Father Porter: Remembering the evil
by RICK FOSTER
John Robitaille sits at his desk at the Larry Friedman Center for Entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, and looks back over a lifetime of achievement: starting several businesses, running on the Republican ticket for Rhode Island governor, inspiring students to innovate.
But within the business lab's sunny rooms, few would guess that the dynamic 63-year-old former North Attleboro resident had once been at the center of a controversy that would rock the foundations of the Catholic Church - and liberate hundreds of people who were abused as children by sexual predators hiding behind the robes of priests.
"I dislike the word victim," said Robitaille, one of the original accusers who went public 20 years ago about how former St. Mary's Church curate Father James Porter sexually abused them and others during the early 1960s. "I'm a survivor. We were all survivors."
This month marks the 20th anniversary of Porter's arrest for those long ago crimes that for many still leave psychological scars.
Porter, who was in his 20s when he served as a priest for 18 months at St. Mary's in North Attleboro, died of cancer in 2005 after early release in January 2004 from an 18- to 20-year prison term on sex abuse charges. At the time, he was awaiting a civil commitment hearing that would have extended his confinement for being a sexually dangerous person.
Prison officials said he exhibited a voracious sexual appetite even behind bars.
The prison sentence was the result of charges leveled by 28 adults who said they had been abused as children.
The incidents had lay buried for decades among victims until private investigator and Porter abuse victim Frank Fitzpatrick confronted the former priest in 1992 and taped a phone call in which the ex-cleric admitted to abusing as many as 100 boys and girls. Other estimates have Porter raping more than 200 children over his lifetime.
The beginning of the scandal
The Porter case was only the tip of the iceberg of clerical abuse that eventually expanded to include hundreds of priests and a major coverup scandal with a rising number lawsuits that threatened to bankrupt the church.
Among the most damning Porter revelations were that church officials who knew the seriousness of the charges against the priest, transferred him from parish to parish, rather than dismiss him from the priesthood.
Porter was assigned to St. Mary's after being ordained in 1960. But when complaints arose, he was sent to another parish in Fall River, then was transferred again to New Bedford. In 1969, he was moved to a parish in Bemidji, Minn. All along the way, according to church records and news reports, Porter abused children.
Porter was a pedophile, and superiors knew or suspected. At least twice before he formally left the priesthood in 1974, he was sent to treatment centers.
Porter eventually married and had four children of his own before Fitzpatrick caught up with him, still living in Minnesota.
The ex-priest pleaded guilty to multiple abuse charges in 1993. Prior to the sentencing, 68 of Porter's victims agreed to drop their lawsuit against the church in return for a reported settlement of $5 million.
Ultimately, the church would settle 131 claims related to Porter, making it the largest sex abuse scandal in history until new allegations emerged a decade later in Boston involving defrocked priest Paul Shanley.
Robitaille, the second oldest of three children, was 11 and attending fifth grade at St. Mary's School when he met Porter. The young, energetic priest was instantly popular and seemed to have a way with kids as supervisor for CYO sports activities and coordinator for the church's altar boys.
"Our pastor was an older man, and people were really impressed by the energy of this young guy," Robitaille said.
But underneath the black suit and clerical collar, Robitaille said, lived a monster. An altar boy whose family life revolved around the church, Robitaille became one of the predator priest's "favorites."
"This ... would attack me right after Mass," said Robitaille, who remembers being terrified of the priest.
Sexual assaults occurred in whatever place seemed to be convenient, Robitaille said, from the church basement to a cottage on the Cape to which the priest had access.
"I couldn't get away from the guy," he said.
On occasion, Porter would stop his car and beckon to the 11-year-old or call his home and ask him to come to the rectory. Robitaille said he was never physically threatened, but he heard stories that the priest would take off his belt to intimidate other children.
Robitaille said he never informed his parents or his siblings about the attacks.
Porter warned him not to tell, Robitaille said, and he obeyed. In the world of the 1960s, he said, the word of a priest was considered second only to God's.
"The power of a priest was immense," Robitaille said. "We were taught that the priest was the embodiment of God on Earth."
Eventually, decades later, dozens more Porter victims stepped forward - some demanding prosecution, others supporting those suffering the worst consequences of repressed memories.
Survivors began to hold regular support meetings in private at a building on Elm Street in North Attleboro.
"When I'd attend, there'd be 100 people there," Robitaille said.
Robitaille became the public face of the survivors early on, after a lawyer representing the group asked for a spokesman to step forward.
One of his first duties was to issue a brief statement when he and several other victims appeared to file the initial complaint at the North Attleboro police station.
"There were remote TV trucks everywhere," Robitaille said. "It was unbelievable."
Unreal, too, was the world into which the sudden and shocking disclosures about the pervert ex-priest spilled.
"They were difficult days for everyone in the Diocese of Fall River," diocesan spokesman John Kearns said.
At the time, Bishop James L. Connolly had been transferred to Hartford, Conn., leaving behind a leadership vacuum that hampered the church's response.
Bishop Sean O'Malley was quickly appointed to fill the void.
O'Malley - now the cardinal of Boston - met with victims, arranged a settlement and pushed through a series of reforms intended to protect children and lead the diocese out of its blackest period. But it would take time.
Roderick MacLeish, the Boston attorney who would become famous as the lawyer who worked with Porter's victims to bring the ex-cleric before a judge, said attitudes about religious leaders were far different before 1992.
Priests were almost universally revered, he said, and any suggestion that a cleric would abuse a child seemed unthinkable.
MacLeish remembers his own initial skepticism when he received the first call from his office that a half-dozen adults who said they had been abused as children by Porter were asking to see him.
"It was hard to accept," MacLeish said. "But I met with them, and after I did, I knew they were telling the truth."
After a handful of victims agreed to go public with their charges, MacLeish interviewed witnesses, asked questions and sought to bring pressure on the Bristol County District Attorney's Office to prosecute.
On May 7, 1992, a Boston TV station telecast interviews with eight Porter victims who for the first time made public their allegations against the ex-priest.
Although the church officially deplored priestly abuse, the sensational charges didn't sit well with the church hierarchy or with skeptics, who greeted some of the victims with doubt and ridicule.
"It was a scary time," MacLeish said.
Soon after the sensational allegations became public, then Boston Cardinal Bernard Law called down the power of God on the media - specifically The Boston Globe - who he said were fixated on the case and were not reporting positive news about the church.
Some doubters did more than get angry. MacLeishe recalls that someone discharged a small firearm outside his house. No one was injured.
Ultimately, Porter was convicted in Minnesota in 1992 for sexually molesting a babysitter of one of his children.
The following year, he reached a plea deal in Massachusetts under which he would serve an 18 to 20 year sentence for his crimes of sexual abuse while a priest. However, he was scheduled to be released in January 2004 because of statutory time credits and sentencing in effect at the time of his crimes.
Porter would never go free, though, because officials sought to hold him through a civil process as a sexually dangerous person. He died while in legal limbo.
The true heroes of the Porter case were the victims, MacLeish said, who risked ostracism within and without the church to bring forward the awful truth.
"The people who knew what happened and came forth saved thousands of lives of people they will never know," MacLeish said.
Porter was the first major prosecution to reveal the systematic abuse of trust by a Roman Catholic priest, and with it the massive coverup of abuse by higher church officials, MacLeish said.
Without the Porter case, the abuses of priests might eventually have come to light. But they also might have continued to go unnoticed or remained the topic of hushed conversations and unsubstantiated rumors.
For the Roman Catholic Church in New England, Porter was only the beginning of damaging revelations that expanded to touch priests in the Boston area. Law departed for the Vatican, and was replaced by O'Malley who would again be charged with damage control.
The Fall River Diocese, under O'Malley, had already shown leadership in protecting children and policing its priests and volunteers with a detailed list of policies and procedures. But too few Catholic leaders in other domains, including Boston, followed its lead.
Beginning with O'Malley's reforms, priests in the Fall River Diocese accused of sexual abuse were to be placed on leave until allegations were investigated and could not simply be transferred to other parishes.
Any alleged crimes were to be reported to police and all diocesan priests, teachers and volunteers had to submit to a criminal background check. A special office was set up within the diocese to insure compliance and to oversee the protection of children.
"I would not argue that good things came out of Porter," said the Fall River Diocese's Kearns. "But due to its early experience, the diocese probably emerged better prepared to deal with such issues."
As allegations of priestly abuse multiplied across the country and other challenges to religious authority emerged, the larger church paid a heavy price. Membership declined and parish after parish closed or merged.
In Massachusetts, alone, Catholic church membership dwindled 15 percent from 1990 to 2008, according to the American Religious Identification Survey 2008.
The decline is second only to that in Rhode Island, Montana and Louisiana, at 16 percent.
The situation nationwide is equally severe. In 2008, alone, membership declined by 400,000 according to a Pew study, and more than 1,000 parishes have closed since 1995. The number of priests has also fallen precipitously.
Other religious groups, meanwhile, have also suffered significant declines.
Just how large the issue of priestly misconduct looms in the decline of the Catholic church is hard to say.
In a 2004 Notre Dame study, 85 percent of Catholics interviewed listed sexual abuse as the top challenge facing the church, followed by the failure of Catholic bishops to take sufficient action. But at the same time, 80 percent said the sexual abuse scandal did not have any effect on their church attendance.
Nonetheless, many parishioners remain angry, both at their church and at the media for rehashing the scandals over and over.
"It's a complex issue," said Nancy Ammerman, professor of sociology at Boston University. "There is clearly outrage and an erosion of trust, but the connection to church attendance isn't so clear."
For Robitaille, the world was a different place after being victimized by Porter.
The memories drove him from the church. The trauma was so severe that he avoided even driving past St. Mary's Church. He pushed the nightmarish thoughts back as far into his consciousness as he could.
"Anything that reminded me of it, I'd avoid," he said. "Change the subject."
Then one day, 30 years after allegations against Porter first surfaced in his hometown, Robitaille heard a news report on radio station WBZ while driving.
Frank Fitzpatrick, with whom he had attended Catholic school in North Attleboro, was blowing the lid off Porter's dirty little secret.
"I had to stop my car," Robitaille said.
The emotions came flooding back.
As he listened to the news broadcast, Robitaille felt at once horrified and liberated.
As a child victim, Robitaille had felt threatened and terribly alone. Now, even as he relived the old nightmares, he knew he no longer was.
Despite his experiences, Robitaille hasn't let the demons of the past consume his life. An energetic businessman, he operated his own video production company and other enterprises.
His stature in the Rhode Island Republican Party led to a run for governor in 2010.
He now helps college students incubate business ideas that could become the next Facebook or Zipcar.
Loyal support from his wife, Lynda, and the work of a therapist helped Robitaille reconcile his thoughts about those terrible days under the domination of Father Porter.
Robitaille said he no longer dwells on the past, although he says the story needs to be re-told so that the danger of a priest or other adult violating the trust of a child will not be forgotten.
As for Porter, Robitaille says he's forgiven. There's no point, he says, in hanging onto feelings that for too long overshadowed his life.
But there's one thing Robitaille won't let go of. That's the prayer that in a post-Porter world, never again will anyone - priest, coach, scout leader - feel beyond the gaze of public scrutiny that they can get away with abusing a child.
Volunteers educate hotel workers on sex trafficking trade
by Kay Johnson
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - NC Stop, a local coalition against trafficking, plans to work with local hotels to educate them on the issue months ahead of the Democratic National Convention.
The local group is using a model by The Sisters of Mercy in Indianapolis who spearheaded a project to bring awareness and education of this issue before the Super Bowl.
This project will take place over the summer until the Democratic Convention in early September.
Volunteers met Saturday to discuss plans. Sister Rose Marie Tresp, Director of Of Justice for Sisters of Mercy South Central says, North Carolina is in the top ten for trafficking - both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Tresp calls it "modern day slavery."
Often a hidden crime, it's hard to know just how many people it effects but estimates are that about 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.
"Anytime you have a big convention, NASCAR, Superbowl, you see an increase in trafficking and this is a prime time to alert people," Tresp said.
"I have two teenage daughters..this issue involves children..they are sometimes societies most vulnerable individuals," Volunteer Marie-Michele Darcy said.
The state of Indiana passed new human trafficking legislation before last year's Superbowl and for big political events - like conventions in the past - police even monitored web sites for an increase in sex ads.
A study out earlier this year found no evidence to back up claims that sex trafficking really does spike during large events.
And published reports show officials did not see an increase in trafficking arrest during past political conventions.
A bill is currently making its way through the senate that relates to human trafficking, specifically victim assistance. The bill's sponsor told WBTV today she hopes it will become law by the summer.
Businesses play trafficking cops
by ALLIE SHAH
In his war against human trafficking, U.S. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca is recruiting an unlikely ally: Minnesota businesses.
CdeBaca, a former federal prosecutor, is pushing companies to establish anti-trafficking policies and to do a better job of monitoring their supply chains.
Last week, CdeBaca visited the Twin Cities to deliver the keynote address at "Freedom, Here + Now," an anti-trafficking forum at the University of Minnesota. He also met with members of the newly formed Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (BCAT) at Carlson headquarters in Minnetonka.
Led by its chairman and former CEO, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the travel and hospitality corporation has been outspoken about the need for businesses to do their part to stop trafficking. Its hotels around the globe have implemented anti-trafficking protocols and training.
Businesses can play a key role in the fight, said Deborah Cundy, a vice president with Carlson who is active in the coalition. "Once you're aware of the problem, it's very difficult to walk away from it," she said. "There aren't too many companies that can't help in some way to make sure that they are not unwillingly involved in human trafficking."
CdeBaca has been director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons since May 2009.
Q What is human trafficking and how prevalent is it?
A 'Human trafficking' is a bit of a misnomer. At the end of the day, what we're really talking about is modern slavery. 'Trafficking' is a euphemism that makes people a little bit more comfortable, so we tend to hear it called that more.
As Secretary [Hillary] Clinton says, this is slavery, pure and simple. Once you frame it that way, I think people actually understand it a little bit more. They realize it is about people who are being held against their will, who don't have any options to leave and can't make decisions on their own. That can be U.S. citizens. It can be foreign. It can be adults or children. It could be for sex or labor. It is something that seems hidden but once you start looking for it, you tend to find it.
Q How big a problem is it in the United States?
A In the United States, it's a little bit tougher. It is typically within the shadows of society. It's more likely in the U.S. for it to be in prostitution or in the underground economy that the immigrants are located in because folks take advantage of vulnerabilities of the immigrants. We don't try to speculate on numbers here in the United States. The best numbers are the global numbers that the researchers have done that point to somewhere between 27 million to 28 million people worldwide.
Q Have you done this kind of forum before with the business community in Minnesota?
A Not really in Minnesota. We've been working at bringing the business community in -- it's something we're very keen on. If all we do is address this at the level of the trafficker, as opposed to the folks who are getting their services, then nothing's ever going to change.
Q Tell me about your efforts to get businesses to play a role in stopping this problem.
A The biggest thing that we're focusing on is the notion that people need to know their supply chain. They need to understand the inputs in their business model.
You know, the years in which all the inputs for a particular product were being sourced from the Upper Midwest is a thing of the past. So if you're in a major company, you're just as likely to have inputs coming from Indonesia or Malaysia or Africa. So I think part of it is just that notion of awareness -- getting folks to realize that this needs to be part of their business priorities.
Out of that also can come their philanthropic priorities, you know, as they're deciding which community groups to support and what issues to work on. Especially when you have a place like the Twin Cities where there's such a history of good corporate citizenship, the notion of supporting by action, as well as by the internal workings of the companies.
Q What are some examples of "best practices" used by companies to make sure they're not contributing to human trafficking?
A One of the best practices is striving to get down to analyzing lower-down tiers. So really you can get down to the factory, you can get down to the farm. In the seafood business, you can get down to the boat. We know that people can get down to the boat or to the farm because they're tracking it for health issues. If an E. coli outbreak happens, they can figure out which farm it came from and where it was picked on that farm.
You overlay that with supply-chain monitoring with unannounced visits, unannounced audits. Having employees have a place they can go to make a complaint if something is happening. Not interviewing them in the presence of managers. A little bit of it is common sense.
Yet I think it's very daunting for some companies. Up until now, there's not necessarily been a reason for them to do it.
FOP Takes Stand Against Child Abuse
Officers Partner With The Villages, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana
The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 86 has partnered with a community organization to fight child abuse and neglect. Lt. Rick Snyder, the union's first vice president, presented The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana with a check for $2,500, RTV6's Jack Rinehart
The Villages is the state's largest not-for-profit child and family services agency and serves more than 1,400 clients with a wide variety of counseling and foster care services.
FOP leaders said they want to a broader stance in protecting Indy children.
"Our community policing officers who make up our FOP membership firmly believe in protecting those who are least able to protect themselves, our children," Snyder said. "Kids in this partnership will afford us the opportunity to ensure they get the resources they need."
Villages spokeswoman Sharon Pierce said in 2010, more than 115,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported in Indiana.
"Children only have one shot at childhood, and we in this community in Central Indiana and statewide want to make sure that children are safe," Pierce said. “We want to make sure their environment is safe, loving and one that will catapult them into being able to achieve their potential.”
