Everyone's help is needed to prevent child abuse
“Don't talk to strangers!”
How many times have you said that to children, seeking to protect them from the scourge of child abuse? As advice, it's sound; as protection, it's flimsy.
As Child Abuse Protection Month begins today, let's talk about what “protection” actually means.
Few child abusers are strangers lurking in the park or passersby driving slowly along a street as they troll for potential victims. Such cases can be horrible, but they are uncommon.
Rather, most people who commit child abuse are people we know well. They are parents strung out on drugs, dependent on alcohol or overwhelmed by mental illness to the point that they neglect their kids. ...
Child abusers also can be parents overwhelmed with the stress of losing their job, their home or both. They can be parents or other caregivers who unwittingly follow the abusive example of their parents. They might be new mothers or fathers, or other caregivers, who don't know how to care for infants and have no one ready to help them out.
And something snaps. Half of abused children are under age 6, records show, and abuse of infants is the fastest-growing segment.
'Caring' adults groom victims
Some people do intentionally abuse children and youth, even though they will deny it to others as well as themselves. They can be relatives, clergy, coaches, youth leaders, teachers, children's advocates or others who may seem like the most caring people on the outside but use that con-man veneer to cover their pedophilia.
As with abductions by strangers, these are the cases that often make the news, especially when the allegations involve a high-profile person, such as former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky who faces 52 counts of child sex abuse in Pennsylvania. According to police, Sandusky met the children through a charity he established in 1977 for underpriviliged kids.
Child molesters generally groom their potential victims by paying attention to them — often excessive amounts — and isolating them from others.
Keep situation in perspective
In talking about child abuse, we need to keep a sense of perspective. Most people, whether clergy or coaches or child-sitters, are not abusers. Most parents and grandparents take decent care of their children.
We also know that child abuse is under-reported. And behind each instance of abuse is a person whose childhood is harmed, whose mind and body can be hurt and whose personality can be damaged.
That is why everyone has a responsibility to prevent child abuse. It's more than reporting our suspicions to the authorities, although that's very important. Indeed, it's one of our civic obligations — to look out for our children rather than looking the other way.
Prevention also means being proactive:
-- Taking a meal to a family who might be undergoing stress.
-- Offering to help overwhelmed parents.
-- Developing good relationships with children and grandchildren, which means they'll be less tempted by online seducements and more likely to talk with you.
-- Making businesses children-friendly, so parent-customers feel supported by the community.
-- Using “best practices” to develop effective, reasonable child-protection policies in non-profits and other organizations.
-- Getting to know neighborhood children.
-- Becoming informed about child abuse and heeding intuition when something doesn't feel right.
Child abuse is not just a law enforcement issue. It is a community issue.
---The Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore.
Time to talk about sexual assaults
by Chad Nation
Editor's note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this is the first in a four part series of articles discussing topics surrounding sexual assault.
It has been another year since the last Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and since then sex abuse has been a national story.
A college football icon was ousted from his university for his alleged involvement, or lack thereof, in the largest sexual assault scandal to perhaps ever rock athletics.
“It's time…to talk about it!” is the theme of this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and recent history is the perfect opportunity to delve into a number of topics surrounding sexual abuse.
Staff members at the Phoenix House, Catholic Charities Domestic Violence Shelter and Sexual Abuse Program in Council Bluffs, have been gearing up for awareness activities taking place in schools and the community this month, said Rachel Mabrey, volunteer and public relations coordinator at the Phoenix House.
And the Penn State University abuse scandal has been at the forefront of their thoughts.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a 15-year period.
Prosecutors have accused Sandusky of engaging in a range of illegal behavior with the boys, including sexual assaults, allegations he denies.
As the case winds its way through the court system, questions continue to abound. Just who at the university knew what, and when, is still unclear. Longtime Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, who happens to have the most wins of any coach in college football history, lost his job for allegedly not doing enough to stop the alleged abuse, and months later died after a bout with cancer.
Vicki-lynn Kelly, training and prevention educator at the Phoenix House, said as the events unfolded at Penn State, society came to understand that many people who held positions of power and authority made decisions that – in the language of anti-bullying education – made them “bystanders.”
“We tell our teens that instead of becoming bystanders, they have the responsibility to act,” Kelly said. “But as adults, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Do we hold ourselves to the same standard?'”
Why is it so difficult for people to recognize violence whether it be domestic, sexual or teen dating violence, and take the steps required to stop it?
Kelly said people who see trauma and violence unfolding before them will often say they were ill equipped to do anything to stop it.
“Most of us have suffered one time or another with indecision when we see something happening that we know is wrong,” she said.
“‘Who do I tell?' we ask ourselves. ‘What if I'm wrong and I ruin someone's reputation or career? What if they retaliate against me? Is it really any of my business? If I speak up, what would I say?'”
Kelly said most people are not guilty of callousness or complicity, but often feel like they have something to protect.
“Maybe Joe Paterno believed he did all he could, maybe he thought he could control the situation or that it wasn't his job,” she said. “In all likelihood, he believed he was protecting his football program or the school itself.”
While people may believe that they would have made different choices – and many probably would have – Kelly said all people must be committed to ending sexual violence and exploitation in our own communities by having conversations about how to stop it.
“We need to make sure our schools know how important it is that our children learn tools to effectively intervene when they see violence starting,” she said. “Bring in speakers to civic groups, church meetings and book clubs. Start discussions about violence and become determined to intervene.”
The National Sexual Violence Research Council recommends all parents be prepared to be an “active bystander” and intervene and speak up when inappropriate behavior is witnessed.
Parents and teachers should also be on the lookout for warning signs associated with sexual assault, including decreased productivity, lower grades and social withdrawal.
“We encourage you to learn more and get involved,” Mabrey said. “Contact programs like Catholic Charities Phoenix House to discuss the free anti-violence education and training opportunities that are available in your community.”
If you suspect a child is being abused, contact the police, the National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453 or the Phoenix House 24-hour crisis phone line at (888) 612-0266.
Advocates for child abuse victims raise awareness, funding in Longview
by Abby Broyles
LONGVIEW (KYTX) -- As we head into April and child abuse prevention month, hundreds of people in Longview are showing their support for the people who fight for abuse victims in court. Tonight, they held a fundraiser in Longview for those advocates. CBS 19'S Abby Broyles was there and shows us what they do.
More than 300 child abuse cases will go before a Gregg County court this year, and it's easy for the children to get lost in the legal shuffle.
That's why volunteers called court appointed special advocates provide a voice for them.
"The volunteers go to court with children that have been removed from their homes as a result of abuse or neglect, and they present to the court what is in their best interest," East Texas CASA board president Kristen Ishihara said.
Volunteers meet with the children once a month.
"And that's to check if the child is safe, if the placement is appropriate, if there's anything going on that you should be aware of, or the court should be aware of," Ishihara said.
And it's their job to tell a judge their opinion. That could determine whether the kids go to back to their parents or parental rights are removed.
"I see them on every CPS case I handle," 124th District Judge Alfonso Charles said.
Charles says CASA volunteers are vital in helping him make his decisions in CPS cases.
"They play an invaluable service because sometimes lawyers, we get caught up in the legalities and it's nice to have someone there to make sure we stay focused on that child," Charles said.
But volunteers are hard to by - only 50% of CPS cases in Gregg County have a CASA volunteer.
Saturday's night event in Longview was geared toward raising awareness and funding to help more neglected kids in East Texas.
Because often that CASA volunteer is the one consistency a child will have through a long judicial process.
"We really try hard to make the CASA volunteer the one person that stays the same," Ishihara said.
CASA leaders tell us child neglect cases can vary from kids whose parents are involved with drugs and alcohol to child abandonment.
For more information on East Texas CASA and how you can help, visit www.easttexascasa.org
Child abuse costs billions in long run
by Nikie Mayo
Saturday, March 31, 2012
In many ways, Sam is a typical 13-year-old boy.
He isn't too sure about letting a visitor see his room because T-shirts are strewn on the floor from when he was getting ready for school.
“It's a little messy,” he says, straightening the covers on his bed as he talks.
He has a Clemson University poster on the wall and ticket stubs from a couple of basketball games.
He's studying the Spanish-American War in school, but doesn't see much value in homework. He'd rather be polishing his killer jump shot. He's only about 5 feet 4, but he can make that jump shot 10 times in a row without breaking a sweat.
He's an avid reader, and sometimes speaks with the wisdom and eloquence of an old soul.
But in some of his classes, he is barely making D's.
He's bored, he says, and there's a teacher who doesn't like him.
When he was taken away from his parents, he grabbed just one thing: his Nintendo DS.
Sam was removed from a home with no running water, no electricity and mold growing in the refrigerator. He arrived at Calvary Home for Children in Anderson just days before Thanksgiving.
Because he is a child in protective custody, the Independent Mail chose not to identify “Sam” by his real name.
He is one of the faces behind a staggering statistic: A recent study advanced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in just one year's time, more than 579,000 children in the United States were confirmed abused or neglected and lived to tell about it.
That number takes into account only the new cases of abuse and neglect that were confirmed by child protective services in the 2008 fiscal year, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available.
The study took four years to complete and was made public just a few weeks ago.
Researchers found that the child abuse and neglect that takes place in just one year will cost the U.S. $124 billion over the course of the victims' lifetimes.
Curtis Florence, one of the researchers behind the study, told the Independent Mail that the analysis is intended to give the public a better, and very real, grasp of the cost of child abuse and neglect in this country.
“On an emotional level, you don't get any argument from anyone when you talk about the importance of preventing child maltreatment,” Florence said. “But when it comes to determining how many resources to put toward that effort, it is a harder question to answer, because you have lots of worthy things competing for limited resources. This study demonstrates the substantial benefits of preventing child maltreatment … because it enables us to say more concretely what the costs of child maltreatment really are.”
The study finds that the cost of health care, special education, criminal justice and other services for each child who survives abuse is $210,012 during the average victim's lifetime.
That figure is more than $50,000 higher than the lifetime cost of a stroke and is on par with the lifetime costs associated with Type 2 diabetes.
The study also takes into account 1,740 children who died in 2008 because of abuse or neglect. The study finds that each child's death translates to a nationwide loss of more than $1.2 million.
The emotional tolls are much harder to quantify.
‘You do take it home.'
Anderson County Deputy Coroner Don McCown specializes in investigating the deaths of children.
The motorcycle-riding coroner knows how to keep his emotions in check.
But when he recalls the worst case of child abuse he has ever seen, tears come to his eyes in an instant, before he even begins to speak.
“The little boy was named Jeremy,” McCown says. “He was 7 years old.”
Jeremy's mother had lost custody of him and his younger brother, McCown said.
The boys were being raised by Jeremy's father, who was not the father of both boys.
“The thing that was unusual about this case is that statistics show an abuser is more likely to leave their biological child alone and hurt the one they are not related to,” McCown said. “Just the opposite happened to Jeremy. He died because he was trying to protect his younger brother from his father. The man took his aggression out on his own son, his own flesh and blood.”
Jeremy was beaten to death with a broom handle.
McCown has to gather himself to tell the rest of the story.
“There was not an inch of that child — not one inch — that was not bruised or injured,” he says. “When I think about what the last moments of his life must have been like, it still breaks my heart. It's been a few years now, but it still breaks my heart.
“Every time I investigate a case where a child died because of abuse or neglect, I am driven,” McCown said. “I am driven to try to make sure it never happens again.”
In August 2010, McCown was called to AnMed Health Medical Center's emergency room.
A 17-month-old girl was so severely injured that doctors weren't sure she would make it through the next few hours, let alone the next few days.
Investigators say the baby girl had been stomped in the face and burned.
The little girl survived the injuries and, nearly two years later, is still receiving rehabilitative treatment.
The girl's mother and the mother's boyfriend are accused of abuse and neglect.
They are expected to face trial later this year.
Detective Michele Hendrix investigates child abuse and neglect for the Anderson County Sheriff's Office.
“The hardest part is that it's not like dealing with adults,” she said. “Sometimes, a child is too young to be able to tell you, ‘Yeah, Mama did this, or Daddy did that.' And then there are other times when a child can tell you, but is afraid to, because they have been threatened. Or they are so afraid of being taken away from their families that they are afraid to tell the truth.
“You know that you have to investigate thoroughly, because you have to be that child's voice,” Hendrix said. “And whatever you go through during the day, you try to leave it at the office. But sometimes, you can't help it. You do take it home.”
‘Healing the scars'
Sam's story comes out in bits and pieces as he shows off the watch he got from a classmate after trading $5 and a hat.
He says he was taken away from his home because a neighbor was stealing his parents' mail, so they never knew when to pay their bills on time.
“We live in a trailer, but we could live in a nicer house,” he said. “We have lots of cool electronics and a plasma TV.”
Sam has two older brothers who are both young adults.
One is still living at home with his parents. He isn't sure where the other one is.
He says that living at Calvary Home isn't terrible. But he isn't used to doing chores or having to tell his house parents about his homework or what he has to get done during the day.
“I was more independent at home,” he says. “They took my DS.”
Adam and Laura Lindsley, Sam's house parents, live in one of the cottages at Calvary Home.
They took Sam's video game because he was failing the eighth grade when he came to live with them.
“Now his lowest grades are D's,” Laura Lindsley said. “It's not everything, but it is progress. He is a great kid. They all are.”
The Lindsleys have been working at Calvary Home for about a year, and have seen children come and go. They end their evenings with Bible readings and devotions with the children in their care.
Calvary Home is set up to care for children who are as young as babies and as old as 21. Every child has been abused, neglected or orphaned.
The children may stay in one of the two open cottages for only a few months or as long as five years, depending on their circumstances.
“We don't know how long they will be with us, but we want to try to teach them that they can count on God,” she said. “They come from places where they are used to being disappointed and jerked around by adults, and we want them to know that God will not disappoint them.”
Right now, only one other foster child lives with the Lindsleys.
“Jack,” a high school football player, treats Sam like any older brother would treat a younger one.
The boys banter and joke and tease each other.
When Sam teases Jack that one of his drawings is “not all that cool,” the older boy doesn't miss a beat.
“Don't drink the Haterade, man,” Jack says. “Don't do it.”
The boys knew they would not be identified in this story by their real names.
That inspired them.
“I want to be Chuck,” the older one said.
Beside him at the dinner table, the younger boy didn't miss a beat. “I'll be Norris.”
The boys high-fived.
Calvary Home exists to make sure that children get to have those kinds of moments, director Greg Skipper said.
Skipper said he is hopeful that the CDC study will encourage officials in South Carolina and in the nation to put more money toward stopping, and healing, child abuse and neglect.
Calvary Home has an empty cottage right now, he said, because there isn't enough money to open it and keep it running. That would cost $70,000 a year that isn't in his budget.
In the last three years, Skipper has had to turn away 57 abused and neglected children because there wasn't enough money in the organization's budget to take on any more.
“I think sometimes people need a wake-up call about how serious child abuse and neglect is,” Skipper said. “It's only when you begin to take notice of it that you begin to break the cycle. It's the only way to begin healing the scars.”
Ride raises $30K for child abuse prevention
by Rebecca Rose --
Killeen Daily Herald
More than 130 motorcyclists road Central Texas highways Saturday to raise about $30,000 to help stop child abuse.
For rider Jim Rudd, who mounted his 2004 Harley-Davidson Road King at 8 a.m. sharp, the ride was a day to enjoy a long trip and help victims of child abuse.
"There are so many children who have problems with their families," he said. "The money we make here today will go to help them."
Mike Blunt, one of the event's organizers, said money raised at the event stays in Central Texas and helps fund organizations such as Aware Central Texas, Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas, Court Appointed Special Advocates and more.
Blunt said reports of child abuse and death rates at the hands of a loved one are alarming enough to warrant more fundraising efforts.
"That catches your attention," he said. "That's our future, we've got to take care of them."
This year was the second year for the event, which was conducted in a partnership with the Exchange Clubs of Copperas Cove, Temple, Gatesville and Killeen and the Bikers Against Child Abuse.
Blunt said the success of last year's event encouraged the exchange clubs to do a second ride. This year, in order to maximize fundraising abilities, the exchange clubs banded together to form "Ride For A Child," a nonprofit charity.
Funds come from more than just ride registration fees. Ad sales for the community booklet detailing the event and ads on T-shirts distributed to participants help raise the bulk of the money.
One of the beneficiaries for this year's ride is Aware Central Texas, an organization that works to prevent child abuse. Sue Ellen Jackson, executive director of the organization, said funds raised go to support educational programs and more.
Last year, more than 250 participants helped raise more than $30,000 for child abuse prevention in Bell and Coryell counties.
After expenses, $25,000 went to local agencies. Jackson said last year's ride helped Aware bring the first child abuse prevention center, located in Belton, to Central Texas.
"We can't thank the exchange club enough for the help they have provided," she said.
Riders gathered early Saturday morning at Ogletree Gap Park in Copperas Cove. A early morning patch of fog caused some delay, but didn't stop the riders from taking the trip.
The next stop was at First United Methodist in Gatesville, where riders got coffee and treats, sponsored by the Gatesville Exchange Club. After crossing Belton Lake, riders stopped in Temple for their second pit stop, hosted by Don Ringler Chevrolet.
From Temple, riders stopped at Sandy's Home Place, where they were treated to a barbecue, live music, dancing, a silent auction and a raffle.
Blunt said riders came from all across Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Killeen, Belton and Lampasas.
Schools called hotbeds for luring young sex slaves
Prosecutors training educators to spot kids in trouble, warn playgrounds can be hunting grounds
by Erica Pearson
IT'S THE MOST chilling of hunting grounds.
Sex traffickers who coerce kids into prostitution are using the city's schoolyards and playgrounds as recruiting offices.
It's such a troubling problem that Brooklyn prosecutors have started training educators on how to spot kids in peril on their turf.
“It happens enough that I can say it happens a bunch,” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Hersh told the Daily News. “Many girls are forced to go to middle school playgrounds and recruit other young girls.”
Hersh, who runs a pioneering sex-trafficking unit for the DA's office, has held several workshops and hopes to expand into as many schools as possible.
Last fall, pimp Abking Wilcox admitted turning girls as young as 15 into being sex slaves and making them recruit others in Bushwick and Brownsville middle schools.
Wilcox, who pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Criminal Court to three counts of sex trafficking, called it his “team.”
Hersh prosecuted another trafficker — a school parent, no less — after a guidance counselor at a Canarsie, Brooklyn, public high school blew the whistle.
At first, the counselor couldn't believe the secret hell a 16-year-old student described.
But her tale of being forced to sell sex over the Internet by a classmate's mom quickly rang true.
“She takes the guidance counselor to Backpage.com. She shows her, by plugging in a phone number, that these are in fact pictures of her that are being sold for sex,” Hersh said.
“And the phone number that was on Backpage.com was the mom's phone number. When you looked on file at the school for the school's contact information for the mom, it was that phone number.”
The counselor called police, and the mom later pleaded guilty.
In the year and a half that Hersh's unit has been up and running, 32 defendants have been indicted.
Last year, there were nearly three times as many sex-trafficking arrests in Brooklyn than in any other borough — 23 compared with nine each in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, and none in Staten Island.
Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which helps trafficking survivors, said recruiting is happening everywhere, including schools.
“Pimps go where young people are,” she said.
“Teachers may think, that's something happening in Thailand. But there could be a girl sitting your class who is two weeks away from being recruited, or who has already been recruited . . . . we've got girls in junior high who've been through this.”
By focusing on helping victims with shelter and clothing, Hersh's unit has been able to identify more traffickers.
“Some of the best referrals I get are from girls who are telling me about other girls,” she said.
Nicole Jernee, an administrator in District 79, which oversees alternative schools and programs, recently hosted Hersh for an hourlong workshop and is now watching for warning signs.
“I think we're more in tune to students, to females withdrawing and changing their routine . . . to look for bruises,” Jernee said.
“I just think it's something that people feel like doesn't exist.”
Hersh's unit represents a change in law-enforcement attitude toward underage prostitution. Instead of busting girls, they are finding out if they were coerced and charging the pimps.
“I'm sure, I'm positive, that 20 years from now, or even five years from now, we will approach this situation in a much different way,” Hersh said.
“I hope that people will walk down the street, and when they see a 12-year-old in heels that are this high and two black eyes, that they won't call the police and say, Oh, there's a nuisance on the street.' ”
Financiers and Sex Trafficking
by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
THE biggest forum for sex trafficking of under-age girls in the United States appears to be a Web site called Backpage.com.
This emporium for girls and women — some under age or forced into prostitution — is in turn owned by an opaque private company called Village Voice Media. Until now it has been unclear who the ultimate owners are.
That mystery is solved. The owners turn out to include private equity financiers, including Goldman Sachs with a 16 percent stake.
Goldman Sachs was mortified when I began inquiring last week about its stake in America's leading Web site for prostitution ads. It began working frantically to unload its shares, and on Friday afternoon it called to say that it had just signed an agreement to sell its stake to management.
“We had no influence over operations,” Andrea Raphael, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, told me.
Let's back up for a moment. There's no doubt that many escort ads on Backpage are placed by consenting adults. But it's equally clear that Backpage plays a major role in the trafficking of minors or women who are coerced. In one recent case in New York City, prosecutors say that a 15-year-old girl was drugged, tied up, raped and sold to johns through Backpage and other sites.
Backpage has 70 percent of the market for prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a trade organization.
Village Voice Media makes some effort to screen out ads placed by traffickers and to alert authorities to abuses, but neither law enforcement officials nor antitrafficking organizations are much impressed. As a result, pressure is growing on the company to drop escort ads.
After my last column on this issue, 19 U.S. senators wrote the company, asking it to stop abetting traffickers. On Thursday, antitrafficking campaigners protested outside the Village Voice newspaper (which is owned by Village Voice Media). A petition on Change.org criticizing the company has gathered 220,000 signatures.
In Washington State, the governor signed a bill into law on Thursday that could expose Backpage to criminal sanctions if it advertises under-age girls for sex without verifying their ages. (There's some uncertainty about the constitutionality of the law.)
Village Voice Media has been able to resist pressure partly because, as a private company, it doesn't disclose its owners. But I've obtained documents that, with some digging, shed light on who's behind it.
