Do we have the courage to confront problem?
by ELLEN COONEY
Courage is a word we typically associate with soldiers, firefighters, policemen and women, and others fighting on the front lines to keep all of us safe from harm.
But courage can also be ascribed to those who push fear, stigma and discomfort aside to talk about that which society keeps in the shadows. These individuals are courageous because their actions — combating secrecy by communicating openly — protect us from harm, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Child abuse is a crime of secrecy that, tragically, breeds within our society because it is difficult to talk about. That's why the Colorado Children's Alliance is launching the One With Courage campaign in Colorado. As a member of the Alliance, the Pueblo Child Advocacy Center is proud to support this campaign.
One With Courage is the first-ever initiative centered around the courage it takes to talk about child abuse, learn the signs of abuse, and report abuse when it's suspected.
Why One With Courage?
Because it takes tremendous courage for young victims to come forward and talk about the abuse they've experienced. It takes courage for adults to recognize the signs of abuse and report suspected abuse to local law enforcement or to the child abuse reporting line at the local Department of Social Services. It will take courage for all of us to engage in an open dialogue about child abuse.
One With Courage also aims to highlight the unique role children's advocacy centers play in providing comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to child victims of abuse.
At the Pueblo Child Advocacy Center, we see more than 200 children each year due to allegations of child abuse; nearly half of these children are age 6 or under. More than 90 percent of our cases involve sexual abuse, almost without exception perpetrated by an immediate family member, a relative or a friend of the family. Without the intervention services of a Children's Advocacy Center, these child victims may never have been helped and statistics tell us that the abuse would likely have continued.
Most importantly, One With Courage aims to inspire the courage required to take action against abuse. That could mean starting a dialogue about this issue, equipping ourselves with the knowledge needed to recognize the signs of abuse, or supporting a local children's advocacy center like the Pueblo Child Advocacy Center. I strongly encourage everyone to visit www.ColoradoCAC.org/OneWithCourage to learn the big and small ways each of us can join the fight.
I wholeheartedly share the Colorado Children's Alliance's belief that child abuse can be eradicated through the formation of informed, empowered communities. One With Courage is a powerful step forward in that fight.
I'm One With Courage.
Investigating claims of child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is sensitive issue
FARGO, N.D. – In a small, blue-walled room furnished with two lounge chairs and a coloring table, the forensic interviewer lays out the rules for the suspected child abuse victim.
by Mike Nowatzki
FARGO, N.D. – In a small, blue-walled room furnished with two lounge chairs and a coloring table, the forensic interviewer lays out the rules for the suspected child abuse victim.
Tell the truth.
It's OK to say you don't know the answer.
Across the hall, a team of medical and mental health professionals, social workers, police and prosecutors sits around a table, watching the interview on closed-circuit television monitors.
The child knows they are watching. There are no secrets here.
“It's a child-led interview, so kind of wherever the child takes you is where you go,” interviewer Carissa Cowley said.
Last year alone, this scenario played out nearly 600 times at the Red River Children's Advocacy Center in downtown Fargo.
Twice this month, the center was used to interview alleged victims of 53-year-old Jon Pabody of Moorhead, who is charged in Clay County with two counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly abusing two girls, ages 3 and 7, at his wife's home day care.
Those involved in investigating suspected child abuse cases follow specific protocols designed to protect the child and ensure that answers given can be used in criminal prosecution if charges are pursued.
There's pressure to get it right the first time, said Fargo Police Detective Paula Ternes, a trained forensic interviewer since 2006 who specializes in crimes against children.
“First and foremost, we don't want to put that child through multiple interviews because of what they've already experienced,” she said.
The Children's Advocacy Center accepts referrals only from law enforcement agencies and child protection services.
A parent or other caregiver who's not suspected of abuse accompanies the child to the center, nestled within the white, cube-shaped Professional Building at 100 4th St. S.
They first enter the family room, where a family advocate meets with the caregiver.
In the blue room, the center's full-time forensic interviewer, Cari Lake, and Cowley, who is jointly employed by Cass County Social Services, follow the National Child Advocacy Center's interview model. Law enforcement agencies with their own trained interviewers, such as Ternes, also use the room.
The interviewer begins by trying to build a rapport with the child, while at the same time screening him or her for cognitive development. The center typically doesn't interview children under 3 years old.
The interviewer then outlines the rules, which includes telling the child that it's OK to correct the interviewer if they wrongly interpret something.
“That's especially important to tell a younger child, because they're not used to correcting an adult,” Ternes said.
Ternes also tells children that if she asks a question more than once, it doesn't mean they answered wrong the first time, but rather that she wants to get it right, she said.
From there, the interviewer begins a line of questioning that Cowley compares to a funnel, starting with a broad opener such as “Tell me about your family.” They ask open-ended “narrative response” questions to elicit details without placing suggestions in the minds of youths.
“Instead of me saying, ‘Uncle Joe did those things to you, didn't he?' we circle that topic and (say), ‘Well, tell me about Uncle Joe.' We leave it very open,” Ternes said.
Anatomically correct drawings are used to talk to the child about safe and unsafe touches.
It's important that the interviewer remain neutral and not outwardly react to the child's answers, because in most cases the child has already reported the abuse to a parent or caregiver, Ternes said.
“And they, of course, react like any parent would hearing that. They get upset, they get mad, whatever,” she said. “So, a lot of times the kids will see that and think ‘I did something wrong. I don't want to talk about this again.' “
Parents and other caregivers aren't allowed to watch the interviews.
“A lot of times, if the kids know the parent's watching, they're not as likely to talk,” Lake said.
To help them feel comfortable, the children are allowed to do what they please during the interview, as long as it's safe. Lake said some kids like to color or hide behind chairs, but she's also had Play-Doh thrown at her during an interview.
“As long as they're talking, we don't care what they're doing,” she said.
Interviewers block out two hours for each session, but interview lengths vary.
“You can be in there 20 minutes. You can be in there 2½ hours,” Lake said.
After the interview, the team completes a recommendation form and the family advocate discusses it with the caregiver.
Sometimes the recommendations include a medical exam, which is performed on the same floor as the Children's Advocacy Center by staff from Sanford Health, including Dr. Arne Graff and Carrie Simonson, a sexual abuse nurse examiner.
Sexual abuse was the most common type of abuse reported among the 581 children seen by the center last year, with 347 reporting it, according to center statistics.
The medical exam basically consists of a head-to-toe checkup, Simonson said. The exam has a specialized colposcope equipped with a camera to see and document evidence of sexual abuse.
Even if the abuse happened years ago, victims are examined to reassure them that their bodies are normal, Simonson said.
“A lot of these kids get funny ideas that people will be able to tell that this happened to them,” she said.
Since moving from MeritCare to the Professional Building in April 2006, the Red River Children's Advocacy Center has seen about an 85 percent increase in the number of children it sees annually, from 314 to 581 last year.
The center serves roughly 18 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota, but some South Dakota agencies also have begun using the center. A satellite office has been established in Grand Forks, and Bismarck and Minot also now have their own children's advocacy centers to better respond to child abuse.
Of the 581 children seen last year at the Fargo center, 59 cases were accepted for prosecution, leading to 33 convictions, 22 pleas and two acquittals, center statistics show.
The nonprofit center relies on funding from the state, foundations and community donations, said Anna Frissell, center director.
In addition to the child-focused services, the center also provides health education for caregivers in an effort to support the entire family, Frissell said.
“Because if everybody's supported, then the kid's supported, and that's the most important thing for us,” she said.
Editorial: Schools' secrecy shields sexual predators
If you're wondering how it is that so many schools seem to have employed sexual predators for so many years unbeknownst to anyone, this may be the answer: secrecy.
In the wake of the Miramonte School scandal earlier this year, several newspapers in the Los Angeles News Group (to which this newspaper belongs) have tried to uncover any other teachers who might be involved in sexual misconduct.
From Los Angeles to San Bernardino, reporters filed public record requests to dozens of school districts asking for information about teachers who have been the subject of complaints, were disciplined for misconduct, had their teaching credentials revoked, or had been convicted of a crime.
Their response? Get lost.
In short, most of the school districts ignored the clear directions of the California Public Records Act and denied access to these documents. They hid behind generic wording in the state education code without engaging at all. The clear message was this: The people who expect schools to be safe education havens can't be allowed to know if their kids are being exposed to people who may abuse them.
In the nearby San Gabriel Valley, 28 school districts were asked for information on teacher misconduct. Fully 26 of them completely failed to comply with the law.
Among the districts not complying was Los Angeles Unified, ground zero for a wave of teacher sexual misconduct scandals at the moment -- a wave that began at Miramonte
Elementary School in South Los Angeles. In January, teacher Mark Berndt was arrested on 23 counts of lewd conduct, after which it was revealed that students had been complaining about him for years.
That arrest kicked off a slew of arrests and accusations about other teachers in the greater Los Angeles area. They include Paul Chapel III, a former teacher at LAUSD's Telfair Elementary School, who is charged with molesting four youngsters.
These arrests led a Los Angeles Daily News reporter to try to uncover more potentially problem teachers. To that end, she requested information on teachers who were fired in past years and one who had teaching credentials revoked. So far, LAUSD hasn't produced anything -- other than confusion on how to respond.
The district lacks a coherent and consistent system to alert the public to problem teachers. Parents and students should have known about the past complaints against Berndt and Chapel years before they came out. Superintendent John Deasy must make that a top priority.
Report: Sandusky called ‘likely pedophile' in ‘98
by Associated Press
March 24, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A psychologist who looked into a 1998 allegation against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky told police at the time that his behavior fit the profile of a likely pedophile, NBC News reported Saturday.
Yet Sandusky was not criminally charged, nor placed on a state registry of suspected child abusers, and prosecutors say he continued assaulting boys for more than a decade until his arrest in November.
NBC obtained a copy of the campus police department's investigatory report on an encounter in which Sandusky was accused of having inappropriate contact with an 11-year-old boy with whom he had showered naked on the Penn State campus.
The police file includes the report of State College psychologist Alycia Chambers, who interviewed and provided counseling to the boy.
“My consultants agree that the incidents meet all of our definitions, based on experience and education, of a likely pedophile's pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a ‘loving,' ‘special' relationship,” Chambers wrote.
However, a second psychologist, John Seasock, concluded that Sandusky had neither assaulted the boy nor fit the profile of a pedophile.
Chambers and Seasock did not immediately return phone messages left at their offices Saturday.
Centre County prosecutors ultimately decided not to charge Sandusky, and the case was closed until a statewide grand jury accused the retired defensive coordinator of abusing the boy and nine others over a 15-year period. Sandusky, who faces more than 50 counts of child sex abuse, has pleaded innocent and awaits trial.
Chambers‘ warning to authorities raises new questions about the university's failure to stop Sandusky. Eight of the 10 boys were attacked on campus, prosecutors allege.
In 2002, four years after the 1998 investigation, prosecutors say then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary caught Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the football showers. McQueary reported what he saw to coach Joe Paterno, who, in turn, reported the allegation to university officials. But no police investigation was ever done.
Penn State said in a statement Saturday that it would not comment, citing ongoing investigations.
Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Seasock's report was “exculpable” and that the 1998 incident was not as clear-cut as Chambers made it out to be.
“We could get five psychologists, child psychologists, who specialize maybe in sexual dysfunctions or pedophilia look at the same case and talk to the same people and come up with five different conclusions,” he said in a phone interview.
The 1998 allegation was the first known complaint made to authorities about Sandusky. A woman called the Penn State police department, saying she was troubled after her 11-year-old son told her he had showered naked with Sandusky on campus.
Prosecutors say Sandusky lathered up the boy — known as Victim 6 in the state's current criminal case — bear-hugged him naked from behind, and picked him up and put his head under the shower. Detectives say that later, with police secretly listening in, Sandusky told the boy's mother the joint shower had been a mistake, and blurted: “I wish I were dead.”
The woman's complaint triggered a separate review by state Department of Public Welfare, which found no indication of abuse by Sandusky.
But state welfare department investigator Jerry Lauro told AP in December that he didn't have access to the criminal investigative file. On Wednesday, he told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that he never would have closed the case had he seen the reports from Chambers and the second psychologist, Seasock.
“The course of history could have been changed,” Lauro told the newspaper, which first reported the existence of the twin psychological reports.
“The conclusions (Chambers) had drawn in her report were pretty damaging,” Lauro told the paper. “I would have made a different decision. … It's unbelievable, and it gets my blood pressure going when I think about it.”
Seasock, who worked with Centre County Office of Children and Youth Services, interviewed the boy for an hour and wrote in his report — also included in the police file obtained by NBC — that he did not find any evidence of “grooming” or “inappropriate sexual behavior” by Sandusky.
“All the interactions reported by (the boy) can be typically defined as normal between a healthy adult and a young adolescent male,” Seasock wrote.
Seasock, however, did not review Chambers‘ report or prior interviews with the boy before submitting his own report, the police report indicates, nor did he elicit key details, including the fact that Sandusky had kissed the boy and told him he loved him.
Amendola said that Chambers has refused to talk to the defense, but that he would try anew in light of the NBC report.
“Any argument the commonwealth had about privilege is out the window,” said Amendola. He said he found the timing of the NBC report curious because it came several days after a judge ordered the attorney general to turn over the psychological reports to the defense unless prosecutors could persuade the court they are not subject to disclosure.
Chambers told NBC in an interview that she was horrified to learn that Sandusky allegedly continued assaulting boys long after she warned Penn State authorities about him.
“I was horrified to know that there were so many other innocent boys who had been subject to this, who had their hearts and minds confused, their bodies violated. It's unspeakable,” she said.
Chambers told NBC her 1998 investigation found “behavior that was consistent with a predator, a male predator, a pedophile.”
Are child porn laws unfair? Viewers' sentences can be worse than molesters'
by Andrew Wolfson
Born with spina bifida and dependent on a wheelchair, 26-year-old Jon Michael Fox cannot hurt a soul, his mother and lawyer say.
But after being caught with more than 1,200 images of child pornography on his computer, some of which he traded with others, Fox was sentenced in 2009 by a federal judge in Louisville to 14 years in prison — with no option of early release.
The Justice Department says that long sentences for offenders such as Fox — even if they have had no contact with children — are vital in slowing the demand for child porn and the abuse of children exploited in making it.
But Fox's attorney, Frank Campisano Jr., called Fox's sentence “ludicrous,” saying his client “never could be a threat to anyone, including a child.” Fox's mother, Kathy, said, “He could have killed someone and got less.”
The facts appear to back her up.
In 2010, about 1,800 offenders sentenced nationally for child pornography crimes in federal courts received longer average sentences than those convicted of arson, robbery, assault or even manslaughter, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In Kentucky's Western District, the average federal sentence for child pornography was twice that for drug trafficking. Offenders released from prison also are required to submit to longer periods of supervision — sometimes for the rest of their life.
Federal offenders in the Western District of Kentucky were sentenced to an average of 10 years in prison from 2006 through last year for downloading and trading child pornography. That was nearly four times longer than offenders in Jefferson Circuit Court got for sexually abusing children, according to Courier-Journal research.
Such facts help explain a growing chorus of critics taking issue with what they say are Draconian penalties for those caught with child pornagraphy — even as they acknowledge, as do Campisano and Kathy Fox, that it is harmful.
A poll of federal judges conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010 found that 70 percent believe that sentencing guidelines for child pornography cases are too harsh. And in published opinions, judges have called the penalties “irrational,” “eccentric” and “bordering on witch hunts.”
U.S. Chief District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. of Owensboro has said in sentencing hearings that the penalties often don't fit the crime.
“This is the first time that most of them have ever been in trouble,” McKinley Jr. said of such perpetrators. “And then, boom, here they are looking at 16 years in prison for engaging in their dark secret in the privacy of their own home.”
Those receiving the longest sentences in Western Kentucky had prior convictions involving sexual contact with children — including one man sentenced to life in prison. But 56 of 70 had no prior history of sexual contact with children.
The newspaper's review found only three cases over the five-year period in which an offender was prosecuted for producing child pornography. “By and large, we never get the actual pornographers,” McKinley said at a hearing.
Sentencing guidelines get tougher
Federal sentences for child pornography have climbed dramatically over the past few decades — from an average of 21 months in 1997 to 10 years today.
Most of the increases result from so-called “enhancements,” through which the sentencing ranges climb based on factors such as using a computer in the crime, downloading more than 600 pictures, or having images that depict prepubescent children or sadomasochistic sex.
