Child Advocacy Centre touted as Canadian first
by Nadia Moharib
The much-anticipated Child Advocacy Centre is getting closer to becoming a reality in its location on the University of Calgary campus.
Situated on the fourth floor of the Child Development Centre, across from Alberta Children's Hospital, the 25,000 sq-foot centre is touted as a Canadian first.
The facility will bring child abuse experts into one location to find better ways for abused children to navigate the road to recovery and pursuit of justice.
Police Chief Rick Hanson said it's not entirely surprising every individual who was the subject of a high-risk public notification one recent year shared a painful past.
“Every single (one) had a history of abuse as a child,” he said.
Ample evidence shows child abuse is a major contributing factor to later issues ranging from drug addictions to child abuse and crime, underscoring the need to improve a system victims and families rely on, he said.
“We know that if you can properly address this issue in the early stages... what you are doing is preventing the likelihood of other issues down the road,” Hanson said.
“We know, through no fault of their own, kids are abused.... you are working to create a healthy adult.”
Unlike the current system, resources will be more accessible and hopefully ensure fewer children fall through the cracks, he said, adding a huge emphasis will be on education.
“We know child abuse is significantly under-reported. So we want to educate adults so they can recognize signs of abuse and we want kids to know that there is a safe place where they can report abuse.”
The Child At Risk Response Team, the crown, child-welfare officials, the Alberta Vulnerable Infant Response Team, nurses and child abuse physicians will work together at the centre.
“With the (Child Advocacy Centre) all they need to do is walk into the door and all the systems are working together for victims and their family,” Hanson said.
“Everything you need will be in one building.
“The potential long-term benefits to this approach are hugely beneficial for all of society, not just the victims.”
Child abuse survivor, Sheldon Kennedy, who presented the concept nearly two years ago, is thrilled to see others get on the bandwagon.
Kennedy sits on the board of a Colorado child advocacy centre, which has seen courtroom convictions go from 15% to 70% and said possibilities for the Calgary centre are endless.
“These issues are finally getting the attention they need,” said Kennedy, who also sits on the Calgary centre's board.
“It will be a centre of excellence.”
The centre is set to open as soon as November.
House passes child abuse bill
by Whitney Burdette
Members of the clergy, school teachers and health professionals are among those already required by state law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. But in light of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, that list will grow.
Under Senate Bill 161, camp counselors or employees, coaches or volunteers at entities that provide activities for youth or children and commercial film or photo processors who have "reasonable cause" to suspect child abuse are required to report their suspicions within 48 hours.
Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, said supervisors must be advised of any suspected abuse or neglect.
"Under provisions of this bill, a person is required to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child is first to advise supervisors of suspected abuse or neglect," she said. "That does not relieve them of their obligation to advise proper authorities."
This bill addresses possible loopholes in the system where non-professionals, such as camp counselors, may not feel legally obligated to report abuse. Such was the case at Penn State, where a graduate assistant working with youth at a football camp said he spotted abuse, reported it to then-head football coach Joe Paterno, who then did not report the suspected abuse to the police. Instead, he reported the graduate assistant's suspicious to the athletic director, but didn't follow up. The athletic director also failed to notify the police of the possible abuse.
People across the country took note of the scandal, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
"If these allegations of sexual abuse are true, then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys," Duncan said in a Nov. 10 story in USA Today. "If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse."
If this bill is signed into law, it would put the onus on the original reporter to notify the proper authorities of abuse. According to one provision in the bill: "Any person over the age of 18 who has actual knowledge of or observes any sexual abuse or sexual assault of a child, shall immediately, and not more than 48 hours after obtaining actual knowledge of or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the State Police or other law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the report." Further, the law enforcement agency must then report allegations to the state Department of Health and Human Resources and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to investigate those allegations.
The bill also provides for additional training for people who work with children. That training will include indicators of child abuse or neglect, tactics used by sexual abusers, how and when to report suspected abuse and protective factors that prevent abuse and neglect. The bill also establishes stiffer penalties, including up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000 for those who fail to report suspected abuse.
The Senate voted unanimously Jan. 30 in support of the bill, and the House passed the bill unanimously Saturday.
Look at existing models to help children
by Kristi FULNECKY
The Every Child series has brought an important issue into the public dialogue — child abuse and neglect. Many contributors have written about the child abuse problem that has plagued our community. Those who are searching for solutions to this increasing problem should look to a model that is already in existence to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect — the programs at Boys & Girls Town, a Great Circle agency.
Boys & Girls Town's campus in Springfield is home to nearly 100 children on a daily basis and serves as Southwest Missouri's largest children's residential facility. The agency also provides foster care case management and in-home crisis prevention services in the community. Statewide, this agency touches the lives of more than 11,450 children and families each year.
Prevention of child abuse is the key to reversing the increasing cycle of abuse. Boys & Girls Town has programs in place to begin breaking this cycle, one of which is Parenting Life Skills Center. The purpose of the Center is to educate parents by offering treatment programs to families at risk for child abuse and neglect, domestic unrest or violence. The Center's vital programs include home visitation for at-risk families, court-mandated parent education, empowering pregnant and parenting teens, foundations of fatherhood services, and parent/child development classes for parents with children ages birth to 30 months.
Twelve years ago, Boys & Girls Town opened the Ozarks Family Resource Center on the Springfield campus, which provides emergency shelter for children from birth to age 18 in crisis situations. Its goal is to keep siblings together while determining the best possible long-term placement for the children. Within the shelter, the Empowering Youth program focuses on homeless youth ages 10 to 18 years and provides them with job training, and individual, group and family therapy. These youth can receive emergency shelter, food, clothing and family mediation. Services are free and confidential.
April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, and Boys & Girls Town has launched the “Be a Lifesaver – Prevent Child Abuse” campaign to help raise awareness about this critical issue. The agency has asked members of the Missouri legislature to make a joint proclamation to recognize April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month on a state level. The agency is also asking state and local dignitaries to be on an honorary committee supporting “Be a Lifesaver – Prevent Child Abuse!”
The working committee for the “Be a Lifesaver – Prevent Child Abuse” is endeavoring to get each day in the month of April adopted by businesses and individuals to help get the word out. Public service announcements will be made on television and radio stations throughout the month of April regarding the campaign.
While all of us search for the complex solutions in eliminating child abuse and neglect, let us look at successful programs that are already in place in our community. Boys & Girls Town is leading the way in eradicating child abuse and neglect — join their cause.
For more information, contact Becky Wood at 417-572-7673, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Smart Shares Message Of Hope For Abuse Victims
Smart Headlines Safe Passage Gala In Colorado Springs
Lindsay Watts l COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- She's a kidnapping survivor who's become an advocate for child abuse victims, and on Saturday, Elizabeth Smart was in Colorado Springs headlining a fundraiser for Safe Passage.
Safe Passage, a non-profit that supports child abuse victims in southern Colorado, held its annual gala at the Crown Plaza hotel. It was sold out with Smart as the guest speaker. Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom in 2002. She was held captive and abused for nine months before being rescued. The couple who took her has been convicted.
Now, a decade later, Smart is a newlywed who says she's no longer a victim. "When I came home from being kidnapped, my mom gave me the best piece of advice I've ever been given," said Smart at a press conference. "She said that 'What this man has done to you is so terrible there just aren't words strong enough to describe what he's taken away from you. Nine months of your life you will never get back. Don't give him any more of your life.
The nest punishment you can give him is to be happy and live your life the way you want to.'" Smart has taken that advice, devoting her life to empowering victims and helping prevent abuse. One tip she has for parents is teach their kids how to fight back.
"Over 80% of children that scream or that fight back, they're able to escape their captors," said Smart.
Smart has started her own foundation
, and she travels the country supporting groups like Safe Passage. Saturday's gala raises 80 percent of the group's budget for the year, allowing Safe Passage to continue to support more than 1,000 kids in the midst of abuse investigations. Safe Passage gives victims a safe, comfortable place to talk about what happened, and works with police so kids only have to tell their story once.
"We send them away with a little stuffed animal and a blanket and let them know we're here to support them through the entire process-- court case, everything," said David York, the board of directors vice president. Smart's message for victims is one of hope.
"I would want them to know that because an event like this has happened to them in their lives, that doesn't mean that they're any less than anybody else," Smart said. "It won't control them for the rest of their lives, they can overcome it."
For more information on Safe Passage, including how to donate or volunteer, click here
Background checks help assure safe child care in Oneida County
Parents who watched the MSNBC's Dateline program on March 2 must have been horrified by what they saw. Dateline aired an undercover report that exposed a very scary scenario, highlighting the fact that many people convicted of violent crimes were actually licensed by their state to provide child care. Some of their crimes included assault, child abuse, having own child removed from their care, substance abuse and homicide. Many were caring for children from low income families so they were being paid with tax payer funds. The parents who were informed about their child care provider's criminal background were shocked because they assumed state licensing ensured that their child was in a safe setting.
The reason this kind of nightmare could be documented and aired is because our country does not uniformly require background checks for child care providers. Background check requirements vary greatly from state to state and this means that our children are not guaranteed safety in their child care setting. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates federal funds to states for child care, does not require a background check for child care providers. The law leaves it to the states.
According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, "only half of the states require a background check including fingerprints-the only way to make sure that convicted felons are not licensed or paid to care for children with federal funds. Incomplete background checks leave the door wide open for every parent's nightmare. Only 10 states require a comprehensive check: a fingerprint check against state and federal records, as well as a check of the state child abuse registry and sex offender registry."
In New York State, those applying for a license or registration are required to be fingerprinted to ascertain if the applicant has any criminal convictions in NYS and they are required to complete a criminal conviction statement as to whether they have criminal convictions in any other jurisdiction. All applicants are also put through the State Central Registry for clearance related to child abuse and maltreatment. For legally exempt applicants, the state requires a search of the sex offender registry, and a search of county records (the county within which the provider resides) to determine whether or not the applicant has ever had a removal of his/her own child or termination of parental rights.
If parents would like more information about this issue or about how to access information on selecting quality child care programs, they can call the Child Care Council of Cornell Cooperative Extension at 1-888-814-KIDS. Parents can also receive a list of child care programs that meet their particular needs. As always, the Child Care Council encourages parents to visit unannounced, at their child's program. All regulated, licensed and approved legally exempt programs are required to allow parents unrestricted access to their children during hours of care. It is also an excellent way to remain informed and engaged with your child's caregiver.
— Lorraine Kinney-Kitchen,
6851 Valley View Road,
Town of Westmoreland
-- EDITOR'S NOTE: Lorraine Kinney-Kitchen is director of the Child Care Council of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Seminar to focus on stopping sex abuse
by Joe Habina
What: Coaches Awareness Seminar to prevent childhood sexual abuse.
When: March 24.
Where: Grady Cole Center, 310 N. Kings Drive. Registration 8:30-9 a.m.; program 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Details: Al Simpson, 704-432-4963.
Like many people, Al Simpson has paid close attention to the child sexual abuse cases recently reported.
Simpson is head coach of the Charlotte Boxing Academy at Revolution Sports Academy, and an assistant with USA Boxing. He mentors dozens of youths each year.
That's why he decided to organize a Coaches Awareness Seminar and invited local professionals and coaches as presenters and attendees.
"We as coaches ... probably need to be addressed on how we handle athletes, to be aware of what goes on, our dos and don'ts," Simpson said. "It's only to benefit us as coaches. We may feel that we think we know everything, but there are a lot of things to be better aware of."
Simpson says he has tried to communicate through Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, where he works; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; and various youth sports organizations. He expects up to 150 coaches, trainers and other adults.
Among the guest speakers will be Wade Younger of The Butterfly Gateway, the Rev. James Covington of Darkness to Light - both childhood-sex-abuse-awareness organizations - and a representative from the Department of Social Services.
The seminar's mission is to teach adults how to recognize signs of abuse and how to help the athletes.
Simpson thought of organizing the seminar when he was interviewed for a local TV news segment on childhood sexual abuse. He viewed the piece and became familiar with Younger's message through Butterfly Gateway.
Younger, a 49-year old Charlotte resident, says he was sexually abused as a child and didn't talk about it with anyone until six years ago. Younger made his story public in 2008.
Younger, who has appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show and written several books on the topic, says it was important for him to confront his past. A professional public speaker, Younger founded Butterfly Gateway in 2008 to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse.
Six Men Accused of Child Sex Crimes Go Free
by William Browning
ABC News reports six members of a family in Lafayette County , Mo., have had charges related to child sexual abuse dropped. Burrell Mohler and his four sons and brother were arrested in November 2009 and faced charges such as forcible rape, use of a child in a sexual performance and sexual abuse .
KMBC stated the cases stemmed from alleged abuse dating to 1988 and going through 1995. The accusations came from the grandchildren of Mohler as they accused their father and uncles of forcing them to perform sex acts such as bestiality. One girl, now grown, claims she was forced to have an abortion at age 12.
The men charged lived across Missouri . Mohler's younger brother lived in Florida since 1984 and told KMBC he thought the charges against him and his family were "repulsive." An associate of the family was also arrested in connection with the case but released.
The investigation started in August 2009 when the accusers alleged there were body parts buried on the family's farm in Bates City. After serving search warrants on the property, no evidence of murder or dismemberment was found.
There was even a claim a baby was buried in the basement. Ground-penetrating radar scanned the basement and located a blip "consistent with the shape of a box" under the concrete floor. At one time, the basement was merely a dirt floor.
Police also found pornography in Mohler's home. There were also sex toys and DVDs showing girls under the age of 17 found in the house as well when investigators searched for evidence.
The woman who accused the men was 29 when the charges were brought. She claimed three members of the family blindfolded four children and proceeded to rape them.
The Kansas City Star reported all charges were dropped against the accused March 7, over two years after initial arrests. The accusers didn't come forward sooner because of medical privacy issues. The judge told the Lafayette County prosecutor that witness testimony would be barred if medical records of the victims weren't released.
A lack of evidence, 20-year gap and multiple defendants complicated the case for everyone involved. Attorneys on all sides claimed their clients cooperated fully in the case. Witnesses came forward after alleged repressed memories surfaced in 2008. How those memories were recovered were inconsistent. Sometimes the story changed as more memories came to light.