The two biggest owners are Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, the managers of the company, and they seem to own about half of the shares. The best known of the other owners is Goldman Sachs, which invested in the company in 2000 (before Backpage became a part of Village Voice Media in a 2006 merger).
A Goldman managing director, Scott L. Lebovitz, sat on the Village Voice Media board for many years. Goldman says he stepped down in early 2010.
Let's be clear: this is a tiny investment by a huge company, and I have no reason to think that Goldman's top executives knew of its connection to sex trafficking. Goldman prides itself on its work on gender: its 10,000 Women initiative does splendid work supporting women in business around the globe. Full disclosure: Goldman's foundation was one of about 15 funders of a public television documentary version of a book that my wife and I wrote about the world's women.
That said, for more than six years Goldman has held a significant stake in a company notorious for ties to sex trafficking, and it sat on the company's board for four of those years. There's no indication that Goldman or anyone else ever used its ownership to urge Village Voice Media to drop escort ads or verify ages. Elizabeth L. McDougall, chief counsel for Village Voice Media, told me Friday that she was “unaware of any dissent” from owners.
Several lesser-known financial companies also hold significant stakes in Village Voice Media, and one person close to the company says that there are about a dozen owners in all. One is Trimaran, an investment company in New York. It wouldn't disclose the size of its stake but told me that it had “no influence whatsoever” on management and is now trying to sell its shares.
Two other companies, Alta Communications and Brynwood Partners, did not respond to my repeated inquiries about ties to Village Voice Media (Brynwood may be an asset manager rather than an owner). One thought: If the minority shareholders, Goldman included, worked together instead of rushing for the exits, they might be able to pressure Village Voice Media to get out of escort ads.
There are no easy solutions to sex trafficking. I think the most important single step is for prosecutors to focus more on pimps and johns. Closing down the leading Web site used by traffickers would complicate their lives, and after so many years of girls being trafficked on this site, it's time to hold owners accountable.
Mistaken allegations of child abuse lead to murder-suicide before baby's rare genetic disorder found
by David Olinger -- The Denver Post The Denver Post
HENDERSON — Jackie Cuin stood outside her daughter's house, too frightened to walk through the door.
All day long, Tiffany had not called or returned a call. That wasn't like Tiffany.
This was an important day. Tiffany and her husband, Dave O'Shell, were supposed to meet with lawyers and a criminal investigator about the alleged abuse of their baby girl, Alyssa. Yet, late in the afternoon, their cars were parked in the garage. And their dog, Pandora, sat unattended on the front porch.
Jackie tried calling her daughter one more time. Still no answer.
"I knew right then that something had happened," she said. "I didn't go in."
Two weeks before, on June 17, 2008, Adams County child protection workers had taken Alyssa and handed her to a foster mother. They did so after a hospital found 11 broken bones in Alyssa's 3-month-old legs, but no bruises or other signs of abuse.
Dave and Tiffany had been allowed to see their daughter just once in those two weeks. Tiffany's lawyer was advising her to divorce her husband if she ever wanted her baby back. Clouds of suspicion swirled around Dave. Police were about to arrest him, he thought, for felony child abuse. He had grown more despondent day by day.
Nobody seemed to hear the family's pleas that there must be some other explanation for all those broken bones.
Jackie drove home, found her husband, Paul, and returned to Tiffany and Dave's house. Paul opened the door and went inside, calling their names. Jackie pulled out her cellphone.
"I had already dialed 911," she said, "when I heard him scream."
Upstairs, Paul saw Dave's legs sticking out the bedroom doorway. Tiffany lay in bed, covered to her neck by a white comforter, a pool of blood surrounding her head.
Sometime the previous night, Dave had gone downstairs and returned with two handguns. He put one to the right side of his sleeping wife's face and shot her twice. Then he stuck both guns in his mouth and pulled the triggers.
That very day, 15 miles away, a doctor at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora detected an illness in Alyssa that others at the same hospital had not. Something in her muscles: She was 3 months old and could not lift her head. Her tiny hands turned inward.
Dr. Joyce Oleszek ordered genetic testing.
A week later, the results came back. Alyssa had spinal muscular atrophy, a debilitating genetic disease in a young child, lethal in a newborn.
She would never develop the muscles needed to sit or hold her head up, let alone stand. As her body grew, she would need supplemental oxygen in order to breathe, a feeding tube to eat. Her bones could break easily.
Her mother and father were dead, suspected to the end of repeatedly breaking her legs. Her own life would end in months.
Three and a half years later, Paul and Jackie Cuin shared their account of a family tragedy, hoping to broaden knowledge about a genetic killer of infants and to spare someone else from mistaken accusations of child abuse. They also want Colorado to give accused parents better ways to appeal if a child protection agency balks at performing tests that could disprove abuse. To tell the story, The Denver Post obtained medical, social services and police investigative records produced during the Cuins' lawsuit and used a detailed timeline Paul Cuin compiled after Alyssa died.
On the 50-inch television screen in the living room of their Henderson home, Paul Cuin played a short video, a family album set to the John Denver song "You Fill Up My Senses."
There's Alyssa, a beautiful baby with green eyes, a mop of red hair and a great smile. Alyssa, lying in bed on her father's bare arm. Alyssa, held by her proud parents on the staircase. Alyssa, still smiling with oxygen tubes in her nose, the day of her feeding-tube surgery.
Cuin recalled his final conversation with his daughter.
"The last thing she said to me was, 'Please help me save my husband and my family.' And I said, 'We're doing everything we can.' "
Tears fill his eyes. His voice falters.
"Nobody would listen."
Agencies under fire
When an abused child dies, child protection workers often take the heat. Why didn't they take those bruises more seriously? Couldn't they see the kid was starving? They left the girl with her mom and dad after Grandma's eighth abuse report?
In Colorado, the list of children who died despite calls to child protection agencies keeps growing. Chandler Grafner starved to death in a Denver closet after a worried teacher's aide called a child protection agency to save him. Caleb Pacheco's body was found under a Sterling mobile home after, an aunt said, she called authorities 70 times about the missing boy. Gabriel Trujillo, emaciated and covered with bruises and cigarette burns, died of a head injury weeks after an aunt told Adams County investigators that his grandmother was abusing him.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and his human services director have responded with reforms intended to save the next little Gabriel from agency inattention.
Paul Cuin sees these reforms as a double-edged sword. While all eyes are now focused on cases in which social services agencies failed to save children in danger, there are others "where the departments become overzealous," he said, with tragic results.
He said he thought child protection agencies tried to reunite families whenever possible. But "they didn't in this case. They literally tore the family apart," he said. "And you have no recourse. You have to prove you're innocent to get your child back."
By law, child protection agencies cannot divulge details of their cases. "Children's Hospital Colorado cannot comment on individual child-abuse cases, past or present," spokeswoman Elizabeth Whitehead said.
Darwin Cox, the child and family services director in Adams County, also said he could not discuss details. But he noted that Alyssa was referred from a hospital renowned for its child-abuse expertise.
Hospital records show that its specialists believed Alyssa had been horribly abused and the family was in denial.
"This was a terrible, terrible tragedy," Cox said. But "we did the job we could with the best information we had at the time."
A love for children
Tiffany was a red-haired tomboy. She ran cross-country, played soccer, rode a motorcycle, became a starting point guard on her high school basketball team, coached basketball — a boys team — at an Adams County middle school.
"Guys loved having Tiffany around. She was one of them," her mother said. "I don't think I had a dress on her past age 2."
Tiffany loved kids. She went to the University of Northern Colorado, planning to help children in special-education programs develop physical skills.
To lower her college costs she joined the Army Reserve, where she grew interested in law enforcement and changed career plans. To her mother's shock, she announced one day that she had decided to become a police officer.
She graduated and found a job with the Lakewood Police Department, where she met William David O'Shell — Dave.
Dave was a bright, ambitious police officer who also served in the National Guard and worked on a doctoral degree in philosophy in his spare time.
"They got married, had the baby. Everything was going great for them," Paul Cuin said. "Until all this happened."
Tiffany had left the Lakewood police force during her pregnancy, then returned to work as a halfway-house guard after Alyssa was born. On the morning of June 16, 2008, as she was changing Alyssa's diaper, she noticed her baby cried when she lifted her right leg. But then Alyssa went to sleep in her swing, so it didn't seem that serious.
Tiffany dropped off Alyssa at her mother's house, where her younger brother, Mykal, watched the baby until Jackie came home from work.
Jackie also found Alyssa unusually fussy that day. She cried whenever her right leg was moved. When Dave came home from work, Jackie dropped off Alyssa and told him. Seeing no swelling, he decided just to watch Alyssa closely that evening. He fed her, and she went to sleep.
By morning Alyssa's leg had swollen. Tiffany called her pediatrician immediately. X-rays showed something, possibly a fracture, possibly a cyst. The pediatrician's office sent Tiffany and Alyssa to Children's Hospital for more tests. Dave joined them there.
Children's X-rayed Alyssa's entire body — and found 11 fractures in various stages of healing in her legs. The hospital called the Adams County Human Services Department.
Because Jackie and Mykal had cared for Alyssa while her mother worked, the entire family became child-abuse suspects. Child protection workers took Alyssa, called a foster mother and opened an investigation.
From that day forward, Alyssa's parents and grandparents insisted that there had to be some explanation other than child abuse.
"There was no way. They loved that baby," Paul Cuin said.
He and his wife turned to the Internet, researching possible medical explanations. They suggested brittle bone disease, a genetic illness. The child-abuse team doubted that. Alyssa had corner fractures, a type associated with violently yanking or twisting her limbs.
A hospital report called her injuries "highly suggestive of nonaccidental trauma," adding that nothing in Alyssa's medical history or physical exam pointed to a different cause.
Still, on June 19, two days after Alyssa was taken from her parents, an Adams County judge agreed that other possible causes had to be explored. The judge ordered "emergency medical testing" of Alyssa for genetic illnesses.
There were people who questioned the instant diagnosis of child abuse.
Dr. Callie Black, Alyssa's pediatrician, was one. She told Tiffany and Dave that she wanted a bone specialist to look at Alyssa for "weak bones."
Alisa Thomas, a social worker at the hospital, noted the absence of external injuries and also suggested extensive medical testing of Alyssa.
Adams County child-abuse investigators, meanwhile, interpreted emergency testing to mean sometime in the next few months, according to the Cuins. Jackie said a social worker told her that a genetic test had been scheduled for Oct. 4 — more than three months away.
Tiffany and Dave were allowed to see their daughter once, for one hour, at Adams County social services. They were told the next visit would have to occur before a therapist, Jackie Cuin said, because Alyssa had looked away from them several times.
Jackie was incredulous. "She looked away. A 3-month-old looked away," she said.
Dave O'Shell quickly became the main suspect in a Commerce City police investigation because he had held Alyssa by the legs.
"The only thing that he's done that I tell him not to do is hold her upside down. She is way too little for that," Tiffany told an investigator.
But "I know he would never hurt her intentionally. He loves her to death."
Dave described picking up Alyssa by her legs to kiss her belly — and wondered aloud if that could have hurt her.
"Did I hold her too strongly whenever I was holding her by the legs? That's the only thing I can think of," he said. "I'd give her a kiss and put her back down."
"Did she cry when you put her back down?" the investigator asked.
"No, she liked it. She gave a little smile," he said.
Yet as the investigation focused on him, Dave grew desperate.
June 26: Dave visited Charles Cooper, Tiffany's grandfather. Over a basement game of pool, he talked about going to prison.
"I just cannot stand anyone else with Tiffany," he said.
Dave had heard he was about to be arrested on felony charges — and become a police officer behind bars. He would be fired in Lakewood, discharged from the military, lose his house, his wife, everything.
He would need a criminal defense lawyer and about $50,000 for bail.
Tiffany, who had her own lawyer, confided to a friend that her lawyer recommended filing for divorce if she wanted her baby back. Given a choice, her friend told her, always choose your child.
June 28: Tiffany told her mother that Dave said he was "going to shoot people" so police would have a real reason to arrest him. Tiffany was getting desperate, too. She talked wildly of going to jail herself, living in her grandpa's basement on welfare, Alyssa growing up without a father.
At the same time, she said, "she had to be the strong one" for Dave. He was saying scary things.
June 30: Tiffany and Dave had an 8 a.m. appointment at the hospital on their child-abuse case. Then Dave had an 11 a.m. appointment with his lawyer, who would take him to be questioned by the case detective. Tiffany had a 1 p.m. appointment with her lawyer.
Tiffany had agreed to call her mother throughout the day to let her know what was happening.
She didn't call.
At 3 p.m., Jackie tried calling her daughter. No answer.
Two more hours passed. Jackie decided to drive over to Tiffany and Dave's house, about a mile away. That's when she found the dog on the porch and the cars in the garage.
Inside, Tiffany and Dave had been dead all day.
Foster mother's concerns
Also on June 30, Alyssa's foster mother brought her back to Children's. She told the doctor that she was concerned about the baby's lack of development. Alyssa also had a rapid breathing pattern that sometimes sounded raspy.
Dr. Oleszek noted that Alyssa "makes sounds, smiles and laughs," but "does not grasp objects well. She does not have significant movement of her limbs and has no head control. She also tends to keep her thumbs in her palms."
Normal intelligence, but a failure of muscles to develop — this pointed to a potentially devastating genetic illness.
"Most concerning today," Oleszek wrote, "is the diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy." She independently ordered the genetic tests that a judge had ordered 11 days earlier.
There had been other clues.
Dr. Black, the pediatrician, worried when Alyssa was 2 months old about her weak muscles, and she talked with Dave and Tiffany about possible physical therapy.
When the hospital first questioned Dave and Tiffany, they told a social worker that they had recently sought physical therapy for Alyssa. She was "smiling and making noises," they explained, but "not rolling and not holding her head up" — and wanting to turn her head to only one side.
At the hospital, another doctor had noted that Alyssa "really has very little head control" and keeps "her thumbs in her hands."
On July 9, test results confirmed the disease.
Spinal muscular atrophy afflicts about one of 10,000 children. But if the symptoms appear after a child's first birthday, the consequences are less severe — poor muscle tone, weak legs and arms, a risk of broken bones and living in a wheelchair.
If the disease appears prenatally or in a newborn baby, it's a death sentence.
On July 11, an Adams County caseworker called Paul and Jackie Cuin's lawyer to inform them of the diagnosis. But since Tiffany O'Shell "was being buried on 7/11/08," the caseworker noted, she and the lawyer agreed "it would be best to wait and inform the relatives over the weekend."
None of this altered the child-abuse team's opinion that Alyssa should remain a foster child.
"This diagnosis does not rule out the physical abuse that Alyssa suffered," the caseworker wrote, because the types of fractures in her legs "are usually obtained when someone yanks or twists the limbs forcefully."
Jackie Cuin said the agency also declined to bring Alyssa to her mother's funeral.
On July 15, Adams County social services recommended keeping Alyssa in foster care and letting her grandparents visit her at some "appropriate place, given Alyssa's issue around the susceptibility of getting a cold/germs."
Back with grandparents
On July 16, Jackie and Paul Cuin went to court for another hearing in the child-abuse case. They offered to take care of Alyssa for the rest of her life. Adams County social services asked the judge to leave Alyssa in its care.
Judge Katherine Delgado asked whether Jackie Cuin had been cleared as a child-abuse suspect.
Then why was the agency still involved?
The caseworkers "offered no substantial reasons," Paul Cuin said, and "the judge immediately ordered Alyssa turned over to us and granted temporary custody. Thank God for Judge Delgado."
The Cuins kept their jobs, with revised schedules. Jackie worked days at a horse association. Paul, a supermarket manager, switched to a night shift.
They put one crib upstairs and one crib downstairs, so that a baby who would never sit up by herself always had a place to play.
Each morning, her grandfather changed her diaper, dressed her, fed her, then gave her a little physical therapy on the couch. "Run run run run, jump," he said as he exercised her legs.
Then he would put her in her swing, "and I'd catch a quick nap."
Gifts arrived from other families whose children had spinal muscular atrophy. Lightweight things that a baby with weak arm muscles could gaze at and maybe bat — feathers, balloons, chimes, mobiles, bath toys. Alyssa liked baths. She was almost weightless there.
Police officer William David O'Shell's doctoral dissertation, on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, also came in the mail one day.
In September, the Cuins received an opinion from a specialist that the broken bones in Alyssa's legs were attributable to her illness.
A lawyer and family friend had called a national spinal muscular atrophy association to ask for doctors familiar with the disease. The association provided several, and one in Utah, Dr. Gary Chan, offered to look at Alyssa's X-rays.
"I have spent 3 hours reviewing the xrays and the reports. The fractures are consistent with subjects with SMA," he responded in a Sept. 19 e-mail. "I would guess some of these fractures may occur at time of delivery, but most occurred after birth from normal handling. It does not surprise me that Alyssa had fractures noted at 3 months of age."
As Alyssa grew and her muscles didn't, breathing and eating grew harder. When she could no longer eat enough on her own, the Cuins took her to a hospital to put a feeding tube in her tummy.
They also needed to suction her nose and used an electric pump to pull mucus from her throat. By October, they were suctioning her six times a day.
Through it all, Alyssa never lost her smile. "She was happy," Jackie said. "That was our biggest joy."
Jackie bought Alyssa a Christmas present, a singing, dancing Elmo. Then, fearing Alyssa might not live that long, Jackie gave it to her early.
And "she just loved that thing," Paul said. "She would try to reach for him. Or just watch him and smile."
On an autumn morning, the day after a hospice nurse told Paul and Jackie that she thought Alyssa would make it to Christmas, Alyssa's skin turned blue.
"She died upstairs in my arms," Paul said.
In The Denver Post, a brief obituary appeared: "Alyssa, 7 months old, rejoined her parents on Oct. 28, 2008."
The Cuins say they never heard a word of apology, or regret, or even an acknowledgment of a mistake, from the people who put Alyssa in foster care and investigated their daughter and son-in-law as child abusers.
With one exception: On the day Alyssa died, the Commerce City case detective, Daniel McCoy, arrived at the Cuins' home before Jackie did.
"Detective McCoy was awesome," she said. "He heard the address come across on the radio, and he was one of the first people in the house."
The Cuins sued, seeking some admission that the child protection team had played a role in their family tragedy, but they lost without reaching a jury. The hospital argued successfully that a murder-suicide was not a foreseeable consequence of a child-abuse investigation. Adams County social services also countered that government agencies are immune unless their behavior is willfully and wantonly wrong.
Today, Paul Cuin still struggles to forgive Dave. "He was a wonderful man. I loved him dearly," he said. But "he had choices. He made the wrong one."
Jackie found forgiveness easier. "I get it. I understand. He loved her too much," she said. "He was going to lose his wife. His job. His military service. He was never going to get Alyssa back."
Still, "I'm heartbroken. There's no other words."
They live with their memories now. The family videos Paul found therapeutic to make, the photos of Alyssa and Tiffany and Dave displayed through the house.
And the Elmos.
There are a dozen Elmos now in their middle-class suburban home, all reminders of a beautiful baby girl who couldn't lift her head but never lost her smile.
City decorated in blue for child abuse
DENVER - Trees aren't only in bloom around town - some have actually
turned blue to bring awareness to the problem of child abuse in Colorado.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and on Saturday, Children's
Hospital Colorado and The Kempe Foundation hung 12,000 blue ribbons on
trees along the 16th Street Mall downtown.
Each ribbon represents a confirmed case of child abuse and neglect in
Colorado last year.
Throughout April, you'll see giant blue ribbons around town at places like
the Pepsi Center, Dick's Sporting Goods Park and on the 9NEWS building.
For more information about child abuse prevention, visit: http://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)
More focus needed on prevention
by John Lovick
Child Abuse Prevention Month reminds me of the parable of the river. There's a peaceful community on the edge of a river. One day, a villager notices a baby floating down the river and dives into the water to rescue the infant. She takes the baby home, hoping someone would come looking for him.
The next day, the good Samaritan sees two babies floating downriver and calls a neighbor to help rescue them. The following day there are four babies in the water, and every day after, more and more babies are floating in the river, until the entire community has to work 24/7 to rescue and care for as many babies as they can. Eventually, so many babies need to be rescued that the people at the river can't save them all.
Finally, one wise person proposes that some of them go upstream to find out why the babies were in the river in the first place so they could stop more babies from drowning. But every person in the community was needed to rescue and care for the babies arriving in their community each day, so they reject the idea. The villagers are able to save more babies, but the number of babies who drown increases even more.
Each baby in this story represents a child who has been abused or neglected. In Washington, there were more than 6,500 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in 2010 -- nearly 20 babies tossed into the river every day. Clearly, we must rescue these children and protect them from further harm, but we also need to go upstream and try to put up barriers to keep them from getting in the river in the first place.
Our goal must be to prevent child abuse before it happens. Research has shown that one of the most effective child abuse prevention strategies is intensive home visiting for families at the greatest risk of child abuse and neglect. One voluntary program, the Nurse-Family Partnership, has been proven to significantly reduce child abuse and neglect. In studies that compared families receiving the home visits with those who didn't, the rates of child abuse were cut in half in the families that participated in the program.
Providing programs such as the Nurse-Family Partnership will put a strain on our resources in the short term, but will save lives and taxpayer dollars in the long run. One of the long-term costs of child abuse and neglect is in the criminal justice system. Although most abused and neglected children grow up to be law-abiding citizens, victims of child abuse are significantly more likely to commit crimes as they grow up. A study that compared youth from similar backgrounds and neighborhoods concluded that being abused or neglected almost doubles the odds that a child will commit a crime as a juvenile.
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has conducted a cost-benefit analysis of several prevention programs. They calculated an average net savings of nearly $21,000 for each family enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership program. This provided the highest return on investment of any of the programs in their analysis.
We have a moral imperative to prevent the abuse and neglect of children. We need to protect those innocent children from falling in the river. Home visiting is a powerful child abuse prevention tool that we must have available for vulnerable children and families throughout Snohomish County and across Washington.
John Lovick is the Snohomish County sheriff.
You can help: What to do if you suspect a child is being mistreated or abused
It's a too-common scenario: you see a parent with a toddler at the store. The toddler misbehaves and, suddenly, the parent flies into a rage and screams at the child. The reaction only causes the child to cry louder, which leads to even more yelling by the parent.
