teague said. "For all the ones who come forward after years, there are probably hundreds who will never come forward."
Although there is no statute of limitations for felony sex crimes in North Carolina, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby says that, as more time that passes, old sex abuse cases become harder to investigate.
"We try to look at it and evaluate and determine whether or not a full-blown criminal investigation might produce evidence of a prosecutable case," Willoughby said. "The challenges of old cases, in general, are the lack of physical evidence that can't be gathered 20 or 30 or 40 years after the crime, the absence of witnesses, the frailty of witnesses' memories."
But, Willoughby said, the crimes should still be reported.
"Sometimes, it gives folks the courage to make the initial report. Sometimes, it helps us discover other victims in a case. I think that good does come out of it," he said.
That was the case for Rayburn.
Contacting Raleigh police was somewhat symbolic for him. Shortly after he was abused, he says, the man who molested him killed himself.
"The truth is the truth," Rayburn said. "It turned out to be a big problem for me, and it took me many years to even say anything about it."
Police report on sexual assaults in city
by Kevin Parks
As grim as dealing with the adult victims of sexual abuse can be — and Sgt. David D. Pelphrey of the Columbus Division of Police does so every day he's on duty — there are assignments that are grimmer still.
Pelphrey, one of three sergeants assigned to the adult side of the Special Victims Bureau's Sexual Assault Unit, was the guest speaker at last week's monthly meeting of Block Watch coordinators in the Northland area.
In outlining the various types of crimes the bureau handles, Pelphrey said there is one to which he would least like to be assigned: physical abuse of a child.
“This is the job, folks, that I don't want to have,” the 22-year veteran of the division said. “I know people do things to babies and children, but I just don't want to know about it.”
During his presentation, Pelphrey said Columbus has a “specialist police department,” as opposed to a “generalist” one. That means not only is there a division between patrol officers and detectives, but also that the detectives are further broken down into units that deal with specific kinds of cases.
This degree of specialization for investigators was further enhanced about six years ago with the creation of the Special Victims Bureau, according to Pelphrey.
“I think they did it Tuesday night when ‘Special Victims' was on,” he joked.
Most of the units within the bureau interact with agencies outside the Division of Police in handling cases, Pelphrey said. These include Franklin County Children Services, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Child and Family Advocacy Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
The three sergeants and 13 detectives, with a 14th possibly on the way soon, in the adult sex crimes unit are based out of police headquarters. Some of them are on duty at all times, and they deal with possible juvenile sexual assaults on the third shift, Pelphrey said.
Among the cases these detectives handle are:
• Sexual assaults involving persons with a developmental disability.
• Those referred to the unit by school officials or Children Services. personnel
• Public indecencies.
• Sexual assaults.
Pelphrey warned the Block Watch coordinators that a man who used to expose himself while driving on highways in the Northland area was scheduled to be released from prison on March 5. Pelphrey himself arrested the man in 2004.
Sexual assaults handled by the unit break down into rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and sexual imposition. The law requires that an element of force be present in order to charge someone with rape, but that's not the case with sexual battery, according to Pelphrey. He used the example of a man who has sexual contact with a woman incapacitated by alcohol.
“You can't have rape without the element of restricting her liberties,” he advised.
Sexual imposition is a misdemeanor and can involve something such as a male student inappropriately touching a female in a school hallway, Pelphrey said. Gross sexual imposition, a felony, could be charged if the touching took place after the boy pushed the girl up against a locker, he added.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, the number of sexual assaults reported in Columbus spikes every fall with the return of students to the Ohio State University campus, he said. Other than that, Pelphrey said, statistics are all over the place in terms of seasons.
In 2006, the sexual assault unit investigated 1,303 reports or referrals, 633 of them involving rape, Pelphrey said.
The following year, he said, 1,251 reports or referrals were received, 635 of them rapes.
In 2008, reports or referrals number 1,256, and of those, 660 involved possible rape.
In 2009, reports and referrals dropped to 1,146 and possible rapes were down even more sharply at 554.
In late 2008, Pelphrey explained, the “Northwest Rapist,” whose victims were mostly in the Hilliard area although one victim lived at the Continent, was receiving a great deal of media attention. Self-defense classes were all the rage, and Pelphrey found himself giving news briefings practically every Tuesday while the rapist was still at large.
“I was the face of felony sex for about six weeks,” he said. “There's a nickname that you want.”
The attention drawn to the Northwest Rapist also increased awareness among potential victims, Pelphrey speculated, and resulted in the drop in reported rapes.
In 2010, the number of reports and referrals returned to 1,256. These included 632 possible instances of rape.
Last year, 1,220 reports and referrals led to 640 investigations of possible rape, Pelphrey said.
While FBI officials maintain that only about 30 percent of rapes are actually reported to law enforcement, Pelphrey said the people in the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio do excellent work and encourage victims to file police reports.
He said he believes the percentage of rapes in Columbus is much higher than the national average.
For the two most recent years, the number of people arrested for rape was 87 in 2010 and 68 in 2011, according to Pelphrey's presentation.
Asked about the disparity between reports and arrests, he referred to “a lot of he-said, she-said. That's were the cases that we were able to take them to court with our evidence.”
Sergeant offers self-defense advice
In addition to telling Northland-area Block Watch coordinators about the work of the Columbus Division of Police's adult sexual assault unit, Sgt. David D. Pelphrey offered advice on how not to become the victim of such crimes.
He called them, “Five Levels of Self-Defense.”
• Body language
Awareness involves knowing that sexual assaults can and do happen, and that the majority of victims know their assailants, the 22-year police veteran said.
“We have very few stranger assaults,” Pelphrey added.
But awareness also involves knowing one's surroundings, noting exits from a room or building, places of possible concealment and the behavior of others.
Survivors of rape and other sex-related crimes often say they sensed something wasn't right just before they were attacked, according to Pelphrey.
“Pay attention to your internal messages,” he advised. “Replace your fear of assault with a positive plan for escape and defense.”
Body language includes not only noticing the message potential attackers give with how they move and hold themselves but also how a person wanting to ward off an attack behaves, Pelphrey said. Good posture and an air of confidence can help dissuade a would-be rapist from carrying through, he said. In public places, it might also help to be talking on a cell phone when walking alone, he added, and making direct eye contact with any strangers encountered.
“He's going to pick the next person because you've got a good physical description of him,” Pelphrey said.
Verbal self-defense techniques can involve informing someone that their comments or behavior are not acceptable.
“Say it loud enough so the next person can hear that,” Pelphrey said. “You want to create witnesses.”
When it comes to physical self-defense, the sergeant said the Division of Police does not advise women about whether they should resist or not when it comes to sexual assaults.
“It is a decision that you will make internally, and it is entirely up to you,” Pelphrey said.
If the decision is to fight off an assault, he urged using the “most debilitating techniques possible.”
“Ladies, if you hit a guy in the testicles, he will cry while lying on the ground,” Pelphrey said.
Church of England says sorry for child abuse
The Church of England has offered an “unreserved apology” for historic cases of child abuse by some members of its clergy.
Officials said it was a matter of “great sorrow and deep regret” and they recognised the harm caused to the victims.
The apology coincided with the publication of another critical report detailing how convicted paedophile Roy Cotton went on to be ordained as a priest.
Cotton was convicted of indecent behaviour with a child in 1954 aged 25 while in training for the priesthood and further damaging allegations were made against him years later.
He was dismissed from theological college, later sacked from a prep school following claims made by boys, and banned by the Scout movement.
But despite his criminal past, he was readmitted to theological training and was ordained in 1966, the same year he was at theological college with his friend Colin Pritchard, who was later jailed for child abuse.
The Scouts agreed to re-license Cotton after he apparently persuaded his diocesan supporters to lobby the movement, the report by independent reviewer Roger Meekings said.
It said: “This was a significant step as it resulted in Cotton receiving 'authorised' and unsupervised access to young people in organised groups. It enabled him to be regarded as an authority figure and a person 'of trust' by parents.”
Cotton held several positions as a clergyman, including within the Diocese of Portsmouth, where he was deemed by the bishop of Portsmouth at the time to have been “more sinned against than sinning”.
But in 1997, Cotton and Pritchard were arrested by Sussex Police detectives on suspicion of sexually abusing children before being freed on bail.
Cotton retired in 1999 and in the same year the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to drop its case against the pair. Cotton died in 2006.
Following a separate investigation, Pritchard, who was vicar at St Barnabas Church in Bexhill-on-sea, East Sussex, was jailed for five years at Northampton Crown Court in 2008 after pleading guilty to abusing two children from 1979 to 1983.
The Archbishop of Canterbury banned him from exercising any priestly ministry for life.
The Meekings report said the way Cotton came to be ordained and how he was given the green light as a Scout leader was “fraught with concerns and questions”.
Cotton managed to achieve both due to the time that had elapsed since his conviction in 1954 and because senior officers played down the seriousness of it, the report added.
Procedures in sharing information were not followed and the victims were denied the opportunity of being believed, it went on.
Concern was also raised about the issuing of licences to allow both Pritchard and Cotton to continue acting as priests after they retired, particularly as Cotton's conviction from 1954 was known to the church authorities.
A series of recommendations were made, including training senior staff in the diocese in the management of allegations and establish a diocesan child protection management group.
Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham Paul Butler, the joint chair of the Church of England's safeguarding liaison group, said the Meekings report and another, published last year by Baroness Butler-Sloss, were “particularly damning of past safeguarding procedures going back to the 1960s”.
He said: “On behalf of the Church, I would like to take the opportunity provided by the publication of these reports to express our own unreserved apology for those cases where we failed to take the action that we should have taken to prevent harm being caused to children and vulnerable adults.
“It is a matter of great sorrow and deep regret for the Church and we recognise the profound and damaging impact on all those affected.
“We are grateful for the personal commitment of many of those who have been affected, to ensuring that the Church faces up to these difficulties.
“This has helped us to become a safer place and to learn more about how to respond well to victims who have the courage to come forward.”
Pa. judge turns down Sandusky's request for 2-month delay in start of child sex abuse trial
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The judge in Jerry Sandusky's 52-count child sex abuse case on Wednesday rejected a defense attorney's request for a two-month delay and indicated he was reluctant to push back the May 14 start of jury selection.
