The Optimistic Futurist: Citizens make a difference in fight against child abuse
by Francis Koster
As a futurist, I write about emerging threats, and the need for successful interventions to address them. In that spirit, today I bring good news about something bad.
The United States has begun to turn the tide on how we deal with child abuse. I am not saying the problem is solved — but progress, compared to where we started decades ago, is being made.
The term “child abuse” covers much ground, from lack of food and hygiene to emotional abuse, battery and sexual abuse. Using that big definition, it appears that out of the roughly 75 million Americans under the age of 17, more than 1 million American children are victims of child abuse each year. More than half of the abused are reported to suffer from “neglect”; they were not physically attacked, but they were not fed or supported in ways that their little bodies and minds require. Of the remaining group, about 300,000 suffer physical abuse, about 150,000 suffer emotional abuse, and around 135,000 suffer sexual abuse. Hard to believe these numbers represent progress, but they do.
In 1873, a church volunteer doing a home visit found a 9-year-old girl chained to a bed, malnourished and beaten. The volunteer's first efforts to rescue the child failed because the law and custom of the day made such behavior within a household a private matter. Local officials ignored the reports, and when an investigation was finally begun, the community leaders failed to follow up. In desperation, the church worker turned to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for help because animals were protected under a better set of laws than children were. ASPCA sued the officials, arguing that humans were animals, too. The resulting publicity successfully rescued the child.
Starting from this foundation of outrage against physical and emotional abuse, science helped build the case. With more widespread use of X-ray exams in the 1950s, doctors began to see examples of years of abuse documented in untreated and badly healed broken and fractured bones of children who before had no witnesses to their situation. In 1962, the Journal of The American Medical Association summed up this horror in an article that called for diagnosis and treatment of child abuse as a medical condition.
As knowledge of both emotional and physical abuse grew, discussion of sexual abuse of children, heretofore a taboo subject, became more acceptable.
There was resistance — some labeled these efforts as intrusion into the arena of the family and/or an unwarranted expansion of government. Some called the emerging evidence poor science. State and local laws became a very uneven patchwork quilt, resulting in people getting away with bad behavior in one locale that they could not do in another — much like today's legal climate in the area of public health and the environment.
It was not until 1974 that the first really comprehensive federal law was passed to protect children from abuse. Called the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (or CAPTA), the law required the states to create systems to capture and investigate reports of child abuse. As a result, a large number of children were removed from bad circumstances.
There were problems. In the beginning, there were no formal training programs about how to investigate a suspected case of child abuse. Imagine this situation in other professions — ambulance crews who show up never having been trained in CPR or police officers never trained in hostage negotiations — yet this is exactly the situation that existed in child abuse until the National Child Protection Training Center was started at Winona State University in Minnesota in 1985. Since its establishment, the center has trained more than 40,000 child protection professionals.
This history teaches us that concerned citizens can shine attention on problems and bring about changes in customs and laws for the betterment of all. We also see that as science and technology give citizens clearer insight into a problem, the ability of the concerned citizen to bring about change increases. This is what is occurring now in the area of pollution detection and public health monitoring.
We have come a long way from the days when animals had more protection than children. While the journey is not done, much can be learned by studying how change was brought about.
We can make our society better if we work at it.
Fla. to review all child abuse deaths
by KELLI KENNEDY
The Associated Press In one year, the number of Florida child abuse deaths dropped 30 percent, from 197 to 136, according to a tally by the state.
The dip between 2009 and 2010 seems remarkable, but wasn't due to a massive campaign to prevent child abuse deaths. Rather, it's because the state changed the way it categorized such deaths. Only a fraction of Florida's 2,282 overall child deaths in 2010 were labeled as abuse by a network of investigators whose training and approach can vary. The state child abuse death review team — which compiles the tally — is only forwarded cases that the local investigators determine to be abuse.
But Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins said late Friday his agency would allow the independently run team to review all child deaths starting immediately.
"It became very apparent that if (the review team) is going to give policy and direction, they have to have all the information. Otherwise we're filtering the information for them and inadvertently influencing their points of view," Wilkins said.
Wilkins said the agency had been looking at the issue for awhile, but the announcement came shortly after records requests from The Associated Press and The Miami Herald examining the issue.
Just before the dip, former DCF director of family safety Alan Abramowitz sent out a draft policy in 2010 narrowing guidelines for how to classify drowning and the deaths of children sleeping with parents known as co-sleeping deaths, saying there had to be a willful act of a caregiver to be considered neglect. Although it was never became policy, investigators unofficially followed it. Abramowitz said the guidelines were intended to improve consistency. He left the agency to head the state's Guardian Ad Litem program in 2011.
The classifications have sometimes put the child death review team at odds with DCF because the team has repeatedly pushed to review all child death cases, saying it removes politics from the process and gives authorities a more accurate picture to help prevent future deaths.
"It's been an ongoing problem. There were inconsistencies across the state where it really came down to a person making a judgment of what deaths they wanted verified in their area or not. The danger of that is that it can lead to more abuses simply because one person decides they don't want to verify certain deaths anymore," said Dr. Mike Haney, former head of the state review team. "The whole system allows itself to be manipulated."
Drowning and co-sleeping deaths can be problematic categories. They are vulnerable to being written off as tragic accidents because they are less obvious than beating or other trauma deaths. The categorization of the death can determine whether anyone faces charges, a deterrent to future abuse or neglect.
"We had some circuits that verified every swimming drowning death and some that didn't verify any, and the inconsistencies created problems for the review team," said Abramowitz, who was on the team for two years.
Co-sleeping deaths were cut in half from 42 in 2009 to 21 in 2010 and drowning deaths dipped from 59 to 42 during that same time, according to the report.
Investigators have historically been reluctant to verify drowning as neglect deaths, even when there's evidence of pill bottles and drug paraphernalia at the scene. It's easier to write them off as accidents and investigators often don't want to further traumatize parents by asking them to submit to a drug test.
Often a child is already dead but paramedics will take them to the hospital anyway, disrupting what could be a crime scene and delaying the chance to collect critical details, Haney said.
For example, Miami-Dade County ranks second in the state for pool drowning for children under the age of 4. Yet, the review team did not examine any drowning deaths from that county for the year 2006, according to the report.
Manatee County Sheriff's Major Connie Shingledecker, a longtime member of the death review team, purchased dolls for investigators to help parents show the exact position of the child in 2005. The following year, she led training across the state, educating law enforcement, child investigators and medical examiners about the importance of preserving potential crime scenes, including the exact placement of bedding and pillows in co-sleeping deaths.
The training seemed to work and the number of verified deaths increased the following year. But members of the death review team still clashed over whether certain drowning or co-sleeping deaths constituted neglect.
For example, a mother came home from work and found her two-month-old son dead in a bed where he had been sleeping with his father and two siblings. There was no crib in the home, the father admitted to smoking marijuana and he had a criminal history including drug charges, according to the 2007 death review report. The death was verified as child abuse, yet the father was not drug-tested after the child's death.
A similar situation in the Panhandle was not verified as a child abuse death after a toddler got out of a trailer and drowned. The mother admitted she was high on marijuana, and authorities found marijuana in the kitchen. She wasn't drug tested or arrested. Officers said they didn't pursue it because the parents were already so upset about the child's death.
Training and oversight of investigators varies. In several counties they work for the local sheriff's department, while in most of the state they are DCF employees.
States vary widely in how they review child deaths. Some only review deaths with a prior history with child welfare officials. A few states, including North Carolina, review all deaths. Child advocates generally agree reviewing all deaths is the best practice, but many agencies worry about the political repercussions because it may make their child death numbers appear higher than other states.
A report last year from the Government Accountability Office also warned America uses flawed methods to tally and analyze the deaths of children who have been maltreated, and the latest annual estimate of 1,770 such fatalities is likely too low.
Conference focuses on sex trafficking
'Epidemic' includes more than 4,000 victims in Tenn., TBI says
by Beth Warren
NASHVILLE -- After graduating high school, Kim Benson escaped a dysfunctional home life by moving into an apartment with her older best friend -- a mistake that still haunts the Cordova woman decades later.
The two soon went to a house party, where Benson, 18, who had never drank alcohol, tried to impress a cute guy by downing several drinks. She ended up passing out in the bathroom, awaking to find herself alone and naked on the floor beside a dozen used condoms.
She walked home and found her friend sitting on a bed counting stacks of money. It would take weeks for the truth to set in, that her friend had sold her body for money.
Soon two large men kidnapped Benson and another teen and took them to a Chicago hotel, forcing them to work as prostitutes for several months before they escaped.
"I survived hell and back," Benson told police, prosecutors, clergy, child advocates and others gathered for the three-day 2012 Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville, which concluded Saturday.
About 160 people from throughout the U.S., Canada and Brazil, attended the conference, which had the sense of urgency of an emergency management war room after a disaster.
State Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) said she plans to introduce more bills in January to aid in the arrest and prosecution of traffickers.
Attendees agreed that the problem is growing and is already more pervasive than residents, and even some in law enforcement, realize. Gov. Bill Haslam, who declared May Human Trafficking Awareness Month, predicts human trafficking will take over as the nation's No. 2 criminal enterprise this year.
"Trafficking is an epidemic of tragic proportions," First Lady Crissy Haslam wrote in a letter to all attendees. "Solutions to complex problems do not come easily, but increasing awareness and improving knowledge is a great place to start."
She pointed to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's findings last year of more than 4,000 known victims statewide.
Shelby County authorities and social workers have reported more than 100 cases of minors who were victims of sex trafficking.
That includes victims who were brought to Memphis from Atlanta, Dallas and other areas and forced into the sex trade here, and boys and girls sold for sex by their own parents.
Some Memphis victims have been kidnapped and drugged, others ran away from home and thought they were running to a boyfriend, who eventually morphed into a pimp.
Traffickers often court victims over the Internet, said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Scott Augenbaum, head of the Memphis division's Cyber Crime Squad. He said his team has prosecuted more than 30 predators in Memphis and Nashville who went online to target minors.
The teens and young women in Memphis have been burned, beaten and branded with their pimps' names.
Benson said her abusers often pressed a gun to her temple and snarled: "We could kill you if we want to. You'll never get away."
She said she was once raped with such force, she had to have reconstructive surgery and was told she could never have children.
"My story doesn't end in tragedy," said Benson, who found a supportive husband, Daryl Benson, and was able to have a son, Drew, 16. "It ends in triumph."
She now runs A Bridge of Hope Ministries, mentoring victims and trying to reform pimps and johns.
She said she visited a Memphis inmate who told her he had trafficked about 200 young women during his life of crime.
Drew Benson, who attended the conference with his mother, said he now wants to begin a support group for children whose parents have a history of sexual abuse or alcoholism.
Roscoe and Deloris Johnson, pastor and co-pastor of Restoration Outreach Ministries in North Memphis, came to the Nashville conference to learn how they can help.
"Most people think it's a third-world problem, but it's serious in Memphis," Roscoe Johnson said. "It's like it's taboo, unreal, most people just don't accept it."
For more information about the topic, visit traffickinginamericataskforce.org
Rep. Fedor's war on 21st-century slavery …
BY DAVID KUSHMA
Ohio is preparing to go to war over slavery.
This 21st-century enslavement is called human trafficking. It's the coercive sale of one human being -- child or adult -- by another, for sex or cheap labor.
Last week, the state House unanimously passed a bill that declares human trafficking a first-degree felony in Ohio and takes new steps to protect its victims. The Senate will consider the measure this week, and Gov. John Kasich has pledged to sign it.
A lot of people -- law enforcement and juvenile justice officials, social service and mental health providers, academics, and state policy makers -- worked hard to develop the legislation. But most of all, it is a testament to the tenacity of state Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat who has made the issue her own for seven years and never let go.
"I know way too much," Ms. Fedor told me last week, describing her long study of the horrific ways in which people exploit other people. "I can't sleep at night until this is done. These people are terrorizing our communities. Why not call them terrorists?"
Representative Fedor, a former Toledo Public Schools teacher, says an investigative report in The Blade in 2006 helped inspire her interest in human trafficking. The report concluded that Ohio -- and especially the Toledo area -- was a center of child prostitution. More recently, Toledo has ranked first in the nation among cities in arrests and rescues related to sex trafficking of minors, as a proportion of population.
Her bill would create a safe harbor for trafficking victims, no longer reflexively defining them as criminals. Juveniles who were forced into prostitution or pornography could have charges against them suspended while they get services: a safe place to live, medical care, drug and alcohol treatment, counseling.
Once they complete that process to a judge's satisfaction, the charges would be dropped and their records scrubbed. Victims of trafficking could sue the people who exploited and imprisoned them, and could get compensation from the state crime victims' fund.
Human trafficking would carry a mandatory prison term of 10 to 15 years. Pimps and other traffickers who intimidated victims to keep them from testifying -- in criminal argot, "no face, no case" -- would confront tougher felony charges of obstruction of justice.
Convicted pimps and sex traffickers would have to register as sex offenders. Once police seized their assets, the proceeds of these forfeitures would pay for victims' services.
The measure seeks to discourage trafficking by cracking down on johns as well. Anyone who pays for sex with a minor would be subject to a felony charge and hard time. Claiming ignorance of the other person's age offers no excuse.
The record of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans during this legislative session has been virtually nil. Yet Ms. Fedor says that GOP legislative leaders and Governor Kasich's administration have worked with her to strengthen the bill, expanding its safe-harbor provisions to include adult trafficking victims as well as children.
"This is a state of emergency for our children," she says. "It's a matter of safer neighborhoods. It isn't partisan."
Our state's large communities of immigrants, its proximity to the East Coast and Canada, and its concentration of young people in colleges and universities all contribute to trafficking, Ms. Fedor says.
The statistics the lawmaker shares about human trafficking in Ohio are heartbreaking. Nearly three out of five trafficking victims were sexually abused when they were children.
A child prostitute is 13 years old, on average, when he or she enters "the life" in Ohio. Life expectancy after that: seven years. More than three out of four Ohio girls who engage in prostitution and don't get help -- but manage to stay alive -- will still be turning tricks on the street as adults.
A human-trafficking study commission estimated in 2010 that more than 3,400 foreign-born people in Ohio are at risk of sex or labor trafficking at any time, and almost 800 are coerced into these vile industries. Nearly 2,900 native-born girls and boys in the state are at risk of sex trafficking, the report said, and more than 1,000 are forced into sex work in a typical year.
Ms. Fedor showed me sequences of police photographs of Ohio child prostitutes that were taken after their arrests over several years. The differences between the first and last photos in the series are a chronicle of degradation.
"Society has to wrap their arms around these girls and say: 'It's not your fault'," she says.
Under the law's public-education provisions, employees of businesses such as hotels, casinos, and truck stops would be trained to spot and report incidents of human trafficking. Police would get more instruction in handling cases of trafficking.
The more Ohioans recognize trafficking, Ms. Fedor insists, the less willing they will be to tolerate it. It's time, she adds, to replace the sniggering description of prostitution as the "oldest profession" with a definition as the world's oldest oppression of women.
Meanwhile, the outrages continue. This month, a Toledo man was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison on a federal conviction for forcing a developmentally disabled 17-year-old girl to have sex at a motel with men he recruited in bars. His brother and mother were sentenced on charges of helping him try to persuade the victim not to talk to police.
The new state law won't eliminate such inhumanity. But Ms. Fedor says Ohio can create a national model of zero tolerance in the fight against trafficking.
"The message is clear," she says. "You cannot sell a human being. We're going to clean this up."
To report human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the Ohio Highway Patrol tip line at 1-866-678-8477.
Pessimism May Lead to Self-Injury in Emotional Abuse Survivors
Nonsuicidal self-injurious behaviors (NSSI ) are quite common among adolescents. Estimates suggest that nearly half of teens have injured themselves intentionally through biting, cutting, burning, or scratching, at one time or another. These behaviors are not intended to cause death but rather seen as a form of stress relief. Mental health experts and researchers have examined NSSI behaviors and the psychological ramifications of such behaviors, but few studies have looked at the risk factors for NSSI. Understanding the emotional conditions that make a child more vulnerable to these behaviors could help clinicians treat these children.
Dr. Trevor Buser of the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership & Counseling at Rider University in New Jersey sought to explore two conditions that have been linked to NSSI in adolescents. He led a study involving 390 college students, ranging in age from 18 to 25 years. He focused on pessimistic explanatory style and childhood emotional abuse. Pessimistic explanatory style describes a person's negative and self-degrading explanation of their actions. Rather than attribute their outcome to external conditions, they tend to blame themselves for negative situations, regardless of how they occurred. Buser wanted to know if this pessimism was a consequence of emotional abuse, which is often verbal and derogatory. He also evaluated how much this pessimism influenced NSSI.
Buser discovered over half of the students in his study had engaged in NSSI during the prior 12 months. He did not find any trend of NSSI relative to age, race, sexual orientation, gender, or economic status. However, the results did show that those with the highest levels of pessimism had the highest levels of NSSI. Buser believes that children who have survived emotional abuse may see NSSI as a way of exhibiting control and that directing pessimism inward may be an extension of that act to control. He added, “The findings lay the groundwork for research into whether childhood emotional abuse does indeed contribute to pessimistic explanatory style over time, which would increase the likelihood of later NSSI.”
Child Abuse Bill Ready to Work
MOWER CO., MN--Making laws tougher for those who can't protect themselves.
That's the aim of a recently passed Minnesota bill, that will make many child abuse cases punishable by a felony in the state, before it was just a misdemeanor.
It all stems from a Mower County case, where parents chained their young son to a crib.
State Representative Jeanne Poppe (DFL) says the Mower County Attorney had a difficult time prosecuting the case before, knowing their wasn't a stiffer penalty.