What can you do? Without knowing any of the family's history or its struggles, is it OK to step in at all?
There is an effective way to intervene to help a child who may be in trouble, says Dr. Darlene Silvernail, a professor of psychology at South University's West Palm Beach, Fla. campus.
"Approaching someone who is having troubles can feel daunting, and caution is advised," says Silvernail. "But there are ways to help save a child from mistreatment through brief intervention techniques."
Although Silvernail holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor, she says that formal training is not required to identify neglect, mistreatment or abuse - or to do something about it. "There are no prerequisites to perform these services," she says. "Any caring human being is more than qualified."
How do you approach the parent of a child you think may be verbally or physically at risk? Silvernail offers these suggestions:
1. Start a conversation with the parent.
"Let them know that you understand that little ones test our nerves, and while this is part of normal childhood development, it can be very stressful," says Silvernail.
2. Avoid negative remarks or looks. These reactions are likely to increase the parent's anger or embarrassment and make matters worse.
3. Offer the parent assistance or resources. Silvernail suggests saying something such as "Children sure can be frustrating, can't they? Can I do anything to help?" Another approach might be to offer resources: "Are you aware that we have wonderful resources in our area?" Even if you are not an expert in local assistance organizations, you can always refer a parent to the Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) parent hotline at 855-4APARENT (855-427-2736). The ACF is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More no-cost resources are available at www.childwelfare.gov.
It may be difficult to confront a parent you don't know, but it is important to remember that you can make a difference. Far from being judgmental, a genuine offer of assistance and understanding can change the course of a family's life.
"Remember, not all abusers are intentionally harming their children," says Silvernail. "Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and they don't know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem."
Silvernail has seen the results herself. She has volunteered her services with Florida's Circuit 19 Child Abuse Prevention Planning Team and The CASTLE, an organization that promotes safe families in Florida. "I have seen parents turn themselves around with the right resources," she says. "Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed offer of help."
In some situations, you may not be able to offer assistance, or your offer may be dismissed by the parent. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you should report it to the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-96-ABUSE (800-962-2873).
Workshop focuses on child sexual abuse prevention
by Sarah Eddington
The Center for Children and Families is hosting an upcoming workshop to educate the public on ways to help prevent child sexual abuse.
The two-hour workshop, at 6 p.m. April 19 at the Center for Children and Families office in Monroe, is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. The event is in conjuction with Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is April.
The workshop was created by Darkness to Light, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse.
The workshop covers preventive techniques and ways to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse. Ways to report abuse properly also will be covered, said Erin Stokes, the local education coordinator for Darkness to Light.
"The more knowledge people have, the more likely they are to report and act on instances of child sexual abuse," she said.
Stokes said nationally, one in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused by the age of 18.
The problem also hits close to home.
Stokes said since the Center for Children and Families first opened its Children's Advocacy Center in 2006, it has served 1,600 children just from northeastern Louisiana. That only includes the cases that were reported and referred to their office.
"The first step in making a change in our community is becoming informed," she said. "The sexual abuse of children is a difficult topic for people to discuss, but talking about it is what gives us the power to stop it in this community."
The event is free and open to the public. Anyone interested can register by calling 398-0945. Stokes said the event is of particular interest among parents, youth, sports organizations, coaches, camp counselors, youth service organizations, teachers, school personnel and faith centers.
In addition to the workshop, the Center for Children and Families offers free Darkness to Light training to community organizations, churches, businesses and other groups that are interested in having their staff or members educated on the topic of child sexual abuse. For more information, Stokes can be reached at 398-0945.
YMCA to hold training on preventing sexual abuse
The Stoughton branch of the YMCA will hold the next free Darkness to Light training Wednesday, April 11, from 6:30-9 p.m. Childcare will be available.
The Old Colony YMCA has partnered with Darkness to Light, a non-profit organization, with an ultimate goal of ending childhood sexual abuse. Darkness to Light developed Stewards of Children, a training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
The goal is to train the community and spread the knowledge of sexual abuse. Through community trainings, the YMCA hopes to decrease the number of children being abused and educate adults about the signs to look for in children that are being abused.
To register, contact Susan Komisar Housman at 781-341-2016, ext. 275 or email@example.com .
Focus on abuse
by Greg Little
Honesdale, Pa. — If you care about preventing child sexual abuse, you should attend a meeting Monday night during which that topic will be discussed.
The meeting, sponsored by the Victims Intervention Program (VIP) of Wayne County, is set for 7 p.m. Monday at the chamber of commerce office on Commercial Street.
“We have had calls from community members asking about the program on Monday,” said Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of VIP.
She also said VIP officials were contacted by the Honesdale Police Department and they are working on having an officer at the meeting to discuss the police side of the matter. Wolf noted it is the police who many times are the first to deal with victims of child sexual assault — and assault cases in general. Wolf said she is hopeful someone from the HPD will be in attendance to answer questions and concerns from the public.
The meeting is free and open to the public and Wolf is encouraging everyone to attend.
“It is our responsibility as adults and a community to help protect our children,” said Wolf. “It is not the responsibility of the children.”
She said officials from VIP will be discussing issues like prevention and risk reduction.
The latter, said Wolf, is especially important because in the large majority of cases of child sexual abuse, the victims are abused by someone they know and trust, quite often a relative.
That, she said, is what makes it so difficult for children to understand.
Part of the discussion, said Wolf, will be talking about the “red flags” people should look for if they suspect there is child abuse. They will also discuss how people can get help and who they can talk to in such difficult situations.
“This is a community awareness event,” said Wolf.
The meeting, which was scheduled a couple of months ago, comes on the heels of the arrest of Kyle Cobb, 26, who is a fourth grade teacher at Lakeside Elementary in Honesdale. Cobb was arrested this past Saturday and is accused of sexually assaulting a boy over a three-year period. The alleged crime happened several years before he was hired by Wayne Highlands School District. Cobb did pass all of the background checks before being hired.
Cobb was placed on indefinite leave without pay, according to Superintendent Greg Frigoletto.
It also comes in the wake of another high-profile case which has surfaced in Wayne County in recent months. That involves accusations by several people about a principal who they say sexually assaulted boys at Salem Township school starting more than 50 years ago and continuing for some 30 years.
“A lot has happened since we scheduled this meeting,” said Wolf.
Following the arrest of Cobb, Wolf said officials at VIP began receiving phone calls from parents asking how they would be helping out the district. But Wolf said officials from Wayne Highlands School District said they would be handling the matter in-house and did not allow VIP to participate in a meeting with parents the Monday following the arrest of Cobb.
Wolf did say on Friday they have had a lot of reaction from the community.
“It has all been positive,” said Wolf. “These are people who are supporters of VIP.”
Wolf said she had been out of the office for most of the Thursday and Friday and was not sure if any parents of the students in Cobb's class had contacted officials at VIP.
She did say that if any group of parents, or other groups, would like to have a separate program, VIP officials will make those arrangements.
“We are happy to do that any time, including in the evenings,” said Wolf. “There is no charge and we are happy to make the arrangements.”
Wolf said they are also happy to meet with any local organizations or service groups, something they presently do around the area.
“We would like to do that more,” said Wolf. “We love to get the word out there.”
She said meetings can be tailored to specific issues, if so desired.
The meeting Monday night is the beginning of a month long campaign by VIP as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
Anyone who would like more information or who would like to speak with someone from VIP can call their hotline at 253-4401. Wolf said persons can call at any time of the day or night. Depending on the hour of the day, she said someone will respond within 15 minutes.
Take action to fight child abuse
Opinion April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, signified by the Blue Ribbon campaign.
For many years, blue ribbons have appeared on trees and lampposts, on lapels and blouses, on law enforcement and emergency vehicles, and on the nameplates of doctors, nurses, social workers and counselors, all to represent their unity in the common cause of ending child abuse.
This April, for the second time, an interactive exhibit, the Lisa Project, which dramatizes the consequences of child abuse, will be installed in Visalia.
Viewpoint asked Billie Shawl, coordinator of the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council, for her reflections on how people can better observe Blue Ribbon Month and take action to end child abuse.
Viewpoint: Blue Ribbon Month is a time to pay attention to preventing child abuse. But is wearing a blue ribbon enough?
Billie Shawl: April has been designated National Child Abuse Prevention ÔªøMonth for several years, and the blue ribbon has been the symbol since 1989.
As with anything, awareness is the starting place. In the past couple of years, the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council has asked residents of Tulare County to wear a blue ribbon every day for 30 days as a way to make the wearer and those around them more aware.
But the prevention of child abuse requires more than this symbolic gesture. We need people to be engaged, knowledgeable about things they can do, and willing to be the "eyes and ears" for children.
With so much in the news about child abuse, it is time to take action. The truth is that agencies that serve children and families cannot solve these problems. It takes a village.
It is natural for people to feel sad and want to avoid thinking about child abuse and neglect, but doing that does not make it go away. This is not just one more social issue to add to homelessness, crime, gangs, etc.
Child abuse and neglect is the bottom of many of the other issues we face. If we do not do something about it, we deal with it as expressed in the laundry list of problems facing society.
The cost of doing nothing about child abuse is enormous, both in pain and suffering, as well as in financial costs. It has been estimated that a dollar's worth of prevention is worth $10 spent in services (taxes, contributions).
Viewpoint: What other things ought people be doing to observe Child Abuse Prevetion Month?
Shawl: This April, residents of Tulare County have the opportunity to visit The Lisa Project, a free interactive, multi-sensory exhibit that is in the Sears parking lot, corner of Mooney and Caldwell in Visalia, and open until April 29. This exhibit helps people understand in a more complete way the circumstances that some of our children live in.
The exhibit takes just 25 minutes to visit, but people are changed. Everyone should see it! If you do nothing else for children, do this.
Viewpoint: How can we get out institutions — government, churches, social organizations — involved?
Shawl: Our institutions will be involved if we are involved. We need to keep child abuse and neglect in front of our government, churches and social organizations. Everyone sees the news stories. At some level, everyone wants to do something.
The Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council is asking those who want to help to become a community member of the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council. The dues are just $10 a year. For members, there will be training opportunities on how to strengthen families to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect.
The first of these trainings will take place in Visalia on May 16 and again on May 17. In addition, small groups or street teams will be organized to do projects occasionally. Being involved is the way to feel hopeful and empowered.
Viewpiont: The Lisa Project is visiting Tulare County. It opened yes-terday at Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Ave-nue. Could you explain a little about The Lisa Project?
Shawl: The Lisa Project is a movable exhibit that came first to Tulare County in October 2010. The exhibit simulates a house with different children and their stories in each room. Visitors receive an iPod so they hear the stories as if a child were holding their hands and telling their story.
The exhibit begins with Lisa at age 6 and ends with Lisa as a grown woman. There are no live people there, except the volunteers stationed at different points to guide and assist the visitor. The exhibit goes beyond words and allows the visitor to understand these children.
Viewpoint: Why is it important to be careful about how you refer to The Lisa Project?
Shawl: While this is a powerful and sometimes transforming experience, The Lisa Project is not designed to be scary or shocking. It is also not intended to make people emotional and sad. It is hopeful, but sobering.
Each person has their own experience, but to refer to it in negative terms is to create barriers for those who might hesitate to visit.
Viewpoint: Part of child abuse prevention is also attention to adult victims and survivors. Why is that important, and what should be done for them?
Shawl: We all realize that child abuse is not new. What is new is that it is out in the open, exposed in even our most respected institutions. Child abuse is not focused in certain cultural, social and economic groups. The news constantly reinforces that with stories of coaches, teachers, doctors, law enforcement, priests, etc., being named.
Past victims and survivors have tended to keep their past a secret. They didn't talk about it and their goal was to push the memories as far away as possible. But doing that never allows the experience to be healed.
Many victims express anger that no one did anything to help them. Some victims need more help to face their past, and many can find some peace and healing by helping to prevent what happened to them from happening to others. We need their voices to speak up for the children.
What most victims forget is that what happened to them is not their fault. Children in dysfunctional families are not to blame. It is easier to come forth when the feeling of guilt is removed. The Lisa Project reminds us all that our family experience is "the luck of the draw."
Viewpoint: How do people become involved and join as community members of the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council?
Shawl: Applications are available at The Lisa Project or by contacting the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council at 735-0456 or 730-9117. Applications can be mailed or sent electronically.
This membership is open to everyone: individuals, organizations, businesses, churches, etc. Everyone can help, work together and make Tulare County a place that focuses attention and resources on child well-being. Become a card-carrying member of the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council and a part of the solution.
ª Billie Shawl is coordinator for the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council. For more information, contact the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council at 735-0456 or visit the website at www.thelisaproject.org.
HOW TO ATTEND
~ What: The Lisa Project, an interactive exhibit depicting the effects of chid abuse.
~ When: The exhibit opened March 30 and will continue through April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Sundays (except April 8).
~ Where: Caldwell Avenue and Mooney Boulevard, Visalia, in the parking lot adjacent to Sears at the Sequoia Mall.
~ Cost: Admission is free.
Male survivors of child sexual abuse subject of film at WMU
by Andy Robins
(Video and audio on site)
The federal government says about one in every six boys in this country will be sexually abused by the time they are 16. Two events at Western Michigan University this month will help male sexual abuse survivors come to terms with their trauma. And organizers say they hope the wider community will learn about the issue.
Western is one of several colleges and universities around the country showing the new film Boys and Men Healing. The documentary by Kathy Barbini and Simon Weinberg tells the stories of three men who sexually abused as children.
[Tony Rogers] “While he was raping me, I felt like I left my body because I thought I was going to die. So, I wasn't present there. And actually I had agreed to die at that point.”
That's Tony Rogers, who's now a teacher, from a YouTube trailer for film. Also featured are David Lisak, a therapist who calls on his own experience to counsel other male survivors, and Mark Crawford, an advocate for changes in laws on child sexual abuse.
[Tony Rogers] ‘I just experienced many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. And I thought it was uniquely me.”
[David Lisak] “Boys are sexually abused in vast numbers and vastly more frequently than as a society we are recognizing.”
[Mark Crawford] “I was absolutely amazed that it, in fact, it was so common among sexual abuse survivors of feeling alone, or feeling it was only you.”
Boys and Men Healing will be shown twice at Western Michigan University during National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sociology professor Angela Moe is on the committee handling the events. She says all people need to know more about the issue.
[Angela Moe] “Childhood sexual abuse of boys is probably the least-talked about of any type of perpetration that can occur out there. I think some of it, much of it, is because of the sanctity that we put on families. Much of this abuse, much more than we want to realize, happens within relative or family types of settings. I think we don't want to have to admit and then deal with the reality of this type of victimization; we don't want to think that there are people out there that could do this. It would be a lot easier to brush it aside and pretend like it doesn't occur, but I think at this point we have no choice. At this point there are enough survivors coming out.
For men there's an incredible amount of shame. There's concern about what this would mean to their masculinity. There's a lot of blame they've put on themselves. You would see that across the board but particularly for those who are victimized by women. It's a questioning of how much one might have brought it on themselves instead of realizing as children, children don't ask for any type of victimization.”
Even so, men abused as boys can have a hard time finding someone to help them, even professional counselors and therapists. Tony Rogers:
[Tony Rogers] “I would call around to rape crisis centers and places that said they specialized in childhood sexual abuse, but no one had any place for men. And when I would ask the questions about men, everyone always thought I was a perpetrator.”
But Western's Angela Moe says there's no reason to fear male abuse survivors as potential abusers themselves.
[Angela Moe] “The statistics don't bear that out. We have many, many people out there who are hurting young people who have had very safe and reasonable childhoods. It's something else that explains their behavior. And we have many survivors out there who are just looking for healthy relationships and hoping to get their life on track and to complete their healing journey. They're not out there to victimize others.”
Moe admits that some professionals don't realize that men as well as women can confront problems caused by sexual abuse when they were young. But she says recent scandals, including cases at Penn State and Syracuse University, have brought more public attention to the issue. Moe says she believes it has become easier for adult men to admit to themselves that they were abused and to seek help.
[Angela Moe] “People are finally realizing that the hurt and harm done them as children was not their fault. And there are people who care and there people who will believe and listen and try to help, even if that just means being a listening board. While a lot of people associate boyhood child sexual abuse with the Catholic Church, we now know that it's not that simple. This is epidemic and I think we are just at the brink of the iceberg in realizing how epidemic it is.”
[Mark Crawford] “There was nothing more liberating, I can't recall a bigger step in my own healing than when I broke my silence and told my story.”
The stories of Mark Crawford and other men who were sexually abused as children are the heart of Boys and Men Healing . The documentary will be shown Tuesday, April 2nd and Wednesday, April 11th, at 7 p.m. at Western's Little Theatre on Oakland Drive. The film will be followed by panel discussions featuring abuse survivors, therapists, prosecutors and clergy. Counselors will be available to meet privately with abuse survivors.
Several national groups also offer support for abuse survivors, including 1in6.org and Male Survivor.
Twito working to build child abuse response team
by ZACH BENOIT
For the victim in a child abuse case, the investigation by authorities can be long and repetitive.
Separate interviews with police, doctors, social workers and prosecutors — sometimes in a clinical or frightening setting. The possibility of facing the abuser again in court.
“How do you get the best result for the child, for the victim?” said Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito. “We need to take in all of the aspects and look at the best outcome for the child.”
With that in mind and hot on the heels of similar statewide efforts, Twito announced this week plans to create a multi-disciplinary team to handle child abuse cases in Yellowstone County.
The idea is to streamline the process through communication, coordination and bringing together agencies in a unified effort to decrease the impact on the victim while becoming more efficient and effective from the first report to prosecution.
“We want them to get to the point and the more they work together this will happen, where they have an understanding,” Twito said. “We already do a great job (in Yellowstone County). I just think we need to flow it through one place.”
He hopes to have the team, which will operate out of the Center for Children and Families in downtown Billings, in place by the end of the year.
One of the biggest changes will be in how the child victims are interviewed. Instead of numerous talks with different officials over several days or weeks, the child will only have to go through one interview, in a room designed to be comfortable and inviting.
Team members will coordinate ahead of time to request the information they need, and then a forensically trained interviewer will talk to the child and other team members can observe it remotely.
In February, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock announced a statewide effort to build such teams through the Montana Children's Justice Center. Over the last several years, 17 such teams have been created around the state.
“We're changing collectively the way that we investigate, prosecute, convict and work with kids that are the victims of crimes,” he said. “By working across disciplines, we not only help the child but we also build a stronger case.”
Twito said that, while the statewide focus helps, creating the Yellowstone County team has been a goal for a while.
Recent changes in state law regarding how the Department of Health and Human Resources handles centralized reporting and the distribution of that information were a big part it as well.
Part of the problem before, Twito said, was that many of the reports would be sent to the local 911 dispatch center, but that there was difficulty figuring out how to get the information out from there.
Now the law says that those reports can be given directly to a multi-disciplinary team if it exists in the county instead of being sent to 911 dispatch centers as before.
“This is just all coming together at the right time to make a push,” Twito said.
Tim West, coordinator of the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which investigates online exploitation of children, said the best part is the ease that the team approach offers.
“The beauty of having a team like this established is instead of having to bring the victim to all these different people, it brings the team together for them,” he said.
Bullock said the state can provide training, facilitate meetings with other agencies and provide some equipment for the team.
“Whatever we can provide to help, we will,” he said.
Twito said the plan is still in the early stages and that they're testing to see how it would work in Yellowstone County. However, he's optimistic it will work.
Several meetings with key agencies and specialists have taken place and the next steps are establishing permanent and rotating team members, setting up protocols and organizing the headquarters.
“We'll be taking new roles in this approach and we do have the talent in Billings to do this,” Twito said. “We need to take their talents and make this work. The best possible outcome is a system that's more driven toward the child.”
Local agencies head up statewide internet child abuse task force
by ZACH BENOIT
David Arthur Sievers showed up at a Lewistown motel in March of 2011 carrying a teddy bear, flowers, soda, alcohol and condoms.
The 41-year-old Billings man had spent the previous year having sexually explicit chats and sending photos of the same nature to who he believed to be an underage girl.
He thought he'd convinced her to meet up with him at the motel to have sex.
What Sievers didn't know was that the girl was actually an undercover officer from the Lewistown Police Department. When he showed up at the hotel, he was arrested. Later that year, he was sentened to 15 years in federal prison for coercion and enticement, transfer of obscene material to a minor and receipt of child porn.
The officer was part of the Billings-based Montana Internet Crimes Against Chldren Task Force, a federally funded group that combats Internet-based exploitation of children across the state.
“We want to monitor those presences on the Internet,” said Billings Police Officer Earl Campbell, one of three lead ICAC investigators. “If we find some suspicious activity we try to zero in on it.”
The task force partners with 18 law enforcement agencies — local, state and federal — across Montana and is funded with $225,000 in grants annually through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.
Headquarted in in downtown Billings, the ICAC is made up of program coordinator Tim West, Campbell and one agent each from the FBI and Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.
“Since we're based in Billings we really appreciate the support of the communities at large in Montana,” West said. “It's something that we couldn't do without the cooperation of communities and agencies across the state and we really appreciate that relationship.”
Campbell said the majority of the nearly 4,000 cases they've investigated since the task force was formed in 2007 have focused on child pornography.
“Computers and the Internet have changed everything completely,” he said. “They can take a picture and, within seconds, they can have it up on the Internet.”
They also track what the task force calls “traveler cases,” people like Sievers who set up a relationship and then travel to meet the children, or undercover officers, somewhere.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock announced earlier this year a new effort through the Montana Children's Justice Center designed to bring together different agencies, including the task force, to deal with child abuse.
He likened that effort to the way ICAC works, bringing in specialists and multiple law enforcement agencies for a single purpose and said that, due to the shifting nature of online exploitation and the number of people involved, it's an important group.
“Every month there are 800 hits from Montanans to sites supplying and sharing child pornography,” Bullock said. “We have to be working together to get some of those cases.”
Since they're not often investigating a physical crime scene, ICAC members take a different approach. First, they'll identify a suspect, which often is difficult because of online anonymity or the use of false information.
But, through warrants and cooperative efforts, they can usually pinpoint where the information is coming from and work toward an identification from there.
All of the task force investigators are specially trained in using technology to investigate, often from a distance, and they then branch out into specialized areas.