In the end, prosecuting attorney Kellie Wingate Campbell dismissed all charges. The family is furious that she filed charges in the first place. Campbell claimed the initial charges were valid. It was only as investigators got further into the case that they ran into problems.
From the FBI
Former California State University Assistant Professor Sentenced to 450 Months in Prison for Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child
Joint Child Pornography Investigation Rescued Infant from Sexual Abuse by California Assistant Professor of Justice Studies and the Infant's Mother
U.S. Attorney's Office March 09, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO—Kenneth Martin Kyle pleaded guilty and was sentenced late Thursday afternoon to 37-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution for traveling across state lines to sexually abuse a child, Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, announced.
In pleading guilty, Kyle admitted that in August 2009, he traveled from San Francisco to St. Louis for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with an infant victim. Immediately following his guilty plea, which was pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States, Kyle was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White.
“It is my hope that the sentence Mr. Kyle received sends a strong message about the abhorrent conduct in this case,” U.S. Attorney Haag said. “Protecting children from sexual predators is an important priority. My office will continue to work diligently with our partners in law enforcement to track down and prosecute sexual predators to the fullest extent of the law.”
At the time of his arrest, in March 2010, Kyle was an Assistant Professor of Justice Studies at California State University East Bay. He came to the attention of the FBI when undercover agents discovered that he was sharing child pornography over a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. The FBI passed this information along to San Francisco police officers who obtained a search warrant for Kyle's San Francisco apartment. During the search of Kyle's apartment, they found computers containing child pornography. Because Kyle was out of the country at the time, San Francisco police officers shared their information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“Nothing is more gratifying than seeing someone like this go to prison for a very, very long time where he will no longer have the opportunity to harm children in such a horrible fashion,” said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for the ICE-HSI office in San Francisco. “HSI will use every tool at its disposal to track down those who would harm our children and see that they are brought to justice.”
During his plea hearing, Kyle admitted to molesting a 5-month-old infant in St. Louis over several months. The infant victim's mother currently faces federal child pornography charges in California and Missouri and has already pleaded guilty to state child molestation charges in Missouri.
Kyle, 47, of San Francisco, was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 1, 2010. He was charged with aggravated sexual abuse of a child, production of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, transportation of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. Under the plea agreement, Kyle pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment.
Owen Martikan is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by ICE-HSI. This investigation also involved significant assistance from the FBI, the San Francisco Police Department, the St. Louis Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Youth coaches go on offense against abuse
After Penn State, a push for education, caution
by Beth Teitell
When the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal broke at Pennsylvania State University last November, Al Perillo made a decision: Starting this year, all Pop Warner Football coaches in New England - not just head coaches, but assistants, too - will be required to learn what constitutes proper protocol .
“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the do's and don'ts,'' said Perillo, who lives in Everett and serves as Pop Warner's New England director.
The online tutorial warns against such things as driving other children home from practices, advising coaches to instead call police if a child's ride does not show and parents cannot be reached. Officials also plan to reemphasize the importance of touching athletes only in appropriate places, generally on the helmet for a football player, on the arm for a cheerleader.
“Don't do anything that could be misconstrued,'' Perillo said.
Welcome to coaching in 2012, a time when “risk management'' goes way beyond walking the field before a game to check for broken glass or holes. After fall's high-profile accusations - against Sandusky, an assistant football coach who was accused of sexually abusing 10 boys, and against Bernie Fine, an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University fired amid allegations he molested two boys - a number of youth sports-related organizations are significantly strengthening existing child-protection efforts. Their goal: to prevent child abuse, and in some cases, to make sure that coaches do not inadvertently make themselves vulnerable to unfounded accusations.
Little League Baseball and Softball, which has almost 95,000 Massachusetts players, has e-mailed its volunteers worldwide to alert them that information about reporting suspected child abuse is available on the organization's website.
“This whole Sandusky situation has brought this to the forefront,'' said Steve Barr, Little League's director of media relations.
In January, Positive Coaching Alliance, a California-based nonprofit with a Boston chapter, drafted guidelines for leagues and coaches. One section informs readers that among child-abuse victims, 90 percent “are abused by someone whom they know and trust'' and reminds them that “statistics show most instances of child abuse go undetected.''
“We see this as a great teachable moment,'' said Jim Thompson, the group's founder.
Criminal background checks, such as the Criminal Offender Record Information system used by Massachusetts youth sports organizations, are important, Thompson said, “but they don't solve the problem. If you have a predator who hasn't been caught or charged, they won't show up. And often times with background checks from jurisdiction to jurisdiction you don't pick up something.''
While the Sandusky case has grabbed attention nationwide, those involved in youth sports say they are also motivated to refocus attention on child safety by local stories, and headlines that seem to keep coming: “Lawrence school worker gets 5 years on rape charge'' (Associated Press, Jan. 6, 2012); “Man sexually assaulted by ex-coach faces him in court'' (Lowell Sun, Feb. 9, 2011); “Former Coach Faces Child Porn Charges'' (Globe, Feb. 26, 2011).
Many organizations, of course, began increasing child-protection efforts long before the charges against Sandusky, amid growing societal awareness of sexual predators at schools, in religious organizations, and in sports. Next week, after a couple of years of work, the US Olympic Committee plans to unveil a safe-sport handbook, launch a safe-sport website, and introduce an online coaching certification program.
Tensions surrounding child sex abuse are running so high that, around the time Perillo was deciding to beef up coach training, Daniel Lebowitz, executive director of Northeastern University's Sport in Society Center, was fielding calls from coaches worried their own reputations might be stained by Sandusky. “Are people going to assume that because I'm a coach I'm doing this?'' they asked.
Indeed, a number of local coaches and a Sports Illustrated columnist who coaches a boys' junior varsity basketball team in California said the recent high-profile scandals prompted them to feel uncomfortable or to change their behavior.
“You do get nervous because someone can say something happened and it's really our word against theirs, and you are automatically guilty,'' said John Saia, of West Roxbury, a skating coach for the Boston Junior Bruins and a board member and coach for Parkway Youth Hockey. “It doesn't matter what the truth is. I try to make sure I don't get myself into a situation that could lead to any accusations.''
“You know how you used to pat kids on the butt and send them into the game?'' said Pat Inderwish, a veteran Pop Warner coach, and president of Central Massachusetts Pop Warner and Boylston/West Boylston Youth Football. “Some people see that as inappropriate contact now. Those are the things you've got to keep in your mind.''
Phil Taylor, the Sports Illustrated columnist who wrote about his new policy against driving kids home from evening practices, said he was worried that he would be criticized for over-reacting, but instead he largely received support.
“They said they had exactly the same feelings of being alone with a player in a way they'd never thought about before,'' he said in an interview with the Globe. “I also got a few responses from people who said, ‘Get over it. As long as you're not a pervert, what do you have to worry about? Don't let the child molesters win.' But 90 percent of the responses were, ‘What a shame this is, but I know exactly what you are talking about.' ''
James C. Schmutz, executive director of the American Sport Education Program, an Illinois firm that sells coach education to scholastic and youth sport coaches and organizations, estimates that 44 million children between ages 7 and 17 participate in organized sports in the United States, with about 8 million coaches.
“There is no good data on the percentage of coaches who are formally educated [about sexual child abuse], but it's not a big number,'' Schmutz said. “Without mandatory education, it's one of the challenges of running volunteer organizations and covering all scholastic coaches.''
The difficulty of educating volunteer coaches is part of the reason Mike Singleton, executive director of Massachusetts Youth Soccer - which has included risk-management education for all of its coaches for almost a decade - says parents should get to know their children's coaches.
“If you're a parent and you show up at Macy's and someone says, ‘I'm the Macy's child care worker; just give your child to me,' people would think that was an absurd idea,'' Singleton said. “But as long as someone's in athletic gear and says, ‘I'm a coach,' people drop their kid off and leave. That's absurd to me.''
Mother-Child Aggression Risk Factor for Future Intimate Partner Violence
Children who have experienced abuse are at risk for many negative life outcomes, one of which is intimate partner violence (IPV). There is an abundant amount of research showing how violence is cyclical and how many people who survive violent childhoods eventually find themselves perpetrating or becoming the victim of violence as adults. Often, this pattern continues from one generation to another. Knowing exactly what type of childhood abuse most significantly impacts future IPV could help clinicians better target individuals at risk. In an effort to better understand this relationship, Patti A. Timmons Fritz of the Department of Psychology at the University of Windsor led a study that examined different forms of family of origin aggression (FOA) as predictors of future violence.
Fritz analyzed 453 individuals who were in committed relationships with IPV and evaluated the levels of interparental aggression, mother-to-child aggression, father-to-child aggression, and other forms of domestic violence the participants had experienced during childhood. The most common type of FOA the participants had survived was interparental violence, underscoring the impact the parental dynamic has on future relationships. The second most common type of FOA that predicted IPV was mother-to-child aggression. Because children often model their mother's relationship and bonding skills, witnessing this type of abuse could set the stage for dysfunction and cause individuals to develop an accepting attitude toward IPV and other forms of abuse in their adult relationships.
The study also revealed that the rates of IPV did not increase when both partners had FOA. This finding is particularly significant because many individuals will be drawn toward partners with similar backgrounds. However, the results revealed that when both partners came from homes with mother-to-child aggression or interparental aggression, their risk for IPV was much higher. Fritz also discovered that individuals who were exposed to multiple types of FOA were more vulnerable to IPV. Overall, she believes that these findings demonstrate that FOA directly influences the level of IPV in survivors, and understanding the particular dimension of FOA is vital when addressing the issue. Fritz added, “The current ?ndings highlight the need to assess both members of the couple for FOA and to consider both members' FOA experiences when targeting individuals and couples for prevention and intervention initiatives.”
Ride to the Dunes for Child Abuse Awareness
Organizers have announced that the much anticipated 'Ride to the Dunes' for Child Abuse Awareness, led by Grand Marshal, Lorenzo Lamas, scheduled for Sunday June 3, 2012 will begin with a beautiful ride from Bartels' Harley-Davidson, 4141 Lincoln Blvd., Marina Del Rey, CA to the serene Newport Dunes Resort, Newport Beach, CA. Lorenzo Lamas will be joined by cast members from The Sons of Anarchy, Southland and American Ninja; he invites the public to join him as well.
"As parents and Americans, we owe it to ourselves to support American military and American kids however we can. B.A.C.A. is one of many legit organizations out there seeking to raise awareness of child abuse and I call on every rider within safe riding distance to Marina Del Rey to come out and ride to support the cause," says Lorenzo Lamas.
'Ride to the Dunes' for Child Abuse Awareness will conclude at the beautiful waterside setting of Newport Dunes Resort, Newport Beach, CA with lunch and a concert by Better Chemistry.
'Ride To The Dunes, for Child Abuse Awareness' will focus on the epidemic state of child abuse in America with the presentation of the The Children's Wall of Tears. 4.8 children die at the hands of their caretakers every day! More than 3 million cases of child abuse are reported each year. Organizations like BACA, WACA and CASA lobby to assist children who are in danger from their abusers and to bring a greater public awareness to help make a difference in a child's life.
'Ride To The Dunes, for Child Abuse Awareness' will recognize the following organizations for their untiring work for children: BACA Los Angeles, The Children's Wall of Tears, War Against Child Abuse, CASA, LA and CASA, OC.
"We are very pleased to be included in Ride To The Dunes, for Child Abuse Awareness. Any attention to this devastating issue is a very good thing."states Sam McKissick, President of BACA Los Angeles.
For more information is available on regarding the 'RIDE TO THE DUNES' for Child Abuse Awareness, go to www.ridetothedunes.org for a downloadable entry form or call 818.505.1104.
|WHAT: 'RIDE TO THE DUNES' For Child Abuse Awareness
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Registration, Ride begins at 10:00 am, Sunday June 3, 2012.
WHERE: Ride begins at Bartels' Harley-Davidson, 4141 Lincoln Blvd., Marina Del Rey, CA and concluding in Newport Beach, CA.
WHY: To bring about a greater public awareness to the present epidemic state of child abuse.
CONTACT: Cherry Hepburn, Putnam & Smith - (O) 818-505-1104, (C) 818-471-7079 email@example.com
Sex ads targeted by activists fighting human trafficking
Make Orlando Safer Today is a small group of concerned residents organizing to remove illegal prostitution ads from sites like backpage.com.
March 9, 2012
by Arelis R. Hernández, Orlando Sentinel
They may be small in number, but a group of Orlando residents are looking to make a giant impact on the sex-trafficking industry with the only the click of a mouse.
The group, Make Orlando Safer Today, is encouraging residents to participate it its "Cyber Flag Day" initiative Saturday to "flag" or report prostitution ads on popular websites such as backpage.com as inappropriate material in hopes of having the ads taken down.
"We want to hit the pimps in their wallets," said group spokesman Raymond Decker. Law enforcement agencies regularly monitor these sites and conduct undercover operations but Decker said "we're unaware of any entity actually removing the ads in a front-line capacity like we're attempting to. We hope this resonates with others who will carry the resistance forward beyond the event."
The site allows users report offensive material that violate the company's polices by clicking one of three "report" buttons on the top right corner of the ad.
All Cyber Flag Day participants have to do is report the ads as inappropriate.
If enough people complain, a posting will be reviewed and possibly removed from the site.
Backpage.com, an online-classifieds website, has become a hub for what Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi calls "blatant prostitution ads" since Craiglist eliminated its adult services section in September 2010.
Bondi, along with 20 other attorney generals, sent a letter to the company in 2011, imploring it to take down the adult services portion of its site and manually review postings to help curb the victimization of women and children featured in the ads.
Backpage.com's lawyers sent a letter back, saying they cooperate with law enforcement regularly to stop illegal activity and employ several different tools to screen postings. But they warned that any prosecution will be an affront to the site's First Amendment rights.