The FOP holds a roster of more than 3,000 active and retired members.
After abuse investigation, kids often remain at risk
by Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who remain at home after an abuse investigation are often still facing risk factors for maltreatment a few years later, a new study finds.
In the U.S., states' Child Protective Services (CPS) investigate more than three million new cases of possible child abuse each year. In a small percentage of cases -- less than 10 percent -- the child will be placed into foster care.
A number of studies have looked into how children fare in the foster-care system. But a lot less has been known about that vast majority of kids who remain at home.
"CPS involvement in homes is actually really common in this country," said Dr. Kristine A. Campbell, a pediatrician at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who led the new study.
It may be easy to make the assumption that those parents are "bad," she noted in an interview.
"But most of them are struggling with risk factors like poverty and poor social support, and may actually be trying to do well," Campbell said.
In her study, it did turn out that many families investigated by CPS were poor, or headed by a mother with depression or suffering abuse from her partner, for example. And at least some of those risk factors were still apparent three years after CPS came to the home for the first time.
The findings, which appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, are based on a national sample of 5,500 children who were followed after a first-time CPS investigation.
At the first CPS visit, 44 percent of families were below the poverty line. Just over 36 percent of moms or other caregivers said they lacked supportive people in their lives, and one-quarter of them had depression symptoms.
On top of that, 22 percent of women were suffering physical abuse from their partner.
All of those issues are also risk factors for child abuse. And Campbell's team found that for the most part, the prevalence of those risk factors did not change much over three years.
There were, however, some bright spots: Fewer women were being abused three years later -- down to just under 14 percent, from 22 percent.
And when CPS gave women a referral to domestic-abuse services, it seemed to make a huge difference, Campbell said. Among those women, the prevalence of partner abuse went from 54 percent to six percent.
"When they get some services, intimate-partner violence does go down dramatically," Campbell said.
And that's important not only for mothers themselves, she pointed out. Children often have to witness the abuse, or become victims themselves.
"We think the intimate-partner violence often precedes the abuse," Campbell said.
Research has also found that partner abuse often goes hand-in-hand with maternal depression, another risk factor for child abuse.
Of course, not all families investigated by CPS end up in any kind of program or service.
Of the families in this study, child abuse or neglect was substantiated in 28 percent of cases. And CPS gave service referrals to two-thirds of those families.
That meant one-third received no apparent help. "It's disappointing, but not surprising," Campbell said.
The reasons for the finding are not clear. But Campbell pointed out that CPS workers typically have "huge" caseloads and deal with situations where families may be less-than-welcoming.
"They have a very difficult job," she told Reuters Health.
That's where pediatricians can step in to help, according to Campbell. If they know a family has been investigated by CPS, they can follow up with the parents to see if they used referrals to any services.
"We can't make assumptions that everything's been taken care of," Campbell said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that pediatricians screen mothers for postpartum depression.
Pediatricians do not routinely screen for domestic violence, but some will ask about it if they have reason to be concerned. There's no widespread routine screening because no one knows yet whether it's actually effective, Campbell explained.
What's "encouraging" in the current findings, she said, is that domestic-violence services did appear to help when they were offered.
Certain risk factors for child abuse, such as poverty, may be difficult to change, at least in the shorter term. "The system may not be able to fix everything that's wrong," Campbell noted.
But, she said, it's important to find out which risk factors can be changed, and then get those services to the families that need them.
SOURCE: bit.ly/KZmL1d Journal of Pediatrics, online April 4, 2012.
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Releases Child Abuse Report to Increase Awareness, Highlight Prevention
HARRISBURG, Pa., May 11, 2012 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Public Welfare today released the 2011 Annual Child Abuse Report, which offers statistics on child abuse cases in Pennsylvania and on continued efforts to better protect children from abuse and neglect.
"All children deserve to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment, free from abuse and neglect," said Public Welfare Secretary Gary D. Alexander. "This report serves as a tremendous resource in measuring prevention efforts, as well as identifying and creating better strategies to further prevent abuse and neglect."
This year's report includes completed child abuse case data collected during the 2011 calendar year. Some of the findings included in the report are:
- Thirty-four child fatalities occurred in 2011, one more than the previous year;
- The total number of reports of suspected child abuse received was 24,378, a decline of 237 reports from 2010;
- A total of 3,408 substantiated reports, a decrease of 248 from 2010;
- Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, 31 received more reports in 2011 compared to 2010; and
- Approximately one out of every 1,000 children living in Pennsylvania was found to be a victim of abuse in 2011.
In light of recent national attention paid to Pennsylvania's child abuse laws, the annual report will serve as an excellent resource for Pennsylvania citizens and for the Task Force on Child Protection. The task force was formed in January to review all aspects of child abuse reporting, including a sharp focus on mandated reporting. Mandated reporters are those whose occupations bring them in contact with children. In 2011, mandated reporters referred 78 percent of all suspected abuse reports.
This report also includes the efforts of the Pennsylvania Citizen Review Panels. Broken into regions around the state, the panels have been working with the Department of Public Welfare for two years to find innovative and practical ways to build on the current systems and efforts in place to protect children.
"Even though we have made great strides in preventing child abuse, there is still much work to be done," said Alexander. "It is my hope that the department, legislators, child welfare advocates and the community can work together and ultimately end child abuse in Pennsylvania."
The department maintains a central registry for abuse reports and operates ChildLine, a toll-free, 24-hour hotline that allows anyone to anonymously report suspected abuse. The number is 1-800-932-0313 (TDD 1-866-872-1677).
To read the full report or to find more information on child abuse awareness and prevention, visit the Department of Public Welfare online at www.dpw.state.pa.us. The report can be found under the "Publications" section.
Pennsylvanians who suspect welfare fraud should call 1-800-932-0582.
Media contact: Carey Miller or Anne Bale, 717-425-7606
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Cracking down on sex trafficking by not arresting prostitutes
by Sybil Hoffman
PHOENIX -- Prostitutes, pimps and johns are the key players when it comes to sex trafficking, but Phoenix is choosing not to arrest the women selling sex in an experimental program called Project Rose.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz is the associate director of the Office of Forensic Social Work at Arizona State University.
"They're kind of in a subculture of our community," Roe-Sepowitz said. "They have their own language, they have their own culture, they have their own lingo, they have their own rules."
Phoenix has become a hot spot for sex trafficking in part because we're a destination point and our major highways.
"It's in hotels along the I-17 corridor and the I-10 corridor, it's in high-end luxury resorts, it's in apartment complexes in regular neighborhoods, it's in homes in regular neighborhoods," said Lt. Jim Gallagher, who heads up the Vice Unit for the Phoenix Police Department.
In one of those seemingly regular Valley neighborhoods, a 15-year-old girl somehow survived 42 days of torture.
As Gallagpher admits, "We were unprepared for that case at that time."
Not only was the teen stuffed in a dog crate, she was repeatedly forced to have sex inside the apartment.
"That opened our eyes to really what this was all about," Gallagher said.
That 2005 case was a turning point for Gallagher and the entire Vice Enforcement Unit.
"Arresting people does nothing," Gallagher explained. "It criminalizes a victim, it doesn't appreciate their victimization, it doesn't appreciate their inherent needs for recovery and it doesn't appreciate their dignity."
Gallagher partnered up with Roe-Sepowitz along with many other agencies to create Project Rose. It's a roundup requiring extensive police manpower. But in order to pull it off, Gallagher had to make a unique request.
"I need 100 police officers for 24 hours and we don't want to arrest anybody," he said.
Rather than arrest sex trafficking victims, Project Rose enables officers to bring them to Bethany Bible Church.
When women walk in the door, "We would say, 'You're safe here, if you want to come in, you can get all these services," Roe-Sepowitz said.
Services include everything from mental help to medical assistance.
"Many of them haven't seen a doctor in years and years and years and have really major things like heroin-related injection site abscesses, many things we don't really think about when we see them walking down the street," Roe-Sepowitz explained. "They're kind of invisible."
While Project Rose is still very much an experiment, it's already showing tremendous promise. Not only by helping victims but also saving costs.
"By not booking 79 people, we saved $29,000 in booking fees alone," Gallagher said. "We got a ton of intelligence on legitimate bad guys that we're following up with right now."
Leads that will hopefully put a dent in this multibillion-dollar business and restore dignity for the victims.
"It's what it's all about," Gallagher said. "We have to give these people a chance."
The Phoenix Police Department along with ASU are eager to conduct Project Rose III in the future. They ultimately hope to make this a more sustainable program offered more often.
California City institutes comprehensive crackdown on sex trafficking
OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland officials have instituted a comprehensive strategy to crackdown on prostitution and the crimes that come along with it.
About half of 20 newly purchased security cameras have been nstalled on a stretch of Oakland's International Boulevard.
Police said they've also added patrols and neighborhood residents are being encouraged to keep watch.
The Alameda County District Attorney's office is also working to shut down two hotels that it alleges allow illegal sex trade on their property.
The owners of Connie's Fashion at 19th Street and International Boulevard have been robbed at gunpoint four times, and they're grateful that the city is offering them this help.
Paul Cheung, 72, the store's owner, said there's a bullet still lodged in a wall behind the counter of his shop from the most recent robbery.
He said a man whom he suspects is a pimp demanded money and fired a gun at him, and the bullet narrowly missed his head.
He said he suspects a prostitute, who made a small purchase moments earlier, was casing the store.
"She saw that I had a stack of $20 bills," he said. "I gave her change. She run away, and the guy just walked in."
Cheung said he and his wife, Connie, are grateful that last month, the city installed security cameras at their shop.
It's part of a broader effort to curb prostitution along a 10-block stretch of International Boulevard, an area long stifled by the illegal sex trade and robberies.
"It's an open air sex market," said Sharmin Bock, an Alameda County assistant district attorney.
Bock spoke at a community rally Friday evening two blocks from Cheung's shop to support efforts to end prostitution.
Neighbors said they're worried about the many children in the area being lured into the sex trade.
"I couldn't imagine the pain I would feel if something was to happen to my daughter," said Matthew Bolinas, a parent attending the rally.
For shop owner Cheung, he said he's staying in Oakland for the long haul.
"This is called a living," he said. "It's a small business just to support the family."
Cheung said the pimp robbed him of $400, but he's grateful that he didn't have to pay with his life.
Vatican eyes Legion priests on abuse
by Nicole Winfield
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is investigating seven priests from the troubled Legion of Christ religious order for alleged sexual abuse of minors and another two for other alleged crimes, the Associated Press has learned.
The investigations mark the first known Vatican action against Legion priests for alleged sexual assault following the scandal of the Legion's founder, who was long held up as a model by the Vatican despite credible accusations — later proven — that he raped and molested his seminarians.
The Legion, which is now under Vatican receivership, has insisted that the crimes of its late founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, were his alone.
But the Vatican investigation of other Legion priests indicates that the same culture of secrecy that Maciel created within the order to cover his crimes enabled other priests to abuse children — just as abusive clergy of other religious orders and dioceses have done around the world.
In a statement Friday to the AP, the Legion confirmed it had referred seven cases of alleged abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that investigates sex crimes. All but one involves alleged abuse dating from decades ago; one case involves recent events, the Legion said.
While the investigation is under way, the accused priests are being kept away from children, the Legion said.
“Over the past few years, in several countries, the major superiors of the Legion of Christ have received some allegations of gravely immoral acts and more serious offenses … committed by some Legionaries,” the statement said.
It said it was committed to examining the accusations and reaching out to victims while safeguarding the rights of all involved.
The Legion issued the statement to the AP after the news organization approached it with the allegations; the Legion simultaneously sent the statement out to all priests in the order.
The steps the Legion said it had taken follow the norms required of religious orders. That said, the investigations have only recently begun and many of these accusations are old and presumably were previously known to its leadership.
In addition to referring the cases to the Vatican as required by church law, the Legion said it had referred cases to police where civil reporting laws require it. It's not clear, however, if any law enforcement action was taken given the statute of limitations may have expired for such old cases.
The Legion said two other priests are also under investigation by the Congregation for alleged sacramental violations, believed to involve using pastoral activities such as spiritual direction to have inappropriate relations with women.
Preliminary investigations of an unspecified number of other priests accused of abuse found them innocent, the Legion said.
The scandal of Maciel and the Legion ranks as one of the worst of the 20th-century Catholic Church, since he was held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II. The orthodox order, which has about 900 priests around the world, was praised for attracting both money and vocations to the priesthood.
Documentation from Vatican archives, however, has shown that as early as the 1950s, the Vatican had evidence that he was a drug addict and pedophile.
Only in 2006 did the Vatican sanction Maciel to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his crimes. He died in 2008 and a year later the Legion admitted he had fathered three children with two different women and had abused his seminarians.
The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 and is pushing through a process of reform.
Aaron Loughrey, 35, was a 17- or 18-year-old Legion seminarian in Ireland in the spring of 1995 when he says he was forced by a superior to masturbate him in bed. Loughrey, who left the Legion before being ordained, says he has been in counseling almost ever since as he seeks justice from the order.
He said that the vow he took as a seminarian never to criticize the actions or deeds of a superior made him unable to question what the priest had told him to do. In a parallel to the way Maciel abused his seminarians, Loughrey says his superior had told him that an unnamed illness gave him terrible cramps in his lower abdomen that could only be eased with massage.
“In my heart and in my conscience I believed that I had acted that night like a true Legionary — putting my superior's needs before my own — and I stuffed the unsavory thoughts and feelings to the back of my mind,” Loughrey has written.
The priest has since left the priesthood. Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 ordered the Legion to remove the so-called fourth vow never to criticize a superior — precisely because of the abuse of authority that it had created in the order.
In an email Friday, Loughrey said he was certain there were more than just a handful of abusers in the Legion. Those currently under investigation represent about 1 percent of Legion priests.
“I would like to say I am glad about this (investigation), but I am honestly not hopeful that anything will come of it,” he said.
Genevieve Kinecke, who runs a blog about the Legion and its lay movement Regnum Christi said the investigations confirm that the problems within the Legion did not die with Maciel and are still hurting the order today.
“For all the good that the Legion has done, this must also be considered as ‘fruit' associated with the group, for that is how they justify their ongoing existence,” she told the Associated Press. “Surely now, they will stop recruiting for the time being to be sure that they have the proper foundation to support healthy vocations.”
Long Beach police officer set to be arraigned in sex case
City News Service
LOS ANGELES - A nine-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department is scheduled to be arraigned today on 39 sex-related charges involving underage victims.
Officer Noe Yanez, 40, was initially arrested April 19 on suspicion of possessing child pornography. He was re-arrested Wednesday in connection with the filing of a 39-count complaint that lists 13 victims of crimes that allegedly occurred between January 2008 and April 13 of this year.
Yanez -- who has been suspended without pay since his initial arrest -- remains jailed in lieu of $951,000 bail pending his appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court this morning.
He faces one felony count each of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a person under 18, oral copulation of a person under 18, unlawful sexual intercourse, using a minor for sex acts and possession of matter depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct; four counts of meeting a minor for lewd purposes; seven felony counts of false imprisonment by violence; and eight felony counts of contact with a minor for a sexual offense.
Yanez is additionally charged with 15 misdemeanor counts, including child molesting, arranging meeting a minor for lewd purposes and sale of an alcoholic beverage to a minor.
32-year-old woman to be arraigned today for having sex with 16-year-old boy; allegedly gave birth to victim's child
City News Service
SANTA ANA - A 32-year-old Santa Ana woman was scheduled to be arraigned today on charges of having sex with the male friend of one of her relatives, and investigators suspect she gave birth to the alleged victim's child.
Mayra Gonzalez was arrested at her home Thursday on suspicion of having sex with a 16-year-old boy between July 1 and Dec. 24 of last year, mostly at his home when his parents were away, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
She is charged with six felony counts of unlawful sex with a minor younger than 16 and two felony counts of oral copulation with a minor younger than 18, Bertagna said.
Gonzalez faces up to seven years and eight months in prison if she is convicted at trial, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
A suspicious neighbor in December confronted the boy, who admitted the relationship, and the neighbor told his parents, who alerted police, Bertagna said.
"It is believed she gave birth to a child in late March, and it is believed, based on what detectives were told in their interview with her, that the child came out of that relationship," Bertagna said.
Investigators were waiting for test results to prove paternity, Bertagna said.
For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules
by RAY RIVERA and SHARON OTTERMAN
An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible.
The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes's authority. But the district attorney “expressed no opposition or objection,” the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zweibel, recalled.
In fact, when Mr. Hynes held a Hanukkah party at his office in December, he invited many ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the advocacy group, Agudath Israel of America. He even chose Rabbi Zweibel, the group's executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party.
Mr. Hynes has won election six times as district attorney thanks in part to support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who lead growing communities in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Crown Heights. But in recent years, as allegations of child sexual abuse have shaken the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, victims' rights groups have expressed concern that he is not vigorously pursuing these cases because of his deep ties to the rabbis.
Many of the rabbis consider sexual abuse accusations to be community matters best handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their conclusions to the police.
In 2009, as criticism of his record mounted, Mr. Hynes set up a program to reach out to ultra-Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse. Called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice in Hebrew), the program is intended to “ensure safety in the community and to fully support those affected by abuse,” his office said.