“It's not your typical street crime these officers are investigating,” Bullock said.
For Campbell, that means a focus on child pornography cases and tracking social media.
“I keep an eye on where the kids are going, what they're doing,” he said. “The suspects we're after, that's where we're going because that's where they're eventually going to end up.”
Since 2007, the task force has made 88 arrests as a result of its investigations. However, it doesn't happen overnight and can take nearly a year from the beginning of an investigation to an arrest or conviction.
In each case, the suspect usually has a computer and other electronic devices, which are sent to an FBI computer forensics lab in the state.
Due to backlog and the volume of data, that process can take months. Then the case must move through the legal system.
“Before we bring anything to the front, there are definitely cases where you want to have everything line up to make sure you have the right person,” Campbell said.
Bullock said that the collaborative nature of the task force — bringing in members of different agencies and jurisdictions for a single purpose — is a great benefit.
“The essential piece of all of this is that an Internet predator or somebody sharing child pornography, it doesn't stop in a municipality or at a state line,” he said.
Education is another key piece of ICAC. Over the last five years, its members have spoke with more than 34,000 students, parents and educators across the state on Internet safety.
“We'll continue to do our education pieces across the state as we always have throughout the years,” West said.
More and more technology, including the recent explosion of smartphones on the market, is getting into the hands of children and with that comes the danger of online predators, something Campbell said ICAC will continue to fight.
“The Internet has opened Montana kids up to the rest of the world,” he said. “But with more and more heads working together, it makes it easier to combat.”
Volunteers search for missing Northern California girl, 15
Authorities believe that cheerleader Sierra LaMar was abducted outside her Morgan Hill home March 16. The effort to find her has drawn more than 2,000 volunteers. 'It kind of takes a village,' said one.
by Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
March 31, 2012
MORGAN HILL, Calif. — Fliers bearing an image of the wide-eyed, smiling teen are taped to every box that leaves Dutchman's Pizza, a high school hangout. Pink and yellow ribbons adorn every tree on the median strip of this quaint downtown. A local elementary school serves as a command center, where more than 600 volunteers gathered beneath clearing skies Friday to continue the search for Sierra LaMar.
The 15-year-old Northern California cheerleader, law enforcement officials believe, was abducted outside her home the morning of March 16. Santa Clara County officers and FBI agents have interviewed dozens of Sierra's friends and family members.
The day after she disappeared, deputies found Sierra's cellphone lying near a road less than a mile from her home. The next day, her black and pink Juicy Couture purse turned up — with her underwear and San Jose Sharks jersey folded neatly inside.
So far officials have scoured the area within a 12-mile radius of Sierra's home in this wide valley, dotted with farms, tract homes, reservoirs and percolation ponds. Meanwhile, they have stationed a liaison at the elementary school to collect leads from what Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Jose Cardoza called "an outstanding community effort."
Organized by the KlaasKids Foundation for Children, the effort to find Sierra has involved more than 2,000 volunteers since Tuesday alone, eclipsing any previous search campaign, said Marc Klaas, who founded the group after his daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.
"It kind of takes a village," said Sandy Knight of Campbell, near San Jose, who joined her husband, Gary, on his second straight day of searching.
Also there Friday was Michael Le. His sister, Hayward nursing student Michelle Le, was missing for months before her body was found last year. She had been slain.
Then there was 20-year-old Midsi Sanchez of Vallejo, north of Oakland, who escaped from her kidnapper at age 8 after a two-day ordeal. And Pat Boyd, a retired police officer from Gilroy whose 28-year-old daughter was killed after disappearing from a Sacramento casino.
"If the grass is high, get close — close enough to see a necklace," the gray-haired Boyd instructed volunteers. Sierra is petite, he reminded the searchers, while urging them to look out for clothing or the colored rubber bracelets teens like to wear.
"I want you to search," Boyd said, "like she was your own family member."
The 5-foot, 2-inch Sierra was last seen by her mother, who had gone off to work about 6 a.m. Marlene LaMar didn't learn that her daughter was missing until 12 hours later, when she got an automated message from Sobrato High School that said Sierra had been absent.
Officials said the teenager never made it to the bus stop.
"She's either the victim of an abduction or she voluntarily left the house and … is being held against her will," Cardoza said.
Boyd and a group of volunteers headed out early Friday to search a weedy vacant lot surrounded by dilapidated wood fencing. Among the group was Pamela Guerra, who grew up in Morgan Hill and now lives in Gilroy, not far south. She too has a 15-year-old daughter.
"She's out there," Guerra said of Sierra. "We don't know if she's alive, but …her parents need some closure."
Guerra took a stick and poked the tangled grass as the group fanned out at arm's length to span the field. She and a friend, who both work for the Santa Clara County Department of Child Support Services, took the day off to help. So did Patty Keith, a Morgan Hill office manager who couldn't stop thinking about her own children, ages 5 and 8.
"If anything were to happen to them, God forbid, I would expect the world to stop," she said. "This just hits too close to home. "
In the field, they found a blue latex glove. An old rope. Spare bits of duct tape. A long shoelace. The day wore on
Keith carefully tagged and noted each discovery.
Back at the school, Michael Le led a debriefing. The UC Berkeley senior said he had dedicated his spring break to the search for Sierra.
"I know it's really long and tiring out there, but I appreciate you going through it," Le told the volunteers. "Every single one of you who comes out improves our chances of finding Sierra. And more than that, it provides so much comfort to the family."
Sierra's father, 47-year-old Steve LaMar of Fremont, took it all in with bewildered appreciation. Sierra had lived with him in the city south of Oakland until moving to Morgan Hill to be with her mother in October. She called him the night before she disappeared, asking him to make an appointment to get her hair dyed.
"The support we're getting from the entire Bay Area, it's been incredible," LaMar said."It helps us cope…. We love her. We're going to find her, and she's going to come home. "
Hot for teacher? It's OK to date in Arkansas
by Allen Reed
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state's law banning sexual contact between teachers and students, finding that people 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship.
The court sided with 38-year-old David Paschal, an Elkins High School history and psychology teacher who admitted having a five-month consensual sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.
"Regardless of how we feel about Paschal's conduct, which could correctly referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," wrote Chief Justice Jim Hannah.
Attorneys for the state argued the law protects high school students from sexual advances of teachers who are in positions of authority. But the high court found the law was unconstitutional because it criminalized sexual conduct between consenting adults.
In a dissent, Justice Robert Brown said that the majority's opinion will cause disruption in high schools because there will be nothing to prevent teachers from having sex with students who are 18 or older.
"This will cause significant disruption in our high schools and have a deleterious impact on education in general and the teacher-student dynamic in particular," wrote Brown.
It is unclear if the state will appeal the ruling.
"We respect the Court's decision, although we disagree with it," wrote Aaron Sadler, spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in an email. "We are currently evaluating our options, which include seeking a rehearing."
Whether the ruling will or can be addressed through future legislation is also unclear.
"We're reviewing the decision," said Matt DeCample, spokesman for Governor Mike Beebe. "It's way too early to talk about any immediate attempts at a legislative response."
Paschal, who is serving a 30-year sentence, will have his convictions reversed and dismissed. His attorney, Casey Copeland, said his client was "vindicated by the Supreme Court."
"I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job," said Copeland. "I think the loss of job and loss of teacher's license might be appropriate for that, but it's not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years."
Several states have laws banning sexual content between teachers and students. Earlier this week, a Republican assemblywoman in California introduced a bill to create a law similar to what was just struck down in Arkansas. If the bill is successful, she said, California would be the 24th state to ban student-teacher sex. In some states, such affairs are a felony.
Victims of human trafficking speak about their ordeal at conference in Morris County
by Victoria St. Martin
HANOVER — For Nicole, the last straw was her pimp kicking and stomping her.
"I said ‘O.K., I'm either gonna die or leave,'" the New Jersey native told about 100 people attending a Polaris Project summit in Whippany Friday. "Anybody in this room can become a victim of human trafficking."
Nicole's full name was withheld by organizers to protect her identity and she didn't say how she got involved in human trafficking — only that her ordeal lasted for about five months, in Atlantic City.
Nicole said escaping wasn't easy — she made three attempts before she finally succeeded — and most people will never understand what she went through.
"Somebody from the outside looking in can give you these reasonable methods: ‘You could have just did this or why didn't you just do that' but you don't know what you would do or think or anything unless you're in the situation," she said.
Stories like Nicole's were on the focus of Friday's summit run by Polaris Project, a group that works to fight human trafficking. Organizers said someone may be a victim of human trafficking if they:
|• Are not free to come and go as they wish.
• Are unpaid or paid very little.
• Work excessively long and/or unusual hours.
• Appear malnourished.
• Have few or no personal possessions.
• Show signs of physicial and/or sexual abuse or physical restraint.
• Exhibit unusually fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense or nervous/paranoid behavior.
Between 2007 and 2012 a hotline run by Project Polaris, called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, received nearly 800 calls about possible cases in New Jersey, 60 percent of which concerned sex trafficking. Out of those calls, 178 victims were identified in the state, according to the project's data.
Rosemary Lontka of Randolph, who attended Friday's summit, said she learned how to "look in your neighborhood and to question things that don't look right."
"Better safe than sorry, right," her friend, Vicky Stapleton of Wharton, added.
Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the community relations committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, which hosted the summit, said human trafficking is modern-day slavery.
"Passover is next week and as we sit down to celebrate coming free from slavery, we want everybody to be free," she said.
But Helyn Payne Baltimore, 76, of East Orange she wouldn't have know any of the women at the summit were victims of human trafficking unless they said they were.
Nicole echoed Payne Baltimore's sentiment.
"You can't label us," she said. "We (could) be anybody."
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center can be reached by calling (888) 373-7888.
Sex trafficking treatment center place to begin again
by Jennifer Bell
Known as a hub for the sex trafficking of young teenage girls, Houston now will have the state's first center to treat the victims of that crime.
Officials joined together Friday morning at a site north of Houston to dedicate Freedom Place, a fully furnished 30-bed residential care facility.
Mark Tennant, CEO of Spring-based Arrow Child and Family Ministries, said the group had envisioned many things for the overgrown plot of land when officials first laid eyes on it.
“We are restoring joy to broken lives,” Tennant said. “This is a land of beginning again.”
The rise of awareness of child sex trafficking in the U.S. began in the early 2000s across the country, Tennant said, but it was Nikki Richnau, a local faith leader, who first told Tennant that Houston was a designated hub for trafficking.
“I realize why no one had attempted this before, because it is extremely expensive,” said Richnau, now the chair for Freedom Place's advisory committee, “ ... but there is not a thing in this house that hasn't been donated.”
Most girls enter into sex trafficking at age 13, said Kellie Armstrong, Freedom Place executive director, and 25 percent of the victims in the U.S. are from Texas. Until Freedom Place, there were only 80 beds nationwide to care for such victims, with none in Texas.
The center is licensed to house 30 girls, ages 10 to 18, Armstrong said, with a one-to-five ratio between supervisors and children. The girls will received educational, medical and psychological care, and will be able to participate in equestrian therapy and ROPES course activities.
“Lord knows, these girls need every comfort here; they have been abused and raped over and over again,” said Bob Sandborn, president of the Children at Risk organization. “There are thousands of girls right here in Houston controlled by sex traffickers.”
Freedom Place will work with law enforcement and the court system to find girls who need help and eventually place them into homes. Judge Michael Schneider and Associate Judge Angela Ellis, of Harris County's 315th Juvenile District Court, started a Girl's Court last year to deal with such issues, they said.
“Some of these girls have never been to a restaurant, have never been cared for, don't even know how to spell their own name,” Ellis said. “We want to show them they're not just statistics, they're human beings.”
Ending slavery: Session helps identify signs of human trafficking
by James Neal
ENID — “Bringing Oklahomans together to expose and end slavery” was the mission Friday of a day-long professional training session at Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid.
Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) sponsored the event, aimed at training law enforcement, health care workers and social service providers to identify signs of human trafficking.
Connie O'Brien, a licensed professional counselor and local OATH volunteer, organized the training session to raise awareness of human trafficking and its prevalence in Oklahoma.
“The major need was to increase understanding and awareness,” O'Brien said. “When people think of human trafficking, they think of it as being an international problem, but it's truly a problem for the U.S. and it's here in Oklahoma.”
A report published by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates the United States is the primary market for the global child sex trade. As many as 1 million of the children trafficked in the world annually are moved and sold in American communities.
O'Brien hoped the training Friday would not only raise awareness of the issue, but begin to change perceptions of women and girls trapped in the sex trade.
“When people think of prostitution, they think of it as ‘bad girls,' but most of those girls were molested and groomed for the business,” she said. “They are victims, and they were victimized into the lifestyle.”
According to figures provided by OATH, the average age of a female prostitute worldwide is 14. In Oklahoma, it is estimated on average female prostitutes are first recruited and groomed for the industry at age 12 or 13. More than 90 percent are estimated to have been victims of sexual abuse before being forced into prostitution.
The children trapped in the sex trade are not just children smuggled in from other countries. Both foreign nationals and locals are coerced into sex trafficking and other forms of slavery, according to OATH.
“We think, especially here in the Bible Belt, that our kids are untouchable, but they're not,” O'Brien said. “They're very much sought-after, and it's not just low-income kids ... it's all our kids.”
O'Brien said response to the professional training was greater than expected. Enrollment in the course, originally planned for 40, swelled to nearly 60 professionals.
Melissa Baldwin, a licensed professional counselor for Youth and Family Services of North Central Oklahoma, said she attended the training to learn how to identify signs of trafficking in her young counseling clients.
“I am becoming aware of this problem, and learning how we can identify it and how we can separate out cases that are child abuse and neglect from cases that may also be trafficking,” Baldwin said.
She said the training would enable her to evaluate each client's history and “see if there are signs they've been a victim of human trafficking.”
“I think it's more common than we like to think,” Baldwin said, “even here in Enid.”
Garfield County Sheriff Bill Winchester brought eight deputies to the training because of that same revelation: trafficking can and does happen here.
“I was like everybody else, I thought this was done in Africa or India, and I didn't really think about it happening here in the U.S.,” Winchester said.
He changed his outlook on the issue after an earlier OATH training session in Oklahoma City, where he learned America is the No. 1 human trafficking market in the world.
“That intrigued me, and I decided we needed to come here and learn a little more about it,” Winchester said. “We need to be aware of what to look for, and we need to treat the people affected by this not as suspects, but as victims.”
Winchester has seen signs of human trafficking in the area, particularly linked to the illicit drug and sex trades.
“We see sometimes in the drug community where people may be pimping out their children, so I think it does happen here,” he said.
Winchester said the professional training will give his deputies the skills to identify human trafficking and build criminal cases against its perpetrators.
Knowing those signs is key to tackling the human trafficking issue, according to OATH founder and coalition director Mark Elam.
At the end of each professional training session he administers a survey. He asks attendees if, based on what they've learned in the course, they think they've missed cases of human trafficking in the course of their work.
“More than half of them respond in the affirmative,” Elam said. “Some of them can list multiple cases where they could have identified it as human trafficking if they had the right training at the time.”
Recognizing and responding to human trafficking is complicated, Elam said, because it comes in many forms.
Human trafficking presents itself in at least 10 categories, the most prevalent being: children forced into the pornography industry; children held captive in the sex trade; adults held captive as prostitutes; indentured servitude and forced labor; and illegal adoptions.
“It becomes a real challenge, because we're not just dealing with one type of victim that any one agency can handle,” Elam said.
Ending human trafficking, and caring for its victims, requires a concerted and coordinated effort between law enforcement, faith communities, nonprofits, local governments and civic organizations.
“Law enforcement needs all those community partners to help them find the victims and get them the services they need,” Elam said. “When law enforcement makes a drug bust, they can seize the drugs and the cash and bring it into court as evidence. What do you do when the product is a person? You have to know what you're going to do with them for six months while you're building a case and taking it to trial.”
Elam said there are some basic signs of human trafficking of which everyone in the community can be aware. OATH provides the following indicators a person may be a trafficking victim:
|• They have few or no personal possessions.
• They lack knowledge of their community or area.
• They are not in control of their own ID or passport.
• They are restricted or controlled in their communication.
• They show signs of malnourishment or physical abuse.
• Their demeanor is marked by fear, anxiety, depression; they are tense or nervous.
• They are unpaid, or are paid very little, and are not in control of their own money.
• All underage sex workers are victims, including U.S. citizens.
Elam said members of the public who suspect a case of human trafficking should not confront a pimp or trafficker, but should contact the National Trafficking Tip Line at (888) 3737-888.
“Let the professionals determine what's going on, and they'll call back to the county and contact whatever authorities are needed to investigate,” Elam said.
For information on human trafficking, to volunteer or donate, visit OATH at www.oathcoali tion.com.
Additional community training sessions on human trafficking identification and prevention have been planned.
O'Brien said a training session and webinar will be offered at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month in the NWOSU-Enid board room.
Each session will include an introduction to the issue, a webinar with Elam or another OATH trainer and planning for local OATH projects.
The first community training session is planned for May 7. For information, call Connie O'Brien Counseling at 233-8900.
Bringing all sectors of the community together is the only way to effectively address human trafficking, Elam said.
“Everyone has to step up to identify human trafficking and to help the victims,” he said. “It has to be a community effort.”
New Florida child-abuse investigators' badges harder to counterfeit
by Kate Santich
After a series of apparent kidnapping attempts earlier this year by people posing as child-abuse investigators, the Florida Department of Children and Families has issued its frontline staff new credentials that are more difficult to counterfeit.
In January, a man posing as a DCF worker tried to take a 1-year-old from a family living in a Kirkman Road apartment complex. The man claimed he was sent to take custody of the residents' granddaughter. The grandfather told the man that the child was not living with them at the time and later called the police.
The impostor was never caught, and in the following weeks, there were similar reports from Pensacola, Santa Rosa and Bradenton.
"This is no little thing," said DCF Press Secretary Erin Gillespie. "It's a difficult situation anyway for parents, who are letting a stranger into their homes. But if it's an impostor, it could end up in a kidnapping. We at least want people to feel assured that someone who claims to be from DCF actually is."
The new credentials have been issued to all workers who investigate reports of child abuse and neglect as well as cases involving alleged abuse of the elderly and people with severe disabilities.
The badges identify the employee as a DCF investigator and include the person's photo and the phone number for the Florida Abuse Hotline to verify the investigator's identity. They also feature a QR code that can be scanned by a smartphone to call the hotline directly and hologram images of the DCF logo and state of Florida that make the identification difficult to reproduce, Gillespie said.
DCF officials said they are unaware of any arrests of impostors so far this year. But in 2010, a woman was sentenced to 18 years in prison after claiming to be a DCF inspector and kidnapping a 1-month-old in Jacksonville. Police returned the boy to his family unharmed the following day.
Documentary, 'Boys and Men Healing,' to be screened April 3-4
As part of the observance of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Penn State will host two screenings of "Boys and Men Healing," a documentary that digs deep into the effects of male child sexual abuse, the impacts on the individual and society, and the importance of healing, speaking out, and advocating for ending the cycle. Both events are free to the public.
The film was directed by Kathy Barbini and produced by Simon Weinberg of Big Voice Pictures. The screenings are being presented by advocacy group MaleSurvivor and sponsored by Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Penn State Student Affairs.
Featuring three adult male survivors, "Boys and Men Healing" presents the profound effects of boyhood sexual abuse, including shame, intimacy problems, sexual identity confusion, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse and unresolved rage that could lead to violence. Despite these devastating effects, each man in the film ultimately chose the arduous task of healing. Through counseling, support groups and prevention advocacy, each man is presented as a testimony of hope and the ability for survivors of child sexual abuse to overcome and even thrive.
Penn State Altoona will host the first screening on Tuesday, April 3, at 7 p.m. in the Misciagna Theater on the Altoona campus. A question-and-answer panel discussion will follow the showing of the film.
The panel of speakers include: Simon Weinberg; Mark Crawford, a survivor and MaleSurvivor Advisory Board member, featured in the film; MaleSurvivor founding board members and current advisory board members Jim Struve, clinical social worker and Howard Fradkin psychologist; and Chris Anderson, survivor and vice president of MaleSurvivor.
Penn State University Park will host the second screening on Wednesday, April 4, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the HUB Auditorium. A Q&A panel discussion will also follow this screening, with the same panel of speakers. CAPS staff also will be on-hand at the event to discuss available counseling services for students.
The screenings are part of a national awareness-raising campaign, "Dare to Dream, Join the Healing Journey," sponsored by MaleSurvivor, a leading organization dedicated to the prevention of male child sexual abuse and providing information to promote health, discussion and connections for survivors and those who support them.
April also is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Additional upcoming events at University Park include:
--On Tuesday, April 3, from noon to 1 p.m., CAPS psychologist Andrea Falzone will facilitate a brown bag lunch program on "Healing from Childhood Abuse" in 106 HUB/Robeson Center on the University Park campus.
--On Wednesday, April 4, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., CAPS will be present at a Public Health Fair sponsored by Alpha Epsilon Delta, Penn State's premedical honor society, in the HUB/Robeson Center on the University Park campus. Andrea Falzone will be present from 1 to 3 p.m. to discuss interest in a male sexual abuse survivors group for the Fall 2012 semester.
Parents to learn of school sex misconduct allegations in 72 hours
Parents will be notified within 72 hours when a teacher is removed from a classroom because of sexual-misconduct allegations, Los Angeles school officials announced Thursday.
The new policy addresses parent anger in the wake of the arrests of several teachers and other Los Angeles Unified School District employees.
“The spate of cases involving sexual misconduct in recent months has prompted a re-evaluation of our reporting procedures,” said Supt. John Deasy in a statement.
Parents at Miramonte Elementary in unincorporated Florence-Firestone were upset that they received no explanation when veteran teacher Mark Berndt was pulled from class early in 2011. A year later, Berndt was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct; he has pleaded not guilty.
Before the arrest, the school district and detectives limited the release of even partial information to those interviewed as part of the investigation. They said they didn't want to risk compromising the probe.
At Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, parents and school employees received no explanation even after former teacher Paul Chapel had been in jail for months. Local school board member Nury Martinez learned of it from the media. Chapel has pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse of four students.