Decker said the group used this strategy to remove "a few thousand" advertisements from Craigslist in its first campaign in March 2010. They've also expanded their reach to Youtube, removing about 10,000 videos containing hate speech and other material from gangs or groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Big money is at stake. In February, a research and consulting firm that analyzes the online classifieds community published a report that said prostitution and adult ads generated $36.3 million in revenue in the last 12 months. About two-thirds of that was generated by Backpage.com alone, according to Advanced Interactive Media Group, based in Altamonte Springs.
With this latest event, organizers said they hope to send a message to sex traffickers that Orlando is off-limits.
"In the words of Mayor Dyer, Orlando needs to be a world-class city with world-class venues," Decker said. "It becomes more difficult to sell the family image of Orlando when we're part of the Southern human-trafficking hub."
For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/MASTCyberTeam
Authorities investigate death of 4-year-old girl found hanging in closet in Westchester apartment
Daily News Wire Services
March 9, 2012
WESTCHESTER - Authorities today investigated the death of a 4-year-old girl who died at a hospital after being found hanging in the back of a closet in a bedroom at her family's apartment in Westchester.
A call by a family member at 11:33 a.m. Thursday drew Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics to an apartment complex at 8650 Belford Ave., said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Gregory Baek. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she was declared dead.
The child was Miriah Cobb, said coroner's Chief Craig Harvey. She was reported to have been found hanging by the neck, he said, adding that an autopsy was pending.
The LAPD's Abused Child Unit is investigating the case, said police spokesman Richard French.
"The police department is confirming that she was found hanging in the closet," French said.
The case has been classified as an "undetermined death" investigation, pending results of the autopsy, French said.
Police were investigating the case because "we take all cases of child deaths that are undetermined as to cause and under 11 years old," LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizarraga, commander of the Abused Child Unit, told ABC7 on Thursday.
"We now have to piece together what the events were," Lizarraga said.
Siblings found living in abandoned school bus in Splendora
by Mike Glenn and John Rigg
SPLENDORA - A broken-down school bus on a garbage-strewn lot in Montgomery County was home until Wednesday for two children whose parents apparently are in prison.
A postal worker discovered a girl, 11, and her 5-year-old brother about 10 a.m. while making rounds along Three S Street near Circle H, officials said.
"They appeared to be unsupervised," said Jamie Nash with the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable's Office.
The bus had been converted into quarters for the children, with bunk beds and a window-mounted air conditioner. But shocked local officials said the youngsters' living conditions were deplorable. What little food they could get at was in another building on the lot.
"Everyone who was on the scene talked about the odor - there was a lot of trash on the property," Nash said.
The concerned postal worker left a message about the children with Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts, known in the community for having a deep interest in juvenile issues.
Metts, in turn, passed the word along to Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden, who went to the scene himself.
The heavily wooded property where the bus is parked is dotted with signs warning against trespassers. Bicycles and toys lay scattered about, while a large mixed-breed dog slept under the bus.
Hayden found a woman on the property who is believed to be the children's great-aunt. The woman said she works a 12-hour shift Monday through Friday, but was always with the children at night.
"Whether she was there or not, they were being unsupervised for extended periods. It's not acceptable," Nash said.
The children said they were home-schooled and are not listed on the rolls at the Splendora Independent School District, officials said.
The girl and her brother were often seen running in the area at night.
"They always had dirty clothes on (and) no shoes, even in the winter," said Gayla Payne, who lives nearby.
The girl told Payne's daughter that she bathed only twice a week.
"The girl's hair was always messed up," said another neighbor, Myra Langston. "She looks unkempt, like she doesn't shower."
Hayden called Child Protective Services, which has also launched an investigation.
CPS caseworkers are talking to family members to learn if a relative can provide adequate care for the children.
"It not, we'll take custody and place them in foster care," said Gwen Carter, a CPS spokeswoman.
There was no indication that either child had been physically abused, Carter said. "They just need to be cleaned up right now."
Clean beds, food - now
The children's parents are believed to be Mark and Sherrie Shorten, both of Splendora, who were convicted in federal court in Louisiana of embezzling money from victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
According to prosecutors, Sherrie Shorten helped the victims obtain loans to repair storm damage. The loans were then deposited in a bank account to pay the contractor - her husband.
They later emptied the account without finishing the work, officials said.
Both were sentenced to 18 months in prison early this year. On Wednesday, the attorney representing Sherrie Shorten in that case couldn't be reached for comment.
Metts, the justice of the peace, said he was glad the children will now sleep in clean beds and have enough to eat.
"But it does raise the question: How did they slip through the cracks?" he noted.
LACASA updates its look
Say LACASA, and most people in Livingston County only think domestic violence shelter.
That's a problem, according to Bobette Schrandt, LACASA's president and CEO.
"A lot of people think of us as a domestic violence shelter, but we're so much more than that," Schrandt said.
She said the nonprofit decided to address this situation by developing a brand that educates the public about all the services offered by LACASA, which include counseling and support victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault; a legal advocacy program; transitional housing; and an intervention program for teenagers and adults who use violence in their relationships.
On Tuesday, LACASA unveiled its new Web site, logo and mission statement during an open house attended by 150 sponsors and donors.
"It really was a thank you," Schrandt said.
The new mission statement says, "We support and advocate for survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. We provide prevention, education and awareness to strengthen families and make our community safer."
The new logo shows a circle of figures, which Schrandt said shows "how we all band together to improve lives and prevent family and gender violence."
The nonprofit officially changed its name to LACASA and dropped the acronym, which stood for Livingston Area Council for Spousal Abuse. The name was appropriate when the group formed in 1981, but officials said the original name no longer provided an accurate representation of the nonprofit.
However, Schrandt said the nonprofit didn't want to drop LACASA because it's so well-known in the local community.
In 2011, she said, the center received 2,661 crisis calls and provided 3,075 nights of shelter. It also provide 335 nights of pets, which included lizards, dogs, cats, hamsters and snakes.
The on-call crisis team went out with police to 340 calls of alleged abuse.
The Family Resource Center, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening families in the county, recently merged with LACASA. The Child Abuse Prevention Council, which was affiliated with the Family Re-source Center, will now operate as a program within LACASA. LACASA and the Livingston County Child Abuse Prevention Council will offer a variety of classes and workshops on early childhood development, healthy parenting and child abuse prevention.
LACASA is at 2895 W. Grand River Ave. in Howell Township. For more information, call (517) 548-1350 or visit www.lacasacenter.org.
In praise of one woman's strength and courage
March 9, 2012
by SARALYN TABACHNICK
I am writing this My Turn out of a need to openly recognize Darcy Ervin's strength and courage in publicly coming forward with her identity as SAM, a young woman sexually abused for years by her father. Because of the layered complexities surrounding child sexual abuse and the associated trauma, and because of the social stigma, it's a rare day when a victim says, “this happened to me and it's not ok;” and yet, given the right circumstances, it's one of the most healing things a survivor can say.
It's also one of the most risky and scary things a survivor can say. I'm not sure where Darcy found the courage to move into this fear, and the mettle to stand up and speak out. Victims of child abuse, domestic violence and rape, whether children or adults, have done nothing wrong, have nothing to be ashamed of, deserve to be safe and protected. They deserve to be able to come forward and have loud and clear community support saying, this is unacceptable, and the perpetrator must be held accountable.
As I understand it, Darcy confided in a friend whose sister overheard a phone conversation and spoke to an adult, who reported the abuse to the authorities. And once reported, Darcy spoke up in an effort to protect her siblings. Her father denied that he raped Darcy, and people wanted to believe him. I understand this — it's hard to fathom that a father could intentionally cause such trauma and harm to his child, to someone he is supposed to love and protect. Yet according to the findings of two judges, Darcy's credibility is undeniable. There is no benefit to Darcy in fabricating these allegations. This young woman lost her family, her mother who stands by Brian Ervin, and her younger sister and brothers. She no longer has relationships with any of her immediate family.
When Darcy spoke her truth, she lost her family and gained her freedom. It's unfortunate that Darcy had to choose, and it highlights her courage and strength. She restored some of what her father took from her — her ability to be her precious self, to make choices based on HER wants and needs and not her father's, and her ability to follow her own values, thereby building integrity and self respect. Darcy Ervin staked claim to her freedom.
It's very different from the freedom her father claims after serving his prison sentence. Her father's attorney said in court that he was not a worst offender because of “his lack of criminal conviction, his age, his sterling military record, his sterling employment history… no significant history of drug or alcohol addiction.”
Let's not fool ourselves. Sex offenders come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Many maintain a positive external demeanor. Some are college educated with advanced degrees and some are high school dropouts. Some have trust funds and some are homeless. The comfort we get from creating and believing stereotypes of who child molesters are and aren't puts children, families, and communities at great harm and great risk. There is no gain in believing men of privilege cannot be rapists when in fact, they may use their privilege to manipulate victims, partners, families, and systems, including those meant to hold them accountable.
I know Darcy has given much strength to many people in our community, and I know there is much support for her. I know this by who was in the courtroom during Brian Ervin's sentencing hearings, by online comments to Juneau Empire articles, and I know this by emails written to me as Executive Director of AWARE. Last October, results of the Juneau Victimization Survey revealed that in their lifetimes, 47 percent of women experienced intimate partner violence, 35% experienced sexual violence, and 55 percent of women had experienced either domestic violence, sexual violence or a combination of both. These Juneau women are our friends and family, our neighbors and coworkers, in our faith communities and in our hearts.
No matter the demographics of their offenders; may every one of these women know that AWARE is a resource, 24/7 at 586-1090.
May every women in her healing process be inspired by Darcy's strength and courage on their path to regaining wholeness. May all of us in Juneau, men, women and children, be inspired by Darcy's capacity to face incredible difficulties and injustice with perseverance and grace, on our individual paths to freedom. No child should ever have to endure what Darcy has been and is going through. As a community, may we be inspired towards a policy and practice of zero tolerance for domestic violence, sexual assault, and the intentional harm of children, whether the victim is a child or an adult; and may we stand united for safety and support for all victims and protective parents, and accountability for perpetrators.
Tabachnick is the executive director of Aiding Women In Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), Inc.
Child abuse registry may see changes
Proposal would allow for appeals after five years
by SHANNON YOUNG Associated Press
Hartford - Low-risk and rehabilitated suspects of child abuse and neglect might soon have the opportunity to have their names removed from the state's database under legislation being considered by the General Assembly.
The proposed bill would allow offenders on the state's child abuse and neglect database to appeal their listing after five years if they aren't involved in any new abuse reports or investigations.
Appeals would be granted to applicants who have rehabilitated themselves or have demonstrated other legitimate reasons for removal. Applicants would be required to submit at least two letters in support of the appeal from competent adults.
If the bill is passed, individuals would be able to begin applying for an appeal as early as July 1.
Currently, anyone identified as a perpetrator in Department of Children and Families investigations of child abuse and neglect is listed in a registry for such offenses, even if the individual is not convicted of a civil or criminal offense. Those listed in the registry can initially appeal the listing and can appeal it in court, if necessary. However, if they lose the appeal, they are permanently placed in the DCF child abuse database.
The database, unlike the sex offender registry, is private and not available to the public. Employers who work with children, however, can contact DCF with a release, signed by the potential employee, to verify that the individual doesn't present a risk to kids.
Because of this, some argue that while the registry was created to ultimately protect children, it can permanently damage the reputation of suspected offenders and subject them to unemployment.
Michael Agranoff, an attorney specializing in DCF cases, said he has been pushing the state legislature to adapt this measure. He said that while he is successful in winning appeals for some clients, Connecticut has very few DCF attorneys for adults and not every person accused can afford representation.
Agranoff said he has seen hundreds of people successfully rehabilitate themselves. He said no one should be subject to a potential lifetime of unemployment without being allowed to defend him or herself.
Thomas DeMatteo, the assistant agency legal director for DCF, said the agency supports the proposed legislation and is willing to give listed individuals a second look. Thousands of names are on the child abuse and neglect registry, he said.
"DCF works on the basis that people can rehabilitate themselves," DeMatteo said.
He said, now, around 30 percent of all alleged offenders who appeal their listing are successful.
Despite DCF's support, some child advocate agencies and activists have raised concerns over the bill's lack of details and potential effects on other registries.
Mickey Kramer, with the state's Office of the Child Advocate, said that while the bill sounds like a fair concept, she believes the proposed appeals process needs to be carefully scrutinized and, if passed, applied consistently across the state.
"The devil is in the details, which this legislation doesn't address," she said.
Kramer said she agrees with the concept of the legislation but thinks it needs to be more specific before she could support it outright. She said she will likely testify at the hearing.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, ranking member of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, also raised concerns over the bill's lack of details, specifically what qualifies a suspected offender as "rehabilitated." He said he'd like to see a more specific definition of the term and learn more about how a person would be evaluated.
"God forbid someone gets off of the registry and harms another child," Kissel said.
The Judiciary Committee will hear opinions on the bill at a Wednesday morning public hearing at the Legislative Office Building.
Meriden Republican Sen. Len Suzio said the Select Committee on Children, on which he serves as ranking member, reviewed identical legislation on the issue before ultimately removing it from the bill.
He said that, among other things, the committee questioned how the process of removing a person's name from the child abuse and neglect registry would work when a suspected offender could potentially still be listed on the state's sex offender registry.
Like Suzio, Karen Jarmoc, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, also expressed concerns on the relation between the child abuse and sex offender registries.
Jarmoc said allowing offenders to remove their names from the child abuse and neglect database may open the door for individuals to try and get their names off of other lists, like the sex offender registry.
She said the legislature needs to be careful that it doesn't create a precedent for this type of name removal.
Last year, similar legislation that included a section concerning parental consent for children being interviewed by DCF failed to make it to the floor for a vote in the Senate. This year, the measures are separated into two bills.
Bill supporters are optimistic that the name removal legislation could be passed this session, as DCF is once again behind the measure.
Bill adds time to claim child sexual abuse
by JIM WALSH
TRENTON — A South Jersey legislator has introduced a bill that would allow more time for victims of child sex abuse to sue their assailants.
The measure, which would end a current two-year statute of limitation for such civil suits, is part of a three-bill package proposed by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Voorhees.
