Vigilance, not fear, best approach to prevention of youth sexual abuse
by MIKE BUTTS
TREASURE VALLEY — Shocking stories about child sexual abuse at the hands of youth service professionals made national headlines in recent months.
The stories left people wondering how such incidents can happen with trusted adults.
The fact is sexual abuse of children is so prevalent that the “Enough Abuse Campaign” of Massachusetts claims “each of us probably knows someone who has been victimized or who has abused.”
Officials with the campaign call child sex abuse a “silent and violent epidemic.”
Child advocates in the Treasure Valley say knowledge, procedures and attitudes about child sexual abuse can go a long way toward protecting kids from assaults that can leave them with life-long emotional scars.
When a child is sexually abused, its impact is so strong it damages the entire community, Idaho Children's Trust Fund Program Developer Wickes MacColl said.
Part of the challenge of preventing child sex abuse comes from the low incidents of reporting of the crime and the stigma associated with it. Victims are threatened by offenders not to report incidents and adults are reluctant to report suspicions because of fear of false accusations. The topic is often not brought up between parents and children.
“Most child sex abuse is not talked about. Most of it is buried,” Idaho Children's Trust Fund Executive Director Roger Sherman said. “Most people who are abused as children don't talk about it or don't talk about it for years and years.”
Child sex abusers work to gain trust of kids, adults
Those who sexually abuse children often work expertly to “groom” children and adults into gaining their trust. They take time to convince children and adults they are harmless, safe and beneficial to kids, often by volunteering to help children. That's one way they gain access to youth in a variety of venues where kids gather.
“To groom is to entice others to believe and trust you by manipulative tactics,” MacColl said. “Grooming the parents or the organization is part of the plan. Everybody has been seduced to a place where they trust the perpetrator.”
Most child sex abuse offenders are people who the child and the parent know.
“Very little child sexual abuse occurs with strangers,” Sherman said. “Very little of it occurs with the guy on the street corner or whatever stereotype you want to have. That's the rarest of incidents.”
Can more be done for prevention?
Many child service organizations, from schools to sports leagues to churches, have policies to prevent sexual abuse. But do they go far enough? Not always, Wickes MacColl of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund said.
MacColl said organizations should train adults on how to take steps to make environments safe, such as following the rule of threes, which requires at least three people in every interaction with a child to prevent one-on-one encounters.
The Caldwell YMCA trains every employee, or 450 to 600 people a year, in child abuse prevention, including prevention of child sex abuse.
The Idaho Youth Soccer Association does state and national background and sex offender checks on its coaches and volunteers, Executive Director Craig Warner said. They also avoid one-on-one situations between coaches and any of the 15,000 youth members of the association across the state. The Nampa Parks and Recreation Department has similar policies.
Local Episcopal churches use a training program called Safeguarding God's Children, an in-person, day-long class that teaches about methods used by child sex abuse offenders and how to protect against them. The church has used the program for about ten years.
Preventing child sex abuse at churches can bring unique problems, Episcopal Bishop of Southern Idaho Brian Thom said, because people assume active church members are well-intentioned.
“It's hard because the church is trying to be trusting all the time,” Thom said. “We give everybody the benefit of the doubt.”
A training program called Stewards of Children, created by the Darkness to Light organization, is available to parents and people who work with children through the Idaho Children's Trust Fund. It's a 2½ hour curriculum geared specifically to child sex abuse prevention. Call the Idaho Children's Trust Fund at 386-9317 for more information.
Idaho schools child abuse prevention requirements
All teachers and non-certified staff at Idaho's public schools must pass criminal background checks that include presentation of a fingerprint card to the Department of Education.
- Idaho Code 16-1605 requires school employees to report suspected abuse, abandonment or neglect involving a child under the age of 18. Abuse, as defined by Idaho law, includes the physical, emotional, mental, sexual or other general injury of a minor child where such injury is not the result of an accident and where such injury harms or threatens the child's health, welfare and/or mental and emotional stability.
More facts about child sex abuse from Darkness to Light
People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children.
Those who sexually abuse children are drawn to settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs and schools.
One in five children are sexually solicited while on the Internet.
Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.
The median age for reported sexual abuse is nine years old.
Approximately 20 percent of the victims of sexual abuse are under age eight.
Fifty percent of all victims of forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling are under age 12.
Most child victims never report the abuse.
Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who "tell" and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood. It is also likely that you know an abuser. The greatest risk to children doesn't come from strangers but from friends and family.
Thirty to forty percent of children are abused by family members.
As many as 60 percent are abused by people the family trusts
Nearly 40 percent are abused by older or larger children.
Child sex assault survivor tells story of being lured into relationship
by Pam Mellskog
LONGMONT -- Kids whispered throughout that spring semester in 1980 that 14-year-old Meg (Dittman) Hargett and a popular, 30-something ninth-grade teacher were having an affair.
"An affair? I didn't know enough to know what an affair was," Hargett, now 46, said.
Two years later, though, the teenager knew enough to see the relationship for what is was: child sex assault -- a charge to which the teacher pleaded guilty and served a two-year deferred sentence, one without jail time or a permanent record if he kept probation terms.
"He would never get a deferred sentence for that today," said Catherine Olguin, spokeswoman for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
Laws changed in the 1990s to make sex assault sentencing harsher.
But child sex assault survivors hope to help prevent the crime from happening in the first place by speaking out in April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Though an estimated one in four girls and one in six boys suffer sexual abuse before age 18, only one in 10 ever discloses abuse, according to the National Children's Alliance, a professional membership organization that helps communities respond effectively to allegations of child abuse.
Child sexual abuse includes contact behaviors such as touching a child's genitals, breasts or anus with an object, hand or body part; making a child touch someone else's genitals; or putting body parts or other objects inside a child's genitals, mouth or anus for sexual pleasure, according to The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Sexual abuse also includes non-contact behaviors such as sexual comments; watching a child undress or use the bathroom; exposing a child to sexual acts in person, video or print; obscene phone calls; exposing a person's genitals to a child; and photographing a child in sexual poses.
Survivors often report that such crimes against them remain a private grief because of the deep feelings of worthlessness, wickedness and shame abuse causes.
However, in 1982, at age 16, Hargett found the courage to tell the school district, her parents, a Longmont Police Department detective and the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
By then, she had met two younger victims of the same teacher -- including one suffering abuse at the time -- and she realized that her testimony could make it stop.
"I was the one who brought down this very popular teacher," she said.
But the schoolgirl crush she had on him before he assaulted her haunted her recovery process, which kept her from sharing the story with co-workers, friends and acquaintances as an adult.
"The hardest thing about this was forgiving myself. I've never been one of those people that sits back and lets things happen to me," Hargett said.
"But I've gone over it and over it in my mind to find out why it happened. And the only thing I can come to is that this guy knew what he was doing."
Looking back, Hargett -- now a happily married wife and mother of three daughters and a son -- sees her former teacher's criminal mind.
He picked her for his pet, which started with giving her rides home from school in his silver Datsun 240Z.
But he always dropped her off a block from her home and ordered her to duck when they drove past someone who might recognize him driving her around town.
When Hargett told him that her older sister questioned the relationship after he called on the family's dedicated basement line for the three teenage siblings, he dubbed her sibling the "stupid sister."
"That year, he wrote in my yearbook, 'I'd like to say something here, but your stupid sister might read it,'" Hargett said.
His favoritism eventually meant that she could be his special helper at school and after school at games played by a sports team he coached.
After months of currying her favor, the teacher invited her to his place on a Saturday night and unlaced her tennis shoes as she sat on his couch.
"I knew this was going to be the jumping-off point, and I was scared to death," Hargett said. "... I did have a sick feeling in my tummy. I remember that. ... I guess I didn't have the power to say 'Oh, no. This is creepy.' ... People can sit there and go, 'Wait. Why didn't she tell her parents?' There's so much shame. At 14, can you imagine having to tell your parents?"
Anatomy of vulnerability
The teacher assaulted Hargett about a half-dozen times that semester -- always on Saturday nights, when her parents ate out and bowled with their league.
He stopped only when the semester ended and he lost access, Hargett said.
Access, after all, is what it is all about for those who sexually abuse children, according to Feather Berkower, a Louisville-based child sex abuse prevention specialist, national speaker and coauthor of the book "Off Limits: A Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse" (The Safer Society Press).
"One offender on probation created a safety plan that only allowed him to go grocery shopping after 10 p.m. because there are fewer children in the store at that time," she said.
But access goes beyond physical contact.
Children who feel unloved and get little attention, those expected to obey authority without exception, and kids who lack confidence and self-esteem are more at-risk, Berkower said.
"Part of the arousal for some offenders is the planning, the getting the child to love, trust and depend on them," she said.
That's easier to do with needy children, although every child is a potential target, Berkower continued.
Also, kids who know little to nothing about body part terminology or body parts off limits to others are more vulnerable, she said.
A child's use of slang tips off the potential abuser that he -- about 95 percent of child sexual abusers are boys or men, according the U.S. Department of Justice -- can shape what the child understands about sex. Slang also makes it more difficult to express abuse.
"A child can say, 'He ate my cookie last night,'" and a distracted adult may not pickup on what that really means," Berkower said.
To keep kids safe, she tells adults to teach children to use correct body part terminology and to practice saying, "I'm the boss of my body!"
That means not forcing children to hug or kiss anyone -- including grandma.
Letting kids make those choices to forgo physical contact with family members in safe environments can protect them in unfamiliar settings with a potential offender, Berkower said.
"Sexual abusers love polite children," she added.
Talk about it
When Hargett reviews her life at age 14, she remembers wearing T-shirts, painter pants and straight leg, button-fly, 501 Levi jeans.
She played four sports every year and described herself as a tomboy who began sitting still on the couch in a fog when the abuse started.
Though not intentionally neglectful or tuned out, her parents very likely were busy cultivating their social life on weekends, she said, and might already have been grappling with troublesome issues in their marriage.
They divorced when Hargett, their youngest of three children, was a senior in high school.
Or maybe, like so many parents, they felt unwilling on some level to consider such victimization until Hargett sat before them to break the bad news two years after it happened.
"The resistance to 'go there' is exactly what the abuser wants," Berkower said. "So, this is what I would say if I could get a microphone on 'Oprah.' I would say that if we want as a society to eliminate child abuse, we need to stand up, to say 'this is not acceptable.' In our society, we demonstrate passive acceptance all the time."
To keep her kids safe -- the youngest of whom is 15 -- Hargett early on told them about her bitter past.
"They know the story," she said. "There is not a subject in this house that we don't talk about."
In going public, she aims to sensitize the community and to remind those who suspect child abuse to report it.
"Now, they teach kids to tell and tell and tell and tell until somebody takes appropriate action. But 32 years ago, it was never talked about," she said.
Hargett also hopes that her story shows that recovery is possible.
"They haven't created a word that can express how horrible that experience is. It lives with you forever. It never goes away. But it doesn't define me. It isn't my first thought or even my thousandth thought," she said. "... Going into those hidden rooms inside yourself is certainly not a place you want to go. It's not comfortable. But the more times you do and you share, it gives you that reality. It's the spoken word. If you hear it, it helps to see that it wasn't your fault."
More than ever for colleges, Title IX rape cases are a legal minefield
by Elise Amendola
A closed-door encounter between two college acquaintances. Both have been drinking. One says she was raped; the other insists it was consensual. There are no other witnesses.
It's a common scenario in college sexual assault cases, and a potential nightmare to resolve. But under the 40-year-old federal gender equity law Title IX — and guidance handed down last year by the Obama administration on how to apply it — colleges can't just turn such cases over to criminal prosecutors, who often won't touch them anyway. Instead, they must investigate, and in campus proceedings do their best to balance the accused's due process rights with the civil right of the victim to a safe education.
Lately, though, the legal ramifications of such cases are spilling off campus, with schools caught in the middle. Colleges that do too little about sexual assault could lose federal funds. The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating a dozen colleges and universities over their response to sexual violence (documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show schools that have recently agreed to take steps to resolve OCR complaints over Title IX policies include universities such as Notre Dame, Northwestern and George Washington).
Meanwhile, judgments in Title IX lawsuits against colleges, usually brought by accusers, are soaring. Compounding the fear: In some such cases, college administrators may be found personally liable.
But when colleges do take action against accused students, those students are increasingly lawyering up themselves, suing for breach of contract and negligence. And in at least two recent cases, in Tennessee and Massachusetts, male students have tread novel legal ground by alleging violations of their own Title IX protections against gender discrimination, arguing a college's sexual assault policies or procedures were unfairly stacked against men.
Whether or not such Title IX arguments hold up, they underscore a new fact of life: For better or for worse, the days when colleges could count on handling such matters quietly behind closed doors are over.
A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision established potential liability under Title IX for schools that fail to address sexual harassment and, in its extreme form, sexual assault.
Now, Title IX cases represent “the most expensive lawsuits in history” against colleges, said Brett Sokolow, managing partner of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management.
Among them: The University of Colorado faced a $2.85 million verdict under Title IX after two students were allegedly raped by football recruits and players at an off-campus recruiting event in 2001. An appeals court essentially held that Colorado had an official policy to show recruits “a good time,” which created a dangerous culture for sexual assaults. The jury verdict in a sports-related Title IX discrimination case at California State University-Fresno ran to $19.1 million, though that was later reduced to $6.6 million.
Such verdicts have cast a cloud of fear over college attorneys and administrators. Some advocates welcome that. They hope it will prompt long-overdue measures to ensure sexual assaults don't deny women access to education.
But there are concerns of overreach.
In March, 2011, in a response to student protesters who had occupied a campus building and were calling for stronger policies to combat sexual assault, the president of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania announced that expulsion would be the only available sanction for rape.
Numerous experts and administrators at other campuses called such a policy unusual and troubling. They say it deprives educators of flexibility in handling cases that often aren't black and white. And like any sentencing minimum, it may have the unintended effect of making conduct boards less likely to convict at all. (Dickinson dropped the policy in guidelines published last December, which refer more broadly to sexual assault, and standardize punishments ranging from one-year suspension to expulsion).
“It drives —not hysteria, that's not the right word — but nearly that,” Sokolow said. “It's such a fear-based reaction that a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn't, for fear they'll get nailed on Title IX.”
Hans Bader, a former attorney with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, says campus conduct boards, fearing Title IX lawsuits, will inevitably err on the side of punishment.
“Innocent people get found guilty of harassment because the school realizes the only way it can avoid liability is to punish everybody in sight,” he said.
But that's a legal danger, too. Students accused of sexual violence don't buy the argument that such proceedings are merely “educational,” affecting nothing more than their academic standing.
“Fifteen years ago, 20 years ago, if a student got into trouble he would just drop out and go elsewhere,” Sokolow said. “Now colleges are starting to share information, they're starting to put notations on transcripts.” With more at stake, “We're seeing more students who want to stand and fight.”
Typically, such suits allege breach of contract or negligence, like a recently resolved high-profile case involving Brown University, brought by a former student who contended Brown rushed an investigation and caved to pressure from the accuser's father, a prominent donor.
But recently, at least two have made an apparently novel argument citing the Title IX rights of accused male students. Their argument: Title IX, while requiring numerous protections for sexual assault victims, fundamentally concerns gender equity, and men can be victimized, too.
A federal judge threw out the Title IX claim brought by a male student punished for sexual assault at the University of the South, Sewanee, in Tennessee. But a jury sided with the student on other grounds, agreeing the college failed to provide basic fairness. Sewanee, the jury agreed, allowed a charge to proceed without adequate evidence and gave the accused little more than 24 hours to prepare for a hearing. Also, administrators failed to interview key witnesses, disclose exculpatory evidence, and have adequately trained employees running the process.
Sokolow, who testified on behalf of the accused student (he usually testifies for colleges), called the ruling important because it established that even private colleges can be found negligent if they don't meet basic standards.
Then there's the case of Edwin Bleiler, who was expelled from Holy Cross in Massachusetts on the day he was supposed to graduate last spring, for allegedly sexually assaulting another student. The accuser maintained she'd been intoxicated and unable to give consent to a sexual encounter. Bleiler contends she wasn't incapacitated and acted willingly.
Now, Bleiler is suing Holy Cross, arguing the college's consent and sexual misconduct policies discriminate against male students — violating his Title IX rights. An attorney for Bleiler, Emily Smith-Lee, contends his Title IX claim is stronger than the one dismissed in the Sewanee case: Bleiler's case goes beyond the argument that Holy Cross implemented its sexual assault policy in a discriminatorily shoddy fashion. Rather, it claims the policies are inherently tilted against men, by creating different standards for male and female students.
Holy Cross declined to comment.
Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary who oversees the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, declined to comment on specific cases, and said she did not believe the department had ever received a complaint alleging a male student's Title IX rights were violated in a sexual assault proceeding. But, if it ever did, the complaint would be looked into.
“Title IX protects all students, male and female, against sex discrimination,” she said.
Wendy Murphy, a Boston attorney and victims' advocate who has filed numerous Title IX complaints on behalf of victims, says colleges cave too easily to the threat of lawsuits from students accused of sexual violence. Most victims don't have the resources to sue, which is precisely why they depend on campus Title IX procedures to ensure they are protected. That requires putting a thumb on the scale in favor of victims — such as the “preponderance of the evidence” standard the Obama administration has said schools must use in adjudicating such cases.
Colleges must protect victims, she says. That means abandoning the fantasy they can make everybody happy by also offering accused students the full due process rights they'd enjoy in a criminal trial.
“You can't run a school that way,” Murphy said. “If every once in a while a school has to be sued at the cost of being fair to all students, so be it.”
Can child abuse response be 'right-sized?'
As the state follows a new abuse reporting process with efforts to close treatment facilities, advocates say the Department of Child Services cares more about money than children
MUNCIE -- In the wake of criticism over Indiana's new system for reporting child abuse -- including allegations that the Department of Child Services' screening process dismissed reports that might have prevented the deaths of several children at the hands of abusers -- DCS is implementing more changes that could hit communities across the state.
Throughout Indiana, dozens of treatment centers that offer shelter and counseling to abused children could be forced to close through a DCS "right-sizing" process. Facilities like Muncie's Youth Opportunity Center -- home to 136 abused, neglected and troubled children -- could lose state funding. So could half the state's nearly 100 such facilities.
DCS Director James Payne's push to cut costs at DCS -- resulting in more than $100 million of the agency's annual budget being turned back into the state's coffers -- included the state's centralized, 800-number child abuse reporting system, in place since 2010.
Now DCS -- which has already cut payments to some treatment centers by as much as 25 percent -- is requiring the centers to submit proposals for how they will contain costs.
