Child Abuse: A silent epidemic
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
— Albert Einstein
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
These statements have inspired me during the past 15 years to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our community: child victims of sexual abuse. One in four females and one in six males will be sexually assaulted before 18, and less than 20 percent of those children will report the abuse. Ninety-one percent of sex offenders are a family member, relative or a person known to the victim and his or her family.
There is no “profile” for victims or offenders. Sex abuse cuts across ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economic lines. Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic in our community.
The investigation and prosecution of child sex abuse cases is extremely difficult for several reasons. These cases boil down to the word of a child against the word of an adult. Adults have a built-in bias against children's ability to report facts accurately. Adults are more likely to believe other adults.
Contrary to popular belief, videotaped statements made by children are not a substitute for testifying in court. Child victims must testify in open court and in the presence of the accused. They are subject to cross-examination just like any adult witness.
There are no eyewitnesses to child sex abuse. It is a crime of secrecy. Only two people are present when the crime takes place: the child and the offender.
Reports of abuse are often delayed because the child is abused by someone he or she loves and trusts. Children don't report abuse due to fear, shame, embarrassment, guilt and attempting to protect relatives.
When reports of sex abuse are delayed, forensic evidence cannot be recovered. Law enforcement and medical personnel cannot collect what is not present. Evidence of physical injury or trauma is present in less than 6 percent of child sexual abuse cases.
In short, children make the perfect victim.
Investigation and prosecution of these cases has long been a priority in the Texas Panhandle. The Bridge, our local children's advocacy center, plays a pivotal role by facilitating a coordinated approach to child abuse investigations by bringing together a team of professionals trained to handle child sex-abuse reports. This coordinated team approach causes less trauma to child victims than traditional investigative methods. The goal is to find the truth — no matter what the truth is.
We each have a role in fighting this epidemic in our community. What can you do?
~ Educate yourself :It is critical we accept and understand that “stranger danger” is not the problem. A sex offender knows his victims and their families. He is a trusted friend, family member or close relative. He probably has no criminal history and is viewed by others as an ordinary person.
Learn how to recognize and respond to child abuse. Officials at The Bridge provide free education programs for civic, religious, educational and other community-based organizations.
For more information, go to www.bridgecac.org
Learn what to teach your children and arm them with knowledge. A well-respected local psychotherapist, Troy Timmons, has written “Mommy Please Read This.” The book is reader-friendly and offers examples of how to talk with your child about preventing sex abuse.
For more information, go to www.troytimmons.com
~ Report: Texas law states, when a person has “cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect” a report must be made. This mandatory reporting requirement applies to every adult in the state. Anonymous reports can be made by calling 1-800-252-5400, going online to txabusehotline.org or by contacting local law enforcement.
~ Support : Recognize the dedicated professionals from law enforcement, children's protective services, nurses, doctors, mental health care providers, attorneys and volunteers who deal with child abuse cases.
You can help by donating your time or money to The Bridge.
Do not look on and do nothing. Refuse to be silent “about things that matter.”
Together, we can make the voices of children heard. Together, we can demand justice and provide healing to child abuse victims in our community.
Amy L. Rhoades is a Randall County assistant district attorney and is president of the board of The Bridge.
Oregon State's five efforts work to help prevent child abuse
Child abuse and neglect take place at home and at the hands of someone the child knows well, usually a parent.
In Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties in 2010, there were 3,869 investigations into reports of child abuse and neglect — and 1,481 victims. These children had been neglected or physically, sexually or emotionally abused. These incidents can have physical, psychological and behavioral effects for children and families that last lifetimes, even generations.
As a result of abuse and neglect, 2,165 local children spent time in foster care because they could not remain safely at home. While foster care is essential to keep some children safe, it is a temporary service.
We know children need a more permanent place to grow up than foster care offers. We know we can do better at keeping children safely at home or with relatives. With strong community involvement, we believe we can improve outcomes for our children and families. Here are five ways we are working to prevent child abuse and keep children safe in their families:
First, the state is working to create a new, cross-systems and community-based “Differential Response” model for child welfare that focuses on safety and allows child welfare flexibility to respond to the family's issues without taking the child into foster care. Differential response would only occur in low- and moderate-risk families. The family's strengths and needs are assessed and services provided to support the parent continuing to safely take care of the child and connect with community supports.
Second, drug and alcohol issues are the largest single factor in 44 percent of child abuse cases. If we can address substance abuse issues with parents, we can help children stay safe and at home.
Third, another big factor is domestic violence. We have strong collaborative relationships between child welfare staff and local domestic violence programs and advocates. Strengthening those relationships will improve our ability to keep children safely at home.
Fourth, family supports and parent mentors can provide many types of assistance to families facing challenges with parenting. Support programs can intervene, prevent and correct the conditions threatening the in-home stability of children and the maintenance of the core family.
Fifth, when a child cannot stay safely at home with parents, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the courts — more than ever before — actively seek to locate relatives to find safe, positive and supportive families who can step in to care for the child for a short period, often while the parents deal with drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and anger issues, or to get family support services. Relatives provide stability and connection during a traumatic time for a child.
These five new ways of working with families represent a significant change and continuing improvement for Oregon. The efforts are based on research that demonstrates that outcomes for children, families and communities are better when children are raised in their families and supported by their community.
Everyone has a role to play to report child abuse. If a child is being hurt or is in danger right now, call 911 immediately. Local law enforcement and community child welfare workers respond to child abuse and neglect reports.
If the report isn't an emergency, you can report to local DHS officials during office hours by calling (503) 378-6704 (Marion and Polk) or (503) 472-4634 (Yamhill), then pressing “0” and asking for a screener.
Rene DuBoise of Salem is the DHS district manager for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Knowledge helps curb child abuse
by Melissa HADDOW
Nearly 10 years ago, Community Partnership was looked to for help in developing a coordinated mandated reporter training for Greene County. After much examination, we realized there were multiple versions of trainings being presented with many different messages and facts – and not all of them correct.
In response, leaders from Community Partnership, Child Advocacy Center, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Children's Division spent over eight months developing a user friendly and accurate training that would ensure consistency among those who use it. The resulting three-hour training is coordinated by Community Partnership, and taught by Jill Patterson and providers from the original agencies. We offer the training several times a year at public locations, as well as on-site for large groups. A video of the training was also produced, updated last year and can be utilized if an agency would rather conduct the trainings internally.
This training was well received by professionals, but as we know all too well, child abuse rates continued to climb, and in 2007, Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, came to Springfield to speak at a conference designed to introduce his vision for ending child abuse. He challenged us as a community to do more, and we responded to his plea in so many ways – Isabel's House, a training program at Missouri State University and new legislation to help children who must testify. Victor also validated what we were already doing to ensure more individuals received consistent mandated reporter training.
Since his first visit, we have seen an increase in calls for the training; not only in actual numbers, but in the types of individuals being trained. Victor stressed that preventing child abuse and neglect was everyone's responsibility, was very clear regarding the legal and moral ramifications if one did not report suspected abuse or neglect, and left no doubt that reducing this egregious crime against children demanded a community response.
It is clear to us that the need to act as a mandated reporter and the responsibility to receive training is much more widely accepted today than five to 10 years ago. We train larger groups on-site every year, and the diversity of those asking for this training continues to grow. We provide training to groups such as youth serving organizations, churches, human service agencies, libraries, and foster parents in addition to teachers, childcare workers and others on the front line. To date, Community Partnership has coordinated trainings for over 4,000 individuals; however, thousands more use our videos each year.
Ending child abuse and neglect will take many things, and perhaps most importantly, many people. For it is people who must care enough to learn what they need to know to recognize when a child may need help and make that call. And, it is people that ultimately must care enough to come together and provide safety nets to prevent abuse and neglect. There is a place for each one of us to do the right thing.
SIU students march for child abuse awareness
by Arnold Wyrick
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -
April is the month that many communities across the nation and here in the Heartland take time to bring awareness to children who are abused.
And on Saturday afternoon dozens of Southern Illinois University students marched around their campus to show their concern and to learn more about child abuse.
"I hope that people realize that child abuse is a serious problem," said Nicolettee Winn a junior psychology major and abuse survivor. "And also that children who are being abused understand that people care about them. And realize they can seek help."
Speaking out about out the abuse is the first step for many children that can be hard to take. And that is why abuse counselors at The Women's Center in Carbondale say it's important for adults to listen.
"Children can heal from it. But they may not forget about it," said Patti Weyhrich, child therapist at The Women's Center. " But a really significant factor in a child healing from any kind of abuse is, when they know they've got an adult who is going to be there to help them and believe them."
Winn wanted to bring her message of awareness about child abuse to her fellow college classmates to help them understand how they can help kids who have been, or are being abused.
"I think it's very important for a college age student to understand child abuse. Because we can also serve as a role model to children and teens who maybe going through a situation. And we can help them see that they can get out of that situation and succeed."
Expo to raise awareness of child abuse draws 500
by Eugene Scott
About 500 people gathered Saturday to encourage Arizonans to become increasingly vocal in the fight against child abuse.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Coalition kicked off National Child Abuse Prevention Month with an expo at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler featuring more than 20 Valley organizations committed to bringing more attention to the issue in Arizona.
In 2010, Arizona Child Protective Services received more than 35,000 reports of child abuse involving about 54,000 children.
While kids played in bounce houses, dunk tanks and made crafts Saturday, organizers emphasized the seriousness of child-abuse prevention through various speakers.
“What I want is for people to recognize that this problem belongs to all of us. We all have to respond to this,” said Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler.
If people suspect that a child is being harmed, they should err on the side of caution, she said.
“If it looks suspicious, it probably is,” Kiyler said. “There's no harm in calling.”
Robert Bell, chairman of the coalition, said the tough economy has increased stress levels, and some parents take out their frustrations on their children.
“While there's been a national decline in overall incidents, there's been no such decline in Arizona,” he said. “In fact, the severity is getting worse.”
In 2010, the deaths of 70 children were attributed to child abuse, according to the Child Fatality Report. The number was 64 in 2009 and 51 in 2008, Bell said.
On average, one child is abused or neglected every hour in Arizona, according to Childhelp Children's Center of Arizona, an advocacy organization for abused children.
A 16-year-old high-school sophomore shared her story of fleeing the abusive home that she had been trapped inside for eight years. She told attendees that abuse victims could be their neighbors, classmates, family or friends.
“I want people to know that child abuse is not a small matter. It messes with kids and it ruins their lives,” she said. “People are being hurt. I was going to die, and no one would have known because they didn't even know that I was alive.”
Employees of Edward Jones, an investment-services company, raised funds for Free Arts for Abused Children, a Phoenix-based non-profit that uses the arts in the therapeutic process for abused children, through the Valley of the Sun United Way. Employees hosted a crafts table for kids at the expo.
“We are here today just so we could kind of see where our dollars are going and see the impact that we can make when we all come together as a community,” said Leah Vance, chairwoman of Edward Jones' United Way efforts.
Teniqua Broughton, program director for Free Arts for Abused Children, said companies have a responsibility to address their community's social ills.
“We (non-profits) can not do this alone. Everybody's support is important,” she said. When you volunteer, “you are being an active citizen in the community for a cause that is present and visible right here and now.”
Child abuse awareness
Protect Your Church … Protect Your Children — Complying with Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Laws is a training program being offered by Summit County Children Services to area churches from 9 a.m. to noon April 21 at Children Services headquarters, 264 S. Arlington St., Akron.
“Community education manager Julia Mothersbaugh, church leaders and lay members will gain a better understanding of child abuse and neglect reporting laws,” spokesman Chris Vasco said. “The training will follow the curriculum set forth by law and will include an overview of child welfare and Summit County Children Services; statistical information; definitions of the indicators of child abuse and neglect; a discussion of mandated reporting; and strategies for intervention, strengthening of families and prevention of child abuse.
“Participants will also receive a special Child Abuse & Neglect Awareness Kit that includes educational information and materials that can be shared with clergy leaders and lay members of church congregations.”
Registration is required. Call 330-379-2090 or register online at www.summitkids.org .
Child Abuse Training Session Set
ASHVILLE - A state-mandated training session for professionals on identifying and reporting child abuse, maltreatment and neglect will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the large group room in the Hewes Educational Center, Route 394, Ashville.
The training is required for all those applying for a provisional or permanent certificate of license valid for administrative or supervisory service, classroom teaching service or school service. In addition to teachers and school administrators, the mandate affects school physicians, nurses, therapists and others in the health care and education fields.
Participants should bring their license or certificate number with them if possible. A state Education Department certificate of completion will be provided for each course participant. A $30 fee will be charged. To register, call 800-344-9611 or 672-4371, ext. 2145. Participants should be at the training site at least 15 minutes before the course begins.
The session is provided by the School and Societal Perspectives Program of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.
Child Abuse Prevention Month Community urged to 'Wear Blue to Work'
by AMANDA ROLIK
WOOSTER -- Community members will be encouraged to wear the color blue to work Wednesday to help represent child abuse and neglect prevention.
Wear Blue to Work day will take place Wednesday and will serve as a way to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event is a statewide campaign being promoted locally by Wayne County Children Services.
Other events this month have included the "planting" of pinwheels in the ground in front of the Children Services building. Like wearing blue, the pinwheels are meant to serve as a symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention.
According to Bethany Sherrieb, social services supervisor, more than 1,200 pinwheels were planted in front of the building.
The tradition of placing pinwheels in the ground was started to establish an easy-to-recognize symbol for child abuse prevention, Sherrieb said.
"The twirling and sparkling meant to be reflective of the bright future all children deserve ... our belief is, we want to try to get it right with children early on, early prevention is really what we want to do," Sherrieb said.
One of the things Children Services offers to help prevent child abuse and neglect is parenting classes. The classes are broken up into two sections, one for parents of children up to age 4, and one for parents of children ages 5-12. The classes are not only for the families that the agency serves, but they focus on families who have issues with physical discipline and try to teach alternatives.
"We talk about how to communicate with children, how to manage children's stress, (and) how to model appropriate behavior for kids," said Sherrieb.
Those interested can call the agency at 330-345-5340 to register.
On April 19 at 7 a.m., the Child Abuse Prevention Month Community Breakfast will be held at the Shisler Conference Center at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. The breakfast will be open to the public. Contact Lisa Cygan at 330-345-5345, Ext. 2331, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On April 28 at 10 a.m., the Children's Advocacy Center will hold an open house at its new location of 1734 Gasche St.
Local Non-Profit Kicks Off Child Abuse Awareness Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and IOLS Seeks to Raise Awareness, Promote Strong Families.
McHenry County, IL- During the month of April, It's Our Little Secret (IOLS) www.itsourlittlesecret.org , a non-profit charity operating in McHenry County, invites civic organizations and community members to participate in activates geared toward raising awareness about child abuse and resources available to promote strong families.
As part of the month-long effort, IOLS has launched their Blue Ribbon campaign geared to promoting this cause. Students of the Social Science Club of McHenry County College pledged their support by organizing a blue ribbon tree decorating event and hosting a fundraiser at the school. Community libraries have also been supportive by providing materials to promote the, “Art for Healing” art contest geared for kids.
Additionally, mayors in Huntley, Woodstock, Crystal Lake and Cary have all issued formal proclamations declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in their respective communities.
Child abuse impacts every facet of a community, including imposing a financial strain that is preventable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that the cost of child abuse nationally is $124 billion, equal to the costs of stroke and heart disease 1 . Researchers from the CDC analyzed 1,740 fatal and 579,000 nonfatal cases of child maltreatment over the course of one year and found that the lifetime cost for each victim of nonfatal child maltreatment was $210,012.
IOLS is helping to combat the causes of child abuse and support victims through education and empowerment programs that engage the larger community.
Area residents are invited to participate by accessing resources on the group's website www.itsourlittlesecret.org and in a family event, 2nd Annual 5 K Run/Walk, “Race for Change,” to be held on April 29 at Deicke Park, 11419 Illinois 47 in Huntley, IL. Space is still available for those interested in participating or helping to sponsor this event.
Child abuse stats improve, but still cause for alarm
by Alex George
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, and statistics show the Mother Lode is in desperate need of raising its awareness.