Jon Fox, for example, would have faced a sentence of about four to five years without enhancements that skyrocketed his potential punishment to between 20 and 24 years,
The Sentencing Commission is responsible for setting fair and reasonable sentences based on scientific evidence. But Congress, for the first time, ordered it to add enhancements in 2003 for child pornography crimes, with virtually no debate in the House or Senate.
Critics, including even victim advocates, such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, say that some enhancements out of date, such as the one for employing a computer. Ninety-seven percent of offenders do that in commiting the crime, and judges have said that punishing them more harshly for doing so is like giving a speeder a higher fine because he drove a car.
The Sentencing Commission is considering changes in the guidelines, and at a hearing Feb. 15, Justice Department officials testified that some of the sentencing guidelines need to be “better calibrated” to allow judges to distinguish among offenders.
But federal justice officials supporting longer sentences said in a prepared statement that the child abuse depicted is becoming increasingly violent and graphic — video images often show victims screaming and crying — and that the subjects include infants and toddlers being raped and sodomized.
“We are seeing more and more offenders, engaged in more sophisticated criminal conduct, exploiting a larger number of children, in a more depraved way,” the Justice Department's statement said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville declined to comment on the guidelines. But federal prosecutor David Weiser noted in a sentencing memo for Jon Fox that images he downloaded included a girl with hot wax being poured on her body and a toddler in tears being forced to perform oral sex.
Victim advocates say that children abused to make child pornography may suffer more than other children who are victims of sexual abuse because the images are available for others to see forever.
“Each and every time such an image is viewed, traded, printed or downloaded, the child in that image is re-victimized,” the Justice Department officials said in their prepared statement.
Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said that while some adjustments may be needed in sentencing guidelines, it is important to remember that this “is not a victimless crime.”
Debate over sentencing
Senior House and Senate Republicans have warned the commission against reducing child porn sentences.
In a Feb. 14 letter, the ranking GOP members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees said it would be a “disservice to the American people” to do so “for a class of criminals who cause profound and lasting damage to their victims.”
But critics, such as University of South Carolina law professor Melissa Hamilton, writing in Stanford Law & Policy Review, say that the harsh sentences are misguided.
“Though child pornographers do not deserve much sympathy,” she said, “if they are subjected to longer prison sentences than necessary for the purposes of public safety, monies and resources expended upon incarceration are wasted.”
Commenting on The Courier-Journal's comparison of federal sentences for pornography crimes and state penalties for sexually abused children, Hamilton noted that federal sentences generally exceed state ones but that there is no justification for the size of the discrepancy found by the newspaper.
Former federal prosecutors in Louisville say that penalties for child pornography offenses are inordinately severe.
“These are horrible crimes, but the sentences are way too long,” said Kent Wicker, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice.
Brian Butler, another former federal prosecutor, who called the penalties “insane,” cited a client he defended, Arthur Wayne Kniffley, 37, who was sentenced in 2010 to 17½ years in prison for possession and distribution of child pornography.
That was more than three times the five-year sentence he got in state court 13 years earlier for molesting three children.
Kniffley told authorities that he viewed child pornography to suppress his urges to commit other acts against children.
Most of the federal offenders had no prior record of sex offenses or other crimes, court records show. They include people like Tony Delano, 42, who worked as an engineer at Ford Motor Co., where he supervised 100 people.
He was sentenced in 2008 to 6½ years in prison for possessing and receiving child pornography. His lawyer, Alex Dathorne, said in court papers that he never traded images or talked in any chat room.
“He simply viewed the images which are available, unfortunately, on the Internet for all to see,” Dathorne said in a sentencing memo.
Sentences often lowered
The sentencing guidelines for all federal offenses are advisory, and since 2004 judges have been allowed to reduce sentences below the guideline range.
In fact, figures collected by the Sentencing Commission show that sentences for child pornography offenses are reduced more than those for any other crime.
But the government may appeal reduced sentences, and federal appeals courts have reversed several, including the six-year term that U.S. District Judge Edward Johstone gave Norman Borho in in 2007.
Sentencing guidelines called for Borho of Louisville to get 17 to 22 years, but Johnstone reduced the punishment, citing the facts that he was a decorated veteran, gainfully employed and under treatment for a depression. The prosecution appealed and won, and Johnstone had to resentence Borho, who got nine years.
Because not all judges reduce sentences or do so by the same amounts — the result is a mishmash of inconsistent penalties, defense lawyers and other critics say.
For example, the government sought a sentence at the low end of the guidelines for Jon Fox, about 20 years, while Campisano, his lawyer, asked for five years, the statutory minimum for receiving or distributing child pornography. Judge Charles R. Simpson III sentenced Fox to 14 years, citing Fox's medical condition.
But McKinley, hearing another case involving a defendant with medical issues — Joseph Shawn Piccolo, who has cerebral palsy and was the primary caregiver for a spouse with a much more severe version of the disease — reduced the sentence from the roughly 13 years recommended by the government to the five-year minimum.
McKinley said the 60-month sentence he imposed on Piccolo would be no “walk in the park.”
“I don't think there is anybody in the courtroom who would want to do it in exchange for looking at some pictures on the Internet.”
130 LAUSD educators being investigated for possible wrongdoing
by Barbara Jones, Staff Writer LA Daily News
Based on information unearthed in a search of Los Angeles Unified's personnel files, the state teacher credentialing agency has opened investigations into 130 educators and the district has reported some past allegations of misconduct to law enforcement, officials said Friday.
The California Teacher Credentialing Commission has been flooded with misconduct reports in the month since LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy ordered principals at nearly 900 campuses to scour personnel files for evidence of possible wrongdoing.
Deasy said Friday the review had turned up "some cases that we believe warrant police investigation," and that "some" teachers had been removed from classrooms while authorities look into the allegations. He declined to reveal how many employees were being investigated or any details about the allegations.
Deasy ordered the review of the files as he dealt with the fallout from the arrest of Mark Berndt, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary.
Berndt has pleaded not guilty to committing lewd acts against 23 students, who authorities say were blindfolded and spoon-fed his semen. Parents said they'd complained about Berndt in the past, but his personnel file contained no allegations of misconduct.
The district fired Berndt in January 2011, but it waited more than a year -- in violation of state law -- to notify the credentialing agency of the alleged wrongdoing.
That prompted Deasy, who is in his first year as superintendent, to order his staff to refile four years' worth of misconduct reports with the state.
He also ordered the top-to-bottom review of school-site personnel files, with principals ordered to look for allegations of sexual misconduct, inappropriate behavior, violence or drug-related activity.
In addition to cases that fall within the CTC's statute of limitations, principals were also ordered to review every file as a way to flag longstanding issues that remain problematic today.
The task proved so arduous and time-consuming that the district recently decided that assistant principals could pitch in. The administrators also were given an extra two weeks, until April 30, to complete their search.
A spokeswoman said the state commission has reviewed 174 of the 250 reports filed by Los Angeles Unified since Feb. 22, and found that about 75 percent -- or 130 -- warrant further investigation. By comparison, the panel's Division of Professional Practices last year investigated 210 cases from districts around the entire state.
"The commission has been bracing themselves for the additional workload, and the board has made this their top priority," said Richard Zeiger, chief deputy to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and his appointee to the commission.
Deasy said he didn't yet know whether the 130 cases included any that had been filed previously or whether these were all new allegations.
"I do not know how many are duplications. Did we send these earlier or did we not?" he said.
"What disturbs me is why these files were at a school site and not at the central administration building."
The CTC has the authority to suspend or revoke a teacher's credential for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior. According to state Education Code, it has up to four years from the date of the alleged misconduct to take action.
Under Los Angeles Unified's teacher contract, four years is also the length of time that unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct can be retained in a employee's personnel file. After that, it must be kept in a separate "expired" file.
Judith Perez, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, said it has been "immensely challenging" to scour the records of generations of teachers, office staff, cafeteria and maintenance workers, substitute teachers and aides.
"The district has never had guidelines about what to put in a school-site file, and it did not train principals what to include," Perez said. "This is problematic because policies have changed.
"In terms of how to report suspected child abuse, for example, principals at one point were directed not to keep copies of reports. Then they were told to send them to the general counsel or to the (now-defunct) child abuse office."
Years ago, she said, principals were told to use their judgment in filing a report on physical abuse, so they may have filed paperwork only if there was visual evidence of an injury.
"Today," she said, "we file a report in every instance. It's a change in practice, based on what's going on."
In addition, Perez said, some principals have reported finding files in school attics and basements and in sheds at the edge of campus.
"Some schools are more than 100 years old. But the directive stated, go back to the beginning. Principals may not even know where all the files are stored.
"That's the concern -- about not doing it right," she said. "There's a high pressure, and principals fear that they'll miss something."
Copyright ©2010 Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
9 charged in connection with gang rape of 14-year-old girl at party in St. Paul, Minn.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Nine suspected gang members and associates were charged Friday in a sexual attack on a 14-year-old girl who was forced back inside an abandoned St. Paul house and raped after trying to leave a party last November, authorities said.
The girl and her friend were picked up at school by one of the men and lured to a party with suspected members of the TB22, or True Blood 22, street gang, prosecutors said.
"This crime was every parent's nightmare," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement. "Crimes like these shock the conscience of our community."
According to a criminal complaint, the girl wanted to leave the Nov. 17 party at the abandoned St. Paul house but was pulled from a car and carried back inside.
"The victim reported grabbing whatever she could, including door frames, to stop them from bringing her into the bedroom," the complaint said. The girl told a nurse that once she was forced onto a mattress on the floor inside the bedroom, a group of men held her down while she struggled and yelled for help.
One of the defendants told police at least two men raped the girl, according to the complaint.
Citing complaints and petitions filed in Ramsey County District Court, the St. Paul Star Tribune reported the alleged victim heard one suspect say, "Are you in? I call second."
The girl told the nurse that when she asked the man who brought her to the party, 24-year-old Mang Yang, to help, he said he had to go, according to the complaint. The assault stopped when one of the men yelled "police" and everyone ran, the complaint said.
'Get them drunk'
According to the complaint, Yang told police he knew the others planned to rape the girl and that "is the gang's intent every time they get girls to a party with them to get them drunk and rape them."
One of the teens told police that Yang told him to hold the girl down. But the complaint said Yang told police he went looking for the girl after she was carried from his car and that he heard her screaming and saw teens run out of a room.
Yang said he asked her if anything happened but she was crying and didn't answer, according to the complaint.
Yang is charged along with four other men, ages 18 to 37. Four male minors, ages 15 to 17, also are charged. They each face four counts: aiding and abetting first-degree sexual conduct, conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual conduct, kidnapping someone under age 16, and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang.
All nine defendants are suspected gang members or associates.
Yang and three of the other adults charged made their initial court appearances Friday and were appointed public defenders.
"This is a very serious case involving many co-defendants and we look forward to providing the best defense possible in each case to reach a fair resolution," said Kelley Malone-O'Neill, managing attorney at the Ramsey County Public Defender's office.
Speaking to the Star Tribune, police spokesman Todd Axtell added: "We are looking for other potential victims to come forward."
Fort Bragg Joins Cumberland County to Break the Chain of Child Abuse
Breaking the Chain of Child Abuse ceremony held Friday
by Kirsten Harr
The Child Advocacy Center teamed up with Cumberland County's Child Abuse Professionals, students from Cumberland County and Fort Bragg Schools, and dignitaries representing Fort Bragg, Cumberland County, and the greater state of North Carolina to proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Hundreds gathered at the Crown Exposition Center in Fayetteville on Friday for the “Breaking the Chain of Child Abuse” ceremony that highlighted speakers from both the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville communities and performances by students to increase awareness of and support against child abuse.
Child abuse is known to increase the likelihood of criminal behavior, substance abuse, and health problems in abused children. Statistics also show that a child who grows up in an abusive home is more likely to be violent to their child as an adult, thus creating a vicious cycle.
Dr. Sharon Cooper, a Forensic Pediatrician at Womack Army Medical Center, addressed the audience and stressed the significance of breaking the chain of child abuse.
“We want our children to be able to be all that they can be,” said Cooper. “[Breaking the chain] can change their future in respect to what they want to do in life.”
Cooper believes breaking the chain of child abuse is a community issue that should be addressed by both treating children after abuse and finding ways to prevent future occurrences.
“The community is responsible for making the necessary resources available to help with this,” said Cooper. “Being responsible citizens is the key to preventing child abuse.”
The Honorable A. Elizabeth Keever, Cumberland County Chief District Court Judge, officially proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“All citizens should become involved to provide safe and nurturing environments for children in all areas of their lives,” said Keever.
Family Advocacy Center Child Abuse Prevention Event
by J.L. Graham
March 23, 2012
HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (3/23/12) – Did you know that Hopkins County is ranked number one child abuse cases in the Pennyrile region? Last year showed 812 reported child abuse cases in the county, with 2100 overall in the Pennyrile Region. In an interview with SurfKY News reporters, Family Advocacy Center officials announced an opportunity for local citizens to help abused children while, at the same time, enjoying a fun-filled family day.
According to Family Advocacy Center Executive Director Mandy Hargus and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Director Daphne Maddox , one of Hopkins County's premiere events, the Care Acadabra will be held on Saturday, March 31, with doors opening at 1:00 PM at Byrnes Auditorium in Madisonville.
The event itself is a comedic magic show performed by nationally acclaimed magicians Don Baggett, Brandon Baggett, Dinky Goewen, Daniel Herron, and Ton Vohorjan. These star-performers travel the United States making appearances in hundreds of cities.
This is the second year of the event. Officials said that the event last year was far more successful than expected, with somewhere between 150 and 200 people in the audience, and not all were children.
“My parents came last year,” said Hargus. “My father is almost 60-years-old, and he said that this was the best date he had ever taken my mother on.”
Officials stated that the Care Acadabra was a family oriented event, not just for children, but for individuals of every age. Maddox stated that she had taken her 4-year-old child last year, and he had been asking about this years' show since then.
There will also be prizes given away at the event for those attending. For tickets, contact the Family Advocacy Center at 270-825-1582. You may also drop by the center for tickets, located at 228 South Main Street in Madisonville, KY. Center hours are Mon-Fri 8-4:30 PM. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door. However, the auditorium will only hold 400 individuals, so it would be best for those attending to get their tickets ahead of time to insure their seating.
As a pre-show event, at 10:00 AM on that same day, March 31st, local bikers will have an opportunity to take part in the First Annual Teddy Bear Run . Lunch will be served, courtesy of Tyson Foods. The event will take place at Abundant Grace Church Parking lot at 360 South Main Street in Madisonville. Registration is at 10, Bikers begin rides at 11, and return is approximately 11:30. Registration fee is 1 new teddy bear. All teddy bears will be passed on to children that are victims of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, etc.
Family Advocacy Center officials have asked that SurfKY News gives a special mention to everyone that helps and volunteers, including the Board of Directors, Intern Reba Burris, Intern Amy Morris, and, all sponsors of this event.
SurfKY News would like to urge local citizens to take a day and enjoy the Care Acadabra show. You can have a good time while doing your part in protecting and healing the children of Hopkins and surrounding counties.
Sponsored by ABC Finance, Applebees, Brother's Bank, Carrhart, Curves, Dairy Queen, Daymar College, Family Video, First United Bank, Giggles and Grins, Hair Art, Hancock Bank, Happy's, Hometown Finance, Hucks, Hudson Automotive, Jackie French Construction, Land 0' Frost, Madisonville Community College, Madisonville Motors, Myers Martial Arts, Old National Bank, Pizza Hut, Red Wagon Antiques, Sonic, Trover Health Systems, Tyson Foods, Warrior Coal, World Finance, and WTTL Radio.
NOTE : All funds from this event will remain in Hopkins County.
Conference to address child abuse
by Chip Chandler -- Amarillo
March 23, 2012
Local child abuse prevention advocates and Amarillo College criminal justice program officials will host the 12th annual Child Abuse Prevention Conference on Thursday.
The event, comprising more than 50 community organizations, agencies, businesses and volunteers, will kick off April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The conference will begin at 7:45 a.m. Thursday in the Amarillo College West Campus Lecture Hall, 6222 W. Ninth Ave.
Registration fee is $20 and includes continuing-education units and lunch. More than 300 area professionals and other interested individuals are expected to attend.
James Garbarino will present “Wounded Spirits and Healing Paths: Untreated Traumatized Children and the Scary Adults They Become.”
For information, contact Amarillo College criminal justice programs at 806-354-6081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conference information also is available at www .actx.edu/cj.
Conference to focus on sexual abuse of children
by Brigid Beatty
The subject of child abuse is a difficult one, but -- according to the organizers of an upcoming conference on that very subject -- it is time to talk about it.