The proposed legislation also would require more training for school employees and others to recognize and report the signs of child sexual abuse. Among other changes, it would toughen criminal penalties for child sexual abuse and would expand the category of people liable for “knowingly permitting or acquiescing” to the offense.
“When it comes to cracking down on the sexual abuse of children, it's clear that a comprehensive approach is needed,” Greenwald said in a statement Thursday.
Due to the current statutory limit, “many victims of sexual abuse as a child face significant hurdles or find their (legal) claims entirely foreclosed,” Greenwald said.
Under the bill, a victim's lawsuit against an alleged abuser “may be commenced at any time.”
Powerful forces of shame and secrecy can cause victims to stay silent for decades about childhood sex abuse, said Steve Rubino, a Margate attorney whose practice has focused on cases involving clergy offenders.
He noted abusers often are trusted, well-regarded figures who manipulate victims to protect themselves.
“If you're told to keep it secret, then you know that something's wrong,” said Rubino. “But if you speak out, you will be rejected and not believed by your parents, your friends and your teachers.”
He said victims often develop drug- and sex-related problems, as well as depression and other emotional ills, that reinforce the secrecy. Even victims with more stable lives can be reluctant to disclose childhood sex abuse.
“They think, ‘If I do this, my whole world could fall apart',” Rubino said.
An attorney for the Diocese of Camden on Thursday invoked the statute of limitations in asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed in January by an Ohio man who alleged he was abused by a parish priest in Camden about 45 years ago. The man, Mark Bryson, claimed he had repressed all memories of the assaults until about two years ago.
The diocese's lawyer, William DeSantis of Cherry Hill, argued that the legal deadline for any suit passed when Bryson was 20 years old, or two years after he became an adult. As a result, he asked the judge to dismiss Bryson's “stale claims.”
Among other changes, Greenwald's bills would increase criminal fines for persons convicted of sex offenses under Megan's Law and would boost the minimum prison terms for repeat offenders from five to eight years.
The legislation also would require training programs, for school employees and others, on how to recognize and report signs of childhood sex abuse. In addition, more employees and some school volunteers would have to undergo criminal background checks every three years.
Calif. court: Schools liable for hiring molesters
by Christina Hoag
LOS ANGELES - School districts can be held liable for administrators who learn that an employee may be prone to molesting children but fail to take action to protect students, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The unanimous ruling came in a 2007 case of molestation of a 15-year-old boy by the head guidance counselor at a Los Angeles County high school. The decision overturned trial and appellate court decisions upholding the dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the unidentified student, who was molested over eight months at the Santa Clarita high school.
The William S. Hart Union High School District had argued that administrators should not be held liable for the actions of an employee because they are responsible for the overall school, not individual students.
But the justices said administrators have a duty to protect children.
Administrators knew the counselor, Roselyn Hubbell, had a history of sexual misconduct but still hired her at Golden Valley High School, the court found.
The court also said that administrators are liable if they learn of an employee's sexual misconduct while the person is on the job and fail to take steps to adequately supervise, train or fire the employee.
A spokeswoman for the Hart Union district did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision came at a time when Los Angeles Unified School District faces dozens of lawsuits stemming from a sexual misconduct case at a south Los Angeles elementary school.
A former teacher was charged in January with 23 counts of lewdness for allegedly feeding his semen on cookies and spoons to students over a four-year period.
The lawsuits allege, among other claims, that the principal and other administrators were negligent because they did not take action against Mark Berndt despite complaints that date to the early 90s. Berndt has pleaded not guilty.
"This is a great victory for victims," said Martha Escutia, a lawyer who is representing nearly 20 students at Miramonte Elementary School. "It's a common sense decision."
Keeping Young Athletes Safe From Sexual Abuse
Danger lies with familiar people, not strangers, experts say
March 9, 2012
by Dennis Thompson
FRIDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who want to protect their kids from sexual abuse need to reassess the notion of "stranger danger" -- the belief that children should be on guard around strangers because they're most likely to be molested by someone unknown to them, experts say.
In truth, at least four of five cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone who knows the child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Parents need to get away from that mythology and deal with the reality [that] if it's going to happen, it's going to be someone within your circle," said Nancy McBride, national safety director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "It's going to be somebody you know. I know it's scary, but we need to come to grips with that."
That reality was underscored in the past year by allegations of child sexual abuse against assistant coaches at Penn State and Syracuse universities, who were accused of using their positions to manipulate their victims -- a scenario perhaps on the minds of parents and youngsters gearing up for spring and summer sports seasons and sports camps.
"The hardest idea for parents to embrace is that somebody in this position of trust and authority could be the ultimate betrayer of their children," McBride said. "A creepy weirdo is so much easier for us to understand because we can put that person in a separate category."
By understanding where the danger truly lies and by fostering a nurturing environment that promotes open communication, parents can best protect their children from sexual abuse, said McBride and Dr. Cindy Christian, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on child abuse and neglect.
"You need to develop lines of communication with your children starting at a very young age, creating a household where children feel supported even if they have to discuss a difficult issue," Christian said.
The two experts agreed that parents should be on guard against anyone who wants to spend an unusual amount of time with their children, particularly if the person makes promises or comes up with justifications.
"A coach says, 'Your child really has potential. I can bring it out in him or her but I'll need to spend more time with them,'" McBride said.
Another red flag is an adult who showers a child with gifts or spends lots of money on the child.
"If you're thinking to yourself, why is this person so nice to my kid, then it's time to start thinking about why that person is so nice to your kid," Christian said.
Trustworthy adults who work with children will not take offense at a parent's protectiveness. "Anybody who's on the up and up is going to welcome scrutiny," McBride said. "They're going to welcome a background check. Look for that openness."
Parents also can reduce their children's risk by becoming involved in activities that put their kids under the supervision of other adults. "The more involved the parent or guardian is, the better off everyone is," McBride said.
Children also need to feel free to speak to their parents about situations that made them feel scared or uncomfortable -- and that's where it's important to build trust and open communication.
As part of that, parents must first get over any reluctance to talk about private body parts with their children, Christian said.
"Frequently, parents are so afraid of bringing up issues of sexuality that they don't even give their very youngest children a name for the genitals," she said. "If you treat that part of the body like all other parts of the body, it begins to open a dialogue so children can talk about them."
By talking about these body parts, parents can then reinforce the notion that they are private. "One good approach is to tell your child that our private parts are the parts that are hidden under bathing suits," Christian said. "Children can understand that. Those are our private parts, and you aren't allowed to touch other people's private parts, and they aren't allowed to touch yours."
Events like those alleged at Penn State and Syracuse can provide a valuable opportunity to bring up the topic. With school-age children, Christian said, "parents should use these news items around the dinner table to begin discussions of safety and what children should do if they ever felt unsafe."
Once a dialogue has been opened, parents should discuss various situations that might indicate that a possible child molester is making advances. For example, a molester might offer candy or toys, offer money to run an errand, or take the child on special outings.
Children particularly need to be encouraged to come forward if a possible molester talks about some "special secret" they share, tries to make the child feel guilty or ashamed, or actually threatens to harm someone if the child talks to their parents.
"Children really shouldn't have many secrets, if at all, from their parents," Christian said. "It's OK to tell your parents about anything, especially if someone has told you not to talk to your parents about something."
When discussing these scenarios, the experts say it's important to walk through what the child should do in response.
"Remember that kids learn through modeling behavior and through practicing," McBride said. "Do some practice runs with them, using 'what if' scenarios. You've got to make sure your kids are getting it, and the only way to do that is through practice."
And to avoid scaring your child during these discussions, she said, be sure to answer their questions matter-of-factly and honestly.
"It's so important not to use fear as a motivator," McBride said. "If you're not enshrouding all this conversation in secrecy and mystery, you're in a position where they are more likely to come to you if somebody's done something to them that they are scared or confused about."
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has more on child sexual abuse.
Stop silence that perpetuates child sex abuse
by Bonnie Beneke, LCSW
It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before age 18; yet, only one in 10 of these victims will disclose his or her abuse.
It has been three months since the charges of child sexual abuse against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky stunned and changed the lives of so many forever. While there were many shocking aspects of this case, there is none greater than how many people apparently stood silent after being told a child had been sexually abused.
With this in mind, it is easy to see why nine of 10 victims of child sexual abuse choose not to come forward. According to the American Medical Association, this is a “silent epidemic.” It is plaguing our gymnasiums, classrooms, locker rooms, practice fields and living rooms, with 95 percent of child abuse victims knowing their perpetrators.
We can change that.
Today, the Tennessee Children's Advocacy Centers launch a new public awareness campaign — One with Courage — that challenges adults to acknowledge the reality of child sexual abuse.
Every day at the 47 Children's Advocacy Centers across the state, children summon the immense courage it takes to come forward and disclose abuses they have endured. On their behalf, the statewide coalition of child advocates and athletic, health-care, law enforcement, education and legislative community representatives supporting the campaign have stepped forward to say they are One with Courage.
From Nashville's athletic community — the Nashville Predators and Nashville RBI — to the Children's Hospital Alliance of Tennessee to the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference to the Tennessee Board of Regents, our campaign supporters have taken the simple step of visiting www.tncac.org/owc to learn the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse: short- and long-term emotional and physical consequences such as mood swings, erratic behavior, distrust of adults, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms, substance abuse, suicide and other indicators. They have committed to sharing that knowledge with teammates, friends, family, patients, colleagues and constituents.
That is all it takes. A commitment to be educated and a willingness to spread the word about One with Courage to the people and places that need it most: the people we entrust to spend time with our children and the places we feel safe leaving them.
For too long, secrecy, shame, hurt, confusion and denial have worked to create an environment in our field houses, homes and communities where those abusing children could live largely unnoticed and unchallenged.
Child sexual abuse is a difficult issue, but our message is a hopeful one. We can put an end to this “silent epidemic” by uniting together to acknowledge this issue, learn the signs of abuse and spread the word within our communities.
Are you one with courage?
One With Courage: http://www.onewithcourage.org/
Bonnie Beneke, LCSW, is executive director of the Tennessee chapter of Children's Advocacy Centers.
Assembly to review LAUSD's actions in sexual misconduct cases
by Barbara Jones, Staff Writer LA Daily News
A state Assembly committee voted unanimously Wednesday to launch a high-priority audit of how Los Angeles Unified handles sexual misconduct cases involving its workers.
The state Auditor's Office will comb through district files beginning next Wednesday in a review expected to take seven to nine months.
"They're going to look at existing policies and any possible regulations and how the district collaborates with law enforcement and its unions," said Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who requested the audit.
Superintendent John Deasy said earlier this week that he would welcome the review.
Lara represents the neighborhood around Miramonte Elementary School, where charges of misconduct against two teachers ignited a firestorm of criticism about the district's handling of abuse cases. Parents have alleged that the district ignored complaints about teacher misconduct or failed to notify them when such complaints were made.
Lara said auditors also plan to visit a half-dozen schools around the sprawling district to determine whether there are variations in how the district handles complaints or disciplines teachers.
In addition, Lara said, auditors will review state laws regarding teacher discipline and the role of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in keeping problem teachers out of classrooms.
"We want to see what, if any, roadblocks exist within the state that prevent us from protecting the safety of our children," he said.
District administrators last month launched a review of personnel files at school sites and LAUSD headquarters to determine whether complaints of misconduct were reported to the proper authorities.
That review has been hampered by a provision in the teachers contract that requires unproven allegations of misconduct to be pulled from active personnel files and archived separately.
Deasy also has asked former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno to head a panel that will conduct an inquiry similar to the state audit.
Accused molester kept at LAUSD despite clouded history
by Barbara Jones
A teacher charged with sexually abusing four children in LAUSD's unfolding misconduct scandal had been prosecuted 15 years earlier for molesting a young neighbor, but he was allowed to return to the classroom after the trial ended in a hung jury, according to documents and interviews.
After Paul Chapel III was reinstated following the investigation and sex-abuse trial in Simi Valley in the late 1990s, he was reassigned to Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, where he is now charged with molesting at least one student.
In addition, just months before Chapel was hired by Los Angeles Unified to teach elementary school in 1988, he was sued after he was was accused of making racial slurs and inappropriate sexual comments to a class at the private Chaminade High School, resulting in a $56,000 payout to settle the case.
Only now, with Chapel facing new molestation charges, are details of his past emerging from personnel files unearthed at LAUSD headquarters. Officials say his case exposes gaps in state law and the district's personnel practices, and raises new questions about how LAUSD handles teachers accused of misconduct.
"I am at my wit's end, I am beyond distressed," Superintendent John Deasy said in a phone interview this week from Washington, D.C., where he was meeting with federal education officials.
"Why are there processes in this state and this district that do not serve the students? There need to be wholesale adjustments to protect youth and adults."
Deasy last month ordered a top-to-bottom review of personnel files amid allegations of sexual abuse and employee misconduct at Miramonte Elementary, Telfair and other schools. But that task has been hampered by a provision in the teachers contract that requires unproven allegations of misconduct to be removed from active personnel files and placed in an "expired file" after four years.
Chapel's file was discovered in that expired archive just as the Daily News uncovered the same information through court documents and Public Records Act requests.
Deasy said he was outraged and sickened by what he found in Chapel's file.
Chapel first appears in LAUSD records on Feb. 10, 1982, working as a teacher's aide at an unspecified campus. This was midway through the five years he spent at California State University, Northridge, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1985.
Newly graduated, he was hired that fall to teach biology at Chaminade, a Catholic high school in West Hills.
There, during lessons on human sexuality, Chapel so offended two sisters from Lancaster that their father instructed them to keep notes on their teacher's behavior. From Dec. 18, 1986, through Jan. 15, 1987, the girls compiled a litany of comments and actions that formed the basis for a lawsuit filed in September 1987 against both Chapel and Chaminade.
According to the suit, the rookie teacher told dirty jokes to the coed class and talked about having sex with women who were menstruating. He riffed about the caloric content of semen and made vulgar comments as he played and replayed a video demonstrating ejaculation.