In 2011, 8 percent of Calaveras County children were victims of child abuse or maltreatment according to UC-Berkeley's Center for Social Services . These figures are alarmingly higher than the state average, which found only 5 percent of all California children to be victims of abuse.
While most county communities are not far off the state average, Mountain Ranch, Copperopolis, San Andreas, and Glencoe had disturbingly high numbers of incident reports last year: 10.8 percent of children in Mountain Ranch, 11 percent of children in Copperopolis, 12.5 percent of children in San Andreas and nearly 30 percent of all children in Glencoe have experienced one form of maltreatment or another. Although only 44 children lived in Glencoe as of 2011, 13 were reported to be victims.
Robin Davis, a coordinator with First 5 Calaveras and Prevent Child Abuse Council Calaveras, said these percentages represent reports of allegations only.
“After investigation, an average of 14 percent (of reports) are found to be substantiated,” Davis said. “Often it is hard to substantiate forms such as emotional and sexual abuse.”
Statistics in neighboring counties Amador and Tuolumne are not much better, as both counties are hovering around the 8 percent mark.
While these figures may raise some eyebrows, Davis said she has seen a 15 percent decrease in reporting from last year to this year.
“We've been discussing these numbers for years, and there are numerous reasons why reporting could go down but we have not determined the exact reason,” Davis said. “The things that have stayed the same are the types of abuse. … Meth, abuse of prescription pills and domestic violence are huge problems that contribute to a large number of cases that result in intervention for families.”
While figures have dropped from 786 reports in Fiscal Year 2010-2011 to 664 reports in Fiscal Year 2011-2012, Davis said more than half of all reports are general neglect.
Mikey Habbestad of Child Protective Services Calaveras said neglect encompasses any form of abuse where the child's health or safety is in danger.
“If you can show me how your kids are being fed, clothed, and kept warm then we can't do anything,” Habbestad said. “We have had families living in cars or tents, but as long as the children's health and safety are not in jeopardy we will not take action.”
While Davis said drug abuse is usually a major component to child maltreatment, drug use is not necessarily grounds for removal of a child.
“Someone can be using legal or illegal drugs, but as long as there are no health dangers, I would not remove that child from their parents,” Habbestad said.
In cases involving substance abuse, Habbestad said CPS will refer parents to the Department of Behavioral Health for treatment as well as First 5 Calaveras for parent education. As for victims, Child Protective Services has a contract with Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital that places children into counseling.
While both Habbestad and Davis could not attribute the numbers to a single factor, Habbestad said the struggling economy has exacerbated matters.
“I think unemployment has created a strain on families in some ways,” Habbestad said.
Elected officials rally behind Child Advocacy Center, one abuse survivor tells how the center helped her
by Malarie Haven
Thanks to caring adults and the Child Advocacy Center, one young woman can sleep in peace at night.
Amber, an 18-year-old survivor of childhood sexual abuse, shared her story with area government leaders and law enforcement officers Monday at the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville during a kickoff luncheon for the CAC's annual blue ribbon campaign.
“This annual fundraiser has a two-fold purpose,” CAC Director Leslie Wright said. “First of all it raises much needed funding for the CAC. This year, the center lost over $42,000 in funding and is expecting additional cuts next year. Secondly, the campaigns designed to raise awareness.”
The CAC works with law enforcement and the district attorney's office to help cases of child abuse and provides therapy and counseling for abused children, along with other services that help the fight against child abuse.
The CAC helped Amber gain the courage to testify in court against her father, who began raping her when she was 10 years old. Although Amber said she knew she “couldn't keep going through this,” fear kept her silent and she struggled with the abuse and hurt for years.
Amber then recalled the horrific events of the night her father went so far as to rape a friend that was spending the night with her.
“My father is a big man,” she said. “There was nothing we could do.”
The friend went to an adult and turned the perpetrator in, leading to his arrest. With regular counseling and support from the CAC, Amber gained the confidence to stand in court and share her story. Because of her testimony, the man was convicted and sent to prison.
“My father took one thing from me, and that was my childhood,” Amber said. “I could never sleep in my own bed or take a shower because I was afraid he would rape me. Now I can knowing he won't hurt me anymore.”
Today Amber still undergoes counseling at the CAC while she puts her life back together. She is making plans to attend the prom soon.
Amber proudly calls herself “a survivor.” She hopes her story will help other children overcome similar problems and “change the state” by ending childhood abuse.
“I never liked being a victim, but I love being a survivor,” she said. “I want children who are abused to know that it's not their fault. The Child Advocacy Center was a wonderful thing for me. I couldn't do it by myself. Now I can stand up for myself. I can save another child's life.”
District Attorney Steve Marshall thanked law enforcement officers, state legislators, municipal and county leaders and other “champions f or Amber” for their support of the CAC.
“If it wasn't for the CAC, I don't know if she would have ever been able to get in the stand and get the results we wanted,” he said.
With teary eyes, the municipal leaders also thanked Amber for her courage and the CAC staff members for their work as they signed a proclamation for the blue ribbon campaign.
Residents can help the cause by purchasing a T-shirt from the CAC. The shirts are available in the colors of fuchsia and sand and display a logo that says “Because I Care.” They are available for $11 and $12, and CAC leaders are asking all supporters to wear the shirt every Friday throughout the month. Donations are also appreciated.
For more information on the CAC or to order a shirt, visit www.marshallcac. org or call 256-582-8492.
California Ex-teacher arrested for sex abuse of minor
MODESTO, Calif. - A former California teacher who made national headlines when he left his job and family to move in with an 18-year-old student was arrested Friday on suspicion of sexually abusing a different student more than a decade ago, police said.
Christopher Hooker, 41, was arrested at his home and booked in Stanislaus County Jail on one count of oral copulation with a minor.
Police said the case stems from a 1998 relationship he had with a 17-year-old student when he was a teacher at Davis High School in Modesto. The girl was a student at a different school, police said.
Hooker appeared in court Friday. A judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, set his bail at $50,000 and assigned him a public defender, the Modesto Bee reported.
Hooker requested that his bail amount be reduced, and the judge set a hearing for Tuesday to consider the matter.
Police said the investigation started after Hooker announced his relationship in February with Jordan Powers, whom he taught at Enochs High School in Modesto.
The underage victim was discovered in the course of that investigation, police said.
Appearing on numerous national talk shows and in news interviews, Hooker and Powers maintained they didn't have a sexual relationship until she turned 18, but police are still investigating whether there was inappropriate contact before that.
In interviews for the "Dr. Phil" show and ABC's "Good Morning America," the couple can be seen holding hands and exchanging smiles.
Powers' mother, Tammie, confronted the couple on "Dr. Phil" and accused Hooker of brainwashing her daughter.
The couple maintains that, while they met when Jordan was 14, their relationship did not become physical until she was of age, making it permissible under current laws. California's age of consent is 18.
In response to the couple's relationship, a state lawmaker from Modesto last week proposed legislation that would ban student-teacher relationships regardless of age, even if the student is 18, and strip school employees of their pensions and retiree health care if they are convicted.
Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen said her bill would prevent teachers from grooming students for relationships once they became adults. The bill would also forbid suggestive communication such as sexual text messages.
National Human Trafficking Symposium Aims to Bring an End to Modern-Day Slavery
SALT LAKE CITY, April 6, 2012 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Justice will host a national symposium to confront the growing problem of human trafficking, with an emphasis on children and women, and to lay the groundwork for training programs to combat this tragic practice. The 2012 Trafficking In Persons Symposium will be held April 10-13 in Salt Lake City. Federal, state and local law enforcement leaders, educators, victim advocates, survivors and other experts from the U.S., Mexico and Canada will gather to develop training and programs to stop human trafficking.
The DOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, through Fox Valley Technical College, will be facilitating the symposium with assistance from academic partners from Southern Methodist University, University of Texas-El Paso, Arizona State University, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University. The symposium will introduce scholarly work, legal expertise and field experience for law enforcement, education, medical and faith-based organizations working with human trafficking victims.
Participants will hear from U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah David Barlow, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, "Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth" film producer Morgan Perry and representatives from the FBI, U.S. Department of Human Services as well as prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates from Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee and Utah. General sessions and panels will be open to the media and interviews can be arranged with some of the participants.
What: 2012 Trafficking in Persons Symposium
When: 8:00 a.m., Tuesday April 10 to 12:00 p.m., Friday, April 13, 2012
Where: Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 South West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah
Child Abuse Prevention Month aims to educate
by Tyler Ellyson
Carter Ziemba, left, and Randy McCollough place pinwheels into the grass outside of Central Nebraska Community Services Inc., Wednesday afternoon for Pinwheels for Prevention.
COLUMBUS — Each of the 658 pinwheels displayed outside the Center for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors represents a child the agency served last year.
Hundreds more placed in the lawns at Central Nebraska Community Services Head Start and Emerson Elementary School serve as symbols to get city residents thinking about children and their safety.
The pinwheels began popping up this week as part of Pinwheels for Prevention, a national campaign conducted each year since 2008 as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“It's just something very visible to remind people,” said Tammy Bichlmeier, executive director of Connect Columbus, which sponsors a local Child Abuse Prevention Council using state resources.
Bichlmeier said annual community needs assessments continue to show a need for additional positive parenting skills and concern over child abuse reports.
The goal this month is to get as much information as possible into the hands of citizens regarding child abuse and neglect.
“It's just a great time for us to talk about it,” said Erin Nahorny, children's services director at the Center for Survivors.
The number of children served by the center last year — including 398 who attended Building Healthy Relationships classes at 12 area schools — increased by nearly 25 percent from 2010.
Half the center's programs are geared toward prevention and education, but Nahorny said children are often afraid to talk.
That's why it's important for the community to look for warning signs.
“We all have to take responsibility for that,” Nahorny said.
This month, the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Columbus is providing parent tip sheets through CNCS Head Start, as well as other child care providers and programs that serve families.
A “Darkness 2 Light” training course is also being offered free of charge to individuals interested in learning more about how to identify and prevent child sexual abuse. That event is scheduled for 6:15 to 9 p.m. April 17 at 1C Church, 3405 21st St.
The Center for Survivors has several other programs designed to help children and teens learn about physical and emotional abuse, bullying, dating violence and sexual assault.
Nahorny said adults should watch for unexplained injuries or changes in a child's behavior as warning signs.
The children of battered women are also often abused, she said.
“For us, it's important to assess that when we meet with women,” said Nahorny.
Forty-nine women and 67 children were sheltered at the center last year.
Ginger Maughan, a family consultant at CNCS Head Start, believes this month's educational effort is key to reducing the number of abused children here.
“The more educated the families are, the less likely they are to abuse,” she said.
And increased community awareness means more people will likely receive help and offenders will be held accountable, according to Nahorny.
“It's certainly not a problem that's going away,” she said.
If child abuse or neglect is suspected, people are encouraged to report the abuse to the Nebraska Child Protective Services hotline at 1-800-652-1999.
Childhood Emotional Abuse Can Damage Future Intimate Relationships
Childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM) can have lingering effects. Adults who suffered mistreatment as children often struggle emotionally and socially throughout their lives as a result of being neglected or emotionally abused. Although there is an abundance of literature and research that focuses on the negative impact of childhood maltreatment (CM) in general, there is little available clinical evidence documenting the devastating effects of CEM. It has been well established that CM, including sexual and physical abuse, can increase the risk for depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and a host of other emotional problems. However, for adults who experienced CEM, one of the most difficult challenges they face is cultivating a healthy romantic relationship.
CEM can significantly deteriorate one's self-esteem and erode an individual's ability to trust another person. Beliefs about one's value and worth and a bond of trust are the foundation of a healthy intimate relationship. This foundation can be further compromised when CEM survivors exhibit body image dissatisfaction, which is often manifested through disordered eating behaviors. To provide more detailed evidence of the long-term consequences of CEM on relationships, Dana Lassri of the Stress & Risk and Resilience Research Lab at the Department of Psychology at Ben-Gurion University in Israel examined the stability and satisfaction of intimate relationships in a sample of college students with a history of CEM in two separate studies. Lassri found that CEM directly impacted relationship fulfillment in the participants by way of self-criticism. Specifically, Lassri discovered that the participants with CEM had extremely low levels of self-value, exhibited difficulty coping with stress, and held negative attitudes about life events.
The results also revealed that the individuals who had posttraumatic stress due to the CEM were less able to realize their self-worth and had significant problems maintaining relationship satisfaction. This could be caused by internalizing behaviors due to the abuse or by a child's inability to properly comprehend their circumstances. Either way, Lassri believes that even though these findings were gathered from college-age individuals, the behaviors could potentially worsen throughout adulthood. Lassri added, “Over time, this tendency might be consolidated, becoming a defining part of a person's personality; and ultimately derailing relationships in general and romantic relationships in particular.”
Lassri, D., Shahar, G. (2012). Self-criticism mediates the link between childhood emotional maltreatment and young adults' romantic relationships.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 31.3, 289-311.
Course spotlights seriousness of child abuse issue
Since 1983, when April was designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, communities across the country have used this month-long observance to increase awareness of child abuse and its prevention.
To further awareness of the problem of child abuse in Wabash County, the Wabash County Special Advocate Program is hosting a double class at Wabash Valley College on Saturday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to noon. The training presenter is Denise McCaffrey, director of Prevention Awareness and Education with Prevent Child Abuse Illinois. The classes being presented are “The Effects of Methamphetamine on Children” and “The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children.”
Individuals can register for these classes at the office of Wabash County Special Advocate, located in the basement of the Wabash County Courthouse, or to obtain more information call Brenda Morehead at 618-262-4167.
According to Morehead, child abuse and neglect is a complex and ongoing problem in society, affecting many children in Wabash County. Every child is entitled to be loved, cared for, nurtured, feel secure and be free from verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse and neglect. Communities are stronger when all citizens become aware of child maltreatment prevention and become involved in supporting parents to raise their children in a safe and nurturing environment.
Effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships among families, social service agencies, schools, religious and civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community.
The Wabash County Special Advocate Program is one such program in Mt. Carmel. Special Advocates work daily to counter the problem of child maltreatment and help families obtain the assistance needed to give children a safe and nurturing childhood. As such, Wabash County Commissioners and the Mt. Carmel Mayor recently signed a “Child Abuse Prevention Month” proclamation for April 2012.
April puts child abuse in the spotlight
by Ann Mazzaferro
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, and in Calaveras County, April has also been declared “Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Month” by the county Board of Supervisors in an effort to bring awareness to the devastating effects of verbal and physical abuse.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse, at minimum, as “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
The four primary forms of child abuse recognized under this definition include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. California also recognizes exploitation as a form of child abuse, which can include child labor or sexual exploitation.
Recognizing child abuse when it's happening can be difficult. While physical abuse can leave visible marks that provide some clues, other forms of abuse can be more subtle in their expression.
“Children typically show psychological distress in sleep disturbances, mood swings, hypervigilence, fearful and/or aggressive behavior, bed wetting, hording food, eating disturbances, somatic complaints, learning difficulties, withdrawal, and avoidance,” said Anne Calderwood, a licensed clinical social worker who has been practicing in Murphys for more than 20 years. “Exposure to trauma or abuse often results in sudden changes in behavior. Early neglect can cause physical changes in the developing brain that result in developmental delays with lifelong impacts on learning and relationship capacities.”
Psychological and sexual abuse are expressed through additional subtle clues according to Calderwood.
“Children who are being psychologically abused can be clingy, feel hopeless, have low self-esteem, be quick to blame themselves or others, exhibit depressive symptoms, or seem burdened with too much worry. They may be drawn to activities that numb or distract them from feelings that are overwhelming. Children who have been sexually abused often model the sexual behavior and language they have been exposed to,” Calderwood said.
The impact of child abuse doesn't stop as the child grows. Denise Connich, a marriage and family therapist intern who is currently completing her hours with Dr. Judith Goglia in Murphys, notes that the impact of child abuse can reach well into adolescence and adulthood.
“People who have been abused as children can have difficulties with relationships, trust and present with significant behavior problems including emotional instability, depression and a tendency to be aggressive or violent with others,” Connich said. “Physiological symptoms include a higher incidence of stroke, cancer, heart disease, alcoholism and substance abuse among those who have been abused as children.”
