Volunteers leading education effort to stop child abuse and neglect on Treasure Coast
March 17, 2012
Last month, I asked readers if they remembered Nubia Barahona.
She was the 10-year-old Miami-Dade County girl whose body was found last year stuffed inside a plastic bag in the bed of her adoptive father's pickup parked alongside Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach. She had been beaten to death and her body soaked with gasoline and acid.
Her twin brother also was found in the truck, alive but badly burned by chemicals.
Authorities, who claimed the children had been abused most of their lives, charged the children's adoptive parents with murder.
Nubia is an example of the tragic consequences that can occur when abuse is suspected but not sufficiently investigated and stopped. She was only one of at least 155 children in Florida who died last year from abuse or neglect.
On the Treasure Coast alone last year, there were 6,597 investigations into child abuse.
One group that certainly has not forgotten Nubia is Guardians for New Futures, the nonprofit volunteer support organization for the Treasure Coast Guardian ad Litem program. The program provides court-appointed advocates to assist child-victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment. The nonprofit works with the court program in providing funding and volunteers. Its projects include providing holiday gifts to about 900 children and providing new backpacks and school supplies.
After my column, I heard from Gina Rossi-Scheima, a director of Guardians for New Futures.
She wrote, in part, "In the wake of a series of news stories highlighting abuse and neglect on the Treasure Coast, namely the Nubia Barahona case, (the organization) took a stand to address the massive abuse problem in our state. With Nubia, there were signs but no one seemed to recognize them until it was too late. We wondered how many children right in our own community are suffering in silence and fear? Teachers can be lifelines for these children and might be the only other adult to witness a child's well-being. However, training for recognizing abuse and neglect for teachers is scant and is not comprehensive."
Continuing, she wrote, (The organization) began holding free conferences to educate community members who interact with children regularly, such as teachers, bus drivers, day care providers and social workers."
In a letter to the editor, Debbie Butler, president of Guardians for New Futures, wrote, "One year ago, Floridians were shocked by the story of Nubia Barahona in our local news, a brutally murdered child who was failed by the system and the community. ... Nubia was our impetus to begin an immediate education campaign on the Treasure Coast. ... Since then we have held five trainings and continue to schedule sessions regularly on the Treasure Coast. ... Education is key in recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect and each adult in our community has a responsibility to help keep children safe. Send the message to abusers that if you harm children, your community members won't just look away. Abuse will be recognized and offenders will be caught."
Rossi-Scheiman said that within the past year, the Department of Children and Families has verified more than 150 instances of child abuse and neglect in Indian River County. The next training session by Guardians for New Futures for those who work with children — and anyone with an interest — will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Boys and Girls Club of Indian River County, 1729 17th Ave., Vero Beach.
Among presenters for the workshop on recognizing and effectively reporting abuse and neglect will be Michelle Akins of the State Child Abuse Death Review Team, Fort Pierce, and Judy Brophy, director of programs for SafeSpace, the Treasure Coast counseling and shelter service for victims of domestic abuse.
Space is limited. Those wanting to participate and register at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 772-201-1996.
The more who are aware of abuse and active in stopping it, the better for our children.
Child abuse prevention efforts planned for April
March 18, 2012
by Betsy Scott
Lake County Department of Job and Family Services employees and community volunteers on April 4 will plant 4,255 pinwheels in Veteran's Park in Painesville Square to represent the total number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Lake County during 2011.
Pinwheels for Prevention is Prevent Child Abuse America's signature event commemorating prevention activities nationwide during April. Planting will begin at 8 a.m. and the official ceremony begins at noon.
JFS also will distribute blue wristbands and blue ribbon pins to supporters to increase awareness of the cause. The Children Services Division also encourages businesses to participate in Wear Blue to 2 Work Day on April 11.
On April 1, the division will begin piloting a new approach to child welfare, having been accepted as part of the Ohio Differential Response pilot project.
This program focuses on engagement techniques that encourage family involvement and collaboration, which enhance family functioning and better ensures safety for children.
For more information, contact Melanie Hale, assistant administrator of the Children Services Division, The Lake County Department of Job and Family Services, 440-350-4274.
Memory Ride and Candlelight Vigil target child abuse
by Adam D. Young
Hundreds of Lubbock bikers and drivers will take to the streets and light candles March 25 to raise awareness about child abuse and remember the 231 Texas children who died from abuse or neglect in 2011.
The Family Guidance & Outreach Center of Lubbock, a nonprofit agency dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, will host its annual Memory Ride and Candlelight Vigil at 3:30 p.m. March 25 at Mackenzie Park, 600 E. Broadway.
The event will include a ride across Lubbock, from Mackenzie Park and ending with a vigil and free barbecue dinner at Second Baptist Church, 6109 Chicago Ave. as the Family Guidance & Outreach Center kicks off Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.
“It just sort of sets off the tone for the whole month of April,” said Brooke Garth, administrative coordinator for the organization. “It is everybody's responsibility to take care of the children in the community.”
Both parts the March 25 event are free.
The ride will be police-escorted and will depart at 4:30 p.m., she said.
Anyone unable to participate in the ride can be at the church by 5 p.m. for the Candlelight Vigil and meal, Garth said. The barbecue meal will be provided by Sweet Embrace Assisted Living.
Garth said she was hopeful the sight of hundreds of bikers and vintage-car drivers wearing blue ribbons as they parade across Lubbock would bring attention to the sobering number of children killed by their guardians.
“Participants are always very surprised at just how many children have died,” she said.
She said she was thankful the number of children killed by abuse and neglect fell from 242 in 2010.
“But we'd like for it to be zero,” she said.
The Family Guidance & Outreach Center will wrap up Child Abuse Awareness Month with its 14th-annual Blue Ribbon Rally Car and Bike Show April 28 in the Depot Entertainment District, according to the organization.
A lost son
by Michael Clancy
David Michael Pain Jr. was laid to rest in early December, during a small service at St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, nearly 18 months after he died. His father, David Sr., said he remembers his son with the help of Scripture -- a prodigal son, a lost sheep, a sinner Christ came to save.
The older man, who goes by the name Michael, told those gathered at the service that he finds solace in those Gospel passages when he thinks of his son. He believes David's chance at a good life -- or, for that matter, a life at all -- was lost 25 years earlier when he was allegedly sexually abused, at age 13, by a Catholic priest.
Michael Pain reported the abuse to the Phoenix Diocese within weeks of his son's death. After a 10-month investigation that deemed the report credible, the diocese suspended the Rev. John "Jack" Spaulding last June from his position as pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa and sent the case -- along with three more that surfaced since Pain's report -- to the Vatican in Rome to determine the priest's future.
The 25 years between the alleged abuse and David's death in 2010 are complicated. The boy his sister remembers as "heartfelt" and "unbelievably engaging" would struggle through his parents' divorce, accept -- and later reject -- Spaulding's friendship, and quickly fall down a rabbit hole that escalated from minor juvenile crimes to felonies, drug use, prison and failed rehabs.
By the time he died, just three months shy of his 39th birthday, he had spent a majority of his adult life behind bars.
Even with David laid to rest, there is plenty that hangs in the balance while the Phoenix Diocese and David's father await the Vatican's ruling. That could come at any time now, and it will be the key to whether Spaulding will be allowed to continue as a priest, whether Michael Pain will receive any compensation for his pain over his lost son, and if any of this brings the issue to a close.
Forming a bond
In the mid-1980s, Pain referred David, then 12, to Spaulding, who was pastor of the family's church, St. Maria Goretti parish in Scottsdale. Pain and his wife had been separated for five years, and he hoped the priest could help his son deal with their divorce.
It didn't take long, Pain says, before the young boy and the priest became friends. They spent time together, watching movies, eating dinner, even relaxing in a hot tub at Spaulding's home in Scottsdale near the church, he said. Spaulding became so close to the family that he came over for dinner on occasion, including a birthday gathering in January 1985. He sent a note in response.
"Thank you so much for the birthday flowers!" he wrote. "Also thank you for allowing me to share the love of your son. David is becoming very special to me."
Pain now believes that throughout this time, Spaulding was grooming his son with gifts, movies and dinners. He alleges the priest then began systematically abusing the boy.
The friendship was so close that Pain allowed his son to take a vacation with Spaulding to the beach in California. No one else went along.
In today's world, eyebrows rise quickly at the thought of a priest -- or, for that matter, any unrelated adult -- spending so much time alone with an adolescent child. But in the mid-'80s, the Catholic sex-abuse scandal would not explode for nearly 20 more years. Not only did Pain never suspect a priest would abuse a child, it was more common for a pastor to be among the most trusted adults in a child's life.
But during that trip in the summer of 1985, Michael Pain says, David called and demanded to come home, saying he was uncomfortable away from home and missed his family. He refused to see Spaulding again afterward, and Spaulding began to ignore the family.
A teenager's free fall
It wasn't long afterward, Pain says, that his son started getting in trouble.
In August of 1987 -- a month before he would turn 16 -- David was convicted of traffic and curfew violations. In October, he took his father's car out joyriding and was in trouble again.
Many teens get into scrapes with the law, but most are minor and the kids move on, lessons learned. But just a couple of months later, in January 1988, David was fined for possession of liquor, and a month after that he was caught shoplifting. Each time he committed a crime, he also incurred probation violations, until in June 1988 -- not yet 17 -- he was sent to juvenile prison, where he remained until his 18th birthday.
While there, David completed his GED and did well. His father has a package of letters from teachers in the juvenile system, each praising David's work and encouraging his future efforts.
But within nine months of his release, David was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping charges that involved the threat of a weapon. This time, the crime was major. This time, David was an adult. And this time, the sentence was eight years in prison in Arizona. The teen who just got out of juvenile prison would be in his late 20s before he was free again. He would miss almost the entire decade of the 1990s.
When he did finish his Arizona prison sentence, he entered rehab, appeared to be doing well, and moved to Indiana, where he started taking classes at Holy Cross College in South Bend.
But a girlfriend broke up with him and David left school, ending up in California. There, a couple named Jody and James Kirkwood took him in after he did some work for them at their home in Long Beach.
"We saw a new man emerging as David took positive steps in his life," they wrote in a letter to a judge in California after a subsequent criminal conviction. "He was a loving young man with a big heart, an incredibly bright mind and great potential for success."
But unknown to the Kirkwoods, David was still involved with drugs, his father said. And when someone did not pay him on time, he stole the person's skateboard in payment. He was convicted of burglary and, with California's three-strikes system, spent most of the next eight years in prison there.
The David who seemed to be making a fresh start in his late 20s would be in his late 30s before he was released once more. Another decade, mostly lost.
'A creator, a thinker'
When David was young, said his younger sister, Katy Soukup, her brother "was a creator, a thinker, not a kid who ever relaxed in front of the TV or played video games."
Soukup, who lives in the Valley, says her brother, when sober, was energetic and enthusiastic about life.
"People paid attention when David talked because he was very intense and unbelievably engaging," she said. "He was the guy who was unforgettable after first meeting him."
He threw himself into everything 100 percent, even persuading Don & Charlie's restaurant in Scottsdale to sponsor him as a bicycle racer though, as a 12-year-old, he never had owned a bike before, Soukup said. He ended up winning a trophy that still is displayed at the restaurant, she said.
"David, as an adult and as a young boy, was very heartfelt," she said. "He wanted to please and make people laugh, and he never wanted to see somebody sad."
But as he got older, his problems caused strife within the family. Soukup moved on with her own life, getting married and having a child.
Over the years, David saw a number of counselors, psychiatrists and drug-rehab specialists, and was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to letters from doctors that his father provided to The Republic.
But as with many mental illnesses, those things can be difficult to prove. And David was never good about taking his medication or even keeping his appointments, according to several reports from psychologists and others that his father provided.
While David was in prison in California, Pain says, a former teacher who had David as a student at the former Gerard High School in Phoenix called to inform Pain that David had told her he had been molested. The teacher had remained in touch with David and decided to call the boy's father. Pain says the teacher identified Spaulding as the abuser.
It was the first time the father ever considered that his son might have been abused.
It was the first time he ever suspected the priest.
David was released from prison in California in 2008, and his father tried to talk to him, tried to persuade him to speak to an attorney, or the police. But by then, the younger man had developed a strong distrust of authorities and never pursued the matter.
A rage, a shot, a fatal wound
David spent much of the next 18 months in and out of rehab, on drugs and back off. Pain said he could tell his son was on a downward spiral once again.
David's inner turmoil would end with his death on June 17, 2010.
According to Pain, his son burst into his Scottsdale home in a rage, probably fueled by the methamphetamine and cocaine an autopsy would find in his system. Michael Pain, who said he feared for his life, backed into his bedroom and picked up a gun. As David continued to advance, his father shot him, aiming at his leg so as to stop his son, but not kill him.
Instead of David's leg, however, Michael hit a pelvic artery. Arteries are large and strong, and carry fresh blood from the heart. When damaged, they can lose blood so quickly -- and be so hard to control -- that the situation can be life-threatening in minutes.
David left his father's house with unidentified friends, who promised to take him to a hospital. But he did not end up getting medical help, and police found him in a Mesa motel parking lot later that night. He had bled to death.
Michael Pain called Scottsdale police immediately after the shooting and was at the police station talking to officers when he was told that David's body had been found. He broke down when he heard the news.
Police later determined the shot was fired in self-defense.
'A semblance of truth'
Michael Pain reported David's possible abuse by the priest to the Scottsdale Police Department in 2008, but police never investigated or prepared a report because David would not cooperate with an investigation. Pain notified the diocese of the alleged abuse in August 2010, just weeks after his son died.
In a letter to the vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix, the Rev. Fred Adamson, Pain detailed the relationship between Spaulding and David.
Spaulding, he wrote, "groomed him for perversion by continually buying him new clothes and shoes, took him several times to his home and got him into a hot tub, ultimately gave him oral sex, masturbated him several times. ... Fr. Jack first saw David as a troubled young man of 12 and returned him to me a mentally damaged party who suffered deeply and never recovered from that association."
The diocese conducted a 10-month investigation into Pain's allegation, using a retired FBI agent to interview 14 witnesses. Rob DeFrancesco, the spokesman for the diocese, said Spaulding was notified after the diocese's investigator "put together a reasonably reliable time line and a reasonably reliable understanding of the underlying facts."
Spaulding was given an opportunity to rebut the allegation, but because the report has not been made public, it is not known whether he did so.
Ten months after receiving the allegation, the nine-member Diocesan Review Board determined unanimously that the claim was credible.