The Child Abuse Conference, sponsored by HAVIN and Citizens Bank Champion in Action Grant, will focus on a variety of workshop training sessions including technology facilitated crimes against children, typology and motivations of sexual offenders, Investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse and innovative strategies for dealing with sex offenders.
Jo Ellen Bowman, director of HAVIN, said the conference, which will be held at Lenape Heights Golf Course, Manor Township, from April 3 to 5, is geared toward anyone working with children.
She encouraged teachers, day care workers, pastors, judicial personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation officers, mental health and medical practitioners, social workers and children, youth and families staff to attend the training sessions.
People from Armstrong County and surrounding counties who work within these particular areas have been signing up to attend, said Bowman.
"There are a lot of professionals who care about kids, and who are doing a lot to prevent crime against children," said Bowman.
She said it is important for people working with children to learn how to react to a child when that child has been abused and begins to talk about it.
Bowman said people tend to look at it from an adult perspective. Children are often sexually assaulted by people they know and trust. They might not know it is wrong until later.
That is why people need to know how children tell and why they tell incrementally, said Bowman.
Dr. Anna Salter, an internationally known sex offender expert, will speak on the first day of the conference (April 3) about sex offenders and the way they manipulate children and even adults. On her website, Salter notes that "female sexual offenders are increasingly seen" and that "juvenile sex offenders commit between one-third and one-half of all child molestations."
Dennis Demangone, administrator of the County of Armstrong Children, Youth and Family Services, said it is not rare for the agency to get cases involving juvenile sex offenders.
Abuse should be reported if it is suspected, said Demangone.
Bowman said that one of the biggest problems is that child abuse is grossly under reported.
"People don't want to believe it is happening," she said.
Experts Roger Canaff and Justin Fitzsimmons will speak during the conference, on April 4 and 5, about issues regarding the investigation and prosecution of these types of crimes.
According to Bowman, Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not allow expert witness testimony in sexual assault cases.
Fight Unseen U.S. Slave Trade on Day of Remembrance
Slavery is more prevalent than ever, and many victims are hidden in plain sight in the United States. This March 25, says Kirsten Powers, it's time to fight for more funding to combat trafficking—and get educated.
by Kirsten Powers
Here is something that is hard to get your mind around: There are more slaves in the world today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This Sunday, March 25, marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It will be a day to remember and honor the fearless heroes who resisted slavery and fought for their own freedom and that of others.
If only that work was done. Today an estimated 27 million human beings still live as slaves throughout the world. These are people who are forced to work without pay under threat of violence and are unable to walk away. The majority of slaves are found in Asian and African countries, but many live right in this country, perhaps in your own neighborhood. They are hidden in plain sight.
Kevin Bales, president and co-founder of Free the Slaves, calls them “the slave next door.” “Just under half of all trafficked people in the U.S. are women trafficked into commercial sex exploitation,” he told me. “The next biggest category is domestics. [We see them] in the hair-braiding salons in New Jersey, in restaurants and [retirement] homes.”
Just this month, a wealthy New York woman was arrested for holding an illegal immigrant from India as a domestic slave. For nearly six years, the woman was forced to live in a closet and was never allowed to leave the house. She was rescued when immigration agents acted on a tip from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
The Associated Press reported in 2008 that a wealthy Egyptian couple had transported a 10-year-old girl, Shyima, from Egypt in the late 1990s to work as a domestic slave in their luxurious California home. She was abused and forced to live in the garage when she wasn't cleaning and cooking. She never had a day off. Shyima was rescued when an anonymous caller tipped off the California Department of Social Services to her plight.
Bales says that about a third of people are freed from slavery in the U.S. as a result of a regular citizen asking a question and starting to dig, and then reporting it. “When you see someone who looks beaten down, abused or hungry ... the person down the street, ask, ‘What's up with them?'” he said.
A neighbor of Shyima told the AP: “I'd look down and see her at 10, 11—even 12 —at night. She'd be doing the dishes. We didn't put two and two together.”
Part of the problem is Americans' lack of education on the plight of slaves in the U.S. It wouldn't naturally occur to someone that their neighbors have a child slave because it seems so barbaric. Yet this problem is far more common than most realize.
According to Free the Slaves, at least 17,000 slaves are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Of course, that doesn't include people already in the country. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that at least 100,000 U.S. citizen children are victims of sex trafficking annually.
“People like me have to go around raising money to get rid of slavery, even though there is a law against it and it's a felony.”
Sadly, the U.S. government has not made rescuing these victims a top priority. Bales said, “Consider this: there are 17,000 people trafficked into the U.S. every year. The number of people murdered each year is about 17,000. It's interesting to compare [the resources]. There are about 45,000 homicide specialists in the U.S. Yet we maybe have 30 to 40 slavery specialists in American law enforcement. If you add up what we spend on homicide, it's around $4 billion annually. On slavery and human trafficking, it comes to a little over $100 million.”
As a comparison, CBS News reported that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting got “a $422 million total allocation from the federal government in 2010.” Yet the work of fighting sex trafficking and slavery is left to charities. Why?
“Imagine someone came to your door and said they were collecting money to end murder,” said Bales. “You would say, ‘That's why I pay taxes.' Yet people like me have to go around raising money to get rid of slavery, even though there is a law against it and it's a felony.”
That's crazy. Fortunately, many charities are dedicated to this cause, from Free the Slaves to the Polaris Project to the International Justice Mission. But they can't do it alone. U.S. law enforcement has to step up its efforts in this area.
The “slave next door” is waiting.
Child sexual abuse awareness program set, open to public
by Greg Little
Honesdale, Pa. —
It's a subject many people don't want to discuss.
But it's an issue which many feel needs to be discussed — and in a public manner.
As part of that overall topic, the Victims Intervention Program (VIP) will be hosting a public forum focused on the issues of child sexual abuse.
The forum, which is scheduled for 7-8 p.m., Monday, April 2 at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce in Honesdale, is open to the public.
“This is a public presentation and it is free of charge,” said Michele Minor Wolf, director of VIP.
The program will be the launching point of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
Wolf said they will be focusing this particular public program on child sexual abuse and will focus even more on adults who were victimized as children. Some of those adults, she said, have never come forward to tell their stories and seek help.
“Almost everyone knows somebody who has been abused,” said Wolf.
The forum will focus on a wide variety of subject related to abuse. She said there are both short- and long-term effects when people are abused as children.
“We are hoping the presentation will impact individuals like that,” said Wolf.
Wolf and community outreach coordinator Janie Dubois will be making presentations as the community forum.
She said many areas will be discussed, including what people should do if they suspect abuse, how abuse can happen, what impacts it has on both the victim and their relatives and much more.
They will also talk about “what we see” in the VIP program, including the fact they know “it is an underreported crime.”
Wolf also said it is a know facts that in the majority of cases, the person who does the abuse is usually a close relative or friend.
“It is rare when it is a stranger in the alley,” said Wolf.
Because of that fact, she said it makes it “more complicated” for the victim because in many cases, that child is dealing with a relative.
“It is confusing to them because they are supposed to be people who are trusted,” said Wolf.
Wolf is “encouraging everyone to come” to the program, whether they have been impacted by abuse or not. She said it will be a “general overview” of the problems along with solutions.
“We are raising awareness,” said Wolf.
Wolf said another part of the program will be about male abuse survivors. Though VIP has “always provided services for men,” she said the majority of the people they deal with are women.
However, with the revelations at Penn State as well as a local case in Salem Township, Wolf said more men are coming forward and telling their stories of abuse.
In many cases, Wolf said there is “so much shame” and “so much blaming,” sometimes the bigger picture gets lost in the shuffle. That picture, she said, is helping the victims and making sure they can move forward in life.
Anyone who has questions about the program or about VIP in general can call 253-4401.
April Is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
March 22, 2012
The Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County is planning several public awareness events in recognition of the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Kappa Delta Sorority is hosting its annual Shamrock Golf Tournament at Eagle Bluff Golf Course on Saturday, March 31. Proceeds benefit the Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County. Cost for entering the tournament is $400 per team. Tee-off begins at 8 a.m. For more information contact Cherise Rodriguez at email@example.com.
The CACHC in proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. This event will take place Thursday, April 12, 9:30 a.m. at United Way of Chattanooga, 630 Market St. and will serve as a kick-off for the day's events that include a community forum on responding to child abuse and a public display of pinwheels that stand as a national symbol of healthy futures for children.
The CACHC and partnering agency, You Have the Power of Nashville will host a community forum, “A View from the Shadows: Understanding & Responding to Child Sexual Abuse,” on Thursday, April 12. The program includes a video presentation of “A View from the Shadows: Understanding the Minds of Child Sex Offenders” followed by a panel discussion to include a clinical therapist, Department for Children's Services representative, and an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. The event will take place at United Way of Chattanoogafrom 9:30-11:30 a.m. The event is free of charge and open to the general public. Limited seating is available. Register with the CACHC by calling 266-6918 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be 430 Pinwheels for Prevention displayed at Ross's Landing, 100 Riverfront Parkway, on Thursday, April 12. The pinwheel is a national symbol of healthy futures for all children. Each pinwheel placed at Ross's Landing symbolizes hope and healing for the 430 Hamilton County children served by the CACHC during the past year. The public is encouraged to visit the display between the hours of 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Businesses throughout Hamilton County are invited to participate in Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Day on Friday, April 13, by offering their employees a “casual dress day” with a $5 donation to the CACHC. Each participating employee will also receive an embroidered pinwheel lapel pin with their donation. To participate, contact the CACHC by calling 266-6918 or emailing email@example.com.
The fourth annual Walk to Sierra will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Renaissance Park on Saturday, April 28. This event is a reminder of the fragility of life and that it takes each of us to ensure that all children are safe from abuse. This year's event will include family-centered activities in a mini carnival-type atmosphere. A one mile fun walk will begin at noon. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Major sponsors for all CACHC Child Abuse Prevention Month activities are BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Children's Hospital at Erlanger, and Kappa Delta Sorority. The CACHC will also partner with several other community agencies in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. A full list of other leadership corporate sponsors, partners, and activities is available at www.cachc.org
The Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County is a nonprofit agency dedicated to serving children who are alleged victims of sexual or severe physical abuse through prevention, education, and intervention. For more information about April activities, please call Cathy Eldahan at 266-6918 or visit www.cachc.org.
Child Sexual Abuse: Watch for the Signs
by Glenn Barr
Your child has developed some strange new behaviors. They may include displaying an abnormal amount of sexual knowledge, depression or unexplained crying, fear of being photographed, fear of the dark and self hatred.
Though there may be other causes for these and a long list of other changes in deportment, they may indicate the child is being sexually abused.
Whether by a family member, a neighbor, a stranger or a teacher, sexual abuse really comes down to the same thing—a child becoming a sexual partner for an adult.
Child sexual abuse statistics are staggering. According to the website www.loveourchildrenusa.org, every two minutes in America a child is sexually assaulted.
The site also says there are often no physical signs of such abuse, and that in up to 90 percent of cases the crime is never reported.
In 85 percent of cases, the site says, the child knows and trusts the abuser, making the predator's initial conquest all the easier. In 61 percent of reported rapes, the victim is under 17 years of age.
Perhaps most troubling is this statistic: One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse before reaching 18 years of age.
“Sexual abuse is a horrific ordeal that no one should experience,” says www.rsacc.org, the website of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Center. “It's crucial to keep communicating with your children and watch for potential signs that your child is being sexually abused.”
There are both physical and behavioral signs of such abuse. According to www.sandf.org, the website of an organization called Survivors and Friends, the former include bruising or bleeding in rectal or genital areas, complaints of abdominal pain, evidence of regressive behavior like bedwetting, drastic changes in weight, radical changes in appearance, possession of unexplained gifts or money and signs of intoxication after spending time with an adult.
The latter signs can include radical mood swings, hostile behavior, nightmares or insomnia, boredom with peers and age-appropriate activities, withdrawal, memory loss, fear of a parent's leaving and nervousness around adults.
At the start of a three-page list of possible abuse symptoms, the site warns readers that “any of these symptoms or signs in a child may not necessarily mean he/she is a victim of sexual abuse. These are simply common characteristics children display when they have been abused and can be used to help identify possible problems in a child's life that warrant attention.”
Patrick Griffiths, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with Rim Forest-based Rim Family Services, works with sexual-abuse cases, which he said “are not too uncommon.
“If the parents suspect sexual abuse,” Griffiths said, “they shouldn't be afraid to talk to their children.” He suggests having an open presentation, and not to show discomfort when talking about the situation.
“Seek professional help. Meet with a counselor,” Griffiths said, noting that Rim Family Services has therapists trained in handling sexual abuse issues.
Since the signs of abuse aren't always easy to interpret, following careful steps in talking with children is crucial, says www.rainn.org, the website of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
The network, co-founded by singer and composer Tori Amos, maintains a sexual-abuse hotline, (800) 656-HOPE (4073).
Pointers the site raises are picking carefully the time and place to talk with the child—including not having the talk in front of a suspected abuser or at a place where the child is not at ease.
Asking if anyone has been touching them in ways that make them feel uncomfortable is advised, as is asking all questions in a nonjudgmental way.
“Make sure your child knows that they are not in trouble, and that you are simply trying to gather more information,” the site says.
It also recommends talking about secrets, including that there are times when it's all right not to keep a secret (as to a predator).
Other key pointers include building a trusting relationship with the child, including following up on promises made, and making sure they understand it's OK to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable.
Also key, the site says, is making sure children understand that some parts of their body are private, and that if anyone tries to touch them they should tell a trusted adult right away.
State commentary: Child abuse case
Release of victim interview troubling
This column is in response to a Dane County Circuit Court judge's recent decision to release to the media the recorded interview of a child who disclosed unimaginable abuse, torture and neglect. The release of the child's interview conducted at Safe Harbor, Dane County's Child Advocacy Center, is significant because it could very well mark the first time in the country that a judge has released a child victim's recorded statement before a case has reached disposition.
During a hearing in this case, both the prosecutor and defense attorney asked the court to seal the interview in the court file until the case's conclusion. Such requests are routinely granted, especially in sensitive cases such as this one.
Dissemination of recorded interviews of child victims to the media during the early stages of a prosecution does not happen for good reason. First, our justice system is based on both the state's and the defendant's right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. That fairness is jeopardized when potential jurors view such material and develop opinions about a case.
Importantly, once information of this nature is released, there are few to no safeguards with which to protect the child from being identified. These are safeguards to which these children are entitled. Upon release, it is then up to citizens and members of the media to ensure the video is aired or shared responsibly to protect the juvenile victim's identity. I have received reports alleging that one Madison television station failed to fully block out the child's face during a broadcast. This unfortunate event can act as a very real deterrent to other victims who fear their identity being publicly revealed if they report a crime.
Finally, the widespread dissemination of this material is devastating for crime victims, especially child victims of sensitive crimes. In this case, this unfortunate child's statements, images and pain will be in the public sphere and in cyberspace forever. Events like this erode any faith crime victims have that the criminal justice system can protect them and their privacy.
The media argue that they have a constitutional right to this information. We all can agree that open government is essential to our democracy. As every other right is balanced, we must be dutiful in balancing the rights of defendants, the public's right to know and the rights of victims.
Wisconsin holds the proud distinction of being the first state in the country to enact a Crime Victims Bill of Rights, which mandates that victims are to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect for their privacy. State law calls for judges to protect these rights in a manner no less vigorous than the protections afforded criminal defendants. The law also instructs the news media to use restraint in revealing the identity of child victims, especially in sensitive cases.
Victims rely on these protections just as we, as a society, rely on victims to come forward and participate in the criminal justice system. It takes incredible courage to report a crime, especially for a child who is disclosing intrafamilial abuse. We owe this young victim and all crime victims dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity. It is difficult to reconcile the releasing of this interview with these basic rights.
The Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services continues its work to better protect victims and their rights, including ways to preserve the identity of victims in sensitive cases. If you or anyone you know is a crime victim and is in need of services, support or assistance, please call us at (608) 264-9497.
Jill Karofsky is director of the Office of Crime Victim Services at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Penn State coach asks judge to throw out his child abuse case
by Mark Shade
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Jerry Sandusky's lawyer on Thursday asked a judge to dismiss all 52 child abuse charges against him because the prosecutor failed to turn over detailed information needed to defend the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Attorney Joe Amendola, whose client is accused of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, raised questions specifically about the validity of charges tied to three of the boys - identified only as Victim 2, Victim 6 and Victim 8.
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. Paterno died in January.
