Pennsylvania statute of limitations for abuse victims should be altered
by Patriot-News Editorial Board
Among the difficult realities of child sexual abuse is that victims might need years, even decades, to come to terms with their abuse.
It isn't until they deal with the emotional trauma of what happened to them that they then are ready to confront their abuser.
Unfortunately, our justice system is not set up to deal with this all-too-common occurrence.
Instead, there is a statute of limitations in place that only gives victims a certain amount of time to file a complaint, either civil or criminal.
If they come forward after that time period has expired, they are barred from going forward. We have seen this most prominently with accusations against priests in the Catholic Church.
This system not only does not allow victims to seek the justice they deserve, but it also protects the sexual abuser, whose identity otherwise might never become public.
This can mean allowing them to continue abusing others.
In the case of the allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, attorneys have heard from one man who can't press charges against Sandusky because he missed the statute of limitations cutoff by a mere nine months.
Elected officials have highlighted the need to protect victims of abuse in the aftermath of the Sandusky allegations. Gov. Tom Corbett even created the Task Force on Child Protection to look at Pennsylvania's child abuse laws and propose potential changes. It is expected to give its recommendations to the governor in November.
But one important way to protect victims doesn't need to wait for the task force. We can be sure we give them the ability to have their day in court — even if it is years after the abuse ended — by changing the current statute of limitations.
Pennsylvania should create a “window” or period of time when victims who are beyond the statute of limitations can come forward and file a suit against an abuser.
Other states, such as California, Delaware and most recently, Hawaii, have enacted such laws. When California opened a one-year window, 300 cases were opened.
In the commonwealth, advocates are looking for a one-time, two-year window.
Along with that, these advocates also want to move the age limit for filing civil cases from age 30, where it currently stands, to age 50, so that it matches the age limit in criminal cases.
So far, there has been great opposition to making the changes. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference opposes the move as does the insurance industry.
Some lawmakers want to wait until the governor's task force makes its recommendations before moving forward with legislation. We strongly disagree. An earlier commission spurred by priest abuses already looked at these issues and recommended similar changes.
This bill could move in tandem with the work the task force is doing. Because a report from the group will not be handed to the governor until near year's end, no changes are likely to happen until sometime in 2013. Victims of abuse should not wait that long for justice and lawmakers must act sooner on changes.
This is an issue that impacts many families. Studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused in our country. More than 90 percent are molested by someone they know. And these statistics are likely low because there is so much under-reporting of child sex crimes.
People who go through this abuse as children are a unique group of victims who deserve special consideration. The state should open the window for abuse victims as soon as possible — there is no reason to wait any longer.
Oklahoma State, feds in $50M dispute over child-welfare law
by GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Read the warning letter to DHS
Click here for the report grading laws on child abuse public disclosure laws
Read the survey of various laws by the U.S. Children's Bureau
Despite a recent federal agency's threat to withhold $50 million, no state has been warned or disciplined for releasing too much information after a child dies from abuse and neglect.
That same agency, the U.S. Children's Bureau, conducted a survey showing that at least 27 states have more liberal laws when it comes to disclosing documents to the public after such child deaths.
Also, the disagreement between Oklahoma officials and that federal agency is causing concern among national advocacy groups wanting more openness in child welfare systems.
House Speaker Kris Steele said Oklahoma lawmakers will fight any effort to punish the state for being too transparent.
"We have no intention of letting federal bureaucrats make decisions that are not in the best interest of Oklahoma's vulnerable children," Steele said.
"It would be appalling and unprecedented if the federal government withheld money for vulnerable children because a state was open and honest with the public. In the unlikely event that they do take that unprecedented step, we're fully prepared to assert our state's rights and do what is necessary to protect the taxpayer assets that protect Oklahoma children."
On May 9, the Dallas-based office of the U.S. Children's Bureau, which is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter to the state Department of Human Services stating that Oklahoma's current laws violated a federal confidentiality provision for abused and neglected children.
It warns officials it could withhold $50 million if the state does not change its practices.
The current law allows for the release of information after a child dies from abuse or neglect and the primary caregiver is criminally charged with causing the death.
At issue is how much information to release.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Training Act allows states to disclose "case" information after a child abuse death or near death.
The federal agency interprets "case" to mean only the incident causing the death. Oklahoma and other states allow for a review of all contacts between the agency and family prior to death.
"The difference is important, but 'case' does not mean 'last incident,' " said Noy Davis, legal consultant to First Star, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit advocating for abused and neglected children.
"The intent of the provision is clear, and it is to allow the public to get access to information when a child dies in order to make changes to prevent future and additional child deaths. This is the first we've heard of this kind of extremely limited interpretation.
"I would be surprised if this is actually what the agency is now interpreting and follows through with it. It goes against the legislative history and intent of the provision."
Having historical information is the foundation for reform, said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. He calls the agency's position "the worst kind of bureaucratic nonsense."
"If you just give a sliver of information - the last 48 hours of those children's lives, it's misleading," Nelson said. "It borders on being dishonest. It's a congressional mandate to do so according to this letter. I cannot believe Congress would have this in mind - to release a portion of information.
"The only effect would be to mislead or misinform the public. The only reason to have these laws is to hold an agency accountable. How can we hold an agency accountable if we have only half of the information?"
The federal agency is under the leadership of President Obama, who has repeatedly made promises of "unprecedented" levels of openness in government. The administration has also cut off access to mug shots of federal inmates.
A request for comment from the spokesman for the Children's Bureau was not returned.
The Tulsa World submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Monday seeking information about other states receiving similar letters and about sanctions imposed for releasing too much information. The request asks for a review of 10 years, which covers when the provision was implemented.
A response on Thursday stated that no state in the past decade has received a warning letter and no state has been disciplined in any way for violations of the confidentiality laws.
There are four measures pending in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that would lead to reforms of DHS, ranging from abolishing the oversight commission to strengthening criteria for employment as a child welfare worker.
House Bill 3135 is intended to open more records and notify the governor and legislative leaders of initial investigative findings in those cases. That bill should be ready by next week.
"We appreciated the federal agency offering input," Steele said. "We just think they're wrong. It's a prime example of misguided federal overreach into state affairs. There is no precedent for what they're claiming.
"Our suspicion is that the federal agency's conclusion was based upon the need to justify mid-level bureaucratic busywork, rather than any actual precedent or intent."
Steele said the bill will be sensitive to "personal privacy issues" and will not open entire case files.
"At the end of the day, the taxpayers who fund this system deserve all the insight possible under the law into how it is working," Steele said.
'Undermine the states' ability'
Oklahoma was given a B- in a report earlier this year conducted by the San Diego School of Law in California in partnership with First Star.
The groups have been pushing for more federal guidance to ensure that states release information to adequately monitor child welfare systems.
"Ideally, we learn from our errors," the report states. "Ideally, we have some accountability, particularly among public officials whose decisions may matter so profoundly to children who have no other protective remedy. In a democracy that has sensibly provided many checks for accused parents, we have only public disclosure and debate as a check on behalf of endangered children who are not protected."
Oklahoma's grade was hurt by its "severely restrictive conditional language," referring to requirement that the perpetrator must be a caregiver and be criminally charged before disclosing records.
In addition, the Children's Bureau - the agency threatening Oklahoma - has a survey of child welfare state laws as of June 2010 in a report by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
It shows that at least 27 states and the District of Columbia disclose information in all child abuse and neglect cases. Five states will release documents when a person has been arrested or criminally charged with abuse or neglect.
Three states, including Oklahoma, require the alleged perpetrator of the abuse to be criminally charged before releasing information. Georgia and South Carolina are more restrictive, releasing information on deaths only for children in state custody.
After a death, information may come from different sources, such as law enforcement, court records and medical examiner reports. Thirteen states allow for disclosure to clarify or correct the records released by other agencies.
"There has been very definite progress made on this issue in terms of the release of information," Davis said. "So, the letter's interpretation goes against the whole intent of the provision. To do so would undermine the states' ability to evaluate what has happened when a child dies or nearly dies."
Examples of information from DHS records in child deaths
*Maggie May Trammel:
After the 10-day-old Bartlesville girl died in November 2010 after being placed in a washing machine, DHS reports were released. Records showed the mother - Lindsey Fiddler - had six previous contacts with child welfare, most for drug-related incidents. One report indicated Fiddler had taken so many prescription drugs while pregnant that she could not speak clearly or walk stairs. She pleaded guilty and received a split 30-year term on a child-neglect charge and four years in prison on a second-degree manslaughter charge, running concurrently.
David Eugene Bridgeman and Paula Christine Najar were involved in two child welfare investigations before the May 2011 death of a toddler in their Glenpool home. The 21-month-old was a niece of Bridgeman and was temporarily staying with the couple. Bridgeman had told police he was frustrated about potty training her. He indicated he hit the child about the face and body, picked her up and threw her across the room onto a bed several times and then picked her up and threw her to the floor. In April, a jury found Bridgeman guilty of child-abuse murder and sentenced him to two life prison sentences, one without the possibility of parole. Najar pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect and permitting child abuse. She will be sentenced June 11.
Emma Beth Warmerbrodt:
DHS offered the family services in the months prior to the blunt-force trauma death Feb. 25 of the 15-month-old Dewey girl. The referral was for diaper rash, and the family did not show up for services. Marcus Trinidad Mitchell, 22, was arrested on a complaint of first-degree murder. His wife, Ashley Ann Mitchell, 23, was arrested on complaints of enabling child abuse and child neglect. Juanachellee Lanyl Fitch, 48, was arrested on a complaint of accessory. A preliminary hearing is set for June 19 for all defendants.
Was abducted and killed by her stepfather in Cleveland County. Her mother was found dead months before and a search began for the 7-year-old girl and her stepfather, Lester Hobbs. Their bodies were found in March 2010. DHS records showed a history of contacts with the family. DHS had an agreement in place with the natural father to keep the girl away from Hobbs. This agreement came after the agency had tried to keep the girl and her sibling with Hobbs. Information came from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth as an oversight agency. Because Hobbs killed himself and was not charged with a crime, DHS denied public release of records.
Before the 17-month-old died of a brain injury last May in Oklahoma City, her mother - Tiffany D. Hicks - tested positive for PCP when the girl's half-sibling was born. When DHS interviewed relatives and witnesses, no one voiced child safety concerns about her or her boyfriend, Deandre Wells. DHS put the family on a safety plan that included living with a family member and getting community-based services. Wells, 21, is charged with first-degree murder and child neglect in Oklahoma County with a trial set for June 18.
Internet, Censorship, Sexual Abuse and the Ultra - Orthodox Jewish Community
by Vicki Polin
Tomorrow evening will be the second major rally of the civil rights movement for ultra-orthodox Jewish survivors of child abuse and neglect. Together, survivors, family members and other support people will be gathering across the street from Citi Field in New York, to protest the internationally publicized gathering of ultra-orthodox (haredi) Jewish rabbis and male community members -- to discuss “the perceived evils of the internet” in hopes of keeping children safe.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the internet gathering has drawn a great deal of criticism, not only because the gathering excludes women, but also because the meeting will cost nearly $2 million dollars, funds in which many feel could have been spent to help struggling families.
Judy Braun, author of the book Hush, believes that exposure of the truth, regarding the “Internet Asifa” is extremely important to the haredi world. She stated that the rabbonim and other community leaders believe “a wholesome lie is better then any broken truth; because denial must be protected at all costs; because ignorance is sacred in a world whose existence depends on it”
A vast number of adults who walked away from the religious world tend to agree with Ms. Braun. All too often, those who walk away from any religious community , no matter what faith . . . are often survivors of child neglect, emotional, physical and or sexual abuse.
Many of those protesting tomorrow evening come from a multitude of different hasidic and haredi communities including such places as the Satmar community of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY); Skver community of New Square, NY; the yeshivish world of Baltimore, MD; and places as far away as the haredi community of Ramot Polin in Jerusalem, Israel.
Ari Mandel, one of the rally organizers, stated he left the ultra-orthodox community of Monsey, NY about six years ago. He left because he wanted to learn such things as math and other sciences.
Mr. Mandel stated he was angered by the fact the haredi community could spend a few million dollars on the internet event (which includes the cost of renting out Citi Field Stadium). "You can spend all the time and money protesting the Internet and you can't get worked up about child molestation?"
Several others involved with tomorrow's survivor rally shared -- they too felt their rabbis, teachers and other community leaders broke a sacred trust of being honest and truthful when it came to keeping kids safe and by NOT doing the right thing when it came to dealing with child abuse and keeping the community safe from predators.
Many professionals and activists in the anti-rape movement that work within Jewish communities, believe the banning of the internet in haredi households is just another way to control a group of people from being educated consumers, having access to the secular news media, googling accurate information regarding sexual abuse, along with other topics and mostly from being able to networking with others to compare notes on an international basis.
Just about every survivor interviewed shared they left their childhood communities because of hypocrisy, and for many after their disclosures of neglect/abuse to family members, their rabbi's or other community members, they found themselves being shunned -- not only by community members, but also in many instances, by family members too.
Professionals who work with survivors of cults have been quietly watching and privately discussing how creating a ban of the internet by religious leaders ould be considered something cult leaders would organize. We all need to be asking ourselves, why a group of religious leaders would want to take away an individuals and or a nation's access to free thought and the ability to utilize their own critical thinking?
Suggested by the author:
Vicki Polin, Skokie Sexual Abuse Examiner
Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, with over twenty-five years of experience working in the Anti-Rape movement. She has an undergraduate degree in Women's Studies from Roosevelt University, and a Masters Degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN
Bill McGuire has a passion for helping young abuse victims - and for arming kids with tools to keep themselves safe
by Barbara Blake
Bill McGuire is a kind, twinkly eyed grandfather who spends his days as a champion of innocent children who are sexually and otherwise physically abused by trusted adults.
As the executive director of the nonprofit agency Child Abuse Prevention Services since 2002, McGuire has a stellar resume that includes 37 years working in the criminal justice system and serving as a Scout leader, PTA president, civic association leader, reading volunteer and member of myriad boards and commissions.
So it comes as a surprise to learn that this pillar of the community with a charming Louisiana drawl was once a rebellious hot-rodder and drag racer who ended up in juvenile court for minor indiscretions. He told the officials there that he would one day come back to run the place — which he did.
Or that he was a devoted member of New Orleans' beatnik scene in the '50s, thriving in a $35-a-month apartment just off Bourbon Street. At the time, he thought nothing of hitchhiking to San Francisco to visit the City Lights Bookstore to hear readings from psychedelic gurus Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac.
Yes, in this man's hands rests the physical and mental health and well-being of our community's youngest and most vulnerable citizens. And many would say this is a very good thing.
“Bill McGuire has amazed me with his energy and determination to do whatever it takes to prevent child abuse — and he has brought hope to those who have been abused through the services his agency provides,” said CAPS board secretary Glenda Bailey.
“Bill's smile and warm heart are always there when a child or anyone walks into the agency, and Bill and his wife, Roi, who helps out part time, have blessed many abused children with gifts and their love and compassion,” Bailey said.
To McGuire, a passion for prevention and treatment of child abuse is just the latest chapter in a long life of service to his communities, and the result of his simple motto for living:
“Work hard, have a little fun and try to leave things a little better.”
Roots in service
As a youngster, it never occurred to McGuire that he would one day do heart-wrenching work with children who have been raped, beaten, tumbled inside clothes dryers, stabbed, burned and otherwise betrayed by adults who were entrusted with their care.
But with his family background, it seems unlikely that he could have escaped a career in some form of public service.
His parents, Dave and Katy McGuire, were both newspaper reporters, at what were then the New Orleans Item and the New Orleans States.
“It was really neat growing up around all the newspaper people in the '40s and '50s,” McGuire said, noting that, by social osmosis, a young person surrounded by journalists is likely to pick up some critical thinking skills and an ability to look at all sides of an issue.
His father was one of the “Reveille Seven,” a group of Louisiana State University newspaper staffers who were expelled from LSU by then-Sen. Huey Long, the much-reviled “Kingfish” who objected to their criticism of his political positions.
His mother, one of the first female reporters in the '30s, was still writing a weekly column on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when she died at age 80. And his younger brother, Jack, was also a reporter before becoming public relations director for the city of New Orleans and later a long-time savings and loan president and four-term city councilman in Mandeville, La.
Young Bill, after high school graduation and the unexpected death of his father at age 49, told his mother that he didn't want to go to college.
“I thought I'd travel around doing land surveying, building roads, maybe the Alaska pipeline, and then start a land survey company,” McGuire recalled. “My mother cried, and asked, ‘What would your father think?' and put some Catholic guilt on me.”
So the good son went off to Tulane, Louisiana Tech, the University of New Orleans and finally LSU, graduating in 1964 with degrees in psychology and English. He did postgraduate work at Loyola University and the Jackson School of Law.
“All the time having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do other than work with people,” he said.
An accidental career
Still living off Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, he spent the first six months after college as a Volkswagen salesman, a personal interviewer, a library assistant and an English teacher “with thoughts of writing the great American novel, as I lived not far from where William Faulkner once did.”
During that time, he ran into a college friend who had graduated a semester earlier and gotten into the field of probation and parole, which he said was stimulating and rewarding. McGuire didn't give it much thought.
One day, he rode his bike over to the then-new Royal Orleans Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, which was looking for a part-time bartender for its rooftop garden bar, in hopes he could supplement his teaching income by $300 a month.
He was early for the interview, so he strolled across the street to wander through the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Building, which coincidentally housed a state probation and parole office. McGuire stopped in to see his college friend and chatted for awhile.
“And thus began a 37-year career with local, state and federal agencies — totally unplanned,” McGuire said. “Although I had told those folks (in probation and parole) that I was going to come back and run it, and I did.”
For almost 40 years, McGuire left his mark on the criminal justice system in the Gulf Coast area, serving as assistant director of the award-winning Jefferson Parish Department of Juvenile Services, director of the New Orleans Juvenile Court, a federal probation officer and director of a nonprofit community youth services bureau.
Along the way, he received numerous national and local awards, including The Best in Business from the American Correctional Association, the Dunbar Award for Distinguished Service, the Wydra Award for extraordinary contributions, and was a member of professional associations on the local, state and national level.
Watergate and the KKK
During those years, he worked with cases involving the Republic of New Africa, the Dixie Mafia, Mayor Charles Evers of Fayette, the triple murders of civil rights workers, Ku Klux Klan bombers and Watergate.
One case that sticks in his mind involved a young Klansman in a three-man hit squad under Sam Bowers, imperial wizard of the White Knights of the KKK.
“He told me in the course of a pre-sentence investigation how he was going to place a bomb at the home of a black Tougaloo College professor but didn't because there was a dog in the yard,” McGuire said soberly, shaking his head.
He also remembers being at the federal prison camp in Montgomery, Ala., in the late 1970s and seeing former Attorney General John Mitchell walking across the prison yard in his khaki uniform, serving his sentence for his role in the Watergate scandal.
“He was in a foul mood, just having been denied parole that day,” McGuire said. “And I can still remember mailing my pre-sentence investigation on Fred Larue (another Watergate figure) to (Judge) John Sirica and wondering how on earth we in a small, two-person federal probation office in Jackson, Miss., were involved in Watergate.”
He never did author the great American novel, becoming the only unpublished member of his family.
“If I had any chance of writing,” he said with a cheerful smile, “it was probably ruined when I worked for the federal government and learned federalese.”
Passion for children
Literature's loss is Buncombe County's gain. Through McGuire's leadership at CAPS, thousands of children have learned how to protect themselves through its school-based prevention programs, and hundreds more have found healing through therapy after suffering abuse.
He spends his days doing executive director tasks — raising funds, applying for grants, collaborating with other agencies, endless paperwork, conference calls, overseeing his staff therapists and community educators.
But he never fails to come out of his office to welcome and comfort the children who by no fault of their own find themselves in the CAPS office. And his big heart extends far beyond a friendly greeting to a frightened child.
“Bill has a very gentle way about him,” said Valerie Collins, executive director of Helpmate, the nonprofit domestic violence agency in Buncombe County.
“What always comes through that gentleness is his deep passion for the community and for the safety and care of its children.”
Shannon McTeague-Pospishil, one of the four part-time CAPS therapists, remembers her first case after joining the nonprofit three years ago, involving two little boys who lived in extreme poverty and had no beds to sleep in.
“I couldn't figure out what to do — beds are expensive, and you can't just go out and buy them,” she said. “Bill didn't bat an eye. He didn't go into, ‘We don't have the funding for that.' He just said, ‘What do we need to do?'
“And that's who Bill is — he will figure it out, no matter what it is, and he'll go the extra mile and then some to make sure kids are provided for,” Teague-Pospishil said. “He sees the need, and he's all over it.”
A couple of days later, McGuire called her and said, “We've got the beds.”
“I know he dug into his own pockets to get those beds,” she said. “Bill has the business sense, but he also has the hands-on, direct-service sense. And it changes the lives of these kids.”
John Lauterbach, longtime executive director of the non-profit Caring for Children, agreed that McGuire has an amazing ability “to look for resources when other people might give up.”
“When Bill first got to CAPS, the agency was having a hard time financially, and he managed to string together a number of resources so that not only did his program survive, but it was able to generate new programming and serve a lot more kids and families,” Lauterbach said.
Plus, he said, “Bill's just a nice guy — he's just good people.”
Never giving up
McGuire said he is sustained by the good people around him, not only his co-workers and fellow nonprofit leaders but his “wife and soul mate,” Roi, an artist/potter, his two sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.
Roi came to the family when McGuire was single dad to Bill, then 12, and Brian, then 10, and she moved in next door to them in Mandeville, La. After nine years of what McGuire laughingly calls a “long and proper engagement,” “Bill, Brian and I married her” in 1993.
McGuire is clearly smitten with his wife all these years later, and beams with pride when he speaks of his sons. Bill, now 46, is chief trial attorney with the Capital Division of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, and Brian, 44, is associate director of development at Virginia Tech.
He remembers with a hint of embarrassment his early efforts at parenting.
“I was kind of young and immature when my first son was born, and I didn't get any directions to go with him,” he said. “I took a parenting class — the only dad there — and learned a lot, and it came in handy when later I found myself a single parent.”
As a testament to his evolution as a father, McGuire remembers “taking my first son home from the hospital driving 10 miles an hour,” he said. “Threw the second son in my VW bug and hit it.”
At age 71, he enjoys hiking, canoeing, camping, bicycling, reading, eating and listening to Roi learn to play the fiddle. Not so much their dog, Gus.
“At first, I came home one evening and she was playing — screeching — and Gus was at her feet with his paws over his ears,” McGuire said. “He doesn't do that anymore, so either she's getting better or he's getting used to it.”
As McGuire savors his happy life as a husband, father and grandfather, he is never unaware of other families who find themselves in the midst of hell after abuse is discovered.
“We would love to work ourselves out of existence, but unfortunately that is not going to happen,” McGuire said. “So, we will keep educating children and families to reduce and prevent abuse, and keep offering crisis intervention and counseling for those who need it.