Poppe says, "They had called throughout the state to try to find, 'How can we actually give them a greater penalty?', 'How can we prosecute this at a higher level?', and what she found was a lot of places, they too were concerned about it".
The law will take effect August 1, and has had a federal push with a letter signed by local law enforcement officials in support.
Poppe says, "You don't expect the worst case scenario and when it happens then you have to start realizing that maybe we do need to change the law to help deal with the worst case scenario".
Child abuse instances increase during summer months
by Angelina Perez
Amarillo, TX - Summer vacation may mean an increase in abuse as students spend more time at home.
Child abuse instances increase for both The Bridge and CASA during the summer months, sometimes they nearly double.
The Bridge Children's Advocacy Center and CASA say there are many stresses adding to the increase in abuse.
"Sometimes mom and dad are having to pay for food when normally they would have been getting lunches and breakfast at school. Kids may be at home by themselves now because parents still have to work, even when school is out and they may not have the funds to send them to camp or to school," said Lara Escobar with CASA.
Another reason for the increase in cases seen, may be more children telling counselors at camp or family members they are visiting about the abuse.
"It also provides them with an opportunity that let's say abuse is happening at home or by someone in their neighborhood then they will go, they may go visit a relative and go, I'm going to tell them about it because they feel safer because they are not in that environment anymore," said April Leming with The Bridge.
To meet the increasing demand during the summer months, there are steps these children advocates have to take.
"Mentally we have to prepare for it, that it is going to be busier, it is going to almost double what we normally do," added Leming.
CASA says they also try to inform the parents of things they can do to help deal with the increased stress.
"Let parents know that there are things out there that they can do. There are some free camps, they can call 211 to get some of those. Look into the lunch programs that some of the parks have so the kids can go and get free breakfast and free lunch to take off some of that burden," added Escobar.
CASA says more volunteers with their group could help ease the strain.
If you are interested in becoming a CASA, visit www.amarillocasa.org or call 373-2272.
Etan Patz murder: Judgment in family's civil suit against sex offender could be thrown out
by Amy Brittain
Jose Antonio Ramos, a ragged-looking sex offender with sunken eyes and long, scraggly hair, was long ago deemed civilly responsible for the death of Etan Patz.
His face has been splashed on television news broadcasts and published in newspapers. He's been labeled the prime suspect in the killing of the 6-year-old SoHo boy who disappeared in 1979 on his walk to the bus stop.
Despite the public's overwhelming presumption of guilt, Ramos was never criminally charged in the Patz case.
But in the civil court system, the Patz family brought a successful wrongful death suit against Ramos. A Manhattan judge awarded a $2 million judgment to the Patz family in 2005.
That judgment, though, is now in jeopardy, legal experts say, after New York City authorities this week charged a different man, Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, for the murder of Patz.
Hernandez was arraigned Friday night on the murder charge, but his court-appointed lawyer says he is mentally ill and has a history of hallucinations. The attorney, Harvey Fishbein, told the judge Hernandez is bipolar and schizophrenic. The judge has ordered a psychological examination.
"If this other guy (Hernandez) turns out to be the real deal and takes a plea (or is convicted), the civil case would be vacated," said John Quinlan Kelly, a Manhattan attorney.
Kelly is well known for representing Nicole Brown Simpson's family in a wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson. He's also handled wrongful death lawsuits in the Joran van der Sloot and Drew Peterson cases.
It's not unusual for a defendant to be found not guilty in a criminal case but later ruled to be civilly responsible, a judgment that has a much lower burden of proof. For instance, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder but found himself on the losing end of a civil suit.
"But here, you're talking about two different people," Kelly said of the Patz case.
Despite the civil judgment, the Patz family never got the answers they were seeking from Ramos during the case, which never went to trial. It's long been reported that Ramos, who was dating Etan's babysitter, allegedly confessed to other prison inmates that he had sexually assaulted the boy. The family has also never received any money from Ramos.
Attorney Brian O'Dwyer, who represented the Patz family in the lawsuit against Ramos, did not respond Friday to several attempts for comment.
Twice a year, Etan's father, Stanley Patz, sends copies of missing posters to Ramos in prison. On the bottom of the poster, according to numerous press accounts, is a question for Ramos: "What did you do to my little boy?"
New Jersey attorney Ken Javerbaum agrees the civil judgment against Ramos will likely be thrown out, depending on the outcome of the criminal case against Hernandez.
Javerbaum handled a high-profile wrongful death suit filed against by the widow of Charles Bernoskie, a murdered Rahway police officer, against Robert Zarinsky, who had been acquitted of the crime. The suit was successful but later overturned on appeals, which forced Bernoskie's widow to pay back what she had been awarded.
If Hernandez is convicted or pleads guilty to Etan's murder, "it would enable Ramos, either individually or through his lawyer, to vacate the judgment against him," Javerbaum said. "It seems to me, it's now clearly erroneous and was entered under mistake of law."
As for Ramos, he's served the maximum sentence of 27 years in a Pennsylvania prison for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse involving a young boy in the 1980s. He will be released Nov. 7, said Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
"That's his maximum. We can't hold him past that," McNaughton said. "When you max out, which is what he's going to do, he will not be under parole or anything. He will be free to go."
Etan Patz Mystery: 99 Percent of Abductors Never Kill Victims
(Video on site)
by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
May 26, 2012
Thirty-three years after the disappearance of Etan Patz, the only suspect ever arrested is as much an enigma as the missing child case that has baffled investigators for decades.
Unlike psychopaths, who show no remorse, Pedro Hernandez, a 51-year-old New Jersey builder, reportedly broke down emotionally during his confession. And unlike many molesters, Hernandez appeared to have no criminal record.
In addition, police offered no possible motive for the crime, saying only that Hernandez, then a teenaged stock clerk at a Manhattan bodega, confessed to luring the 6-year-old into the bodega for a soda and choking him to death in the basement.
Hernandez has told police he then stuffed Etan's body into a plastic bag that was thrown into trash elsewhere in the neighborhood. The body was never found.
He admitted to family members and friends as early as 1981 that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York," according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. When confronted, Kelly added, the suspect confessed, expressing "remorse" and "relief."
Police said they had no reason to believe there were signs of sexual abuse, but homicide experts say authorities may be holding back.
"Hernandez certainly doesn't present as an organized killer," said Jack Levin, a professor of criminology from Northeastern University.
"It looks like his crime was spontaneous rather than methodically planned," he said. "Based on statistics concerning abductions by strangers and acquaintances, I would speculate that his motivation involved a sexual assault."
Despite stereotypes to the contrary, the recidivism rate among sexual predators is among the lowest, according to Levin.
"It is conceivable that Hernandez never again molested a youngster," he said. "This is particularly likely in light of his confession."
Feelings of remorse and empathy -- not typical in a sociopath -- might have kept Hernandez from repeating his behavior as he matured, he said.
The cold case was reopened in 2010 and, in April, investigators excavated a basement apartment steps away from Patz's home and the bodega where Hernandez said he killed the boy.
The new focus on the case led one of Hernandez's family members or a friend to alert police that they suspected Hernandez's involvement.
His neighbors in Maple Shade, N.J., said he led a quiet life and belonged to a Pentacostal Church, according to The New York Times.
Though Hernandez doesn't seem to fit the typical profile of a child killer, pegging a suspect into a psychological box can be misleading, according to according to Ken Lanning, a former special agent in the Behavioral Science Unit at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
"It's complex, and no two cases are alike," said Lanning, who said he, too, doesn't know all the facts in the case. "But [police] must have a reason to believe his story."
Both Levin and Lanning warned about "false confessions."
"People come forward to confess because of publicity and notoriety," said Lanning. "Over the years, there have been two or three in-depth scenarios where someone claimed to be involved in the Etan Patz case."
For a decade, the prime suspect in the case was Jose A. Ramos, a former mental patient now imprisoned for molesting a boy in Pennsylvania. But he told police that he never killed the boy and put him on a subway.
"The police don't just believe people," said Lanning. "They must have some kind of standard to give this guy credibility. Most significant in a case like this is when a guy says, 'I can take you to the body.'"
But in Etan's case, police say it's "unlikely, very unlikely," that they would ever be found.
Hernandez reportedly told police he put the body in the trash, where it would have ended up in a city landfill.
"That can be a mess -- even a week later -- depending on the garbage and how it's compacted," said Lanning. "Especially 33 years later."
"When you look at these cases, 99 percent are released relatively unharmed," Lanning said. "Most people fall off their chairs when they hear that."
"Typically, they stop a child and lure them into a car, or the woods or backyard, or a basement and do something to the child -- sexual perhaps," he said. "Then, they let them go and the child is home before they knew they were missing."
But in cases of so-called "long-term" abductions such as that of Patz and Adam Walsh, who disappeared in a Florida shopping mall in 1981, "the outcome is not so good," Lanning said.
He added that investigators can't make assumptions based on other similar crimes.
"We don't have a huge number of these cases, and many are unknown," he said. "They have to consider all possibilities and they can't put all their eggs in one basket."
"The key here is consistency," said Lanning. "Is what he says he did consistent with what we know about him? If he says nothing went on sexually and then they find out this guy had been grooming and seducing 6-, 7-, 8-year-old boys, there's an inconsistency."
Police may holding back some of the details of the confession -- even hints of sexual molestation -- to spare Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz.
"They might not go into it, especially in a case this old," said Lanning. "Imagine the poor mother and father go through this 33 years later. He could have told them he did something with the boy and the police aren't saying it."
But investigators cannot rule out the possibility that Hernandez molested the boy, according to Lanning.
"It's easier for most of these guys to rationalize killing a child than having sex with a child," he said.
An FBI study of 500 children who were abducted and murdered found that about 75 percent of them had been killed within three hours of abduction. Some abductors kill for sadistic reasons, others for sexual gratification, but there are also those who kill because they "screwed up," according to Lanning.
"One of the least likely things a sexual predator will do is kidnap and murder his victims," he said. "A smart sexual predator doesn't kidnap anyone."
But sometimes things go wrong and the child "starts screaming and yelling and kicking and biting," said Lanning. "Now, he's got to stop the kid."
A certain number worry afterwards that if they release the child, they will tell, and so they go on to suffocate the child.
But all this is speculation, according to Lanning.
"What you think happened," he said, "is not so important as what you can prove happened."
On Friday, Hernandez was on a suicide watch at a New York City hospital just hours before he was arraigned on second-degree murder charges.
Sandusky charity to shut down, transfer programs
by Matt Moore and Michael Rubinkam
PHILADELPHIA — The charity for troubled youths started by Jerry Sandusky more than three decades ago — and through which the retired Penn State assistant football coach met the boys he is charged with sexually abusing — said Friday it is seeking court approval to shut down and transfer its programs to a Texas-based youth ministry that serves abused and neglected children.
The Second Mile said it has been financially crippled by the child-sex abuse scandal involving its founder and onetime public face and concluded after a six-month internal review that it had no other option but to close.
The State College-based charity began the legal process of dissolving itself Friday, submitting a plan to Centre County Court that would transfer its programs and millions of dollars in assets to Arrow Child & Family Ministries Inc., a $36 million charity that operates in Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Honduras.
"While we are sad that the Second Mile will not continue running programs, we are heartened that the important work of helping children — and their families — reach their full potential will go on," the charity's interim president and chief executive, David Woodle, said in a statement.
The announcement was widely expected after Sandusky's November arrest plunged the Second Mile into crisis. Donations dried up, volunteers fled and organizations that once referred children to the Second Mile said they no longer would.
Prosecutors allege that Sandusky found his victims through the charity he started in 1977 and committed many of his offenses inside Penn State football buildings. He has pleaded innocent to more than 50 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 alleged victims and awaits a June trial.
The Second Mile said in its petition Friday that "it became immediately apparent that the allegation against Sandusky, especially as they focused on child sexual abuse, jeopardized the very existence" of the nonprofit.
The Second Mile considered attempting to restructure itself as a smaller organization — or discontinuing its programs entirely — but settled on a third option that Woodle said was the "most attractive in that the programs will be continuing and the kids who need those services" will continue to get them.
One popular program, Summer Challenge Camp, teaches life skills, conflict resolution and goal-setting to 300 to 400 troubled children each year. Arrow plans to maintain the camp, along with mentoring programs, an institute to promote leadership skills, and support for foster families.
"We got many, many emails that said, 'You've got to keep those programs,'" Woodle told The Associated Press.
From its beginnings as a home for foster children, the Second Mile grew to become one of the largest providers of youth social services in Pennsylvania. The nonprofit thrived because of Sandusky's prominence as a defensive coach at Penn State, its close ties to university donors and leaders, and its use of Penn State's athletic fields for its camps serving at-risk children. The late coach Joe Paterno often served as master of ceremonies at the Second Mile fundraisers.
But its longtime CEO, Jack Raykovitz, came under fire for failing to inform the charity's board about 2001 and 2008 abuse allegations against the retired coach. Infuriated board members told the AP in December that had they been kept in the loop, they could have taken steps to better protect children a decade ago.
With the Second Mile's name irreversibly tarnished by the Sandusky scandal, donors informed the charity that while they still supported the programs, they would no longer contribute money.
"We got very little" donor support, "and it trailed off over time," Woodle told AP. "We're really down to hardly any. Our recommendation now to people is if you want to support these programs, support Arrow."
Arrow was founded in 1992 by Mark Tennant, who grew up in Washington, Pa., and was himself severely abused as a child. The charity expanded into Pennsylvania in 2004 and now serves 300 children in seven counties from its base in Altoona. If a judge approves the Second Mile's petition, Arrow plans to open additional offices in State College and in the Harrisburg and Philadelphia areas.
"I grew up not far from Penn State and the hurt created by these shocking circumstances affected me personally," Tennant, who earned a divinity degree from Oral Roberts University, said in a statement Friday. "I felt the need to turn my heart home and be a part of the healing process."
Court approval is expected to take several months. The Second Mile said it would remain a legal entity even after it dissolves and continue to "cooperate fully with any investigations."
Tennant said in an interview Friday that since Arrow is merely taking over some of the Second Mile's programs — not merging with or acquiring the charity — his organization has been assured it will be shielded from any potential liability from civil lawsuits brought by Sandusky's accusers.
Asked why he wanted to get involved, Tennant said he viewed it as an opportunity to repay the kindness that his Pennsylvania foster family had shown him many years ago.
"It's about a heart decision for me. Our organization had been operating kind of quietly in Pennsylvania, but we exist in Pennsylvania solely because of the intervention that was brought to my life as a child, a victim of abuse and neglect. It was an opportunity to give back to the community that had given so much to me," he said. "It was an opportunity to run toward the story, not away from it."
Pa. mother charged with killing her toddler twins
The Associated Press Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - A woman was charged Friday with killing her 18-month-old twins, named Adam and Eve, in the family home. Police said she also attempted suicide by cutting her wrists.
Stacey Smalls, 41, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, police said.
Investigators believe one twin was strangled and the other was drowned. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results for the official causes of death.
Police also allege Smalls gave her 4-year-old daughter some type of substance to drink in an attempt to poison her. The girl is listed in stable but guarded condition at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
A police spokesman said Smalls, who worked as a nurse at a nursing home, then tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists. Her husband, Ronald Smalls, discovered the scene when he came home Thursday afternoon from his job as a corrections officer and called 911.
Police have not officially commented on a possible motive for the killings.
"She had something that she felt was justification but there is no justification...it's a tragedy, two young babies dead and there is no excuse for that," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
Ron Smalls told WPVI-TV on Friday that he and his wife had been having marital difficulties, but he did not elaborate.
"We've had some problems and I'd suggested therapy for both of us," he said. "She didn't think it was important."
Stacey Small changed her Facebook profile picture May 19 to a photograph of a car spray-painted along its side with the words, "Hope she was worth it." She also listed her relationship status as divorced.
A Facebook friend asked about the car image and Smalls replied that she found the photo online and "I liked her style. Friend Ronald Smalls and check out what I wrote on his page." The message may have been deleted, as Ronald Smalls' most recent post appears to be on May 13 when he wrote, "Happy MothersDay!"
Stacey Smalls' Facebook page also includes photos of her twins and 4-year-old daughter. She remained in police custody Friday and was on suicide watch, authorities said.
Three kids found abandoned in shed among homeless
by Yamiche Alcindor
Three small children, all believed to be under the age of 4, were found in an abandoned shed Thursday morning in Portland, Ore., KPIC-TV reports.
Portland police are now hoping the public can help identify the youngsters who were among a group of homeless people living in the shed.
Just before 9:30 a.m., a man called 911 and told police he'd heard children's voices coming from a shed behind his house.
When officers arrived, they found a vacant house and a nearby shed where several homeless people had been living. They also soon discovered three children, the station reports.
The homeless people told police a woman, possibly the three's mother, abandoned the children in the shed on Wednesday night.
"It was heartbreaking to see those little kids come out," Judy Baxter, who lives across the street from the vacant home, told KPIC-TV. "It was sad. It was just sad. They'd given them stuffed animals, and two of them were walking. And the cop had the other one in his arms."
Photos of the children are available on KPIC-TV and CNN's websites.
CNN describes the three in detail:
The youngest among them is described by police as a 15-pound infant who is between the age of 8 and 15 months old. She has short black hair, brown eyes and two front, lower teeth showing.
The next oldest child found is another girl. Weighing 28 pounds, she has long black hair and brown eyes and is about 2 years old, police estimate.
The third child is a boy, approximately 3 years old. He also weighs 28 pounds and has brown eyes, as well as short black hair.
Police are asking anyone with information about these children to call the Department of Human Services' 24/7 Child Abuse Hotline at 503-731-3100.