Sandusky, 68, who has maintained his innocence on all 52 criminal counts of abuse, remains under house arrest.
His lawyer said charges tied to Victim 2 should be dismissed as hearsay because prosecutors "cannot sustain these charges at trial simply based upon the testimony of (former Penn State graduate assistant) Michael McQueary."
A grand jury reported that the graduate student saw a naked Sandusky performing anal intercourse on Victim 2, a boy about 10 years old, in the locker room showers at Penn State in 2002. That victim remains unidentified.
Amendola further argued there is not enough evidence to back up the allegations by Victim 6, who the grand jury said was about 7 years old when a naked Sandusky took him into the same showers, soaped him up and bearhugged him from behind in 1998. His mother later confronted Sandusky about the incident.
But the grand jury said it was unable to subpoena Victim 6, now age 24, because he was in the military and stationed outside the United States.
The charges tied to Victim 8 should be dropped, Amendola said, because the only "purported eyewitness" is "incapable of testifying."
The grand jury report said a janitor saw a young boy identified only as Victim 8 pinned up against the shower wall by Sandusky, who was performing oral sex on him in 2000. The grand jury said the janitor is now suffering from dementia, living in a nursing home and incompetent to testify.
In a 95-page petition to Centre County Court, Amendola argued the entire case should be tossed because the prosecution has failed to deliver specific information about Sandusky's accusers and the times of the alleged offenses.
"The Defendant submits his due process rights ... will be violated if he is forced to proceed to trial ... because he cannot adequately prepare and present a defense to those charges due to the lack of specificity contained therein," Amendola said in court papers.
Amendola has attempted to get more precise information from the state attorney general's office over the past few months by petitioning Judge John Cleland. The judge, however, has dismissed Amendola's queries as moot because, he said, prosecutors have no more information to provide.
Should the court deny Amendola's motions, he is asking for the trial to be delayed. Jury selection is now slated to begin on May 14.
Letter to the Editor
Help our most vulnerable
by Dan Hillman Augusta
Where is the outrage about the abuse and torture that children in our community are experiencing? Where is the help from relatives when people are abusing their own children?
All of the state and local government programs, law enforcement and nonprofit agencies cannot prevent child abuse, and they cannot adequately help child victims of abuse to recover. There are too many. The only hope is that an overwhelming majority of responsible adults will decide that it is time to get involved.
The leading cause of death in children ages 6 and younger is still physical abuse – usually by a parent.
There are 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. That represents an epidemic – a quiet, hidden, secret, dark and horrific epidemic of children being tortured, usually by a parent, relative or someone they trusted. More than 17,500 abused boys and girls from our area have been served by Child Enrichment since 1978. More than half of all children served now have been sexually abused.
One way to help is for each adult, especially parents and people who work with children, to report any and all suspected abuse, severe neglect and sexual abuse. Start by calling your local sheriff's department, and call the Department of Family and Children's Services in your county. Always report when you suspect.
You can support your local Child Advocacy Center and CASA program. All of our programs and services are free to child abuse victims and their non-offending parents or caregivers. Children can and do recover from even the most severe abuse, but they need high-level, structured, professional therapeutic services.
Child Enrichment provided such services to hundreds of child victims each year. If you help Child Enrichment, we will be able to continue to help victimized children.
The 23rd Annual Cookin' for Kids weekend starts at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23, with its Oyster Roast, and continues at 11 a.m. Saturday with the Wild Game Cookoff and many family-fun events – all at Daniel Field. Have fun, learn about our mission and help some children who really need a second chance at safe and happy lives.
The worst thing any of us can do is to deny the problem and do nothing.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates.)
Penn State offers free child-abuse counseling to alleged victims of ex-asst. coach Sandusky
by Associated Press - March 21 , 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State is offering free child-abuse counseling services to the alleged victims of former university assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The university Wednesday described the arrangement with Praesidium Inc., an abuse risk management company, as a way to fulfill a commitment made by school officials after Sandusky was charged in November.
Sandusky is on house arrest awaiting a mid-May trial on charges he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years. He denies the allegations.
“We're just committed to those who may have suffered abuse,” Trustee Mark Dambly, who heads the board's newly-formed outreach committee, said in a telephone interview. “We hope and ask that those who need help call the number and begin to get counseling as early as possible.”
The services are confidential and will be provided by counselors from outside Penn State; the phone number and email address to reach Praesidium in connection with the Penn State case was activated Wednesday. It was not known how much the counseling service will eventually cost the university.
The school was contacting lawyers, believed to be representing potential victims, about the new counseling service, Dambly said. He did not know specifically if attorneys for the eight known alleged victims had been contacted.
An alumni group, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which is backing a slate challenging current trustees, remained critical Wednesday of the trustees' response to the Sandusky case.
“When alumni pledged to honor the victims, we raised $500,000 in a month. When the trustees pledged to honor the victims, they did nothing,” spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt said in a statement.
Trustee chairwoman Karen Peetz said in January that the school would pay for the counseling services. Dambly said it took time for the school to settle on an appropriate counseling provider.
“We at Penn State are committed to helping victims of child abuse in every way we can,” President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. “This is an important step in our effort to do so. We hope those in need will use these services.”
Stop Worrying and Start Taking Action to Prevent Child Abuse
Kidpower 30-Skill Challenge™ E-Book Available Free for Child Abuse Prevention Month
Kidpower, a nonprofit leader in child abuse and bullying prevention, honors Child Abuse Prevention Month by challenging adults to stop worrying and start taking action to prevent child abuse. Download a free copy of the Kidpower 30-Skill Challenge™, a new, step-by-step teaching tool that teachers, counselors, youth leaders and parents can use to teach vital safety skills to children and teens.
Santa Cruz, CA (PRWEB) March 22, 2012
Kidpower®, the nonprofit leader in "People Safety" education, challenges adults to stop worrying and start taking action to prevent child abuse by teaching simple skills that kids can use to have safe, positive experiences with people.
"Worry can't keep kids safe - but skills can," says Irene van der Zande, executive director and founder of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International (known as Kidpower for short). "We created the Kidpower 30-Skill Challenge™ teaching tool and are offering it as a free e-book to adults who are willing to take our challenge - to share these powerful safety skills with young people and help them take charge of their safety, increase their confidence and develop healthy, positive relationships."
Kidpower is offering the Kidpower 30-Skill Challenge™ e-book for free through their website, www.kidpower.org, through the end of April, 2012 in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Each short lesson can be taught as a safety skill-building activity in classrooms, youth groups, youth sports teams and at home.
"Parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders need to to be encouraged and supported - no one is in a better position to bring safety skills to the children and teens in their lives than they are," says van der Zande. "So we created this step-by-step, teaching tool with engaging illustrations that shows how to make practicing and discussing safety skills with kids easy and fun."
Suzanne Quijano, an elementary school counselor who does therapy with mainstream and special needs students participated in Kidpower's original Skill-A-Day Challenge in 2011 for Child Abuse Prevention Month. "I was really glad to have the 30-Skills program added to my arsenal last year," says Quijano. "I loved the simple, step-wise approach to this program because I could use it with any client regardless of his or her skill set or starting point in awareness of personal safety. I have used this program with at least 40 individual kids in the past year, and it has been really great to see them grow in their ability to set boundaries and manage themselves more positively in their personal relationships at school and at home."
The Kidpower 30-Skill Challenge started out in 2011 as a Skill-A-Day email & blog posting for Child Abuse Prevention Month, which helped more than 1,000 kids directly. Van der Zande encourages adults to teach a safety skill to a child whenever and wherever they have the chance. "Teaching face-to-face isn't always possible, but the e-book is easy to use to teach skills over the phone, video chat, and email as well as in a classroom."
Instead of using fear to teach about violence prevention, Kidpower makes it fun to learn to be safe. "Don't forget to have fun - people of any age learn better when they're having fun," says van der Zande. "Safety is a foundation for fun. Kids can't have fun if they don't feel safe - and kids who feel safer and more confident are better prepared to make the most of their days, learn more easily, and enjoy their relationships."
Additional free resources available from Kidpower for Child Abuse Prevention Month Activities include:
- The Kidpower Coloring Book, available for free download in English, Spanish and Dutch.
- "Child Abuse Prevention in Youth Sports," A Kidpower webinar series for youth sports leaders, coaches and parents, created with the Positive Coaching Alliance in February 2011.
- The Kidpower Blog and a Library of Free Child Abuse, Bullying and Violence Prevention articles, podcasts and resources.
About the Author, Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Executive Director and Founder
In 1985, Irene van der Zande was a young mother, a new author, and a community organizer. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, with people standing all around, van der Zande protected a group of young children, including her seven-year-old daughter and her four-year-old son, from a man who was threatening to kidnap them. Having that experience left van der Zande with a lot of fear, so she took a self-defense class. Realizing that she couldn't be with her own children all the time, and that she wanted all children to be safe, she collaborated with educators, law enforcement experts, mental health professionals, martial artists, and other parents to develop programs for teaching personal safety and violence prevention that are empowering, fun, and effective, establishing Kidpower as a nonprofit organization in 1989.
For more than two decades, van der Zande has led Kidpower as its executive director, founder, and primary author. In addition to many articles and training manuals, her publications include "1, 2, 3 ... The Toddler Years" (with a foreword by Magda Gerber), "Bullying - What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe," "The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults," "The Fullpower Relationship Safety Handbook," a cartoon-illustrated "Safety Comics" series and "Kidpower Teaching Kits" with evidence-based, K-12 curriculum in easy lesson plans for elementary, high school and transitional program classroom instruction.
Van der Zande and Kidpower have been featured on ABC TV View from the Bay, USA Today, the San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area Parent, Supernanny USA, and CNN, among others.
Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International®, known as Kidpower® (www.kidpower.org), is highly recommended by experts worldwide for taking a positive, skills-based approach to bullying, violence and abuse prevention. Instead of using fear to teach young people about violence prevention, the Kidpower Method™ makes it fun to learn to be safe, building habits that increase the skills and confidence of kids, parents, teachers and other caring adults that can last a lifetime.
Kidpower has directly served more than 2 million people of all ages and abilities, since its founding in 1989, offering workshops through more than 20 centers and offices across the US and around the world, as well as an extensive free library of articles, podcasts and blog posts online and low-cost publications that are used by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Kidpower is endorsed by hundreds of schools, organizations, and experts, including best-selling author Gavin de Becker, Police Chief Manny Solano, and the Child Protection Center at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland.
Kidpower's newest global initiative is the "One Million Safer Kids" campaign which has the goal of making at least one million young people safer from bullying, violence, and abuse through greater awareness, action, and skills by July 1, 2016 or sooner.
Forum to bring discussion of child sex abuse out of darkness
Session to focus on how abuse affects our community
Sometimes the topics that make us the most uncomfortable are just the topics that need to be discussed.
That is the case with child sexual abuse. On Wednesday, the Healthier Communities Coalition of Larimer County will host a forum on child sexual abuse along with a panel discussion.
The public is invited to attend.
Although the subject has received national attention via cases involving Penn State University and the Catholic Church, among others, there hasn't always been a willingness to discuss how child sexual abuse affects our own community. Without such a conversation and community support, victims may find it difficult to move toward healing.
Among the panelists is Liz Johnson, who graduated from Fossil Ridge High School and is a senior at Colorado State University. She was sexually abused by a family member but received assistance from ChildSafe and other services. Johnson will speak about her own experiences, shedding light on the issue right here in Fort Collins.
According to a release from the Healthier Communities Coalition, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18. One in 10 will report the abuse to officials.
Much like so many other painful topics, such as suicide and substance abuse, awareness is the key. Understanding the scope of child sexual abuse here in our community as well as efforts to end it is the key to ensuring Fort Collins is a safe and aware place to raise children.
The Healthier Communities Coalition of Larimer County will host a forum on child sexual abuse from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the community room of the Coloradoan, 1300 Riverside Ave., Fort Collins.
For information, call Kim Sharpe, coordinator, at (970) 495-7503 or email@example.com.
The panel will include John Hutto, chief, Fort Collins Police Department; Val Macri-Lind, clinical director, ChildSafe; Angela Mead, deputy division manager, Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services; Chris Sarlo-Bergmann, forensic interviewer, Child Advocacy Center serving Larimer County; Deborah Crawford, pediatrician and child abuse medical expert; Cliff Riedel, assistant district attorney, Larimer County; and Jon Holsten, sergeant, Fort Collins Police Department and author of "The Swimsuit Lesson." Liz Johnson, Fossil Ridge High School graduate and Colorado State University senior, will round out the panel and speak from her experience.
Groups combine efforts to prevent child abuse
by PATRICK B. ANDERSON
March 22, 2012
Two La Crosse-based family resource organizations will team up to fight child abuse, according to a Wednesday announcement.
Funded by a grant of about $50,000,The Parenting Place and Family & Children's Center will focus together on preventing abuse through “Partnership for Families.” Both groups have long offered separate resources for at-risk parents, but by collaborating, officials hope to serve more families and avoid duplication of services.
“It's a way for us to work together,” said Jodi Widuch, executive director of The Parenting Place. “To pool our skills and staff.”
Roughly 3,000 child abuse cases are reported in La Crosse County each year, said Mike Boehm, president and CEO of Family & Children's Center.
The new service will streamline work both agencies already do — home visits and counseling — to bring that number down.
Budget cuts have made it hard to adequately fund preventative programs, and with the prevalence of abuse, it made sense to combine efforts, Boehm said.
Staff will train together. More conversation between the groups can have a real impact on the quality of the service, Widuch said.
“We've always had a good relationship,” she said. “But this collaboration is really deep.”
Each group will be able to handle higher case loads, thanks to teamwork and some additional funding. Boehm estimates his center will be able to service an additional 20 families at any given time. The Parenting Place would be able to double its current capacity.
“Too many are on waiting lists, and too many can't get the service,” Boehm said. “Together we can have a greater impact.”
Traumatic childhood grief, family violence, topic of Pasadena conference
by Janette Williams, SGVN
PASADENA - Retired child psychiatrist Dr. Michael Durfee had a job once described as the worst in the world.
But his years of recognizing and dealing with unimaginable violence done to children - he started the nation's first multi-agency Child Death Review Team in Los Angeles County in 1978 - haven't left him hopeless or burned-out, Durfee said; they've only made him more determined to organize help for children dealing with family violence and loss.
"Why? I'm good at it," said Durfee, a La Canada Flintridge resident, who will lead the 2012 Conference on Childhood Grief and Traumatic Loss at the Pasadena Convention Center on March 22.
"I'm not a brilliant physician or diagnostician," said Durfee, chief consultant for the ICAN National Center on Child Fatality Review.
"My strength is I can see the big picture and connect people," he said. "I can get cops, social workers, public health people who don't normally talk to each other, talking."
This year's keynote focus is on Fatal Family Violence, exploring the singular grief that comes when someone dies at the hands of another family member, Durfee said.
"We know very little about fatal family violence, and these families suffer from our ignorance," Durfee said, calling it a "national problem."
Typically, children removed from a home after the violent death of a parent or sibling aren't questioned, he said; caregivers often "wait for them to bring it up."
"Therapists don't ask who died, yet that's one of the biggest landmarks of your life," Durfee said. "When you have kids who, maybe, their mother, their baby sister, was killed by their father, people don't want to hear it ... they say, `Don't worry, it's going to be OK.' It's not going to be OK ... They're not bad people, they just don't want to look at this 5-year-old kid and say your mother died, so they don't."
It's been difficult to find adult survivors of childhood trauma who can provide insight, he said, and he hopes the conference will prompt some response.
Plans are to start a support group for survivors of homicide - an estimated 50 families annually in Los Angeles County suffer fatal family violence - and to hold a workshop and develop material to share nationally.
"We are doing poorly with our efforts to find (survivors) despite contacts with most agencies," Durfee said. "They just disappear."
Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, a former prosecutor who has a "long history" of working with Durfee, said he "defines dedication and knowledge" in the field.
"He gets all the credit here," Madison said. "He started the Los Angeles County Child Death Review" which now has about 1,000 similar teams in a dozen countries. "He's one of the nation's leading figures in treating, preventing and addressing child abuse and neglect."
The conference is expected to attract about 600 professionals in the field of child abuse.
But "I think anybody could take something away from it," Madison said. "Someone could go, get involved and end up volunteering in a tremendously rewarding program."
Durfee's wife, Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, will give an overview of the conference; the opening will be followed by the keynote panel discussion on "Children and Others Who Survive Fatal Family Violence" and a series of 18 workshops on related topics.
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, a long-time conference supporter, praised the focus.