“Our hope is that one day all children, our most precious yet most vulnerable asset, can have a safe, healthy life free from abuse, and the opportunity to reach his or her potential,” he said. “That would be the best of all possible worlds.”
Former sex slave warns of human trafficking
by Chelsea Miller
LORAIN — Theresa Flores spoke to a room of community activists and young girls — girls not much older than she was when she became involved in the secret world of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person for sexual or labor purposes, Flores explained.
According to Flores's book, “The Slave Across the Street,” Flores herself was exploited when she was tricked and blackmailed into sexual slavery at the age of 15.
Flores said she was raped, blackmailed and forced into a prostitution ring while a high school student in Detroit. Her story was unusual — her middle-upper-class parents had no idea what their daughter was doing after school.
Her story is not uncommon, Flores said.
According to Flores, Ohio is the fifth leading state for human trafficking. Lorain, she said, is ideal for human trafficking due to its location.
“With Cedar Point opening up, this area is just a high-traveled area,” she said.
Ohio's large number of strip clubs, high immigrant population and tourist attractions, such as Cedar Point and Lake Erie, are all desirable for those who operate human trafficking rings, Flores told the group Saturday.
In 2009, Toledo was No. 4 in the nation in terms of the number of arrests, investigations and rescues of domestic minor sex trafficking victims among U.S. cities, according to the FBI's Northwest Ohio Innocence Lost Task Force.
In Ohio, there are an estimated 1,800 children being trafficked annually.
Flores said victims do not have to be trafficked across state lines for the crime to be considered human trafficking, and any prostitution involving a juvenile is considered human trafficking.
A Columbus resident, Flores has noticed the signs of human trafficking in Ohio, and because of this, she decided to team up with the Human Trafficking Collaborative of Lorain County to raise awareness of the problem.
The Human Trafficking Collaborative is headed by Mindi Kuebler, Shawn Cleveland and Kristi Miller. Kuebler and Miller work at the Nord Center, and Cleveland is a specialist in homeless outreach at the Gathering Hope House in Lorain.
The Gathering Hope House was the location for Saturday's meeting. Following the presentation by Flores, the group passed out bars of soap to local motels — areas Kuebler said are popular spots for human trafficking. The number for the national human trafficking hotline is listed on the soap.
“We hope it will help somebody get out of a situation,” she said.
While the group acknowledged that many people do not believe human trafficking exists in the U.S., Kuebler, Miller and Cleveland said they have all spoken with victims of the crime.
Cleveland said a 19-year-old Mexican male immigrant approached him at the Gathering Hope House. He had been sexually assaulted and was a part of forced labor in Lorain. Cleveland said many immigrants are illegally trafficked across the border who believe they are in the U.S. legally. They are then exploited and forced to work for little or no money, Cleveland said.
Kuebler, manager of the sexual assault unit at the Nord Center, said many victims have opened up to her that they have been involved in human trafficking in the area. The victims are as young as 14, she said.
“We're just starting to crack open what is going on now in Lorain County, and what we've found so far has come through the sexual assault unit,” Kuebler said.
Lorain police Lt. Mark Carpentiere said the Police Department does not have any human trafficking cases currently, but that does not mean that the problem does not exist. Carpentiere said many victims of rape or sexual assault are afraid to approach police officers.
Kuebler said that because many victims are afraid to go to law enforcement, there is a need for special services in Lorain such as the Human Trafficking Collaborative. The group has put up several billboards in the community with its tip hotline, (888) 373-7888.
She recommended that victims call the group's local number, (440) 714-1380.
“Definitely just call the hotline number, especially the local number, even for tips to let us know that they think something's going on,” she said. “If you're a victim, definitely call that 714-1380 number, because we have it with us all the time.”
Flores said many young girls are often brought into sex trafficking by reading false job advertisements, by their older boyfriends or even by being targeted at high school parties. She said there are several warning signs to watch out for if someone suspects a girl may be trafficked.
If a girl misses school a lot, becomes involved with drugs, is anxious or avoids eye contact or has large amounts of cash, they are all possible signs of human trafficking, she said.
Flores stressed that human trafficking is not restricted to one area.
“It's happening in every community, across the United States,” she said. “We really need to open up our eyes and realize that this is a bigger problem than we think it is, and we really need to start rescuing these kids.”
Topeka native fighting human trafficking
Plight of Cambodian woman caught eye of Topeka High grad
by Jan Biles
The story of a Cambodian woman sold into slavery and prostitution as a child inspired a former Topeka woman to establish a nonprofit organization to help prevent human trafficking.
Amber Barron, the executive director of Freedom's Promise, will speak at 6 p.m. Saturday at a Human Trafficking Awareness Seminar in the Antioch Family Life Center, 1921 S.E. Indiana Ave. Also speaking is Vicky Luttrell, who works at the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.
“Human trafficking is a global problem, in developed and undeveloped countries, in rural areas and cities,” she said. “No one is immune to this.”
Barron, 33, grew up in Topeka and attended Randolph Elementary and Landon Middle School before graduating from Topeka High School in 1997. She earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communication and journalism in 2001 from Kansas State University.
She married Zeb Barron and moved in 2004 to Nashville, Tenn., where her husband pursued a career in music and toured two years with Audio Adrenaline, a Christian rock band.
Barron said she was working at a commercial real estate firm — with the intention of being a stay-at-home mom — when she read an article about Somaly Mam, a Cambodian author and human rights advocate who focuses on the victims of human sex trafficking. Mam, who was essentially orphaned as a small child in the mid-1970s when the Khmer Rouge drove thousands of Cambodians into the countryside, was forced into slavery and then sold to a brothel at age 14.
By the time she reached the end of the article, Barron said, she knew she had a new calling in
“God told me this was my work,” she said.
Barron began researching human trafficking and discovered it is one of the largest criminal industries in the world. But she struggled with how she fit into the services being offered to help victims.
She sought the help of a local pastor, Dan Trippie, and they eventually decided to establish Freedom's Promise, a program focusing on prevention of human trafficking.
“(We decided) to prevent rather than rescue and restore,” she said.
Freedom's Promise received nonprofit status in June 2007 and launched its website in September 2007. In May 2008, Barron joined with Youth with a Mission, a nonprofit Christian missionary organization, to make her first trip to Cambodia.
“We went there for two weeks to learn about the problems they were facing and then figure out where we could plug in and fill a hole (with our services),” she said.
She and husband traveled to Cambodia in August 2009; two other trips followed. While she observed extreme poverty, a poor education system and government corruption, she said it took a while for her to recognize human trafficking because it's often “hidden in plain sight.”
“Cambodia put on a good face,” she said. “It took years before we were able to see underneath that surface they showed us.”
Barron said Freedom's Promise has established the Restoration of Vulnerable Children project, which provides supplemental Khmer education, English language classes and sewing training and English language classes for girls ages 12 to early 20s. The programs serve about 425 young Cambodians.
Barron said she also is focused on preventing human trafficking in the United States by promoting awareness among parents and teens.
According to the United Nations' Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, as estimated 2.5 million people are forced into labor or sexual exploitation at any given time because of human trafficking. Of that number, 56 percent of the victims — 1.4 million people — are in Asia and the Pacific.
An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, and the estimated global annual profit made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labor is $31.6 billion.
Adult services ads are targeted
by JJ Hensley
The online ads are short and simple, promoting girls like “Cinnamon” and her quest for a male companion.
“French and black bored looking for fun plus seeking generous male I love,” read an ad posted Wednesday by Cinnamon, 21, asking men to meet her in central Phoenix.
To activists trying to elevate awareness of human trafficking, the ads at Backpage .com are, at best, a conduit for prostitution. But some see them as more malignant, suggesting that the ads are a way for Village Voice Media to profit off teens who are being trafficked and sexually exploited.
The critics have recently become more vocal, aiming full-page ads and boycotts at Phoenix-based Village Voice Media, the alternative-media conglomerate that owns New York's Village Voice , weeklies in many U.S. cities including Phoenix New Times , and the online classified website, which hosts ads for services in hundreds of cities in 43 states, 11 foreign countries and a handful of Caribbean islands.
Police do not take so radical a view as to believe that Village Voice Media would knowingly become involved in promoting criminal activity — but, Backpage is one constant in Valley prostitution investigations, according to officers.
“The Phoenix Police Department is not in a position to say that Backpage or any other website is complicit in any form of human trafficking. We get the vast majority of our work from monitoring Backpage and other sites, because that's where the victims are,” said Lt. Jim Gallagher, a commander in the Phoenix vice unit. “We can't avoid the obvious, which is, Backpage is a common thread in our investigations.”
Police nationwide say Backpage employees have been cooperative with law-enforcement officers investigating prostitution and human trafficking, and the company occasionally volunteers information that has been useful to police in their work.
Advertising adult services
The recent arrest of Rachael Dawn Kellogg Swank, 23, opens a window into the world of Backpage and illustrates why police often focus on the advertising venue. Swank is alleged to have prostituted a 15-year-old runaway in Phoenix.
Officers saturated known prostitution tracks and websites promoting “adult services” during a two-day sweep in April. The plan was to offer suspected prostitutes enrollment in a diversion program that could provide immediate counseling and keep the arrest off every suspect's record.
An undercover detective contacted a woman he found on Backpage and arranged to meet her at a Mesa hotel, where the detective would pay $100 each for sex with two different women, according to police records. Detectives also learned that a 15-year-old girl was possibly being advertised online as an escort.
When detectives arrived at the hotel and met Swank, who was allegedly the woman arranging sex online, they found her with the 15-year-old runaway, according to court documents.
“During an interview with the 15-year-old, I learned that she had never prostituted prior to meeting (Swank), and she told me that (Swank) taught her all about how to be a prostitute. Which included placing the ad for escorting on the Internet,” court documents said.
Swank pleaded not guilty in her initial court appearance.
The 15-year-old later told a detective she had sex with two men for $80 each, according to records. She said she met Swank on a Mesa street and the conversation eventually turned to prostitution, which is not unusual for teenage runaways, said Phoenix police Detective Heidi Chance.
“Unfortunately a lot of the runaways do fall in this lifestyle for some reason, maybe they're preyed upon,” she said. “It's not unique or different than anything I've seen before. The only difference may be that her family was still actively seeing detectives.”
In the weeks after the sweep, due in part to heavier saturation on the streets, detectives arrested six underage girls working as prostitutes, Gallagher said. Many of the girls were advertised on websites like Backpage, according to police.
But no one can say with any authority how many cases like that are out there. Estimates vary widely.
Anti-trafficking awareness groups estimate there are as many as 300,000 men, women and children who are the victims of human trafficking, many of whom would work as prostitutes.
Law-enforcement statistics are less jarring: Between 2005 and 2011, local law-enforcement agencies submitted 36 cases to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in which suspects were said to have violated human-trafficking statutes.
Last year, Village Voice Media publications ran a story entitled “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight,” which, in the eyes of many critics, tried to minimize the problem.
“Law-enforcement records show that there were only 8,263 arrests across America for child prostitution during the most recent decade,” the authors wrote. “That's 827 arrests per year.”
But since then, Village Voice Media has hired Liz McDougall, an attorney who formerly worked with Craigslist when that website also came under attack for allegedly facilitating sexual exploitation. McDougall's mandate: fight human trafficking and try to develop a comprehensive approach to adult-services advertisements that can be implemented throughout the industry. That includes McDougall having final say on what the publisher prints about Backpage and its critics, she said.
“Village Voice Media came out swinging in its defense, consistent with its journalistic history, but that didn't do any favors to the work Backpage is trying to do to proactively address the problem,” she said. “I simply don't believe that taking down an adult category is the right answer to fighting human trafficking.”
Working toward those twin goals — reforming the online adult-services industry and keeping Backpage alive — McDougall said she is internally streamlining posting procedures to make it easier for Backpage staff members to spot potential pimps. The website also added a link to an emergency help line in case someone posting an ad decides they want to get out of prostitution.
The company also has 80 people committed to policing the site. It makes an average of 400 reports per month to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when it finds ads for women who are under 21 years old, she said.
Those efforts are not enough for critics like Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Social Work who focuses, in part, on girls and women involved in prostitution.
“Almost all of the hundreds of victims of sex trafficking I have worked with in the past two years have been put on Backpage.com , some by their pimps, some by their mothers, some by their best friends,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “This is an ugly issue, one that we must not turn away from to allow for free enterprise.”
Company refuses to end ads
But McDougall said simply removing adult content from the website is not a viable solution to the human-trafficking problem Backpage's critics have seized on.
“My greatest concern is that the activity will just be driven to offshore websites,” McDougall said.
“Understandably, people want a silver bullet to this horrible problem,” she said. “Craigslist did shut down its adult category, but it wasn't the silver bullet. The ads migrated elsewhere to the Craigslist website and then a large portion of the ads migrated to Backpage. Then the movement, the anti-trafficking movement, just shifted. They got what they said they wanted from Craigslist and then they moved on to Backpage.”
McDougall said that if the ads move offshore, the advertisers move outside the jurisdiction of most U.S. law-enforcement agencies, and policing the activity on their websites or asking operators to cooperate with investigators becomes impossible.
Yet critics claim there are other reasons Village Voice Media will not shut down the site.
A consulting company estimated adult ads on Backpage generated $2.6 million in online revenue during March, a figure McDougall would not confirm, citing the Village Voice Media's status as a private company.
The company's long history of taking a stand in the face of fierce opposition also plays a role, McDougall said, noting: “The company has historically had the backbone to stand on principle against substantial pressure — political, public, economic — that's the intention right now.”
The pressure Village Voice Media faces is not unique, said Tim McGuire, an ASU professor of business and ethics in journalism. McGuire said both sides in the controversy are making arguments that are fundamentally true, but the ultimate decision rests with readers and advertisers.
“The cops are correct, but the fact is the Internet is a giant uncontrollable blob. Institutions like police and newspapers and major corporations have lost control. To think that one player, like the New Times , is going to change the cops' problems, I think is naive,” McGuire said. “Both are arguably true, and you as a publisher have to make that call and contend with the consequences. It may be fewer people picking up the publication, it may be advertisers choosing not to advertise.”
Regardless of the outcome, the controversy with Backpage has again focused attention on the topic of human trafficking, an interest that began, McDougall believes, with the focus on Craigslist advertising.
That attention is not necessarily a bad thing, according to law-enforcement officers and anti-trafficking advocates.
Groups including former state Sen. Russell Pearce's Ban Amnesty Now, which previously focused on driving undocumented immigrants out of the U.S., has developed a new interest in fighting human trafficking thanks in part to Pearce's disdain for the New Times. The former lawmaker has been a frequent target of the publication's political screeds.
Pearce's group has taken credit for the departures this year of several New Times advertisers, but the controversy has not been all bad for Backpage. Though McDougall would not confirm it, one survey reported that unique visitors to the site increased by more than 8 percent in March.
County residents join the fight against human trafficking
by Kent Bush
Augusta, Kan. —
It is impossible to have a small human trafficking problem.
If the problems exists, even one instance is one too many. Human trafficking occurs when people are forced to work with no pay and are unable to leave on their own.
When most people find out that human trafficking exists, they are inspired to help but often don't know how.
That was the case for one Andover woman. But she didn't give up when no avenue existed to help. She paved her own road.
It was a little more than a year ago when a newspaper story about a trial in Wichita began the process that has turned Jennifer White's life upside down.
White read the story about a pimp and a customer who bought and sold a 13-year-old girl for sex. She knew bad things happened, but she had no idea how prevalent the problem was.
“I had no idea it involved children,” White said. “That is about how old my oldest daughter is. That story took hold of me.”
Immediately, White began the search for some way to help. Even though there were law enforcement and other government programs that work in the area, funding was an issue and they had no way to raise extra money because of red tape.
White worked with different groups to find out what needs existed. Based on those needs, a fundraising campaign began. The group used social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. On Twitter they used the hashtag #ICT-SOS. The ICT represents the FAA name for Wichita Intercontinental Airport and the SOS stood for Street Outreach Services.
From that process, ICT-SOS was born.
“We will be a 501c3 organization soon,” White said. “It is hard to believe that a little over a year ago I was a mom living in Andover and a part-time photographer. Things have really changed.”
Beyond helping run ICT-SOS, White and her family recently moved from their suburban home into a full-time position as house parents at Carpenter's Place where they help victimized girls get their lives back on track.
Human trafficking is still a big part of what White fights against.
“Two of the three girls I am currently working with were rescued from that situation,” White said. One of the girls was exploited for sex due to poverty that left her few options. Another was controlled by a pimp and forced into the sex industry. “These girls are so strong. They just need that support system to deal with the trauma they endured and to help them move forward.”
White said at Carpenter's place the girls get their driver's license, and work toward both education and employment goals.
“We work with them to set goals when they first arrive,” she said. “Then we help them achieve those goals.”
White said she has had one high school graduate and two girls receive GEDs. One of the girls is trying to get into nursing school and another begins junior college this summer.
The girls stay in fully furnished apartments and when they successfully leave the program they get to take all of the furnishings and housewares with them to give them a head start on their new independent lifestyle.
“My program is for 18 to 24 year old girls but in the other part of the Carpenter Place program they take in girls as young as six,” White said.
Prostitution only one of the problems
Another program that has been established to help in the fight against Human Trafficking is the Butler County Justice Alliance.
Ron Chiles said this group is a resource program.
“We are building a bridge between the people who have a heart to help and the programs that are actively involved in finding solutions,” Chiles said.
He said the group is just beginning to see the kind of impact it can have both locally and across the globe. World-wide, most of women and children taken into human trafficking are used in the sex industry.
One of the early projects the Justice Alliance helped with served those affected by one of the other form of modern-day slavery.
Chiles said in Ghana near Lake Volta – the world's largest man-made lake – the fishing industry is a major employer. Not all of those jobs are safe or easy to find people to fill.
Some fishermen in the area take advantage of the orphan problem caused by the AIDS epidemic and purchase young boys to do menial tasks and even dangerous jobs like swimming into the depths to try to free fishing nets tangled in submerged trees. They also use these children simply to save on expenses.
“We sent a team to Ghana to work for a week in an orphanage there,” Chiles said. “You have to be well-trained and very careful when you interfere with people in this lifestyle. It can be very dangerous for the people trying to rescue the slaves.”
Stephen McVay of El Dorado was part of the team that worked with a group of eight boys who have been rescued from slavery on the fishing boats of Lake Volta. He said the team worked with the boys at The Fathers House and even taught them about God and how to become disciples.
“Usually their mothers sell them into slavery when their fathers pass away and there is no money to take care of them,” McVay said. “They can't afford to feed them anymore.”
McVay said the time he spent with the boys rescued from slavery was life-changing.
“It instilled a personal drive in me to help free people who are still being held as slaves today,” McVay said. “The poverty there was terrible. The solutions won't be easy but I think we have to help.”
“Slavery is an economic crime,” Kevin Bales, co-Founder of Free the Slaves said during a 2010 speech. “People do not enslave people to be mean to them. They do it to make a profit.”
Some of the other forms of slavery in the modern world include agriculture and military work – and in rare cases, organ donation.
The Justice Alliance offers training to people who want to do their part to help fight all kinds of human trafficking.
One of those training opportunities will come this summer when the Justice Alliance takes a group of volunteers to Pennsylvania to study at Mercy Ministries.
“I was completely ignorant about this problem about a year ago,” Chiles said. “We are working with the people who have discovered the problem and want to help stop it. There is a lot of important work to be done and a lot of people willing to help. We want to help bring those two together.”
100 Mile Child Abuse Awareness Ride
Every year on the same day every chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse world wide get on their bikes and ride 100 miles for the purpose of raising awareness of the ravages of child abuse and our mission to eliminate it. This years ride is on May 19 2012 Each year we ask that each member of BACA collect pledges from the local comunity and agencies within there area to sponsor them for the ride. The donations raised are used to continue our mission by funding everything from items for our wounded heros to therapy when it cannot be afforded by the family.
- When Saturday, May 19, 9 a.m.
- Where 1016 Crescent St., Wenatchee.
- Cost $5 - $15
- Age limit All ages
Wenatchee's local BACA Chapter, the Apple Valley Chapter, is having their 1st annual 100 Mile Child Abuse Awareness Ride on May 19th, 2012. Registraion begins at 9 am at Bikerstown USA, w/kickstands up at NOON. Ride ends at The Rock Bar & Grill in Rock Island. Registration fee: $15/rider & $5/passenger.
Chamber aims to prevent child abuse
May 19, 2012
by Amanda Gabeletto
Area professionals learned this week how to help a sexually-abused child as a county agency shed light on the subject.
Blair County Chamber of Commerce's Growth and Relationships of Young Professionals program hosted the "Stewards of Children, Darkness 2 Light" child abuse training at the Devorris Downtown Center.
The Adams County Children's Advocacy Center trained 90 people, said Jessica Meck, the chamber's membership services and development vice president.
The program has been offered since 1997, Joddie Walker, the center's executive director, said.
The nationally-recognized prevention program believes keeping kids safe from child sexual abuse is an adult's responsibility, she said.
"Children are often taught how to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse - and that's important for them to learn - but it's no substitute for adult responsibility," she said. "We make sure children wear seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We store toxic household cleaners out of reach. Why, then, would we leave the job of preventing child-sexual abuse solely to children?"
The recent sexual abuse scandal at Penn State helped to prompt the response from the young professionals group to hold the training in order to educate people, Meck said.
"Since the Jerry Sandusky case made headlines, I can say that we have experienced an increase in requests for child sexual abuse prevention training," Walker said. "Awareness of the prevalence of the issue has been brought to people's attention."
The training also counted as National Association of Social Workers and the National Board of Certified Counselors continuing education credits.
Attendees walked away saying it was beneficial, Meck said.
Becky Crilly, who volunteers with Leadership Blair County Youth, said the training was "very effective" and she found some statistics she found "pretty eye-opening."
One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys under the age of 18 will be sexually abused, she said of those statistics. Also, 90 percent of abusers will be known to the family and trusted.
Trainees were also taught to call the authorities immediately over anything suspicious, Crilly said. Try to find out who was the abuser, where it took place and when the abuse last occurred, she said.
To keep the child open to conversation, the adult should remain calm, she said. Be there for the child, thank them for telling and let them know they did nothing wrong, she said.
The training was definitely worth the time, she said.
Michael Pennington, a career counselor at Juniata College, said it was "an incredibly powerful and emotionally charged presentation," and relevant.
Victims who were recorded giving statements were "very emotional" about the events years after they happened, he said. The abuse stays with victims for a lifetime.
Identifying a student who may be dealing with such a trauma is extremely important to Pennington so he can get them the appropriate help, he said.
Pennington will also become an advisory board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Blair and Huntingdon counties in June.
"There's a strong obligation to make sure our youth are protected," he said.