In recent months, Mr. Hynes and his aides have said the program has contributed to an effective crackdown on child sexual abuse among ultra-Orthodox Jews, saying it had led to 95 arrests involving more than 120 victims.
But Mr. Hynes has taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program — even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.
This policy of shielding defendants' names because of their religious status is not followed by the other four district attorneys in New York City, and has rarely, if ever, been adopted by prosecutors around the country.
Some sex-crime experts and former prosecutors said the policy contributed to a culture of secrecy in ultra-Orthodox communities, which made it harder to curb sexual abuse.
Mr. Hynes, through a spokesman, said he would not publicize information about specific accusations because he did not want to discourage victims from coming forward. But at least one ultra-Orthodox rabbi acknowledged asking him not to publicize these cases and said other rabbis had as well.
The number of sexual abuse cases involving children being prosecuted by Mr. Hynes's office is up sharply. But an examination by The New York Times shows that some of Mr. Hynes's claims about the Kol Tzedek program appear to be inflated.
Through an extensive search of court and other public records, The Times determined the names of suspects and other details in 47 of the 95 cases attributed to the Kol Tzedek program. More than half of the 47 seemed to have little to do with the program, according to the court records and interviews.
Some did not involve ultra-Orthodox victims, which the program is specifically intended to help. More than one-third involved arrests before the program began, as early as 2007. Many came in through standard reporting channels, like calls to the police.
While the 47 cases did include charges against camp counselors, yeshiva teachers and rabbis, they also included cases like that of a Borough Park cafe owner who was convicted of molesting a female Hispanic immigrant who worked for him.
At least three others were of ultra-Orthodox defendants who groped women on public transportation, including one Borough Park resident accused of placing his penis on a woman's shoulder. The woman immediately called the transit police.
Mr. Hynes would not be interviewed for this article. He has never publicly opposed the ultra-Orthodox Jewish position that a rabbi must first determine that an accusation of child sexual abuse is valid before the authorities are notified.
His aides acknowledged that Rabbi Zweibel informed him about Agudath's position last summer.
“D.A. Hynes did meet with Zweibel and told him he wouldn't interfere with someone's decision to consult with his or her rabbi about allegations of sexual abuse, but would expect that these allegations of criminal conduct be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities,” said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes.
Prosecutors in the district attorney's office emphasized that the Kol Tzedek program, which has a hot line, a part-time social worker and links to social service agencies, demonstrated that Mr. Hynes cared deeply about the issue.
“This is an incredible success,” said Rhonnie Jaus, chief of his sex crimes division. “I know how many cases we used to have before that. When I say a handful, I mean a handful every single year. It's ridiculous the difference we have that I see with my own eyes between before the start of Kol Tzedek and now.”
Asked whether the office was exaggerating the program's impact, she said all of the victims involved took advantage of the program's services. “Our numbers are not inflated,” she said. “If anything, they are conservative.”
Still, some who have urged more aggressive prosecution said Mr. Hynes was too beholden to ultra-Orthodox rabbis for political support.
Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University was one of the few victims' advocates who attended the Hanukkah party in December.
“Basically, I looked around the room and the message that I got is: You are in bed with all the fixers in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Blau said. “Nothing is going to change, because these people, the message they got is: These are the ones that count.”
Potential Conflicts of Interest
David Zimmer was 25 when he groped a 9-year-old girl in a garage in Borough Park, court records said.
“She liked it,” he later told the police.
He then took two sisters there, ages 9 and 10. In August 1998, he was accused of raping the 10-year-old, according to court documents.
The police arrested Mr. Zimmer that year, but the case's impact on the credibility of Mr. Hynes's office resonates today.
Back then, prosecutors seemed in a strong position, with a handwritten confession from Mr. Zimmer. Initially charged with more than 24 counts of sex offenses, he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the first degree and received five years' probation.
Mr. Zimmer's lawyer was Asher White, who is married to Henna White, Mr. Hynes's longtime liaison to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Ms. White, an adherent of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, makes $138,000 a year, more than most of Mr. Hynes's prosecutors.
Ms. White organizes gatherings like the Hanukkah celebration, while overseeing the Kol Tzedek program. As a result, she has dual roles: she is supposed to encourage ultra-Orthodox victims to come forward despite opposition from some rabbis, even as she tries to maintain relationships with rabbis generally.
Ms. White and her husband declined to respond to questions about Mr. Zimmer's case, or to disclose whether they had discussed it with each other. Prosecutors said Ms. White had no involvement, but entanglements like these have long raised questions about how Mr. Hynes handles prosecutions in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Hopes that probation and treatment would lead to the rehabilitation of Mr. Zimmer were shaken when new accusations surfaced: A prosecutor this month told a judge that while working as a locksmith in recent years, Mr. Zimmer went into homes and repeatedly molested children who lived there. The police discovered that he had kept a diary detailing the many times that he had abused children, the prosecutor said.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing four girls, ages 6 to 10. He is being held on $1 million bond. Ms. Jaus said the original plea agreement was the best that the office could do because the victims' parents did not want them to testify.
“I have never received any pressure to do anything in a particular case,” she said.
But the father of the first 9-year-old, who said he never knew about Mr. White's involvement, said he would have allowed his daughter to take the stand.
“The district attorney's office called me and said this guy's not 100 percent normal, so they were going to give him probation,” said the father, who asked not to be identified to protect his daughter's identity. “If they don't want to prosecute, what are you going to do?”
Mr. Hynes often describes how, growing up in the only non-Jewish family in his building in Flatbush, he spent the Jewish Sabbath turning on lights for his Orthodox neighbors, who could not perform such tasks under Jewish law.
When he was the only non-Jew in a four-way Democratic primary in his failed 1994 bid for attorney general of New York State, he placed advertisements in Jewish publications signed by more than 150 Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders.
“I'm really the Jew in this race,” he joked to a reporter for The Jewish Week. Referring to his opponents, he said, “I probably know more Yiddish than they do combined.”
Mr. Hynes's attention to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has translated into votes. In 2005, when Mr. Hynes eked out a 42 percent to 37 percent victory in the Democratic primary for district attorney, he won in a landslide in several ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. In one election district in Williamsburg that is filled with Hasidic synagogues, Mr. Hynes pulled in 84 percent of the vote, according to election records.
The relationship has not always been smooth. He angered many of his closest ultra-Orthodox Jewish supporters in 1999 when he charged Bernard Freilich, a popular rabbi, with intimidating a witness in a sexual abuse case. Rabbi Freilich was acquitted the next year.
“I never knew of cases in which Joe Hynes bowed to community pressure,” said Aaron Twerski, former dean of the Hofstra University School of Law, who had served with Rabbi Freilich as community advisers to Mr. Hynes. “He would listen, and if there were merit, he might rethink something, but Joe's his own man.”
Brooklyn's highly cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — by some estimates, more than 200,000 people, the largest outside of Israel — would present challenges for any prosecutor. Informing on a fellow Jew to a secular authority is traditionally seen as a grave sin, and victims who do come forward can face intense communal intimidation to drop their cases.
In part for this reason, of the roughly 1,200 cases Mr. Hynes's sex crimes unit handles each year, few until recently involved ultra-Orthodox Jews, though experts said the rate of sexual abuse in these communities was believed to occur at the same rate as in society over all.
But even when Mr. Hynes's office did bring cases, they often ended in plea bargains that victims and their families believed were lenient. The Jewish Week, in a 2008 editorial, described Mr. Hynes's attitude toward these cases as “ranging from passive to weak-willed.”
Rabbi Zweibel of Agudath Israel defended Mr. Hynes's record. “The D.A. has made a conscious effort to be sensitive to the cultural nuances of the different communities that he works with,” said Rabbi Zweibel, though even he believes the names of those convicted should be publicized for the safety of the community.
Outreach Program Formed
Mr. Hynes seemed to turn a page in 2009 when he announced the creation of Kol Tzedek.
The announcement came in the wake of criticism after a 2008 plea deal he made with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a grade school teacher at a Flatbush yeshiva who had been the subject of sexual abuse complaints to rabbinical authorities for more than 30 years.
In the plea deal, which at least one victim's father opposed, Mr. Hynes reduced two felony counts of sexual abuse to a single misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. The rabbi received three years' probation and was not required to register as a sex offender.
“That case really got the advocacy movement rolling,” said Mark Appel, founder of Voice of Justice, an advocacy group unrelated to the district attorney's program of the same name. “People were so angry.”
Mr. Hynes's aides said they had made more than 40 presentations to community members promoting Kol Tzedek. And of the few cases that yielded convictions that The Times was able to identify, the outcomes were roughly similar to cases involving offenders who were not ultra-Orthodox. Still, the new effort has not quieted the criticism.
Marci A. Hamilton, a professor of constitutional law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, blamed Mr. Hynes for not speaking out against the ultra-Orthodox position that mandates that allegations must be first reported to rabbis. The position potentially flouts a state law that requires teachers, social workers and others to report allegations of sexual abuse immediately to the authorities.
She said Mr. Hynes was essentially allowing rabbis to act as gatekeepers.
“That's exactly what the Catholic Church did, what the Latter-day Saints did, what the Jehovah's Witnesses did,” said Ms. Hamilton, author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children.”
Victims' rights groups say Mr. Hynes has also failed to take a strong stand against rabbis and institutions that have covered up abuse, and has not brought charges recently against community members who have sometimes pressed victims' families not to testify.
Ms. White, his liaison to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, said the district attorney had few options, in part because some victims declined to implicate those who threatened them, fearful that if they did, they would face even more pressure.
“I always feel so bad for those parents, because you watch the shock on their face when they find out that their child has been abused, and then they get all of the pressure,” Ms. White said.
Mr. Hynes's refusal to publicize the names of people arrested through Kol Tzedek has deepened suspicions among victims' rights groups, while winning praise from some rabbis.
“I think that's where the rabbis put a little pressure on him,” said Rabbi Shea Hecht, an informal adviser to Mr. Hynes. “I know I went to speak to him about that. I said ‘Listen, you got to do the arrest, you go to do the investigation, but please don't give out the names before we know if the man is guilty.' ”
In response to a Freedom of Information request by The Times, Mr. Hynes's office acknowledged that in the “vast majority of cases, the disclosure of a defendant's name would not tend to reveal the identity of the sex-crime victim.”
But, the office said, because the ultra-Orthodox community is “very tight-knit and insular,” there is “significant danger” that disclosure would cause victims to withdraw cooperation, making prosecutions “extremely difficult, if not impossible.”
Several former prosecutors interviewed for this article said the policy seemed to make little sense.
“The idea is that the more information you give out, the more likely it is that victims might come forward with complaints,” said Bennett L. Gershman, a former Manhattan prosecutor who specializes in prosecutorial conduct at Pace University Law School. “So the idea that a prosecutor would conceal this kind of information strikes me as illogical, and almost perverse.”
Florida flunks child welfare report by national group
by Kate Santich
A national report on how well states protect the legal rights of abused and neglected children has bad news for Florida: It's flunking.
"In the U.S., the right to counsel is guaranteed to everyone accused of breaking the law — including parents and other caregivers accused of child abuse and neglect," said Elissa T. Garr, executive director of First Star, a national organization working to improve the lives of children and co-author of the report. "Yet the abused and neglected children in these cases, who are the least able to advocate for themselves, are not guaranteed counsel."
The report, "A Child's Right to Counsel," cites data that children who have adequate legal representation are placed in permanent homes more quickly — sparing them additional distress and uncertainty while saving tax dollars associated with repeated out-of-home placements.
"The system designed to rescue these children often further victimizes them and can set them up for a very hard life," said Peter Samuelson, president of First Star.
Kids aging out of the foster-care system are more likely to be high-school dropouts, impoverished, imprisoned or homeless.
Florida was one of 10 states to earn an "F", while 15 others earned A's.
But Alan Abramowitz, executive director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program — which represents children in 87 percent of the state's dependency cases — said the report measures a model that Florida doesn't follow. Instead, it has opted for a volunteer-based program with attorney oversight, using attorneys themselves only for complex cases.
"If you only have attorneys, they're often very court-focused," he said. "Our volunteers develop a real relationship with the child… We just need more volunteers."
As it is, the state has close to 8,000, but needs about 10,000, Abramowitz said.
Confronting Child Sexual Abuse
by Michelle Booth Cole
When I heard about the allegations of child sexual abuse at a local church-run daycare center and saw on the news a mother asking how she could ever feel comfortable sending her child there again, it took me immediately back to what happened at my daughters' school in 2008.
In the spring of 2008, my eldest daughter's third-grade teacher at Beauvoir, the National Cathedral elementary school, was alleged to have sexually abused students at the school. The revelation was shocking to many. But it confirmed what I see regularly in my work: perpetrators can lurk anywhere, even in our midst.
Beauvoir's response to the crisis offers a guide for daycare centers and any organizations that serve children. Beauvoir's head of school, Paula Carreiro, responded with integrity and accountability. She took every possible step to minimize the risk that such a crime would ever happen again at Beauvoir.
Likewise, organizations faced with allegations of child sexual abuse can chart a safer course for all the children they serve. Here's how: 1) Conduct a detailed, top-to-bottom review and revamp of school policies that govern faculty and staff's contact with students both inside and outside of the classroom. 2) Focus on honest, clear and consistent communication. Hold open and candid community meetings to hear parents' concerns. Send emails regularly to keep parents informed about what steps the daycare center is taking to address the problem as well as the status of the police investigation. 3) Require and provide child sexual abuse prevention training for every adult in the school, from teachers to maintenance staff, and make this training a part of the center's on-boarding process for new staff. 4) Finally, provide abuse prevention and personal safety training for parents and children.
I urge the local daycare center to be honest, responsible, and courageous in naming and confronting this alleged assault. This practice worked for Beauvoir. My eldest daughter graduated from Beauvoir in 2008. Our family's connection with the school could have ended then, but it didn't because we didn't want it to.
Our two younger children went on to attend Beauvoir, and we remain a proud and loyal Beauvoir family to this day. So, I would tell that mother who wondered what she should do about childcare to look closely at the church's response to this crisis. Look for transparent, smart, decisive action and openness to learning. Recently, the FBI added the former third-grade teacher accused of child sexual abuse to its "Ten Most Wanted" fugitives list. An email from Beauvoir's head of school provided this update. Families heard it first from Beauvoir, not the media.
Michele Booth Cole, JD is executive director of the nonprofit Safe Shores-The D.C. Children's Advocacy Center, which provides services to child victims of abuse and their families.
Child abuse claims at city-affiliated child care center
by Cheryl Lasseter
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -
The temp worker asked that her identity not be revealed. We'll call her Katherine.
Katherine says she worked only one day with the woman in charge of a classroom of three year olds at the Mary C. Jones Child Development Center. It's on Martin Luther King Drive in Jackson, and it's affiliated with the City of Jackson.
"She treated them horrible. She was very physical with them. Mind you, this was a big woman. She's a big woman. These were little bitty children. She was hitting them with closed fists, threatening them, literally taking her hands, choking them," Katherine says. "In order for the woman to do this, not knowing who I am, she was very comfortable with it."
We asked Katherine if she spoke out about it. She says she was too stunned and scared at the time.
"She had a pointer, a stick. It had a head on it, to children it would look friendly. She would take the top off, it was just a cylinder. She would spank them, take them in a closet and spank them," Katherine says.
Katherine tells us the employee wouldn't let the children drink their milk so she wouldn't have to take them to the restroom.
"She opened it and set it down in front of a child. But she said, I'm going out of the room. When I come back you better not have drank your milk."
Katherine says if the children cried, she would pinch them.
"She literally would pinch them real hard, they would scream in pain. Only one little boy didn't drink his milk. He was too scared. He literally sat there, ate dry bread and chicken."
Katherine shows us several texts she sent her husband that day, April 24. One text read, "She pinches the kids. She is horrible."
Katherine says she left, and immediately filled out a sworn statement at the Jackson Department of Human and Cultural Services. She says the worker has been suspended and an investigation was launched the next day, but 3 On Your Side has not been able to confirm that.
We visited the center, and the director told us no comment about the employee, whom Katherine believes has been working with children for more than 20 years.
"All 14 children had been physically hit," she says. "This woman is a disgrace to the child care industry and the City of Jackson for her to be employed this long."
Katherine says the other teachers at the center seem to support the controversial employee, despite her behavior. In her sworn statement, Katherine says another teacher 'sent in three boys for (employee) to take care of'.
Katherine also says a parent has filed a complaint against Katherine for failure to control the classroom.
California Voters To Weigh Sex Trafficking Penalties
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California voters will get to vote on a measure that would increase penalties for human sex trafficking and require social media disclosures by convicted sex offenders.
The Secretary of State's office says the measure qualified for the November ballot on Thursday, after county election officials verified that supporters turned in more than 500,000 valid signatures.
Those convicted of sex trafficking could face 15 years to life in prison and fines up to $1.5 million if voters approve.
The measure also would devote fines from traffickers to services to help victims. Convicted traffickers would have to register as sex offenders.
And the measure would require that sex offenders disclose to law enforcement the identities they use in online activities like social networking and email.