Even forms of abuse that aren't directly committed against a child can be abusive to them. Mike Habbestad, Program Director for Calaveras Works and Human Services Agency, notes that witnessing trauma can be as traumatic for a child as having experienced it first-hand.
“Witnessing domestic violence can be emotionally abusive to children. It doesn't always mean it's emotionally abusive, but if it's going on we want to know about it, and find out how that child is feeling,” said Habbestad, who noted that reactions to emotional abuse can vary from child to child, even within the same family.
“Emotional abuse is very tricky. It's how the child internalizes what they've seen or heard that determines whether or not it's emotional abuse,” Habbestad said. “For example, you could have twins, and they could be told the same thing, hear the same thing or witness the same thing, and for one twin it could be like water off of a duck's back. However, for the twin who takes it so badly inside that they want to hurt themselves or somebody else, that child has been emotionally abused.”
Taking the steps to intervene when child abuse is suspected can be daunting, and many cases of child abuse go unreported because people are worried about inflaming the situation if they intervene, or that reporting the abuse could present harm to themselves or their families. However Robin Davis, Program Coordinator for First 5 Calaveras and Prevent Child Abuse Council Calaveras, stresses that reporting suspected abuse is vital.
“It's important that people know how to report. It's completely anonymous. There may be a fear of finding out ‘Who told,' but it's completely confidential. If you have reason to believe a child or adolescent has been or may be harmed, you must report it,” Davis said.
Habbestad echoed Davis's statements, noting that there are many ways that suspected abuse can be dealt with in order to preserve a child's well-being.
“If you suspect abuse, report it,” Habbestad said. “It doesn't mean we're going to go out and remove that child immediately; that's not the way we operate. But if there's something going on in the house, our job is to find out what the barrier is to this person being an effective parent, and to hook that person into the resources they need to remove those barriers.”
Those resources can include counseling, life skills coaching, parent-community education and support groups. Isolation often plays a large role in creating a risk-factor for child abuse, and in rural communities like Calaveras County, isolation is an even larger concern.
“Isolation is a contributing factor to stress,” said Davis. “Parents may wonder if they are making the right choices with their children – if they're doing it right. Those that attend parent workshops learn new tools to discipline children or handle frustration. Parenting is a stressful thing, and support can let them know they aren't alone.”
Calderwood noted that finding healthy ways to face the difficulties of parenting, be it through counseling, training or support groups, makes for a stronger family.
“You don't have to be perfect to be a parent, just a good enough parent to help a child develop the sense of love, trust and security needed to thrive.”
And for those youths out there suffering from abuse, Habbestad has one important message:
“Tell somebody. Tell your friends, tell your teacher, tell someone you trust, and hopefully that person will report it.”
With Seven Cases of Sexual Abuse in City Schools So Far This Year, One Brooklyn Mom is on Alert
Apr 5, 2012
by Carolina Küng and Khadijah Carter
Sitting on bench near the entrance to P.S. 262 in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon, Maddy Cruz patiently awaits for her daughters to come out of the doors. “I always tell my kids, ‘Don't talk to any adult.' I don't care who it it is,” she says, shaking her head.
Cruz's warnings to her children could not ring louder. Last year, 13 teachers were arrested for sexual misconduct, forcible touching and sex abuse across the country. But so far this year, over seven teachers and teachers' aides in New York City have faced similar accusations. The latest incident occurred on April 3 with the arrest of an assistant principal from P.S. 106 in the Bronx.
“Most parents do not talk to their kids about this,” Cruz says. As a survivor of sexual abuse by a family member, the mother of three is fully aware of the psychological and physical impact these incidents can have on a young life – and she makes sure that her two daughters, Skye, 12 and Jaylin, 5, know it too.
Since 1983, April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month—by presidential proclamation in 1983, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. April is also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The aim of both programs: to help communities prevent child and sexual abuse. With new cases of misconduct surfacing almost every day, this year April's awareness events seem more important than ever, especially for the parents of New York City school children.
The latest two cases in New York City involve an assistant principal, Joseph Ponzo , 59, from PS 106 school in Bronx – arrested just this Tuesday for allegedly cornering and touching two female students in the school corridor- and Esran Boothe , 49, a teacher at the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment in Crown Heights, who has been accused of grabbing the buttocks of a 16-year-old female student just last week. Ponzo is said to have turned himself in to the police late Tuesday evening, but no other information on his case is available at this time.
According to the Department of Education, Booth has officially been transferred out of his teaching position and into a “desk job” pending legal proceedings. Parents were assured via public communication by school Chancellor Dennis Walcott that the DOE is working hard to protect its students. Calls for comment about how the department is doing that were not returned.
The incidents have raised parental concerns. Cruz claims to be especially worried because she says her two girls are “nice” and come from a loving home that has brought them up to be confident and trusting.
“I have always been aware and I have always told my kids to watch out for the signs, because I am a survivor myself,” she says. But, “Teachers touching kids is a surprise to me. [Children] are supposed to trust teachers to take care of them.”
Cruz seems to have trained her youngsters to be alert. “If the bad person tries to touch your cookies, what do you say?” Cruz asks her youngest, Jaylin. Little Jaylin doesn't respond, but Skye is quick, “I would tell my mom, or a teacher, or maybe my counselor,” she says.
Government assistance and resource guides are important to help fight the problem once it happens, but preventing it from happening at all should be more of a priority, experts say.
Indeed, this year's awareness program is geared towards early prevention, both at home and in schools, writes Bryan Summers, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families on the organization's website. An extensive resource guide published by the The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is available for free online and also takes parents through the dangers and the signs of abuse as well as offering prevention techniques, both inside and outside of the home.
“It has been proven that effective early prevention efforts are less costly to our nation and to individuals than trying to fix things later,” Summers wrote.
A key aspect of prevention is communication between parents and their children. Too often, children are afraid to speak out against authority figures—such as teachers—and that can contribute to the repression of sexual assault incidents. And the longer that trauma is allowed to go on without parental or psychological support, the higher the chances are that children will develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, the NCTSN warns. Parents have to play an active role.
“I have been honest with my kids since they were old enough to know, that no one is allowed to touch them inappropriately,” Cruz says. “Secrets are not allowed [in our home]. If someone ever touches them inappropriately, I want to know. It can be the father, the brother, the uncle [or] the teachers especially because these kids trust and confide in teachers.”
Click here to listen to the interview: Sexual Abuse Survivor: Maddy Cruz
Besides encouraging their children to communicate, many New York City parents, like Cruz, have started demanding more scrutiny and safety in their children's schools. The public's backlash to the latest incidents has resulted in tighter supervision of student-teacher relationships, according to the Department of Education. The education department has begun reviewing older cases of alleged misconduct and it is also developing measures to control teacher-student interactions both inside and outside the classroom. According to an official statement released in February, Chancellor Walcott and the DOE are looking to constrict interaction between students and teachers on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to avoid personal communication of any kind.
At this time, a total of four teachers aides have been fired, and two tenured teachers has been placed on temporary leave, as a result of the DOE's increased investigation and review of over 230 cases of possible abuse dating back to 2000.
“We have been crystal clear about the consequences for this kind of behavior,” said Chancellor Walcott in a statement to the New York Times. “A staff member who violates the trust of our students and families does not deserve to work in our schools — period. Anyone who does will be removed, and we will do everything in our power to make sure they never work here again.”
Attempts to reach the United Federation of Teachers for its comments on new measures of teacher scrutiny were unsuccessful.
Parents like Cruz appreciates the system's efforts, but Cruz adds that she does not believe that the department's probing has gone far enough. “They [protection agencies] should make a big deal about it. And they should interview teachers and go beyond, go to their past, because the signs are all there,” she says.
“I do research,” Cruz adds, pointing to her youngest daughter. “I know her teacher's name. I do research on the school.”
Cruz's best advice to other concerned parents, however, is to “Listen, Listen, Listen.”
“If you know your child and you take time with your child, you will know the difference,” she says. “Just talk to your child every day, even if there are no signs, let your kids know that it is ok to talk to you.”
Cruz said specific signs do exist, however, including uncontrolled urination and the expression of constant fear for no apparent reason. Unusual new behaviors are a signal too.
“If you see that your child has become aggressive and angry and there is no aggression in the house, that's a sign,” Cruz warns.
For aditional information on some tell-tale signs of abuse, read the accompanying “Tip Sheet – Sex Abuse: How to Spot the Signs ” -with insight from former District Attorney, Ama Dwimoh.
Desperate Housewives star Vanessa Williams reveals she was molested by a woman when she was 10-years-old
by Sarah Fitzmaurice
She is known for her feisty characters on Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty.
But fans of Vanessa Williams will be shocked to learn that for years she has held onto a secret – she was molested when she was a child.
The actress, 49, has written about the disturbing incident for the first time in her memoir You Have No Idea.
When she was just 10-years old an 18-year-old woman abused her and she says what happened to her didn't resonate with her until much later.
She explained to People magazine: ‘Family friends who had a daughter invited me to visit their friends in California with them. The family we stayed in had two kids.'
Describing her attacker she said: ‘Susan, who was 18, smoked, drove a car and was the epitome of cool. [My friend] Nancy and I slept in the den. One night Susan crept in.'
‘She told me to lie down on the rug. I was confused. Are we going to play a game? As I tried to make sense of it, Susan pulled down the bloomers of my cotton baby-doll pajamas. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Don't worry – it'll feel good”'
She continued: ‘I lay there paralyzed. What was going on? I didn't speak. She kept at [the molestation] for I don't know how long. She slid my bloomers back up and whispered: “Don't tell anyone.”'
It wasn't until years later that Vanessa began to comprehend what had happened to her that night.
She said: ‘For years I kept Susan's visit to myself. I didn't really understand until college. I was with my boyfriend and it hit me and I blurted out: “Oh my god - I was molested.”'
While what had happened to her didn't resonate at the time – she began to change her behaviour, she started to rebel.
Vanessa began to smoke marijuana, she didn't comply with her curfew and at High School she had an abortion.
Before finding fame as TV star the Grammy-nominated singer enjoyed success in beauty pageants and the star speaks out about the process in her memoir, which she has written with her mother Helen.
Speaking about being crowned Miss America in 1983 she said: 'I had no emotion. I wasn't happy. I wasn't excited. I wasn't there. I just smiled and waved.'
Williams was the first black Miss America she suffered from a backlash.
She noted: 'Some [people] didn't think I was black enough.'
Before adding: 'My mother received death threats.'
If that wasn't enough nude photos taken two years earlier ended up surfacing and meant she was stripped of her title.
But Vanessa has learnt from her experiences and says she was always honest with her children, Melanie, 24, Jillian, 22, Devin, 19 and Sasha 11.
She explained: 'It was part of my journey that led me to them and to where I am today.'
Child Abuse Pediatricians Recommend Basic Parenting Classes to Reduce Maltreatment and Neglect
A new sub-specialty of doctors — child abuse pediatricians — are certified as experts in determining whether a broken bone or a bruise is accidental or intentional.
by Bonnie Rochman
Child abuse is a persistent problem in this country. Research published in February in Pediatrics found that child abuse kills 300 kids
under 18 each year and accounts for 58.2 hospitalizations of babies per 100,000 births — more than the annual rate of SIDS. Another recent study
made the case that child abuse sets the stage for future mental illness.
For a pediatrician, it can be dicey sussing out whether a child came by a broken bone or a bruise naturally or whether the injury was inflicted by an adult. As of 2009, there is an entirely new specialty devoted to making those types of assessments: the board-certified child abuse pediatrician, who focuses on identifying child maltreatment and neglect.
The small but growing specialty is getting a promotional boost this month — which is Child Abuse Prevention Month — from Dr. Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Block was part of a group of pediatricians who first started talking about the need for a sub-specialty about 20 years ago. It took about a decade to gather enough supporting evidence to present a proposal to the American Board of Pediatrics, which wasn't sufficiently persuaded. In 2006, after supporters collected more data, the Board changed its no to a yes, and child abuse pediatrics became an official sub-specialty.
The first certification exam was administered in 2009, and about 180 pediatricians passed. Part of their mission is to advocate for better parenting education initiatives, such as parenting-skills classes in high schools. But with limited resources, schools haven't been lining up to teach how to soothe a crying baby — though, arguably, the skill will be far more relevant than, say, AP calculus to most high-schoolers down the line.
You have to pass a test to drive a car or to become an American citizen, but there's no exam required to become a parent. And yet child abuse can stem from a lack of awareness about child development.
“If parents understand the challenges and understand that temper-tantrum behavior is perfectly normal in young kids and there are ways to handle that, they will have better success,” says Block. “Child abuse pediatricians are very much interested in prevention. But we seem to be not very interested as a country in teaching parenting skills.”
It's critical, though, because parents are usually the ones who abuse their children. We wrote about the Pediatrics study in February:
Previous research has found that parents — and occasionally babysitters — are the ones who lose control. Of parents, men — fathers, stepfathers and boyfriends — are the largest single group of perpetrators.
Researchers at Yale University found that abuse landed 4,569 children under 18 in the hospital in 2006; 300 of them died. The death rate — 6% — was substantially higher than for children who were admitted for other kinds of injuries or medical or surgical problems.
Of course, there exists a minority of what Block terms “really evil people, the kind who lock their kids in closets.” And sex abusers are another breed altogether; they're intent on harming kids. But most child abusers simply snap from the stress of parenting, coupled with the stress of everyday life — a lost job, perhaps, or a foreclosed home.
Although some studies have found that child abuse is on the decline, most child abuse pediatricians disagree. Various states report their data differently, and some don't submit regular reports.
There's more than enough work for the 250 or so child abuse pediatricians in the U.S. As the experts in the field, they've essentially been deputized as detectives of neglect. They're available to consult with other physicians who aren't sure whether what they're seeing looks suspiciously like abuse or neglect; while most injuries are indeed accidental, every state requires pediatricians to report abuse — even in cases where they're not certain — to authorities. “You don't always know,” says Block. “Sometimes you just can't be definite. It's a very sticky wicket for pediatricians.”
Study: Child Abuse Affects More U.S. Kids than SIDS
Parents are usually the perpetrators of abuse, largely because they are unprepared to deal with kids' crying. How a little education could help reverse the trend.
by Bonnie Rochman
When it comes to child abuse, the first year of life is the most dangerous for children. Although SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, attracts far more attention, the rate of hospital admissions related to SIDS is actually lower than the rate of child abuse — 50 per 100,000 children under age 1 for SIDS, compared with 58.2 per 100,000 births, according to research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics .
“These kids are physically vulnerable because they're small,” says Dr. John M. Leventhal, lead author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at Yale Medical School. “They are challenging for some parents to take care of because they cry, it's hard to understand what they want and parents can get frustrated, exhausted and angry.”
It's parents, in fact, who are most often to blame for children's injuries. Previous research has found that parents — and occasionally babysitters — are the ones who lose control. Of parents, men — fathers, stepfathers and boyfriends — are the largest single group of perpetrators.
Researchers at Yale University found that abuse landed 4,569 children under 18 in the hospital in 2006; 300 of them died. The death rate — 6% — was substantially higher than for children who were admitted for other kinds of injuries or medical or surgical problems.
For the most part, children arrived with abusive head trauma, fractures, burns, abdominal injuries and bruises. Their hospitalizations cost the U.S. about $73.8 million and lasted almost twice as long compared to children who were hospitalized with other kinds of injuries.
Poor children are at greatest risk, suffering abuse at six times the rate of children not on Medicaid. The recession has only made the situation worse. Two small studies that have tracked the incidence of abusive head trauma before and during the recession have found it's doubled. “When families are under stress, bad things happen to children,” says Leventhal.
There may be some cause for optimism: in cases tracked by state Child Protective Service agencies, physical abuse has declined by 55% between 1990 and 2010. Leventhal is in the early stages of comparing more than a decade of data, but so far he has not found a substantial decrease. Discrepancies could be due to a difference in methods of analysis. But regardless of whether things have gotten better or worse, a significant problem remains. Much of that problem may have to do with a lack of parental understanding of infant development.
It's not coincidence that abusive head injuries peak in the first few months of life when babies typically cry the most. “Crying makes parents very frustrated and they can sometimes lose it,” says Leventhal.