"Addressing grief and promoting healing is vital for young people who have experienced any form of traumatic loss - especially foster children abused and neglected by their own parents," he said.
The conference will reflect the "cultural shifts" in dealing with family violence and child abuse since the 1960s, Durfee said, and the gradual realization of its existence, aspects and extent.
The focus on grief connected to family abuse is comparatively new, he said, but reflects a growing realization of its effects.
"It is possible to take horrible things and, if not resolve it, temper it some, put experts on it so you can help the next guy," Durfee said.
He recalled his years of working with hundreds of troubled and abused children, infants to teenagers, including at the now-shuttered MacLaren Hall in the 1970s. Support, understanding and just listening are key to recovery, he said.
"I was impressed," he said. "The MacLaren kids could move on, if they had someone to hold on to."
For details, or to register, go to http://ican4kids.org/conferences_Grief.asp. Videos showing some of the work being done with children are at http://ican4kids.org/training_Videos.asp.
Protecting your child after a disclosure of sexual abuse: What parents need to know.
by Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D.
Since the Penn State scandal, questions about protecting children from sexual abuse seem to be on parents' minds all the time. I am thankful for the media's spotlight on these issues. I tell my friends and family to use these stories as "teachable moments." Sit your kids down and talk to them about the issue of sexual abuse. Discuss the range of behaviors that could be characterized as sexual abuse. They can range from fondling and inappropriate tickling/touching of genitals to child pornography and rape.
At The NYSPCC, there has been a significant increase in calls for our workshop called "Safe Touches -- Child Sexual Abuse Prevention," that we conduct in the NYC public schools for children between the ages of five and eight. Parent Associations have also asked for help and a special seminar was designed for them. Although it's tempting to say, "it won't happen to my child," parents need to realize that no one is immune. In fact, most perpetrators of sexual abuse are adults that the child knows, trusts or loves.
As a rule, I recommend that parents always be appropriately concerned about the adults that your child will have contact with while at school, summer camp, sleepovers, etc. Babysitters and nannies should be carefully screened too.
Parents must be armed with information. They should learn the signs and symptoms of abuse and most importantly, how to respond appropriately if their child tells them that they received an "unsafe" touch. I prefer the term "safe" and "unsafe" instead of "good" and "bad" as some touches that are good, like a vaccination, can feel bad and some bad touches, like fondling, can feel good. So, stick with "safe and unsafe." Then, have a conversation with your child about their private parts, protecting their body, actions they can take if they receive an unsafe touch and who they can tell. Work with your child to identify two or three trusted adults that they can turn to if they are upset. Finally, parents must reinforce with their child that it is NEVER their fault if they receive an unsafe touch. The blame always rests with the adult and your job is to make sure that your child feels protected. You want to instill confidence that if something does happen to your child that you will be understanding and supportive.
Parents' reactions if a child does disclose abuse really count. Among the saddest cases that I have encountered over my career are those when a parent does not believe a child, or when a parent is furious at the child for telling the truth. I recall one case whereby the child was abused by her mother's boyfriend. The mother called the child a liar. The child, scared and devastated by her mother's betrayal, was removed and placed in foster care, as it was obvious that the mother could not guarantee her safety. Simply tragic.
Now granted, that case is the extreme. But research has shown that if there is a disclosure, the child's healing process is aided or stunted by the parent's reaction to the sexual abuse. Family support is one of the most important factors in a child's healing. I've witnessed a range of parental behaviors from shock, anger and worry to shame, guilt, confusion or even jealousy. The best way to respond is to remain calm and try to get the child to tell you what happened in his/her own words. Ask open-ended questions and let your child tell you the details. Don't ask leading questions; as this can confuse the child.
Once you have the information, you need to take action. If the alleged perpetrator is a parent or guardian of the child, the State Child Abuse Hotline must be called. Every State has a hot-line number. Just type your State and "Child Abuse Hotline" into your web browser and it will come up. In New York that number is 1-800-635-1622. If the alleged perpetrator was someone outside of the home, such as a family friend, neighbor, teacher, etc. the police should be contacted. Call 911. In either instance, these officials are trained in responding to these types of situations. You will have taken action to protect your child, and probably other children, from the perpetrator.
Seek counseling for your child and for your family. Children do heal from abuse. And, they do best when a trusted adult supports and believes them.
For more information on keeping your child safe, and, to support The NYSPCC's Inaugural Luncheon featuring a key note lecture by Sapphire, author of Push, the story behind the academy award winning movie, Precious, on Thursday, April 12th at the Pierre Hotel in NYC, visit www.nyspcc.org.
Ten Signs in Adults That Show They May Have Been Victims of Sexual Abuse as Children
Sexual dysfunction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and an inability to form healthy relationships may be results of sexual trauma experienced as a child.
PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA-- People who avoid dealing with their own victimization or misunderstand the effects of child sexual abuse may manifest severe symptoms and addictions as adults, according to experts.
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress reports that "one-third of all children are sexually abused before the age of 18." Sexual dysfunction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and an inability to form healthy relationships may be results of sexual trauma experienced as a child.
"Sexual abuse is a devastating act that can leave individuals, including adult survivors, with significant psychological, emotional and physical disorders that may continue indefinitely if not treated," says Peter S. Pelullo, founder of the Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation, an organization he created to help and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world. The foundation is aligned with and supports the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and its research toward preventing child sexual abuse and improving treatment for survivors of sexual abuse. Among its many missions, the foundation currently helps some of the young men of the alleged Penn State-Jerry Sandusky sex abuse and sexual molestation scandal.
"Unfortunately many victims of childhood sexual abuse don't seek help because of the fear, shame, and manipulation perpetrated on them by their abusers, which lead to the fear that they wouldn't be believed," says Mr. Pelullo, who is also a frequent guest expert on the Dr. Drew show.
Mr. Pelullo, himself an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, has written a new book, "Betrayal and the Beast," which chronicles his personal journey. For many years he kept hidden and refused to face his own debilitating issues as a survivor of sexual predation--the shame, rage, multiple addictions, depression, and other influences that directly impacted his life. Finally, at the age of fifty-five, Mr. Pelullo confronted the sexual abuse he endured as a child.
Here are ten signs or manifestations in adults that may be indicative of child sexual abuse:
* Drug or alcohol addiction
* Sexual dysfunction
* Severe emotional mood swings (intense anger or sadness, panic attacks)
* Obsessive-compulsive or post-traumatic disorders
* Decline or lack of interest in physical appearance and hygiene
* Depression and anxiety; low self-esteem; frequent bouts of insomnia or nightmares
* Eating disorders, excessive weight gain or loss
* Severe dysfunction in interpersonal relationships
* Emotional detachment; an inability to form bonds of trust
* The pursuit of unhealthy distractions; avoiding topics, people, places, things that may trigger traumatic memories
"Recovery from sexual abuse is not easy, and while it's a difficult journey there is now more help and hope than ever for the men and women who have experienced sexual predation and sexual molestation as children," says Mr. Pelullo. "We have to tell ourselves it's time to move toward a new beginning and start our journey to recovery."
In addition to founding the Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation, Peter S. Pelullo was the founder of Philly World Records and Alpha International Recording Studios, where he worked with the Rolling Stones, Foreigner, and Stevie Wonder. He is now an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups.
For more information contact Gretchen Paules at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.letgoletpeacecomein.org.
Protect the Children: Part III
by Julia Wilson
ALAMOSA — Ashley Lopes, executive director of Tu Casa in Alamosa, has a bold plan to ease the pain of sexually abused children in Alamosa County and the rest of the San Luis Valley, where the rate of child abuse is four times higher than the Colorado state average.
Lopes wants to create a Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) in Alamosa. Based on the number of child sexual abuse cases investigated by the Alamosa County Department of Social Services, she said an estimated 60 children would be helped the first year the Center opened and at least 100 children the following year.
The Center would be a child-focused, facility-based program representing many disciplines, including law enforcement, child protection agencies, the District Attorney's Office, mental health and medical agencies, and victim advocacy groups.
The goal is to work together as a team to conduct joint forensic interviews and making decisions about the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases.
The underlying philosophy of Children's Advocacy Centers is to make sure that children are not further victimized by the systems designed to protect them.
Currently child victims of sexual abuse undergo a repetitive interviewing process at either a law enforcement agency or at the Department of Social Services.
Lopes envisions a specifically designed child-friendly environment in the CAC, where the child will feel comfortable, safe and cared for.
The CAC would be equipped to allow for videoed forensic exams, pediatric Sexual Assault Nurses Exams (SANE), and after care services for the victims.
All of the bilingual programs will be free, confidential, and available to children, families and partnering agencies throughout the six-county region of the San Luis Valley.
Tu Casa already has an impressive number of partners signing on to the proposed program for children, including the Alamosa Police Department, the Alamosa County Department of Human Services, the Alamosa School District, the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office, SLV Victims Response Units, The SLV Community Mental Health Center, Alamosa County Sheriff's Office, the SLV Regional Medical Center Behavioral Health Department and The SANE Program.
By providing support for all child abuse victims and their non-offending caregivers Tu Casa and its partners hope to lessen the long-term negative effect of all kinds of child abuse which include promiscuity, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
Tu Casa and its partners are writing grants to help fund this initiative, but the support and financial help of the community will be necessary for the dream of a Children's Advocacy Center to become a reality.
The building currently housing Tu Casa must be renovated to include a forensic interviewing room, a pediatric Sexual Assault Nurses Exams space, audio and visual equipment, furniture as appropriate, plus all the fees, permits, design, construction and materials associated with renovation.
Training for staff members to conduct forensic interviewing, serve as child advocate and to provide trauma-informed therapy will also be needed.
Lopes said her dream will cost money, “but it's mere pennies in comparison to the priceless safety of our children.”
Lopes is asking individuals and organizations to invest in a lasting legacy for the San Luis Valley community.
After all, what better investment than in the children who are the future of the Valley?
For more information about the Children's Advocacy Center of the San Luis Valley contact Ashley Riley Lopes, Executive Director of Tu Casa, Inc., at 719.589.2465, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.slvtucasa.net
Did you know...
|70 to 80 percent of sexual abuse survivors report drug and alcohol abuse.
One study showed that among male survivors 80 percent had a history of substance abuse, 70 percent had received psychological treatment, 50 percent had suicidal thoughts, 20 percent had attempted suicide, and approximately 30 percent violently victimized others.
Young girls who are sexually abused are more likely to develop eating disorders during adolescence.
Victims of child sexual abuse show more signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sadness and school problems.
Major Depressive Disorder is frequent among victims of sexual abuse.
Victims of sexual abuse have more physical health problems.
Victims of sexual abuse are more likely to be sexually promiscuous.
More than 60 percent of teen first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape or attempted rape.
Both male and female victims of sexual abuse are more likely to become prostitutes.
As for the sexual offender:
The average age of the offenders is 27 years old.
70 to 80 percent of serial rapists report they were sexually abused as youngsters.
Approximately 70 percent of sexual offenders of children have between one and nine victims. 20 to 25 percent have 10 to 40 victims.
Serial child molesters may have as many as 400 victims in their lifetimes.
Above information provided by Darkness to Light, an international organization that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility on the adults in society. Darkness to Light provides information to adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. For more information, please see thier web site: www.D2L.org
Child abusers often become friendly with their potential victims' families to earn trust and gain time alone with children. This also includes older youths who have access to younger children.
The offender will shame a child, saying the abuse is their fault, or tells the child that his or her parents will be angry.
The offender frequently threatens the child that he will hurt a family member if he/she tells.
Many abusers tell the child it is a game.
Child Abuse Prevention Month Is Fast Approaching
by Meagan Mitchell
March 15, 2012 Dayton, Texas All too often, residents of Liberty and Chambers counties prefer to believe that child abuse is something that happens in other places and to other children. Tragically, this is simply not the case and pretending otherwise is a disservice to every child in our area. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and create strong communities to support children and families. Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 22-28, 2012 and this year's theme is "Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim", which captures the spirit and resolve needed to realize our common goal of reaching each victim in need of hope and help, one victim at a time. Throughout the month of April, efforts will be made to increase awareness of this problem that plagues all communities.
Last year alone, 241 new child abuse cases were reported to Bridgehaven Children's Advocacy Center. The serious nature of this problem is of major concern, because children in our community are being victimized and robbed of their childhood.
In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Bridgehaven will conduct the following activities to intensify public awareness of this growing concern. All through the month of April we have speaking engagements at different schools and clubs to promote child abuse awareness and prevention. When you think of child abuse think "blue". In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse began as a Virginia grandmother's tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse. The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country, and many wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse.
Our mission is to give hope and care to the children of Liberty and Chambers counties who are victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. We will foster a working relationship with the governmental agencies of the two counties assigned to protect and defend victims.
"Breaking the cycle of abuse one child at time"
For more information on child abuse prevention; events and activities scheduled during April; or to schedule our free child abuse presentations or information on Bridgehaven, contact us at 936-258-0400 or visit our website at www.bridgehavencac.org. If you would like to volunteer at any of our events please feel free to contact Meagan Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amid 'national travesty,' Graham James' survivors show courage—and provide hope
Like most of them, this sexual predator didn't wear a raincoat or have horns sticking out of his head.
Graham James was similar to so many from his tribe: engaging, friendly, a con artist who wheedled himself into the lives of children and earned the trust of their families through a shared love of sports.
On Tuesday, in a Winnipeg court ruling that sent rolling blocks of disgust and outrage across Canada, the former junior hockey coach was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to hundreds of sexual assaults on retired NHL star Theo Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, when they played for James as teenagers.
That's two years for repeatedly violating their bodies and destroying their dreams, for guaranteeing their adult lives would be rife with nightmares and therapy sessions—and, in Fleury's case, a decades-long battle with all sorts of addictions, alcoholism and rage.
With reductions for good behavior, James, the predator, could spend all of eight months in jail for the heinous crimes he inflicted on children he coached in the Western Hockey League in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Jerry Sandusky, the alleged serial rapist and fellow abuser of kids, must wish he could have his case moved from Central Pennsylvania to the lovely neighborhood north of the border. There is much to adore about Canada, but here is one situation that curdles the stomach.
While the Crown argued that James should be imprisoned for six years because he was at a high risk to offend again—he had already been quietly pardoned in 2007 after pleading guilty to sex charges against two other former players—the defense lawyers made it sound as if James were the one to be pitied.
For instance, they contended James deserved a conditional sentence of probation with no jail because he had already served time for abusing players (though not Fleury or Holt). They wanted the public to believe the 59-year-old was rehabilitated, that he had learned to channel his desires toward young-looking adults; that the poor man was so humiliated, he dropped out of public view and then had to wear a red ski mask to conceal much of his face when he arrived at the courthouse; that he had been exiled from the country he loved to Spain and then Mexico after being pardoned following the 18 months he served for pleading guilty to sexually assaulting former NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy, and another unnamed player an estimated 350 times over 10 years.
Rather than fight extradition from Mexico, James, said his lawyer, voluntarily returned home to appear before the court. Yes, a pedophile's lot in life is such a struggle. As Greg Gilhooly, one of James' accusers, noted, he and Kennedy have logged more time in therapy sessions than James has behind bars.
Outside the courthouse, Kennedy, one of the brave players to first reveal how James repeatedly molested him, said: “It's been a lifetime of working and rehabilitating with counselors and two-hour sessions a week just to stay on track myself after the damage that Graham has inflicted, so to sit in there and hear that Graham James is rehabilitated, really drives me nuts.
“Obviously, it's not a sentence we all want to see. At least he's going back to jail.”
It's an offensively weak sentence that must make victims wonder if it's worth coming forward at all.
Just as Sandusky wielded considerable power over his alleged prey, James had immense control over the teens he molested. If they told, James threatened to squash their hockey careers. He trapped his vulnerable victims, degraded and humiliated them.
“What happened to Mr. Fleury and Mr. Holt is every child's worst nightmare and every parent's worst nightmare," said Judge Catherine Carlson. “There is no sentence this court can impose that will give back to Mr. Holt and Mr. Fleury that which was taken from them by Mr. James.”
But, she added, he had expressed remorse and apologized to his victims and been publicly shamed, actions that warranted a reduced sentence. Not that violence is the answer, and not that rehabilitation isn't possible, but here was a moment when few would have flinched if the con's face had met with a hockey stick.
James, Fleury reminded the court, never showed a drop of leniency to any of his prey. In a heart-crushing victim-impact statement, Fleury had asked for James to be sentenced to life in jail, calling his molester a “monster” who abused him more than 150 times.