"Current utilization of residential beds ... is below 55 percent," DCS wrote in a recent request for proposal sent to juvenile treatment centers around the state. "DCS intends to right-size the number of beds it contracts for ..."
"Right-sizing" is a phrase used by private industry and is often equated with cutbacks and layoffs. It isn't commonly used in connection with treatment of children who have been beaten or sexually molested.
"Right-size?' Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold said last week in a mocking tone. "That's a cute word."
Arnold is among officials, from Delaware County and elsewhere in the state, who told The Star Press they're increasingly alarmed about efforts by DCS -- under Payne, a former Marion County juvenile court judge appointed to the DCS post by Gov. Mitch Daniels -- that have changed how the state handles child abuse allegations and, when substantiated, cases.
Among the concerns:
• For about two years, calls to report child abuse -- from neighbors, teachers or authorities -- have been routed through a centralized call center via a toll-free number rather than through local DCS offices. Critics say this can discourage reporting.
• By DCS's own count, state child abuse hotline workers "screen out" -- or dismiss without investigation -- 39 percent of calls received through the 800 number. "I think when almost four in 10 people who call and are concerned about possible abuse and neglect with children ... that seems a high number to say, 'I'm sorry but we're not even going to look into this,'" said Cathleen Graham, executive director of IARCCA, a state association of child treatment facilities.
• DCS-mandated cuts to funding for treatment -- rate cuts to facilities, plans to "right-size" the number of facilities eligible to receive funding -- could cause dozens of facilities to close.
• Judges complain they're contradicted by DCS when they believe abuse, neglect or misbehavior warrants sending a youth to a treatment facility. The judge can order placement but DCS -- represented locally by a probation service consultant who is also a Fort Wayne real estate agent -- often says the state will not cover the cost of treatment.
"It's all about saving money," said Peter Nemeth, a St. Joseph County juvenile court judge who spoke to The Star Press. "It's all about eliminating services to children to save money. Either dump them in the Department of Correction or back in the home or out on the streets."
The Star Press left messages at DCS Friday morning asking for an interview. Two hours later a DCS official asked for questions in writing. The Star Press submitted questions in writing and, two hours later, DCS Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Rounds said that due to the medical leave of the agency's communications director, a detailed response would not be forthcoming in time for these articles. The Star Press requested a phone interview but was told that no one was available to answer questions.
Child abuse isn't going away. In Delaware County in 2011, more than 2,000 allegations of abuse were made -- about 100 more than the year before.
A numbers game?
Besides the officials and advocates who spoke to The Star Press, one of the state's leading authorities on child abuse spoke out strongly against the changes -- through her resignation.
In March, two weeks after DCS announced that 25 Indiana children died from abuse or neglect in 2010 -- a record low number, Payne said -- Antoinette Laskey, a physician and chairman of the State Fatality Review Team that investigates child abuse deaths, submitted her letter of resignation to the governor's office.
In her letter to Daniels, Laskey -- an expert witness for the prosecution in Delaware County criminal cases stemming from the March 2010 death of Lauren McConniel -- wrote, "The recent publicity of 'record low deaths' counted as child abuse or neglect fails to recognize the fact that hundreds of children died preventable deaths in our state.
"There is no success story in being able to re-categorize them as not the responsibility of the Department of Child Services," she wrote, going on to criticize further changes proposed by DCS concerning how child fatalities are reviewed.
"I don't think there's anyone more knowledgeable about child abuse in Indiana than Toni Laskey," Arnold said last week. "Her resignation speaks volumes about the problems at the state level."
'The public ... would be outraged'
The 800-number hotline set up by the Indiana Department of Child Services for reporting child abuse too often fails the children it was ostensibly created to protect, advocates for children say.
Call takers at DCS's centralized reporting center -- who "screen out," or dismiss, 39 percent of calls to the hotline by the state's own count -- can be unresponsive to calls reporting abuse, one local medical professional who spoke to The Star Press said last week.
"It's extremely frustrating and sad," said the medical professional, who has insight into the centralized child abuse reporting as overseen since 2010 by DCS. "I feel like I can't trust the system. If the public knew how often this happened, they would be outraged."
The Star Press agreed not to reveal the identity of the medical professional because the person fears professional reprisal.
The medical professional recounted a case involving two preschool-age children who showed signs of abuse that included "hypersexualized" behavior, including rubbing their bodies against furniture and trying to inappropriately touch investigators.
Analysis done at the request of DCS showed the children were "in the 95th percentile" for likelihood of abuse and their father agreed to a clinical polygraph test. Such tests are not admissible in court for criminal charges but can be used in abuse investigations to narrow the field of possibilities.
The polygraph showed, with little doubt, the father was molesting the two children as well as a younger child.
DCS was told that the father failed the polygraph, but no action was taken to separate him from the children.
The medical professional then called the DCS hotline but no action was taken. Instead, the call taker argued that the polygraph was not admissible in court.
A week later, the medical professional called a regional director for DCS. Only after that third call were the children removed from the father's sphere of influence. The person pressing the case said it was not a certainty that the separation of the children from their father was permanent.
'Where is the oversight?'
"Reunification (of a troubled family) is a wonderful thing in a limited number of cases," said Arnold as he and Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hoffman sat in Arnold's Delaware County Building office last week.
But Arnold added that the changes being made by DCS -- which seem to favor keeping children out of residential treatment and at home with their parents even when prosecutors, judges and caseworkers think separation is necessary -- are a concern.
"This policy is killing what I consider to be historically successful treatment programs like the YOC," Arnold said. "I challenge someone to show that the YOC's programs are not successful. When these statewide policies stop providing treatment for children that don't have homes to go to, what happens to them? Do we warehouse them?
"They are deciding services and they are the bean counters?" Arnold asked about DCS. "You've got to be kidding me. Where is the oversight?"
Critics of DCS point to incidents in recent weeks that have been reported in The South Bend Tribune and The Indianapolis Star. In particular, the beating death of 10-year-old South Bend resident Tramelle Sturgis in November, more than five months after a caller contacted DCS through its 800-number hotline and urged authorities to investigate abuse in the home. The Indianapolis Star noted several deaths involving children around the state, including that of a toddler who died months after a call to the hotline.
Hoffman noted that he called the state's 800 number for reporting child abuse and was put on hold 45 minutes.
"If Billy Bob sees his neighbor beating a child with a fishing rod, how many numbers will he call?" Arnold asked. "Will he wait that long? It's insanity."
No celebration yet
At the tree-lined Muncie campus of the Youth Opportunity Center last week, CEO Rick Rowray and Jeff Parsons, longtime YOC board president, said preparing the response to the RFP is an important task.
Responding to changes from DCS is not new for the YOC. Rowray said that DCS changed to a cost-based system and cut the amounts it would reimburse to treatment facilities by 25 percent or more.
"Everyone was shocked," Rowray said. IARCCA sued DCS in federal court and treatment facilities have been offered reimbursement rates that were cut by only 20 percent. But until the RFP process is complete, the YOC is operating under the 25 percent cut.
Parsons acknowledged this year's 20th anniversary of the first YOC cottage.
"We can't afford to take time away from the RFP to celebrate," Rowray said.
"When we win the RFP, we'll celebrate," Parsons added.
The YOC has until May 9 to submit its proposal.
The possible changes to funding for treatment centers like the YOC -- built 20 years ago through a mix of public money and private contributions -- is a concern for IARRCA's 90-plus agencies, Graham said.
"There's a rumor out there that DCS is going to contract with only about 50 agencies," Graham said. "I don't know if that's true or not." She said the rumor is based on DCS noting, in the RFP, that occupancy rates statewide are only about 55 percent.
But that occupancy rate is misleading, Graham said. "You need the latitude to match a child with the right program. DCS said about 80 percent occupancy is about right. But 55 percent doesn't take into account what kind of beds that might be, what kind of treatment facilities."
With Daniels' tenure as governor coming to an end, some children's advocates are hoping Indiana's next chief executive will change policies -- and perhaps leadership -- at DCS.
"At the end of the day, it's about the mission," Rowray said. "We have felt good about our mission, to serve the county and DCS and the courts with as much quality as we can. We're proud that even though there have been challenges, we have maintained or gotten better. We won't make cuts in terms of quality. We just won't."
To contact the authors of this article: Douglas Walker at 213-5851 or email@example.com, Keith Roysdon at 213-5828 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Make Child Abuse, Neglect Cases Public
West Virginia's policy on public disclosure of child abuse and neglect cases is "vague and unclear," a national advocacy organization reported last week. That needs to change.
State laws on reporting of child abuse and neglect are good in some ways, but not specific enough in others, according to a national report by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego. For example, though the law requires release of information when children die of abuse or neglect, it does not specify what facts are to be made available to the public.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services defended some secrecy, saying it is intended to protect the children involved. But as the institute pointed out, that defense makes no sense in situations where children die from abuse or neglect.
While our state has found ways to reduce abuse and neglect of children dramatically during recent years, it still is too common. According to the Kids Count organization, 17.6 of every 1,000 children in the state are victims of abuse or neglect. That is nearly twice the national rate.
Agencies that refuse to make public information about child abuse and neglect - including names of perpetrators - risk being accused of attempting to cover up their own failures. Given the number of such lapses we hear about, that is not an unreasonable assumption.
If child abuse and neglect is to be curbed, the public needs to know about it. That should be the core of state policy.
Preventing abuse requires uncomfortable conversation
Getting more people talking about the ugly crimes committed against children in a way that's hopeful — and helpful — is a goal behind “I Stand with Kids."
We don't talk about it. Or even try to think about it.
“People hear ‘child abuse,' and they think, ‘Oh, that's really icky,' or, ‘Oh, that's really sad.' Or they react with anger and then that's it. We want to get people talking and thinking about it in a way that's hopeful,” Beth Olson, executive director of the First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center in Duluth, told the News Tribune Opinion page this month.
Getting more people talking about the ugly crimes committed against children in a way that's hopeful — and helpful — is a goal behind “I Stand with Kids,” a month-long campaign of First Witness and of other child abuse resource centers from across the state. If no one talks about abuse, if it becomes taboo or an off-limits topic, kids may be reluctant to say anything if abuse happens to them or to someone they know.
“Our goal is to demystify assumptions made about victims and perpetrators of child abuse and educate our community about the services First Witness provides,” said Cellie S. Dudley, a community outreach specialist for the nonprofit.
“If we're not talking about it, how can we expect kids to talk about it and to tell us when it's going on? We're standing with kids so no child has to stand alone,” said Olson. “Too often people suspect (abuse) and don't do anything. ‘That's family business.' ‘That's not our business.' That needs to change.”
When it does, she said, “The community can look a lot different, a lot safer.”
The Northland can help First Witness spread its message by supporting and participating in the campaign. Videotaped testimonials from community leaders, abuse-prevention tips (some of which are published here) and other information are posted at firstwitness.org. Activities culminate with blue, child-shaped lawn signs set up all along the Lakewalk from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 30. The signs are to be adorned with sponsors' names. Sponsorships are $20 to $50.
“We're trying to engage all aspects of the community to work together to prevent child abuse,” Olson said.
A worthy goal — as uncomfortable as the issue may be.
Ms. North America understands what happens when child sexual abuse hits home
by Pam Mellskog
These days, she sees her father -- wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles -- once a year at his probation hearing.
He sexually abused her from age 4 to 17, when she moved out of the house.
Lori Krout, 32, came forward in 2007 about the crime, and her father was sentenced in 2008 to five years in prison, 16 years on probation and five years of parole.
"I always knew it was not right for the sheer fact that I hated it. I would dread every time my stepmom would go to the grocery store and leave me alone with him," she said.
"But I didn't know how to stop it. I didn't have any power. I was a child. Even when I was 15, I was a child."
After she escaped her home, she hid the secret for years until an ultrasound of her first baby, whom she had with her first husband in 2001, revealed that a little girl was on the way.
"That's when I lost it. I thought, 'If I can't protect myself, how can I protect my baby?'" Krout said. "So, by 2007 I managed to step forward to protect my children and any possible future nieces or nephews."
Earlier this month, the wife and mother of two daughters began using her new crown -- she is Ms. North America 2012 -- to protect more children from sexual abuse by raising awareness.
"People need to know that this is not really about stranger danger," Krout said.
Rather, an estimated 80 percent to 95 percent of sexually abused children know their abuser, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
"During April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the motto is, 'It's time to talk about it,'" she said. "So, I tell my story."
At the beginning of the month, the Highlands Ranch woman spoke at the state Capitol in Denver at a public gathering to raise awareness for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Krout still suffers from anxiety, insomnia and other post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms related to the severity and duration of her abuse.
Her family, she said, supported keeping her father's crime a secret instead of supporting her -- his victim.
When she pressed charges, it estranged her from them.
"But I know of at least four others related to his case," she said. "If they would have come forward and been listened to, it probably wouldn't have happened to me."
For more information, visit her Facebook fan page, Ms. North America 2012, or her website, LoriKrout.net.
To abuse children, offenders usually "groom," or desensitize a child, to make that boy or girl more willing to keep a secret. The abuser's goals include: gaining trust of the child and the parents to reduce suspicions; getting the child to break rules; separating the child from the parent; getting the child to assume responsibility for the abuse; and building friendship with the parent.
This grooming process often follows four steps:
Step 1: The sex abuser builds a friendship with a child who is "special" and often gains the parents' trust, too. For instance, the offender may tickle the child in front of the parents to desensitize the caregivers along with the child to believe that the tickling is harmless. Sample language: "You're such a cool kid. No one loves or understands you the way I do."
Step 2: The sex abuser offers gifts and rewards and makes the child feel indebted. Sample language: "I know you really want that new baseball mitt. Because you're my favorite kid and so special to me, I'll get it for you!"
Step 3: The sex abuser introduces secrets and threats. Sample language: "Let's stay up late and watch this movie. Don't tell your mom because she'll be really mad that you stayed up so late, and she won't let me baby-sit for you anymore."
Step 4: The sex offender physically violates the child and uses secrets and threats to continue the violation. Sample language: "If you play this special touching game with me, I'll bring you to the movies. Remember, this is our special game. It's our special secret. Don't tell anyone or something bad will happen to your mother."
Source: Feather Berkower, parentingsafechildren.com
If you go:
Parenting Safe Children workshop to keep children safe from sexual abuse
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 24
Where: Sister Carmen Community Center, 655 Aspen Ridge Drive, Lafayette
For more information:
Abused as a Child, a Man Finds His Voice and Calling
A South Jersey man conquers years of sexual abuse with a new found activism to help male survivors of sexual assault.
by Lauren Burgoon
Growing up at the Jersey Shore, Rhett Hackett heard all about stranger danger and the perils that befall kids who trust suspicious strangers. No one told him that the real predator could lurk next door.
That's where the man lived who Hackett says sexually assaulted him for five years throughout his teens. Thanks to the perpetrator's friendly relationship with the family and a classic technique of grooming Hackett to stay silent about the abuse, Hackett never disclosed the mounting assaults to his parents or anyone else.
But now as an adult, he refuses to stay silent.
Outdated perceptions of sexual assault consider the crime a women's issue. And while it's true that women and girls are the predominant victims, men and boys are by no means immune. An estimated one in six boys experiences sexual abuse before age 16, and one in 33 men are victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
Male sexual assault survivors face many of the same issues as females—guilt, shame, post-traumatic stress disorder, higher propensity for depression and addiction—but these effects are sometimes compounded by societal attitudes about men and rape. That men should be tougher, that a victim who experienced arousal meant he enjoyed the abuse or, perhaps most devastating, that victims will turn into predators.
Hackett is on a crusade to speak out about his abuse, not only to finally experience the freedom of disclosure after decades of silence, but to remind other survivors of the simple message: You're not alone.
A predator strikes
Hackett's abuser was a neighbor who lived part-time at the shore. The family trusted the man, so there was no reason 12-year-old Hackett shouldn't spend time with him.
“Then, one day, he crossed that line. It takes you by surprise. The one thing I always say is that there really are no words that can describe how you feel,” Hackett, a Sicklerville resident, says. “There is an instant sense of complicity that you were an accomplice to this, and that's what they sell you on in regards to allowing it to continue.”
And it did, for years, unchecked.
“In one of the circumstances, his girlfriend had walked in on him abusing me and she said nothing. She had to have figured out what was going on,” Hackett recalls. “I was sweating bullets because he had always said that we would get into trouble if anyone had found out. At the same time, he would always say what was going on was perfectly normal.”
But that incident did flip a switch for Hackett: If what they were doing was so normal, why would anyone get into trouble?
“I almost felt a double betrayal there. It opened up my eyes. Shortly after, he made his typical move by reaching toward the crotch area, and I blocked his hand and said, ‘You can't do this anymore.' Surprisingly, he was receptive to it,” Hackett says. “And it ended.”
Assault aftershocks live on
While the assaults physically ended, in a way they continued for years. Hackett didn't tell a soul what had happened. He first disclosed to the woman who would become his wife, but opted not to tell his family. Internally, confusion swirled.
“No matter how many times I asked why, I always fell back on me—that's why," Hackett said. "I must have done something to lead him to believe this was something I wanted. It's not something I ever forgot; it was always there.”
Lurking just below the surface, the sheer weight of his secrets began chipping away at the façade of overachievement Hackett had established.
The thoughts escalated to near obsession. Hackett would call the man's house, posing as a telemarketer, to keep tabs on him.
With his marriage on shaky ground, with the weight of the secrecy threatening to consume him, Hackett made a move.
It was 2005, and Hackett had “hit a wall,” as he describes it. He spent hours staring at the mental health number on his insurance card before mustering up the courage to call. Soon he was in therapy with a Haddonfield practitioner, disclosing everything that had happened.
But recovery isn't always easy or linear. It took a year of therapy before Hackett decided to finally tell his parents and file charges against the neighbor. He picked a date. He posed as a telemarketer one last time to confirm the abuser was still at the same address.
He learned the man had died just days before.
“So that was pretty much the end of that,” Hackett said. “You have waited from age 12 until 33. You've gone that whole entire time, building up to get to the point of confronting him, and he goes away. It's just awful.”
Eventually he did press ahead with telling his parents. This is what many media representations of sexual assault show as a watershed moment where a victim suddenly heals, finally unburdened of the secret. But real life usually doesn't work that way.
“I knew that it was part of the process telling them. I didn't know how lousy I was going to feel afterward. I thought this was supposed to help. In retrospect, I realize it did, it just didn't feel like it in the moment,” Hackett remembers.
‘Somebody gets it'
Something was still missing. The healing he had been waiting for simply wasn't materializing.
“I couldn't get someone to understand. No matter how schooled my therapist was, he wasn't a victim,” Hackett says. “I heard about a group called Male Survivor, which offered weekend retreats. Group therapy, are you kidding me?”