But crying is completely normal for babies; that's what they do. Prevention programs that explain why babies cry and how to cope — put the baby down in a safe place and just walk away to defuse your stress — have been rolled out in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and British Columbia. “We need a nationwide effort to enhance prevention,” says Leventhal.
When my children were born in North Carolina, for example, my pediatrician drew a graph that charted the peaks and valleys of a baby's age-related crying. It didn't make the noise any easier to bear, but it did help me understand that my children's wailing was developmentally normal and expected.
Relying on home visitors is another innovative approach. Leventhal would like to see trained public health personnel stop by the homes of new parents as often as weekly during the first year of life. They could serve as support for fledgling moms and dads, answering questions and offering advice and support. In many European countries, new mothers receive home support visits for the first few months after they give birth.
Home visits would be expensive, for sure, but would they outweigh the cost of child abuse in the U.S.? Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported child maltreatment costs us $124 billion — and that, of course, is but one measure of the toll.
How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness
A brain scan study pinpoints the changes associated with child abuse that may raise people's risk of depression, PTSD and addictions later in life.
by Maia Szalavitz
Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.
Now, in the largest study yet to use brain scans to show the effects of child abuse, researchers have found specific changes in key regions in and around the hippocampus in the brains of young adults who were maltreated or neglected in childhood. These changes may leave victims more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the study suggests.
Harvard researchers led by Dr. Martin Teicher studied nearly 200 people aged 18 to 25, who were mainly middle class and well-educated. They were recruited through newspaper and transit ads for a study on “memories of childhood.” Because the authors wanted to look specifically at the results of abuse and neglect, people who had suffered other types of trauma like car accidents or gang violence were excluded.
Child maltreatment often leads to conditions like depression and PTSD, so the researchers specifically included people with those diagnoses. However, the study excluded severely addicted people and people on psychiatric medications, because brain changes related to the drugs could obscure the findings.
Overall, about 25% of participants had suffered major depression at some point in their lives and 7% had been diagnosed with PTSD. But among the 16% of participants who had suffered three or more types of child maltreatment — for example, physical abuse, neglect and verbal abuse — the situation was much worse. Most of them — 53% — had suffered depression and 40% had had full or partial PTSD.
The aftermath of that trauma could be seen in their brain scans, whether or not the young adults had developed diagnosable disorders. Regardless of their mental health status, formerly maltreated youth showed reductions in volume of about 6% on average in two parts of the hippocampus, and 4% reductions in regions called the subiculum and presubiculum, compared with people who had not been abused.
That's where this study begins to tie together loose ends seen in prior research. Previous data have suggested that the high levels of stress hormones associated with child maltreatment can damage the hippocampus, which may in turn affect people's ability to cope with stress later in life. In other words, early stress makes the brain less resilient to the effects of later stress. “We suspect that [the reductions we saw are] a consequence of maltreatment and a risk factor for developing PTSD following exposure to further traumas,” the authors write.
Indeed, brain scans of adults with depression and PTSD often show reductions in size in the hippocampus. Although earlier research on abused children did not find the same changes, animal studies on early life stress have suggested that measurable differences in the hippocampus may not arise until after puberty. The new study suggests that the same is true for humans.
The findings also help elucidate a possible pathway from maltreatment to PTSD, depression and addiction. The subiculum is uniquely positioned to affect all of these conditions. Receiving output from the hippocampus, it helps determine both behavioral and biochemical responses to stress.
If, for example, the best thing to do in a stressful situation is flee, the subiculum sends a signal shouting “run” to the appropriate brain regions. But the subiculum is also involved in regulating another brain system that, when overactive during chronic high stress such as abuse, produces toxic levels of neurotransmitters that kill brain cells — particularly in the hippocampus.
It can be a counterproductive feedback loop: high levels of stress hormones can lead to cell death in the very regions that are supposed to tell the system to stop production.
What this means is that chronic maltreatment can set the stress system permanently on high alert. That may be useful in some cases — for example, for soldiers who must react quickly during combat or for children trying to avoid their abusers — but over the long term, the dysregulation increases risk for psychological problems like depression and PTSD.
The subiculum also regulates the stress response of a key dopamine network, which may have implications for addiction risk. “It is presumably through this pathway that stress exposure interacts with the dopaminergic reward system to produce stress-induced craving and stress-induced relapse,” the authors write.
In other words, dysregulation of the stress system might lead to intensified feelings of anxiety, fear or lack of pleasure, which may in turn prompt people to escape into alcohol or other drugs.
With nearly 4 million children evaluated for child abuse or neglect in the U.S. every year — a problem that costs the U.S. $124 billion in lost productivity and health, child welfare and criminal justice costs — child maltreatment isn't something we can afford to ignore.
Even among the most resilient survivors, the aftereffects of abuse may linger. Not only are such children at later risk for mental illness, but because of the way trauma affects the stress system, they are also more vulnerable to developing chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
We can do better for our kids.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What are the effects of child abuse on the brain?
by Paddy Kutz
How did the year fly by so fast? It seems like I just wrote an article about April being child abuse prevention month. This year, we have new information researched by Harvard University scientists that proves child abuse leaves a long-lasting mark on the brain.
We always have known abusing a child can lead to addiction, rage, depression, a severely damaged sense of self and an inability to truly bond with others. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel that the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it -- you play the role assigned to you by your abusers. It is time to stop.
Abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is painful, and the pain can last a lifetime. A parent or guardian's love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a "failure to thrive," a condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.
Here is the new stuff to consider. Abuse and maltreatment during childhood can shrink important parts of the brain that could lead to psychiatric disorders. The link between childhood abuse and reduced brain volume in parts of the hippocampus could help find new, better ways to treat survivors of childhood abuse, the scientists say. It was found that those who had been abused, neglected or maltreated (based on well-established interviews) as children had reduced volume in certain areas of the hippocampus by about 6 percent, compared with kids who hadn't experienced abuse.
They also had size reductions in a related brain area, called the subiculum, which relays the signals from the hippocampus to other areas of the brain, including the dopamine system, also known as the brain's reward center.
The hippocampus can shrink because of high exposure to the stress hormone called cortisol. The stress hormone levels stop the growth of the neurons (brain cells), which then inhibits neurogenesis (making new neurons).
If this all sounds very complicated, I know you can understand that abusing a child (or an adult) in any way is not good, and it is time to stop.
To report suspected child abuse and neglect in Licking County call Job & Family Services at (740) 670-8888. If it is after hours, call (740) 670-5500. You do not have to prove anything -- that is their job -- but you must care enough to get the child some help.
Mental Health America of Licking County has provided Child Abuse Prevention since 1984. Call us at (740) 522-1341 to schedule a free program for your school, church, organization or group. We are partially funded by United Way to help us stop child abuse.
If you have been abused it is time to be a survivor. You carry the cure in your own heart and soul. You must learn self-respect. Healing comes down to "forgiveness" -- forgiving yourself. How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with that commitment is more than half the battle. It is never too soon -- or too late -- to start. Call me if you need help with moving toward recovery. I'm at (740) 788-0302 or Paddykutz@alink.com . I'm also free!
Paddy Kutz is executive director at Mental Health America of Licking County.
More people required to report abuse
by Ty Tagami
If you suspect child abuse but fail to report it, you could wind up in jail.
A recently passed revision of the Georgia law that requires teachers, doctors and other professionals to report suspected child abuse is so broad that just about anyone who comes into contact with kids could fall under its mandate.
Volunteers at churches, colleges, clubs, summer camps or soccer fields or parents who chaperone a field trip could go to jail if they fail to report suspected abuse under the new provision approved by lawmakers last week.
Child abuse can range from neglect and beatings to sexual abuse.
"If you volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club or volunteer with your church doing a children's service, that would make you a mandatory reporter," said Melissa Carter, director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University.
The change, when it becomes law, will mandate reporting by any employee or volunteer at any kind of agency, business, nonprofit or other group that works with children.
"It's hard to imagine an exception to that very broad category," Carter said. "It's very inclusive."
Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The amendment was added to House Bill 1176, which shortens sentences for small crimes to reduce the load on prisons. It was approved unanimously by both houses and awaits the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal, who touted the initiative as one of his top priorities.
Spokesman Brian Robinson said Deal "definitely will sign" the bill. It becomes law July 1.
"You're going to see an exponential increase in reports of potential child abuse," predicted John Adams, a former human resources official for the Cobb County School District.
Adams, who now runs a teachers advocacy group called Educators First, said under the new provisions it would conceivably apply to every PTA member and even parents who volunteer in a classroom.
Institutions will probably have to train, or at least educate, everyone who could fall under the law's provisions, Adams said.
But Carter said there probably won't be a flood of cases because “it's hard to figure out and then prove a failure to report.”
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), authored the current mandatory reporting law that is limited to a handful of professions. This year, she proposed expanding it to all Georgians, but lawmakers thought that went too far. She said her goal was education and deterrence rather than prosecution for failure to report, though she said that three professionals have been convicted since the statute took effect in 2009.
Stan Gunter, a former prosecutor who now heads the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia, said it will be up to local prosecutors to decide whether to press charges. He said the amendments to the law should help bring abusers to justice.
"You're going to run across situations where people knew but didn't say," Gunter said, "and this law may prompt them to come forward."
Adams said the increased case load that results from more reporting will push already-strained budgets when police and the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services have to investigate more cases.
Ravae Graham, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Human Services, which is over DFCS, said the agency was still reviewing the legislation to determine its effect.
The amendment was a bipartisan effort. It was written by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, with help from Carter at Emory, and folded into the governor's sentencing bill by Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, co-chair of the House Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform.
Oliver said lawmakers concerned about child abuse seized on the public support for action in the wake of the scandal at Penn State University, where assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of child sexual abuse. Oliver wanted to ensure that athletic coaches were required to report.
Children form relationships with coaches that are at least as close as those with teachers, Oliver said, so coaches are likely to know when something is amiss. She said she also included clergy in the new legislation because she "fairly regularly" gets complaints from constituents about churches and clergy that are not reporting potential cases.
The bill defines clergy as functionaries of any bona fide religious organizations and mandates they report anything gleaned outside discussions, such as confessions, that are deemed confidential under the organization's doctrine.
The bill also clarifies the definition of school to mean anything from a pre-kindergarten institution to a college or vocational school.
And it adds reproductive health and abortion clinics to those institutions covered.
Perhaps the biggest change: Previously only employees were clearly mandated reporters, but now volunteers will fall under the provision.
"It's obviously going to be a big thing," said Mike Bryant, executive director of the Georgia Association of Christian Schools in Bogart. The group represents 55 mostly Baptist schools, a half dozen of them in metro Atlanta. The schools require background checks and fingerprinting for teachers, Bryant said, but churches and schools are probably "all over the map" on checks for volunteers at Sunday school, church nurseries or for those chaperoning field trips.
Bryant speculated it would force institutions to screen and train all staffers and volunteers or risk lawsuits.
"I'm sure all the insurance companies are going to jump on this and make sure their customers are covering themselves," he said.
Some groups already take precautions. Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Atlanta has run background checks on staff and volunteers and has required them to take training on mandatory reporting. Spokeswoman Meaghan Schroeder said it was a reaction to the child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church. Some volunteers didn't like jumping through those hoops at first, she said, but not anymore. "Everyone understands and accepts it as part of what we do and they're on board with it," she said.
Nancy Chandler, an expert on child abuse, said so few cases are reported that anything increasing the numbers is a good thing.
Chandler is chief executive of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, which conducts forensic interviews of alleged abuse victims on behalf of law enforcement and child protective authorities.
Her organization also trains civilians to spot and report abuse.
Training is great, she said, but if people don't have it they should simply err on the side of caution and let the experts decide whether abuse occurred.
"If you suspect," Chandler said, "call 911."
Georgia's mandatory child abuse reporting statute currently applies to a narrow group of professionals, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, educators and childcare workers.
On July 1, an expansion of the law will cover just about everybody who comes into contact with children as a volunteer or staffer in any organized way. Examples given by experts: a parent helping out in a classroom or chaperoning on a field trip, a grandmother watching babies in the church nursery during service or a university student coaching kids in a summer camp on campus.
Join a proactive approach to combat child sexual abuse
by Clete Harper
The statistics are startling: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Ninety percent of the abusers will be someone they know and trust. There are an estimated 39 million victims of child sexual abuse living in the U.S. today.
Last December in The Californian was an article titled "YMCA helps communities stop child sex abuse." Being the CEO of the YMCA of Kern County, the article naturally caught my eye. It described how a large number of YMCAs on the East Coast have joined with the Darkness to Light movement to prevent and responsibly report child sex abuse.
I looked into the movement, and after conferring with the Darkness to Light organization, based in Charleston, S.C., I found that a training seminar was being held in San Diego on Jan. 17 of this year. I immediately enrolled our child care director, Sherry Boydstun, and myself in the seminar to become certified facilitators of the D2L training.
We as a society find even the thought of child sex abuse so irreprehensible that we most certainly do not want to talk about it. It has taken the Penn State tragedy and, most recently, the Miramonte Elementary School case in Los Angeles to illustrate how child sex abuse is all around us and how our continued state of denial only contributes to the confidence of the abusers that they will not be caught.
The YMCA of Kern County is the first YMCA on the West Coast to join the D2L movement in teaching 21â2-hour workshops on the prevention and reporting of child sex abuse. The workshops consist of a powerful video of interviews with adults who experienced sexual abuse as children. Also in the video are interviews with child psychologists, probation officers, law enforcement officials, teachers and parents. The seven steps of prevention are stressed, along with responsible reporting of suspected sexual abuse.
The statistics given above are shocking, but when I learned of how every one of us is affected by child sex abuse, my attention was captured. It is very common to hear someone say, "No one I know personally has ever been affected by child sex abuse." This is what I now say to them: The immediate and tangible costs of intervention and treatment for a single incident of substantiated child sexual abuse are $14,345, according to the National Institute of Justice. These expenses are largely paid for by the public sector, you, the taxpayer. Long-term expenses and losses attributable to child sexual abuse add $35 billion annually to public tax rolls.
Add to this is the fact that child sex abuse is a root cause of many other devastating and expensive societal problems. For instance, 60 percent of teen pregnancies are preceded by incidents of child sexual abuse. Young girls who are sexually abused are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders and/or substance abuse in adulthood than girls who are not sexually abused. Male victims of child sexual abuse are 70 percent more likely to seek psychological treatment for issues such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide.
Anyone serving youths in sports, Scouting, camp activities, churches and schools are targets for our workshops. Parents especially should take our training, for they spend much more time with their children than those of us who serve them. Prevention is what makes our training different. Law enforcement, Child Protective Services and other organizations are reactive; they investigate after they have been contacted to protect the child and prosecute those responsible for the abuse.
We are proactive. We will educate parents and those serving youths on how to prevent placing their children in potentially dangerous situations. Parents should be vocal to all involved with their children that they have taken the Darkness to Light training, and hand out our brochures to urge others to take the training. This will put potential abusers on alert that you are observing any possible signs that your child has been sexually abused.
We are currently conducting one workshop per month, but will conduct as many as our community requests. We are also working closely with the Kern Child Abuse Prevention Council (www.havencounselingcenter.org) to spread the message about our training program. Contact us at the YMCA of Kern County, 837-9622 or learn more on our website at www.ymcaofkern.net. You may go online at www.D2L.com to learn more about the Darkness to Light movement.
Clete Harper is a former Kern High School District teacher, owned and operated his own construction company, and is now chief executive officer of the YMCA of Kern County.
Need for Sexual Assault Awareness
April 4, 2012
Every 46 seconds an adult woman is raped in the United States. And one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach 18. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity for everyone to focus on this issue.
We at the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County spend our days helping victims and families of sexual assault, domestic violence and bullying in six area towns, Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull. Our services include intervention, counseling and community education. This month, we join every organization like ours throughout the United States to raise public awareness about sexual violence through events and campaigns to “Stop the Violence!”
Some staggering statistics:
|• There are 60 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America today.
• Up to 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts.
• Eighty-eight percent of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to the authorities.
• According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in four women have been victims of rape or attempted rape and 92,700 men are forcibly raped annually in the United States.