"The allegation has a semblance of truth about it," the diocese said.
In June 2011, a year after David Pain's death, Bishop Thomas Olmsted suspended Spaulding, 68, just days after he resigned as pastor at St. Timothy because of an unrelated investigation. Spaulding had been a priest for more than 40 years but could be stripped of his priesthood if the charges are found to be true, DeFrancesco said.
In that time, Spaulding was known for his advocacy for the disabled, his leadership of several parishes and his devotion to the Blessed Mother. He took over St. Timothy at a difficult time, after the Rev. Dale Fushek was charged with abuse in connection with boys in his youth ministry, pleaded guilty to one count of assault and resigned his position. Fushek later was excommunicated for his role in starting an alternative church.
But Spaulding's job already was in jeopardy because he sheltered another priest accused of sexual misconduct, the Rev. Loren Riebe, at his home near St. Timothy and at other parishes several times, according to DeFrancesco. Riebe was suspended by his home diocese of Los Angeles.
A month after suspending Spaulding, the diocese announced a second accusation of sexual misconduct had been made against the priest that dated to the 1970s, when Spaulding served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale. The accuser has remained anonymous.
And in October, the diocese said it had deemed credible the second allegation plus two others that allegedly took place in the 1970s in Glendale.
Thus far, Pain is the only accuser who has gone public, and he is believed to be the first family member to bring an allegation to the diocese after the alleged abuse victim had died.
Patrick Wall, a former priest and an expert on clerical abuse, said David Pain's story "is almost an iconic case of abuse."
He says abuse survivors universally have "long-term physical challenges that come out in a lot of different ways," from drug abuse to sleep disorders. The majority of the time, Wall said, survivors do not confront the abuse publicly until they reach middle age, or until they have children who reach the age at which the parent was abused.
Every child's psyche is individual. Many victims of abuse can recover, with intervention and therapy. But sexual abuse shatters a child's trust in the very adults who should have kept that child safe.
Mary Gail Frawley O'Dea, the only psychologist to address the American bishops in Dallas in 2002, when they approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, has worked with abuse survivors for 30 years.
The abuse causes victims to feel betrayed, and trust issues develop with parents or other adults who, in the victim's eyes, failed to help, she says.
"It is from this epicenter of betrayed trust that the mind-splitting impact of sexual abuse ripples outward," she told the bishops, resulting in "a debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder that affects every domain of the victim's functioning, and lasts for years and years after the abuse has stopped."
Commonly, the victims have nightmares, flashbacks, even dangerous behaviors. Those affect relationships with others, including rage and "chaotically unstable relationships."
The young person's inability to process the abuse can lead to an array of self-destructive behaviors, she said, including drug abuse, criminal activity and suicide.
For the caregiver, helping the person can be extremely difficult, she said.
"I always thought it was the drug addiction," Michael Pain said. "I never knew that it was just a symptom of something deeper."
Pain says he wants compensation for his suffering from the church that he still loves to this day.
The diocese agreed to inter David Pain's cremated remains in the Catholic cemetery, where the Rev. Doug Lorig led services. Pain could have had his son buried sooner, but he wanted the diocese to pay for the service.
Diocese officials also told Pain they would consider a donation to Crossroads, a rehab facility where David was treated, but would not meet Pain's request for reimbursement for his son's rehabilitation. Pain says he has receipts showing he spent close to $80,000 taking care of his son's medical and therapeutic needs.
Pain says a lawsuit is unlikely. As a lifelong, devoted Catholic, he was never eager to sue the church, and lawyers have told him his case would be difficult, at best.
"The church is my life," said the 70-year-old Pain, who attends Mass daily and counts several priests as friends. "But I am disappointed with how the diocese has handled it."
Pain's mother was out of the picture when all this took place. She attended David's funeral but left before it was over, and has not been available for comment.
Spaulding could not be located, and his attorneys did not respond to calls seeking comment. One of them, Don Wilkinson, had previously denied the allegations.
As long as Spaulding is suspended, he may not perform priestly duties in public or even wear priestly garb. He may celebrate Mass only in private. Like others accused of abuse, he remains on the diocese payroll.
Pain hopes his and his son's story shows what harm can be done to a child who is abused by a trusted adult.
"He became a poster boy for being abused," Pain says. "He was a good boy who could have had a great future, but he ended up having a horrible life."
He awaits the Vatican's decision. But regardless of what it rules on Spaulding, Pain says he will not be joyful.
"I might write him a letter telling him I am worried about his salvation, and tell him that if he does not deal with the truth, his salvation will be in jeopardy.
"But it is not going to bring my son back."
Calgary facility to support victims of child abuse
CALGARY — Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy knows the pain and fear a child can suffer when sexually abused by someone in a position of trust.
He was the first to come forward in the 1990's to tell the world how he was abused as a teenager by former coach and mentor Graham James. Now an advocate, Kennedy proudly announced Friday a new one-stop facility in Calgary aimed at helping young victims get their lives back together.
"I couldn't help thinking as I attended the sentencing hearing for Graham James recently how difficult it would be to have to face both our court system and the abuser, as a child," Kennedy said.
"I am confident that the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre will eliminate the revictimization of our children and their families and increase the accountability of perpetrators."
The centre melds four agencies -- Child and Family Services, Crown Prosecutors, Calgary Police and Alberta Health Services -- under one roof.
The idea is to help young victims and their families with a team of social workers, medical experts, therapists, and police.
"The agencies wrap around the child. The child doesn't have to navigate a bunch of systems and a bunch of buildings," said Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson.
"The partnership with health services and social services makes sure that those kids and their families get not only the crisis counselling, but the ongoing counselling to help develop through the rest of their lives so they don't have to deal with the trauma and the victimization that was forced on them by no fault of their own."
The city estimates about 10,000 children in Calgary are abused each year.
Kennedy said it has finally gotten to the point that the pain of sexual abuse victims is recognized.
Hanson said he wants children who leave the centre to be able to put the dark period of their lives behind them.
"The real magic in this centre is not just limited to how we deal with victims when they're victimized but how we deal with them over the course of their developing years," he said.
"It's so that when they come out of this as adults they don't have to carry that horror with them, that it's behind them locked up in a box somewhere, properly dealt with so that they are productive, healthy, caring members of society."
Drivers help target truck stop sex traffickers
Prostitutes roaming truck stops are nothing new. Anybody who has pulled into a truck stop has seen the "No lot lizards" signs.
If a grown woman chooses to schedule an impromptu date in the cab of a tractor-trailer, that is her prerogative. The problem cropping up in truck plazas lately is far more disturbing, and that is why Nevada-based truckers recently have united to put a stop to it.
Paul Enos, chief operating officer of the Nevada Motor Transport Association, said truck drivers are being asked to join a human trafficking campaign that targets pimps shopping around young girls for sex.
"This is a problem worldwide," Enos said. "A girl runs away or is kidnapped and taken in by a pimp and not allowed to leave. They show up in vans or Escalades at truck stops, and they are required to work the lot."
Transporting girls for prostitution is a $32 billion industry worldwide, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Gang members are tapping into the business, choosing to pimp out young girls rather than sell drugs. Drug supplies don't last; girls being held against their will do.
Not surprisingly, Las Vegas is prime for this type of crime -- several organizations list it in the Top 5 in the nation. The sex industry thrives here, and it's a transient city. Las Vegas is also full of seedy motels with hourly rates. The combination of these factors lures in pimps and makes them more confident that they will move onto the next truck stop without being arrested.
At truck stops, where 50 or 60 big-rigs are parked on any given night, the girls walk from truck to truck, practically unnoticed. In a training video for drivers, truckers explain what they see all across the country. Girls knocking on their door asking if they want a date. Some girls will hit four or five trucks in a half-hour.
Of course, these pimps wouldn't even bother cruising truck stops if the drivers didn't partake. So, is the trucking industry asking drivers who take advantage of teenage girls to now call authorities?
"You find a bad apple in every segment of society," Enos said. "Absolutely the drivers are supportive of this campaign. They have the same reaction that a normal person would. It sickens them. If they see something, they want to take action."
And, really, before the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) campaign, truck drivers didn't know who to call.
Truckers have shared their stories with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. One driver was at a truck stop in Flagstaff, Ariz., and noticed a man in his 30s walking with a girl who looked about 13. It could have been a father-daughter relationship, but what caught his attention is that they were wandering from truck to truck knocking on doors. A fellow driver acknowledged he knew what was happening, but didn't know where to report the crime.
Now drivers are urged to call the trafficking hot line at 888-3737-888 or 911.
Nevada is the latest state to join the campaign. In 2011, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 185 calls from truckers and about 79 of those calls were related to trafficking at truck stops. The victims, according to TAT, included one male and 33 females; 30 were minors.
"We are the eyes and ears of the highway," Enos said, noting that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, truckers were called upon to watch for suspicious activity on the nation's freeways. Now their attention is turning to underage sex slaves.
"We are taking a proactive approach. If you see something, do something about it. Don't turn a blind eye," Enos said.
Human trafficking happens everywhere. The Super Bowl is considered a hot spot for pimps. Truck stops are not only plentiful but also consistently busy.
Aside from the obvious -- seeing young girls approaching trucks -- drivers are being asked to watch for other key signs.
Drivers should be on the lookout for vans or sport utility vehicles full of girls. If it's obvious that the load of passengers are not a family or a cheerleading squad, make a phone call.
"It's OK to be wrong," he said.
Other signs are that the girls have no identification and are unfamiliar with the area. They might look anxious or scared. They could appear to be nervous talking to other people.
"Having the support of Nevada truckers and truck stops will prove vital to the work of Truckers Against Trafficking," said Kendis Paris, national director of the organization. "This means that thousands more will become educated and equipped about the realities of domestic sex trafficking and how they can help end it.
"When the trucking and truck stop associations take the lead in their state, it causes their membership to understand the importance of this issue and get behind it themselves."
Conn. bill makes publishers of escort ads criminally liable for exploitation of minors
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation that could make the publishers of certain escort advertisements criminally liable for sexually exploiting minors.
Supporters of the bill have scheduled a news conference on Monday. A victim of sex trafficking, who was allegedly sold in Connecticut via an online advertisement, is scheduled to appear. Also, Raymond Bechard, author of "The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America," is expected to speak about his book about the well-known Connecticut roadway.
The General Assembly's Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing Monday afternoon on the sex trafficking legislation.
Under the bill, someone could be charged with the crime of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor if they knowingly publish, disseminate or display any "advertisement for a commercial sex act" that depicts a minor.
Tu Casa in Alamosa to Hold Survivor Groups
ALAMOSA - Tu Casa is now hosting groups for survivors of sexual assault, date rape, marital rape, and sexual abuse as a child.
These groups are open to the community and area held at the Tu Casa office every Thursday from 12-1 p.m.
For more information call 589-2465.
(Video on site)
Talking to your kids early on about sexual abuse
by Katie Lopez
It is a tough job—to listen to children recount abuse.
"It can be intimidating for a child to talk about something they feel they might've caused," Counselor Roxanne Trevino said.
Some abuse can span over year and other just months—but no matter how long it still can have a lasting effect on a child.
Sergeant Lupita Valdez with the Alamo Police Department said, when it comes to investigation sexual abuse cases they often hit road blocks when a child becomes closed off.
"Someone has already violated their trust,” Valdez started. “How do you explain what happened to you to another stranger?"
That is when they enlist the help of people like Roxanne—who try their best to get the child talk about the abuse.
But Roxanne admits that is not always easy.
"A lot of children, they won't disclose until they feel comfortable and that someone will protect them."
Many parents, she said, do not ever talk to their children about sexual abuse.
So when the abuse happens—many children do not know how to react.
"It's good to talk to them about the signs or dangers of getting close to somebody who might be older than they are--something could lead to sexual abuse."
Roxanne said open up those lines of communication early on.
That way the child knows what is and is not acceptable behavior.
She added, if a parent suspects that their child might be the victim of abuse they need to simply ask that child.
But, make sure to use terms the child understands and make the child comfortable about speaking out….let them know it is ok.
It is a tough job—to listen to children recount abuse.
"It can be intimidating for a child to talk about something they feel they might've caused," Counselor Roxanne Trevino said.
Some abuse can span over year and other just months—but no matter how long it still can have a lasting effect on a child.
Sergeant Lupita Valdez with the Alamo Police Department said, when it comes to investigation sexual abuse cases they often hit road blocks when a child becomes closed off.
"Someone has already violated their trust,” Valdez started. “How do you explain what happened to you to another stranger?"
That is when they enlist the help of people like Roxanne—who try their best to get the child talk about the abuse.
But Roxanne admits that is not always easy.
"A lot of children, they won't disclose until they feel comfortable and that someone will protect them."
Many parents, she said, do not ever talk to their children about sexual abuse.
So when the abuse happens—many children do not know how to react.
"It's good to talk to them about the signs or dangers of getting close to somebody who might be older than they are--something could lead to sexual abuse."
Roxanne said open up those lines of communication early on.
That way the child knows what is and is not acceptable behavior.
She added, if a parent suspects that their child might be the victim of abuse they need to simply ask that child.
But, make sure to use terms the child understands and make the child comfortable about speaking out….let them know it is ok.
Protect the children three-part series begins
Protect the children: First in a three part series of recognizing and preventing child sexual abuse. Part I: Overview; Part II: Seven Steps to protecting our children; Part III: The San Luis Valley-what can we do for our own.
by JULIA WILSON
Courier staff writer
VALLEY — Sexual abuse of children is so prevalent that experts have started calling it an epidemic.
The definition of child sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when one exerts poser over the other, forcing or persuading the child to engage in any type of sexual contact.
The statistics are chilling. In more than 90 percent of the cases of child sexual abuse the child knows his or her abuser. It is a family member or a trusted friend of the family.
How do you protect a child from family and friends who seem perfectly normal and trustworthy?
Anna Pasini-Sluss, family advocate coordinator and prevention specialist at the Child Advocacy Center in Fort Collins, was in Alamosa Wednesday to provide answers to that question.
The accepted wisdom is that sexual abuse of children in our society is taboo, that it is not allowed to happen.
The overwhelming number of molested children, both boys and girls, leads to another supposition: that the molesting of children is not only passively accepted, it is deliberately overlooked.
The message from Pasini was that child sexual abuse is not only caused by a perpetrator sexualizing a child, it is also caused by the fear and denial of adults who are aware of what is going on, but who choose not to act.