Judge John Cleland's eight-page memo and order said a postponement should only be a last resort and would require concrete justification.
“Absent extraordinary circumstances presented by either the commonwealth or the defendant, postponement of the trial date will only be considered if required by the demands of selecting a jury and providing for their care, conflicting demands on courtroom space, or similar logistical complications,” Cleland said.
Cleland did grant Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola three extra weeks to file a catch-all pretrial motion that had been due Thursday, and ordered prosecutors to disclose addresses and phone numbers of witnesses within seven days. He also adjusted other pretrial timetables.
“We will move forward with Jerry's defense, and we look forward to receiving additional discovery materials from the commonwealth,” Amendola said in response.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office declined comment.
Sandusky, 68, denies allegations he engaged in sexual misconduct involving 10 boys over 15 years. He remains confined to his home while awaiting trial.
The former longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State founded The Second Mile, a charity for children where prosecutors claim he found victims.
Amendola had argued he needed the additional time to interview witnesses, subpoena records and hire experts.
Cleland said both sides agreed to the May start in early January, and indicated he was not persuaded by Amendola's “unsupported references to unidentified witnesses who might testify about unspecified issues.”
“There is no assurance at this point that any delay of the trial to mid-July will not, in turn, give rise to subsequent issues prompting a request for still more delay. Delay has a way of begetting delay,” Cleland wrote.
Also awaiting trial are Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, both accused of lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. They have asked a judge to dismiss their charges, and no trial date has been set. Curley is currently on leave and Schultz has retired.
The arrests led the board to oust university president Graham Spanier and longtime football coach Joe Paterno, although neither was charged. Paterno died last month of lung cancer at age 85.
Sexual abuse victims voice support for Assembleywoman Margaret Markey's Child Victims Act
Bill would extend statute of limitations by five years, until victims turn 28 years old
by Michael O'keefe / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
February 28, 2012
ALBANY — New York lawmakers will give sexual predators another one-year pass to abuse children if they fail to approve a bill that would extend the state's statute of limitations in molestation cases, a Brooklyn abuse survivor said.
Bay Ridge filmmaker Chris Gavagan, who is working on a documentary about sexual abuse in sports and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his roller hockey coach, said on Tuesday that legislators' failure to pass the Child Victims Act is like signing a “pardon for 1,000 child rapists.”
“I was here last year, and the fact that we are here again is a sign of catastrophic failure,” Gavagan said.
“Lawmakers, shame on you,” he added.
Gavagan and other sexual abuse victims spoke at a news conference organized by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, the first of three events to promote her Child Victims Act, which has passed the Assembly four times but has yet to clear the State Senate.
The bill would extend the statute of limitations by five years, until victims turn 28 years old, in civil and criminal cases. The bill would also suspend the civil statute of limitations for a one-year period to give victims a window to file suit against abusers, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) his introduced similar legislation in the State Senate.
Markey, a Queens Democrat, said that one in five of the nation's children suffer from sexual abuse, which she called “America's dirty little secret.” She said the sex-abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse have generated fresh attention on the topic but little reform of antiquated laws.
“Those cases have attracted enormous attention, but there is not much new about the pattern behind the headlines,” Markey said. “Someone in a position of trust and influence over a child has violated that trust to molest or rape them. Respected organizations act like they are more concerned about their reputation than the victims of the crimes, and only many years after abused children become adults are they able to come to terms with what happened to them, and that means it takes place many years after our woefully short statute of limitations expire.”
The speakers at Tuesday's event were men who say they were sexually abused by coaches when they were youngsters. Bobby Davis, a former Syracuse ball boy who says he was molested by ex-Orange assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, said the bill will prevent child predators from hiding behind the statute of limitations.
“Because of my personal experience, I feel that the current law does not protect the victim, but instead protects the abuser,” Davis said. “Children need to know we have their back.”
David Hiltbrand, a graduate of Poly Prep who says he was abused by the private Brooklyn school's former longtime football coach, Phil Foglietta, said the statute of limitations puts an arbitrary deadline on suffering that can last a lifetime.
“Most of the victims I've met are so terrified and so scared they will never come out and say they are victims,” Hiltbrand said. “Few men are willing to say, ‘I was abused.' ”
Hiltbrand is a plaintiff in a federal RICO lawsuit that alleges Poly Prep officials knew that Foglietta had abused boys for decades but looked the other way, and even threatened to discipline or expel students who complained about the coach.
Kevin Mulhearn, the lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of Hiltbrand and the other plaintiffs, said at the news conference that he believes the case will survive statute of limitations challenges from Poly Prep's lawyers because of administrators' ongoing “affirmative misrepresentations and affirmative acts of misconduct.”
He said New York's current law “rewards” institutions for keeping quiet about sexual abuse until the statute of limitations passes.
The Catholic Conference, the Catholic bishops' lobbying arm in Albany, denounced the bill on Tuesday, claiming in a statement that it unfairly targets Catholic institutions and opens up lawsuits for crimes that occurred decades ago, long after evidence has disappeared and memories have faded.
Markey said the bill does not target the Catholic Church or any other religious organization. “If you have been raped three times, or four times, etc., would you forget who did this to you?” she asked. “People do not forget who inflicted this horrific act on innocent children.”
Gloria Allred, the California attorney who represents Davis and his stepbrother and fellow Fine accuser Mike Lang, helped get similar legislation passed in California in 2002. Hundreds of suits were filed against the Church, she said, but it did not go bankrupt.
“We believe that perpetrators of child sexual abuse should not be able to abuse the trust of victims and then hide behind the statute of limitations,” Allred said at the news conference.
State child abuse deaths dropped to new low in '10
by Niki Kelly
INDIANAPOLIS – The number of child fatalities from abuse and neglect in Indiana dropped to 25 for fiscal year 2010 – with none reported in Allen County or surrounding counties.
Of those 25 deaths, four of the children had previous contact with the Indiana Department of Child Services. The deaths occurred between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010.
By comparison, the statistics for fiscal year 2009 were 38 abuse and neglect deaths, with nine having previous contact with child welfare officials.
“Even one death is unacceptable,” said Department of Child Services Director James Payne, while pointing out the new statistics are both record lows for the state.
Payne said 19 of the deaths were from abuse and six were from neglect. He said 22 of the victims were children under the age of 5.
The county with the highest number of deaths was Lake County with seven.
The report comes as the agency is under fire by Democrats in the legislature and child welfare advocates angered over media reports of children who died after numerous contacts with the agency.
Payne said there has been a lot of criticism over a new centralized hotline, but he said that in 2011, there were 151,440 reports, of which more than 94,000 were referred for services.
He said reports of abuse or neglect that are screened out as unsubstantiated are then reviewed by a supervisor and local committee.
Payne also said that almost 96 percent of children whom DCS monitors received at least one monthly visit by a family case manager in 2011, compared with 23 percent in 2007.
And he clarified the turnover rate for the department's case managers, saying it is 17.5 percent – not a higher number that has been suggested.
State Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, said the timing of the announcement is related to recent criticism of the system. The Democrats have asked for an audit or study committee on child welfare issues.
“They are focusing on the numbers and think we should be calling off the dogs,” she said. “We are focusing on the children.”
Bill expands list of occupations now required to report child abuse
The Oregon Senate approved legislation that will help protect children from abuse by expanding the list of people who are required to report child abuse, commonly known as “mandatory reporters.” House Bill 4016 will help protect children attending extracurricular activities hosted at universities and colleges, sports organizations, and other youth-based organizations.
“Kids today have busy lives, with sports, summer camp, and many other activities outside of school,” said Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-NW Portland/Washington Co.), who carried the bill on the floor. “While in a perfect world, every adult would recognize his or her responsibility to report abuse when they see it, by expanding the list of mandatory reporters, we are closer to the goal of protecting all kids under all circumstances.”
House Bill 4016 adds to the mandatory reporting law in Oregon:
|- Employees of higher education institutions, community colleges, public or private universities, and OHSU.
- Employees of public or private organizations providing child-related services or activities to youth, excluding nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to provide confidential services to victims of domestic or sexual violence.
- A paid coach or trainer of an amateur, semiprofessional, or professional athlete if the athlete is a child.
The bill also requires that a school board's policy on abuse reporting specify an alternate person to receive abuse reports if the existing designee is the abuser.
“In 2010, nearly 75 percent of child abuse and neglect reports in Oregon were made by those required to report by law,” said Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham). “It is clear that mandatory reporting is an important tool to keeping our kids safe. This bill will help all adults recognize their responsibility to protect our kids.”
Oregon law requires public or private officials to make a report to the Department of Human Services or law enforcement if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a child. Mandatory reporters include medical professionals, school employees, many state employees who work with children, emergency services, legislators, clergy, and many others who have frequent contact with children.
HB 4016 now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Loophole allows child abuse to go unreported to law enforcement
BILLINGS - Criminal child abuse has been in the national headlines with cases like the Jerry Sandusky allegations in the spotlight.
In Montana, Department of Health and Human Services report an increase in child abuse. However, what might surprise many parents is that not all criminal child abuse cases are reported to law enforcement.
"This is a gaping hole in the communication of a very large important state agency and law enforcement across the state," said Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito about the state law that does not require the state health department to report information to law enforcement.
In Yellowstone County, the sheriff's office learned about an alleged sexual assault more than a year after it took place. An anonymous reporter told authorities Jack Rumph had molested a young girl, who was 8 at the time of the incident. According to court documents, a social worker met with the defendant. Her report says he was "tearful" and very "remorseful." The defendant was then referred to treatment.
Court documents go on to say at the time, the matter was not referred to law enforcement pursuant to an agreement between the Defendant, Child Family Services, and a Billings treatment center employee, Mike Sullivan.
The girl's mother told a detective, she believed the matter would automatically be referred to law enforcement.
Sarah Corbally, Division Administrator of D.P.H.H.S., says they cannot give details about the deal, but explained procedures have been changed.
"That case did occur before the absence of any law and or policy that would've made individual worker make that report," Corbally said.
Twito says there are cases of other unreported child abuse in other counties across the state, including another incident near Helena.
"The child had already been to the hospital, law enforcement might have lost DNA evidence or other critical evidence because of that delay, but it was nearly a week before law enforcement realized that something had happened," Twito said.