But with his marriage on the brink of divorce and nothing else working, Hackett gave it a go with a weekend retreat.
“It was literally what saved my life and turned my life around. There were 21 other men in the same circumstances, speaking the words that had been spinning in my head for 30 years,” he says. “I had my moment of ‘somebody gets it.' I came back from that weekend a completely different person. It was phenomenal. I knew at that point I needed to tell my story.”
Hackett had already begun writing down his experiences in a loose book format, but he decided to go big. Really big. Oprah big.
He was one of 200 men featured on a special 2010 Oprah Winfrey Show that underscored the prevalence and long-term effects of male sexual abuse. The show highlighted Hackett's story.
“It was truly one of the best things I've ever done,” he says. It was also the breakthrough he finally needed.
People began approaching Hackett—sometimes friends, sometimes strangers—with support and, heart achingly, occasionally with tales of hiding their own sexual abuse. Far from feeling alone anymore, Hackett found a group of likeminded survivors who just got it.
Through therapy, his work with Male Survivor and the newfound support system, he also found the tools to sort out what happened to him.
“Once you realize that the burden of shame only lays with the person that would shame you to begin with, no matter what happened to you or what you did to correct yourself, there is no shame in it,” Hackett says.
There's also no stopping him from talking about it. Hackett has transformed into an activist who continues to be vocal about his abuse, through Male Survivor, Justice for All Revolution, testimony before government bodies and his own website. The freeform book he started as a coping mechanism is coming together and could be published in the future.
And, perhaps most importantly, Hackett talks about his experiences with his family, including his children. The message is simple.
“It doesn't matter who you are, the color of your skin, where you grew up—sexual abuse can happen,” he says. “But if it did, you can recover from it. You just need to start talking.”
Once a victim, now a voice: Survivor of child abuse uses personal experience to help others
by Tracy Frank
FARGO -- Daria Odegaard was a victim of child abuse. Now, she's a survivor and advocate.
“You go from a point where you've been a victim and it kind of is your identity to being a survivor, where you acknowledge and accept that it happened but it doesn't define you and it doesn't affect your every waking moment,” she said. “That's something that I think is really powerful – to acknowledge that you are a survivor.”
Odegaard grew up with a controlling father who was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive.
“Even looking back to my very young childhood, I can see and remember the abuse, not only my father toward my mother, but also toward us kids,” said Odegaard, who has three younger siblings.
“I remember times where my dad would walk down the hall and just shove me into a wall or punch me in the shoulder,” she said.
Odegaard says she was also told what to wear; she was never allowed to cut her hair, and she was taught that her place was at home, barefoot in the kitchen, she says.
“There's a time where initially it seems to consume you, and you almost identify yourself by the experience – the experience and you are kind of one in the same,” she said. “I don't think you ever get over it, but you accept it and it no longer consumes you. It's no longer your identity; it's a piece of your life's story.”
Odegaard's story changed 14 years ago when her mother decided to leave her husband after 25 years in an abusive marriage.
From victim to advocate
Odegaard's mom contacted the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead and re-established contact with her family.
“He had done a really good job of isolating us from any family,” Odegaard said.
Her maternal grandmother lived nearby, but she hadn't seen her daughter or grandchildren in years, Odegaard said.
“Through the help of my mom's family and Rape and Abuse, we left,” Odegaard said. “I owe my life to this agency and to my extended family.”
But Odegaard was hesitant to go into counseling when her mom first brought her to the center.
“I was angry and didn't think I needed counseling,” she said.
Her dad had told her the agency was made up of people who broke up families and hated men.
But it didn't take her long to learn that was just another lie.
“I was learning all this brand new information and I just couldn't take it in fast enough,” Odegaard said. “It was so transformative and so empowering. I had never felt so strong and empowered in my entire life.”
Odegaard was in counseling at the center for more than a year. Shortly afterward, she started volunteering there.
“I really wanted to give back to the agency,” she said.
Odegaard went to college intending to become an attorney who worked with abused women and children. But she decided she wanted to work hands-on with the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Then an employment opportunity came up she just couldn't turn down.
As the education coordinator for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, Odegaard uses her experience to help others.
“It is cathartic in a way,” she said. “I feel like having had the experience myself, it's just another tool in my toolkit that I can use.”
Odegaard, who has been with the center for almost eight years, is in charge of public outreach in the schools, colleges and community. She works to prevent what happened to her and her family from happening to anyone else.
“My story has made me what I am today, and it's given me my life's goal, my passion,” she said. “Having had such intimate knowledge of what it's like to experience these situations, it just makes me that much more determined to do what I can do to help people who are in similar situations.”
When it comes to prevention, Odegaard said it's important to understand that domestic violence and sexual abuse are everybody's issues.
“You might not be aware of it, but I can guarantee you know somebody who has been affected by domestic or sexual violence,” she said. “When one in four women are victims of domestic violence, and one in three are victims of sexual assault, you know somebody.”
If you see or hear something that doesn't seem right, go against the social norm of staying quiet and say something, she said.
“There's that potential that reaching out could have put an end to the violence,” Odegaard said.
Simply asking if someone who might be a victim of abuse is OK could give them the out they need, she said.
If you see something happening in a store or public place and you don't feel comfortable getting directly involved, call store security or law enforcement, Odegaard said.
“There's nothing wrong with that,” she said. “It's hard and it's confusing to jump in there and try to save the day yourself. You can always bring in those individuals who have more authority.”
It's Odegaard's dream to look back on her life and see that she had a small part to play in transforming society.
“It's really what keeps me driven,” she said.
But just because she's accepted that part of her life, doesn't mean it's always easy.
“When you've experienced a trauma, there are always going to be triggers,” she said.
Even now as she and her husband talk about starting a family, memories she had laid to rest from her childhood have resurfaced.
“Part of being a survivor is acknowledging there are going to be triggers, but when you're triggered, it's no longer one of those situations where you completely fall apart,” she said. “You allow yourself to go through the experience and you're able to cope and deal with it. It's a whole process.”
How to help
More than 300 children were victims of sexual assault and more than 150 children were victims of domestic violence in the Fargo-Moorhead area last year, according to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead.
Children made up 31 percent of the victims of sexual assault and 8 percent of the victims of domestic violence the agency saw in 2011.
An additional 32 children received services through the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center after being seen at the Red River Children's Advocacy Center.
A young adult whose life has been affected by domestic violence will tell his story and how he found help through the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center at the organization's 22nd annual Kids Are Our Business Breakfast event April 24.
During the event, the public will be able to learn about the agency and the help it provided to the 503 children affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse last year.
There is also a Pinwheels for Peace display in Island Park through April 27 of 503 pinwheels, representing the number of children helped at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center last year. Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota provided the pinwheels.
If you go --
22nd annual Kids Are Our Business Breakfast
By: Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead
Where: Holiday Inn, Fargo
When: 7:30-8:30 a.m. April 24
Contact: (701) 293-7273
YMCA Leading the Way in Child Abuse Prevention Effort
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. This month and throughout the year, the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our communities a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children social and emotional well-being and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.
Research shows that when parents possess six protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth and families are promoted.
The six protective factors are:
Nurturing and attachment
Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
Concrete supports for parents
Social and emotional developmental well-being
April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children, said Maryalice Golden, Marketing Manager.Everyone participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.
YMCAs serve over 9 million children and 12 million adults in 10,000 communities across the United States. By sheer numbers this makes the YMCA the most effective and efficient pathway to reduce child sexual abuse; locally, the Tri-Valley Y is becoming a leader in New York State for child abuse prevention. Partnerships with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, The Redwoods Group and Darkness to light are providing tools, resources and funding for the Child Safety initiative. With the health and well being of children and families at the heart of the YMCA mission and a long history of tackling tough community issues the Tri-Valley Y and other across the state are stepping up to convene leaders and engage the entire community in prevention. We already instituted Code Adam at all three of our locations and more recently upgraded our membership computer software that cross-references members and day pass users with the National Sex Offender Registry, said Diana Wozniak, CFO.
This year our Healthy Kids Day will highlight the Child Safety initiative along with the physical and educational components. To bring awareness to the Child Safety initiative specifically the Tri-Valley Y is honored to bring Olympic swimmer and national spokesperson for the National Children Advocacy Center, Margaret Heeler to the Oneida and Rome Margaret is a survivor of sexual abuse and went on to become an Olympian, bringing several medals home in the process. In 2008, Margaret competed at her second Olympic Games where she won 1 bronze medal in the 100 backstroke, a silver in the 200 backstroke as well as a silver medal for being a member of the preliminary team in the 400 medley relay. At the US Trials, she posted her first individual World Record swim in her signature event, the 200m backstroke; she is still a current World, American, and US Open Record holder. Ms. Hoelzer wants to share her story of courage, perseverance and overcoming the odds with our youth. Margaret will be at the Rome Y from 9am to 11am and at the Oneida Y from 12pm to 2pm, along with sharing her story she will be holding a swim/stroke clinic at both locations.
We will continue with our efforts to keep children safe by once again hosting the opening ceremony for the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children Ride For Missing Children“ Mohawk Valley on May 18 and NCMEC on Friday, May 25.
For more information please call the Oneida Family YMCA at 363-7788, the Rome Family Y at 336-3500 or the New Hartford YMCA SACC Site at 797-4787 or visit www.ymcatrivalley.org
Parents Should Be Aware That Child Sexual Predators Can Be Aboard a Cruise Ship
by Brett Rivkind
I've been handling maritime cases, a substantial number of which involve incidents aboard passenger cruise ships, for approximately thirty years. Over time, I myself became shocked at the number of criminal activities that occur onboard a cruise ship, including sexual assaults and rapes.
More alarming, over the years, I've seen way too many incidents involving minor children aboard a cruise ship being sexually assaulted or molested. The incidents have involved both where the perpetrator was a passenger on the ship, as well a situation where the predator was a crewmember.
Most recently, a former child supervisor that worked for Cunard Cruise Lines admitted to police that he sexually abused children onboard the cruise ships he worked on.
Paul Trotter was arrested some months ago for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor child onboard a Cunard passenger cruise ship. Of course, this is particularly alarming cruise ship news because this gentleman was assigned the job of a child supervisor aboard the Cunard cruise ship. The question becomes how many other minor children did this sick individual that was working onboard the cruise ship molest?
It has been reported that this sexual predator has admitted to sexual abuse of no less 13 children over a four year period of time. The newspaper in London reported: “A former Cunard Cruise ship worker has admitted carrying out sex attacks on 13 boys while working as a supervisor for a children's activity area.”
Cunard remains part of the Carnival Corporation cruise line empire. Remember that Carnival also is the owner of Costa Cruise Lines, the operators of the Costa Concordia which nearly sank after striking rocks close to shore off the coast of a small island in Italy.
This latest cruise ship news regarding sexual assaults onboard a cruise ship must be brought to the attention of the public so that parents are aware of the potential dangers when taking a family cruise. Most parents I have spoken to over the years are shocked to hear that any type of activity like this can happen onboard a cruise ship. When they go onboard a cruise ship with their family they let their guard down, and let their children freely roam around the cruise ship because they do not believe there are any potential dangers lurking onboard the cruise ship.
Since the cruise ship is a confined environment, one would expect that an adequate police force, with an adequate presence, will deter and prevent criminal activity from occurring. However, as we have reported, and as has been discussed a lot in the news, the number of criminal acts that have occurred onboard cruise ships is greater than one ever expected or knew. New laws have passed to increase the reporting requirements on the part of the cruise ship companies with respect to crimes that happen onboard a cruise ship. The goal is to make the cruise lines report these incidents so that there are adequate statistics for the public to view. Only through adequate information will passengers know the true dangers that lurk onboard a cruise ship.
Child abuse cases increasing due to better reporting
by Sarah Thomsen
Green Bay -- The number of child abuse cases in Brown County is increasing, but child advocates don't think abuse itself is on the rise.
Instead, the new child advocacy center in Green Bay may have a lot to do with increased reporting.
Walking inside the Willow Tree Child Advocacy Center feels like walking into a child's bedroom.
The center is designed to be a safe haven for child abuse victims, and the first place they go once abuse is reported.
"We had three little kids here yesterday who clearly felt comfortable, " said program director Sue Lockwood. "We tried to make it as much like a home as we could."
Children are interviewed once by a social worker, with police and child protective services watching and listening from another room. A nurse practitioner is also on site for a medical exam. The whole process keeps the focus on the child.
"People that have come here in this last 16 months have seen how well it works if you do it this way," said Lockwood. "They've seen it's better for the kids, better for their process, better in keeping the community safer, and holding perpetrators accountable".
While not all abuse victims use the center, it is seeing an increasing number of cases.
It served 248 kids last year in its first year. Lockwood thinks it's awareness and reporting increasing, not abuse itself.
"I think that the people now who are even being trained in law enforcement and child protection are more aware of being sensitive to children and to families," she said.
While there are child advocacy centers in Neenah and Wausau, Lockwood says children are referred to Green Bay from as far away as Forest County.
Raising Child Abuse Awareness With 'Henry's Run'
by Ben Dunsmoor
HARTFORD, SD -
More than four years ago, a Hartford couple picked up their limp and lethargic six-month-old boy from day care.
Doctors said baby Henry Johnson suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome and had life-threatening injuries.
The day care provider was charged with child abuse, but found not guilty of the crime.
Henry survived the injuries and is now an energetic four-year-old. His family is making it their mission to educate parents and day care providers about Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.
"He's doing really well with all that he's been put through and we're pretty proud of him," Henry's mother, Marissa Johnson, said.
Henry has learned how to walk and talk over the past few years; he also knows how to play video games even though he is permanently blind.
Henry suffers from the side effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and while he has come a long way since he was injured four years ago, he still has developmental disabilities. Marissa knows that others can learn from Henry's story.
"What's sad is shaken baby is 100 percent preventable and we just want to do our part. I feel obligated to do as much as we can to prevent this from happening to another child, another family," Marissa said.
Nearly a year ago, Marissa teamed up with Child's Voice Program Coordinator Monica Maurer to tell day care providers, parents and the public about Shaken Baby Syndrome.
"Marissa tells her story and it makes it very real because what happened to Henry was totally preventable and now the Johnson family is left with all these effects," Maurer said.
Marissa is preparing for one of those events to raise awareness about child abuse this weekend. On Sunday, they are hosting the first-ever ‘Henry's Run.' It's a 5-K race and all the proceeds will benefit programs that educate parents who are bringing new babies home from the hospital.
"I just hope it brings more awareness to the community that this happens to people that you know it happens every day and it doesn't have to," Marissa said.
Awareness about the obstacles the energetic four-year-old boy has had to overcome.
You can still sign up for the race or make a donation to the cause by clicking here.
All proceeds go to the Children's Advocacy Centers of South Dakota.
Sexual predator sought for striking at San Fernando Valley teen girls
Sexual predator strikes at San Fernando Valley teen girls
by Barbara Jones and Dana Bartholomew
Los Angeles police on Friday sought the public's help in nabbing a man suspected of sexually attacking teenage girls in the north San Fernando Valley.
The sexual predator was being sought for attempted kidnappings, assaults and lewd behavior near high schools in Arleta and North Hills.
On Tuesday, the man tried to kidnap and sexually assault a 17-year-old girl near Monroe High School in North Hills, police said.
"We had an attempted kidnap and sexual battery (in Devonshire Division). The sexual battery might be related to the same incident in Mission (Division)," said Detective Tim Torsney of Devonshire Division in Chatsworth.
"We're working with Mission detectives and Los Angeles Unified to see if there's a connection."
Another, potentially unrelated incident, in which a masked man tried to kidnap a 13-year-old girl, was also reported Monday in Granada Hills, but police said the suspect description varied from the other cases.
Earlier this month, police reported a man being sought for two attempted kidnappings and multiple counts of lewd behavior near Arleta High School.
Police recalled at least nine separate incidents since January 2011, from lewd behavior such as indecent exposure to attempted kidnappings. The victims were all female minors.
On Tuesday, the same perpetrator may have struck again, police said.
The teenager was walking near Monroe High School about 11:30 a.m. when she was accosted by a passenger who climbed from a red compact car at Plummer Street and Haskell Avenue, detectives said.
The man covered the license plate with his shirt, removed the rest of his clothes, then ran up behind the girl and grabbed her buttocks, police said. The girl screamed, and the suspect fled in the car, which was driven by another man.
The assailant was described as a 30-year-old Latino, 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, with a thick mustache. There was no description for the driver.
Investigators believe this attack is related to a series of incidents near Arleta High School.
The other attack occurred about 3:45 p.m. Monday, when a 13-year-old was grabbed from behind while walking near Chatsworth Street and Aldea Avenue. The man, who was wearing a mask, dragged the girl toward some bushes, but ran when a passer-by appeared.
That suspect was described as a 6-foot-tall Latino with light brown eyes and a silver capped tooth.
The Los Angeles Unified School District said it was informed of the attacks on March 20, when it sent safety alerts to Valley students.
The alerts warned students not to walk alone, to never accept walks or rides with a stranger, to scream and call for help if a stranger beckons from a car, and for parents to communicate with children about pickup and dropoff times and locations.
"We're always concerned about safety," said LAUSD spokeswoman Monica Carrazo. "We're working very closely with the LAPD.
"We're being very pro-active in alerting parents and students, to remind them to always be safe."
Anyone with information is asked to call LAPD's Devonshire Division detectives at 818-832-0609. After hours or on weekends, call 877-LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can be phoned in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS or texted to 274637. Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.
Penn State's Mark Sherburne fired this week, connected to child abuse investigation
The firing of a Penn State athletics official was connected to the investigation into the child sexual abuse case at the university, said two persons familiar with the situation.
Mark Sherburne, an associate athletic director, was fired this week, said the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
One person said Sherburne was dismissed for failing to produce in a timely fashion documents under subpoena by the state Attorney General's office related to its investigation into Sherburne's boss, Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley is on administrative leave after being charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report an abuse allegation against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Messages left Friday at a number listed for Sherburne were not immediately returned.
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers declined comment Friday night since the matter was a personnel issue.
The person familiar with the firing said the documents were voluntarily produced and turned over to the attorney general's office.
It was unclear the types of documents in question, but the university has told staffers to preserve and produce documents related to the investigation.
Earlier Friday, both school President Rodney Erickson and Acting Athletic Director David Joyner declined comment, also citing a human resources issue.
Sherburne had stepped in for Curley for 10 days in November to head the department after Curley went on leave. Sherburne returned to his previous position after Joyner assumed the acting post Nov. 16.