Adults, Pasini said, have to become more responsible and courageous to deal with the problem.
“Child sexual abuse prevention and response are an adult's job,” Pasini said. “The real responsibility for protecting children must be shouldered by adults.”
Pasini said there are four concepts adults should understand and employ to become aware of childrens' realities.
The first she called “consciousness.” The process of becoming aware of what kind of life a child should be able to enjoy, and taking steps to make such a life possible.
Pasini said that in an adult's daily interaction with children their should always be the intention of seeing kids grow up with their wholeness and sexual boundaries intact, free from sexual abuse.
The second tool for adults is making responsible choices to protect children from sexual abuse. She said there were many choices that could be made, and it was important to make the right ones.
“We can think it is inconvenient, too expensive, and too time consuming to protect children from sexual abuse,” she said. “We can think we might offend someone if we try to make policy changes. Or, we can decide that we just don't know what to do. We can choose to feel burdened, overwhelmed, and fearful. These choices leave us disempowered and stuck. And worse, it leaves children unprotected.”
Pasini said the better choices are to be passionate about creating safe environments for children, and to ask other adults to help.
The third tool is trusting yourself and your instincts about child sexual abuse.
“For you to be powerless, a person, an event, a circumstance must have your permission to take your power,” she said. “Trusting yourself, simply because you choose to, gives you tremendous personal power.”
The fourth tool necessary to save children from sexual abuse is “relentless compassion.”
“We cannot successfully address child sexual abuse without anchoring ourselves to what it is to be compassionate,” she said. “(Compassion) is grounded in love for humanity, and it is also fearlessly committed. Compassion demands accountability to the whole because that is what ultimately causes our collective well-being. Compassion is willing to square off with that which harms.”
Accountability. Compassion. Reality. All come into play when the safety of children is at stake.
Protect the Children: Part 2
by Julia Wilson
ALAMOSA — Sexually abusing a child is a traumatic and agonizing experience for the victim with emotional and physical consequences they might never overcome.
Anna Pasini-Sluss of the Ft. Collins Child Advocacy Center said at a seminar held in Alamosa Wednesday that the first step adults have to take to protect children is to learn the facts and understand the risks.
“Child sexual abuse thrives in an environment of denial and fear,” she said. “Denial and fear are so basic to the occurrence of child sexual abuse that if these two dynamics could be overcome, much of the damage could be eliminated.”
There are several sub-steps to becoming conscious of child sexual abuse. An adult has to know what it is, understand how it occurs, and to take steps to actively protect children.
Child sexual abuse not only includes the forcing or persuading of a child to engage in sexual acts, but also exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and sexual communications by telephone or over the internet.
All these acts are punishable by law.
The second step to take to protect children is to minimize opportunity for the abuse to take place. Pasini-Sluss said more than 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in one-adult/one-child situations.
To keep children safe adults cannot foster environments that increase the chance of a child being abused.
Step three is all about communication.
“Children often keep abuse a secret,” Pasini-Sluss said. “Molesters use children's innocence and lack of knowledge about their bodies, personal boundaries, and sex.”
The foundation of knowledge given to a child about how to value their bodies, and knowing that they have a choice about how adults treat them makes the children less easily manipulated.
“There is far less damage that can be done to children who have a foundation of self-protection, self-love and self-awareness,” she said.
Step four is a scary one: Stay alert, because there may be no obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused.
The signs are not always physical, although redness, rashes, swelling in the genital area and urinary tract infections should be checked out.
More common are emotional or behavioral signs. The child either exhibits “too perfect” behavior, withdrawal and depression, or possibly unexplained anger and rebellion.
Nightmares, bedwetting, running away from home, cruelty to animals and fire-setting, harming themselves physically, using sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate, and use of alcohol and/or drugs at an early age can all be signs that a child is being, or has been, sexually abused.
Step five is to be mentally and emotionally prepared if a child should tell you he or she is being abused.
“Don't overreact,” Pasini-Sluss said. “There is a child standing before you has taken a great risk in telling you. If you react with anger or disbelief the child can shut down and feel even guiltier.”
Instead, she said, offer support, listen and affirm the child's courage and goodness.
“Believe the child, and make sure that you don't attempt to ‘investigate' the abuse,” she said. “Seek the help of a professional who is trained to talk with the child about sexual abuse.”
Step six is a difficult one for many, but it is a necessary step for anyone committed to keep children safe.
Act on your suspicions and intuition. Then deal with it. Get over your fears and help the child. Talk to the people at Child Protective Services; call a Children's Advocacy Center; involve local community agencies.
These agencies will help evaluate your suspicions.
If you waver, remember the future well-being of a child is at stake.
The seventh step is perhaps the easiest: Get involved through personal time for volunteering and teaching others and/or financially support organizations that help the victims of child sexual abuse.
“Child sexual abuse prevention and response is an adult's job,” Pasini-Sluss said. “Actively choose to protect children so they do not become victims. Make your community a safer place for the children, not the offenders.”
Ex-cop gets 45 years for child abuse
by Cass Rains
KINGFISHER — A former Hennessey police officer was given a 45-year sentence after pleading guilty to a felony count of child sexual abuse.
Patrick Clay Stackhouse, 29, was ordered to serve all but five years of the sentence by District Judge Paul Woodward. Stackhouse was facing a minimum of 25 years in prison, maximum of life and a fine of $500 to $5,000 for the abuse of an 8-year-old girl that lasted about two years.
Due to the nature of the offense, Stackhouse must serve 85 percent of any sentence before being eligible for parole or other deferments of sentence. He will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release and follow all sex offender registration guidelines.
Stackhouse also must pay a $500 fine, $100 to the victims compensation fund, court and jail costs.
Stackhouse pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to the charge as part of a blind plea, meaning he had no agreement with prosecutors and a judge would determine his sentence.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Martin Solorzano, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation special agent, received a written referral from Kingfisher County District Attorney's Office on Feb. 18, 2011, to investigate allegations against Stackhouse.
The girl told a Hennessey Public Schools counselor Stackhouse had been touching her private area since she was 8 years old. The counselor reported the information to the Department of Human Services.
The girl told Solorzano on Feb. 18, 2011, Stackhouse had inappropriately touched her and guided her hand to touch him, too. She said she asked Stackhouse to stop, but he would not. The girl also told Solorzano she was scared of Stackhouse. She said he once told her if she told anyone, he would hurt her.
Solorzano interviewed Stackhouse Feb. 23, 2011, and Stackhouse initially denied the allegations. He agreed to take a polygraph examination. After the polygraph, Solorzano and OSBI Special Agent David Real interviewed Stackhouse again at OSBI headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Stackhouse admitted he had a problem with pornography and wanted help, according to the affidavit. He also admitted to touching the girl seven or eight times. Stackhouse also said he guided the girl's hand to his private parts.
Stackhouse was placed on sick leave from Hennessey Police Department Feb. 18, 2011, and suspended without pay Feb. 23, 2011. Hennessey Board of Trustees unanimously voted to fire Stackhouse in a special meeting March 1, 2011.
Assistant District Attorney Bryan Slabotsky said he was pleased with the sentence.
“I have absolutely no complaints. It's a just sentence and it protects the public,” he said. “OSBI did an excellent job.”
Police: Two arrested after boy found emaciated in home
TITUSVILLE, Fla. — Investigators in Brevard County say they are still piecing together details about one of the most disturbing local cases of child abuse in recent memory.
A 13-year-old boy was found in a home where he had been caged and starving for weeks at a time.
Police said the boy was emaciated, weighing only 40 pounds when they found him locked in a bathroom lying on the floor at a home on Barna Avenue in Titusville on Thursday night.
Investigators said they later found out the boy would be caged in a closet, strapped to a bed, or locked in the bathroom for days or weeks at a time over the past year.
"This occurred over a period of time," said Cpl. Gary Boyers, of the Titusville Police Department. "We're still trying to figure out what the time period is. Something like a couple of months, possibly even longer.
The boy's father, 39-year-old Michael Marshall, was taken away by police Thursday night. Investigators have charged him with aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment.
"What'd you do to that child? You almost killed him they say."
"I didn't try to," replied Marshall.
Marshall's girlfriend Sharon Glass was also arrested. Detectives said the two were the only adults permanently living at the home, but there were four other children and two adults staying there as well.
Marshall and Glass confessed to the caging and punishment after they were interviewed by police. They told police it was done as punishment because the boy began stealing food after food was being withheld from him.
The boy's appearance was severely emaciated and described by hospital staff as resembling images of concentration camp survivors, according to Titusville police.
Police said the boy was treated for dehydration and malnutrition and released from the hospital.
"Right now that's being investigated by the doctors and they'll give us a report back on how bad the situation is," said Boyers.
All five children living at the home are now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Some of the them were seen being taken away with backpacks.
It's unclear if any of the children were going to school, but police said they were called to the house because of an unknown tip.
The boy's father was not at home at the time police arrived, but showed up later and admitted to what police called and unlawful caging situation.
Both Marshall and Glass are in the Brevard County Jail.
Bill inspired by Dexter child-abuse case advances
Mar 15, 2012
by Heather J. Carlson
The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
ST. PAUL — Lawmakers watched in silence on Thursday as Mower County Sheriff's Office detective Steve Sandvik held up a hardened-steel chain used in what he described as the most horrific child-abuse case he has seen in his 15 years in law enforcement.
The 17-link chain had two padlocks — one to secure the chain to a crib, the other to loop the chain around the ankle of a young boy.
“A 5-year-old child was bound by this chain daily from the time he came home from school to the time he went back to school,” Sandvik told members of the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee.
But as disturbing as this case was, the parents — Charity and Brian Miller, of rural Dexter — could only be charged with a gross misdemeanor under state law. If a stranger had done the same thing to a child, he or she could have been charged with a felony. Later in the day, in a separate action, a Mower County judge severed the Millers' parental rights in a ruling issued in Austin.
“We are not allowed to treat first-degree murderers that way,” Sandvik said. “And yet (the parents get) less than a year in jail.”
Legislation to change law
A bill sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, would toughen the criminal penalties for parents who tie, lock, cage or chain their children. Under current state law, prosecutors must be able to show this type of restraint resulted in “substantial bodily harm” in order for a parent, legal guardian or caretaker to be charged with a felony. Poppe's bill would lower the standard to “demonstrable bodily harm.”
Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen told lawmakers that the 5-year-old boy had bruising, swelling and rust stains on his ankle. But those injuries did not rise to the level of substantial bodily harm. As a result, the parents could only be charged with a gross misdemeanor.
“In this case it was clearly felonious conduct that we simply couldn't charge, and we think that kids who are chained like this deserve better,” Nelsen said.
Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi also testified in support of the bill.
Law enforcement investigation
The Millers admitted in June 2011 to chaining their then-5-year-old son to his crib and withholding food from him and their 8-year-old son. The couple both pleaded guilty to one count each of gross misdemeanor false imprisonment and one count each of malicious punishment. In exchange for the pleas, five additional gross misdemeanors were dismissed. Each was sentenced to a year in jail. They finished their jail terms in January and are seeking to regain custody of their children.
The committee unanimously approved the bill on a voice vote. It now heads to the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin.
After the hearing, Sandvik pledged to Poppe he would do whatever he can to help get this bill passed. He said he will never forget seeing the chain on the crib and the stench in the room caused by the child having to wet the crib because he was unable to get up to go to the bathroom. At the time the parents were charged, the 5-year-old weighed just 25 pounds and his 8-year-old brother weighed 33 pounds.
“It's the most horrific thing I've seen in my entire life,” he said “I've seen a lot of bad stuff, but these were two children who literally had no lives."
Legislation combats child abuse
Concerning SB 566/HB 699, “Home Visiting Accountability Act of 2012”
The problem of child abuse and neglect continues to plague our state and our nation. In 2010, there were nearly 700,000 confirmed victims of abuse or neglect nationwide, including 1,560 children who were killed as a result.
Here in Maryland, 13,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2010, and 24 children died from abuse or neglect that year. The true number of children abused or neglected is likely significantly higher, since many incidents are never reported.
Child abuse and neglect also increases future crime. Survivors of abuse or neglect often carry emotional scars for life, and research has shown they are almost 30 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
The more than 5,500 law enforcement leaders and crime survivors from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids nationwide, including 50 in Maryland, know from the front lines against crime that child abuse is a serious public safety concern.
Voluntary, evidence-based, home-visiting programs can help break the cycle of abuse and violence. Eligible families can receive these voluntary services to learn more about their child's health, nutrition and physical, psychological and emotional development.
One rigorous study of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) found that participation in the program cut abuse and neglect among at-risk kids nearly in half.
Voluntary, evidence-based home visiting also can save money. A 2011 study of NFP by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found NFP produced almost $21,000 in net savings per family served.
However, such reductions in child abuse and neglect and later crime, as well as resulting cost savings, can be achieved only through effective home visiting programs.
The Home Visiting Accountability Act of 2012 will improve the quality of home-visiting programs in Maryland by focusing state funding on programs that have been proved effective.
The Maryland police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids urge the General Assembly to pass this important legislation to ensure that Maryland tax dollars are invested wisely in voluntary, home-visiting programs proven through research to stop the cycle of child abuse and neglect, reduce crime and violence and save money.
James R. Craze, chief of police, Greenbelt
Kim C. Dine, chief of police, Frederick
J. Thomas Manger, chief of police, Montgomery County
Kenneth L. Tregoning, sheriff, Carroll County
Terrance Treschuk, chief of police, Rockville
William E. Tyler, chief of police, Taneytown
John R. Williams, chief of police, Sykesville
Human trafficking 'a national security issue,' Obama task force told
by Hyun Soo Suh, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and heads of various U.S. government departments made clear Thursday that preventing human trafficking is a priority of the Obama administration.
The 27 million men, women and children victims of human trafficking are an "affront to our most fundamental values," Clinton said at the annual meeting at the White House of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Clinton chaired the meeting of the task force, which is a Cabinet-level unit that coordinates federal efforts.
Those in attendance - including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - highlighted recent successes and the new collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking around the world and on the domestic front.
"For us at the national security staff, this is a national security issue," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "... Human trafficking is at the nexus of organized crime, is a source for funding for international terrorist groups, (and) is a source for funding for transnational terrorist groups. It fundamentally endangers international security."
To reflect the high priority assigned by the administration to reducing human trafficking, the Office of Management and Budget's Jeffrey Zients assured attendees that the relevant departments will receive necessary funding to support their programs.