Colleges create child abuse policies after Penn State scandal
by Allie Grasgreen
In the wake of the shocking child molestation scandal at Pennsylvania State University, that institution is leading the way in ensuring policies are in place to protect children on campus and prevent similar incidents in the future. And it's not the only one.
“There are a lot of schools working on policies now, absolutely,” said Ann Franke, president of Wise Results, a consulting firm that advises universities on legal issues. “The summer camp season is upon us and that is focusing new attention on the issue of children on campus, obviously, in the wake of the Penn State problem.”
For the most part, these policies address reporting procedures for suspected child abuse among minors who are visiting campus and are not actually enrolled (though high school students in dual-enrollment programs or similar situations might be covered, depending on the institution). But, perhaps in illustration of the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, some universities have reached much further -- even attempting to cover all students regardless of age, prompting objections from counselors and faculty members.
In approaching this project, Franke said, a number of complicated issues have emerged for colleges: for one thing, the programs that bring children onto campus are diverse, and they are many. From sports teams to science fairs to afternoon art classes, colleges are trying to create a consistent set of expectations for issues such as employee and volunteer screening, sexual abuse identification training, and reporting protocols. And while many colleges and universities sponsor programs for children, many others don't, but rent space to organizations that do.
“Penn State is extraordinarily large and extraordinarily complex. And when we really started to inventory the programs that we actually have on campus that involve minors – I mean, it was staggering,” said Susan Basso, head of human resources at Penn State. “Quite frankly, we started initially benchmarking other institutions, many of whom are our peers, and it was very difficult if not impossible to find good comparators…. so at that point we just really had to take the policy and just start picking it apart.”
At Penn State, which Franke says is the “model” on this front, the resulting policy is far more comprehensive than most. Building on a policy enacted in 1992, the updated version  contains three key changes: it requires background checks of anyone overseeing minors; it requires at least two adults to be present in all communication and interaction with minors; and it clarifies who should report suspected sexual abuse (any employee or volunteer who works with children), and how (to both the state child abuse reporting hotline  and campus program director, who will in turn report to university risk management, general counsel and police services).
The policy also requires annual training on reporting procedures for all staff who work with children.
Penn State grappled with some of the same issues that other institutions are facing, Franke said: how to select staff who work with children, whether to appoint one overall coordinator for child protection, and if so, who that would be; who to train and how; what the reporting mechanisms should be; and whether to conduct campus investigations regardless of whether police are looking into an allegation.
“I think like all universities, we were very – the allegations at Penn State got our attention,” said John Applegate, executive vice president for planning and policy at Indiana University at Bloomington. “I think one of the things that was most striking, as you think about this with the allegations at Penn State, was, what was happening was not actually within the context of an official Penn State program….. That gives you a sense of the range of possibility here.”
That's why Indiana tried to develop more, flexible requirements rather than fewer, one-size-fits-all ones.
In accordance with state law, Indiana's brand-new policy  on programs involving children will require all employees, students and volunteers to report suspected child abuse or neglect to child protective services or local police, regardless of whether they work with children. Further, university employees who suspect something must notify the director of public safety. Like Penn State, Indiana will require background checks – to be repeated at least once every three years – of all staff who work with children.
But the Indiana's becomes more individualized in that all programs that involve children must have their own individual policies and procedures addressing different aspects of child safety – for instance, whether and how to train supervisors, or what to do in a weather emergency.
The universitywide policy does not address whether programs should provide any additional training for staff on the topic, which Applegate said would be an overreach.
“One reason we tried to make this as flexible as appropriate was to take into account that we don't want to unnecessarily add administrative burdens to anybody,” Applegate said. “We do not in this policy try to go beyond the requirement for notifying if somebody has had reason to believe that something has happened…. it would be just an enormous expansion of the requirements, and I think it's not really necessary or indicated for lots and lots of programs.”
For example, Applegate said, a campus daycare program will require far less action to adhere to the policy than a science fair.
The University System of Maryland, though, is taking a far more blanket-like approach – but not exactly by choice. While a state attorney general's opinion written two decades ago requires anyone to report any suspected abuse, past or present, that rule was previously applied primarily at the K-12 levels of education.
Not anymore, after the board of regents approved a rule in December that orders universities to abide by the attorney general's interpretation of the law.
“[The opinion] has always been applicable…. I think what changed is the heightened awareness,” said JoAnn Goedert, associate vice chancellor of the Maryland system. “What the Penn State tragedy brought to everyone's attention is the extent to which there are others in our campus communities that need to have sort of greater awareness that they have reporting obligations as well. And it's for that group that this is much more difficult.”
Would a composition instructor have to report a student who writes about past abuse? Would a student have to report a peer who spoke about a similar experience at Take Back the Night? Would it matter if the students in those examples were 18 years or older, and therefore legal adults?
“My sense is that if Maryland isn't unique,” Goedert said, “we're among a minority of states that have this requirement.”
One group that would clearly be affected – and is clearly concerned – is counseling professionals. Partly thanks to protests from counselors there and at other system campuses, the policy is still being fleshed out to address tricky questions like the ones posed above. But counselors are still worried the policy could be a deterrent to students seeking help.
Most counselors would not hesitate to report current abuse, but many have doubts about mandatory reporting of abuse that stopped years ago -- if a student seeking counseling is facing no danger.
“The potential chilling effect is to drive people away because they don't want to be exposed, they don't want to have their information shared from behind; it almost puts an onus on them to protect themselves even more,” said Jim Spivack, director of the Towson University counseling center. “I don't think that this kind of policy interpretation is going to be effective at getting people to get treatment about it, and that's what they need.”
However, both Goedert and Spivack are confident that forthcoming clarification, frequently asked question and procedural scenarios will put university employees more at ease. Then, for the Maryland universities and for others across the country, it will just be a matter of ensuring the policies work.
“These are preventative measures that need to have a long shelf life in institutional record-keeping…. I think it's easy to overlook that in the rush” to get procedures in place, Franke said. “My hope is that people will get initial programs set up and then they will continue to work on the issue so that in three months they'll say, ‘Oh, we need record-keeping,' or ‘Oh, we need to adjust our policies or our training program.'”
“This is a kind of risk that requires sustained attention.”
7-year-old boy's suicide shocks Detroit community
by Gina Damron, Cecil Angel and Matt Helms
DETROIT - Peering through the keyhole of a locked door in her family's home, a 14-year-old girl saw the unthinkable: her 7-year-old brother hanging from a bunk bed with a belt around his neck, a police report says.
The girl alerted her mother and called 911. The mother and a neighbor forced their way into the room, took the boy down, and called 911, too.
The 7-year-old, whom the Free Press is not naming, had been depressed about being bullied by other kids at school and in his neighborhood, and about his parents' recent separation, the boy's mother told police, according to the report.
"It's just a tragedy on so many levels," Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said Thursday, calling the situation "unfathomable."
He said the department is investigating the child's death, but as of Thursday afternoon, it appeared the situation is "exactly as presented" - a suicide.
Autopsy results were pending late Thursday, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
Godbee said he was told that the child had expressed a desire to harm himself. The mother also told police that her family's pastor was counseling her son to help him cope.
The child's loved ones, speaking over the phone and in person, said they did not want to comment when reached Thursday.
The issue of bullying and its consequences has been a hot topic across the country for the past few years, spawning discussion, books, documentaries and even cartoons on the issue. Wednesday's incident has some questioning how a child so young could commit such an act.
Experts say children that young may not understand the finality of death, but they need to be taken seriously when signs of depression arise.
"Any time a child makes a threat or engages in talking about suicide, it should always be taken seriously," said Polly Gipson, a child psychologist at the University of Michigan and at U-M's Center for the Child and the Family.
"We shouldn't think that because a child is a child, there's no way (he or she) can act on those behaviors."
In 2010, a medical examiner ruled the death of a 6-year-old girl in Oregon a suicide, according to news reports, which say the girl hung herself after her mother sent her to her room.
Of the 36,951 suicides recorded in the U.S. in 2009 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 265 involved children ages 5 to 14.
A lot was troubling boy
The boy's mother told police she forced her way into the room where her son was by removing the door knob, grabbed her son and held him up while a neighbor removed the belt from around his neck, a report says.
The boy's mother told police she had last seen her son alive at 4 p.m. Wednesday when she left to go talk to the family's pastor about the child's depression, according to the report.
The mother told police that her son "had been depressed due to her recent separation from his father; the fact that he had been bullied continuously by the children at school, in addition to constant teasing he had endured because he was the only boy in the home of eight females," a report says.
Neighbor Harold Pleasant could hardly believe what had happened. He said that on Tuesday, he helped the child's mother start her van. She told him that the boy had a 1 p.m. doctor's appointment.
While working on the van, Pleasant asked the boy how he was doing in school.
"I'm doing fine," Pleasant, 62, said the boy told him.
On Wednesday afternoon, Pleasant was watching ESPN in his living room when his wife and daughter, who were in an upstairs bedroom, came down. His wife said: "Do you hear all that screaming? Somebody's screaming like they're losing their mind."
They went outside and looked toward the house where the boy's older sister was in the yard wailing. He went to find out what was wrong.
Pleasant said the boy's sister said: "I found my brother hanging from the bed."
Pleasant said he wants to remember the boy riding his bicycle, laughing and playing. But he struggles with the boy's death.
"I'm going to be devastated about this if God don't take it away from me because I can't think of nothing else," he said. "I don't know how a kid that age can come to the conclusion to kill himself."
Adults try to help
The boy's death, said to be in part the result of bullying, has again thrust into light the tragic results such teasing can bring.
In December, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed anti-bullying legislation. The city approved an ordinance last fall that makes it a misdemeanor to bully children in person or online.
Detroit City Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, who sponsored the ordinance, said the boy's apparent suicide shows the need for a stronger response to such mistreatment.
"For a 7-year-old to lose his life in any form is heartbreaking. But to imagine a child that young, who is so sad, that believes his only option is to do this? Heartbreaking is not a strong enough word," she said.
She said the goal of her ordinance is to intervene and try to rehabilitate kids who bully peers.
Parents also can be held responsible for their children's misbehavior under the ordinance, Jenkins said.
Jenkins said she doesn't know whether anyone has been given misdemeanors as a result of this ordinance. She said she's going to work to make sure there's broader awareness of the city's law.
"One of the most important things we can do is to make a safe, livable city for our children," she said. "We have to teach children that bullying is not OK."
New York Man arrested in disappearance of New York boy Etan Patz
New York City
by Colleen Long and Jennifer Peltz
(Video on site)
NEW YORK (AP) — The timing couldn't have been more symbolic: On the eve of National Missing Children's Day, police said they'd at last cracked the case that started it — the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.
After decades of inconclusive clues and stalled hopes, a former convenience-store stock clerk was arrested Thursday on a charge of murdering Etan, one of the first missing children ever to appear on a milk carton. He vanished while walking to his school bus stop alone for the first time.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, told investigators this week he lured the little boy into the shop with the promise of a soda, then led him to the basement, choked him and put his body in a bag with some trash about a block away, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Investigators hadn't determined any motive, he said.
Kelly said there is no physical evidence. But authorities say they have a detailed, signed confession, as well as accounts of incriminating remarks Hernandez made to others.
Hernandez didn't yet have a lawyer, police said. An arraignment was expected Friday afternoon.
While the arrest marked only the start of what could be a complex court case, it was a stunning turn in one of the nation's most tortuous and baffling missing-children cases. Police had been aware of Hernandez, as the shop was in Etan's neighborhood, but had never before eyed the married father as a suspect. Another man had long been the prime suspect, and investigators questioned yet a third man as recently as last month.
All the while, Stan and Julie Patz have stayed in same downtown Manhattan apartment, never even changing their phone number in case their vanished son tried to call.
“We can only hope,” Kelly said, “that these developments bring some measure of peace to the family.”
The Patzes and a lawyer for them didn't immediately return calls Thursday.
At Hernandez‘ home in Maple Shade, N.J., no one answered the door Thursday night. Neighbors said they were surprised at his arrest.
“I knew the guy. He was not a problem. His family was great people,” said Dan Wollick, 71, who rents an apartment in Hernandez‘ home. “He didn't bother anybody.”
The arrest — the first ever in the case — was a long-sought grail for authorities, including Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who announced he was renewing the investigation shortly after he took office in 2010.
His office, which declined to comment Thursday, will now move on to the work of prosecuting a 33-year-old case in which no body has ever been found. Prosecutors will likely look to amass witness statements or other evidence to support Hernandez‘ account.
Etan vanished on May 25, 1979, in New York's busy SoHo neighborhood, which was edgier then than the swath of chic boutiques it is now.
Police conducted an exhaustive search amid a crush of media attention. Thousands of fliers of the sandy-haired boy with the toothy grin were plastered around the city. Buildings were canvassed and hundreds of people interviewed.
The disappearance ushered in an era of anxiety about leaving children unsupervised, and President Ronald Reagan designated the anniversary as National Missing Children's Day in 1983.
Detectives are often inundated with hoaxes, false leads and possible sightings around the anniversary. But Kelly said they had probable cause to believe Hernandez's story was true, because of specific details he gave to police.
Hernandez, who had worked at the convenience store for about a month and lived nearby, wasn't questioned at the outset, Kelly said. Days after Etan vanished, Hernandez left that job and moved to New Jersey, where he had relatives, the commissioner said.
Hernandez worked in construction until he suffered a back injury in 1993 and has since received disability payments, Kelly said. He said Hernandez, who has a teenage daughter, had no criminal record.
But he told a relative and others, as far back as 1981, that he had “done something bad” and killed an unnamed child in New York City, according to Kelly. Police learned that only recently, when a tipster — not a relative — pointed police to Hernandez , after a search of a basement near Patz ‘ home last month hurtled the case back into the news, Kelly said.
Police took him into custody Wednesday night, and after several hours of questioning, he provided a signed confession, Kelly said.
“He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part,” the commissioner said.
Earlier leads had arisen and stalled, at one point taking investigators as far as Israel to track reported sightings of Etan.
For most of the past decade, the investigation focused on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester now in prison in Pennsylvania. He had been dating Etan's baby sitter.
A civil judge found him to be responsible for the boy's disappearance and presumed death, largely because he refused to answer some questions under oath, but he was never criminally charged. He might be able to get the civil judgment reviewed now.
A few weeks ago, investigators excavated a basement down the street from the Patz apartment but found no human remains. They questioned a handyman who had a workspace in the cellar in 1979. But he was not named as a suspect and denied any involvement in the boy's disappearance.
Finally, on Thursday, police told Patz‘ parents they had honed in on Hernandez .
“ Mr. Patz was taken aback, a little surprised, and I would say overwhelmed, to a degree,” Lt. Christopher Zimmerman said. ” … He was a little surprised, but I think after everything Mr. Patz has gone through, he handled it very well.”
Child abuse case against Boy Scouts rebuffed by state appeals court
by Howard Mintz
Three brothers who claim a South Bay youth leader molested them when they were children cannot proceed with their lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.
In the most recent blow recovering damages for such abuse decades after the fact, the 6th District Court of Appeal found the statute of limitations barred the suit.
The three brothers sued in 2009 over allegations they were molested hundreds of times by William Eugene Knox, a Silicon Valley Boy Scout and Mormon church leader in the 1970s and 1980s who had married their mother when the incidents unfolded in Sunnyvale.
The brothers were between 39 and 42 when they sued, but the appeals court concluded they needed to file the abuse claims by their 26th birthday under California laws governing time limits on bringing belated child molestation cases.
The lawsuit alleged the Boy Scouts ignored complaints about the alleged abuse. A Santa Clara County judge had dismissed most of the case against the organization, but left intact a claim for infliction of emotional distress.
The 6th District reversed that decision in Thursday's ruling.
The ruling comes just a few months after the California Supreme Court made it much tougher to bring older claims of childhood abuse against the Catholic Church in a case against the Oakland Diocese.
Feds: Sex trafficking ring used Backpage.com ads
by Ryan J. Foley
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A nationwide sex trafficking ring run by a violent pimp and his associates used Backpage.com to solicit customers for prostitutes as young as age 17, advertising the women as “smokin' hot babes,” according to a federal indictment recently unsealed in Iowa.
A 50-page indictment alleges a New Jersey man used coercion and violence to force women between 17 and 21 to act as his sex workers between November 2009 and June 2011, when investigators broke up the ring during a sting operation at a hotel in Omaha.
The man, Johnelle L. Bell , 27, was arrested in New Jersey earlier this month and has been transported to Iowa to face a 12-count indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and interstate transportation for prostitution. He has pleaded not guilty. Brittany Lawson, 21, who prosecutors say helped Bell manage the ring, was arrested last month in Hot Springs, Ark., and is expected to be arraigned in Iowa next week.
The indictment says their operation was headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., but workers traveled frequently, stopping in a dozen states in one two-month span last year. They posted solicitations on Backpage.com and other sites advertising the women as escorts, including their photographs, services offered and numbers for customers to call, the indictment says. “Exotic Playmate Last Night in Town!!!!” one of many such ads on Backpage.com read, telling customers the location of the Des Moines hotel where the woman was waiting, according to the indictment.
Lawson used Backpage.com to research other prostitutes for Bell who could be recruited to join the conspiracy, the indictment says.
The indictment comes as the website, owned by Village Voice Media, is under fire from critics who say it profits from sex trafficking. Critics are lobbying the company to remove ads for escorts and adult services but the company has resisted, noting it cooperates with law enforcement. Attorneys general across the country are investigating Backpage.com's practices. Police in Detroit are investigating the slayings of four women whose bodies were found in car trunks after three of them placed online escort ads through the site.