It is the sixth measure to qualify for the November ballot.
Women's rights group Zonta to launch new billboard campaign targeting sex trafficking
by Ashley Glass
PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - The Zonta Club of Pinellas County is preparing to launch an awareness campaign unlike anything they've tried before, and the timing is precise.
Zonta in a national women's rights organization dedicated to raising the status of women. In part, that entails raising awareness about human sex trafficking. It's a crime Clearwater police said women fall victim to more often than men.
Clearwater police said they anticipate a 50% increase in human sex trafficking cases once the Republican National Convention arrives in Tampa in August.
Police said they expect the uptick as a result of the large crowd in Tampa and not because it's a political event.
To raise awareness ahead of the convention, Zonta will put up nine billboards along major roads in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Zonta has revealed the billboards exclusively to ABC Action News.
To learn more about Zonta of Pinellas County, visit: www.zontaclubpinellas.org
Multi-state prostitution ring based in Indianapolis dismantled
Three brothers ran complex ring that transported dozens of women on weekly basis
INDIANAPOLIS – An interstate prostitution ring based in Indianapolis that was operated by three brothers – all illegal aliens – has been dismantled and the brothers sentenced, announced Joseph H. Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
This prosecution was the result of an extensive investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, including: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); FBI; the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department; the Marion County Sheriff's Department; and the Addison (Ill.) Police Department.
Gregorio Hernandez-Castilla, 34, of Indianapolis, was sentenced May 9 by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to operate an interstate prostitution ring with his two brothers.
This follows the sentencing of both Jose Luis Hernandez-Castilla, of Indianapolis, and Norberto Hernandez-Castilla, of Chicago, to 51 months in prison each on similar charges. All three men were illegally residing in the United States.
"For years, this criminal organization moved women like human merchandise all over this city and across the Midwest," Hogsett said. "I am proud to announce today that we have finalized our effort to completely dismantle this dangerous group, bringing an end to their cycle of exploitation."
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gayle L. Helart and Bradley P. Shepard, who prosecuted the case for the government, Judge Lawrence found in sentencing the Hernandez-Castilla brothers that all three had used force and the threat of force against women involved in their criminal operation in an effort to coerce their continued cooperation.
"Our office has made it a priority to aggressively prosecute individuals who capitalize on the misfortune of others," Hogsett said. "Through the groundbreaking work of our front-line federal prosecutors, we will continue to pursue and hold accountable those found guilty of such heinous crimes."
The Hernandez-Castilla criminal organization was headed by the three brothers and had been operating for a number of years in the Indianapolis area, largely under the direction of Jose Luis Hernandez-Castilla. The brothers would acquire women to act as prostitutes, on many occasions smuggling them into the United States from Mexico and Central America. Once here, many were often without a means by which to make money, and thus would engage in prostitution so as to pay off debts they owed the brothers for subsidizing their entry into the country.
In addition, the brothers directed another group of individuals who acted as local managers, running prostitution operations out of apartments and houses located throughout Indianapolis and in surrounding states, including Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. The women engaged in prostitution were rarely allowed to stay in any one location for more than a week, and the operation employed numerous drivers who would transport the women from one site to another on a regular basis.
The organization itself operated almost exclusively within the Hispanic community, advertising its services through the distribution of business cards bearing advertisements and telephone numbers for auto repair or western wear outfitters. These business cards were known within the Hispanic community as contact numbers for arranging appointments with prostitutes.
Each appointment, referred to as a "ticket," cost between $40 and $50.
In addition to the Hernandez-Castilla brothers, twelve other named defendants are facing charges for their roles in the operation. They include the following individuals, all of whom are illegal aliens and were Indianapolis residents, unless otherwise indicated:
- Elvin Herrera
- Hector Elizalde-Hernandez
- Javier Aguilera-Sanchez (Mich.)
- Fredy Arnulfo Valle-Soto
- Jose Mejia
- Reynel Lagos-Martinez (Ohio)
- Dominga Polanco
- Israel Ortiz
- Jorge Armando Rodriguez-Sanchez
- Julio Aguilar-Rodriguez *
- Fortino Ramirez-Fernandez *
- Santos Nunez *
*Note: Julio Aguilar-Rodriguez has a change-of-plea and sentencing hearing scheduled for May 30, 2012. Fortino Ramirez-Fernandez and Santos Nunez remain fugitives at this time.
A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own For Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
The New York Times has finally published the first part of its report on child sex abuse in the Brooklyn haredi community.
The piece is an overview, focusing primarily on harassment of victims and families of victims, and it relies heavily on reporting done by The Jewish Week and by blogs. But in typical New York Times arrogance, it doesn't credit any of those sources for the work they did.
You can see how arrogant the Times is from this quote from today's article:
…Traces of Change
Awareness of child sexual abuse is increasing in the ultra-Orthodox community. Since 2008, hundreds of adult abuse survivors have told their stories, mostly anonymously, on blogs and radio call-in shows, and to victims' advocates. Rabbi-vetted books like “Let's Stay Safe,” aimed at teaching children what to do if they are inappropriately touched, are selling well.
The response by communal authorities, however, has been uneven.…
But blogs, like UOJ, started dealing with this issue in 2005, not 2008, and the big breakthrough came when New York Magazine did its exposé, On The Rabbi's Knee , about notorious child sex abuser Rabbi Yehuda Kolko in 2006.
But the Times did not want to mention or credit New York Magazine or let its readers know that the Times is, essentially, six years late to the story. And it certainly did not want to acknowledge what UOJ or I or others did to push the story and keep it alive while the Times hibernated.
So the Times just started the clock a couple years later and made that inconvenient truth disappear.
The Times has this quote from the D.A.'s lead sex crimes prosecutor, Rhonnie Jaus:
…In Brooklyn, of the 51 molesting cases involving the ultra-Orthodox community that the district attorney's office says it has closed since 2009, nine were dismissed because the victims backed out. Others ended with plea deals because the victims' families were fearful.
“People aren't recanting, but they don't want to go forward,” said Rhonnie Jaus, a sex crimes prosecutor in Brooklyn. “We've heard some of our victims have been thrown out of schools, that the person is shunned from the synagogue. There's a lot of pressure.”…
But the Times doesn't ask Jaus about the cases where victims were offered money to back away from charges or the cases where the intimidation rose to a criminal level. And the Times doesn't ask Jaus why none of those cases appear to have been prosecuted. Odd.
The Times also makes Chabad look better than it really is:
|In Crown Heights, where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has its headquarters, there has been more significant change. In July 2011, a religious court declared that the traditional prohibition against mesirah did not apply in cases with evidence of abuse. “One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,” said the ruling, signed by two of the court's three judges.
Since then, five molesting cases have been brought from the neighborhood — “as many sexual abuse-related arrests and reports as there had been in the past 20 years,” said Eliyahu Federman, a lawyer who helps victims in Crown Heights, citing public information.
Mordechai Feinstein, 19, helped prompt the ruling by telling the Crown Heights religious court that he had been touched inappropriately at age 15 by Rabbi Moshe F. Keller, a Lubavitcher who ran a foundation for at-risk youth and whom Mr. Feinstein had considered his spiritual mentor.
Last week, Rabbi Keller was sentenced in Criminal Court to three years' probation for endangering the welfare of a child. And Mr. Feinstein, who is no longer religious, is starting a campaign to encourage more abuse victims to come forward. He is working with two prominent civil rights attorneys, Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum, who are asking lawyers to provide free assistance to abuse victims frustrated by their dealings with prosecutors.…
Some of those five cases, including Keller's, were already public before that meeting with the beis din's rabbis.
More importantly, the Times ignores the absolute and utter silence of the leaders of the Chabad movement worldwide – Rabbi Yehuda Krinsly, Rabbi Avrahm Shemtov and Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who have not told hasidim to call police when child sex abuse happens.
Worse yet, these three rabbis have been utterly silent about the massive child sex abuse scandal rocking their Australian branch and the alleged decades long coverups of this child sex abuse by the late head of Chabad in Australia, Rabbi Yitchok Dovid Groner.
But the Times skillfully avoids mentioning any of that.
There are, quite literally, several dozen child sex abusers in Crown Heights or closely linked to it, the product of decades of refusing to report them to police. I was just told of another Crown Heights pedophile this week, a young woman from a connected Chabad family who allegedly sexually abuses girls.
Giving Chabad credit for good it hasn't done helps no one. The truth will eventually come out. But when it does, it will be accompanied by lurid headlines depicting decades of coverups and neglect from Chabad leadership. And many more kids will have been hurt than otherwise would have been true if Chabad leadership had done the right, honest and ethical thing to begin with.
And you'd think the Times, with a team of reporters working on this story for months, might have reported it.
All this said, it's still good the Times did this report. Thousands of people will read it, and it will be that much harder for anyone to act as if these crimes and their coverups didn't happen.
The second part of the Times series, which focuses on the Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes, is due out Friday.
Child abuse experts: How to cope with crying
ALFRED, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The court documents describing two month-old Ethan Henderson's injuries describe a father who became overwhelmed with his screaming baby, and lost control.
The documents state that Gordon Collins-Faunce called 911 and reported that his baby was having trouble breathing. Ethan was then taken by ambulance to the hospital. Collins-Faunce originally told police that he found Ethan in his crib struggling to breathe. But over the course of that day and the next, his story changed. He eventually admitted that Ethan was crying, so he picked the baby up by his head, squeezed, and then threw him into a chair. He told police he was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Collins-Faunce also told police he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from suffering abuse as a child, and he often forgets to take his medication. Kids Free To Grow Executive Director Laurie DuPaul says cases like this are always preventable. She says parents who are feeling overwhelmed should reach out for help, and that we as a community need to start talking about these kinds of issues so that new parents don't feel like they are alone.
"Child abuse is something no one wants to talk about," DuPaul said. "I heard it recently spoken of as a dirty little secret. Everyone knows someone who has been abused or they've been abused themselves but no one wants to talk about it. It's something that needs to be talked about because it is preventable. Child abuse does not have to happen."
The National Center For Shaken Baby Syndrome has identified a stage known as the Period of Purple Crying, to help parents understand why they sometimes cannot comfort their baby during the first four months of life. Experts says that during that time, this type of crying is normal and healthy.
P eak Pattern: Crying peaks around 2 months, then decreases.
U npredictable: Crying for long periods can come and go for no reason.
R esistant to Soothing: The baby may keep crying for long periods.
P ain-like Look on the baby's face.
L ong Bouts of Crying: Crying can go on for hours.
E vening Crying: Baby cries more in the afternoon and evening.
The Centers for Disease Control offer some tips for parents to help them when they are feeling overwhelmed by a crying baby:
- You can calm your baby by rubbing his or her back, gently rocking, or offering a pacifier.
- If you have tried various ways to calm your baby, you should check for signs of illness or discomfort like diaper rash, teething, or tight clothing.
- The most important thing to remember is that crying is normal for a baby, and sometimes nothing you do will comfort them. If you feel pushed to your limit, the best thing to do is to put the baby safely on his or her back and walk away.
Half Of U.S. States Short-Change Abused And Neglected Children
--State-by-state report card grades how states protect their legal rights; --Advocates say abusers have more legal rights than the abused; --Call for stronger protections in federal and state law
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Despite the moral imperative and sound fiscal basis for protecting the legal rights of abused and neglected children, half of U.S. states cheat them of appropriate legal representation, denying them an effective voice in proceedings that determine their futures, according to a state-by-state study conducted by two national child advocacy organizations.
The report - A Child's Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused and Neglected Children - was released today on Capitol Hill by First Star, a national organization working to improve the lives of America's abused and neglected children, and the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law (CAI). To view the full report, visit www.firststar.org , or www.caichildlaw.org .
The report is meant to serve two purposes. One is to alert child advocates, policy makers, the media, and the public of the inequities from state to state in providing abused and neglected children with legal representation in dependency proceedings. The second is to initiate a national call to action promoting stronger federal and state laws to provide these children highly trained and qualified legal representation to ensure they have a fighting chance to resolve and overcome childhood maltreatment and achieve bright futures.
"In the U.S., the right to counsel is guaranteed to everyone accused of breaking the law - including parents and other caregivers accused of child abuse and neglect," said Elissa T. Garr, Executive Director of First Star. "Yet the abused and neglected children in these cases, who are the least able to advocate for themselves, are not guaranteed counsel. It is tragic that in many states across the country, when judicial decisions are being made that will impact every facet of these children's lives, the right to counsel is not guaranteed to the victims of that abuse and neglect."
The report graded each state and the District of Columbia based on how well they protect the legal rights of abused and neglected children in dependency court. Shamefully, twenty-five states earned C's or lower:
3 states earned A+'s: Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oklahoma;
12 states earned A's: Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia;
11 states earned B's: Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming;
9 states earned C's: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin;
6 states earned D's: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, and South Carolina;
10 states earned F's: Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Washington.
"First Star and CAI applaud the states who earned A's this year. It is extremely gratifying to know that these states - representing diverse regions across the U.S. - recognize the importance of ensuring that children have appropriate legal counsel in dependency proceedings," said Robert Fellmeth, CAI's Executive Director. "Regrettably, many states still cling to a troubling double standard that affords the right to counsel to accused abusers while withholding it from abused and neglected children."
Each year, more than 695,000 children, ranging in age from infants to teenagers, are victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or guardians, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data. An estimated 1,560 child deaths per year are attributable to maltreatment.
Those who survive abuse and neglect often "age out" of the foster care system unemployed, homeless, and dependent on government assistance programs. Nearly half of male former foster children end up in prison. Only 3% of former foster children make it through college with a bachelor's degree.
"The system designed to 'rescue' these children often further victimizes them and can set them up for a very hard life," Peter Samuelson, President and co-founder of First Star said. "For those unmoved by the sheer moral imperative of helping these children, the cost to society is staggering. Kids aging out of the foster care system are generally under educated, unemployed, impoverished and homeless and can cost taxpayers as much as $124 billion in their lifetimes."
The report points out the important role the legal system plays in the lives of children who survive familial abuse and are placed in foster care, and cites data indicating that children who have adequate legal representation achieve permanent placements more quickly - sparing them additional distress and uncertainty, while saving tax dollars associated with repeated out-of-home placements.
Dependency courts assume a parental role in deciding the future of abused and neglected children. Sound decision-making by the court as "parent" is enhanced if the children who come before them have someone standing with them who can fully participate in the legal proceedings, and who can help them understand the questions discussed and the impact of different decisions.
"Imagine a 12-year-old-boy in a courtroom not understanding anything that was being said and not knowing what was going to happen to him," said Tracye Redd, a foster child alumni from Iowa who now lives in Washington, DC. "I was lucky. Iowa laws ensured that I was given a lawyer to guide me through the process and speak up for me in court. My guess is a lot of people on Capitol Hill don't realize the uneven playing field that exists for foster children who may live only a few miles apart across a state line. That's why reports like this are so important. People who have the power need to know, so they can act."
First Star and CAI are urging Congress and the states to strengthen laws that give abused and neglected children legal counsel, which will result in better outcomes for these children and benefit all of us as a society.
At the federal level, First Star and CAI recommend better monitoring of state compliance with the current requirement for representation for abused and neglected children under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). In addition, they call for CAPTA amendments that would expand requirements for independent, competent legal counsel for abused and neglected children in dependency proceedings, and ensure that children are treated as parties to these proceedings with all associated rights.
Assure that children in abuse and neglect cases are represented by independent, competent attorneys;
Require specialized, multi-disciplinary training for children's attorneys (legal training, specific to abuse and neglect proceedings and specialized, multi-disciplinary training so the lawyer understands how to work with children and can effectively counsel them);
At the state level, First Star and CAI recommend passing legislation that would:
Ensure that a child is a party to the proceedings and can be heard from directly (if the child so desires after being counseled by a competent, trained attorney);
Require reasonable caseload limits for attorneys representing children so as to encourage effective, competent representation;
Collaborate with other states to adopt best practices;
Offer specialized training programs for judges who hear cases of abuse and neglect to ensure sound decision-making;
Provide representation for abused and neglected children involved in other legal proceedings related to custody, immigration, education, and a host of other issues;
Ensure that children's attorneys are adequately compensated.
This is the Third Edition of the Right to Counsel report with previous editions issued in 2007 and 2009. Since the first report, many states have adopted stronger legal protections.
State grades were based on a rigorous examination of state law for adherence to guiding principles developed by national child welfare experts using a 100-point grading system. Criteria included: whether state law mandates that attorneys be appointed for children in dependency proceedings; the extent to which a child receives client-directed representation; whether this representation continues throughout the case, including appeal; whether states have specialized education or training of a child's counsel; whether the child is given the legal status of a party to the proceedings; and whether rules pertaining to confidentiality and immunity from liability apply to attorneys representing these children. Officials and advocates from each state were given the opportunity to participate in the process and many did so, providing valuable feedback.
Congressional sponsors of today's briefing included: U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), U.S. Rep Pete Stark (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI).
First Star is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit that improves the lives of America's abused and neglected children by strengthening their rights, illuminating systemic failures, and igniting reform to correct them. We pursue our mission through research, public engagement, policy advocacy, litigation, and direct services. Visit http://www.firststar.org.