"We will make sure that adequate resources are allocated" to combat human trafficking, Zients said.
Noting the difficult budget environment, he said it is the budget office's job to make certain that "every dollar is well spent (and the) most important priorities of the president are well-funded. Preventing human trafficking is clearly a priority," he said.
Holder said the programs are showing results. "Our work has sent a clear and critical message: that, in this country and under this administration, human trafficking crimes will simply not be tolerated," he said.
"I'm proud to report that, this past year, we charged nearly 120 defendants - a record number - in human trafficking cases. And, over the last three years, we've achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions, including a rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions."
Holder emphasized the need for increased international cooperation, and provided an example of successful U.S.-Mexico operations to combat human trafficking across the border.
"Over the last year, by working with Mexican law enforcement partners," he said, "we dismantled sex trafficking networks operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and have brought freedom to the victims and secured landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases."
McDonough articulated the need for more intelligence regarding cases of human trafficking.
"Let me emphasize, when it comes to trafficking, one thing that we do know is that we ... don't know enough," he said. "... In his statement today, the president spoke of trafficking as form of exploitation that hides both in the dark corners of our world and in plain sight in our own towns and cities. We know in certain areas we don't have great data on the scope of the problem."
Clinton was particularly enthusiastic about a new, free online tool, Slavery Footprint, which allows anyone to see how human trafficking touches their everyday lives.
Slavery Footprint is a "kind of innovation that is helping to create awareness of this crime," reported Under Secretary María Otero, head of the Office of Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights. "... Three million people have logged on this website."
Holder noted that while the recent achievements have been successful, there is more to be done to fight human trafficking.
"I think we can all be encouraged by our recent achievements in the fight against human trafficking, but I think we would all agree that we have still more to do and that far too many people remain in desperate need for the help that we can provide," he said.
Justice Department: Record number of human-trafficking cases in 2011
by Jerry Seper
The Washington Times
March 15, 2012
The Justice Department initiated more than 120 cases against human traffickers during 2011 — a record number — in what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday was a part of the department's commitment to preventing human trafficking, bringing traffickers to justice and assisting their victims.
Mr. Holder, speaking at a Washington meeting of President Obama's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the commitment has “never been stronger — and our approach has never been more effective.”
“Our work has sent a clear and critical message: that, in this country — and under this administration — human-trafficking crimes will not be tolerated,” he said. “This work has saved lives, ensured freedom and restored dignity to women, men and children in virtually every corner of the country. We've liberated scores of victims; secured long prison sentences against individual traffickers; and dismantled large, transnational organized criminal enterprises.”
Mr. Holder said that over the past three years, the department had achieved “significant increases in human-trafficking prosecutions,” including a rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced-labor and adult sex-trafficking prosecutions.
In February 2011, the Justice Department began a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative to take its countertrafficking enforcement efforts to a new level. As part of that effort, Mr. Holder announced the creation of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, an interagency collaboration among the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human-trafficking offenses.
Six Phase I Pilot ACTeams have since been activated in Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; and Miami.
“By bringing federal investigative agencies and federal prosecutors together, they're allowing us to develop and advance high-impact human-trafficking prosecutions,” he said.
Mr. Holder also noted that over the past year, the department had:
• Dismantled a large, transnational organized criminal enterprise that held Ukrainian victims in forced labor in Philadelphia.
• Brought freedom to illegal immigrants from Central America and convicted the traffickers who — with threats and violent abuse — compelled them into forced labor and prostitution in restaurants and bars on Long Island, N.Y.
• Restored freedom to illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and convicted the trafficker who brutally exploited them in massage parlors in Chicago, and even branded them with tattoos to claim them as his property.
• Secured a life sentence against a gang member in Virginia for the sex trafficking of victims as young as 12 years old.
“We're also taking steps to forge and strengthen partnerships across international borders — which, as we've seen repeatedly, are essential,” he said, adding that Justice Department officials and Mexican law enforcement had dismantled sex-trafficking networks operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border — “bringing freedom to the victims, and securing landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases.”
Online Sex Trade Is Flourishing Despite Efforts to Curb It
by SHOSHANA WALTER
Early this month, the social networking Web site itspimpin101.net fell into disarray after its founder, Kelly Surrell, was fatally wounded in a shooting while driving his Bentley in East Oakland.
For years, Mr. Surrell, 34, had profited by taking a portion of the earnings of his roster of women prostitutes. Then, like many Internet entrepreneurs, Mr. Surrell decided to capitalize on an expanding online community. On his Web site, which referred visitors to Mr. Surrell's Facebook page and his instructional podcasts, pimps and aspiring pimps could post tips and swap advice about “the game.”
They will have to go somewhere else now, because Mr. Surrell's social network is “currently undergoing maintenance,” according to a message posted there. But it appears that there are more places than ever for them to go.
The online sex trade is flourishing despite nationwide campaigns and pressure from government leaders. Two years after public and legal pressure prompted Craigslist.org, the San Francisco-based online classifieds service, to scrap its “erotic services” section, visitors and revenue have soared on other classified Web sites, according to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, a consulting firm for the classified advertising market. Law enforcement officials in the Bay Area said other Web sites had emerged with suspected sex-for-pay advertisements.
The sites display ads for sex services, and they also serve as online communities where customers, pimps and prostitutes can arrange business deals, share police sightings and swap tips. Law enforcement officials said the online trade has, in some ways, made sex trafficking and solicitation easier, while giving the police new insight into a historically hidden, underground culture.
“It's a great tool for us, to be honest,” said Detective Jeremy Martinez of the San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force. “I know there was a lot of applause when Craigslist's erotic services got brought down, but for us it was a fishing pond we could go to.”
Casey Bates, who supervises the Alameda County district attorney's human trafficking unit, said law enforcement officials have “a love-hate relationship” with online sex sites. “It's despicable, what's going on,” Mr. Bates said, “but they allow us to show a jury in very graphic terms what's going on between provider and john.”
Law enforcement officials said the most popular sites for listing sex-related services in the Bay Area include the social media and review Web site myredbook.com and Village Voice Media's classified advertising site backpage.com. Other sites offer additional features, from lovings.com, which verifies escort-submitted photographs, to rubmaps.com, which features an interactive map of adult massage parlors and user-submitted reviews of masseuses, down to detailed descriptions of their sexual prowess.
On myredbook.com, customers calling themselves “hobbyists” share reviews of “providers,” whose photos, phone numbers, services and prices are listed on their profiles. In some forums on the site, other users post photographs of women they see walking on the street, including on “Inty,” or International Boulevard in Oakland, the notorious stretch for prostitution known as “the track.” Many post warnings to other users, in real time, when they spot police officers, or claim to have been robbed or ripped off by a pimp, prostitute or customer.
“The Internet is that frontier out there,” Detective Martinez said. “Anyone can post, even if it's about something illegal. The good thing about that is we have a place to look.”
At least one site owner does not find the idea alarming.
“These places have been around since the beginning of time, basically,” said Warren Newsome, a spokesman for rubmaps.com, the only site to respond to an inquiry from The Bay Citizen. “We don't play referee. We just provide a forum. It's better to provide this medium where cops can get some info, rather than not have any.”
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Police Department received a report that a suspected pimp had kidnapped a young woman at 10th Street and Mission. With a description and photograph in hand, investigators with the special victims unit searched on myredbook.com for the missing woman, filtering the profiles by age and hair color. After finding her profile, a detective contacted the listed cellphone number and arranged to meet with her at a nearby motel, where officers took her into custody.
“It's a good way to gather intelligence,” said Detective Vincent Repetto of the special victims unit. “You get this kind of information and it can dovetail with open investigations.”
Late last year, the police in South San Francisco arrested a couple after finding them and two 16-year-old girls, including one runaway, in their motel room. Mahendar Singh, 40, told the authorities that the girls were his stepdaughters, but the police found their profiles on myredbook.com. In January, Mr. Singh pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to commit sex trafficking.
Challenging the sites legally has proven difficult. Legal experts said the Web sites are protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that Web site owners are exempt from responsibility for the content of their users.
“The idea is that you hold the speaker liable, and not the soapbox,” said Rebecca Jeschke, director of media relations for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It's the foundation of the Internet you see now.”
In August, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media that claimed backpage.com was aiding and abetting sex trafficking by allowing users to post advertisements for sex.
Investigators said that trying to battle the Web sites in a public or legal arena is not the solution to the problem; providers simply write in code — offering “French lessons,” for example — or move to other Web sites. Some Web sites are hosted in other countries, such as rubmaps.com, which lists its business address in Nicosia, Cyprus.
“Maybe the best thing to do is to block a site or take it down, but it just pops up in a different form,” said Mr. Bates, of the Alameda district attorney's office.
Lawmakers have been slow to realize the scope of the problem. In 2007, two years after California lawmakers made human trafficking a felony, the attorney general's office released a report on human trafficking in the state. The Internet was not mentioned.
But California is now leading the country in responding to the rapidly expanding online sex trade. In February, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris convened leaders from nonprofit, law enforcement and technology companies to gather information for an updated report on human trafficking in the state. Several researchers who are a part of the group, including some from Microsoft and the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, are developing a database that would allow law enforcement officials to search and map information from all of the Web sites suspected of advertising prostitution.
“This is an opportunity to observe the social behaviors which underlie the trafficking trade, which is essential if you want to combat it,” said Mark Latonero, director of research at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. “We're trying to crack the code.”
Family child sex abuse: Silence can't be an option
by Carolyn Davis
Tammy Lerner grew up in a big, close-knit family in central Pennsylvania. Everyone lived near one another, celebrated holidays together, and respected the elders as the strong-willed heads of the extended household.
When some family members heard allegations that young Tammy and a couple of cousins were being sexually abused by two of their uncles, they protected their kin.
The accused abusers, that is.
"My story is not exceptional," said Lerner, now 41 and vice president of the Bryn Mawr-based Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
Families riven by possible child molestation - when accuser and accused are related - often wrap themselves in secrecy. They hush accusations, experts say, to avoid social stigma or keep the family intact. Relatives take sides, creating divisions that inflict an additional layer of pain.
That pain has been intensified for many families as child-molestation allegations proliferate - with accusations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, ex-Daily News sportswriter Bill Conlin, Ukrainian hockey coach Ivan Pravilov, and the long-running abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
"There's so much agony and frustration over what happened to their children that it's almost palpable. It hits you in the chest, in the gut," says Mary, a Delaware County mother of abuse victims.
Mary asked that her full name not be used. The Inquirer does not identify sex-abuse victims; identifying the mother would identify the victim.
She described a support group she participated in for parents of sexually abused children: "I drove home that first night after the group and I probably sat in front of my house for an hour, tearful. The pain overwhelmed me that night."
Abuse within families is more common than people realize - research shows that 90 percent of child sexual abuse is committed by a relative.
"A lot of families have someone they know not to hang out with," said Ted Glackman, executive director of the Joseph J. Peters Institute, a Philadelphia mental health agency that serves sexual abuse victims and offenders. "There's an incredible amount of shame, which usually leads to some secrecy."
In Sandusky's case, Penn State officials acted like family, circling its own when it learned of possible abuse.
"They're concerned about reputation or image and we know that happens whether it's within a family or within an organization," said Cindy McElhinney of the South Carolina-based nonprofit Darkness to Light, which works with adults to prevent child sexual abuse.
Conlin's alleged victims in the 1970s, when the assaults were said to have occurred, were relatives and friends of his children. The youngsters went to their parents with the accusations against Conlin, but rather than go to authorities, the adults only told Conlin to stay away from their children or kept them away from him.
"I'm really sorry that I didn't do something more at the time," Barbara Healey told The Inquirer regarding her response to hearing accusations years ago that Conlin had molested her son and daughter. "Call the police is what I should have done."
Lerner, decades after her abuse, has no contact with most of her family and only occasionally sees her parents. It hurts them, she says, to know she feels they betrayed her by not protecting her from her uncles.
One of the uncles was never charged because the statute of limitations had run out by the time Lerner and her older cousins went to authorities. The other pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault and paid a $250 fine in 1994 after a younger cousin filed a complaint within the required time, said Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson.
Doing more at that moment is trickier than it seems it should be. That may be why the Twitter hashtag #ididnotreport is so popular worldwide. A typical tweet: "#ididnotreport because I was a child and had no idea what to say."
For a parent, facing the physical and emotional injuries your child may have suffered can be paralyzing.
"It's hard that this happened to their child. They have been tricked, too, and feel anger and shame for letting this child in their house go over to Uncle Bob's house - aside from if there is an investigation by law and child protective services, potentially getting someone close within the family in trouble," said Pat Kosinski, executive director of Family Support Line in Delaware County.
"Most people can't make the leap from fear to reporting such suspicions to authorities," said Jenny Coleman, who runs a telephone help line for Stop It Now!, a national child-abuse prevention group based in Massachusetts.
Many need to go slowly and learn what could happen if they take the next step.
Mary, the Delaware County woman, remembers a parent from a support group who was overwhelmed with frustration one night. The woman needed a parent who had already dealt with child sex abuse to " 'tell me my daughter is going to be all right, because right now, I can absolutely not see the future without any kind of pain or frustration,' " Mary recalled.
Child sexual abuse was even more difficult to confront in the 1990s and earlier than it is now, said Chris Kirchner, executive director of the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps investigate those cases.
"I do think in that era, they didn't quite know what they were dealing with," Kirchner said. "They didn't know this wasn't a one-time thing."
Now, national and local groups, including the Family Support Line, the Peters Institute, and Darkness to Light, train adults to prevent child sexual abuse by recognizing the warning signs - among them an adult giving gifts to one child in the family or seeking ways to be alone with the child.
No matter how fraught acknowledging abuse suspicions is, silence should not trump protecting children, said Coleman, of Stop It Now!
"Don't let it stop there."
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in AF
by Danny Crivello
During a City Council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor James H. Hadfield proclaimed April 2012 as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Before the proclamation, a representative of the Family Treatment Center of Orem, a private, non-profit agency, whose goal is the prevention and treatment of child abuse and trauma in Utah County, spoke to members of the City Council, encouraging them to implement policies that strengthen families and protect children.
"It is a growing problem within our nation and Utah County, and we encourage each citizen in Utah County to get involved in many different ways," Candice Bahm, a prevention specialist, said. "We need to invest in our children knowing that our children are the future."
Mrs. Bahm also spoke about the five ways to join the cause and prevent child abuse:
Volunteer Your Time: Get involved with other parents, school groups and community mentoring programs to help keep children safe from harm.
