Child sex-abuse cases under-reported, often ignored
by Bill Heltzel and Halle Stockton
A ninth-grade boy at Pittsburgh's Vincentian High School had a secret. He'd changed a grade on his report card, but soon his basketball coach discovered the deceit. For weeks, the coach summoned him from gym class and the cafeteria to his office, where he prodded: What would the boy do for the coach to keep the secret?
Finally, the coach, according to court documents, gave the boy three choices: Masturbate in front of the coach, stand on his head and pee or get paddled with a plank. He chose the beating. The coach stood the boy against a chalkboard, splayed his legs, and hit him with a 2-by-4. The coach then pulled down the boy's pants to see the welts.
When the boy and his parents told school officials what happened, the principal doubted the story, but offered to change the boy's schedule to avoid the coach's English class.
“That's what her offer was, and I'm like, ‘No, I'm not going to do that,'” the boy later told police about the 1995 incident with coach David Scott Zimmerman, then 28. “I'm leaving school. I can't take this anymore.”
The Vincentian principal dropped her inquiry and Zimmerman continued to coach and teach.
The issues in the Zimmerman case are fresh more than a decade later as the June 5 trial of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky approaches. Sandusky was indicted in November on 52 counts of criminal abuse. He is charged with molesting 10 boys over 15 years.
The Sandusky case became a national cause célèbre and triggered widespread debate on how to protect children from sexual predators.
The attention brought by the Sandusky case will pass. The problem of sexual abuse in schools will not.
David Scott Zimmerman's case is a cautionary tale about what happens when certain patterns of behavior are not recognized and reported.
Another boy described abusive sexual conduct by Zimmerman to school officials — three years after the 1995 incident involving the first boy. Vincentian officials immediately suspended Zimmerman, notified police and the county prosecutor, and started their own investigation. Ultimately, 13 boys told police of sexual behavior by Zimmerman. This time, a public scandal engulfed the Catholic high school.
Court proceedings show that the school made a deal with Zimmerman to keep quiet about his dismissal if he absolved the school of liability. He also kept his teaching license.
A proposed Pennsylvania law would make confidential deals like the one between Zimmerman and Vincentian impossible. Other states have already acted. Oregon recently passed a law that could make it easier to recognize sexual misconduct. The law, cited as a model, could stop abuse in its early stages. Recent changes in Oregon law were made because of the Sandusky case, officials said.
As policymakers consider a response, teachers, parents and students can be alert to recognize classic “grooming” patterns that are precursors to the sexual abuse of children. Another effective step, experts say, is to ban the practice of “passing the trash,” a phrase that describes when a suspected school employee is allowed to resign quietly and without consequences.
“You can stop a lot of this behavior,” said Charol Shakeshaft, an education professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies sexual abuse.
One of every 10 students becomes a target of sexual misconduct that includes such behavior as unwanted sexual comments, inappropriate touching, and even rape, Shakeshaft said.
Yet only about 6 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are reported to authorities, and teachers are seldom punished when caught, according to her 2004 report for the U.S. Department of Education.
Nightmares and Silence
One boy who played for Zimmerman never played organized sports again. Even in college he suffered from nightmares. In one, he told police in 1999, Zimmerman “had this ball and it was like full of razor blades and he kept throwing it at me, trying to get me.”
The details of Zimmerman's actions come from criminal and civil documents filed in the Allegheny County courts over the years. PublicSource does not name the victims of sexual crimes.
Zimmerman inherited a team with a 45-game losing streak when he was hired in 1993, and went on to compile a 78-48 record and take the Vincentian Royals to the regional Class A championship in 1998.
He insisted on a code of silence with the team. Boys were told, “What happens at practice, stays at practice,” according to court documents.
Zimmerman, called “Zim” by students, was forced to resign from Vincentian in 1998. According to court documents, he:
|• Used explicit language, and goaded players into calling a freshman the “team slut,” a “fag” and other sexually derogatory terms;
• Took boys out of study hall to his office and peppered them with questions about their sex lives;
• Encouraged boys to slap each other's testicles, an initiation rite referred to as “duping”;
• Showed boys adult pornography at his Pittsburgh apartment;
• Pushed a boy's head into the groin of another player as Zimmerman squeezed water from a bottle to simulate ejaculation, and forced a player to lick cupcake icing off his finger;
* Rested a hand on a boy's penis while going to sleep in a dorm room at a basketball camp.
In 1990, Zimmerman had cleared mandatory child abuse and criminal background checks -- as all Pennsylvania teachers must -- from the Department of Welfare, state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. By the time Vincentian hired him, he had substituted or coached for at least five other schools. The Vincentian principal said in a deposition that Zimmerman's references and prior employers were not contacted.
Zimmerman denied abuse allegations when police interviewed him in January 1999. He said he engaged in horseplay with players and conceded that he could have supervised them better. The Allegheny County District Attorney dropped a simple assault charge, and Zimmerman pleaded guilty to corruption of minors, a misdemeanor. He was put on probation for a year and ordered not to work with children.
As a result of the Vincentian players' allegations, police searched Zimmerman's Pittsburgh apartment. They found hundreds of images of child erotica, computer-generated images of boys engaged in sexual activity, and catalogs offering videotapes of teenage boys engaged in sex. He pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of child pornography, but the case was overturned on appeal because of an improper search warrant.
When PublicSource called the home listed in records as Zimmerman's address, a man who identified himself as Zimmerman's brother said he would convey a request for an interview. Zimmerman did not return two telephone calls.
PublicSource also sent a letter to Zimmerman's address asking for an interview. There was no response.
Defense attorney Robert Mielnicki described his client as immature. “He was in his late 20s and was hanging around with 18-year-olds” and “was acting like an 18-year-old,” Mielnicki said.
In 2008, Zimmerman, then 41, was arrested in Harmar Township and charged with sexual assault of a 20-year-old man he had met that day. On the day of his trial, an assistant district attorney dropped four felonies and added a misdemeanor assault charge. Zimmerman pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 12 months' probation.
Clear warning signs
Coaches or teachers suspected of abuse tend to single out students for special treatment, lavishing them with attention and rewards. They become unusually close to children, finding ways to spend time with them privately in school and on trips outside of school.
Recognizing these techniques and reporting them are the keys to stopping predators from abusing children, experts say.
Instead, Shakeshaft said, colleagues overlook these behaviors. Educators tend to give colleagues the benefit of the doubt and question the truthfulness of students. Schools often agree not to report allegations to police and education authorities if the employee agrees not to sue. The employee is then free to retire or seek a new job, and the public and the next employer are kept in the dark.
In June 1995, Sister Camille Panich, the principal, rated Zimmerman's performance unsatisfactory. She cited him for taking students out of study hall and into his office, embarrassing players in front of the team and being overly involved in players' personal lives. She put him under closer scrutiny for the 1995-96 school year.
A month later, the ninth-grader accused Zimmerman of misconduct. Sister Camille dropped her inquiry after consulting with officials at the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“I did what I was advised to do,” she said.
That fall, Duquesne University affiliated with the high school, and it was renamed Vincentian Academy. Derek Whordley, then dean of the Duquesne School of Education, became president.
Whordley eventually became concerned about disrespectful behavior and improper language by Zimmerman. He drafted a letter in 1997 telling him to resign or be fired, and gave the letter to Sister Camille, but not to Zimmerman.
But in 1997, Whordley was succeeded by Timothy Rusnak, as academy president. Rusnak rehired Zimmerman as coach, recruiter and fundraiser but did not renew his contract to teach English.
Vincentian forced Zimmerman to resign in December 1998, after a second group of boys complained. The following month, Vincentian agreed not to comment on the coach's separation from the school. Zimmerman would absolve Duquesne of liability arising out of his employment. He was not required to surrender his teaching license.
The reason for his dismissal remained secret for three months, until McCandless police charged him with simple assault and corruption of minors.
Duquesne officials did not respond to requests for comment from PublicSource.
Background not checked
Lawmakers across the country have passed or proposed measures that would make that kind of deal illegal.
Pennsylvania could be next. State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, introduced a law in November that would ban secret separation agreements, require schools to disclose allegations of sexual abuse when asked for a reference by another school and ban teachers from forfeiting their licenses to avoid discipline.
Williams began drafting the law well before the Sandusky case, after reading about sexual abuse in schools outside of Pennsylvania. “I thought it was crazy and thought ‘that cannot be happening in Pennsylvania.' Indeed it can be happening and is happening. It's a national problem.”
The state's proposal is based on a 2010 Oregon law, considered the most comprehensive in the country. It requires that faculty and staff members of public and private schools get annual training on the prevention and identification of child abuse and sexual conduct and on their duty to report.
The law requires schools to check with an applicant's previous three scholastic employers for ongoing or substantiated reports of child abuse or sexual conduct.
“There really was an interest in ratcheting down those loopholes, and a criminal history alone just doesn't take care of it,” said Rep. Sara Gelser, the Democratic co-chair of the Oregon State House Education Committee.
In response to the Sandusky case, Oregon expanded its list of mandated reporters in February to include higher education, from administrators and coaches to maintenance workers and bookkeepers. They referred to it as the "Penn State bill."
“We probably would not have succeeded in making that change without the unfortunate events in Pennsylvania,” Gelser said.
Those who fail to report child abuse in Oregon face a $1,000 fine. Under Pennsylvania's current law, a failure to report carries a fine of $200 and up to 90 days in jail.
Following the Zimmerman case, Vincentian revised its policies. Faculty, staff and volunteers are supposed to report problematic behaviors, and students are encouraged to “stand up for what they know is right,” said Diane Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, now affiliated with Vincentian. References and previous employers are also checked for new hires, she said.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has required school employees since 2003 to take an annual program called “Protecting God's Children,” which teaches awareness of crimes against children and how to report them.
Vincentian learned the hard way.
Penn State's Sandusky case, too, will undoubtedly cause more changes.
But do people really understand how widespread similar cases are?
“One of the biggest issues is whether people believe this happens,” said Dauphin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean McCormack. “It does happen, and a lot more than most people expect. And just because the Sandusky case comes and goes doesn't mean the problem is going to come and go. People need to be vigilant.”
PublicSource is a non-profit investigative and in-depth reporting website focusing on Western Pennsylvania.
Zimmerman case timeline
The events in the case of David Scott Zimmerman, a basketball coach at Vincentian High School in Pittsburgh:
1993 -- Vincentian High School hires Zimmerman to coach boys' basketball. A year later, he added teaching English and running the athletic department to his portfolio.
June 1995 -- Vincentian principal rates Zimmerman's work as unsatisfactory because of failure to follow rules and improper conduct.
August 1995 -- A basketball player tells Vincentian's principal that Zimmerman forced him to choose among three inappropriate actions in return for keeping a secret. The principal dropped her inquiry when the parents took their son out of the school.
December 1998 -- Another player and his parents complain to Vincentian about Zimmerman's conduct. Zimmerman is forced to resign. McCandless police are notified and interview 13 boys who describe sexual misconduct by Zimmerman.
January 1999 -- Vincentian agrees not to disclose why Zimmerman resigned, and Zimmerman agrees not to sue Duquesne.
March 1999 -- McCandless police charge Zimmerman with corruption of minors and simple assault.
July 1999 -- U.S. Attorney charges Zimmerman with possession of child pornography.
January 2001 -- Zimmerman pleads guilty to corruption of minors and is sentenced to one year of probation.
October 2002 -- Federal pornography charge is dismissed because of an improper search warrant.
July 2008 -- Harmar police charge Zimmerman with sexual assault of a 20-year-old man.
October 2009 -- Zimmerman pleads no contest to simple assault in the Harmar case. He is sentenced to 12 month's probation.
In Syracuse, another grim picture of child sexual abuse
by Saundra Smokes
The man in the picture, in prison garb, wasn't immediately familiar until I read the words in the headline: “Photographer admits”
and got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I read the name.
Somehow in the midst of a chaotic time, I had missed his story: that he had been accused of sexual assault by a minor, that he had fled the area and had ended up in Hawaii, that authorities had located him and brought him back to Syracuse, where he was held in the Justice Center until he appeared in court last week.
Carroll would plead guilty to two felony counts, admitting that he had sexual oral contact with a 14-year-old girl on two occasions in Geddes. The 51-year-old is facing a maximum sentence of seven years in state prison.
I and many others around town had known him as the gifted photographer who often worked with young people, guiding them as they viewed their world through a lens. I remember we had talked about one of my charges whom he had worked with at a camp. She was talented, he had said. And he was right.
But I read his story and wondered: Had the man with the sweet face — so much softer than in the newspaper photo — and the sweet demeanor said anything, done anything to her? Had there been others?
I know the child-abuse radar has been especially sensitive for the people around this community after former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine
was accused of molesting two former ball boys. The truth about what has become a sordid complex web has yet to be known. Fine has denied the allegations and has not been charged. Two of his four accusers later recanted their claims.
But there are some absolute truths: People who choose children as their victims often have easy access to them — whether they are family members or youth coaches, youth leaders, youth workers or youth mentors. They are not, as Randi Bregman, Vera House's executive director, likes to point out: “. . . the scary guy hiding in the van.” Many child-abuse experts say that victimizers, who may be careful about presenting themselves as friendly, caring and upstanding citizens — also as careful about targeting their prey — are searching for the most vulnerable children.
The problem is that the most vulnerable children often need the support of other adults. Single mothers — and I have been in that position — often look for men to act as role models for their boys.
The Boys and Girls Clubs have put out the call for youth mentors. Two years ago, popular radio host Michael Baisden launched a national “million mentor” effort and has teamed with Greek and other organizations to address the needs of an estimated 14 million children who need mentors. And mentoring has been a primary objective of the local and national 100 Black Men organization.
But here's the troubling thing: That potentially good mentors — and I have talked to some — may be hesitant about working with or continuing to work with the kids who most need them. Some are afraid of being accused by a child of doing something awful.
The issue is not easily solved, but there are some steps that can be taken to help protect children and innocent adults. Of course children must be taught about potential predators and then supported when they report abuse. No adult who has not had a background check should be allowed to work with a child — yet the rules must go beyond that fairly standard step. Organizations should have clear-cut policies about working with children — being alone with them, giving them gifts, etc.
For example, SUNY's Youth Sports Institute's Youth Sports New York has guidelines about what coaches and youth volunteers should and should not be doing with children. The institute suggests organizations have designated coordinators to oversee these kinds of standards — something every institution should have.
Will such measures stop all the abuse that occurs in these circumstances?
But they may lessen the opportunities for the kinds of adults who have ulterior motives when they “help” children.
Pot smoking mother drives off with baby on car roof
by David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A marijuana-smoking woman was arrested on Saturday in Phoenix after she accidentally drove away with her five-week-old son in a child safety seat on the roof of her vehicle, police said.
The baby fell off the car in the middle of an intersection and was found unharmed and strapped into the seat, said Phoenix police spokesman James Holmes.
The mother Catalina Clouser, 19, was booked into jail on child abuse and aggravated assault charges, he said. The infant was taken to a local hospital as a precaution and is in the custody of state Child Protective Services.
"It appears the suspect put the baby on the roof of the car and drove off, forgetting he was still on the roof," Holmes said in a written statement.
Police said Clouser and her boyfriend had been smoking marijuana in a park and left with the toddler to buy beer late on Friday night. Officers stopped the car and the boyfriend was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence while driving with the baby in the 2000 Ford Focus.
Police learned that Clouser was so upset about the arrest that she drove to a friend's home and "admittedly smoked one or two additional bowls of marijuana," Holmes said.
She left at about midnight with the baby asleep in the car seat, placing the child on top of the vehicle, he said. Clouser apparently did not realize that the baby was missing until she arrived home.
Holmes said witnesses who were friends of the mother advised officers that the child belonged to Clouser. The mother then arrived at the scene and "made admissions to what had occurred."
Life Review Therapy Decreases Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults
There are currently numerous different approaches for the treatment of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness therapy and other techniques aimed at transforming behavior and emotional reactions have been shown to be effective in some individuals. But older adults who develop depression present a unique set of challenges. These people often have difficulty accepting the life changes that accompany growing older. When children leave home, careers end, and physical health begins to decline, older adults can enter a phase of life that causes them to feel regret and remorse for experiences from their pasts.
A relatively new form of therapy known as life review therapy has been used to address depression that occurs in this season of life. But few studies have examined its effectiveness. To further explore this approach, Jojanneke Korte of the University of Twente's Department of Health Psychology and Technology in The Netherlands recently led a study that compared life review therapy with usual care in a sample of 202 older adults with depression. The study was designed to assess symptoms of anxiety, depression, reminiscence, and past major depressive episodes (MDEs). Korte evaluated the participants at the conclusion of their treatment and again 3 months and 6 months posttreatment.
Korte found that the life review participants had greater gains in symptom reduction than the usual care participants at the conclusion of treatment and at both follow-ups. The reductions in depressive symptoms were significant, and smaller reductions were realized for symptoms of anxiety. The most dramatic improvements were evident in the participants who were the most extroverted. This could be due to their increased willingness to see things positively and share their emotions more freely than introverted individuals. These findings suggest that this form of life review therapy, which aims to help clients focus on positive past memories rather than dwell on negative life experiences, can help improve the overall emotional well-being of older individuals struggling to transition into this phase of life. Korte added, “It is possible that older adults who have difficulty finding meaning in the present may profit more from interventions that focus on the here and now.”