It's cases like these that has law enforcement asking the mandatory reporting law be changed.
"It just needs to happen. It doesn't make any sense that law enforcement finds out in my jurisdiction about child abuse a year later and a government agency has known about it for that long," Twito said passionately at a Law and Justice Interim Committee meeting last week in Helena.
At the meeting, attorneys from Yellowstone, Cascade and Lewis and Clark Counties met to discuss a new law to help put an end to the loophole.
"When you deal with child abuse, it's such a serious, difficult issue that we need every advantage at our disposal and one of them is timely communication," Twito said.
The Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect bill would mean the Department of Health would have to disclose records and report any serious child abuse case to law enforcement immediately. That would include death of a child, sexual abuse, exposing a child to violence or drugs. It would also protect those who anonymously report information.
"The department does report child abuse and neglect to law enforcement often times, they do. I just want to eliminate that discretion that they have because they may not be able to get to it in a timely manner," Twito said.
The health department say it's taking steps to work with law enforcement.
"At this point, we have not taken a position but we are working cooperatively with multi disciplinary teams with law enforcement and county attorneys to keep our children safer,"Corbally said about the bill and working with agencies.
Although this is just the beginning of the bill, Twito hopes it's one that has a successful outcome.
"What I hope that comes out of this discussion and this potential legislation as it evolves and develops is that we on a local level can discuss those issues and come together to solve this issues, because one case of child abuse is enough for me to say, enough's enough, we've got to figure this out," Twito said.
The bill is still being fine tuned, in hopes it will be introduced in the 2013 legislative session. The Yellowstone County Attorney's Office is working to set up a multi-disciplinary team including social workers, hospital staff, and law enforcement to work on child abuse issues.
Melrose offers training to ‘Shine the Light' on abuse
by Jessica Sacco -- Melrose Free Press
Melrose, Mass. —
In an effort to raise awareness and help prevent child sexual abuse, Mayor Rob Dolan and the Melrose Family YMCA will hold the fourth “Shine the Light” training course on Wednesday, March 7.
Offered by Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization working to empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse, the program is free to the public and will take place in the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School cafeteria at 7 p.m.
“The prevalence of child sex abuse is very high and we have had it here in Melrose,” said Diana Brennan, executive director of the YMCA. “In order to help protect children in the city, the more people we can train to be aware of signs and signals, is extremely important. If we make ourselves as a community much more aware and knowledgeable … it may even reduce the prevalence of predators ever wanting to come to Melrose.”
The session is geared toward people who interact, work with, or are surrounded by children. From parents to teachers, sports coaches to babysitters and after-school program leaders, Dolan and Brennan encourage all to attend.
“There's not a single organization that hasn't been touched by sexual abuse,” said Dolan. “No one is immune.”
The mayor said Melrose needs to be vigilant in protecting children, which he believes the training will better equip adults to do.
“This program is a tool in an individual's box to be successful at it,” he said. “It's one night of your life and it's worth it.”
During the two-and-a-half hour session, attendees will watch videos and participate in facilitated group discussions. The training aims to teach them tips on how to recognize sexual abuse, how to avoid potentially dangerous situations, and how to talk to children and adults about child sexual abuse.
“It's … based upon symptoms and things to look at in children that may lead you to identify children that may have been sexually abused,” said Dolan. “And what people in your organization may be abusers and steps you can take.”
Brennan said that one in four girls and one and six boys will be sexually abused in their lifetime.
“It's out there [and] it's happening,” she said. “If we can help the Melrose community and parents rethink certain situations that could be risky, that's really important.”
Dolan and Brennan, who have attended sessions, both said that although child sexual abuse is a tough subject to talk about, those who attend the training leave knowing their time was well spent.
“If we can keep this going every year or every 16 months, it keeps [the issue] at the forefront of the community discussion and people's own individual awareness of what's going on,” said Dolan.
Melrose offered the first “Shine the Light” training not long after the 2009 arrest of James Conner. Conner was charged with child rape while employed by the Melrose YMCA as the site director of an after-school program. Conner, who coached youth basketball for the Y, later pled guilty to numerous rape and assault charges .
Alleged victims of Bernie Fine seek new law
Proposed law makes it easier to sue attackers years later
Jimmy Vielkin ALBANY — Alleged victims of Syracuse University
assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine
will lobby for a bill to make it easier for victims of childhood sex abuse to file lawsuits or seek criminal charges against their abusers.
Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, who were ball boys in the Orange's program, traveled to the Capitol Tuesday with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred. They're joining a push for a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Marge Markey, a Queens Democrat who for seven years has pushed measures to make it easier to sue alleged abusers, even opening up a one-year window during which lawsuits could be brought regardless of the statute of limitations.
"I was a child when I was sexually abused. Coming forward then, against someone so revered in our community was not an option," said Davis. "Also, when I did call the police department and university, they did not do anything meaningful. This law would make child predators accountable so they could not hide behind the statute of limitations."
Fine has yet to be charged with any crimes, and has declared his innocence. Lang and Davis are suing Syracuse and its basketball coach Jim Boeheim for defamation after he accused them of fabricating their abuse accounts.
Markey's bill has been opposed consistently, and successfully, by the Conference of Catholic Bishops. It fears lawsuits arising from clergy sexual abuse in the past could mean hundreds of millions in payouts. Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the conference, argued that private institutions are singled out under Markey's bill, because they could be sued during the "window" while public institutions could not, due to notice of claim requirements.
"It creates two classes of victims. ... You're saying that if you're abused in one place you have an open-ended opportunity to sue going back 60 years," said Poust.
But this is a larger issue, Markey said at a news conference, and Davis' involvement shows that.
"The Catholic Conference has said I am targeting them. I am not targeting them, I am targeting the issue," she said. "The people who are behind me demonstrate that this I not an issue about one institution — it's the dirty little secret of our society."
Politically, though, the bill's path remains uncertain. Markey has not secured a sponsor in the Senate — she said she would soon have discussions with Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, about carrying a version of the bill — and has not received encouragement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or his staffers. (Josh Vlasto, the governor's spokesman, declined to comment on the measure.)
Republicans who control the Senate oppose the bill because it "is overly broad and will lead to the filing of many civil lawsuits during the one-year window," said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island.
That prompted Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, to pronounce its advancement in the chamber "unclear."
Fighting sex trafficking in hotels, one room at a time
(CNN) -- Kimberly Ritter could not believe what she was seeing.
Girls wearing almost nothing at all, suggesting all sorts of sexual acts, listed on page after page of Backpage.com's escorts section. When she looked closer at the photos, she noticed something eerie.
She could recognize the rooms.
Ritter is a meeting planner at Nix Conference and Meeting Management of St. Louis. She and her co-workers work with 500 hotels around the world and visit about 50 properties annually. She can identify many hotel chains used in escort ads by their comforters, bathroom sinks, air conditioning units and door locks. Sometimes, she can also identify a specific property.
Meet Kimberly Ritter, sex trafficking sleuth.
A child protection code of conduct
Ritter has become a force in the international anti-trafficking movement, where she uses her expertise to identify the mainstream middle-end and high-end hotels used by traffickers.
She negotiates with hotels to fight trafficking at their properties, while also trying to convince hotel general managers that it's good business to fight trafficking through signing the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of principles that businesses can adopt to fight trafficking. Her firm has created a version of the code for meeting planners and was the first signatory a few weeks ago.
Ritter hopes to recruit other planners to sign on to the code.
Once Ritter and her co-workers realized they could have an impact, "we thought this should be something all meeting planners could do," she said.
Although anti-trafficking organizations can't be sure how many people are forced into commercial sex work, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that human trafficking is a $32 billion business worldwide, with $15.5 billion coming from industrialized countries. (That includes forced sexual and nonsexual commercial labor of adults and children.)
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of commercial sex exploitation in the United States, according to End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), which created the tourism code. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888) has recorded 46,000 phone calls over the past four years requesting information, reporting tips about trafficking and connecting about 3,600 victims of sex trafficking to social services. (The hotline takes calls about sex or labor trafficking.)
Trafficking isn't simply sex for sale
Sex trafficking isn't prostitution, which is engaging in sex with someone for payment. The crime of sex trafficking has three parties: one person holding the victim, while using "force, fraud or coercion" to make the victim engage in sex acts for payment, and the third party paying for the sex, said Brad Myles, executive director of the Polaris Project, which operates the hotline with funding from the U.S. government. If the victim is a child, no force, fraud or coercion is required for the sex to be a crime.
Escort ads posted online don't obviously state that sex with children is being sold, Ritter said, but customers who want children know to look for words like "fresh," "candy" and "new to the game." The underage victims are often runaways and victims of sexual abuse who are vulnerable to pimps promising modeling jobs, money, food and drugs.
After a pimp and customer make a deal, usually online or over the phone, hotels are an obvious place where the sex can take place. "There's privacy, a neutral place for a customer to come to, certain amount of anonymity and you don't have to stay long term," said Noelle Collins, an assistant U.S. attorney and human trafficking coordinator for the Eastern District of Missouri, who prosecutes these cases. "This can happen anywhere, but hotels are logical places where it could be found."
Sex trafficking wasn't on Ritter's mind when she met with the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph to book the federation's 2011 conference. That year, the nuns decided to take a stand on the issue. "We've always done some type of social action [at our conference]," said Sister Patty Johnson, executive director of the federation, which encompasses the 16 congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States. "We like to leave the city [we visit] a tiny bit better than when we came."
The nuns told Nix they wanted their hotel to sign the tourism code of conduct developed by ECPAT, a worldwide network of organizations and individuals that fights commercial sex exploitation of children. Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (which includes the Radisson brand) and Delta Air Lines are all signatories to the code. After Ritter's initial online research turned up hotels she recognized, she agreed to raise the issue with their potential venues.
Hotels can train to fight trafficking
Many hotel executives have security measures designed to fight trafficking but express concern about being publicly identified with the issue. An exception is Millennium Hotel St. Louis general manager Dominic Smart. After learning about the problem, Smart got his parent company's permission to become a pilot program. Often, hotel executives don't want customers to think their hotels have a prostitution or sex trafficking problem. (The code requires annual reporting.) Smart, who said he hasn't had a case yet, didn't worry about it.