Previous policy specified no deadline for informing parents, creating the impression that L.A. Unified was deliberately withholding information, Deasy said.
But the district has been criticized for doing exactly that. Some say the school system has resisted issuing any notification, even under pressure.
When contacted this year about a former music instructor accused of misconduct, for example, Hamilton High Principal Gary Garcia said parents and students had received no information about the teacher. Nor had he, Garcia added.
At the time, the district was being sued by a former student of Vance Miller's, who alleged that the two had a sexual relationship when the boy was Miller's student. Miller, through an attorney, has denied wrongdoing. The district fired Miller in February.
One reason for the enforced secrecy has been to protect the privacy of employees — who could be innocent — and of potential victims.
The district's prior policy, in 2008, does not require any public or parental notification. It simply specifies that any release of information must be authorized by senior officials.
A 2006 policy had required notifying only the parents or guardians of possible victims.
“We believe that the new rule strikes the proper balance” between informing parents and assisting law-enforcement probes, Deasy said.
The district is still developing notification rules when abuse allegations arise against other types of employees, such as volunteers, custodians, teacher aides or clerks.
Pasco Sheriff tracks rising child abuse numbers
Abuse tied to pill problem
by Erik Waxler
PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - The map looks like it charts the weather, but the red shows Child Protective Investigations director Ken Kilian Pasco County's worst locations when it comes to child abuse.
"The focus is going to be on some of those areas along US 19 on the west side of Pasco County," said Kilian.
The Sheriff's Office report breaks down trouble spots by zip code. In Port Richey there were 112 child abuse incidents last year. The Northwest part of the county in Hudson has the next highest amount with 74.
Investigators must rescue more and more these children from the parents who are spending their money on pills and not their kids.
"They are not receiving the basic necessities the child needs to live a healthy lifestyle," said Kilian.
CPI, as the department is known, handles about 5,800 cases of child abuse every year. Officials say it is getting worse.
Supervisor Leigh Williams says the prescription pill epidemic here is tearing families apart. "It has caused us to have more children to come into care."
Those at CPI continue to try and collect clothes and toys for kids they take into custody. The plan is to create a playroom where kids can come and find some comfort during the most traumatic time in their young lives. In the past, children have had to sit in offices with investigators.
"We want them to feel as comfortable as possible. We want to give them an opportunity where they have a room where they can relax, watch movies, play some games," said Williams.
Officials say members of the community are stepping up and helping with supplies and donations to make this playroom possible. But more donations are welcomed.
If you want to help out you can contact the Pasco County Sheriff's Office -- Child Protective Investigations department at 727-841-4143.
Silence and self-rule: Brooklyn's Orthodox child abuse cover-up
Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox rabbis claim they are co-operating with authorities over child sex abuse. But victims say they are being persecuted – and that the DA is doing little to help
When Mordechai discovered his mentally disabled child was being molested, he reported the crime to the police. A local man was arrested and charged with repeatedly raping the boy in their synagogue's ritual bath. When news of the arrest got back to their Brooklyn community, the neighbours launched a hate campaign. But the object of their anger wasn't the alleged perpetrator, Meir Dascalowitz, it was the abused boy's father.
For the last two years, Mordechai says he's been hounded by his community. "The minute this guy got arrested I started a new life, a life of hell, terror, threat, you name it." There were bogus calls to the fire department resulting in unwelcome late night visits, anonymous death threats, banishment from synagogue, even a plot to derail his move to a new apartment. "I lost my friends. I lost my family. Nobody in Williamsburg can talk to me. Nobody means nobody. We are so angry, so broken."
Mordechai's persecution is part of a widespread cover-up of child sexual abuse among Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jews. With echoes of the Catholic priest scandal, for decades rabbis have hushed up child sex crimes and fomented a culture in which victims are further victimised and abusers protected.
After the first claims of a cover-up surfaced in the mid 2000s, the rabbis' stance was outright denial – not only that crimes were being concealed, but of the very existence of ultra-Orthodox child molesters. In the years since, victim advocates and whistle-blower blogs have forced open the issue. Today, the religious leadership claims to co-operate with law enforcement. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, long vilified by advocates for his inaction, now cares to be seen to be prosecuting – though how enthusiastically is in dispute. And attitudes within the community have shifted marginally.
But the essence of the problem has changed little. Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox enclaves remain close-knit and insular, suspicious of secular authority and contemptuous of the criminal justice system. Religious leaders command strict authority inside their communities and have the external political power to demand a degree of self-rule. Ideal conditions for a cover-up.
Lawyer and advocate Michael Lesher has campaigned for years to break the rabbis' stronghold and get abusers into court. There is a misapprehension, he says, that every time a child sex crime reaches the media it disgraces the community. "In reality, it gets reported but only as part of the generally muck and mire of grease-blotter journalism." But when cases are covered up, that really is a scandal. "That is a crime of a different order."
'The blood of all those victims is on their hands'
Unlike Mordechai, few victims inside the community will tell their stories publicly. But in recent years, a number of adult survivors, now living outside the religion and no longer bound by its taboos, have spoken out.
Joel Engelman says he was molested at the age of eight by his teacher, Rabbi Avrohom Reichman. Four years ago he sued his former school after it failed to dismiss Reichman. Engelman, by then in his early 20s, had gone to the school to report his abuser and seek redress. The religious leadership investigated, concluded that Reichman was guilty and did nothing, the suit said. Reichman is still teaching there today. (Engelman's civil suit was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.)
Luzer Twersky, 26, was abused for three years from the age of nine by his private tutor. It only ended when David Greenfeld – whose father was a respected member of the community ? was discovered abusing another boy in a ritual bath, a mikvah. Greenfeld continued teaching until his arrest in 2009 on fresh molestation charges. In January, the case against him collapsed because the victim's family would not co-operate, the DA's spokesperson said.
Both men say that when they were growing up – Engelman in Williamsburg, Twersky in Borough Park – the more rampant child molesters were well known to their group of friends.
During research for this article, I heard numerous stories like Twersky's and Engelman's. Though the details varied, the dynamics of the cover-up were always the same. Many were relayed secondhand, the victims themselves refused to speak. There was the boy molested by his teacher, a rabbi. When his mother found out, the teacher was temporarily suspended, only to be appointed principal a few years later. There was the childhood friend, condemned for accusing a respected family man, who later committed suicide. The abusive father, who pleaded with rabbis to hush up the crime, which they did, now works with children. And just a few months ago, a 14-year-old boy sent by his rabbi to apologise to his molester for seducing him.
As consistent as the tales of cover up are those of community intimidation, where victims are branded a moser – an informer – excluded from school, spat on in synagogue, their families threatened and harassed by supporters of the accused.
On the occasions the religious leaders have taken action, they've turned to their shadow justice system, the religious courts known as the beit din. But lacking investigative powers, forensic expertise or means of enforcement, the beit din are wholly ineffectual in trying molesters. At other times, they've shuffled offenders off for "treatment", typically to unlicensed therapists.
"My story is one of hundreds they've covered up," said one victim who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. "The blood of all those victims is on their hands."
Of all the horror stories, the most notorious involves Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, for several decades a teacher at Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn and a summer camp counsellor.
In 2006, two adult men publicly accused Kolko of molesting them as children, one in the late 1960s, another in the mid 1980s. In a civil suit, the men claimed that rabbis first learnt Kolko was a serial molester back in the 1980s. At that time, a beit din was convened. But Kolko enjoyed the protection of his school principal, Rabbi Lipa Margulies, whose intimidation of witnesses and concealment of information made victims drop their claims, the complaint said. The religious court proceedings came to nothing.
The men took their stories to the mainstream media and the revelations shook the ultra-Orthodox community. Their civil suit was thrown out on statute of limitations grounds but during the publicity two of Kolko's current students, boys aged eight and nine, revealed that they too had been abused. Kolko was indicted on felony sexual abuse charges.
Ben Hirsch of victims support group Survivors for Justice was instrumental in getting their cases to court. "The two kids were prepared to take the stand. The families were supportive. Other victims, ranging in age from their 20s to mid 50s, including a lawyer, were prepared to testify that Kolko had molested them as children. There was solid evidence he'd been molesting boys for decades. We'd given the DA well over a dozen names of people willing to co-operate. It was a rock solid case."
But instead of putting Kolko on trial, the DA gave him a deal. In April 2008, Kolko pled guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment (not a sex crime), was given three years probation, was not required to register as a sex offender, and returned to life as normal in Borough Park.
The DA said the families refused to let their children testify.
Ben Hirsch says that's untrue. He says the parents were presented with a done deal. When the father of one boy signed a letter agreeing to the plea, he sent it back with another, written in his own words: "My son was ready to go to trial and we feel he would have done an excellent job and I am sorry to hear that [Yehuda] Kolko will not proceed further … I feel justice was not served," he wrote. And he signed off: "I will end by saying I understand what the district attorney wants from me and I will sign the letter."
Hirsch and the other advocates were incensed. "We don't know the back story, but we think the DA was under great pressure from the community and he buckled," Hirsch says.
The Kolko case is no aberration, says lawyer Michael Lesher. For further evidence, he points to the failed extradition of Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, another cause celebre. Mondrowitz was an unqualified psychologist who used his practice to gain access to vulnerable children. He also had powerful friends within his sect who protected him for years. It was only after Mondrowitz abused a number of non-Orthodox children that the police were called in. In 1984, on the eve of his arrest, Mondrowitz fled the country, turning up in Israel a few months later. It's widely believed he received a tip off.
At that time, Israel didn't recognise sodomy (since renamed criminal sexual act) as an extraditable offence and Mondrowitz was beyond reach. But in 1988, that law was changed, raising the possibility of bringing Mondrowitz back to Brooklyn. Not long after Hynes came into office in 1990, however, he abandoned the extradition effort. In January 2007, a new extradition treaty was drawn up that reflected the change in Israeli law, and that autumn Hynes did file a fresh request, but only after months of campaigning by advocates. When Israel's supreme court ultimately refused the request, it said America had left it too long.
"The man was indicted on 14 charges including five counts of sodomy and the DA says we don't want him: that is how strong the Orthodox influence can be," Lesher says.
Lesher is trying to obtain the DA's files on Mondrowitz – two boxes of them – through the freedom of information law. The DA is fighting him. At the latest hearing in February, the DA's office argued the case was ongoing and the contents of the files remained sensitive. But in a radio interview a few weeks before, when asked about getting Mondrowitz back, Hynes replied: "That's finished, finished." Mondrowitz, meanwhile is still living freely in Israel.
Defenders of the DA say he's hamstrung by his lack of access to the community. Child sex crimes are hard enough to prosecute at the best of times. Often the victim comes forward only years later, with scant evidence and no witnesses. Even when the crime is current, a child's word is pitted against an adult's, frequently one in a position of power and authority. It is no surprise few reach the courts and of those that do, the majority end in plea deals. With a community suspicious of law enforcement, where witnesses drop out under community pressure and leaders impede investigation, the problems are particularly acute.
But Hynes' detractors believe there's more going on.
Mark Dratch, a modern-Orthodox rabbi, founded JSafe to tackle abuse in the Jewish community. "The DA's position is an elected position, and the Orthodox have a large voting bloc and I'm sure Mr Hynes will deny it but I think that is the nature of the situation. I know there is a lot of pressure on his office from the organised rabbinic community in Brooklyn either not to deal with the cases or to minimise them."
'If it's someone prominent, the community won't co-operate'
In April 2009, in the wake of controversy over Kolko and Mondrowitz, Charles Hynes launched Kol Tzedek. Hebrew for voice of justice, Kol Tzedek was described in publicity at the time as "an outreach program aimed at helping sex-crime victims in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish Communities report abuse". Its centrepiece is a hotline for victims, staffed by a culturally sensitive social worker.
More broadly, Kol Tzedek is the formalisation of a relationship with community leaders.
Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University (a longtime victims advocate and a more moderate rabbi than his Brooklyn counterparts) describes how such a relationship works. If the police doesn't have the cooperation of the community there is little it can do, not just to investigate crimes but learn of them in the first instance. "So one approach is to go to the leaders and say, we're sensitive to your community needs, tell us under what conditions you're prepared to work with us." The leaders will ask for a liaison, someone who understands them, and in return, direct their people to cooperate. "But that doesn't actually work, because the liaison is representing the community and not truly loyal to the police."
In reality, the community may hand over minor figures but will continue to shield those in positions of power. Blau believes this is happening with Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox. "Yes, Hynes has got a number of cases into the courts, but they're all the nobodies. They won't get somebody prominent because then the community won't co-operate. But if it's some weird guy, OK, let the police handle it."
The DA's office claims there were 85 arrests and 29 convictions between the launch of Kol Tzedek and November last year. But it repeatedly refuses to reveal names or case numbers. The DA's spokesperson Jerry Schmetterer said the policy was adopted to protect the victims' anonymity. Despite Hynes' secrecy, a number of cases have become known to victim advocates. Of the known cases currently open, with a few exceptions, most fit Blau's analysis.
The DA's office says 23 of the successful convictions through Kol Tzedek were the result of plea deals. But it also says that six cases went to trial. Advocates know of only two. Yona Weinberg, a bar mitzah tutor, was sentenced to 13 months in jail in October 2009. At the trial, Judge Reichbach reportedly condemned the Orthodox community for its ill treatment of victims and its 'circle the wagons attitude'. (The DA counts Weinberg as a Kol Tzedek case, even though he was arrested in May 2008, a year before the programme began.)
Two years ago, Rabbi Baruch Lebovits was tried and sentenced to the maximum term, 10 2/3 to 32 years, for his repeated abuse of a 16-year-old boy. Lebovits was well known within the community as a child molester but his behaviour went unchallenged for decades. In the run up to the trial, Lebovits turned down a plea deal from the DA which would have given him just one-and-a-third to four years jail time, according to a local TV news report. (The DA refused to confirm the terms of the deal.)
Today, Lebovits' prosecution is in danger of collapse. Another ultra-Orthodox Jew close to the trial is charged with attempting to extort $400,000 from Lebovits' family to have alleged victims pull out and prevent further victims from coming forward. Samuel Kellner is also accused of paying another boy $10,000 to testify falsely to the grand jury. In contrast to Hynes's usual position on publicity, when Kellner was indicted last April the DA announced the news at a press conference. (Lebovits is now challenging his conviction.)
Of the handful of other successful convictions known to advocates, there appears to be a pattern of weak prosecutions, out of step with national trends. Of the eight Orthodox Brooklyn Jews on the New York sex offender registry, prosecuted in Brooklyn, four received probationary sentences. Elizabeth Jeglic, a researcher of sex crimes policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says that since the mid to late 1990s, sex crimes sentencing has become increasingly severe. Notwithstanding the many obstacles to prosecution, she says a national average sentence for child molesters is seven years with three of those served. Probationary sentences are unusual. All sex crimes against children – both penetration and fondling – are treated with great seriousness, and there is little difference in sentencing between them, she says.
Opinions vary enormously on the relative merits of custodial and probationary sentences. Jail time keeps abusers away from children and sends a message to other offenders. But therapy alone can be very effective at reducing relapse rates, says Kenneth Lau of Fordham University, president of the New York Association of the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. Therapy is not intended to "cure" sex offenders, however, but to give them strategies for controlling their behaviour. Avoiding dangerous situations is key. Different categories of offenders are at greater or lesser risk of re-offending and respond differently to therapy. Incest is the easiest to control, exhibitionism the hardest.
Elizabeth Jeglic believes the best approach combines a custodial sentence with sex offender specific treatment. Monitoring is also a crucial element, she says. The community needs to know the identity of offenders to help limit their access to potential victims. A principle at odds with Hynes' secrecy policy.
In a video interview posted on the internet in December by photographer Shimon Gifter, Hynes said he had reached a "rapprochement" with a prominent rabbinic leader, who now understood the beit din "were no substitute for the prosecution of sexual predators". Addressing an Orthodox audience, he went on to say: "Not everyone goes to jail. We have programmes for people who have this sickness."
In Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox communities, the past use of therapy as a substitute for prosecution has had disastrous consequences. Investigations by the Jewish Week have revealed that before their eventual arrests, both Stefan Colmer (who has just completed a two and a half year sentence for abusing two teenage boys) and Rabbi Emanuel Yegutkin (who is currently facing 110 charges for the sexual abuse of two boys over several years, one from the age of seven) were previously sent by rabbis for voluntary sex offender treatment at OHEL, the Jewish social services agency based in Borough Park.
OHEL took on both men as patients, rather than tell the rabbis to call the police. OHEL did not act illegally (since under the circumstances it was not obliged to report the men to the authorities), and today it says it no longer treats sex offenders. But that past practice continues to cast a shadow. OHEL is a partner in Kol Tzedek – its role, Hynes said in the December video interview, is to encourage reporting. (The DA's office refused to clarify the exact nature of its relationship with OHEL.)
David Pollock, associate executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council New York, acts as a "bridge" between Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox and the police. Pollock say the DA is sensitive to the concerns of the community – not least its resistance to long custodial sentences. The ultra-Orthodox are often poor, with large families, the women having married young with no means of self-support. If the abuser is the husband, incarcerating the breadwinner risks leaving the family destitute. "The cure could be considered worse than the disease." The DA's office, Pollock says, is aware of these issues. "If we can figure out a way that they can more effectively do their job, they're usually very flexible."
At issue is whether Hynes in his "flexibility" towards ultra-Orthodox child sex crimes is ceding control to the rabbis. Michael Lesher believes he is. "I think to some extent the office is legitimately interested in adapting itself to the mores of the community" in order to achieve prosecutions. "But it's very easy to claim that's what you're doing when in fact you're buckling to political pressure. And I would say that's a far better description of what's really happening."
'With all respect, Rabbis should stop interfering with the process'
Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella organisation for Brooklyn's many ultra-Orthodox factions, embraces the various Hasidic sects (with a few exceptions, notably Satmar) and the other non-Hasidic groups. Agudath also pronounces on Jewish law, as interpreted by its council of Torah sages. As such it dictates to its substantial membership how to live their lives.
For the last few months, Agudath has publicised the sages' legal ruling on reporting child sex abuse. An ultra-Orthodox Jew who suspects a child is being molested must first consult with a senior rabbi before going to the authorities. The rabbi – who must be knowledgeable about both Jewish law and child abuse – will decide if the suspicions pass a threshold known as raglayim la'davar, or reason to believe. Only then can the matter be referred on.
"A person can be destroyed if allegations which are baseless are raised against him," says Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudath's executive vice-president, by way of explanation. Zwiebel says he is aware some rabbis still conceal allegations, but insists the large majority are now fully engaged with law enforcement.
Agudath aims to reconcile "to the extent possible" the obligations of secular law with the dictates of Jewish halachic law. All the rule does, Zwiebel says, "is inject into the process an extra layer … I don't see that as a real deviation from the secular law."
In New York state, however, social workers, teachers and members of other defined professions (although not clergy) are mandated reporters – they are required by law to report suspicions of child abuse, "immediately" and before consulting a supervisor, or for that matter, a rabbi. In response to a query about Agudath's position, the Office of Children and Family Services said that if a person meets the standards for a mandated reporter "there is no legal authority for the screening out of potential reports". If an Orthodox teacher or social worker were to follows the sages' ruling, they would be breaking the law.
"The rabbis are wonderful spiritual leaders and they should be doing what they do best, spiritual guidance," says Mark Meyer Appel, whose group Voice of Justice gives emotional support to victims and their families. "But they don't have the experience to deal with issues of child abuse. With all respect, they should stop interfering with the process."
Or as Mondrowitz survivor Mark Weiss puts it: "If your house is burning down, who are you going to call? The fire department or a rabbi?"
Agudath's Rabbi Zwiebel denies there is a surreptitious deal with the DA. His organisation wasn't consulted on Kol Tzedek, he says. But he is explicit about his expectations of Hynes. "If the DA doesn't understand [that there is a Jewish law] there will be far less co-operation with the criminal justice system – because of the culture and the general sense in the community, that has prevailed for thousands of years, that typically there are things which, if at all possible, should be handled internally within the community."
Zwiebel stands by his assertion, first expressed publicly in 2009, that the DA should not attempt to encroach on the power of the rabbis. "If the civil authorities are going to come into the community like gangbusters and say we don't care about your rabbis and we don't care about your customs and we don't care about your culture and none of this matters to us, they'll get far less cooperation from the community … I think [Hynes] is working within a reality. And he's wise to work within that reality."
Agudath's sister body Torah Umesorah represents the interests of New York's 360, Orthodox Jewish yeshiva schools, some of which have been accused of harbouring child molesters. For now these private schools are protected, not just by the conspiracy of silence, but also by the law. In New York, child molestation victims have only two or five years after they reach the age of 18 (depending on the allegations) to bring about a prosecution. Five years to bring about a civil suit. Assemblywoman Margaret Markey is sponsoring a bill that would extend each of those statute of limitations by a further five years. The Child Victims Act would also open a one-year window, during which time a victim at any age could take out a civil action against their perpetrator – or the school or other institution where they worked.
Despite repeated success in the assembly, Markey's bill keeps failing to reach the Senate. Powerful religious groups are lobbying against it. The Catholic bishops are aggressively fighting the bill, and alongside them: Agudath Israel of America.
Zwiebel argues the bill would invite capricious litigation "that could be extremely harmful to some of the most important institutions in our community". But it isn't the capricious law suits that really worry Agudath but the genuine ones, says Shmarya Rosenberg whose blog Failed Messiah has been following the issue. Just like the Catholic Church, the yeshivas stand to lose millions.
"If the rabbis do what is really necessary to solve the problem they will expose themselves to lawsuits and public ridicule because quite frankly they have done a lot of very bad things," Rosenberg says. For now, their strategy is to shore up their defences.
For all Agudath's belligerence – and the silence of the Orthodox Union, which will not comment publicly – there are some signs of dissent within the rabbinic leadership. Increasingly, some disgruntled rabbis are saying they've had enough, says community liaison David Pollock. Though he cannot guess at numbers, there are those who believe, even if they won't state their positions publicly, that the failures of the past prove it is time to welcome outside help.
Last summer the rabbis on the Crown Heights Beit Din even ruled that reporting child abuse is not mesirah – the ancient taboo against informing on another Jew – and that cases must not be taken to them, but to the secular authorities.