Korte, J., Bohlmeijer, E. T., Cappeliez, P., Smit, F., Westerhof, G. J. (2012). Life review therapy for older adults with moderate depressive symptomatology: A pragmatic randomized controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 42.6, 1163-1173.
Northern Ireland executive to launch inquiry into clerical child abuse
Pressure on government led to full scale inquiry
by ANTOINETTE KELLY
Responding to increasing pressure from victims organizations, the North's power-sharing government will announce an inquiry into clerical child abuse in religious-run institutions there.
According to the Guardian the victims organizations recently met with the first minister Peter Robinson and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, after campaigning for a full public inquiry into sexual, physical and emotional abuse in orphanages, schools and other institutions that were mostly under the control of the Catholic church.
The late Father Brendan Smyth, one of the most infamous clerical abusers in recent history, reportedly abused children in Belfast parishes, hospitals and church-owned properties across the border in the Irish Republic throughout the 1960's, 70's and 80's.
As well as individual priests, Catholic institutions run by the Church will also be examined in the inquiry including the frequently cited De La Salle boys' home in Kircubbin, County Down.
Conor Ryan, a former resident who lived at the home for two years from 1957 described it as 'A primitive place, run like a borstal. My time there could be best described as living hell.'
According to the Guardian Amnesty International has criticized the new inquiry's constrained terms of reference, expressing their concern that the Northern Ireland executive-run investigation might not have the power to summon members of the clergy to give evidence or compel the church to hand over documents about known abusers and the institutions they worked in.
In its annual Amnesty noted: 'In September the Northern Ireland executive announced proposals for the establishment of an inquiry to investigate institutional child abuse. There could, however, be a delay in providing the inquiry with a statutory basis, which might initially leave it without the necessary powers to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents.'
Sri Lanka's hidden scourge of religious child abuse
Sinhala service Tens of thousands of children regularly attend Sri Lankan Buddhist temples as helpers or novices
by Saroj Pathirana, BBC
Pahalagama Somaratana Thera is one of the few Sri Lankan Buddhist monks to have been found guilty of child abuse inside or outside the country.
But if Children's Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda is to be believed, child abuse in religious establishments by both Buddhist and Christian clergy in Sri Lanka is rampant.
Yet according to figures from Sri Lanka's National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), only three Buddhist monks have been convicted of child abuse in Sri Lanka in recent history.
One of those died from poison he drank after he was sentenced for raping a girl aged 13 in 2005.
Research carried out by the BBC Sinhala service has revealed that over the last decade, nearly 110 Buddhist monks have been charged for sexual and physical assaults on minors in Sri Lanka.
Many of these cases - especially those of a sexual nature - were barely reported by the Sri Lankan media and seldom resulted in convictions.
One of the few cases that did make it into the newspapers is that of Buddhist monk and former parliamentarian Aparekke Pannananda Thera, who has been charged with sexually abusing minors.
He and another leading monk in the town of Anuradhapura, Namalwewa Rathnasara Thera, are currently released on bail in relation to the accusations - which they vehemently deny.
Tip of the iceberg
The issue of child abuse by Buddhist monks is regarded as taboo in what is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country.
“We will take stern action against any child abuser irrespective of race, caste or the religion”
Against that backdrop, the 3 May conviction of Pahalagama Somaratana Thera - who runs children's homes in Sri Lanka - has come as a surprise, as well as a shock, to many expatriate Sinhalese Buddhists in the UK.
Supporters of the monk were reported to be so convinced he would be acquitted and released that they planned a grand welcoming party for him during Sri Lanka's important Vesak Buddhist festival.
There are concerns that Thera's conviction may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abuses in Sri Lankan Buddhist temples.
While in some cases monks are not directly accused of carrying out the abuses, they have been accused of failing to stop them.
Most Sri Lankan Buddhist temples have a constant stream of boys and adult male helpers who live there for short periods. It is not at all unusual for temples to seek help from youths in nearby villages to prepare for religious ceremonies and in the general day-to-day running of the buildings.
This, say critics, provides an ideal climate for abusers to take sexual advantage of vulnerable and impressionable boys mostly under 16 years old.
In one recent and disturbing case, monks of an unnamed eastern Sri Lankan Buddhist temple were accused of ignoring constant appeals by parents of abused children to prevent such practices from taking place within its premises.
"I work as an electrician at the temple. I have been part of this temple for a long time but even I could not stop my son being abused," Susil Rohana told the BBC.
Mr Rohana alleges that his son was sexually abused by helpers and workers staying in the temple throughout 2010.
He and other parents stress that while no Buddhist monk is accused of any involvement in the abuse, they nevertheless repeatedly failed to take action to stop it and that even today his son remains traumatised.
Mr Rohana says that he has tried to take the abuse suffered by his son to the courts, but is "getting constant threats" warning him not to do so.
It is not only Buddhist monks who stand accused - about 20 Roman Catholic and Protestant priests have been arrested or investigated for sexual abuse of minors over the last 10 years in Sri Lanka.
While there are no accurate records on how many of them have been convicted, officials say that at least one accused Catholic priest is still absconding since being given bail.
The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka refused to comment to the BBC on the issue.
But NCPA head Anoma Dissanayake is much less reticent.
"I do not know at the moment how many Catholic priests or how many Buddhist monks are involved, but we will take stern action against any child abuser irrespective of race, caste or religion," he said.
Children's Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda told the BBC that he is "shocked and ashamed" over the extent of the problem.
"I noticed what kind of minor sentences the perpetrators are getting," the minister said. "We need tougher laws that if necessary do not fall too far short of the death sentence."
However Mr Karaliyedda rejected accusations that political leaders are trying to influence the judiciary to get culprits released.
"The president has clearly instructed us to implement the law irrespective of [a person's] status," he said.
The assistant secretary of the All Island Buddhist Council, Kalutara Somarathana Thera, says that many abuse accusations levelled at Buddhist monks are "baseless" - although there needs to be proper research on the "small minority" of monks that do commit such crimes.
Human rights lawyers such as Chandrapala Kumarage, meanwhile, argue that the Sri Lankan media are failing to expose abuses - "especially when it comes to politically or socially powerful figures".
PSU wants to settle Sandusky civil suits
by Debra Erdley
Penn State University wants to settle lawsuits from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal out of court.
"Our hope is that we can settle as many of those that arise without taking the victims through the litigation process," Penn State President Rodney Erickson told Tribune-Review editors and reporters on Friday.
Erickson's comments came as he completed a tour of several newspapers across the state in advance of jury selection for Sandusky's trial on Tuesday. The state Superior Court rejected a last request to delay the start of the trial for Sandusky, a retired Penn State football defensive coordinator charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, often in university facilities. His lawyers yesterday appealed that rejection to the state Supreme Court.
Experts have speculated that the university potentially faces millions of dollars in liability and could be mired in civil lawsuits from Sandusky's alleged victims for years.
"We don't know what the number (of lawsuits) is likely to be. We don't know when they'll be filed, but we've said all along we want to do the right thing for the victims," Erickson said.
The former provost was named university president on Nov. 11. Trustees ousted longtime President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno following the release of a scathing grand jury presentment charging top university administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley with perjury in an alleged cover-up. Sandusky, Curley and Schultz maintain their innocence.
Erickson said he took to the road to publicize the university's response to the "Sandusky matter" and its progress as a public research university.
"There has been a lot of healing, and that's a story that's not well-known in the commonwealth and beyond," he said.
Erickson said the university is making good on his vow to become a national center for the prevention and detection of child abuse. Penn State retained a firm to provide free counseling to anyone who allegedly suffered abuse from Sandusky, Erickson said, and the university donated $2.6 million in football bowl revenue to abuse prevention.
That total includes $1.1 million to the Center for the Protection of Children at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital and $1.5 million to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The university also created the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment.
Erickson said an ongoing external investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh has prompted changes, including expanded and recurrent background checks for all employees, beefed-up training on child abuse recognition and reporting, and expanding the number of people who are required to undergo such training to include volunteers who work with children on campus.
The university recently hired a coordinator to oversee the school's compliance with the Clery Act, the federal law that governs campus crime reports, and is starting a search for an oversight officer to oversee the efforts of about 100 university officials charged with complying with various safety measures, Erickson said. The latter position would report directly to the trustees.
The Freeh Commission's report should be made public later this summer, Erickson said. He said it will be released concurrently to the trustees and the public, probably in late July or early August -- about the time the Sandusky trial is expected to conclude.
Judge John Cleland, who will preside at the trial, had not ruled by yesterday evening on requests by Sandusky's lawyers to dismiss charges. Also, 13 news organizations filed a motion asking Cleland to clarify an order from this week as it relates to electronic transmissions from inside the courtroom.
Cleland's order said tweets and other transmissions were permitted, but they could not include photographs or "any verbatim account" of the proceedings.
The news organizations argue that quotes are necessary to give readers an accurate account of the proceedings. They called a ban on direct quotations "impractical and difficult to implement" and unconstitutional.
Feds, strippers to talk sex trafficking in NM
by RUSSELL CONTRERAS
Strippers and owners of topless clubs are scheduled to meet next week in New Mexico with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who hope to bring more awareness to sex trafficking, a growing problem some call "virtual slavery."
The special conference slated for Tuesday at the Elegante Hotel in Albuquerque is aimed at educating around 125 people in the adult entertainment industry about the dangers of sex trafficking and how to report it if they see it.
With the help of a female Homeland Security Investigations agent working in southern New Mexico, the arm of ICE is seeking to reach out to people who may be working alongside victims of sex trafficking without even knowing it.
ACE National, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents strip clubs and other adult entertainment establishments, is hosting the event as part of organization's nationwide push to help dancers and club owners identify sex trafficking and rescue victims.
ACE National's executive director, Angelina Spencer, said the group has trained 2,000 people nationwide, and club owners have an important interest in keeping any ties to sex trafficking out of their industry.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, sex trafficking involves prostitution and other adult services that are induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18 years old. Often victims are drawn into sex trafficking by kidnappings, promises of a better job in another country, or being sold into the trade by family members.
"This is not a strip club problem. It's a U.S. problem," Spencer said. "From farm labor to a hair salon out of New Jersey, sex trafficking is everywhere and we need to be aware of it."
But she said ACE National felt it needed to create an educational program directed toward people in the adult entertainment industry since they might be exposed to trafficking victims. The group's effort is called COAST -- Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking.
"Our clubs do not want to be associated with sex trafficking," Spencer said. "We're about entertainment and fun, not slavery and coercion."
Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico, said the federal agency is in a big push to educate the public about sex trafficking.
"A lot people don't know that if you agree to a certain job involving sex and someone has to go across state lines for that job, that's sex trafficking," Abar said. "We're going to start being aggressive about going after sex traffickers, and people in this industry need to know what the laws are and how to spot trafficking."
Spencer said clubs are beginning to hang informational posters in places like dressing rooms to let performers know where they can call to report suspicions of sex trafficking.
"We don't want them to be vigilantes," she said. "We just want them to keep their eyes open."
Girls victimized by sex trafficking find healing at Freedom Place
by Anita Hassan
Kelly Armstrong beamed during her daughter's kindergarten graduation, celebrating the finale to her first year of elementary school.
But in the back of her mind, she was thinking about another young girl, a teenager rescued by law enforcement officials during a child pornography bust, who might be able to have a new beginning.
Armstrong, the executive director of Freedom Place, Texas' first and only safe house for domestic victims of sex trafficking, had been trading messages and phone calls with officials from the Texas Attorney General's Office all afternoon about the girl. Officials were offering her a safe place to stay, a place where she could get counseling.
"We knew we needed to act quickly," she said.
That evening, as she watched her daughter, Armstrong continued to check her cell phone, anxiously waiting to hear from authorities and hoping that teen would agree to come to Freedom Place.
Until last week, there was no place in Houston - or anywhere in Texas - dedicated to helping domestic trafficking victims. Often the options for the girls were incarceration in a juvenile facility, treatment programs that didn't meet their needs, or being placed back into the same unstable homes that may have led to them the streets in the first place, authorities said.
Even more difficult, many of the girls don't feel that they are victims, making them vulnerable to falling back into familiar patterns with abusers, said Associate Harris County Juvenile judge Angela Ellis.
"What we know is that they will return to the system if we don't offer them therapeutic services," Ellis said. She runs a "girls court," designed specifically for young girls who are sex-trafficking victims, offering them intensive supervision and therapeutic services as an alternative to placing them in detention facilities. The court has already referred three girls to Freedom Place, including one who became the program's first arrival.
"Telling someone they are a victim and then being able to do nothing but place them in a lock-down facility is not something we wanted," Ellis said. "So it's a big day."
6 horses and 2 dogs
Freedom Place sits on 110 acres of heavily wooded land north of Houston. Along with two main houses that can accommodate up to 30 girls, the compound has a lake with canoes, a ropes course, a basketball court and a swimming pool. The site also has stables with six horses, all but one a rescue, and two friendly dogs that roam the premises.
Of four cabins on the site, two will be converted into transitional living apartments for girls who turn 18 while at the safe house but don't feel ready to leave the program, Armstrong said. Another cabin will be used for therapy sessions and serve as an infirmary. The fourth will be converted into a boutique, where the girls can buy makeup, clothes and other items with "freedom bucks" - a reward system that is being put in place at the facility.
Freedom Place is a restricted residential program, but it is designed to be a home environment. Armstrong said every detail in the facility, down to the color of the walls and the bedspreads, was chosen with the full consideration of making the girls the most comfortable.
"We don't want them to feel like they are in a sheltered or locked community," said Mark Tennant, CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, the nonprofit organization that operates Freedom Place. "It's the healing environment that makes them want to be here."
Since the opening of Freedom Place, two girls have been accepted and about five more are on their way, Armstrong said. Clients will be girls from 10 to 18 and spend anywhere from six months to about a year and half in the program. The girls, who are under round-the-clock watch by staff, will participate in therapy and counseling sessions that will address everything from post traumatic stress disorder to confidence issues.
"So that's really our goal here, to build that self-esteem back up," Armstrong said. "To make them feel like confident, worthy, strong women."
A change of mind
About 8 p.m. Armstrong got the word: The girl had agreed to come to Freedom Place, but changed her mind at the last minute.
But Armstrong isn't discouraged. She still has faith that the teen will change her mind again.
"I hope she comes," Armstrong said. "But I know there will be another child and the bed will be filled."
GenerateHope: A Sex Trafficking Rescue Nonprofit Making an Impact
By offering abused and exploited women housing and recovery assistance, GenerateHope gives a forgotten population a new outlook on life
Earlier this month, we launched our Good Neighbor program as a unique and interactive way to let our readers know about some of the most dynamic non-profit organizations operating in the US. GenerateHope was one of the finalists recognized by the program.
When thinking of nonprofits and the causes they advocate, do we tend to stay away from the more “edgy” or “racy” causes? After all, they are causes that make our world a better place even when it doesn't start out great.
GenerateHope serves sex trafficking victims by offering a real way out for the young women who have been abused and exploited. With a comprehensive housing and recovery program, women are able to reintegrate into society and have a positive outlook on life.
“Our founder became involved in this arena when she found out that sex trafficking in San Diego was such a big problem and that there were no treatment facilities available to this population,” said GenerateHope Executive Director Susan Munsey . “The populations that are prostituted are foster children, runaway children and if we don't put something in place they will be approached for sex.”
Trafficking people is the fastest growing international crime, and San Diego ranks in the top 8 cities for child prostitution in the United States, according to the FBI. It is estimated that about 293,000 American youth are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Run by 100% volunteer efforts, GenerateHope shares the vision of eradicating the issue of human trafficking with all their volunteers, and recent achievements have kept the cause going as a result. Awarded the Women of Worth recognition and $10,000 grant by L'Oreal and moving from a five-bedroom house to a 15-bedroom house with facilities for school and transitional housing on the same property, GenerateHope is doing something no one else is doing in San Diego by caring and providing for a forgotten population. They have rescued 25 women from sex trafficking over the last two years.
GenerateHope is an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
For more information, visit http://www.generatehope.org/
Body of 1-month-old baby found in trunk of car in Florida, father arrested
by Suzette Laboy
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - A 1-month-old baby was found dead Friday in the trunk of a car in Florida, and the boy's father has been taken into custody, police said.
The infant was identified as Josiah Santil, said Coral Springs police Lt. Joe McHugh. The boy's father, Janus Saintil, 24, was arrested Friday outside a Coral Springs apartment. Charges were not immediately filed. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
An autopsy will be performed on the child. An official cause of death has not yet been released.
"When you say you've seen it all, this is one of those things," Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. "It's almost like the baby was carelessly discarded inside the trunk. Total lack of respect for the life. It's one of those things, if you are a parent, it's got to tug at your heart strings."
Saintil was with the child's mother, another female and a male adult Thursday night driving to a North Lauderdale Walmart when he became angry and pulled out a gun, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. He kidnapped the group and drove about 85 miles north in a stolen car to Port St. Lucie, where Saintil left the baby at a house and then forced the male to take money from a nearby ATM. The elder Saintil fled the area after the male victim yelled for help. He apparently retrieved the baby before returning to South Florida, authorities said.
Janus Saintil was taken into custody without incident Friday afternoon after apparently parking the stolen car next to a Coral Springs police officer. The baby's body was found when the officer searched the car, according to a Broward County Sheriff's news release.
"There were so many officers by the time he opened the door, he really didn't have a chance," said Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi. "Thank God he decided not to fight."