Discipline Thoughtfully: Be a nurturing parent. Never discipline when you are upset. Give yourself time to calm down, and have the courage to ask for help.
Know the Signs of Abuse: Abuse and neglect can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal, and unexplained injuries aren't the only signs of abuse. Be aware of other indicators that might signal a problem -- depression, changes in eating/sleeping patterns, fear and mistrust, etc.
Report Abuse: If you witness a child being harmed or see signs of abuse, make a report immediately. For more information about Utah's reporting guidelines, call the State Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 800-678-9399.
Invest in Kids: Teach children about their right to personal safety, and support community prevention programs. Encourage employers and lawmakers to implement policies that strenghten families and protect children.
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the U.S.
Other national statistics on child abuse: More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse. Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4. It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates. More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. About 80% of 21-year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder. The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.
The mayor then read the following proclamation:
Whereas, American Fork City's greatest asset is our children. All children deserve to grow up in a safe nurturing environment to assure they reach their full potential.
Whereas, child abuse is a serious and growing problem affecting over 3 million of our nation's children annually; and
Whereas, it is important for all citizens of American Fork City to become more aware of child abuse and the critical need for prevention within their respective neighborhoods and community; and
Whereas, decreasing the occurrence of child abuse relies upon efforts of every individual in order to make a positive, substantial impact upon the children of today, who will become leaders of tomorrow;
Now, therefore, I, James H. Hadfield, Mayor of American Fork City, do hereby proclaim April 2012 as Child Abuse Prevention Month. I support child abuse prevention efforts and education, and I encourage all citizens to actively help protect our children and work to create strong families within this community.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and cause the Seal of American Fork City to be affixed this 14 day March, 2012.
U.S. scrubbed plan to protect exchange students
by Holbrook Mohr and Mitch Weiss
JACKSON, Miss. — Despite dozens of allegations of neglect and sexual abuse over the years, the U.S. State Department has scrapped a plan to require FBI-based fingerprint searches for people hosting foreign high school exchange students, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
The federal agency in recent years considered but dropped a plan to require FBI background checks similar to what's used by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts because it wasn't "feasible," according to the State Department documents.
By not doing so, the State Department has sent the wrong message, especially at a time when cases of mistreatment and sexual abuse continue to surface, advocates said.
The Exchange Visitor Program brings close to 30,000 high school students to the United States each year. Foreign students live with a host family for a year and attend U.S. schools. It's supposed to be a learning experience for the students, but over the years, dozens of students have been abused, according to State Department records, advocates and court documents.
The agency received 43 allegations of sexual abuse since the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday.
"From the State Department's point of view and the Secretary of State's point of view, even one child abused under these programs is one child too many. That is why we've undertaken a number of reforms to strengthen the program," Toner said in an email.
In recent years, the agency has adopted several rules designed to safeguard students in the high school program, including requiring all sponsors to photograph the exterior of the house, the kitchen and student's bedroom. Host families also must provide outside character references — previously, family members and sponsors could be such references.
Yet the State Department failed to adopt other critical rules at the time, including a plan for a pilot program with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that would have used FBI fingerprint checks that are performed by youth organizations that include the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It would have ensured a more in-depth, nationwide criminal background check.
Danielle Grijalalva, executive director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, said she has found dozens of cases of sexual abuse over the years and forwarded the complaints to the State Department. Yet the agency has done little to investigate them, she said.
"The State Department is watching exchange agencies like the Catholic Church watched its (pedophile) priests," she said.
Advocates place blame on the way the agency relies on designated sponsors — companies that facilitate the program by arranging places for the students to live — to perform background checks on host families.
Last year, the State Department took steps to sever its relationship with one sponsor after the company placed a student "with a host family whose criminal background check revealed a murder conviction," according to agency memos. One document from last year said a review by the State Department found that 15 of its 39 "largest fee-charging" sponsors were in "regulatory noncompliance," though it didn't say what rules were violated.
The agency asked the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of State for an independent review of its Youth Programs Division, and the OIG determined in September 2011 "that the Bureau had fully and satisfactorily responded to the recommendations and closed out the review," Toner said.
"The Department has made significant reforms and continues to pursue new ways in which we can safeguard international student exchange participants," he said.
Critics say more must be done.
Andrea Leavitt is a California attorney who represented four exchange students who said they were sexually abused in Arkansas. Doyle Meyer Jr. served four years of a six-year prison sentence in that case.
"There is a huge, glaring, gaping hole in the regulations in what must be done when there's an allegation of child abuse," Leavitt said.
That's because allegations of abuse aren't usually reported immediately to law enforcement or child protective services, she said.
"Most often we see the inclination by the foreign exchange sponsoring agency, camps, schools and churches is to bury it and discredit the kid," she said. "The cover-ups often result in more victims and escalation in the nature and severity of the abuse by the perpetrator."
Leavitt would like to see a federal law that requires officials, employees and agents of entities that are licensed by the government or receive financial benefits from the government to report an allegation to law enforcement before running it up the company's chain of command.
There should be a mandatory jail sentence and no plea bargains when people don't first report the matter to law enforcement by email or fax within 24 hours of hearing an allegation, she said.
"There's too much witness tampering, too much wagon circling by the entities to protect them from liability and penalties over the protection and best interests of the victims," she said.
The State Department's exchange programs have had problems in the past.
An earlier AP investigation found serious abuses in a program that allows foreign college students to live and work in the United States for up to four months. The problems in that cultural exchange, the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, included organized criminal groups arranging for participants to work in strip clubs. Others received little money for working long hours at menial jobs or were crammed into overcrowded apartments and charged exorbitant rent.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ordered a full review of that program last year and changes are being made.
Another measure would have prohibited single adults without a school-aged child living in the home from hosting exchange students.
Currently, sponsors are supposed to make sure host families undergo a background check — a rule that took effect in 2005. That doesn't always happen. Some of the state and local background checks don't tap into the national crime database and sometimes someone with a criminal background can escape detection, according to State Department records.
Exchange students also have ended up living with convicted criminals because program coordinators lie about housing arrangements. In one such case, Edna Burgette of Scranton, Pa., was sentenced to three months in jail on state charges in Pennsylvania and probation on federal charges in 2010 after working as an international coordinator for a program sponsor.
Federal court records said she lied about housing arrangements for five students and was paid a $400 fee and a $20-a-month stipend for each one. One of those students was sent to live in a house with a convicted drug felon and at least two others were sent to live with people who had no means to support them because they were on public assistance themselves, according to records in U.S. District Court in Scranton.
In Columbia, S.C., the AP found a case in which three exchange students — all teenage girls — were placed by the sponsor in roach-infested mobile homes.
Two of the girls were placed in the same South Carolina home with little food and with a single mother who forced them to babysit, according to Gina Barton, of West Columbia, S.C., who later was appointed as a temporary guardian for the girls. Barton said they were denied bathing facilities at times and were permitted only rare phone calls to family in Poland, and then were instructed to say nothing about the living conditions.
One of the students took pictures of the house and sent them to her parents in Poland, who complained to the company that arranged the trip. It took weeks before that girl was removed by the sponsor and placed in another home, but the company left the other girl behind. Barton heard about the second girl's case and arranged for the student to move in with her.
No charges were ever filed in the case.
Barton said the student told her about a third girl who came over with her and was living in a mobile home where the host family was openly using drugs and threatening her. She was removed from "dangerous living conditions" — but only after she repeatedly complained to the company and the State Department, Barton said.
"We were shocked," she said.
The company that sponsored the trip has gone out of business, but has since resurfaced under another name, Barton said.
The State Department needs to conduct extensive background checks of not only host families, but of sponsors, she said.
"If they don't, they are constantly going to place the kid's in harm's way," she said.
Gender nonconformity linked to child abuse
Uncomfortable adults often compel strict role presentation
Reuters -- Girls who dress or act like boys, and boys who act feminine may be more likely to be abused and end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers whose findings appeared in the Pediatrics medical journal said that parents or other adults who are uncomfortable with gender nonconformity may treat children differently, sometimes violently, or be convinced that they can change their feelings and behavior.
"In some cases, they believe they're helping the child, that gender nonconforming won't be accepted by other people," said Andrea Roberts, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who worked on the study. "But of course, abuse is never protective."
Roberts and her colleagues analyzed data from a long-term study on children and teens that looked at more than 16,000 children who recalled their favorite toys, roles they took on during play, and feelings of femininity or masculinity at age 11.
The participants were also asked about instances of abuse — from kicking and grabbing, to threatening, to forced sexual contact — that happened either before that time or during their adolescent years.
The researchers found that children who were the most gender nonconforming were between 40 percent and more than twice as likely to report any kind of childhood abuse as those who did conform to typical gender roles.
They also reported more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including jumpiness, trouble sleeping and flashbacks.
Roberts said that although the findings can't prove that parents abused boys because they acted like girls, and vice versa, the study hints that gender nonconformity in younger children predicted abuse in teenage years.
Researchers said that the most important thing for nonconforming children is to get support from their families and schools.
HIV and the Long Tail of Child Sexual Abuse
Two-year study in Southeastern U.S. finds one-quarter of adult HIV patients were sexually abused as children
Durham, NC - One in four HIV patients was found to have been sexually abused as a child, according to a two-year Duke University study of more than 600 HIV patients. Traumatic childhood experiences were also linked to worse health outcomes among these patients, who are aged 20 to 71.
More than half of these patients in the Coping with HIV/AIDS in the Southeast (CHASE) study had experienced sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes, according to researchers from the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR). Half of the patients had experienced three or more lifetime traumatic experiences, which, in addition to sexual or physical abuse, could include such experiences as witnessing domestic violence as a child, a parent's suicide attempt or completion, or losing a child.
"For whatever outcome we looked at, psychological trauma ended up being a predictor of worse medical outcomes and poorer health-related behaviors," said lead author Brian Pence, a Duke associate professor of community and family medicine and global health.
Through periodic follow-ups over a two-year period, the study made important links between traumatic experiences, HIV-related behaviors and worse health outcomes. More lifetime traumatic experiences were associated with instances of unprotected sex, missing antiretroviral medications, recent emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Those patients who had experienced trauma were more likely to see their health decline or to die during the study period.
The study appears in the April 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (online now), with an accompanying editorial. The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Pence said these findings highlight the importance of assessing trauma history in patients receiving HIV care. The researchers hope the results can be used to inform the way HIV treatment programs are developed so they promote safer sex practices, optimal drug adherence and better health outcomes for HIV-infected individuals.
What surprised the researchers most was that the effects of past trauma on current behaviors and health was not explained by the usual factors.
"We would expect people with a history of exposure to trauma to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or other mental health concerns, like drug abuse or poor coping skills, and that these things in turn would more fully explain why they had lower adherence to their medications and worse health," Pence said. "But, we found that trauma history was still associated with bad health outcomes independent of mental health status, drug use or coping styles. So we have more to learn about exactly how past traumatic experiences exert influence on behaviors and health outcomes years down the road."
"We hope that this study spurs further research into understanding how early trauma affects behaviors and health much later in life," Pence said. "Regardless of the reason, past trauma certainly seems to influence how HIV patients engage in their medical care and how they end up doing clinically."
Other CHPIR researchers involved in the study include Kathryn Whetten, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Susan Reif, as well as collaborators from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Linked to Early Onset Alcoholism in Women
Late onset alcoholism (Type 1) and early onset alcoholism (Type II) have both been linked to childhood abuse. Men and women also have been shown to be equally susceptible to alcohol dependency if they were raised in a home with an alcoholic parent or caregiver. The genetic risk factor for alcohol dependence has been clearly established, but understanding if abuse suffered during childhood is a separate risk factor, independent of family history, or a risk factor created directly as a result of living with an alcohol-dependent parent has yet to be determined. To shed more light on this subject, A. Magnusson of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, conducted a study that looked at how genetics and childhood abuse affected the development of Type I and Type II alcoholism in men and women.
For the study, Magnusson evaluated interviews from more than 24,000 Swedish adult twins and analyzed them for childhood sexual and physical abuse, family history of alcoholism, and alcohol dependence. The study revealed that nearly 5% of all the women and over 8% of all the men had a history of alcohol dependence. The rate of genetic risk was over 50% and was similar in both the male and female participants. However, the women showed more Type I alcohol dependence than the men. The findings also demonstrated that childhood sexual abuse was directly linked to higher rates of early onset (Type II) alcohol dependence, especially in the women.
Further, the results were specifically analyzed to determine if the abuse suffered by the women was an independent risk factor for alcohol dependence or was a risk factor resulting from being raised in an environment with alcoholism. After assessing the risks individually, Magnusson discovered that although genetics did increase the risk for alcohol dependence, childhood sexual abuse was clearly its own risk factor for early onset alcoholism in women. Magnusson said, “Because sexual abuse was a significant risk factor for alcohol dependence in the co-twin control analysis, we found evidence for a direct association between this form of childhood trauma and alcohol dependence, independent of other forms of shared childhood environment or genetic background factors.” Overall, the findings suggest that there are several similar risk factors for alcohol dependence in men and women. But girls who have survived childhood sexual abuse are more vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol at a young age, especially if they have been raised in an alcoholic home. Understanding this dynamic could help therapists better address the relationship between a client's addiction and traumatic history.
Florida universities can now be fined for silence on child abuse
by Donna Koehn
Public or private universities and colleges now can be slapped with a $1 million fine if administrators find out child abuse or neglect has occurred and fail to report it, the Florida Legislature decided late last week.
The penalties include abuse on campus and at off-campus, university-affiliated events.
The wide-ranging bill for the "protection of vulnerable persons" was crafted in the wake of cover-ups of child sexual abuse allegations at Penn State and Syracuse universities. Officials at both schools failed to report alleged abuse to law enforcement.
Lauren Book, an advocate for child sexual abuse victims and an architect of the bill, says it requires Florida schools to put child safety above their reputations.
"Now we're clear that they have a duty and a responsibility to report it," says the South Florida woman, who was sexually and physically abused as a child by her nanny.
Additionally, the bill makes it mandatory for everyone to report suspected child abuse or neglect, even if the alleged perpetrator is not the child's caregiver. Previously, the public only was required by law to call in a report if a caregiver was responsible.
"If someone saw abuse, and it wasn't the mom or dad or another caregiver, you could just walk away," says Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families. "That will no longer be the case."