He also made disparaging remarks about blacks - the plaintiffs were African-American - and pulled his eyes tight when speaking about Asians, a gesture that "visibly devastated" a student of Chinese descent, the lawsuit said.
The suit said the sisters had to undergo psychological therapy as a result of Chapel's comments.
Both Chapel and Chaminade denied the allegations, according to court documents.
Nevertheless, they agreed to a settlement in July 1989 that paid each girl $28,000 to cover tuition and living expenses for four years at UCLA.
In approving the settlement, the court also suggested that Chaminade implement a policy mandating the immediate dismissal of any employee who uses "profanity, putdowns and racial or ethnic slurs."
Chapel left the school in 1987, but it is unclear whether he resigned or was terminated.
Officials with Chaminade did not return phone calls.
Armed with a state teaching credential issued in October 1987 - a month after the lawsuit was filed - Chapel was hired by LAUSD in April 1988 and assigned to Andasol Elementary in Northridge.
Deasy said there was nothing in Chapel's hiring packet to indicate that Chaminade had alerted LAUSD to the complaints or lawsuit against Chapel.
Officials with the California Credentialing Commission said private schools like Chaminade are not required to report teacher misconduct, and the licensing agency does not have the authority to investigate a teacher based on a civil complaint.
However, applicants for a credential must answer questions, under penalty of perjury, about their past employment and any investigations, charges or convictions. State officials said they could not discuss details of Chapel's application.
Chapel experienced no problems at Andasol, officials said. In fact, the principal at the time later told authorities "he was a good teacher and the kids love him."
On Feb. 9, 1997, Chapel was accused of molesting a friend of his 12-year-old adopted son during a sleepover at the teacher's four-bedroom home on Potter Avenue in Simi Valley.
According to a complaint filed with the Simi Valley Police Department, the 8-year-old boy ran home just after midnight. Frightened and embarrassed, he told his parents that he had awakened to find Chapel's "mouth on his private parts."
The parents contacted police after the youngster provided enough detail to convince them he wasn't mistaken or just dreaming.
Simi Valley Detective David Del Marto, who interviewed the youngster, on Tuesday recalled him as a "tough kid" who "did a good job" in telling authorities about his experience that night.
The boy's statement to detectives was redacted from the police report, which was obtained under the state's Public Records Act.
Chapel was arrested Feb. 27, 1997, and jailed on $20,000 bail. That same day, the district "housed" Chapel - reassigning him from the classroom to an administrative office - and the state suspended his teaching credential.
On March 3, the neighbor boy's mother took out a restraining order against Chapel.
Ventura County prosecutors charged Chapel with a single count of performing a lewd act upon a child with a special allegation of substantial sexual conduct.
The case went to trial on April 12, 1998. Prosecutors based their case on testimony from the boy and on DNA evidence - saliva samples taken from the youngsters's underwear - which they said proved sexual contact.
But jurors weren't convinced, and on April 30 they told the court they were hopelessly deadlocked, 7-5 in favor of acquittal.
"The DNA technology and evidence available at the time was inconclusive," said Miles Weiss, a senior deputy district attorney for Ventura County. "The results did not substantiate the allegations, which can cause significant hurdles for the jury.
Given the "dramatic split" among jurors, Weiss said, prosecutors doubted they could win a conviction during a retrial and so the charges were dismissed on Aug. 24, 1998.
Since Chapel was not convicted, the state reinstated his credential on Sept. 15, 1998. Following the state's lead, the district lifted Chapel's suspension on Sept. 22, and he was allowed back in the classroom. He reported to work on Oct. 9, 1998, teaching third-grade at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima.
An 18-year-old Pacoima woman who had Chapel as her third-grade teacher remembered him as overtly affectionate. And when she mentioned it to her mother, she was simply told to steer clear of the teacher.
"I remember he used to tell me and the other girls to sit on his lap, and sometimes he'd kiss us on the mouth," said the woman, who asked not be identified. "I never thought about telling anybody because I didn't think it was wrong."
But this past fall, a child came forward with allegations of misconduct. The Los Angeles Police Department investigated and identified four alleged victims, at least one of whom was a Telfair student.
On Oct. 8, Chapel was arrested on a 16-count criminal complaint that includes charges of continual sexual abuse and committing lewd acts against three girls and one boy, all under age 14, between Sept. 13, 2010, and April 15, 2011.
He remains jailed on $2.2 million bail in a cell block at Twin Towers that is reserved for suspects who may need protection from other inmates.
Chapel's attorney, Jeff Weiss, has refused to comment about the case.
Chapel has pleaded not guilty, and a preliminary hearing has not yet been set to determine whether there is enough evidence to try the case. Deasy said he's not waiting for the justice system and has already taken steps to fire Chapel.
"In the year since I've been here, I've summarily dismissed 850 teachers," Deasy said. "There doesn't need to be criminal misconduct to say a teacher shouldn't be in front of children. You can be fired for not knowing how to teach algebra. You can be fired for incompetence or on grounds of moral turpitude."
The Miramonte scandal, in which a teacher is accused of blindfolding children and spoon feeding them his semen in a "tasting game," has sparked an outcry from parents, educators, district officials and legislators demanding changes in existing law to better protect children and increase the accountability of public agencies.
Deasy wants to immediately eliminate the four-year limit on keeping unsubstantiated misconduct complaints in personnel files, a proposal that United Teachers Los Angeles says it is open to discussing.
Assemblyman Richard Lara, D-South Gate, wants a legislative audit of the LAUSD's handling of sex-abuse cases, a suggestion that Deasy supports.
Tamar Galatzan - who is in the unique position of being a school board member, an LAUSD parent and a career prosecutor - wants the Legislature to change state law so school districts can more easily fire undesirable teachers.
"Under rules in place right now, the district has people `housed' that we don't feel comfortable returning to classroom but under current state law, we can't fire them. What are we supposed to do with those people?" Galatzan asked.
Board member Nury Martinez wants greater accountability in dealing with LAUSD employees.
Her district includes Telfair Elementary, and she has been dealing with the fallout from the current allegations against Chapel. Although he was arrested last fall, the district didn't notify parents until mid-February - and only after it was reported in the Daily News.
"I'm very upset about the racial and sexual allegations in the Chaminade case," she said. "What is the district's process for looking into (applicants') pasts? And how was Chapel able to get a credential with the settlement for a civil lawsuit?
"What do we tell the parents? They've lost faith in the district and I don't know how we reinstate that trust."
Proposed S.C. child abuse law called too soft
by Gene Sapakoff
When Citadel officials heard in 2007 that former camp counselor Louis "Skip" ReVille lured boys into his dorm room with the promise of Chinese food, then showed them pornographic movies, they were not legally obligated to inform police.
It's just as easy for car-pool drivers or youth-league coaches to withhold signs of child abuse or neglect. Even if bruises and suspicious stories cry for action.
Pending South Carolina legislation has the momentum to change that, but can't help the boys the jailed ReVille is charged with molesting - and doesn't do nearly enough, said leading Lowcountry child abuse prevention advocates.
State Sen. Mike Rose wants to expand the state's mandatory reporter law to include everyone over 18. Senate Bill 1054 last week passed 36-0 on its second reading.
"We need to err on the side of protecting the children," Rose said Wednesday.
Gov. Nikki Haley agreed.
"Sexual abuse will not be tolerated in South Carolina and the governor supports efforts to stop it," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said. "She appreciates Senator Rose's leadership on the issue."
Mandatory reporter laws differ among states but typically require teachers, nurses and clergy, among others, to tell authorities about child abuse or neglect.
After announcing Tuesday that a grand jury had indicted ReVille on 22 counts, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said South Carolina's reporting statute should be expanded to include coaches.
ReVille had various coaching jobs after he graduated from The Citadel in 2002 until his arrest in October, and few of the positions required ReVille or his supervisors to report signs of abuse.
Jolie Logan of Darkness to Light said reporting laws alone do not "fix the problem."
"I am excited that legislators are interested in helping," said Logan, chief executive officer of the Charleston-based child abuse prevention organization. "But we need to stop the abuse or we will be forever fighting the problem. Education will have to accompany law changes."
The Rose bill does not impose a penalty for failure to report.
"If it did, it wouldn't pass the Senate," Rose said. "But at least people will know there is a legal duty to report."
Libby Ralston, director emeritus of the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center, said the bill "lacks teeth."
"Universal reporting with no consequences is more an invitation than a requirement, and that dilutes the whole purpose," Ralston said. "I see a mandating reporting bill as something that makes a statement more than solves a problem. But I do agree with (Wilson) that coaches should be reporters."
Coaches came into the muddled mandatory reporting law cross hairs in Pennsylvania last fall when it was reported that Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary did not go to police after allegedly seeing former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky rape a boy in a campus shower room.
Teachers already are mandatory reporters, but the lines might blur when a teacher is out of the classroom and working as a coach. Many schools or school districts allow paid non-teachers or volunteers to serve as coaches.
ReVille, while the head coach of a Moultrie Middle School basketball team, was not a Charleston County School District employee but instead was hired by an outside organization that runs middle school basketball programs.
Mom in child abuse case gets to see kids
by Andrew Bottrell
The North Platte mother who is charged with putting her children in a dog kennel at night has been granted visitation rights to see her children.
Ashly Clark, 22, of North Platte, is charged in Lincoln County District Court with two counts of felony child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment, along with three other individuals, in an October incident where police found Clark's two children, ages 3 and 5, sleeping in a wired-shut dog kennel.
Clark posted bond on Feb. 8, paying 10 percent of $25,000, and at the time requested rights to see her children. Tuesday, Judge Michael Piccolo granted her three supervised visits per week. A Department of Health and Human Services employee must be present during the visits.
Clark, along with Bryson and Samantha Eyten and Lacy Beyer, are charged in the Oct. 24 case. All four pleaded not guilty in December, and the cases have been continued several times since then.
The Eytens bonded out in December from the Lincoln County Detention Center, and Beyer bonded out on the same day as Clark.
On Oct. 24, 2011, North Platte police officers were called to a home at 2421 East E. Street on a welfare check. According to a press release from the police department at the time, and found the two children in the kennel.
They also found the Eyten's children, ages 8 and 8 months, in what they called "highly unsanitary and unsafe conditions."
Okla. House passes human trafficking measure
by Jessica Johnson
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Legislation designed to help protect sex trafficking victims has been approved by the Oklahoma House.
The measure by Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City passed 93-0 Wednesday. It expands the definition of human trafficking to include recruiting, harboring and transporting a minor for purposes of prostitution.
Lawmakers approved the measure just days after Oklahoma City police intervened on behalf of a 15-year-old girl who allegedly was soliciting prostitution on the city's south side. Authorities are working to identify the individuals who exploited the girl.
The bill also prohibits claiming a minor's consent as a defense. Sex traffickers often target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and use violence, threats and other forms of control to keep them involved in the sex industry.
The bill will be considered by the Senate.
Statewide system for reporting child abuse takes effect now
The Michigan Department of Human Services this week launched a new statewide program for reporting abuse and neglect complaints involving both children and adults.
Central Intake replaces the former system in which calls would go to individual DHS county offices. In the new program, one toll-free number, (855) 444-3911 is available to everyone, including mandatory reporters (teachers, physicians, law enforcement, etc.) and the general public. The number is answered quickly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including holidays) by trained professionals at the new Central Intake call center in Kent County, where a successful six-county pilot program has been running since September 2011.
The new system provides improvements over the previous one, especially with consistency and efficiency. In addition to using the latest technology, complaints involving child abuse or neglect will receive an immediate decision on investigation, no matter the time of day (or night), before being directly referred to county Child Protective Services staff. Complaints involving abuse or neglect of adults will be documented by intake staff and referred to counties for an investigation decision.
“Central Intake marks an important step forward in our continuing effort to protect the abused and neglected, both children and adults,” said DHS Director Maura Corrigan. “But the months of planning, the pilot program and all of the hard work leading up to launch day are just the beginning. We know this important program will help us do an even better job of safeguarding Michigan's most vulnerable citizens.”
DHS is also using an aggressive publicity campaign, One Number, One Call, One Person CAN Make a Difference, to ensure everyone in Michigan is aware of the new number, with spots running on every broadcast station statewide.
For more information on the Department of Human Services, visit www.michigan.gov/dhs
NYS DAs urge child abuse prevention funding
NEW YORK — Seven New York district attorneys have written an editorial urging state lawmakers to make funding of child abuse prevention programs a top priority.
The Daily News (http://nydn.us/x1OVqU) editorial is written by the district attorneys in New York City and Onondaga and Monroe counties.
Of all the type of crimes they prosecute, the DAs said child abuse is the "most heartbreaking type of case" they handle.
Citing 2010 data, the attorneys said 77,000 children were abused or neglected in New York State.
They said they strongly support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's request, made before a state budget hearing, for $5 million for the Nurse Family Partnership Program. They said the program saves taxpayers' money over the course of a child's life with fewer hospitalizations and by avoiding costly incarceration years later.
Sexual abuse, and LAUSD's overreaction
L.A. school officials and parents are understandably wary after allegations of sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary. But some new policies are just overreactions.
March 6, 2012
The allegations of sexual molestation involving two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School have rightly rocked the Los Angeles Unified School District. Now that the alarm has been raised and the need to watch for and report suspicious behavior is better understood, more reports have arisen at other schools of possible abuses. And though it was an extreme move, we also supported the shifting and temporary replacement of the entire staff of Miramonte until the investigation has been completed, to ensure that students are protected.
But now the district is banning innocent activities that have nothing to do with sex abuse but happen to raise memories of the reported misdeeds at Miramonte. Specifically, teachers cannot blindfold students for any reason — even though the curriculum calls for doing just that as part of an exercise in understanding and using all of one's senses. Why is blindfolding being banned? Because Mark Berndt faces charges of lewd conduct for allegedly feeding children his semen while they were blindfolded.
In addition, a substitute teacher has been told that he no longer can teach children to make their own butter in class and then taste it on crackers. Again, this is because Berndt is accused of feeding at least one student a semen-tainted cookie.