Court records in Broward County show Saintil has been arrested numerous times over the past six years, including charges of armed robbery and trespassing. In 2008, he was sentenced to two years in prison for grand theft, according to court records. Saintil also had an outstanding warrant in Coral Springs, authorities said.
Telephone messages left with Port St. Lucie police weren't immediately returned on Friday.
SoCal woman gets 16-to-life for killing newborn daughter
by City News Service
SANTA ANA - A 20-year-old Fullerton woman who killed her newborn daughter two years ago was sentenced today to 16 years to life in prison.
Yoselin Torres Tovar pleaded guilty May 1 to second-degree murder, with a sentencing enhancement for using a deadly weapon, just before attorneys were set to make opening statements in her trial.
Tovar gave birth between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on April 18, 2010, in the bathroom of her family's home, Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy said. She stabbed the newborn multiple times and then wrapped up the body and put it in her bedroom closet, the prosecutor said.
When family members saw blood on Tovar, they took her to St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, where physicians determined she had just given birth and called police, McGreevy said.
The Physical Scars of Childhood Abuse Can Last a Lifetime
Adults who have survived childhood abuse are more likely to experience mental health problems than those who were not abused during their youth. Depression, anxiety, panic, posttraumatic stress, eating and food issues, and substance abuse are just some of the psychological conditions that these survivors face. Another consequence of childhood abuse is diminished physical health. Research has shown that negative psychological well-being decreases physical health and can lead to serious health problems, including hypertension and heart disease. But few studies have examined how specific types of childhood abuse affect physical health directly.
To address this gap in research, Cathy Spatz Widom, Ph.D., of the Psychology Department at John Jay College at the City University of New York recently conducted a study that sought to determine the link between three individual types of abuse and later physical health problems. Widom analyzed data from adults who had been abused prior to their 12th birthday. The average age of the participants was 41. Each participant underwent a complete physical examination and blood test in adulthood. Based on documented reports of the abuse, Widom compared how sexual abuse, neglect/maltreatment, and physical abuse in childhood affected the participants' health in adulthood.
She found that the adults who had experienced neglect and maltreatment had poorer oral and visual health as well as impaired airflow and increased risk for diabetes. The adult survivors of sexual abuse were more likely than the other participants to develop oral health issues and hepatitis C. They also had higher rates of HIV and malnutrition. Those who had survived physical abuse were also at increased risk for malnutrition and diabetes. Although some of these conditions could be attributed to maladaptive coping techniques, such as smoking, drug or alcohol use, and poor nutrition, the findings clearly show that adults who have survived childhood abuse are still at increased risk for significant physical health problems. Widom believes that these findings have strong clinical implications. She said, “Understanding the mechanisms that place abused and neglected children at higher risk for these adult physical health outcomes will help focus these efforts.”
Widom, C. S., Czaja, S. J., Bentley, T., Johnson, M. S. (2012). A prospective investigation of physical health outcomes in abused and neglected children: New findings from a 30-year follow-up. American Journal of Public Health, 102.6, 1135-1144.
Child abuse reports lead to threats
by Adam Brandolph
Doctors, school nurses and others required by law to report suspected child abuse said they want better protection from retaliation by people they report, a panel of health care professionals told the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection on Thursday.
If parents are investigated soon after taking their children to the doctor, they often suspect the physician as filing the report, they said.
Dr. Amy Nevin, a pediatrician at Hilltop Community Healthcare Center in Beltzhoover, told members of the task force meeting at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville that she has had to call police after receiving threatening phone calls from parents she reported.
"It can be scary," Nevin said.
Lawmakers created the task force in December to study Pennsylvania's child abuse protection laws and suggest changes in the wake of child sexual abuse charges filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Nevin was one of about a dozen people to address the 11-member panel, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders. It is required to submit recommendations to legislators by Nov. 30.
The panel is chaired by Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, a former state legislator and former county judge, and includes Bill Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., and Rachel Berger, a member of the Child Protection Team at Children's Hospital.
The experts also suggested that the board consider recommending better training for county employees whose job it is to identify child abuse; increase communication between those workers and family doctors; and eliminate "a discrepancy" in the definition of child abuse across school settings.
Under current law, "serious bodily injury" is one offense that constitutes abuse of a child by a school employee, but the law does not define a serious injury, leaving it open to interpretation, medical experts said. Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, has introduced a measure to eliminate the discrepancy. He said the task force is an important tool in battling child abuse.
"It's so important to bring a bigger focus on this issue," Fontana said. "We're dedicated to finding a solution, so these things don't happen in the future like they happened in the past."
Law Enforcement Stress Prevention of Child Abuse
by Katrina Shull
MISSOULA -Local law enforcement leaders released a report on the extent of child abuse and neglect in Montana.
Missoula County Sheriff Carl Isben along with Missoula Chief of Police Mark Muir joined by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Director Dave Curry, released data that more than 25 children per week suffer from abuse or neglect in Montana.
Muir and Isben showed their support by releasing an open letter to policy makers signed by over 1,560 law enforcement leaders nationwide: one for every child who died from abuse or neglect in America.
"These staggering numbers are a wake up call for our representatives in Washington," Sheriff Iseben said. "Child abuse victims are also more likely to become violent offenders and more likely to develop other long-term emotional and physical health problems."
The letter emphasized the benefits of voluntary home visiting services, which can help parents cope with the stresses of raising a young child. According to a Fight Crime: Invest in Kids press release, home visiting programs can cut child abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent and cut the cycle of violence that can spread through generations.
Director of Watson Children' s Center Fran Albrecht attended the conference to support programs that could decrease child abuse. "Growing up in a household were children are abused or neglected has a profound impact on a child's life. The research shows that voluntary home visiting is a critical step in preventing child abuse and neglect," Albrecht said. "Saving one child from abuse or neglect can prevent a lifetime of tragic consequences."
Home visiting programs pair parents with trained professionals who provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout the child's first years of life. According to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, quality home visiting is proven to improve short and long term outcomes for children and families.
Last year Montana received a 3.26 million dollar grant to expand visiting home services through the federal Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The funds will go to programs to support family support services that can help reduce child abuse or neglect.
To view the letter please click the link below:
Letter to Washington Officials
Priest pens narrative on sexually abusing children
Disturbing narrative from priest
LOS ANGELES - The priest always started his favorite "game" by having the young boy remove his underwear and put on loose-fitting shorts so he could fondle him more easily. Then, the Rev. Robert Van Handel would run his hands up and down the child's body as he stretched across his lap, Walkman headphones on his ears, pretending to be asleep.
The recollection appears in a 27-page "sexual history" written by Van Handel, a defrocked Franciscan cleric who is accused of molesting at least 17 boys, including his own 5-year-old nephew, local children in his boys' choir and students at the seminary boarding school where he taught.
The essay, penned for a therapy assignment and kept secret for years, provides a shockingly candid and detailed window into the troubled mind of a notorious pedophile priest. The narrative is believed to be the first of its kind to be publicly revealed through civil litigation despite years of lawsuits targeting sexually abusive priests.
Most confidential files unearthed in court cases only hint at the existence of sexual histories, which are a common part of therapy meant to be seen only by the priest and his psychologist, said attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has handled more than 2,000 church abuse cases.
"This is unique," Anderson said. "It really is a glimpse into the mind of the molester."
Van Handel's narrative came to light as part of a $28 million settlement between the Franciscans and 25 clergy abuse victims six years ago that also called for disclosure of the religious order's internal files. The accused priests fought unsuccessfully to keep their documents private in a battle that went all the way to the California Supreme Court.
The Associated Press obtained more than 4,000 pages, including Van Handel's "sexual history," from a plaintiff's attorney last week.
Van Handel's account, written between 1993 and 1994 during his treatment at Pacific Treatment Associates in Santa Cruz, is corroborated by letters, victim interviews and court papers from his file. A probation officer also cited the narrative in a sentencing report.
In the essay, Van Handel -- who was himself molested by a priest at age 15 -- traces his perilous descent from a sexually repressed pre-teen terrified of puberty to a serial pedophile who handpicked his victims from the members of a prestigious boys' choir that he founded.
He seems mortified by his crimes but also entranced by them: He describes his "most beautiful" victim, a tanned and tow-headed child of seven, and talks about molesting a trio of brothers and taking nude pictures of the youngest sibling that were "quite artistic."
"Once, or perhaps more than that, I took him up into the tower which was stark concrete with steel barred windows and he posed as a prisoner with few clothes on. I took some photos of him tied up with a big rope," Van Handel recalls of the 7-year-old. "It was as though I could do anything with him that I wanted."
The priest would fondle his singers under the guise of tickling games or back rubs during one-on-one choir rehearsals. He had the boys play dart games that ended in sexually charged wrestling. He rubbed the genitals of high school seminary students in their dorms and photographed young boys in the shower on a choir trip to Europe.
Van Handel seems unaware of how serious his actions are and rarely expresses regret except to describe his paranoia when he thought he would be caught. Instead, he focuses on his own emotional needs in a rare moment of self-reflection.
"There is something about me that is happier when accompanied by a small boy," he writes. "Perhaps besides the sexual element, the child in me wants a playmate."
Van Handel, now 65, is a registered sex offender in Santa Cruz County. He did not return messages and his attorney, Robert "Skip" Howie, said he would instruct him not to comment. Howie said the disclosure of the private medical document will prevent the future identification and treatment of offenders.
"You want the person to be open in the interview, but you totally destroy that avenue if you make these records public," he said.
Seeing the document has been both painful and cathartic for those who recognize themselves in its pages. One victim said Van Handel's memories match perfectly with his own, despite the priest's vastly different perspective.
"It is really validating to read -- in his own words -- that what we've been saying really did happen. We had spoken the truth," said the man, one of the brothers molested by Van Handel. He requested anonymity to protect his siblings, who are not ready to speak publicly.
The priest begins by describing a lonely childhood with an authoritarian father who moved the family five times before Van Handel turned seven. The family of seven finally settled in Orange County when Van Handel was 10.
At age 13, Van Handel's father forced him to read a sex education book that terrified the young boy. He dreaded
the onset of puberty, when he imagined sexual urges would be like "poison candy," and prayed to remain a child.
The next year, he entered St. Anthony's, the Franciscan junior seminary in Santa Barbara, to escape his father and his own sexual anxieties.
Instead, the young seminarian was molested by a priest as he lay in the infirmary. The priest told Van Handel that the molestation would draw out his fever by making him sweat. "While I don't think it is of crucial importance in my life, it is curious that this is nearly the exact activity I would perform 10 to 15 years later," Van Handel writes.
It wasn't until after high school, however, that Van Handel began to realize his sexual interests were abnormal.
He discovered pornography near his college seminary and purchased magazines featuring naked children. He used a telephoto lens to take pictures of young children splashing in the campus fountain and bought photography books featuring nude boys.
"I asked my best friend once if he saw anything `special' in pictures of children and he said, `No, not at all.' I began to realize that I was different," he writes. "Sometimes I worried about this, but I thought that as long as it was just a fantasy, there was no reason to panic."
It wasn't long, however, before Van Handel's fantasies became reality.
In 1970, he moved to Berkeley to pursue a master's degree and started a boys' choir for local children. There, he molested a boy of about seven, apparently his first victim. Around the same time, he molested his 5-year-old nephew.
Van Handel tried on two occasions to address his blossoming pedophilia by talking to a Franciscan counselor, but he was so vague that the man never understood.
"I would hint, he would stab and we missed each other entirely," he wrote.
In 1975, Van Handel was ordained and was sent to St. Anthony's, where he had been molested more than a decade before.
The young priest hated the assignment and started another boys' choir as a release -- and was soon molesting its members.
He preferred boys between the ages of 8 and 11, he wrote, and their parents always dropped their children off as requested because they trusted the priest implicitly.
"It was clearly my choir and the fulfillment of my fondest dreams," he writes. "Now I understand that it was also a constant supply of attractive little boys."
Van Handel is detailed in his confessions, but seems oblivious to the damage he is doing. He recalls his surprise when one of his most frequent victims resisted him for the first time at age 11, after about four years of molestation.
"He started to cry and that snapped something in my head. For the first time, I was seeing signs that he really did not like this," Van Handel writes.
In 1983, Van Handel saw an article about another boys' choir director arrested for sex abuse. It threw him into a suicidal depression.
"For the first time it was before me that what I had been doing could be classified as criminal behavior," he writes. "I imagined every boy's parents read that article and decided to carefully question their sons about me."
The priest revealed his sexual fantasies to a psychologist but "never gave him enough information to report me," he writes.
In an attempt to reform, Van Handel dated three women, two of whom had children in his choir. He slept with one of the women twice and was terrified she would get pregnant.
"I felt a whole new world was opening up for me, and for the most part I felt really good about the experience," Van Handel writes. "I felt that I was normal."
Around the same time, Van Handel became rector of St. Anthony's and was assigned to investigate another priest accused of sexual abuse. He was shocked when he realized the priest's accusers -- two brothers -- were also victims of his.
In 1992, the parents of one of Van Handel's victims wrote him a letter and copied in the Franciscan leadership. Within months, the priest was removed from the ministry.
Two years later, Van Handel pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and sentenced to eight years in prison. There were at least 15 other cases too old to prosecute, according to a police report.
A psychiatrist evaluating him for sentencing once asked Van Handel about his worst fear.
The priest's answer was specific: The public release of his sexual history.
National Expert Available to Provide Commentary During Child Sexual Abuse Trial of Former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky
Newswise — DURHAM, N.H. -- David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center and professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, is available to provide expert commentary during the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky is scheduled to face 52 criminal counts related to allegations of child sexual abuse that span 15 years. His trial starts June 5, 2012.
According to Finkelhor, trials in cases like this one generally have a positive social influence in society.
“Sexual abuse of boys is still disproportionately under reported for many reasons, including the stigmas around being a victim and the taint of homosexuality. But cases like this that show boys coming forward do empower other male victims to disclose as well. That was one of the lessons we learned from the clergy abuse era,” Finkelhor said.
“On the other hand, one of the things that keeps victims from coming forward is the fear that they will be badly treated by the justice system and the publicity. It will be interesting to see how the victims are treated in this case regarding the amount of focus on them, the allegations by the defense, and the steps that the judge and court take to deal with confidentiality. Many other countries have much stronger laws to protect victims from publicity than we have in the United States,” he said.
A nationally recognized expert who has published extensively in the field of child abuse treatment, prevention, and developmental victimology, Finkelhor served on the Youth Protection Advisory Board for the Boy Scouts of America, and Cardinal Bernard Law's Commission for the Protection of Children. He also was a consultant to the National Catholic Risk Retention Group in developing abuse prevention strategies for Catholic dioceses around the country.
Finkelhor has been studying the problems of child victimization, child maltreatment and family violence since 1977. He is well known for his conceptual and empirical work on the problem of child sexual abuse, reflected in publications such as Childhood Victimization (Oxford University Press, 2008), Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse (Sage, 1986) and Nursery Crimes (Sage, 1988). He has also written about child homicide, missing and abducted children, children exposed to domestic and peer violence, and other forms of family violence. He is editor and author of 11 books and more than 150 journal articles and book chapters. In 1994, he was given the Distinguished Child Abuse Professional Award by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and in 2004 he was given the Significant Achievement Award from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
Campaign to halt child sex trafficking launched in L.A. County
When Los Angeles County Probation Department workers recently analyzed arrest data for prostitution, they found numbers that defy the notion that underage sex trafficking is a Third World problem.
In 2010, 174 prostitution cases that were referred to the department involved girls under the age of 18. Another 2,351 involved 18-to-24-year-olds, officials said.
“People just don't realize that child sex trafficking is happening right here,” County Supervisor Don Knabe said Thursday at the launch of a campaign to heighten public awareness of the problem. “Some as young as 12 and 14 are being bought and sold on the streets of Los Angeles County.”
Posters in Spanish and English are being installed in thousands of Metro buses and rail cars and Clear Channel Outdoor is donating space on 65 digital and conventional billboards to call attention to the sexual exploitation of youngsters. Metro has also released nearly 80,000 brochures asking members of the public to call a hotline -- (888) 950-SAFE -- if they see a young person they believe is involved in the sex trade.
“They're kids who have no attachment,” and are susceptible to the enticements of pimps who promise to care for them, said Michelle Guymon, a placement director for the probation department.
Girls as young as 11 have been picked up for prostitution in the county. She said the average age of teen prostitutes her department works with is 15, but many report that they started on the streets when they were 12.
Statistics paint a grim picture of poverty and troubled family lives. Of the 174 underage cases analyzed by probation, 84% of the girls were from poor communities in the county's southeast. Nearly 60% of them had been in the child welfare system and 92% were African American, officials said.
Guymon said she was working with one teenager who lost both her parents to AIDS. In some cases, she said, young teens have been sent to the streets to earn money to support the drug habits of their mothers.
“We're trying to look at them more as victims than as criminals” and get the girls in touch with support services, Guymon added.
But unless harsher penalties for pimping are enacted, she said “things will never change for the girls.”
More penalties for Calif. human traffickers
An advocate against human trafficking believes punishing traffickers with large fines will affect the industry's money-making incentive.
Under Sen. Mark Leno's (D) measure approved for California's November ballot, convicted traffickers must register as sex offenders and could face 15 years to life in prison. SB 1133 would charge human traffickers up to $1.5 million in fines, half of which would go to aid victims.