Previously on CNN: Wyndham chain boosts staff training to fight child prostitution
"We felt it was our responsibility to get involved and fight human trafficking," said Smart, whose hotel signed onto ECPAT, went through training for managers and line staff, and hosted the nuns' conference.
Training of hotel staff is key, said Michelle Gulebart, project coordinator for ECPAT-USA. Hotel managers may never spot the signs of sex trafficking, but housekeeping and room service employees often know something isn't right. They're just not sure what. "Hotel rooms are used as venues for exploitation," Gulebart said. "A pimp might hold up one or two girls in a room and might run traffic out of a room. They'll post ads on a website and send a girl to the room next door."
Learn the signs of trafficking victims
Red flags to watch for: Someone besides the guest rents a room, checks in without luggage and leaves the hotel. The child left in the room may seem confused about his or her own name; may appear helpless, ashamed, nervous or disoriented; may show signs of abuse such as bruising in various stages of healing; or may have tattoos that reflect money or ownership.
The child usually doesn't have any spending money or identification; cannot make eye contact; and wears clothes printed with slogans such as "Daddy's Girl" or inappropriate clothes for the weather. Sometimes, the child will come on to various men during the check-in process.
"We've trained them on the red flags, what to look for," Smart said. "If they see them, they report it to their manager and we would take over from there. The manager can assess and go to the police if need be."
How to help
Guests can report signs of trafficking
Hotel guests can also keep their eyes open for those red flags, said social worker Theresa Flores, an Ohio-based survivor of underage sex trafficking and an anti-trafficking activist. Guests who see the red flags can simply call the national hotline to report their suspicions, without ever leaving their names. Flores often travels to cities with big sports events and political conventions to educate hotel and motel owners, donating thousands of bars of soap listing the hotline for victims and witnesses to trafficking.
Most of the country's state attorneys general and many anti-trafficking activists blame Backpage.com and other websites for not doing enough to fight sex trafficking. Backpage's lawyer says the company takes many steps to fight the problem.
"Any adult ads that are posted are monitored in real time, 24/7," wrote Steve Suskin, legal counsel for Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, in an e-mailed statement to CNN.com. "All nudity is banned, even for adult ads, and anyone who attempts to post an ad that's suggestive of an underage or exploited minor is immediately reported to NCMEC [the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children], which is designated by the FBI to alert local law enforcement to rescue any child at risk in a hotel or other location."
Unlike other websites, Backpage doesn't allow Web posters to post anonymously, Suskin wrote.
"Backpage charges $1.00 to post in personals, because it holds users accountable and provides credit card information to police so they can identify, locate, arrest and prosecute those who use common carriers to prey on children," he wrote. "We continue to invest millions of dollars in human, technological, and other resources to detect and report suspected child predators and to help law enforcement apprehend and prosecute them."
With so much of the sex trafficking business migrating to the Internet, the crime still has to take place somewhere. "Hotels can really be part of the solution," said Myles, the Polaris Project executive director. "These are crimes, these are ways that women are being mistreated, and these are forms of violence against women. A lot of hotels don't want to be associated with it."
New facility to help sex trafficking victims heal
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It is every city's dirty little secret, and in big city's like Houston, sex trafficking is a bigger problem.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice ranks Houston as one of the most intense trafficking regions in the country. But what to do with child victims of this terrible crime?
We found a place soon-to-be instrumental in the healing process. For security purposes, we've agreed not to disclose its location but we went there to see where these former sex slaves will reclaim their lives.
On 110 acres in the woods north of Houston, sits a place where Kellie Armstrong hopes girls can be girls again.
"We have a school building, we have the main house," said Armstrong, the executive director of Freedom Place. "This will provide hopefully a sense of just peace."
Welcome to Freedom Place, a soon-to-be safe haven for pre-teens and teens rescued from the local sex trade.
"We want them to have an opportunity for them just to feel safe, get the fog, let the fog lift out of their minds so they can focus on themselves and what they need to be whole again," Armstrong said.
The vision is about a year and a half old; it's the work of Arrow Child and Family Ministries of Spring and based on other homes across the country, although this will be the first of its kind in Texas.
"These are very, very vulnerable children," Armstrong said.
According to national runaway studies, there are 6,000 runaways in the Houston area each year. A third are reportedly lured into sex trafficking.
"This is a huge problem," said Laura Lederer, a nationally recognized expert on the subject.
And few cities, says Lederer, know what to do with the children when these operations are broken up.
"They are victims but unfortunately until very recently, we treated them like criminals and I think that's still happening in many cities across the United States," she said.
In fact, most girls rounded up in raids like this one in east Houston last year are sent to juvenile detention simply because there's no other option.
Freedom Place is trying to change that.
"They need a safe place that they can go," Armstrong said.
Volunteers are now applying the last coats of paint, and the rooms are ready.
"We've really girlified it," Armstrong said.
The facility is set to open in April, providing a home-like environment with school and therapy all within a few feet.
"Our goal is for them to experience overall healing," Armstrong said.
They're trying to help the child victims make the transition from the streets to a better future easier.
Freedom Place gets no public money so it relies solely on donations, even down to the food in the kitchen.
Arizona child deaths' tragic pattern
by Sean Holstege
When Arizona logged its first suspected child-abuse death of 2012, it didn't take long for authorities to turn their investigative sights on the mother.
Family history, plus familiar patterns of child abuse led investigators back to the troubled home.
Year after year, state child-abuse investigators document the same tragic pattern. Among them: Mothers are more likely than anyone to kill their kids. The victims more likely come from households with a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, poverty or separated parents.
Victim No. 1 this year, Za'Naya Flores, lived — briefly — through it all.
The Arizona Department of Health Services documents these indicators in its annual Child Fatality Review Report. Last year's report found authorities suspected the mother in nearly half of the 70 child-abuse deaths in 2010, the most recent year with available data.
Authorities found fathers responsible a quarter of the time. Stepfathers or new boyfriends of the mothers were at fault 9 percent of the time, and investigators blamed only one death on a foster parent.
The victims are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. About three-quarters were younger than 4. One-quarter were newborns. Za'Naya died 22 months into her life. Her mother, aunt and grandmother have been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Child-welfare experts say the statistics make sense: Mothers often get overwhelmed from the stress of caring for newborns and toddlers, many of whom die from neglect. Older children are more likely to be beaten to death, often by men.
In 2010, of the 70 deaths of children the state considered “maltreated,” 21 were victims of murder. But in nearly as many cases — 18 — state investigators never determined the cause. In the remaining cases, children died of other causes, but the state held someone responsible for their death because of maltreatment.
And in addition to those child-abuse cases, another 74 children died for unknown causes, something other than an accident, a medical problem, abuse or murder.
The number of indeterminate cases could be a sign that some child-abuse deaths are slipping through the cracks, said Dr. Mary Ellen Rimsza, who chairs the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program.
“That's why the child-fatality review teams were created here and nationally. We probably are missing some, but it's probably a lot less than we used to,” Rimsza said.
In the most recent five years with available data, the number of child-abuse cases has trended up, while the number of mystery-death cases doubled. This at a time the overall number of child deaths fell by a quarter.
Rimza wasn't surprised.
“Child abuse happens more often when people are stressed,” she said, noting that hard economic times lead to more cases.
There could be a variety of reasons for the fluctuation and rise in the number of inconclusive cases. Police investigators have different experience levels depending on where they work. Sometimes subjective judgment comes into the equation. One criminal investigator may see a shaken baby as an accident, another a homicide.
Some forensic experts in small communities may lack resources to go far into a case beyond an autopsy while others may be more reluctant to offer definitive judgments, Rimsza said.
“The medical examiner isn't as comfortable saying a death was an accident or maltreatment,” she said. “That's happening more and more. It's a national trend.”
Sometimes the evidence is not as clear cut as it first appears.
In 2007, paramedics were called to a report of a dead boy at an in-home daycare in Peoria run by a mother and a professional baby-sitter of 25 years. The baby-sitter found the baby boy lying motionless 90 minutes after his parents dropped him off. The boy had seemed healthy and alert. The baby-sitter had left him on the floor and turned to attend to other children for 20 minutes.
Forensic pathologists, and later the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office, all agreed there were signs the boy's brain was bruised and swollen, and his skull had been fractured. The cause of death was ruled blunt-force trauma — a fatal blow to the head — and investigators blamed the babysitter. Prosecutors charged her with first-degree murder, and she faced the death penalty.
But prosecutors overlooked conflicting medical evidence. The baby had been running a high fever days before. There were no external marks on his body. Three years later, a Superior Court judge threw the entire case out, exonerating the baby-sitter and ruling prosecutors could never charge her again in the case.
As science evolves about baby-shaking, SIDS and other sudden mysterious causes of child deaths, authorities adjust their findings.
Differences in interpretation and record keeping cause discrepancies across the country in measuring the depth of the child-abuse problem. That complicates attempts to measure how Arizona compares to other states. It also means the federal government underestimates the prevalence of child-abuse nationally, congressional researchers found.
Arizona, for instance, had 20, not 70, child-abuse deaths in 2010, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, national database compiled by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. That's because not every potential child-abuse case is reviewed by Arizona's Child Protective Services, from which the federal data is gathered. Arizona's annual report considers other sources, such as police reports, investigative files and forensic analysis not always available to CPS.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative agency, reported that the national database undercounts the number of children killed by abusive caregivers.
The GAO found that half the states don't rely on complete records, and they may be underestimating by as much as 75 percent the number of children killed by abuse.
By those federal standards, Arizona fares better than most. In 2010, the abuse fatality rate was almost half of the national average.
But even with flawed data, some of the national demographics offer stark reminders of what contributes to the pattern of abuse. Roughly one in six killer caregivers is a victim of domestic violence, according to the national database.
In about a quarter of the 2010 Arizona-documented cases, CPS had some file on the family. Of those, a third of the cases were still open.
Walk for Children coming to The Woodlands
Prevent Child Abuse Texas, a statewide nonprofit organization, is inaugurating an event called Walk The Woodlands For Children
, a 5K walk to raise awareness about child abuse that will debut on March 17.
The BKD Foundation, which focuses on helping children in the Houston area reach their full potential, is the main sponsor of the walk.