Fighting child sexual abuse in the Caribbean
by Tamar Hahn
KINGSTON, Jamaica, 18 May 2012 – A nine-year old boy was systematically raped by his pastor while his mother was at work; an 18-month old baby boy died of internal damage after being raped by his uncle; a little girl was infected with gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes and HIV by an uncle who was in and out of prison.
These are some of the cases Sandra Knight, a general practitioner at the paediatric hospital in Kingston, has treated over the years. The abuse tormented her, compelling her to speak out to the press. Dr. Knight's accounts have created an uproar in the Eastern Caribbean, and an avalanche of front-page stories about child sexual abuse has followed.
“I felt that my peers were becoming complacent about this issue,” Dr. Knight said. “But I felt I had a tsunami in front of me, which was affecting me because I also have a 6-year-old daughter. I saw these children dying, getting sick, being traumatized for life.”
A silent emergency
Child sexual abuse is shrouded in secrecy and abetted by shame. While most abuse is hidden and up-to-date statistics are scarce, it is known that nearly 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 around the world have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence worldwide.
In the Caribbean region, sexual violence against children is greatly underreported, and this abuse is often culturally sanctioned. A study in Jamaica indicated that men often believe they have a right to engage in sex with girls under their care, while children in Guyana reported believing that sexual violence can be blamed on a victim's clothing. Sexual violence against boys is especially underreported, and in some countries, is not even recognized as a crime.
“Sexual abuse happens everywhere – at home, school and in other institutions, and has a serious physical, psychological and social impact, not only on girls and boys, but also on the fabric of society. It is one of the main factors that contribute to HIV infections, and that is why it is not surprising that this region has one of the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS worldwide,” said Nadine Perrault, UNICEF Regional Child Protection Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Our experiences in preventing and responding to sexual abuse have taught us that laws by themselves have been ineffective in protecting children, mainly because of the silence surrounding the issue and the risks that victims face in speaking out – risks such as stigma, shame, harm and further violence. And then, often, children do not know where to turn.”
Breaking the silence
To address the taboo surrounding child sexual abuse, the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago developed the Teddy Bear Campaign. Using the image of a teddy bear with a band-aid over its heart and the tagline ‘Break the Silence', this initiative has mobilized a wide range of government and non-governmental partners to protect children from sexual abuse.
The campaign was discussed during the Sub-Regional Meeting for Follow-up to the UN Study on Violence Against Children in the Caribbean, which took place in Kingston this week. UNICEF is currently working to expand the reach of this campaign to other countries in the Caribbean.
“Something that has touched me deeply in the discussions that took place during this conference is the really high incidence of sexual abuse in the Caribbean,” said Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative for the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. “I think everyone in the region seems incredibly committed to moving forward and very encouraged by the opportunity to replicate the Teddy Bear Campaign. I am confident that the materials will be replicated and tailored to each country, and we will have greater awareness, greater commitment and fewer cases to be regretted.”
Ending a vicious cycle
In March 2012, 15-year-old Taisha* was at her sister's house when her 19-year-old brother raped her.
“My mom didn't believe me, and I didn't know what else to do so I decided to go to the police by myself,” Taisha said.
Unlike Taisha, most children are brought in by their mothers, many of whom have been victims of abuse themselves. “It is a vicious cycle,” said Dr. Knight. “Mothers who have been abused as children, and who did not get help, see this again in their children and don't do anything about it or resent them for it, looking at it in a distorted way. Some of them felt so much shame that they don't want their children to go through that and cover it up.”
Taisha is now in a safe home where she is attending school. “If I were to talk to girls in the same situation all around the world, I would tell them to keep their head up high and remember that they are here for a good reason, and they should not let what they've been through stop them in their tracks,” she said. “Going to the authorities is the best thing to do because keeping it to yourself will not help.”
* Name changed to protect child's identity
42 individuals guilty in international child porn bust
by Michael Doughty
As a result of an international, cooperative effort between law enforcement groups in America and abroad, 42 individuals have been convicted for their involvement in a child exploitation network.
Operation Delego targeted members of an international, online criminal network known as “Dreamboard”, a website dedicated to the creation and spread of graphic images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children.
Thursday, John Wyss, 55, of Monroe Wisconsin, known as “Bones” on the “Dreamboard”, was convicted on three charges for his involvement in the online child exploitation ring.
Wyss was one of the organization's “Super VIP” members, who are required not only to upload, but also produce images and videos of child sexual abuse.
“This community encouraged members throughout the world to produce images of extreme child sexual abuse and to share these images with one another.” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. “Mr. Wyss is the 42nd Dreamboard member to be convicted for his participation in the child exploitation enterprise.”
Wyss produced images of sexually explicit activity over a webcam, including a video in which adult males are engaging in sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls.
According to trial documents, Wyss and other “Dreamboard” members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years-old and under, often violently.
Together, “Dreamboard” members amassed a private library, and encouraged the creation of new images and videos of child exploitation.
Wyss was one of 72 individuals were named in the original indictment that was unsealed in Shreveport on August 3, 2011.
Of that group 55 have been arrested and 42 have been found, or pleaded guilty to their involvement in the criminal enterprise. Of those found guilty, 25 have been imprisoned, with sentences ranging between 15 and 37 years.
According to US Attorney Stephanie Finley, 17 of the individuals named in the indictment remain at large, and are only known by their online identities. Law enforcement agencies across the globe are still working to identify and detain them, she said in a news release.
“The defendant, (Wyss) and people like him, who advertise, participate, distribute or exploit children to access child pornography work hard to evade law enforcement and disguise what they are doing,” said Finley. “Their sole purpose is to view children hurting for their own sexual satisfaction.”
She said the members of “Dreamboard” used the online aliases, or “screen names,”, as well as proxy servers which, rout internet traffic through other computers to prevent tracking by law enforcement.
“Dreamboard” members were also encouraged to use encryption software to password-protect their files.
According to the release, “Dreamboard” site administrators had ultimate control over membership, and required prospective members to upload child pornography when applying for membership. Members were also required to upload more images regularly in order to retain their memberships.
The members were organized according to their status and ranking. Those who uploaded more images and video were given the highest title of “Super VIP”, and given the most access. The higher the rank, the more material was available, the release said.
Posts made to the site were organized according to content including one section entitled “Super Hardcore.”
According to the US Department of Justice, the category rules described, in graphic language, the type of post permitted. They said only videos and images depicting adults having violent sexual intercourse with “very young kids” who were being subjected to both physical and sexual abuse and were in “in distress or crying.”
Operation Delego has been coordinated between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Justice; Eurojust, the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit and dozens of other law enforcement agencies around the world, according to the DoJ release.
They said 20 “Dreamboard” members across five continents and 14 countries have been arrested outside of the United States, including two of the five lead administrators of the site, and investigations remain open on several other suspects.
Board members were arrested in Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Operation Delego was a spinoff investigation of Operation Nest Egg, which targeted another online group dedicated to child exploitation. Nest Egg was also a spinoff of Operation Joint Hammer, which targeted transnational rings of child pornography trafficking.
The case is being tried in Shreveport by U.S. Attorney John “Luke” Walker of the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorneys Keith Becker and Anitha Ibrahim of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
“Wyss and the other conspirators of the nightmare called Dreamboard mistakenly believed that they could commit heinous crimes against children and hide in the shadows,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Criminals with this kind of depravity in mind should know that ICE's Homeland Security Investigations is ever vigilant.”
Sex-trafficking suspects getting out of charges
Those accused of forcing women into prostitution aren't charged when alleged victims won't testify.
by Cornelius Frolik
May 18, 2012
Some suspects in sex-trafficking cases with ties to the Miami Valley and Ohio have avoided criminal charges because their alleged victims refused to cooperate with authorities and testify in court, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation.
The Ohio women who said they were forced into prostitution refused to help prosecutors because they were afraid, did not want to relive the experience in court or they formed a bond with their captors and returned to them, according to a Daily News review of police and court records and interviews with law enforcement officials, experts and victims.
Law enforcement and state officials said they are stepping up efforts to identify victims, and they are seeking harsher penalties for offenders. But sex traffickers target vulnerable people, and there are many hurdles to bring traffickers to justice.
“For a girl who has been traumatized repeatedly by a trafficker, the last thing she wants to do is come face-to-face with him in court,” said Jeff Barrows, founder of Gracehaven, a rehab facility for young victims of sex trafficking.
Legislation in the Ohio House seeks to shield victims from prosecution and help them receive the services they need to heal from the traumatic experience.
On Nov. 22, Dayton police detained a 34-year-old woman who told detectives she was forced into prostitution by her 48-year-old boyfriend, who wanted her to earn money to feed his drug addiction.
She told police her boyfriend the previous night had beaten her, pulled her hair and burnt her face with a lit cigarette because he was angry she did not bring him money for drugs.
“I knew immediately this was straight up human trafficking,” said Dayton police Detective Raymond St. Clair with the vice unit. “I always wondered if I would be able to recognize it, but it was like being hit with a wet feather pillow; that's how obvious it was.”
Police arrested the woman's boyfriend and forwarded the case to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's office, which approved charges of trafficking in persons and promoting prostitution. In February, however, a grand jury declined to indict the man.
St. Clair said the woman would not testify and signed nonprosecution paperwork. Although she was placed in a safe house and received treatment, she decided to return to the streets because she was addicted to drugs. The suspect went free.
“She said, ‘Listen, the guy is gone. I am away from him. I don't want to relive it, and I've had enough,' ” St. Clair said.
In another Dayton case, police arrested a 61-year-old man whom they believed was forcing a 32-year-old woman into prostitution, according to a police report from July 2010.
The Daily News is not publishing the names of the suspects because they were not criminally charged or were not indicted. The names of the victims have also been withheld.
Police observed the man closely monitor the woman's prostitution activities, which is behavior consistent with a pimp. Police interviewed the woman, who admitted the man threatened her and kept all of the money she earned.
Police forwarded the case to the prosecutor's office, but they chose not to file any charges against the man related to promoting prostitution.
Police said the man was definitely pimping out the woman, but the case fell apart because of witness problems. A year later, police arrested the woman for prostitution, and the same man was seen hovering around her. She told police she needed money to pay the man for a drug debt.
Drug addicts and homeless prostitutes make for unpredictable or unreliable witnesses, and that is one the biggest challenges in trafficking cases. Victims of the sexual slave trade often have drug problems, criminal histories or they are living in the country illegally.
Sex traffickers target members of at-risk populations, because they often distrust law enforcement and fear authorities will prosecute them instead of help bring their abusers to justice, said Brian Moskowitz, special agent-in-charge with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office that covers Ohio.
“They are very, very difficult crimes to investigate, because it is so hard to get people to come forward,” he said.
But people who have broken the law should not be afraid to come to police for help if they have lost their freedom and are made to work against their will, Moskowitz said.
“You go from someone who is involved in the crime to a victim of trafficking,” he said.
But traffickers not only rely on fear of prosecution to control their victims — they depend on fear of violence and retaliation.
Fear is largest barrier
In the summer of 2010, prosecutors in Orlando, Fla. declined to file charges in an alleged sex-trafficking case because they could not locate the victim, a 21-year-old woman from northeast Ohio.
After police responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle, they interviewed an Ohio resident who said a couple took her captive and forced her to travel with them to Florida, where they made her prostitute, according to police.
The woman made several thousand dollars prostituting, but the suspects kept all of the money and did not let her go and took her identification. She had bruises on her body, which she received during a beating after she tried to escape.
Police arrested at least one of the suspects, but the prosecutor's office said it could not locate the victim when it came time to file charges. Without the victim, there was no case. The suspect walked.
The Daily News located the woman and spoke with her via electronic messages. She said she was too scared to testify because one of the suspects sent her a message promising that he would find her if she talked.
“If you would have went through (what I did), you would have been (scared) too,” she said.
The Facebook profiles of the suspects show them flaunting large quantities of cash. One of the suspects refers to himself many times online as a “pimp.”
In a different case also in Orlando, Fla., a 29-year-old woman from Findlay, Ohio, was rescued in February 2011 before she could be forced into prostitution, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
The victim originally told police she did not want to file a criminal complaint because she was distraught, sleep-deprived and afraid of retaliation from the suspects, the report stated.
But she eventually cooperated and led authorities to a residence where a 20-year-old woman from Lima, Ohio, was being held captive, the report said.
The Lima woman had been punished for trying to escape the sex trade and return home to Ohio. She had been tied up, beaten by multiple people and severely burned on her chest with a metal meat mallet that was heated up on a stove, the report said.
Four suspects faced criminal charges in the case, but only two were convicted, and most of the charges against them were dismissed. In at least one of the cases, charges were dismissed because of witness problems, according to the State Attorney's Office in Orlando.
The Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, Research and Analysis Subcommittee reported there are an estimated 1,078 American-born youths forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio, while another 6,316 people are at risk of human trafficking.
Ohio officials said they are making human trafficking a priority. Gov. John Kasich has vowed to fight the “scourge” by enlisting the help of potential witnesses to the crime, such as commercial truck drivers and devoting new resources to aid state troopers who may encounter victims.
Kasich in March established the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force to identify and rescue victims; investigate and prosecute the crimes; and provide services and treatment necessary for victims to get their lives back on track.
But although police and state officials have succeeded in raising awareness about sex trafficking and teaching people how to spot signs that the crime is taking place, there remains a lack of resources to help victims cope with the incredible trauma they have suffered, said Mark Ensalaco, director of human rights research with the University of Dayton.
“This is the weak link in the anti-trafficking effort,” he said. “Once we rescue them, the whole system breaks down.”
He said victims need medical attention, a safe place to live, psychological treatment and job training so they do not end up back on the street. He said prosecutions are impossible if the victims are also too scared to testify.
Sex-trafficking investigations can take a long time, and victims often relapse into drug use or commercial sex because they feel they do not have other options, according to the National Institute on Justice.
On Sept. 27, the Daily News reported the case involving Selma Hasanovic, 21, of Michigan, who was rescued from a sex-trafficker by police in Troy in April 2011, but she died of an apparent drug overdose in her home state only months later.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor,?D-Toledo, introduced legislation, HB 262, that would better shield victims from prosecution by creating a diversion program for minors. The bill has yet to emerge from the House Judiciary and Ethics Committee.
The bill would allow adult victims of human trafficking to have their criminal records expunged if their records contain prostitution-related charges stemming from their enslavement.
Under the bill, victims could sue also their traffickers in civil court, and assets seized by law enforcement that belong to the traffickers would pay for services for victims.
But victim advocates said fear will continue to be the largest barrier to prosecution.
“It's an extremely difficult situation, and it almost takes a hero to experience that level of trauma and control and then be able to face them in a court room,” said Barrows, with Gracehaven.
Billboard campaign targets potential for child sex trafficking in Tampa during Republican National Convention
by Keyonna Summers
CLEARWATER — The billboard, at first glance, looks harmless enough: A portly man wearing a gold wedding band adjusts his suit jacket, presumably preparing to tackle some important business deal.
A message accompanying the image confirms that a transaction is indeed under way. However, it's of a more sinister nature.
"This man," the billboard says, "wants to rent your daughter."
Then it provides a website address where viewers can learn more about the illegal sex trafficking of young girls.
Just as Tampa Bay is trying to put on its best face for the Republican National Convention, nine of these provocative billboards will be unveiled Monday in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Some local experts say the timing is right because they believe child prostitution and human trafficking cases will spike during the convention — not because of the political party, but because of the opportunity sex traffickers see in the presence of tens of thousands of visitors in one place.
Law enforcement already is watching for an increase in sex trade advertising tied to the convention.
The Zonta Club of Pinellas County is paying the $25,000 cost of erecting the billboards. Donna Lancaster, the Zonta chapter's secretary, said the billboards aren't a hit on Republicans. Rather, the chapter is launching an educational project to mark the club's 50th anniversary. Zonta International is a global organization that works to improve the status of women and opposes violence against women.
The Pinellas Zonta chapter works closely with the Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking.
"It was just fortuitous that the RNC was coming at the same time" as Zonta's billboard campaign, Lancaster said. The club hopes that "some of the (RNC) participants would see it and think about it and go back to their homes and perhaps spread the word. It would also be a positive thing that could lead to more awareness across the country."
Most of the money for the billboards was provided by an anonymous donor who sympathized with law enforcement's struggle for funding to train officers to recognize human trafficking and who also wanted to raise awareness about sex trafficking.
"It's a hidden problem in many ways, because it's not the sort of thing that people like to talk about or that people even realize is going on," Lancaster said. "We want parents and kids to be alert to the problem and know what to look for."
Some 50,000 delegates, dignitaries, journalists, party staffers, corporate executives, lobbyists and others are expected to descend on Tampa for the Republican convention from Aug. 27 to 30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tourism officials are working to showcase the Tampa Bay area as a great place to visit, live and do business.
The billboards will be an in-your-face reminder of another type of tourism: Florida is commonly cited, along with California, Texas and New York, as one of the top four destinations for sex trafficking and domestic labor trafficking.
After uncovering local cases of "modern-day slavery," the Clearwater Police Department in 2006 won a U.S. Department of Justice grant to create the Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking. Members include area law enforcement agencies, social service groups and individual community members who help each other identify and rescue victims; investigate and prosecute traffickers; offer victims social, legal and immigration services; and give speeches to raise awareness.
As of January 2011, the most recent data available, the task force's investigations resulted in 104 arrests with 37 convictions. The task force says it has recovered 62 child sex victims since 2009.
Former Clearwater police Lt. George Koder, who was a leader in the task force's work, said in a recent television interview that he anticipated a 50 percent jump in human trafficking activity during the convention, though he didn't say how he arrived at that number.
Koder, who retired last week and could not be reached by the Times, also said that local, state and federal law enforcement officers are already monitoring online ads, planning reverse stings and taking other steps to ferret out sex traffickers during the convention.
Maj. Donald Hall, who replaced Koder and oversees trafficking detectives, said this week he thinks Koder's estimate was too high. Hall declined to supply his own estimate, but said historical trends do indicate that "any time you have large, major events like the Super Bowl with a large number of people, there's always the possibility of other elements moving into the area."
However, Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said her department has no intelligence indicating there will be an increase in sex trafficking crimes during the convention.
"In fact, during the last Super Bowl in 2009, we didn't see any increase in prostitution or sex trafficking cases," she said. "There is some stereotype that goes along with these big events, but that was not the reality."
Hall said human trafficking cases in the Tampa Bay region are evenly split between domestic servitude cases and sex cases. On the labor side, many victims are Hispanic immigrants, often lured here with the promise of agricultural work. They are grossly underpaid or not at all, and are sometimes forced to live in deplorable conditions.
In the sex trafficking cases, teen foster children, abuse victims and runaways are especially vulnerable to being wooed by a predator, who might approach them at the mall and play on their desire for love and acceptance or their need for food and shelter.
Sex traffickers use print and electronic media, including alternative magazines and a craigslist-like website to market their victims to customers.
The artwork for the Zonta billboard campaign was supplied by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit spearheaded in 1998 by Republican congresswoman Linda Smith that works to prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery of women and children worldwide. Its artwork has appeared on billboards in other parts of the Unites States since December.
The billboards deliver a blunt message about the buyers and traffickers who feed the demand for sex with children.
"We wanted to bring attention to the fact that the men aren't slinking around. They're NFL stars, they're leading businessmen, they're pastors — they really could be anyone in the community," said Shared Hope spokeswoman Taryn Mastrean. "The (rescued) girls say many of the men are married and have children of their own. So we went with a man with a wedding ring who looks like a normal man."
Chatham church to host talk on human trafficking this Sunday
May 18, 2012
CHATHAM — Human trafficking will be the topic during a free discussion at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at Ogden Memorial Presbyterian Church, 286 Main St.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, for the purpose of exploiting them. It is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. “Human Trafficking: Why it Concerns Us” is meant to help residents understand the nature of the problem and learn how to address the concern locally as well as nationally.
According to statistics, over 900,000 people in the U.S. became victims of this crime last year. And each year, about 300,000 American children are forced into slavery. Major forms of trafficking include forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking.
This event is free; however donations to the program will be gladly accepted.
For more information, contact Anna Tivade at (973) 635-2218 or email@example.com; or the church office at (973) 635-5567.
Abuse survivors speak out about disturbing trend of child sex crimes
by Bill Wadell
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — In the wake of the child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky that rocked West-central Pennsylvania, 6News sat down with advocates and abuse survivors to take a closer look at the troubling trend in our region.
Cambria County native Matt Bodenschatz kept his abuse as a child secret, until the Sandusky scandal nudged him to open up through a public letter to the editor in the Centre Daily Times last November.
"It happened on a country road over several hours in the middle of the night in the dark on a holiday. The most inane environment that was supposed to be the greatest time,” said Bodenschatz. "I'm not part of the legal statistics. I never went to the police. The person who did what he did to me was a rather old man at the time that he did it, 30 years ago, that person has long since passed. No police report anywhere includes me about this."
According to data from the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System, Centre County had the most sex crimes reported in 2011.
Statistics show that 159 cases were reported, and just over fifty-percent were solved.
In rural Elk County, less than three dozen sex crimes were reported, but only one-in-three cases were closed.
Cambria County had 112 sex crimes reported in 2011, but had the highest closure rate at nearly 75-percent.
MaleSurvivor Executive Director Chris Anderson told 6News at a recent documentary screening on the University Park campus that it can take victims of child sex abuse years to come forward, often after the statute of limitations to prosecute has passed or their abuser has died.
"I myself didn't start even looking into healing from my own sexual abuse history until I was well into my 30s,” said Anderson. “We know that it takes an average of about 20 years right now before a man will come forward out of the shadows and actually do the healing that they need to do to put their lives back together again."
Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania Interim Executive Director Dr. Janet Rosenzweig told 6News at a recent outreach event at Penn State that parents need to have bold, open discussions with their children at a young age.
"We know that there are things families can do, that communities can do, that organizations can do, that can help prevent any kind of child abuse, including sex abuse before it happens,” said Rosenzweig. "Accurate information about how the human body functions is one of the most important gifts that a parent can give their child, and one of the most important tools we've got for preventing the sex abuse of kids."
Making a Safe Place for victims of child abuse
by BOB AUDETTE
BRATTLEBORO -- For a child, being physically or sexually abused can leave emotional, physical and spiritual wounds that never heal, even after they've grown into adulthood.
And as if things couldn't get any worse for child victims, having to tell their stories over and over again to a number of investigators, victim advocates and in front of a packed courtroom, sometimes makes the wounds even harder to heal.
That realization led to the creation of special investigation and child advocacy organizations around the country, designed to limit the number of times a child would have to tell his or her story and create a relationship between the child and an investigator and advocate.
In Brattleboro, that organization is Windham County Safe Place.
"We hope to change how investigations are done to minimize the trauma to a child who has already been traumatized by making the investigatory process as comfortable and easy as possible," said Connie Baxter, executive director.
Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said the Safe Place model is a more holistic approach for the whole family of a victim of child abuse.
"By taking the Safe Place approach, it reduces the likelihood that a child will be retraumatized by the process," he said.