A spokeswoman for Village Voice Media had no immediate comment on the Iowa indictment.
Bell used promises of a personal relationship and wealth to recruit young women as sex workers, including a 17-year-old homeless girl who had been working as a prostitute in Little Rock, the indictment says. Prosecutors say he used physical and psychological force to prevent them from leaving, striking them, whipping them with a belt, choking them, threatening to kill their families if they left and taking their identification documents. Bell allegedly told one prostitute to get a tattoo his nickname, “Victorious P,” as a branding strategy.
The indictment says Bell collaborated with at least three other pimps, sharing expenses for promoting their prostitutes and information about recruiting, training and law enforcement in different geographic areas. Bell would decide where his women would be sent across the country, and he had some of them seek out customers at truck stops, the indictment said.
Lawson helped Bell run the conspiracy, obtaining rental cars to transport workers and making their hotel accommodations, taking phone calls from customers, overseeing appointments to make sure money was paid and occasionally working as a prostitute herself, according to the indictment.
A magistrate judge on Monday ordered Bell detained pending trial, noting he'd served prison time for robbery in the past, traveled frequently and had no regular source of income. Bell's attorney, public defender John Burns, declined comment. But he filed a motion Wednesday seeking Bell's release, arguing he would show up to court hearings and “would pose no danger to the community.”
Lawson has been released on a $5,000 bond, and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Council Bluffs, Iowa next week. Her attorney did not immediately return a phone message.
The two are charged in Iowa because Des Moines was a site where the ring did business on at least four occasions, sometimes holing up in an Econo Lodge near Interstate 35, the indictment says.
Free the slaves
The Ohio Senate is set to vote today on a bill that aims to abolish modern slavery, in Toledo and across the state. This is not a partisan issue. It should not even be a debatable one.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), would impose tougher criminal penalties for human trafficking -- both on the felons who sell other people, generally for sex, and on the lowlifes who buy these coerced services. The bill also would do more to help and protect the victims of trafficking, a disproportionate number of whom are young girls.
Gov. John Kasich has lobbied for the bill. The state House approved it unanimously this week. The Senate should do no less.
To its shame, Toledo has ranked first in the nation in the number of arrests and rescues linked to underage sex trafficking, in relation to its population. A special report in The Blade seven years ago brought the issue of local child prostitution to national attention.
But the plague is hardly limited to northwest Ohio; it festers in every corner of the state. Studies project that more than 1,000 native-born girls and boys, and nearly 800 immigrants, are coerced into the sex trade or other forced labor in Ohio every year.
Representative Fedor's bill would divert minor victims of human trafficking from juvenile courts to "safe harbors," where they would get health care, substance-abuse treatment, counseling, and other social services, and shelter that does not re-create their imprisonment.
The measure would increase to 15 years the mandatory prison term for human trafficking, and would raise penalties for traffickers who threaten or intimidate their victims into silence. The assets these criminals forfeit would help pay for services to trafficking victims.
The bill makes it a felony, subject to a prison term, to pay for sex with a minor; that is essential to reducing demand for the rotten fruits of trafficking. The bill takes steps to enhance public awareness of trafficking, and how to report it.
The typical child prostitute in Ohio enters the trade at age 13, and not of his or her own volition. Those who live longer than seven years after that beat the odds. No state that calls itself civilized can remain indifferent to such inhumanity.
This session of the General Assembly has elevated partisanship to an operating principle. But the fight against human trafficking is not susceptible to Columbus' tiresome political games.
Pass the law, senators -- before the next child dies.
Survivor of sex trafficking tells her story
by Page Crawford
It doesn't just happen in the movies, and it happens right here in North Carolina. Young girls are being tricked, coerced and even forced into sex work.
"Jane" is just one of those women who says she was raped "hundreds of times." She says she was 17 years old when she began seeing a man more than twice her age.
She says it began when he tricked her into posing for pornographic pictures.
"He's like, 'You're beautiful, you could be a model,'" Jane recalled. "So he got a Polaroid camera and he began taking pictures of me. They started out pretty innocent, and then they became more and more sexual."
She says it didn't stop at just pictures. "I remember there were a lot of voices in the background. I was asleep in the bedroom, and I woke up and my underwear was gone and there were a lot of voices and there was evidence of me being gang-raped."
Jane says she was even left chained and handcuffed to the bed once. But none of these were a red flag to her at the time.
"This is what I thought a relationship looked like," Jane said. "I grew up with abusive relationships in my family and being abused sexually, physically. So I just didn't know any better."
Jennifer Fisher with the North Carolina Justice Academy teaches law enforcement officers how to identify potential victims of sex trafficking. She says the definition of human trafficking is that "someone is being exploited through force, fraud or coercion, and that may be through labor or forced sex."
"A lot of victims of trafficking, including sex trafficking, do not identify themselves as being a victim," Fisher explained. "Some may feel that they got themselves in this situation and it's their responsibility to get out."
It wasn't until years later that Jane realized she was a victim of sex trafficking.
"I found out he had mass-produced everything," Jane said. "He had been selling pictures of me -- he had 8x10s, 4x6s, colored, black and white, thousands of them."
Jane said, "It turned out it was on the calendar [that] he had been keeping track and he said we had made love. But it turned out it was how many times I was being raped and it was a business."
According to the N.C. Justice Academy, the three most profitable criminal enterprises in the country are the trafficking of drugs, guns and people. "A drug can only be used one time and it is no longer available to be sold, whereas a human can be sold over and over and over again," Fisher pointed out.
Because of trainings like those offered by the N.C. Justice Academy, law enforcement is able to find and prosecute more criminals in sex trafficking cases. Fayetteville detective John Benazzi, a graduate of the program, says it has helped give him insight into the minds of both the victims and the perpetrators.
"Victims are scared to come forward. They're not sure how to report," Benazzi said. "There's a lot of brainwashing, a lot of grooming, especially when you deal with younger females and younger males. They're looking for that figure, that mentor and then they end up getting pushed into something they really don't know how to step back from."
That scenario was very familiar to Jane.
"He did a lot of manipulation and control, and I thought he loved me," Jane recalled. "He also never let me go anywhere without him, and I thought, from what he said, 'I don't want to be anywhere without you, so I want you with me all the time.'
"Of course, wanting to be loved was exciting because he wants me, he needs me."
Thanks to her own awareness and a friend she eventually confided in, Jane found the strength to leave. She says she's thankful that friend was so honest with her, and that he was paying attention.
"I told him what happened and he's like, 'That's not normal.'"
She warned, "Learn to be aware. You don't have to be paranoid, but be vigilant. This is real and people need to do something about it.
"It blows my mind because if it was their child then they'd want to do something about it."
Jane now speaks out about her abuse, empowering other young people to break the cycle of abuse in their lives
"Know your worth, know your value and know that you deserve the best," she said.
"If you do practice a certain faith, let God into your heart to do that healing and restoration because you can walk out of your life in freedom."
To report any suspicious activity you've seen or to find out ways you can help, you can call the hotline for sexual abuse and sex crimes at (888) 373-7888.
Officials seek parents who put baby in washing machine
(Video on site)
by Cecelia Hanley
(RNN) – Officials from Camden, NJ are looking to identify and speak to the parents who put their baby in a washing machine at a laundromat.
The incident at the Federal Laundromat happened on May 11, and the Camden Courier Post reports that authorities want to make sure the child isn't hurt. They are not looking to press charges against the parents.
"Right now we just want to make sure the child is OK," said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office. "We don't believe there was any criminal intent. It was more of an accident."
The very disturbing surveillance video, which became a widely shared item on the internet, shows a father placing his baby into a front-loading washing machine, closing the door and turning it on - apparently in an a game of peek-a-boo.
But then the couple panics as the machine fills with water and they cannot open the door to get to their child.
The father runs to fetch the attendant, who works extremely quickly to disengage the machine so the parents can free the baby.
"From speaking with the owners of the Laundromat they said the child's father came back and told them the child was fine and they took him to the hospital," Laughlin told Courier Post . "We just want to confirm that."
A&E to produce documentary on Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A documentary on the Penn State abuse scandal is in the works.
A&E IndieFilms says it's partnering with Asylum Entertainment to produce "Happy Valley," a look at former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky
, who faces 52 criminal counts for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. Sanudsky says he's innocent.
Amir Bar-Lev will direct the film. He was also behind "The Tillman Story."
John Koch, president of Asylum, is a native of State College who once worked as a camp counselor for The Second Mile, the charity that Sandusky founded.
Koch says the film will tell the story of the whole town of State College, as well as the investigation.
Production is scheduled to start this month. A release date hasn't been set.
6 companies dump Village Voice over child sex-trafficking / prostitution ads
PHOENIX – Conservative Leadership Coalition (CLC) founder Sean McCaffrey today said three dozen major companies across the United States had joined a growing boycott movement against Arizona-based Village Voice Media, which uses its Phoenix New Times and similar print and online publications to sell sex advertising. These ads have been linked by media and law enforcement to child sex trafficking.
“Because the ads generate more than $22 million per year for the company, Village Voice Media has refused requests by nearly 1/4 of the United States Senate, 48 state attorneys general and countless local law enforcement to take down the sex trafficking ads,” said McCaffrey.
We would like to thank the following companies for canceling or suspending their advertising with Village Voice Media publications, including the Phoenix New Times and its sister publications across the nation. We claim no credit for these companies' actions, and we encourage our membership to thank these businesses with their patronage.
Barnes and Noble
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Buddy Stubbs Harley Davidson
Children's Wish Foundation
Colorado Mammoth Lacrosse
Crown Imports LLC
Jazz at Lincoln Center
New York Public Radio
|Park Avenue Christian Church
The Ride, Inc.
SF Museum of Modern Art
Seattle Art Museum
Trans High Corp (High Times)
TRIBECA Performing Arts Center
“Few publications can afford to lose advertisers in today's economy,” said McCaffrey.
“Sadly, Village Voice Media seems prepared to sacrifice 40-year advertisers like the Film Forum in order to protect their monopoly on sex trade advertising – regardless of the risk it poses to children.”
McCaffrey said updates to this list could be found at VillageVoicePimps.com
, and he encouraged other Valley businesses to stop advertising alongside pedophiles and rapists in the Phoenix New Times. “No restaurant, bar, club, or retailer from Arizona should be advertising just a column or page away from someone selling a woman or child,” said McCaffrey.
“When this became about protecting children, it stopped being about politics. Our coalition nationwide includes liberals and conservatives, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – and everything and everyone in between. The actions of this company are so heinous, so terrible, they have managed to unite us all, and now we must act because the child victims we must save cannot speak for themselves,” McCaffrey said.
Advocates, politicians renew stand against child abuse in SC
Ceremony held at State House to launch Children's Advocacy DayCeremony held at State House to launch Children's Advocacy Day
by NOELLE PHILLIPS
The worst part of Veronica Swain Kunz's story of suffering sexual abuse as a child is that it is not unusual.
That was the message delivered Wednesday by Kunz, chief executive officer of the S.C. Victim Assistance Network. Kunz recounted her painful, disturbing story of abuse at her father's hands during a ceremony for Children's Advocacy Day in South Carolina.
Kunz told the victim's advocates, police officers and politicians in the audience how her father, who is now dead, repeatedly avoided jail time even though his history of abusing young girls was extensive. That leniency still goes on today, she said.
“I'm shocked prosecutors make deals where sexual predators never go to jail,” she said. “I'm shocked judges allows those deals to take place.”
Kunz's story was part of a renewed stand against child abuse in South Carolina as the S.C. Attorney General and others proclaimed Wednesday as “Children's Advocacy Day.”
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said the numbers of children abused in South Carolina are too high and he intends to make the issue a priority in his office.
Nearly 7,000 S.C. children were served in 2011 by a children's advocacy center because they were victims of physical or sexual abuse, Wilson said.
“That's a scary number,” he said. “You know what's an even scarier number? The numbers of children who didn't go to an advocacy center because their abuse hasn't been reported. They're not a statistic yet, but they're still victims.”
Wilson and other children's advocates vowed to pressure police, prosecutors and judges to take a tougher stance in punishing child abusers. They also asked the general public to keep their eyes open for warning signs of abuse.
“Everyone has a role in this battle,” said Kim Hamm of the S.C. Network of Children's Advocacy Centers.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said the state has a “scary number” of children who in 2011 were reported victims of child abuse. And he thinks even more children are victims who have not reported the abuse. The 2011 statistics below are from the S.C. Network of Children's Advocacy Centers, a collaboration of agencies that help abused children.
|SC Victims - 2011
Total children abused: 6,931
Newborn to 6 years: 2,747
7 to 12 years: 2,722
13 to 18 years: 1,467
|Types of abuse
Witness to violence: 604
Drug endangerment: 252
Some of the warning signs that a child is being abused:
|Nervousness around adults, watchful as if something bad will happen
Aggression toward adults and other children
Inability to stay awake or concentrate for extended periods
Sudden, dramatic changes in personality or school performance
Unnatural interest in sex
Low self esteem
Frequent, unexplained bruises
Overly compliant, passive, withdrawn
Comes to school or activities early, stays late, doesn't want to go home
Sources: Prevent Child Abuse America; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Senator urges funding to be restored to prevent child abuse
by Eva Ruth Morave
The epidemic of child abuse and neglect in Bexar County is embarrassing and appalling, and state funding must be restored to properly prevent it, public officials said during a news conference Wednesday.
“We need to come together and protect these children,” Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, told about 50 people gathered at The Children's Shelter. “These places don't work for free.”
According to Uresti, legislators in the last session slashed the budget for abuse and neglect prevention by one-third, and funding for prevention programs now makes up 12 percent of the state's Department of Family and Protective Services budget.
Dr. Shalon Neinow of Christus Santa Rosa's Center for Miracles, an outpatient assessment center for abuse and neglect cases, said the number of cases the center has been asked to investigate has already increased 10 percent this year compared with last year.
The severity of this year's cases has also increased, Neinow said, thanks to stressors such as the economy and domestic violence, combined with decreased resources for prevention. About 30 percent of child abuse victims will in turn abuse their own offspring, Neinow said.
“If you feel angry or frustrated, walk away, take a time out,” she said. “Crying doesn't kill children — violence does.”
Attendees on Wednesday were urged to report suspected child abuse and neglect cases to authorities, which is something Suzy Bianchi-Peters said she ingrained in her daughter Rebecca “Veggie” Gonzales and granddaughter Samvastion “Sammy” Ochoa.
Brothers Conrad and Baron Ochoa, Sammy's father and uncle, respectively, were arrested in October on allegations of sex crimes against 10-year-old Sammy and another young girl. Baron Ochoa remains jailed on two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, and Conrad Ochoa is being held on a charge of possession and promotion of child pornography.
They were also identified in arrest warrant affidavits as suspects in the September deaths of Sammy, Gonzales and Gonzales' friend Pamela Wenske , 41. Neither has been charged in connection with the deaths.
Bianchi-Peters said her granddaughter talked to her about the abuse, and her outcry is what ultimately led to the Ochoa brothers' arrests.
Since her relatives' deaths, Bianchi-Peters has become involved in an organization called radKIDS, a nonprofit that teaches prevention skills to children up to fifth grade. Currently, the program is strong in Laredo, she said, and some local school districts have shown interest.
“We require immunizations for children to be in school,” she said, “but why are they not required to have the children inoculated against a deadly virus — the virus of child abuse?”
By the numbers
• From Sept. 2010 to Aug. 2011, the Center for Miracles investigated 22,838 cases of child abuse or neglect; 5,915 of those were confirmed to be abuse or neglect cases.
• Since January, the center has evaluated more than 1,000 cases.
• 20 Bexar County children died of abuse or neglect in 2011.
• So far this year, seven cases of child abuse or neglect are under investigation; the San Antonio Police Department has investigated two homicides of children already in 2012.
Sources: San Antonio Police Department, Christus Santa Rosa's Center for Miracles
Training for Adults Available to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
by Jenny von Helms
The Parenting Network invites teachers, social workers, parents and any adults interested in the well-being of children to a Stewards of Children workshop on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 from 9:00-11:30 a.m. at The Parenting Network.
Stewards of Children is an evidence-based curriculum created by Darkness to Light, a non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse. Using a combination of video, workbook and discussion, this workshop is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
“This training is very powerful,” said Ruth Miller, program director at The Parenting Network. “I've been to many workshops on the subject, but Stewards of Children really presents the topic of child sexual abuse in a way that is empowering for adults. For too long, the responsibility has been placed on the child, but in reality, only adults can prevent sexual abuse.”
The training is open to the public and is of specific interest among teachers, social workers, youth workers, coaches, ministers, counselors, childcare providers, parents and any adult who cares about children. The cost is $30 per person and includes the training, workbook, resources and certificate of completion. Beverages and snacks will be provided.
This workshop will be held at The Parenting Network at 7516 W. Burleigh St., Milwaukee. To register for this training, contact Ruth Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414/671- 5575 x30. Payment must be received by June 21. If you are unable to attend on this date, contact Ruth to schedule a training for your group.
Since 1977, The Parenting Network has served families throughout the greater Milwaukee community through its mission to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse. Services are provided:
|• In Homes – home visiting and case management services for families in need
• In Schools – healthy relationship education to prevent sexual violence and teen pregnancy; parenting education for expectant and parenting teens
• In the Community – confidential Parent Helpline and a wide variety of parenting education and support classes and groups developed for specific parenting populations at sites throughout Milwaukee County
For more information about The Parenting Network, please call the Parent Helpline at 414/671-0566 or go to theparentingnetwork.org.
Funny Tummy Feelings: Talking to children about sexual abuse
by Penn Holderness
(Video on site)
RALEIGH, N.C. - A program in Wake County talks to kids about sexual abuse and gives child victims the courage to speak up.