Men, women and children of all ages, races, religions and economic classes can – and have been — victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault occurs everywhere: in rural areas, small towns and larger cities. The majority of assaults occur in places ordinarily thought to be safe, such as homes, cars and offices. Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power and control.
This year, we have two “Stop the Violence” events.
Tuesday, April 10, thanks to a grant from the Leir Foundation, we are holding an all-day summit on violence at the Leir Retreat Center in Ridgefield from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Actor and activist Victor Rivas Rivers, a survivor of assault, will speak the role of men in preventing violence.
Sunday, April 20, from 1 p.m.-4 p.m., the Center's annual Awareness Walk will be held rain or shine at the University of Bridgeport. Sponsoring the event with us this year is the University, in addition to The Center's “White Ribbon Campaign,” a group of men committed to eliminating domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Please join us to help “Stop the Violence!” For information or to register for either event, please call Sarah Lubarksy at The Center, (203) 334-6154 ext. 31 or email@example.com.
If you need our services, or know someone who does, call our Sexual Assault 24-hour hotline at 333-2233. All calls are confidential. For more information, please visit our website at www.cwfefc.org
Debra Greenwood, CEO/President, The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County
Google Under Scrutiny Over Sex Trafficking Ads
By Juliana Gruenwald
Google is coming under pressure to do more to ensure its online ads do not help promote sex-trafficking.
Reps. Marsha Blackburn , R-Tenn., and Carolyn Maloney , D-N.Y., wrote Google CEO Larry Page on Tuesday to find out what the online search and ad provider is doing to ensure it does not profit from the sale of ads related to sex trafficking.
"Whatever Google is doing or is not doing to prevent these sorts of advertisements from appearing on their properties, Google has not satisfied a significant number of human rights organizations who have a specialized understanding of how these ads contribute to the human trafficking of women and girls," the lawmakers wrote.
They called on Google to detail what it has done internally to block "sexually exploitative" ads and what the firm would do if it discovers that it is profiting from such ads.
The Blackburn-Maloney letter comes a week after the National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates and other groups wrote the National Association of Attorneys General to investigate whether Google has profited from the sale of online adult-services ads.
"The online purveyors of the sex trade--modern day online pimps--are utilizing Google to drive massive volume through sites that are gateways to prostitution and the sex trade," the group said in the letter to the state attorneys general. "As the world's largest supplier of online advertising, Google is in a unique position to choke the supply chain that delivers women for sale through online sex trafficking."
Following a similar campaign two years ago, Craigslist dropped its "adult services" section from its online classified site after critics including several state attorneys general claimed that many of the ads in the section helped promote sexual exploitation.
A Google spokesman said the company bans ad for sex trafficking, child pornography and prostitution and deploys many resources to try to enforce it.
"We have invested millions of dollars in monitoring and enforcing this ban--using the latest technology as well as manual review by teams who are specially trained to get bad ads, and bad advertisers, off Google," the spokesman said. "But it's a constant battle against these bad actors so we are always looking at ways to improve our systems and practices, including by working with leading anti-trafficking organizations. We also look forward to working with others in the industry on this important issue."
Google, however, is not the only firm to come under fire recently over ads that promote sex trafficking. Village Voice Media's Backpage.com has been criticized for profiting from ads that critics say promote both sexual and human trafficking.
"Backpage.com is among the online Web sites that have been found to serve as a conduit for the buying and selling of human beings - not just prostitution (which is itself illegal in 49 out of 50 states), but more specifically the trafficking of minors," Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said in a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Project Self-Sufficiency joins campaign to end child sex abuse
by STEVEN REILLY
NEWTON — Strangers are a comparatively small threat to children. Studies show up to 90 percent of sexual predators are actually known to the young victims.
Prevent Child Abuse — New Jersey (PCA-NJ), the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, has selected Sussex County-based Project Self-Sufficiency to be one of three organizations in New Jersey to take part in a ground-breaking effort to end child sexual abuse.
"We are very excited to be one of the groups to be chosen to bring such an important program to our community," said Claire Willetts, program coordinator for Project Self-Sufficiency. "We are looking forward to working with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey to bring the information, the awareness and the necessary education to our communities."
According to Willetts, PSS will be the lead agency running the training classes for community volunteers throughout Sussex and Warren counties. The volunteers are made up of professionals such as police officers, teachers and clergy members who already have a background in child abuse prevention.
"We are currently in the process of training the trainers," Willetts said. "Our first training class had forty volunteers from a number of different professions from Sussex and Warren counties."
The training is part of PCA-NJ's Enough Abuse Campaign that seeks to provide an educational curriculum to local professionals that is focused on the prevention of child sexual abuse.
These professionals will then bring their expertise to the local level and provide free training to other local groups as well as individuals such as parents and teachers.
The training involves recognizing the signs, or "red flags" of child sexual abuse, as well as techniques to communicate with children and provide the proper help.
"This is a community wide effort that we all need to be a part of," Willetts said. "Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be able to provide the education to volunteers who could take it out to the community."
The Newton agency will be joined by Prevention Education Inc. (PEI) Kids, located in Mercer County, and Wynona's House, headquartered in Newark, as the first organizations in New Jersey to replicate the Enough Abuse campaign throughout their communities.
The initiative aims to educate teens and adults about the nature and scope of child sexual abuse, and provide the tools necessary to protect children.
For example, studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, when in fact, up to 90 percent of sexual predators are actually known to the victim.
"Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem in New Jersey and causes devastating harm to victims," commented Rush Russell, executive director of PCA-NJ. "We congratulate these three communities for their courage and commitment to taking action now to prevent any child from being sexually abused, and we look forward to expanding the network of committed communities statewide."
With funding support in the form of training materials and staff education from the Ms. Foundation for Women and Prevent Child Abuse America, PCA-NJ has established the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, bringing together experts from every sector and region of the state who share a commitment to preventing child sexual abuse.
"This educational outreach program will build on Project Self-Sufficiency's 25-year history of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient," said Alison Lampron, Enough Abuse Program Coordinator at PSS, said. "Protecting our children from harm is an adult responsibility, and we are confident that the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community."
The partnership is currently working on a new strategic plan for New Jersey to strengthen efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, and will also help to oversee the three local community projects as they begin their work.
Activist Jetta Bernier, who serves as the executive director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children organization, was the keynote speaker at Friday's launch ceremony for the new program at Project Self-Sufficiency's Newton campus.
"The Enough Abuse campaign is all about action," Bernier said. "We have got to take action to prevent child sexual abuse."
Bernier provides leadership in the areas of child abuse prevention, family support, and child welfare, and directs the "Enough Abuse Campaign" in the state of Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts initiative was funded through a five-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2007, and is currently supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women.
"There is not one particular program that will change society and the way it deals with child sexual abuse, so we must look to other public health initiatives," Bernier said. "Social movements must have strategies on several fronts. Thoughtfully, diligently, we will educate people and encourage them to take action, and we will build this movement."
Bernier also is co-chair of the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, a grassroots coalition that succeeded in 2006 in extending Massachusetts' criminal statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and that is working to pass the Comprehensive Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act of 2009 petition to address gaps in current laws.
In New Jersey, state law sets a statute of limitations for sex-abuse victims to begin prosecution in criminal court within five years of the victim's 18th birthday, this includes charges of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and endangering welfare of children.
In civil court, victims have a two-year limit from the time of the sexual assault to sue the abuser in civil court. However, a judge has the power to waive the two-year limit.
The two-year limit is very small compared to neighboring states.
In New York, victims of childhood sex abuse have until the age of 23 to file suit. In Pennsylvania, victims have until they are 30, and in Connecticut, victims have 30 years to sue. Delaware has no limit.
If you're interested
For information about the Enough Abuse community outreach program, or any of the other programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.
Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse: The Silent Epidemic
(Plymouth Meeting, PA)—Today people are becoming more aware of the long-lasting effects of childhood sexual abuse and the havoc it can wreak in a survivor's life. But when we say"sexual abuse," we usually mean an adult victimizing a child.
What happens when the predator is another youth?
Child-on-child sexual abuse is a little talked about subject in which sexual activity occurs between a child victim and another child or adolescent perpetrator. In such cases there is no adult sexual involvement, but there is a level of coercion, as the abusers typically use force, threats, or emotional manipulation to get what they want.
"Many people do not understand that child-on-child sexual abuse is extremely devastating," says Peter S. Pelullo, author of the newly released book "Betrayal and the Beast," in which he reveals his own struggles as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of two neighborhood teens. "Some call it 'playing doctor' or innocent curiosity. But there is nothing innocent about one person forcing themselves in a physical or emotional manner on another human being—no matter what any of their ages are."
According to Dr. Drew, who frequently invites Mr. Pelullo to be a guest on his show, children who target other children are often victims of sexual abuse themselves. At such young ages, they have no inherent knowledge of specific sex acts and most likely learn them from someone who is victimizing them, or from being exposed to pornography or other adult sexual activity.
Victims of child-on-child sexual abuse often manifest the same psychological and physical repercussions as children who have been preyed upon by adults, including:
|* Anxiety disorders and depression
* Substance abuse issues
* Suicidal ideation and attempts
* Eating disorders
* Post-traumatic stress disorder
* Sleep disorders
"Child-on-child sexual abuse often goes unreported because adults simply do not know it's happening," says Mr. Pelullo. "This leads victims to believe the abuse might have been their fault, which further stigmatizes them and convinces them they should never report it or seek help. Now is the time to change that perception and bring awareness to this silent pandemic. Those who have suffered child-on-child abuse must have their experiences validated—and then be able to move on and start their journey to recovery."
Peter S. Pelullo was the founder of Philly World Records and owner of a premiere recording studio in the '70s, where he worked with the Rolling Stones, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Cashmere, and Eugene Wilde. He is now an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups.
During his journey in recovery, he created the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation, which supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.
For more information contact Gretchen Paules at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.betrayalandthebeast.com .
The Right Way to Listen To Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
Don Dymer, CEO and president of SingleSource Services background screening corporation offers advice to prevent child sexual abuse by learning how to listen to victims in the rare instances they do open up.
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and Don Dymer, president and chief executive officer of SingleSource background screening corporation wants to share some helpful advice on how to listen if a child or youth has the courage to open up about the abuse. What happens in those first few seconds of dialogue can make a difference between stopping the abuse, or a child retreating further into darkness.
“People abuse children from all walks of life,” explains Don Dymer, chief executive officer and president of SingleSource background screening company. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 500,000 children in the United States are sexually molested each year. But molesters are rarely caught and since most children will never report the abuse, there is little linking these molesters to the horrible abuse and little or no chance they will be convicted and stopped.
What do I do if a child tells me that he/she has been sexually abused?
Dymer continues, “The foundation, From Darkness to Light tells us that studies show that children rarely report abuse when it is occurring and almost 80% will in fact deny the abuse. As adults we need to be alert to signs that something might be wrong.
Dymer continues, "If a child does come to you here is critical advice from the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute on what you should do if a child is brave enough to share their pain with you. Take the time to really listen to the child when they want to talk. Believe what you are hearing no matter how unfathomable it sounds. (remember 90% of abuse is done by someone the child knows, trusts and loves.) Assure the child that they are doing the right thing by telling and you will get help. Never blame or punish the child or show anger. Control your emotions. Your reaction to the abuse might be viewed as directed toward the child, assure the child that you are not angry at them. Do Not Take Notes while the child is talking to you. Listen intently and afterwards quickly document the disclosure. If you are an employee or volunteer and hear of the abuse, immediately report the incident to your supervisor, but remember that this doesn't remove your obligation to report the incident to the proper authorities. If you represent the organization at which the abuse occurred, you must report the child's disclosure to law enforcement or child protective agency as specified by the laws in your particular state.
"Follow-Up! If you report it to a higher authority, supervisor or report it to law enforcement make sure you follow up to see that the problem is being addressed."
“If it was easy to prevent child sexual abuse, it wouldn't be such a widespread epidemic,” points out Dymer. “As a result of the Penn State scandal schools, organizations and groups specializing in providing youth services are now focused on the importance of carefully conducting background screens on all volunteers and hires who will come into contact with children and youth.
“All organizations, including non profits, must establish a clearly defined child sexual abuse prevention checklist and should learn about the Diana Screen®, a scientifically proven risk management tool that will help keep children safe from sexual abuse.” explains Dymer. Behind the Diana Screen® are 18 years of research, six National Institute of Mental Health Grants and two pilot studies with the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and the Boys & Girls Club of America. The test identifies men and women most likely to violate sexual boundaries with children and teens.
Criminal background checks and all other traditional methods of background screening are still necessary. “The screen should be incorporated as part of a clearly established on-boarding program for hires and for volunteers and administrated with great care and respect for existing compliance policies.” says Dymer. “As with all screening, good programs are useless if poorly administrated. That is why if organizations are interested, please call me at SingleSource Services at 1-888.241.1148. It is a five minute call that can change a child's life forever.
SingleSource Services is located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.The company provides background screening to over 2,500 business across a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. SingleSource was founded in 1995 and believes that backgrounds are like fingerprints and prides itself on its long term customer relationships and a strong commitment to fulfill its corporate civic duties.
Sources: The Child Molestation and Prevention Research Institute, The Centers for Disease Control, From Darkness to Light, Protect the Children Conference, February 3, 2012.
Meeting sheds lights on dark subject of child sexual abuse
Honesdale, Pa. —
In some cases, talking straightforward and to the point is the best way to get across a point.
That was the case Monday night during a forum on child sexual abuse hosted by the Victims Intervention Program in Wayne County and held at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce meeting room.
Around 40 local residents turned out to the meeting, the most ever for such a gathering according to Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of VIP.
“Our job as adults is to protect these kids,” said Wolf. “They need us to protect them.”
The meeting comes on the heels of the arrest of a Lakeside Elementary fourth grade teacher charged with child sexual abuse as well as a story which has surfaced recently about case which allegedly happened decades ago in Salem Township.
Wolf said sexual abuse happens on a regular basis in Wayne County and pretty much mirrors the national statistics. Those statistics indicate one in four girls will be sexually abused by age 18 as will one in six boys.
On top of that, Wolf pointed out that a vast number of cases are never reported.
“Most children never report the abuse,” said Wolf.
Some, she said, report it “decades later,” which is the case in the Salem Township situation as well as the case now ongoing at Penn State University.
Wolf also stressed that most victims of child sexual abuse “know the abuser.”
She said 30-40 percent of abuse is from a family member but 80-85 percent is by someone the family knows.
“Abusers look like everyone else,” said Wolf.
She also said abusers “don't confine” them selves to a small group.
About 70 percent of abusers have up to nine victims, 20-25 percent had 10 to 20 victims and serial abusers can have up to 400 victims.
In Wayne County during the last fiscal year, VIP worked with 114 adult victims, 57 child victims and 70 “significant others.”
Wolf stressed that is only the number reported and she said there is likely a lot more child sexual abuse happening in the county.
Wolf also noted in the last five years, the averages have continued to climb. There were 105 more cases reported last year than five years prior.
She said the recent case which was reported from the Salem Township area, which took place several decades ago, has resulted in a “significant increase” in the number of victims and witnesses coming forward.
As part of Monday's program, Wolf discussed how to “minimize the opportunity” for sexual abuse to happen.
One of the biggest steps people can take, she said, is to “talk openly” about the issue. She said parents don't hesitate to talk to their children about the dangers of poison or sharp instruments but that statistics reveal only about 30 percent of parents ever discuss sexual abuse.
She said people have to “break down the barriers” when it comes to discussing child sexual abuse.
For many victims, she said, the abusers manipulate the victims. She said they will threaten to hurt the child, the parents or even the family pet.
Wolf also said it is important for parents to teach their children “about their bodies. Teach them what's not to be touched.” She encourages parents to start at a young age and be honest about the matter.
Janine Dubois, a counselor at VIP, told the audience about some of the warning signs of sexual abuse. Though the physical signs are obvious, she said that “emotional signs are more common.”
Those are wide ranging and can include children waking up in a cold sweat, unusually aggressive behavior, urinary tract symptoms, pain while urinating, bed wetting, unusual fear of certain places, self mutilation and asking a lot of questions about sexuality.