Safe Place's mission is to: investigate criminal allegations of child and adult sexual assault and severe child physical abuse using specially trained investigators; minimize further trauma to victims by providing a safe place to talk with investigators; refer children and adult victims and non-offending family members to services designed to help them heal; and create public awareness of the challenges of child abuse through outreach and education.
Safe Place, which is a non-profit organization, began as the Southeast Unit for Special Investigations about five years ago, said Baxter. The unit was funded through legislative action and with money disbursed to special investigation units around the state.
"A couple of years ago, our multi-disciplinary team felt we wanted to become part of both a state and national movement serving child victims of abuse," said Baxter. "It puts more emphasis on serving the children from the perspective of the victim of a crime."
The team has members from the Department of Children and Families, Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, Vermont Children's Alliance, the Vermont State Police, the Windham County Sheriff's Department, the Vermont Department of Corrections and police departments in Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Dover, Vernon and Wilmington.
Safe Place doesn't do the actual investigations, but helps to coordinate the efforts between the agency doing the investigation, such as the Department for Children and Families and police departments, and prosecutors and social services.
Brattleboro Police Department Det. Michael Carrier, who is the president of Safe Place's board, said the organization gets its model from the Child Advocacy Center, a national organization.
"The model brings together all the social service and investigative agencies all to keep these children safe and to hold accountable individuals who commit these types of offenses," he said.
One of Safe Place's goals is to have the child interviewed only once, said Baxter.
"We want the information to come from the child's direct experience in their own words," she said, adding it's important that any information supplied by the child holds up to the scrutiny of the legal system.
"We also don't want to charge people who are not guilty," said Baxter.
Tracy Shriver, the Windham County State's Attorney, coordinates services for child victims and is the treasurer for Safe Place.
"It's very important to have as many resources and coordination of resource for child victims of sexual and physical assault," said Shriver.
"It's good to get everyone on the same page, working together for a common good," said Dover Police Department Det. Richard Werner, who is the vice president of Safe Place's board.
Werner said the board has to constantly be addressing the funding needs of Safe Place.
"One of our big concerns is how to fund it into the future," said Werner.
Safe Place receives much of its funding from the Special Investigation Units Policy Board, was created as part of the legislative establishment of Special Investigation Units throughout Vermont. The Board handles the disbursement of state funds to Vermont Child Advocacy Centers and Affiliated Special Investigation Units.
Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, said he will continue to fight for funding for child advocacy groups such as Safe Place.
"Child protection is one of the core services we can provide for those of us who value protecting families in the state and around the country," he said.
The Safe Place model is "a trailblazing program," said Mrowicki, because it provides services in a way that is kid friendly and works to bridge social services and the legal system.
"If you spend the money up front and invest in the future, you are helping kids to become health and productive as adults," he said. "If we don't, we see the ramifications in the mental health and corrections system."
The cold truth is that very few of the cases actually make it to trial, said Baxter.
"These are very young children and it is difficult for them to articulate the things that have happened to them," she said.
Sometimes it's in the best interests of a child not to go ahead with a trial as well, she said.
"Think about how difficult it is for an adult to go up on a witness stand and testify against someone they probably have a close relationship with," said Baxter.
In Vermont, 88 percent of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known to the child. Those perpetrators aren't afraid to use guilt, shame, fear and threats to keep the truth from coming out, she said.
"Be very careful who you leave your children with and who you let have access to them."
And it's not just the direct victim that Safe Place supports, said Baxter.
"An in-home perpetrator might be the bread winner," she said. "Everything comes crashing down and there become multiple layers of need including financial and housing."
Baxter said in situations where a case can't go to trial, the DCF steps in.
"They have ways of working with families to protect a child from an alleged perpetrator who we can't pursue a legal case against," said Baxter.
The process is called substantiation, she said.
In Vermont, if DCF determines an investigatory report is based on accurate and reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to believe the child has been abused or neglected, an alleged perpetrator is placed on the Vermont Child Protection Registry, which is a database of all substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect, dating back to January 1, 1992.
One in four girls and one in six boys younger than 18 will be victims of some sort of abuse, said Baxter.
"That's 20 percent of our children," she said. "The message we keep trying to get out is the entire adult community is responsible for keeping our children safe. We want adults to speak up if they suspect something and take their ethical responsibilities very seriously."
This fall, the board is kicking off what it hopes will be its signature fundraising drive -- night golfing at a local golf course.
"You play nine holes in the day, take a break for a barbecue, and play another nine holes at dusk," said Sheriff Clark.
The organization is seeking sponsors, either for the entire event, the barbecue or single holes, said Clark.
To sponsor part or all of the upcoming golf tournament, contact Connie Baxter at 802-490-2016.
Safe Place also takes tax-deductible donations.
For more information, visit www.safeplacecac.net.
Shining a light on child sexual abuse
by Justina Contenti
The subject of child abuse is one most people are not comfortable talking about; however, one Edmonton-area man is working to change that.
Alick Brooke is riding across Canada on horseback trying to raise awareness and funds for the child victims of sexual abuse through his foundation the Angel Express Society and he made his way through the Border City on Monday.
“We are going to try and wake up Canadians so that they realize this is something they can't just hide from,” said Brooke, the retired chief information officer with Alberta Children's Services.
Brooke said child sexual abuse has become an epidemic not only in Canada but around the world.
“It is an epidemic in Canada to the point that one in three girls will be sexually abused and one in six boys,” said Brooke. “When you look at the Statistics Canada count of the girls that fall under 18, there are three million of them. So we are talking one million girls that could potentially be abused before they are 18.”
Brooke said he is unaware of any other issues that affects so many children nationally which is why he is surprised so many people ignore it.
“They say, ‘well there is nothing we can do about it,' but there is,” said Brooke. “We can try and give a bit of these kids' childhoods back to them and perhaps give them the tools they need to become productive healthy adults in the future.”
Despite being a cause that affects so many people, Brooke said since they started their ride in Edmonton on May 9, they haven't received the response they were hoping for.
“It is an issue that corporate Canada doesn't seem to want to talk about or help out so it is grass roots people that have actually got this ride on its way,” said Brooke.
“It is the average Canadian that I guess we are hoping will dig deep and think, what if it was their child?”
Riding upon Zeus, a 1,500 pound shire/draft horse, who is sometimes called ‘the friendly giant' for his way with children, Brooke said his goal is to ride all the way to Halifax, a journey that will take them about three months.
Brooke said Zeus would be a fitting horse for the journey because they have yet to find a child he won't cuddle up to or let climb up on his back.
Accompanying Brooke and Zeus on the ride is Brooke's good friend and retired professional bronc horse rider Guy Bourassa. Another of Brooke's friends, Randy Clark, is driving their bus with the horse trailer.
The team made a stop in Lloydminster at the Co-op gas bar where they received a donation of fuel for their bus from the Lloydminster and District Co-op.
Kristine Alexander, the marketing and communications manager for the Co-op, said this was a cause they wanted to support and help raise awareness for.
While the idea to complete a cross-country ride for the victims of child abuse has been in the back of his mind for about 30 years, Brooke began seriously planning the trip about three years ago when he started to look for sponsors.
He then created the Angel Express Society, an organization whose main vision is to ensure there are programs and support for survivors of child exploitation to help them become healthy adults, said Brooke.
All of the money raised from his cross-country ride will go to the Angel Express Society where it then gets divided and given to organizations currently spreading awareness for the cause or that are delivering programs to child victims.
The Angel Express supports organizations such as Little Warriors, The Zebra Foundation and Child Find.
One of the projects Little Warriors is currently fundraising for is the construction of a Be Brave Ranch, where victims will live and use horse therapy to help deal with trust issues, which Brooke said has proven to be really effective.
“My society receives no administrative costs so anything we get all goes to those programs,” said Brooke, adding that people are also welcome to donate directly to any of those organizations and can do so in support of The Angel Express.
Anyone interested in donating to The Angel Express or becoming a ride sponsor can visit www.theangelexpress.com.
Panel finds Mainers wary to report signs of child abuse
by David Hench
The latest report from a state task force that analyzes children's deaths and injuries says the failure of health care workers and other professionals to report suspected child abuse continues to be a major problem in Maine.
TO READ recent reports of the Maine Child Death and Serious Injury Review Panel, go to: bit.ly/JWmtXN
The work of the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Panel is getting attention from state officials and legislators following the death of 10-week-old Ethan Henderson of Arundel on May 8.
The boy's father, Gordon Collins-Faunce, 23, is charged with murder, and admitted to breaking the boy's arm six weeks earlier, according to a police affidavit.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has declined to comment about reports of abuse in Ethan's home, citing the advice of the attorney general because of the pending criminal case.
According to the affidavit, a DHHS worker told police that the department had received a referral -- though it's unclear when -- from a day care provider that Ethan's 3-year-old half sister was "covered in bruises" and Ethan and his twin brother were sick and not getting treatment.
Family members say that Ethan was treated by multiple doctors for the broken arm, though there is no mention in the affidavit of a DHHS referral related to that. It's not clear whether the DHHS was alerted to possible abuse at that point or, if it was, what it did.
The police affidavit quotes medical personnel saying that Ethan had both old and new brain injuries.
Therese Cahill-Low, director of the state Office of Child and Family Services, told legislators at a hearing Wednesday that while the DHHS cannot release details about an ongoing investigation, there is a mechanism to review all children's deaths and serious injuries to improve practices inside and outside the department.
The biennial report of the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Panel, due out next month, says longstanding problems with abuse reporting continue to endanger children, Cahill-Low said.
The panel of representatives from social work, pediatrics, law enforcement and mental health fields meets monthly to review cases, examining patterns of injuries or deaths and the effectiveness of state programs.
It is one of the few entities aside from the DHHS that has access to confidential information, so it can do a thorough analysis of each child's death or serious injury.
"I believe we've saved many, many children's lives and kept them safe because we have a better system than we would have without it," said Karen Mosher, clinical director of Kennebec Behavioral Health, who has worked on the panel for 20 years.
The panel exists to inform state policy, not identify villains, said Stephen Meister, medical director for the Pediatric Rapid Evaluation Program and co-chair of the state panel, along with Mosher.
"In spite of best efforts, bad things happen," he said. "Our role is to kind of look at it to see if there are things that can be done in the future that can lead to better outcomes, rather than a witch hunt going after people and laying blame."
The panel is not likely to analyze the death of Ethan Henderson until after the criminal case against Collins-Faunce is complete, he said.
"The purpose of the review is not usually a case that's active now. It's usually to look at how do we prevent this from happening," Meister said. "After it's finished with the courts, we'll look to see if there are other patterns we should make recommendations about to change behavior. There may already be rules in place and people didn't follow the rules."
The panel's 2009 report, the most recent issued, describes the case of a 2-year-old boy who suffered severe burns on his thighs and elsewhere, as well as multiple bruises. A review of medical records showed that he and his two siblings had multiple injuries and hospitalizations.
When the boy arrived in an emergency room with a severe shoulder fracture, the explanation was inconsistent with his age, the report said. That should have triggered a child protective referral and further examination, but it did not. A follow-up skeletal survey showed healing fractures in the arm, elbow and collarbone.
The report recommends that when the DHHS identifies a likely failure by someone who is mandated to report suspected abuse, the department notify the reporter of the lapse.
The report also encourages caseworkers to contact pediatric abuse specialists to determine the likely cause of fractures and other serious injuries.
In Maine, 12,000 cases of suspected abuse or neglect were reported to the DHHS last year, Cahill-Low said.
But she said the problem of mandated reporters not reporting suspected abuse has continued for years.
"In my experience in school systems and the social services field, people are very frightened and don't want to accuse somebody of something that hasn't actually happened," she said.
She said she expects legislation to be proposed to amend the reporting law to clear up any ambiguity.
Randall Manning, executive director of the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine, said he is unaware of failure to report becoming a licensing issue in Maine.
He has seen two instances in which families have complained to the licensing board when a doctor has notified the DHHS about suspected abuse, claiming it is a violation of confidentiality.
The cases were dismissed because the reporting is mandated under the law, but Manning suspects that some doctors, especially in small practices, may be wary of violating the complex federal confidentiality law known as HIPPA.
Mosher, the injury review panel's co-chair, said some health care professionals believe it is sufficient to notify a supervisor about suspected abuse.
"When I orient people here," she said of the mental health facility where she works in Augusta, "I tell them, 'You are all mandated reporters. You are not required to run a report by anyone.' I specifically do not want to muzzle our staff."
"There are places where the staff feel they cannot speak directly to the department and they have to go through an administrative structure," she said.
Meister said most reports of suspected abuse come from schools, followed by law enforcement, emergency room staffers and then primary care health workers, including nurse practitioners, physician's assistants and family care doctors.
Child abuse report shows little change for cases numbers in York County
Organizations in York County saw an increase in cases -- many of them hiring new staff to meet the need. By REBECCA LeFEVER The state Department of Public Welfare's 2011 report of child abuse numbers, released earlier this week, shows only a slight decrease in York County's substantiated reports of child abuse, despite many organizations seeing a rise in call volume.
There were 11 reports per 1,000 children in 2011, a drop from 11.3 in 2010, according to the study.
York County also ranked 44th for substantiated reports - coming in at 1.2 substantiated reports per 1,000 children, another decline from last year's 1.3.
Despite the minimal changes mentioned in the report, York County abuse prevention and investigation centers say they are overwhelmed with cases.
Caroline Tyrrell with the Child Abuse Prevention/Outreach Committee, part of the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, said one month this year the office received 400 calls - about double its monthly average. And most intake workers who used to get three to four referrals a week are handling two cases a day, she added.
One explanation of why the study doesn't show the increase is because most reports are filed under general protective services, rather than child protective services, which are part of the study, said Deb Harrison with the York County Children's Advocacy Center.
Many general protective cases are those of neglect, she added.
"My initial response was some surprise," Harrison said. "I really did expect to see the increase we are all experiencing."
The Children's Advocacy Center, which provides services to children who are victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse or are witnesses to a crime, has seen a rise in clients, Harrison said.
The advocacy center held forensic interviews with 269 children in 2010, but the number jumped to 357 children in 2011, Harrison said.
Part of the reason was they decided to increase their age limit from 13 to 16, she added.
"Any child, even older kids, deserve these services," Harrison said.
The advocacy center hired another part-time staff member in the fall to help with some of the increased need.
Tyrrell said a large amount of calls were received last year after the reports of alleged abuse against Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach.
But some of the biggest problems they see parents facing continue to revolve around the economy, Tyrrell said.
"People can't find work, and it makes it harder for them to meet their needs," she said.
When families lose a home, have their utilities turned off or can't buy groceries - that's when they need the most help, Tyrrell said.
Sometimes all the family needs to do is call and ask where they can get assistance, she added.
And Harrison agreed: "I always say when it comes to the health, safety and the well-being of a child, I don't think we need to apologize for being fearless and taking that step (to ask for help)."
York County ranked 19th out of 67 Pennsylvania counties for child abuse reports per 1,000 children, according to the 2011 Annual Child Abuse Report.
There were 11 reports per 1,000 children in 2011, a drop from 11.3 in 2010.
York County also ranked 44th for substantiated reports - coming in at 1.2 substantiated reports per 1,000 children, another decline from last year's 1.3.
Overall in York County, there were 1,124 reports in 2011 and 1,113 in 2010, the study states.
To see the entire study, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us and search for the 2011 Annual Child Abuse Report.
Live chat Tuesday
Are you a parent and want to know about the many programs in York County that can assist with caring for your child? Are you a teacher and want to learn the legal requirements for reporting child abuse? Do you have financial hardships and want to know where you can go to help provide for your child?
Join us at 3 p.m. Tuesday for a live chat with Caroline Tyrrell of the Child Abuse/Prevention Outreach Committee.
To ask a question online, visit ydr.com at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and click the link to join the conversation. Night police reporter Rebecca LeFever will moderate the questions. For details, call 717-771-2088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who to call for help
To make a referral of suspected abuse or neglect, please call ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families at 717-846-8496.
For more information regarding the Child Abuse Prevention/Outreach Committee, please call 717-845-6532.
Justice: Prisons to step up anti-rape efforts
by Jesse H. Holland
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is ordering federal, state and local prisons to increase efforts to stop prison rape by issuing mandatory screening, enforcement and prevention regulations in hopes of reducing sexual victimization behind bars.
The Justice Department announced the regulations Thursday on the heels of a new study showing that almost 1 in every 10 former state or local prisoners reported being sexually victimized at least once in prison.
The new regulations are immediately binding on federal prisons. State prisons face losing federal money if they don't comply, and local jails will not be able to get re-accredited without falling in line. The White House also ordered that all federal detainment facilities outside of the prison system come up with ways to fight prison rape within a year.
Kansas inmate pleads guilty to sexually abusing infant
by BILL BRAUN
A Kansas prison inmate pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing a 10-month-old girl in Tulsa.
Roderick Donell Davis, 46, of Leavenworth, Kan., awaits a July 12 sentencing hearing in Tulsa County on two counts of child sexual abuse and one count of manufacturing child pornography.
The charges allege that he abused a baby who was left alone in his care in Tulsa in January 2011.
Davis was in Tulsa for a family member's funeral, according to police.
Davis also is accused of using his cellphone to record images of himself sexually abusing the infant, records show.
According to a Tulsa police affidavit, Davis took "photos of himself molesting" and penetrating the girl.
Tulsa County prosecutors charged Davis in June. He was brought from a Kansas prison to the Tulsa Jail in April.
Davis has no agreement with prosecutors to govern the Tulsa County sentencing, which will be handled by District Judge William Kellough.
Each child-abuse count allows the possibility of a life term, and the manufacturing count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
In Kansas, Davis was convicted of sexually exploiting a child and taking aggravated indecent liberties with a child in 2011, records show.
Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said Davis is serving a prison sentence of 23 1/2 years in Kansas.
The Kansas case involved a 4-month-old girl as a victim, according to police and prosecutors in Tulsa.
Statement by Lauren Book RE: NY Supreme Court Child Porn Ruling
Advocate Calls New York High Court Ruling Legalizing Viewing of Child Pornography an Alarming "Outrage"
TAMPA, Fla., May 15, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Sexual abuse survivor-turned-advocate Lauren Book lambasted a recent New York high court ruling that it's not illegal to "merely" view child pornography and called it "an alarming outrage that will open the door to increased acceptance of child sexual abuse."
Lauren Book issued the following statement today from the Alpha House in Tampa:
|"Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar business that profits from the exploitation and spiritual devastation of children. This court ruling is an egregious assault on children's rights that gives a lewd and lascivious license to pedophiles. By making it ok for adults to view child pornography on a computer, the sick industry that profits from the sexual exploitation of children just got a powerful legal boost. I applaud the New York lawmakers who have moved quickly to try and close this dangerous loophole. Clearly, lawmakers across the country need to act rapidly to make it clear that anyone who creates a supply or fills a demand for child pornography is appropriately punished. A ruling like this only emboldens child pornographers and the twisted individuals who are their market. Unwittingly, the court has aided and abetted the porn industry."
The Alpha House of Tampa is a licensed maternity home providing residential services to pregnant women, foster care teens, young mothers and their children, including victims of sexual abuse, assault or exploitation.
Little Warriors' Be Brave Ranch
Emily Mertz It will soon be a place where children affected by sexual abuse – and their families – can heal, process their trauma, and receive treatment. There will be no other place like Be Brave Ranch in Canada. Children and adults from across the country who are victims of child sexual abuse will have access to the Be Brave Ranch.
“I think that it's going to really change a lot of children and how they're going to grow up,” says Christine, who turned to prostitution after being sexually abused for years, beginning when she was just four years old.
“If I was in that centre, it probably would have helped me, help me speak up, be aware that this isn't right you know, this should have never happened to me, this should never happen to anybody.”
has raised more than $600,000 for the Ranch, but they still need another $3 million to establish the Be Brave Ranch facility.
Individuals will be assessed by registered psychologists and treatment will be based on these assessments. All of the components of the treatment plan will be available at the Ranch, including Equine Therapy, Stress Reduction Exercises, EMDR, Expressive Arts Therapy, Biofeedback Movement Therapy, Play Therapy, Individual Counselling, and Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT).
“You can't heal something as dark as child sexual abuse by a couple of counseling appointments,” says Glori Meldrum of Little Warriors.
The Be Brave Ranch will provide a safe place for affected children to heal, a place for their families to deal with their emotions of grief, guilt and anger. Adult survivors will be provided a healing program.
“Right now, the offenders get out of jail and they go to 3 centres in Edmonton alone to get rehabilitated. So where do the kids go?” asks Meldrum.
Little Warriors has found a home for the future Be Brave Ranch.The facility will encompass 30 acres adjacent to a 40 acre environmental reserve. It will have a number of amenities, including a conference room, solarium dining room, fireplace lounge, modern library, 40 private bedrooms, two horses and a stable, and hiking trails on the Raven River.
The Be Brave Ranch is being described as the true culmination of the Little Warriors' mission.
1 in 3 girls will experience an unwanted act, the average age being 12. 1 in 6 boys will experience an unwanted sexual act, his average age being 4. 95% of these girls and boys will know their perpetrator.
Australia warns of 'bespoke' online child sex abuse
Australian police warned Thursday that paedophiles were using Internet live-streaming sites to order "bespoke" child sex crimes for real-time viewing, from countries including the Philippines.
Neil Gaughan, head of the Australian Federal Police's high-tech crime squad, said sites like Skype were being used to arrange "made-to-order" child abuse, where sex offenders could tailor sex crimes to their own viewing preferences.
"They make contact through online forums and the like, and they basically order a type of child abuse to take place in another country," Gaughan told The Australian newspaper.
"They facilitate a payment and then, while the person's sitting in the lounge watching on their Skype or whatever it may be, the child is being sexually assaulted the way they asked that child to be sexually assaulted, live-streamed."
According to the newspaper one Australian man has already been convicted over one such arrangement, based in the southern Philippines, and police were exploring whether any other Australians had been clients of the network.
Police accused the man of transferring several thousand dollars to the Philippines to pay for "bespoke" child abuse broadcasts. He was sentenced to seven years' jail last year but is appealing, The Australian said.
Gaughan said a police crackdown on pay-per-view child sex sites had prompted the shift to peer-to-peer sharing on sites like Skype , where abuse was "pretty much made-to-order".
Condemning the actions as "perverted", he said an abuser could make a request such as "a five-year-old boy and I want 'X' to happen to a five-year-old boy. That's what they're asking for and that's what they're getting".
Indiana joins Kentucky in anti-child abuse campaign
Kentucky and Indiana joined forces Wednesday in a broad partnership aimed at ending child abuse, which officials say needlessly kills dozens of area children every year.
“Child abuse is completely preventable,” said Dr. Stephen Wright, medical director at Kosair Children's Hospital and chairman of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. “It has to stop.”