Curley maintains his innocence as he awaits trial. Sandusky, who is awaiting trial on charges with dozens of counts of child sexual abuse, has also maintained his innocence.
A State College native, Sherburne worked in athletics since 2000.
House unanimously passes human trafficking law
by Jody Barr
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WIS) - Human trafficking investigators say Myrtle Beach is one of the hot spots for human sex trafficking in South Carolina.
Now, an Horry County lawmaker has done something about it. He's helped push the state's first human trafficking bill one step closer to becoming law.
With more than 14 million visitors each year, investigators say human traffickers find easy places for victims to blend right in.
Myrtle Beach is a favorite spot, but it's not the only spot.
In 2007, the state's first human sex trafficking bust occurred in a trailer park near Columbia.
A 14-year-old girl reported as a runaway by her parents in Mexico ended up being kidnapped and sold to a midlands human trafficking ring.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Ken Burkhart rescued the girl.
"I told my agents we're going to treat this little girl like she was our own daughter," said Burkhart, "And we're going to hunt this little girl down and get her out of this trailer."
For days agents watched, then decided to move in. Burkhart knocked and the girl he'd been searching for answered the door.
"I told her we'd been in touch with her sister and I shook her hand and I just gently led her right out the door," said Burkhart.
One saved. But investigators say there are thousands more right here in South Carolina.
"I just don't know I could live and not do all I need to do and help some parent, or some person that's caught up in this to find a way out," said Horry County Representative Nelson Hardwick.
Four years ago Hardwick introduced a bill to give state and local law enforcement the power to prosecute and investigate trafficking cases.
Many times, what police think are classic prostitution cases, investigators say are just the symptoms of a much more sinister crime.
Thursday, after four years of pushing, the House passed Hardwick's bill.
"You don't just victimize the person," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. "You victimize the family, everyone who knows the person and you victimize the community."
Wilson helped with the bill. He says human sex trafficking is growing in South Carolina and he will use the state Grand Jury to investigate the organized crime rings that set up shop and pimp victims here.
Hardwick has a message for the Senate, who could determine whether the bill becomes law:
"Pay attention," said Hardwick. "It's an opportunity to get something done this year and every day that goes by that we don't do something about it, some other person gets caught up in it and trapped. And it could be somebody you know and love."
The bill passed the House Thursday by a vote of 95-0. It now moves over to the Senate for debate next week.
Here's the word from an expert on sex trafficking
by NICHOLAS KRISTOF
If you think sex trafficking only happens in faraway places like Nepal or Thailand, then you should listen to an expert on American sex trafficking I interviewed the other day. But, first, wish her happy birthday. She turns 16 years old on Thursday.
She asked me to call her Brianna in this column because she worries that it could impede her plans to become a lawyer if I use her real name. Brianna, who grew up in New York City, is smart, poised and enjoys writing poetry.
One evening when she was 12 years old she got into a fight with her mom and ran out to join friends. "I didn't want to go home, because I thought I'd get in trouble," she said, and a friend's older brother told her she could stay at his place.
Brianna figured that she would go home in the morning -- and that that would teach her mom a lesson. But when morning arrived, her new life began.
"I tried to leave, and he said, 'You can't go; you're mine,'" Brianna recalled. He told her that he was a pimp and that she was now his property.
The pimp locked her in the room, she recalled, and alternately beat her and showed her affection. She says that he advertised her on Backpage.com, the leading website for sex trafficking in America today, as well as on other websites.
"He felt that Backpage made him the most money," Brianna said, estimating that half of her pimp's business came through Backpage.
Backpage accounts for about 70 percent of America's prostitution ads (many placed by consenting adults who are not trafficked), according to AIM Group, a trade organization. Backpage cooperates with police and tries to screen out ads for underage girls, but that didn't help Brianna.
Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, and significant minority stakes have been held in recent years by Goldman Sachs and smaller financial firms such as Trimaran Capital Partners and Alta Communications. My research shows that representatives of Goldman, Trimaran and Alta, along with a founder of Brynwood Partners, all sat on the board of Village Voice Media, and there's no indication that they ever protested its business aims.
When I wrote recently about this, these firms erupted in excuses and self-pity, and in some cases raced to liquidate their stakes. I was struck by the self-absorption and narcissism of Wall Street bankers viewing themselves as victims, so maybe it's useful to hear from girls who were victimized through the company they invested in.
I met Brianna at Gateways, a treatment center for girls who have been sexually trafficked. It's in Pleasantville, N.Y., 35 miles north of New York City, on a sprawling estate overseen by the Jewish Child Care Association. Gateways is meant for girls ages 12 to 16, although it has accepted one who was just 11 years old. Virtually all the girls have been sold on Backpage, according to Lashauna Cutts, the center's director.
Gateways has only 13 beds, and Cutts says that the need is so great that she could easily fill 1,300.
"I have to turn away girls almost every day," Cutts told me.
The public sometimes assumes that teenage girls in the sex trade are working freely, without coercion. It's true that most aren't physically imprisoned by pimps, but threats and violence are routine. The girls typically explain that they didn't try to escape because of a complex web of emotions, including fear of the pimp but also a deluded affection and a measure of Stockholm syndrome.
Once, Brianna says, she looked out her window -- and there was her mother on the street, crying and posting "missing" posters with Brianna's photo. "I tried to shout to her through the window," she remembered. But her pimp grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back. "If you shout, I'll kill you," she remembers him saying.
"If I tried to run, I thought he might kill me, or I'd be hurt," she said. "And, if I went to the cops, I thought I'd be the one in trouble. I'd go to jail."
Pimps warn girls to distrust the police, and often they're right. Bridgette Carr, who runs a human-trafficking clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, tells of a 16-year-old girl who went missing. A family member found a photo of the girl on Backpage and alerted authorities. Police raided the pimp's motel room and "rescued" the girl -- by handcuffing her and detaining her for three weeks.
That mindset has to change. Police and prosecutors must target pimps and johns, not teenage victims. Trafficked girls deserve shelters, not jails, and online emporiums like Backpage should stop abetting pimps. Sex trafficking is just as unacceptable in America as in Thailand or Nepal.
And let's all wish our expert, Brianna, a joyous "Sweet Sixteen" birthday.
70-year-old man sentenced to 75 months for distributing child pornography
CHICAGO — A 70-year-old Indiana man, who traveled to the Chicago area to have sex with a 15-year-old girl, was sentenced to six years and three months in federal prison Thursday for distributing child pornography. This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Donald Strickland, of Hammond, Ind., was sentenced April 19 by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, Northern District of Illinois, to 75 months in federal prison without parole.
Strickland pleaded guilty March 25, 2010 to two counts of distributing child pornography. According to court documents, in February 2007 Strickland began chatting online with "Teri," who he thought was a 15-year-old girl; Teri was actually an undercover special agent. During the chats, Strickland told Teri he wanted to teach her about sex, and he sent her sexually explicit images and videos containing child pornography.
Strickland made arrangements to travel to Wheaton, Ill., to meet and have sex with the girl. On March 13, 2007, he arrived at the meeting place and was arrested by HSI special agents. Strickland has been in federal custody since his arrest.
"Through Operation Predator, HSI aggressively investigates anyone who sexually exploits children," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "Our special agents act as a barrier between sexual predators and the most vulnerable members of society – our kids. We will continue to vigilantly combat child exploitation and abuse, whether it is happening in the neighborhood playground or in cyber space." Hartwig oversees a six-state area that includes Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Schneider, Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case. The Wheaton Police Department assisted in the investigation.
The case is part of HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice effort launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
As part of Operation Predator, HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com
Seeking help from trauma of child sexual abuse
Victim loses custody of daughter after standing on ledge of courthouse
by Dana Rebik
-- Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide -- they can all be the result of sexual abuse as a child.
A 22-year-old woman named Denise nearly took her own life, climbing to the roof of the King County Courthouse in November 2010 to weigh suicide rather than face her child sexual abuser on the stand.
Denise explained recently how that day has affected her life even more, and how getting help could change everything.
Denise`s memories of abuse at the hands of her mother`s boyfriend are still sharp and painful nearly two decades later.
“I told him I was going to tell my mom. He got up right away and said if I ever told, he would kill my mom in front of us and then he would kill my sister,” Denise said. “I was scared for a long time.”
Those emotions became overwhelming when Denise learned the man, Salvador Cruz, had been arrested and would act as his own attorney at trial. As such, he would be allowed to question her on the stand. Terrified at the prospect of facing him in court, she climbed to the roof of the King County Courthouse and appeared ready to jump.
“Her story isn't that unique,” said DeeAnn Yamamoto, a sexual abuse victims' counselor. “What she did is more unique than others, but that feeling of being so overwhelmed and so desperate that the only thing I can think about is taking my own life is not an unusual place to be, unfortunately.”
Yamamoto counsels adult survivors of sexual abuse. She said child victims often become increasingly isolated as those awful memories consume them.
“They`re forced to really keep that secret. They don`t feel like they have an outlet -- support people -- and so they hold onto it and, as they`re growing through various ages, the impact of that can be very, very great,” Yamamoto said.
Amy Crook, another sexual abuse victim, said, “My world just kind of crashed.”
Crook was sexually abused by her uncle starting at age 5. Finally, years later she got help.
“You truly do (need to) end the silence and you then can meet other people who are experiencing some of the same things you have experienced, so you feel normal,” Crook said.
But healing takes time, and for Denise, the process has been difficult.
“If I slept by myself, my closet would have to be closed because he`d hide in the closet a lot. Even to this day I won`t go to sleep with a door open or a closet open in the house.”
But the most devastating and unexpected consequence of all has been losing her 2-year-old daughter through a court order.
“Honestly, she`s the only reason I`m alive; she means so much to me.”
A judge gave custody of her daughter, Anabel, to Denise`s ex-husband because of what happened that day on the roof of the courthouse.
“It bothers me because if it wouldn`t have happened, I wouldn`t have gotten her taken away. I know it was my choice to go up on the roof, but it feels like I`m being punished,” Denise said.
The judge won`t consider reuniting Denise with her daughter until she completes more therapy, which she`s doing.
That`s a critical step, Yamamoto said, because it is the only way to put aside the fear and hopelessness.
“We teach strategies that will last a lifetime, and I do have absolute hope for people, that they can have what they believe or come to learn is a normal life,” Yamamoto said.
The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center has a class for adult survivors and can refer people to programs outside of King County. Their 24-hour resource phone line is 1-888-99-VOICE.
Child Abuse crime one of most under-reported
by AMANDA ROLIK
WOOSTER -- An advocate for missing and exploited children spoke about the realities of crimes against children at the 19th annual Child Abuse Prevention Month Community Breakfast, presented by the Voices For Children Committee and Wayne County Children Services Board.
Keynote speaker Craig E. Hill, associate director of training and outreach for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said when he started in law enforcement there was "not much going on with children."
For him, that changed in January 1983 when he received a call about a 10-year-old girl who had been kidnapped, assaulted and sexually assaulted by a stranger who had stopped to ask her directions before pulling her into his vehicle through the window.
It was then Hill, who also is a 35-year police veteran and retired deputy chief of police from the Kansas City area, realized his niche in law enforcement.
"She's seen evil and it's my responsibility to catch him," Hill said of his thoughts at the time.
According to Hill, 2,185 children are reported missing every day, and 115 of those children are never found. One in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually exploited by age 18, and 85 percent of abused children are hurt by someone they know and trust. Less than 35 percent of victims report the crimes.
"It's one of the most under-reported crimes in our country," Hill said.
Hill stressed communication with children is key when trying to prevent children from being kidnapped or abused. Parents are the best people to talk to children about personal safety, said Hill. There is no "perfect" age to begin, he added, as long as age appropriate messages are communicated.
Hill said the teaching term "stranger danger" is not effective, as it confuses children when they see adults talking to strangers.
"They need a positive message," Hill said.
Hill recommended teaching children to recognize and avoid dangerous situations, to back away from a situation that causes concern and not second guess their feelings. Above all, Hill recommended parents stay involved in the lives of their children.
"As they grow up, know where they are. ... You have got to talk to your children every day," Hill said, adding attention and diligence are extremely important.
"It takes an absolute coward to rape a little girl or kidnap a little boy," Hall said, adding "we would be cowards" not to try to stop them.
Darcy Becker, program assistant for the Ohio State University Extension Family Nutrition Program, spoke about the goals of the summer lunch program, which is used by Wooster and Orrville schools.
According to Becker, the number of students on free and reduced lunches has increased 8 percent in recent years. The number of children using the summer lunch program increased from 206 in 2002 to 669 in 2010. Not only is hunger an issue for local children, but nutrition is as well. According to Becker, 17 percent of Ohio third graders are obese and malnourished.
Many parents Becker encounters believe their children simply won't eat healthy food.
"If kids are not exposed to healthy foods, they won't like them," Becker said, noting, generally, once a child goes through the process of making a new food, they are willing to try a little. "Giving them that experience is really, really important."
Becker recommended members of the community advocate for more organizations to participate in the summer lunch program. Potential locations include churches, playgrounds, schools, camps and community centers.
Also at the breakfast, Wayne County Sheriff and Voices for Children member Tom Maurer introduced honorary chairpersons Jim and Donna Dale Davis Jr. The couple moved into the Orrville area in 1959 and have been involved in local organizations all their lives.
Lt. Scott Rotolo of the Wooster Police Department was announced as the winner of the 2011 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Rotolo was presented with a plaque and a check for $300 to be used for training.
"I'm humbled by this award," said Rotolo. "It's something I take pride in every day."
Also recognized were fellow nominees patrolman Quinn McConnell of the Wooster Police Department, detective Sgt. Robert Merillat of the Wooster Police Department and patrolman Dave Miller of the Rittman Police Department.
James T. Miller, executive director for The Village Network, was presented with the 2011 Child Advocate of the Year award.
Executive director for Wayne County Children Services Randy Muth noted the Village Network is nationally recognized for "changing the lives of abused and neglected youth."
"I've seen the firsthand effects Mr. Miller's organization has had," Muth said.
"I'm certainly surprised and humbled," said Miller upon receiving the award. "It has been a pleasure to serve in the roles I've had."
Remember to protect your kids during child "Abuse Prevention Month
by PATRICIA FONG
April is designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month and this provides an opportunity to focus on child sexual abuse perpetrated by juveniles. Every year the Yolo County District Attorney's Office files about ten new cases against juveniles under 18 years of age who sexually victimize their peers and those younger.
Juveniles account for over one third of those child molesters known to police and over one fourth of all sex offenders. In our experience, most juveniles arrested for sex offenses have no prior police record. National studies show that 93 percent of the accused are male, 38 percent are between 12-14 years old and 46 percent are between 15-17. Fifty-nine percent of the victims are under the age of 12. Child sexual abuse among blood related siblings is rare. Experts believe that at most 40 percent of all sex abusers were themselves abused as children. How do we prevent this?
NO SEXUAL INAPPROPRIATE MATERIAL IN THE HOME -- Pornographic movies on DVD and videotape should not be in the home. However well hidden, children always know where to find them. Internet porn is harder to avoid. Internet access is hard to or impossible to block. Juveniles are curious, they watch, they invite their friends and siblings to watch while everyone else is sleeping. They get sexually aroused and may experiment on that vulnerable little kid living right there in their own home.
Parents need to have the passwords to every Internet account. Block porn with firewalls, regularly check cell phones, iPods, iPads, Wii, other gaming systems, email, Facebook/Myspace and the computer to see what sites are being visited and what is being communicated. This takes time and effort, but if your child is already experimenting with drugs and alcohol or otherwise demonstrating risky behaviors, you need to look at and even explore unfamiliar websites yourself. If your child has difficulty getting up for school, consider banning cell phones and other electronic and Internet devices from their bedrooms.
Have that conversation with your children that watching porn is unacceptable. If you find contraband, take away the equipment and Internet privileges and shut down Internet accounts immediately.
INTERNET SEXUAL ABUSE -- Young girls are being unwittingly abused on Internet chatrooms. Our investigators have seen young girls totally undress and even act out sexually in front of a web camera streaming their images to unknown audiences. When your child begins to receive things (gift cards, electronics, money) through the mail from unknown sources, you need to immediately intervene because that child is being groomed by sexual predators who may soon start showing up at your front door or at a neighborhood park. Take the time for a good discussion with your children about Internet use - what is good behavior and appropriate language, what is bad, and what is safe computing. In this culture of technology where everyone is so mobile and unsupervised, parents must early on establish rules, expectations and moral boundaries to keep children on track and safe.
BLENDING FAMILIES -- Bringing children of different families together into one living situation comes as a result from divorced parents seeking new partners, a family becoming homeless, or those families using friends for transitional housing. These living arrangements may create overcrowded conditions where children find themselves sharing rooms, even beds with new kids.
Allowing the Xbox and videogames to be kept in the bedroom causes children to congregate and socialize in unsupervised spaces. Keep the "kid magnets" -- DVRs, videogames, PS3s, computers, televisions, Xboxes -- in common areas of the home. Have a house rule that bedroom doors are never shut, especially with the younger children. Videogame systems in a bedroom are often used to isolate the victim, remove a witness from where the crime is occurring, or are offered in exchange for criminal behavior.
GRANDPARENTS PROVIDING SUPERVISION -- for after-school hours and weekends bring children from different families together into the same house. If there are children from multiple families visiting grandparents, there needs to be a house rule that no one invades anyone's private use of the bathroom and children playing outside must always be in full view with the grandparents actively watching. Sofas in the garage and backyard need to go to the dump. Better yet, have all the children in the kitchen getting a cooking lesson from grandma.
SEXUAL PHOTOS TAKEN ON CELL PHONES FOR THE "EXCLUSIVE" USE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER -- Juveniles, both girls and boys, need to know that even though they took or allowed naked photos to be taken of themselves for their own personal use or to share with that special friend, bad things happen and that photo may go viral. The cell phone may be stolen or promises that the photos will be erased will not be kept.
Sexting by a disgruntled ex-friend always results in regret because the damage can never be stopped. Email accounts and passwords previously shared with a friend will be hacked, the nude photos will be emailed to everyone in the world or posted on the worldwide web. A bad online reputation will affect future employment, educational, social relationships and career opportunities. A naked photo on the Internet is there forever and no one can control who is viewing it online. Nude photos used to extort money, sex acts and other property from the victim are common enough now to be termed "sextortion."
LATCH KEY KIDS WITH ACCESS TO AN ALCOHOL STASH -- Whether your teen is home unsupervised, was left behind in the care of another family while the parents are out of town, or a house sitter leaves the house unattended for a few hours, unlocked alcohol at home has resulted in many unauthorized parties which get out of control resulting in crimes such as sexual assault, rape, property theft, vandalism, DUIs, and alcohol poisoning. Take your children with you on weekend trips.