It seems like almost weekly there is a new story about an adult being charged with sex crimes against children, which has many parents worried and wondering what is the best way to keep a child safe?
There's actually a group in Wake County called SAFEchild. The group visits schools within the Wake County Public School System to teach children who to trust and when to speak up.
"It's a reality, child abuse takes place. A lot of instances are now opening our eyes," said Nancy Bromhal, development director for SAFEchild.
As the development directory, Bromhal has made it her mission to keep those instances from happening.
SAFEchild has created a program for 1st grade students called "Funny Tummy Feelings." It's an hour-long presentation that is engaging and entertaining, even.
Pilar Jennings is the coordinator for the "Funny Tummy Feelings" program and trains volunteers to be presenters.
"It's fun. That way they are able to embrace the message," said Jennings.
The message? Child sexual abuse is wrong and kids should speak up.
"If it's not a good secret, makes you feel bad, you need to tell someone," presenters tell the children.
Program officials say sometimes after the presentation, Wake County children are brave enough to come forward. In two decades, they've investigated hundreds of stories and dozens of disclosures when students admit they they've been sexually abused.
In 2012 alone, three cases have already been reported to the authorities.
"It can be difficult to have to steel your emotions and listen to a child. But it's an incredible opportunity, a privilege to be able to change that child's direction," said Jennings. "Abuse as a child has long term repercussions, and if we can nudge it in one direction now, it's all been worth it."
SAFEchild was established in 1992 by the Junior League of Raleigh and although they work out of Wake County, they still want to help parents when it comes to talking to their children about this difficult subject. On their website they've provided a special section with their four key messages, along with plenty of insight into a fantastic program.
For more information, click here.
Sunshine Protects Child Abuse Victims
Just when you think good, old-fashioned investigative journalism is going the way of the horse and buggy and typewriter, there comes along a thoughtful expose that restores your faith in a free and robust press.
Two weeks ago, The New York Times (where I started my career as a lowly copy boy a quarter century ago) produced a two-part series on the unusually cozy relationship between the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and the Orthodox rabbis in some Brooklyn communities who seemed to be playing judge and jury in cases of sexual abuse of young children.
Whether it's the Catholic Church, Penn State football or the Orthodox Jewish community, the instinct to close ranks and shield alleged abusers because of the negative publicity to their tribe is the wrong one.
Just ask the late football coach Joe Patern's family how well that strategy worked. Or the Catholic Church, which has lost millions of dollars and lots of credibility because of its slow response to rampant abuse of children.
In New York, the subways have signs all over that say, "If you see something, say something," which refers, of course, to potential terrorism. Well, that phrase should apply to the sexual abuse of children.
It is never right to cover this up and protect those who prey on the defenseless and voiceless in our society. The damage to our kids, to our communities and to our collective well-being is huge.
So now, as a result of The New York Times articles (which followed some excellent reporting by Jewish Week newspaper, The Forward and a blog called failedmessiah.com) and the resulting condemnation by Mayor Bloomberg, former Mayor Koch (both Jewish leaders) and other elected officials, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has finally woken up to the problem in his borough and is targeting those who intimidate Orthodox community members to stay quiet in abuse cases.
As I recently said about President Obama's decision to support marriage equality: What took him so long?
Charles Hynes has been a long and tireless public servant in Brooklyn. In this case, it was only after the New York Times exposed his office's misguided subservience to politically powerful Orthodox rabbis, that he finally did the right thing.
A free and robust press is necessary in our society to keep our elected leaders honest and impartial. In Brooklyn, many Orthodox Jewish parents and children should be thanking the New York Times today for its groundbreaking reporting.
Sunlight always crowds out darkness. Our society and our children need sunlight for their health, both celestial and metaphorical.
Today, hopefully, families in Orthodox communities in Brooklyn will realize that insularity is not always good. It leads to unfettered power and injustice.
Great journalism -- our society's sunlight which shines on our darkest places -- is helping parents and children get justice in Brooklyn.
For that, I say, amen.
Tom Allon, who attended an Orthodox Yeshiva as child, is a 2013 liberal and Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City.
Pastor charged for not reporting child abuse as state cracks down
by Annie McCormick
Police have charged a Dauphin County pastor with failure to report child sex abuse. They say he ignored concerns from parents in his congregation that their teenage daughter was being sexually abused by a neighbor.
The parents came to the pastor for advice and he told them they didn't have enough evidence that the neighbor was guilty, and discouraged them from telling police.
Pennsylvania reporting laws require that members of the clergy report suspected child abuse. Right now lawmakers and law enforcement are paying more attention to this law because of the allegations that members of Penn State failed to report claims against Jerry Sandusky.
A Dauphin County couple had suspicions their 16-year -old daughter suffered possible sex abuse from a neighbor. The only thing she would tell them was that the neighbor, Gerald Regan had kissed her with tongue.
So they went to Pastor Mark Barninger of the Bible Fellowship Church for advice. State Police say the pastor told the couple "there was no penetration, and if it was just kissing that had occurred, it would be better to confront the neighbor and not go to police or news media."
But police did find out and charged Gerald Regan this month with corruption of minors and indecent assault without consent of others.
Police also charged Pastor Barninger with failure to report suspected child abuse by a mandatory reporter. Barninger told police "he was aware of the term, but unsure if clergy fell into the category."
We attempted to reach the pastor at his home and by phone; he said no comment and hung up on us.
“There is a national standard for zero tolerance,” stated Reverend Canon Robyn Szoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Central PA. The Diocese is not affiliated at all with Pastor Barninger or his church but she is all too familiar with her duty as a member of clergy.
“Within the state of PA and in terms of our denomination it's mandatory to report to authorities,” Reverend Szoke told CBS 21.
After Penn State officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz did not report suspected abuse by Sandusky, the Attorney General also charged them with failure to alert police. Now lawmakers are pushing to make the penalty for the crime tougher.
Dauphin County Assistant District Attorney Sean McCormack just testified before a special task force urging them to make the penalty for failure to report a felony. The pastor received a summons, the charge is a misdemeanor.
MHS film screening tackles human trafficking
by STACEY TITCHENAL
“They are sort of the forgotten people in society and they are in need of help….As a counselor, I also believe that everyone is capable of healing,” said Cynthia Shaver, an intern counselor at Concordia University and the founder and chairman of POLE (Purposed, Original, Loved, and Empowered).
It is a common misconception among the general public that trafficking is something limited to third-world countries and too taboo to be happening here in the U.S. Yet every year, 50,000 women and children from at least 49 countries and as many as 300,000 American children are trafficked in the United States.
On Thursday, May 24, at 2:30 and 7 p.m., McNary High School will offer free screenings of the documentary Sex + Money: A National Search For Human Worth, which attempts to dispel misconceptions that human trafficking, is other people's problem. Much of the content is mature in nature.
According to oathcoalition.org, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age.
More than 1.7 million children run away each year, not to something, but away from something; only a quarter to a third of those children are reported missing. Many of the trafficking victims are sexually assaulted, physically abused, and emotionally neglected previous to entering the industry. The majority of the time, they are either abandoned by the members of their household or decide to finally leave the painful residence. The corrupt upbringing grooms the mindset of these broken souls to feel that being beaten and raped is normal. Between 60 and 90 percent of workers in the sex industry have some child sex trauma in their backgrounds.
Pimps are master manipulators and cunning business men.
Throw away stereotypical ideas of a pimp dressed in baggy, gangster clothes and replace it with a handsome man who has a nice car, an expensive wardrobe, and plenty of money to “pamper” any girl he wants.
“Pimps are very smart and know which girls are desperate for love and acceptance. Their job is to make them feel as if they are the only ones who can love them. These girls become so emotionally and (sometimes) financially dependent on their pimps that they will do anything for them,” said Shaver.
Typically, men are the main clientele, though that's not always the case. One married couple from Texas ran an online child porn site and there was a Utah mother attempting to sell her daughter's virginity. What's more alarming is that the johns, or buyers, are politicians, church leaders, teachers, factory workers, lawyers, field laborers, and everyone in between. Johns don't always know they're purchasing a minor for sex, but sometimes they do. Pop culture has glamorized the sex trafficking industry and the derogatory statements made in reference towards women. What isn't seen, however, is the ugly side of things. Women in the industry are known to have been stripped naked and raped, beaten with metal poles, choked, vulgarly talked to, and treated as a piece of meat.
“Most prostitutes out there are sex trafficked, since many are often raped or made to do sex acts that they don't want to do. Not to mention the myriad of STD's and unwanted pregnancies that happen. Sometimes they are held against their will. I know that there was a case where a young woman in Portland was chained in a dog house and raped on a regular basis. Women who are held against their will are typically not given the choice to have their abusers wear condoms or even bathe after intercourse. Women who are enslaved are often forced to have abortions and then resume sexual activity within hours after having the abortion, even if they don't want to,” Shaver said.
The Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance reports that there are more than 200 victims each year in Portland alone. Portland and other main cities on the west coast are hot spots for human trafficking due to their locations. Portland is not only along the I-5 and I-84 corridors, serving as a major link to Seattle, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but it has an airport and marine port, which make it easy to import and export sex slaves.
Commissioner Diane McKeel of Multnomah County, District 4, is determined to change these horrifying circumstances.
McKeel is working on getting orange trafficking hotline stickers sent out to places selling alcohol, passing a couple bills in Salem that toughen laws related to trafficking, and raising awareness about the issue. She has testified in Washington D.C. before a senate committee on the topic, but her most successful work has been in receiving recent approval from the board of commissioners to open a shelter for trafficking victims.
The need for change motivated a member of the Keizer community to make a difference. Jessica Mitchell, a McNary High School grad, has been proactive about getting the word out.
“Somebody brought up a website, Love146.org, which told personal stories of girls who had been in the industry. And then, from there, that inspired me to not just sit around and hear about the stories, but do something about it. I decided to get some young people together to fight this injustice,” explained Mitchell.
Mitchell has organized multiple awareness activities, from the Freeze Project at River Front Park where a group of about 30 people stopped and froze for five minutes while holding up statistics, to the McNary film screening of Sex + Money Mitchell is also in the process of working with Jane Titchenal to partner with Young Life and the organization Make Her Beautiful Again. to put together a project called Go Glam. They're hoping to establish it as an annual even to take place during future formals, such as proms and Snoball. The idea is to get the coordinators together and work with a salon to do the makeup and hair of girls preparing for the event; however, all the proceeds go directly to Make Her Beautiful Again, a nonprofit working with victims of sex trafficking.
For those who want to get involved in halting the business of battered souls and inhumane ways, or would like more information, contact Cynthia Shaver (email@example.com) or Chelsea Morell with Hope International: 360-921-3275, or go to www.doortograce.org.
Stacey Titchenal is a junior at McNary High School.
House slaps rules on human trafficking
Bill on fast track to Senate, Kasich
by JIM PROVANCE
COLUMBUS -- From the legislative floor to the governor's office, Ohio's latest effort to wipe out the scourge of modern-day slavery was approved unanimously on Tuesday.
The House voted for a wide-ranging bill to reach out to victims, particularly children, of the multibillion-dollar human-trafficking industry, to prosecute those who manipulate them, and to punish those who pay to have sex with them.
Nearly a year after its introduction, House Bill 262 is suddenly on the fast track. In the span of three days, it is expected to clear both chambers of the General Assembly on its way to the desk of Gov. John Kasich, who has personally pushed for its passage.
"Ohio is not the state you will want to operate a human-trafficking business in," said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), the bill's sponsor. "Zero tolerance. You will be brought to justice, and the punishment will fit the crime.
"To the victims, we are coming to your rescue with open arms, and we won't stand for this anymore," she said.
The bill would:
??Give judges the option of diverting minors picked up for prostitution into treatment, counseling, and other services as an alternative to prosecution.
??Make it a second-degree felony instead of a misdemeanor to pay to have sex with a minor between the ages of 13 and 16, regardless of whether the "john'' knew the minor's age.
??Allow adults who were victimized as minors to seek to have their records expunge.d
??Pay for services for victims by confiscating the cash and property of their traffickers
??Require creation of a poster with a hot line for help, 1-888-373-7888, to be posted at truck stops, bus stations, highway rest stops, and other locations where they might be seen by trafficking victims.
"Right now it's estimated there are 1,000 boys and girls being trafficked across Ohio," Mr. Kasich said after the House vote. "That's the size of a large high school, full of children forced into modern-day slavery. For too long, Ohio law hasn't done enough to both prosecute those guilty of trafficking our kids and support the child victims who desperately need our help."
Ms. Fedor noted that statistics show that the average starting age for someone trafficked into the sex trade is 13 and that the life expectancy once involved is seven years.
"If you do the math, they're not even old enough to drink before they're dead," she said, occasionally choking back tears.
Toledo received unwanted attention in 2005 when a federal sting in Harrisburg, Pa., broke up a sex-trafficking operation involving 177 females. Seventy-seven of the victims, including a 10-year-old girl, were from the Toledo area.
That same year, The Blade ran a series of stories exposing the crimes and practices of the offenders and the shattered lives of the victims.
The arrest and rescue statistics have ranked Toledo fourth in the nation, behind only Miami, Las Vegas, and Portland, Ore.
When adjusted for population, Toledo climbs to No. 1.
Northwest Ohio is one of the few areas with its own FBI trafficking task force.
"Can you imagine the horror that these young girls are going through when they're imprisoned, they're manipulated often with the use of drugs or threats, [and] sexually abused for years?" asked Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon). "Can you imagine the impact on the lives of these young women? For the life of me, I can't understand how in today's society this continues to occur."
Rep. Danny Bubp (R., West Union), chairman of the House Judiciary and Ethics Committee, praised the Republican governor for personally lobbying him for passage of a bill sponsored by a Democrat.
"Politics has not gotten involved in this," Mr. Bubp said.
An interagency task force created by Mr. Kasich has until the end of June to make further recommendations on how the state can go after traffickers while also reaching out to victims.
"He's a parent too," Mr. Szollosi said.
Officials Call for Uniformity in Combating Human Sex Trafficking
by Alexis Taylor
Gov. Martin O'Malley launched a two-day conference on Combating Human Sex Trafficking in Maryland, May 21, speaking to a group of four hundred federal, local, and state leaders and officials.
The conference focused on adopting a statewide approach to preventing and eliminating the trade, and offered workshops and forums on how to lobby on behalf of survivors, assist victims from abroad, and prosecute labor and sex trafficking cases.
“There is no such thing as a ‘spare Marylander,'” said O'Malley, who cited Maryland's proximity and easy access to other major cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. as a pro for the economy, but a con in fighting human traffickers. The conference was held at Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, and was sponsored in part by the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, which was created in 2007 in efforts to combat the issue in the state.
“One in three children that run away will be recruited into prostitution within 48 hours,” said O'Malley. “On average, a young girl enters prostitution at the age of 14 - some girls enter prostitution at the age of nine. Here in Maryland, we have set the overall goal of reducing crimes against women and children by 25 percent by the end of the upcoming year.”
Whether for purposes of hard labor or sex, human trafficking in the United States has become a booming industry for those involved in the underground business. Around the globe, children, men and women are sold into a modern day slave trade that operates in all 50 states. In Maryland alone, since 2010, US attorneys have prosecuted 23 cases centered around the slave trade of the new millennium.
Studies from the Department of Justice show that 82 percent of all human trafficking is for sexual purposes. Eleven percent of all sales are for labor purposes, leaving seven percent for unknown sectors of the trade.
Unlike victims sold into slavery for sexual purposes, 62 percent of those used for hard labor are over the age of 25.
"I was 21 years old when I first got into the life,” said Shamere McKenzie, assistant policy director for the Protected Innocence Initiative, a program by Shared Hope International, that helps survivors of human trafficking.
After searching for a way to pay for college, McKenzie spent 18 months of her life in the sex slave trade with a violent pimp who sold her on dreams of earning tuition money by dancing. For McKenzie, the vicious ordeal ended in an arrest, which also led to vital support for survivors. "Services were key,” said McKenzie, who says that a large part of her recover was “just being around other survivors of trafficking and being able to receive counseling.”
McKenzie believes, and officials on all levels agree, that an important aspect of the recovery phase is having an adequate support system.
“One of the challenges is to change the mindset on the front lines when you come into contact with a prostitute. We tend to think of prostitutes as if they're the criminals, but in reality, in the majority of the cases they're the victims,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Rod Rosenstein.
“Sometimes they're juveniles, sometimes they're illegal aliens who are victimized. We need to treat them as victims, get them the kind of support that they need, and employ them as our witnesses to prosecute the pimps who put them on the streets.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, indicators of victimization in children include excessive absences from school or work, repeated mentions of regular out-of-city or out-of state travel and drug addiction, which many pimps use to control their victims.
The Polaris Project, a national anti-human trafficking organization, also recommends watching for persons who have few personal belongings, little control over their day-to-day schedule and signs of physical and mental abuse.
Files show how priest child abuse was generational
by Gillian Flaccus - The Associated Press staff
May 22, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Robert Van Handel was a 15-year-old seminarian at St. Anthony's, a prestigious Franciscan boarding school, when, he said, a priest slipped into the infirmary where he was recovering from a fever and began to molest him. The priest told him it would help draw the fever out.
More than a decade later, Van Handel himself was molesting children while working as a Franciscan priest at the same Santa Barbara boarding school. Van Handel formed a boys' choir for local children and chose his victims from among its ranks for eight years.
The sexual abuse at St. Anthony's, including Van Handel's own account of his crimes, is included in more than 4,000 pages from the confidential files of nine Franciscan religious brothers who were accused of abuse. The internal files, coupled with an additional 4,000 pages of sworn testimony obtained by the AP, are the largest release of a religious order's files to date and paint one of the fullest pictures yet of a pervasive culture of abuse that affected generations of students at the seminary dedicated to training future Franciscans.