School officials and parents are understandably a little jumpy about activities that might call such awful scenes to mind. But the school district isn't doing a thing to protect its students by banning blindfolds and butter. If the allegations about Berndt are true, he thought up a novel method by which he could mistreat students while minimizing the chances that they would complain. In the future, molesters will invent entirely different ways of accomplishing their goals. Overreacting to the last event gives the illusion of protection while actually leaving children vulnerable to new threats.
But maybe protecting children wasn't the chief concern. Maybe officials were more worried about how these lessons would be perceived, and that such activities, coming so soon after Berndt was arrested, would raise concerns. They might. This would be the perfect time for the district to educate parents about what types of behaviors they ought to be concerned about — butter on crackers wouldn't generally be among those — and, just as important, how to make sure district officials are taking their complaints seriously when something really is amiss.
Could school go on without blindfolds? Without butter-making projects? Of course. It also could continue without a sobbing elementary school student ever getting a reassuring hug from a teacher, another thing teachers are being instructed to avoid in the wake of Miramonte. But each time schools overreact and restrict more classroom activities, the learning process is made a little colder and a little more colorless.
CPS Investigator Charged With Sexual Assault of Child
Case does not involve child in CPS care, police say
by Scott Gordon
A state worker whose job was to investigate allegations of child abuse was arrested on a charge of sexual abuse of a child, police said.
Nicholas Santos, 34, of Cedar Hill, was being held in the Dallas County jail on a $10,000 bond, records show.
Santos had been an investigator for Texas Child Protective Services since March 2006, said CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales.
The alleged assault was not related to Santos' work at CPS, said Cedar Hill police Lt. Steve Lafferty. He declined to elaborate on the charge and said the arrest warrant is sealed.
CPS is a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
People who live near Santos' house in a quiet Cedar hill neighborhood seem stunned.
"It's shocking to hear that," said Elonda Montgomery. "He's a quiet guy."
"I'm just at a loss for words," added neighbor Tanjla Starks. "You know, me having a 5-year-old who loves to be outside, that's very scary."
A man who identified himself as Santos' roommate said police arrested Santos on Friday and seized his home computer.
CPS suspended Santos after his arrest, Gonzales said.
"We are conducting an internal investigation," Gonzales wrote in an e-mail. "If we determine that these criminal charges are true, he will be fired immediately. There is no place in Child Protective Services for employees who betray the public's trust or who take advantage of young people we are supposed to protect."
Former youth coach indicted for serial sex abuse of boys
by Harriet McLeod
A former South Carolina school principal and youth coach was indicted Tuesday on 22 counts of sexually molesting boys, including some at a military college summer camp, five years after the college investigated the man but took no action.The indictment was the latest of a string of sex abuse accusations involving university or youth coaches across the country since November.
A grand jury indicted Louis “Skip” ReVille for molesting and showing obscene materials to 15 boys in Charleston County , South Carolina , Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced on Tuesday.
The 22 counts include criminal sexual conduct with a child, lewd acts on a child, and disseminating obscene material.
ReVille was arrested last October on child sex charges in Mount Pleasant , South Carolina where he was a school principal. He had also worked as a children's sports coach at several schools and community recreation centers, police said.
“As you can see with the number of victims that were involved, the number of activities that were involved, this has been an intense investigation,” Wilson said at a news conference.
ReVille's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ReVille's case first drew national attention when The Citadel announced shortly after the Penn State University sex abuse scandal erupted in November, that it had erred in failing to tell police about the allegations against ReVille in 2007.
Among other sex abuse cases, a grand jury in November indicted a former Penn State football coach for serial sexual abuse of boys. A former Syracuse University basketball coach was accused of sexually abusing ballboys, and the former president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was accused of abusing youth basketball players years ago.
All of the coaches have declared their innocence.
In 2007, a former Citadel summer camper said that five years earlier, when he was 14, ReVille invited him and another camper to his room, showed them pornography on his computer, and they masturbated.
ReVille, a graduate of The Citadel , worked as a counselor at the school's camp for three summers between 2001 and 2003.
The Citadel released documents on its internal investigation and the college's president expressed regret that school officials had not reported the allegations to police.
“I am saddened and sickened that someone so close has betrayed our trust,” Citadel President John W. Rosa told a news conference in November.
Wilson said Tuesday that The Citadel had no legal obligation to report the suspected inappropriate behavior and that its officials would not be charged with failure to report it.
“ The Citadel is encouraged by the progress that's been made in the investigation and it will continue to cooperate completely in any ongoing investigation,” Dawes Cooke , attorney for the college, said on Tuesday.
In 2006, the school paid a $3.8 million judgment in a civil suit filed by five former campers who said they were sexually assaulted by Marine officer and camp counselor Michael Arpaio . Arpaio was court-martialed for the crimes by the U.S. Marine Corps and served time in Charleston ‘s Navy Brig.
State DCF Revises Response to Child Abuse Reports
The state Department of Children and Families will now respond to low- and medium risk reports with a family assessment instead of an investigation.
by Chandra Johnson Greene
As a part of a new initiative, the state Department of Children and Families announced Monday that it is changing to way it responds to reports of children being abused or neglected, according to the Associated Press.
Instead of performing investigations for all reports of abuse, the department will categorize each case as "low," "medium" or "high" risk and respond accordingly. For reports that are considered "low" or "medium" risk, the department will perform an assessment of the family to connect them with community resources. For "high" risk cases, the department will respond with an investigation.
Reports such as a child going without a coat during the winter will be considered "low" risk, while reports of physical or sexual abuse are considered "high" risk.
DCF recently received a $3.2 million federal grant to improve the way the agency, community-based clinics and social workers statewide handle children affected by abuse in all its forms.
L.A. schools chief backs child sex-abuse audit
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said Monday he would support a state audit of the school system's handling of child sexual-abuse cases.
Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) is planning to push this week for the audit.
“The district supports any audit from government agencies that seeks to strengthen laws to protect children,” said Deasy in a statement. “Parents need to know that their children are safe in school.”
The audit request is the latest fallout from the case of former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct against students. He is accused of spoon-feeding his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he allegedly described as a tasting game.
Deasy added that he'd want an inquiry to focus as well on state laws that make it more difficult to “dismiss employees proven to have engaged in sexual misconduct.”
The superintendent also said the district is at work to revise internal rules on how to report alleged sexual misconduct to parents. At a number of campuses, parents have complained that they were left in the dark for too long about allegations or even criminal charges against teachers.
An improved process for providing information to parents will be unveiled before the March 13 Board of Education meeting.
Lara chairs the Legislature's audit committee, which is expected to meet this week to vote on his request for an inquiry. Lara said he expects the request to be approved and intends to make the audit the committee's top priority.
“We need to have an independent eye overseeing the safety of kids,” Lara said.
Humans for Sale: Human trafficking in Lincoln, Day 1
by Dan Holtmeyer
A police officer casually dressed, but for the shining silver badge hanging from her neck, walked into the nearly empty Lincoln Police Department on a November evening. She will remain unnamed because of her work undercover, first in prostitution, now in narcotics.
One evening about five years ago, she said, a man walked up to her on a sidewalk near downtown. "Hey, what's up?" he asked, striking apparently normal conversation. But a few minutes later, the officer said, the man turned to her and made his intentions chillingly clear.
"You work for me now," she remembered him saying. "You don't go anywhere without me."
Within two minutes, the man found her a customer and a price: $20.
"It's a job," the officer said with a laugh, deflecting any idea of personal bravery by pointing to her fellow officers nearby. "I just rely on everyone else."
Nonetheless, just like that, she'd found herself taking the first footsteps of a human trafficking victim. And it doesn't appear to be all that unusual in Lincoln.
"It's crazy. It's a lot of money and a lot of victims," the officer said, recalling her interviews with women arrested for selling sex. Escort services, online ads, massages for one hour, oral sex for a few bucks. They're all ready and waiting, some on the street, more on the Internet. She had to laugh mirthlessly when asked why — when just a Google search away — these "services" haven't been shut down.
"There's so many of them," she said simply.
* * *
Recruiting, transporting or harboring a person for exploitation by force, coercion or other means is human trafficking — a crime — as defined by the United Nations. It can include sex trafficking, the celebrity of this underground world, but also agriculture, domestic labor and construction trafficking.
Worldwide, most nonprofit organizations estimate this system has spirited 27 million people, if not more, across countries and their borders.
Experts, federal agents and law enforcement officials differ on some matters of response and priority, but all agreed on two things:
First, human trafficking — and its twin, modern-day slavery — is a growing, multibillion , international industry, one that extends into nearly every town on the globe, including the capital city of Nebraska.
"It is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world," Weysan Dun, a special agent in the FBI's Innocence Lost program branch in Omaha, which focuses on child sexual exploitation, told the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's third annual Human Trafficking Conference late last September. "Clearly it's big business."
Second, most citizens are unaware of the problem or its local reach. Even the people working with potential and past victims of trafficking are unsure of how big of a problem trafficking is overall, much less here.
The term "human trafficking" is about a decade old, and the research to go with it is just beginning to accumulate. On top of that, the market for people doesn't want to be found.
"Who's willing to tell you?" asked the female officer. "How are you going to dig into that unless someone comes forward?"
The only thing certain, officials have said, is that human trafficking is here. According to Free the Slaves, an international non-profit based in Washington, D.C ., the U.S . is mainly a receiver of human traffic, with tens of thousands of fresh victims each year about evenly split between labor and sex work, though the line between the two is easily crossed.
"There's no one that's immune to this," said Anna Brewer, head of the FBI's Lost Innocence Task Force in Omaha, which focuses on child sex trafficking. She spoke to a nearly full auditorium in the Nebraska Union after a screening of a documentary on stateside trafficking.
"People want to turn a blind eye to it in the Midwest," Brewer said with frustration, mentioning several local towns as hot spots. "Stop putting your head in the sand."
Labor, Agriculture and Trafficking
Immigrants coming for agricultural work in states like Nebraska are highly vulnerable to traffickers, especially if they're undocumented, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project, which focuses on national policy and law applicable to trafficking. The victims can be forced to work in exchange for passage, for example, and the debt can take years for immigrants to pay off, if they ever do.
Tom Casady, Lincoln's public safety director and former chief of police, referred to this arrangement as "indentured servitude." Throw in a common distrust of law enforcement and unfamiliarity with English, and immigrants and refugees — documented and undocumented alike — can become prized targets for traffickers.
The interstate that passes north of Lincoln from San Francisco to Chicago and New York City, I-80, is an ideal conduit for bringing labor trafficking to Lincoln as well, Casady said, but the labor side of the equation appears to be relatively minor.
"The biggie for us here in Lincoln is the sex trafficking we see," he said.
The Problem of Prostitution
The Lincoln neighborhood where the female officer was claimed, located around the area of 13th and E streets, had a huge problem with prostitution about five years ago, Casady said.
"(The neighborhood's inhabitants) were seeing transactions on the street," he said. In fact, he met the prostitution problem firsthand after leaving a meeting with the neighborhood association about it.
"We left that meeting and I was solicited by a woman as I left," Casady said incredulously. She walked over to his car before realizing he was an officer, but Casady said he wasn't quick enough on his feet to react. "The first 25 years of my career, I'd never seen a street-level prostitute, and, out of nowhere: boom."
Prostitution is illegal in Nebraska, and many would say the practice is morally problematic. But it's often called a "victimless crime," an agreement between consenting adults, not coercive exploitation like human trafficking.
"Some policy-makers and advocates have been misled by these unreliable estimates into the belief that human trafficking and sex work are inextricably linked and that all sex work is coerced," the New York-based Sex Workers Project says in its online press kit. "The reality is very different."
Here in Lincoln, the picture isn't as clear as the Project claims.
A Blurred Line
There was little question among law enforcement, mental health and other professionals that prostituted people often made a conscious decision to turn to sex work, pushed by drug addiction, poverty or other socioeconomic factors. These social factors are also common to global human trafficking and blur the line between coercion and choice.
"The vast, vast majority of the women involved were addicted to crack cocaine," Mike Bassett, a former LPD sergeant who's now a police officer in Colorado, said by phone. Bassett was one of the officers in charge of the effort countering the Lincoln neighborhood's prostitution surge several years ago.
Bassett said the split was about 50-50 between women with a pimp and those on their own when he was working in Lincoln. But to him, sex work was exploitation, pure and simple.
Pimps, customers, drug dealers who decide to branch out — all see the person as a commodity, he said. And unlike other commodities, a person can be made available again and again.
Women who sell sex might say they're taking back control of their bodies, but the decision's only worth it because of demand from men, said Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, in an interview after a crowded October lecture at Wesleyan University. Poverty also is more likely to affect women, maintaining a powerful and gendered inequality, she added.
"Prostitution is commercial sexual exploitation," Ramos said bluntly. "Sex trafficking is facilitated prostitution."
Further, according to the U.S . Justice Department, the average age of entry into prostitution work is about 13 years for both boys and girls. These children often run — or are thrown — away from dysfunctional homes and lured by traffickers who promise safety and comfort.
Such underage sex work automatically qualifies as human trafficking.
Donna Akers , an associate history professor at UNL , described this world in the Daily Nebraskan in September 2009. That month she wrote about a girl who claimed to be 15 but was actually 12, lived on the streets in Omaha and survived by having sex with men for money.
"If you were a 12-year-old girl on the streets, exactly where would you go for work that paid enough to feed, house and clothe yourself — or for any work at all for that matter?" Akers wrote. "What would your ‘choices' be?"
Humans for Sale: Human trafficking in Lincoln, Day 2
by Dan Holtmeyer
One day about a year ago, a 19-year-old woman living with her mother in Lincoln came home bruised and wouldn't tell her mother why.
After discovering advertisements for sex with her daughter online, the mother went to a pastor in her church, someone she knew who'd worked with human trafficking.
The pastor was Al Riskowski , executive director of the Lincoln-based Nebraska Family Council. The Christian organization lists trafficking among its priority issues.
He told this story in a Nebraska Legislature Judiciary Committee hearing last December, a meeting called by Sen. Amanda McGill to give the members a crash course in human trafficking, the global trade of exploited people.