"I was just a kid. A child. I was completely under Graham James's control. And I was scared,” Fleury said. “I did not have the emotional skills, the knowledge or the ability to stop the rapes or change my circumstances."
The enduring trauma and devastation led Fleury from the NHL rinks to the New Mexico desert, where he found himself "with a gun in my mouth and finger on the trigger.” He chose to be a survivor rather than a victim, filed a criminal complaint against the man who coached him with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Calgary Hitmen junior hockey teams, and now devotes his life to being an advocate for those who have faced their own monsters.
James in December admitted to molesting Fleury between 1983 and 1985 in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. James also pleaded guilty to abusing Holt, Fleury's cousin, in separate incidents in the 1980s and ‘90s. Shortly after James' knuckles were tapped Tuesday, Holt called the sentence a “national travesty” and said “James is laughing all the way back to the life he's always led knowing that justice for him is but a blip on the radar.
“Today as we speak there is a boy out there going about his life, dreaming his dreams and hoping his hopes … until … Graham James crosses his path. And cross his path he will, because that's what he does; he preys upon the unsuspecting all the while knowing not much will happen to stop him,” Holt said.
But Fleury found hope in his country's bubbling indignation, calling Canada's outrage over the serial molester's light sentence a positive step in the process to expose abusers and the justice system that fails the abused.
“This was never about personal revenge. What does revenge do? Nothing," Fleury said.
“The fact that he wore a ski mask in the courtroom? That tells me, tells the world, that ‘I'm still doing this stuff.' If not, why not show your face?”
Fleury sounded not at all like a man looking for a hockey stick, but one who reluctantly flung open the curtains and saw cockroaches scurrying for cover.
“I get up every morning, my feet hit the floor running, looking for the next opportunity to help the next person get to where I am, where Sheldon is, where Todd is,” Fleury said. “It's kind of a call to all the victors of child sexual abuse: We've been through the war and we've come out of it empowered, we're advocates and we talk about what happened to us very openly.
“There is no more shame, no more guilt, attached to our lives anymore—and that's really the freedom of this whole thing.''
To victims everywhere—in Central Pennsylvania and far beyond—it's comforting to know there are some hockey players who courageously stood up, and they're still standing tall.
Child sex abuse is under-punished - it's time for judges to get tough
The two years that Graham James will serve does not seem adequate for the damage he did to his young players
by Christie Blatchford
As Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Catherine Carlson said Tuesday as she passed sentence on former junior hockey coach Graham James for his prolonged sexual attacks on former National Hockey League star Theo Fleury and his cousin Todd Holt, "There is no sentence this court can impose that will give back to Mr. Holt and Mr. Fleury that which was taken by Mr. James."
True that, but wouldn't it be nice if just once in a while, a judge gave it a whirl?
Carlson sent James back to jail for a whopping two years, but of course, like all inmates, he'll be eligible for passes and day parole after serving six months and full parole after eight months, or a third of his sentence.
That's for hundreds of acts of sexual abuse over many years committed against two trusting young teens, as Fleury and Holt then were, who were first in James' thrall and then firmly under his control.
Much the same thing happened in 1997, when James pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two other boys he was coaching, including former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy: Again, the offences ran into the hundreds, the days ran into years, the abuse was physical but also a grotesque betrayal of trust, and that time, the sentence was 3½ years, of which James served about 18 months.
Now in her lengthy reasons released Tuesday Carlson had her reasons - chiefly, the principle of totality (which required her to take into account James' earlier sentence and the fact that the current assaults dated from the same time period) and all the decisions by other judges that came before hers.
Common sense is not so constrained or constipated, and it is that which sometimes separates the law from public opinion.
There's a recent case from the Ontario Court of Appeal that nicely illustrates this chasm.
The case is known by its initials to protect the young victim, R v P.M., a man who over the course of a year had forced anal and vaginal intercourse with his daughter, who was 13 and 14 at the time, and who also videoed and photographed some of the assaults, which he kept among his vast collection of child pornography.
During two of the videos, the Appeal Court noted, "the victim is heard to repeatedly beg her father 'Daddy please stop!' "
He replied, respectively, "Shut up" and "Shut the f- up."
Now at trial in the fall of 2010, Ontario Court Judge Stephen Hunter imposed a sentence of five years for the various assaults (P.M. pleaded guilty to sexual assault, incest, sexual interference, making child porn, and possession of child porn), a year consecutive for the child porn offences, and six months concurrent for some additional firearms offences, adding up to a total sentence of six years (minus, of course, 22 months credit for 11 months of pre-trial custody).
The Crown appealed, on two grounds - one involving the lightness of the sentence itself, the other on the judge's failure to view a disc showing the commission of some of the sexual offences daddy dearest had thoughtfully videoed.
Hunter, unbelievably to my mind, refused to view the disc in part because the victim [who, with her mother, was supportive of P.M.] was in court. He sought her opinion of whether the disc should be played, and unsurprisingly, she didn't want it to be. Hunter said he'd been counsel previously for a Children's Aid Society and had been on the bench for almost 20 years and had "viewed countless videos of a similar nature" and thus he didn't need to see this one to understand the impact of what the father did.
And the judge also said that the prejudicial effect of the viewing to the victim far outweighed the probative value to the court.
Two judges of the Appeal Court, the author Marc Rosenberg and James MacPherson, found that though the sentence "was a lenient one and at the bottom end of the range," and that the one-year sentence for the child pornography offences, "standing on its own would have been inadequate."
But apparently, added together, as a global sentence of six years, judicial math rendered it "lenient but it was not clearly inadequate."
One line in the 30-page decision stood out to me.
It was about the deference Appeal Courts owe to trial judges and it went like this: "In my view, this functional justification applies as much to the conduct of the hearing, including the decision as to whether the prejudicial effect of the proposed evidence outweighs its probative value, as it does to the decision of quantum."
This is just an aside, but is there anyone in Canada outside the courts who understands that? Who ever speaks like that?
I prefer the dissenting judge, Gloria Epstein, who said Hunter should have watched the video ("the images do not only depict the crime - they are the crime"), that he could have cleared the public from the courtroom to spare the victim (and she might have left the room herself) and that without having seen it, he was in no position to assess its value.
Epstein would have imposed a nineyear sentence.
Only in the circles in which she moves would she be considered a hardass, but I bet she is, as Carlson would be deemed fair and reasonable, which means just like most of the rest of them - curiously unwilling to acknowledge that child sex abuse remains under-valued and under-punished in this country, and unwilling, in the one case, to even look at it.
"A national travesty," Todd Holt called it when he heard of the James' decision.
I think he's right on the money.
Themes emerge in hearing on abuse of Montana's children
by KIMBALL BENNION
HELENA — The state Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services is having trouble retaining front-line workers who respond to child abuse and neglect claims, especially in Great Falls, a top Child and Family Services administrator said at a legislative hearing Tuesday.
The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 30, which called on the committee to look at incidences of childhood trauma in the state, and to examine ways to prevent and mitigate its effects.
According to Child and Family Services Administrator Sarah Corbally, the highly publicized deaths of children in Great Falls who were on the radar of agency workers caused the division to improve how it responds to claims of abuse. Corbally said the division has changed its intake system, which takes initial abuse complaints, to be under the same umbrella as fieldworkers so that information can be relayed to them quicker.
Those who report abuse are now supposed to get a follow-up communication from Child and Family Services on whether the complaint is being investigated, although Corbally said current laws don't allow the division to share any information about the investigation to the initial reporter. Corbally said division officials are drafting legislation to get that rule changed, which she said will provide for better relationships between the state agency and other people working with children.
"We, on our own, are not capable of doing the work that needs to be done," Corbally said. "Without the intervention of all our services in a seamless manner, we can't do all that needs to be done to protect these children."
Among the biggest problems is being able retain workers who are often overloaded with large caseloads, and who aren't paid as much as their counterparts in other states, Corbally said. The problem exists across the state, but it's especially grim in Great Falls.
Corbally said the turnover rate in the Great Falls Child and Family Services office has been 50 percent since June.
"I really don't think there is more difficult work than that done by our child protection specialists," Corbally said.
Committee Vice Chair Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, questioned Corbally further about vacancies within DPHHS.
"This is a pattern that we see a lot," Caferro said. "The lowest-paid workers are the most over-worked, it seems."
Those sentiments were echoed by Raymond Berg, field representative for the Montana Public Employees Association. During the public comment portion of the hearing, Berg said he receives "weekly" calls from DPHHS workers who are frustrated about their jobs. Since the summer, there has been an "exodus" of employees from the department, Berg said.
"I can't stress enough to the committee the work that these people are under causes stress ... and they need help," he said.
Family members of October Perez, a Great Falls toddler who was killed in an alleged homicide by a caregiver in June, also spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing. They gave an account of Child and Family Services workers who they believed did not take their worries about Perez's family situation seriously.
"Every route we took, the door was slammed in our faces," said Mary Leibrand, Perez's great aunt. "October's death was the result of a lot of ignorance, and perhaps laziness."
Blaine County Schools Superintendent Lisa Stroh testified about her experiences with DPHHS as an educator, saying that she ran into roadblocks when she tried to report suspected abuse among students. Stroh suggested that the state set up an independent review board to hear complaints from people who encounter road blocks.
"That is where the people of Montana can be heard," Stroh said. "Because right now all you can do is make referral, after referral, after referral."
The problem of childhood trauma is especially acute on the state's seven Indian reservations. On Tuesday, lawmakers also heard testimony from those who have applied treatment methods to Native American children.
Schools are an important venue where adults can be trained to recognize symptoms of trauma and know what to do when they see it. Mandy Smoker-Broaddus of the Office of Public Instruction talked about how the state already integrates mental health services into some of the poorest performing schools — many of which are on reservations.
The Schools of Promise initiative uses the "wrap-around" method to ensure that a large group of adults are able to know the needs of children who are affected by trauma.
"Students need strong relationships with caring adults," Broaddus said.
After testimony and questioning, the committee heard from professionals who work with children. Those professionals offered opinions on what lawmakers should do as they work on drafting legislation. Overriding themes from the people who testified or commented over the past two days were:
» That agencies and disciplines from across the state — including law enforcement, county attorneys, schools, doctors, mental health providers and social workers — need to work together and communicate better on the issue of childhood trauma;
» In working with children who are abused or neglected, the families need to be involved, and children should only be removed from home if there is extreme danger;
» Responses to child abuse or neglect should be more localized — especially in rural communities;
» Child abuse and neglect should be seen as a public health issue and not just a mental health or criminal justice problem;
» People who work with children should be more informed about trauma and recognize that the most difficult children to work with are often that way because they have the most significant problems; and
» The problem of retaining the state's Child and Family Services workers needs to be addressed.
Teen charged with sexually abusing children at mom's daycare
A 17-year-old boy was charged with sexually assaulting three young girls at his mother's licensed home daycare in north suburban Winthrop Harbor, police said Tuesday.
Brett A. Degler was charged as an adult with four felony counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Winthrop Harbor Detective Sgt. Chris Willets said.
Following a two-week investigation, detectives learned that three girls -- between the ages of 4 and 11 at the time -- were sexually assaulted from November 2011 until March 6, Willets said.
The state Department of Children and Family Services is investigating allegations of abuse after receiving a complaint on March 8, agency spokesman Jimmie Whitelow said. DCFS has had no previous contact with the family.
The suspect's mother surrendered her license as a daycare provider, Whitelow said.
“She had no idea what was going on,” Willets said.
A parent contacted police after her child experienced pain when going to the bathroom, Willets said, adding that the child was then able to recount the abuse to her mother.
The Lake County Children's Advocacy Center conducted child sensitive interviews and the victims were treated at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, according to a Winthrop Harbor police release.
Degler is being held on $500,000 bond at Lake County Jail.
'Courage Group' starts in Fannin County
by Fannin County Children's Center
The Merrian-Webster dictionary defines “courage” as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Children who endure physical, sexual and emotional abuse have no choice but to find courage in order to survive. However, even if the abuse stops once they reach adulthood, some of the effects of the trauma may still linger.
It is estimated that there are at least 42 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in our country today. It is also estimated that one in four girls will be sexually abused by her eighteenth birthday.
It is for these reasons, the Fannin County Children's Center is pleased to announce a new service for female adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The “Courage Group” will be a free support group that will meet at the Children's Center in Bonham each Tuesday evening from 6:00 - 8:00 pm, starting on April 3. Sandy Hood will facilitate the group.
“We are pleased to be able to add this support group to expand the range of services offered as part of the mental health component of our Children's Advocacy Center,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director. “Since our Children's Advocacy Center was started in 1999, we have opened around 100 new cases every year. Many of these child victims are now adults, but still struggling with the trauma of having been sexually abused as a child.”
Last fall, the Center added a Clinical Director position to the staff. This part-time position is filled by Michelle Griffith, LPC. Since adding this position, the center has seen an increase in the number of counseling sessions provided to victims and their protective family members. Griffith also started group therapy for teenage girls who have been sexually abused.
For more information or to sign-up for the Courage Group, contact Sandy Hood at (903) 583-4339. For more information about the teen group or other mental health services for child abuse victims, contact Michelle Griffith at the same number.
SingleSource Background Screening Corporation's CEO Dymer Supports Florida Bill HB 1355 As Important Step To Stop Child Sexual Abuse
Donald J. Dymer, chief operating officer of SingleSource and sponsor of the Protect the Children Conference held in Jacksonville, Florida, hopes the bill will result in quicker, earlier reporting of unacceptable behavior, hence minimize victimization for innocent children and youth.
500 children in the United States are sexually molested each year according to The Centers For Disease Control.
The National Sex offender Registry contains approximately 600,000 names, while research suggest as many as 14 million U.S Adults are sexually attracted to children, although not all are active child molesters.
SingleSource Chairman and President Don Dymer applauds Florida Governor Rick Scotts bill (HB 1355) which imposes huge fines on public or private colleges and universities for willfully and knowingly failing to report child abuse. The new bill is in direct response to the cover ups at both Penn State and Syracuse university of child sexual abuse and the failure on the part of those administrators and law enforcement agencies to act upon they received about such abuse.
Dymer focused Florida's attention on child sexual abuse by those entrusted to their care by sponsoring a day long educational conference in Jacksonville in February. Mayor Alvin Brown devoted the entire month of February to “Protect the Children”. “I sincerely hope that the conference and the continuing spotlight on this insidious crime against children will result in more legislation like this. There is still more that can be done and is being done. In New Jersey bills are being discussed to change existing statues of limitations on certain child abuse cases, making justice available to millions of victims.”
The Florida Bill addresses a key element addressed in the “Protect the Children Conference” last month and that is failure to communicate and react. Dymer explains,
According to the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute, 60% of adult survivors said they told no one about their abuse. More alarming is that according to this same report, when victims do report their abuse just 6% of adults will report it to the police and attempt to act upon the crime.
“The bill gets more to the heart of the problem in understanding how complex this issue really is.” explains Dymer. “It addresses the “environment outside of the home” in which the sexual abuse occurs. "We need to do more." Dymer supports the recommendations of the organization, “Darkness to Light” in the continuing fight against child sexual abuse.
Protect the Children By:
|? Pay Attention - Too much one-on-one time? Does a child try to avoid certain staffers?
? Create a Hiring Policy that includes the Diana Screen® is something Dymer strongly recommends. Hiring or seeking volunteers to work with children requires a special background screening and on-going screening policy to keep children safe.
? Create Reporting Policies and follow them. Responsibility and accountability go hand in hand. Treat every report as a serious threat and develop a “zero tolerance” philosophy.
? Understand the Impact. Not just on the victim, but on your entire organization. Learning of a sexual assault on a child creates shame and embarrassment and guilt on the part of co-workers. Fear of being brought into a litigious situation all effect the day to day operations of your organization. Your reputation and business may never recover. Non-profit organizations rely heavily on contributions to fund much needed products and services will see their revenue sources disappear.
? Create One-on-One Policy. Give people access to those people in your organization who can be trusted to hear a report of abuse and act upon such information.
? Train Employees and Volunteers. Be proactive. Learn about the warning signs of abuse and learn to recognize them in children and youth. Create an awareness on the part of your employees and volunteers to be on the look-out for suspicious behavior.
“Preventing child sexual abuse will not happen overnight,” notes Dymer, “but it must be worked on every day. Adults can stop this plague – children cannot – they are the victims”
SingleSource Services is located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.The company provides background screening to over 2,500 business across a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. SingleSource was founded in 1995 and believes that backgrounds are like fingerprints and prides itself on its long term customer relationships and strong commitment to fulfill its corporate civic duties.