The religious order settled for $28 million in 2006 with plaintiffs who alleged abuse by the nine Franciscans, but Van Handel and other defendants fought the release of their private files for six years in a legal battle that reached the California Supreme Court.
The files were obtained by The Associated Press from a plaintiff's attorney ahead of them being made public Wednesday.
The documents show how abuse in a religious order can be closely tied to the formation of children who grow up to become brothers and priests, said Terence McKiernan, founder and co-director of Bishop Accountability, which curates internal documents about sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
"One offender bringing kids in can set them up to be abused by another offender and those kids in turn grow up to become a member of the order and themselves begin abusing children," he said. "The generational phenomenon of abuse is really, really clear in these documents and it's a heartbreaking story."
Brian Bosnahan, an attorney representing the Franciscans, said the files do not show that the Franciscans knew of the abuse at the school or by other Franciscans included in the settlement. The religious order was quicker than most to address concerns about sexual abuse and launched an investigation into the abuse at St. Anthony's in 1992, years before other Roman Catholic institutions took up the issue, Bosnahan said.
No Franciscans have been accused of abuse since, he added.
"In general, if you look at it, you'll find the Franciscans were among the most aggressive," Bosnahan said.
The Franciscans played a pivotal role in bringing Christianity to California. Its members -- known for wearing brown, hooded cloaks -- emphasize the poverty and humility of their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.
The soft-spoken, bespectacled priest Van Handel, who is now 65 and living as a registered sex offender in Santa Cruz County, admitted his crimes and is the only priest of the nine Franciscans to be criminally convicted. He detailed his actions in a "sexual autobiography" and in court papers that are included in his confidential files.
He said his biggest concern was "the actual and potential damage I've caused to young men, the Friars and the Catholic Church," he told a probation officer in 1994, according to his file.
Messages left for Van Handel at his home address in Boulder Creek, Calif., and at his employer's office Tuesday weren't immediately returned.
Van Handel, who graduated from St. Anthony's in 1965 and later taught there for a decade, has been accused of molesting 19 people, many of them young boys he met while directing the choir he founded while at the school. The choir drew young children from outside the seminary and toured Europe.
Van Handel would choose his victims from the choir -- often preferring vulnerable and lost-looking children -- and would photograph them nude, sometimes covered in oil, dressed in pauper's clothing or tied up with rope in the seminary's tower. He also would play tickling and touching games, according to his files.
One of his alleged victims, Bob Eckert, said he never thought at the time what Van Handel was doing was wrong. The priest helped the 10-year-old Eckert shower with other boys while the choir was touring Europe and then photographed him, Eckert said.
"I completely looked up to him. He was the one who determined who was going to be in and who was going to be out," said Eckert, who is now a 42-year-old general contractor living in Santa Barbara. "My mom had total faith in him, and I had no question that anything was wrong with being there."
Another priest, the Rev. Mario Cimmarrusti, has also been accused of abusing multiple students while he held the dual roles of head disciplinarian and head of the infirmary at St. Anthony's in the late 1960s. Cimmarrusti, who also attended the school as a teenager, took over as prefect of discipline the year Van Handel graduated.
His confidential files show that in an evaluation by a sex offender therapist, the priest estimated he had molested between 30 and 40 boys. On another occasion, Cimmarrusti said he may have molested as many as 250 boys, according to the evaluation included in his personnel file.
He is not the priest who Van Handel said molested him in the infirmary.
Cimmarrusti, who is now 82, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Robert "Skip" Howie, said Cimmarrusti vehemently denies all the allegations against him.
"As an attorney, I can tell you that records can be deceptive and misleading," he said. "I'm really not here to argue the case, but all I can say is that he denies it."
The priest has been accused by 24 former students who alleged in lawsuits that Cimmarrusti performed hernia checks on the incoming freshman class as an excuse to fondle them; delivered violent, sexually charged beatings for minor disciplinary infractions; and molested students who were sick in the infirmary.
One student, Paul Palecek, quit the seminary because of the abuse, he said, and gave up on his dream of becoming a Franciscan priest. He took a settlement from the religious order in the 1990s and remains active in the church and with missionary work overseas. Now 62, the semi-retired former contractor is studying to become a nurse.
Palecek testified that he told the school's rector about the abuse but nothing was done. In a deposition, the Rev. Xavier Harris said he didn't recall the conversation and there is no record of it in the priest's internal files. Bosnahan, the Franciscans' attorney, said he had no further information.
"I was really mad at God for a long time, but it wasn't God's fault. Mario chose to do evil," Palecek said. "Someone should have caught it. Someone should have caught it and done something about it."
The AP does not normally identify victims of sexual abuse. Palecek and Eckert gave permission to use their names in interviews with the AP.
Cimmarrusti went on to spend six years at St. Anthony's after Palecek's departure and then served as a missionary at a medical dispensary in Guayamas, Mexico, and in parishes in the Northern California towns of Stockton, Delano and San Miguel before being removed from the ministry in 1993 as his past closed in.
St. Anthony's closed in 1987, just a few years before the first of the former students began to come forward with their allegations. Now, with the disclosure of the documents, some of the former seminarians feel they can finally move on with their lives.
"This is like a wound and it's festering. In order to get this pus and this infection out, you have to open up the wound and let the air get to it and let it heal," Palecek said. "I can apply that to my life and to the Catholic Church. You have to open up these documents and let the air get to them so we can heal."
Preventing child abuse
New initiative provides training in child abuse prevention
A new program to train members of the UD community in the prevention of child sexual abuse is being offered this spring and summer by the University's Office of Human Resources, Employee Education and Development unit.
The Stewards of Children program provides important information on how to identify victims of child sexual abuse, situations in which such abuse is likely to occur and strategies for protecting children from abuse.
According to Stewards of Children, an estimated one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9, but most child victims never report the abuse.
"The prevention of sexual abuse of children is an important issue for all members of our University community," says Jennifer (J.J.) Davis, vice president for finance and administration. "This valuable training is especially crucial for individuals who have routine contact with young children. I would also encourage others in our community to take advantage of this worthwhile training."
In the training, a facilitator leads the discussion as participants learn the signs of sexual abuse, how to prevent it and how to react responsibly when abuse is uncovered.
More than 150 employees in Athletics, Public Safety and UD Police have already been trained, and Employee Education and Development is working with other academic and administrative units to train specific employee groups who have been identified.
For example, staff working at the Early Learning Center and in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies will be receiving training in June. Residence Life will be incorporating the training into its fall orientation program this summer.
General sessions for other interested UD employees are scheduled in May and June, with additional sessions planned later in the summer.
Currently general sessions are planned from 10-1 p .m., Thursday, May 31; from 1-4 p.m., Thursday, June 7; and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday, June 27.
To sign up for a session, visit EED's registration website.
Delaware state law requires those who witness or know about child abuse to report it to authorities. Last fall, UD's Office of General Counsel provided information to the campus community about Delaware's Child Abuse Protection act.
Texas Cuts Efforts To Prevent Child Abuse
by Jack Douglas
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A CBS 11 News investigation has found that, despite a staggering number of child deaths and injuries due to abuse, the state of Texas last year took away more than $27 million from programs meant to prevent such abuse.
The state's massive child welfare budget, written every two years, actually grew from $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion, as instances of child abuse increase. But the so-called “prevention and early intervention” programs within those budgets were cut by $27.4 million, CBS 11 has learned.
Texas' leading child advocates say those cuts hurt the most.
“It's wrong,” said state juvenile court Judge Bill Mazur Jr.
Mazur, who has heard hundreds of child abuse and neglect cases in his Dallas courtroom, said he is most angry at the unfit parents who hurt their own child. He and others, however, are also not pleased with legislators for voting to drastically cut the budgets for preventative programs.
“Every Texan I know, if given the opportunity and given these facts, would tell their legislators, ‘Don't balance the budget on this issue, not on the backs of the abused and neglected,'“ Judge Mazur told CBS 11. “Cut from somebody who can afford to take the cut … but not from children who may die if you don't protect them,” he said.
CBS 11 News began investigating Texas' child welfare breakdowns in February after an Ohio man, Kenneth Brandt, was charged with sexually assaulting three of four foster children placed in his home by the state of Texas.
He had been allowed to adopt three of the Texas children and was in the process of adopting the fourth, when he and two other men were charged with raping them. All three are awaiting trial in Ohio.
The CBS 11 investigation has found that nearly 66,000 Texas children were injured by abuse and neglect last year, with more than 13,000 of those cases occurring in North Texas.
Those statistics, provided by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, also show that Texas leads the nation in child deaths – 231 statewide, with 30 of those deaths occurring in Dallas County and eight in Tarrant County.
“Child abuse is an epidemic in Texas,” said state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), a member of the Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate. “We should be embarrassed, Texas should be embarrassed, when it comes to our efforts to prevent child abuse.”
He said as his colleagues voted to cut the budgets of preventative measures to fight child abuse, he thought of the pictures he saw several years ago of a 4-year-old San Antonio boy, tied to a bed post and starved to death by a family member.
“When I saw those pictures, I swore … I took an oath … to the Lord that I was going to do everything I could in my power to try and prevent that” from happening again, the senator said.
And while Texas spends a lot of money, and does a “pretty good job,” when it comes to dealing with child abuse once it occurs, “we do a horrible job when it comes to preventing it in the first place,” Uresti said.
In its investigation, CBS 11 compared statistics that show child deaths and injuries are even higher in Texas than in California, where the child population is much higher.
And experts say there's a reason for that – California ranks fifth in the nation for the amount of money it spends per capita on child welfare, while Texas ranks forty-third.
Madeline McClure, executive director of the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, also known as TexProtects, said the child abuse problem in Texas goes largely unnoticed by the general public.
A prime example, McClure said, is illustrated by the 30 children killed last year in Dallas County in unrelated child abuse cases.
“Can you imagine if there had been a school shooting where 30 children were … killed by a gun. We would have a huge outcry; maybe new gun laws,” she said. “But where are the (legislative) hearings for these hidden children … without a voice.”
Teacher sex-abuse cases lead to extra vigilance
He was a high school teacher, nearly 30 years old. She was a student in his algebra class, and just 14.
He told her, repeatedly, he wanted to have sex.
In October, Marc Allmond took the girl, then 16, off campus and had sexual contact with her, according to police. A day later, the girl's parents found inappropriate text messages from Allmond and called police.
Allmond pleaded guilty in January to carnal knowledge of a minor and taking indecent liberties with a minor. He's now under house arrest for a year and on 15 years of probation. He was fired from his job at I.C. Norcom High.
The criminal case is one of three in Portsmouth and a fourth in Chesapeake this school year in which teachers were charged with offenses related to having inappropriate relationships with students.
That reality has led some administrators to beef up training on sexual abuse prevention, but most say they have strong policies already in place and that all teachers need are reminders about those rules.
"You can't legislate everything," said Barbara Coyle, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association. "You want to be cautious, you do want to have policies in place, but you can't mention every little action."
The state hasn't added any new rules or training for teachers this year. It does, however, require educators to participate in refresher courses on child abuse recognition and intervention to renew their licenses, and the state Board of Education has adopted sexual abuse prevention guidelines that all divisions must follow.
At every level, school employees are told this bottom line: Certain behaviors are indefensible.
"This is our teachers' and professionals' issue," Portsmouth schools superintendent David Stuckwisch said. "They keep their hands and their mouths and everything in order and act like a professional or they're not going to be here, and we've gotten rid of people for that."
Each South Hampton Roads school division handles policies and training on student-teacher relationships slightly differently.
Each checks employees' criminal backgrounds at the time of hire, but none conducts additional screening during service.
"We do not repeat these background checks because we are notified of employee arrests in a timely manner by the police department," Suffolk spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said.
Other divisions ask that employees self-report when they are convicted of crimes.
In addition, each division advises staff on how to avoid even the appearance of an inappropriate student relationship.
In Suffolk, for example, employees are instructed not to give students rides in personal vehicles. Teachers are expected to tutor students in small groups at school, not one on one.
Virginia Beach requires paid and volunteer coaches, who can number 600, to enroll in a course about the issue. Instruction includes an exercise called "crossing the line" in which employees consider how specific statements apply to the student-athlete to whom they are closest.
The statements, which staffers answer silently, include: "To be honest, I feel jealous when this athlete spends time with other people" and "I find myself looking at this athlete's body in a sexual way."
The exercise identifies which answers may indicate sexual harassment or which cross over into inappropriate behavior, said David Rhodes, the division's coordinator of student activities.
Beach athletic employees also view an American Sports Education Program video that advises them to have other people present when interacting with players.
"A pat on the back or a high five is a much better choice than a pat on the buttocks," the organization's website says.
"Situations happen every day in athletics," Steve Suttmiller, Norfolk's athletics specialist, said. "The hug: 'Hey, you won the race.' That's part of the coaching thing. Kids needing rides home: It happens. But what we've told them from this meeting was, you shouldn't expose yourself to those situations."
Jack Baker, a Norfolk teacher and coach for 39 years, said recent incidents have made him more cautious. He and his basketball players often return to Norfolk after 10 p.m. from out-of-town games. He asks players to call parents during the return trip to make sure they have rides home.
The situation gets delicate when a ride isn't available. Baker won't abandon players. If they need a ride, "I'd try to get someone else to ride with me," he said.
Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, said that in his last years as an instructor at Tidewater Park Elementary, some female teachers would not hug even girls. It's an attitude that Calhoun, who stopped teaching last year, understands but didn't practice.
As a teacher, he said, "the thought of not hugging them was just beyond me."
New laws needed to stop school sex abuse
by Ronnie Polaneczky
I wanted to ask state Sen. Anthony Williams what he made of a West Chester high-school swim coach who has been accused of sexual misconduct with a student.
But so many local educators have been charged lately with letting their hands roam where they shouldn't that I kept mixing up the names, dates and places.
In January, for instance, Delaware teacher Charles Coursey was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old student. The next month, another teacher from the First State, Matthew Pleasanton, was brought up on similar charges.
In March, it was church schoolteacher Nicole Jacques' turn to be accused. Authorities in Hatfield Township, Montgomery County, say she bedded a 15-year-old who'd been her student.
April brought allegations that athletic trainer Ramon Cintron had sexually assaulted a 14-year-old at Cheltenham High School — a girl he had allegedly begged, in text messages, not to squeal on him because he “could get locked up.”
And last week, our accused predator of the month was the West Chester swim coach, Kenneth William Fuller. He allegedly pretended to be his female student's father, signed her out of school, then plied her with Bud Lite Lime beer before engaging in an afternoon of hotel sex.
Thank God the school year is almost over.
“There's an absolute epidemic” of sexual abuse by teachers, says Williams, who is holding a news conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday to garner support for his Senate Bill 1381, which addresses issues that he says aids and abets sexual misconduct by teachers. “I used to think the cases were all extreme. But the abuse is more widespread than I ever imagined.”
Widespread too, he says, is the desire of many school administrators that an accused teacher quietly resign, saving face for the district. To coax suspected offenders out the door, Williams says, administrators will write “glowing” letters of recommendation. Continue a teacher's health benefits. Craft confidentiality agreements.
All of it allowing the teacher to find work in another district, where families and administrators are none the wiser — allowing a serial predator to re-offend.
The appalling practice has a crude nickname: “passing the trash.”
SB 1381 would require schools to find out whether a potential hire was ever subject to an investigation for sexual misconduct or abuse by the state's Child Protective Services. It would also require the district to learn whether an applicant had been disciplined, discharged, nonrenewed or asked to resign from a job (or to surrender his or her teaching certificate) while an investigation or allegations were pending.
The bill passed this month by unanimous vote in the Senate Education Committee and now awaits full vote in the Senate (if Williams can light a fire under his brethren).
The requirements of SB 1381 seem so common sense, it's hard to believe they're not already in place. Truth is, though, Pennsylvania is not the only state passing the trash.
Shockingly, statistics show that a sexually abusive teacher will have offended in three school settings before the abuser finally gets reported to law enforcement and punished, says Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (SESAME), a Nevada-based nonprofit that advocates nationally for laws like SB 1381. (In fact, SB 1381 is called the SESAME Act.)
“It can be so arduous, difficult and expensive to get rid of a teacher who has union protection that sometimes the school will just give up and say, ‘It's easier to get them out of the district,'” says Miller. “But that deliberately endangers children.”
Passing the trash, she says, is similar to the coverup by the Catholic Church of sexual abuse by its predator priests. But it's far more pervasive.
“In 1988 alone, the Department of Justice estimated that 103,600 children had been sexually abused in their schools,” she says. That figure trumps by tenfold the number of children estimated to have been abused by U.S. Catholic priests over five decades. “Some of the cases have been horrific.”
Like that of Jeremy Bell, a West Virginia boy who was sexually abused and then murdered in 1997 by his school principal, Edgar Friedrichs, a former Prospect Park, Delaware County, principal who silently slithered to West Virginia after being accused of sexual misconduct here.
A proposed federal law called the Jeremy Bell Act of 2011, whose sponsors include local U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick, would establish criminal and civil penalties for employers who allow sex abusers to work in another state. It also establishes a national clearinghouse of offender names that can be accessed by schools in other states.
“We want to make sure there is transparency among all the people responsible for protecting our children,” says Loren Riegelhaupt, attorney for SESAME. “Right now, it's as if the teacher is being protected over the student. That has to stop.”
MD sex trafficking task force meets
Experts say parents need to be aware of dangers
by Christian Schaffer
Experts on fighting child sex trafficking are meeting this week in Baltimore County.