Shannon Sergey of Forever Found, a non-profit Christian organization that "exists to support the rescue and restoration of victims of child trafficking and prostitution. says tougher penalties would also result.
"Including in that the increase up to $1.5 million in fines is huge, because as we know, child trafficking is a huge money-making industry, unfortunately, where U.S. pimps are able to make upwards up to $150,000 to $200,000 annually on one child, in some cases," she notes.
According to The Sacramento Bee, nearly 200,000 California children ran away from home in 2009 and 2010. One-third were estimated to have been lured into prostitution and pornography, yet only 13 people were sent to prison for human trafficking during that time. But with the implementation of SB 1133, sex offenders would also have to reveal to police the identities they use for e-mail and social networking websites.
"Of course, having sex offenders have to reveal to the police their identity that they have been using is huge so that other pimps, while they're incarcerated, that have perhaps worked with them or knew about them can just overtake those identities," Servey details. "I think that's a huge safety net as far as [protection] for future victims."
The fine money not allocated to aiding victims would go to state or local governments.
Backpage boasts 400 child sex ads reported monthly: More trafficked minors found
by Holly Craw
In a May 2012 investigation by ABC Nightline, the lawyer for Village Voice Media's subsidiary, Backpage.com , insisted that the publication giant is helping stop the sex trafficking of minors. This week, Backpage asked that the demand from the state attorneys general to shut down the adult sex ads be dropped. Attorney Liz McDougall told Diane Sawyer that 80 percent of their Phoenix based employees are tasked with scouring the adult services ads to find postings about children. Approximately 400 notices are passed on to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children each month, double the number reported six months ago.
Nevertheless, there are still children being trafficked through the online ads of Backpage.com. Sheryl*, an employee at a national treatment center* for girls rescued from sex trafficking, regularly monitors the adult section of Backpage. She has recently identified two of the former residents of the facility. The pictures were turned over to the police and the teen girls were found and apprehended. In addition, a third girl, age 15, and the pimp were brought into custody.
Parent-Child Therapy Aims to Reduce Abuse
Program Planned at Bend's MountainStar Relief Nursery
by Shanna Mendiola
BEND, Ore. -- As cases of child abuse and neglect continue to rise, a new therapy is being introduced to stop the numbers from growing in Deschutes County.
Thanks to grant money from the Deschutes County Behavioral Health Department, Parent Child Interaction Therapy or PCIT services will start at MountainStar Relief Nursery in Bend.
This will be the second program of its kind on the High Desert. It's a research-based therapy that's targeted at children who have bad behaviors, and parents who don't know how to respond to them.
"There's a lot of abuse that happens when a parent gets overwhelmed, or neglect, where they just give up and are not parenting the child at all because it gets too overwhelming," Cherie Skillings of MountainStar Relief Nursery said Wednesday.
According to the 2009 Oregon Status of Children Report, in Deschutes County, 235 children were victims of child abuse and neglect. About 48 percent of child abuse victims are 5 years old and younger in the state.
"If you think about the normal behaviors of a 2-year-old -- tantruming, not following directions, doing kind of dangerous behaviors -- a lot of the time, parents are overwhelmed," said Skillings. "In our agency, we really work with parents that are at risk for abuse and neglect, and some of the kids have been abused or neglected."
Construction of the new PCIT room and therapist training is under way. Once the room is done, the parent and child will come every week for 20 weeks and get personalized coaching, with a therapist watching from behind one-way glass and the parent and child in the other room.
The parent will be coached through an earpiece as the interaction happens.
It will be a free service and will expand the services in the county, as there are only a few in Central Oregon certified to provide this service.
"We are excited at the idea that we can reduce the number of abuse that could be happening and increase the parents' satisfaction with their child -- and that's really the goal of this," said Skillings. "If we can help them start a positive relationship with their child, that changes that child's whole life," said Skillings.
Construction of the PCIT room is expected to be complete by July 2012 with the program launching in January.
Those interested in learning more can reach Mountain Star Relief Nursery at 541-322-6820.
Press Release From MountainStar Relief Nursery:
MountainStar Relief Nursery was honored to be selected by Deschutes County Behavioral Health's LAUNCH program as a site for “Parent Child Interaction Therapy.” Grant funds will enable MountainStar to create a therapy space dedicated to PCIT along with training to certify a two-therapist team made up of Cherie Skillings, MS, LPC and Laurie Hunter, MS, NCC.
What is PCIT
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a specialized treatment program designed for parents or foster parents and their young child (ages 2-8). PCIT is made up of 15 to 20 weekly sessions in which the parent and child are in one room and the therapist is in an adjacent room with an observation window.
The parent and child are given instructions to play with toys while the therapist talks to the parent through an earpiece.
This “live coaching” during interactions between parent and child gives the parent real-time feedback and suggestions for improving their parenting behaviors.
In the first phase, the therapist helps the parent learn to increase praise of their child and ignore behaviors that are not harmful. Upon mastery of the positive behavioral skills the parent then moves into the disciplinary stage and is coached through giving clear direction to their child and following through with consequences if the child does not listen or comply with directions.
Parenting a child with difficult behaviors often leaves the parent feeling overwhelmed and at the end of their rope. PCIT is successful in changing children's behaviors so that they can experience a more positive relationship with their child. It has also been adapted successfully for use with populations who have experienced child maltreatment or exposure to trauma.
By providing concrete ways for parents to interact positively and maintain clear boundaries with their child parents are able to have a more positive experience. This increased enjoyment and attachment results in reducing a child's risk of being abused and/or neglected.
Goals upon Mastery of PCIT Skills
Support for Foster Parents
|• Improved following of directions, listening, and cooperation
• Increased ability to manage frustration and anger
• Increased use of appropriate social skills
• Improved attention skills
• Increased self-esteem
• Improved parent-child relationships
• Increased parenting skills
• Decreased parental stress
Children in foster care often exhibit high levels of behavior problems. Foster parents frequently need help in managing foster children's difficult behaviors. PCIT helps support foster parents caring for children with behavioral problems by enhancing the relationship between foster parent and child along with teaching foster parents behavior management skills.
In addition to reporting decreases in child behavior problems, Foster parents frequently report less parental stress following PCIT and high levels of satisfaction with the program.
If you would like to find out more about PCIT, please contact Cherie Skillings at MountainStar Family Relief Nursery at email@example.com
or (541) 322-6820.
MountainStar is a child abuse and neglect prevention program that offers a Therapeutic Classroom and Home Visiting program to families with children three and under. MountainStar is dedicated to helping keep Children Safe, Parents Successful and Families Together! Resource: Child Welfare Information Gateway Jan. 2007
Preventing Child Abuse Requires Many Approaches, Not Just One
by Deborah Daro, Ph.D. - Senior Research Fellow, Chapin Hall, University of Chicago
David Bornstein's May 16 New York Times commentary, "The Power of Nursing," highlights the important contribution that support for infants and their parents can play in minimizing the violence and poor developmental outcomes experienced by millions of children in the U.S. each year. Bornstein makes his case using a single exemplar, the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a free, voluntary program that partners first-time moms with nurse home visitors from early in the pregnancy until the child is 2 years old. He suggests that replicating this program, over all other options, holds the greatest promise of success.
That is where Bornstein's policy recommendation goes astray. Although NFP is a stellar example of how to design, test, and replicate an intervention, solving high-cost problems such as child maltreatment, unintentional injuries, and poor cognitive development requires more than replicating a single promising intervention.
Federal policy, in the form of the Federal Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Act (MIECHV), provides a $1.5-billion public investment over five years to assist states in building a comprehensive early childhood system to promote health and safety of pregnant women, children ages 0 to 8, and their families. Importantly, it also stipulates that 75 percent of the funds be allocated to programs with evidence of effectiveness based on rigorous evaluation research. Today, NFP and eight other home visiting models have been approved under the MIECHV program based on their research rigor and findings. It will take all of these programs, with their diverse approaches and attributes, and more, to make a significant impact on rates of child maltreatment in the U.S.
What are the attributes of these programs, and what are the research findings that demonstrate their effectiveness?
NFP serves exclusively first-time mothers, who represent only 40 percent of all births. Although these mothers and their children may face notable challenges, they are more likely to be younger and still able to access some support from their families, and to be pursuing education. Other interventions embrace all at-risk mothers, including the 60 percent who have already had children. The older woman birthing her third or fourth child may have a longer history of multiple partners, educational failures, poor employment history, prior child welfare involvement, and exposure to violence. The odds that these women will experience an initial or subsequent report of maltreatment are far higher than for first-time parents.
With regard to research findings, the evidence that NFP can indeed impact the number of child abuse and neglect reports is impressive but limited to one clinical trial of the model, conducted in Elmira, N.Y. with children born in the 1980s. A 15-year follow-up study of these families found that the women in the group who received the intervention had, on average, almost 50-percent fewer substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect than women in the control group (who did not receive the intervention). This was not the only evaluation study conducted of NFP that examined the frequency of injury to a child that might have resulted from maltreatment, but because the NFP's research team did not specifically examine subsequent reports of child abuse and neglect in later randomized trials of their model, we have no way of knowing if these effects were or could be replicated in other communities or with other service populations enrolled in NFP today.
The most misleading misperception in Bornstein's article, however, is that no other programs do as well as NFP or hold out as much promise in producing strong outcomes for children and their parents. That simply is not the case. After all, NFP holds no promise for the majority of women having children each year -- those who are not first-time mothers. We must offer other models if we really want to move the needle on rates of maltreatment and provide young children the support they need in this most critical developmental period.
Models other than NFP have produced positive findings in well-conducted clinical randomized trials and carefully crafted and rigorous quasi-experimental designs. A comprehensive and objective analysis of evaluative data conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. determined that the nine home visiting models approved under the MIEHCV program all represent prudent investments for achieving the goals outlined in the MIECHV legislation. Although they have different logic models, staffing structures, and program content, each has achieved success in altering parental capacity and strengthening child well-being in important and meaningful ways, including reducing maltreatment and injury. These models include Healthy Families America, Parents As Teachers, Early Head Start, Home Improvement Program for Preschool Children (HIPPY), Family Check-Up, Healthy Steps, Child First, and the Early Intervention Progam. A summary of the research base supporting these and other models is available at homvee.acf.hhs.gov. As community planners seek to build and better coordinate their supports for newborns and their families, they would be wise to consider the relative merits of diverse approaches as opposed to adopting a single choice.
To NFP's credit, its management team has been exemplary in their commitment to continuously assessing their replication process, highlighting areas of poor performance, and then embarking on ways to improve their practice. This commitment to continuous quality improvement may be the most important criterion to use when determining where investments might be best placed. At the end of the day, there is no single, optimal best choice for a home visitor's profession, a program's content, or its service delivery method. Different populations and different communities will respond to different service approaches. The best bet we have for strengthening collective impacts is to have a range of high-quality, effective programs that continually strive to do better.
Building this type of multifaceted service network is hampered by promoting one model or one approach. Promoting one program model over others that also have viable claims of efficacy directs investments from the many to the one. Families want choice in how they secure their health care and, increasingly, in how they educate their children. The same principle needs to rule in how we reach out to and support new parents.
Limitation on child sexual abuse complaints may be extended
Victims could get two-year window
by Lisa Wangsness
Victims of child sexual abuse who missed deadlines for filing civil claims against their abusers may get a two-year window during which they could bring old cases to court, under one legislative scenario under discussion on Beacon Hill.
If victims could prove the abuse occurred, the maximum they could collect from any nonprofit organization held responsible would be capped at $20,000, the existing limit.
Those potential provisions are being discussed as part of a move by lawmakers to scale back a proposal, opposed by the Catholic Church, that would have made sweeping changes to the legal remedies available to people sexually abused as children.
The original legislation, which even some proponents consider too far-reaching, would eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for criminal and civil cases involving child sexual abuse, letting people come forward for an unlimited amount of time.
It also would get rid of the $20,000 limit on civil damages for nonprofit organizations, a cap established in the early 1970s to protect charities from being wiped out by lawsuits, in cases related to child sexual abuse.
The state's Roman Catholic bishops are lobbying against the original bill, which they fear could expose dioceses and church agencies to additional liability in decades-old cases, potentially undermining the church's shaky finances and compromising its charitable mission.
“We have developed comprehensive pastoral outreach programs for survivors and their families, remained vigilant in reporting claims, worked closely with law enforcement, and are dedicated to resolving cases in a just and responsible manner,'' said James F. Driscoll, a lobbyist for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which represents the state's four Roman Catholic dioceses.
The church's opposition to the original legislation places it in a politically uncomfortable position. The church has spent the last 10 years trying to address a massive sexual abuse scandal that in Boston alone has involved some 1,150 victims and cost the archdiocese about $150 million in damages.
Driscoll said in a statement the bill as originally drafted “will have an immediate and harmful impact on the ability of all nonprofits, not just the Catholic Church, to serve thousands of people who rely on these organizations.''
Advocates for victims said they are not surprised the church opposes the legislation.
“I just worry there is more effort to heal the cash flow than there is to heal the victims, and it is disappointing,'' said Paul Kellen of Medford, a founding member of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition.
Proponents of the legislation said the church's lobbying efforts have been relatively low-key, and there is little evidence the church's position is driving modifications of the bill.
Those familiar with the State House discussions said the proposal to eliminate the charitable immunity cap also alarmed nonprofit hospitals, which fear eliminating the cap in sexual abuse cases could become a pathway to eliminating it for other kinds of civil claims, including medical malpractice.
Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said in a statement the association has not taken a position on the bill but recognized that lawmakers face “the challenge of crafting legislation that both vigilantly protects children and remains consistent with the intent and purpose of charitable liability protections to safeguard the important and good work that charities perform.''
The Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs declined to comment on the legislation. A Boy Scouts of America spokesman said the group does not take a position on state legislative matters.
House majority leader Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who filed the original bill, said in a brief interview Wednesday that it was premature to discuss details of any discussions because he was only beginning to meet with interested parties and review options. He said he and other proponents of the bill were looking at what other states have done, and that he was not sure about the prospects of a bill coming forward this year.
Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, said that although her group will continue pushing for the charitable immunity cap to be raised or eliminated for sexual abuse cases, the most pressing priority is to offer victims the chance to bring a claim forward.
A window for filing old cases, she said, would do that.
“Most victims who were abused in the past are not looking for money, they're looking for legitimacy . . . they're looking for justice, they're looking for healing,'' she said.
California, Delaware, and Hawaii have passed legislation temporarily suspending their statutes of limitation in child sexual abuse claims, said Jeffrey Dion of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Florida, Delaware, Maine, and Alabama eliminated civil statutes of limitations entirely, he said.
Massachusetts is one of only three states that cap liability for charities held liable for abuse, said Carmen Durso, a lawyer who has represented many victims sexually abused as children.
“Charitable immunity is under attack every day, and eventually we are going to get rid of it,'' he said.
“If we get the statute of limitations reform this session, we will certainly come back and talk about charitable immunity.''
The current statute of limitations for civil claims is three years from the time an adult victim realizes, or reasonably should have realized, that an act of abuse caused him or her to suffer harm.
The Legislature in 2006 extended the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse from 31 to 43.
Ending the criminal statute of limitations would only affect future cases because retroactive changes to criminal statutes of limitations are unconstitutional.
It is not clear how the legislation would affect the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, particularly the Archdiocese of Boston, which has waived the statute of limitations and the charitable immunity cap in many cases it has settled out of court.
“The impact of these cases is not going to be on the Catholic Church; it is going to be on other organizations and individuals who are abusing people,'' Durso said.
Catholic bishops across the country have been lobbying against similar bills.
“They are often the only organization in opposition to these bills,'' he said. “And the church uniformly opposes any extension of the statute of limitations because the only way the church can win is if these cases are never brought.''
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the conference has no position on such bills because they are local matters.
LAUSD ID's 591 cases of possible teacher misconduct
by Barbara Jones
Los Angeles Unified officials have unearthed nearly 600 cases of alleged teacher misconduct reported over the past 40 years that they think merit investigation by state regulators.
Officials with the state credentialing commission who have taken a preliminary look at the cases say 60 percent warrant formal review. The other cases either have already been reported or are outside the panel's authority.
The review was ordered in February by Superintendent John Deasy as the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal triggered questions about the handling of misconduct reports. He told principals at 900 campuses to scour 40 years' worth of personnel files for allegations of sexual wrongdoing, inappropriate behavior, violence or drugs, and gave them until May 30 to complete the arduous task.
Most of the principals made the deadline, and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing was flooded with files - 591 by May 12, the most recent count the state could provide. Officials said 103 of the allegations had previously been reported and the agency lacked the authority to handle 122 others.
That leaves 366 to be formally investigated, a number that is likely to climb as principals wrap up their work and the district transmits more files to the teacher licensing agency.
The commission has 31 staff members to work on investigations, which typically take six months to complete. That means it could take years for the LAUSD cases to be resolved.
"Protecting California's schoolchildren is always a priority for the commission," Executive Director Mary Vixie Sandy said in a statement. "The workload has been a challenge, but a necessary one."
The commission has the authority to suspend or revoke a teacher's credential for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior. According to state Education Code, it has up to four years from the date of the alleged misconduct to take action.
Under the current contract with LAUSD's teachers' union, four years is also the length of time that unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct can be retained in a employee's personnel file. After that, it must be kept in a separate "expired" file.
District spokesman Tom Waldman said files submitted by the principals were reviewed independently by two staff members in the Human Resources Division. If just one of the staffers considered the conduct questionable, the file was forwarded to the credentialing panel for consideration.