'The DA doesn't want to go out as having been soft on child abusers'
Last month, to escape the intimidation, Mordechai moved his family to a new apartment. With the boxes still unpacked, two local girls invited his daughter to a welcome party. At school the next day they wouldn't talk to her or play with her. Their parents had forbidden it. "This is what I'm going through," he says, for taking a child molester off the streets. "Didn't I do the right thing?"
Throughout his ordeal, Mordechai feels he's had no protection from the Brooklyn DA. So he went online to research his rights. "Victims have rights! We were never told." As a whistle-blower in the Jewish community they knew he was going to suffer like hell, he says, but they "did a zero for us". He has a message for the DA's office: "Once a month, give a call to this family. Say, 'How you doing? How's your wife doing? How are your children doing?'" (The DA's spokesperson said the office takes every allegation of witness intimidation seriously.)
Last summer, his son's alleged abuser Meir Dascalowitz was judged mentally unfit to proceed and sent to a mental hospital. Before the case was put on hold, Mordechai says he learned the DA planned to offer Dascalowitz a deal, against his wishes. When Mordechai told the victims advocates, they held a demonstration outside the DA's office. (DA spokesperson Jerry Schmetterer said no plea is taken without the express agreement of the victim and/or the victim's family.)
But for all the criticism of Hynes and his recent claims for Kol Tzedek, some advocates nonetheless believe he is sincere.
"I don't think he wants to go out under a cloud as having been soft on child abusers," says Michael Lesher. "But to change his record without political bloodletting, he has to work with the existing structure." Not least Agudath and OHEL.
Rabbi Blau is less optimistic. Although Hynes is in a stronger position today than he was five years ago, Blau doubts he's about to get tougher: "You get locked into a position. The DA in Brooklyn has been there for a very long time. People don't change their policies that late in the game."
Blau is quick to add that there has been some improvement in community attitudes in recent years – but that change is being driven from the bottom up, by the bloggers and advocates.
Many believe that for Hynes to really break the cover-up he would need to stop working with the rabbis and start prosecuting anyone found interfering with witnesses. "The rabbis will only stop if they know the price they are going to pay is arrest, public humiliation and prison even," says Ben Hirsch. "It would be a game-changer. It would be the equivalent of a nuclear explosion."
As it is, the rabbinic leadership shows little sign of acting on its own accord.
When Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind first started using his radio show to discuss child sexual abuse some questioned his right to interfere, he says. "So I told the leader of a major Jewish organisation in the religious community: 'I will stop doing everything I'm doing if you commit to me that you will take charge of this and do what needs to be done. If you accept my offer, please call me and I will be out of it.'" That was five years ago. Hikind is still waiting.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP IN NYC
If a child is in danger or to report a crime call 911 or the NYPD Sex Crimes Report Line on 1 (212) 267-RAPE
To report suspected child abuse call the State Central Register on 1-800-342-3720 or call 311 and ask to be connected to the hotline. TDD: 1-800-638-5163
For support for Orthodox Jewish victims:
Jewish Survivors Network at
Survivors for Justice at www.sfjny.org
Voice of Justice on 1-800-621-8551
For confidential advice and counselling
The SOVRI helpline at Beth Israel on 888-613-1613.
Takanot counseling based at Mount Sinai on 212-423-2147.
Embattled foster system draws new fire
ny Rick Orlov
The troubled county Department of Children and Family Services came in for new criticism on Thursday with a California State Auditor report pointing out flaws in the agency's handling of child abuse and neglect allegations.
The report said DCFS had a backlog of at least 3,200 investigations into initial complaints of abuse or neglect that had been open more than the maximum 30 days.
In addition, a review of cases from 2008-2010 found that in only 31 percent of the cases social workers did the appropriate assessments of a home before placing a child there.
"This delay resulted in nearly 900 children living in placements that the department later determined to be unsafe or inappropriate," the report stated.
The audit attributed many of the department's problems to high turnover in its management. The department has had four directors in one year and also saw a high turnover in key management positions, the report said.
"A general instability in management has hampered the department's ability to address its long-standing problems such as completing timely investigations and placement assessments," the review found.
"The turnover has impeded the department's ability to develop and implement a strategic plan that would have provided cohesiveness to its various initiatives and communicated a clear vision to department staff," it said.
Other problems found by the audit included failure to meet timelines on monitoring children in their homes, failure to conduct background checks before placing children with relatives, delays in assessments on homes and caregivers and failure to make proper notifications on placements.
At the same time, the state said it found there is hope for improvement as the Board of Supervisors approved the appointment of Philip Browning as director in February and he has begun making changes.
Browning said he found the audit helpful.
"We appreciate the state auditor's reviewing our operations and look forward to working with them to resolve the issues highlighted in their report," Browning said. "Once we have completed our review of the audit, we will respond to each concern."
Also, the state found the case workload was within established targets and employees responded positively to a survey about their work environment.
The state did make two specific recommendations that the agency needs to continue to monitor its backlog of investigations and deal with them in 30 days. Also, it recommended an assessment on whether more resources are needed to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said much of the audit dealt with issues that were in the past and have since been resolved.
"We brought Philip Browning in and he's a turnaround artist," Yaroslavsky said. "He has already cut the backlog by two-thirds and he's making other changes.
"A lot of the findings were about old issues and we did have problems. But, I have to say I think the department is in better shape than it's been in a long time."
Feds: Crips gang ran teen prostitution ring in Northern Virginia
by Jerry Seper
The Washington Times
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The Crips, one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the United States, has spread its network of crime into high schools across the country, including Virginia, where gang leaders recruited young girls as prostitutes with promises of “lots of money” and then maintained their allegiance through beatings, threats, assaults and an endless supply of drugs.
With over 35,000 members in an estimated 800 individual gangs or “sets” in more than 30 states and 120 cities, the Crips recruited the girls — some of them runaways — after approaching them on the street or at Metro stations and by making contact with them through Facebook and DateHookUp.com.
Most of the girls are 15 and 16 who, according to documents unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, became reluctant to report their “pimps” to the police after what law enforcement authorities described as violent and frequent beatings and threats.
With a requirement to commit acts of violence to obtain or maintain their gang membership, the Crips locally have added to their reputations as violent street thugs. In the Washington Metropolitan area, they have been involved in attempted murders, assaults, rapes, robberies, thefts, drug distribution, obstruction of justice by threatening witnesses and racketeering to fund their enterprise.
The arrest of five members of the Virginia-based set known as the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC) was announced Thursday in Fairfax County, charged with running a prostitution business that recruited high school girls and threatened them with violence if they attempted to leave. Including those charges, 11 members of area gangs have been named on charges of underage sex trafficking since 2011 as part of a number of ongoing investigations.
Justin “J-Dirt” Strom, 26, of Lorton; Donyel “Bleek” Dove, 27, of Alexandria; Michael “Loc” Jefferies, 21, of Woodbridge; Henock “Knocks” Ghile, 23, of Springfield; and Christopher Sylvia, 22, of Springfield, were charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia in connection with a prostitution ring that operated throughout Northern Virginia. Mr. Strom was identified by the FBI as the known leader of the UGC. If convicted, each could receive a sentence of life in prison.
“The sex trafficking of young girls is an unconscionable crime involving unspeakable trauma,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. McBride. “These gang members are alleged to have lured many area high school girls in the vile world of prostitution, and used violence and threats to keep them working as indentured sex slaves.”
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II described the situation as “every parent's worst nightmare,” saying it also demonstrated that human trafficking can happen anywhere and is “a very real danger here in Virginia.”
“By working together with U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride and our law enforcement partners, we will send a swift and strong message that this criminal behavior will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.
Between April 2009 and March 2012, according to an affidavit by FBI Agent Jeffrey F. Johannes, at least 10 high school girls were recruited by UGC leaders, including one 16-year-old girl who was approached by Mr. Strom at a Metro station, told she was pretty and advised “she could make a lot of money by having sex with men.”
Many of the girls were required to submit to sex with members of the gang as a “try out” or an “initiation” before they worked as prostitutes.
The affidavit said the girls were told the UGC would receive $50 for vaginal sex and $20 for oral sex and that they would receive half of the proceeds. They also were given marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and alcohol before and after they had sex with various men, the affidavit said. The sex generally occurred at hotels, but the girls often were told to go door-to-door to solicit men for sex.
When one girl told Mr. Strom she no longer wanted to participate in the prostitution, the affidavit said he choked her and threatened her with additional violence.
The affidavit also said that Mr. Strom threatened another girl, 17, with a knife, cutting her on the arm when she refused to use cocaine and then forced her to have sex with him. It said she was then taken to an apartment where she was forced to have intercourse with “fourteen unknown males,” from whom Mr. Strom collected $1,000.
Two other UGC members drove her home, telling her she “got what she had coming” and, according to the affidavit, if she spoke of the events that they would “come back and kill her.”
Sandusky child sexual abuse trial postponed until June
Prosecutors attack bid by ex-Penn State assistant coach to have his case dismissed.
by Peter Hall, Of The Morning Call
March 30, 2012
Judge John M. Cleland pushed back Jerry Sandusky's trial date three weeks to June 5, as prosecutors filed papers Thursday contesting the former Penn State assistant coach's bid to have his case dismissed.
In papers filed last week, Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, attacked the state's case from several angles, arguing that some charges are too vague to defend against, others are based on the testimony of too few witnesses and many are outside the time period in which charges could be filed.
Responding to Sandusky's complaint that charges related to seven of his accusers were too vague to develop an adequate defense, prosecutors noted that Sandusky gave up his right to a preliminary hearing —in which the state would have been required to prove its case was strong enough to go before a jury — in December.
Prosecutors also argued against Sandusky's claims with regard to the remaining three accusers that the state doesn't have evidence of sexual contact or enough witnesses to make the charges stick.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina wrote that Amendola provided no support for his claim that testimony of assistant football coach Michael McQueary, the single eyewitness in the most graphic allegation, was insufficient to prove a charge Sandusky raped a boy in a locker room shower in 2002.
Fina noted that courts have long held a single eyewitness is sufficient to prove a crime was committed.
Amendola also argued that the state cannot prove charges involving a second unidentified victim because the only witness, an elderly former Penn State janitor, is unavailable to testify.
Fina argued that testimony from others who spoke to the janitor should be allowed at trial under an exception for statements in response to a startling or shocking event.
Responding to Sandusky's complaint that the dates of the alleged crimes are too vague, Fina wrote that state courts have held prosecutors need not provide precise dates in child sex cases, especially when the alleged abuse occurred over a long period of time.
Prosecutors also blasted Amendola's claim that the statute of limitations for alleged crimes against eight of the accusers expired long before Sandusky was charged late last year.
Fina wrote that because the five-year deadline to file charges had not passed, even for the eldest of those eight accusers, when the statute of limitations was extended to 12 years, the longer deadline applies.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he abused the boys in his home near State College, on the Penn State campus, in Centre County hotels and elsewhere between 1994 and 2009.
Two other Penn State officials, athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, face charges they failed to report child abuse and allegedly lied to a grand jury about what McQueary told them about the incident he witnessed.
Stoughton Schools Admin/Faculty Participate in Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Training
Stoughton Schools staff recently had the chance to attend a Darkness to Light workshop, which is dedicated to teaching adults simple, pro-active steps to help protect children from sexual abuse.
by Christine Iacobucci
Stoughton Public Schools administrators, nurses and coaches recently partnered with the YMCA-sponsored Darkness to Light Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Program.
Darkness to Light, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching adults simple, pro-active steps to help protect children from sexual abuse, is not widely known in the Northeast. The Old Colony Y and Certified Instructor Susan Komisar Hausman are ensuring that will change.
As Hausman says, “We are aiming high, looking to train 5% of the adult population in those 31 communities [part of the Old Colony YMCA] in child sexual abuse prevention. That means about 10,000 adults.”
It has been said that sexual abuse is a community problem and Hausman, with the support of the Y and other youth organizations, is taking it head on.
March 5th's training began with Hausman explaining that Darkness to Light is “currently the only third party evidenced based [program] to train adults to recognize the signs of childhood sexual abuse.”
The two and a half hour training consisted of a video presentation interwoven with group discussions.
The video cited many alarming statistics, such as:
- 1 in every 4 girls/1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday
- The median age of sexual abuse is 9
- 30-40% are abused by family members
- 60% are abused by someone they know
These statistics and poignant testimonials of adult survivors visibly moved the group.
Hausman noted. “I see a lot of sobering faces, but this [training] will empower you.”
Throughout the facilitated discussions, Hausman reminded the administrators, coaches and nurses before her to, “Match your actions with your intentions.” Cautioning that while, “we [Darkness to Light] don't want people to become paranoid, we want to raise consciousness.”
Hausman went on to urge her trainees to have, what she calls, “Relentless Compassion,” saying, “if you love kids you are going to stay the course.”
“An overwhelming percent of the people who work in schools [and with children] have great intentions. We want to make sure that kids are first when we create policies,” Hausman said.
The video was not all scare tactics by any means, and served to highlight the benefits of one-on-one time with children, stating, “Some of the best learning opportunities happen one-on-one but they don't have to happen behind closed doors.”
SHS Principal Matt Colantonio, piggybacked on the video's sentiments, “There are steps that can be taken to minimize opportunity. It's for everyone's protection that we [Stoughton Schools] have shared best practices...we try to limit one-on-one contact.”
Assistant High School Principal Hope Fernandes shared that the training moved her so much that she has already spoken with the Assistant Superintendent, Jonathan Ford, to make Darkness to Light a professional development requirement for all staff.
Hausman ended the training by asserting, “We don't want to eliminate the mentor relationships, we just want to minimize the possibility of abuse.”
Hausman, a Darkness to Light Facilitator since 2006, is currently a D2L Certified Instructor and YMCA Consultant. She is also a published author and Illustrator. Her book, Kisses From Dolce, A Book for About Children About Trusting and Telling, provides both parents and caregivers an age appropriate resource to open up lines of communication with children. Also included in the book are follow up questions to guide the parent or caregiver through ongoing dialogue.
To learn more about the Darkness to Light training, organization or the YMCA initiative on a whole, Hausman encourages you to contact her at KissesFromDolce@gmail.com or 781-264-0181.
Child abuse prevention roundtable explores cultural notions of abuse
Local public health staff, social workers and other professionals who work with Humboldt County children and families spent last Friday exploring the relationship between culture and child abuse, including how abuse is viewed in different cultures and how professionals can best work with diverse families.
More than 90 people attended the Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council's third annual Child Abuse Prevention Roundtable at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. This year's theme was “Exploring Our Notions of Culture in Child Abuse Prevention.”
”In the past, we've rotated the focus of the roundtables between prevention and intervention,” said Meg Walkley, council coordinator. “This year's event came out of a discussion last year about the need to gain skills for cultural responsiveness.”
In addition to speakers and a panel discussion, participants took part in an exercise designed to broaden their ideas about what “culture” means in today's society.
”The purpose of the exercise is to enhance our understanding about culture in its myriad of forms -- to think outside the race/ethnicity box,” said presenter Jeannie Campbell of the Redwood Community Action Agency.
Other roundtable presenters included Gabe Bennett of Changing Tides Family Services, social worker Mary Beth Bian and Liz Smith of the Boys and Girls Club of Humboldt County.
The keynote address was given by Paula Arrowsmith-Jones of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. Arrowsmith-Jones said it is important to connect the issues of culture to child abuse prevention and talked about how the local community needs to be accessible and supportive to children and families from all cultures.
”We need to meet people where they are and look beyond assumptions or judgments,” Arrowsmith-Jones said. “We need to look at the whole person and a family's strengths versus the challenges.”
The roundtable wrapped up with a panel discussion featuring a Yurok Tribal member and representatives from Paso a Paso, the Redwood Coast Regional Center and the Department of Health and Human Services' Nurse-Family Partnership program.
This year's Child Abuse Prevention Roundtable was supported by several community partners, including the Redwood Community Action Agency, First 5 Humboldt, DHHS, Northcoast Children's Services, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Changing Tides Family Services and the Humboldt County Office of Education.
The Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council of Humboldt County is a broad-based nonprofit advocacy organization that works to eliminate child abuse and neglect within the community. For more information, visit its website at http://capcchumboldt.org.
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
Since the shocking indictment last fall of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky for child sexual abuse,a series of similar cases has emerged throughout the nation. Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine, California elementary school teacher Mark Berndt and Louis, “Skip” ReVille, a former camp counselor at the Citadel in South Carolina were all accused of similar crimes.
After years of headlines about child sex abuse by clergymen, these cases raised yet another alarm about the failure of institutions to protect children from predators.
What do these cases tell us, and how should we respond?
First, these cases show that sex offenders seldom fit the popular stereotype of a creepy stranger. In fact, 75 to 93 percent of child predators know their victims, according to research by the Crimes Against Children Resource Center. Sexual predators are often relatives (fathers, stepfathers or uncles), neighbors, or family friends.
They may also be teachers, coaches, scout leaders, clergy members, camp counselors, or other adults whose jobs involve contact with youth. Predators are often highly respected leaders who—like Jerry Sandusky—are known for their service to their communities.
Second, we have seen how institutions often choose to protect their reputations (and funding) at the expense of vulnerable children. At Penn State, several high-level officials were charged with perjury, suspended, or dismissed for allegedly covering up the incidents or failing to report the crimes to law enforcement.
In the other schools, others must have known—or suspected—what was going on. Yet they remained silent, condemning children to years of continued abuse.
So how can we prevent these tragedies?
Above all, we must demand a profound cultural change in all our institutions. Schools and other child-serving institutions can conduct background screening for prospective employees. They can teach every staff member, volunteer and student to recognize the signs of abuse and what to do if they suspect a child is being harmed.
Institutions can establish whistler-blower policies, actively encourage reporting, and respond immediately to allegations of abuse. They must assume that children who report abuse are telling the truth—so that victims feel respected and supported.
And they should report these allegations to authorities.
Institutional leaders should seek out and implement tested strategies for preventing abuse. They can adapt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's best practices for preventing sexual abuse in child-serving organizations. These well-researched policies and procedures cover screening and selecting employees and volunteers, guidelines on interactions, monitoring behavior, ensuring safe environments, responding to inappropriate behavior, and training about child sexual abuse prevention.
The guidebook includes organizational processes and planning tools for developing and implementing child sexual abuse prevention policies.
Institutions can also learn and implement promising approaches such as the Situational Prevention Model (SPM) that Portland State University is now adapting for child sexual abuse prevention and is testing at several Boys and Girls Clubs pilot sites.
SPM is based on a framework for identifying risks in six key areas: (1) lifestyle and routine activities of organizational participants;(2) the larger community environment; (3) organizational policies, community regulations and subcultural influences; (4) characteristics of at-risk youth in the organizations; (5) high-risk locations within the organization; and (6) facilitators—or factors that can increase other risks, such as poor staff-to-youth ratios.
This approach, rather than focusing solely on predators, aims to mobilize organizations to prevent abuse.
But none of these changes can happen without leadership. Leaders must seize this historic moment—and capitalize on the attention generated by these cases—to root out and prevent child abuse.
They must establish cultures where not protecting children is unthinkable.
For too long, institutional leaders have sought to avoid embarrassment by refusing to confront child predators. But the best way to protect their reputations —and the children they serve—is to revolutionize their responses to child sexual abuse.
Sexual assault suspects cite their religion
March 29, 2012
by Kevin Pierson
A Marietta couple was arrested Tuesday night for sexually assaulting a teenage family member, acts they say ccurred due to their religious beliefs.
Arrested were Daniel R. Hess, 45, and his live-in girlfriend, Lacey K. Day, 30, of 728 Mount Tom Road, Marietta. The couple was charged with third-degree sexual battery after allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl on three occasions beginning in late 2010.
"We've been conducting the investigation for about the last two weeks. It came to our attention through another public service agency within the county," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Upon his arrest, Hess maintained the assault was a result of his religious beliefs, according to the sheriff.
"The guy sort of alluded to the fact the reason he did it was his belief in Wicca," Mincks explained.
The Wiccan religion is almost a completely decentralized religion, but believes in a deity construct, reincarnation, the law of attraction and power through knowledge, according to wicca.org. Wiccans are also believers in the power of magic.
One principle of Wicca states, "we value sex as pleasure as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energy used in magical practice and religious worship."
Regardless of what religious belief a practitioner has, it does not justify the assault of a child, say officials with Washington County Children Services.
"It doesn't matter what kind of religion it is. In America, in Ohio, in Washington County, it is illegal to sexually abuse a child," said Alice Stewart, intake assessment supervisor with Washington County Children Services.
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Hess and Day engaged in various sexual acts with the victim on three occasions while she was visiting their residence on Mount Tom Road.
Questioned by police, Day admitted to being involved in sexual acts with the victim and Hess during the three incidents.
According to the sheriff's office, Hess refused to make any specific statements regarding the assault, but indicated what the victim said was the truth.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and its amendments, but the practice of religion must be maintained within the law of the country, Stewart said.
"There is absolutely freedom of religion, but you also have to follow the laws in the country where you live. So they can be whatever religion they want to be, but they cannot use religion to sexually abuse a child," Stewart said.
Fear of deportation stops human trafficking victims from reporting crimes, officials say
Most of 5,000 special T visas available to them go unclaimed
by Erica Pearson
Fear of deportation stops many immigrants who are victims of crimes or trafficking from reporting to authorities what happened.
Trafficking survivors, in particular, are so wary of coming forward that the pool of 5,000 special T visas available to them each year go largely unassigned. Just 557 were approved last year. Officials believe thousands more immigrants are out there who haven't found help.
“They're right in front of us and we don't even know it,” said Scott Whelan, an officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Office of Policy and Strategy.
Whelan and other USCIS officials are touring the country — from Los Angeles to Boston to Queens in New York — to spread the word about T visas and other special visas that let immigrant victims who help law enforcement stay in the U.S.
They stopped in the agency's new Long Island City office last week to teach cops, immigration agents, community groups and nonprofits more about the benefits available to victims.
Dozens of staffers from groups like Sanctuary for Families, Safe Horizon, Kids in Need of Defense and Legal Aid showed up for the training, which is part of a Homeland Security anti-human trafficking project called the “Blue Campaign.”