Dubois told the audience about a teen support group of girls from Wayne County who have been discussing their experiences. All are survivors of sexual abuse.
She said all of the girls “felt alone” following the abuse but said they now are doing much better and are taking a new outlook on life.
“Each rape is different,” said Dubois, adding having the girls get together regularly has helped each of them accept what has happened and want to move on with their lives.
Another very critical part of dealing with the matter, said Wolf, is for adults to “stay calm.” She said if parents “freak out,” it could send the child into a panic and they might not say anything further. She said adults should “thank” the children for telling them and assure them “you will protect them.”
Wolf said one of the most important aspects about child sexual abuse is having a public discussion. For too long, she said, many people have not wanted to have that discussion and choose to believe it does not exist.
That, she said, gives the advantage to the abusers.
“It's up to us to break that silence,” said Wolf.
During Monday's meeting, officials from Children & Youth were on hand to answer questions as did Mike Lehutsky, former district attorney recently appointed to a statewide child abuse prevention board.
Wolf said her organization is more than willing to schedule meetings with local groups and organizations and can tailor those programs to specific areas.
For people who know of or suspect abuse, there are various ways to get in touch with the proper officials. You can contact VIP at 253-4401 or 1-800-698-4847; to contact Wayne County Children & Youth call 253-5102; the state “Childline” is 1-800-932-0313; and the Child Advocacy Center in Scranton can be reached by calling 570-969-7313.
State's attorney aims to ?end child abuse in county
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon sported a pin in the shape of a blue ribbon during Tuesday's press briefing.
The pin represents awareness about the campaign to prevent child abuse, and
McMahon was doing his part, handing out materials about the devastating effect of child abuse and publicizing a prominent “child abuse prevention” section on his office's website, http://saopublic.co.kane.il.us.
McMahon said that those younger than 17 years old who are abused are twice as likely to end up in the court system than those who are not.
“The purpose is to drive awareness that this does happen in Kane County,” McMahon said. “While it is a national problem, it's a problem we face in Kane County too often.”
Last year, he said, there were 3,700 children who were the subject of an abuse and neglect report in Kane County. Part of McMcMahon's message Tuesday was that preventing abuse can keep youths out of trouble.
Lori Chassee, director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center, appeared with McMahon on Tuesday. She said those who believe that someone they know might be a victim of abuse should make a call to a local police department of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
She acknowledged that some might hesitate to call the DCFS because action ultimately could result in the removal of a child from a family. But Chassee said that such action is not taken lightly, and that making the call is not necessarily about removing a child.
“Sometimes, fear of DCFS is a fictional weapon that is used to buy silence,” she said. “There is this fear that when you pick up the phone, it is child removal. But it's about assessing a situation.”
Chassee said that if the abuse of a child can be resolved, those youths are much less likely to end up in trouble with the law.
McMahon said that child abuse can be physical or sexual. Physical abuse can include hitting, punching, beating, burning, biting, kicking and shaking, among other actions.
And sexual assault, McMahon said, most often is committed by someone a child knows and trusts.
The best way to prevent such abuse, he said, is to minimize opportunities where there might be only one child and one adult.
“That would dramatically reduce the frequency of sexual abuse,” he said.
Also, he urged parents to talk to their children and note if they might become withdrawn, quiet and reserved. He said that might be a sign that abuse is taking place.
McMahon said abused youths can get into trouble if they don't receive help. He said they might self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, and then break laws to continue feeding their habit.
The state's attorney's website has information about preventing child abuse. Visit http://saopublic.co.kane.il.us for details.
2.4 million human trafficking victims around the world at any given time: U.N.
$32 billion is being earned every year by unscrupulous criminals running human trafficking networks
The U.N. crime-fighting office said Tuesday that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves.
Yuri Fedotov , the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told a daylong General Assembly meeting on trafficking that 17 percent are trafficked to perform forced labor, including in homes and sweat shops.
He said $32 billion is being earned every year by unscrupulous criminals running human trafficking networks, and two out of every three victims are women.
Fighting these criminals "is a challenge of extraordinary proportions," Fedotov said.
"At any one time, 2.4 million people suffer the misery of this humiliating and degrading crime," he said.
According to Fedotov's Vienna-based office, only one out of 100 victims of trafficking is ever rescued.
Fedotov called for coordinated local, regional and international responses that balance "progressive and proactive law enforcement" with actions that combat "the market forces driving human trafficking in many destination countries."
Michelle Bachelet , who heads the new U.N. agency promoting women's rights and gender equality called UN Women, said "it's difficult to think of a crime more hideous and shocking than human trafficking. Yet, it is one of the fastest growing and lucrative crimes."
Actress Mira Sorvino , the U.N. goodwill ambassador against human trafficking, told the meeting that "modern day slavery is bested only by the illegal drug trade for profitability," but very little money and political will is being spent to combat trafficking.
"Transnational organized crime groups are adding humans to their product lists," she said. "Satellites reveal the same routes moving them as arms and drugs."
Sorvino said there is a lack of strong legislation and police training to combat trafficking. Even in the United States "only 10 percent of police stations have any protocol to deal with trafficking," she said.
M. Cherif Bassiouni , an emeritus law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, said to applause that "there is no human rights subject on which governments have said so much but done so little."
Laws in most of the world criminalize prostitutes and other victims of trafficking but almost never criminalize the perpetrators "without whom that crime could not be performed," he said.
Bassiouni said the figure of 2.4 million people trafficked at any time is not reflective of the overall problem because "at the end of 10 years you will have a significantly larger number who have gone through the experience."
He urged a global reassessment of "who is a victim and who is a criminal" and called for criminalizing not only those on the demand side using trafficked women, children and men, but all those in the chain of supplying trafficking victims.
In addition, Bassiouni said, "we must change attitudes of male-dominated police departments throughout the world who place this type of a crime at the lowest level of their law enforcement priorities."
General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged donors to contribute to a new trust fund aimed at helping victims of human trafficking.
At the start of the meeting, Fedotov said the U.N. Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking had pledges of around $1 million but just $47,000 in contributions, and he urged those who offered money to send their checks.
At the end of the meeting, Al-Nasser announced three new pledges — $200,000 from Australia, $30,000 from Russia, and 30,000 Euros from Luxembourg — and encouraged other U.N. member states to follow their example.
Opening a coordinated attack on human trafficking in Ohio
April 4, 2012
Ohio is in the forefront of states seeking to identify the extent of human trafficking and to attack the problem on multiple fronts.
Last week Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order that directs state agencies to work together to identify the most effective ways to rescue victims, get them help, and prosecute those who abduct and exploit them.
The governor‘s task force is an expansion of the Ohio Human Trafficking Commission overseen by the office of Attorney General Mike DeWine.
It's easy to pretend that human trafficking is not an issue in this day and age anywhere in the United States, much less Ohio.
But the human trafficking commission, which was created by DeWine's predecessor, Richard Cordray, issued a report in 2010 report that cited Ohio's weak laws on human trafficking, its growing demand for cheap labor and its proximity to the Canadian border as factors in a growing problem. The commission estimates that 1,000 American-born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year and about 800 immigrants are sexually exploited and pushed into sweatshop-type jobs.
There's bipartisan support for taking action. The Associated Press reports that State Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, has introduced legislation setting up safe havens for victimized teenagers and calling for tougher laws and more funding to fight the problem. She said her city has been identified as having the highest rate in the state for underage girls recruited into the sex trade.
Closer to home
Recruiting girls into the sex trade has been a local issue raised by the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Mahoning Valley Rescue and Restore Coalition. One point of concern is the proliferation of recreational massage parlors in Warren. A website that keeps track of such things as massage parlors that traffic in sex says Ohio has 23 such establishments, 10 of which are in Warren.
Warren City Council passed legislation that places greater restrictions and inspections on massage parlors, but the law is being challenged by parlor owners in court.
But massage parlors are not the only establishments in which underage girls may be caught in a web that allows them little chance for escape.
DeWine's office has a website that lists some of the signs of human trafficking that the public should be alert to. The presence of sleeping bags and food deliveries at a nail salon, for instance, or the apparent inability of a service worker to engage in a normal conversation without appearing to resort to a script. DeWine has a hot line for victims, and he urges people who see signs of human trafficking to call local police or his office.
Kasich's order calls for a coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute human trafficking and to provide the services and treatment necessary for victims to regain control of their lives.
No child should have the prospect of a normal life stolen by human traffickers, and the success of this effort will be measured in lives saved.
Closing the statute of limitation on child sexual abuse
by Gracie Bonds Staples
Jean Deere says sexual encounters with a family member killed her soul.
Even after she left home at age 19, married and had children, she felt dead inside.
Then one day 20 years ago, one of her sons took her to Spelman College to hear Marilyn Van Derbur, a former Miss America who was sexually abused as a child, speak. It was then that Deere allowed herself to feel again, to remember and to finally let go of the secret that had held her captive for so long.
“It changed my life,” said Deere, now 61 and living in Atlanta.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is counting on Van Derbur's keynote speech at a luncheon it is sponsoring at the Marriott Marquis on April 26 to have the same impact on others that it did on Deere. Organizers are also celebrating the recent approval of legislation that eliminates the statute of limitations for reporting child sexual abuse.
Van Derbur, who did not disclose her abuse until she was in her late 30s, has been lending her face and voice to this issue for more than 20 years. She was 53 when a newspaper reporter learned she was an incest survivor. The next day, it was a front page story.
“I was overwhelmed with shame, but three days later a woman told me that there were people who didn't believe me,” she recalled. “That was a life-shifting moment. If people were not going to believe me, who would believe a child? Instead of avoiding the press, I called reporters and said, ‘Let's get to work.'"
More than 26,000 cases of child abuse were reported in Georgia in 2010, said Nancy Chandler, CEO of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Of those, 13,282 cases were substantiated by the Department of Family and Children Services.lawmakers and child advocates like Chandler have been working to extend or waive the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse charges across the nation. Currently in Georgia victims have seven years from the time a report is filed with a government agency or the victim's 16 birthday, which ever comes first, to press criminal charges. But just last week the Georgia General Assembly approved legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for child molestation prosecutions.
"I am very pleased that this passed and am looking forward to the Governor's signature," Chandler said.
Less than 10 percent of those victimized by child sexual abuse will ever tell anyone of their abuse. “That's why this legislation is so important,” Chandler said. “Normally when a child is abused they are living in the home where it happened and are unable or afraid to speak out. This will give kids the opportunity to let people know what happened to them.”
Van Derbur and Deere agree there should be no statute of limitation on child sexual abuse.
“Most survivors can not even think about coming forward for 20 to 30 years,” Van Derbur said. “This is validated for me every single day as I read and respond to emails from men and women.”
Some of those emails came from Deere, who began writing Van Derbur shortly after seeing her at Spelman in 1992.
That evening when Van Derbur told her story of abuse, Deere said it sounded like her own. As audience members lined up to speak to the former Miss America, Deere sat too ashamed to move.
“I couldn't even raise my face to look at her,” she said.
But she asked her son to go ask Van Derbur for her contact information.
Soon after, Deere said that she began sharing her own story with Van Derbur.
That tale began in her bedroom, where her abuser regularly had sex with her.
“I don't remember a time when he didn't,” she said. “When we were out in public we looked like a fine upstanding family,” she said. “When we got home we were completely different.”
Only once did she get up the nerve to tell someone -- an eighth grade English teacher, who dismissed it, saying Deere had "an active imagination."
After that, Deere said, the abuse became her dirty little secret.
Deere said she learned to cope but even after she married, divorced and both her parents died, she was haunted by the abuse.
The letters and emails to Van Derbur provided a way for her to finally lay aside the shame and create a new path for herself. It is why, she said, she is now willing to share her story with the public.
“I want to help other people and say in my small way, you can find yourself and be happy,” she said. “You can live again.”
Georgia Center for Child Advocacy 25th anniversary luncheon , 11:30 a.m., April 26. $50. Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Ave., Atlanta, www.georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org
April is child abuse prevention month
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"Children are our best hope for the future and it is imperative that we keep them safe and protected," said Reisig.
"Child abuse is often a crime that goes unnoticed or unreported" reports Cameron Handley, director of Yolo County's Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center. "Many people believe that it is not their business to become involved, but protecting our community's children so they can grow into healthy adults is everyone's business.
Yolo County receives approximately 2,000 reports of alleged child abuse each year. While social workers, police officers, and prosecutors work hard to investigate, prosecute, and protect children, the best solution to child abuse is prevention through education, early intervention, and support services for families at risk.
Tips When You Suspect Your Child has been Abused:
~ Learn the Facts. Realities, not blind trust, should influence your decisions.
~ Minimize Opportunity.
~ Talk about it. Children often keep abuse a secret, but barriers can be broken down by talking openly about it.
~ Stay Alert. Don't expect obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused.
Let's commit to preventing child abuse
by Kathryn O'Day
The limitless potential of children is a source of optimism and our state's most valuable resource. Tennessee's future progress and prosperity depends upon our ability to work together to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
During April we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness of the risks from child abuse, and a time for all Tennesseans to make a firm commitment to join together to combat this problem.
We know that child abuse is disturbing and destructive. Research has recently revealed how common it is for children to endure stress and trauma, and how these events can lead to lifelong consequences for the individual and substantial costs to society. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study discovered a strong correlation between childhood trauma and lifelong health risks such as depression, heart and liver disease, and other problems such as domestic violence and substance abuse.
Children experience these traumas every day in our state. Last year, DCS handled more than 60,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in our state, including 4,526 cases in Nashville. Recently in Middle Tennessee, 25 DCS staff worked around the clock for five days caring for 30 children who were found by police during meth lab busts or were otherwise allegedly abused. Once called out, our workers don't go home until the child in their care has visited the hospital, received a change of clothes and been placed in a safe home.
DCS cannot do this work alone. Many times, the homes we depend on in that hour of need belong to members of the child's own family. Nearly 70,000 grandparents in Tennessee are householders responsible for their grandchildren living with them. Assuming the care of a troubled family member's child is a selfless decision that provides a lifeline to the future. In support of these courageous souls, Tennessee DCS is one of a very few states to fund a Relative Caregiver Program.
DCS is also exploring more effective approaches to child protective services and has moved away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to abuse investigations. Our staff now work in low to moderate-risk situations to identify a family's needs, connect them to resources in the community, and develop a plan which lowers their risk of losing their children to state custody.
While DCS has an indispensable and statutory role in combating child abuse, it is the responsibility of all Tennesseans to keep our children safe. Learn to spot the possible signs of child abuse, such as malnutrition, poor hygiene, extremes in behavior, age-inappropriate knowledge of se, and unexplained bruises. If you have knowledge of or suspect child abuse, state law requires you to report it. You can do so by calling Tennessee's child abuse hotline at 1-877-237-0004 or by going online at http://www.tn.gov/youth . You can remain anonymous.
Child abuse is a difficult subject. It evokes strong emotions in all of us. We have two choices: Follow those emotions and respond reflexively to an individual troubling event, or develop an informed, collective, data-driven and systematic response that protects all children. We at DCS invite you to join us in our relentless pursuit of a better future for all of Tennessee. We cannot do it without you.
Kathryn O'Day is the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. She has a master's degree in social work and more than 30 years of experience.
Child abuse reports drop 4 percent
Officials say Montgomery County cases are more complex, more severe.
by Lou Grieco
DAYTON — The number of abuse and neglect referrals to Montgomery County Children Services dropped 4 percent in 2011, but officials warn that they are seeing more complex situations, including more severe abuse and more cases involving multiple victims or perpetrators.
The agency is also working with more younger children with severe mental health problems, younger children with more delinquencies, larger sibling groups and are working with families for larger periods of time, said Children Services Assistant Director Geraldine Pegues.
“Child abuse is preventable,” Pegues said. “That's the bottom line. People need to report it in order to stop it.”
The agency released its statistics Monday at an event to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month. The number of referrals dropped from 3,903 in 2010 to 3,757 in 2011.
“I don't think there's any question we're seeing more complicated cases,” said Libby Nicholson, director of CAREHouse Advocacy Center in Dayton, a partnership between Children's Medical Center, Children Services, Dayton police and the county sheriff's and prosecutor's offices.