Call home and confirm with the adults that your child is indeed sleeping at midnight in his or her home. Lock up the alcohol. Lock down the house and tell neighbors that there should be absolutely no activity there over the weekend and request that they otherwise call the police. Teach your children that it is not cool to become so drunk that they cannot control what someone else is doing to them. Teach your sons to be respectful to women and that "boys will be boys" is not a good defense for sexually assaulting a female, however drunk she might be. Many of these parties have attracted uninvited older "guests" with cars whom your children may not even know and much less have any control over, but who will steal from your home without any second thought.
All of these tips come from the criminal cases we prosecute. We seek justice for our victims, but it is impossible to erase the scars from being sexually abused. We cringe with the pain of our victims and ask ourselves "why didn't the parents ..." Parents need to continue be parents, establishing rules and expectations and not worry about being a Facebook friend. We can all help reduce child sexual abuse by doing more to protect these most vulnerable victims.
Pattie Fong is a Yolo County deputy district attorney in the Juvenile Division.
Sexual assault victim encourages others to come forward
by Lisa Edge
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network , every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted. To combat those numbers, the Rape Crisis Center of Horry and Georgetown counties reached out to the community Thursday night. The group held a discussion and vigil in a classroom at Horry Georgetown Technical College.
Tom Burick joined two police officers and a counselor on a panel to address issues surrounding sexual assault. Burick describes himself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and only recently spoke out about what happened. For the last six months he's been seeing a counselor at the Rape Crisis Center.
"This happened 30 years ago so it took 30 years, but I think there's a new level of awareness emerging," he said. "I've heard child sexual abuse referred to as soul murder and I think that is an extremely accurate word."
Burick is a part of the growing movement of men coming forward to talk about their abuse. He said the Penn State scandal helped him come forward. Sexual Assault Counselor, Christina Toth, has noticed the trend.
"Since the national media has picked up on the stories at Penn State, Syracuse, The Citadel we're just seeing that the climate is shifting. People are feeling more comfortable coming forward. This doesn't mean there's an increase in incidents, we actually hope it's the opposite," said Toth.
Burick is even on a 10,000 thousand mile trip across Canada, the United States and Mexico on a scooter to raise money for organizations who help victims. He's started a website to chronicle his journey.
"I am incredibly happy. It is probably the best decision I have made in my life. It's been an amazing journey through this," Burick added.
He's one of many affected by assault including a Coastal Carolina University student who spoke to the crowd about her experience. The forum is during Sexual Assault Awareness month and on the heels of a busy time for the Rape Crisis Center.
"During the summer months, our agency and the hospitals have a dramatic increase in the number of reported sexual assaults, the number of people having evidence kits collected in the hospital after a very recent assault and reaching out for services in need," explained Toth.
Toth recommends when you're going out for the night, have a friend who's expecting you at a certain time and place.
She added the one misconception about sexual assault is that attacker is a stranger hidden in the bushes, "It is typically someone you know. It may be a brief acqaintance but somebody who has taken the time to make eye contact and state their name or what they want you to believe is their name. And they're going to have some kind of contact with you before the assault occurs."
The one central message the victims and their advocates wanted to pass along was there's hope, in spite of the abuse they suffered.
"Make that move. Take that step. That's the hardest part. Once you get past that, it's a whole new world," said Burick.
Male Sexual Abuse is on the Rise
At least one in six men has experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before the age of sixteen.
PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA -- April 20, 2012 -- Today sexual abuse is a growing pandemic that affects not just girls and women but also boys and men. According to 1in6 (http://1in6.org
), a male sexual-abuse advocacy organization, at least one in six men has experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before the age of sixteen.
Experts say the numbers may be much higher because, they believe, many cases go unreported due to the shame and fear survivors experience.
"Considering the frequency and the statistics, I'm amazed there is such worldwide denial regarding sexual violence, sexual predation, and sexual assault against male children and young men," says Peter S. Pelullo, a frequent guest on the Dr. Drew show and author of the recently released book "Betrayal and the Beast."
Says Mr. Pelullo, "I've seen studies that suggest as many as one in four boys may have been sexually abused. Rutgers University Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance reports males and females up to their early teens have an almost equal chance of being sexually assaulted." [http://sexualassault.rutgers.edu/maleabuse.htm
In his book, "Betrayal and the Beast," Mr. Pelullo focuses on his own journey as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and sexual predation. For many years he kept hidden and refused to face his own debilitating issues as a survivor--the shame, rage, multiple addictions, depression, and other influences that directly impacted his life. Finally, at the age of fifty-five, Mr. Pelullo confronted the sexual abuse he endured as a child.
CarolinaLive.com reported that since the sexual abuse allegations at Penn State University and Syracuse University, more male victims have contacted child sex-abuse organizations for help.
"Hopefully our society is changing to an environment where more boys and men who have survived such sexual trauma as children will be willing to report their experiences and find ways to recover," says Mr. Pelullo.
Himself a childhood sexual abuse survivor, Mr. Pelullo created the Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation, an international outreach program aimed at bringing victims to the recovery process. In addition the foundation is aligned with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a common goal of preventing child sexual abuse and the harm and suffering it inflicts and improving treatment for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Many male victims of sexual abuse experience lifelong challenges that have dramatic and negative effects on their lives, such as:
|* Drug and alcohol addictions
* Intimacy and trust issues
* Sex-related problems (sexual dysfunction, hypersexuality, sexual aggression)
* Questioning their sexuality
* Thoughts of suicide
* Anger and rage issues
* Psychological and mental issues
* Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
* Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating)
* Risk-taking behavior
"What's most important is that people in authority, including parents, teachers, clergy, police, doctors, and others, become more open with and concerned about the victims," says Mr. Pelullo. "Our government and politicians must be more proactive and make sexual-abuse laws tougher, increase funding to help sexual abuse victims, and create preventive and educational programs for teachers, parents, adults, and children as well."
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 email@example.com or visit www.letgoletpeacecomein.org
$4.2 million settlement for student paralyzed by bully
by Miranda Leitsinger, msnbc.com
When Sawyer Rosenstein was 12, a punch from a bully changed his life forever, leaving him paralyzed, and at times, near death from the complications of his condition.
Now, six years after the assault, the New Jersey school board in the district where he was a student has agreed to a $4.2 million settlement.
“It feels really great to finally have just a sense of closure … that this really difficult part of my life is behind me,” Rosenstein, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in communication at Syracuse University, told msnbc.com. “I can actually focus on all of the successful things that I am doing now and all of the successful plans that I have for my future.”
The Rosenstein's lawyer, Jeffrey Youngman, said the settlement was “absolutely unique.”
“I see stories virtually, if not daily, every other day on bullying and … it's one of the first stories where there actually was a result that's positive and truly helps the family,” he told msnbc.com, noting that the Ramsey Board of Education does not admit liability.
“But the facts surrounding this case are unbelievable, I mean they're dramatic in that you have a child who actually was pro-active” about dealing with the bullying, he said.
Youngman was referring to emails written by Rosenstein to officials at Eric Smith Middle School – a guidance counselor, an assistant principal – about the harassment.
"I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased," he wrote to his guidance counselor three months before the assault that left him paralyzed, in an email that was reported by The Record. "I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations."
On May 16, 2006, a bully punched Rosenstein so hard that he fell to his knees. Two days later, he screamed out at home.
“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” his father told the newspaper. "He hasn't walked since."
Rosenstein was paralyzed from the waist down due to a clot that had formed after the blow in a major artery above his abdomen. When the clot moved down to his spine, it burst, leaving him paralyzed. Complications resulting from his paralysis, such as scoliosis, led to 19 surgeries and a complete spinal fusion. He almost died several times, Youngman said.
Rosenstein said he turned the corner during one of those hard days thinking “why me” after one of the many surgeries in which he considered his options.
“For me, I saw it as a challenge to say, ‘Okay, in your face, society. I'm going to take this and I'm going to hand it right back at you. You give me lemons, I'm going to throw a lemon tree in your face,'” he said.
He missed a year of school but still graduated on time and made the honor roll every semester, Youngman said.
“The way that he carries himself is just amazing, he's an inspiration,” he said.
In 2009, the Rosensteins filed their lawsuit against the school board, various administrators, other individuals and the boy who punched Sawyer; the settlement was agreed to at the end of March. Part of the family's case included claims that school officials knew or should have known that Sawyer's attacker had violent tendencies, Youngman said, citing prior punching incidents with others. The family settled with that student two years ago. The terms are confidential.
“What the school was doing was just indicative of what the schools do in these instances: they just have policies and don't know how to enforce them,” Youngman said. “You can have a written policy all you want, but if it is not put into effect and it's not enforced effectively, you've got a policy in name only.”
In a statement, the Ramsey Board of Education said that after three years of depositions and pre-trial discovery, its insurance carriers agreed to the settlement.
“There has been no admission by the Board or by any of its employees of a violation of any law or duty owed to the Plaintiffs,” the statement said.
The board denied allegations that it or its employees had “failed or compromised its responsibility to develop and to implement effective policies and procedures to protect the safety and rights” of the school community, the statement continued, noting that the district "prides itself for the role which it has played in recognizing and developing an awareness of the dangers of bullying, intimidation and harassment in the school setting."
Sawyer Rosenstein only recently shared his story publicly after much long discussion with his family, deciding to do so to raise awareness. Otherwise, he doesn't like telling his story.
“I don't want it to be ‘woe is me' and sympathy. I want it to be more of a story of success, that even with all this, I was still able to prevail,” he said. “I want people to root me on in whatever I'm doing and help me through it.”
He encouraged anyone suffering from bullying to document it as he had, believing it was a key factor in making his case. Though he was constantly bullied and remembered how much he wanted it to stop, he wanted others to know that it does end.
Today, Rosenstein, who wants to be a news reporter, hosts and edits a podcast he helped to co-found called Talking Space. He said he attended the final space shuttle launch as the youngest ever accredited reporter at 17.
What he hopes that people will get out of his story is that they understand “this is an issue, this is something that needs to be taken care of, and this kid has taken something terrible and made something great out of it. I can do the same.”
Police search basement for body of first missing child pictured on milk carton
by Samantha Gross and Tom Hays
NEW YORK - Police and the FBI began digging up a Manhattan basement Thursday for the remains of a 6-year-old boy whose 1979 disappearance on his way to school drew helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons.
Etan Patz vanished on May 25, 1979, after leaving his family's SoHo apartment for a short walk to catch a school bus. It was the first time his parents had let him go off to school alone.
A forensic team planned to dig up the concrete floor and remove drywall partitions to find blood, clothing or human remains in the building, just down the street from Etan's home, police spokesman Paul Browne said. The work is expected to take up to five days.
Investigators received information over the past few months that Etan's remains might be buried in the basement of the building, which at the time the boy disappeared housed the workspace of a carpenter who was thought to have been friendly with the boy, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Two other law enforcement officials confirmed that an FBI dog detected the scent of remains at the building over the past few weeks.
Etan's disappearance drew national attention to child safety, ushered in a generation of parents who became afraid to send their kids out alone and helped fuel a movement to publicize missing children's cases. Etan's face was among the first to appear on milk cartons. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, the day of his disappearance, National Missing Children's Day.
Etan's parents, Stanley and Julie Patz, became outspoken advocates for missing children. For years, they refused to change their phone number, in the hope that Etan was alive somewhere, and might call. They never moved, although they obtained a court order in 2001 declaring the boy dead.
Stanley Patz didn't respond to phone calls and email messages Thursday. A man who answered the buzzer at the family's apartment said they wouldn't be speaking to the media.
No one has ever been prosecuted for Etan's disappearance, but Stanley Patz sued an incarcerated drifter and admitted child-molester, Jose Ramos, who had been dating Etan's babysitter around the time he disappeared.
Ramos, who is not the carpenter whose workspace was being searched, denied killing the child, but in 2004 a Manhattan civil judge ruled him to be responsible for the death, largely due to his refusal to contest the case.
Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison in Pennsylvania in November, when he finishes serving most of a 20-year-sentence for abusing an 8-year-old boy. His pending freedom is one of the factors that has given new urgency to the case.
Investigators have looked at a long list of possible suspects over the years, and have excavated in other places before without success.
The 13-foot by 62-foot basement space being searched Thursday sits beneath several clothing boutiques. Investigators began by removing drywall partitions so they could get to brick walls that were exposed back in 1979 when the boy disappeared, Browne said.
Browne said the excavation was part of a review of the case, which was reopened by the Manhattan district attorney two years ago.
"This was a shocking case at the time and it hasn't been resolved," Browne said.
The law enforcement activity forced the temporary closure of some businesses on the block, including the fashion boutique Wink, on the ground floor of the excavated building.
"It's insignificant," owner Stephen Werther said of the lost business. "It's retail. There's always another day for us to make a living. This may be the family's last chance to find out what happened to their son."
Child Abuse Prevention: Recognizing the Signs and Reporting Them
LACASA and Childhelp Michigan are promoting April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
by Nicole Krawcke
Better safe than sorry is the old adage that Ann Marie Lesniak, Childhelp Michigan program director, says everyone should adhere to.
Child abuse prevention begins with spotting the warning signs and taking the initiative to report - even a gut feeling - to the Department of Human Services.
This could mean making a report about strange behavior, bruises on a child or even a lack of parental supervision.
"Our job as a concerned adult is to notify the Department of Human Services and then they do an investigation," Lesniak said. "Then they can decide whether it's truly a case of child abuse or neglect."
Lesniak used Dominick Calhoun, the 4-year-old boy from Argentine Township who was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend in April of 2010, as an example of what happens when people ignore signs of abuse.
"In my opinion, nobody stuck up for Dominick," she said. "That horrible weekend - and when you look at the abuse he suffered, one report stated his teeth had been pulled out by the abuser. That child had to have been screaming and crying. The neighbors heard and nobody said 'hey, this isn't right.' I think sometimes we don't want to get involved or get anybody in trouble, but realistically, it's in the best interest of the child."
There is currently an initiative underway called Dominick's Law , which was proposed by Dominick's grandfather, Rick Calhoun, to create a good Samaritan law making it mandatory to report child abuse.
"It's a way to make people more accountable for each other," Lesniak said.
Dominick's family, Dominick's Law and Childhelp Michigan are teaming up for a 5K run/walk event called Run the Course for Dominick Calhoun , which will be held Saturday at Kensington Metropark in Milford. All funds will go to benefit Childhelp Michigan's Mentoring Program.
Lesniak said the event is more about promoting child abuse prevention and awareness than about raising money, as they are expecting to raise just enough money to break even.
Lesniak said she hopes Run the Course for Dominick Calhoun becomes an annual event.
Child abuse and neglect cases are on the rise
Child abuse and neglect in Michigan has jumped 34 percent over the past decade, from 26,844 confirmed cases in 2000 to 32,504 confirmed cases in 2010, according to the Michigan League for Human Services.
Deanna Norris, director of the Livingston County Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Council - a program of LACASA, said she believes the economy plays a large part in the rise in cases over the last 10 years.
"The economic hardship that so many people are facing really puts a strain on families, Norris said. "I just think people are under a tremendous amount of stress."
Confirmed child abuse/neglect victims per county
*Each county is ranked out of 83 Michigan counties, with 1 being the best
The warning signs
Norris said there are a number of signs and symptoms that are important to recognize, among them being suddent changes in behavior.
"The first thing we can do is really just be watchful and aware of what's going on around us," Norris said. "Pay attention to the children that are in our lives, so we are noticing when something may change with a child or if they are behaving differently. Also, talking to the people in your neighborhood about keeping an eye out on each other's kids, watching each other's kids, just easing the burden of parenting is a great idea."
Signs of physical abuse include
- Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes
- Fading bruises or other marks after an absence from school
- Shrinking at the approach of adults
- Protesting or crying when it's time to go home
Signs of neglect in children include
- Frequent absences from school
- Begging or stealing food or money
- Lacking needed medical or dental care, immunizations or glasses
- Consistently dirty and has severe body odor
- Lacking sufficient clothing for the weather
Signs of sexual abuse in children include
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or participate in physical activities
- Nightmares or bed-wetting
- Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Running away
Signs of emotional maltreatment in children include
- Delayed physical or emotional development
- Extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding, extreme passivity or aggression
- Inappropriately adult or infantile
- Attempted suicide
Warning signs of abuse in parents or other adult caregivers include
- Describing the child as evil or in some other negative way
- A history of abuse as a child
- Abusing alcohol or other drugs
- Unduly protective of the child or severely limiting the child's contact with other children, especially the opposite sex
- Constantly blaming, belittling or berating the child
If you would like to report a situation of potential child abuse or neglect, please call 855-444-3911. If a child is in immediate danger, dial 911.
Jr. Girl Scout troop to hold event to support Child Abuse Prevention Month
by MATTHEW KADOSH
TOTOWA – April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Junior Girl Scout Troop 115 wants the community to know that child abuse can be prevented.
To raise awareness of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and to ensure all children have happy, healthy and safe childhoods, the troop is holding an event in recognition of the observation. It will be Sunday, April 29 at the Totowa Police Athletic League (PAL) on Lincoln Avenue and Chamberlain Avenue between 1 and 4 p.m.
The troop will be collecting donations of new baby clothes, blankets, diapers, formula, and baby food to donate to the Passaic County Healthy Families program, a program for overburdened new and expectant parents.
"We just wanted to bring the message that child abuse can be prevented and the way we prevent it is by bringing support services to all," said Diane Dellanno, a leader of Troop 115.
The event will feature fun and educational activities for children and adults, including the planting of a "pinwheel garden," she said. Pinwheels are a symbol of a happy healthy and safe childhood, Dellanno said. They will also have face-painting and a baseball-like game they are calling "strike out child abuse," she said.
Mayor John Coiro supports their efforts.
"What they are doing is very admirable," he said. "It's an issue that people should be aware of. Every child should have a happy and healthy childhood."
President Obama declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"Every child deserves a nurturing family and a safe environment, free from fear, abuse, and neglect," Obama said in a declaration. "Tragically, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse threatens too many children every day in communities across our nation. Parents, guardians, relatives, and neighbors all share a responsibility to prevent these devastating crimes, and our government plays a critical role as well."
For more information, go to www.preventchildabusenj.org or www.childwelfare.gov/preventing
Ariz. CPS seeing increase in child abuse reports
PHOENIX (AP) — A record-high number of child abuse reports in Arizona has led the state's child welfare agency to turn to a special investigative team to help with case management, officials said Wednesday.
Recent data showed Child Protective Services responded last year to more than 140,000 calls to its hotline — up from 131,000 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, said the director of the Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS.