The Children's Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego School of Law works to improve the health, safety, and well being of children. In addition to its academic component, CAI engages in regulatory and legislative advocacy, impact litigation and public education in order to ensure that children's interests are represented effectively whenever and wherever government makes policy and budget decisions that will impact them. Visit http://www.caichildlaw.org .
Canada Former hockey player Theo Fleury to join survivors of abuse at healing conference
A local counselling centre is hosting a healing conference to raise awareness for sexual abuse of children in Manitoba Thursday night.
Former NHL player Theo Fleury will join other survivors and counselors for the conference.
The Aulneau Renewal Centre is hosting the conference that focuses on healing after child sexual abuse.
The centre is also hosting a fundraising dinner. All funds raised from the dinner will go to counseling children who have suffered abuse.
Earlier this year, Fleury's former junior hockey coach was sentenced to jail time for abuse against him and another player.
It's estimated that about 1,000 children in Manitoba will be sexually abused by an adult in a position of responsibility this year.
Aulneau Centre says one-third of girls and one-sixth of boys in Canada will be sexually abused as children.
‘I thought about the little kids that couldn't speak for themselves'
by Daniel J. Gross -
To this day, Danielle Jennings of Upper Marlboro said she remembers each time her stepfather raped her. She recalls the physical abuse she endured from her mother and stepfather throughout her childhood, when she said the bruising and fear of further torture kept her silent and invisible to the outside world.
Now for the first time, Jennings, 30, has brought her past to light after a report released in April on state secrecy and child abuse claimed Maryland still has work to do when it comes to how child abuse cases are handled.
“This has been really hard for me to speak about. But ultimately, I thought about the little kids that couldn't speak for themselves,” she said. “Maryland is one of worst states because of disclosure. People don't hear about it, yet it happens every day to people. So many adults are walking around with so many scars.”
Being a part of Foster Care Alumni of America, a national nonprofit for supporting and connecting child-abuse survivors, Jennings was invited to speak in Washington, D.C., at a news conference in April that revealed the findings of the report by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law and First Star, a national advocacy organization for improving the lives of abused children. Jennings said although she had spoken to individual members of the foster care group about her abuse, the conference was the first time she spoke publically about her past.
The 2012 report graded each state on its laws and regulations regarding public disclosure of child abuse, neglect deaths and near deaths, many of which, Jennings said go unnoticed. The institute also did a report in 2008, when the state received an “F.”
According to the report, the state's score improved to a “C” this year largely because the General Assembly amended the Human Services Code in 2010 to include mandating public disclosure of information when a child named in an abuse or neglect case suffers a fatality or near fatality and revising the scope of information made available to the public. However, the report states that Maryland's policy “does not grant any person the right to receive the information ... and limits the information disclosed.”
“While maintaining confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records is important, there are some cases which have been carved out from this shield of confidentiality and must be made public,” states the report, which can be found at www.caichildlaw.org.
“When a child dies of child abuse, obviously it's the worst tragedy that can occur,” said Amy Harfeld, national policy director for CAI. “But the information provides us with opportunity to learn what went wrong there. These tragedies shouldn't happen in vain, we need to at least look at what went wrong.”
Pat Hines, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, which includes Child Protective Services, said the department follows procedures governed by state law and said it is constantly “striking a balance” between being as open and transparent as possible while respecting the privacy of each individual involved in child abuse or neglect cases.
“Child abuse is a very private, personal experience. It's a tragic thing and certainly one that needs to be addressed in the most expedited means possible, but it's not something to be done in the public eye,” he said. “I can understand why seeing increased disclosure of particular cases might help for future cases, but a better way to move forward is that everyone who sees a concern should follow up with that by calling the police department or social services. It's better to err on the side of calling.”
More than 120 social service reports were filed regarding Jennings' abuse before she was taken out of her home at the age of 15 and placed in foster care, she said. Jennings said her parents were never convicted of any criminal wrongdoing.
In 2009, she founded Blessed Haven, a nonprofit networking organization for transitioning children from foster care to “the real world.” She said the work she does with Blessed Haven stems from her troubled past and desire to help others.
“These things happen all the time,” she said, noting that she didn't tell many of her friends about the abuse she endured. “It's amazing because my friends would send me links to a story about child abuse ... . They didn't understand why it bothered me. It was an insult to me because I have lived this.”
Jennings said her ultimate goal is to bring Maryland's grade up to an “A” and is working on her master's degree on public policy in civic engagement through Walden University, an accredited online university in Baltimore. She said she wants to be in a position to write policy and advocate for changes to Maryland's laws on public disclosure in child abuse cases.
Sixth-graders make porn video at Mexico school
by Mark Stevenson
MEXICO CITY - Authorities in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Campeche said Wednesday they are investigating how a porn video was made by sixth-graders inside their school.
State Education Department spokesman Omar Kantun said the video was apparently made in an empty classroom during recess in late April.
"It is real, the case is real, the video exists," Kantun said. "The Education Department is very concerned."
He said an investigation is being conducted by his department and the teachers union to determine whether any adults were involved.
Kantun said the teacher who uses the classroom did not appear to have been present when the video was made. He said no disciplinary action has been taken against any students or teachers as of yet. He said the students involved are being given psychological counseling.
The incident occurred in late April at a grade school in the town of Calkini, which is in a relatively conservative and heavily Indian area. Three boys are seen on the video engaging in oral and anal sex recorded on a cellphone by a fourth person, apparently another student.
The mother of one of the boys saw the video on the Internet and notified authorities, Kantun said. He said the video had since been taken down.
Authorities didn't announce the students' ages, but sixth-graders in Mexico are generally 12 or younger.
Minnesota couple reportedly forces daughter, 12, to shave head, wear diapers over bad grades
A Minnesota couple was charged Wednesday with malicious punishment of a child after they allegedly admitted to shaving a 12-year-old girl's head and making her run sprints outside in a diaper as punishment for poor grades and not completing her homework.
Up to 50 people were on the street gawking at the girl as she ran up and down the avenue in a tank top and an adult diaper.
When police arrived Monday, they found her "crying and hysterical," MyFoxTwinCities.com reported. Responding officers were told she had been outside for nearly a half an hour before a neighbor called 911.
The girl's mother, Stephanie Ann Broten, 38, and husband Darnell Alan Landrum, 34, allegedly told police they were punishing the girl for not bringing home good grades and for failing to do her homework.
Broten reportedly told police that she was disciplining her child by embarrassing her. The couple reportedly laughed while in the back of a police car as the girl and three siblings were taken into protective custody.
Landrum allegedly told investigators the 12-year-old was warned several times about the punishment if she did not improve her grades.
Broten and Landrum face up to a year in jail if convicted. The girl was back in school after the incident, wearing a bandanna and in good spirits, the report said.
NJ woman admits sexually abusing 5-year-old girl, streaming it over the Internet
May 10, 2012 | by ANDREW DUFFELMEYER
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey woman admitted Wednesday to sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl she was allegedly babysitting and putting a video of the assault on the Internet.
Jennifer Mahoney, 33, of Manalapan pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to sexual exploitation of a child.
She faces between 15 and 30 years in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 22, and will have to pay restitution to the victim. She had been charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
Report criticizes Oklahoma for laws on releasing child-abuse information
by RANDY ELLIS
OKLAHOMA CITY - A culture of secrecy in Oklahoma and many other states is hindering efforts to reduce child-abuse deaths and serious injuries, according to a report by a national child-advocacy organization.
"The death of an abused or neglected child is not only an unspeakable tragedy; it is also a red flag that something has gone terribly wrong with the child welfare system responsible for that child," said Robert C. Fellmeth, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law.
"Too often these cases are shrouded in secrecy and, as a result, literally fatal flaws in state systems go undetected and opportunities to fix them are missed," Fellmeth said.
Oklahoma's child welfare system has come under intense criticism in recent years following news reports about the state's failure to prevent the deaths of children such as Serenity Deal, Kelsey Smith-Briggs and Aja Johnson despite numerous reports of possible abuse and injuries in the months leading up to their deaths.
Put child abuse high on agenda: police
Between 10 and 15 child abuse offences are committed in NSW every day and most of the perpetrators are known to their victims.
"We conduct 4500 investigations per year in NSW in relation to child abuse," said Acting Police Deputy Commissioner of Specialist Operations David Hudson.
"When you talk about child abuse you think of stranger danger, which is obviously very important, but it's the things that happen in family units that are of major concern and that often go unreported."
NSW Police on Wednesday launched the renamed Child Abuse Squad, made up of detectives committed to investigating serious cases of child abuse.
Mr Hudson is calling for child abuse to be "high on the agenda" and says the new name reflects the horrific nature of the squad's work.
"Yes, it is a confronting name, but it's confronting work they do," he said at the launch.
"Almost half of all sexual assault matters reported to police involve a victim under the age of 16, and that's not to mention the serious cases of physical and emotional abuse and child neglect that also come under this squad's notice."
Mr Hudson said that in some cases the victims were so young they didn't even realise they were being abused and 95 per cent of the time the perpetrator was known to the victim.
The Child Abuse Squad works "hand in glove" with the Sex Crimes Unit conducting "proactive, long-term" investigations, said squad commander Maria Rustja.
"Getting information out of children, and getting people to report on family members they suspect of abhorrent behaviour will always be hard," she said.
"Unfortunately, little kids by their nature have difficulty in talking about abuse...
"Many of these child sexual predators maintain secrecy with the child."
Child protection advocate Bravehearts commended the police officers who work within the Child Abuse Squad.
"It is true the new name reflects more accurately what the police do but it does not come close to depicting just how well they do their work," Bravehearts founder and executive director Hetty Johnston said.
"By any name, these men and woman are among the best in the world at protecting and defending children and the whole community owes them a huge debt of thanks."
She said one in five Australian children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday, but that recent developments in child protection in NSW were encouraging.
"It is clear that the NSW Police Force share our commitment to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child," she said.
Children are almost always telling the truth in reported child abuse cases, a national support network says.
"Studies show that in 98 per cent of all child abuse cases which are reported, children are telling the truth," Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Dr Cathy Kezelman said.
"Many children carry the shame and self-blame of their abuse into their adult life."
Dr Kezelman said about half of child sexual assault victims never tell anyone and many do not reveal it until they are adults.
"As a society we need to speak openly about abuse, overcome the stigma and taboo (and) teach children about how best to protect themselves."
Dr Kezelman also said it was necessary to educate the community so that all suspected child abuse cases are reported to the authorities.
Former Yankee Rusty Torres arrested
A former Yankees player was arrested by police on Long Island on charges of child sexual abuse, according to authorities.
Rosendo "Rusty" Torres, 63, is accused of abusing an 8-year-old girl, whom he was coaching, on two separate occasions.
Authorities say the 8-year-old was sexually abused inside a town-issued van in one incident. The victim's parents reported the incident to police on Monday.
Torres was picked up at his home in Massapequa, 40 miles east of New York City, early Tuesday and was expected to be arraigned Wednesday on four counts of sexual abuse.
Torres played in parts of nine big-league seasons, two with the Yankees in 1971-72. He was a career .212 hitter, having stints with the Bombers, Indians, White Sox, Angels and Royals.
Torres was employed as a youth baseball coach for the Town of Oyster Bay where the alleged incidents occurred, authorities said.
"The first incident involved inappropriate touching. In the second incident, there was contact but not actual sexual activity," a law enforcement source said.
A representative for the Town of Oyster Bay did not immediately return calls. Family inside Torres' home Tuesday afternoon declined comment.
"No way! Rusty arrested? What?" said neighbor Gus Galatatzis, 41.
"I'm floored right now. He even coached my son. He's great. He knows everyone in the neighborhood and everyone knows him. He's such a well-known, well-liked guy. I'm speechless."
Officials said there were no indications that Torres had any prior arrests.
Defense in Penn State child sex abuse case digs into accusers' past
by ASSOCIATED PRESS
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The alleged victims of the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal are finding there isn't much in their pasts that the defense isn't trying to find out. Jerry Sandusky's defense team wants to know their IQs, how well they did in school and even their medical histories.
In a series of discovery requests made to the attorney general's office in recent months, Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola has sought school transcripts, medical records going back to birth, Internet search histories, Facebook account details, employment-related documents and cellphone and Twitter records.
Prosecutors have turned over some records, don't have others and argued that many requests are not proper under state law — a determination that will ultimately be up to the presiding judge, John Cleland.
Lawyers for Sandusky's alleged victims are critical of Amendola's tactics, with one accusing him of "a despicable act of cowardice." The question of how much information the defense is entitled to will be the subject of a pretrial hearing Wednesday.
Credibility of witnesses and the reliability of their recall will likely be pivotal issues in Sandusky's upcoming criminal trial, with allegations that go back in some cases well over a decade.
On Monday, prosecutors said they had misdated by a year one of the alleged crimes, an encounter in which an assistant coach said he saw Sandusky attack a naked boy in the shower. That disclosure prompted lawyers in a parallel criminal case — that of two Penn State administrators accused of not reporting suspected abuse — to say the charge should be dismissed because the statute of limitations has expired.
Legal experts said Amendola's strategy could produce information to bolster his theory that accusers have colluded to lie about Sandusky in hopes of hitting the jackpot with a lawsuit.
Accusers who also plan to file lawsuits can be seen as being motivated both by telling the truth and by making money, said David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law school professor who teaches criminal law procedure and evidence.
"That doesn't mean the witness isn't telling the truth — it simply opens up an avenue for the witness to be attacked," he said.
But not everything the defense learns will be allowed for use at trial, currently scheduled to begin June 5. That will be determined by rules of evidence, voluminous case law and Cleland's judgment.
"The law is pretty clear that the court needs to employ a balancing test and weigh what the privacy interests are," said Fortunato N. Perri Jr., a Philadelphia defense lawyer and former prosecutor.
There is also the risk of backlash among jurors over attacks on people who claim they were sexually assaulted as children, although the passage of time and a shortage of forensic evidence may make credibility even more important than usual, Harris said.
Sandusky can review materials sent to his lawyers, raising the prospect of him being able to see the personal health, school and psychiatric records of the very people he is charged with sexually abusing. Authorities allege Sandusky acted to control and manipulate young men who had behavioral or emotional problems.
The state attorney general's office lost a recent effort to have Cleland throw out defense subpoenas and rein in their future use. Amendola declined to comment, citing Cleland's partial gag order.
Objections to defense subpoenas sent to schools and governmental bodies are also expected to be discussed during the Wednesday court hearing in Bellefonte.
Amendola co-counsel Karl Rominger said last week that criminal defendants face "trial by ambush" so their ability to subpoena records and information can be a way to counteract prosecutors' capacity to compel disclosure via the grand jury process.
"It's about learning everything and anything," Rominger said. "It doesn't mean any particular item of information would be used in a trial."
The court record does not indicate how many other organizations were sent defense subpoenas directly, only those that have filed objections.
Sandusky's trial on 52 criminal counts could bring to the stand eight or more men to claim they are victims in the case. Sandusky, 68, has steadfastly denied the allegations and is confined to his home to await trial.
The range of material Sandusky has sought was reflected in 36 discovery requests between Dec. 29 and April 23 that covered 214 categories. Amendola wrote that the requests had largely been ignored by prosecutors.
Prosecutors responded this week with a point-by-point review of what has been turned over, noting in many cases they did not possess the records sought and saying dozens of other requests were not proper under court rules.
An attachment to that document mentioned by name at least one accuser, the young man called Victim 1 in court documents, in violation of an order by Cleland to keep the names of alleged victims confidential. The attorney general's office received Cleland's permission to seal that attachment Tuesday, and it no longer appeared with other Sandusky case documents online. Cleland's order described the disclosure as inadvertent.
Victim 1 is the young man who was allegedly sexually molested by Sandusky after the met through Sandusky's charity for kids, The Second Mile, and it was his mother's complaint to school officials that was reported to authorities, leading eventually to the wider investigation and the criminal charges.
Michael J. Boni, a civil lawyer for Victim 1, called the attorney general's office's disclosure an innocent mistake, but had harsh words for the defense's legal strategy, saying Amendola has asked for evidence that is not admissible in court. He called a discovery requests an effort to impeach the credibility of alleged child rape victims and "a despicable act of cowardice."
"The evidence he seeks from school records, labor records, etc., all inarguably go to reputation, which is not relevant or admissible in rape cases," Boni said. "Talk about adding insult to injury. First the boy was raped, now Amendola seeks to besmirch Victim 1's character in the press, no doubt to taint the jury pool. It's all so wrong."
Another attorney, Jeff Anderson, sued Sandusky and others in November on behalf of a man who claims he was sexually abused more than 100 times and threatened by Sandusky. Anderson's client is not among the 10 alleged victims in the criminal case.
"I think they're trying to send a message to the victims, that if you have the courage to speak out, we're going to get you and we're going to out you," Anderson said.
Mike McQueary, the assistant who reported seeing the shower attack, filed a notice Tuesday that he plans to sue Penn State. Details were scant, but his lawyer described it as a whistle-blower case. McQueary was placed on administrative leave in November.