“As an adult survivor of child abuse, I am fully aware of the necessity of abused children to have a voice outside their own home, school, athletics, social or religious organizations,” said Ann M. McCall
, a member of the board of directors of Prevent Child Abuse Texas and member of the BKD Foundation Committee
, in a press release. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by people the victims know and who are supposed to protect them.”
For more information about Walk The Woodlands For Children, to register to walk or to donate, go to PreventChildAbuseTexas.org
or call 1-800-CHILDREN.
Corruption in the Courts and Abusive Teen Rehab Centers
by Janet Parker
For seventeen years Melvin and Betty Sembler operated a large and destructive chain of juvenile rehab programs, called Straight Inc. These techniques involved actual torture: degrading and humiliating treatment, sexual abuse, physical beatings, lack of proper food or sanitation, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, and lack of medical care. The inhumane conditions have been likened to Korean prisoner of war camps. After multiple lawsuits which alleged severe child abuse, Straight Inc. was finally shut down.
Many children perished from suicide secondary to the psychological trauma of being tortured in Straight Inc. facilities. During his research, Wes Fager documented forty suicides following known Straight Inc. abuse.
It is estimated that five percent of children and adults who attended Straight Inc. did so under court order, this court ordering children into Straight even continued after child abuse allegations had already been filed against the corporation.
An important lesson can be learned from study of Straight Inc.'s success - any revulsion those in authority may have toward cruelty and mistreatment of teens can be assuaged by the transformative influence of political contributions. Melvin Sembler was a very successful political fundraiser. People at the highest levels of the U.S.A. government have endorsed and facilitated Straight Inc. and its spin off programs, including Nancy Reagan, George Bush Sr., Jeb Bush, and George Bush Jr. These endorsements were made despite the reports of increased suicide in Florida counties where Straight Inc. had opened and operated its centers, as already reported.
After extensive federal and state investigations into the abuse, the Straight Inc. program just changed its legal name and continued business as usual. This gave rise to a myriad of programs under various names but all with the same abusive treatment of children. Torture, which is prohibited under U.S.A. law and under international law, had been used by Straight Inc. as a means to perpetrate insurance fraud as well as fraud against the U.S.A. taxpayer. As Straight Inc. branched out, it was adept at getting government grants to fuel its growth.
The entrenched system of abusive coercion against licensed medical professionals is facilitated by corrupted partners in strategic positions. This is why there are not effective actions against the known abusive and criminal treatment center network that still operates today.
Judicial accountability issues arose and Pinellas County (Florida) prosecutorial discretion decisions were questioned when The SEED was in operation. James T. Russell (Pinellas County state Attorney) did not investigate abuse at SEED in spite of numerous reports of abuse. One of his chief Assistant State Attorney's was on Straight's board of directors and another chief assistant who was frequently assigned to investigate HRS-related complaints later became chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party at a time when Mel Sembler was treasurer for the state Republican Party. Former Pinellas County state Attorney James T. Russell and Pinellas County Sheriff Don Gedung visited the SEED program and recommended opening a SEED expansion facility in Pinellas County.
Sixth Circuit (Pinellas/Pasco County) Judge Jack Dadswell had two kids in The SEED in Fort Lauderdale. He had been on the Executive Committee which had brought The SEED to St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. Sixth Circuit Justices William L. Walker and James B. Sanderlin had served on The SEED's Advisory Board along with Russell, Gedung and Dr. Charles J. Crist, vice chairman of the Pinellas County school board and father of Charlie Crist (Florida's Attorney General). Sixth Circuit Judge Jack Page sent kids to The SEED.
Judges can cooperate in the abusive treatment schemes and court-order a defendant to "treatment" in a center that provides them financial incentives. Judge Juanita Marsh court ordered both adult and juvenile defendants into the Atlanta facility, which she co-owned. Judge Marsh also founded Anchor Hospital, which opened in early 1986, based on her experience with a son who is permanently disabled due to addiction. Anchor draws its referrals from metro Atlanta, but Talbott-Marsh's patients came from throughout the U.S.A. and abroad (many referred through ASAM contacts and the FSPHP). Benjamin Underwood and Dr. Talbott, who now run Anchor Hospital, also ran its sister facility, the Talbott-Marsh Recovery Center.
Dr. Stanton Peel wrote a revealing article called "In the Belly of the Beast," which describes the abusive treatment suffered by clients in the Atlanta center run by George Talbott. The Talbott-Marsh Recovery Center was co-owned by Judge Juanita Marsh. Dr. Leon Masters successfully sued Talbott for false imprisonment and misdiagnosis. Dr. Masters testified that he and other professionals were harmed by the abusive methods used. There were numerous suicides.
In Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, county Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were accused of using juvenile delinquents as pawns in a plot to get rich. From 2003-2008 the two judges court-ordered as many as 4,000 children, most of who were charged with low-level misdemeanor offenses, into abusive facilities and programs. These young juveniles had appeared before the court without an attorney, were subsequently convicted and sentenced through the Luzerne County juvenile court process. The judges were alleged to accept kickbacks from the developer and former owner of two private juvenile facilities when referrals were court-ordered. The case illuminated an organized system for using vulnerable populations for profit.
In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Juvenile Law Center filed an application for extraordinary relief, seeking to vacate and expunge the records on behalf of all Luzerne County youth adjudicated delinquent and sanctioned without legal representation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Judge Ciavarella sentenced young offenders without regard to their constitutional rights and decided to dismiss 4,000 juvenile convictions issued by Judge Ciavarella. Judge Cleland said, "Our concern is also the inaction of others - inaction by judges, prosecutors, public defenders, the defense bar, public officials and private citizens, those who knew but failed to speak, those who saw but failed to act," Judge Cleland said. Dr. Frank Vita, Judge Conahan's brother-in-law, did (questionable) court-ordered psychological evaluations of juvenile defendants.
Judge Ciavarella was found guilty on 12 of 39 federal charges. Federal prosecutors presented compelling testimony that Judge Ciavarella and Judge Conahan had taken nearly $2.9 million in bribes from the real estate developer of the Pennsylvania Child Care and Western Pennsylvania Child Care Detention Centers. The "kids for cash" scheme was exposed and Ciavarella was convicted of racketeering although acquitted on extortion. Children as young as 10 years old had been locked up. The accused delinquents were shackled, handcuffed and dragged away from court to the facilities. One defendant, a 17-year-old with no prior record, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. He stated that he was traumatized by the time he was forced to spend in the detention centers and a wilderness camp.
Also, see the survivors/victims stories in a 2009 episode of ABC's "20/20."
Ga. officers addressing growing human trafficking problem
Atlanta one of 14 cities with highest number of child prostitutes in U.S.
By Rhonda Cook
ATLANTA — The market for enslaved workers and prostitutes has prospered in the shadows of Atlanta and other major cities, but local, state and federal authorities have begun to aggressively hunt and prosecute those who trade in human beings.
Human trafficking catches many in its web — from children and adults forced into the sex trade, to people who come to the United States for jobs as nannies or restaurant workers but find themselves trapped. They can be people smuggled from other countries as well as disenfranchised young U.S. citizens.
The FBI named Atlanta one of the 14 cities with the highest number of child prostitutes — a shameful statistic that intensified attention on the human trafficking problem overall. Atlanta is a prime spot for trafficking; travel is easy and the area's diversity allows human trafficking victims to disappear.
"It's always been here, but it's a lightly reported crime," said Brian Lamkin, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta office.
Statistics on the crime have been piecemeal, but that could soon be over. A 2011 state law gave the GBI more power to pursue human traffickers, and 300 to 400 local law enforcement officers are being trained this month to identify human trafficking victims.
Too often, local police treat the "girls as willing prostitutes instead of victims" when they unknowingly come across human sex trafficking, U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said.
Next year, the FBI will begin collecting human trafficking statistics from local law enforcement in hopes of shedding light on a criminal operation that counts on the victims' fear, shame and desperation to keep the enterprises hidden.
"I couldn't escape," said Keisha Head, who was forced into the prostitution by now-convicted pimp "Sir" Charles Pipkins. "I didn't know how to get out. ... I always did what it took not to get beaten."
Head, using her experiences after she found herself with no home at age 12, is talking to victims who come to the advocacy group A Future. Not a Past. And she was recently at the state Capitol, advocating for a pending resolution (House Resolution 1151) to study human trafficking and its victims. It passed the House but needs Senate approval.
It's a crime that people don't expect to see in Georgia, said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.
People would say they saw the sex slave industry on "ministry trips to Haiti and to Thailand," Unterman said, "and I would say, 'Go with me to a bus station in downtown Atlanta.' ... We have studies that show the demand is in the suburbs where you have disposable incomes and access to the Internet and you can order up the 15-year-old blond-haired girl."
Authorities are trying to change that. A 2011 Georgia law lays out significant prison time for those convicted of human trafficking. A GBI unit devoted to human trafficking has opened 125 cases since the law took effect July 1; the GBI has made 16 arrests, but none of those cases has gone to trial yet.
A trap is set
Traffickers use a variety of ruses to entrap their victims — from promises of marriage, to good-paying jobs. But once caught, the people held in servitude for sex or labor have little control over their lives.
To describe the problem as "modern-day slavery is an understatement," Lamkin said.
They are berated or beaten if they complain or don't do enough even after having multiple sex partners in one night or working 20-hour days with little time to sleep.
Many don't speak English. Their captors have threatened them or their families. They are ashamed.
Or they fear law enforcement because they are here illegally.
So they don't — or feel they can't — leave.
"The traffickers prey on vulnerable victims and exploit them in unimaginable ways," said Yates, the U.S. attorney. "They target children, runaways and those who are undocumented. We are committed to using every tool in our arsenal to hold them accountable for their horrific crimes."
KV was 16 when she was smuggled into the United States by a man who promised to find her a job so she could support her family in Mexico. But beginning a day after she got to Gwinnett County, KV was forced to have sex with several men a night. The $15 she collected from each session was turned over to her handler, leaving her nothing to send to Mexico.
"I'd cry every night. My mother didn't know I was in the U.S.," KV said.
KV finally escaped after she was beaten for not earning enough money.
Some of the men who held her have been convicted and are in prison, but one is still at large.
KV, now 22, agreed to an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution only if she would be identified only by the initials used for her in the trial of Francisco Cortes-Meza, who was convicted.