At a news conference, DES Director Clarence Carter said the increase in child abuse and neglect calls is stressing workers' ability to manage cases. The agency employs approximately 1,000 caseworkers.
DES officials said they have not decided whether to make the investigative team permanent.
Gov. Jan Brewer formed a task force with DES leadership last year after several incidents where children were harmed despite previous complaints. In one case, an emaciated 6-year-old boy whose parents had five complaints died of a brain injury. From those meetings, the agency put together an assessment team.
"I do believe with the things we are currently putting in place, it will allow us to act on the info we have available to us," Carter said. "So where we have those children who are multiply engaged in the system ... that gets red-flagged and we will know how to protect them."
DES officials said they had no idea what was behind the spike in abuse calls and reports.
Beth Rosenberg, of Children's Action Alliance, an advocacy group for state child-related policy, said the current recession was likely a factor. Community and state services that families rely on are experiencing budget cuts.
"People are out of work, losing their homes — all those things have been cut in terms of the state support. There's stress to more families. Stress equals more child abuse," Rosenberg said.
In August 2011, a team of managers and child welfare specialists began reviewing some of 9,900 open cases. Staff turnover, a cumbersome computer system and budgetary factors contributed to the backlog. DES said the team has cut the case backup down to about 1,300.
Carter said he is hoping to cut workloads so that cases will be closed within 60 days. The team had found it took up to 200 days for staff to close a case.
The influx of neglect and abuse reports has also led to a stress on the state's foster care system, Carter added.
For this fiscal year, DES received $281.4 million in state funding for its CPS-related programs. In her budget proposal, the governor asked for a $3.7 million funding increase for CPS. She recommended the state hire law enforcement officers to fill 28 positions as investigative specialists. The officers would train CPS workers on criminal conduct positions and be present at investigations when required.
Carter said there is enough funding to keep the agency's services constant — for now. But the growing statistics of calls and abuse reports have him worried.
"I'm concerned about these evolving trends because the way it's clear to me, if we are 100 percent successful on all of these process improvements, those trends will outstrip our capacity to run the system," Carter said.
Texas Children's Hospital team looks to prevent child abuse
9 children have died as result of child abuse at Texas Children's Hospital in 2012
(Video on site)
In the first four months of this year, nine children have died at Texas Children's Hospital as a result of child abuse.
Earlier this week, Jamail Wagner was charged with punching and stomping on his girlfriend's 4-year-old son. Police said he did it because the boy was kicking the back of the car seat.
Last month, Shawn Mayreis was charged in connection with the death of his 2-month-old daughter Azariah. She died four days after being taken to Texas Children's Hospital with a fractured skull and broken ribs.
Maria Kruppa, of Freeport, faces life in prison if she's convicted of beating and shaking her 6-month-old son. Investigators said she told them it was because he cried too much.
"We can never make these kids okay again," said John Bickel, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Texas Children's Child Abuse Pediatrics (CAP) team.
The team is one of the largest hospital-based prevention programs in the country.
Bickel said that when stories like these make headlines, often it wasn't the first instance of abuse.
"Well, we thought something was happening. We thought something was going on but we weren't sure and we didn't want to cause problems in the family," said Bickel. "Well, usually I hear that and I hear that after the child's either died or something terrible's happened to the child."
Last year, 231 children died in Texas as a result of child abuse.
For April's Child Abuse Awareness month, 2,500 blue ribbons were tied outside Texas Children's, each one honoring children needing medical attention for suspected abuse and neglect.
While cases are down slightly, experts said the ones they see are disturbingly severe.
"The majority of kids who are killed or very seriously injured are from about a few weeks old to about 6-months," said Bickel.
That's why the CAP team is reaching out to educate the community, including school staff, pediatricians, and caregivers, to help prevent abuse.
"If you have a suspicion that a child is being abused, then it's your duty to report it," said Bickel.
What to look for
Bickel said bruises that aren't your typical childhood cuts and scrapes are one thing to look for.
"If you see kids with bruises on the back, bruises on their ribs, torso, cheeks, ears. Places like that," said Bickel.
Other signs of possible physical abuse include:
- Unexplained burns, bites, broken bones, or black eyes.
- Frightened of the parents and protests when it's time to go home.
- Shrinks at the approach of adults.
The parent or caregiver might:
- Offer conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury.
- Describe the child as "evil" or in another negative way.
- Have a history of abuse as a child.
Thecia Jenkins is the Advocacy and Education Director of the Bridge over Troubled Waters Crisis Center , partnered with Texas Children's to educate its caregivers and staff.
"It's really hard because sometimes all you can do is make that report and so you may not know what the follow up was but at the same time, it's very encouraging because when you walk with them in that situation, you know that child realizes, 'I don't have to live in that situation,'" said Jenkins.
"You don't want to be the cause of breaking up a family," said Leslie Jeter, a child care worker.
Jeter said she can relate to the apprehension some have in making a report, but has simple advice.
"Always trust your gut. Always," she said.
To report suspected child abuse, call the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400
DC daycare center shut down after report of child sexual abuse
by PAUL WAGNER/myfoxdc
WASHINGTON - A daycare center has been shut down after D.C. Police received a report of a sexual assault of a three-year-old boy.
The details surfaced five days ago after a witness came forward to say she saw a partially clothed man standing over a sleeping child.
The daycare is in the 1200 block of Kenilworth Avenue in Northeast.
According to a police report, a woman walked into a classroom at the daycare center around 1 p.m. on April 10 and saw the man standing over the child.
When she yelled at the man, he jumped up semi-naked and began pulling up the alleged victim's pants. What happened next is unclear, but the police were not called until three days later.
"We're not allowed to say anything because of the investigation, and on counsel, we really have nothing, no comment,” said Deacon Smith Banks of Zion Baptist Church.
A sign outside the church says the child development center is operated by government and is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
One woman replied "not anymore" when asked if she had a child in the daycare center. She declined to comment further.
Deacon Banks says the daycare center is operated by the church and the closure is temporary.
LA Archdiocese Sued For Alleged Abuse Cover-Up
April 18, 2012
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A group comprised of child sexual abuse victims and their supporters alleged on Wednesday that officials with the Los Angeles Archdiocese tried to cover up allegations that a former staffer had abused and videotaped a Catholic high school student.
KNX 1070's Vytas Safronikas reports John Malburg was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to sexually molesting a male student and videotaping another one for commercial purposes.
Malburg, 43, was dean of students at now-closed Daniel Murphy Catholic High, which was closed by the Archdiocese in 2007 in an effort to help pay for its share of a $660 million settlement with families of abuse victims.
But now a complaint filed on behalf of former Daniel Murphy Catholic High School student John Doe TD against the archdiocese and John Malburg alleges sexual battery, negligence and fraudulent conveyance and claims church officials tried to cover up the allegations as early as 2005.
“Cardinal Mahony needs to be held accountable for this,” said Joelle Casteix of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests(SNAP) . “They found out that he was surreptitiously filming his students and making child pornography, and instead of calling the police, they did nothing.”
Archdiocese spokesman Tod M. Tamberg disputed that allegation and said Malburg was removed by church officials once police notified them of the charges.
“The archdiocese first became aware of the investigation from the police and fully cooperated with the investigation,” he said. “Malburg was immediately removed from his position and archdiocesan officials met with parents at the school.”
The plaintiff, now an adult, alleges he was coerced into appearing in a series of pornographic videos being produced by Malburg. At the time, Malburg was a teacher as well as the vice principal and dean of students at the school, which closed in 2009.
In addition to the allegations against Malburg and the archdiocese, the complaint alleges that Malburg's parents, Dominica and former Vernon Mayor Leonis Malburg, were involved in a fraudulent scheme to transfer property assets in order for their son to avoid civil judgment claims.
The younger Malburg pleaded no contest to continuous sexual abuse of a minor and using a minor for commercial sex acts and was sentenced to eight years in state prison in a plea deal in which 12 other counts were dismissed.
One of the named victims in the criminal complaint was the plaintiff, according to his attorneys.
Malburg pleaded no contest in a separate case to conspiracy to commit voter registration fraud, voter registration fraud and perjury by declaration, and was sentenced in that case to three years and four months in state prison.
His father was convicted of charges including fraudulent voting and conspiracy for falsely claiming to live in the tiny municipality of Vernon, while his mother was convicted of conspiracy and fraudulent voting.
Leonis Malburg was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $579,000 in fines and restitution, while Dominica Malburg was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $36,000 in fines and penalty assessments.
No charges in fight fatal to girl, 10
‘Tragic results,' but no crime by other girl, 11
by Gillian Flaccus
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Prosecutors Wednesday announced they had decided not to press charges against an 11-year-old girl who fought with a 10-year-old schoolmate hours before the younger girl died.
The death of Joanna Ramos, which attracted national attention and sparked a debate on school violence, came after a “fight between two children that ended with unintended and tragic results,” but no crime was committed, the Long Beach Police Department said in a statement.
Police referred all inquiries to the district attorney's office. District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said her office could not comment on the decision because the case involved a juvenile.
Joanna was pronounced dead on Feb. 24, about six hours after she tussled with another girl in an alley near her elementary school after classes ended.
Her mother, Cecilia Villanueva, said officials met with the family Wednesday morning, but she still knows few details about the fight and chose not to ask because it was too painful.
“There's nothing they can do that's going to bring my daughter back; nothing. There's nothing I can do,” she said, choking back tears.
Mrs. Villanueva said she felt for the other girl.
“Her life is not the same anymore. I'm not angry because it could have happened to the girl instead of to Joanna ,” she said.
The name of the other girl has not been made public.
Joanna 's family previously told the Associated Press that she underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain and was resuscitated several times before she died.
Joanna's older sister, Vanessa Urbina , said Wednesday she was disappointed about the decision. The family knows little more about what prompted the fight than they did when it happened nearly two months ago, she said.
“There's nothing we can do, but I want charges on her,” said Ms. Urbina , 17. “She killed my sister. She didn't mean to kill her, but she meant to hurt her.”
The fight near Willard Elementary didn't appear to be especially violent; no weapons were used, and neither girl was knocked to the ground, police have said.
Joanna had a bloody nose when she returned to her after-school program, according to witnesses, and had to be picked up early by a relative because she didn't feel well.
By the time Joanna got home, she was complaining of a headache and vomiting.
Before she passed out on the family's couch, she told her mother an 11-year-old girl had punched her in the head but refused to say more, Mrs. Villanueva said previously.
The death shook the school community at Willard Elementary, located in a working-class neighborhood just a few miles from a more affluent area of homes that front a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Joanna, a bubbly girl who loved soap operas and curling her long, dark hair, would have turned 11 on March 12. In her honor, the family went to a local amusement park as she had requested for her birthday party, Ms. Urbina said.
“We're taking it day by day,” she said. “I just miss her being here.”
Former baseball slugger Lenny Dykstra sentenced in lewd conduct case
by Greg Risling
LOS ANGELES - Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra has been sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading no contest to charges he exposed himself to women he met on Craigslist and assaulted one.
Dykstra entered his plea Wednesday in a Los Angeles courtroom to one count each of assault with a deadly weapon and lewd conduct. He also received three years' probation.
Prosecutors say Dykstra exposed himself to several women who responded to ads for personal assistants and housekeepers. During one incident, prosecutors say, Dykstra held a knife and forced the woman to give him a massage. In March, Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement. He is currently awaiting trial on federal bankruptcy charges.
Instituting Programs That Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Should Be Top Priority of New Duval County Public School Superintendent
Educating children and adults about how to prevent child sexual abuse by those entrusted with their care must be a top priority for all those adults in a position to pass policy and make binding resolutions, according to Don Dymer, president of SingleSource.
Jacksonville Beach, Florida (PRWEB)
April 18, 2012
“One of the top priorities for Duval County's Public School Superintendent must be to undertake an aggressive education and prevention program to prevent child sexual abuse by those entrusted with their care.”, according to Don Dymer, president and chief executive officer of SingleSource Services company and sponsor of the Protect the Children Conference held at the University of North Florida earlier this year.
The Florida Times Union last week reported that parents, teachers, students and community representatives gathered together for their first of three meetings to discuss what attributes and skills should be required for Duval's next Public School Superintendent, commented Don Dymer. "The article referenced that people in the meetings were talking about how students will be treated in the classroom which is critical. But despite the headline news of increased child sexual abuse by teachers, coaches and volunteers, there is no mention of bringing on board an individual who understands that if we are to ensure our children's educational development, we must dedicate ourselves to providing an environment safe from child predators-- that is part of how children are treated in the classroom as well as in all areas of the school. Our kids are reading on-line stories about situations like Sandusky, they hear about teachers abusing children on the news. We must provide a sense of calm for our children that their schools are safe."
Not only is the emotional toll great, but the financial toll can be staggering. Recently direct costs paid by a South Carolina school for one case was reported to be $5.1 million*. Dymer stated, “I wholeheartedly agree with Chair Betty Burney's comment that we must find a 'transformational leader” for Duval County public schools. An integral part of that transformation must be an individual who recognizes the real threats to our children. Threats which have so far been the most overlooked, we need someone with progressive thinking and a proactive approach to strict, zero tolerance background screening methods and programs.”
‘Such background screening programs must also be part of an overall education and training program for all adults in the school system to help them identify the warning signs and create effective child abuse prevention programs within each school.” Don Dymer continued.
Dymer explains, “Over the years we have seen an increase in child abuse prevention aimed at educating children, but little has been done to train and educate adults about the problem or how they can prevent it. Perhaps part of that stems from that is has long been viewed as a law enforcement problem, but sadly it is not. Few cases of child sexual abuse are ever reported to police and few child sexual abusers are ever charged. And we still must do more to change the attitude that the danger to a child is the “stranger”. Disturbingly of offenders who had raped a child under the age of 12, 90% knew the child they abused (Dec. 9, 2005, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal offender Statistics.).
“School districts across the country are rushing to mandate criminal background checks for bus drivers, teachers and others as a means to safeguard the children which is a critical first step. But we need to do more.” points out Dymer. “I have spent a lifetime in the criminal justice system and have seen the lengths criminals will go to gain access to vulnerable targets. With child sexual molesters, schools are their targets because they provide access to their prey. Child sexual abusers groom adults as well as children and this is why educating adults is critical.”
Dymer advocates that the new Superintendent expand the current background screening program to include an important, scientifically proven assessment tool as part of an overall effective background screening for all employees and volunteers.
After years of looking, Dymer has found the Diana Screen®, the assessment tool that works in helping to identify potential child sexual abusers, adults who do not recognize the boundaries that should exist between adult and child.. A test that to a high scientific degree of accuracy alerts you that this is a person who should not be placed in a position of trust with children and youth. The test meets the goal: “To select the best possible people for staff and volunteer positions and to screen out individuals who have sexually abused youth or are at risk to abuse,” as set by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The DIANA SCREEN® is named for a victim of child sexual abuse who took her life. The test takes 30 minutes to complete, is completely confidential, the results cross validated 200 times. The assessment establishes whether an adult recognizes the appropriate boundaries that should exist between them and a child. Not all people who fail are child abusers - some are enablers, those who lack the ability to recognize inappropriate behavior when they see it all around them. These people contribute equally to the sexual abuse of children. 90% of people pass the screening, but it does identify to a scientific degree of accuracy those that do pose a threat. (Abel Screening, Atlanta, Ga.)
Dymer explains, “As a background screening provider who has campaigned vigorously for people to be vigilant when it comes to background checking, I am now extremely worried that people out there don't realize that when it comes to identifying child sexual abusers - background checks, finger printing, criminal background checks and drug testing won't give you the whole story. It's only part of a more extensive screening process. The next person selected to be the Superintendent of Duval County Public School Systems must have a proactive approach to help prevent child sexual abuse by those entrusted with their care. We must go the extra mile and thoroughly vet all hires and volunteers who will come in contact with our children."
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 itslong term customer relationships and strong commitment to fulfill its corporate civic duties.
Abel Screening, Atlanta Georgia: http://www.dianascreen.com
Brown County reports of child abuse increase, but officials not sure why
Human Services looks into possible causes for rise
by Doug Schneider
Reports of child abuse and neglect in Brown County increased significantly in the first part of this year, and officials say they can't immediately explain why.
Referrals for possible abuse and neglect grew 17 percent from January 2011 to January 2012, and 45 percent from February 2011 to February 2012, according to the county Human Services Department. March figures also will show an increase, said Brian Shoup, executive director of the county Human Services Department.
Officials say they're trying to respond quickly to the increase, but first need a better handle on the reasons behind it. Meanwhile, the department will add a temporary social worker's position to keep pace.
"We're rather surprised to see (these) data," Shoup told the county's Human Services Board on Thursday. "We have some thoughts (about the cause), but if I shared them with you at this point, they would be strictly speculation."
The number of referrals — reports of possible abuse or neglect — rose from 336 in January 2011 to 392 in the first month of this year. In February, they shot from 280 in 2011 to 407.
Most of Wisconsin's other large counties do not appear to have experienced a similar spike, Shoup said, though there may be exceptions.
Human Services staff is reviewing reports to identify potential causes, said Patrick Evans, the Green Bay supervisor who chairs the Human Services Committee of the County Board.
"We have to tackle this issue quickly," said Evans. "We have to act."
Some authorities speculate that a sluggish economy might be part of the problem because it could place parents under additional stress. But they couldn't immediately say if there is a direct correlation.
"That's just such a huge number," said Paula Laundrie, a citizen member of the county's Human Service Board. "It's incredible."
At budget time last fall, human services officials stressed that protecting abused and neglected children remained a priority even as the department was determining how to make do with less money.
Overall, the human services budget was reduced by about $5.5 million in part because of cuts in state aid, but Shoup said at the time that the department would be able to maintain its focus on working to reduce harm to children.
In a typical year, between 2,500 and 3,000 reports of abuse and neglect are made in the county, according to the 2009 School Readiness Report prepared for the Brown County United Way. If the current pace continued for 2012, the county would have almost 4,800 reports.
Officials couldn't say whether they believe certain parts of the county were responsible for the increase. Multiple police departments serve the area.
Capt. Jeff Sanborn, who heads the investigations division at the Brown County Sheriff's Department, said he found the number of referrals surprising, but couldn't immediately say if his department has seen such an increase. But he said it's important for anyone who suspects child neglect or abuse to notify authorities so they can intervene.
"We promote reporting, reporting, reporting," he said.
Couple travels the state to increase awareness
by Stephanie Bowens
It's a painful secret carried by millions of people, but one Surf City couple has committed to breaking the silence in their community for the sake of suffering children and adults who still carry emotional wounds; they're taking a stand against child sexual abuse.