Human trafficking bill amended
Despite changes, Fedor says her plan offers 'safe harbor'
by JIM PROVANCE
COLUMBUS -- A wholesale rewrite of a proposed law cracking down on modern-day slavery in Ohio bears little resemblance to what Rep. Teresa Fedor first proposed, but the Toledo Democrat said Tuesday it's still a "safe harbor" bill.
Struggling where to draw the line when it comes to prosecuting minors as prostitutes, an Ohio House committee sidestepped that issue altogether with a massive amendment to the bill. Instead, judges could hold criminal charges temporarily at bay while directing human trafficking victims into protective services and getting them counseling, medical care, drug and alcohol treatment, and other help they need.
If the minors successfully complete the program, the criminal charge would go away.
The bill aggressively goes after adult customers who hire minors for sex even if they don't know they're minors, elevating the crime to a felony.
Ms. Fedor's House Bill 262 would have flatly prohibited prosecutors from criminally charging someone under 18 with prostitution, requiring them to instead be treated as victims. She reluctantly had to let that go.
"I think [the revised bill] is a fair balance of where we need to start," she said. "The first bill is the ideal bill. That's what everyone would like because it makes sense that you shouldn't incarcerate a victim."
Shared Hope International's Protected Innocence Initiative has given Ohio a grade of "D" in terms of its preparedness to deal with human trafficking. Dr. Jeff Barrows, founder of the state's Gracehaven services for trafficking victims, was asked Tuesday what he thinks Ohio's grade will be if House Bill 262 becomes law.
"Maybe it'll be up a little bit, maybe to a C-minus," he said.
Ms. Fedor chimed in, "I agree."
When a legislative lawyer described the revised bill, he suggested the only real holdover from Ms. Fedor's original language was the requirement that the state develop a poster with information for trafficking victims, including a toll-free number, 1-888-373-7888, for help. The bill requires it to be posted in bus stations, turnpike rest stops, truck stops, and wherever victims would be likely to see it.
In addition to the judicial diversion effort, the bill would allow trafficking victims to sue those who forced them into prostitution.
"It's a great idea," said Franklin County Municipal Judge Paul Herbert, whose county has a program that is a variation on the diversion concept in the bill.
The human-trafficking spotlight fell on Toledo in 2005 when a federal sting in Harrisburg, Pa., broke up a sex-trafficking operation involving 177 females. Seventy-seven of the victims were from the Toledo area, including a 10-year-old girl.
In addition to the legislative tact, an interagency task force created by Gov. John Kasich has until the end of June to make recommendations for how Ohio can aggressively prosecute traffickers while locating, freeing, and providing help to their victims.
Law enforcement expects RNC event to increase sex trafficking in Tampa Bay
by WFTS Staff
TAMPA BAY - Clearwater Police anticipate at least a 50 percent increase in sex trafficking cases once the RNC moves into the forum in August.
Some of those cases involving adults, and some involve children forced to come to Tampa and sell sex.
Clearwater Police Detective George Koder often uses backpage.com, a popular website, as a starting point to investigate sex trafficking.
A simple search for “Tampa” brought up at least eight pages with ads like, “Here's breath-taking peaches from Palm Harbor”, saying one thing, while meaning another.
But that's nothing compared to what Detective Koder anticipates come the week of August 27th.
"You're going to see an increased amount of ads with new faces."
An estimated 50,000 people will travel to Tampa in August for the Republican National Convention, an event unlike any Tampa has hosted since Super Bowl 2009.
"You're going to see activity where traffickers and the girls move into the area," Koder said.
He says sex traffickers are drawn to Tampa not because it's a political event, but simply because it's a large event.
Traffickers looking to capitalize on crowds, moving both adults and children.
"The message of sex with kids is wrong. It should be obvious. We shouldn't have to shout it from the rooftop, but we do, because it's happening," Koder said.
The task force on human trafficking that Koder heads up has recovered 62 child sex trafficking victims since 2009, and that's just in Tampa.
"It's going to be more underground, more discrete than maybe a Superbowl," he said.
To get out ahead of it now, Koder says the task force, made up of federal, state and local officers, are strengthening tipster relationships with adult entertainment clubs and hotels, planning reverse stings closer to the RNC, and sharing information with similar task forces across the country.
In addition, the local task force continues to look for leads on websites like backpage.com.
Koder says none have popped yet.
"We want people to know we won't tolerate it. We'll prosecute it. We want families to know that we are protecting their kids…these are people being taken advantage of at the point of being forced to have sex. It's a horrible violation to them."
Taking a shot at donating CAP raises money to serve child victims
by Makayla Moore
The 7th Annual Shoot Trap for CAP fundraiser will be held at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Rocky Mountain Gun Club. Shooters from every level, including national competitors, will shoot trap in order to raise money for Casper children.
The kick-off party, “CAP Cabernet & Calcutta,” will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Wolcott Galleria. During a happy hour event, guests can enjoy hors d'oeuvres while taking part in a live or silent auction. There will also be a calcutta, where people can wager on their favorite teams.
The Children's Advocacy Project provides services for victims of serious physical and sexual child abuse, free of charge. Founded in 2002 in response to a need for coordinated forensic and comprehensive services for alleged victims of child maltreatment and children who witness violence, CAP is providing a service to Casper that can't be measured by statistics. Heather Ross, executive director of CAP, said, “Everyone always says its too bad we have to have a place like this, but it's so good that when it's needed, there's a place like this.”
Adult retrospective studies by the Center for Disease Control show that one in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before the age of 18. Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under as reported by Darkness to Light, a child sexual abuse awareness organization. The Department of Justice reported that youth have higher rates of sexual assault victimization than adults. In the Department of Justice's study in 2000, the sexual assault victimization rate for youths 12-17 was 2.3 times higher than for adults.
Children are abused by someone they know 90 percent of the time. It's most often someone that's a trusted family member or friend. This puts the child in an extremely difficult situation, where they love and trust the person and yet they're being hurt by them. “Telling is hard because they don't want to hurt the family dynamic; only one in 10 children will disclose the abuse,” Ross said.
Wyoming is a mandatory reporting state. “People don't realize everybody is a mandated reporter,” said Ross. “In a neighborhood or church or family, it's everybody's responsibility to make sure children are safe.”
In the nearly 10years CAP has been operating, they've provided services to just under 2,000 children. As the only nationally accredited child advocacy center in Wyoming, investigators across the state also utilize CAP for help with their cases.
After attending a national conference on severe child maltreatment, several members of child abuse investigation and prosecution became aware of the collaborative and comprehensive services that could be available through a child advocacy center model. A two-year analysis revealed gaps in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse in Casper. “Child sexual abuse wasn't taken seriously for a number of years because there was no process in place to make sure that the children were safe and well taken care of and also that the prosecution was strong so the offenders would be held accountable,” Ross said.
Prior to CAP, there was no team in place to coordinate investigations which often led to investigators working the cases on their own, gathering evidence that wouldn't be shared with others. Victims would be interviewed multiple times and often wouldn't receive follow-up care. “Prior to CAP, what would happen is that after a child disclosed, they would be interviewed in two places, either the police department or the principal's office. They were scared and looking at law enforcement with their guns on their hips, they would be thinking they're in trouble and they shouldn't have told,” Ross said.
CAP provides a place to conduct forensic interviews where the children can feel safe. They provided 212 forensic interviews in 2011, 90 of them from outside Natrona County. “It's a place to allow a child to describe what happened,” Ross said. Age-appropriate rooms are provided where the child can sit and talk to an interviewer or play therapist while the investigators watch on monitors in another area.
CAP coordinates child protection investigators, law enforcement detectives, mental health professionals, victim advocates, forensic interviewers and prosecutors to investigate, prosecute and treat child maltreatment cases. “In this county, we all come together once a month to discuss those cases. There are about 30 ongoing cases open at any time of the year. We meet to make sure that the investigation is coordinated,” Ross said. “People that really care about children strive to be on this team. It's the best of the best.”
The accountability of those monthly meetings has led to changes in how child sexual abuse is investigated and prosecuted. “That's what CAP has brought about. We've changed the process of investigation and we know what's going on every step of the way. Everyone is really accountable to one another and so it makes the process a lot stronger,” Ross said.
CAP has other programs and counseling to help victims after their case is completed. They've just started a girl's group for adolescent survivors, which allows them to meet and support each other. “It's a really nice time for them to learn there are others in the community and to build skills that they'll need,” Ross said.
CAP provides all of its services free of charge. Initial funding was provided by Wyoming Medical Center, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and other local funders. Rich Fairservis constructed a facility designed specifically for the project and recently, with the help of one cent funds, the building was purchased by Natrona County.
CAP operates on a yearly budget of $400,000 with significant contributions from local government, the Casper Community Foundation, and a grant from the Federal Victims of Crime Act. “For every dollar that we receive, $3.32 is returned to the community as services,” Ross said.
Ross encourages anyone to report suspicious activity by calling the Department of Family Services or law enforcement. For anyone who's a victim of childhood sexual abuse, she said, “even if there's no evidence for prosecution, we'll always have services available to children.”
Mental Health Minute:
SANE Center helps victims of sexual assault in Manatee and Sarasota counties
by Cathy Wilson
Michelle was sexually abused as a child, but no one believed her. She went into a tailspin that led to dropping out of high school.
Then, it happened again -- she was sexually assaulted as an adult. This time she found a counselor who would listen. Says Michelle, "It lifted a huge burden. They taught me to be proud of who I am and to be true to myself," she remembers. "They helped me get over the shame. The darkness over me went away."
Finding an advocate and the right counselor is critical. Victims of sexual assault are faced with a flood of emotions that impact every aspect of their lives.
Their sense of safety and control is lost often leading to grief, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even substance abuse problems.
"I learned it's not my fault. I always thought there was something wrong with me," said Michelle. "Now I know they (the abusers) are the sick ones."
Today she's speaking out and helping others.
Rape survivors are often reluctant to report the incident to law enforcement because of deeply personal questions and fear of recrimination. Victims also hesitate to press charges because they don't want their friends and family to think less of them when their identity is associated with the crime.
For these reasons, Manatee Glens Victim Advocates are trained to support the victims and inform them of their rights. Survivors do not have to report the crime, but they are encouraged to have an exam -- at no cost to them. There are also victims' compensation funds available for medical and other expenses.
Previously, rape victims had only one option for exams -- a hospital emergency room. They often had to wait hours amidst medical and physical trauma cases.
To reduce distress and improve the number of rape prosecutions, Manatee Glens collaborated with several agencies and hospitals to create the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Center this year.
The SANE Center, at the Planned Parenthood Clinic on State Road 70, is a safe and comfortable place for victims. Specially trained nurses conduct forensic exams needed to prosecute sexual assault cases. Most SANE exams are completed within two hours.
The process is simple. A rape victim or law enforcement calls the 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline (941-708-6059), a couple questions are asked to screen for appropriateness and an advocate meets the victim at the SANE Center.
Because the clothing of sexual assault victims is confiscated as evidence in the investigation, the SANE Center provides fresh clothes, a shower, personal items, medicine and other supplies.
Katherine Meisenbach is a volunteer who has donated more than 13,000 hours to the Manatee Glens Rape Crisis Center. "I will do everything I can to help people understand there is a way to move on. I know from having this happen to someone close to me in my life."
Volunteers like Meisenbach receive training in supporting victims in a crisis when they respond to an emergency call.
Meisenbach sees that those victims who receive help feel safer and recover faster. The forensic exams performed by the SANE nurses are also more likely to stand up in court. While rape continues to be one of the most under-reported crimes, more people are willing to come forward when they have a supporting place like SANE.
Cathy Wilson, is the Director of Children's Services and Community Programs at Manatee Glens, the specialty hospital and outpatient practice for mental health and addictions. For information or to apply for serving as a rape crisis volunteer, go to www.ManateeGlens.org.
Child Abuse Center in Danger of Closing
The Fairfax center will close by May 14 unless funding can be found to keep it running.
A safe place for children who suffered sexual abuse may not last the month.
The Childhelp Advocacy Center on Waples Mill Road just outside the city limits will lose its national funding on May 14. Representatives from public and private agencies, including the Fairfax County Police Department , Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Commonwealth's Attorney, along with Childhelp board members and private citizens, met Friday to discuss their options and see what can be done to save the center.
Childhelp is a national non-profit that helps victims of child sexual abuse. It funds five advocacy centers across the nation. These advocacy centers, like the one in Fairfax, use a different, more victim-friendly approach to investigating child abuse crimes, said John Harold, a member of the Childhelp board who helped bring the center to Fairfax.
Harold, who retired as a clinical psychologist in 2003, worked for and ran Children's Services in Fairfax County. He knows all too well the importance of having a welcoming and friendly location for victims.
"In the beginning what would happen is there would be six or eight different people interviewing kids in different places at different times. That's just abusive," he said. "Now they come here. The victim has to only be in one place. We do one interview and it's recorded and then we don't have to keep doing it. The other thing we've found is that when we do it right and use a center like this we get guilty pleas [and] we don't have to go to trial."
Now the Fairfax location is now in danger of closing. A sudden announcement from Childhelp last week stated that, due to budget deficits and other undisclosed reasons, it will be withdrawing support for the center. Harold would like nothing more than to keep the center running, even without the help of the national organization.
Harold is afraid that if the center closes things will return to how they were in the past; victims will have to travel to several locations which aren't as victim friendly and undergo multiple interviews again.
"We've had volunteers paint the walls and do all kinds of things," he said. "This is special."
The center works in cooperation with Child Protective Services and police forces in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County and Childhelp operated the center in partnership for the past 12 years. They have been at their current location since 2008.
Victims advocates plan to reconvene on May 11 to continue their fight to keep the center running in Fairfax. They are looking for help from both the public and private sectors.
Call Harold at 703-691-9208 if you'd like to help out.
Idaho prosecutors lament defeat of tougher child abuse reporting bill during 2012 Legislature
BOISE , Idaho — Idaho prosecutors believe they may have missed their best opportunity to toughen the legal consequences for adults who fail to report violent crimes against children.
A bill making it a felony to not report abuse of minors to authorities failed to get a hearing and died, despite support from Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, the veteran chairman of the powerful Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee.
Now, with Darrington retiring, the chances of such a law are dimming.
The lack of support for the measure was disappointing, said Darrington, the most senior member of the Senate and an advocate for tough sentencing guidelines, according to the Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/IRq4rV).
"I think there is an attitude of 'Don't create any new felonies. Don't put people in prison,'" Darrington said. "I feel differently. I believe if a new felony is needed, like this proposal, we create a new felony. It's the right thing to do for public safety."
Under existing Idaho law, adults who have knowledge that a minor is being neglected or abused have 24 hours to report it to police before they themselves can be charged with a misdemeanor. After four years, the statute of limitations prevents them from being charged.
Prosecutors sought to remove the statute of limitations and make it a felony with a five-year maximum prison sentence in instances where adults don't report abuse, neglect and violence against children.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher, who handles many of the child abuse cases for Idaho 's largest county, said the threat of facing a felony would motivate more adults to do the right thing.
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, was among the committee members who thought the legislation was flawed, including the removal of a statute of limitations.
"How in the world can you get accurate information on that after so many years?" she asked. "I think (the bill) would just create a mess."
Initial drafts of the bill, which was championed by the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, drew concern from Idaho Health and Welfare officials and education groups, according to Holly Koole, a lobbyist for the prosecutors.
Those industries, whose members work with children, worried employees could be subjected to investigations for long-dormant crimes they may have reported to supervisors, as trained, but not to police.
Language was added requiring that the adult accused of turning a blind eye knows a child has been victimized and willfully fails to report it, elevating the burden of proof, Koole said.
That allayed the concerns of the Idaho Education Association and Idaho School Board Association, but it wasn't palatable to legislators.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher, who handles many of the child abuse cases for Idaho's largest county, said the threat of facing a felony would motivate more adults to do the right thing.
"As a community, as a society," Fisher said, "we have to be able to say (looking the other way) is not acceptable."
Starbucks, Best Buy Pull Village Voice Ads, Sign Petition Amid Sex Trafficking Scandal
The 27 companies that recently pulled their ads from the Village Voice are the newest advocates to join the fight in protecting girls from being trafficked through the publication.
Big-name companies, including the likes of Starbucks, Best Buy and AT&T, were inspired to walk away from Village Voice Media after an online petition urged them to stop supporting a company whose adult ad section, Backpage.com, is believed to help pimps peddle girls and women.
According to a statement released by the office of New York Council Member Brad Lander, trafficking charges were brought against people using Backpage.com in 50 instances in the last three years, in 22 states.
“I'm thrilled to hear so many companies have dropped their advertisements from Village Voice Media publications,” Justin Wassel, an Ohio minister who launched a petition, told Mashable. “Many of them are major national brands who cater to families and children, so it's only natural they should be concerned about their advertisements supporting child sex trafficking.”
This most recent victory for sex trafficking advocates comes on the heels of campaigns involving New York politicians, A-list musicians and big-name advocates who are pushing for the shutting down of the Village Voice's Backpage.com.
The son of Norman Mailer, Village Voice co-founder, joined hundreds of protesters in March to demonstrate his opposition to the adult ad section.
"This was once a progressive paper, a people's paper, and to see it lose its credibility is heartbreaking," John Buffalo Mailer, 33, told The Associated Press. "He would not have approved of this at all."