That protocol is also being used to process new allegations of wrongdoing.
"We made a promise to parents that we'd change the system to protect their kids, and we've fulfilled that promise," Deasy said Wednesday. "We've implemented an entirely different protocol for reviewing files, so we've got two sets of eyes to look at them."
Deasy has said he wanted to be sure there was no lapse like the one that occurred when Los Angeles Unified waited a year before notifying the state that it was firing Mark Berndt, the Miramonte Elementary teacher charged with committing lewd acts with nearly two dozen students.
Berndt was fired in February 2011 after officials learned the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was investigating him for suspected sex abuse.
Deasy subsequently ordered his staff to refile four years worth of misconduct reports to the state.
He also ordered a top-to-bottom review of campus personnel files, which he later narrowed to 40 years. Even then, he had to extend the deadline twice because the review proved so time-consuming.
"It was absolutely worth it," Deasy said. "We can never again have a situation where teachers are in a position to do harm to our students."
Judith Perez, executive director of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, said principals were also committed to students' safety, although she questioned the scope of the review.
Some administrators, she said, had to excavate files from school attics, basements and campus outbuildings, while others lacked the technology to convert the paper files to a digital format. And records of teachers who had died or left the district years earlier had to be sent in, along with those containing more recent allegations.
"Is it worth it to go back 40 years? I wonder," she said. "The urgency would be active concerns, those within the statute of limitations," she said. "Beyond that, it's not clear to me why."
Neuman Supports Statewide Child Abuse Law Reforms
State Rep. Brandon Neuman has introduced the first of statewide child abuse law reforms in Pennsylvania.
A series of disturbing cases in which children under the investigation of the local children and youth services agency were returned to unsafe conditions has prompted state Rep. Brandon Neuman to introduce legislation in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to better protect at-risk children statewide.
"The stories in the news are heartbreaking; no child should have to live like that," Neuman said. "Children should be protected by whatever means necessary, and obviously too many of them are slipping through cracks in the current investigative system. We have to take immediate action to protect them."
His legislation would allow a county children and youth services agency (CYS) to conduct unannounced inspections of a child's living situation for a period of time of up to two years.
Being appointed to the Washington County Children and Youth Task Force has made me aware of the need for additional legislation to help CYS better protect our children," Neuman said.
Currently, county CYS agencies are required to investigate all alleged cases of abuse or neglect and determine whether or not to accept the child for services. According to the child's risk assessment, an appropriate course of action is undertaken until the agency is reasonably assured the child is no longer in danger of abuse or neglect.
"But once the case worker closes out the case, the parent or guardian can easily go back to the abusive behavior," Neuman said. "I think spot checks are warranted and even critical to keeping children from being placed back into unsafe, neglected and abusive situations like we are reading about in the news now."
Neuman's legislation is the first of several bills he plans to introduce to reform child abuse laws in Pennsylvania.
Grandfather Of Child Allegedly Sexually Abused Takes Fight To Streets
(Video on site)
ZANESVILLE, Ohio - A grandfather on Wednesday said that the justice system failed his sexually abused grandchild.
The grandfather, who 10TV News did not identity to protect the anonymity of the alleged victim, said that he was taking the case to the streets of Muskingum County, 10TV's Glenn McEntyre reported.
The man said that his grandchild was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of John Tullius, who was indicted on two counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition on a child under the age of 10.
“We'd been waiting five months for this trial, and then two weeks before, we find out that they pleaded him down,” the grandfather said.
Tullius, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of gross sexual imposition. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the three other charges.
Tullius now faces between one and five years in prison, McEntyre reported.
”To that child, that's a slap in the face,” the grandfather said.
The grandfather said that he decided to take his case to the public by strapping a billboard to the bed of his pick-up truck.
“It says, ‘John Tullius' raped my 4-year-old grandchild and gets a slap on the wrist,” the grandfather said. “I put this billboard together to bring it to the public's attention and to let the prosecutors know they've done a terrible injustice to this child.”
The grandfather said that he did not know what else to do.
“We pay these people to protect these children and deal with these guys, and they're letting us down,” the grandfather said.
Officials from the Muskingum County Prosecutor's Office said that they could not discuss the details of the case because the case was still open.
In response to the family's concerns, a prosecutor did tell 10TV News, “We are troubled by the fact that they're not satisfied, but there are other factors that go into that decision other than their wishes.”
Sex trafficking: migration to Internet brings new victims, customers
by Sasha Aslanian
May 30, 2012
ANOKA, Minn. — Prostitution has largely migrated from the streets to the Internet, making it difficult for law enforcement to curb illicit behavior.
Officials in Minnesota say they're concerned that traffickers in underage prostitutes have gained access to countless customers who browse ads online - and enormous new reach into the homes of potential new victims.
Homeland Security Investigations, a federal office that fights human trafficking, recently released the details of a closed case to shed light on how the buying and selling of minors can flourish in Minnesota.
The case began with a call about spilled milk on a kitchen floor.
"Someone had shot a bullet through his front door," Blaine police detective Tom Johann recalled of the Jan. 8, 2011 call from a man who reported the gunshot. "The bullet had went through the door of his refrigerator striking the milk carton and eventually becoming lodged in the back of the refrigerator."
The man who lived there didn't have much to say about who would want to shoot a bullet into his house and after a few days he stopped returning detectives' phone calls. Johann said it looked like the case would go unsolved, until nine days later, when 911 operators received another call about a domestic disturbance in Anoka. A young woman told police her boyfriend had a gun and was threatening to kill her.
Officers arrived and arrested the man who was trying to drive away. Once he was in custody, the victim started to talk about her life as a prostitute and how her pimp used the Internet to seek clients.
"The young 16-year-old girl began to tell the deputy ...that it wasn't really a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and that it involved a several-month period of prostitution and violence," Anoka County Sheriff's detective Tom Strusinski said.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the Twin Cities metro area is the 15th highest sex trafficking center in the country.
The business of buying and selling minors for sex can flourish in any community, say officials at the federal Homeland Security Investigations office. The agency, which combats sex and labor trafficking, finds cases in every county of the state.
As in the Anoka County case, a fight between a prostitute and a pimp is often what brings such cases to light, detectives say.
The girl, whose name is not public record because she is a minor, told detectives that her pimp, Zaiye Dehkee, fired the gun through the front door in Blaine. She said he was trying to scare a customer who had paid $200 for sex with her instead of the agreed-upon $400. The girl gave an address for an apartment in Minneapolis where police could find the 9 mm handgun. She also showed detectives the Web sites that listed her as an escort.
When Strusinski called Special Agent Ann Quinn of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who specializes in investigating prostitution cases, he learned state authorities were investigating Dehkee but had not identified his victims.
Quinn had received a tip that Dehkee, a 21-year-old native of Liberia, might be selling underage girls for sex. She looked for Dehkee's phone number on Google and found ads on Backpage.com, one of many sites that advertise escort services.
"This was how we found the victim," said Quinn, as she opened her laptop computer. "Her picture was on the Internet. This is often how we identify juveniles. That is not a mature body; that is not a mature face. Additionally, in the Backpage ads, oftentimes ads will say 'new, fresh faced, just started.' That's an indication for Johns ...that this is a new girl."
The victim told detectives she met Dehkee through the social networking site, Tagged.com. She told him she was 16. After they met and had sex, he suggested she could make some easy money dancing for his business called "Midwest Maidens." They'd known each other a week.
Quinn said the Anoka teen quickly attracted regular customers who wanted more than dancing.
"The younger the girls, the prettier the girls, the more traffic they get," Quinn said. "Her phone was ringing off the hook. You know, she was a young, blond female with blue eyes and that tends to be the johns' favorite victim of choice."
The girl told detectives she'd been sold 600 times to men as far away as Duluth and Wisconsin, sometimes as often as eight times a day.
Under federal law, using girls under 18 for prostitution is considered sex trafficking because a minor cannot consent to the activity. Pimps often move girls to a neighboring state, where they have sex with older men. Moving girls across state lines thwarts law enforcement, and keeps the girls isolated, giving pimps more control.
State and federal law enforcement agencies do not release numbers of active cases. But Homeland Security Investigations officials say they conducted more trafficking investigations nationally last year than ever before. In fiscal year 2011, the department initiated 722 cases that resulted in 271 convictions. One of them was Dehkee's.
As for the Anoka teenager, Strusinski, the Anoka County detective, said the girl's story is typical. An older man and smooth talker seduced her, offering what seemed to be a faster life of parties, new clothes and meals out.
Dehkee's scheme only unraveled because he wanted to move another female into the Anoka house he shared with the 16-year-old. She'd introduced him to other women they'd brought into the business, including another minor, according to detectives.
But she didn't want to be displaced as the queen, the number one girl, the "girlfriend." They fought, and she took her pimp's phone, his lifeline in the prostitution business. This was the fight that led to the domestic violence call to the Anoka County Sheriff's office.
In February, Dehkee pleaded guilty to a state charge of promoting prostitution of a minor, and a federal charge of possession of child pornography for pictures he had of the girl on his laptop.
Dehkee, who is serving both sentences concurrently at a federal prison in Mississippi, is due to be released in November of next year. He and his defense attorney declined to be interviewed for this story. Dehkee wrote to MPR News that he would only agree to be interviewed if he was paid for his time.
Homeland Security Investigations officials aim to disrupt and dismantle such criminal enterprises and get the victims to safety, said Christopher Oelkers, the agency's supervisor in the Dehkee case. Locking Dehkee up for 36 months on a federal child porn charge is one way to do it.
"I don't want to say we're settling, but a lot of times the victims aren't in a position to testify and we're causing more harm by trying to get them to testify," he said. "So we can get them for a crime they've committed that we can prove."
Investigators say pictures found on a computer are more reliable evidence than putting a victim on the stand. By the time cases go to court, victims often aren't as eager to cooperate, special agent Quinn said.
"Oftentimes charging decisions are based on the level of cooperation of the victim at the time of trial," Quinn said.
Prosecutors say many victims return to prostitution. They often don't have the skills or education to support themselves another way. Detectives say the victim in this case is doing OK, but would not put MPR News in touch with her.
There are so many cases, detectives say they have to prioritize, working first on cases that involve juveniles, multiple victims or extreme violence.
Strusinski, the Anoka County detective, said no community is immune. He's worked cases stretching from the Twin Cities metro area to the outer suburbs to small towns.
"Men are out there having sex with small children. No one wants to know," he said. "It's a bury-your-head-in-the-sand kind of [mentality] unfortunately." These are throwaway kids from bad homes. It's a taboo subject that people won't talk about and until people start actually taking about it like this today people aren't going to understand that it's a real bad problem out there and we need to accept the fact that we need to fix it."
Law enforcement officials say three ingredients allow the crimes to flourish: men who pay for sex; a seemingly endless supply of vulnerable girls whose parents don't know, or don't care who they're falling prey to; and a reluctance by the public to report suspicious properties that attract frequent male visitors at all hours of the day and night.
They say the johns in Minnesota tend to be white, middle aged, and married.
The Dehkee case, they say, shows that prostitution involving minors can -- and does -- happen anywhere.
More: How communities can combat sex trafficking
Metro asks riders to look out for child sex trafficking in LA
by Erika Aguilar
Public transportation riders will soon notice the thousands of Metro buses, trains and rail cars that will carry new posters asking passengers to keep an eye out for young girls who may appear to be victims of child sex trafficking or forced prostitution.
The awareness campaign against child sex trafficking launches this week. More than 65 billboards, donated by Clear Channel, will also carry the message.
"One of the things that we have learned early on is that public transportation is something that's being used to move these young girls," said L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.
Knabe, who sits on the Board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, called for the awareness campaign in January.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell will join other county officials Thursday to announce the campaign. Long Beach is one of the hot spots for sex trafficking along with parts of Hollywood, Sepulveda Boulevard, and parts of South L.A.
The girls who work them can be as young as 13. Sometimes they are familiar with county jail but until recently, the criminal justice system didn't regard them as victims says Michelle Guymon, director of placement administrative services for the L.A. County Probation Department.
"These are kids we see everyday on the street that come into our juvenile halls, into our detention facilities, camps, placement for an arrest of prostitution," Guymon said.
Guymon thinks there are more victims who have either not been arrested yet for prostitution or have gone unnoticed by the criminal justice system.
"Sexually trafficked children are hiding in plain sight," the new billboards read. The picture is of a bustling L.A. transit station with a blue silhouette of a small young girl blending into the crowd.
The Lisa Project creator hopes to help end child abuse
Exhibit sharing stories of abuse victims and ways to help them visits Lodi
by Katie Nelson
A 6-year-old girl crying into the phone, begging police to stop her drunk stepfather from beating her mother and dropping her baby brother.
An 8-year-old boy being awakened in the night by the sound of his growling stomach.
These are just some of the stories that The Lisa Project, located in the parking lot of First Baptist Church on Mills Avenue, tells to visitors as they pass through the exhibit.
The Lisa Project is a portable display of how child abuse affects children of all ages, and ways it can be remedied. Everything about the exhibit, which will run from Friday until June 30, is based on real cases.
The 25-minute tour touches every part of the senses. Burned oregano replicates the smell of used marijuana joints in one room. Two rubber ducks bob up and down in a half-full bathtub in another.
Each section of the tour tells a child's story of how they were abused. All of the children, save one, are from San Joaquin County. The project was named for one of them.
Though the children's names have been changed to protect their identity, their harrowing tales of survival are very real.
One boy, "Michael," tells the tale of how he tries not to anger his mother because she works three jobs and often comes home upset. He says he tries to be a good boy, but you can still hear his mother screaming at him in the background, only stopping to slap him in between sentences.
Another girl is taught by her mother to cover up her father's physical abuse through makeup and a quiet demeanor. You would never suspect the girl to be a victim of abuse, based on the appearance of her bedroom. The room is a light pink, with white furniture and a twin bed, covered by a flowery duvet.
But everyone has a story, said program coordinator Gene Hardin.
Hardin, who started the exhibit in 2010 in Stockton, said that in the 10 cities the moving Lisa Project portable has visited, the exhibit has seen roughly 35,000 visitors.
Hardin and his wife had just finished visiting the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco in late 2009 when he walked outside and asked why the same kind of exhibit could not be done to raise awareness for child abuse.
His wife told him to "get on it," and by early 2010 a plan had been set in motion. In April 2010, the first exhibit debuted in Stockton, bringing in 5,000 visitors in the month it was open.
This is the first time the exhibit will appear in Lodi.
It brings tears and it brings anger, Hardin said. But it also encourages those who have been or are currently being abused to come forward.
"We have people come forward all the time; not necessarily here, but after they have been in the exhibit to tell us of their situation," Hardin said. "We are here to help. That is what we are hoping to do."
The Lisa Project exhibit opens Friday at 4 p.m. The exhibit is located at 267 N. Mills Ave. in Lodi. Admission is free, but the exhibit has been rated "PG-13" due to its content.
The Lisa Project hours
The Lisa Project exhibit is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The exhibit will be closed on Father's Day, June 15. For more information on the project, visit www.thelisaproject.org or call 209-644-5308.
How to prevent child abuse
1. Recognize the warning signs
The behavior of children may signal abuse or neglect long before any change is seen in their physical appearance. This could include nervousness around adults, aggression toward others, inability to stay awake or concentrate, poor hygiene and low self-esteem among other aspects.
2. Reach out
Anything you can do to support kids and parents in your neighborhood can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse or neglect.
Become an integral part of community programs that advocate for children and families, such as the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
Support organizations like the county's Child Abuse Prevention Council in their efforts to protect and prevent child abuse.
5. Make the call
If you think the child is in immediate danger, call 911.
If you think a child is being abused, call your local or county abuse network and make an anonymous report. For San Joaquin County, Child Protective Service's number is 209-468-1333.
Forks Police Reach Out to Elementary Schools
Forks Police talk to elementary students about safety and checking in with parents.
by Dino Ciliberti
As the Forks Township Police Department's new community resource officer, Brooks Kranich serves as the go-to guy with businesses, citizens and now schools.
The police department recently launched a program in which Kranich visits schools to discuss various safety issues regarding children.
Over the past few months, Kranich has visited the first grades of Forks and Shawnee Elementary Schools.
There, he has promoted a Safe Kids Check First program in which Kranich tries to tell first-graders that while it is a good idea to be aware of strangers, it's best to check first with parents no matter what and about anything.
"We're trying to get kids away from the stranger/danger concept," Kranich said. "Eighty percent of crimes are made on children by people who are familiar to them."
Next year, the program will expand to a Safe House program for second-graders besides the first-grade program, Kranich said.
He also hopes to develop something for those in fifth and sixth grades.
Kranich said it's been a little difficult starting the program so late in the school year since most schools have their days mapped out already.
But he's pleased with the new role.
"It's great. I'm also a township resident so this means a little more to me personally," said Kranich, a Forks officer for almost five years who has a dozen years of police experience under his belt.
Kranich said he's assumed other roles for the police department.
He heads the summer youth academy, bike derby and serves as child seat technician, too.
"Overall, our community policing philosophy states that it is important to not just be reactive," Police Chief Greg Dorney said. "We're trying to be involved as much as possible."
Township Supervisor David Billings believes the program is a great idea.
"I have always been supportive of community outreach programs as it fosters a collaborative relationship between the police department and the public," Billings said.