She remains in the United States with a "T visa," which gives trafficking victims four years to secure permanent residency. She tends bar to support herself and her 2-year-old daughter here and to send money to Mexico for her mother, grandmother, sisters and her now-5-year-old daughter.
Crime takes forms
"Human trafficking goes beyond [the sex trade]," Lamkin said. "It's [also] people brought here under the auspices of working in a hotel or being an au pair. Then the tables are turned on them."
RM came to Woodstock from India to be a nanny. At first, the woman who recruited her paid her $300 a month and allowed her days off. Two weeks before RM's tourist visa was to expire, she was moved to the unheated basement to sleep on the floor, her employer stopped paying and she was no longer allowed any time off from caring for two children, cleaning the house and cooking.
"You realize you're a prisoner," RM said in an interview with the AJC.
She spoke on the condition that she be identified only by the initials used in federal court because she fears retribution from the couple who once held her captive. The now-free couple served some prison time in RM's case.
A neighbor helped RM escape.
"I don't know if I would have lasted any longer," said RM, 42 and now married. "I would have killed myself. I didn't see any hope."
Stepping up the fight
According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened 651 human trafficking investigations in 2010, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. ICE agents arrested 300 people, resulting in 144 convictions of federal crimes though not all of them were for the specific crime of human trafficking.
Last year in Atlanta, federal prosecutors using the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 secured guilty pleas, convictions or prison sentences for eight human traffickers. Three of those people were sent to prison for enslaving women from other countries to watch their children or to clean their houses. There is no parole in the federal system.
Besides authorities' efforts, secular and religious groups formed a coalition to lobby politicians on the issue — a factor in the passage of last year's state law — and put up money to help victims restart their lives with counseling and other programs.
Unterman, the state senator, said the task in Georgia is to educate local law enforcement and the public that human trafficking isn't simply a matter of a teenager choosing a life of prostitution.
"We are still trying to educate social workers, prosecutors, judges," she said. "There's still plenty of work to do."
Human Trafficking Happening 'In Our Own Back Yards'
State Reps. Kathleen Clyde, Teresa Fedor raise awareness of 'modern day slavery' through meeting at Kent library
by Matt Fredmonsky
Ohio legislators are working to curb human trafficking by drafting new laws against the illegal practice.
But political leaders want your help to fight a criminal trade some are calling the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world.
That was just part of the message Ohio State Reps. Kathleen Clyde and Teresa Fedor passed on to about 35 people who attended a town hall meeting about human trafficking Monday night at the Kent Free Library.
"Trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world," Fedor told those who attended Monday. "We're going to need your help because this is a whole new paradigm shift for communities.”
Fedor helped craft legislation passed in March 2011, Ohio S.B. 235, that made the exploitation of men, women and children for commercial sex or labor purposes a stand-alone offense for the first time in the state. Prior to the new law, authorities struggled to arrest and prosecute offenders, Fedor said.
The discussion Monday centered mostly on crimes related to sex trafficking and child sex trafficking. Of Ohio born-residents, an estimated 1,078 youths per year have been sexually exploited, according to a 2009 study published by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission.
The average age of sex exploitation is 13 years old, Fedor said.
She said victims enter into sex trafficking and prostitution either through need, such as homelessness, or are forced by pimps through abuse, coercion, isolation and other tactics.
"Here's the message to you: they don't want to be prostitutes," Fedor told the crowd of about 35, most of whom were women. "Eighty-eight percent want to leave prostitution."
Fedor and Clyde encouraged the crowd Monday to be alert to signs of possible human trafficking by explaining how pimps recruit and possible victim identifiers. Both legislators are co-sponsoring House Bill 262, which would establish safe harbor for exploited children who are victims of human trafficking.
The crime is one that does not discriminate between races or suburban and urban areas, Fedor said. She told one story about a sex trafficking ring that originated in Chillicothe, OH, and took child victims to a military base in North Carolina. Almost all of Ohio's 88 counties have had a human trafficking case, she said.
"The more we … understand the scope of the problem, we're beginning to see trafficking is happening in our communities," she said.
Protecting the victims, and not just prosecuting them, is critical in developing charges against the pimps and others who organize the trafficking rings, Fedor said. She encouraged those who attended Monday to contact their state political leaders and ask for their support for the proposed new legislation.
"You're all advocates. You're modern-day abolitionists," Fedor said. "It's your responsibility to share this information with your neighbors."
The secret world of human trafficking in the Bluegrass
According to UNICEF, an estimated one million children are forced to work in the global sex industry every year. A booming market that generates more than $39 billion in profit annually, and is described as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
"The national average of a girl being trafficked in the U.S. is between 12-14 years old" explains Sandra Savage, a survivor of the sex industry. "I worked in the industry for 13 years, and in those years I saw things that I can't even describe." Savage, a native of Mount Sterling, who says she worked in the U.S. and internationally. "I never worked directly with anyone underage but the truth is, most of the people in this industry are. A lot of people want to think this kind of stuff only happens overseas but it's happening right here in Lexington."
Just last year, Berea Police arrested Anthony Wayne Hart and his wife Kathy for trafficking their two teenage daughters. They say the two attempted to sell the girls inside a Richmond movie theater, as well as at grocery stores and restaurants throughout Rockcastle County, Somerset, Danville and Fayette County.
According the DNA foundation, this underground industry is more profitable than drug trafficking and weapons.
"There is a demand in our communities for women and children's bodies for sex," explains Marissa Castellanos, Human Trafficking Program Manager for Kentucky Rescue and Restore. "It is the drive that funds this industry and makes it a growing problem. People think that sex trafficking looks like one thing, however the truth is it looks like a lot of different things." Castellanos explains that throughout the years, "human sex trafficking has evolved from people walking the streets to people posting ads on the web. Now a days, transactions can be made behind computer screens where no one can see you which makes it easier for predators."
According to Castellanos, many traffickers make fake ads on the internet for their victims as a way to sell them. She explains that many times, "they write the ads in such a way that it sounds appealing to the buyer. However, it's actually not written by the girl, it's written by the trafficker or the pimp who is selling her. For the traffickers and buyers this hasn't been a risky business for them. It's been very high profit and very low risk."
That is why Castellanos, Savage and others are presenting House Bill 350 before the state. The measure would strengthen punishment for human trafficking and help victims with recovery. It would also create a new Kentucky State Police unit to investigate human trafficking rings and promote better training for law enforcement and victims' advocates.
"From the initial onset of someone being trafficked their life expectancy is seven years. So, if you're 13-years-old when you get in, you're dead by 20," explains Savage.
According to Castellanos, there have been 67 cases of human trafficking and 12 indictments in Kentucky since 2007. There have yet to be any convictions on charges related to human trafficking. Just another reason why Castellanos says law enforcement needs more education, resources and tools to address human trafficking in our state.
Lincoln Cottage sheds light on human trafficking
by Lindsey Tugman
(CBS) -- People are flocking to an eye-opening new exhibit in Washington. It's called "Can You Walk Away" And it's aimed at increasing awareness of human trafficking here in the United States.
Angie says on camera, "The guy decides he wants me and so um I got back there and, you know, I just have to just pray to God to just please help me, just please let me get through it you know."
Angie came from a good family in Wichita, Kansas, but when she ran away with a pair of friends, she ended up under the control of a pimp, turning tricks at an Oklahoma City truck stop. Angie says, "He had grandkids as old as us....and all I could think about the whole time was how my grandpa could be this guy right now and how that would feel and I just wanted to die."
Angie's story is part of an exhibit on human trafficking at President Lincoln's cottage in Washington. Lincoln Cottage director Erin Carlson Mast says, "We really wanted to do this exhibit on modern slavery at President Lincoln's cottage for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln working on the Emancipation Proclamation right here at this seasonal retreat."
It was the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves in 1863. The cottage partnered with the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization. Polaris operates a national hotline to help identify traffickers. The number is 1-888-373-7888.
Most Americans think slavery ended 150 years ago. But in fact, it's believed that hundreds of thousands of people are being held against their will in this country today. Many forced to work on farms, in factories or in the commercial sex trade.
This modern-day slavery is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, second only to the illicit drug trade, bringing in an estimated $32 billion a year, according to Polaris. Anyone can be a victim. Bradley Myles, executive director of Polaris Project says, "It's a much bigger issue in the United States than most people understand or realize."
Given, from Zambia, came to America as part of a choir, hoping to earn money to support his six orphaned siblings. But instead of being paid he was forced to work for free. He says, "I never spoke to my little sister the whole two years that I was in the United States. I never spoke to my brother. I never spoke to any of my siblings so I had no way to let them know what was happening to me."
The hope is that this exhibit will raise awareness about human trafficking of all kinds. Myers says, "There's an enormous amount of money to be made, and as long as the community's not aware, low risk. So the traffickers can tip-toe around while the community sleeps."
If you're a victim of trafficking or you suspect trafficking is going on in your area, you can call the national hotline toll free at 1-888-3737-888. It operates 24 hours a day and they take calls in 170 languages. Callers can remain anonymous.
And to learn whether the food you eat or the products you buy could come from forced labor, you can log onto Slavery Footpring online and take their test.
3 former Palma High School teachers accused of sex abuse
SALINAS, Calif. -
Three former Palma High School staff members have been accused of sexually molesting children in the past.
Palma High in Salinas is one of many schools in the Irish Christian Brothers school network that's being accused of hiring and harboring men convicted of, or credibly accused of, child sexual abuse.
A letter is being sent out to Palma alumni this week that states alumni have until Aug. 1 to file lawsuit claims if they were sexually abused because the Irish Christian Brothers network is declaring bankruptcy.
Joelle Casteix, the regional director of Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests, spoke to reporters in front of the private and prestigious all-boys school on Monday.
"There is a huge emergency for survivors to come forward here in Salinas," Casteix said. "The only way we can get justice for children is if victims come forward now. I was abused at a high school very similar to Palma."
The three former Palma High staff members who are being accused of sexually molesting students: the Rev. Jerome Heustis, who was Palma's principal from 1976-82, Gerald "Jerry" Funcheon, who taught at Palma in 1984, and Robert Brouilette, who taught at Palma from 1964-68.