Sources: The Centers For Disease Control, The Child Molestation and Prevention Research Institute, and the National Institute on Drug Addition.
Governor signs child abuse reporting bill into law
Most college and university personnel will soon be required to report suspected cases of child abuse to the authorities.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Most college and university personnel will soon be required to report suspected cases of child abuse to the authorities.
A bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Chris Gregoire adds university administrative, academic and athletic staff to the list of those required to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Social and Health Services or to police.
The law will go into effect in June.
Police officers, daycare workers, school employees, doctors and nurses are among those who already have the reporting requirement.
Those required to report suspected child abuse can be charged with a gross misdemeanor for not doing so.
The idea of expanding the requirement to higher education workers gained traction after high-profile cases of alleged child sexual abuse by athletic coaches were reported at Penn State and Syracuse University.
Child Abuse: Not Just a Catholic Church Problem
by Paul Canning
This post was inspired by comment and information from Care2 members Rob and Jay B. They commented on a post about the latest scandalous push back by some Catholics against allegations of child abuse in Missouri.
Much has been written about child abuse and the Catholic Church. But other religions are also being criticized for failing to do enough to tackle the problem of those who abuse their positions of authority. This post covers just some recent examples.
In Indonesia, authorities are being accused of dragging their heels on the prosecution of Habib Hasan bin Jafar Assegaf, a popular Muslim cleric.
The alleged abuse took place about eight years ago but was only recently reported. The 11 men involved claimed in December that Habib told them when they were teenage children that he needed to touch them to remove evil spirits while giving them “healing treatments.”
Police defended themselves last week against delays in questioning the cleric by saying that ‘the sensitive nature of the allegations required careful handling.'
In the UK last December, a BBC investigation found hundreds of cases of physical and sexual abuse at Muslim religious schools, with very few leading to prosecutions.
The BBC were told that pressure often leads to the withdrawal of allegations. But Muslim leaders said they took the investigation seriously with Mohammad Shahid Raza, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, set up by Muslim organizations to improve standards in mosques, saying:
“I'm not sure how wide this unacceptable practice is, but our responsibility is to make those who run the mosques realize we live in a civilized society and this is not acceptable at any cost.”
Others said that there were too many unregulated madrassas, or schools for religious instruction.
In the US in December, an Imam in Phoenix was arrested and confessed to molesting a ten year old boy, police said. Local TV reported mosque members defending the Imam despite his confession.
This month, the conviction of two adults of the prolonged torture and murder of a teenager accused of witchcraft in London has shocked the UK.
Child abuse linked to belief in witchcraft is a growing phenomenon in Britain, according to evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry into child protection.
Other examples of abuse in religious settings include cases of cruelty, sadism, injury and death in Christian Evangelical driven ‘boot camps' for young people in the United States and other countries and similar treatment of gay people at ‘cure' clinics in Ecuador.
Sandusky case has led to more reports of suspected child abuse, district attorneys say
by DAN MILLER
More people are coming forward to report cases of suspected child abuse who probably would not have before Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse scandal, several midstate district attorneys said Monday.
“I've seen an uptick in people erring on the side of reporting,” Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said.
Freed said most referrals he gets are through professionals such as guidance counselors who are required by law to report cases of suspected child abuse to authorities.
That's still true, but Freed said he's also now more apt to hear from ordinary citizens. These people might not have witnessed the abuse and only heard about it second- or third-hand. But they feel more of an obligation to report what they have heard to the authorities, because of all the publicity that has come out since The Patriot-News broke the story about the investigation into Sandusky last year, he said.
The district attorneys made the comments during a session with The Patriot-News editorial board. Also attending were district attorneys Edward M. Marsico Jr. of Dauphin County and Shawn Wagner of Adams County.
Sandusky, a 68-year-old former Penn State University defensive football coach, is charged with sexually assaulting 10 boys and using The Second Mile, a charity he founded to help underprivileged children, as a recruiting ground for victims. Sandusky maintains his innocence. Sandusky's trial is scheduled to begin on May 14.
The scandal in State College led to the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier and charges against two college administrators.
Freed and the other DAs aren't being overwhelmed by such calls. The number of such referrals might not even be statistically significant. But it's enough for the DAs to consider it a trend.
Wagner has been approached by at least three people in the past few months.
“They say, ‘I don't know if I need to report this, but I want you to know what information I have.' Prior to the Sandusky case, I don't ever remember anyone coming up to me like that,” Wagner said.
He said the case also pointed out the need to better train professionals who are required to report cases of suspected child abuse. Pennsylvania's Task Force on Child Protection, which was created in December by the General Assembly to study sex-abuse prevention, plans to submit recommendations for changes in state law to legislators by the end of the 2012 session.
Wagner said he suspects the increase in the number of people reporting such cases might be much greater when factoring in referrals made to the toll-free ChildLine of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.
Freed said he believes a major reason behind more people opening up is the realization of what child sexual abuse is. Citizens from all walks of life had their eyes opened by the presentment that portrayed in graphic detail the nature of the charges against Sandusky. Posting this presentment online made those details more accessible to the public.
Freed said for the first 11 months of 2011, his office obtained 16 convictions of persons found guilty of committing involuntary deviant sexual intercourse. But he said that most people didn't know what the charge meant until reading about it in the Sandusky presentment.
The DAs hope that more people coming forward means that authorities will become aware of cases earlier. Freed said child sexual abuse cases are among the most difficult that his office handles.
Unlike television's “CSI,” DNA isn't available in every case. In the vast majority of cases, there is little or no physical evidence, and little to corroborate the testimony of the child victim, Freed said.
Marsico said the Sandusky case could lead to state legislation that would permit more types of expert testimony to be used by prosecutors in child sex cases.
For instance, Freed said prosecutors are not allowed to have an expert testify as to how a perpetrator “grooms” a potential child victim by forming a relationship with them over time. Wagner said prosecutors also cannot present expert testimony on why it sometimes takes many years before a child victim reports that he or she has been abused.
Wagner said he believes Pennsylvania is one of just seven states that does not permit these types of expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases.
“I know the legislature is looking at this,” Wagner said, adding this is another byproduct of publicity from the Sandusky case.
Microsoft develops PhotoDNA to help law enforcement battle child pornography
Microsoft is being proactive in the fight against online child pornography. The company is partnering with a Swedish-based company to create Microsoft PhotoDNA — an image-matching tool to help law enforcement agents in child sex-abuse investigations.
Microsoft, along with NetClean, a company known for its own technology that catches online abusers, will offer the software to law enforcement agencies for free in an effort to help agents sift through new online photographs to tag child abuse perpetrators.
“By arming law enforcement with this powerful technology, our goal is to help expedite investigations, limit officer exposure to the corrosive effects of viewing child rape images, and strengthen law enforcement's ability to quickly identify and rescue victims and get child abusers off the street,” Bill Harmon, associate general counsel in Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit wrote in a blog post.
There have been over 65 million videos and images of child sexual exploitation cases reported since 2002, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Microsoft hopes its newly developed technology will make searching for child abusers an easier and less graphic process.
Currently Facebook uses the digital tool to help prevent child pornography from spreading onto its social network.
Horses help victims of sexual abuse find healing
by Valarie Honeycutt Spears
Christine Ackerman said she often finds it difficult to talk to people about the sexual abuse she endured as a child.
But Ackerman, 31, said she had no trouble talking to Pilot, the horse she came to know in a program called EAST, for Equine Assisted Survivors of Trauma.
The program is a partnership of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and Central Kentucky Riding for Hope at the Kentucky Horse Park. Its creation stems from a desire to expand the riding program's mental health services at the Kentucky Horse Park and the rape crisis center's commitment to offer cutting-edge healing opportunities to survivors of sexual violence.
"All the fears that the trauma brings comes back," Ackerman said. But Pilot "didn't judge me in any way," she said. The horses "still love you no matter what happens."
In working with the horses, Ackerman said, "you had to think of someone other than yourself."
The Herald-Leader does not normally identify victims of sexual abuse. However, Ackerman said she agreed to be identified in hopes that it would help others.
Last fall, Ackerman and four other survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse met as part of the eight-week pilot program. The victims met with therapists as a group and individually. Once a week, they gathered at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope for the EAST group, which combined education, skills building, and equine-assisted learning for therapeutic healing.
A new session is scheduled to begin later this month.
In the program, the women did not ride the horses. They walked to the field to catch and halter the horses they cared for. Then, at the barn or an arena, they carried out exercises designed to help them work through common symptoms of trauma, such as trust issues, relationship challenges, hypervigilance and post-traumatic stress.
The participants took surveys before and after the program and ultimately said they had improved their coping skills and reduced their traumatic symptoms by 33 percent.
Participants said they gained confidence in several areas, including handling stress and relationships. Participants also said they benefited from working with the horses.
CKRH program director Denise Spittler said the EAST group is a place where survivors can "continue their unique healing journeys with state-of-the-art services."
"It is a place where survivors can feel free of judgment — where they can open up and feel safe wearing their heart on their sleeve," she said.
Lee Ellis, a licensed clinical social worker at the rape crisis center, said the women developed trust, relationships and boundary-setting skills.
"They faced their issues — and blossomed," Ellis said. "They managed symptoms of trauma. The interactions of BRCC clients with their horses cut through layers of defenses that told in their body language, expressions, and individual therapy work."
The Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center provides free counseling, therapy and advocacy to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. The EAST group is free to participants. However, program officials said they need financial help to continue. The cost to provide a two-hour session for eight people is approximately $660. Both organizations are asking businesses and individuals to support a person or a session, or to sponsor an entire group for $3,300.
Charlotte Easley, an intern at CKRH and graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at Asbury University, first approached the rape crisis center about the partnership. Easley said that on the last day of the program, women used chalk to write "sweet, poignant messages" on the horses.
Among those messages were the words "Beautiful." "Balance." "Strength." "Friend." and ''I trust you."
How to help
For more information on how you can contribute to the EAST group, contact Pat Kline at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope at (859) 231-7066 or via email at email@example.com
Sexual predators rarely committed under Justice program
BUTNER, N.C. – Inside the sprawling federal prison here is a place the government reserves for the worst of the worst — sexual predators too dangerous to be set free.
Six years ago, the federal government set out to indefinitely detain some of the nation's most dangerous sex offenders, keeping them locked up even after their prison sentences had ended.
But despite years of effort, the government has so far won court approval for detaining just 15 men.
Far more often, men the U.S.Justice Department branded as "sexually dangerous" predators, remained imprisoned here for years without a mandatory court hearing before the government was forced to let them go, a USA TODAY investigation has found. The Justice Department has either lost or dropped its cases against 61 of the 136 men it sought to detain. Some were imprisoned for more than four years without a trial before they were freed.
Dozens of others are still waiting for their day in court. They remain in a prison unit where authorities and former detainees said explicit drawings of children are commonplace, but where few of the men have received any treatment for the disorders that put them there.
Despite that, neither the Justice Department nor other watchdog agencies have offered any public assessment of how well the federal civil commitment law works.
For this investigation, USA TODAY reviewed all 136 cases that have been brought to court, drawing on thousands of pages of legal filings and dozens of interviews with attorneys, psychologists and former detainees.
The outcomes documented by that review have raised questions about a system meant to control men too seriously ill to control themselves. A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., has already called delays in bringing the men to trial "troubling," and suggested that they could raise concerns about the detainees' constitutional right to due process. And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the law's key supporters, said "there will be somebody who will have to answer" for them.
"We need to be very, very careful in a free society about a system in which a group of people can make statements that result in someone being deprived of their liberty for a future crime," said Fred Berlin, the director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. "If it's going to be done, it has to be done in a just and fair manner."
Many of the men the government sought to detain have been found guilty of molesting children or brutal sexual assaults. One killed a woman . U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychologists certified that the men also suffer from mental abnormalities making them "sexually dangerous," a determination that keeps them locked up while their cases are reviewed. By law, a federal judge must ultimately decide whether the government can prove the inmate is too dangerous to be released.
But in case after case, those determinations have come into question. In at least two cases, the government could not prove the men had committed crimes serious enough to justify committing them. Others had not been found guilty of a "hands-on" sex offense in decades. Some psychological assessments failed to fully account for men's ages, a key factor when assessing risk.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, Chris Burke, said officials certify inmates as dangerous after "careful assessments by mental health professionals."
Anthony Jimenez, a psychologist who ran the commitment system for the Bureau of Prisons in 2007 and 2008, said officials had little time to prepare when Congress instructed them to start sifting out the most dangerous offenders as part of a broader crackdown on sex crimes. Some prison psychologists they turned to had no experience doing those types of reviews, he said.
"It was rushed, and initially, I believe, quality probably suffered," he said.
'Totally haphazard and inconsistent'
Sean Francis was in prison for a series of graphic phone calls in 2008 when psychologists first considered committing him as sexually dangerous. On the phone, Francis had threatened to rape and murder female college students in three states, sometimes offering chilling details about whom they lived with or the car one woman drove , according to court records. He also had been accused of raping a college student years earlier, though he was not arrested and has never been charged with a sexual assault.
The prison officials who reviewed his case decided he didn't meet the legal criteria for detention as a sexual predator, and he was released from prison. In 2009, Francis was arrested and sent back to prison for violating the terms of his probation , which prohibited him from viewing pornography.
His probation officer told prison officials , "I don't see how your office could draw any conclusion other than civil commitment," according to court records.
Psychologists looked at his case again and certified him as sexually dangerous .
Francis' attorneys said they never understood what had changed. "It was totally haphazard and inconsistent," one of Francis' attorneys, Woody Webb, said. Whatever it was, it was enough that Francis was moved to Butner's sex offender unit, where he said he passed the days sleeping late, crocheting and listening to an AM/FM radio.
"I don't look in the mirror and say I'm proud of who I see," Francis, now 33, said last month. "But I didn't belong in there."
In late January, two years after he arrived at Butner, a federal court agreed.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle questioned in a written order whether the government could prove Francis had ever committed the "sexually violent conduct" the law requires as a prerequisite to detaining someone, and said the Justice Department hadn't proved he was dangerous. The Justice Department has appealed.
Two weeks later, guards summoned Francis and another inmate over a loudspeaker, told them to collect their belongings and gave them bus tickets home. Francis took the bus to the New York City suburbs, where he moved in with his father and stepmother and found a job.
Francis said he's trying to keep a low profile. He's required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, which he hides under his sock. Despite the federal government's effort to detain him indefinitely as a "sexually dangerous person," under New York law, he isn't required to register as a sex offender.
Never making it to trial
About 2,000 people a year end up in federal prison for sex crimes, but only the most dangerous qualify for commitment.
To successfully commit a person, government attorneys have to prove three things: First, that he molested a child or committed a violent sex crime; second, that he has a mental disorder; and third, that his illness means he will have "serious difficulty" refraining from new sex crimes if freed.
The last step is the hardest, in part because studies have repeatedly found that most sex offenders are never convicted of another sex crime.
In the 1980s, a devastating series of studies suggested that psychologists' predictions about who was dangerous were no more reliable than a coin toss. So in the years that followed, researchers analyzed records on thousands of sex offenders, looking for the telltale markers that could identify groups of people most likely to re-offend. What they came up with is a lot like the system insurers use to figure out which types of people are most likely to have an accident.
Early on, Bureau of Prisons reviewers "just didn't have the same expertise" as outside psychologists in making those assessments, said Amy Phenix, a California psychologist who helped train them. In some cases, outside experts — brought in to review the cases years later — concluded the inmates didn't belong in Butner, she said. "There were differences of opinion, and in some cases it was left up to the U.S. attorney to make decisions about what to do."
Still, even fellow detainees said they were surprised the day Andrew Galo walked out Butner's front gate.
Galo had been in prison for taking sexually explicit photographs of his girlfriend's 13-year-old daughter when the Justice Department declared him too dangerous to release; before that, he had spent time in prison in Pennsylvania for sexually abusing two nephews, according to court records . "Everybody was shocked. It was like, why are they letting him out?" said Philip Katon, who spent three years at Butner before the government dropped his case, too.
At least 40 of the 136 commitment cases the government has brought so far — nearly one in three — ended when the Justice Department simply dismissed them. Frequently, it did so years after the men's criminal sentences had ended. In at least eight of those cases, court records show the government found other ways to keep the men locked up, but many of those convicted — including men with long track records of abusing children — simply went free.
The Justice Department would not comment on its reasons for dismissing particular cases. Spokesman Charles Miller said attorneys consider "the totality of the circumstances," including the person's "age, health status, change of circumstances, supervised release terms, family support and the opinions of all of the forensic experts."