Federal, state and local authorities formed Maryland's child sex trafficking task force back in 2007.
More than 100,000 children in the United States are victims of child sex trafficking every year.
Tina Frundt, a survivor of child sex trafficking, founded Courtney's House, which helps children in Maryland and Washington DC.
“This affects every family,” she said. “We really think because we live in a wonderful area it doesn't. But this, because the commodity is children, this affects all of us as parents.”
And it begins at places you might not expect -- like the mall. “We actually do street outreach at the malls,” Frundt said. “And we do outreach there because children are being forced into trafficking there.”
She says children and teens are being approached at places like malls and movie theaters, being offered modeling jobs or invitations to parties.
Instead: “What they usually do for both boys and girls is rape the child, and then they video-tape it,” Frundt said. “And then they threaten them and use that as a measure to threaten them and force them in to sex trafficking. This happens more often than people understand.”
And it happens here in our area, where pimps and their customers have easy transportation on major highways, and plenty of hotels near the airport.
The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force was formed to try and fight back. In many cases, the young victims are reluctant to work against their pimps, making it difficult to build a case.
The answer appears to be better coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement, along with organizations like Courtney's House.
“Some people think that prostitution is glamorous, the sort of thing that you'd see Julia Roberts for example portraying in pretty woman. But the reality is that for girls who are engaged in prostitution it is not like that at all. It is a life of desperation and despair,” said Rod Rosenstein, US Attorney for the District of Maryland.
The key for parents, experts say, is to be comfortable talking with your children -- so that they know they can come to you if they are approached or assaulted.
But as they get older, Tina Frundt says don't be afraid to check their phones and computers to see who else they've been talking to; better to be nosy, she says, than to be the parent of a victim of child sex trafficking.
Maryland aims to raise sex trafficking awareness
by SARAH BRUMFIELD
CATONSVILLE — Maryland officials hope to teach police officers and social services workers to be the state's front line in a battle against sex trafficking.
Being a little “nosey” and knowing what signs to look for during everyday interactions and who to alert can make a difference in uncovering what is too often dismissed as a victimless crime, Homeland Security Special Agent Adrian Sanders said.
“Anyone who is observant will see it,” Sanders said. “The victims aren't going to reach out for help, so it's up to us to approach them.”
Maryland's geographic location, along several transportation corridors, makes the state particularly vulnerable to such crimes, Gov. Martin O'Malley said at the opening of a two-day conference on combatting sex trafficking.
The conference aims to improve coordination among federal, state and local agencies and non-government groups, the response to victims and tracking of traffickers.
The heads of several state departments discussed steps they are taking. Juvenile Services has begun screening girls at one facility to identify victims of sex trafficking. The state Public Safety and Correctional Services department is looking to develop a similar screening tool for adults.
State troopers, who receive training at their academy and at annual seminars, respond to tips about sex trafficking while the computer crimes unit proactively scours the Internet for clues about trafficking cases, said Col. Marcus Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police. One major element of education is changing the mindset of people, helping them understand that prostitutes are victims, not criminals, Brown said.
Officials compare the fight to antiterrorism efforts, saying people need to adopt a “See Something, Say Something” attitude toward trafficking.
One important step will be breaking down the stigma associated with prostitution, said Virginia Geckler of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which sponsored the conference with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.
“It might be easier for people to say something about terrorism,” Geckler said. “We have to destroy that stigma so people will speak up.”
Connecting victims with support services can help them break away, but it's also key to successful prosecutions of traffickers, said Steven Hess, a law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“These cases rise and fall with the victims,” he said.
Prostitutes often stay with their pimps out of fear and lack of security and need to know they'll get the support they need if they leave, said Melissa Snow of TurnAround, a nonprofit counseling and support services agency for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“Without direct intervention, it can be impossible for them to escape,” Snow said.
Not for sale: Agency raises awareness of human trafficking
by KATHIE BASSETT
WOOD RIVER — Identified as a problem plaguing the River Bend, an agency hopes to raise awareness about the difficulty of detecting human trafficking and suggest ways to help victims break the cycle of enslavement.
In broad terms, Angela Valdes, development director for the Community Hope Center in Cottage Hills, defined human trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.
“It's right here under our noises,” she said. “Because people don't know the indicators, they don't realize the scope of the problem or may not know how to handle it correctly if they think it's happening.”
Newly trained as a human trafficking educator, Valdes is a member of the Southwest Illinois Human Trafficking Rescue/Restore Coalition that has organized a conference scheduled for 9 until 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Riverbend Family Ministry, 131 E. Ferguson Ave. in Wood River.
Jeff Othic, a U.S. Customs and Immigration agent, will present an overview of the problem and speak about its prevalence and the many forms that human trafficking can take.
“He'll talk about the basic indicators of how to identify victims and what to do if you have,” Valdes said. “It's important to realize that human trafficking is not only sex trafficking but also labor trafficking, which is a huge problem in this area.”
Possible victims include agricultural and construction workers, who often are illegal immigrants.
“Some people are smuggled into our countr, and others are approached once they are here,” she said. “Sometimes they are taken en masse to do farming, construction or other types of labor.”
For victims of human trafficking, debt bondage can develop that is so oppressive that people become virtually enslaved and never can free themselves from the costs incurred to enter this country illegally, she said.
“It's a bigger problem than most people can imagine,” she said. “It's now the Number One crime, surpassing drug and weapons trafficking. The fact that people can be resold is horrific.”
According to U.S. Customs and Immigration, organized crime from other countries has infiltrated the work force through human trafficking.
“The ages of people being sold are getting younger,” Valdes said. “Children are even being born and raised specifically for these purposes.”
Cleo Terry of Hoyleton Ministries in East St. Louis will present information about how trafficking affects victims, focusing especially on children and young adults.
“(Cleo) will share the struggle to break free and the services required to recover,” Valdes said.
The conference is free and open to residents of Madison, Macoupin, Jersey or Calhoun counties. People who work for a social service provider, a nonprofit organization, a food pantry, in the medical, agricultural, construction or meat-packing industries and for law enforcement agencies are particularly encouraged to register.
More training sessions are anticipated in the near future.
“With more education, we can do a better job of tackling the problem,” Valdes said. “Human trafficking has to stop.”
For more information about the conference, call Valdes at (618) 493-7382 ext. 1323.
NZ department helps crack global child porn ring
An abused New Zealand child is among at least 12 removed from harm as a result of a global online child pornography investigation sparked by the Department of Internal Affairs.
The operation, code-named Operation Laminar and spanning 20 countries, has targeted 55 key suspects in the worldwide distribution of child sexual abuse pictures. Some were involved in the actual sexual abuse of the children depicted.
At least 12 abused children have been identified and removed from harm including one in New Zealand who is now in the custody of Child Youth and Family.
In October 2010 Internal Affairs' Censorship Compliance Unit found significant amounts of child sexual abuse and exploitation pictures being exchanged via social network sites, including Facebook, Socialgo, and grou.ps and alerted international law enforcement agencies.
An Internal Affairs investigator intercepted the network of abuse by engaging with the top offenders on the social network sites.
What they found has shocked even seasoned investigators - hundreds and thousands of images shared through a file sharing network.
"It's captured on film. Some of those children are very young including babies," said Maarten Quivooy, General Manager of Regulatory Compliance Operations.
Most of the 55 who were arrested are in prison or facing prosecution. None from this operation are from New Zealand but five New Zealanders, playing a lesser role in the closed groups were identified during the covert investigation. They are currently facing prosecution for viewing and sharing the explicit material.
Internal Affairs says more arrests are likely.
'Top offenders in this shocking trade'
Quivooy said the department provided evidence of the illegal activities to 20 countries and worked with United States authorities and Interpol.
"This enabled those countries' law enforcement agencies to taken action against 55 people who are regarded as the top offenders in this shocking trade," he said.
Internal Affairs investigators and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identified a large number of groups on Facebook engaging in the display or distribution of objectionable child sexual material, Quivooy said.
The investigation was conducted with the support and assistance of Facebook officials, he said. Some of the individuals targeted had already been referred to law enforcement as part of Facebook's proactive efforts to ensure their platform is not used to sexually exploit children.
The Head of Interpol's Crimes Against Children unit, Mick Moran, praised New Zealand's initiative in launching the original investigation. The operation once again demonstrated the need for international co-operation.
"It is said that the internet has no boundaries, but that does not mean that laws do not apply, that people committing offences online will not be identified," Moran said.
"There is no safe environment or anonymous area for individuals who think that they can trade and publish child abuse images online, as proved once again by this operation which should serve as a warning to others - you will be caught."
Moran said: "While disrupting these networks is a significant part of the investigation, what is more important is that innocent children and in some cases babies have been rescued from physical abuse."
The 20 countries with identified targets are Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, United States and Venezuela.
ICE Director John Morton said Operation Laminar demonstrated that when governments team up to attack the global distribution of images of child sexual abuse the success is real.
"ICE will continue to work tirelessly with our international law enforcement partners to protect children wherever they live and to bring justice to criminals wherever they operate," he added.
Not a victimless crime
Quivooy said protecting children was a global responsibility to which the Department of Internal Affairs was committed.
"Distributing child sexual abuse images is an international crime requiring an international response," he said.
"Child sex abuse imagery is not a victimless crime as it involves real children forced into degrading acts. Trading in, or viewing these images is active offending because it involves real children often being abused both in real time and over time.
"Images of children being sexually abused, when released onto the internet, live on forever.
They haunt the children depicted, who live daily with the knowledge that countless strangers use an image of their worst experiences for their own gratification.
"No crime impacts on us as society and as parents more deeply than the abuse of innocent children by the people they should be able to trust above all others. Terms such as kiddiporn and child pornography make the physical sexual abuse of a child appear consenting."
No child is capable of consenting to sexual activity and therefore all sexual depiction of children is abuse, Quivooy said.
The case comes as no surprise to those fighting the exploitation of children.
"In New Zealand there are over 50,000 mouse clicks to access sites that have previously been identified as containing illegal child sex abuse images," said Alan Bell, Director of child protection agency ECPAT Child ALERT.
Seven years ago New Zealand was part of another international inquiry resulting in 175 prosecutions in this country alone.
"Unfortunately it is all too common and every effort must be made to eliminate the selling of children," Bell said.
Bell said some offenders claim that as long as they do not actually physically abuse the child directly they are doing no harm.
"This is a fallacy. Every time these images are viewed it increases the demand for new images and consequently more children become victims. It is a question of supply and demand," he said.
Judge refuses Jerry Sandusky request to delay child sex-abuse trial
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The June child sex-abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will not be delayed, a judge ruled today.
The one-sentence order by Judge John Cleland did not explain his reasons, but it means the case will very likely begin with jury selection inside a central Pennsylvania courthouse in barely two weeks.
Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola had asked for the delay on May 9 , arguing that he needed more time to find and interview witnesses, and that pending criminal charges against two Penn State administrators made them unavailable as witnesses.
He said without the delay, he was concerned he would not be able to represent Sandusky effectively and adequately.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has repeatedly denied. Jury selection is scheduled to begin June 5, with jurors chosen from the State College area, where Sandusky lives.
Cleland also issued a second order that requires defense lawyers to provide prosecutors any expert reports they plan to use as part of their case by May 30.
The attorney general's office also will get copies of any reports of physical or mental examinations and scientific testing results by May 30. If the defense has experts they plan to call to testify that have not prepared a report, the defense lawyers must tell prosecutors the expert's subject matter, his or her opinion and the basis for that opinion, Cleland said.
Sandusky lawyer Karl Rominger declined to comment on the two orders, citing a gag order Cleland has imposed. A spokesman for the attorney general's office also declined to comment.
Gary Schultz, a retired Penn State vice president for business and finance, and Tim Curley, the university's athletic director now on leave, are accused of perjury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. Both men deny the allegations and are seeking to have them thrown out.
Their lawyers have informed Amendola that they will invoke their right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify if subpoenaed as witnesses in Sandusky's case.
Cramer Center a safe haven Facility continues helping victims of child abuse
by Tom Smith
Jerry Groce said it's difficult to imagine the Shoals without the Cramer Children's Center.
"For the past 20 years, it has made the lives of children affected by sexual and physical abuse so much better," said Groce, director of the Franklin County Department of Human Resources. "We have all grown to rely on the Cramer Center for help; it's a part of our investigation into child sexual abuse."
The Cramer Children's Center, named after former Congressman Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, who was instrumental in obtaining funding for the facility, is located in Florence and works with children ages 3-18 who have been physically or sexually abused.
The center works with various agencies in a six-county region of Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marion and Winston.
"We provide a neutral party to interview the children who have been abused physically, sexually or mentally," said Randy Parker, interim director of the Cramer Center. "We provide a medical examination of the child as well as assisting the victim's family members to understand what has happened and how to cope with it."
All clients are referred to the center through area law enforcement or departments of human resources.
Parker said the center averages about 250 new cases per year.
Staffing includes a full-time forensic interviewer, office manager, counselors, nurse practitioners and a therapist on contract, Parker said.
The facility is financed through state funding, which Parker said amounts to $40,000 this year, but relies heavily on donations and the support of the community and civic groups.
"The center has come to be an invaluable resource when working with children who are victims of abuse," Groce said. "Before it existed we all struggled to find experts who were experienced with working with children who had been traumatized in these type situations."
Florence police detective Keith Johnson handles primarily cases that deal with children who have been sexually or physically abused. He said without the Cramer Center, investigators would have to use specialists from Huntsville.
"All of the law enforcement agencies in the region rely on them," Johnson said. "They offer so much more, such as counseling for the child as well as providing support to their families.
"I would hate to see what it would be like around here without the Cramer Center."
What: Cramer Children's Center open house and 20th anniversary celebration.
When: 1 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Cramer Center on West Tennessee Street, Florence.
Details: Open to the public and past board members.
Saving your child from sexual abuse
May 21, 2012
by Sukhpal Kaur
CHANDIGARH: Working as a teacher in a school, I was shocked to the core of my heart, when I heard that a boy of class 9th attempted to molest a young girl of class 1st who was barely 6 years old.
Not even once had I thought that a student of our school could attempt such a thing. The act certainly reflects the extent of moral degradation in our adolescents.
Adolescence is such an age when there is need of right guidance and right path. That's a different topic which can be dealt differently but here we are discussing the need to teach your child about gender sensitization and how to stop child abuse.
Neither the parents nor the teachers ever think that anybody can attempt to molest a child. Molestation does not refer merely a girl; it can happen with a male child as well.
As soon as a child enters kindergarten, the child should be taught to differentiate between those who are his well-wishers and those who are not.
Many parents might feel uncomfortable discussing this topic as they don't know how to start or because they feel it will affect a child's mind.
You need to present this information to your child as a matter of personal safety just like you would tell him not to play on the road or not to light fire in your absence. You don't need to cover everything in one discussion.
You can take the help of following steps:
|1. Your body is your own: Teach the child that his body is special and no one can touch him without permission. Tell the child correct names of genitals or private body parts. It will help the child to understand what the adults ate allowed and what not.
2. Safe and unsafe touch: Teach your child to differentiate between safe and unsafe touch. Tell the child it is wrong if somebody tries to touch their private parts, their abdominal area, their thighs, their buttocks etc. It is wrong against the law. If the child can't make out, then he should ask a trusted adult for help.
3. The golden strategy “No! Go! Tell!”: Teach the child to say NO to inappropriate touch, GO away from such a person as soon as possible and TELL a trusted adult.
4. Secrecy: One of the main tacts used by sexual abusers is to maintain secrecy. They resort from bribing to serious threats. Teach the child that if a secret makes him feel uncomfortable, afraid or depressed, then he should confide it to a trusted adult.
5. Offender is usually a known person: Children or even parents can never feel that someone who is an acquaintance could abuse them. Being a parent you should keep an eye on someone who gives gifts unnecessarily or tries to spend time with the child when you are not around.
6. Offender is a stranger: This situation is less common. No doubt, the child should be warned about the risk of kidnapping. Tell the child never to get into car with anyone they don't know or accept gifts. They can scream in such a case if an adult tries to overpower them. Not all strangers are dangerous. In a dangerous situation they can get help from strangers such a policemen, sales guy or any child's parent.
7. Open communication: Open talk with children encourages stronger relationships. Any trusted adult, be it a family member, teacher or anyone can help the child. This increases the confidence of the child and find out a solution to problem.
Being an adult, a parent, a teacher, it is your responsibility to protect your child and to make your child strong and mature to deal with such a situation.
Child abuse fight hampered by 'diversity'
by Vivian Nereim
DUBAI// Cultural diversity can make it difficult to protect children from abuse, experts said at a discussion forum on the issue.
The problems can stem from different views on corporal punishment, from concepts of family honour and from a perceived stigma that leads many people to blame the victims of abuse, the panel heard.
"Child abuse is a challenge everywhere, but the cultural diversity in the UAE is adding to the challenge,"said Sanjana Bhardwaj, an instructor at Zayed University and a child protection consultant.
Conflicting ideas about parenting create legislative and social hurdles, she said.
"Physical abuse by parents, for instance. For some parents, hitting is a way of discipline. And when it becomes abuse, there's a very, very thin line."
Nevertheless, diversity is not a reason for failing to act on the issue, other experts said. "When we talk about cultural differences, we sometimes make excuses," said Jonathan McAuley, a strategic adviser to Abu Dhabi Police.
"Those are not excuses for covering up physical abuse or sexual abuse."
Obstacles such as shame about sexual assault are not unique to the UAE, he said.
"It is a matter of standing up and addressing it in a culture, and not using culture and cultural explanations as reasons for making excuses about why we're not acting."