"It is very seldom that a perpetrator abuses a child in one school and will not continue the habit as they move from state to state to state," Casteix said.
Palma's president, Patrick Dunne, said in the past two decades, zero students have come forward to say they were sexually abused.
Palma only hires candidates who have undergone "extensive" background checks, he added.
"Naturally, I am saddened and angered to hear any reports or allegations of the abuse of children by any adults, but particularly by religious men who they trusted and revered," Dunne said.
Palma's president said he opposed the advocacy group choosing to hold their press conference at the high school on Monday while students were going to class.
"The plaintif's lawyers are creating a distraction for our students; they are showing disrespect for the Palma faculty and parents who share a objective of providing our students with an environment that supports their academic, spiritual, moral and personal growth," Dunne said.
New Report Shows the Crippling Cost of Child Abuse
by Karen Worthington
This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report quantifying the costs of child maltreatment in the United States. The report underscores that child maltreatment is a serious public health issue with financial impacts comparable to a stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
What the report does not quantify is the loss of a child's innocence. What is the price of the smile on a baby's face when he takes his first steps, or on the 8-year-old who scores her first goal, or on the 12-year-old who wins his class spelling bee? What about the joy and love brought into the lives of family and friends by that child? And what about the loss to all who might have been helped because the abused toddler may have grown up to cure cancer or end child abuse?
Actuarial calculations are useful for placing child maltreatment in the context of other public health and public safety concerns. They serve as a proxy for the lives of children in policy and budget decisions. When the final budget is passed at the end of this legislative session, how will child maltreatment compare with other priorities?
The CDC study examined confirmed new cases of child abuse and neglect in 2008 and estimated that the total lifetime cost for fatal and nonfatal abuse occurring in 2008 was at least $124 billion. In addition to medical expenses for the life of the child victim, the calculated costs included expenses of the child welfare, criminal justice, and special education systems, as well as productivity losses during the lives of victims. The study's many limitations caused the estimated costs to be quite conservative. Knowing that the incidence of child maltreatment is much greater than the number of confirmed cases, the study says that the actual cost is closer to $585 billion instead of $124 billion.
In Georgia, where I have worked, in federal fiscal year 2011, approximately 19,000 children were confirmed victims of child maltreatment. Using the CDC calculations, if all these victims lived, the lifetime cost of this abuse will be nearly $4 billion. If 60 of those children died from abuse or neglect, which is about how many children the Department of Human Services identified as dying of maltreatment in 2008 and also in 2009, the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment in Georgia during FFY 2011 would be almost $4.1 billion.
Our community cannot afford the emotional or financial costs of child abuse. Preventing child abuse is our collective responsibility. Together we must figure out how to help our neighbors, support those who are most at risk of abuse and neglect, and protect all children by increasing the presence of five protective factors in our communities and families. These protective factors act as buffers against child maltreatment: social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, parental resilience, nurturing and attachment, concrete supports for parents.
Elected officials play a particularly important role in preventing child abuse because the laws they pass define child maltreatment and determine how much the state will spend on prevention and intervention. This session, legislators are considering several bills discussing child abuse and neglect, including SB 127 and companion bill HB 641, which would revise Georgia's Juvenile Code, and several bills addressing who is required to report child abuse and how the Department of Human Resources responds to such reports. Bills that call for educating children about the consequences of sexting and dating violence also help reduce child maltreatment. In addition, bills addressing the charging, processing, and treatment of children accused of committing delinquent acts figure into the future costs of child maltreatment because of the porous nature of the artificial divide between deprivation and delinquency.
While the role of lawmakers is higher profile than the neighbor who helps an overwhelmed mother with her energetic twins, or the Family Visitation Services / SafeCare home visitor who teaches a father how to comfort his crying newborn, each of these people, and you and I, plays a critical role in reducing the financial and emotional burdens of child abuse and neglect.
Sex abuse signs aren't always clear
EDUCATION: The Miramonte scandal prompts schools to notice `red flag' behavior.
by Christina Hoag
Many school teachers across the nation are trained to pick up on clues of child abuse and neglect, but most are not trained to spot the signs of classroom pedophiles, leaving a gray area that could help teacher molesters operate undetected on campuses.
Experts say better training of school teachers and administrators in red-flag behavior could aid in catching molesters, pointing to the case of a former Los Angeles third-grade teacher from Torrance who is charged with feeding some two dozen students semen-laced cookies, and blindfolding and gagging them over a five-year period.
"There are clear and consistent patterns of behavior. If you know what they are, they jump right out at you," said Diane Cranley, founder of Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids based in Laguna Niguel "But there's no awareness."
Only a fraction of the nation's 3 million educators are involved in any sexual misconduct with children. Although no national statistics are kept, a 2007 Associated Press investigation found 2,500 cases nationwide over five years where educators were punished for sexual abuse.
But that number is believed to be only a sliver of all sexual misconduct incidents.
Abuse goes unreported
Most abuse never gets reported because children are threatened not to tell, or are too ashamed. Moreover, many reported cases get dismissed because the child is not believed or the allegations can't be proven.
Since last month's arrest of former Los Angeles teacher
Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School, six other cases involving improper sexual relations between students and teachers or school employees have cropped up just in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school system.
Police and school officials attribute the rise to increased awareness resulting from that case's notoriety. They've received a flood of reports of possible sexual abuse since Berndt's arrest.
The prevalence of abuse reports underscores the need for better awareness training for school employees, said Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Minnesota.
Most school districts around the country require teachers and other employees to undergo training in spotting signs of child abuse and neglect. School staffers, as well as other professionals including police, physicians and social workers, are "mandated reporters," who are required by state laws to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. If they fail to do so, they can be prosecuted.
But many training courses focus on how to detect signs that a child is being abused outside the school, such as drawings a child may make, behavioral changes, and suspect bruises. They do not generally include instruction on spotting suspicious behavior by a perpetrator, least of all by a colleague.
"We need to teach teachers that sex offenders don't wear trenchcoats, (but) how to observe patterns, have that gut feeling and articulate it," said Vieth, whose organization has developed a college curriculum to help student teachers be more alert to protecting children.
Los Angeles Unified stepped up child abuse prevention training following a 2008 case of an assistant principal who was convicted of molesting a student. Part of the course involves showing employees how to respond to 40 different abuse scenarios, including that of a colleague molesting students, but not all school employees may have been given that particular scenario, said district spokeswoman Lydia Ramos.
In response to the Miramonte case, principals were mandated earlier this week to show staff the specific scenario involving signs of a campus pedophile, she said.
The problem is that the red flags of a child predator can be construed as innocent and easily dismissed.
Former students and parents at Miramonte Elementary School thought Berndt was kindly and warm, if a little quirky. Parents chuckled at the gym shorts and black tights he wore as part of a Halloween mouse costume.
He gave out cookies to kids and loved taking photos of them. He took them on field trips, sent them birthday cards and gifts, attended parties at their homes. He kept exotic insects in terrariums in his classroom and played funny music. He seemed to genuinely liked children and had a knack for building rapport with them.
But prosecutors say he also had a darker penchant - putting his semen on cookies, taking photos as children ate them, blindfolding them and taping their mouths. He played what he told kids were "tasting games," sometimes pulling them out of an after-school program to come to his classroom alone.
Berndt has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewdness on a child.
Overly childish behavior, overinvolvement with children and their parents, bestowing gifts and favors, singling out children as special, taking photos, being alone with a child and selecting children are classic signs of a predator "grooming" kids to go along with what he wants them to do, experts say.
Colleagues, however, may view those habits as not quite ordinary, but not sinister.
Informing on a colleague's idiosyncrasies is a difficult spot to put teachers in, said Frank Wells, spokesman for the California Teachers Association. "It's tough to go in and say so-and-so is weird," he said.
Child protection advocates say schools could simply do a lot more to minimize opportunities for pedophiles to operate. That includes enacting rules such as not allowing teachers to be alone with children, lock classroom doors or pull kids out of a class for an unauthorized reason.
Train teachers to spot sexual abusers, experts say
by Christina Hoag
Los Angeles -- Many school teachers across the nation are trained to pick up on clues of child abuse and neglect, but most are not trained to spot the signs of classroom pedophiles, leaving a gray area that could help teacher molesters operate undetected on campuses.
Experts say better training of school teachers and administrators in red-flag behavior could aid in catching molesters, pointing to the case of a former Los Angeles third-grade teacher who is charged with feeding some two dozen students semen-laced cookies, and blindfolding and gagging them over a five-year period.
"There are clear and consistent patterns of behavior. If you know what they are, they jump right out at you," said Diane Cranley, founder of Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids based in Laguna Niguel (Orange County). "But there's no awareness."
Only a fraction of the nation's 3 million educators are involved in any sexual misconduct with children. Although no national statistics are kept, a 2007 Associated Press investigation found 2,500 cases nationwide over five years where educators were punished for sexual abuse.
But that number is believed to be only a sliver of all sexual misconduct incidents.
Most abuse never gets reported because children are threatened not to tell, or are too ashamed. Moreover, many reported cases get dismissed because the child is not believed or the allegations can't be proven.
Since last month's arrest of former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School, six other cases involving improper sexual relations between students and teachers or school employees have cropped up just in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest school system.
The prevalence of abuse reports underscores the need for better awareness training for school employees, said Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Minnesota.
Most school districts around the country require teachers and other employees to undergo training in spotting signs of child abuse and neglect. School staffers, as well as other professionals including police, physicians and social workers, are "mandated reporters," who are required by state laws to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. If they fail to do so, they can be prosecuted.
But many training courses focus on how to detect signs that a child is being abused outside the school, such as drawings a child may make, behavioral changes and suspect bruises. They do not generally include instruction on spotting suspicious behavior by a perpetrator, least of all by a colleague.
"We need to teach teachers that sex offenders don't wear trench coats, how to observe patterns, have that gut feeling and articulate it," said Vieth, whose organization has developed a college curriculum to help student teachers be more alert to protecting children.
Local Cardiologist Reveals His Family's Personal Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse
The Moose's Children: A Memoir of Betrayal, Death, and Survival shows how the horrible toll of child abuse is felt far beyond the victim.