In a later interview, Riskowski said a man had picked the young woman up with promises of work in the career of her dreams: music. The man had another job in mind for her and threatened to treat her mother the same way if she talked. Both tactics are reported by human trafficking victims around the world.
The girl has since been rescued and moved out of state. But she also said she wasn't alone, Riskowski said.
"She claims there are six other girls being held by this gentleman in Lincoln," he told the committee.
The girl's story illustrates one common trend for sex trafficking: It's increasingly online.
"Frankly, the Internet has taken over the business," Tom Casady, Lincoln's public safety director and former police chief, told the Judiciary Committee in the same hearing. "I think we've barely scratched the surface with that."
Accordingly, much of Lincoln police's undercover work in this area has been done online, according to an interview with a Lincoln police officer last November. She worked undercover while seeking out prostitution, either by contacting those who advertise sexual services or by creating fake ads. She will therefore remain unnamed.
Calls would soon come in whenever she did the latter, the officer said, including one from a man who specifically asked if she had a daughter who'd come along.
"Unfortunately, I never got to meet him," she said — he hung up. The officer was sure the man called others as well.
Escort services, strip clubs, sensual massage, even cleaning service ads can hint at sex on the side, the officer said, through the use of what she called "code language" and innuendo.
Escort services in particular are more likely to move their workers from city to city, she said, edging uncomfortably close to trafficking.
A quick check of backpage.com, a sort of Craigslist rival, is enough to confirm that. "Cassy at your service! Here for the holidays," read one advertisement at the end of last year on the page for "escorts" in Lincoln. "Just arrived from Cali," called out another.
None explicitly mentioned sex, but everyone interviewed agreed they didn't have to.
"Escort services are fronts for erotic dancers, belly dancers, erotic massages and prostitution," Casady told the Judiciary Committee. They become fronts of human trafficking when force, fraud or coercion enter the mix.
Movement of sex workers into town likely shows a seasonal pattern. The College World Series, for example, brings its own surge of sex work from Chicago and other cities, according to Anna Brewer, head of the Omaha FBI's Innocence Lost Task Force against child sex trafficking. Reports from around the world indicate a larger draw to events like soccer's World Cup. The LPD officer said the force hadn't looked into Husker football having a similar effect.
The Streets' Secrets
The young woman found by Riskowski was fortunate in one respect: She had a home. Several experts and advocacy groups point to homelessness as a major factor in trafficking, both into and within the U.S .
The Lincoln Public School system includes about 100 homeless kids, said Tom Barber, executive director of People's City Mission, Lincoln's primary homeless shelter. By working to get those kids off the street, Barber said, he's also drying up a potential supply of trafficking victims.
"As you get to know the streets, sometimes the streets share with you what's happening," Barber said. "If you were a human trafficker and you were recruiting, where would you go?" he asked.
Not Asia, he answered, but down the street. Domestic abuse, he said, is the most common cause of homelessness in Lincoln.
The female police officer, who remains unnamed because of her undercover work, said she'd had undercover training in Kansas City and in Las Vegas, where some officers had discovered a high school sex ring — students sold by students.
"I guarantee that the high schools here have that going on," the officer said.
If it begins fairly early in life, victims can also get stuck in a rut.
"The only thing she's good for is providing sex for someone," said Bobbie Carter, a counselor coordinator with short gray hair at St. Monica's , a behavioral health treatment and home near 70th and O streets.
The clinic's clients are women and tend to come from lower socioeconomic levels and legal trouble, including a background in prostitution.
"I don't put much (stock) in it," Carter said in an interview in her office, referring to the argument that prostitution was victimless and willing. When she heard the average entry age is 13, Carter nodded her head in agreement and said, "Yeah, that'd probably be about right."
"No one's come in and said, ‘I'm a victim of human trafficking," she said, but many have traded in sex to feed an addiction or simply survive. Many refer to it as recent instead of ongoing, or call their john or pimp a boyfriend.
From the few who venture into their past, Carter has heard about domestic abuse, family members acting as pimps, "horrendous sex abuse" and a small sex ring. She's encountered them all, Carter said.
She and other experts interviewed agreed. Victims can be anyone, 18 to 50s , white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American, though some news reports indicate Native Americans have a more pervasive trafficking problem in the Midwest.
"They got positive — what they thought was positive — attention," Carter said.
Emotional and economic dependency between trafficker and victim is a control tactic commonly reported by those who study trafficking around the world.
Along with drug problems are psychological problems. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression almost always came up in various interviews as consequences of prostitution.
Both bring suicide into the picture as well.
‘We want to be part of the change'
Energy appears to be growing among Nebraskan lawmakers to do something about this problem. The Judiciary Committee hearing, which included local law enforcement and experts, was meant to explore possible ideas to address it. Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln, a member of the committee, sponsored the hearing and said in an interview women's safety was an issue "near and dear" to her.
Nebraska was recently given a failing grade by Shared Hope International, a trafficking victim advocacy group based in Washington state, for its laws covering the problem. The Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, has made Nebraska a priority state for this year.
McGill recently introduced two bills to change that. She said one of them, LB 1145, is based on guidelines from the Polaris Project that stress a coordinated, comprehensive community response to trafficking and protection and services for victims.
Along those lines, LB 1145 would include training for law enforcement on how to deal with prostituted women, posting information on the national human trafficking hotline at highway stops and more options for women convicted of prostitution. The bill also provides for a commission to study the issue within the state.
The Judiciary Committee has made LB 1145 its priority bill for the session, increasing the odds of its passing.
"We are creating a tremendous amount of momentum," Riskowski said late last year. "I'm very hopeful we'll begin to see things move forward in our state."
Nebraska University Students Against Modern-Day Slavery, with a chapter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is meeting with McGill Tuesday afternoon to discuss the legislation.
Sriyani Tidball , an advertising professor who supervises NUSAMS, said Monday that the Polaris Project is also holding a meeting with McGill and other local activists and experts next week.
"Everybody's talking about it," Tidball said, noting heightened interest among students even beyond her college. "There's kind of a buzz going. People are saying we want to be part of the change."
Human Trafficking Statistics and Information
In the average year:
800,000 people are trafficked across international borders (as of 2007)
Between 14,000 and 17,000 are trafficked in or out of the United States
80 percent are women or girls
$32 billion yearly profits worldwide
Sources: Polaris Project, FBI
Sex Trafficking Victims in Lincoln
Race: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American
Age: From teens to 50s or 60s
Why sex work: Can include poverty, drug addiction, domestic or other abuse, homelessness, fraud or coercion or choice
Where they are: Largely online, though street prostitution still exists
Sources: Compiled from interviews with local law enforcement, mental health and nonprofit personnel
Sex Trafficking Customers in Lincoln
Race: Likely all races
Age: Wider range than the victims, from 70s or 80s to minors
Occupation: No pattern. Highest demand is during the workday.
Family life: Frequently married
Why: Typically lack concern for the women.
Sources: Compiled from interviews with law enforcement, mental health and nonprofit personnel
Weak laws pave way for child sexual abuse
Workers can skirt background checks; lawmakers ignored warnings for decades
by Michael LaForgia
By bedtime it already was too late for the boy. The lights blinked out and the camp counselor, a predator, lay down at his feet . Curled up in the dark, he was ready to attack.
Getting here was all too easy for James Roy Melton Jr. When the convicted child molester volunteered at this Palm City church summer camp, nobody stood in his way.
Not the church. It welcomed the tall, rangy 34-year-old as its newest youth chaperone without screening his background.
And not the state of Florida. For 30 years, lawmakers have passed measures to protect kids in child-care centers while ignoring harm at the hands of summer camp workers.
Florida camps are completely unregulated. Nobody knows how many operate here. Nobody checks up on the people who run them.
As a result, children have suffered profound harm, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.
That's what happened on this night in the summer of 1997. Melton, who 10 years earlier had admitted raping as many as 12 children, lay down among boys in Palm City. The kids fell asleep. He pulled down one 14-year-old's shorts and molested him.
Convicted again in the Palm City attack, Melton was sentenced to 30 years. He still is in prison .
But, across Florida, the dangers for children remain.
The state's system of safeguarding kids in child-care centers relies on licensing. State regulators inspect day cares and other licensed businesses to ensure employees are thoroughly screened. There are no such requirements for camps.
That means molesters like Melton, along with violent criminals or the severely mentally ill, can sign on — and have signed on — as camp counselors statewide.
In a six-month reporting effort, The Post compared millions of corporate filings with records of criminal convictions; pored over tens of thousands of pages of court documents, police reports and news clippings; and conducted dozens of interviews. In coming days, the newspaper will lay out its findings in a series of stories. Among the key points:
Kids have been harmed.
They have been sexually molested in instances of preventable abuse.
And cases of harm — preventable or otherwise — happen regularly in Florida summer camps. Since 2000, at least 50 children have been victimized in summer programs, or abused by workers the kids first encountered at camp organizations.
Because child sexual abuse often goes unreported — one estimate puts the reporting rate at one in 20 cases — that figure likely under-represents the number of victims statewide.
Many more kids are at risk.
All 50 states consider child molesters and other sex offenders so dangerous that the government tracks their movements, but nothing stops them from working in Florida camps. More than a few got jobs in summer programs.
In scores of other cases, rapists, murderers and other violent criminals have led organizations that often run camps. Roughly 170 church or neighborhood youth programs have been operated by felons statewide, including more than two dozen businesses led by child molesters or other sex offenders.
The groups are disproportionately clustered around the state's poorest neighborhoods.
Lawmakers have known for years.
Since the mid-1980s, legislators have been warned repeatedly of dangers in camps. Even so, they have taken virtually no steps to protect kids.
Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said The Post has identified a significant problem.
“I think people should pay attention to it,” Dritt said. “And our legislature should pay attention to it.”
Florida is one of six states that don't license camps in some form.
Its population of 19 million dwarfs the others on the list: North Carolina, Washington, Missouri, New Mexico and South Dakota.
In Texas, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte sponsored a successful bill in 2001 requiring greater scrutiny for Texas camp workers.
“Children are extremely vulnerable, and particularly children who are in a summer camp,” she said. “Don't you want to … select a camp that has gone through the types of processes that make sure that everyone who has access to your child has had a background check?”
Florida's lawmakers haven't ignored camps altogether. On paper, laws requiring stringent FBI background checks appear to cover summer camp workers. But the same laws make no one responsible for enforcing the rules.
“That is a mistake in the legislature not doing that,” said Pam Huddleston, the detective who arrested Melton in his first child sex abuse case in 1987. She now works as a prosecutor in Tennessee. “Somebody dropped the ball. Somebody should have sealed up that loophole a long time ago.”
The state's chief child-care regulator, the Department of Children and Families, has the power to close camps that don't comply with background screenings — but only on a complaint basis. Since 2010, DCF has gotten five camp complaints. None resulted in regulators taking punitive action.
Even if required to, DCF couldn't easily weed out bad operators. The law doesn't force camps to make themselves known to the state. That would put the burden of finding them on regulators.
Spurred in part by stories published in The Post in 2010, DCF last year mounted an intense public awareness campaign, contacting more than 1,100 camp operators while issuing news releases that sounded a reassuring note for Florida parents.
The effort yielded a list of 582 camps statewide, according to an internal audit obtained by The Post in February.
Even so, the audit found evidence that most camps had ignored screening requirements.
It concluded that, under current law, the agency doesn't have the power to police summer programs adequately.
Most parents are startled to learn that Florida doesn't license summer camps. Among them was Gov. Rick Scott, who reacted with surprise.
Told that child molesters were free to find jobs in camps, the governor replied, “How can that happen?”
The answer can be traced to an episode that spawned Florida's screening laws, to 1984, when a startling sex abuse case played out in Dade County.
In an upscale Miami suburb, the affable Frank Fuster ran a popular day care called the Country Walk Babysitting Service.
Only after he was arrested did it emerge that Fuster previously had been convicted of manslaughter, and of molesting a little girl.
Children told authorities tales of horrific abuse. They said Fuster wore a scare mask as he raped and tortured his tiny victims.
After the attacks, one boy tested positive for gonorrhea in his throat.
Prosecuted by then-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno, Fuster was convicted of rape and molestation. He went to prison for life.
After Country Walk, the legislature in 1985 passed the state's first background screening law, requiring day-care employees be fingerprinted.
The law evolved into today's standards: FBI background checks for employees of any “child-care facility,” businesses that are paid to watch more than five children at a time.
The system hinges on licensing, charging DCF with suspending or revoking licenses of operators who don't obey the rules.
From the start, there was confusion over whether the law applied to summer camps. And in decades that followed, the issue was raised with lawmakers more than half a dozen times.
In the latest instance, in 2010, The Post reported that gaps in screening requirements allowed even child molesters to work in camps.
Responding, a handful of influential state lawmakers — Senate President Mike Haridopolos; Stuart Rep. William Snyder, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Ronda Storms, head of the Senate's Children and Families Committee — immediately pledged changes.
Haridopolos said, “We need to quickly close that (loophole) up.” Snyder said guarding the vulnerable is “one of the primary responsibilities of government.” Storms called the lack of action “appalling” and said it made her want to shake someone by the lapels.
But when the legislature met in 2011, nobody brought up camps. Nothing changed.
Today, Melton is locked in a Central Florida prison cell.
If he were freed tomorrow, he couldn't get a job at a day care, or a school, or a child rec center.
But he easily could find work at another summer program — or open a camp of his own.
Sexual abuse, political abuse
by Jim McGrath
Our opinion: The quest for justice for the victims is fraught with legislative barriers. Normal rules for reporting crimes are impractical here.
Six years ago, only the die-hard fans of Syracuse basketball knew who Bernie Fine was. And who can know, really, about the anguish that two grown men who have accused Mr. Fine of sexually assaulting them long ago were experiencing in 2006?
But there was Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Queens, speaking with absolute clarity six years ago about the need to give victims of sexual abuse more time to seek justice.
She's still at it. Her quest brought her to the Capitol Tuesday, along with the men who say they didn't come to terms with the abuse that they allege that Mr. Fine, then an assistant coach at Syracuse, inflicted upon them as teenagers until they were well into their adulthood.