Penalties for failure to report abuse also increase under the bill, from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
DCF officials estimate the change in the reporting law will send an additional 40,000 calls to its child abuse hotline. Legislators earmarked about $1.5 million from the general revenue fund for 47 additional positions at the hotline for 2012-2013.
Gillespie says hotline counselors will continue to refer noncaregiver cases to local law enforcement for investigation.
"A family whose child is abused by someone else is going through enough trauma," she says. "They don't need DCF in their lives, too."
The bill also earmarks $1.5 million in 2012-2013 to relocate sexual battery victims, with $1,500 to $3,000 set aside to help move a victim to a safer location if necessary.
Book, CEO of the advocacy group Lauren's Kids, walked the state before the legislative session to raise awareness about this and other issues.
"On the walk, we saw women who were scared for their lives," she says, noting that a woman attacked in her home is vulnerable if her attacker hasn't been caught or is out on bail. "If you're concerned about your physical safety, it's difficult to be concerned about getting the emotional help you need."
The bill also extends the Florida Crimes Compensation Act to include any child abuse that results in "mental injury" to a child, even if the child wasn't physically injured.
Criminal penalties for sex traffickers were increased in another bill passed last week.
If approved by Gov. Rick Scott, the bills will go into effect Oct. 1.
Sex traffickers prove harder to catch as they move online
by Jazmine Ulloa
The sex industry has evolved in the past two decades, moving from the streets to computer screens, and authorities in Austin and across the state say their efforts to enforce the law and find and protect victims are hampered by The sex industry has evolved in the past two decades, moving from the streets to computer screens, and authorities in Austin and across the state say their efforts to enforce the law and find and protect victims are hampered by the shift.
Detectives said they have made strides to fight what they describe as a modern-day form of slavery by enhancing their collaboration across jurisdictions and their use of tools on the Web, where victims are easier to hide, predators harder to catch and evidence tougher and more time-consuming to gather. But authorities said offline efforts are just as important, such as training officers, emergency responders and residents on how to detect potential sex trafficking circles in their own communities.
At its core, social workers and detectives say that the universal model for one of the world's oldest professions remains much the same: men capitalizing on young women.
But the sex trade is no longer mostly girls hanging around dark city corners looking for business, experts said. It is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that has expanded to hundreds of thousands of women advertising — or being forced to advertise — their services on countless online classified ads, teen dating and social networking sites.
Craigslist shuttered its "adult services" section almost two years ago after complaints that ads for prostitution — many including children sold into the trade — were widespread on the site. But others, such as Backpage and Facebook, have taken its place, investigators said.
"The Internet is an enabler, a marketing strategy for the pimps who exploit these girls and the johns who use them," said Noel Busch-Armendariz, a sociology professor at the University of Texas.
Detectives said it's often tough to distinguish early in an investigation between victims willingly involved in prostitution and those who have been forced into the business.
"Sex trafficking victims are typically minors or vulnerable young adults who are coerced or fraudulently brought into the trade through mental or physical abuse," said Billy Sifuentes, human trafficking liaison for the Austin Police Department.
Numbers on such cases are difficult to find because victims often do not come forward to authorities, and there is no uniform database to track such cases when they do. The Human Trafficking Reporting System, developed in 2007 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice, counted 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigations nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010 — about 80 percent of which involved commercial sex as opposed to forced labor.
But the system is not a comprehensive study and does not provide a statistical snapshot for the country, government officials said. It collected data from federally funded task forces that in Texas included only those from Bexar and Harris counties and the cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.
Police tactics evolve
The scope of the online enterprise is even harder to measure as it is increasingly transitory, transnational and predatory, authorities said. Across the state, Texan gangs and Mexican cartels have dipped into the deep pockets of the lucrative trade and expanded its reach.
To fight it, police departments in Texas have ramped up their coordination with other police forces and child advocacy centers across the state and nationwide. Detectives in one city often have to execute search or arrest warrants in others. They also have to be able to quickly share case and suspect information among varying agencies.
State legislation in 2007 created the Texas Human Trafficking Task Force, which brings together law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal levels who can swap intelligence between regional and statewide task forces. It is headed by the attorney general's office, but the agencies taking charge and working on cases vary from community coalitions and victim assistance agencies to state departments such as the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Commission officers conducting their own investigations have been able to shut down bars, cantinas and other businesses with liquor licenses that were operating human trafficking rings.
The attorney general's office and the statewide task force work to stay on top of the trends, Strickland said, whether an investigation starts on the Web or on the ground.
"The evidence and the activity dictates where we go," he said.
And with the movement of the sex trade to the Web, law enforcement officials also have boosted their efforts to fight the exploitation of children online, and detectives working on sex trafficking cases can often work with those who specialize on cybercrimes.
Victims in the shadows
Like most law enforcement agencies across the state, the Austin Police Department began developing its resources to fight online crimes against children back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when personal computers were becoming popular and the major concern were predators, adults trolling the Web to lure young boys and girls, said Austin Detective Joel Pridgeon with the child abuse unit.
Now detectives working on sex trafficking cases can use resources such as the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces at the state and federal levels that allow multiple police agencies in the country to share data and resources.
Austin's human trafficking unit works about 12 investigations a month, most of them sex trafficking cases, Sifuentes said. More than 100 victims were identified between January 2005 and June 2010, according to police records. Detectives found at least six of those children by matching photos on Backpage ads to their own missing-children databases, police said.
But "it is difficult to count the number of people operating in the shadows," Sifuentes said. "Who can say how many victims we actually have? Who can say when many of these girls are not willing to report?"
It was through the collaborative efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that authorities in 2009 were able to arrest a North Austin woman later convicted of running a prostitution ring that advertised in the Austin Chronicle and on Craigslist and other sites, Sifuentes said. Hong Yan Li, now 41, was sentenced in January 2010 to almost a year and a half in federal prison and three years of supervision. Under a plea bargain, Li was made to forfeit to the government three houses and a condominium in Austin and Pflugerville, about $33,100 in cash, and watches and jewelry, according to court records.
She first appeared on law enforcement's radar when an apartment complex manager made a complaint about foot traffic in and out of her unit, Sifuentes said. Through a two-year probe that also included investigators from federal police agencies, the Travis County sheriff's office and Internal Revenue Service, authorities found that from 2004 to 2009, Li had managed a rotating crew of women to work as prostitutes at a series of apartments, hotel rooms and storefronts throughout the city, court documents show.
The websites were constantly updated with descriptions of available women who would have sex for about $160, the documents said.
"She was prolific," Sifuentes said. Although he said he is certain some of the women she employed were forced into the trade, detectives were not able to find any trafficking victims.
As with similar cases, he said the main reason for that was their fear of retaliation. That is why first responders, such as social workers, patrol officers and emergency crews, should be trained to identify the crime and to ask victims the right questions, he said.
Authorities have come a long way, he added. In the '70s, officers faced similar challenges in understanding acts of family violence, and sex trafficking did not yet have a name, he recalled.
"When I was a young officer, we just did not know what to call it," he said. "But in reality, it is slavery."
Seminar to focus on stopping child sexual abus
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 points to his own sport and coaching experiences as an area where proper caution must be emphasized.
In youth boxing, out-of-town tournaments often require long road trips and lodging. Sometimes additional chaperones are not available. Sometimes he gives athletes rides home late at night because parents don't have the means.
"With my boxing team, boys and girls, when you drop a kid off, it was never a thought of mine," he said. "But it was brought to my attention that I shouldn't be dropping off the kid or being alone. The trust factor is still there but you don't think of the things that can happen."
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. Younger founded Butterfly Gateway in 2008 to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse.
More teachers to get child abuse training
by Sarah Plummer
At Tuesday's meeting of the Raleigh County Board of Education, Miller Hall, director of secondary education, and Scott Miller, executive director of Just for Kids Inc., asked the board to consider offering teacher training in how to recognize, report and prevent child abuse.
Hall, while attending the Just For Kids public forum in January, heard retired teachers discuss that, although mandatory reporters, they felt they lacked training in how and what to report.
Miller explained Just for Kids is a non-profit organization that interviews and counsels victims of child sexual abuse. In addition, they seek to educate the public on abuse and offer a Steward of Children training to raise awareness and change child-protective behaviors.
The program interviews between 30 and 40 child victims a month, he said.
For every adult who goes through the Stewards of Children training, it is expected that 10 children will not have to go through the trauma of child sexual abuse, he explained
“What we see every day are children who are left to their own devices. Parents work and leave the child at home and they go to a neighbor's house and the parents don't know who is there. In other instances a parent's significant other may be abusing in the child's home,” said Miller. “There is a huge range of incidents and as we become aware, we can reduce them.”
At a recent conference, Scott Miller had the opportunity to talk with many teachers. Some knew about Just For Kids and some didn't, he said.
“There was a kindergarten teacher who commented, ‘I don't really need to know that much about that,' and I told her we had just finished interviewing two five year-olds. She had no idea that children who were five were being sexually abused,” he explained.
Miller said he looks forward to partnering with the school and knows that it will make a huge difference.
Board member Richard Jarrell asked if Miller noticed an age group with more victims.
Miller said 60 percent of child victims are under 12, and they have had children too young to interview, but he noted it is also more likely for younger children to tell about the abuse; teenagers are less likely to report abuse.
Only one in 10 sexually abused children report the incident, he added.
Hall said he sees abuse as being one of the causes of truancy, dropping out, depression and suicide in children.
Being trained in recognizing and preventing will only help school climate, he added.
Board President Richard Snuffer said, “In our line of work we see neglect and abuse every day ... parents neglecting nutrition and health and leaving them to raise themselves.
“I think we will be interested in doing this. We do need training to be able to identify it — but mostly to prevent it,” Snuffer added.
Snuffer said the board would have to consider how the training might be best administered, district-wide or at individual schools, but that they would be interested in exploring the options.
Miller said Just For Kids would be able to work with the schools' schedules and availability.
Running for, and away from, domestic abuse
by Jewell Cardwell
Big, beautiful bouquets to Melissa Cairns, founder of On My Own Two Feet, an organization still in its infancy that helps survivors of abuse build physical, mental and spiritual strength.
Cairns also is organizing an April 21 marathon in Kent as a fundraiser for the Cleveland Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center and Portage County Safer Futures, a shelter for women and children.
The event is sponsored by Chaney Events and chip-timed, with all runners receiving a T-shirt. Prizes will be awarded.
For Cairns — who has completed 10 ultra-marathons, including four 100-mile races — April's marathon will combine two of her greatest passions: running and helping domestic violence survivors.
“I know that running has the power to change lives because it changed mine,” she said.
“As a survivor of domestic abuse, running brought me back to myself. It made me stronger and more confident. At first, maybe I was running away from the pain of my past or my failures. Then, I started running toward a stronger, more successful future. Now, I run for something, so that I can help other people who have been where I have been.”
It's been about 10 years, Cairns said, since she was beaten within an inch or two of her life. “I laid crumpled on the ground, blinded by blood, and teetering on the brink of consciousness. I looked up at him, without tears, and said, ‘Just leave me alone. Just let me die.' I was defeated. I surrendered. I had hit rock bottom. I could not do it anymore. I did not want to get up, but after a few moments, I did.
“After a few years had passed, I had a new husband, a new baby, and I started to really get back into running. I loved how it made me feel. My feet would hit the dirt and as I ran over roots, through rivers and underneath the trees, everything else disappeared. It made me feel so strong and free.”
The full marathon will get under way at 9 a.m. at Dix Stadium, with a walker-friendly half-marathon kicking off at 10 a.m., winding through campus and downtown, toward Ravenna on the Portage Bike and Hike trail, and through Towner's Woods, ending at the stadium.
To donate or register, please go to www.onmyowntwofeet.org. Cost is $80 for the marathon and $55 for the half. Those interested in volunteering or sponsoring are encouraged to email melissa: email@example.com
MCSO deputy on leave for not investigating child abuse case
by Lindsey Reiser
SURPRISE, AZ (CBS5) - A Maricopa County sheriff's deputy may lose his job after he failed to properly investigate a child abuse call, according to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. In September of 2009, Deputy Perry Mentzer, a 12-year member of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, was told to go to Shadow Ridge High School in Surprise, after a student told the nurse she didn't want to go home because her family was beating her. This is according to a report from AZPOST obtained by CBS 5 News.
But on the way, the report says Mentzer voluntarily went on another call not once, but twice; first on a car accident and then on a call involving a discovered body.
The report says when he got to the school more than an hour after getting dispatched, he didn't drive to the administration building. Instead, he drove to the gym. The report cites surveillance video showing he got out of his car but didn't try to open the doors. He reportedly didn't try to call the principal, either. Then he closed the call about 20 minutes after getting here.
The deputy who took over the case after Mentzer's shift testified that he had no problem contacting the principal or the student. Mentzer later told his boss his son was on a ride-along with him that day and he went on the other calls to show his son. He also said the child abuse call was "one of the calls that's not fun."
"If this is the case for law enforcement, law enforcement doesn't always do it right," said Beth Rosenberg of Children's Action Alliance.
She says it's important that these calls are approached in a thorough and timely manner.
"If the school called law enforcement or CPS to investigate, somebody should have gone out," she said.
We caught up with Mentzer at his home Tuesday, and he said he was very sick that day and blacked out when he arrived at the school back in September of 2009. We asked him for an on-camera interview, but he told us he did not feel comfortable unless his attorney was present. MCSO fired Mentzer over this, but his lawyer got him his job back.
MCSO is now appealing. We tried contacting MCSO, but we have not heard back.
Judge deals setback to Sandusky in child sex abuse case
by Mark Shade
(Reuters) - A lawyer for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky vowed to seek a dismissal of child sex abuse charges against his client after a judge on Tuesday refused to force prosecutors to provide more details on the allegations.
Judge John Cleland rejected attorney Joe Amendola's request for more information such as exact dates of the purported molestations, details that Amendola said were crucial to building a defense against 52 counts of sexual abuse.
Instead the judge in Pennsylvania's Centre County Court sided with prosecutors, who said they had already extracted as much information as possible from the accusers, described by prosecutor Joe McGettigan as "very troubled children" who were now adults.
"If the victims were capable of providing detail ... we would have done so," McGettigan said.
Several of the accusers allege in court documents the abuse occurred over several years, including one who said it began when he was 8 and lasted six years.
"Any order directing the Commonwealth to supply details would be a futile act since the Commonwealth has explained it cannot supply the details requested," the judge wrote, using Commonwealth to refer to the state.
In response, Amendola said he will seek a dismissal of the charges.