But the Village Voice remains adamant in its defense of Backpage.com.
The newspaper called a New York Times editorial, which featured a brutal account of a former sex slave, an “uninformed crusade.”
It also claims to go to great lengths to collaborate with police and keep young people off of the site.
“Backpage dedicates hundreds of staff to screen adult classifieds in order to keep juveniles off the site and to work proactively with law enforcement in their efforts to locate victims,” the editorial says. “When the authorities have concerns, we share paperwork and records and help them make cases.”
SHSU students spread awareness about victims of global sex trafficking
by Jennifer Gauntt
HUNTSVILLE — Not many threads unwind a story like those contained on each Red Thread bracelet.
Hand woven in Nepal by women and girls who were rescued from sex trafficking, the bracelets are made to raise awareness of the crime throughout every city in the nation.
As this spring semester comes to a close, two groups of Sam Houston State University seniors are now able to say they have successfully checked one city off that list.
The students have spent the past four months doing their part to intertwine their fellow students, professors and Huntsville neighbors with the global issue.
The movement spread to SHSU through the efforts of assistant professor of education Karla Eidson and the students of her Social Studies Methods course.
Each semester, Eidson proposes social issues to her students to serve as the emphasis of their research and work throughout the course. After learning about the issue of sex trafficking over her winter break, she knew it would be the perfect topic for her class this spring.
Sex trafficking is a worldwide criminal enterprise, seen especially in Third World countries where women and young girls are forced from their homes to work in prostitution rings. These kidnapped victims are often forced to work within large cities in America and rest of the world.
The Red Thread Movement concentrates their efforts in Nepal where the problem is prevalent. There, women's low social status and insufficient education make them vulnerable to traffickers, Eidson said.
“Many of my classes are composed mainly of females, so I knew they would be able to deeply relate with the cause in that way,” she said.
Halfway through the first class and two documentary videos later that her prediction came true, she said.
For SHSU senior Christie Samayoa, seeing the video accounts of survivors and their stories was a jaw-dropping moment.
“Hearing that these other women are experiencing things like this all over the world moves you and horrifies you at the same time,” she said.
Eidson said her students were eager to take action.
Throughout the spring semester her classes not only sold the Red Thread bracelets to other members of the SHSU community, they also designed a shirt to be sold for proceeds as well.
The shirt's message is “I bought this so you couldn't buy her” beside the picture of a Nepalese sex trafficking survivor.
By speaking to various organizations inside the SHSU and local communities, Eidson's students have blanketed Huntsville with the bracelets.
“It's a big accomplishment that they know will make an even greater impact,” Samoaya said.
Proceeds from each $3 bracelet go toward the building and continuation of “border units” along the Nepal and India border. These establishments rescue as many as 100 women and children each month from their captors before they leave the country and are potentially sold into forced labor.
“Captors come into their villages pretending to be activists and promise these women a better life for them and their children if they leave Nepal,” Eidson said. “The border units are put in place so that volunteers can stop these women and help them realize they are really being kidnapped.”
These kidnapped victims are typically unable to return immediately because they often suffer from shame or experience social rejection after leaving their village with these male captors. For them, the border units serve as safehouses that provide shelter, counseling, an education and vocational training, according to Eidson.
The women within these units weave the Red Thread bracelets as a simple way to earn a supplemental income to provide for themselves and their families.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of commercial sex acts through the use of fraud, force, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such acts is under the age of 18.
“So much of our student population comes from Houston and that is one of the nation's leading hubs for this sort of activity,” said Eidson.According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 5 of the estimated 14,500 to 17,500 suspected victims of sex trafficking will pass through Houston. Harris County's I-10 serves as America's No. 1 route for these victims.
“These women and children are brought into the city not speaking any English or having any prior education, so they are forced to comply to sexual slavery just to save themselves from starvation,” said Eidson.
The Red Thread Movement was founded in 2009. Within three years, the movement has spread to more than 70 university campuses and is sponsored by more than 180 musicians.
In 2011, the Red Thread Movement was featured on CNN International for the station's worldwide Freedom Project.
Local women working to expose, eradicate human trafficking
by Michelle Esteban
SEATTLE -- The fastest growing industry in the world is human trafficking.
Every year more than two million children disappear, forced to work as sex and labor slaves.
It's a human rights issue that a group of local filmmakers, including Seattle's own Jane Charles, are trying to expose.
"I feel like these are all our children, whether Cambodia, India, Russia they are all our children we can not turn a blind eye to it anymore we have to create change," Charles said.
Charles and her team are making a movie based on a book called "Sold." The book examines the story of a girl named Lakshmi, who was sold to a pimp by her parents.
"These girls could be my daughter," Charles said. "They could be your daughter, could have been one of us."
Girls from any country and any city -- even Seattle -- are targets
"It is in our backyard. It's a huge problem," Charles said.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said Washington is especially vulnerable to human trafficking because of its international border with Canada, its abundance of ports and its dependency on agricultural workers.
But it's not just foreign girls who are victimized in Washington.
Noel used to work as a prostitute on a stretch of Aurora Avenue that's known as "The Track."
"It's where you go to find Johns, where you go to make money," she said.
Instead of working on The Track, Noel now patrols it, hoping to rescue minors who are at the mercy of their pimps.
Noel said she's met dozens of underage girls who prefer to advertise on Seattle Weekly's Backpage for hookups.
She now works for Seattle's Youth Care Bridge Program, which offers housing, support and a way out for sexually-exploited minors.
"There are girls being victimized every hour," she said.
At just 16-years old, Noel became one of those girls when her boyfriend turned out to be her pimp.
"I was terrified of him," she said. "It was like I loved him but I was also terrified of him."
The two met randomly in a grocery store parking lot.
"They're everywhere and they're looking for girls to prey upon," she said.
Noel was an easy mark. After a fallout with her family, the teen was on her own and vulnerable.
"I was just really lost and when I met him it was like, wow, it was like meeting the president," she said. "He was telling me how beautiful I was, he loved me and that we'd have a great life together. We'd have money and I was going to get to travel the world."
Everything seemed normal, until he took her on a road trip to Los Angeles.
"He lured me there saying we were going on vacation, I was going to see Hollywood and I was going to be famous and all the things you dream about when you're young," Noel said.
She soon found out that it was all a lie.
"He took me to LA and I did not know I was going to be forced to work on Sunset Boulevard that night." she said. "He told me, 'You're going to go out and make some money or I'm going to hurt you really bad.' That was my first night out."
That continued for 13 long, miserable years until the night she almost died when a John turned violent.
" I knew I'd die out there. That time I was like, 'I'm done, I'm done with this,'' she said. "The police officer that picked me up said this is where we found the last five dead girls."
Noel and Lakhsmi are survivors, a testament to the human spirit and they are now dedicated to exposing an invisible crime and helping its youngest victims.
"I'm not ashamed or embarrassed my mission in life," Noel said. "The reason I'm alive and those Johns didn't kill me is because I'm here to help other girls."
KCBD INVESTIGATES: Children sold for sex in Lubbock
by Natasha Sweatte
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -
Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry and one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. But what exactly is human trafficking? It's a modern day form of slavery where victims are forced into sex.
There is a misconception that human trafficking is moving from one place to another and that it only occurs near the border. The reality is that it happens all over and the crime is growing here in Lubbock.
NewsChannel 11 investigated the issue further and learned that there is a local task force in the works. They have implemented a community needs assessment, to see what kind of assistance is needed in Lubbock. It's comprised of numerous local and federal agencies, dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking.
The task force is made up of the Lubbock Rape Crisis Center, Forensic Nurse Staffing of West Texas, Children's Advocacy Center, the Criminal District Attorney's office, the City Attorney's office, Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock, Hockley and Terry County Sheriff's Departments, Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center, Rep. Frullo's office, Susie Hance (TTU & Texas NCMEC), FBI, U.S. Probations office, U.S. Assistant Attorney's office, Cochran County Probation, ICE, Junior League of Lubbock Lubbock & Crosby County Adult supervision; Sex Offender Probation Officer and of course, concerned citizens. These agencies started to take notice after Rep. John Frullo and other lawmakers shed light on the issue at the legislative level.
"One of every five people in human trafficking are in Texas at some point," Rep.Frullo said. "The perpetrator is the same person as the victim in these crimes," Frullo explained, "so we really don't have a good system of identifying what is happening."
NewsChannel 11 learned that children are being sold for sex here in the South Plains.
Peggy Galanos leads a prayer group where people focus their prayers to help victims of sex trafficking. Galanos is also a member of the task force and said some local parents have sold their children for "survival sex."
"There are girls in Lubbock who have been sold," Galanos said. "I know of a situation of where a mom sold her daughter for dates to put food on the table. That is a form of trafficking."
In 2010, Megan Lee Norman and Chanze Pringler were arrested at the Overton hotel. Norman was charged with child pornography and prostitution. KCBD NewsChannel 11 reached out to Norman in prison. We told her about our investigation and how we wanted to share her story.
Norman said she got into the trade while underage. "Most are subjected into sex slavery before they are of age," said Norman. "I was 15."
The task force is working to tackle the issue from all angles. Former Hockley County Detective, Cassondra Smith, now works as a Case Manager with the Rural Intervention and Outreach Project.
Smith said, "The very nature of minor domestic sex trafficking is so complex, from identification to prosecution, that there has to be a huge support system in place for the victims for them to follow through with the process and put an end to their victimization."
That's one of the many issues that the task force is looking to fix. Right now, there are an estimated 300,000 victims in the United States, yet only 1,000 beds for victims. If the needs assessment determines that a safe house would be beneficial, task force members are looking to build something similar to the Freedom Place in Houston.
Rep. Frullo agrees. "Of course we need a place where they can go, a safe house that they can be safe and taken out of the environment," Frullo said. "A lot of the people end up in these situations because that is all they have to go to; they may be runaways."
Norman was one of those runaways. She says she was in an abusive relationship and when she tried to get out of the situation, her life was threatened. "He would always tell me that if I left him, that he would kill me," Norman said.
Sexual assault nurse examiner Donna Neel, R.N. is also a member of the task force. She said "quite often they identify with their pimp as a boyfriend, so they tend to not disclose that they are a victim of human trafficking."
Sometimes teens can become victims of human trafficking just by surfing the internet. Officials advise parents to monitor their children's social media interaction.
"They're befriended by a trafficker and of course, that trafficker encourages them," said Neel. "Home is not good, they often run away and within 48 hours they're preyed upon by these traffickers."
It is a reality that local churches have caught onto.
Aldersgate Church Student pastor Sylas Politte is a face for the A21 Campaign. Supported by Trinity Church, the church is one of many to collaborate in events that raise awareness and help educate the public about the growing problem of human trafficking.
They're hosting "Running to Rescue" 1K/5K at Vintage Township on June 9, a fundraiser for the A21 Campaign. In April they sent out makeup kits to victims in safe houses to help boost their confidence. Experience Life Church also hosted an event last month, where they shared the documentary Nefarious, produced by Exodus Cry, which is about human trafficking across the globe.
The task force is still working to figure out what the local needs are here in the South Plains.
More girls pulled into sex trafficking
by Morse Diggs ATLANTA -
More than 300 girls each month in Georgia are being pulled into the sex for cash business.
Advocates say that although the young people are being forced to look the part -- dressed in high heels and skin tight clothing -- they are children who need to be rescued.
The sex market which targets vulnerable girls is driven by two things: money and the appetites of some men.
The customers create the demand for the business. Females -- with or without a pimp -- are the product.
FOX 5's Morse Diggs stopped one woman who said she's been on the street for years to ask about children. She claimed that no girls worked her area.
"We run those off," she said.
Law enforcement doesn't like the trend showing an uptick in cases.
Officers from all over the nation came to Atlanta for a conference on trafficking of minors.
In this state, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is leading the law enforcement fight to reduce child trafficking.
Agent John Whitaker says a lot of times, first contact is made on the street. He says a "John" -- the customer -- or a pimp can turn the head of a desperate or impressionable girl before her family recognizes anything is wrong.
"They need to get their child's password, look into their Facebook and Myspace accounts behind them, be able to check up on what they're doing and be absolutely who they're in communication with," said Whitaker. "Like they might send them a web came or they might send them a cell phone that would allow them to have private conversation with the child that the parent wouldn't know about."
Offenders will shop for girls on the internet.
GBI agent Sandra Putnam said parents should tell their child to set the settings on their social media sites so it's not viewable by everyone.
There are also non-law enforcement efforts working with juvenile authorities aimed at catching girls before they get turned out into the sex-for-cash lifestyle.
When Keisha Head talks to an at-risk girl such as a runaway or a victim of past sex abuse, the counselor usually gets their attention. Head has lived the life.
At the age of 17, after a year of serving her pimp, Head got the opportunity to flee.
Youth Spark coordinator Jennifer Swain says at-risk girls can be saved, but she says society must see the red flags, like truancy or inappropriate sexual behavior.
"To get those girls, who have sometimes the same red flags as the actual victims, but they have not yet had sex for money or came under the control of a pimp," said Swain.
Area district attorneys often team up with the U.S. attorney for prosecution as they are able to get stiffer penalties for the offenders.
More Time for Justice
Hawaii significantly strengthened its protections against child sexual abuse last month when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a measure
extending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits filed by child victims. At least as important, it opens a one-time two-year window to allow victims to file suits against their abusers even if the time limit had expired under the old law.
Like similar laws in California and Delaware, the Hawaii measure recognizes some wrenching realities. It can take many years, even decades, before child abuse victims are emotionally ready to come forward and tell their stories in court. But by then, they may be barred from suing by the statute of limitations. For example, many suits against the Catholic Church have been blocked because the church's covering up for pedophile priests made it hard for victims to come forward until long past the time limit for bringing civil claims.
Hawaii's new law allows child victims to bring suits up to the age of 26 (it was 20), or three years from the time the victim realizes the abuse caused injury. The law's leading opponent was the Roman Catholic Church, which has been working hard to defeat statute of limitations reform across the country.
Lobbying by the church recently succeeded in blocking reform in Pennsylvania. But lawmakers in Massachusetts seem ready to follow Hawaii's example by passing similar reforms.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet indicated that he would support a measure sponsored by Margaret Markey in the Assembly to lift the statute of limitations for one year for civil lawsuits involving child sex abuse. After that year, an accuser would have 10 years after turning 18 to make a claim, instead of five years, which is the current law. Mr. Cuomo has voiced concern about fading memories and missing evidence, but those concerns need to be balanced with justice for victims and the need to stop abusers.
Like measures in other states, the Markey bill requires that a victim obtain a certificate from a mental health professional to show there is a reasonable basis to believe the abuse occurred before a suit can go forward.
Getting the measure through the State Senate would be an uphill climb; previous attempts have failed, and Republican leaders have again vowed to stop it. Cardinal Timothy Dolan has made defeating statute of limitations reform one of his top legislative priorities. Mr. Cuomo's strong leadership will be needed if New York is to match Hawaii's accomplishment any time soon.
Child proection advocates decry Sandler's new film
by Doug Ireland direland
New Hampshire's Adam Sandler is known for making movie audiences laugh.
But when his latest film, "That's My Boy," opens next month, not everybody will be laughing. Some people are outraged and calling for the film to be pulled from theaters.
They say the movie glamorizes sexual relationships between children and their teachers. Trailers for the film depict a 13-year-old boy who impregnates his teacher. That boy then grows up to become the character played by Sandler, who raised the baby after the teacher was imprisoned.
The idea of Hollywood releasing such a film has angered people across the country, especially child rights advocates and survivors of child sexual abuse.
They include widely acclaimed psychiatrist and writer Dr. Keith Ablow of Newbury and Robert Brown of Chester, who has recounted his abuse as a child for national audiences.
The movie was filmed by Sandler's company, Happy Madison Productions, and is being distributed by Columbia Pictures through Sony Pictures. Some scenes were shot in Peabody last year.
It's described as a comedy, but there's nothing humorous about an adolescent being manipulated into having sex with an adult, Ablow said.
"It isn't funny," he said. "It's a tragedy to have that happen."
Ablow, who has psychiatric offices in Massachusetts and New York, is also a writer and medical expert for Fox News. His recent column on the subject asks that the movie not be shown in theaters.
"It would be a great sign of corporate responsibility," he said.
But that's probably not going to happen, Ablow said.
An employee for Happy Madison declined to comment Friday, referring calls to Sandler's publicist. She then hung up when asked the publicist's name.
Ablow's column is receiving support from followers online, including Harry Crouch.
Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men, said he agrees with Ablow and others who say the film must be pulled because it sends the wrong message to society.
Crouch said it's especially insulting that the movie opens June 15 — Father's Day.
"That is horrendous," he said. "How is that a gift to dad?"
Crouch said many members of his organization are men who were sexually abused as children. His organization plans to contact Hollywood.
"We're not happy with the movie and I feel sorry for the people who have to see it and have it thrown in their faces," Crouch said.
Brown, 51, is one of those people. He said he was sexually abused by teenaged boys in his neighborhood beginning when he was 7.
"The Sandler movie is glorifying statutory rape," he said.