The Moose's Children: A Memoir of Betrayal, Death, and Survival”, a new memoir by David M. Mokotoff, M.D., describes in unflinching detail how the childhood rape of his deceased wife destroyed more than just the victim, and more than one family. The perpetrator of the crime died one year ago, and was never prosecuted. With recent publicity surrounding the Penn State child molestation case, this book gives a local face, by a prominent member of the community, to childhood sexual abuse. Mokotoff, M.D. had been a practicing cardiologist in St. Petersburg, Fl. since 1982.
Written from the point of view of the abused survivor's spouse and daughter, who has written a special chapter, the memoir has already been critically reviewed by Erin Merryn. Merryn, an abuse survivor, is a published author, speaker, and the force behind the state of Illinois' 2011 “Erin's Law.” A unique forward by her is included. The prestigious Kirkus Book Review (www.kirkusreviews.com) has also recently reviewed the book.
Including personal photos and interviews with surviving family members, this gripping story gives a native Florida look to childhood rape, molestation, and incest. Often quoted in the St. Petersburg Times, and author of many articles in respected journals such as JAMA and Medical Economics, Mokotoff's story is a must-read in this new day of breaking old taboos, coming out of the shadows, and healing. Ironically, after the book was published, yet another brother of the victim died of alcohol abuse, and a sister of the victim, herself abused, attempted suicide. During the 1970's, the St. Petersburg Police Department repeatedly failed to follow-up on multiple leads. Decades later, the Florida State Attorney's office likewise failed to prosecute the perpetrator, who was acquitted due to legal technicalities. Both of these claims are documented in the book.
“The Moose's Children: A Memoir of Betrayal, Death, and Survival” is now available online at www.davidmokotoff.com, www.buybooksontheweb.com, www.amazon.com, Amazon's Kindle store, or at Haslam's bookstore, 2025 Central Avenue, in St. Petersburg. For every book sold, $5 will be donated to RAINN, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating childhood rape, abuse and incest.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact the author.
CONTACT: David Mokotoff
Cell phone: 727-420-7788
Child sexual abuse: For some children, home is the most dangerous place
Though parents worry about their kids' safety at school and parks, most abuse cases occur at home.
by Sehrish Wasif / Vaqas Asghar
ISLAMABAD -- Protecting the innocence of their children is a parent's greatest desire, with many going to extreme lengths to guard it. Sadly, there are too many people waiting for an opportunity to take it. For many victims that person all too often turns out to be a relative.
Anee* is 19, and a victim. She was sexually abused just after hitting puberty. Her abuser was her grandfather. He used to sneak into her bed and touch her whenever he felt the need, under the pretext that God would punish her if she tried to make him stop.
The terrified child's ordeal continued for years. It was only when her mother confronted Anee to get an explanation for her moody behavior that Anee finally gave up her source of guilt and embarrassment. Anee's mother kicked out her father-in-law, but the child's emotional wounds still remain.
For Shiza*, the molester was an even closer relative. When she was just four, Shiza's nine-year-old brother began touching her inappropriately. When she was older and finally built up the courage to say no, he raped her. This continued for years, until she finally got married and moved out. She started a new life with her husband, but her past caught up with her again. What turned out to be a diaper rash on one-year-old her baby brought back traumatic memories, and when she opened up to her husband about why she broke down, hoping that the father of her child would help her come to terms with her traumatic childhood, he divorced her.
Bena*and her brother Saad* were forced to inappropriately touch each other by their 14-year-old maternal uncle, who used to come to their home after school. He would also participate himself. By the time he finally stopped coming over, the two children continued their taboo relationship, in no small part because to the best of their knowledge, it was acceptable. It wasn't until years later, when their parents found out that they learnt what they were actually doing.
These are but three stories from Islamabad, from what would best be called, the upper and middle classes.
Rabia Manzoor Khan, a clinical psychologist at Aga Khan Health Unit in Islamabad, said child abuse is very common in homes, and the abuser is usually a close relative or family member. She then made a startling estimation that such incidents occur in every third house in Islamabad but go unreported.
Mostly families try to suppress these incidents and end up blaming their children for “letting themselves” become victims.
“Nowadays, many such incidents are taking place among the highly educated and elite class. After dealing with many such cases, the most worrying thing which came to light was that most victims of sexual abuse can't comprehend what they had gone through due to the age factor,” she said.
Sexual abuse transcends social class and age, but with older victims, power, be it financial or physical, tends to rear its ugly head.
On the other hand, very few people are aware of counselling options for sexual abuse victims.
While talking to The Express Tribune , Rutgers World Population Foundation (WFP) Country Head Qadeer Baig described child abuse as an “epidemic in our society”.
“Recent statistics claiming that only five children a day are sexually abused show that the crime is highly under-reported,” he said.
Baig quoted an estimate that 25 per cent of children are abused, while up to 50 per cent of disabled children fall victim to such abuse in the country.
“Also, there is high risk that children abused at an early age may become abusers when they grow up. Unfortunately, these abusers enter the home through the front door (relatives and friends of the family),” he said.
Abuse is also reported in schools and madrassas, mostly due to the lack of cheap education options for parents and children.
“Unfortunately, our education system does not focus on child protection and violates the [Convention on the Rights of the Child]. There is a huge need to educate young kids about acceptable and unacceptable forms of physical contact and to have open communication between parents, teachers and children,” Baig said.
He opined that child protection laws needs to be improved and implemented. Life skill-based education as envisaged in National Education Policy 2009 should be included in school education curriculum.
Victims, age no bound, are left physically, psychologically and socially scarred. They suffer from deep depression, anxiety, and often lose their trust and confidence in everyone. The insecurity is most pronounced in girls, who usually start avoiding contact with all men. “When they get married, they are reluctant to get intimate with their husbands. In severe cases, they attempt suicide,” Khan said.
Male victims do not fare any better. “They often grow up to become abusers, or become over ambitious in efforts to suppress the pain and suffering they are trying to hide. Conversely, they can suffer from deep depression, become very emotionally sensitive, and show hesitance to indulge in any social activity,” the doctor said, while also noting that at some scale, their opinions and thought process becomes rigid, while others may find solace in food and end up gaining a lot of weight.
Unfortunately, “It is very difficult to identify abusers as they will not disclose it themselves and will never go for counselling,” she said, because they end up thinking that what happened to them should happen to others as well.
New Toledo safe house for sex trafficking victims
by Katie Rydzewski
TOLEDO, Ohio -
Toledo has one of the worst rates of sex trafficking in the country, but a local organization is trying to help victims get their second chance.
It is estimated there are nearly 30 million victims worldwide, and sex trafficking is a growing problem throughout the United States. Toledo is ranked as the fourth worst city in the U.S.
Many trafficking victims can be as young as 12 years old.
Three years ago, a local high school teacher started a non-profit organization called The Daughter Project to help victims of sex trafficking in our area. The goal was to construct a safe home for rescued victims.
"The 24-hour live-in home was built with new materials and furnishings," says The Daughter Project founder Jeff Wibarger. "It will house six girls and three house moms."
The 3,000 square foot home will not only provide shelter, but also physical, emotional, and educational help.
To volunteer or make a donation, visit The Daughter Project online at thedaughterproject.org.
Perfect baby for sale $150K: Calif attorney convicted for baby trafficking ring
by Holly Craw
Human trafficking takes many forms, and manufacturing babies brings the industry to a new realm. Theresa Erickson, an adoption and surrogacy lawyer from California was convicted in San Diego February 22 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to filing of false court documents for surrogate birth arrangements. She is subject to sentencing of five years in federal prison and fines up to $250,000 after pleading guilty to the charge.
Embryos had been created for IVF in the Ukraine, so that the "perfect" babies could have the highly desired traits of blonde hair and blue eyes. At least three surrogates from the US were contracted by Erickson and her two accomplices to travel to the Ukraine for implantation of the fertilized eggs. While this in itself is not illegal, California law specifies that arrangements must be made by the adoptive parents and the surrogate prior to implantation. Erickson's operation had babies developing in the womb before contracts were established. The statute's design was to prevent a "baby manufacturing" underground from becoming a reality.
Amid a web of deceit and false documents, surrogate mothers and adoptive parents were led to believe that proper arrangements had been made for the gestation of the infants through an earlier transaction. However, they were told those parents had backed out, making the child in the womb now available. Fees for the full process ranged from $100,000 to $180,000 which seemed reasonable in the California surrogacy market, especially for " designer babies in race and gender".
The prosectuing attorney is calling the case "baby trafficking" rather than wire fraud. A case can be made for the trafficking nomenclature by the definition:
"Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery."
- Certainly, a human infant has been sold, perhaps even to the highest bidder.
- Although the surrogates were promised $38,000-45,000 to cover medical bills and the renting of their bodies, only one of the three women received $3000. There is no indication who the egg and sperm donors were (supposedly Ukranian college students) and what remuneration they received in the Ukraine. (Reproductive slavery?)
- If one outcome of sexual activity is reproduction, and the conception and gestation processes are artificially and deceptively set up to achieve a certain product (a blue-eyed, blonde child), is this not a form of sexual exploitation? The donors and the surrogates are having their sexuality and reproductive facilities exploited under a pretense that is indeed different from reality so that a company can make a large profit.
- Fraud or deception in commercial sexual activities are some operative words that fit sexual trafficking.
Theresa Erickson had a reputation as the best attorney in surrogacy and reproductive law, and she worked with Carla Chambers, the program coordinator, who met the women in the Ukraine for the procedures. She was convicted of "conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from illegal activity", and awaits sentencing of up to five years in prison. The third member of the ring is Hilary Neiman of Maryland, also a well-known attorney in the field. Neiman has been convicted of wire fraud and sentenced to one year in custody, with five months in prison and the rest at home.
Sex offender who removed monitoring device is arrested
A convicted sex offender, who removed his electronic monitoring device and tried to elude police, was arrested Friday evening.
Mark Wayne Speer was arrested after Vacaville, Calif., police released his picture and asked for the public's help in finding him.
Speer was captured in a garage on Mahan Court in Roseville, Calif., after running from officers who spotted him at a nearby hotel.
Speer was being monitored by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Parole Unit with a GPS monitoring device. He took off the monitoring device just eight days after he was paroled from prison in December, Fox 40 reported.
Speer was booked in the Placer County Jail and was being held without bail.