“The overwhelming message for me is that child abuse remains a problem for our community,” Nicholson said. “It's not someone else's problem. It's our problem.”
Pegues said that, on April 11, there will be a statewide “wear blue to work” effort to raise awareness about child abuse.
Businesses will be asked to take pictures of their employees wearing blue, she said.
Also Monday, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a series of Child Safety Summits across the state to review the foster care system in Ohio, including one in Dayton on April 19.
“Too many of these children are languishing in foster care with no real hope of ever having a permanent loving home,” said DeWine.
In a statement about Child Abuse Prevention Month, DeWine cited the case of Makayla Norman, a 14-year-old Dayton girl with cerebral palsy who weighed 28 pounds when she died March 1, 2011. The girl's mother and three nurses involved in her care are all charged with felonies in connection with her death.
“If they suspect it, they should report it,” Pegues said.
To report suspected child abuse and neglect, contact local law enforcement or Montgomery County Children Services at (937) 224-KIDS (5437).
Human Trafficking Task Force Meeting
Millions around the world still toil under the boot of modern slavery.
President Barack Obama says the United States remains steadfast in its resolve to see that all men, women, and children live in freedom. In a statement on the annual President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons meeting at the White House, he noted that millions around the world still toil under the boot of modern slavery.
Mothers and fathers are forced to work in fields and factories against their will or in service to debts that can never be repaid. Sons and daughters are sold for sex, abducted as child soldiers, or coerced into involuntary labor. In dark corners of the world, and hidden in plain sight in local communities, human beings are exploited for financial gain and subjected to unspeakable cruelty.
The United States is committed to eradicating trafficking in persons, and to do so will draw on tools ranging from law enforcement and victim service provision, to public awareness building and diplomatic pressure. Because government efforts alone are not enough, the U.S. will also increase its partnerships with a broad coalition of local communities, faith-based and non-governmental organizations, schools, and businesses.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the State Department has made the fight against modern slavery part of its diplomatic engagement. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report is the most comprehensive assessment of how well governments, including the United States, are doing to address this crime. The Trafficking in Persons Office's foreign assistance grants are making a difference in 37 countries, supporting programs that provide crucial assistance to survivors and help governments build their capacity to fight this crime. Nearly 140 countries have enacted modern anti-trafficking laws, and nearly 150 are party to the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
The U.S. Justice Department is also doing its part to prevent human trafficking, bringing traffickers to justice, and assisting victims. In the past year, said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has charged a record number of people with human trafficking offenses, and over the last three years has achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions.
As government expands on partnerships with civil society and the private sector, President Obama is “confident that we will one day end the scourge of modern slavery.”
Teen sex trafficking increasing rapidly in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE- Teen sex trafficking is happening more and more in Milwaukee.
Police search warrants give the graphic details of how these young girls get trapped into this life.
But it appears in the past 10 years, sex trafficking has hit its peak in Milwaukee and investigators can't keep up.
A federal court on Friday sentenced Sean Patrick to 30 years for sex trafficking. The Milwaukee man is accused of pimping local girls and forcing them into prostitution.
Ronald Gilbert, 24, is facing three felony counts -- trafficking of a child, second-degree sexual assault of a child and physical abuse of a child -- worth a combined 86 years in prison. A police search warrant shows a 14-year-old girl claims Gilbert sold her for $100 and some stereo equipment to another man, Brandon A. Pratchet.
Gilbert is accused of setting up appointments online . That website is being called the worst sex trafficking site.
"What pimps can now do is they can travel all over the US and set up these appointments via the Internet with the girls they have trapped," said Carmen Pitre with Sojourner Family Peace Center, a non profit domestic violence agency has seen more victims of human trafficking recently.
Another trafficking case involves teenage victims who were bused from Milwaukee to Chicago and Wauwatosa. Pitre says the cases are increasing, but the community needs to do more to protect these victims.
"There's a lot of recruiting going on and there's a lot of people looking for vulnerable kids that troubles me," said Pitre.
Washington Is First State to Take On Escort Sites
by WILLIAM YARDLEY
SEATTLE — For more than three months, she was sold online for sex. She had run away at 15, gone back home, then run away again. Finally, an undercover police officer caught her, and her pimp. This time she went home and stayed, but she was not the same.
“She was a different child after that,” her father said. “It was like she was programmed. She spoke different. She looked different. They cut her hair, they dyed her hair, they bought her new clothes.”
Now 17, the girl is in counseling and in college, “on her way,” her father said.
She is also evidence. When one of the men who raped her was sentenced in February, one of the exhibits that prosecutors used was an advertisement selling her services as an escort on backpage.com . The ad said she was 18.
That same month, the Washington Legislature was debating a bill that would require sites within the state to obtain documentation that escorts advertised there are at least 18. On Thursday, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed that bill into law, the first of its kind in the country.
“It's a start, and it's a precedent,” the girl's father said, “and it will make a difference.”
The Washington law was praised last week by groups working to stop child sex trafficking. Other states, including Connecticut, are considering similar legislation. Yet even some supporters of the law question how effective it will be — paperwork can be easy to fake, after all. And will shutting down one Web site simply prompt another to open? Some also wonder how it will fare against potential legal challenges that it limits free speech.
“It's a step in the right direction,” said Andrea Powell, the executive director of FAIR Girls , which seeks out and helps girls who have been sexually exploited. “But I don't think it's going to be the solution they're looking for. It might reduce the volume of ads, but the ultimate goal is to shut that section down. There's no way with an escort section that pimps aren't going to post there. They're not going to just stop posting on backpage.”
After public and political pressure led Craigslist to remove its escort sections in 2010 , experts say backpage became the biggest mainstream platform for similar ads. Yet unlike Craigslist, backpage, which is owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, says it has no plan to remove its escort sections and it has not ruled out challenging Washington State's law. The company says that the role it plays is vastly overstated by critics and that it screens and reports ads to try to prevent exploitation of children.
“There's going to have to be a challenge to it,” said Liz McDougall, general counsel for Village Voice Media Holdings. “Otherwise it would effectively shut down an enormous portion of the Internet that currently permits third-party content.”
Ms. McDougall said the law could potentially affect Web site forums and chat rooms that are unrelated to escort sites, but where illicit content might be reposted. She also made arguments that even some law enforcement investigators make, that some sites that promote child sex trafficking can lead investigators and advocates to victims and their abusers.
That argument falls flat for many advocates.
“That just doesn't work because, of course, they're causing far more harm than they're helping prevent,” said Washington State's attorney general, Rob McKenna, a Republican who is running for governor. “There's no excuse for being part of the problem.”
Human trafficking has been a prominent issue in Washington State for at least a decade. Following a series of high-profile trafficking-related episodes beginning in the 1990s, Washington passed the first state law, in 2003, to criminalize human trafficking. In 2010 it significantly increased prison sentences for child sex-trafficking. Last year, Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle pulled city advertising from The Seattle Weekly, which is owned by Village Voice (but requires age verification for escort ads that run in print). Mr. McKenna, the current president of the National Association of Attorneys General, made the issue the centerpiece of the group's meeting here last week.
He and others say they want Congress to amend the federal Communications Decency Act. The act, passed in 1996, provides broad free-speech protections for Internet sites that opponents of trafficking say did not anticipate the way the Web is now used — but that could make the Washington law vulnerable in court.
State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the sponsor of the new law, said she and others spent more than a year working on language that the American Civil Liberties Union and some newspaper groups eventually supported.
“We provide the means for them to have an affirmative defense,” Ms. Kohl-Welles said of the escort sites. “That is, if they can document they verified the age of the individual being portrayed. We think that'll do it.”
Ms. McDougall, of Village Voice Media Holdings, said it “took some convincing” before she recently agreed to take her job, because she also had questions about backpage. But she also questioned the need for the new Washington law.
“If we're not already the industry leaders based on what we're doing, we are going to be the industry leaders in fighting trafficking online,” Ms. McDougall said. “My goal is to get us there.”
Learn how to stop child abuse before it starts
by Tina Grier
It takes a village to raise a child and it is everyone's job to keep children safe, right?
But, many times we ask ourselves, "What is my job as a member of the village?"
The local Families First Network says there are many ways the public can help prevent child abuse and neglect. This month, the Blue to Better campaign aims to educate the community on how to prevent child abuse and neglect. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"The purpose of prevention is to involve the community in supporting families before something bad happens," said Linda Roush, director of community relations for Families First, a network of agencies that provide foster care and other services for children in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.
The network says there has been a tremendous increase in the number of children served last year. Last year, Families First assisted more than 5,000 abused and neglected children across Northwest Florida.
"That is a frightening number," Roush said. "About 70 percent of the cases we see come from neglect that stems from parents who just don't know what to do, or simply do not have the means to do it. They are out of work and they don't have the money to keep the lights on or buy clothing that is appropriate for their kids. They are not bad parents. They just need help."
Early intervention is key to stopping abuse before it happens, said Ann Harter, Lakeview Center's vice president for child protective services.
"It would be so much better for the children and our community if families had the supports needed to keep children from ever coming into the child welfare system," Harter said.
And help is available when parents reach out.
"If you are a struggling parent and you need help, all you have to do is dial 211 on your telephone and you will be connected with whatever services you might need," Roush said.
Help also can come from community members.
"Step out and help in little ways," Roush said. "Invite a struggling family's kids to go somewhere with your kids; invite the whole family. If you see a family struggling for food and you have extra, take them some or even donate to Manna Food Bank."
Project Self-Sufficiency helps launch 'Enough Abuse' effort to prevent child sexual abuse
Legislators, social service organizations, municipal officials and educators convened in Newton on Friday to begin a local effort to combat child sexual assault. Sussex County nonprofit agency Project Self-Sufficiency has been chosen, along with only two other nonprofit organizations in the state of New Jersey, to take part in a ground-breaking effort to end child sexual abuse in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey. The agency will be joined by PEI Kids, located in Mercer County, and Wynona's House, headquartered in Newark, as the first organizations in New Jersey to replicate the Enough Abuse Campaign throughout their communities.
The initiative aims to educate teens and adults about the nature and scope of child sexual abuse, and provide the tools necessary to protect children. For example, studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, when in fact, up to 90% of sexual predators are actually known to the victim.
Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey (PCA-NJ), the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, is a nonprofit thatworks throughout the state to eliminate child abuse and neglect. “Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem in New Jersey and causes devastating harm to victims,” said Rush Russell, Executive Director of PCA-NJ. “We congratulate these three communities for their courage and commitment to taking action now to prevent any child from being sexually abused, and we look forward to expanding the network of committed communities statewide.”
With funding support from the Ms. Foundation for Women and Prevent Child Abuse America, PCA-NJ has established the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, bringing together experts from every sector and region of the State who share a commitment to preventing child sexual abuse. The Partnership is currently working on a new strategic plan for the State of New Jersey to strengthen efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, and will also help to oversee the three local community projects as they begin their work.
“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be partnering with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey in this important effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in northwestern New Jersey,” said Alison Lampron, Enough Abuse Program Coordinator. “This educational outreach program will build on Project Self-Sufficiency's 25-year history of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient. Protecting our children from harm is an adult responsibility, and we are confident that the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community.”
The gathering featured keynote speaker and activist Jetta Bernier, who serves as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children organization. Jetta provides leadership in the areas of child abuse prevention, family support, and child welfare, and directs the "Enough Abuse Campaign" in the state of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts initiative was funded through a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2007, and is currently supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Jetta is also Co-Chair of the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, a grassroots coalition that succeeded in 2006 in extending Massachusetts' criminal Statute of Limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and that is working to pass the Comprehensive Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act of 2009 to address gaps in current laws.
“The Enough Abuse campaign is all about action. We have got to take action to prevent child sexual abuse. There is not one particular program that will change society and the way it deals with child sexual abuse, so we must look to other public health initiatives. Social movements must have strategies on several fronts. houghtfully, diligently, we will educate people and encourage them to take action, and we will build this movement,” commented Jetta, noting that other social movements such as anti-smoking or the use of child safety helmets combined public education, with policy initiatives, collaborative planning and targeted intervention to cause behavioral change over time.
Project Self-Sufficiency is a private nonprofit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey. The agency's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability. Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 19,500 families, including more than 30,000 children.
For information about the Enough Abuse community outreach program, or any of the other programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.
All can play a part in preventing child maltreatment
Prevent Child Abuse Coweta (PCAC), a local charity, is commemorating National Child Abuse Prevention Month with two events in April.
The kickoff event will be Tuesday, April 3 at 10 a.m. at the Municipal Building on Jefferson Street where the Boys and Girls Club of Newnan/Coweta will help place pinwheels representing the 653 recorded live births in Coweta County in 2011. They are a reminder that each child is valued and is everyone's responsibility. At the Pinwheel Project, Newnan Mayor Keith Brady will read a proclamation stating April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The signature event will be the Candlelight Vigil on Monday, April 23 (rain date is April 24) at 7 p.m. at Temple Park in Newnan. This annual event is held to encourage all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Coweta County a better place for children and families.
The program will include guest speakers, Darryl Smith, senior executive director Newnan/Coweta/Douglas/Carroll/Paulding Boys & Girls Clubs and Mitch Seabaugh, Georgia deputy treasurer.
Musical presentations will also highlight the event as well as participation by various local pastors.
PCAC stresses the value of a caring community in preventing child abuse and neglect. PCAC partners with Coweta County Family Connection which links families or individuals to family support systems in the county. Coweta County Drug Court, a non-profit organization, is an excellent example of this needed community support. Designed to return committed individuals (ages 18 and older) who are referred by the justices system to our community by breaking the cycle of drug abuse. Since child abuse and neglect is frequently caused by economic and drug problems, PCAC strongly endorses this program. Pam Shepherd, the director of Drug Court, attributes the success of this program to the invaluable support community organizations and leaders willing to work with the participants. “They have literally wrapped their arms around us,” states Shepherd.
“April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children,” said Helen Passantino, president of PCAC. “Everyone's participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote skills in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.”
For more information about child abuse prevention programs and activities during the month of April, and throughout the year, contact president Helen Passantino (770-253-2461) or president-elect Joyce Edmonson (770-252-2685).
Child Advocacy Center to honor 'Champions for Children'
by Robert Levey
PORTSMOUTH — The Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County will kick off National Child Abuse Prevention month with a Champions for Children breakfast Monday, April 9.
The annual event honors individuals who have done exceptional work to ensure the safety, health and well-being of abused children. The event is sponsored by Piscataqua Savings Bank and the Granite Springs Foundation.
Noting CACRC serves more than 350 children each year, Executive Director Maureen "Moe" Sullivan said it is important to recognize the collective efforts of these individuals as it highlights "a team-oriented approach to child abuse prevention and prosecution."
"It's not always comfortable to talk about abuse, especially sexual abuse, but it is real," said Sullivan, who noted that 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18. "For those of us in the business of child abuse, we make sure children have a voice and that they are empowered."
Chrissy Jackson, co-owner of Chrisrial & Co. Fine Jewelry of Portsmouth and one of this year's honorees, said advocacy is essential to "break the cycle of child abuse and violence."
"Caring for children who are in danger is the responsibility of the private sector and its citizens," said Jackson, whose business partner, Airial Sillanpaa, also will be recognized. "My business is a citizen, too — a corporate citizen — and we use as many resources as possible to give back on a local level."
Bill Pate, attorney for the Rockingham County Attorney's office, said CACRC coordinates with his agency and others, including local law enforcement and child protective services, to bring "everyone into the same room" so the child is interviewed only once.
"Ten years ago, kids were interviewed multiple times — it was hard on them," Pate said. "This makes it easier on the victims and reduces their trauma."
Noting he is "extremely honored" to receive such recognition, Londonderry police Detective Don LaDuke said CACRC is "instrumental in giving child victims a voice against their abusers and to help investigators bridge the gap in telling their stories."
LaDuke emphasized the importance of the forensic interview in obtaining information needed to most effectively prosecute a child abuse case.
"The interviewer cannot only help the victim put the story into a detailed account, but knows what information is relevant and critical to investigating cases of abuse," he said.