Brown, a child rights advocate, has recounted his abuse as a child with national audiences through the Internet. They include pieces published by such organizations as The Good Men Project and an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."
The film gives young viewers the false impression that it's acceptable for adults to have sexual relationships with children, Brown said.
He spoke of the Pamela Smart case, a school employee from Derry who had her husband killed in order to be with her teenage lover.
Brown said he still suffers from the trauma of sexual abuse more than 40 years ago. He is rallying opposition to the film's showing through the Internet, including Facebook.
Brown also plans to contact theater companies, such as Loews, and ask that they not show the film.
"I'm going to be putting pressure on them to denounce the film and to scrap it," he said. "At least maybe they can shorten its run."
An employee at Loews in Methuen declined to comment. She referred inquiries to cinema company's national headquarters, which did not return a call for comment.
Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, also agrees the film should not be shown.
"I absolutely, totally support the notion of pulling this from the theaters," she said. "There is nothing funny about this. I can't believe Sandler would go ahead and make such a crude movie."
Local group is there for victims of abuse and sexual assault
by JENNIFER A. BOWEN
It isn't a 9-to-5 kind of job.
The calls come in at all hours of the day and night and volunteers go the moment the call comes in. The requests for volunteers come from law enforcement personnel or hospital staff about a woman, or child, at the hospital or police station who has been sexually assaulted.
Volunteers with the nonprofit agency, Call for Help Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit in East St. Louis, are on call 24/7 and ready to respond immediately when a sexual assault victim reports the crime.
They arrive to help the victim through the evidence gathering process, provide comfort and serve as advocates for the victim during police interviews and with medical personnel. Those volunteers help more than 100 assault victims every year in the metro-east.
"Sexual assault of adults and children remains a serious concern in our community," said Mindy Stratmann, program manager of the Call for Help Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit.
More than 300 forcible rapes were reported to police in 2009 in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, and more than 130 cases of child sexual abuse in the metro-east in 2010 were substantiated by the Illinois Dept. of Children & Family Services, Stratmann added.
The organization has 23 volunteers who respond to the calls, Stratmann said. Staff at the unit also respond to calls when volunteers are unable to. Volunteers are asked to cover two shifts a month, which are usually overnight shifts.
"We depend on volunteers," she said. "And we don't have enough."
Volunteers, and staff, must attend 40 hours of sexual assault training provided by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Marissa Smith, an sexual assault victim advocate with the organization's Granite City office, said a training session was recently held at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Twenty people signed up. Only four actually attended the training.
"Once they realized what it all required, they decide it's not something they want to do," she said. "Our volunteers are usually very compassionate people who really care and want to help out and do something that will change the world."
Being a sympathetic shoulder and an advocate for a sexual assault victim can be emotionally trying.
"Emotionally, some people who want to volunteer can't handle what they see and hear and experience at the hospitals," Stratmann said.
Jackie Smith, an advocate and educator with the East St. Louis satellite office, concurred.
"Sometimes it's hard to deal with the abuse itself," she said. "When you meet a victim who has been raped by her own dad. ... I never knew one human being could be so mean to another human being. Seeing a child who has been abused is the worst thing for me. Kids are supposed to play outside in the dirt and with dogs and to go in and see a kid beat up and abused. It's hard to see."
Despite a growing open advocacy and education about sexual assault, the volunteers and staff with Call For Help Inc. still deal with quite a few victims who blame themselves for the crime committed against them.
"We live in a culture where the victim blames herself," Stratmann said. "'Why did you wear that?' What were you thinking?' 'You kissed him first.' It's so ingrained in our society that people don't even realize they are doing it and that sexual abuse is the most underreported crime there is. Children are even blamed for the abuse against them. This is something people don't want to talk about and we, as a society, need to talk about it. We have to get rid of the shame behind it."
Nationally, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Only about 54 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
"Rape is such an ugly word and people don't want to talk about it," said Sylvia Harrell, a counsel in the organization's East St. Louis office. "Ninety-eight percent of rapes happen with someone the victim knows and it's harder for people to talk about because it is someone they know. Rape is all about power and control. It's not about sex or pleasure -- it's having power and control over that person."
Part of the organization's mission is to educate the public about sexual assault and abuse prevention, Smith said. Educators go in to schools to teach children about good touch/bad touch, date rape and preventing sexual assault. Each educational session is tailored to the age of the audience.
"Every time I go to a school I'll get three or four kids who come up to me and tell me something is happening, or want to know if something is normal and some ask if they can call me," Smith said. "I feel like I am making a difference.
Cindy Pettibone is a child and adolescent counselor with the organization and she knows that she is making a difference in the lives of children who have been sexually abused. She hears about a wide variety of abuse, from bad touching by family members, to rape on the school bus or being touched inappropriately by peers.
"A lot of times, I am the only one advocating for them," she said. "It can be heartbreaking because sometimes they'll say 'If I cry while I tell you, please don't laugh at me."
The organization reaches about 20,000 people every year through it's education program.
"Just talk to your kids," Stratmann said. "We do education and outreach, but it starts at home. Kids will tell an average of seven people before someone believes them or does anything. Adults should listen to the child in a nonjudgmental way. Children do not lie about sexual abuse. Observe any behavioral or physical changes that could indicate something is wrong. Report abuse to law enforcement and other authorities. Continue reporting until action is taken."
The organization doesn't only need volunteers to respond to calls, they just need volunteers.
"We have a lot of areas we need volunteers in," Stratmann said. "It would be lovely to have a guy educator to talk about sexual assault so they can see that it's not just women who want to stop rape, it's men, too."
The organization currently has no male volunteers, Stratmann said.
For more information about the unit, about how to become a volunteer or if you know someone who may need the services of the organization, visit www.callforhelpinc.org or call 397-0968.
'Voices for 3,000' advocates victims to report abuse
by Eva Green
Advocates from various agencies around Chicago stood in the rain on April 30 at Daley Plaza amid 3,000 stuffed animals. The rows of children's toys symbolized the unreported cases of child abuse on the last day of National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We are asking the adults to be the voice for those children, (and) if they see something to say something so those children can start the healing process,” said DePaul graduate Kathy Grzelak at the “Voices for 3,000” event.
Grzelak graduated from DePaul with a master's in counseling and now serves as the Chief Program Officer at the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center. (CCAC)
“The child does not have to tell their story multiple times in multiple places,” says Grzelak referring to the efforts of multiple partner organizations working together at the CCAC, an agency founded by former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1998.
The center's facility, located at 1240 S. Damen, opened in 2001 and partnered with several agencies that are on-site including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, and the Chicago Police Department.
Grzelak asks parents and mentors to advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse and describes there to be “shame and guilt particularly with male victims,” which she says constitute much of the cases that are not reported. Grzelak also referred to research on “the mind and body connection,” illustrated in the 2010 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
ACE data concludes significant trauma can have “long term health effects as well as psychological effects,” she says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ACE Study has found strong correlations between trauma and physical health problems including heart disease, liver disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study also confirmed the presence of psychological effects including depression, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies.
LaShanda Nalls, Director of Counseling Services at Rape Victim Advocates, says the first step in helping children coping with sexual abuse is to report it to the police or agencies that can offer support. “We do have a hotline being that we are not open after hours,” she says which is accessible 24 hours as day at 888-293-2080 to anyone who has experienced sexual violence.
CCAC says collaboration from various agencies is necessary to combat issues of child abuse and deliver services surrounding prevention and treatment for survivors of trauma. The agency also educates community members on signs of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Literature distributed at the event encourages people to beware of unexplained physical and behavioral changes that may be indicators of abuse.
CCAC defines sexual abuse as interaction that may or may not include physical contact. Various forms of abuse include “touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral genital contact, or sexual intercourse,” said CCAC literature. “Non-contact behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child's naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography.”
Warning signs of sexual abuse also include when a child cannot easily walk or sit-down at times, nightmares, bed-wetting, a change in appetite, running away or “demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior,” said CCAC. The agency also encourages people to look out for signs of neglect or parents or caregivers belittling or denying a child attention that is necessary to positive development.
Signs of physical abuse often include various markings on a child's body including bruises, burns, and cuts that may be present in a variety of sizes and patterns that sometimes resemble the objects used to inflict abuse. During 2011, CCAC and its partners provided investigation for 1,959 cases of reported child sexual abuse, 286 cases of reported extreme physical abuse, and 23 reports from witnesses of violence. Forensic work was also provided to 1,036 children and 1,800 families were given case management, referrals, and advocacy care.
The clinic has afforded more than 3,000 hours of therapy to families and has offered presentations to more than 1,000 people to educate the community about the warning signs of child abuse and resources that are available.
There were 299 cases of Criminal Sexual Assault and 237 accounts of Criminal Sexual Abuse reported in Chicago in the last 90 days according to Chicago Police Department Crime statistics.
Child neglect another problem for Sunland Park
by Brian Fraga
SUNLAND PARK — The alleged political corruption still unfolding in Sunland Park is not the only problem affecting this troubled border town.
In the past month, eight children have been removed from their parents' custody in Sunland Park because of neglect or abuse, said police, who have been busy investigating those cases with state social services case workers.
"Investigators have been coming across some pretty bad scenes," said Sunland Park Police Detective Amador Quintana, who added that most cases have started out as tips about drug activity in the home.
In one recent case, police obtained a warrant for a Sunland Park man suspected of storing marijuana at home. When the officers went to his house, Quintana said they found him smoking marijuana with three young children, all under 5 years old, inside the home.
"The house was filled with odor," Quintana said. "You could see the haze. The windows and doors were closed. Seeing the children in there, that was enough for us to go in and get them out of that environment while we conducted our (criminal) investigation."
On March 27, Sunland Park police detectives investigating a burglary said they found a couple living with their 2-year-old daughter in an abandoned tack room, with no running water or fresh air, next to horse stalls just inside the New Mexico state line.
Police also said they found drug paraphernalia in the room, as well as general unsafe living conditions. Authorities from the state
Children Youth and Families Department conducted a drug test and said the child had a high amount of methamphetamine in her system. Police arrested the child's parents last week.
"We go to houses and the houses are just disgusting," Quintana said. "You have safety hazards in them like hanging electrical wires. We have to get the kids out of there and into other homes because, unfortunately, they're being neglected."
The child neglect and abuse cases are not confined to any specific neighborhoods. Quintana said investigators have been finding those situations all over town.
"For some reason, the last two months, it's been really busy where we've been taking kids out of houses. It just keeps occurring here in Sunland Park," Quintana said.
Sunland Park Police Chief Jaime Reyes said those type of cases tend to occur in waves.
"We had gone a couple of months without any child abuse cases, and then all of a sudden, we get a whole bunch, back to back," Reyes said.
Enrique Neal, spokesman for the state Children Youth and Families Department, said short spikes in child abuse and neglect cases periodically occur. He said the Albuquerque area saw a rash of cases around New Year's Eve.
"Sometimes it happens with no rhyme or reason," said Neal, who also attributed CYFD's new hot line (1-855-333-SAFE or #safe on cell phones) with increasing reports of child abuse or neglect.
"We think what has happened is that we have done a better job as a state agency, but also as a community, of identifying kids who are already being abused," Neal said. "If we identify those kids, it means we are able to intervene in those families and provide support."
In cases where children are removed from the home, CFYD aims to reunify the children with their parents after the case worker believes that they will be safe. In the meanwhile, while CYFD works with the parents to address the safety concerns, the children are often put in other relatives' custody, or in foster homes.
In situations where the children cannot be returned to their parents for safety reasons, CYFD files for the parental rights to be terminated, and places the children in new permanent homes.
"Sometimes, it is just not safe for the child to return home. Those cases are unfortunate, but they do happen," Neal said.
However, in most instances, parents become overwhelmed by addictions or personal adversity, and are willing to work with authorities to get their children back, Quintana said.
"There was one case, where we found a woman smoking marijuana in front of her kids. She had just gotten divorced from her husband. She was illegal. She didn't know what to do. Her way to cope was drugs. She needed counseling herself. If she couldn't help herself, how can she help her kids?" said Quintana, who credited the "hard work" of CYFD case workers with assisting families in need.
"They're very dedicated to their jobs," Quintana said. "They don't get enough credit."
- To report child abuse, call 911 or the CYFD Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at (855) 333-SAFE (7233) or #SAFE from cell phone
- La Pinon Sexual Assault Recovery Services of Southern New Mexico's KidTalk Warmline, (575) 636-3636, e-mails to email@example.com
- The Child Crisis Center of Southern New Mexico, 999 W. Amador, Suite A, Las Cruces, will provide care for children 0-11 years of age, whose parents voluntarily surrender them to prevent abuse or neglect. Contact the the crisis center at (575) 525-1277.
Child abuse is 'everywhere' - including Cedar Grove and Verona
by MARIA KARIDIS
When Ania Marcinkiewicz was arrested in early April for allegedly assaulting her 8-week-old daughter at their Cedar Grove home - causing the baby a fractured skull and other injuries - many local residents expressed surprise that such an incident took place in a relatively quiet town.
"People think child abuse cases are unusual for places like Cedar Grove or Verona, but they're really not," said Essex County First Assistant Prosecutor and former Special Victims Unit Director Robert Laurino, a 30-year veteran specializing in child abuse cases. "You find it everywhere. You find it in every municipality, and you find it in every family setting."
Cases as severe as that of Marcinkiewicz's baby are not the norm for the child endangerment cases which do come before Cedar Grove and Verona police, both departments' chiefs said. Cedar Grove Police Chief Richard Vanderstreet dubbed it "by far the most serious of any investigations that we've had."
Since 2008, Cedar Grove officers have taken 16 reports of child endangerment, and Verona officers have taken five.
Reports in Cedar Grove ranged from three instances where a school official thought a student may have been excessively punished at home; a mother who left her 4- and 2-year old in the car while she went into CVS; a mother who allegedly threw a cell phone at her 10-year-old's face; a father who reprimanded his 9- and 7-year-old with a belt, causing a small bruise to one child; a father driving his pickup truck at high speed while his 11-year-old son was in the truck bed; and a father who was behind the wheel while under the influence of heroin, and in possession of it, with his 3-year-old in the car.
Cedar Grove's Marcinkiewicz, who was charged with one count of second degree aggravated assault and two counts of second degree endangering the welfare of a child, is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, May 7 before Judge Michael Ravin, said Essex County Prosecutors' spokeswoman Kathy Carter.
Details of her daughter's injuries and how they may have arisen are not being released by officials at this time.
About a week after she was arrested, Marcinkiewicz's bail was reduced from $300,000 to $100,000.
In Verona , outside of one report of a 5-year-old left in a car, the other four reports made to police since 2008 involved allegations of inappropriate touching, Verona Police Chief Doug Huber said. None of the accused adults were the parents of the children, but were either some sort of worker in the home or a distant relative, he added.
"The sex assault cases are difficult investigations because not only is it a young person involved, but because of the relationship we have in these small towns, chances are you know these people," Huber said. "There are very, very strict guidelines that we have to follow with these cases ... it doesn't matter who you are, there's no bending (of the rules)."
Among those rules are that local police departments must reach out to and work with Essex County 's child abuse unit whenever an investigation of child endangerment is warranted.
"A lot of times, the municipal police departments may not see that many child cases. So you really need someone that has some special expertise in dealing with these kinds of cases," Laurino said, citing how prosecutors are on-call 24-hours-a-day, and that they can immediately send out a nurse specializing in sex abuse examinations, if needed.
The bigger picture
Cases involving children are often all the more difficult to investigate due to communication barriers, Laurino said. Child victims may either lack the ability to speak, or the ability to articulate an incident clearly.
Should a case make it to court, a child has to be qualified as a witness, proving that they understand the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie, and that they can be punished for lying, Laurino said. Typically, a child has to be at least 5-years-old to even be considered as a witness in court.
"Without being able to rely on the child, investigations become much, much more intensive," he added.
Forensic evidence collection, interviews of family and friends, medical examinations and opinions of child abuse specialists are often used to fill in investigators' gaps.
A time lapse is often part and parcel of such investigations. Testing on forensic evidence can take several months to be complete. In sexual abuse cases where DNA samples are collected, for example, there is usually a three-month turnaround time from labs. Medical tests on a child can span weeks, subject to the availability of the doctors and medical facilities and consideration of the child's well-being.
"These incidents are usually not solved very, very quickly unless it's a clear case," Laurino said.
The standout case of his career, Laurino said, was an incident in Glen Ridge in the early 1990s when a 17-year-old girl with developmental disabilities was sexual abused by male students.
"It became a national story. And we've been able to change a lot of the laws, with a real recognition of victims with disabilities, as a result," Laurino said.
"The Glen Ridge case is another example of you can pretty much substitute any town's names when it comes to child abuse," he added. "A lot of times these cases are dealt with quietly, or by DYFS, so people don't hear about it."
Cases of physical child abuse, he said, are more prevalent in Essex County than sex abuse cases are, as are cases involving younger children versus older ones.
"Raising a young child can be very, very stressful and very challenging. Sometimes young parents don't have the coping skills to deal with it, manifesting to physical action against the child," Laurino said. County investigators work with Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) to provide anger management and parenting skills when necessary, he added.