Officials from two Indiana hospitals, Indiana University's medical school and the Indiana Department of Child Services announced at a news conference in Kosair's lobby that they are joining an effort founded recently by Kentucky's two children's hospitals and three medical schools.
“We in Indiana … pledge to be a worthy and noble partner,” said James Payne, director of Indiana's child services agency. “We pledge our resources and support.”
About 30 Kentucky children die each year of abuse and neglect, ranking the state eighth-highest in the nation, according to a 2010 federal report, which also showed 17 child deaths from abuse or neglect in Indiana.
Nationally, officials said, about 2,000 children die from child abuse — most of them younger than 4.
One Southern Indiana victim was Karlie Mellick, a 9-month-old baby battered and killed three years ago by a man who was watching her while her mother, Kara Mellick, was at work.
Wednesday, Mellick recalled kissing her fingertips and touching them to her baby's forehead before putting her to bed for the last time. She lamented never having the chance to celebrate Karlie's first birthday or enjoy Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy with her.
“I'm grateful that something is finally being done about this problem of child abuse,” said Mellick's mother, Allison Ellis. “Don't bury a little child because of child abuse, as our family had to do.”
Karlie's story is featured in a video being used in the campaign, along with the story of Ebony Carson, a Louisville mother whose son survived a beating in late October that left him with a severe brain injury.
The video is part of a blitz of announcements, advertisements, child protection tips and other information being disseminated by the partnership, which includes more than 200 organizations and individuals.
Education is first step
Wright said the partnership's first initiative is to educate people about child abuse and its prevention by working with area news media.
The group's toolkit, which it is sharing with the media and other interested groups, includes a 14-minute video, a 30-minute TV documentary, tips for eliminating child abuse, opinion columns, public service announcements and advertisements.
David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Press Association, said media organizations are frequently asked to participate in such campaigns.
“This is one time we wanted to get involved, because we had to get involved,” said Thompson, whose organization is a partner in the effort.
But the Kentucky Broadcasters Association chose not to be a partner, said Gary White, the organization's president and chief executive officer.
“That's not something we do as an organization,” White said in a telephone interview. “There are so many worthy causes out there. We can't help all of them.” But White said his organization doesn't dictate what its members do, and he would encourage them to get involved if they choose.
Norton Healthcare spokesman Steve Menaugh said officials met with all Louisville media, including The Courier-Journal and Louisville television stations, and all agreed that they would help spread the partnership's information.
Many details and plans regarding the partnership still need to be worked out, Menaugh said. But he said he's encouraged by involvement of organizations on the front lines of the battle against child abuse and neglect.
The partnership now includes the four children's hospitals and four medical schools in Kentucky and Indiana: Kosair and Kentucky Children's Hospital in Kentucky; Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indiana; as well as University of Louisville Pediatrics-Forensic Medicine; University of Kentucky-Department of Pediatrics; University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine; and IU School of Medicine.
“When you consider that our group includes organizations that at times are direct competitors, it is indeed impressive that, in the effort to eliminate child abuse, were are united as one,” Wright said.
State officials in Kentucky and Indiana said they are equally committed to the fight.
Eric Friedlander, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, pledged his agency's support and presented a proclamation by Gov. Steve Besehear calling Wednesday “Eliminate Child Abuse in Kentucky Day.”
“Child abuse is complex. It's multi-generational. It's devastating, and it's preventable,” Friedlander said.
Thousands of cases
Officials said there are 14,000 substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky, and 30 to 60 near-fatalities.
Ebony Carson's 15-month-old son, Cornell, for example, sustained serious brain and physical injuries after being shaken and beaten by her boyfriend last October. On Wednesday, Carson held her young son in her arms as she thanked Kosair and partners in the anti child-abuse effort.
Kentucky's child abuse burden “is something we should all be ashamed about,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who also issued a proclamation. “This is something that should be very personal to each and every Kentuckian.”
Ellis, Mellick's mother, said teachers, coaches, nurses and everyone who works with children have a responsibility to report abuse if they suspect it, and states must investigate cases and keep children safe — even when faced with budget difficulties.
“These lives are our future,” Ellis said.
Fischer said he believes the partnership will help people join forces and bring many resources to the battle.
“We can make a big difference,” Fischer said. “It starts with each one of us.”
Child grooming: what social workers should know
Understanding how paedophiles operate is key to helping the children whose lives they damage
by Janet Foulds
Exposing child sexual exploitation is like lifting up a stone and seeking what lurks beneath. It isn't in the best interest of rightwing political parties to differentiate between race and paedophilia in a case such as that seen in Rochdale, but it is necessary for social workers to do so.
White men abuse children too, and understanding how paedophiles operate is key to helping the children whose lives they so cruelly damage. The temptation to put the stone down so that you don't have to deal with it can be overwhelming, but social workers need to be supported to help children who are at risk of organised grooming.
Cases such as Rochdale understandably attract a lot of media interest. The crimes committed are shocking, and the damage done to the children concerned is horrific.
In my experience as a child protection social worker, the focus on race is misleading, and actually harmful in dealing with the wider issues of child protection, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.
I say this for the following reasons:
• Child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking cut across all cultures, class boundaries and occupations.
• There are elements common to most cases of sexual abuse – abuse of power, grooming, coercion, targeting of vulnerable children, discrediting and silencing of victims, bribery, the use of gifts and/or threats, and the use of drugs or substances to subdue or encourage dependency.
• Common to almost every victim are feelings of worthlessness, the sense of being somehow to blame and a feeling that they were treated as objects rather than people. Sex offenders treat children as objects for their own gratification rather than children or human beings.
• The extent to which offenders organise their activities varies considerably. In my practice, I have encountered a wide range of abuse: from one-to-one, two adults/parents acting together, inter-generational family groups with multiple children, similar family groups with friends involved, religious groups, organised gangs and secretive cults.
• It is common to find like-minded individuals forming "networks" to deal in abusing children, making and distributing pornography, and procuring young people for prostitution and child abuse. Offenders will identify others in the community or through the internet who share their interests, enabling them to work together to entrap vulnerable youngsters. For example, we have known groups of offenders to cluster around a shared job.
In light of this, it is not surprising when groups of offenders reflect the demographic of the population where they live. The Rochdale men seem to have had common occupations, and they probably knew each other. I would bet that there are other organised groups of offenders in that area who are not of Asian heritage.
The stereotyping – of the offenders and the children and young people involved – poses a real danger. It is just too comfortable for some people to think a particular group of offenders are involved, rather than thinking about the problems in terms of, say, gender. Why are so many crimes of sexual abuse and violence perpetrated predominantly by men (of all cultures) against children in the UK?
What does it tell us about our attitudes towards women and children? The image of young teenage girls walking the streets often elicits an underlying punitive response – such as "They were asking for it" – rather than seeing those youngsters as children in need of protection. Let us not forget that boys, too, can be victims of abuse.
So many of the victims of this kind of sexual exploitation have already been victims of abuse at a younger age. They may be very needy emotionally and therefore become more vulnerable to grooming.
We all need to remain open minded to the role played by women involved in sexual abuse, whether directly or in assisting males. Women are active in some cases in procuring children for these purposes; they are not all passive victims.
The focus on the men involved in Rochdale takes the attention away from the plight of the children. We need to avoid falling into the trap of blaming one group when the issue cuts across all ages, cultures and communities. The default position for people facing the trauma of child abuse is still denial and minimising. It helps us to cope. The truth about prevalence is uncomfortable and needs to be owned by everyone.
Most offenders I have known are white, heterosexual men. We need to learn much more about how offenders organise themselves. We also need to continue to highlight the need for services for these children. We need preventive work, good training for professionals and access to support services to help children to deal with their experiences. To ignore or diminish the traumatic sexualisation of children is to store up many problems for them, other children and for mental health services in the future.
Janet Foulds is a specialist social worker in child protection and therapeutic work and a member of BASW
Human Trafficking Survivor Speaks Out
CLEVELAND - The fight against human trafficking hit the Ohio house floor Wednesday.
The bill would help survivors of the sex trade industry and punish the people who force the victims into it.
Theresa Flores is a survivor of human trafficking, ONN's Cristin Severance reported.
“My message to people is that it's happening in every community and it looks like me," Flores said. “When people come up to me, sometimes it's survivors. I've had that happen a couple times today, where they say, this happened to me too."
The Columbus woman said that knowing there are others that share her pain doesn't bring her comfort.
"It's more difficult to hear there are others than it is to stand up in front of 250 strangers and tell my story," Flores said.
Flores said that the worst moments of the two years she was forced to have sex with dozens of men every night.
"Here I was, 16, with a sea full of men. You couldn't even see the furniture. I was the only female. And that night I was auctioned off to the highest bidder, over and over again," Flores said.
Flores eventually escaped and now travels the country, telling her story while trying to help rescue victims.
Flores spoke Wednesday in front of hundreds at an event by the Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking.
This month marks five years since the group started their mission.
The event comes on the same day the Ohio House is set to vote on a human trafficking bill.
The law would further prosecute the pimps and johns involved in the sex trade and help the girls forced to sell themselves.
"No teenager chooses to have sex with ten to fifteen strangers every night and we need to reach out to her and offer her an option and give her some help," Flores said.
Antioch sisters suing for missed chances to stop years of sexual abuse
by Malaika Fraley
ANTIOCH -- Ranging in age from 9 to 16, six sisters had been sexually abused by their parents virtually every day since they were toddlers before finding hope in 1995 that their nightmare would end.
Instead, they say, it grew more horrific as the people they counted on to rescue them -- police, child-welfare workers, their church pastor -- failed to deliver.
A year after their parents were imprisoned for sex crimes spanning 20 years, the Dutro sisters -- Glenda Stripes, Amber and Sarah Dutro, Martha McKnelly, Frances Smith and Christina Moore -- are now suing the people and agencies they say failed to protect them as children by not following laws and procedures for handling child abuse.
Child Protective Services went to the Dutro sisters' Antioch home Aug. 18, 1995, after police had garnered two confessions from their pedophile father because 14-year-old Glenda had disclosed to a church pastor that she was being molested. Had they been given a moment alone with social workers, the sisters say, they would have told them they had been tortured for 16 days in preparation of the CPS visit, after the pastor had tipped off their parents days before calling police.
But CPS, like police, never talked to them apart from their parents, and a light punishment for their rapist father only exacerbated their hellish existence.
"After that, the abuse got just that much worse," Glenda Stripes, 31, said last week.
"Instead of taking us out of hell, they stoked the flame," said the eldest sister, 32-year-old Amber Dutro.
The lawsuit, filed in Contra Costa Superior Court last week against Contra Costa County, city of Antioch, Calvary Open Bible Church in Antioch, and seven individuals who are either current or former CPS, police department or church employees. It alleges the defendants were negligent and failed to fulfill state-mandated duties that, if done, would have spared the Dutro children years of further abuse.
One defendant, Calvary pastor Anthony Lee, is named for not contacting police or CPS when a teenage Sarah Dutro gave him a full history of the abuse in 2002 in an effort to stop her mother, Glenda Lea Dutro, the church's youth adviser before her arrest, from hosting sleepover parties for children from the congregation at the Dutro house.
The suit asks for an undisclosed amount for past and future medical bills, and pain and suffering for the sisters, each of whom suffers from severe psychological disorders as a result of the abuse. Now adults with 12 children among them, the sisters gave permission to reveal their names in this story.
"Every one of the agencies had the duty and power to save these girls, and every one failed them," said the sisters' attorney, Jason Runckel. "They made their father untouchable. The girls never had a voice."
Representatives from Calvary Open Bible Church did not respond to an interview request, and Contra Costa County officials declined to comment. Antioch said it's investigating the matter and will respond to court proceedings appropriately.
"When these courageous young women came forward with the truth to ensure that there would be no other victims, law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office were able to put together a solid case that led to the Dutros being sentenced to prison in 2011," Antioch City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland said. "Like everyone, we wish that this outcome had occurred sooner.
"When Zion Dutro confessed to an earlier single incident, the mother's involvement in aiding and abetting the ongoing abuse against all of the girls was not known," Nerland said.
Bruce "Zion" Dutro, 51, was sentenced to 300 years in state prison, and his 49-year-old wife was sentenced to 15 years in 2011 after taking a plea deal in what veteran sex crimes prosecutor Paul Graves called the worst child sex abuse case in memory to go through Contra Costa County courts.
Bruce Dutro was the primary sexual abuser, while Glenda Lea Dutro facilitated the crimes, often handpicking children for her husband. Both parents physically, psychologically and verbally abused and neglected the children, two of whom are biological nieces that the Dutros obtained legal guardianship of and raised as their daughters from ages 3 years and 18 months.
The girls often were not enrolled in school and had limited contact with the outside world beyond their family's church. For some of them, the sexual abuse lasted into their early 20s.
The parents were arrested in 2009 after an eight-month investigation launched by Antioch police after the sisters came to the department for the third time. The sisters said they were hesitant, having been burned by authority figures before, but anxious that their parents were working with the church to adopt a family with small children from Mexico.
Deputy district attorney Graves and Antioch police Officer Blair Benzler restored their faith in the criminal justice system by getting the 2011 conviction.
"We came forward because we didn't want it to happen to another child," said Sarah Dutro, 28. "We didn't know until the case was over how badly everyone screwed up before."
The 22-page civil complaint names defendant Mark Wood as the pastor whom Stripes first told about the abuse Aug. 2, 1995, and claims his immediate tipoff to the parents afforded them time to condition their daughters to lie to authorities.
That same day, the parents locked up five of the girls in one bedroom and Glenda in another, the victims said. For 16 days, until police sent CPS to the house Aug. 18, 1995, the sisters said they were beaten, starved, sleep-deprived and brainwashed on what to say to authorities. Young Glenda, meanwhile, was subjected to the same torture between rapes.
Wood, Stripes and her parents first went to the Antioch Police Department six days after the 14-year-old had confided in Wood. Stripes said she believed her mother's threat to kill her, and so she watered down her story as the officer interviewed her and her mother together.
Officer William Dee noted in his police report that he was instructed by Detective Demetree Barakos before the meeting not to arrest Bruce Dutro, and so he sent the family home after obtaining a confession from the father, said Runckel, the sisters' attorney. Both Barakos and Dee are defendants in the lawsuit.
It was another officer who called Bruce Dutro back to the Police Department on Aug. 18, 1995, and sent CPS to the house after obtaining a second confession.
The county social workers interviewed each of the girls as their mother held their hands so tight that her fingernails dug in their palms and their father was so close they could hear his breath, the sisters say.
They say they would have exposed their intimidating parents had they been given a chance to talk to someone away from them.
"We were exhausted and completely broken down, but we were going to put an end to it and tell them everything," Amber Dutro said. "We never had the opportunity."
"They actually apologized to my parents for being there, as if it was an inconvenience," said McKnelly, 26.
Bruce Dutro pleaded to one count of child molestation for fondling Stripes, when in reality he was raping her, she said, and he spent four days in jail before being sentenced Nov. 1, 1995, to three years of probation. The judge ordered him to register as a sex offender and obey all CPS orders.
For the first six months of his probation, Bruce Dutro lived in an apartment near the family home. Glenda Lea Dutro moved in with him, leaving their daughters by themselves at the house with little food.
Like many times in the course of their childhood, the Dutro girls were not enrolled in school.
At night, their mother would bring one of them to the apartment to have sex with their father. Had anyone from the county ever visited the house as they were supposed to, they would have at minimum learned that the girls were living without adult supervision, Runckel said.
"My father told me after 1995 and he was slapped on the wrists, every time he molested me, it was like laughing in their face," Stripes said. "It's not about getting money. I want things to change so no child has to go through what I went through."
"It's time for our voices to be heard because I'm done with being a victim," Sarah Dutro said. "Children need to be protected, and if not by their parents, then who? It needs to be a government agency."
Molester's money aids child abuse agencies
by BORYS KRAWCZENIUK
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola's seizure of the money a convicted molester made by selling his radio stations paid off again Wednesday for local agencies that help abused children.
Mr. Jarbola handed out checks totaling $110,000 to six agencies, money obtained from the 2005 sale of Doug Lane's radio stations, WWDL-FM, WICK-AM and WYCK-AM, to Bold Gold Media.
"In today's tough economic times, I think all the individuals that are up here are seeing that their budgets are cut, a lot in certain circumstances. And hopefully this distribution of monies from Doug Lane could ease that burden a little bit," Mr. Jarbola said.
Mr. Jarbola spent considerable time in 2005 convincing the Federal Communications Commission to let him seize the proceeds of the radio station sales to compensate Mr. Lane's victims and combat future abuse cases. Six victims received substantial amounts of money, he said.
"I just want to let the people out there know that if there's going to be sexual predators out there using their own personal assets to groom and then sexually molest young children, we're going to seek forfeiture of those assets," Mr. Jarbola said.
On Wednesday, two agencies, the Children's Advocacy Center and Marley's Mission, received $35,000 each; the Women's Resource Center, $25,000; and the Friendship House, the Employment Opportunity and Training Center and Lourdesmont, $5,000 each.
Local agencies have now received more than $500,000 from the sale of the radio stations, Mr. Jarbola said. The first distribution of money to local agencies happened in 2006. Officials at the agencies, who have faced tough times due to state budget cuts, were grateful.
"It is considerable contribution to us and to the work that we do for children," said Sharon Crone,executive director of the EOTC.
Mr. Lane, sentenced in October 2005, is serving eight to 16 years in prison for molesting several teenage boys after befriending them, letting them work at his radio stations and fly on his hot-air balloons.
Lawmakers back measure that strengthen child abuse laws
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- In the wake of last year's child-molestation scandal at Penn State, the Illinois Legislature passed legislation Tuesday strengthening the state's law requiring witnesses to report child sex abuse.
The bill extends the law by requiring employees at colleges and universities, athletic programs and recreational facilities to report any suspicions of child abuse.
Witnesses who fail to report child abuse will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor on the first offense and a Class 4 felony on the second offense. Anyone providing false information in a child abuse investigation will be charged with a Class 4 felony on the first offense and a Class 3 felony on the second offense.
House Bill 3887 passed both the House and Senate unanimously and is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.
Motivated by her own childhood, Canby woman starts 'Sparks of Hope,' a nonprofit empowering abused kids
by Rachel Stark
Lee Ann Mead can't forget the restless nights of her childhood, the ones she spent praying for an end to the scurrying rats.
She feared the creatures, living in the walls of her family's Portland home, one night would attack. She'd lie awake in bed for hours.
The child never prayed, though, for an end to the abuse. It came from the hands of her stepfather ever since she could remember. "I just figured it was my lot in life," Mead, now 43, said.
Mead remembers those hands well, with their big knuckles and gaudy rings. From the time she was 4 years old until she turned 16, her stepfather's hands smacked her, fondled her, and snapped photos of her body parts with a Polaroid instant camera. Sometimes, he would ignore Mead for weeks. Other times, he would force the girl to stand in a corner for hours. Fearing his gun collection, harsh words and those hands, she never budged.
Sparks of Hope Sparks of Hope, a nonprofit based in Canby, provides support for sexually and physically abused children.
For more information, contact Sparks of Hope by emailing information@the
sparksofhope.org or visiting their website.
Mead lived in the home with her mother, an alcoholic until Mead was 12, and her older brother. Whether because of fear or oblivion, the family remained silent about Mead's abuse. Her father collapsed when he learned about it more than a decade later.
Her abuser, who died when she was 22, never was punished.
Now the Canby resident, legal assistant and mother is getting redemption her own way -- by founding an organization for sexually and physically abused children. In October, Mead created Sparks of Hope
to empower abused kids and encourage trust and healing. Still in its beginning stages, the nonprofit aims to step in after the court process and grant wishes, create a support network and offer summer camps to break the negative chain of victimization.
The parents of one 16-year-old boy requested a new bass guitar to replace his beat up hand-me-down. Another boy will play in a summer football league with Sparks of Hope covering the costs. "It's like the start of something new for them – a new mindset and change," Mead said.
: A dinner, auction and gala to raise money for Sparks of Hope.
: Saturday; doors open at 5:30 p.m.
: Oregon Convention Center's Oregon Ballroom, 777 N.E. M.L. King Blvd., Portland
: $95 for single ticket, $150 for two.
Today is the last day to register for the event, but the organization is accepting donations on its website.
The kids are referred from parents and school counselors to a board of 11 directors. Once in the program, the kids will attend a week-long girls or boys summer camp for three years in a row. The first camp will focus on taking the kids from the "victim" mentality to "survivor."
The second will push kids past the anger to become a "thriver," and in the third and final camp, kids will become mentors. Mead says Sparks of Hope is collaborating with child psychologists, counselors and attorneys to create a safe and effective camp model. They hope to start the camps in summer 2013.
Through education, Sparks of Hope also strives to prevent abuse, which occurs in startling numbers around the nation. In 2010, more than 11,700 children in Oregon were victims of abuse or neglect, according to the Child Welfare League of America. That's about 13.4 kids for every 1,000.
Brenda Griffin, a Canby business owner and the Sparks of Hope secretary, said she has watched the nonprofit "grow like wildfire."
"I think so many people feel compassionate about it because they know somebody," Griffin said. "The concept of child abuse goes over every demographic."
Griffin joined the group after hearing Mead's story.
It was a story Mead would've been horrified to share just a few years ago, her husband Chris Mead said. "She's my hero."
A Canby police detective, Chris often sees kids founder after their court trial and believes Sparks of Hope will show them someone cares.
For years, Mead yearned to help abused kids like herself, but something held her back. Then, just before her mother died last year, Mead told her about the idea to start a nonprofit. Her mother expressed excitement, and Mead found her missing piece. Forgiveness.
"It was that freedom I needed to move on," Mead said. "You can't really do this and be angry."
Mead wishes she would've had the guts as a child to speak out. She chokes up when talking about the brave children who do.
"I am absolutely in awe of a child who defies their abuser," she said. "If they can do that, they can do anything."
Protect your church's children against sexual abuse nightmare
by David Roach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- He looked like the ideal youth minister -- recommended by a friend of the pastor, personable, and leading a thriving ministry to teens at Wayside Baptist Church in Miami.
But looks were deceiving.
For months, he had been sexually abusing boys during sleepovers at his home. When the offense came to light, the church had its very existence jeopardized by a $6 million civil judgment in favor of the victims. Eventually the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and Wayside determined to do everything it could to protect children in the future.
"Now we do criminal background checks on anyone who is volunteering, and they put glass in all the doors [of children's and youth classrooms]," said Carrel Youmans, a longtime member at Wayside who taught youth when the abuse occurred in the 1970s.
Wayside is not an isolated case, said Patrick Moreland, vice president of marketing at Church Mutual Insurance Company. Church Mutual averages four to five reports of child sexual abuse each week from its approximately 100,000 clients, the vast majority of which are churches. That includes roughly 9,000 Southern Baptist congregations.
Every church needs to have policies in place to protect its children, Moreland told SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.