Despite the need for services and evidence supporting the effectiveness of the Child Advocacy Center model, Sullivan acknowledged current economic conditions present challenges.
"Many CACs are state-funded, but not in New Hampshire, which means most of our support is from private individuals, foundations and fund-raising events," she said. "We are in our 13th year of service, which is due in large part to the support we receive from the community — and this helps us achieve our mission. As in prior years, we rely on our 'champions for children' to achieve our mission and remain fiscally sound."
Other "champions" to be honored are Capt. Robert Michaud, Londonderry Police Department; Stephanie Callahan, Rockingham County Attorney's office; and Sandi Matheson, N.H. Attorney General's office.
Go & Do
Champions for Children
What: Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County honors individuals who have worked to ensure the safety, health and well-being of abused children.
When: Monday, April 9
Where: Wentworth by the Sea Country Club in Rye
For information: Visit www.cacnh.org , or call 422-8240.
Expo kicks off Child Abuse Awareness Month
by Mike Sakal , Tribune
April 1, 2012
After nearly three years, the little girl's name still stands out among those who can't forget her, the little girl who was a victim of what Chandler police detectives described as the worse case of fatal child abuse they had ever seen.
The 3-year-old's name and horrific death also is connected to what the city of Chandler saw in 2009 as a need to form an organization to bring an awareness to the problem of severe child abuse and educate people on its signs and how to prevent it.
That group, the Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Coalition, will launch Child Abuse Awareness Month by hosting an expo and memorial ceremony April 7 at Chandler's Tumbleweed Park.
A quilt with 70 squares will be on display representing the 70 children that died from child abuse and neglect in Arizona in 2010, according to statistics from Child Protective Services. The 2010 statistics are a slight increase from the 64 children who died at the hands of abusers in 2009, up from 51 in 2008. The 2011 statistics have not been completed yet.
Although the national number of severe child abuse cases are down, the cases in Arizona are up and are becoming more severe, according to Robert Bell, Children's Justice Coordinator for Maricopa County.
“We're alarmed by the trend,” said Bell, who also serves as the chairman for the Child Abuse and Awareness Coalition. “It's not the direction we would like to see the numbers go.”
“Be a hero to a child, and report abuse if you suspect it,” Bell added. “In nearly all cases of severe child abuse cases, no one ever made any initial reports of it. To make a difference, we have to know about it. You can save the life of a child by making that evaluation.”
Speakers at the expo will include Chandler City Council members Trinity Donovan and Rick Heumann, Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler and former Arizona Cardinal Bertrand Berry.
Shannon, a child who was abused and treated at the Childhelp Children's Center of Arizona, also will be speaking.
The day will be a grim reminder of horrific incidents that should be reported, beatings that often are spurred by financial pressures at home brought on by unemployment or the mothers' boyfriends who lash out at children they view as an inconvenience, experts say.
In 2009, half of Chandler's six homicides were from severe child abuse, the victims ranging from 3 weeks to 3 years old.
Police said Schala Vera died Aug. 31, 2009, at the hands of her mother's boyfriend, Dauntorian Sanders. Sanders admitted to holding Schala by her ankle as he dangled her over the upstairs bannister area while he beat her with a belt, a common occurrence in the household, police said. He also dropped her on the floor a number of times while beating her, the report stated.
Police officers discovered Schala lying between a toilet and a bathroom sink where she crawled to hide.
Schala's mother, Susan Witbracht, then 29, who never reported any abuse of her daughter to authorities, told police Sanders “was a good man.”
Sanders and Witbracht were both charged with first-degree murder. They remain in a Maricopa County jail and their trials are scheduled to begin in early 2013.
On average, one child is abused or neglected every hour in Arizona. During the state's 2011 fiscal year, Arizona Child Protective Services received more than 34,500 reports involving the alleged maltreatment of approximately 54,000 children. Nationally, five children die each day from abuse.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, whose office prosecutes many of the cases that reach felony level offenses, said, “As a civilized community we cannot and will not tolerate adults who harm or kill children with such brutality. There is nothing a child could ever do to remotely justify or excuse this conduct.”
Events across University note Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Monday, April 2, 2012
Several Penn State campuses have scheduled events to recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. This list will be updated as additional events are announced. Please check back for updates.
Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington has made an ongoing commitment to raise awareness and to provide education about violence, abuse and bigotry directed at children and all members of our society. During the month of April, Abington will reinforce its efforts with a series of events, including raising funds by A Place To Talk (APTT), the Abington peer counseling service, to benefit Mission Kids, the Montgomery County child advocacy organization; recertification of Abington as a No Place For Hate campus for the seventh consecutive year by Anti-Defamation League representatives on Monday, April 9; the one-woman historical drama “Unbinding Our Lives,” which tells the stories of three real Chinese women in the 1800s who suffered abuse at the hands of their families and others and who were sold into prostitution and slavery, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the Sutherland Auditorium; and other events. For more information, go to http://live.psu.edu/story/58816 .
Penn State Altoona
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and Penn State Altoona is hosting several events surrounding it. The critically acclaimed documentary "Boys & Men Healing," which focuses on the impact of male child sexual abuse on the individual and society, will be shown at 7 p.m. April 3 in the Misciagna Family Center. The Clothesline Project will be displayed in the Slep Student Center all day on April 4, and students are invited to share stories of survival related to the sexual abuse/assault on shirts. From 4 to 8 p.m. April 4, in a partnership with Family Services Incorporated, a Take Back the Night rally and candlelight vigil will be held in the Laurel Pavilion and in the Slep Center. For details about these events, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/58629 .
Penn State Beaver
In recognition of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Penn State Beaver library will host the display of a quilt entitled ‘Survivors Wall' as well as a display entitled ‘Take a Walk in My Shoes.' The displays, which are free and open to the public, will remain at the library throughout April and are exhibited with the assistance of Beaver campus librarian Marty Goldberg who hosts an annual April display in conjunction with the Women's Center. For more information, see http://live.psu.edu/story/58805 .
Penn State Berks
Penn State Berks has partnered with the Children's Alliance Center in an effort to educate faculty and staff about child abuse prevention. Representatives from the Children's Alliance Center will give a presentation at Penn State Berks from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, in room 5, Luerssen Building. This presentation will focus on mandatory reporting processes and procedures, and it is only open to faculty and staff of the campus. For more event information, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/58736 .
Penn State Brandywine
A workshop and discussion about the anniversary and history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and sexual assault policies and movements will be held at Penn State Brandywine at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, April 12, at a location to be announced. The event will feature a variety of cakes recognizing different milestones and important figures, such as the first Take It All Back initiative, the number of years since the President of the United States announced April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the number of sexual assaults that occur each year.
Also, Nichet Sykes, education coordinator of Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), will speak at Penn State Brandywine at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 17, at a location to be announced. She will discuss sexual assault services and access to support for survivors. In addition, Jessica Cook, a graduate student intern in the counseling office at Penn State Brandywine, will discuss the stress related to coping with trauma and sexual assault at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, April 19, in the Commons Building Lion's Den. Attendees can learn valuable skills for coping with stress associated with trauma or assault.
Penn State Hershey
An estimated three-million children become new victims of child maltreatment each year in the United States, including 25,000 in Pennsylvania. In an effort to raise awareness, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center will observe Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. Starting the evening of Sunday, April 1, the Medical Center's signature Blue Crescent will be lit up in blue each night for a week to encourage awareness and prevention of child abuse. Also, from April 1 to 14 or until "picked" by hospital visitors, a volunteer-planted "pinwheel garden" will be on display near the Medical Center's North Entrance (Heart and Vascular Institute Entrance). Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania promotes the pinwheel as a symbol of a carefree childhood, and its parent organization, Prevent Child Abuse America, is encouraging the planting of “pinwheel gardens” across the nation to increase focus on prevention efforts. These initiatives build on other recent efforts including the December launch of the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children , the focus of which will be the study, research, prevention and treatment of child abuse. The Center eventually will be home to hundreds of child abuse experts from across Penn State.
Penn State Schuylkill
Two Penn State Schuylkill students and instructor Ron Kelly will give a presentation entitled “The Effects Sexual Assault Crimes Have on College Campuses” on Saturday, April 14, at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, during the Penn State Behrend-Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference . The conference is sponsored by Penn State Behrend and the Northwest Pennsylvania Chapter of Sigma Xi.
Penn State University Park
A Take Back the Night walk is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 18, and at 1 p.m. April 19, a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will step off at Boucke Building. For more Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month events at University Park, see http://live.psu.edu/story/58814 .
Penn State York
In partnership with the York County Child Advocacy Center, the HD FS Club is offering the “Stewards of Children,” a nationally recognized, evidenced-based program to teach adults how to identify and respond to concerns about sexual abuse. The program is being offered for a second time on campus at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 4. For more information about this program email Catherine Moon, instructor in human development and family studies, at email@example.com .
By making a $5 donation at College Health Services, those who participate in Wear Jeans Day in support of Sexual Assault Awareness on Friday, April 13, will support the work of Wise Options. A program of the Williamsport YWCA, Wise Options offers a 24-hour emergency hotline, safe housing and services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and provides educational resources on awareness and prevention. During this countywide event, Wise Options wants to reduce confusion associated with sexual violence. Throughout the month of April, information will be available on a table in the Bush Campus Center lobby.
Also, Bob Hall, owner and founder of Learning to Live with Conflict Inc., will present “Nonviolent Sexuality: Making Peace with Passion” at 8 p.m. Monday, April 16, at Penn's Inn, Bush Campus Center. This engaging program addresses the sensitive issues of alcohol and sexual violence on campus in an entertaining and interactive manner. The Penn College Sexual Assault Education Committee welcomes Hall again as the featured speaker during the program “Ending the Battle of the Sexes and the Culture Wars: Making Peace with Passion and Healing Relationships” at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the Campus Center, room 207. According to Hall, the time has come for a permanent ceasefire in the battle of the sexes and the culture wars. The program will offer an engaging conversation as attendees unpack some longstanding and entrenched conflicts over human sexuality and the rights and responsibilities of all human beings toward each other, in transforming fights into lessons and healing deep wounds.
Pugh to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month
by Sarah Plummer
BECKLEY — Child sexual abuse is a concept that seems foreign, like something that happens in “other communities.”
With April deemed Child Abuse Prevention Month, Just for Kids Inc. Executive Director Scott Miller hopes to raise awareness locally and motivate the public to take steps that lead to prevention.
Miller invites the public to attend a special ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on the front lawn of Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh's office on South Kanawha Street.
Push will read a proclamation, and those in attendance will “plant” pinwheels on the lawn of the mayor's office.
“This is an opportunity to spread awareness about the exciting prevention tools that are making a difference in the lives of children in the area,” said Miller.
Just for Kids Inc., a child advocacy center serving Fayette, Raleigh and Wyoming counties, interviewed 271 child victims of sexual abuse in 2011.
Miller said statistics indicate that one in every 10 children tells about their abuse. If that statistic is applied to Just For Kids' service area, there are likely more than 2,700 children experiencing abuse each year.
Miller encourages everyone who cares about kids to come to the event.
“We can all make a difference in a child's life,” Miller said. “Take the time to learn what you can do to prevent child abuse.”
For more information about the event or to sign up to take the Stewards of Children training, contact Just For Kids Inc. at 304-255-4834, visit the Just For Kids website at www.jfkwv.com, or visit them on Facebook.
Legislators back bill on child sex abuse crimes
by Rick Sobey
Carmine Gentile, a lawyer in Framingham, represented a woman a few years back who was allegedly sexually abused as a teenager. But because the woman reported the sexual abuse many years later, the case was thrown out.
“It was a shame when that case a few years ago was tossed out because of the time limit,” said Gentile, a member of the Metrowest Bar Association. “As a citizen, a father, and a son, I believe it's a good idea for us to get rid of the statute of limitations.”
If the state Legislature approves a bill to end statutes of limitation on child sexual abuse cases, cases similar to those of Gentile's client's would be able to proceed.
Last week, the bill, which would remove all time limits on sexual abuse cases, was endorsed by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Some area legislators say they would vote for it if it reaches the full House and Senate.
“Many children who are molested tend to block it out as if it never happened, and they won't come forward for decades after,” said state Rep. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge. “We need to remove the time limit on these cases, and let the victims seek justice when they feel ready to come forward.”
Kuros said that giving sexual abuse victims more time would help others come forward if they see their cases would be taken seriously.
“They feel less stigmatized when another victim comes out,” Kuros said. “They won't be afraid anymore. But that might take several decades, which is why there shouldn't be a time limit on these cases.”
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, follows 2006 legislation that extended the time limit from 15 years after an alleged victim's 16th birthday to 27 years after the 16th birthday.
But victims have continually argued to eliminate the time limit and supporters of the bill say now more than 100 members of the 160-member House have signified support for the proposal.
Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, said that he would support the proposal if it also came to the Senate chamber. Eldridge said it takes a lot of time for the victim to admit or remember the traumatic experience, so he said it's important to “give the government a greater ability to prosecute abusers.”
“The time limit prevents justice from being served,” Eldridge said. “The abuser also might still be out there committing crimes, so the bill could reduce current abuse as well.”
Attorneys who handle such cases have varying feelings about the proposal.
Gentile, who represents both plaintiffs and defendants, said eliminating the statute of limitations is a “terrific idea.”
Gentile said if there are no statute of limitation on murder cases there's no reason for child sexual abuse cases to be any different.
“Looking at the big picture, this bill would absolutely be a good thing for the community,” Gentile said. “Hopefully it is passed by the Legislature, and more justice can happen.”
But Gentile said there will be opposition to the bill from criminal defense lawyers. He said it hurts defense lawyers' cases when there's a longer timeframe for a case.
Peter Elikann, a Boston criminal defense lawyer, is one of those with mixed feelings about the legislation.
“A child victim may not feel safe coming out against abusers until late into adulthood, but eliminating the statute would result in some great injustices,” Elikann said. “How does an innocent person defend themselves when the alleged case happened so long ago? It will be very hard for that innocent person to remember where they were that day.”
Elikann also said it would be difficult to locate the witnesses who could support a defense case. He said the witnesses could be dead by the time the case comes forward. “All those additional decades [27 years after age 16] would be more than sufficient time for the victim to report the crime,” Elikann said. “It shouldn't go on forever.”
State budget cuts threaten child abuse prevention program
by Joel Davis
Healthy Families East Tennessee, a child abuse prevention program, will lose its funding if state lawmakers approve proposed cuts.
The Tennessee General Assembly is currently discussing a proposed Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget that would cut the $3.1 million in funding for the program, which is a service of the Helen Ross McNabb Center (HRMC).
“HRMC understands firsthand the importance of prevention services,” said Mona Blanton-Kitts, vice president of Children and Youth Services for Helen Ross McNabb. “(Healthy Families East Tennessee) is highly successful in breaking cycles of abuse and neglect in our state. Without the program, we are placing our families at risk.”
The center's Healthy Families East Tennessee program serves Blount, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon and Sevier counties. The East Tennessee program has served about 4,500 families through its 16 years of service. Of those families, 99 percent of the at-risk children enrolled in the program remain abuse-free and stay in their homes, according to HRMC.
The voluntary home visitation program provides support and education through individual and group activities as well as a full range of case management services. Emphasis is placed on medical checkups, immunizations, family planning, developmental screenings and school readiness.
Services are provided up to five years, as needed, until the child is of school age. First-time parents are eligible for the program regardless of age, race, income or level of education.
State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, and state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, have submitted a budget amendment to restore the funding. State Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, said he supports the effort.
“We need to find money for that,” Swann said. “If you look at the Healthy Families situation, if we've got to put a child in foster care, it's $40,000 a year. If we can take care of the family somehow, we can do that at an average of about $7 per day. It's a dramatic difference. You are always better off to have a family together rather than break it up, provided everybody is acting like they are supposed to.
“... These types of health programs that help people who can't help themselves is a function of government that we can't ignore. If they are going to be productive citizens, we've got to help a little. That's what we're trying to do here.”
State Rep. Robert Ramsey, R-Maryville, said he will sign on to the budget amendment effort. “It's absolutely something I want to support. We've had questions come up on several of our community-based family support programs and so far we've addressed them successfully. I will certainly make sure that Healthy Families East Tennessee gets that same attention.”