Patricia and Edwin Boelte travel throughout the state giving presentations and holding workshops to bring awareness to the problem of child sexual abuse. Armed with training and materials they received from Darkness to Light, a Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit that educates and trains adults about the issue and ways to combat it, the Boeltes share what they've learned, hoping to help adults respond appropriately to prevent child sexual abuse.
“It's a community problem,” said Patricia, a registered nurse and certified forensic and legal nurse consultant. “It's a continuum of something that happens to a child and it follows them. It's baggage that many children carry all into adulthood, so you see the long-term effects that impact our whole society, such as teen pregnancy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, suicide.”
Patricia says she was sexually abused as a child. After hearing about Darkness to Light, she travelled to Charleston, became an authorized facilitator for Stewards of Children, a 3-hour evidence-based workshop designed by the organization, and began leading workshops in various places, including Florida.
“The first time that I told anyone about the abuse, I was 43 years old, before I even told a living soul, and that is very true with most victims of child sexual abuse, most of them do not tell,” she said. “Since 2005, I've been doing workshops; the workshops were the vehicle that enabled me to speak up and speak out.”
When Edwin, retired from the N.C. Justice Academy, met Patricia a few years ago, he was drawn into action by hearing her discuss the topic. He was particularly shaken by CDC statistics he found that said one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
“The more I learned from her about the problems about child sex abuse and the prevalence of the problem and the impact and effects, short-term and long-term, that extend into adult life, I began to read research books, literature, magazines, anything I could get my hands on, finally I said OK, I'm committed,” he said. “Childhood sexual abuse prevention – we've been doing that as a team since.”
The Boeltes also conduct free one-hour presentations called “Prevent Now: Community Awareness” at various locations from law enforcement centers and community clubs to churches and businesses – anywhere they can spread the word to listening ears.
“It happens to kids, but it's an adult problem,” Ed said. “Adults need to stand up and be counted. They need to take responsibility for the future of our community, state, and country by being willing to say OK, I'm willing open my brain and heart to learn what can be done to deal with this really terrible problem that I call an epidemic.”
Admitted liar in Fine case hasn't deterred victims' advocates
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Child sex-abuse victims' advocates are encouraging more to come forward even after one of Bernie Fine's accusers has admitted that he made up his story of abuse by the former coach.
Zach Tomaselli has admitted that he lied about Fine abusing him in a Pittsburgh hotel the night before a Syracuse University men's basketball game. And although he wasn't the only reason, the third accuser helped prompt attention to the issue and a Federal investigation.
"I think if there was a silver lining in all of this attention it's that there is a conversation in our community and across the country in regards to child sexual abuse,” said Julie Cecile of the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
Fine's first accuser – Bobby Davis – says he went public to focus attention on the issue and to be a voice for victims of child sexual abuse. He continues to encourage others to come forward and not suffer in silence. It's also why Tomaselli initially said he came out with his story of abuse. He now admits he fabricated the story about Fine.
Cecile says Tomaselli's admission shouldn't stop people from trusting a victim's story of abuse. She says national statistics show that only one to two percent falsely report sex abuse.
"We all are hoping that people are still feeling that they can feel comfortable about coming forward. They don't have to go public, but they don't have to continue to be in silence and there are people out there that will believe them and get that support they need,” she said.
While the McMahon Ryan Center has received a lot of attention as a place to help child sexual abuse victims, Cecile says Vera House has the programs to help support adult survivors.
Teenage victims of sex traffickers will get money from sale of brothels
by Lise Olsen
For seven years, the bars and shacks on the gritty east edge of Houston served as unsightly venues of serial sex crimes where a convicted human trafficker ruled with threats, and Mexican teens as young as 14 were battered, forced to live in sheds, and toil as cantina call girls after being smuggled to Houston.
But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled Tuesday that five of the youngest victims in one of the city's most visible human trafficking rings will benefit from the sale of ringleader Maria "Nancy" Rojas and her husband's bars and the rest of their ramshackle real estate empire, according to instructions delivered to prosecutors.
It is the first time prosecutors have successfully pushed for forfeiture of assets for the benefit of sex trafficking victims in Houston - and among only a few cases nationally, said Edward Gallagher, a senior federal prosecutor who heads Houston's Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA).
Valued at $602,000
Secret Service scandal sheds light on sex tourism in Latin America
Large events like the Summit of the Americas and upcoming Olympic games in Brazil can drive up the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking.
by Sara Miller Llana
Type in "sex tourism" and " Brazil" in Google, and the first site that comes up is not a news report or academic study, but advice on going rates and how to hire prostitutes.
But ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics , officials are starting to clamp down on the country's image as a haven for sex tourism. Brazil's Tourism Ministry recently said it identified more than 2,000 sites advertising the South American giant's sex industry, many of them hosted in the US. To counter the reputation, the tourism ministry has stepped up efforts to advertise Brazil's natural beauties like beaches and the Amazon, instead of bodies for sale. And they have circulated information reminding visitors that sexual exploitation of minors is a crime.
Brazil's preventive efforts seem more crucial than ever after the scandal in Cartagena, Colombia , during the Sixth Summit of the Americas last weekend. Some 11 US Secret Service agents were sent home for allegedly hiring prostitutes in the steamy colonial city, also a major destination for sex tourism.
“Large events create an obvious clientele and traffickers recognize an opportunity to make money,” says Heather Smith-Cannoy, who teaches international relations at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon .
“I think that in many places around the world there is a 'boys will be boys' attitude about the patronizing of prostitutes," Ms. Smith-Cannoy says. But when considering the combination of large profits for traffickers, and pimps or hustlers, and a relaxed cultural attitude about visiting prostitutes "we can begin to understand both the supply and the demand side of this industry,” says Smith-Cannoy.
The trafficking–tourism link
Sex “tourism" is nothing new. By some accounts it dates back to the 15 th century, with Columbus's arrival to the Americas. As the middle class grew in industrialized nations, and the opportunities to travel with it, the formal industry was developed.
Prostitution is tolerated to varying degrees in Latin America, but it is the human trafficking associated with sex tourism, especially that of minors, that alarms officials most. (The case of Cartagena did not involve minors.)
According to the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC), 500,000 women and girls from Latin America and the Caribbean are sexually exploited each year.
Not all prostitution involves sex trafficking, a multibillion dollar industry, but the nongovernmental organization World Vision estimates that up to a quarter of women in prostitution have been trafficked. At the same time, the majority of human trafficking victims – 79 percent – are brought into the sex trade, according to the United Nations. Countries in Asia, notably Thailand, have long been at the center of the problem, but Latin America is starting to play a larger role.
“While most trafficking victims still appear to originate from South and Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union, human trafficking is also a growing problem in Latin America,” writes Clare Ribando Seelke in a 2012 Congressional Research Service report.
Poverty, displacement from rural areas, and increased demand for prostitution all play a role in the growth of sexual exploitation, says Humberto Rodriguez, the communication officer of Fundacion Renacer, a Colombia-based group that combats the sexual exploitation of youths in the country. Anywhere the tourism industry grows, he says, so does the opportunity for sexual tourism.
'Not enough is being done'
Within sex tourism, the exploitation of children is the biggest concern. According to the US State Department 2011 report on the trafficking of persons, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua all have significant child sex tourist industries. Colombia, it says, is also “a destination for foreign child sex tourists from the United States and Europe, particularly to coastal cities such as Cartagena and Barranquilla.”
Countries around the globe have addressed the problem of human trafficking in general since the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, was adopted in 2000, but many say not enough is being done.
The US State Department assesses efforts around the globe to combat human trafficking. In 2010, 80 percent of countries in South America were placed on the Tier 2 list, which means they were not fully complying with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, while 60 percent of countries in Central America and the Caribbean were on the Tier 2 Watch List.
Cuba fell to the lowest level of cooperation, Tier 3. The State Department says that prostitution of children over 16 is legal in Cuba, leaving those over the legal age vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Venezuela fell to Tier 3 in the 2011 report.
Colombia sits on the Tier 1 list, and while the case of the US Secret Service agents does not fall into Fundacion Renacer's work – as it did not involve children – Mr. Rodriguez says the case may not have generated so much attention in the past. “People are paying attention to it now,” says Rodriguez.
Through their work and an international certification program called The Code, which brings tourism operators into the fight to prevent the use of children in sex tourism, society in general is more aware of prostitution, he says.
Efforts like these are particularly important as countries become hosts to big events like the Summit of the Americas, or as crises occur. An increased demand for prostitution increases human sex trafficking rings, says Cannoy-Smith. She and a co-author have researched the impact of UN peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sierra Leone on trafficking.
“When the UN intervenes in civil conflicts, the peacekeepers themselves have often been linked to running and patronizing trafficking rings,” Smith-Cannoy says. “Again, I think that poverty, desperation, the specter of large profits, and relaxed cultural attitudes make these dynamics possible.”
Counselors: Behavior change is top indicator a child is sexually abused
(Video on site)
SURFSIDE BEACH, SC – Child sex abuse can often be detected based on changes in a juvenile victim's behavior, according to Child Sexual Abuse Counselors.
Saturday Surfside Beach police arrested four people, they think, made illegal pornographic material that involved kids.
Tim Yaccarino, Pam Yaccarino, Jessica Grounds, and Amber Martin were each charged with, among other things, first degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
Several computer and storage devices have been sent off to law enforcement on the state and federal levels for review, according to Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick.
Frederick said the officer who initially broke the case entered one of the homes that the alleged activity was happening and found a female victim hidden behind a chair in her underwear.
Sex abuse counselors say it's rare for young victims to come forward to report sexual abuse.
Only 12% of kids do, according to child sex abuse advocacy group “Darkness to Light”.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said the average attacker has between 300 and 380 victims.
At the Center for Counseling and Wellness in North Myrtle Beach talking kids through life's difficulties sometimes results in children admitting they're sexually mistreated.
“With the sexual abuse, there's usually more confusion around that, more guilt more shame with the child whose less likely to reveal that,” said counselor Roberta Bogle. “So we really have to do our jobs as adults, as parents to keep our antennas up.
One in four girls is sexually abused before she turns 18, “Darkness to Light” reports, and one in six boys are.
The group reports 90% of juvenile victims know his or her attacker, and 60% of teen mothers report they were abused.
“Kids can be really good about hiding it because often times there are a lot of threats going on or there's a lot of promise of rewards by the abuser,” Bogle said.
Counselors said the number one indicator that a child is being abused is a change in his or her behavior.
Young kids might make sexual comments and older kids might use of the internet in inappropriate ways, Bogle said.
Though most child victims will never report abuse, Counselors said it's important for parents to talk to their kids but to tread lightly with the sensitive topic.
“Get into a relaxed kind of state with the child, again, to not directly go for the information,” said Bogle. “A lot of times stuff just kind of comes spilling out sideways when you're least expecting it.”
None of the Surfside Beach child porn ring suspects have been convicted, but the state has taken responsibility for three alleged victims, Frederick said.
South Carolina Former Miss America and sexual abuse survivor will speak April 25
A luncheon with Marilyn Van Derbur, former Miss America and author of "Miss America By Day" and child sexual abuse survivor, will be held on April 25 at USC Aiken in the Business and Education Building upstairs in the gym.
Doors open at 11 a.m., and the luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m., with presentation following.
Van Derbur is requested nationwide as a prominent convention keynote and motivational speaker, now speaking on the topic of sexual abuse prevention and recovery.
As a childhood incest survivor, she has devoted much of her adult life to raising national awareness and understanding of sexual abuse and its long-term effects.
Admission is $25, parking is located in front of the building.
Marilyn's book, "Miss America By Day," will be for sale at the event.
For more information, call the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County at 644-5100
Heraeus' Venus White® Brand Named the Official Whitening Fundraising Partner of Give Back a Smile
Number one whitening brand sold through dealers joins the effort to restore smiles to victims of intimate partner violence
by Heraeus Kulzer, LLC
SOUTH BEND, Ind., April 16, 2012 -- Heraeus Kulzer, LLC, the worldwide leader in dental esthetics, announced today that its Venus White Teeth Whitening Systems brand has been named the new Official Whitening Fundraising Partner of Give Back a Smile (GBAS). GBAS was founded by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) Charitable Foundation to restore the damaged smiles of adult survivors of intimate partner violence.
Since the launch of GBAS in 1999, AACD dentists, laboratory technicians and other dental professionals have volunteered their time and expertise on a pro bono basis to restore the smiles of more than 1,200 domestic abuse survivors for a total dollar value of almost $12 million. There are currently around 300 applicants who are being treated throughout the United States and Canada.
Heraeus will donate Venus White teeth whitening systems to participating dental practices that pledge to donate proceeds directly to GBAS when they perform whitening treatments for their patients.
In addition, approximately 20% of the program's annual expenses are financed by the Give Back a Smile Whitening Fundraiser, which raises money through walks and other money-raising events conducted by participating dental practices and dental labs. In 2011, these efforts raised nearly $20,000, which helped restore the damaged smiles of approximately 100 survivors of intimate partner violence.
Heraeus' support of GBAS will be formally acknowledged at the AACD Annual Meeting May 2-5 in Washington, D.C.
"We are extremely proud to be associated with such a worthwhile cause," said Christopher Holden, Heraeus President. "Our company has a long tradition of helping dental practices and laboratories transform the lives of their patients, and there is no more important way to pursue that goal than to care for victims of intimate partner violence."
Those wanting to make a donation to GBAS can do so online, or mail a check to Give Back a Smile, 402 West Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53703.
How The Justice System Fails Victims Of Child Abuse
Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchack
The authors' book, Game Over, Jerry Sandusky, Penn State and the Culture of Silence (William Morrow, $26.99) was published today.
The disturbing issues surrounding child abuse and what happens to those who report it is a particularly poignant topic given that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and a trial for former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky on fifty-two counts of abuse is fast approaching.
As journalists who have collectively spent eighty years in the trenches of the court system and beyond, we've repeatedly watched young children tell stories of horrible abuse from the witness stand. In all likelihood, those who accused Sandusky will also face intense questioning when they tell their stories under oath to a jury. It's happened so often in other cases that advocates of those who have been abused lament that those courageous enough to come forward will be victimized in a different way in court.
Over the years, we've watched young men and women under oath crumble into tears when asked to specifically describe abuse foisted upon them. We've seen children as young as seven-years-old curl up in fetal positions as they're cross-examined after implicating relatives, loved ones or complete strangers. In some very rare cases, we've also seen young children recant their stories under harsh questioning.
The backdrop to all of this is that everyone -- alleged child abusers included -- has a Constitutional right to face their accusers along with the legal right to challenge every aspect of the charges against them. That usually starts and ends with efforts by defense lawyers to impugn the integrity of the witness, or from the point of view of child abuse experts, cause true victims to endure a second, state-sanctioned instance of abuse.
In Pennsylvania, ten young men have gone through the ordeal of telling investigators and a grand jury they were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator and founder of The Second Mile, a charity for troubled youth. Like most child abuse accusers, they are braced to become targets again, this time by Sandusky's defense team, during a trial that is slated to start in June.
"It's how the criminal justice system works, and unfortunately, it works against victims," said Jennifer Storm, executive director of the Victims/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "It can feel like being intimidated and controlled all over again. But there's a fine line in front of a jury. Badgering a witness can backfire by alienating jurors."
Joseph Amendola, Sandusky's lawyer, started challenging the motives of the accusers in that matter just minutes after waiving a preliminary hearing last December.
"This is the fight of Jerry Sandusky's life and we plan to fight this to the death," he said four months before a trial judge placed a gag order on all trial participants.
There are fifty-two child molestation charges against Sandusky. The young men, all of them who met Sandusky through The Second Mile, have said Sandusky lavished them with gifts and trips and access to the world of Penn State football before subjecting them to abuse that dated back to 1998. According to a statewide investigating grand jury, the young men said they were improperly touched or molested in Sandusky's car, Penn State football locker room showers, swimming pools, hotel rooms and, among other places, the basement of Sandusky's home. Amendola said he will not entertain a plea bargain.
"We're ready to defend, always have been ready to defend," Amendola said.
Amendola has condemned the charges as vague, ambiguous and the product of collusion between the troubled Second Mile youths and lawyers seeking big financial judgments. He has secured records of text messages, telephone calls and other data he claims will produce the true story of what the accusers and their lawyers did behind the scene. Then he plans to make every one of the accusers answer specific questions about times and dates and places that ultimately will clear his client.
The tactic is familiar to those who have established a support network for those who have come forward with stories of abuse.
In 2010, the latest year in which statistics are available, there were 695,000 cases of child abuse reported in the United States, with 1,560 of them ending in death, according to sponsors of the nationwide child abuse awareness campaign. Experts say those numbers are conservative because many young victims of abuse are loathe to report it. They fear no one will believe them, especially if the abuser is a prominent individual, and the stigma attached to coming forward is often worse than being confronted by a defense attorney. It is not a crime that goes away. Those who were abused as children turn to alcohol or drugs to mask their nightmares, and they often have trouble finding healthy relationships as adults.
Pennsylvania, where Sandusky is being prosecuted, is among the many states that limit what can be asked in the cross-examination of those alleging sexual assault, especially children. Nevertheless, psychologists and therapists, along with advocates who counsel those who have gone through horrific experiences, prepare those who are called to testify for the worst.
Before the gag order was imposed, lawyers for the accusers shot down Amendola's comments. Among them was Ben Andreozzi, who represents one of the young men alleging long-term abuse at the hands of Sandusky. Andreozzi said his client initially had no desire to become involved in the case and had kept a secret inside him for years. The young man was terrified about the prospects of telling his story in open court, but eventually, he found the inner resolve to come forward.
"This is the most difficult time of my life. I can't put into words how unbearable this has been on my life, both physically and mentally... (But) I will still stand my ground, testify and speak the truth," Andreozzi's client said in a written statement after the December preliminary hearing was waived.
As for collusion, Andreozzi said the only contact his client had with any of the others was to apologize for not having the courage to come forward sooner.
Lawyers representing another young man, whose mother first reported Sandusky in 1998 for showering naked with her son in the Penn State football locker room, knows what he faces, but remains steadfast in his desire to confront Sandusky in court.
"We have a responsibility to shine a bright light on the practice of 'grooming' vulnerable children for sexual activity -- especially when it is enabled by institutional indifference," wrote Howard Janet and Ken Suggs of Baltimore, on their web site.
Experts in child abuse and their lawyers always applaud the intestinal fortitude exhibited by child abuse victims who come forward. In the Sandusky case and others, they try to prepare them for what they will face. Unfortunately, in many cases, that will most assuredly include yet another assault when they take an oath to tell the truth.