Centralia Death Calls New Attention to Child Abuse Prevention
by Chris Thomas
CENTRALIA, Wash. - A high-profile murder case in Lewis County has a 25-year-old man in custody for the horrific death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter just before Memorial Day. It gives new urgency to pending federal legislation focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.
The tragic death last week of the Centralia girl is raising new concerns about whether more could be done to keep children safer. In the five years from 2006 to 2010, a total of 104 children in Washington died from abuse and neglect, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For the nonprofit group Every Child Matters
, it is additional proof of the need for legislation that so far has received little attention in Congress. The group's president, Michael Petit, says the bill (S 1984/HR 3653) would convene an expert panel to find ways to curb deaths that he says are preventable and significantly under-reported.
"The panel would look at our nation's system of child protection, at our social safety net as it exists for children, and make recommendations on how to build a child protection system that allows children to thrive, instead of one that fails to protect children."
The number of deaths from child abuse and neglect in the United States is higher than the number of casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since those conflicts began. More than 80 percent of the victims are children under age 4.
Washington's 7th District Congressman Jim McDermott is a co-sponsor of the House bill.
Children are being ignored in the presidential race as well, adds Petit. Since kids aren't voters or big campaign donors, he says it's easy to overlook their needs and focus instead on the issues raised in multimillion-dollar attack ads. He hopes that situation changes before November.
"What we would hope is that the two candidates would listen to the needs of their smallest citizens, understand that they will never be able to adequately represent themselves, and that they need powerful friends in high places - a President of the United States who covers their back and looks out for their interests, every day."
Petit notes that it was U.S. presidents who championed child labor laws, school lunch programs, maternal and child health programs, and other actions to assist children. He acknowledges that the economy, unemployment and health care costs are affecting parents and kids, but says there has been no discussion by the candidates of poverty and related concerns, such as inadequate child care, substance abuse and child abuse.
Agency policy poses ‘ludicrous' danger
State officials are again attempting to move the power to protect Indiana's vulnerable children away from the courts system to a massive bureaucracy. The most recent example, being played out in Allen County courts, is an unacceptable, inexplicable attempt to split the hairs of the law in a way that empowers the bureaucracy and endangers children.
Like police officers, caseworkers for the state's massive Department of Child Services investigate reports of children being abused and neglected.
Like police officers, they frequently testify in court about their findings.
Often, that testimony is in a closed hearing to determine whether the state should classify a possible victim of abuse or neglect as a Child in Need of Services. Sometimes, that testimony is in an open hearing in criminal court because a defendant – possibly a parent or caregiver – is charged with child abuse or a related crime.
But after years of following this practice, attorneys for DCS – the bureaucracy – have resisted allowing caseworkers to testify in criminal hearings, claiming that the information that caseworkers compile is confidential and cannot be divulged in open court.
Consider what this means. A state agency is arguing that state investigators specifically responsible for determining whether a child is abused cannot testify about what they learned about the abuse.
“DCS exists to protect children,” Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards writes in a court briefing she filed last week that seeks to force the testimony of a DCS worker. “For DCS to assert that their workers cannot cooperate in a criminal prosecution is ludicrous.”
Richards notes in her motion that any information that must remain confidential can be addressed as it is in any other case, with objections at hearings and trials. The DCS is required to give investigative reports to prosecutors, Richards argues, and “There would be no reason to give the reports to the Prosecutor except for a criminal prosecution. The legislature is fully aware that criminal trials are open to the public.”
Richards' filing came in response to a DCS motion seeking to quash a subpoena calling for a caseworker to testify. In it, the DCS – a publicly funded agency specifically assigned to fill a crucial public responsibility – argues “it is oppressive and unduly burdensome to require DCS to appear at the hearing in this matter.”
Without the testimony of the workers specifically responsible for looking into reports of child abuse and neglect, abusers who would otherwise be found guilty might be acquitted, or not even charged, leaving them free to abuse again.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the DCS has attempted to interfere with the court's handling of abuse and neglect cases. At the behest of DCS Director James Payne, the General Assembly passed legislation in 2009 intended to give the DCS – not judges – final authority to determine where abused and neglected children should be placed. Prosecutors formerly had the ability to petition the court to allow the state to intervene in a child's care; now, only DCS has that power.
Late last week, a DCS spokeswoman said the agency would withdraw its motions and work with Richards to address the concerns. But rather than backing off from the agency's absurd position, the spokeswoman seemed to indicate the real problem was with Richards' perception, saying the agency's stand “has caused an inordinate degree of angst for the prosecutor.”
Any “angst” the prosecutor has experienced is not inordinate. In fact, the DCS position should cause anger and outrage in every Hoosier who cares about protecting children.
This issue could well be the topic of discussion at a court hearing this morning before Superior Court Judge Fran Gull. At some point, if the DCS continues to refuse to do its job, Gull and other judges should compel the testimony of DCS caseworkers in criminal cases.
Healing The Scars of Child Abuse:
'Until Now, I've Been Afraid To Share My Story. But Fear Should Be Faced Head-On'
by Brenda Della Casa
"Don't move or your head will roll!" warned the man with the cold, loaded .22 to my 8-year-old temple. Paralyzed with fear, I stood with stone legs, praying they would not shake as they always did when my father got this way. Though he'd tell anyone who would listen that he had fought in Vietnam, the truth was his drunken "flashback" episodes were merely delusional fantasies brought on by watching Rambo a dozen too many times. His penchant for violence was common and notated by the bite marks, pinch marks and blood-filled welts that covered my body on a steady basis. He seemed to enjoy the power that came with seeing me in a state of terror. Tonight was no different.
His eyes were bloodshot and the heavy, thick foam that had formed around his mouth from the saliva that had accumulated while he was screaming made him look like a mad dog. I responded to his questions with one-word answers, all the while fearing I might say something wrong and lose my life. After standing motionless for what seemed like hours, I suddenly felt the hot sensation of skin being yanked from my skull as I was dragged by my hair and thrown against a wall for being "born bad." This was a favorite excuse of my father's to beat me. Second only to the fact that I was not the boy he wanted me to be (though that did not stop him from calling me "son"). I often wondered if my being born Brendon instead of Brenda would have prevented him from tormenting me the way he did.
Adulthood has answered this question.
On most nights, while my peers took baths and watched television, I was being bullied and told that I was a "bad seed" who was destined to make mistakes. He explained that it was his duty to keep me in line since I was so inherently bad that I would fall by the wayside, regardless of my intention. If I complained, he'd remind me that my mother had left and he could put me up for adoption, after all, so I should be grateful. He likened his "spanking" to a natural preventative measure such as taking a multivitamin. "Get daddy's belt," he would demand. If I garnered up the courage to ask what I had done to deserve a beating, the answer was always "in case you do something tomorrow." I do not remember much else of what he yelled at me that night, but the sensation of the inside of my arms being pinched, my pinkies being bitten and the warm blood dripping down my forehead as the result of a belt buckle smashing into my eyebrow is a memory that haunts me whenever I look into the mirror and see the scar it left behind.
Though violence had been a part of my life since birth, I never lived with the impression that what went on in our home was normal, nor did I feel responsible for my father's behavior. I saw him as a demonic presence that somehow found its way into the lives of the innocent people who surrounded him. This was mainly myself, my grandfather and whatever woman my father happened to be married to or dating at the time. To me, my father was the ultimate culmination of all things I had been taught were "bad and unholy" on my Sunday trips to church with my grandfather. I often felt I was living out the stories I would read in the Bible, where good took on evil -- only in our house, the good never seemed to stand a chance. The "good" in my house was my grandfather, a man so honorable, gentle and caring that I based my ideas of the God I read about on his disposition.
To say that my grandfather was the only person in my life who made me feel as though he cared if I ate, slept, lived or died would be a gross understatement. "I am your best friend and you are mine," he would say as I sat on his lap, enjoying the candy he had snuck into my room and hidden under the pillow at the top of the army cot I slept on. My beatings hurt me, but the pain I endured was nothing compared to what I felt when I had to watch my frail best friend beaten and humiliated. Witnessing my hero receive lashings that left his glasses broken and back covered with lacerations made me feel the kind of hatred that leaves bile on your tongue. Our time alone was full of conversation and laughter, almost normalcy, but that would change as soon as we would hear the clanking sounds of my father's boots on the pavement outside of the front door. We'd sit in fear in my room behind a closed bedroom door, both secretly wishing we had the ability to protect the other from whatever fate had in store for us that night. Unfortunately, one was too young, the other too old, and both far too weak.
Wondering if God truly heard our prayers for safety, I asked my grandfather why God had not intervened and had allowed my father to continue to hurt us. He explained to me that as long as we were good people, God would take care of us, and he instilled in me that all prayers were heard and answered if they came from those who were honest in their requests. From that point on, I started praying that my father would never come home. "I hope daddy dies," I said to my grandfather. Stunned, my loving grandfather scolded me and told me never to stoop to such a negative and spiteful level, regardless of what others were doing around me. These words remained burnt in my mind but gave me little comfort on the nights my father would come drunk and violent, a routine as common for us as dinner and rest were for others.
Then, of course, there was the shame.
The neighbors in our cockroach-infested apartment building spoke of the "drunken lunatic" who lived in apartment 1A, and none of the children I so desperately wanted to play with were allowed to get near me. Treated with the shame that belonged to my father, I learned at a young age that the world of laughter and Barbies, a place with ice-cream cones and bedtimes, had no place for little girls with welts and tattered clothing. Thankfully, my grandfather had a childlike love of checkers and games, along with a heaping pile of patience, so I was able to play and laugh as I imagined other children did. I loved my grandfather's company but I resented my father for his behavior and how it made my having friends an impossible dream.
I knew everyone knew of his antics, but I had somehow convinced myself that despite the bald patches and long-sleeved shirts, no one knew I was hit. That dream was shattered one night while doing my father's laundry in the laundromat. Two of my classmates came in with their mother. I watched with envy as they giggled and played together, both receiving the motherly affection I craved but never knew. Suddenly, one turned to me and asked, "Do you know the song, 'Dear Mister Jesus'?" I knew it well. The song was about a little girl who was beaten by her parents and ashamed of it. I had seen the video on the television and memorized the song but I dared not answer her. Before I could escape the room, the two girls started singing it. I demanded they stop, but my pleading went unnoticed as it did with everyone but my grandfather. It was the first time I was aware that my secret was not a secret at all. People knew and it shattered my spirit.
When school teachers and church members saw me falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion and unable to sit down due to searing burns brought on by beatings from leather belts, hangers, wires and flyswatters the previous night, law officials were often called in. Women would come into the school to watch me undress, gasp at the marks and listen to my story. I learned after a few "meetings" with my father that these well-intentioned men and women were excellent in coming in and repeating everything I had told them in confidence, but "protecting me" was a whole area of expertise they lacked. Keeping my mouth shut and lying about my wounds became my new specialty. When the beatings would leave marks on my lower legs and arms, I would cover up in jeans and long-sleeved shirts. My father called this loyalty. I called it survival. "You know daddy is sorry," he would say the day after, handing me a present of some kind. "You don't want daddy to go to jail, do you?" he would ask. I would shake my head no and secretly pray he would leave and never come home. This was a man who smashed my guinea pig against the wall and killed it in front of me when I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. There was no room for error.
With my promises to lie to doctors and hide my welts, the only clues anyone had that my father was still as brutal as ever were the late-night screaming on his part and loud pleading on the part of his chosen victim. This was usually me or his wife or girlfriend, as my grandfather had too much grace to yell or yelp.
This continued until I was removed from the home. My grandfather got a place of his own far away from my father and remained my only light in a very dark world. He passed away a month before I was to move in with him. I found myself homeless and heartbroken for most of my teens, but also hopeful. Because of my grandfather, I knew there was a better life out there waiting for me. I promised myself that I would honor him by getting an education and making my time on earth matter, even if only to my grandpa and myself. I got up at 4:00 a.m. and took three buses to make sure I didn't have to attend my 20th school. I slept in a storage room at USC before getting into American and attending college, and I slept out all night in front of where President Clinton was to speak in order to meet him before I applied for -- and was granted -- an internship at The White House. With the help and guidance of a number of mentors, I eventually realized my dream of becoming a published author, all the while building a family of friends who have more than made up for the lack of love and support I felt as a child.
Though I still suffer my share of flashbacks and emotional scars, I live with a determination to experience as much peace and joy in adulthood as possible. Until now, I have been afraid to share my story. I've been afraid to allow readers to see my tattered clothing, my scars and vulnerability. I've been terrified of admitting that I come from such an ugly and painful place. But fear should be faced head-on and if I am going to fight it, I will do it in a forum that allows the opportunity to help anyone who can relate to it find the courage to move past the past or reach out to get help to escape a painful present.
This post is not about my strength, it's about yours. Whether you were held or beaten, cared for or neglected, happy or sad, take a moment to remind yourself that we are not defined by what has been done or done to us, but by what we choose to do with the time we have left.
For more by Brenda Della Casa, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.
Boxer Micky Ward reveals childhood sexual abuse
by Lyle Moran
LOWELL -- Micky Ward's hardscrabble childhood is credited with fueling his legendary toughness between the ropes. On Tuesday, the Lowell boxer revealed that his early years were more troubled than previously chronicled.
During a brief interview with The Sun of Lowell and an appearance on national television, Ward revealed he was sexually abused as a child.
The abuse is also detailed in Ward's new memoir released Tuesday, "A Warrior's Heart: The True Story of Life Before and Beyond The Fighter." Ward co-authored the book with Joe Layden.
Ward told The Sun in a phone interview from New Jersey that he was sexually abused by a "supposed friend of the family" a few times. He did not reveal the identity of the alleged abuser.
During an appearance on "Fox & Friends" on Fox News Tuesday morning, Ward said the sexual abuse ate at him for years, but he was pleased to disclose it in his memoir.
Ward said on Fox News he hopes sharing his story of abuse will help others who were abused come forward and open up about their own struggles.
"If I can help any body or one person, then I am happy," said Ward, whose life was subject of the biopic, "The Fighter."
Dicky Eklund, Ward's half brother and former trainer, said he only recently learned that Ward was sexually abused.
"I guess Micky did not tell me because I would have killed the kid," said Eklund.
Eklund said he has seen the alleged abuser in the Lowell area, but has stayed clear of him.
"Someone else said his liver is going," Eklund said. "I think God is going to punish him slowly."
Eklund did not identify the alleged abuser by name.
Lowell police Sgt. Mickey O'Keefe, who also trained Ward, declined to comment on Ward's sexual-abuse revelation.
"Whatever he says in the book, it happened, but that is not my business," said O'Keefe.
Jessica Pastore, a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone, said Tuesday that Leone's office reached out to Ward about his abuse revelations.
Attorney general's bill to combat human trafficking unanimously passes out of state Senate
SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on Tuesday announced that a bill she is sponsoring to ensure that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from those crimes unanimously passed out of the state Senate.
"The trafficking of human beings is an unseen problem in California and throughout the country," said Harris. "I am proud to sponsor legislation that will undercut the trafficking of human beings throughout our state."
Senate Bill 1133, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), ensures that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from those crimes.
This bill expands on the current list of assets that the perpetrator must forfeit and provides a formula to redirect those resources to community groups that aid victims of human trafficking. It passed the Senate floor 36 to 0.
"Sex trafficking of minors is a horrendous crime that is driven by the prospect of lucrative profits," said Leno. "This legislation aims to deprive convicted criminals of the financial resources and assets that would allow them to continue luring young people into the sex trade. In turn, proceeds from those forfeitures would rightfully be used to help victims begin to repair their lives."
Human trafficking in California first became a felony in 2005 with the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act that Harris co-sponsored when she served as the district attorney of San Francisco.
Harris also has served on the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force and the Department of Justice is currently updating the report "Human Trafficking in California," which was released by the task force in 2007. The updated report is expected to be issued this summer.
The Attorney General is sponsoring a second human trafficking bill this session. Assembly Bill 2466 (Preservation of Assets for Victims of Human Trafficking), by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) will require that more victims of human trafficking receive restitution.
Under California law, victims are entitled to mandatory restitution; however there are no laws to help prevent human trafficking defendants from liquidating and hiding their assets before conviction.
Assembly Bill 2466 would allow a court to order the preservation of the assets and property by persons charged with human trafficking.
The bill passed the Assembly unanimously earlier this month and is pending in the Senate.
Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world's third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking.
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude.
While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year.
Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation's promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.
For more information, go to the Attorney General's human trafficking Web site at www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking
Leaders call for public awareness campaign on human trafficking
May 29, 2012
by Warren Kagarise
King County Council members called Tuesday for a public awareness campaign to educate citizens about human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Officials said human trafficking is among the fastest-growing criminal industries around the globe and a serious problem for law enforcement agencies in King County.
The proposed motion from the council calls on County Executive Dow Constantine to embark on a public awareness campaign and support efforts using the King County Metro Transit public service advertising resources to help educate the public.
“The issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children has become a crisis, I have seen this problem continue to grow both here in King County during my time as a council member and as a federal prosecutor,” Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the motion, said in a statement.
Officials estimate between 300 and 500 children could be bought and sold in King County in 2012. Washington is a focal point for human traffickers due to the abundance of ports, proximity to the border between the United States and Canada, and a dependency on agricultural workers.
“This is a form of modern-day slavery,” Dunn said. “There is an indisputable link between public transit and the recruitment of minors into prostitution and we have the obligation to let the victims know there is help available and to make the public aware of the growing problem of human sex trafficking.”