Amendola told reporters on Monday he believed Sandusky's right to due process was being violated.
Sandusky, who has maintained his innocence, is under house arrest. Jury selection in his trial is set to begin in mid-May.
The sex abuse scandal rocked the world of college football and led to the dismissal of Penn State's legendary coach Joe Paterno and University President Graham Spanier.
The university's Board of Trustees said both men showed a "failure of leadership" in not doing more when alerted to suspicions of child sexual abuse by Sandusky.
Paterno, who was head coach at the football powerhouse for 46 years, died of lung cancer in January.
Meet the Kent Police team dedicated to ending child abuse
FEW people would disagree that crimes involving child abuse are the most abhorrent of them all.
The impact it can have on victims – some as young as five – is devastating, and with millions and millions of images depicting abuse online, Kent Police has invested significant resources into catching those responsible.
Det Insp Matthew Long described the vital work he and his team of 14 dedicated officers do.
He said: "We have safeguarded 83 children so far this financial year.
"Some of these children can't even speak. Our job is to be their voice."
Det Insp Long's team was formed in 2006 and has been blazing a trail ever since.
Next to the nationwide Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Kent Police has the largest team in the country dedicated to fighting abuse and it is the highest performing unit for finding children who have been being abused online. Since April, 17 vulnerable youngsters have been identified by analysing indecent images of their abuse.
But it is harrowing work.
The unit, which is split into proactive and reactive teams, trawls the internet looking for signs of abuse.
It gathers intelligence on suspects which can come from a variety of sources, including reports from members of the public or victims themselves.
And once they have enough evidence they move quickly to arrest their suspects and save the victim.
"Simply seeing images of a child being abused and then seeing images of the child being interviewed by police officers makes you feel physically sick," said Det Insp Long.
"They can be suicidal or develop eating disorders."
They might suffer low self-esteem and may self-harm. The details of the type of abuse some of the victims are subjected to are too disturbing for publication.
But if the offenders are to be brought to justice, the youngsters often have to give evidence and Det Insp Long has nothing but admiration for the bravery they show in confronting their tormentors.
"They're inspirational," he said.
"There is no greater reward, no matter how traumatic it is for us as officers, than stopping the abuse of a young child and to see that child start to lead a normal life."
The work can bring with it a heavy burden.
"The sad thing is that you can always still be shocked," he explained.
"We have to have compulsory welfare and counselling and have to limit the amount of incidents we watch because it can have a really detrimental impact.
"We're humans and we have a certain capacity for shock and unpleasantness."
Although the internet has brought dangers, Det Insp Long was keen to emphasise that it is a perfectly safe place provided care is taken by parents to protect their offspring. Simple "don't talk to strangers" messages equally apply to life online and should be instilled in youngsters from as early as five years old, he said.
Police say 6 fingers found in trash bin at Honolulu complex likely from preschool-aged girl
HONOLULU — The grisly discovery of a child's six fingers in a trash bin at a Honolulu housing complex has left residents bewildered.
“We're still a little bit in shock, wondering what the back story is,” said Kevin Carney, Hawaii vice president for EAH Housing, the San Rafael, Calif.-based company that manages the affordable rentals.
Residents of the 389-unit Kukui Gardens complex near downtown Honolulu and Chinatown are abuzz about the find, which came to light when police asked the public for help this week, Carney said.
“No one can really imagine this happening in this neighborhood, in their backyard,” he said. “Everyone's anxious for more details.”
For Gina Rose Vendegna, the horror of finding six tiny fingers in the trash bin while rummaging for bottles and cans to recycle didn't sink in until a day after she turned the plastic bag over to Honolulu police.
“Then I broke down thinking about the child,” the mother of five told KHON-TV (http://bit.ly/yUsntN ).
The fingers, which Vendegna found last month, are likely from a girl who is 2 1/2 to 4 years old, Honolulu police said.
The complex features 20 buildings on about 10 acres dotted with palm trees. While the complex is in an urban neighborhood, there is little crime, Carney said.
There have been no reports of missing children, he said. Police have interviewed area residents and checked missing reports, but have no leads.
Police have made public pleas for clues, but as of Tuesday no one had called in, CrimeStoppers Sgt. Kim Buffett said.
“The hard part is you can't determine the age of it, whether it's new or old,” Buffett said. “It can be a child from back then. We really don't know.”
Vendegna, who found the fingers, is not a suspect in the case, police said.
She recalled combing through the trash looking for bottles and cans to recycle when she came across what at first she thought was dried ginger root.
Later at her home near the complex, she took the bag out of her purse.
“I was drinking soda, and I knew for a fact those were fingers when I seen the fingernails,” she said. “They were preserved in a Ziploc bag.”
The woman said there was no foul odor. People she showed them to told her they were monkey fingers. She turned the bag over to police, and laboratory testing confirmed recently that the fingers belong to a child.
“Normally when you find body parts, you find the rest of the body,” Buffett said. “It's rare to find fingers. Why just the fingers and why the way it was found?”
Vegas woman claims 'evil' in girl's scissors death
by KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The woman was barefoot and naked, her hands bloody from what she said was the "lamb of God." But investigators believe it was from her 6-year-old daughter, who was found dead near a pair of scissors at their home.
Danielle Yvonne Slaughter told police she had recently taken a weight-loss product and began feeling an "evil presence," according to a recorded interview. When her daughter spoke "evil words," laughed "in an evil voice" and clawed and kicked at her, Slaughter said she picked up scissors and struck the child several times.
The 27-year-old woman faces an initial court appearance Wednesday on a murder charge. She is expected to be appointed a lawyer.
Officers found Slaughter shedding her clothes as she ran screaming through the streets of northwest Las Vegas on Sunday. The frenzied woman didn't appear to be injured, though paramedics took her to a hospital.
Investigators summoned to her home by Slaughter's boyfriend found the girl's body in a bedroom.
Police believe the blood on Slaughter was from her daughter. Homicide detectives who questioned her early Monday said she responded to news of the death with disbelief and confusion.
"Did I kill my daughter? Is she dead?" Slaughter asked.
In a recorded police interview, Slaughter said she has had trouble sleeping since she started taking the weight-loss product Hydroxycut four days earlier. She said she slept just one hour on the night before she was found running in the street.
Slaughter told police that she wanted to remove the "evil presence" from her home and that she kept her daughter home from day care because of it.
Police homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said investigators believe the mother was sleep-deprived and may have been affected by the drug. A police report said Slaughter told investigators "she never felt this way before."
It wasn't immediately known whether federal officials have received complaints linking Hydroxycut to confusion or delusions.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman, Siobhan DeLancey, said the product was recalled in 2009 due to complaints about liver damage, and returned to the market after it was reformulated.
Officials for parent company Iovate Health Services Inc. of Canada and Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc. of Blasdell, N.Y., did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages.
Child sexual abuse on the rise in Texoma
SHERMAN, TX - It's a thought that terrifies parents, your child as the target of a sexual predator, and it's happening more and more often, right here in Texoma. Just this week 2 Sherman men were charged with possession of child pornography.Paris police say over the weekend they arrested two men for child sexual assault, and experts say child sexual abuse cases have continued to increase over the last year.
Forensic interviewer, Bobbi Wieck, says their case load has almost doubled over the last year at the Grayson County Children's Advocacy Center.
"I've been doing forensic interviewing since 2005 and I've interviewed one child that it was an actual stranger, the rest have been either family members or friends, somebody they knew." said Wieck.
She says out of 500 cases last year, 90% were sexual abuse, so she warns parents to communicate with their kids.
"Usually if you have a open relationship with your child, that child is going to share information that made them uncomfortable." Wieck said.
Just a few days ago, 39 year old Terrell Gillilan Junior, from Sherman, was indicted with possession of child pornography, and sexual activity with a child.
And 46 year old registered sex offender, Craig Bitzer, from Sherman, was indicted on another charge of child pornography.
"He was already a registered sex offender for possession of child pornography, the additional child pornography not only violated his parol, but also initiated a whole new set of charges." said Sergeant Dawesy.
Sergeant Bruce Dawsey says Bitzer was caught when he took his computer in for repair, and the store reported disturbing images to police.
Bitzer had been taking pictures of kids in public places like dressing rooms.
"He was using a hidden camera device to take some questionable photos that are believed to be child pornography." Dawsey said.
Dawsey and Wieck both say parents need to be vigilant to keep their kids safe.
"If you see people coming up to your kids and being very friendly to them and you have no idea who they are, that's a red flag." Wieck said.
"In public settings, always knowledge is power, talk to your kids about suspicious activity or circumstances, if you're in a public area, such as a changing room, be aware of your surroundings." said Dawesy.
For more information on how to keep your children safe visit this link: http://www.cacgc.org/index.html
Lawmakers to take up single parenting/child abuse bill
by the WTMJ News Team
MADISON - Lawmakers in Madison were expected to take up a bill Tuesday that makes a state board list single parenting as a factor in child abuse.
Despite the backlash, the state senator who authored the bill is not backing down.
West Bend Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman says the bill is about education, while women's rights groups like Planned Parenthood call the bill irresponsible.
"I think most of those mothers would find they could do a better job if they were married to the father of their children," said Grothman in comments that made him the center of controversy.
The bill says it requires "the child abuse and neglect prevention board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."
He cited in an interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ what he claimed to be a number of statistics to show that a greater chance of child abuse exists in families with one parent raising a child instead of a married couple.
"An extreme example: if you are raised by your biological parents who are married as opposed to a single mom or single dad with their boyfriend/girlfriend, the second situation...20 times more likely to be a victim of sexual abuse," said Grothman.
Women's groups call it an education in sexist politics, since a majority of single parents are women.
Planned Parenthood has planned a protest on Tuesday at the Capitol.
"Women are really really getting fed up by all of this kind of legislation, they want it to stop and we're seeing them really raise up their voices," said Tanya Atkinson of Planned Parenthood.
DC Council Committee Holds Hearing on Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
by MATT ACKLAND
WASHINGTON - A serious subject was discussed at a D.C. City Council committee hearing on Monday. Councilmember Phil Mendelson is proposing legislation that would require all adults to report any knowledge of sexual abuse of a child.
Mendelson says he was prompted to amend the child sexual abuse reporting rules in D.C. following the Penn State abuse investigations. Assistant football coach,Jerry Sandusky has been accused of sexually abusing several minors. Mendelson referenced two people who witnessed the alleged sexual abuse by Sandusky, but did not immediately report the abuse to law enforcement.
Under this proposed legislation, those who do not report known abuse could face criminal prosecution.
But not all agree with Mendelson's proposed change in the reporting requirements. Some believe the current law which requires professionals who have contact with children is enough. Some suggested a public campaign to inform the public on how it can report abuse would be better than threatening adults with criminal prosecution.
Rutherford County reps attend 'One with Courage' event
MURFREESBORO — Rutherford County's Child Protective Investigative Team was well represented at the One With Courage event Thursday at the state Capitol at the Old Supreme Court Chambers.
One with Courage is a national media campaign to encourage children to report child sexual abuse to a trusted adult and to encourage adults to report child abuse to the authorities. This was a successful media campaign in Texas where they experienced an increase in child abuse reporting, according to a news release from the local Child Advocacy Center.
The Rutherford County Department of Children's Services was represented by Team Coordinator Deirdre C. Lackey, Child Protective Services Team Leader Christina Moody and Case Manager Supervisor Carrie Niederhauser.
Law enforcement was well represented at the event with Assistant Chief Roy Fields, Detective Jennifer West and Detective Ava Radley representing Murfreesboro Police Department. Rutherford County Sheriff's Office was represented by Sgt. Mickey McCullough and La Vergne Police Department was represented by Lt. Cindy Murphy, Lt. Michael Campbell and Detective Konrad Kaul.
Nonprofit agencies were represented by Kim Rush from the Rutherford County Guidance Center, Sue Fort White and Jill Howlett from Our Kids, and Jennifer Gamble, LaToya Nelson, Jessica Wauchek and Sharon De Boer from the Child Advocacy Center. Greg Lyles represented Murfreesboro City Schools at the event.
It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18, according to the CAC news release. Only one in 10 child sexual abuse victims report the abuse, the release states. According to the American Medical Association, child sexual abuse is a “silent epidemic” that is plaguing children across our nation and here in Rutherford County.
The Tennessee Chapter of Children's Advocacy Centers is working with the Nashville PR firm of McNeely, Pigott, and Fox to replicate the One With Courage media campaign in
Executive Director Sharon De Boer of the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties said children report child sexual abuse to adults in their own way.
“They say things like, ‘I don't want to hug my uncle' or ‘Please pick me up on time. I don't like to be alone with my ball coach' or ‘Mommy's new boyfriend is mean to me.' As parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles we do not understand that those words are code for ‘I am being sexually abused,' “ De Boer said.
“It is critical that we pay attention, listen to our children, and ask questions,” De Boer said. “In their own way children are trying to tell us about sexual abuse. We have a responsibility to our children to report suspected abuse to the Department of Children's Services. Children are counting on us to protect them.”
Visit the One With Courage website at 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.
To report suspected child abuse call the Department of Children's Services at 1-877-237-0004. To learn more about how you can get involved contact the Child Advocacy Center at 615-867-9000.
Super Bowl 2012: Volunteers played 'key role' in deterring human sex trafficking
by Barb Berggoetz
Volunteers intent on preventing human sex trafficking during Super Bowl week played a key role in finding victims and deterring traffickers, said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Law enforcement made 68 commercial-sex arrests and recovered two human trafficking victims, Zoeller said Friday. Two other potential human trafficking victims were identified and are part of an ongoing investigation.
Nearly 3,400 Hoosiers, including hotel workers, cabdrivers and others, were trained by authorities to know how to detect potential trafficking incidents. A total of 11,000 awareness cards were distributed with a hotline number for people to call for help.
The post-game review makes it clear that Indiana did its part to send a message to victims, sex buyers and traffickers, Zoeller said. He added that was possible due to "an extraordinary effort" by a large number of volunteers giving training presentations and outreach efforts to educate the public.
"Perhaps the best news is that the national nonprofits and law enforcement informed us that all . . . (the) efforts and publicity worked toward prevention," Zoeller said.
The Indiana Prevention of Abused and Trafficked Humans task force, co-chaired by Zoeller, conducted 60 presentations and trained nearly 3,400 people prior to the Super Bowl.
IPATH's partners included 60 government, nonprofit, faith-based and community groups. Some groups set up a command center here as part of the "Tackle the Trafficker" initiative. They monitored websites and searched for missing children, some of whom may be pulled into human trafficking.