Stopping Child Abuse Before it Starts
(Audio on site)
by Laurie Johnson
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month — but how do you prevent child abuse from happening? One local agency has a simple suggestion to address the issue before it ever develops.
The problem of child abuse spans all demographics. No matter your color, race, income or background, child abuse can be found in your community.
In fact, there are more child abuse and neglect related fatalities in Harris County than anywhere else in Texas.
Lidya Osadchey runs the ESCAPE Family Resource Center. Her organization operates on the premise that child abuse is
100 percent preventable. She says many people simply don't know how to be parents.
"For parents, mostly, it's a day to day experiment. They don't know ... we don't know what to expect ... what to expect from children's peers, from the schools. And therefore, learning how to handle conflict, how to handle crisis, how to manage yourself in time of stress."
ESCAPE offers parenting classes seven days a week all across the city. You can take the classes in English, Spanish or Chinese.
Osadchey says healthy parenting isn't something you learn by osmosis, even if you grew up in a happy home.
"It's very stressful to be a parent. And what a relief it is when we learn how to handle that, that we don't have to blow, because we will feel bad afterwards. Nobody wants to be a bad parent, we all want to do the best we can for our children."
The classes cover a variety of topics like stress management, how to communicate with children at various developmental
stages and what kind of discipline is appropriate. There are classes for single parents, families going through divorce and even for grandparents who are raising their grandkids and the children go through their own classes too.
"In a home where parents are attuned to children, it doesn't mean hovering over them, it doesn't mean doing everything they ask, it's really learning what's appropriate and what's not. And how to respond to stress appropriately and how to manage your own emotions and how to discipline children in such a way that it's a learning lesson for them, not a fear of punishment."
CPS confirmed more than 5,000 cases of child abuse in Harris County last year and placed nearly 2,000 children in foster care.
For more information about ESCAPE's parenting classes, visit Learn To Parent.Org
Child sexual exploitation – A life sentence for children
OPINION COLUMN- The Graham James trial is now over, but outrage over the feeble sentence handed down in this case has just begun. James received only a two-year prison term for the hundreds of violations he perpetrated against his young victims.
Charges stemming from another complainant were dropped in a plea bargain deal resulting in his guilty plea. It took so long for James to concede to his crimes that we are left wondering why the judge still gave him credit for this belated admission of guilt.
Judges often agree to these negotiations because it tends to free up court time and resources, saving money and speeding up court proceedings. Victims are not required to testify in court when a guilty plea has been entered. Although facing their demons may be extremely difficult, those who are deprived of this experience often find it hard to put their abuse behind them.
A guilty plea is an important acknowledgement of the crime(s) committed against them. Unfortunately, the lighter sentence this often precipitates, and the practice of dropping some of the charges, tends to minimize these horrendous crimes. It is unbelievable that a judge can listen to the gut-wrenching victim impact statements read in court and not levy harsher penalties.
James may well wind up serving less than a third of his sentence. Because this is to be served concurrently, this admitted child predator may be eligible for release later this year. Criminals like him are often credited with time served while awaiting trial, reducing their sentences yet further.
Graham James is a repeat offender. In 1997 he was given a 3-and-a-half year sentence for the same crime. However, he ended up serving only 18 months. In a bizarre twist, he was later pardoned by the National Parole Board in 2007. Given these latest developments, this may possibly be revoked.
The case of Graham James only serves to illustrate how woefully inadequate our judicial system is in terms of treating sexual crimes against children with the severity they deserve, acting as a possible deterrent to future pedophiles.
There appears to be little thought given as to the impact that these crimes have not only on the victims, but their families and on society as a whole. If these were the children of a judge or lawyer, would we perhaps have seen a harsher punishment meted out? We already know that the high profile nature of this case has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the forefront.
While James and other creeps like him loll around in Club Fed, working out in the gym and taking courses at the expense of Joe Public, their victims – if they are lucky enough to have survived their ordeal – are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Even if these sexual deviants are put into protective custody, the restrictions placed on them are nothing compared to what their victims must endure.
Instead of the perpetrators receiving the life sentence they so justly deserve, it is all too often the innocent victims who wind up serving a life sentence – one that involves emotional dysfunction, poor self-esteem, fear of intimacy, relationship and trust issues, self-abuse, addictions, and ultimately even suicide in some instances.
According to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, “The maximum penalty for serious drug offenses under Bill C-10 is comparable to that for child sexual assault.” In fact, the penalty for growing as few as six marijuana plants for the purpose of trafficking can fetch twice the sentence than some of the ‘lesser' child sexual exploitation offenses.
A report submitted by the Canadian Department of Justice on Child Sexual Exploitation revealed about one-third of all cases of child sexual exploitation end in a conviction. This amount is about one-third as much as in all other offenses. In roughly two-thirds of these cases, the perpetrators receive either a custodial sentence or a conditional sentence of custody.
Statistics tell us one in three girls are sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years of age, as opposed to one in five boys. If you ponder this for a moment, you may grasp the enormity of the problem that we are faced with. Targeted children do not come from a specific socio-economic class, nor a certain race or religion. It is their vulnerability that is preyed upon… and their innocence.
To aggravate matters yet further, there is a high rate of recidivism. More than a third of these criminals end up back in court for committing a similar crime within five years of their original conviction. Boys are more likely to be the victims of re-offenders than girls. In the case of incest, this figure is somewhat lower.
By international standards, the minimal sentences handed down by Canadian courts are a disgrace. In most other civilized countries of the world, the penalties for sexual crimes against children have increased dramatically in recent years. Although chemical castration is used as a deterrent in some countries, there really is no known cure for this perversion. No penalty can begin to erase the effects of child sexual abuse.
This depraved behaviour is not a new problem of our modern society. Rather, it is only in recent years that atrocities of this nature have come to light and have received the attention they deserve. It is paramount we begin to level penalties that are in keeping with this – the worst of crimes – against the most vulnerable members of our society.
Kentucky Voices: Abuse bill focused on saving children
by Mike Robinson
The Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal and other media outlets should be commended for their coverage of child abuse fatalities and near-fatalities in Kentucky. Because of this coverage, the public is more aware of an oft-unspoken reality: Every year, children in Kentucky die needlessly, or are nearly killed, at the hands of their caretakers.
Because of the awareness facilitated by the media, the Kentucky legislature has focused on the need for system changes, and the governor has committed to supporting these changes. Child advocates are united in their belief in the need for improvement in several areas.
Given the media's important role in informing the public about child abuse deaths and near-deaths, the recent Herald-Leader editorial asking the legislature to take no action by letting Senate Bill 126 "die" is misguided.
The position stated in the editorial does nothing to improve public policy and argues only to maintain the status quo.
Much of the information in the editorial is not factual and appears based on vague assumptions. It is not productive to try to dispute each of those assumptions in this writing. It is more appropriate to focus on what SB 126 will do for children.
The editorial states that to do nothing this session would "do no harm." Yet, each year, literally dozens of children will die, or be close to death, in Kentucky as a result of abuse and neglect. To do nothing on behalf of these children for another year does in fact do harm.
The child-protection reforms proposed in SB 126 are good for children and families in Kentucky. Most importantly, an external child-fatality review panel will be established in Kentucky. This panel will create a process whereby an independent panel of experts conducts an in-depth review of all child abuse fatalities or near-fatalities. This panel will identify opportunities of needed systems reform and develop data-informed prevention opportunities.
Many states have already established these review panels. Shouldn't Kentucky at least implement a similar process and give it a chance to work?
Contrary to the assertion by the Herald-Leader, an external child-fatality review panel would not be a source of harm. SB 126 creates other needed changes. The creation of an Independent Office for Oversight of Child Protective Services promises to provide greater accountability and oversight of Kentucky's child welfare system.
Prompted by the Amy Dye case, important statute changes clarify the practice regarding the investigation of abuse of children at the hands of adults in the home other than the parent. The Herald-Leader's call to postpone legislative action does nothing for the victims of the past, nor does it prevent future tragedies that may occur before the next legislative session.
Admittedly, the proposals offered in SB 126 are not perfect. More can and should be done to improve transparency of the system. Transparency is a complex issue, deserving of further study. However, failing to implement important changes contained in SB 126, in pursuit of the perfect solution to the transparency issue is clearly misguided.
Child abuse: Not in MY neighborhood!
by Leah Derewicz
April is National Childhood Abuse Awareness Month and thinking about childhood abuse makes my blood pressure rise. I am a mother of two boys and even on days when they drive me absolutely crazy, I can't imagine ever striking them. Seeing their reaction after raising my voice is enough for me to realize the impact I have on them as a mother.
I have lived in Ahwatukee for 15 years and love every aspect of it; a great community, fantastic schools, shopping and safety. As far as any type of childhood abuse, not in MY neighborhood, these things just don't happen here, right?
Wrong, abuse happens everywhere, EVEN in nice neighborhoods, but does it always happen behind closed doors? No, and here is a true story that happened to me recently.
A beautiful evening a few weeks ago, my boys and I decided to take a bike ride to one of the local parks. Get a little exercise and have fun before bath and bedtime. I noticed that I didn't have my phone with me, but didn't worry about it, why would I need it?
When we arrived at the park, the boys immediately started playing. There was one other family at the park; a mother, father and three small children, all under the age of 5. The father spoke in a harsh tone of voice, I was unable to understand what he was saying, it was another language, but to me it sounded angry.
The wife was submissive and didn't speak to either her husband or children. After 15 minutes, the family decided to take a short walk, one child in a stroller, one on a tricycle and one on a small bicycle.
When the family was 100 yards from the playground, I heard the father yell at the oldest child, I turned to see if everything was OK, what transpired next shocked and saddened me.
The father then broke off a branch from a tree and with full force hit the oldest child on the back with the tree branch. The child screamed out and started crying. The father paced and then threw the stick aside and proceeded to yell at the child, all while the mother did nothing. The mother did look in my direction and noticed that I had seen everything.
After a few minutes, everything was finished; the father proceeded to walk away with child No. 2 riding the tricycle to the nearby apartment complex. The mother turned around and walked back towards the playground with the older child and youngest child. When she approached the playground she just stared at the ground without making eye contact with me.
During this time, my boys were happily swinging and laughing, oblivious to what I had witnessed, for this I was thankful.
I did curse under my breath, why oh why didn't I bring my phone with me? I would've called the police. Since I didn't have my phone, all I could do was pray and that is exactly what I did, I prayed for God to comfort that child, to put his loving arms around that child and keep him safe.
I prayed at the playground and prayed before falling asleep that night for a child I didn't know, but that I knew was hurting. I hugged, kissed and told my boys how much I loved them before they fell asleep that night, knowing that they are safe in this home.
Have you witnessed abuse? What have you done? Did you contact the authorities? Call the local Child Protective Services? An abuse helpline? What will happen if I call the authorities?
While I was researching information for this column, I found the following paragraph from the Arizona Department of Economic Security website, at azdes.gov:
“When to report abuse? A report should be made when any person, who reasonably believes that a child under 18 has been abused, neglected, exploited or abandoned. A report of suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment is only a request for an investigation.
“The person making the report does not need to prove the abuse. Investigation and validation of child abuse reports are the responsibilities of child protective service workers. If additional incidents of abuse occur after the initial report has been made, make another report.”
I know that there is help available all over the Valley, and I will be adding a few new numbers to my phone contact list in case I ever witness abuse again, will you do the same?
National Child Abuse Helpline: 1-800-422-4453
CPS Child Abuse Hotline: 1-888-SOS-CHILD
Please remember that even a phone call to report a suspected case of abuse could save a child's life, together we can help the innocent children.
• Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Survivors of sex trafficking hoping for awareness, change
by Brittany Green-Miner
(Videos on site)
Survivors of sexual slavery shared their stories this week at a symposium in Salt Lake City. They say the problem is more widespread than people realize and the victims are often young children.
The three-day symposium brought together experts, law enforcement and survivors to help educate Utahns on a slave trade that is happening in their own backyards.
“The average age of a prostitute in the US is 12 to 14 and I think that's a startling statistic; to know and to find out that our junior high age students are being trafficked at that age,” said Tyler Brklacich, Backyard Broadcast.
One of those survivors was Keisha Head. She says the trafficking of women and children is a growing problem nationwide.
“The very first contact I had with a social worker, the very first thing that she told me that I was a throwaway. I know that on the inside, that's the terminology that is used, but for me, that word really painted the picture for my future. I was trash,” Head said. ”I want to take a minute for us to just peel back all the labels, the runaway, the disadvantaged youth, the victim and lets talk about what the real matter is. We are talking about children.”
Survivors say victims are often young adults who are influenced by adults with bad intentions.
“The unfortunate thing is that a lot of these girls who look young dont look that way. Once a trafficker has taken their innocence from them, we have lost that compassion,” said Stacy Jewell Lewis, a survivor of sex trafficking.
Survivors hope their stories and the conference will help bring awareness and a face to the problem.
“For those who spend their nights turning tricks rather than their days turning pages of a book, we are the means to an education,” said Head. “We need to take a stand and stop this from happening.”
They say that victims of sex trafficking are often hard to recognize and that resources to help victims fight their plight.
“I remember the police officer pulled over and arrested me. I told him I had just been raped and he said, ‘Raped? You haven't been raped. You're a prostitute,” said Head. ”In our state there's no where to take our victims. Law enforcement is faced with this challenge to protect and serve. They have to keep her safe and there's no where to take her but at the same time, these girls are being criminalized.”
Tyler Brklacich works with Backyard Broadcast, a group out of Orem that aims to get Utahns educated on what trafficking looks like so they can put a stop to it.
“To have law enforcement know it's occuring in their districts so they then look for it, and learn the signs of what human trafficking looks like because it's not going to be always a prostitiute on the corner, it's going to be a well designed plan by a pimp,” said Brklacich.
Survivors say holding those who are buying and selling sexual services accountable will help bring sex trafficking to light.
“The reason I was trafficked was because a man purchased me, point blank, hands down,” said Head.
Lewis says she's encouraged that law enforcement have taken time to learn about sex trafficking and help figure out a way to fix it.
Michigan must confront sex trafficking crisis, advocates say
by Laura Misjak
EAST LANSING — Malynda Jennings grew up as a sex slave in the small eastern Michigan town where she was raised.
“My mother was not a very good person, and her husband wasn't either,” said Jennings, who's now an advocate against sex trafficking, at a discussion Sunday at Edgewood United Church of Christ to raise awareness.
She described running through fields as her abusers shot at her for fun, how she was “treated like a deer,” then abused. But she said most of the child sex trafficking in Michigan is through pornography.
“It's behind closed doors,” she said. “You could be a close community, you could be a close church, you could be a close neighbor and human trafficking could still be happening.”
That's why anti-human trafficking advocates spoke to a crowd of about 40 people at the church — to raise awareness about a crime that could be happening in any small community.
Lori Kitchen, the Michigan Women's Foundation's program and advocacy manager, said Michigan is especially susceptible to trafficking because of its position as a border state, its weak economy and its proximity to Toledo, which she said is a major trafficking hub.
But addressing the issue and pressing for laws that would help sex trafficking victims recover, rather than punish them, could help.
“We need to focus on healing victims, we need safe harbor laws,” she said.
Local groups bring attention to human trafficking in the U.S.
by Megan Calbero
April 15, 2012
The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County (LWVSC) will host “Our Children Are Still Not For Sale” on April 19 in order to promote human trafficking awareness in Snohomish County.
Human trafficking ranks second as the most profitable illegal trade in the world and produces around $32 billion in profits. Drug trafficking is the first.
The conference will feature Sarah Collins, the mother of a trafficking victim, Paula Skomski and Lori Hartelius from the Sexual Exploitation Intervention Network, and Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Matt Baldlock.
Collins recently spoke at a community awareness event hosted by Soroptimist International of Marysville, WA with the Marysville Counsel PTA.
Soroptimist International of Marysville, WA is a group of women “dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls right here in our communities and around the world,” according to their website.
Collins' daughter Kelsey went missing in May 2009 - about a month after Kelsey testified against the pimp who solicited her for prostitution. Her family has not heard from her since.
“I want you to know that this can happen to any teenager,” said Collins. “They don't have to be in a dysfunctional home. They don't have to have dysfunctional parents.”
According to Not For Sale's Slavery Map, Washington has the fifth highest reported incidents of human trafficking in the country with 81 reports.
Not For Sale is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing awareness about human trafficking.
Azra Gradic, an advocate specialist at the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse, also spoke at the community awareness event in Marysville.
“People think it's just about sex,” said Gradic on the violence she has seen accompanying victims of sex trafficking. “I've had clients who have almost been killed.”
“When this happens, it doesn't just happen to the girls,” explained Collins. “It happens to their moms and their dads and their sisters and brothers. It goes on and on.”
Snohomish County launched its first human trafficking hotline on March 1 of this year, according to Elaine Hanson, treasurer of Soroptimist International of Marysville, WA. The 24/7 hotline can be reached at (425) 258-9037.
In a 2008 report, Debra Boyer estimated around 300 to 500 youth were involved in prostitution in the Seattle and King County areas. Seattle is currently ranked as the worst city for child prostitution in the United States.
“[Sex trafficking], especially of minors, is worse than most because it's hidden and secret and brutal and unconscionable,” explained Dorothy Jones, a member of the LWVSC.
“When I think of a 12-year-old girl being seduced or forced into sex slavery, I picture my great granddaughters and feel like shaking the world into action about this hidden horrid crime,” said Jones.
Snohomish County law enforcement was given a $450,000 federal grant in 2011 to aid in locating and prosecuting individuals profiting from child sex slaves, according to the LWVSC.
The LWVSC will show the short film “Sex + Money: A National Search For Human Worth” during the meeting. They will also inform the community about the Snohomish County Sexual Exploitation Intervention Network (SEIN).
Our Children Are Still Not For Sale will be held in the Point Elliot Room at the Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo on April 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Child Sex Trafficking Intervention Training Planned In Flathead
by Scott Zoltan
KALISPELL, Mont. -- The non-profit Shared Hope International is inviting folks from all across Montana to learn about how to combat child sex trafficking, during a training session at Flathead Valley Community College.
Organizers will have people split into groups, including law enforcement, social workers and youth advocates, for specialized training from experts like police officers from Oregon and Washington. Organizers hope folks will return home and pass along the lessons to the rest of their communities.
The event is scheduled for April 26, and anyone who would like more info can visit Shared Hope's website at sharedhope.org.
“There is an issue here in Montana,” said Diane Yarus of Soroptimist International of Kalispell. “Anywhere where you've got kids who have access to the Internet or cell phones or facebook, they're at risk to being targeted by predators who are looking specifically at exploiting them.”