While T visas are just for survivors of labor or sex trafficking, the feds give U visas to immigrants who are victims of serious crimes.
As co-director of nonprofit Sanctuary for Families' Immigration Intervention Project, Julie Dinnerstein has counseled many clients to alert police or testify before a grand jury without fear of deportation after terrible misfortunes.
In one shocking case, an undocumented Mexican immigrant mom living in the Bronx came into Dinnerstein's office last year and told her she'd discovered that her boyfriend had repeatedly raped her 10-year-old daughter.
“The child rapist had been telling this little girl that if she said anything to the police or her schoolteachers, to her mother, that her mother would be deported and that she and all of her siblings would end up in foster care,” said Dinnerstein.
“And of course, the child was terrified. The reality of what happened when she finally told is actually quite different.”
Dinnerstein said her group is now working with the feds to secure U-visas for the family.
Lynn Boudreau, an assistant center director at USCIS' Vermont Service Center, where all victim-related petitions from around the country are filed, said a growing number of immigrants are securing U visas.
For the past two years, the agency has awarded all of the 10,000 U visas available each year.
Before then, many went unused. If pending legislation to renew the federal Violence Against Women Act is approved, the feds will raise the cap for the next few years and give out U visas from past years that were never awarded.
April awakens abuse awareness
by Jody K. Althouse
April brings images of springtime: buds, flowers, green grass and baby animals. A fresh start, a rebirth, a resurgence of life lies just ahead. Visions of sunny days, blue skies, fresh air and new beginnings fill our waking hours. But, April is much more than this. April is the time to remember, honor, help, and advocate for child victims of abuse and sexual assault as well as adult victims and survivors of sexual assault.
These are two difficult issues to contend with, two uncomfortable topics to spend time thinking about, but we must. As a community that cares, we must show our support and concern for those in need. Centre County has children who are abused physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually; Centre County has adults who are sexually assaulted. We must all do our part to help.
April was first declared Child Abuse Prevention Month by presidential proclamation in 1983. Since then, April has been a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse. The month of April has also been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control.
The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
The majority of child abuse cases stem from situations and conditions that can be preventable when community programs and systems are engaged and supportive. A community that cares about early childhood development, parental support and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to foster nurturing families and healthy children, according to the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children & Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“... Our nation's children are our hope for the future, and caring for them is one of our greatest responsibilities,” reads an excerpt from the 2012 Child Abuse Prevention Month presidential proclamation. “During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we renew our commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect by promoting healthy families, protecting children and supporting communities throughout our nation. ...”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual assault is a term that is used to encompass the multitude of ways in which a person can be violated in a sexual nature against her/his will; any sexual act directed against another person, that is forcible; or, where that person is incapable of giving consent. Sexual assault is a crime in all of the U.S. states and territories.
An excerpt from the 2011 Sexual Assault Awareness Month presidential proclamation says “as we mark National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to building a society where no woman, man or child endures the fear of assault or the pain of an attack on their physical well being and basic human dignity.”
By working together and pooling our resources throughout April, we can highlight child sexual abuse and adult sexual violence as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts in our schools, our families, our religious institutions and our community.
Jody K. Althouse is director of outreach and communications for the Centre County Women's Resource Center.
Brazil battles websites promoting sex tourism
by The Associated Press Associated Press
BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil has taken on more than 2,000 websites that promote Latin America's biggest country as a sex tourism destination.
The Tourism Ministry says that in 2011 it identified 2,169 websites with photos of women in sensual poses and invitations for sexual encounters with minors. Many of the sites were hosted in the United States.
The ministry said in a Tuesday statement that 1,100 of the websites have eliminated their sex-oriented content and that the ministry is trying to convince the remaining sites to do the same.
Tackling the websites is part of an ongoing campaign to combat the sexual exploitation of minors during the 2014 World Cup.
For more than a year, Brazil has been distributing posters and ads warning that sexual exploitation of minors is a crime.
Mets' Dickey sexually abused as child; contemplated suicide in 2006
by MIKE PUMA
PORT ST. LUCIE — R.A. Dickey is telling his story with the hope he might help other victims.
The Mets knuckleballer reveals in his new autobiography that he was sexually abused as a child, and with his life spiraling out of control as an adult he contemplated suicide.
In the book, “Wherever I Wind Up,” Dickey says he was eight years old when a 13-year-old female babysitter began sexually abusing him.
”The babysitter chucks the pillows and stuffed animals out of the way,” Dickey wrote. “She looks at me and says, ‘Get in the bed.' I am confused and afraid. I am trembling. The babysitter has her way with me four or five more times that summer, and into the fall, and each time feels more wicked than the time before.
“Every time that I know I'm going back over there, the sweat starts to come back. I sit in the front seat of the car, next to my mother, anxiety surging. I never tell her why I am so afraid. I never tell anyone until I am 31 years old.”
In a separate incident, Dickey says a teenage male also sexually assaulted him. Dickey was eight years old and alone playing a game with a tennis ball in a secluded area.
“There is just submission and so much sadness,” Dickey wrote. “I can't do anything. I close my eyes and wait for it to be over.”
Dickey spoke with reporters yesterday at the Mets spring training complex and said he thought it was important his story surfaced to help others.
“A lot of times sexual abuse can be, it's almost like the bullying stuff,” Dickey said. “Unless you talk about it and unless it gets out there, unless you know there are people that care about you regardless of what's happened to you, unless you know that it's hard to get to a place where you get comfortable not only talking about that, but talking about what it's made you into.”
In the book Dickey also says he contemplated suicide in 2006, with his marriage in trouble after he had been unfaithful. Dickey had been married to his wife, Anne, for eight years at that point, but never discussed his sexual abuse. Then he told her the truth.
Dickey writes of being a professional baseball player: “It is a life that can make you a perennial adolescent, where your needs and whims are catered to, and narcissism is as prevalent as sunflower seeds, a life that is about as un-family-friendly as you can imagine.”
“Part of being sexually abused is you feel like you're damaged,” Dickey said yesterday. “You feel like if people knew the truth you would be looked at in a certain light or you would be broken and fractured, so you don't risk it, and that's one of the things I wish I would have done better.
“But I just didn't possess the equipment or the vocabulary to do that well with [Anne] and it cost me. It was tough on our marriage for a long time, so when I told her, and she loved me despite the ugliest parts of my life, it really did a lot for our relationship.”
Dickey also mentions finding a syringe in the clubhouse when he played for the Rangers in 2001, at the height of the steroid era.
“It may have been used for the most benign of purposes, but the mere sight of it makes me feel as though I am looking straight at Evil — like seeing a weapon somebody left behind at a crime scene.”
The pitcher also joked in the book about the Bernie Madoff scam affecting the Mets.
“Maybe we'll be staying at Motel 6s on the road this year,” Dickey wrote. “I hope they didn't have our per diem money with Bernie. Is it true David Wright is going to be piloting our charter?”
Maryland legislators consider 6 anti-human trafficking laws
by Jeremy Arias -
Although few argue that human trafficking shouldn't be punished, one Maryland legislator has found out not everyone agrees on the appropriate penalty.
For the past three years, Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Rockville has introduced some version of a bill that would allow police to seize money and property from convicted human traffickers — a bill that never has been introduced for a vote by the House Judiciary Committee, on which Dumais is the vice-chairwoman. Although the bill was popular among lawmakers in the 2011 session — 41 delegates sponsored it that year — a handful of delegates, led by Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., likely will keep the current bill from a vote this year.
“At least according to the criminal defense attorneys on the committee, it doesn't always work perfectly,” Dumais said of asset forfeiture laws. “... If you're seizing all the property in the room, and it's not just cash, how do you know the house was purchased using ill-gotten gains? … There is a process to determine that, but again, that is the concern.”
In spite of the bill's support among other lawmakers, Vallario (D-Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro, as the committee chair, can effectively block passage by simply refusing to introduce the legislation, Dumais said.
“In fairness to Del. Vallario, he's the chairman of the committee and those kinds of decisions are within his prerogative,” Dumais said.
Vallario did not return multiple calls for comment, but other committee members with criminal defense backgrounds, including Del. Luiz R. S. Simmons (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville, are hesitant to approve asset forfeiture laws in general, not just for human trafficking cases.
Simmons, who introduced a successful bill last session allowing police to use wire-tapping technology in human trafficking investigations, has said he would rather look at asset forfeiture as a general issue rather than approving such laws for specific crimes.
Maryland criminal law currently allows asset forfeiture to be considered only in drug and gambling-related cases.
The seizure of assets is not the only bill related to human trafficking being considered by state lawmakers this session. Six bills dealing with human trafficking laws were introduced this year, said Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force volunteer Nancy Winston, a former board member of Shared Hope International, an anti-trafficking nonprofit organization.
“We need more laws in place to evaluate how big the problem is here,” Winston said at a Feb. 15 advocacy event in Annapolis.
The bills would: Expand the definition of child abuse to include human trafficking; allow victims of human trafficking to claim compensation as crime victims; change the abduction of a child younger than 16 from a misdemeanor to felony; and bar people accused of sex with a minor from claiming they did not know the victim was under age as a legal defense, Winston said.
A sixth bill, introduced by Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, would require owners of bus stations and truck stops in the state to post signs with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline number.
“Even once law enforcement has recommendations, it's hard to educate all the members of the Maryland General Assembly about why this is needed on top of laws we already have,” Hucker said. “The mill grinds slowly here; unfortunately … this really has expanded greatly in just the last few years.”
As more and more laws pass allowing police to address human trafficking as a separate crime from prostitution, arrests for human trafficking offenses are on the rise, even as the number of victims remains relatively stable, Penrod said.
Last year, the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving victims of prostitution and human trafficking served 82 victims in 2011, about the same as they served in 2010, said Carolina De Los Rios, director of Polaris' client services.
“But we get a lot of our referrals from law enforcement officers so sometimes it varies from year-to-year depending on what the goals of the particular police agencies are that year,” De Los Rios said of the nonprofit's caseload.
So although groups such as the human trafficking task force call for new laws to address the issue of sex trafficking and state lawmakers come to grips with the concept of human trafficking as a crime, the police officers who enforce the laws often are left on the sidelines, said Sgt. Kenneth Penrod of the Montgomery County Vice and Intelligence Unit.
“As human trafficking comes more to the forefront in Maryland, how long is it going to take to give us the tools we need to address the crime? Is it going to take some tragedy?” Penrod said. “But we're going to keep doing these cases anyway; whether there's asset forfeiture or not, whether it's expensive or not, we're going to do them.”
Fighting the horrors of human trafficking
TAMPA - The dark, dirty and ugly underworld of human trafficking. Tampa Bay is a hot bed for both prostitution and labor trafficking. It's something victim's advocate Connie Anastassiou Rose knows all too well.
"Starting at around two, my father started sexually abusing me and it started in the shower and it never stopped," she says.
All those painful years growing up in Tampa, she had no idea what was happening was wrong.
"For me it was like riding a bicycle, you know, it happened everyday of my life, once, twice, three times, it really just kinda depended on the day, depended on where we were, who we were around," she said.
It only got worse.
"When I came into junior high school, of course, that's when the sex really changed, I mean, it really became more of, I was his lover," she said. "That's when I really started realizing that this was hell, I was just in living in hell because I could never have a night's sleep. I never knew when it was going to happen."
She says her father wanted to teach her everything. He had a plan to sell his daughter for sex.
"When I would perform the way he would want me to, he would give me money. I remember taking it in my hands and just feeling it, I would go like, ooh, this is really great, I didn't understand what was going on. Later I found out, that's part of the grooming process and he was teaching me what I needed to do when he was gonna start selling me," she said.
Throughout her teenage years, Connie's father sold her to other men. The pattern of sexual abuse is common among trafficking victims. Another victim, who only wanted to be referred to as "Felicia," shared her dramatic story.
"My dad was an alcoholic and my mom was a crack addict, and so I grew up in a lot of abuse. By the age of nine, I was sexually molested by three different men," she explained.
Much like many runaways, "Felicia" left home at an early age, couldn't find a job, started stripping and caught the attention of a charming man.
"He started taking me out, he would take me to the movies, he would take me to dinner, we would spend a lot of time together. All in that time together, me not knowing that he was a pimp."
She went cross country with him, not knowing that his plan was to sell her on the streets.
"And when I got in the van that night, he asked for the money, so I gave it to him and the first words that came out of his mouth was I'm proud of you. I'd never heard anyone tell me they were proud of me so that made me feel really good."
She lived the shameful, violent and dangerous lifestyle for four and a half years.
"During that time, being out on the streets, I literally had to sleep with about twenty to forty men a night."
In addition to running from police, she worried about being attacked on the job.
"I was raped in Chicago and I've had guns pulled out on me, I've had knives pulled out on me, I've had to jump out of moving cars," she said.
"Felicia" finally realized it was a life she could no longer live.
"We don't grow up as children saying i'm gonna choose to be a prostitute, you know?"
Both "Felicia" and Connie are survivors with one thing in common - they share their stories to help others who probably don't even know what human trafficking is and may not even realize that they themselves are victims.
"And even for those thousands, millions of girls that are around the world, not just here in the United States but all around the world that don't have a voice, they're crying in the dark, I want to be that voice for them."
Aside from drug trafficking, human trafficking is the most profitable organized crime in the U.S., yielding nine billion dollars a year. Florida attorney general pam Bondi recently helped push through new legislation will give the state more leeway in prosecuting these cases.
County Board Issues Child Abuse and Blue Ribbon Kid's Day Proclamation
by Jan Novak
Waushara County – On March 20, 2012 the Waushara County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and April 14, 2012 as Blue Ribbon Kid's Day.
The proclamation recognizes child abuse as a community problem, calling on adults to protect all children and for community organizations and agencies to help parents obtain the information, assistance and support they need to raise their children in a safe and nurturing environment.
Blue Ribbon Kid's Day has become a community tradition to families throughout Waushara County. Held each April, during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the family fun and resource fair draws nearly 1200 guests annually.
The twentieth annual Blue Ribbon Kid's Day will be held on Saturday, April 14th from 8:30am-12:30pm at Parkside School, 16th Avenue – Wautoma.
The entire month of April is set aside as a time for the nation to reflect on what we are doing as individuals and as communities to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Waushara County takes note of the color blue and what it means. Blue stickers, blue ribbons, posters and flyers draw attention to the importance of nurturing and protecting our community's greatest resource-our children. Why the color blue?
The blue ribbon became the national symbol for child abuse prevention in 1989, when a Virginia grandmother tied a blue ribbon on her vehicle as a memorial for her three-year old grandson, who was killed by his mother's abusive boyfriend.
Child abuse is any mistreatment of a child that results in harm or injury. It includes physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and neglect of a child. A total of 398 referrals concerning the abuse or neglect of a child were received by the Waushara County Department of Human Services in 2011. The effects of child abuse and neglect are devastating to the child, the family and the community.
Abusive parents are often ordinary people caught in life situations beyond their control. They may be struggling with stress caused by illness, finances, alcohol or drug abuse, isolation or immaturity. They may have limited information about how children develop, and how to raise and nurture their children without physical or emotional violence.
Blue Ribbon Kid's Day offers information to connect families to area resources. It is organized by the Waushara County Department of Human Services with support of civic groups and businesses from throughout Waushara County.
To learn more about Blue Ribbon Kid's Day or what you can do to prevent child abuse in your community, contact Waushara County Department of Human Services Prevention Coordinator, Jan Novak, at 920-787-6600, 1-888-250-4331 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conn. child abuse registry bill passes committee
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTW) — A bill that would allow rehabilitated people to apply to have their names removed from the state child abuse and neglect registry has passed its first round of votes in the Connecticut General Assembly.
Members of the Judiciary Committee voted 40-to-2 in favor of the bill Monday.
The proposal would allow offenders currently on the database to appeal their listing after five years of not being involved in any new abuse investigations.
To be removed from the registry, applicants would need to substantiate rehabilitation claims.
Supporters of the legislation say the database can permanently punish rehabilitated people and restrict their ability to find work.
Despite changes to the proposal that clarify some name removal circumstances, some critics say they are still concerned with the bill's lack of details.
Seattle Times Editorial
Congress must enact protections for sex-trafficking victims
Political wrangling in Congress over reproductive rights should not continue to stall reauthorization of laws that fight human trafficking and slavery and boost efforts to protect women from violence.
HELPING victims of human trafficking, some who have suffered rape and forced prostitution, put their lives back together requires providing them with a full range of reproductive services, including contraception and abortion.
That guidance ought to help move a U.S. Senate bill reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed by the Judiciary Committee last fall but stalled since by political wrangling over reproductive rights in the House. That is . The $130 million appropriation is smaller than previous spending levels, but it toughens enforcement and increases funding for victim assistance.
The Senate bill is a good one. It is far better than the effort in the House where misguided Republican modifications make it untenable. The House bill, for example, shifts financing for victims' services to the Justice Department from the Department of Health and Human Services. The latter agency is being punished by conservative Republicans for rejecting a $2.5 million grant request from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the conference wants the money but refuses to refer trafficking victims to abortion providers and family planning services or make other reasonable accommodations.
Partnerships with a broad coalition of faith-based organizations, law enforcement and nonprofits are an integral part of fighting human trafficking and slavery. But victims need a level of service.
During the George W. Bush administration, Congress passed laws three times to fight human trafficking and slavery. Bipartisanship on an important issue has now given way to Republican obstructionism over reproductive services.
Reauthorization of The Violence Against Women Act is delayed under similar politically dubious reasons.
Washington's two Democratic senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, are co-sponsors of the bills. Cantwell is working doggedly to move the Senate bill to the floor for a vote and drum up support for The Domestic Minors Sex Trafficking bill.
Republicans are missing the big picture with both bills. Efforts to combat human trafficking are working. A national trafficking hotline is helping law enforcement rescue victims and connect potential victims with services. Locally, Washington state is in the forefront of legislative and law enforcement efforts to combat sex and human trafficking and help victims regain their lives.
Congress must move swiftly on the Senate bill.
Human trafficking investigation uncovers sophisticated operation, results in numerous arrests
First arrests under new human trafficking law in Massachusetts
BOSTON — Four individuals, including a husband and wife, have been arrested and charged in connection with allegedly running a sophisticated human trafficking operation in and around the Boston area. These arrests are the first under a new human trafficking law in Massachusetts, which went into effect Feb. 19, 2012.
The four individuals were arrested Friday morning without incident by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Massachusetts attorney general's office. They have been charged with one count each of "trafficking in persons for sexual servitude." Those arrested today include: Rafael Henriquez, 39, and his wife Ramona Carpio Hernandez, 50, both of East Boston; and Milton Lopez-Martinez, 26, and Diego Suarez, 34.
These arrests are the result of a joint, months-long operation conducted by the attorney general's office, HSI and the Massachusetts State Police, working in close cooperation with the Boston Police Department, Lynn (Mass.) Police Department and Chelsea (Mass.) Police.
"We allege that these individuals ran an extensive human trafficking operation by transporting women into Boston and profiting from their sexual services, with some women being sold as many as 15 times in one day," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. "Our enforcement effort today is only the first step toward targeting human traffickers who transport, harbor and exploit others for their own profit. We would like to thank the great cooperation with HSI and our local police partners for making this investigation and outcome possible today."
"Today's arrests are the result of the great partnership HSI has with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and Massachusetts State Police in our unyielding resolve to bring human traffickers to justice," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "Sordid tales of human trafficking come to light every day. But because human trafficking is so widespread, no one entity can adequately address the problems it presents. Law enforcement throughout Massachusetts is committed to giving victims the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking."
Investigators allege that Henriquez and Hernandez were the leaders of this organization, running a sophisticated human trafficking operation that transported numerous women into the area, housing them in deplorable conditions for a week at a time. Investigators also believe these women were brought to Massachusetts for the sole purpose of engaging in the sex trade and that these defendants recruited the women, and enticed them to engage in sexual acts with "johns," sometimes up to 15 times a day. The investigation also determined that Lopez-Martinez and Suarez allegedly handled the daily operations of the organization, including supervising the two primary locations in East Boston and Chelsea as well as transporting women to house calls of other "johns."
Henriquez, Hernandez, and Lopez-Martinez are expected to be arraigned March 26 in East Boston District Court. Suarez is expected to be arraigned Monday morning in Chelsea District Court. These defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Massachusetts Attorney General Dean Mazzone, Chief of Attorney General Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division; and Assistant Massachusetts Attorney General Marina Moriarty, also from the Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division.
The ongoing investigation is being handled by HSI, Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department.
Walk in Danielson takes aim at child sexual abuse
Brooklyn man raising money for charities
by DON BOND
Danielson, Conn. —
Brooklyn resident Jim Phaiah has become well known in recent years for his fundraising walks for local charities that benefit children.
On April 28, Phaiah, 65, will take on his greatest walking challenge — a 28-mile, 18-hour trek to raise money and awareness for Wendy's Place, a community-based child advocacy center that combines the services of law enforcement officers and state prosecutors, child protective services, and medical and mental health professionals to work as a team to investigate and prosecute cases of child sexual abuse.
The event begins with a brief program at 6 p.m. at Davis Park, located between Main and Broad streets in Danielson, and will continue until noon the following day.
The walk also will benefit the Darkness to Light prevention program, “Stewards of Children,” which empowers participants in the program's workshops to recognize and react to child sexual abuse.
“Windham County historically has high rates of child sexual abuse compared to other areas of Connecticut,” Phaiah said. “Nationally, roughly 20 percent of all children will experience sexual abuse before they reach age 18. We can change these statistics in our community by working together, being educated and educating our children about the issue.”
Peter Gerardi has dealt with child abuse issues for most of his adult life, first as a member of the former Danielson police department and now in his duties as resource officer for the Killingly school system.
Safe haven for victims
“Wendy's Place plays a vital role by providing the safe environment to talk with police and prosecutors about the abuse they've suffered so that abusers can be effectively brought to justice,” Gerardi said. “It also creates the setting where trained social workers and medical professionals can help children learn to cope with the trauma they've endured and allow them to grow into healthy and productive adults. I'm thrilled that Jim Phaiah is working to help that cause.”
Gerardi said many children currently confide the abuse they've suffered to their favorite teacher or other trusted school staffer. Police and the state Department of Children and Families are immediately notified to make sure children are placed in a safe environment while each case is investigated.