The motion calls for the use of transit resources, such as public service advertising on Metro buses, and for the county to examine placing information on county Internet sites and other county resources.
In addition to the motion, Dunn, Lambert and council Vice Chairwoman Jane Hague sent a letter to Constantine urging the use of funds from the Veterans and Human Service Levy to assist programs in fighting human trafficking.
The proposed motion requests for Metro Transit and the county executive develop and implement a strategy to increase public awareness of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Metro Transit participates in the Safe Place program to assist at-risk youth in finding support and services.
“Our Metro Transit buses already serve as a refuge and resource for youth through our partnership with the Safe Place program,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative, said in a statement. “With about 1,300 vehicles on the road all over King County, Metro Transit can be an effective medium for spreading this important public safety and human rights message to those in need of help.”
In 2003, Washington became the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking and in 2012, Gov. Chris Gregoire singed 12 anti-human trafficking bills into law.
The motion introduced by council members is meant to build on the laws signed by the governor.
What is human trafficking?
by George L. Winship, Editor
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking — the modern form of slavery — and engaged in either sexual exploitation or forced labor. Human trafficking is a $9 billion a year industry, the world's second largest criminal enterprise after the drug trade.
Of the victims:
• 1.4 million (56 percent) are in Asia and the Pacific
• 250,000 (10 percent) are in Latin America and the Caribbean
• 230,000 (9.2 percent) are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
• 130,000 (5.2 percent) are in sub-Saharan countries
• 270,000 (10.8 percent) are in industrialized countries
• 200,000 ( 8 percent) are in countries in transition
The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. And 95 percent of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking. Fully 43 percent of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation and 98 percent of those victims are women and girls.
And don't think that California is untouched.
“Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world today and, unfortunately, has spread its tentacles into communities throughout California,” said state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.
Since 2000, California legislators have passed 13 laws designed, among other things, to make human trafficking a felony crime.
Most recently, the governor signed into law AB 12 (Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation and Sexual Slavery Act of 2011) on July 11, 2011. This act requires individuals convicted of procuring sexual services from a minor prostitute to pay an additional fine – up to $25,000 – to fund programs for sexually exploited children.
The United States is a popular destination for human trafficking. with federal reports indicating between 14,500 to 17,500 individuals trafficked into the country annually.
California law defines human trafficking as “all acts involved in the recruitment, abduction, transport, harboring, transfer, sale or receipt of persons within the country or across international borders through force, coercion, fraud or deception. It includes placing persons in situations of slavery or slave-like conditions such as forced labor or services, forced prostitution or sexual services, domestic servitude, bonded sweatshop labor or other debt bondage.
Sex trafficking is the main sector of forced labor in the United States. Many of its victims are underage runaways or children abducted from their homes. Most are isolated from their family and social network.
Other forms of human trafficking include victims of forced labor, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor for little or no wage and working under inhuman conditions and agricultural labor, using labor trafficking to provide a cheap and docile labor force.
NOTE: Information gathered from state, federal and international Web sites
Prevention training offered
TEDI BEAR Children's Advocacy Center will offer the free Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training from noon to 2:30 p.m. today, from 6-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, from 9-11:30 a.m. on June 5, from noon to 2:30 p.m. on June 13, and from 6-8:30 p.m. on June 20 at Sheppard Memorial Library Meeting Room A.
The signs of child sexual abuse, understanding the prevalence and how to prevent it will be discussed.
For more information and to register, visit www.edu.edu/tedibear, email Kelly Baxter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 744-8334.
A group of bikers who fight against child abuse
by Donna Kessler
The face of a bruised and beaten child is more than any human with feelings can stand. Child abuse cases seem to be in the news almost every day and many folks wish they could have saved that child from their pain. This is where the group Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) comes into play.
BACA, an international organization, exists with this simple mission: to create a safer environment for abused children. It strives to help children live happily and not in fear. It helps the victims by working with state and local officials who are already in place to protect children. It considers this child part of its organization and lends the child the support he needs and tries to shield him from further abuse. It even gives the child a vest with the BACA patch on the back.
The Hudson Valley Chapter of BACA holds regular meetings the third Sunday of each month at Open Road Cycles, 2917 Route 9W in Saugerties, at 2 p.m. sharp.
Members of BACA stand ready to "Break the Chains of Abuse." More members are always needed. If they can save one child from abuse, then have been successful. If they can save more than one, then their mission is in reach.
Visit www.bacaworld.org or email email@example.com. To report an abuse case, call the helpline at 399-1677 and the local police.
Indian Woman Deported from U.S. Claims Sexual Abuse
New Delhi: An Indian orphan who was deported from the United States in 2008 following her arrest on drug charges on Monday wrote to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna asking him to help her get back to the US so that she can live with her two children -- eight and nine year olds.
In a letter to Krishna, Jennifer Edgell Haynes, claims that she was a victim of child trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation after she was adopted by an American couple when she was seven years old.
"Until three years back I believed I was a citizen of the United States. Now I realise that I was a victim of child trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation," Hayens said in an email sent to the minister through Anjali Pawar, of Sakhee, a Pune-based Non-Governmental Organisation.
"When I was just 7 years old, I was adopted from an Indian orphanage by an American couple from Atlanta Georgia via American Aid for International Adoption," she said.
"Unfortunately the adoption was a fraud and within a year of arriving in the United States I found myself placed with a foster family who later adopted me, where I was sexually abused and physically beaten. Thereafter for the next 10 years I was shuffled from foster home to foster home," she said.
"Never did I think that I was not an American citizen until I was arrested for a minor drug charge and send immediately for deportation.
"In 2008 I was separated from my husband and two children in the US and sent back to India, a country which I had forgotten and which had forgotten me," Hayens said.
"I'm trying desperately to return home to my kids Kadafi, 9 and Kassana, 8 who are missing me a lot and need their mother," she said adding that her case is also pending in the Supreme Court of India.
The petition before the Supreme Court, she noted, will "take years together for adjudication".
"By then my children who are yet minor will be grown up. I request intervention by your office..." Haynes said in her email dated May 28. The copy of the email sent to Krishna was released on Monday.
Theo Fleury helps Little Warriors Be Brave
by Emily Mertz
The Be Brave Ranch has been a dream of the Little Warriors organization, and – with a little bit of support – it could soon become a reality.
The organization – that helps victims of child sexual abuse and raises awareness of the issue – is hosting the first Be Brave Luncheon. The event will raise funds for Little Warriors
and the Be Brave Ranch, Canada's first treatment centre specifically designed to help child sexual abuse survivors.
NHL star and advocate Theo Fleury spoke at the event – sharing his personal story of sexual abuse in a presentation called ‘Don't Quit Before the Miracle.'
“I'm not a psychologist, I'm not a psychiatrist,” Fleury says. “I've realized that the one thing I can do is bring awareness to the subject, and be a proponent for change in the laws around child sexual abuse.”
“I have zero regrets about my life,” he reveals. “This was the plan for my life. God picked me because he knew I'd be strong enough to get through what I needed to get through… unfortunately and fortunately, this is why I was put on the earth.”
Fleury has toured the country, advocating for victims, and urging the federal government to change its laws surrounding child sexual abuse.
“What we see from Ottawa is absolutely zero leadership around the subject,” he says. “This subject has one answer. There is no debate around the subject of child sexual abuse. There's one word: stop. It has to stop.”
Glori Meldrum with Little Warriors started researching treatment options for victims of child sexual abuse, and was stunned to find so few.
“I couldn't believe it,” she explains. “That there wasn't a long-term treatment centre for kids who've been sexually abused…We do have a lot of so-called treatment centres for the offenders.”
The Be Brave Ranch will offer a 30-day treatment program for kids, focusing on healing the mind, body and soul of the child.
“The main type of therapy is going to be cognitive behavioural,” explains Meldrum. A number of other approaches including play therapy and equine therapy will also be used.
However, a facility like this one requires funding, which is what the Little Warriors organization is working on currently, and that's where the luncheon comes in.
“First, we have to raise the money… we're hoping to raise a lot more money… with our luncheon with Theo Fleury.”
“Once we have the funding in place, we'll purchase the facility,” says Meldrum. “We've already begun working on the 30 program for the kids that have been sexually abused, because it'll be the first in Canada.”
Fleury credits therapy for helping him feel comfortable in his own skin again.
“Theo is an amazing individual,” says Meldrum. “He's a big supporter of Little Warriors.”
“The healing starts with finding a really great therapist that you can work with to either start your path to healing, or put you over the top,” Fleury explains.
He'll continue to pressure Ottawa to toughen the laws against child sexual abuse perpetrators. At the same time, he's making sure those suffering at the hands of abusers know they're not alone.
“First, you're a victim, then you become a survivor, then you become a victor, then you become an advocate.”
To pledge your support to the cause, click here
Calif. judge's open court stirs child welfare debate
Flaws in system balanced against impact on victims
by Kelli Kennedy
MIAMI- A California judge's decision to open a county's child welfare hearings earlier this year has energized a debate among advocates in other states about whether greater transparency helps or harms the young victims appearing in family court.
When a child is abused or neglected, there is a family court hearing to discuss the victim's future. In nearly 20 states, including Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois, those hearings are usually open to the public, and there is a push among child welfare advocates to open them in other states.
Campaigns to open the courts in California, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia have garnered attention recently.
Proponents say transparency leads to better decisions by putting a spotlight on judges, exposes the blunders of child welfare workers, and gives the public a better understanding of how the system works.
“Confidentiality has done more to protect the system than to protect the children in the system,'' said Michael Nash, chief presiding judge of Los Angeles County's children's court. He ruled in January that dependency hearings in his county will be open to the public unless there is proof the child will be harmed.
The longtime advocate of open courts was frustrated that fellow judges frequently sided with those who wanted to keep the hearings closed. Nash said decisions were made on an ad hoc basis. His order lays out a uniform process to follow when someone objects to opening the hearing.
But critics say children will be further traumatized by testifying about abuse in a courtroom full of strangers. The Children's Law Center of California, which represents most children in the Los Angeles County system, asked the state appeals court to overturn Nash's decision, but that move was rejected.
Executive Director Leslie Starr Heimov says it is unfair to compare states that have open hearings with California because children do not have a legal right to attend hearings in many states. More than 200 children attend hearings every day at the Los Angeles courthouse.
“It's difficult, and it's painful, and they're in the system through no fault of their own and to create a system where they are forced to endure more pain, that's harmful,'' Heimov said.
Family courts have opened gradually since the early 1980s, beginning with Oregon. An advocate for child welfare reform says that among the states that have followed suit, New York and Missouri's moves in the late 1990s were particularly significant.
The change is usually spurred by a horrific child abuse case or a push from local media to gain access. The beating death of Elisa Izquierdo, 6, by her mother prompted the opening of New York family courts in 1997 and the passage of a state open-records law referred to as “Elisa's Law.''
But the practice can vary by county or by judge, even in states that are presumed to be open. A New York Times reporter visited local courtrooms at random last year and found that many were closed with locked doors or hostile deputies.
Still, the reverse can be true in states that are generally closed. For example, courts in Alleghany County, Pa., were opened after a news outlet fought for access, but most of the state is still closed, said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Virginia. No one has compiled national data on how counties treat the issue.
Representative Susan Westrom of Kentucky filed a bill for the third time in March that would open courts under a pilot program. The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.
“Social workers were identified as falsifying records and lying in court, and I heard horror stories from family court judges,'' Westrom said. “The lack of transparency has harmed far too many families and children in Kentucky.''
Among several recent efforts in California was legislation proposing a pilot program to open courts in a few counties. It died in committee last year.
Reporting of sexual abuse raises serious questions
Until 1997 there existed in Irish law a crime called Misprision of Felony -- this stated that if a person, knowing that a serious crime had been committed by another and had concealed or failed to report it, they could be prosecuted. This ought to have covered the concealment of known sexual offenders as a result of reporting failure. However, the law was changed and a new offence created under the 1997 Criminal Justice Act that did not extend as far as the older Felony act.
Since then, there has been discussion by successive governments on ways to ensure that offences against children, particularly those of a sexual nature, are reported to the relevant authorities. The long awaited bill to put mandatory reporting of sexual abuse on a statutory footing was published recently. The Bill itself is called the Criminal Justice (Witholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012.
This bill concerns the reporting of various offences against children including sexual offences and others such as assault causing harm or serious harm, cruelty to a child, abduction of a child, manslaughter and murder to the gardai.
Surprisingly there are wide exemptions to the reporting requirement.
The first exemption is that only offences that the person knows or believes to have been committed must be reported to the gardai.
It is also an offence to withhold information that might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of the offender.
So, according to section 2 (2) of the Bill, suspicion, innuendo or vague rumours of possible abuse are exempt.
The second is that if a victim chooses not to report abuse s/he will not be guilty of an offence.
This raises the question as to at what age this applies. Can a child refuse to allow a parent to report a sexual offence? According to the Bill the parent can act in the best interests of the child (or vulnerable adult) and must demonstrate that this is in the child's best interest and request that the gardai not be informed. A doctor or counsellor treating a severely traumatised victim can also make a decision in the best interests of the young person to withhold the information from the gardai.
The age cut-off is 14 and after this the young person can exercise the discretion themselves. However, the abuse must be notified in all the above instances to the child protection agency in the HSE in accordance with Children First Guidelines. This is now also in the process of being placed on a statutory footing in the Children First Bill, currently before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.
The Children First Bill will address the reporting of various abuses (physical or sexual abuse or neglect) of children to the HSE so that they can receive protection, support and therapy. It is to this Bill that the term "mandatory" applies. A child is defined as a person under the age of 18. The Children First Bill proposes that when there is any concern or allegation of abuse this must be reported to the HSE. Included within its ambit are organisations working with children (schools, sports cubs, etc) who are obliged to also adhere to its requirements.
Both elements, reporting to the gardai and to the HSE, will be required apart from specified exemptions. Will these extend to those of us working in the Adult Mental Health Services with adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect?
Will we have to report the childhood abuse of adults attending us, to the HSE and also to the gardai, even if it is against their wishes? Will we have to report this abuse even when the perpetrator is infirm and in long term care, incapable of re-offending?
Will we have to provide the names and addresses of our abused patients to the HSE and the gardai so that they can be interviewed by the child protection agencies? How will we respond when, despite our best efforts at persuasion, the person still refuses permission? What can we do to prevent a fracture in the doctor-patient relationship should we act against the patients' wishes? Will the patient feel betrayed by the very people who are trying to heal the wounds of abuse and neglect?
These are vital questions that beg for responses, not silence or evasion.
Sister says she told reported confession in 1980s
CAMDEN, N.J. — The sister of a man who confessed to last week to the 1979 killing of a little boy in New York now says she told police in the 1980s that her brother had killed a boy.
Norma Hernandez tells The Star-Ledger (http://bit.ly/N12FlF) that she did not have details about the killing but told Camden police the about it in the 1980s.
She says they did nothing at the time.
Pedro Hernandez confessed last week and is now charged with the murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz.
Norma Hernandez previously told The Associated Press that she would have turned her brother in if she'd had more information.
Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson tells The Star-Ledger that he had not heard her claims that she had reported her brother.
Police, clergy fight U.S. sex trafficking
About 160 people attended a three-day Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville where police, prosecutors, clergy and child advocates gathered to bring awareness and find solutions.
The conference, which concluded Saturday, reflected the sense of urgency that many state and federal officials feel about the need to stop trafficking in the United States.
First Lady Crissy Haslam wrote in a letter to the attendees that trafficking was “an epidemic of tragic proportions,” and her husband, Gov. Bill Haslam, declared May as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report last year found more than 4,000 known victims statewide.
One of those victims, Kim Benson, spoke about how she was forced into prostitution in Chicago as a teenager before she was able to escape her kidnappers.
“I survived hell and back,” said Benson, who now lives in Cordova, Tenn.
Benson said her abusers would put a gun to her head and tell her they could kill her if they wanted and she would never get away.
“My story doesn't end in tragedy,” said Benson, who married and now has a 16-year-old son. “It ends in triumph.”
She now runs A Bridge of Hope Ministries, mentoring victims and trying to reform pimps and johns. As part of her ministry, she said she met one Memphis inmate who admitted to trafficking about 200 young women.
Shelby County authorities and social workers have reported more than 100 cases of minors who were victims of sex trafficking. That includes victims who are brought into the state from other cities and others who run away from home and end up in relationships that turn predatory.
Traffickers look for victims over the Internet, said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Scott Augenbaum, who heads the Memphis division's Cyber Crime Squad. He said his team has prosecuted more than 30 predators in Memphis and Nashville who go online to target minors.
Roscoe Johnson, pastor of Restoration Outreach Ministries in North Memphis, came to the conference to learn about what his ministries could do to help fight trafficking.
“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.”
The complicated, sad truth of American sex trafficking
Paul Krugman, The New York Times
May 28, 2012
We think of branding as something ranchers do to their cattle. But it's also what pimps do to women and girls they control across America.
Taz, a 16-year-old girl here in New York City, told me that her pimp had branded three other girls with tattoos bearing his name. When she refused the tattoo, she said, he held her down and carved his name on her back with a safety pin.
More about Taz in a moment. That kind of branding isn't universal, but it's very common.
An alleged pimp indicted last month in Manhattan is accused of tattooing his street name on a prostitute's neck, along with a bar code. He allegedly tattooed another prostitute with a symbol of his name on her pubic area, along with a dollar sign. In each case, the message was clear: They were his property, and they were for sale.