Zoeller said about 960 missing-children booklets, with names and photos, were distributed across Indianapolis to try to recover potential victims.
In 2011, the problem of human trafficking was designated a presidential initiative by the National Association of Attorneys General. Zoeller was asked to participate in the effort to crack down on trafficking through legislation, deterring demand for commercial sex and spreading public awareness.
In Indiana, part of the effort included a new state law that closes loopholes so law enforcement and prosecutors will have the legal tools they need to crack down on those who traffic young victims.
Bryan-College Station Texas Female Sexualk Abuse Survivor Group
Mark Your Calendar --
SIA -- Female survivors of childhood sexual abuse
Monday 7:45 p.m.
A&M Methodist Church, Room 131
Child abuse, neglect dramatically decreases with in-home program
by April Hill
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma just completed a six-year study on a child abuse prevention technique.
The findings on a program called SafeCare were just released.
Dr. Mark Chaffin, with the University of Oklahoma, found the home-based intervention program is working in Oklahoma.
Click here to listen to Dr. Chaffin's entire interview.
The number of children going back into the child welfare system over four years fell from 70 percent to about 50 percent.
He says, “Often, parents are completely overwhelmed. The SafeCare program gives them the knowledge, skills and resources to care for their children.”
With the SafeCare Model, home visitors work in the home with each family for one to two hours a week over a period of about six months.
They teach parents about home safety, home cleanliness, nutrition, child medical care and parent-child interactions.
The OU study was the largest ever to test the SafeCare model.
The trial involved 219 home visitors who served 2,175 parents between 2003 and 2006.
Half of Oklahoma's home-based programs adopted SafeCare and the other half continued to deliver standard services.
The project was funded by a $3.4 million National Institutes of Health grant with additional support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the trial ended, all of Oklahoma's child welfare home-based programs have converted to the SafeCare model.
The statewide Oklahoma trial is published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The program is now being tested in other states.
Former Miss America to speak on child abuse
The Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County is bringing an adult survivor of childhood abuse, who also served as Miss America in 1958, to a luncheon to show that there is life and hope after even the darkest beginnings.
Guest speaker for the event will be former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur, author of "Miss America By Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love."
The luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, in the second-floor gymnasium of the Business and Education Building on the USC Aiken campus; doors open at 11 a.m.
Published in 2003, Van Derbur's book recounts her tale of childhood sexual abuse by a parent; she is the founder of the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness and One Voice and is a professional motivational speaker.
Van Derbur's story has been featured in a documentary produced by Darkness to Light, an advocacy organization which focuses on teaching adults to deal with the consequences of past sexual abuse and to recognize and prevent abuse of children in their own lives. Information on the documentary can be found online at darknesstolight.org.
The luncheon is part of 100 Women, a campaign to raise both funds and awareness for child abuse prevention and advocacy. The 100 Women committee hopes to gain pledges for $1,000 each and advocacy efforts from 100 area women.
Tickets to the luncheon are $25 per person, and tables for eight are available. For information or to purchase tickets, call the Child Advocacy Center at 644-5100, visit the center's offices at 4231 Trolley Line Road or order tickets online at www.cacofaiken.org.
Suzanne Stone is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and studied communications at Augusta State University. She is a native of Augusta, Ga. She was a reporter for the North Augusta Star prior to joining the Aiken Standard staff. Contact Suzanne Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter at #SuzanneRStone and on Facebook at Suzanne Stone | Aiken Standard.
Press leading efforts to open child abuse records
by Randy Patrick
FRANKFORT — A legal battle between Kentucky newspapers and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services over access to child death records has created what Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington called a “perfect storm” in a speech to a gathering of social workers at the state Capitol.
Westrom said she's hopeful the attention brought by the press will result in greater transparency in child abuse investigations and legislative action to protect children.
The lawmaker praised the reporting of the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville.
“That's the only thing I have seen open the eyes and ears of our legislators, and I've been fighting this issue for 12 years,” she said.
“I think it's a new day,” she said. “I think this crisis that was really instigated by the honesty of the press has made all the difference in the world, and we will see changes because of this.”
The Associated Press is reporting on transparency issues in Kentucky in connection with Sunshine Week, which begins Sunday. It is an annual initiative to promote open government.
According to a report last December by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 111 children died as a result of abuse or neglect between July 1, 2008 and June 30 of last year.
Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Todd County girl who was beaten to death by her adoptive brother in February 2011, was not included among the 18 counted last year because she was not killed by a custodial parent, according the cabinet.
The Dye case has been at the center of the controversy over whether the cabinet's records involving child deaths and near deaths should be public.
The Todd County Standard, a weekly newspaper, sued the state to get the records, and on Nov. 3, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that newspapers were entitled to all files involving children who died as a result of abuse or neglect in cases where the children had previous contact with the cabinet. The cabinet fought the ruling until December, when Gov. Steve Beshear announced that the files would be released.
The files showed the cabinet never did an internal fatality review after the girl's death.
The governor, however, has defended the state's efforts to keep some child abuse records closed. In an op-ed he sent to newspapers recently, Beshear said that the state is “not trying to camouflage the actions of the cabinet or its workers.”
“That information is already being provided and we will continue to do so. But increased openness has to be implemented in a consistent and thoughtful way that holds the best interests of the child as its paramount priority. That is our top and only concern,” the governor wrote. “There are very real consequences — sometimes unintended — to eliminating confidentiality.”
Jon Fleischaker, the attorney representing the Todd County Standard in the Amy Dye open records case and The Courier-Journal in another child abuse case, testified before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee in January, accusing the state of ignoring both state and federal judicial rulings.
Fleischaker said the cabinet claims it needs confidentiality to protect children. “But it hasn't protected the children,” he told the committee.
In an interview Thursday, Fleischaker said that the press has played a major role, not only in exposing the cabinet's performance and secrecy, but by fighting the issue in court.
“I think that's a really important point,” he said. “Newspapers still have the power to battle these things by going public and writing stories and editorials, as well as by filing lawsuits.”
Fleischaker, who is a co-author of the state's 1976 Open Records Act, said that what the newspapers' reporting and the court case have shown is that the cabinet hasn't always done a good job in investigating child abuse cases, and that it has covered up its mistakes.
“They always talk about protecting children, but in reality, they're protecting themselves in these cases,” he said.
Earlier this year, the secretary of the cabinet, Janie Miller, resigned, and there has been increased legislative scrutiny of the cabinet's performance.
Westrom's House Bill 200 would create an external review panel on child fatalities and near fatalities and require that information about those cases be made public. She also has another bill, House Bill 239, that would allow judges to open family court proceedings to the public.
Child abuse streaming live
by Nicky Phillips
FEDERAL police have detected an increase in the number of paedophiles using online video streaming to watch child abuse as it occurs.
Most of the children being exploited live overseas, but Australian children have also been victims of this new method for distributing images of sexual abuse.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, head of the Australian Federal Police's high-tech crime operations, said the police worked with a variety of internet service providers to block the distribution of child pornography over the net.
In the past 12 months they had observed that live streaming had become the latest platform paedophiles used to view child-abuse material. Live streaming child abuse posed a significant technical challenge for police because the material was not always recorded, which made it difficult to trace and block.
"[Child abuse material] used to come in brown paper bags and it used to be easy to contain," Mr Gaughan said.
The internet provided paedophiles a larger network to distribute illegal images, mainly through websites.
But as police detection and disruption techniques improved, child sex abusers had developed other viewing options, such as peer-to-peer networks, with users distributing files without a central server, and live streaming, he said.
As well as blocking the distribution of illegal images, police relied on intelligence and online surveillance of chat rooms in an attempt to stop the child abuse before it was carried out.
"Should live streaming be detected while it is occurring, the primary focus for law enforcement is locating the origin and safeguarding the child involved," said Mr Gaughan, who has a team of 53 officers.
As the streaming of child abuse often originated in other countries, police were also bound by those countries' laws, which did not always correspond with Australian law.
The exact number of child sex offenders who had been caught accessing or streaming child abuse in Australia was unknown. "As this method of offending is prosecuted under a wide range of existing offences, the AFP does not statistically record matters as 'live streaming'," he said.
While live streaming was a "very concerning" trend, more than half of all child abuse images and video were shared on peer-to-peer networks. These were expensive and technically difficult to disrupt, Mr Gaughan said.
Since last June, Telstra, Optus and CyberOne have participated in a trial, co-ordinated by the AFP, to block web users who tried to view any of the 450-plus websites on Interpol's list of worst child abuse material.
Freedom-of-information documents show Telstra made more than 84,000 redirections from July 1 to October 15 last year, representing the number of failed attempts, not the number of people who had accessed illegal material.
State lacking data on human trafficking, officials say
by Jazmine Ulloa
Texas legislators and law enforcement officials say they are facing challenges in collecting statewide human trafficking data that could be used to drive investigations and policy decision
Texas legislators and law enforcement officials say they are facing challenges in collecting statewide human trafficking data that could be used to drive investigations and policy dec
No uniform reporting system exists to track the arrests and convictions associated with the modern-day slave trade of people forced into labor or commercial sex, and the state agencies tasked with measuring its scope say they are struggling to receive accurate statistics from police departments and courts.
Part of the problem, authorities say, is that the numbers themselves are shadowy. Human trafficking is often not reported by victims and hard for police to detect. Officers might arrest a man for sexual assault, for instance, and much later in the investigation discover he was selling his victim for profit.
The crime also is tough to label. Defendants could be facing only kidnapping charges in court, though they could have trafficked the victims they kidnapped.
"It is not until the layers of the onion are peeled that we actually know what we have," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat and co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking.
State leaders began grappling with these issues in the last legislative session, and a law implemented Sept. 1 now requires the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Office of Court Administration to collect data on prostitution, compelling prostitution and human trafficking offenses.
Since then through Jan. 1, the state has reported five human trafficking charges, 1,579 prostitution charges and 118 compelling prostitution charges from the district and county attorneys' offices, according to the DPS.
But those numbers are too low to capture the extent of an international and domestic trade that has become more prolific with the use of the Internet and more expansive across the state in recent years as Mexican cartels and Texas gangs have dipped into the enterprise, court and law enforcement officials said.
Numbers collected by the Office of Court Administration from district and county clerks are similarly low and have been even tougher to compile, said Angela Garcia, judicial information manager for the state office.
Garcia said that there should be differences between the agencies' numbers because DPS acquires arrest data and the state office counts court cases, but that there also are discrepancies because some counties are not reporting correctly or not reporting at all.
"Our office is small, understaffed, lacks resources and has no (enforcement) hammer," Garcia said. It can withhold indigent defense funds — anywhere from $545 to $2.1 million — from courts that do not submit figures but can do nothing against those that send partially completed reports.
The only human trafficking cases reported in Travis County courts from Sept. 1 to Jan. 31 were for prostitution — nine at the district level and 76 at the county level.
But in Austin alone, there were 181 prostitution arrests, including compelling or promotion of prostitution arrests, according to Police Department records. There were no arrests for human trafficking, police said.
The most alarming lapses in reporting are in large counties, such as Bexar and El Paso, that reported no trafficking cases, Garcia said.
One reason for the skewed court figures could be that when prosecutors file multicount indictments, only the first count goes into the crime code, said Kirsta Leeburg Melton, assistant criminal district attorney in Bexar County.
"I know we have trafficking cases in Bexar," she said. "I have prosecuted them."
But the reporting criteria also miss other charges, such as kidnapping, sexual assault and child pornography, that are related to human trafficking but not statistically counted, Melton said.
State, court and law enforcement officials came up against similar issues in the past when beginning to track acts of family violence, Garcia said. Now, officers on the streets can distinguish on their reports whether a charge, such as an assault, can also be classified under the category of family violence.
"I think it will take us a legislative session or two to resolve these issues with human trafficking reports," Garcia said.
The federal government took steps toward more uniform trafficking reporting in 2008 with legislation, to be implemented in January 2013, that will require the FBI to collect human trafficking offense data and to make distinctions between assisting or promoting prostitution, purchasing prostitution and prostitution.
Texas lawmakers and police officials said they want to develop solid data collection through a separate reporting system at the state level that can help policymakers decide where to funnel state funds and resources to fight human trafficking, allowing officers to track crime patterns and focus on response efforts.
But to quantify the growing trade, authorities, court officials and legislators said they will need to think across jurisdictions and expertise.
"This is not a law enforcement issue," DPS Director Steve McCraw said. "It is a multidisciplinary issue."
Illegal human trafficking
by Chelsea Idzior
Human trafficking happens in every zip code across the country, according to Theresa Flores, a survivor of human trafficking who talked to an audience in the Student Center Thursday evening.
Flores was only 15 years old when she became a victim of human trafficking in Birmingham, Mich. She experienced two years of forced sex labor before escaping.
Human trafficking is the second leading crime in the world. According to the Rose Collar Foundation, approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. Slavery is illegal in every country, but there are 27 million reported slaves
According to Flores, in 2007, slave traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.
“Money is what drives this whole thing,” she said.
She said 350,000 American children are at risk of being sexually exploited each year, and the FBI reports 100,000 youth are
currently being trafficked in the United States.
Human trafficking does not only occur in major U.S. cities. Toledo is the number one recruiting hub for human trafficking in the US.
The Zonta Club of Grand Rapids reported, “Michigan ranks 13th in the nation for the number of sex trafficking victims.”
Flores said Michigan's proximity to Canada makes it easy for sex traffickers to make people disappear. “The biggest problem for Michigan is you have international borders,” she said.
Traffickers threaten, manipulate or blackmail their victims for commercial sex or labor. Among victims of human trafficking, 3 percent are kidnapped, 35 percent are sold by family members and 62 percent are tricked by another person.
The majority of victims of human trafficking are female, however, 20 percent are men and boys.
Sex trafficking is prevalent in strip clubs, “massage parlors” and rest and truck stops. Forced labor also often occurs in nail salons and ethnic restaurants.
Flores said there are three steps to abolishing human trafficking. The first step involves spreading knowledge by telling at least two people about the problem and hosting awareness events.
The second step is actively making a change by collecting money for the cause.
The third step is getting mad and passionate about the topic, and dealing with abuse by speaking about things in our society that make trafficking possible such as bachelor parties and strip clubs.
“I choose to do this to find my voice and even come back to a very dangerous place,” she said, “Because I don't want any of those girls to go through what I went through.”