One member of the audience said the importance of family honour can prevent parents from reporting abuse to the police.
"Parents, because of the perception of the family name, they won't report…" said Manal Huwair, 25, from Dubai, mother of a two-year-old boy. "They try to cover it up and solve it themselves."
The stigma associated with abuse can also lead people to blame the victim, said Lt Col Faisal Mohammed Al Shamari, director of the Ministry of Interior's Child Protection Centre.
"It's not on the victim," he said. "It's on everyone."
There is no federal child protection system, but both the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior's Higher Committee for Child Protection have drafted legislation that addresses child abuse.
The federal Cabinet is keen to create a nationwide effort, Lt Col Al Shamari said.
The forum also discussed cyber abuse, maids raising children and how parents should talk to children about abuse.
Ms Huwair has researched child abuse online but came to the forum to learn more. "Of course you worry about it, especially in our community," she said. "We're a diverse culture. You worry about the workers in your house, schoolteachers, families, children's friends, parents."
Children are most often abused by someone they know and trust, said Samia Kazi, chief operating officer of Arabian Child, the early childhood consultancy who organised Saturday's discussion along with Emiratweet, a social media community.
"It's very shocking as parents," she said. "We have to think about sleepovers at cousin's houses and at relatives."
To protect children, parents must talk about the issue, Ms Kazi said. "This kind of discussion that you're going to have, it's ongoing. It's not a one-time thing, and prevention is the best protection."
Many abuse victims have low self-worth, said audience member Iman Ben Chaibah, 27, from Dubai. "They believe they don't deserve that much. I know many friends who have been abused."
Parents should cultivate self-esteem in children, Ms Kazi said. "It's important that the children feel that they're valuable inside and outside of their homes, and they have a right to be safe… They'll be more inclined to say, 'No, this is my body'."
She also urged parents to keep the promises they make to their children. "They're not going to share a concern with you unless they feel that they can trust you."
Stop it Now! Wales urges child sexual abuse strategy
Campaigners have called for a strategy in Wales to protect children affected by sexual abuse.
Stop it Now! Wales says more children could be protected if a "public health approach" was adopted.
It says sexual abuse is a "hidden problem", with 225 out of 600,000 children in Wales being considered at risk on the child protection register.
Deputy Children's Minister Gwenda Thomas said more people needed confidence to speak out.
Launching its latest report, Stop it Now! says its research is based on interviews with 100 people, including victims of sexual abuse, abusers and police and other protection agency staff.
Among its aims are increasing public awareness and "the development and implementation of a comprehensive, co-ordinated response to the sexual abuse of children, both nationally and locally".
The campaign also aims to address the shortage in services and resources required to achieve prevention before sexual abuse occurs".
Stop it Now! Wales national campaign manager Rebecca Morgan, said: "The problem of sexual abuse is a hidden problem - out of 600,000 children in Wales only 225 are on the child protection register for being at risk of sexual abuse as at 31 March 2011, yet we know at least one in 10 children and young people are affected by it."
Mrs Thomas said: "Fear and uncertainty can, so often, stop people from taking action to prevent abuse in the first instance and we need to instil people with the confidence to speak out."
Gaynor Mckeown, of Victim Support, which is working with the campaign, said: "Detection of offenders is crucial but more importantly is the prevention of the abuse in the first place."
Child abuse case raises questions about Iowa DHS response and judge's
After 3 years, questions persist: Was evidence studied closely?
by Rekha Basu
On the face of it, Konzen v. Goedert could be just another of umpteen parental breakups ending in a tug-of-war lawsuit over children. At the center of the Dubuque County District Court case are two adorable 5- and 7-year-old sisters and their parents, a Dubuque couple who never married and separated after a nine-year relationship.
But many documents in the voluminous court files, including extensive reports from the child protective division of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), force troubling questions to be asked: Is the state meeting its obligation to protect children from alleged sexual abuse by a parent? Did a judge have undue influence on DHS over the department's conclusions in the case? And did the judge mistakenly rule after hearing evidence only from the father's side?
Court records show that in 2009, the girls' mother, Emalee Goedert, 31, moved out with the girls because her daughters claimed their father improperly touched them.
The records indicate a continuation of the allegations over three years to relatives, therapists, child protection workers and a school official. The girls have acted out sexually, according to family members, and have shown genital redness and soreness, which doctors have attributed to various causes.
No criminal charges have been filed against their father, Michael Konzen, 32, and he has joint physical custody of them today with no conditions attached. Yet, the girls' maternal grandmother, who cared for them during the day and first alerted their mother to the girls' accounts of sex abuse, now is only allowed to see them under supervision.
The DHS concluded in 2009 that the allegations against Konzen were “founded,” meaning a preponderance of the evidence the department gathered substantiated the children's claims. Konzen denied the allegations and hired Des Moines attorney Alfredo Parrish, who has represented defendants in a number of high-profile sex-abuse cases, to fight the accusations.
For 11 months, Konzen complied with a no-contact order after DHS recommended that he have no contact with his children. But when the case reached Dubuque County District Court on Oct. 26, 2010, Judge Monica Ackley did not call Goedert or any of the counselors or child protective workers who were lined up to testify about the allegations of abuse. Instead, the court transcript shows, Ackley took Konzen's word that the girls' maternal grandmother had planted the idea of the abuse in their heads and the judge declared that she had heard enough.
That cleared the way for Konzen to receive joint custody of the children. Last month, Goedert's lawyer argued before the Iowa Court of Appeals and asked it to overturn Judge Ackley's actions.
Goedert's attorney, Catherine Cartee, recalled for a three-judge panel on April 4 how she and her client showed up in Judge Ackley's Dubuque courtroom that day in October 2010, prepared for a five-day custody hearing. “We had seven therapists waiting to testify about him sexually abusing his children,” she said. “We got there and the judge basically demanded we settle. She told us we had 30 minutes.”
As a result of Ackley's ruling, DHS changed its sex abuse conclusion to “unfounded” 18 months after first deciding there was substantiation of abuse. The agency did so even though a DHS official cannot point to any new information that would alter the facts his investigators documented.
Then the Dubuque County attorney dismissed child-in-need-of-assistance actions on behalf of the girls.
Since then, perhaps fearful of being contradicted again by the judge, DHS has declined to “found” subsequent abuse complaints against Konzen made on behalf of his daughters. Last Dec. 1, for example, the younger child told her preschool teacher that her father kept touching her privates over Thanksgiving break. The school referred the matter to DHS.
“The information was not specifically solicited from the child and was spontaneous in nature,” the DHS investigator wrote. “The teacher did not believe the child was referencing toileting or bathing activities.”
The case was deemed not founded.
Child-in-need-of-assistance petitions effectively were dismissed after making their way back to Judge Ackley. In one case, a juvenile court judge ordered that a guardian ad litem — a guardian of their legal interests — be assigned to the children and Konzen's visits with them be supervised. But Ackley cancelled the hearing and returned the girls to their father with no conditions.
Ackley declined to speak about her actions, noting an appeal is under way. Goedert alleges the judge showed partiality to Konzen because the two knew each other before the case.
Konzen continues to blame the girls' grandmother, Connie Goedert, saying she is meddlesome and prone to imagining sexual offenses, including when Emalee was a child. He also blames what he calls “victim-based” sexual assault centers for reinforcing the girls' belief that they were abused.
He has fought back in the courts, petitioning for custody and suing Connie Goedert for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on him. He petitioned to see the kids' therapy files and to keep the kids out of sex abuse therapy. When criminal charges against him were being explored in April 2010, his attorney contacted Assistant Dubuque County Attorney Chris Corken, calling on her to “use your experience to end any criminal prosecutions in this case.”
Emalee Goedert has engaged in her own share of litigation: She successfully petitioned to stop Konzen's therapist from also providing therapy to the children, as approved by Ackley. She obtained an injunction to prevent Konzen from taking the children on a social call to the home of another counselor they were seeing together. And she petitioned the court after Konzen allowed the girls to see a copy of the videotaped interviews they gave to St. Luke's Child Protection Center, which he had obtained.
Witnesses were waiting, but they did not testify
No court has ruled on whether Konzen abused his daughters, and now no DHS case against him is founded. Yet sex abuse therapists who have worked with the children are firm in their belief that the girls told the truth, unprompted.
“This is a case that I've lost sleep at night over,” Cartee told the appeals court. “In 25 years of practicing law, I could usually give my clients some logic, some understanding of the actions of judges. Not here. Not now.”
The abuse allegations reached the DHS in November 2009, when the girls were 2 years, 8 months old and 5. Connie Goedert told Emalee her younger child cried and complained to her about her vagina being sore because her father had “poked my crotch.” She said the older child said, “Shh, we're not supposed to say that.”
The court records indicated that both girls frequently suffered from vaginal soreness and irritation, which doctors had attributed to infections, allergies or eczema and were treating with creams. Until then, Emalee says she had rejected her mother's criticisms and concerns about her partner.
But this time, she contacted DHS and got guidance on broaching the topic with her girls. When asked, she said the younger child told her the same thing she had told her grandmother. The older child told her that her father scratched their backs every night before they went to sleep. Asked to demonstrate on her mother, she described him slipping his hand down the front of their pull-ups, Emalee Goedert said.
Emalee Goedert took the kids and moved to her parents' home and filed a DHS report. A hospital emergency room doctor found the girls had vaginitis but said that was not uncommon. Both girls were interviewed several times by St. Luke's Child Protection Center on behalf of DHS. The older child repeated her claims, saying when she tells her father to stop, he does. She also said she observed him doing that to her younger sister.
In calling the allegations credible, a case worker at St. Luke's wrote, “Even the two-year-old specifically said the same thing over and over.”
The younger girl said several times that her father “poked her crotch,” but under further questioning, she also said he used a hammer and that her grandmother also poked her crotch. She also mentioned her father putting cream on her crotch for her infections, but drew a distinction between those touches.
Parrish, Konzen's attorney, faults the interviews, claiming investigators are “designated to find abuse and in some cases they go in with the preconceived notion that abuse is going to be found.” The only way to get at the truth, said Parrish, would be to cross-examine the children.
The DHS report said, “The girls' interviews at the Child Protection Center were credible and there was no evidence of coaching,” But Parrish said of the abuse finding, “Founded reports are a dime a dozen for DHS.”
Interviewed by a police officer working with DHS, Konzen denied sexual contact, but he acknowledged wrestling and showering naked with the girls, tickling them all over, and taking a bath and cuddling naked with the older girl when she had a fever.
“There seems to be a pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior,” the DHS report said.
The DHS child protection team advised Emalee Goedert to get the girls in counseling. She obtained a temporary injunction to prevent Konzen from seeing them unless therapists recommended it. Counselors at Crossroads Counseling Center said they would only recommend future visitation if Konzen got sex-abuse specific counseling.
Judge cites her experience in child psychology
A different judge denied Konzen's petition for sanctions against Goedert along with monetary compensation and attorney fees, noting that he had not specifically refuted therapists' notes supporting his daughters' claims. Konzen also petitioned for access to records of his older daughter's therapy sessions — but that was also blocked by a judge.
During the custody trial before Judge Ackley, she listened to one day of Konzen testifying that Goedert's mother was behind the allegations against him. He had affidavits from people Emalee Goedert says had never met her mother, claiming she was overly anxious about the girls.
Goedert had witnesses who had worked with the children. But during the second day of Konzen's testimony, the judge declared, “I think we ought to settle this case.” Acknowledging she hadn't heard all the witnesses or read all the filings, she said she had a background in child psychology and had seen similar situations.
Jennifer Oetken of the Parrish law firm appeared before the Court of Appeals last month as Konzen's attorney. She said of Ackley's handling of the case, “It's an unusual situation, but I don't think it's beyond the scope of what the court can do.”
She called the judge's approach “a creative decision.”
Ackley said during the custody hearing, “I haven't practiced in the area of child psychology and development, but that's my background. I have seen parents do things with their kids to seek their own end. I have seen grandparents go way overboard, because they still have this desire to keep their own children as babies and infants.”
Castigating Goedert's mother, whom she had not met, for instigating the abuse allegations, Ackley said, “I don't know what motivates Connie Goedert to do what she does, but I don't agree with half of what she has done here, because she's ruining a family.”
The judge also said, “I don't know that any 2-year-old can be able to express themselves so clearly, that they would be able to say, ‘My daddy committed sexual abuse.' ”
In April 2011, Ackley informed DHS through a court order that she was giving enhanced visitation for the children with their father. She also ordered that their sex-abuse counseling cease and that all interactions between Connie Goedert and her grandchildren be supervised.
She based this on a recommendation from Andrea Beacham, a former lawyer who now describes herself as a “spiritual guide and marriage celebrant,” whom Ackley had assigned to the case. Beacham said she felt Konzen and his daughters benefited from the counseling — in which sex abuse could not be discussed.
Heidi Wilmarth, an Illinois counselor recommended by DHS who worked with the older Konzen child, believes kids that young can identify abuse. In 10 years she has worked with hundreds of children and has never seen one lie about sexual abuse, she said.
Experts say when children are victims of alleged sex abuse by a parent, it needs to be addressed in any joint counseling with the parent.
Chris Newlin, who heads the National Children's Advocacy Center, says the very first contact Konzen had with his children after 11 months should have been with a therapist trained in sex abuse, who prepared the father “to empower his children.” That means telling them about appropriate physical boundaries and saying “nobody should be touching you in certain places. I shouldn't, and you shouldn't allow it.”
If the allegations against Konzen are true but are not addressed with him, Newlin says, the girls may be getting the message they need to keep silent “and go along with everything.”
In making her ruling, Ackley was not persuaded by a letter from Wilmarth that said Konzen's older daughter had expressed anxiety that he “will begin to sexually abuse her again” if visits were unsupervised. The girl, Wilmarth wrote, “needs to be reassured that she is believed; that the incest is not her fault; and that she will be protected from future sexual abuse.”
On April 27, 2011, the Iowa attorney general's office decided to settle with Konzen on his appeal of the DHS finding against him.
Vern Armstrong, who supervises social workers as DHS's administrator of field operations, could not think of another case in his 22 years there where a sex abuse case went from founded to unfounded.
DHS changes its position without any new evidence
When asked how his workers could have gotten it wrong the first time, Armstrong said they didn't. “We thought there was a preponderance of evidence at the time,” he said.
So why was it “unfounded” a year and a half later? Armstrong said the judge's order made that necessary. But he struggled to explain why a judge's opinion on custody would supersede the professional judgment of DHS workers investigating child sex abuse.
“We take any information they have, or new information, into consideration to see if our findings need to be changed,” he said, noting DHS has only 20 days to investigate and make a finding, while a court may have access to more evidence.
Armstrong could not point to any new evidence. But he noted that there were three subsequent claims of abuse made against Konzen involving his children that were not founded.
One of those came on May 18, 2011, when a child protection worker contacted Dubuque County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Straka after the girls made an allegation. Straka allowed the girls to stay in their father's home, saying the allegations were vague and that Judge Ackley had addressed the matter previously.
While caseworkers well may have responded appropriately to each complaint and tried to take the necessary steps to protect the children, Judge Ackley's original ruling appears to have had a dampening effect on the subsequent complaints.
The DHS reversal prompted an assistant Dubuque County attorney to dismiss a child-in-need-of-assistance order against Konzen. She wrote, “The Department (DHS) no longer believes there is sufficient evidence to suspend or modify by supervision the father's contact with the children.”
Corken, the assistant county attorney who declined to prosecute Konzen, said, “I didn't say I didn't believe the kids were abused. I didn't have evidence that I believed I could prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt.”
She and Parrish point to a lack of physical evidence, such as semen, to prove sexual activity by Konzen. But no one is alleging the father ejaculated on the girls or in their presence. What has shown up in medical exams is vaginal redness and soreness, which Emalee Goedert says disappeared when the girls were apart from their father for 11 months.
Asked if she found the girls believable, Corken replied, “Of course what they told me was compelling. It's horrible children are making allegations like that against their father.”
DHS report says girls now obsessed with their genitals
Now back with their father for half of every week, the girls have regressed, their mother told DHS and police. They suck their thumbs and want to sleep in her bed. They also “have an obsession with their genitals” and have exhibited a lot of anger, a DHS report after last year's custody hearing says.
Goedert said they have been telling lies, that the older one was taking naked pictures of herself and touched her little sister down there. The 4-year-old has drawn a picture of her crotch, and once woke up yelling, ‘Dad, get out of here!' ” according to an investigator's report.
Child protective workers have received reports of the girls playing a grinding “train” game and one trying to French kiss her grandmother.
Young children may act out sexually even if they weren't abused, said Newlin, of the National Children's Advocacy Center. The red flags arise when they touch others sexually.
It can be tricky getting reliable accounts from children so young, especially when the subject is a caretaker who bathes, wipes, and tucks them in. It can also be hard to imagine that children could love a parent and enjoy his company — as these kids clearly do — if that adult touches them inappropriately.
But experts say that isn't uncommon and that the impact of such boundaries being crossed, and of early sexualization, may not be fully evident until years later. Goedert says her older daughter even tells her, “It's OK; it feels good sometimes.”
In telling the story of this family, the purpose was not to judge the truth of allegations against Michael Konzen, but to illustrate the need for the court system and child protective system to be independent, assertive guarantors of children's safety. When an allegation of child abuse has been made, no decision on custody should be made without thoroughly reviewing the evidence.
The Iowa Court of Appeals is expected to rule soon, and its opinion likely will decide whether Konzen or Goedert wins and whether Judge Monica Ackley's actions were proper.
Yet, three years after the first accusations in this case went to court, and with the girls regularly spending time with their father, that thorough review of the evidence still has not occurred.