Such branding is a reminder that women being sold on the streets in America are — not always, but often — victims rather than criminals. That consciousness is spreading, and we are finally seeing considerable progress in tackling domestic sex trafficking.
So far, in 2012, states have passed more than 40 laws relating to human trafficking, according to Megan Fowler of Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization.
Prosecutors and police are increasingly targeting pimps and johns, and not just the women and girls who are their victims.
In Manhattan, the district attorney's office recently started a sex trafficking program and just secured its most comprehensive indictments for sex trafficking. Likewise, a federal prosecutor in Virginia brought sex trafficking charges last month against a man accused of selling a 14-year-old girl in several states.
Now President Barack Obama is said to be planning an initiative on human trafficking.
I'm hoping that he will direct the attorney general to make sex trafficking a higher federal priority and call on states to pass "safe harbor" laws that treat prostituted teenage girls as victims rather than criminals.
The other important shift is growing pressure on Backpage.com, a classified advertising website that dominates the sex trafficking industry.
Calls for Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, to end its links to sex trafficking have come from attorneys general from 48 states, dozens of mayors from around the country and some 240,000 Americans who have signed a petition on Change.org.
Resolutions are pending in the Senate and House calling on Village Voice Media to get out of this trade.
At least 34 advertisers have dropped Village Voice Media publications, including the flagship, Village Voice in New York City.
In its defense, Village Voice Media notes that it screens ads and cooperates with the police. That's true, but Taz — the 16-year-old with her former pimp's name carved into her back — told me that three-quarters of her "dates" had come from Backpage.
I met Taz at Gateways, a treatment center outside New York City.
She told me that she ran away from home in New York City at the age of 14 and eventually ended up in the hands of a violent 20-year-old pimp who peddled her on Backpage.
Skeptics mostly believe that prostitutes sell sex voluntarily, and anti-trafficking advocates sometimes suggest that they are almost all forced into the trade. The truth is more complicated.
Taz wasn't locked up, and, at times, she felt a romantic bond with her pimp. She distrusted the police — with reason, for when officers found her in December, they arrested her and locked her up for four months in juvenile detention.
Yet Taz wasn't exactly selling sex by choice, either.
She said her pimp issued his four girls a daily quota of money to earn; if they didn't, he would beat them.
They could never leave, either, Taz said, and she explained what happened when her pimp caught her trying to run away:
"I got drowned," she recalled. "He choked me, put me in the tub, and when I woke up, I was drowning. He said he'd kill me if I left."
Another time, Taz says, she tried to call 911.
"He hit me over the head with a glass bottle," she recalls.
Then he ordered another of his girls to sweep up the broken glass.
I bet the police looked at Taz and saw an angry, defiant prostitute who hated them and didn't want to be rescued.
There was an element of truth to that. But there's another side as well, now visible, and it underscores the importance of helping these girls rather than giving up on them.
Taz is emerging as a smart, ambitious girl with dazzling potential.
She loves reading and writing, and when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, she smiled a bit self-consciously.
"I'd like to be a pediatrician," she said.
From the FBI
(Pictures of missing children on site)
?Looking for Our Children
‘National Missing Children's Day 2012'
Podcast: Crimes Against Children Unit
These are just a very few of the children who are far from home today.
Please take a minute to look at all the faces on our Kidnapping and Missing Persons webpage and see if you can identify Asha, Daniel, Sierra, or any of the other children listed there with their stories .
Also take a look at the faces of the children who have been kidnapped by a parent — Melissa Hinako Braden and the many other kids.
And we hope you'll visit our Crimes Against Children page to learn all you can about what a dangerous world it can be for our kids…and our Resources for Parents page to learn how to protect them in today's world.
To further help keep kids safe, we are also launching today a new version of our Child ID App for Android mobile phones. See our blog post for more information.
Note: The children pictured or identified here may have been located since the above information was posted on this website. Please check our Wanted by the FBI website for up-to-date information.
The Child ID App for Androids
Today, to help observe National Missing Children's Day, we're launching a new version of our Child ID App built specifically for Android mobile phones. The application can be downloaded for free from the Android Apps section of Google Play.
The Child ID App, first released in August 2011 for iPhones, provides parents with an easy way to electronically store pictures and vital information about their children in case they go missing—whether it's a toddler wandering away at the mall or a teen who has been snatched by a stranger.
Using the app, you can show pictures of your kids and provide physical identifiers such as height and weight to security or police officers on the spot. You can also quickly and easily e-mail the information to authorities with a few clicks. The app also includes tips on keeping children safe as well as specific guidance on what to do in those first few crucial hours after a child goes missing.
To date, the iPhone version of the app has been downloaded more than 121,000 times.
- Download the Android app on Google Play
- Download the iPhone app on iTunes
- More on the Child ID App
Nigeria: Child Abuse - the Story of the Country's Child
Children's day event is celebrated in many places around the world. It is a day set aside to celebrate childhood. On Children's Day, tribute is paid to all children in the world. Children are loved by one and all. They win over our hearts with their angelic eyes and innocent smiles. It makes one realize that maybe that's the way God wanted us to be. The holiday is meant to honour children and minors .
Children's day is not just a day for children to stay at home or visit exciting places. There is more to the day than what is being done. It is a day for sober reflection on what have we done with the gifts given to us by God Almighty? Every child is important, even those living on the streets.
Statistics show that about eight million children of school age are out of school in Nigeria. The right of the child is paramount in every society; they are the future of every world. And if the world would remain fruitful, then the lives of the children should be considered by every government and every individual. The kind of life the child lives today would determine the kind of youth and adult he or she would be tomorrow.
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Law. It is to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the federal level, it is only effective if the State Assembly enacts it. Till date, only 16 out of the country's 36 States have passed the Act.
Intense advocacy continues for the remaining states. This explains that the landmark in achievement of the legislative arm of government has not yet translated into improved legal protection throughout the federation. Children are abused physically, mentally, sexually, psychologically and morally on daily basis.
Some who are of school age are on the streets hawking. Most of them live on the streets and become hoodlums tomorrow. Others are sent out for prostitution, child labour even at an early age. Some of these children are even used for rituals nowadays.
Please! Give me a second chance
Oghenetega is lucky to be alive and to tell his story, because he too would have died if not for the kind gesture of a good Nigerian family. He was born in a fragmented family of five, two boys and three girls. His father passed away in 1990 and his mother followed suit in 2000. His stepmother took care of him for five years but she also died. Oghenetega's troubles began when he lost his parents.
No one was willing to look after him, but eventually one of his elder brothers transferred him to their uncle. The uncle was abusive and would not pay Oghenetega's school fees. The uncle found a job for him at a local restaurant, even though he was only a child. He worked there for two months before his brother took him to stay with a friend of his step mother.
Life seemed enjoyable at first as he went to school like other children but soon, she stopped him from going to school. Oghenetega returned to the restaurant where he had once worked but the situation was worse than before. In February, 2008, he started living on the streets of Warri, Delta State.
He was forced to start distributing marijuana, something he wouldn't have known and done if he was in a home and school. He started keeping ammunitions for armed robbers and would have been dead if not for the kind intervention of a good man and his wife who witnessed a robbery by the child and his adult gang and noticed he was forced to get into a building to provide access for the gang. Oghenetega was only 11 years old.
The family took in Oghenetega and traced his family, but his paternal relatives refused to take him and he didn't have any maternal relatives. So, he completed his primary education living with this new family. He continued to secondary level and is now in form two. Despite the sometimes harsh conditions at school, Oghenetega is sailing through and his performance shows hope for a bright future.
Every child is important; he or she doesn't have to be yours to be loved. A little smile, a little patience on your part, a little tolerance, a little respect for them because they are like you but only very young and they would make us all proud in the nearest future if we can say NO to child abuse.
How 13 year- old girl is raped to death
This is a sad story told by a girl who lived on the same street as another until her death. "Shola was subjected into slavery. She started hawking sachet water to support the family. Shola must execute her chores which included washing of the clothes and dishes, cleaning the home and cooking at the end of her day's sales. Life was miserable as the Ajobi children also tried to make her unhappy, but beyond these painful experiences, Shola was sometimes beaten up for flimsy reasons.
The man of the house worsened Shola's case as he severally raped her. The last straw that broke the camels back was when she returned one evening from another day of sale only to meet the man of the house all alone. As usual, he wanted to have his way with her but this time she fought back.
She was beaten to the pulp. The woman of the house who didn't know what had transpired came into the house and saw her on the floor in tattered clothes crying bitterly and also pounced on her. Shola couldn't take it any more and so she ran away from the house that night and was waylaid by a gang of hoodlums who raped her to death. She was only thirteen years of age.
Fear and mind games control sex trafficking victims
by Shawn Chitnis
SPOKANE COUNTY -- The search continues for more victims of a human trafficking case out of Spokane County. Detectives said the case may involve more people beyond the four suspects already arrested.
The alleged victim contacted the Sheriff's Office last Thursday. She said she was forced into prostitution and held captive for about a year. The 21-year-old woman said she was shuttled between different homes and hotels and forced to have sex against her will. She claims there are more victims.
Experts who work with trafficking victims say these cases are more common than most people think. Many victims do not come forward because they do not realize the services available to help them.
Community leaders hope this recent case helps to not only let possible victims know about their services, but also teach the public about this problem.
"We see trafficking of children, we see trafficking of adults," said Adam Shipman of Lutheran Community Services. "Children are at risk especially in the sex trafficking industry."
Cases are rarely reported, making human trafficking an invisible industry.
"Some people may go back into the lifestyle and almost 100% of the time that is fear, fear of their safety. Traffickers are skilled at letting victims know the consequences for leaving," said Shipman.
Those who want to speak out are aware of what could happen. But they often do not realize who else is out there to help them.
"The big thing we are seeing in Spokane is identifying resources within our community. We make sure that the systems are in place so when trafficking victims are identified, they can immediately get services."
If you are a victim of trafficking, or know someone who is, you can call a confidential crisis line. That number is 1-866-751-7119. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Springs could be sanctuary for trafficking victims
by BARBARA COTTER
The girl was 12, and the man who kidnapped her from Los Angeles promised to take care of her. To love her. And maybe it seemed he did, for awhile.
It wasn't long before he put her out on the streets of Las Vegas and told her not to come home until she'd made $1,000 a day. Social service workers eventually got to her and sent her to Southern Peaks Regional Treatment Center in Cañon City, far from the reach of her pimp.
That was three or four years ago, and it was one of the first times the staff at Southern Peaks had encountered a young victim of sexual trafficking. As time went by, though, they realized that some of the adolescent girls being sent to them for other issues — drug use, behavioral problems, criminal activity — had also been involved in the sex trade, usually under the thumb of a much older man.
As a result, Southern Peaks started The Haven Program last year to focus on the special therapeutic needs of adolescents who have been sold for sex.
“It really became apparent to us that there was a problem,” said Jeremy Hugins, admissions coordinator and client liaison for Southern Peaks. “We came up with the program to meet the need we saw in front of us.”
With estimates of at least 100,000 children and adolescents being sexually exploited each year, experts say there's a need for more programs that give the victims — most of them girls — a safe haven away from pimps and a chance to receive intensive therapy, schooling, job skills and a path out of a life that, paradoxically, many have a hard time leaving.
If plans come through, the Colorado Springs area could soon be a prime place for more of these girls to find a new life. Three faith-based nonprofits, working independently of one another, intend to open long-term rescue, treatment and reintegration programs in the next few years.
The first comprehensive shelter and treatment program to open its doors will likely be Sarah's Place, a project of Living Hope Church, with help from the Assemblies of God denomination. It's scheduled to open in early 2013 in a renovated church building in rural El Paso County, with room for up to 10 girls and a 24/7 on-site staff.
Dream Centers of Colorado Springs, a nonprofit offshoot of New Life Church, also wants to start a therapeutic safe house program with its partners, though no timetable has been established. And the nonprofit Restore Innocence, started by Michelle and Jason Korth, wants to open a long-term treatment facility to augment some of the other work it's been doing for young victims of sex trafficking.
“There's a huge need,” said Michelle Korth, whose nonprofit is on the verge of opening a residential program to teach social reintegration skills to rescued girls. “A lot of girls right now just go wherever. They're placed in a detention center, or a youth runaway shelter, or they go back on the streets — back in the situation they ran away from. I think we can definitely fill all the beds.”
HIDDEN TRADE LEAVES NUMBERS ELUSIVE
Having three residential treatment and recovery programs in El Paso County might seem like overkill, considering that law enforcement authorities and the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's office rarely run across cases of sexual trafficking of children in the area.
“In the little over a year and a half I have been in my position, we have not seen it. We have not had a single verifiable case to investigate or that led to an arrest,” said Thor Eells of the Colorado Springs Police Department, who serves as commander of the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division. “I think we'd be naive to say there's none of that. The majority of what is taking place is in larger metropolitan cities.”
But things are not always what they seem, at least in the shadowy realm of child sex trafficking. Experts in human trafficking believe the problem is more prevalent than arrest and prosecution numbers would indicate, both in the Pikes Peak region and nationally.
“The actual dimensions are pretty difficult to determine because we're not sure how much is going on, but it's clearly more than the average person would suspect. We have every reason to believe it's a fairly significant problem,” said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, whose office has ramped up efforts to combat the sexual trafficking of children.
Historically, one problem in assessing the scope of trafficking is that few people knew what it looked like or how to define it. A young girl might be picked up for drug use or prostitution, but she would be treated as a criminal, not a victim, and police weren't adequately trained to dig deeper to see if something else might be in play. Awareness and training have improved through multi-organization task forces such as the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado and the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative. And there's been a shift away from treating the victims as criminals.
But Suthers believes more needs to be done, and he's planning additional training sessions for law enforcement officers in August.
“Our objective is to get people oriented toward looking beyond what they see: ‘Yeah, I have a drug-addicted prostitute here' — to look beyond the situation in front of your eyes, and with some investigating, see if you have an organized human trafficking ring here.”
Another obstacle is tracking down the victims. Kids who are trafficked are less likely to be walking the streets and more likely to be advertised online. They are often made up to look older. And most are either too afraid to escape from their pimps, or too emotionally attached to them.
“There's such an element of fraud, force and coercion,” said Janet Drake, senior assistant attorney general with the special prosecutions unit and a member of the state Human Trafficking Task Force.
NEED IS GREAT, BEDS ARE FEW
Whether the Pikes Peak area has a problem with child sex trafficking or not may be irrelevant when it comes to filling beds at the three planned safe houses. Drake said the Attorney General's office has had to use services in other states because Colorado has few “survivor” facilities, and nationally, experts have put the number of beds at around 100.
Phil Steiger, senior pastor at Living Hope Church and executive director of the nonprofit Sarah's Home, said he expects most of its residents to come from outside the area.
“They'll come from other locals through other organizations, and, in fact, we're hoping that the geographical dislocation for these girls will bring a certain level of security for them,” Steiger said.
It is important to put distance between the girls and the men and even other females who control them, experts say. But that's only part of the battle, according to the staff at Southern Peaks in Cañon City, which has treated about two dozen trafficked girls — some as young as 12. Many of the girls have been sexually abused and are psychologically vulnerable, and they come to depend on their traffickers. It requires intensive, specialized therapy to break the bond with the men and even other girls who control them, and to change their mindset, Jo-Ann O'Neil said.
“If you get them off the street, you can clothe and feed them, but you have to change their mindset and undo what people have done to them and their way of thinking: ‘I choose this, I can make money, I can go to adult clubs and wear adult clothes and nobody tells me what to do,'” O'Neil said.
Basically, the kids adapt to being exploited, said Gene Cook, the lead therapist for The Haven Program at Southern Peaks.
“All of us, as kids, basically find it hard to blame our caregivers, and part of the pimp's job is to become a sole caregiver. That is why the pimp will take their IDs and health cards and money. It's all about creating a dependent relationship.”
Steiger and representatives of the other groups planning to open long-term rescue, treatment and reintegration facilities say they recognize the scope of the problem, realize the challenges and will try to address them.
“We hear that a lot from other organizations that deal with these girls: It's hard for them to step out of the lifestyle,” said Steiger, who plans to use a cadre of licensed clinical social workers to provide therapy for the girls at Sarah's Home. The program will also offer education and job training, and try to find adoptive homes for the girls if they're not old enough to be on their own when they exit the program.
But the staff at Southern Peaks said options for girls coming out of programs are limited. Foster care and adoption, the most obvious avenues, have limitations.
“Foster homes can be intimidating for them and the other kids in the home,” O'Neil said. A lot of families get into the foster care business, thinking of the sweet little 6- and 7-year-olds, and they don't consider the background of these girls so they're not prepared. They have great intentions, but for step-down, that's what we struggle with. Who are they going to live with?”
O'Neil and other Southern Peaks staff members would welcome the creation of more “step-down” programs for the girls, rather than treatment programs, but they say any effort to rescue and restore young victims of sex trafficking is worthwhile.
In fact, one of the most important elements in helping the girls is having them in close proximity with one another, whether it's in a long-term treatment facility, a short-term safe house or a residential step-down program, Drake said.
“Survivors of sex trafficking universally say the most effective thing they want and need is contact with other survivors,” Drake said. “I was just at a symposium where there was a survivors' speakers panel, and they all strongly agreed with that: Working with other survivors is the most helpful thing for them.”