In at least some of the cases, however, Justice Department attorneys conceded in court they simply didn't have enough evidence. Last year, for example, the department acknowledged that "a more detailed review" of its case against Wayne Hicks — who had then been detained since 2007 — showed that the government "will not be able to meet its burden." The Justice Department dismissed the case; Hicks went to live at a Raleigh, N.C., homeless shelter.
In another case last year, the Justice Department dropped its effort to commit Joseph Edwards, who had been convicted of hitting a girl over the head with a rock, dragging her down an embankment by her hair and raping her. Three years after he was detained at Butner, a prison psychologist told prosecutors she didn't think Edwards could be committed.
Six months later, the Justice Department dropped the case and let Edwards go.
Jimenez, the former head of the bureau's certification review process, said officials consulted with lawyers before declaring someone dangerous, but ultimately based decisions on their own clinical judgments — even when they weren't convinced the evaluations would hold up in court.
"It's not a willy-nilly, 'this guy looks like a bad guy' process," he said. "If we thought someone was really dangerous but there wasn't a strong legal case, we might very well still push it for the public interest.
"Hopefully justice is served in the end," he said.
On paper, Katon, too, seemed like a good candidate to be committed. Before he went to federal prison for lying about his criminal record on an application to buy a rifle, he had been found guilty of molesting a 26-year-old disabled woman in Vermont. Before that, he had been convicted of molesting his then-girlfriend's three children, and was accused of assaulting her cousin, according to court records . Past offenses alone cannot show whether someone is mentally ill or likely to commit new crimes but are often among the key considerations.
Katon arrived at Butner in 2008, months before he was supposed to be released; he said prison officials told him he was being moved there from a South Carolina prison as a steppingstone on his way back to Vermont. Two months later, he was certified as sexually dangerous. "It was actually scary to be there because you didn't know if you were going to stay or if they were going to release you. It's like everybody's thrown into a hat and they pick some people out. It's scary not knowing what they're going to do with you," he said.
His time at Butner ended as abruptly as it began. In August — after being detained for more than three years — the Justice Department dismissed its case against him and put him on a bus to Vermont, where he lives with his mother outside Burlington. He registered as a sex offender, but said he isn't required to wear a GPS monitoring device or avoid contact with children, something other men released from Butner have been required to do. His probation officer has given him permission to go to Upstate New York sometimes to play bingo.
The Justice Department has never explained publicly why it dropped the case.
"I've changed a lot," Katon said. His crimes "were just something that happened out of the blue, and will never happen again."
Cases fall apart in court
The government's determinations have fared little better before federal judges. Records show the Justice Department has lost more trials than it has won.
Its cases have crumbled because of weak evidence, faulty psychological evaluations and an inability to convince judges the detainees have mental conditions so serious they will find it difficult to not re-offend.
In December, for example, a judge in Raleigh rejected the government's attempts to commit Markis Revland. By law, the government can only commit someone who has molested a child or committed another violent sex crime. Revland's criminal record, though extensive, didn't seem to include either — he had been convicted on child pornography charges, and of public urination and indecent exposure. The government based its case instead in part on a staggering string of confessions Revland made during a prison-run treatment program: 149 victims .
Such confessions are often suspect. Some sex offenders volunteer for treatment programs in part to escape danger from fellow inmates. Courts have said those who don't admit to past crimes face the risk of being thrown out of the program.
Revland's confessions were especially problematic. According to the latest census, only about 114 children live in Revland's small Iowa town. Despite the shocking number of children he told psychologists he had abused, he had never been charged with sexual abuse. And many of the crimes he said he committed would have occurred when he was in state prison. Revland declined to be interviewed but testified he invented all 149 victims to satisfy his therapists because he feared he would be kicked out of the program and sent back to Leavenworth, Kan., where he said he had been violently attacked by other inmates .
Revland "would be the Charles Manson of child molesters if even a small portion of the 149 incidents had actually happened," U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote in a December order freeing him. "And yet the government offered no evidence to independently verify that any of these incidents occurred or that any of them — even one — ever resulted in investigation or prosecution."
Even when the government can prove someone committed sex crimes, it has struggled to show he remains dangerous.
Andrew Swarm was first diagnosed as a pedophile more than a decade ago. He collected child pornography on the Internet, and molested at least three young girls, according to court records . But Swarm also seemed to go out of his way to get caught. He gave one 10-year-old girl he fantasized about what appeared to be an explicit drawing of himself, knowing she would give it to her parents . After he inappropriately touched an 11-year-old, he gave her a note warning that "I want to kiss and touch you in ways that I shouldn't. I need you to make sure I get help and don't have the chance to do this," according to court records.
Swarm said he agonized over his impulses. He tried to get treatment. He tried to get caught. He tried to castrate himself with rubber bands . "I don't go out and molest children. I've never done that," he said. "It was such a misery in the first place to have these feelings. It was a nightmare."
The government certified him as sexually dangerous in 2007. At the time, he was serving a four-month sentence in prison for violating his probation by not telling his probation officer quickly enough that a friend had briefly left him alone with a young child, and that another girl had climbed onto his lap while he was visiting relatives before he shooed her off.
"There was no harm, no foul," said the girl's father, whom USA TODAY agreed not to name to protect his daughter's privacy. He said he and his wife plan to ask Swarm's probation officer whether they can resume visiting him. "I honestly don't think he's dangerous," he said.
The judge who ultimately heard Swarm's commitment case — nearly four years after he was detained — agreed and released him .
Delays that span years
More than 40 other men have been waiting a year or longer to find out what a federal court will do with them.
The cases have dragged on in part because the Bureau of Prisons typically waited until the final weeks of their sentences to certify most of the men as dangerous, effectively guaranteeing they would remain incarcerated months or years longer. Burke, the prison system spokesman, said the agency "intends for the process to be completed well in advance of an inmate's scheduled release date." Jimenez said the Bureau of Prisons' policy was to make those decisions more than a year in advance so prisoners would know whether or not they are going home when their prison sentences end.
So far, the government has met that mark only once, though the three men it certified so far this year were closer to that goal. Since the law began, half of the men were certified within a week of when they were scheduled to be released, court records show. Fourteen were certified on the same day they were supposed to go home.
The hearings were delayed longer when a federal court in Raleigh ordered most of the cases be put on hold — sometimes before the men had been appointed lawyers — while legal challenges to the civil commitment law worked their way through courts. Lawyers for most of the detainees never challenged that decision. "It seemed like it had a low likelihood of success," said Eric Brignac, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender's office in Raleigh.
One of those challenges, brought on behalf of a man named Graydon Comstock and four others, reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. The justices upheld the law, finding that Congress "has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger federal prisoners may pose." Their decision came 3½ years after Comstock — who had been convicted of possessing child pornography, and who had confessed to patronizing child prostitutes while working overseas — was first locked up as sexually dangerous in November 2006. It wasn't until then that the Justice Department and lawyers appointed to represent the five men started hiring experts to scrutinize the cases in anticipation of trials. That process took another year.
"Things take time," said former U.S. attorney George Holding. "These men are accused of being a threat to society, and the system has to play itself out."
It was November 2011 before a judge reviewed Comstock's case. By then, Comstock was 69 and had already suffered from prostate cancer, a heart attack and a stroke . His hearing in a federal courtroom in Raleigh lasted two days; when it was over, Judge Friedman concluded the government couldn't show he was dangerous and released him. Comstock moved in with his sister, a college English instructor, in Arkansas. Now, mainly, he tries not to be noticed.
"When I heard about this law, I assumed it was for the most dangerous people, and I assumed it wasn't me," Comstock said. "I said I wouldn't be convicted, and I wasn't. But it took six years to get there."
Courts, too, have expressed growing frustration at the delays.
"They're in it for four years and change," Judge Boyle complained last year during one court hearing . "There's no horizon. It's just darkness."
The federal court in Raleigh sped up the process this year, scheduling more cases for hearings. But there are still at least 26 men waiting for their cases to be decided who have now been locked up an additional three years by the civil commitment program. One man, Thomas Matherly, has awaited a trial since 2006; it's now scheduled for later this month. The delays have been so significant, at least two of the 15 men the government successfully committed have already gone home.
Miller said the Justice Department is "satisfied with the way these cases are now being expedited."
Though ostensibly locked up because they are mentally ill and in need of treatment, only a handful have enrolled in Butner's treatment program for sex offenders. Their lawyers urged them not to, because anything they tell their psychologists is likely to be used against them at trial .
That means those who are being released are going home with little help preparing for life outside prison. A few of the detainees found jobs within the prison: cooking, cleaning or working at a factory that makes eyeglasses for inmates, said another former detainee, Jeffrey Neuhauser. One detainee briefly taught a GED program.
'I don't think he can change'
At least nine of the men who were let go without being committed have been convicted of new crimes or have violated probation. Two were found guilty of felonies; another has agreed to plead guilty to a felony later this month.
Among them, Jay Abregana stands out. His record was already sordid when the government certified him as sexually dangerous — he had been convicted of mailing pictures of himself having oral sex with a teenage boy and of exposing himself to a 12-year-old in a movie theater. In prison, he was kicked out of a sex offender treatment program after he performed oral sex on five inmates. When he got out, he violated his probation by having "sexual contact " with a 17-year-old in a shopping mall bathroom, and using the Internet to reach out to three other boys , one just 10.
Psychologists certified that Abregana was sexually dangerous in 2007. In 2008, a federal judge ordered the government to release him , concluding the Justice Department couldn't prove his attraction to boys who had reached puberty was a sufficiently serious mental disorder, or that he would have "serious difficulty" not re-offending.
Abregana had been free for less than two years when he introduced himself to a 12-year-old boy he met at a video game store. Abregana bought the boy gifts in exchange for sex, according to court records and the boy's mother, whom USA TODAY agreed not to name to protect her son's privacy. He also recorded the abuse.
The boy's mother said she suspected something was wrong. One afternoon, she said, she found her son with a cellphone, something the single mother of five couldn't afford to buy him. Then she said she intercepted a text message from "Jay," asking her son to call before coming over.
"Why?" she wrote back.
Abregana wrote that his brother had just gotten out of jail, she said. Abregana's identical twin brother, Jed, has a sordid record of his own; he was convicted of sexual assault and spent time in federal prison for viewing child pornography . But the government had not certified him as sexually dangerous.
At first, the boy denied anything had happened. But the next morning, he came to her in tears and told her the truth, his mother said. She called the police. Abregana pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.
"I'm a firm believer that people can change," the mother said. "But I don't think he can change."
Now, she worries about her son, who's 13, in therapy and still gets teased about what happened by classmates and siblings. And she worries about Abregana, and whether 20 years in prison will be long enough to stop him from hurting someone else.
DCF Trying to Improve Child Welfare System
Legislature approved plans to redesign state's child abuse hotline
by MARGIE MENZEL
TALLAHASSEE | The Florida Department of Children and Families had a pretty good legislative session, at least compared to other state agencies.
While DCF lost employees in its budget overall, it succeeded in advancing plans to redesign the state's child abuse hotline and child protective investigations — both of which had received plenty of criticism after last year's searing case involving the death of Nubia Barahona in South Florida.
"This year we came in with a very aggressive agenda and got everything we asked for," said DCF Sec. David Wilkins. "In exchange for that, I agreed to cut positions."
Wilkins had only been on the job a few weeks when — on Feb. 14, 2011, the eve of last year's legislative session — the corpse of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona and her critically-injured twin, Victor, were discovered in their adopted father's truck off Interstate 95.
In the wake of a blue-ribbon panel and a Miami-Dade grand jury report, both scathing, lawmakers learned that warning calls to the hotline about the twins had fallen through the cracks and that the child protective investigator sent to their home three days before Nubia's murder had departed without seeing them.
One of Wilkins' first moves was to hire 100 protective investigators right away, and another 100 since, for a statewide total of 1600.
At the time of Nubia's death, the statewide turnover for CPIs was 37 percent — and in Miami-Dade County, where she died, it was closer to 60 percent.
"I don't know how a system can work effectively with that kind of turnover," said Roy Miller, president of the Florida Children's Campaign.
The 2012 Legislature approved the authority to redesign the training for CPIs and $9.8 million to raise the base salaries of investigators by $4,000 in the hope of retaining more of them, which Wilkins says is part of his strategy for doing more with less, given budgetary constraints.
"The big thing is retention," Wilkins said. "If 400 are leaving every year, it takes three months to get them up to capacity."
DCF's new budget increases the base salary for 828 fully trained CPIs from $35,900 to $39,600. It also creates a "career ladder" whereby 202 senior positions will go to $41,500 and 112 supervisors to $49,200. It creates 20 field supervisors with base salaries of $46,900.
The Legislature also signed off on $12.4 million for technological and training improvement to the state abuse hotline.
Miller said Wilkins had made the best of the options available to DCF.
"State employees haven't had a raise in five years and protective service workers walking in off the street as new hires were making the same amount of money as people who had been there for five years," Miller said. "So I think (Wilkins') plan was thoughtful, and we hope it will reduce the turnover, which is a fundamental building block of improving investigation."
Meanwhile, the number of full-time employees at DCF will go down about 620, according to agency spokesman Joe Follick. Of those, 160 are already vacant and another 260 are due to the outsourcing of maintenance, food and other services at the state hospitals in Chattahoochee and Macclenny.
The remaining cuts are mostly due to a consolidation of human resources and IT support, which are being centralized.
Also passed this year was SB 2044/HB 803, known as the "Barahona bill."
If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, it would require DCF to maintain a single electronic case file for each child and to oversee investigations for quality and timeliness.
CPIs would be allowed to close an investigation if they deem it false and operators at the abuse hotline would be allowed to take calls from parents or legal guardians needing advice, even if the call is not made to report a crime.
Law changes will encourage more people to speak out about child abuse
March 19, 2012
A child abuse prevention organisation says law changes taking effect from today will encourage more people to speak out about child abuse or neglect.
Under changes to the Crimes Amendment Act 2011, members of households who witness abuse or neglect against children could be sent to jail for up to 10 years if they fail to act or seek help.
Jigsaw Family Services strategic operations chief executive Liz Kinley hopes the law will prompt families to ask for help.
"We think it's really important that there's a legal as well as an ethical or moral mandate for people to stand up for children and for people to seek help as soon as they see any sign of any child being hurt."
Ms Kinley says it is not acceptable to plead ignorance or turn a blind eye when a child is being hurt or neglected.
Walk helps raise awareness and funds for child abuse
by Andrea Bolt
THE WOODLANDS — Prevent Child Abuse Texas hosted its first “Walk The Woodlands” event at Creekside Park Saturday.
The event was created by PCAT Executive Director Wendell Teltow, who said the main goal was to raise awareness and funds to help prevent child abuse in Texas and also to promote national child abuse awareness month, which is in April.
Teltow said 100 percent of the funds collected go directly to PCAT to support various education programs and statewide family support services.
“We put on training for childcare workers, teachers, first responders, people who are the first ones directly exposed to children outside of the home,” Teltow said.
He said they explain what physical and emotional signs and signals to look for to identify when a child might be a victim of abuse.
“Our goal is to have no child suffer abuse. If one does, we’ve missed the boat,” Teltow said. “We feel the whole abuse system is a cycle. Kids who suffer are six times more likely to abuse (as adults); and you know, we tend to parent the way we are parented.”
Of the 60 participants expected to attend, Ann McCall, who is on the PCAT board, as well as a child abuse survivor, made sure to take part in the walk and awareness event.
McCall said the annual conference for PCAT, which is based in Austin, will be in Houston this year — March 19-20 at the Westin Galleria Houston.
She said PCAT uses a “three-pronged” approach to combat child abuse.
Along with identifying the signs and signals of abuse, McCall said PCAT teaches people to target and educate at-risk families who either have a history of child abuse or families where parents experience stress at work or in the home and then teach them how to properly manage this stress or hardship and break the cycle of abuse.
“Last, we use advocacy through legislation to improve laws in the state,” McCall said. “Anything we can do, whether it’s raising funds or awareness, we just want to do more good for more kids.”
McCall said PCAT has awareness walks in San Antonio and Austin as well.
“The Austin walk is a two-day, 35-mile walk, and this year the San Antonio one will be a one-day, 20-mile walk where we’ll pass through landmarks around the city and then end up back at the Alamo.”
Event attendee Bonnie Viada, a pediatric nurse, said she has grandchildren and supports the goal of PCAT.
“I will definitely keep coming back,” Viada said. “I just want to do more, provide more exposure for the cause in The Woodlands.”
For more information about Prevent Child Abuse Texas, visit www.preventchildabusetexas.org and www.walktoaction.org