"It is common for a congregation to think, 'It can't happen here. We're small and everyone knows everyone,'" Moreland said. "That is not sound thinking when it comes to child sexual abuse. Most abusers are known to the child and trusted by the congregation. Child sexual abuse occurs in churches of all sizes and denominations and in all parts of the country -- urban and rural."
REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE
If abuse is ever suspected, Moreland urges churches to contact the proper government reporting agency immediately and to suspend the alleged offender (with pay for employees until the situation is resolved). They also should contact their attorney and insurance company.
Representatives of the church, accompanied by a reporting agency official, should meet with the child's parents and, in their presence with their permission, the child.
"Reassure the child that he or she has done nothing wrong and that it was right to report the incident," Moreland said. "Allow the child to speak freely. Do not coach responses from them and do not become defensive. You want the truth and you want to protect the child's wellbeing."
ABUSE PREVENTION POLICIES
Among the policies Church Mutual recommends to prevent child sexual abuse:
|-- Have all potential children's and youth workers (employees and volunteers) complete an application form. Look for irregularities. Ask for and check references. Conduct interviews.
-- Perform background screening on all employees and volunteers who will have access to children. The screenings should be national in scope since it is common for offenders to move from state to state. The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender public website can be accessed at through the SBC website at SBC.net at www.sbc.net/localchurches/ministryhelp.asp.
-- Never allow anyone to be involved in children's or youth ministry who has not been active in the church for at least six months.
-- Implement and enforce a two-adult rule. Never allow one adult to be alone with a minor. The two adults should not be spouses.
-- Install windows in classrooms and keep doors open. Have a hall monitor circulate through the building during children's and youth activities.
"Most incidents of child sexual abuse can be prevented by following these simple steps," Moreland said. "The primary facilitators of child sexual abuse are failure to screen and supervise those who will be in contact with your youth and children."
For Wayside, which averages 800-900 each week in worship, prevention stems from "good people with good training, and … good policies to back that up," said Leigh Byers, director of preschool and children's ministries at the church for the past decade.
Today anyone seeking to work with children in the congregation must fill out volunteer forms, including a confidential questionnaire, a background check permission form and an affidavit of good moral character. Volunteers also are required to provide references, and Wayside follows the six-month rule.
Though hardly any potential workers have been turned away, some have declined to go through the application process, Byers said. She added that domestic violence and sex crimes would disqualify a member from working with children.
"If someone is a potential abuser, they're not looking for the hardest place to accomplish their goal," Byers said. "They're probably looking for a place that's a little easier. So we try to put some things in place that would make somebody think twice before they would necessarily say, 'This is easy. I don't have to work too hard to get access.'"
PREVENTION AT SMALL CHURCHES
Child abuse prevention is not just for large churches, noted Jonathan Ruth, minister of music and children at Springdale Baptist Church in West Columbia, S.C., which averages approximately 230 in worship.
Before his church instituted mandatory background checks for all children's workers, one parent asked if volunteers were screened. Ruth said no, and the parent withdrew her children from an after-school program.
"I'm not saying that's why they left, but she seemed concerned that our volunteers were not checked," Ruth said. "And if it's going to be a hindrance to a parent to bring their child to a church where volunteers are not background checked, I think it's worth it to make sure you have those assurances in place for parents."
In addition to background screening, Springdale has an unwritten policy of always having two adults in a room where there are children. The congregation is in the process of developing official, written policies, Ruth said.
"I think every church needs to have protection in place for their children so that there's not going to be abuse taking place," he said.
With proper screening and an attitude of transparency though, churches stand a better chance of never having an incident to report, according to Byers.
Church members should be "watching and helping each other," she said. No one should ever think, "There's somebody watching the kids … let's not worry about it," she added. "There needs to be working together."
For additional information about preventing child sexual abuse, visit www.sbc.net
and click on the "Sex Abuse Prevention" tab on the left side of the page in the "Resources For" box.
David Roach is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky.
Sex trafficking: Group aims to help women in Kern County
by Jose Gaspar
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) --- Before they head into the streets to meet with prostitutes, a group of men and women first gather in prayer and ask for divine guidance.
"Our ultimate goal is to get them off the street," said Pastor Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope.
According to the state Attorney General Office, California continues to be a magnet for all forms of human trafficking. The sex trade is a major player. And women who get ensnared can be working in Bakersfield one day and be sent elsewhere the next day by their handlers, said Bennett.
Magdalene Hope is a faith based group that reaches out to those who work in the sex trade. For the past three years, members hit the streets twice a month and try to befriend prostitutes no matter where they may come from.
Besides praying for their safety, Bennett says members take the women to court, lunch, doctor appointments and other places as needed. If a woman calls to say she wants out of the sex trade, members set up a place to meet with her.
"It's an ugly life," said 39 year-old Maggie who has worked as a prostitute for ten years. She started on Union Avenue but now works for herself at the truck stops.
"I've got to make my money to pay my rent," she said.
The group travels in teams in two separate vehicles. Each team approaches women working the street and from the front passenger seat, a team member offers a bag filled small gifts, including a pocket bible and a card with emergency phone numbers, including where to reach Magdalene Hope.
One of the team vehicles pulls into a local motel on Union Avenue. Scantily clad women stand in front of their rooms with the door open, signaling they are available.
""What's up, girl?" says Pastor Doug to one of the women as he recognizes her from a previous encounter.
"Sandra" says she is doing fine, but does ask that the group pray for her safety.
At the corner of Brundage and Union, the group spots a very young looking girl, and something about this young woman provokes a reaction from Pastor Doug. He gives the girl some unsolicited advice.
"You're young, aren't you? You haven't been out here long, have you?
Listen to me, go home!" he tells her as the girl looks a bit shaken and walks away.
Some of the women at the motels are from the Bay area. When asked how long they will remain in Bakersfield, they say they don't know when they will be taken away to another place.
At times, the work appears to be overwhelming with women being shuffled from place to place, along with a steady stream of clients.
But Magdalene Hope appears undeterred.
"I'm going to do this until God tells me to stop," said Pastor Bennett.
A hack at sex traffic
by JENNIFER FERMINO
May 16, 2012
It's sex-ed — for your cabby.
Every hack in the city may soon have to take an unprecedented anti-sex-trafficking course to learn how to help hookers who hop in their cars — and the plan could cost the city a stunning $2.2 million.
The course — designed to help hacks ID prostitutes and tell them about available resources — would be mandatory for anyone applying for a TLC license, according to a bill expected to soon pass the City Council. Mayor Bloomberg said he would sign the bill, which requires the city to design and update the course regularly.
It's unclear if the $2.2 million price would be footed by the cash-strapped city, or if the fleet owners would shoulder some costs.
But critics say it likely won't stop sex trafficking.
“We can't even get [cabbies] to follow the rules of the road,” fumed Queens Councilman Dan Halloran. “Now we're using them as Big Brother to spy on fellow citizens?”
Last month, a father and son were charged with running a “brothel on wheels,” allegedly using six livery drivers to deliver hookers to johns — some of whom enjoyed sex acts for $200 to $500 in the back seat.
Initiative would boost penalties for human trafficking
by Dan Morain
May 15, 2012
A car pulled up in the Mission District of San Francisco at 4 a.m., and a 15-year-old runaway girl from Sacramento climbed inside.
He parked in an industrial area and slammed her head into his lap. She fought, and he smacked her and drove her farther, threatening her life all the while. Then she noticed the photo of a girl on the man's dashboard, and asked if it was his daughter. It was.
"I'm somebody's daughter," she told him.
He jolted to a stop and released her. She returned to the streets, plying her trade, delivering her proceeds to her pimp.
From age 14 to almost 18, Leah J. Albright-Byrd worked streets in San Francisco and Sacramento, sometimes Las Vegas and Reno. Her pimp advertised her on Web sites that didn't question her age. Occasionally, she would fly to Los Angeles to meet up with men.
Albright-Byrd, one of the lucky ones, got off the streets and is dedicating herself to helping girls who are careening down the same twisted road she traveled. Now 28, she has joined the fight against human trafficking, an issue that Californians will confront this fall by way of an initiative called the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.
Although the concept of human trafficking draws skeptics who see it as a faddish name for an old crime, the United Nations estimates there could be 2.4 million victims today, and the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush and Barack Obama have declared war on it.
In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris, involved in the issue for years, is sponsoring bills in the Legislature that would allow prosecutors to more readily seize pimps' property.
The November ballot measure, which qualified last week, will bring attention to the issue as only a California proposition can. Voters almost always approve tough-on-crime measures. This one will be an especially easy sell. The crime strikes at basic fears of every parent.
The initiative would increase prison sentences for human trafficking to as many as 12 years, up from the current five-year max. If the crime involves minors and force, sentences could be 15 years to life. Fines could be as much $1.5 million.
I met Albright-Byrd at Wind Youth Services, the drop-in center for homeless kids, where she sometimes counsels girls headed toward where she has been.
We were joined by Daphne Phung, founder of California Against Slavery and the initiative's proponent. Phung, 37, came to this country at age 8 from Vietnam. Her father was a mechanic, and she went to Oakland public schools before getting degrees at Reed College in Portland and Mills College in the East Bay.
Phung was moved to get involved after watching an MSNBC documentary about human trafficking. Like Albright-Byrd, she is driven by her Christian faith. She is aware that many Southeast Asian immigrants are victims of exploitation. She also saw a disconnect between the ideal that there is justice for all and the reality that children are getting robbed of their innocence.
"We're talking about kids being raped, tortured. It appalls me," Phung said. "We have to make this a serious crime so that prosecutors will take it seriously." Phung spent enough time in the Capitol to realize she could not persuade Democrats in the Legislature to approve longer sentences for human trafficking. Lawmakers are trying to reduce the prison population because of the federal court order requiring it and to cut costs.
She tried to qualify an initiative in 2010 with volunteers, but gathered nowhere near the 800,000-plus signatures needed to get a measure on the ballot. After speaking about the issue at a lunch in Palo Alto, she met a politically ambitious financial angel, Chris Kelly. Kelly gave $1.66 million to get signatures needed to get the measure on the 2012 ballot.
Kelly earned his money by working as Facebook's chief privacy officer. He quit in 2010 to run for attorney general, placing third in the Democratic primary. He will run for office again, though he's not sure when. He knows, however, that promoting an initiative is not a bad idea for someone seeking to build name identification.
Kelly added provisions that would require people convicted of human trafficking to register as sex offenders and provide their electronic identifiers. Internet sites would be able to obtain that information and, presumably, ban them from their sites.
Kelly expects "dozens, not hundreds" of prosecutions, and envisions that prosecutors would target pimps and gangs that are involved in organized trafficking of large numbers women and girls, girls like Albright-Byrd once was.
On its face, however, the initiative would make important changes. It would strip some anonymity from the Internet, perhaps making it a little more difficult to buy and sell people on virtual bordellos.
On a more basic level, the initiative would alter the basic human trafficking equation. Once the initiative becomes law, the person who is bought and sold would be viewed as the victim. The true criminals would be the men who trade human commodity. That shift is long overdue.
Pro wrestler 'Chippy Sanchez' convicted of sex with 12-year-old
by City News Service
SANTA ANA - A 35-year-old part-time professional wrestler was convicted Monday of two felony counts for befriending a then-12-year-old girl via MySpace and taking her to an Anaheim motel for sex, but was acquitted of two other sex crime charges.
Matthew Castaneda of Anaheim, also known as the World Power Wrestling competitor "Chippy Sanchez," was convicted of sodomy on a child and performing a lewd act on a child younger than 14, but jurors acquitted him of child rape and attempted forcible oral copulation.
Superior Court Judge John D. Conley set a pretrial hearing for June 22, when prosecutors are expected to decide whether to retry Castaneda on the rape and forcible oral copulation charges.
After starting an online relationship, Castaneda met the girl at the South Coast Plaza on Feb. 17, 2010, took her to two amusement parks, then the motel in Anaheim. After the assault, he took the girl's bus pass and left her stranded, prosecutors said.
Deputy Public Defender Lisa Kopelman conceded that her client had sex with the girl, but argued it was not forced and that he should be convicted of lesser molestation charges.
Castaneda befriended the girl via MySpace in November 2009.
According to Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera, the girl's profile said she was 19 and, in online chats, she told Castaneda she was 16.
Castaneda told the girl he was 21, when he was really 33.
Once at the motel, the girl told Castaneda she had never had intercourse before and wanted to go home, but he would not allow that, Herrera said.
The girl testified that he forced himself upon her. She also testified that he tried to make her give him oral sex, but she refused.
After Castaneda took her bus pass and left her at the motel, she found a police cadet, who alerted authorities.
Jurors started deliberating the charges Thursday and came back with verdicts late this afternoon.
Child Abuse Must Be Reported by Hasidim
May 14, 2012
by Edward Koch
The crime of sexually abusing a child, including adolescents and teens, is so heinous that the public is immediately shocked and angered.
For a number of years, we have read of sex acts involving Catholic clergy with adolescents and seminarians taking place in a number of countries, including the U.S.
The New York Times, to its credit, has been relentless in keeping this situation under examination by its reporters over the years with front page stories devoted to exposing the abuses.
The Times is now examining the sexual abuses taking place in the Jewish ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, primarily in Brooklyn, and the response of the Brooklyn District Attorney, Joe Hynes.
The Hasidim started in eastern Europe several hundred years ago. Each Hasidic sect often takes the name of the village where their rabbi once lived. The Hasidic community is close knit, somewhat like the Amish.
It maintains a lot of control over its members, with its rabbis and religious courts often being the arbiters of disputes. The Hassids, as they are known, prefer not to use secular governmental institutions, such as the police and courts. Those not abiding by community rules are often shunned and sometimes even assaulted.
In Brooklyn, the major communities where Hasidic groups live — the largest being Satmar and Lubavitch — are Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Borough Park.
Different Hasidic groups contend with one another and other ethnic communities for space — their housing needs are enormous because they typically have very large families of eight or more children — and occasionally philosophical differences have led to physical attacks.
In Brooklyn, many Hasidic groups have been very supportive of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, who is Irish and Catholic. The Times articles provide us with one major reason for the support. He apparently has treated them preferentially, particularly in child abuse cases.
The ultra-orthodox Jewish community, like all other communities, is ashamed of the fact that child sexual molestation exists in their community. However, the Hasidic community was apparently outraged when one of their members reported to civil authorities that his son had been sexually molested in a ritual bathhouse.
As reported in a May 11 New York Times article authored by Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera: “The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested.
Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg. Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment. Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew. And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis's mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she ‘did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?'”
The Times article of May 11 also reported the statement of one of the most influential of all of the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel, stating, “‘You can destroy a person's life with a false report,' said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, which last year said that observant Jews should not report allegations to the police unless permitted to do so by a rabbi. Rabbinic authorities ‘recommend you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind,' Rabbi Zwiebel said.”
The Times article cites a number of cases of sexual abuse of children and the threats parents received from rabbis and others in the community if they alerted the police. The article reported on the shunning by the community of a rabbi who urged victims of sexual molestation to call the police, reporting, “Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg of Williamsburg, for example, has been shunned by communal authorities because he maintains a telephone number that features his impassioned lectures in Yiddish, Hebrew and English imploring victims to call 911 and accusing rabbis of silencing cases.
He also shows up at court hearings and provides victims' families with advice. His call-in line gets nearly 3,000 listeners a day. In 2008, fliers were posted around Williamsburg denouncing him.
One depicted a coiled snake, with Mr. Rosenberg's face superimposed on its head. ‘Nuchem Snake Rosenberg: Leave Tainted One!' it said in Hebrew. The local Satmar Hasidic authorities banned him from their synagogues, and a wider group of 32 prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and religious judges signed an order, published in a community newspaper, formally ostracizing him.”
Rivera and Otterman reported in their article of May 10, “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 Zwiebel, recalled.”
If in fact, Hynes assented to this procedure, in my opinion, he was blessing the obstruction of justice. The law requires certain categories of employees, e.g., teachers, social workers, etc., to immediately report to the government any information they gain concerning a case of child abuse.
For a rabbi to counsel otherwise, I believe, is a criminal act to be pursued by the District Attorney rather than countenanced.
To the credit of the Lubavitch community, the article reports, “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 [being an informer against a fellow Jew] 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.”
District Attorney Hynes is also accused of — and admits to — the charge that he has “taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program [protecting ultra-orthodox Jews for engaging in sexual abuse of children] — even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.”
Last week I was asked by Azi Paybarah of Capital New York for my views on this aspect of Hynes' official acts. My response, quoted on the Capital New York blog published on May 11, was as follows: “This community does not deserve to have any preferential treatment" and "he should treat them exactly as he would anyone else." Koch, who is Jewish, said Hynes should prosecute the rabbis who interfered with victims reporting accusations of abuse. ‘We're all equal under the law and they have to subscribe to the law without getting preferential treatment,‘ Koch said. ‘It's just dead wrong. And there's no explanation to make it right in any way.'”
At this point, unless District Attorney Hynes announces that he will release the names of all defendants, including those of ultra orthodox Jews charged with child abuse — sexual or otherwise — and will pursue criminally anyone who engages in obstruction of justice, advising someone not to assist the police in their investigation of a child abuse incident, the governor should supersede him in these cases and appoint a special prosecutor to handle them.
Edward Koch was the 105th mayor of New York City for three terms, from 1978 to 1989. He previously served for nine years as a congressman. Read more reports from Ed Koch
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Law Enforcement Leaders Join Child Abuse Prevention Campaign
by Drew Dawson
One hundred and sixty law enforcement leaders from across Washington, including six from Mason and Kitsap Counties, have signed a nationwide letter calling on Congress to provide funding for proven child abuse prevention strategies.
At its core, the strategies involve voluntary home visits to help parents learn how to communicate with, and nurture their children from the earliest days of the child's life.
Mason County Sheriff Casey Salisbury sees great value in this type of program, "I think every Sheriff in the State of Washington is involved in these kinds of issues, I think bringing these things to the public's attention and shedding more light on it gives us more opportunity to find ways to solve the problem"
Washington recently received a multi-year, $25 million dollar federal grant to expand home visiting services statewide.
"We know what it takes to prevent a lot of child abuse and neglect and so what Law Enforcement leaders are saying is let's get ahead of this problem and make sure we are making wise investment of public dollars and programs that have been proven by research to prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever happens", said Laura Wells, State Director of “Fight Crime-Invest In Kids”.
What works are voluntary home visits. She adds,“So the end game for home visiting is that parents have the information and the resources and the education and the support they need to make sure that their children get off to the best possible start, things like understanding when her baby cries, he's not trying to push her buttons, but actually, that is how babies communicate”
Salisbury agrees, “It's just incredibly important to get after this issue, to get after it when the kids are young, to be able to assist them and prevent the cycle of child abuse from continuing”.
The 2012 supplemental budget signed by Governor Gregoire includes nearly $1 million dollars per year in state general funds for home visiting. However, Child Abuse prevention experts say that will only reach about 20-percent of the families who would accept the service.
Lawmakers push for stronger reporting on child abuse
by Jeff Adelson
BATON ROUGE -- A bill to strengthen the penalty for failing to report the sexual abuse of a child and three measures dealing with sex offenders are headed to the governor's desk after passing Senate on Monday.
House Bill 577, inspired by the Penn State sex abuse scandal, imposes a penalty of up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000 or both for any "mandatory reporter" who fails to notify authorities about the abuse -- sexual, physical or neglect that results in serious bodily injury, neurological damage or death -- of a child. The bill, filed by Rep. Joseph Lopinto III, R-Metairie, also requires that anyone 18-years-old or older who witnesses the sexual abuse of a child and knowingly or willfully fails to report it can be imprisoned for up to five years, fined $10,000 or both.
The measure also expands the definition of mandatory reporters, which includes professions like teachers and social workers, to include anyone who participates in the teaching, training or supervision of a child as well as bus drivers, coaches, youth activity providers, university officials or anyone who provides child-care services in a voluntary capacity. Those reporters would now be required to report abuse even if it was not noticed or witnessed while they were performing their duties.
Another Lopinto bill, House Bill 353, would prohibit any sex offender from being physically present or living within 1,000 feet of a child care facility. Current law only imposes those prohibitions on offenders convicted of an "aggravated offense" whose victims are under the age of 13.
House Bill 1201, by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, also deals with sex offenders and child-care centers. That bill expands a law prohibiting sex offenders whose victims were children from owning, operating or being involved in the governance of child-care facilities by including those who pleaded guilty or no contest to sex offense charges, in addition to those who are convicted of the charges. The bill also prohibits those offenders from residing in a family-run day care home.
A final bill dealing with sex offenders, House Bill 556, requires that they appear at their local sheriff's office in person to update any element of their registration information. Current law only requires offenders to appear in person when updating their address, place of employment or school enrollment.
All but one of the bills passed with unanimous votes. Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, voted against the bill prohibiting all sex offenders from living or being present near a child-care facility.
Beef up reporting of abuse, Pennsylvania's task force on child protection is told
by JAN MURPHY
Failing to report suspected child abuse is a serious crime that is generally punished with a slap on the wrist.
That's the view of Dauphin County's Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean McCormack, the head of the county's child abuse prosecutions unit.
At a hearing before the state's task force on child protection on Monday, McCormack said it's time to make the grade of the penalty match the seriousness of the abuse. Failing to report is now a misdemeanor of the third degree.
“What message are we sending the public? If we really want to take seriously somebody failing to report, we need to put some teeth into that law,” McCormack said.
“If somebody is raping the child and they don't report that, thereby endangering the child time and time and time again and probably endangering other children ... that violation of the mandated reporting act should be a felony of the first degree,” he said. “They are allowing the abuse to continue and that would continue to harm that child.”
The state task force was created in December in the wake of Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse allegations. The panel has been asked to study Pennsylvania's child abuse protection laws and suggest changes.
The Legislature last upgraded the charge of failing to report suspected abuse in 2007, changing it from a summary offense to a misdemeanor of the third degree.
Tina Phillips, director of training at the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a Harrisburg-based child welfare agency, sees merit to a tougher penalty for failing to report.
“It's great that we've upgraded, if you will, the penalty from a summary offense, which is essentially a parking ticket, to a misdemeanor of the third degree. I think that's a step in the right direction, but I think we can take that further,” Phillips said.
That could get more people to report suspected abuse. But she added it should be coupled with more training of those who work with or around children to recognize indicators of abuse and the actions they should take in those situations.
Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders appointed the 11-member child protection panel. The task force is required to submit its recommendations to legislators by Nov. 30.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, a former state legislator and former county judge, chairs the task force.
Along with McCormack and another prosecutor, the panel heard from officials with child advocacy centers and state officials from agencies that oversee mandated reporters of child abuse.
During his testimony, McCormack suggested making changes to the crimes code and child protective services law to allow for more information sharing and better communication between law enforcement and children and youth caseworkers.
He also recommended good training for those who work with children to better spot child abuse. To help pay for the training, McCormack suggested the state should issue a special license plate featuring little handprints to raise money for child protection services, as other states have done.
Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator of Penn State's football team, is charged with molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. His trial is slated to begin next month. He maintains his innocence.
Two former Penn State administrators — former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley — have been charged with failing to report suspected abuse. They've also been charged with perjury, a more serious crime. Schultz and Curley maintain their innocence.
The State Task Force on Child Protection
— Created in December in the wake of child sexual abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry sandusky.
— The group has been asked to study the state's child abuse protection laws and suggest changes.
— The 11-member panel was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders.
— The task force is required to submit its recommendations for changes by Nov. 30.
Sex assault victim won't stay silent
by Karena Walter
ST. CATHARINES - The T-shirts Lesley Benson made for a recent fundraiser read “Sexual Assault Survivor,” on the front.
“There are more of us than you think.”
It took courage for her to actually wear one.
“If you want to be an agent of change,” she says, “you can't be silent.”
Since Benson started sharing her experience, particularly through e-mails, many other women with similar experiences have turned to her — by computer, in person, even at a baby shower. It confirmed how pervasive sexual assault is.
The problem was bigger than Benson. Bigger than any man who abused her.
“It's violence against women. The more I talk about this, the more I realize there are so many women out there,” she said.
May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre had 254 clients at the centre over the past year, the majority dealing with childhood trauma. More than 75% of those recently sexually assaulted knew their perpetrator.
Benson was struggling to put the effects of childhood sexual abuse behind her, and felt she was in a good place, when she was blindsided as an adult.
In October 2009, after a night off from the kids, Benson went out partying with friends. There was alcohol and marijuana. After a night at the bars, she brought friends and acquaintances back home, where they sang karaoke, drank and smoked more.
Feeling tired and sick, she left the group and went upstairs to her bedroom. She was alone. But she woke up suddenly with a male acquaintance on top of her.
Last month, a St. Catharines man charged with sexually assaulting Benson pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of assault.
The court heard he touched her body without consent. He was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 12 months.
It was a sentence Benson didn't support, but one the Crown said was a compromise because it would have been difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Benson said she wasn't living a high-risk lifestyle. She's married with two young children. She thought she had done everything she needed to do to protect herself.
“I felt like I had come so far from that vulnerable child and teenager,” she said. “I had a degree. I was hanging out with people with careers and in school. I was an adult. I was in a different place.”
The assault was a major setback.
The court heard it caused extreme psychological stress for Benson. She dealt with panic attacks, anxiety and isolation. Her relationships with others were strained. She had to quit her job as a crisis worker because she couldn't separate her own pain from the pain of the people she worked with.
On top of that, she had to be on HIV anti-viral medication for 28 days, causing stomach flu and side effects. She has post-traumatic stress disorder and an eating disorder.
Benson said her dignity was violated and the worst of it was she started to question her own judgment.
She said the way people react around victims is so important. Having no support can be the worst feeling in the world. People who asked, “what were you thinking?” didn't help.
She already felt shame.
She's had to learn that the abuse had more to do with the abusers than with her.
Despite those feelings of doubt and her disappointment from the courts, she wants to speak out. She wants women to understand the pervasiveness of sexual assault and how if it's not reported, people think there isn't a problem. And if there isn't a problem, there's no reason to fix anything.
“Women don't report it for many valid reasons. But every time we don't, it's swept under the carpet and the issue is swept under the carpet,” she said.
Benson sees a trauma therapist regularly, is trying to get out more, is writing a book and sending letters to politicians.
“I want to use this anger and channel it into something positive,” she said. “I'm not going to just forget about this. All of these things are defining who I am. I'm hoping they are defining me in a productive way.”
Talking about it helps, she said. It brings it out into the open.
“I don't want my daughter growing up with this. I want to do whatever I can and be as open as I can about my experience so that somebody somewhere will learn something. Maybe it will help protect her or at least help her get justice if this ever happens to her.”
Study finds chronic child abuse strong indicator of negative adult experiences
May 15, 2012
by Jessica Martin in Psychology & Psychiatry
This chart illustrates the individual childhood and adult outcomes according to the number of reports that occurred before the event of interest. Because it was possible for some children to enter the study period with a pre-existing condition, these are indicated as gray or black bars with the legend indicating the outcome occurred “before the study.” Chronicity is associated with increasing risk for all but child maltreatment perpetration, violent delinquency, and head or brain injury. In these cases, there is a slight decline in prevalence for the highest category compared with middle categories, but in all cases having reports was associated with higher rates of outcomes.
(Medical Xpress) -- Child abuse or neglect are strong predictors of major health and emotional problems, but little is known about how the chronicity of the maltreatment may increase future harm apart from other risk factors in a child's life.
In a new study published in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics, Melissa Jonson-Reid, PhD, child welfare expert and a professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, looked at how chronic maltreatment impacted the future health and behavior of children and adults.
The study tracked children by number of child maltreatment reports (zero to four or more) and followed the children into early adulthood, by which time some of the children had become parents.
The study sought to determine how well the number of child maltreatment reports predicted poor outcomes in adolescence, such as delinquency, substance abuse in the teen years or getting a sexually transmitted disease.
“For every measure studied, a more chronic history of child maltreatment reports was powerfully predictive of worse outcomes,” Jonson-Reid says.
“For most outcomes, having a single maltreatment report put children at a 20 percent to 50 percent higher risk than non-maltreated comparison children.
In addition, a series of adult outcomes were tracked to see if the chronicity of maltreatment still mattered after controlling for the poor outcomes in adolescence. Adult outcomes included adult substance abuse or growing up and having children whom they then maltreated.
“In models of adult outcomes, children with four or more reports were about least twice as likely to later abuse their own children and have contact with the mental health system, even when controlling for the negative outcomes during adolescence.”
Jonson-Reid says that there appears to be good reason to put resources into preventing ongoing maltreatment.
“Successfully interrupting chronic child maltreatment may well reduce risk of a wide range of other costly child and adolescent health and behavioral problems,” she says.
Jonson-Reid cites a recently published Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimating lifetime costs for a single year's worth of children reported for maltreatment at $242 billion. ( http://www.science … 213411003140 )
“What our study illustrates is that these costs are even more likely to accrue for children who continue to be re-reported,” she says.
The study also found that maltreatment predicts a range of negative adolescent outcomes, and those adolescent outcomes then predict poor adult outcomes.
“If the poor outcomes in adolescence can be dealt with effectively, then later adult outcomes may also be forestalled,” Jonson-Reid says.
“Our findings could therefore be interpreted as supporting many current evidence-based interventions that seek to improve behavioral and social functioning among children and adolescents who have experienced trauma like abuse or neglect.”
Jonson-Reid co-authored the study, “Child and Adult Outcomes of Chronic Child Maltreatment,” with fellow Brown School faculty members Patricia L. Kohl, PhD, associate professor, and F. Brett Drake, PhD, professor.
More information: To view the full study visit: http://pediatrics. … 529.abstract
Prosecutorial Discretion And Child Sexual Abuse
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
has been doing a really disturbing series on the sexual abuse of children among ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn.
focuses on District Attorney Charles Hynes: 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 Zwiebel, 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 Zwiebel, the group's executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party....
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. Hynes actually argues, bizarrely, that he is protecting the names of offenders--alleged and convicted--to protect the victims
The whole series is worth checking out. The rate of actual abuse doesn't appear to be higher, but the rate of reporting is significantly lower. The notion that an organization would bar its members from from reporting the abuse of children, without the consent of its authority figures, is rather amazing. That a prosecutor would knowingly consent to it, is strikes me as malpractice and amoral.
You are effectively aiding the cover-up, and thus becoming part of the chain of abuse.
Minnesota Dirty Little Secret; Sex Trafficking in the Northland
Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Not to long ago, a lot of people believed prostitution was a "victimless" crime, a simple transaction in which money was exchanged for sexual favors.
Now we are learning that could not be further from the truth.
The prostitution of underage girls, also known as "sex trafficking" is a pervasive, systemic problem that has life long consequences for its victims and its happening here in the Northland.
A survivor of sex trafficking who we'll call Payton was born into the life.
“My dad was a pimp and I don't want to say my mom was a prostitute, but she was trafficked. And then my aunties ran an escort service,” she told us.
As a little girl she was taught to answer telephone calls from men looking for sex. Payton also frequently found herself in the position of trying to protect the adult women in her life.
“My cousin and I would go to places with our aunts and sit in the car. If they weren't out in 30 minutes we called 911,” she explained.
Payton was determined not to enter into the family business but in her early twenties she met the wrong man and found herself out on the streets.
“I was taken to Texas and thrown on the street basically and was forced to bring back money.”
Some girls are forced into prostitution at a much young age.
The mere mention of Child Prostitution can result in shock and denial.
Not here in Duluth, you say? Think again.
“The kids that are coming to Life House absolutely are trafficked, many of the girls are trafficked,” explained Kim Crawford the Executive Director of Life House Duluth.
According to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota the average age of a girl forced into prostitution is 13, some as young as 11.
More than 50% are runaways living on the street.
Candy Harshner, the Executive Director of the Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault says poverty and past abuse are among the common threads that bind these girls.
“Many of the girls that are being trafficked have been brought up in homes where there is domestic violence or where they have been sexually abused as children,” Harshner told us.
A November 2010 study by the Women's Foundation found on any given weekend night in Minnesota, 45 girls under age 18 are sold for sex.
“The people who are victimizing young girls and women are people who are experts at it and know what to look for,” explained Harshner.
“These guys are predators they are rapists, you know that is what they are. But we are so careful about our language, but the reality is that is who they are,” added Crawford.
These days most sex trafficking of girls has moved from the streets to the internet.
When asked about what they do some victims of trafficking like “Payton” refer to it as survival sex.
“Survival sex is what I did. So...to eat, to live...there was always someone willing to have sex with me so I could get what I needed, my basic needs met,” she told us.
Eventually Payton couldn't take it anymore. She escaped the horrors of sex trafficking and its associated violence by running away.
She found safety at a battered woman's shelter.
But according to Kim Crawford of Life House underage girls looking to escape have few options.
“Duluth has a horrible shortage of age appropriate housing. On any one given night we have somewhere between 75 and 100 kids that are homeless. In our community we have 23 beds,” she said.
As sex trafficking moves from the streets to the internet it's becoming much harder to police.
Monday night (5/14) we will examine this growing problem and tell you about local efforts to create a future where "Minnesota girls are not for sale."
Dirty Little Secret; Sex Trafficking in the Northland: Part 2
Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - It's a dirty little secret in the land of Minnesota Nice; the number of adolescent girls sold for sex on the internet increased a whopping 166% in 2010.
The Women's Foundation of Minnesota also reports some of those girls caught up in sex trafficking are sold up to six times a day.
With just a few clicks of a computer mouse Sergeant Jeremy Graves and I found women offering themselves as "escorts," here in Duluth.
Dozens more were available in the Twin Cities .
According to Candy Harshner the Executive Director of the Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault, these young girls are being moved around.
“There's a lot that goes on especially between the twin cities and Duluth. The corridor of 1–35 is going to be a huge factor,” she said.
While the photos found on sites like Backpage.com are those of adult women Sergeant Graves with the Duluth Police Department says the actual person being trafficked is often an underage girl.
“And as a John it's safer to go with a girl that's on the internet, or appears to be safer than a girl that is standing on a street corner,” he told us.
For one sex traffic survivor, whom we'll call Payton, the experience was anything but safe!
“I have been raped multiple times by client and there have been situations where I have been held in a house and not able to leave,” she explained.
A hand full of women still sell sex on First Street in Duluth. Police know who they are and work to stop them and their Johns.
Downtown Duluth is where you'll also find vulnerable and homeless girls looking for a free meal or a place to sleep. Pimps and recruiters know this and take advantage of it.
“When its 30 below and you haven't eaten in two days and this nice guy says I got a place...it's not that bad, what are you going to do?” said Kim Crawford the Executive Director of Life House Duluth.
The Women's Foundation of Minnesota has mounted a five year campaign called “Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale,” to fight the trafficking of young women and girls.
According to the foundation the average Pimp controls three girls and makes 24 thousand dollars a month.
Income depends on convincing girls they alone can protect them. Payton told us those are false promises.
“The pimp is supposed to be your protector...but he is really not going to come in if somebody is doing something...because he could go to jail,” she said.
With the anonymity of the internet it has become more difficult to arrest pimps and Johns.
It's even harder to build a case for prosecution without "witnesses" willing to testify about the transactions being made. “If you are going to get beaten down or anything like that you are not going to turn a person in.” explained Sergeant Graves.
According to Candy Harshner ending sex trafficking is made more difficult because in many cases, the girls don't see themselves as victims.
“As long as they are being compliant and as long as they are doing what their pimp wants there's really not a lot of fear because they are doing what they need to do to survive.” She said.
Duluth Police no longer arrest girls being trafficked; instead they refer them to the Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault and Life House Duluth.
“One of our primary focuses is safe and affordable housing. Working with PAVSA there is a horrible reality. there is no safe place for these kids to go,” Kim Crawford told us.
Armed with a grant from the Women's Foundation PAVSA and Life House are developing a community plan to help girls break free of their pimps.
The hope is once those girls "are" safe...they'll help police put their abusers behind bars.
To end the commercial exploitation of children the Women's Foundation of MN is working to develop a statewide intervention model.
Agape launches ‘Raise Her Ransom' effort to fight sex-trafficking
Group asking 2,000 men to donate $100 to cause
An anti-sex-trafficking group is asking men, especially fathers, to become involved in the Raise Her Ransom fundraising effort.
Agape International Missions recently launched a fundraising campaign to collect $200,000 by Father's Day on June 17 to fund the group's expenses for six months in Cambodia. The Roseville-based nonprofit organization works in Svay Pak, a small village considered one of the world's major sex-trafficking hubs.
"It's a battle every day to save these young girls, and we need everyday heroes like fathers and their families to make it a reality," said Agape's Executive Director Don Brewster, in a press release. "Very simply, we need to save as many girls as possible from sex-trafficking."
Agape is asking 2,000 men to donate $100 each, which will help ransom a girl from sex-trafficking and poverty for a year. UNICEF estimates 1 million children enter the sex trade annually.
The Agape Restoration Center offers a safe home for girls rescued from sex-trafficking in Svay Pak. The center provides physical, psychosocial, educational, vocational and spiritual needs to help the girls reintegrate into society, according to the release.
Agape also has two community centers in Cambodia with a school, church, health clinic and kids' club. In Roseville, the nonprofit operates The Lord's Gym, a free workout center where staff shares information about sex-trafficking.
"All of these efforts are critical to combating the problem - and each program depends on the success of the others," Brewster said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.agapewebsite.org.
For the sake of one: Collin County resident fights to save, heal victims of human trafficking
by Kelley Chambers
Melissa Woodward is a victim of human trafficking who is now driven to give her pain a purpose.
Beginning at the age of 12, Woodward was sold into a sex trafficking ring by a relative and was subjected to unspeakable abuse every night.
After years of struggle and perseverance, the now 35-year-old mother of three is on a mission to bring domestic sex trafficking to the forefront of people's minds, in order to save a forgotten group of children who are living lives that many deny even exist.
"As a mom, I am just so infuriated," said Woodward. "How can we not do something about this problem; everybody can do something."
Woodward is founder and president of For the Sake of One, a Christian-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent, rescue and heal children of domestic sex trafficking. With its foundational belief being that a single life transformed is worth whatever the price, For the Sake of One aims to ignite confidence, courage and inner strength, while providing love, protection and guidance needed to heal from the injustice these children have endured.
Woodward is also the spokeswoman for the National Children's Identification Program and is in conjunction with the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) and the FBI. Her story of survival was also featured on the 700 Club last month, in which Woodward described, in detail, the horrors she experienced throughout her adolescent life.
Woodward eventually escaped the sex trafficking ring, her body dumped in a garbage can and left for dead. Shortly thereafter, at age 14, Woodward turned to a life on the streets. With only a sixth grade education and nowhere to turn, she said her options outside of the trafficking ring were extremely limited.
"Stripping was certainly my step up, but it was still not what God wanted me to do and I knew I could be better; I needed somebody to help me along the way and there was nobody to hold my hand, so that's what I do," Woodward said. "Everything that I would have wanted, I want to make sure that they have they opportunity to receive."
Domestic sex trafficking is defined as the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person a person under the age of 18 for the purpose of a commercial sex act." DST knows no race, background or economical status. Only 1 percent of these victims are rescued while one out of every 100,000 traffickers is ever convicted, Woodward said.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. immigration officials say 40 people were arrested in Oklahoma and Texas last month as part of a nationwide investigation into human trafficking that led to 637 arrests nationwide.
Dallas-based U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said 25 people were arrested in Dallas, 12 in Oklahoma City and three in Carrollton, as part of an investigation called "Project Nefarious" that began in February, according to the AP story.
"It is a highly organized crime," Woodward said. "I'm blessed, I came out on the other side of it. Only 1 percent survive. I feel it is my responsibility, if I was able to make it and survive how can I turn a blind eye and not help other kids out there who need help?"
The reality, however, is there is no federal or state funding or services available specifically for domestic victims of human sex trafficking, Woodward said. With an estimated 300,000 children being sold in the United States each year, America is the third largest destination point for human trafficking, Woodard said.
Traffickers often seek children in places such as schools, shopping malls, parks and playgrounds, bus stations and over the Internet. Some, like Woodward, end up being sold into sex trafficking rings at the hands of relatives, while others are caught at locations mentioned. Others are runaways who are likely to be picked up within 48 hours of leaving home.
Woodward's dream of ending nightmares and making dreams come true is slowly becoming a reality, as her organization plans on opening its first safe facility -- "Isaiah's House" -- in two months. The home will be open to all children of domestic sex trafficking abuse from ages 11 to 17. Each child will be provided medical services, life skills and college placement in order to prepare for their futures. The long-term goal is to construct 10 pod homes, each providing 28 beds for a total of 280 children to receive the services.
A measure to better protect youth from human trafficking in Oklahoma was signed into law in April. House Bill 2518, signed by Rep. Sally Kern and Sen. Josh Brecheen, strengthens Oklahoma's human trafficking laws in the hopes of deterring the industry in the state, according to a an April 12 story by the Shawnee News-Star. Currently, under Oklahoma law, if a minor consents to go along with a sex trafficking recruiter, then that recruiter is provided some legal protection; under HB 2518, consent of a minor cannot be used as a defense in court, according to the news source.
"If people don't know about it, then they can't react and do something," Woodward said. "We're behind the eight ball. You look at three years ago, nine states did not even have a law against selling children, and Texas was included because they didn't think it was happening. Why create a law if it's not needed? But it is a massive, massive problem."
To learn about Woodward's story of survival, visit http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/ZP84_Melissa_Woodward.aspx
. For information on For the Sake of One, visit www.forthesakeofone.org
Assembly considers sex-abuse curriculum, after bill passes Senate
Bill passes Senate, would go into effect in July 2013
by Shantal Parris Riley
Lawmakers are considering a law that would require public schools to include a child sex abuse curriculum.
Erin Merryn's Law would mandate schools throughout the state to provide students with child sex-abuse education in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Named after Erin Merryn, a 26-year-old survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the law has already been enacted in Illinois, Missouri and Indiana.
A bill to implement the law was passed in the state Senate in April. It is awaiting approval by the Assembly. If passed, it will go into effect July 1, 2013, with curriculum offered to students beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
“We've been told to stay away from that creepy-looking guy in the bushes, ‘Don't go into a car with a stranger, don't go helping to look for someone's lost puppy,' these are the tricks that strangers use to lure children into harm's way,” said Kathleen Murphy, executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
“Now what we're seeing is that, 90 percent of the time, kids know the people that are abusing them. So, telling kids to stay away from strangers is only solving a small part of the problem,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, in 2006, one in four girls and one in six boys were sexually abused by age 18. In 2001, almost 50 percent of child sex abusers lived in the same household as their victims, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The law would add the instruction to existing curriculum aimed at preventing child abduction, said state Sen. Steve Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, who voted to support the bill. “It would be a modification of the existing curriculum,” Saland said.
Enacting the law would not result in another unfunded mandate for state school districts, he said.
Under guidance by the state Department of Education, the law would allow districts to provide ideas on course content and include instruction from outside agencies.
It would also provide training for teachers, who are mandated under state law to report suspected cases of child abuse. Among the many professionals required to report child abuse are nurses, physicians, social workers, day-care providers, police and the bulk of professionals working within schools.
“If you're on the clock in a school setting and you're told about child abuse, you reasonably suspect or see something you suspect may be child abuse, you are bound by state law to call the state registry hotline and report it,” Murphy said.
At one time, teachers were simply required to report their suspicions of abuse to their superiors, she said. “Once you told your supervisor, you were absolved of your responsibility to tell anyone else. This is no longer the case. Now, you have to be the one to make the physical call.”
Murphy urged parents to help educate their children about sexual abuse, as kids tend to keep it secret. “If we really want to eliminate this social ill, we all have to get comfortable talking about it,” she said.
Backlash grows at N.Y. ruling on viewing of child porn
by Cheryl Wetzstein
In the wake of a New York court ruling that says it's not illegal to “merely” view online child pornography, child advocates are urging Internet-savvy federal prosecutors to take over these kinds of cases as two state lawmakers rush to fix the law.
It is “a singular outrage that the highest court in New York has decriminalized the act of viewing child pornography by computer,” Patrick Trueman , president and chief executive of Morality in Media, said after the May 8 ruling by the New York Court of Appeals.
The high court unanimously agreed to reverse two of the dozens of child-pornography counts against a former college professor, saying there was no evidence the professor did more than look at some images on his computer.
The ruling resulted in a spate of head-spinning headlines like Gawker.com's “Viewing Child Porn Online Officially A-OK in New York State” and “Looking at Child Porn Is Totally Legal in New York State” by the Atlantic Wire.
Mr. Trueman, a former federal prosecutor, said that until the law is fixed, all child-pornography cases in New York “that cannot now be prosecuted in New York state courts as a result of the court's decision” should be handled in federal court by U.S. attorneys and prosecutors with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
“This will mean that there will be a lot more child porn cases in the federal system, but it is a much better situation than letting these child pornographers go,” Mr. Trueman said.
Two New York lawmakers have already jumped into action.
In a press release headlined “New York must close loophole that protects perverts,” New York state Sen. Martin J. Golden said he had introduced a bill saying that a person who “knowingly accesses [child pornography] with intent to view” has committed a felony crime.
“Child pornography is highly offensive” and it “should not matter if you view it, read it or download it. Simply the fact that you are viewing it is a crime, and New York should treat it as such,” said Mr. Golden .
New York state Assemblyman Joseph Lentol sponsored a similar bill in his chamber.
The high court ruling stemmed from an appeal by James D. Kent, 65, a former Marist College professor of public administration who was convicted on 136 counts of procuring and possessing child pornography in 2009.
He is currently serving a prison sentence of one to three years.