It's time to ask anew why the Legislature won't make it easier for the victims of such hideous crimes to sue their alleged abusers.
Just what would be unreasonable about laws that allowed allegations of sexual abuse to be reported until the victim's 28th birthday — five more years later than New York currently allows?
And what would be unreasonable about establishing a one-year window for victims to sue their alleged abusers, regardless of when they say it happened?
What would be wrong with extending the opportunity for justice to be done in cases where the pursuit of it so often begins with victims first having to overcome their own shame?
If only such questions brought new answers and fresh thinking, not the predictable opposition to tougher laws from the same people who have resisted them as long as Ms. Markey has pushed for them.
Let a long-simmering debate continue with the words of Bobby Davis in mind. He's 40 now, and he is talking of the events of more than two decades ago and how they still affect him.
“The current law does not protect the victim, but instead protects the abuser,” Mr. Davis said at a news conference Tuesday with Ms. Markey.
“I was a child when I was sexually abused. Coming forward then against someone so revered was not an option for me.”
But more accommodation for the likes of Mr. Davis — who still would have to prove his case, of course — isn't an option for state Senate Republicans, who have killed Ms. Markey's bill each time it's passed the Assembly.
Here they are now, objecting in advance to all the sexual abuse lawsuits that might be filed.
Ah, the price of forestalling justice.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, continues to protest that Ms. Markey's bill would make private institutions — notably the church itself — more vulnerable to lawsuits while public institutions still would be protected by rigid notice of claims laws.
The bishops have a point. Yet it's an objection with an obvious remedy:
Change the laws to make public institutions no more immune to legal challenges than private ones.
Let all the victims seek justice from all their abusers, under more fair and less restrictive circumstances.
“This is legislation that should be a no-brainer, unless the Legislature is inclined to continue to assist those entities and individuals who cover up their complicity in child abuse,” Ms. Markey wrote on these pages in 2007. “That is a move no elected official should ever be permitted to make.”
Five years later, it's clear that justice for sexual abuse victims begins with ending the political injustice that persists in the Legislature.
How Not to Protect Kids from Sexual Assault
by Mark Funkhouser
As of last fall, only 15 states had complied with the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. This is a particularly chilling piece of news in light of the child-sexual-assault scandal engulfing Penn State University, and so it bears a bit of checking into. Why have so few states complied with the federal law?
According to the NCSL report, the financial hit that states would take from not complying is less than the cost of doing the labor-intensive work of having offenders register regularly and in-person with the authorities. If that were the only reason states aren't implementing the law, we ought to be deeply concerned. The fact is, however, that full implementation of the law would have no impact on the incidence of sexual assault. SORNA is an expensive non-solution to the problem.
The vast majority of the children who are assaulted are victims of someone in their immediate family or a coach, priest or someone else who has been brought into a position of trust. Creating a list of offenders is worthless in controlling assaults by such individuals. In fact, experts say the risk of stranger abuse is something like .0017 per 1,000 kids.
While researching the issue of child sexual assault, I came across a strong commentary in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader by Jenna Mehnert, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and began an email correspondence with her about what might actually make kids safer from sexual assault.
She told me about a case she handled when she was a child-welfare worker in which a 12-year-old was being raped by her stepfather. Neighbors told Mehnert that they knew about the assaults, but none of them had called the police. It turned out that the man, who had served time in prison for molesting children, was also raping a 14-year-old stepson. "He is required to register," Mehnert wrote, "but nothing stops him from living with small children. Clearly the system is broken ... and a list is not the answer."
Laws like SORNA are passed because they play well with constituents. Politicians score points, look good and head on down the road. But eventually people notice that "the system is broken." Symbolism wears off and we're left with ineffective government. Enough exercises like SORNA that don't work, and we begin to sap people's confidence and trust that there is any way that government can actually help them work collectively to solve problems.
Here at the Governing Institute, we're on the lookout for things that actually work to improve outcomes. In the case of child sexual assault, a best practice that does seem to make a difference is the children's advocacy center model championed by the National Children's Alliance. If you visit the alliance's website, you'll see that while more than three quarters of a million children were victims in 2009, CACs intervene in 259,000 cases a year and there has been a steady decline over the last three years in abused and neglected children.
I've got an idea. Penn State has raised the public's awareness on this issue. Now might be the time to more successfully push effective responses to the problem. Let's take the money being spent trying to implement SORNA—or punishing states for not implementing it—and use it to create and strengthen children's advocacy centers across the country.
Dr. Mark Funkhouser, a former Kansas City mayor and auditor, is the director of the Governing Institute.
Michigan debuts toll-free child abuse call-in plan
by Tim Martin
Lansing — A new call-in system for reporting abuse and neglect debuts Monday in Michigan, another step toward compliance with a court-ordered mandate for the state to improve conditions for children needing protective services.
The new system establishes a single phone number statewide (855-444-3911) for reporting abuse or neglect related to children and adults. The number will be staffed around-the-clock, including weekends and holidays. Decisions on whether to investigate a child abuse case are expected to be made on the spot, no matter what time of day or night, before being directly referred to county-level child protective services staff.
The statewide complaint intake system will be based in Kent County, where a six-county pilot program testing the system has run since September. The statewide system replaces one where calls were made to individual Department of Human Services county-level offices, which sometimes led to inconsistent results.
"The virtue of having a statewide, centralized intake is that you have consistency in the standards that the state is applying on the law of abuse and neglect," said Maura Corrigan, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. "You don't get local variations in standards."
The new, toll-free phone number will be available to both the general public and those mandated by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect such as teachers and doctors.
The centralized system is likely to increase the number of child abuse complaints lodged with the state.
Corrigan, a former Supreme Court justice, has made complying with terms of a settlement related to child protective services and foster care a high priority since becoming the Department of Human Services director in early 2011. A whiteboard hanging in the DHS office notes several of the settlement goals and the agency's progress toward meeting them.
The central call-in system goal will be met nearly two months ahead of the required compliance schedule.
A New York-based group called Children's Rights sued in 2006 to force the state to make improvements in foster care and child protective services. A settlement agreement was reached in 2008, and modified last year to give the state some more flexibility in meeting requirements.
Michigan has hired hundreds of new workers to reduce caseloads in foster care and protective services. Ninety-five percent of foster care workers are required to have no more than 15 cases each by October 2013. Neglect workers shall have no more than 12 open investigations by the end of 2013.
There also are strict deadlines for medical assessments for each child. Michigan also is trying to recruit more foster parents.
DCF to change response to child abuse
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Department of Children and Families is changing the way it investigates reports of child neglect and abuse by creating separate responses for low and high-risk incidents.
Beginning Monday, DCF will perform a family assessment in response to all reports that are deemed low and medium risks. The assessment will help families reach out for community resources.
Low-risk cases include things like families improperly clothing children in the winter, whereas high-risk incidents include reports of physical and sexual abuse. The department will continue to respond to high-risk incidents with an investigation.
Currently, all reports of abuse are investigated by DCF, regardless of the risk level.
The change comes under a department initiative, not through state legislation.
Sandusky child sex-abuse case lacks key details
The original state grand jury reports that outlined a litany of child sex abuse allegations last fall against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky were detailed accounts of horrific conduct that spanned 15 years.
Yet Pennsylvania prosecutors now have filed court papers acknowledging that potentially important details of Sandusky's alleged crimes remain unknown, including the identities of two of the 10 alleged victims.
The documents, some legal analysts and attorneys involved in the case say, offer a possible opportunity to help Sandusky's legal team as it prepares to defend the once-revered former defensive coach who is charged with 52 counts of abusive conduct with children.
In addition to the two unidentified victims, prosecutors say the specific dates of the alleged offenses against seven of the 10 victims are "unknown." In most cases, prosecutors say, they were unable to provide specific dates of the alleged abuse because the incidents were too "numerous."
While Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, did not respond to requests for comment, legal analysts say Sandusky's defense team likely will seize on the unknown details to attack the credibility of the state's case, set for trial May 14.
"It gives the defense an avenue to pursue a theory that, because of the lack of specificity, the witnesses are not credible," says Christopher Mallios, a former Philadelphia prosecutor who specialized in abuse cases. "I certainly understand why the defense is asking for this information."
At the same time, Mallios says the defense — should it pursue such a challenge at trial — does so at some risk by questioning victims about why they didn't track the abuse as it occurred.
"You can't expect victims to be checking off the dates on a calendar as this is happening," he says, adding that it is common for child victims to delay reporting abuse. He also says Pennsylvania law generally provides prosecutors leeway if they are not able to associate alleged offenses with specific dates.
"It is not fatal to the prosecution, … but it's something the prosecution is going to have to explain," he says.
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office did not respond to a request for comment.
But attorney Michael Boni, one of the lawyers who represents the victim designated as "Victim 1" by the grand jury, says he "fully expects" Sandusky's team to attempt to "make some hay" by citing some lack of specifics in the charges.
Boni's client, whose allegations launched the broader investigation into the former coach, alleges that he was abused by Sandusky during a period of four years, beginning in 2005 and ending in 2008.
The exact dates of the incidents are "unknown," but prosecutors allege that crimes occurred at Sandusky's house, a Penn State-area hotel and at a high school the boy attended. "The victim, a child at the time of the crimes, is unable to provide exact times and dates" of the offenses, prosecutors said in court documents.
"My sense is that they have precious little to use to try to impeach these victims and witnesses," Boni says. "So I expect them to throw everything against the wall to see if it sticks with a jury. If one strand of spaghetti does stick, then they might have reasonable doubt. I just don't think it will work."
Amendola has said that a central part of his strategy will be to attack the credibility of the state's case through its witnesses.
First among those, he said, will be former Penn State assistant football coach Michael McQueary, who allegedly witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy, about 10 years old at the time, in a Penn State locker room shower in 2002. McQueary says he reported the incident to then-head coach Joe Paterno , then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and then-Senior Vice President Gary Schultz.
That account led to the eventual ouster of Penn State President Graham Spanier and Paterno and to related perjury charges against Curley and Schultz who told a state grand jury that McQueary did not specify that Sandusky was sexually assaulting a child. Paterno died Jan. 22.
The victim in that alleged incident, designated as "Victim 2," however, remains unidentified, according to the court documents filed last week.
Attorney Jeffrey Lindy, who has dealt with child sex abuse cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney, says the absence of identified victims creates a potential problem for prosecutors.
"Without the victim, any kind of sexual abuse-related offense would seem to be hard to prove," Lindy says. "It's like trying to prove a gun case without the gun."
Detective fights child crime online
Seichepine interviews young victims, searches for sexual predators
by Sharahn D. Boykin
SALISBURY -- Each day when Detective John Seichepine walks into his office, which is outfitted with a desktop computer and two laptop computers, he is uncertain of what nightmare-like reality involving harm to a child might come to light that day.
Some days are spent interviewing child victims of physical or sexual abuse. Other days are spent in online chat rooms pretending to be a 13-year-old girl.
Seichepine, of the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office, is one of three investigators assigned to the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center. He works alongside law enforcement officers from the Maryland State Police and Salisbury Police Department, and nine child protective services workers from the Department of Social Services.
Seichepine's time at the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center is divided evenly between child physical and sexual abuse complaints, and finding child sexual predators online.
While only half of his time is spent online searching for child predators, the task could easily be a full-time job and fill his days, Seichepine said.
"There's so much of it out there," he said. "We aren't even touching the tip of the iceberg."
When looking for child predators online, most of his time is spent waiting. He doesn't actively hunt for them. His teenage girl persona is bait.
"I don't try to entice anybody to do anything," Seichepine said. "I'm more concerned with the guy trying to entice me."
Seichepine could not discuss his investigative methods in detail because doing so could compromise current and future investigations. However, he said he only uses information available to the general public during an investigation.
"We're doing everything you could do from your own home," he said.
Since September 2006, Seichepine has served as the lead investigator on 217 sex abuse cases, 151 physical abuse cases and 82 Internet crime-related cases. Last year, he was responsible for 89 cases.
While the law enforcement arm of the Child Advocacy Center handles an average of 270 cases a year, only 15 to 20 percent result in arrests because of a lack of evidence, according to Seichepine.
One of the most difficult challenges with these types of cases is that the crimes are committed in secret with no eyewitnesses except for the victim, and because of the relationship between the offender and the victim, this causes the victim to delay disclosure, which leads to the deterioration of potential biological evidence, according to Jamie Dykes, a Wicomico County assistant state's attorney. Also, young victims are involved. Sometimes a victim becomes confused or there can be a lapse in memory when a large amount of time has passed between the time of the alleged crime, when it is reported and when the case goes to trial.
Last year, 48 cases that originated at the Child Advocacy Center resulted in hearings or trials in Circuit Court and 73 percent of those cases resulted in convictions, according to data from the State's Attorney's Office.
Seventeen of the convictions were related to child sex abuse or sex offense; six were related to child pornography; five were related to child physical abuse; five were online solicitations of a law enforcement officer posing as a minor; and two were miscellaneous.
Five of the cases are pending, five have been placed on the inactive docket, one case was dismissed, one case has been appealed and one has been remanded to juvenile court.
Another difficulty is knowing that there are other potential victims associated with a case, Dykes added.
"The child sex offender doesn't just have one victim," she said. "Research indicates a child sex offender has many victims. The first victim from whom we have a disclosure is not usually the first victim of the offender."
8 more men claim sexual abuse by Red Sox clubhouse manager
BOSTON - A lawyer says eight more men have come forward to say they were abused by a now-dead former Boston Red Sox clubhouse manager.
The men, including two former Baltimore Orioles bat boys, are in addition to two former Red Sox clubhouse attendants who stepped forward in December to say they were abused by Donald Fitzpatrick, who died in 2005.
Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian tells The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/xCrCfs ) the statute of limitations for legal action has expired, so the men are seeking $5 million settlements from the Red Sox or Orioles.
Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty in Florida in 2002 to attempted sexual battery on a child under 12. The Red Sox settled a lawsuit with seven Florida men claiming Fitzpatrick molested them. He resigned from the Red Sox in 1991.