Phaiah is the founder of the Jimmy's Kids Foundation, an organization that works to promote programs that raise awareness of child abuse issues. Phaiah says he was abused by a relative when he was a child.
While most of Phaiah's previous walks have covered up to 15 miles, he acknowledged the April event will be the longest distance he has attempted.
But, he said, he'll draw greater motivation to succeed because of a couple of factors.
“First, I'm dedicating the walk to my high school friend, the late Thomas Deary and other victims of abuse and neglect,” Phaiah said. “Secondly, I'm challenging individuals and businesses throughout the region to match the $500 donation I'm making to Wendy's Place.”
Child sex abuse warning film financed by proceeds of crime A film warning of the dangers of child sexual exploitation has been made by young people using money confiscated from a convicted sex offender.
Wayne Baker from Ebbw Vale was jailed for 11 years in 2010 after admitting 22 offences including child prostitution.
Money seized under proceeds of crime legislation has financed Thistle, a short film to be distributed to schools and youth groups around Wales.
Delegates at conference about the issue will also be shown the film.
The event has been organised by five Safeguarding Children Boards in south east Wales - covering Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.
More than 150 people are expected to attend the conference in Newport, including professionals from local and central government, social care, education, health, police and the voluntary sector.
Safeguarding Board co-ordinator Phil Diamond said: "I am delighted that so many delegates are able to attend this important event.
"The conference provides an opportunity for different organisations and agencies to come together to share experiences and explore methods of working together more effectively to keep children safe from sexual exploitation."
The keynote speaker will be Keith Towler, the children's commissioner for Wales.
"Child sexual exploitation is a complex and particularly hidden form of abuse; it silences children and young people, making them feel powerless," he said.
"I hope this conference will enable those working for and with children in Gwent to identify the signs of this abuse so that they can protect those most at risk of harm and provide this vulnerable group with the level of support they need to find their voice again." The conference will include a preview of Thistle, a short film which looks at the dangers of sexual exploitation, devised and created by young residents from Ebbw Vale.
The film will be distributed to schools and youth groups across Wales with accompanying notes for teachers and youth workers.
The project was paid for with money confiscated from Ebbw Vale businessman Wayne Baker under proceeds of crime legislation.
He was jailed for 11 years in February 2010, after he admitted 22 sexual offences against young girls, including controlling child prostitution.
Baker was ordered to pay more than £135,000 from his assets or face another three years in jail.
Child abuse up, donations needed at Lowcountry Orphan Relief
by Rebecca Ryan
Often when children are removed from abusive homes, they are taken with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
Lowcountry Orphan Relief is a charity that provides clothes, school supplies, and every day essentials to those children in the tri-county region. So far this year, the organization reports they've helped 25 percent more children in January and February than the same time period last year.
With the growing need in the in the area, the organization prepares to build another distribution center. The center will be located right behind the current center in North Charleston. The new space which is slated to be 4,400 square feet, is more than double their current space.
“If we have more space, we can help more children,” Regina Sharpe said. “They've been abused, neglected, and we just want to show them somebody cares,” she continued.
To do that, they need help filling the new spaces with donations like clothes, shoes, school supplies, and any other necessities for children. LOR provides overnight bags with clothes for at least seven days, toiletries, and toys for the children.
“I'm always amazed to see the care put in each bag,” volunteer coordinator, Rhonda Dougherty, said.
She said volunteers try to fill each order within 24 hours. If not, often those children only have the clothes they wore when they were removed from their homes. Along with bag packers, she said they need volunteers of all types, though.
“Whatever they feel like they are good at, we can use them.”
LOR is ready to break ground on the new spot. They have their permits in place and plans have been drawn, but they are still $50,000 short on funds to complete the project.
To donate or volunteer: http://www.lowcountryorphanrelief.org/donations-2/
New Jersey State Assembly Proposes Bill Package Eliminating the Statute of Limitation for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
New Jersey State Assembly Proposes Bill Package Eliminating the Statute of Limitation for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB)
March 26, 2012
Recently, a three-bill package was introduced in the New Jersey State Assembly that will end the current two-year statute of limitation for the filing of civil suits related to child sexual abuse. Among other protections, the bills seek to allow child sexual abuse victims to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator that "may be commenced at any time."
Additional features include more required training for academic staff in order to identify the signs of sexual abuse and notify the authorities of any suspicions. The standard for liability pertaining to those that are "knowingly permitting or acquiescing" to the abuse will be broadened. More stringent criminal penalties levied against those that commit child sexual abuse are also included in the bill package. These proposed laws are an important step towards the protection of children through the identification of perpetrators of child sexual abuse and address the necessary step of allowing survivors of child sexual abuse on their own terms, when they are emotionally ready to come forward.
For more information, please read the article "Bill adds time to claim child sexual abuse."
James forces spotlight on cancer of child abuse
ANDREA DEMEER, QMI AGENCY - If there is a blessing to be received from the life of Graham James it is this: As a garden-variety monster he committed a commonplace crime and received a typical sentence, but because of how and where he choose his prey, because of who his victims were and ultimately because of their courage in coming forward, James unwittingly gave spark to a rare mainstream discussion in this country on the epidemic of sex assault and child sex abuse and the related dysfunction of our criminal justice system.
Leave it to Canadians.
These are issues so depraved, so fathomless, we would dearly prefer not to think about them at all, thank you very much. It would take the sullying of our national sport to force us to sit up and take notice. So be it.
Last week James was committed for two years in prison for the long-term sexual abuse of teen hockey players under his charge.
Perceived as lenient, the sentence fuelled outrage. The judge in the case has received death threats. The minister for public safety is calling on the Manitoba Justice Department to carefully review its case for appeal.
That's all very understandable. James's crimes are among the worse we can imagine and two years is a woefully inadequate sentence.
Yet for the many survivors of sex abuse and assault in this country, and the police and prosecutors who investigate, it is pretty much another day at the office. Rape, incest and the violation of trust are generally followed up with a slap on the wrist. Comparatively, a two-year sentence for sex crimes can be thought severe.
Consider the following: The federal Justice Department tracked 2,854 cases of child sex exploitation in Canada (2002-03) while noting most of these crimes are never reported.
During the tracking period, conviction rates for child sex abuse, child prostitution and child pornography were 38.5%, among the lowest in adult court. Of those found guilty, more than half received probation or a conditional sentence.
Thanks to James, the nation is focused on the cancer that is child sex abuse like never before. It is an opportunity to take awareness and outrage and use them to force stiffer punishments for the guilty — and greater understanding of support for the innocent.
— Andrea DeMeer
Brooklyn collegian creates ancient Japanese emblems of luck for child victims of domestic violence
Damien Bielak presents 1,000 tiny multi-colored origami cranes to Harlem's Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center
Damien Bielak's cranes are tiny, a bit bent, but beautiful, like the people for whom he made them.
The Greenpoint, Brooklyn, resident has folded 1,000 of the two-inch long, multi-colored origami cranes especially for the child victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“It's not worth a lot of money, but my love for doing this is genuine,” Bielak said. “I'm using what talent I have to help people.”
Last week Bielak presented his creations to Tiana Stowers Pearson, senior director of Safe Horizon's Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, which “investigates all the severe physical and sexual abuse cases involving children in Manhattan.”
The center, located on Park Ave. near 121st St. in Harlem, actually houses five agencies: Safe Horizon, which provides victim advocacy and mental health services for victims and their families; the NYPD's Manhattan Child Abuse Squad, part of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit; an on-site assistant district attorney from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance's office; two Administration for Children's Services instant response team units; and a physician from Columbia University.
“Safe Horizon's role is to help the agencies coordinate their investigations,” Pearson said. “Prior to having a center like this, a child would have to relive the horror of their story between 11 and 22 times because they would be taken to each agency individually to tell what happened.
“But here the child is interviewed once, with one person in the room with the child while the rest of the team watches via closed circuit television in another room,” she said. “It allows the child tell their story one time. It also allows us to act very quickly.”
ACS is involved only when the child is abused by a family member, Pearson said. In those cases detectives bring the accused in.
Open since 2009, the center — and there is one in each borough except the Bronx — last year handled just under 900 cases, which was a decrease from 2010.
Unfortunately, Pearson said, numbers for the first quarter of 2012 are way up. “Already our numbers are double what they were last year this time,” she said. “We really don't know why.”
Glancing around the bright reception room with it's lay area and stacks of Lego blocks, Pearson said “We want the kids to feel comfortable, because it is kind of like a refuge when they get here. Bielak's cranes gives us a story to tell the kids and a person for them to align with. It's just wonderful.”
Bielak, 19, and a freshman at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn, has been folding cranes for five years, since a Murry Bergtraum High School teacher taught him to do it. Each bird takes about two minutes, and he'll fold them while watching television or just hanging out.
“I've always like art,” Bielak said. “Once the semester was done, he wanted us to donate all of our cranes. We didn't make 1,000, but he made a lot. So I thought if he could do it, so could I.”
Cranes are emblems of luck and benevolence in Japanese culture. Bielak said he capped the number at 1,000 to follow the example of Sadako Sasaki , an 11-year-old girl who, according to legend and several books, developed leukemia after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.
Sasaki set out to make 1,000 origami cranes but died before reaching that number. In her honor, friends finished the task after her death.
“They buried the cranes with her,” Bielak said. “It's a good story.”
This is the third time he has done 1,000 cranes, the magic number which supposedly grants those who receive them a wish. He had a friend bring the first thousand to the center to give to children brought there. He sent the second batch to Haiti after the earthquake, and brought these to the center himself.
Bielak said he feels a special bond for the center because he has also been the victim of domestic violence, which he declined to discuss.
“I want people to know we should use our abilities and talents to benefit others,” he said. “Even simple things can make a big difference in people's lives. Because of my ability to use my hands I can make cranes for people.
“I'm using what I have to help people.”
Child abuse images hidden in web stores, says IWF report
Paedophiles are hiding images of child sex abuse on websites that look like ordinary web shops, reveals a report.
The tactic is being used more and more often, said the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in its annual report.
Outwardly the sites look legitimate, but abusers can reach the images via a route that takes them to a specific section of the site, said the IWF.
Overall in 2011, the IWF said, the number of sites selling child abuse images seemed to have declined.
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said the tactic of concealing images on otherwise legitimate looking sites posed "challenges" for those who police such material.
In many cases, she said, the IWF had been alerted about collections of images on sites by members of the public who had stumbled across them accidentally.
The IWF is the UK charity that monitors images of child sexual abuse and helps to get the content removed from British internet service providers and hosting firms.
Those who trade in images can see them on these sites because they reach the destination via a specific gateway or referrer.
Many shopping sites use this technique legitimately so repeat visitors can go straight to the department they are interested in rather than go through the home page or by clicking links in a menu.
In its annual report, the IWF said the concealment technique had been seen 600 times in the past year, more than ever, and always on sites outside the UK.
It was a useful ruse for paedophiles, it said, because it also let the sites sign up for banking and other commercial services that would be refused if they were only peddling images of abuse.
The report revealed that the number of sites trying to make money out of selling images of abuse was in decline. In the past two years the IWF had identified 998 unique sources of material. In 2011, only 440 of these were active and no new "top level" source had been identified.
Bikers, drivers rally for victims of child abuse
Driving a red and white1957 Nash Metropolitan sedan, Sue Hewlett was among more than 300 bikers and drivers hoping to bring attention to child abuse and remember the 231 Texas children who died from abuse or neglect in 2011.
March 26, 2012
by Adam D. Young
Sue Hewlett said she was impressed by the respectful waves and drivers pulling over to the shoulder of Lubbock freeways as a caravan of rumbling motorcycles and vintage cars covered in blue ribbons drove through Lubbock on a mission to raise awareness Saturday.
“I think people thought this was a funeral procession and, really, since it was a memorial, it kind of was,” Hewlett said.
Driving a red and white1957 Nash Metropolitan sedan, Hewlett was among more than 300 bikers and drivers hoping to bring attention to child abuse and remember the 231 Texas children who died from abuse or neglect in 2011.
“I think this cause is so great because we're trying to help children who can't help themselves,” Hewlett said.
Motorists in the slowly moving caravan wore the ribbons saying “It shouldn't hurt to be a child.” They drove more than 10 miles across the Hub City as part of the annual Memory Ride and Candlelight Vigil organized by the Family Guidance and Outreach Center of Lubbock. The center works to prevent child abuse.
The ride ended with a vigil where organizers read the name of each child killed in 2011 as those in the audience lit an electronic candle for each child.
With the reading of each of the names such as 11-year-old Santana, 6-year-old Addison, 5-month-old Carter and 2-year-old Eva, the darkened sanctuary of Second Baptist Church got a little brighter.
“We want to represent light as life,” said Troy Deaton, coordinator for the vigil and a volunteer for Family Guidance.
Speaking to the crowd of more than 300 gathered in the church, Lubbock Criminal District Attorney Matt Powell explained part of his inspiration for fighting child abuse comes from early in his 20-year career as a prosecutor.
He said he often thinks of the first child abuse case he prosecuted — that of a 6-year-old girl who was the victim of sexual abuse.
He told the crowd he keeps a Polaroid photo of the girl in his desk drawer in the Lubbock County Courthouse.
“Every day it reminds me why I do my job and why you guys are here,” he said.
Powell recalled being asked how anyone could abuse a child. He said he could not give an answer.
“It takes a special kind of evil to do things to kids,” Powell said.
Lubbock Mayor Tom Martin read a proclamation marking April as National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
He condemned child abuse as a crime that “damages the fiber of our society.”
The Family Guidance and Outreach Center will wrap up Child Abuse Awareness Month with its 14th-annual Blue Ribbon Rally Car and Bike Show April 28 in the Depot Entertainment District, according to the organization.
Abuse trial may open window on Catholic church
High-ranking priest charged in sex cases
by Maryclaire Dale
Sunday, March 25, 2012
PHILADELPHIA — A landmark sex-abuse trial opening Monday in Philadelphia may unveil the operations of a Roman Catholic archdiocese and detail how children's complaints were buried for decades in secret archives next to a soaring cathedral as the priests they named went unpunished.
Monsignor William Lynn is the first U.S. church official ever charged with endangering children by failure to oust accused predators from ministry. But he may not be the last.
Philadelphia prosecutors say he helped carry out “an archdiocesan-wide policy … [that] was criminal in nature.” And they have hinted that they could charge others when the trial ends.
Civil lawyers believe the trial will help them refile priest-abuse lawsuits that were thrown out in Pennsylvania because of legal time limits, or persuade the state legislature to open a window for filing child sex-abuse claims.
“The evidence that has come out about the conspiracy and the cover-up and the level of officialdom involved in it is going to help us,” said lawyer Jay Abramowitch, whose priest-abuse lawsuit involving 18 accusers was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2005.
Also on trial is the Rev. James J. Brennan who, like Father Lynn, has pleaded not guilty. Last week, a third man facing trial, defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison and ordered to surrender within 10 days.
Father Lynn, 61, remains the focal point of the trial because he was the secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.
Father Lynn argues that he prepared a list of 37 accused priests in 1994, and sent it to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua - only for Bevilacqua to have it shredded. The cardinal died this year, but his videotaped deposition could be played at trial.
The trial will be followed by concerned Catholics across the country, including some who say their lives were destroyed.
“It gives me hope that it's going to raise public awareness, and it's going to expose the church - what they knew, when they knew it,” said Art Baselice Jr. of Mantua, N.J., a retired Philadelphia homicide detective.
His son, Arthur III, overdosed in 2006, after his civil suit accusing a Philadelphia priest of abuse was thrown out.
Father Lynn faces two counts each of conspiracy and child endangerment and up to 28 years in prison if convicted.
Four others - two priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher - were charged with rape. The report involves just two accusers. One man says he was passed around by two priests, including then-Father Avery, and his Catholic school teacher in 1998 and 1999.
“When Mass was ended, Fr. Avery took the fifth-grader into the sacristy, turned on the music, and ordered him to perform a ‘striptease' for him, … When they were both naked, the priest had the boy sit on his lap and kissed his neck and back, while saying to him that God loved him,” the report alleges, followed by oral sex and penetration.
Defense attorneys plan to attack accusers' motives, arguing that they are out for money or hope to explain away their troubled lives. Both accusers have criminal records and a history of drug addiction.
How to combat sex trafficking in massage parlors
WASHINGTON , March 25, 2012—Law enforcement officials across the U.S. agree that sex trafficking in massage parlors continues despite efforts to curb the practice. However, the recent success against the sex trade in massage parlors in Georgia demonstrates that there may be a path to combat the crime without employing extensive manpower.
The case of Macon city, Georgia, demonstrates that stringent law helps local law enforcement stomp out sex trafficking in Asian massage parlors. The new ordinance mandates that massage parlors in the city have a business license, and requires that massage parlor owners disclose previous criminal convictions and submit to a background investigation before opening a business in the city. It also requires all masseuses to possess a license to perform therapeutic massages.
Before the new legislation, Macon city was a perfect spot for sex trafficking in massage parlors. Atlanta, one of the biggest hubs of sex trafficking in the country, is only 100 miles from Macon, Georgia. Because of its close proximity to the highway, the city attracts truck drivers and johns on business trips who stop to exploit sex-workers in Macon. Prior to the new regulation, the city had around 15 Asian massage parlors offering sexual services.
Macon's new ordinance also empowers the local police, giving them a tool to catch the predators. Instead of having to rely on intense undercover sting operations, which require prolonged investigations, local police now have the authority to perform random inspections in the parlors to fight sex trafficking and prostitution.
Warner-Robins, another small city near Atlanta, Georgia, also retains a strict law against massage parlor prostitution. Since 1976, the city has forbidden any adult entertainment business owners who have committed a misdemeanor, including prostitution, from obtaining permits and licenses to practice for two years.
The city requires that all employees dress modestly and that all customers have their genitals covered during the massage session. Also, it holds owners accountable for adhering to the regulations. The law requires that owners ensure that their employees do not come into contact with the genitals of customers. In the event of a violation, both employer and masseuse are subject to license or permit revocation for two years.
The regulation grants the local police authority to perform random inspections at any time during business operation hours.
Prior to the new ordinance, Macon City was a hub of massage parlor prostitution and sex trafficking. In 2008, police arrested over 20 people at eight different businesses operating as massage parlors. The police said that the charges included “keeping a house of prostitution, masturbation for hire, solicitation of prostitution and simple prostitution.”
During the operation, police found two women who they believed to be trafficking victims. One of the victims was held under debt bondage to pay off fees to human traffickers who smuggled her from her home country to the United States. Traffickers also forced her into prostitution in various massage parlors throughout the East Coast. Another woman disappeared after police released her from custody.
Research shows that the new legislation reduced the rampant prostitution and sex trafficking in massage parlors. Since the new legislation took effect, The Telegraph, a local news media in Macon, reported in 2010 that four out of twelve massage parlor raided in 2008 were either out of business or moved elsewhere. The storefronts remained empty in 2010. Two of them continue to operate but do not advertise massage services according to the Telegraph.
Critics argue that the strict laws in Macon and Warner-Robins did not necessarily end massage-parlor prostitution and sex trafficking in the area. Three of the twelve businesses raided in 2008 continued to advertise massages in 2010. In 2010, two of these businesses also had their employees arrested for prostitution-related charges.
Warner-Robins city currently retains six businesses advertised as Asian spas or chiropractic businesses, but no erotic massage parlors openly advertise in the area.
In areas without tough legislation, rampant sex trafficking in massage parlors continues. In Los Angeles, California, lax regulation has led to spikes in prostitution and sex trafficking in massage parlors in the city.
Since 2009, California state law created “voluntary state certification for massage therapists.” Though the city regulation classifies massage parlors as adult entertainment, licensed therapists do not have to apply for police permits, which would require them to submit to background checks and fingerprinting by the local law enforcement.
To make matters worse, Los Angeles permits another loophole by failing to require massage parlor owners to show their state certification at all times. Currently, Los Angeles has 95 erotic massage parlors openly operating as brothels.
Macon and Warner-Robins have come a long way to fight the crime. Still, the authorities must close remaining loopholes in the legislation. They should crack down not only on massage parlors, but also on other businesses used by traffickers, such as acupuncture clinics and spas. Asset forfeiture from traffickers or facilitators to assist victims is also vital to forbid re-victimization of young women in the brothels.
Youngbee Dale is a writer, researcher, and human rights advocate. She invites you to join her on Google+, facebook, or Twitter.
Bar Code Pimps: Prostitute Tattoos In Spain Mark Madrid Sex Traffic Police Bust
Spanish police have arrested 22 alleged pimps in connection with a prostitution ring in Madrid -- and some even allegedly tattooed their prostitutes as a sign of "ownership," the Associated Press reports.
The Daily Mail notes one 19-year-old woman held against her will had a bar code and an amount of money tattooed on her wrist by her pimp. Sex workers were allegedly inked with the distinct marks after escape attempts to denote their "owners" and how much money they owed their pimps, the paper writes. The freed woman claims to have been whipped, chained to a radiator and having had her hair and eyebrows shaved off as punishment from her illicit proprietor, according to the AP.
Police are referring to the gang as the "bar code pimps," according to reports, and 22 suspected pimps have been arrested, all of Romanian nationality. In addition to the arrests, police seized more than $185,000 in cash, illegal firearms, swords, machetes, gold jewelry and luxury vehicles, CNN notes.
One of the ring leaders, by the name of Iancu T., was also wanted in his country for crimes related to prostitution, La Razón reports. Iancu allegedly made false promises of legitimate work to women to ensnare them, only to force the women into prostitution in various clubs throughout the community of Madrid as well as along Calle Montera, a street in central Madrid. According to Spanish newspaper ABC, Calle Montera holds an infamous reputation for hosting dozens of prostitutes at all hours in the heart of Spain's capital.
Iancu and the two clans implicated in the bust often called their sex slaves "packages," "suitcases" and "bicycles," according to CNN. The pimps monitored their "packages" on Calle Montera from a number of apartments they owned and used for turning tricks, La Razón notes.
AP reports sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry in Spain, where the legalities of prostitution fall into a legal grey area. Pimping is outlawed, while prostitution is not regulated. Most of Spain's sex laborers are poor immigrants from South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.