Following a routine computer upgrade in 2007, Kent 's work computer was found to contain deleted evidence of more than 30,000 images of young girls, including ones depicting children “engaged in sexual intercourse with adults,” “engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse with dogs, adults and other children,” and “lewd exhibition of the exposed genitals of female children,” the high court wrote.
The photos and videos were downloaded and saved onto Kent's computer between 2005 and 2007, and sorted into files and documents with names like “Arina,” “Jim” and JK,” the ruling said.
Kent initially “denied any knowledge” of the images, but later said he had been working on “a potential research project on the regulation of child pornography.”
In Kent's appeal, lawyer Nathan Z. Dershowitz argued that just “accessing and displaying” Web images of child pornography was not illegal possession under state law.
The high court agreed, saying that to be guilty of possession, a defendant's conduct “must exceed mere viewing to encompass more affirmative acts of control, such as printing, downloading or saving,” Senior Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote for the majority. “To hold otherwise would extend the reach” of the law “to conduct - viewing - that our Legislature has not deemed criminal.”
“I do not support this view,” Associate Judge Victoria A. Graffeo wrote in a separate but concurring opinion, joined by Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott.
“Because I conclude that the Legislature recognized that a child is victimized each time an image of the child is knowingly viewed, I believe that this conduct” is illegal, she wrote.
Despite not agreeing with her colleagues, Judges Graffeo and Pigott voted to strike Kent's conviction.
Nearly one in four people experienced sexual abuse as a child. Why is this swept under the carpet?
by Anna Nathanson
A predominant focus in the recent case of the sex gang found guilty of abusing teenagers in Manchester was on “Asian men” preying on “vulnerable white girls”.
Yet last month, the alarming statistic from the NSPCC that a child is subjected to a sex crime every twenty minutes in the UK went shockingly under-reported, in one tabloid relegated to a tiny box on page twelve, as if it wasn't even worthy of being considered news.
It is in fact white men who are responsible for the majority of child sex offences in the UK , and in the greater Manchester area where this case took place, 95% of those on the sex offenders register are actually Caucasian. Yet rhetoric from various portions of the media reporting on this case included statements such as; “It has long been known that Asian men are associated with this type of crime”, and, “We can't say that they haven't got an issue in their community because we've now seen so many cases”.
Focusing so heavily on the ethnicity of the men involved in the Manchester case implies that the problem is confined to a particular minority, just as the last time sexual abuse was up for discussion on a large scale within the media was in the context of Catholic priests. I'm not attempting to downplay the awful abuse that took place within these contexts or suggest that the issues thrown up by these cases shouldn't be debated. Yet to pass up the chance to address the true extent of the problem within society in the process is actually something that is hugely irresponsible, and unwittingly facilitates its continuation on a much wider scale.
Statistics indicate that approximately one in four people in the UK experienced a sex offence as a child, making this a very real and present social ill. Yet while there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous groups in Britain, there is only one Twelve Step equivalent group in the whole country dedicated to survivors of sexual abuse. The fact is that we live in a society where admitting to being a drug addict or alcoholic is regarded as more socially acceptable than admitting to being a survivor of a child sex attack. And it is this culture of shame, which is interwoven into the very fabric of our society, which perpetuates silence around the problem, allowing it to carry on.
What we need is ongoing openness around the issues surrounding childhood sexual abuse, and only then will it be truly possible to lift the stigma and make it easier for children and adults who have been affected to speak out and get help, as opposed to a culture where it is swept under the carpet and attributed to particular minority groups.
Giving voice to the victims of child sexual abuse
by Desmond Devoy
May 13, 2012
Child abusers don't wear badges.
They aren't the creepy old man in the black trench coat down by the park, or sitting in his van parked beside the elementary school at recess time.
And if they are, they are the exception to the rule, since the majority of perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse are known to their victims and their families. Oftentimes, they are even members of the victim's family.
“It's the creepy guy in the white van, that's what the media tells us,” said Cynthia Bland, one of the co-founders Voice Found, a group that advocates for the victims of childhood sexual abuse, and helps facilitate childhood sexual abuse workshops. “(But) they don't wear a badge that says ‘Sexual Predator.' They want to be where the kids are. They want to fit in…They not only groom the children, but they groom the adults too. They pull the wool over their eyes.”
Bland was speaking at the bi-annual Carleton Place and Almonte family of schools meeting at the Arklan Community Public School in Carleton Place on Wednesday, May 2.
Bland knows of what she speaks, since she too was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, which lasted from age five to seven at the hands of a trusted neighbour.
“I carried that secret with me for 42 years,” said Bland.
One of the vivid memories she carries with her to this day of that period in her life is not of the abuse itself, but of how she felt at school. She was in Grade 1, standing on the edge of the playground, looking at all of the other boys and girls playing away.
“I didn't feel worthy of joining in,” said Bland.
A teacher approached her and asked her what was wrong.
“Oh, nothing,” said Bland.
While not faulting the teacher for not following up, Bland, in later years, wondered what would have happened if the teacher had followed through with more questioning, or had been taught to recognize the symptoms of sexual abuse and asked the right questions.
Even after she left school, there were repercussions in her personal life.
“I am a former cocaine addict, a former alcoholic. I dropped out of high school, even though I have a genius IQ,” Bland said.
For years, she also battled suicidal thoughts.
“I don't know what spark kept me going, but thank goodness I did,” she said.
Even though she is clean and sober now, she still suffers from anxiety attacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I'm fighting one off now,” Bland told the assembled teachers, staff and parent council members in the school's library as she bravely held it together. “Bear with me, I'm well medicated,” she said with a laugh.
In order to deal with her problems, “I fine tuned my acting skills,” she said.
In time, she had four children and along with finding success in the fields of sales, marketing and education.
“I had a great life,” she said.
But it was the death of her father that brought a flood of old emotions back to the fore.
Even though she had been sober for 15 years at that point, “I felt in danger of using again.”
She sought professional help and during one session with a psychiatrist, “she asked the question – ‘Were you sexually abused as a child?'”
That one question, and its answer, proved to be a game changer.
“The flood gates opened up and it all came out,” said Bland. “Part of my healing journey was to tell my story.”
Bland co-founded the organization in 2009 to combat a problem that is sadly far more pervasive than it should be. According to Bland, one in five boys will be sexually abused before their 18 th birthday, and the number jumps to one in three girls.
“How do we prevent this from happening in the first place?” Bland asked. “It crosses all social and economic boundaries.”
The effects of childhood sexual abuse are evident, even on the street corners of big cities, since 70 per cent of prostitutes report that they were sexually abused as children. A high percentage of rapists also report having been abused.
According to her group's own estimates, taking in to account costs like policing, medical care and the like, the short term costs of sexual abuse in Carleton Place alone would be $103,058 per year, and more than $135,000 per year in Almonte.
But worse than all of these financial and societal costs, is the cost to the souls of the children who are directly affected.
“We cannot expect a child to stand up to a predator,” said Bland, who advocated several steps to combat abuse before it starts, such as minimizing risk, staying alert, making a plan and acting on suspicions. While she commended the “good touch/bad touch” lessons taught to young children, she felt that school boards like the Upper Canada District School Board could be doing more workshops for children, parents, teachers and staff.
“This is a taboo subject,” admitted Bland. “Believe me, I don't like standing up here and talking about being sexually abused.”
Protecting children before they get abused, and helping those who have been abused after the fact is important, but so too is helping the adult survivors.
“There is very little support for adult survivors in Canada,” said Alex Vorobej, Voice Found's treasurer. “We need to make people aware of this.”
Vorobej himself is not a survivor, but does suffer from post traumatic stress as a result of his military service.
State, tech companies build alliances to combat sex trafficking
by Shoshana Walter
Last year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined attorneys general across the country in declaring war against Backpage.com, a free classified website run by Village Voice Media. The officials threatened legal action if the site didn't stop running ads for adult services, some of which have been linked to underage sex trafficking.
But while Harris took a confrontational tone with Backpage - which has since balked at shutting down its adult pages - a more cooperative dynamic has emerged this year between the attorney general and online companies.
Harris recently announced an agreement with mobile and tech companies that requires their apps to better display their privacy policies. While Harris said she will not rule out legal action against sites such as Backpage, her office has begun to build more alliances with online firms. And as companies such as Facebook have matured, they have become more willing to cooperate with government leaders and law enforcement.
This week, representatives from Facebook and Microsoft will be among 50 law enforcement and nonprofit leaders who are meeting as part of a new Department of Justice task force on human trafficking in the state. By the end of the summer, the government task force plans to issue a report containing best-practice guidelines for law enforcement, tech companies and service providers combating human trafficking locally and online.
"Having everyone at the table, it makes them more vested in being part of the process and finding solutions," said former special assistant attorney general Suzy Loftus, who organized the meetings. "These public-private partnerships are one tool at our disposal."
But industry observers say tech companies' increasing cooperation with government leaders and law enforcement is less a sign of goodwill than of self-preservation. As online companies come to dominate the marketplace, they'll look for ways to keep the upper hand. And many say the cooperation could lead to problems for consumers.
"This is very basic economics. If you're a company and you're trying to undermine your competition, you look for the best return on your investment. And sometimes that means working with the government," said Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and director of the High Tech Law Institute.
"If the industry and the government are getting cozy together, the industry might get a seat at the table that's helping to shape regulation. Why wouldn't they want to be a part of that?"
Some privacy advocates say partnerships between tech companies and governmental agencies threaten the rights of Internet users. Civil rights attorneys have criticized Facebook and other companies for signing on in support of CISPA, a bill that would allow private companies to share with the government any user information that constitutes a homeland security or cyber threat.
"It's a civil liberties nightmare," said Rainey Reitman, director of activism for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's under the guise of something everybody wants to get behind - internet security - but the actual implication of this bill would be to undo decades of privacy law."
Facebook already shares personal account information with law enforcement agencies upon subpoena, court order and sometimes request, and runs every single photograph uploaded onto the site through a federal child pornography database run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The social networking company advertises a national hotline for sex trafficking victims on the site, and lists information about help for victims in its FAQ.
At least one issue the task force has discussed is whether Facebook has the right to screen users' search terms for words that might identify them as potential victims of human or sexual trafficking. The websites could then show the user ads for helpful organizations or a national trafficking hotline, something that Google, for example, already does when users enter "suicide" into the search bar. A suicide hotline appears at the top of the list.
"I haven't got much problem with that, because at that point you don't have much data going outside of Google," said Reitman. "I think you get into a different situation when you have data going from users to the government, without them understanding what's happening."
While many websites have joined in efforts to clamp down on the distribution of child pornography, trafficking is a newer issue. In a span of just a few years, the Internet has quickly entered the forefront in conversations about combating human trafficking.
In 2007, two years after California lawmakers made human trafficking a felony, the attorney general's office convened a similar task force and released a report on trafficking in the state. The Internet was not mentioned.
Then in 2010, the State Department called together a meeting with researchers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the intersection of trafficking and technology.
Facebook and other tech companies attended the discussion, and Mark Latonero, director of research at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, and his colleagues decided to study the issue. They released a report, "Human Trafficking Online," in 2011.
Previously, state leaders weren't "really thinking about technology as a tool to help," said Latonero, a member of the task force.
Attorneys general have also put pressure on Craigslist, Tagged and Myspace to alter policies and services. "We know technology can be used for good and bad," Latonero said. "We also want to understand how technology can be used not only to facilitate trafficking but also monitor and combat it."
In February, Attorney General Harris decided to follow suit, inviting many of the same organizations and tech companies to the first task force meeting in close to five years. Google, with which Microsoft is at war over everything from monopolizing the market to search engine algorithms, was invited to participate in the second task force meeting last month, but declined.
Microsoft, which helped develop the PhotoDNA technology used by Facebook and other websites to identify known child pornography images, recently awarded grants to researchers on the topic of sex trafficking and technology. They are helping to build a searchable database of information mined from known and publicly accessible sex-trade websites for law enforcement agencies across the country. Researchers plan to analyze patterns in the data to understand how human traffickers operate online.
Samantha Doerr, a member of the task force and Microsoft's digital crimes unit, said researchers are not violating privacy protections because the data they are looking at is publicly available online. She said companies can build technology, such as PhotoDNA, that is more "exact" and that allows companies to detect illegal activity or images without impinging on users' privacy rights.
"A lot of information out there is extremely publicly available and visible," she said. "And these crimes we're talking about are really tremendously awful."
New task force targets traffickers who force children into the sex trade
FBI, Chicago police join forces to go after pimps
by Annie Sweeney
May 14, 2012
Inside the Harrison Police District station, the officers sat in a semicircle to be briefed about the shift ahead in one of Chicago's most beleaguered areas.
But on this recent day, the topic was not the shootings and murders on these West Side streets, but a crime often pushed far back into the shadows — the thousands of young girls and women who are prostituted, pushed into the violence of Chicago's sex trade.
FBI Special Agent Jonathan Williamson and Chicago police Sgt. Traci Walker were there to announce a new joint effort by the FBI and Chicago police to target child traffickers in the city.
"Our main goal here is to go after guys pimping out juvenile girls or putting any underage juveniles into the sex trade," Williamson said. "Certainly, most, if not all, (investigations) are going to start with you guys on the street."
Williamson and Walker urged the officers to call with any tips, passed out some recent arrest sheets and headed for the door.
"You looking for any pimps?" an officer quietly asked Walker. She nodded.
"I got one," he said.
Walker took out a scrap of paper and wrote down the name.
The clandestine nature of sex trafficking makes it difficult to know exactly how many young women and girls work in prostitution, said DePaul College of Law researcher Jody Raphael. She has estimated that in Chicago as many as 25,000 are involved in the commercial sex trade, including exotic dancers.
Many who work the street or are sold on the Internet started out in the business in their teens. A 2008 survey of Chicago women working in prostitution who were 25 or younger and under the control of a pimp found that they began at 16 on average.
The younger the girl or woman, Raphael believes, the more likely it is she has a pimp or trafficker, in part because she is often recruited first into a romantic relationship.
Over the past decade, advocates have pushed law enforcement to re-examine how it views the crime of prostitution — especially for the young adults caught in the trade. Today, investigators are going after traffickers on one hand while extending social services to women working in prostitution. Chicago police, Cook County and federal authorities meet monthly to target offenders for the toughest punishment.
Victims' advocate groups are embedded with law enforcement, attending meetings and even raids at times so that they can offer social services to the women and children who are detained.
The effort seems to be paying off, say local and federal law enforcement.
Last year, Cook County charged nine defendants in the Little Girl Lost investigation in which authorities, armed with wiretaps, listened as girls were beaten and sometimes thrown into a car trunk and driven around as a form of punishment. One 13-year-old was sold from one pimp to another for $100.
Law enforcement in Chicago scored its most significant win last month. A 21/2-year investigation that started in part when a family reported its daughter missing to Chicago police concluded with a stunning 50-year sentence for her pimp. Prosecutors say Datqunn Sawyer spent much of his adult life coercing or forcing young women and girls, some just 12, into having sex with customers numerous times a night. He used extreme violence — both emotional and physical — against his victims.
Six of the young women testified against Sawyer at his trial. At a tense sentencing hearing, three of them endured taunts and insults from Sawyer's family to tell the judge what happened to them.
The Chicago FBI office and Chicago police, stunned by the extent of Sawyer's crimes and number of victims, formed the Crimes Against Children task force.
"It was almost like an onion when you started peeling away," said FBI Special Agent Gregory Wing, who oversees the task force. "When you started interviewing the victims, you got more victims."
The new task force brings federal resources to bear on investigations that typically start with Chicago police intelligence from street sources, beat cops who notice young girls coming in and out of one house, or, as in the case with Sawyer, distraught parents who call police for help with their teen daughter.
Nick Roti, chief of the organized crime division for the Chicago police, said his department and its federal counterparts have perfected joint investigations of high-level gang members and drug dealers. Now they are targeting pimps, and the consequences can be staggering for wrongdoers, he said.
"When you take a girl at that age, you change their life in ways that are very hard to overcome," said Roti, who indicated that Sawyer's hefty sentence drew attention on the street. "Hopefully guys will start staying away from these young girls. I don't have high hopes. They think they are smarter than everybody. But the way we are doing these cases … if we set our sights on them, they are going to jail."
So far the task force has made six arrests and recovered 14 juveniles who were involved in prostitution.
While advocates credit law enforcement with being more aggressive, they also want to see as much effort put toward arresting and punishing the customers who are driving the sex trade.
"Until we address the demand, we are not getting to the heart of the issue," said Kristin Claes of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. "There will always be vulnerable people who pimps and traffickers can sell."
At a known West Side "stroll" on a recent Friday night, the streets seemed quieted by the unseasonably chilly winds. But if you looked hard enough, they were there.
One teen, maybe 15, stood alone in the middle of a short, quiet block, wearing oversize hoop earrings and skinny jeans, the sequin designs on the back pockets sparkling under the street lamp. When a car slowed, her gaze turned upward. A sad-looking young woman tucked her chin into her oversize coat collar as if to keep the wind away. She leaned on a chain-link fence. And waited.
A pair emerged from the dark. She, 15 or 16 with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, walked just a pace behind him. He noticed a car passing twice and leaned with a menacing glare.
"This could be very, very big," said DePaul's Raphael of the new FBI-Chicago police task force. "We don't know enough about the industry. A lot of it is indoors. You really can't get at (pimps) easily."
GUEST COMMENTARY: Human trafficking has ambiguous presence in western Missouri
by Laura Kebede
Last December, I interviewed five children in the Takeo province of Cambodia and talked with several of more than 40 others at A Greater Hope Orphanage. Each had a story about escaping poverty, neglect or abuse.
The International Labour Organization estimates 28,000 children in this small southeast Asian country are forced to beg, dig through trash or work as servants — almost double the number of current students in Columbia's public schools.
Without the option of the orphanage, several could have ended up in sex or labor trafficking situations. Traffickers often approach parents and promise to give their children jobs in the city, a blatant lie. In some cases, impoverished families will sell a child to traffickers, knowing full well what will happen.
In the last decade, these revelations about human trafficking have pushed the topic to the forefront. Horrific stories of sexual and physical slavery have inspired thousands to action, including groups on the MU campus and elsewhere in Columbia.
The Western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney's office, which includes Kansas City and Boone County, claims it has handled 45 human trafficking prosecutions since 2006 — more than any other U.S. district. This includes urban destinations such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
With a bold claim like that, the district stands to gain leverage in requesting federal money. But, so far, they have been unable to answer requests from the Missourian for comparative numbers from other districts to back up the claim.
Evidence of the number of prosecutions related to human trafficking in each judicial district has been impossible to acquire. Those numbers are kept with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington and are not available to the public.
If the claim is true, the district should be commended. But handling the most prosecutions does not necessarily mean the district has the biggest human trafficking problem. It could mean it has the most success in bringing traffickers to court — granted, a key deterrent that helps curb human trafficking.
But the public has no way of knowing without access to all the numbers.
On a national level, some data can be found. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice districts prosecuted 131 human trafficking cases, for example.
Federal task forces investigate about 1,200 cases a year, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics report. About half of those turn up confirmed cases of victimization.
But in Boone County, the scope of human trafficking remains unclear. Part of this is because of a national tendency of poor data collection on human trafficking cases. The U.S. State Department is asking local, state and federal agencies to do a better of job of reporting that data in the Trafficking in Persons 2011 report (scroll down to United States.)
It's also because local advocates and law enforcement are reluctant to disclose the numbers they have collected in Boone County. Donations are solicited and events are held to help local survivors, but official numbers on how many survivors live in Boone County are restricted.
In Columbia, the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition raises money to assist human trafficking survivors with living expenses and hosts training sessions for law enforcement, social services and the public.
Yet Deb Hume, the co-chair of the coalition, would not reveal how many survivors had been served since the coalition began in 2008. She said the U.S. Attorney's Office told her not to provide exact numbers because it could compromise the survivors' identity.
One board member, however, has hinted that three survivors have been served by the coalition in the past year.
Almost all of the coalition's budget is from small donations. A two-year $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2009 is the only federal or state funding the coalition has secured. The grant paid the Columbia Police Department for training and overtime to proactively unearth human trafficking cases.
A handful of officers netted two cases for prosecution, and now, no one in the department is dedicated to human trafficking cases.
As the community learns more about how to recognize human trafficking, the costly emotional and physical consequences for victims and ways to contribute to the solution, we should also know the extent of the problem — however large or small.
Laura Kebede, who graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism this spring, spent three weeks in Cambodia in partnership with A Greater Hope Orphanage. She was a public safety reporter at the Missourian this spring.
Woman gets 2 life terms for raping infant daughter
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A judge sentenced a Missouri woman to consecutive life prison terms for sexually assaulting her infant daughter along with a California man she met online.
Attorneys for 22-year-old Tessa Vanvlerah, of Ballwin, failed to persuade St. Louis County Circuit Judge Colleen Dolan to sentence their client Monday only to probation, because they argue that a psychological disorder is largely to blame for her crimes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/IE2USO).
Vanvlerah pleaded guilty in January to incest, statutory sodomy and statutory rape in the attacks against her daughter, who is 3 but who was 5 months old when the pair first attacked her. The woman who fostered and then adopted the girl said initially, the girl would scream when anyone bathed her or changed her diaper. She still has night terrors and asks at each bedtime to make sure nobody else comes into the home.
However, she said the girl is improving day by day and "is no longer Tessa's plaything and she is no longer Tessa's child."
Vanvlerah was arrested in 2010 following the arrest of 49-year-old Kenneth Kyle , a California State University East Bay professor, on child pornography charges. Along with hundreds of child porn images on Kyle's computers, investigators found information that led them to the St. Louis area, where Kyle had visited Vanvlerah four times in five months since meeting online. During those visits, prosecutors say the pair had sex with the girl and each other at various hotels.
Kyle pleaded guilty to a federal child sexual abuse charge and was sentenced in March to 37½ years in prison.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Brooke Kraushaar testified at Vanvlerah's sentencing hearing that Vanvlerah's dependent-personality disorder caused her to participate in Kyle's sexual fantasies, even though she knew sex acts involving the baby were wrong.
Kraushaar, who was hired by defense lawyers Brent Labovitz and Kevin Whiteley , described Vanvlerah as "a passive offender." She said Vanvlerah was so afraid of being rejected by others that she also allowed Kyle to choke, burn and urinate on her.
But assistant prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh disputed the diagnosis, pointing out that Vanvlerah exercised free will in electronic communications with another man. Vanvlerah carved her nickname for the man, "Lord Nikon," into her skin at his request, the prosecutor said, but drew the line at one of his suggestions involving bestiality.
Alizadeh said police learned that Vanvlerah and another man, from Avon, Mo., exchanged child porn and discussed plans for him to come to St. Louis to have sex with the infant, but it was never acted upon.
In 2008, when Vanvlerah was 18, a woman obtained a court order of protection against her, accusing her of seducing and having sex with the woman's 16-year-old autistic son. Alizadeh said it resulted in Vanvlerah's pregnancy.